Being a town Druid isn’t always easy.
Let me clarify: I definitely don’t live in a city, and the town I live in is in a rural area, with a population right around 100.
I know, I know. Some of you would give your right arm to trade places with me (and some can’t believe I can live “this far outside of civilization” at all).
But for being Tiny Town USA, this place sure gets a lot of traffic.
With the abundance of rocks, minerals, and other natural resources here, those industries are big in the Keweenaw. And plenty of semis take the main road through our Tiny Town to get to where they’re going en route to their destination.
All day, every day. Gravel trucks. Other semis. Side-by-sides and three and four-wheelers, and rowdy neighbors that live just down the road. During winter, it’s the incessant“brrrAPP!” of snowmobilers on their sleds, though I’ve taken to joking that the snowmobiles sound like Banthas ripping through the trails (hard to be angry when you shout “BANTHA!” every time a sled goes by).
There’s no shortage of Western world irritations here for those of us who love a more organic, Earth-oriented way of living – reveling in the silent sports, the call of owls at night, greeting the robins with unspoiled silence at the pale blue light of dawn. I do my best not to judge, understanding that these folks have their own drives and reasons for leading the lives that they do. But the older I get, the more I realize that town living just isn’t for me.
This morning, I hit a breaking point with sensory overload. It’s been an ongoing issue with Post-Concussion Syndrome, though it’s been nearly seven years since I was hit in the side of the head by a broken file cabinet door while working a day job in Indiana. I’ve had alternative therapies that have saved my life and cognitive functioning, but I manage sensory overwhelm daily. Some days, it’s better or worse, depending on other physical and emotional factors.
When it’s your moontime, you’re navigating an almost unheard of interpersonal blow-up where speaking your truth becomes the only thing to do despite the outcome, and contractors arrive behind your house unannounced at 7 AM to trim the tops of trees with their trucks and machines droning well into the afternoon – with more town-sanctioned city lawn mowing as an encore – that’s quite an amalgamation of “too much, no thanks, getting out of here ASAP for my sake and for yours”.
So I did what any other “hit the wall” person would do in my position during pandemic. I took off for Copper Harbor – pristine wild places, endless things to do with or without shops being open, and no cell service.
Thank gods. Paradise.
It’s been nearly a year since I’ve been to Copper Harbor (!). I live less than an hour south of one of the most gorgeous towns on earth – the coveted UP destination for nature lovers, and seekers of peace and quiet, and mountain bikers worldwide. After moving from the harbor to where I live now, work and healing took over, and suddenly, a year had passed.
But today’s sensory overload was exactly the catalyst I needed to get me out the door, breaking up my normal routine of exploring nearby waterfalls in exchange for a much different kind of adventure.
A Heart’s Return Home
Traveling north on M-26 was my first dose of medicine today. I didn’t stop for pictures, too enraptured by the drive itself, just wanting to get there. My heart remembered those scenes well – the road snaking along the shores of Lake Superior, the lush hardwoods mingled with scraggy trees outlining the shore and sprawling densely to the south. Passing the Jam Pot, Great Sand Bay, and some of the most pristine, precious postcard-scene homes and cabins nestled between wilderness and lakeshore you’ll ever see – an adventure every time, an incredible treat for the senses.
Copper Harbor, the sign on the south side of the road says, as I pull into my old stomping grounds.
Two years ago, I lived in what was, at the time, a little seasonal public library I affectionately called “The Housebrary.” Situated on the west end of town at the foot of Brockway Mountain, The Housebrary was my landing pad in the Keweenaw, the perfect little place for me, nestled between two gorgeous pines on either side that anchored the place with their enormous presence and matriarchal energy.
I regret not having pictures of the outside, but as you can see from these photos of the inside, The Housebrary was a pretty special place:
Memories rush in – the feeling of living in such a wild little town, one so quiet in its energies because of the remoteness of the land even with a bustling summer tourist scene replete with motorcycles headed for Sunset Point on the mountain. Hearing the waves wash ashore a quarter-mile away when the nights were warm enough to keep the windows open. The rush of the wind through inumerable trees, speaking a language that I have intrinsic ties to as sorceress but do not yet understand. Fox warning barks echoing through town as I gazed up at the bottomless stars before crawling into my old (admittedly crappy) Coleman Sundome tent in the yard. Looking up to see a buck in velvet staring at me through the patio doors beyond the kitchen, my eyes wide as I come face to face with this incredible creature nonchalantly searching for something to eat while I’d been doing the same.
Midnight hikes on Brockway Mountain. Trekking to Hunter’s Point in the pelting rain for deep lakeside ceremony after dark. Brewing ceremonial cacao while watching the fireworks over perfectly-carved space above the cedars and tamaracks through the balcony doors. And fending off gigantic spiders whose legs scrambling across my sleeping bag at 2 AM sound like the pitter-pattering of rain and (thankfully) piqued my attention just enough to see what was happening.
I drive past The Housebrary.
Heart-thump and throat lump.
I suddenly wish I could move back, the long drive from town and shoddy internet and phone connections and summer tourist crowds and routine power outages and all. (As I’m writing this post a week later, I still feel much the same.)
The Keweenaw Point Trail and Manganese Falls
Though Brockway Mountain is my holiest of holy spots in the harbor and I intended to visit today, the Point Trail and Manganese Falls called first.
The last time I attempted to visit Manganese Falls was January 2019, in hopes of snowshoeing to stave off some serious cabin fever.
What I hadn’t realized was that it was an unplowed seasonal road just past the Fannie Hooe Resort until my elderly Grand Prix got pitifully stuck in two feet of snow…a not-so-awesome tale for another time (cue the Sagittarius jokes – the “Leap before you look!” stereotype is not wrong).
But this day, I spy the gorgeous green of oaks and maples, the sun shining 80 degrees in a bout of unseasonably hot weather, road clear and beckoning toward the wilderness.
I bound toward the trailhead, stopping at the little stone footpath that leads over the ditch from the road and onto the trail. Not a soul in sight on Manganese Road, the sound of the falls to the north streaming their soothing rush amid the bird song. I gaze onto the trail beyond, wide-eyed and smiling, childlike joy and excitement coursing through me.
An absolute portal into another world lies before me, the energies of the forest lush and ancient, and reborn with the bright green of early summer leaves on trees and flowers and berry bushes whispering at my arrival.
I take a step forward – a bird darts out from beneath the tiny stone bridge.
Alive, alive, Copper Harbor is, especially in the sweet womb of summertime.
It’s always a bit of ceremony and initiation in one, crossing the threshold into the forest, or the gateway of any wild place. Liminal spaces, portals, where one place ends and another begins, with each having their own energetic properties and essence, some boundaries being cut and clear while others are softer, diffused, more malleable.
The more time you spend in nature – especially time spent consciously connecting with the essence of a place while intently cultivating intuition during those moments of immersion – the more attuned you become to the energetic nuances there, its multidimensional qualities rising and permeating the air around you like a hologram emanating from the pages of a book.
I stand at the threshold of The Point Trail, in wonder and in awe of the wash of energies around me. The wind rises and falls in lush blue and green breaths, her lungs full of the purest, cleanest air that’s ever rushed over your skin; hermit thrushes singing; the falls murmuring their cleansing song from down the road.
It has a distinct energy of pulling you in, this trail, that the above picture does not at all capture in earnest. It isn’t so much a wide, welcoming doorway to pass through as much as a gateway with a defined, spiraling energy that pulls you in and down it, toward whatever lies ahead. Incredible, and a little unnerving, as all the best wild place are.
A vortex, to be sure. The Keweenaw is full of them, and Copper Harbor even more so.
I step across the threshold into one of the most tantalizing adventures I’ve had in a long time.
“Re”-Rewilding Down the Spiral Path
It’s an enlightening experience, going back to an old-new place after having been away for a time. When I first arrived in the harbor in 2018, it was like being plunged into a wild wilderness world on the edge of civilization – an initiation into the true beginnings of my rewilding. I thought that having spent so much time at places like Hungarian Falls to the south after moving to Houghton County, nighttime skis at Swedetown with just me and the gnomes (they are real, and they have messages to share!), I’d have been a bit more…broken in by now.
But no. The wilds that hold Copper Harbor in their earthy bosom are a different story entirely.
I routinely hike in the dark when intuitively guided, often without my flashlight on as a way to build trust with the land and attune my senses to nature. I’m mindful and cautious, but not afraid of animals and being in the elements when well-prepared. I feel them, and they are me and I am them. I go for forest hikes multiple times each week, taking long hours during this time of healing my body from chronic illness to recalibrate, go deeper spiritually, and stretch and grow intuitively. The wild lands are home to me, and just being in the Keweenaw is enough to stretch most anyone in these ways with or without a conscious desire to do so.
I’d never forgotten how incredible the harbor was, but what had faded in my mind was just how untameable and primal it is. The land and lake is gentle and endlessly nourishing, but also unapologetically raw and wild.
This is life on the edge. This is life surrounded by an inland sea on three sides – ungovernable.
I felt a rekindled kinship with the land the moment I stepped out of my car, but when I set foot down the Point Trail, I was amazed at how the breath of the land came to greet me, like an old, wild friend, wrapping me in its arms. Cleansing. Refreshing. Pulling me in and down, that old feeling of unease and discomfort of being stretched into whole new levels of primal awareness as the last vestiges of “town” anything slip away. You’re left with the trees, the bugs and berry bushes and the backs of rocks on the trail like spikes on a Stegosaurus’s back; huge trees uprooted along the entirety of the path, their gnarled roots and clumps of dirt hanging raw, ominously even, like something from a Brian Froud painting.
I intend to go back and make a shrine beneath one of them. A leaf and pine cone and flower mandala – an ode to this life lost, this forest giant’s legacy, legendary beings keeping watch always.
All the forest is watching. You feel the eyes of the forest watching in a place like this, and there’s nothing you can do to escape it.
Your only option is to take the Spiral Path deeper, deeper, into the Heart of it; become One with it. Face your own wildness and embrace it, if even in the smallest conscious breaths and admittance of even a tinge of fear and vulnerability that comes from communing with all the beings on all planes of reality who call this place home. You are in their territory now; reverence, respect, and awe. Tell them you see them, you feel them, and dance as one of them, if only in your heart (which is where it all begins, anyway).
A Small But Pivotal Epiphany
I stop, botanical bug spray in hand, as I pick a spot on the not-rest-friendly trail to eat a simple pack lunch. One of the coolest views on the Point Trail is Lake Fannie Hooe, Fort Wilkins, and Lake Superior when you’re facing north – the layers of terrain in front of you, trees and cliffside, then lake, then fort, then Big Lake, then Porter’s Island if you’re facing west enough are quite incredible. I find my mossy rock and break there.
The birds are singing, bugs buzzing (and finding me quickly, since now I have become the main course while I also eat my lunch), sunshine streaming through patches of cloud.
I sit, layered up with lemongrass and mint and citronella and whatever else is in this marvellous spray – “Priestess Perfume,” I call it, my lifesaver on the trail that’s second only to No Bite Me cream (get it at The Laughing Loon!). I spray it almost ritualistically when I’m heading out in spring and summer, and my whole body response is Pavlovian at this point – refreshing and exciting.
I feel the aliveness swirling, the solitude of this place, and The Void that lies beneath it all. I crave wild spaces more than almost anything in this world, and yet…
I feel lonely.
For all my forest longings and desire for solitude, I realized for the first time in my life, in this moment, that I don’t just crave solitude in the deep wooded spaces. I long for untammed places, and the right person to share it with.
After a heartwrenching disappointment in romance less than a year ago, I’ve been increasingly tuned into the presence of a partner I feel has been coming for years, despite my other multi-level intuitive knowings and longings – someone far more rugged than me, a “The Forest Is My Religion” kind of person, steeped in Earth Lore magick; skilled with the hands, donning a kilt and black boots and most likely dancing a jig with pipe in hand as we speak, or joyfully strumming a guitar of his own making while smoke swirls from the chimney in his cabin in the woods…
…wherever in this wide world he happens to be.
He is as real as real to me, if “only” in the ethers as of yet, drawing nearer as the weeks and months pass since cueing into his presence in December of 2018.
I carry the sadness of the one whom I must let go of (for now, at least, and with the heaviest, most melancholy of hearts far beyond what words can express), attuning my energies to the other I feel is coming. It brings me hope beyond hope, a Light in darkness, and for that I am grateful.
And then I do what I have always done – I stand up, brush myself off, and continue down the forest path.
(Part Two Coming Soon… 🙂 )