At long last! My apologies for the delay, but this entry was a true collaboration between Nora and I and so not only did we each need to do some work, but we also needed to sit down together for part of it. So that can get a little tricky at times! Anyway, this will be the first of two entries she will be writing. So enjoy!
“Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods and listen to the magic whisper of old trees”….I came across this quote and just love it. Do we stop long enough to really be still? To listen to our surroundings? For me, this has been a recurring message that someone has been trying to tell me this summer. I see the words, “be still” often. I’ve never enjoyed the crazy busy life style and seem to struggle with the need to slow things down a bit at times. Wasn’t it just last week I was flying back home to the Keweenaw with our brand new baby Gracie in tow? Hard to believe that was 7 years ago and now that little one climbs in my lap, I look and see that same face smiling back at me….minus a few teeth. She’s dreaming of getting married, driving a car and having “real science” when she gets to Middle School. It’s at those moments I want time to slow down and just be still a little longer.
You may have noticed that John is taking a much deserved break from the weekly journal. I went on a little adventure and John wanted me to share it all with you. I will admit that there is a small part of me that wants to just keep it with me and not share. To me… it’s just that special.
As a small child I would spend a considerable amount of time with my grandmother, June Bergh. She lived in Jacobsville and was a gem of a lady. The door to her home was always open, with fresh coffee, a story about Jesus and treats waiting to be had. One of the things she loved to do was gather up all the old photos and jewelry and spread them out on the dining room table. Oh how I loved that! Grandma would let me touch and wear everything my little heart desired. We did this often and I believe that is where my love of my family history began. My only regret is that it wasn’t until I was in college that I started to write down little things that she told me along the way.
My interest has always been my grandfather Russell’s mother’s side. That was until I rec.’d a call from a friend in July saying, “Nora don’t you have relatives that were Bergh’s?”.
My friend had found some stationary behind a wall in a home belonging to the Anderson’s in Lac La Belle. (If you’re still with me this little tid bit will be of interest later) It was Grant Township stationary from the 30’s. On this stationary William Bergh was typed and then crossed off and replaced with “Ida Bergh”. Ida was my great, great aunt and also the Sheriff of Keweenaw county. You see she was appointed as Sheriff after my Uncle had passed away within hours of beginning his 2nd term as Keweenaw County Sheriff. Ida was re-elected 3 additional times and “reduced crime and applied a philosophy of kindness and cleanliness to the courthouse and jail”. How’s that for a take charge, 1940’s kind of gal?! Ida was also responsible for saving many of the men from the shipwreck “City of the Bangor”. Here’s a little blurb from my cousin, Martha. The “City of Bangor” ran aground on the Peninsula quite a bit north of the Copper Harbor lighthouse. The men on the boat were from Detroit and most were not dressed for Copper Country winter. They were wearing loafer shoes and their coats were not warm enough. They were able to get off the boat and waded through hip-deep snow drifts until they got to the lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper then walked from the lighthouse to the west end of Copper Harbor to my grandma and grandpa’s house. My grandpa was outside and heard the swish of the lighthouse keeper’s oil slicker pants as he walked, knew who it was from the sound, and knew there was trouble. My grandparents had just butchered a pig for meat for the winter, so they had enough provisions. The crew of the Bangor came and stayed at my grandparents house, lying all over the floor as they thawed and melted. My grandmother tended frostbite and hypothermia, and made sure they were well fed.
Later on, they were able to get most of the cars off the boat and drive them over the ice, through the Harbor to land. Some of the cars were washed overboard.”
Stories like this remind me of the hard times folks faced back then. How many people today would give their only meat? Or welcome strangers into their home?
The letterhead prompted me to contact my cousins Lois and Martha (Ida’s granddaughters) and they were able to fill me in on much of the history that I hadn’t been told or didn’t remember. The most exciting news was that my Great, Great Grandparents, Eric “Jig” Bergh and Hansine Henriette Bergh (that’s Hansine in the back) had come from Norway and settled on Traverse Island, also known as Bergh Island. The best part? Parts of Eric and Henriette’s cabin were still there on the island. Something that my great, great grandparents built with their own hands, was still standing. How can that be? The moment I heard this I knew I had to find a way to get permission to go to the Island.
The island, which is now called Rabbit island is privately owned and about 4 miles off the Keweenaw Peninsula. My initial thought was there was no way the owner would allow us onto his private island. I was so wrong! After doing a little research I learned that Rabbit island is home to the Rabbit Island Residency, an artist retreat. So I reached out to Andrew, co-founder of the residency program and Rob the owner of the Island. Within a few days I heard back from Andrew saying that he’d gladly welcome us on the Island.
This summer they held a series of “Island Talks” and as luck would have it there was one last talk being held in September. Andrew emailed saying, “I’ll be happy to take you to the Island myself”.
My cousins Lois and Martha were up for the week and were excited about the opportunity to go to the Island. The only thing that could stop us from getting there at this point was the weather. We all held our breath waiting to hear that the weather would be ok to head out. Earlier in the week the weather looked pretty sketchy for Saturday. And since our house was struck by lightning the week before I wasn’t taking any “weather’ chances.
Feeling like a kid on Christmas eve I tossed and turned much of Friday night. Saturday arrived and after picking up the girls we headed on our way to Rabbit Bay. Being overly anxious we had arrived about 45 minutes early. That gave us some time to catch up with each other. Shortly after arriving we were joined in the road by Charlie. Charlie lives in lower Michigan and his daughter was one of the artist on the Island. Next to arrive was Karen. After arriving on the Island I heard someone lovingly refer to her as “Grandma Karen”. Let’s just say that I hope I’m as lively and full of adventure as she one day. The final group of folks to arrive were young adults from Ahmeek. They were actually moving out West the following day. What a way to spend their last day in the Keweenaw.
It wasn’t long and we could see Andrew coming across the lake. I had wondered at that moment if he knew how excited we were? Could he know how grateful we were for this chance to walk the very intimate wilderness that my great, great grandparents had walked? I had hoped.
The group was too large to all go in one trip so Lois, Martha, Karen and I stayed on shore and waited for the second trip. During this time we were able to take some pictures and enjoy our view. There she was….just waiting for us to come ashore.
Andrew had warned us that it was a little rough on the lake. The plan was to head down the shore to the sandstone cliffs then shoot across the lake. I had the Nikon and one extra lens with me and had planned to take enough pictures to last a lifetime. I found out quickly that the rough seas were going to make it tough to get any good photography on the journey over. I was able to snap a picture of the little falls and an eagle flying overhead. (It wasn’t until I downloaded the pics that I saw the bonus on the tree top) After taking these few pictures I spent the next 5 or so minutes trying to figure out how to get my camera around my neck to secure it as the waves were picking up some. The problem being I really didn’t want to let go of my safety line….which was a metal pole. As we continued on, in some nice winds, it struck me that here we were in the middle of “Big Lake” totally trusting our new friend Andrew. Turns out he was a great Captain and got us to the dinghy safely. I had done my research and knew we had to jump in the dinghy that would take us to the shore. I think the others might have been a bit surprised about the transfer that was about to take place. But, everyone took the leap and made it to the shore safely. Once on shore we were greeted by Charlie and company who helped us make it across the slippery sandstone ledge. Maybe I’m wired differently but there’s something about an adventure with strangers….it’s as if you become instant friends.
After arriving on the Island we made our way up a small incline of rocks that lead us to a welcoming area of sorts, the “foyer” of the Island, that included a fire pit and handmade benches. The perfect spot to sit and be still…..or put one’s dry socks and shoes on.
Andrew welcome us all and introduced us to the artist who had been staying on the Island. First up is Mary Rothlisberger. Mary is an artist from Colorado. Followed by Jack Forinash from Utah who is an architect along with Kelly Gregory from California who is also an architect. They came to the Island as a team and had previously worked with each other before so they knew each other well. At this point I was really looking forward to hearing from the artists but I was having a hard time focusing. Would anyone noticed if I just wandered off? Probably. I longed to walk the shore and feel the crisp air on my face, just as Hansine had done 120 some years before (that’s her2nd from the left). Be still Nora. Just be still.
Next up we learned that Mary, Jack and Kelly had a few activities to share with us. The first was a short 10 minute or so hike to the middle of the Island. During our hike Jake carried a boom microphone to record the sounds. They were going to record the walk in the woods so we were all asked to be quiet…again someone saying, be still. I had a feeling the quiet part of the journey would be the most difficult. We were all so enthusiastic and wanted to share everything we were experiencing at those moments. One of the things we were asked to do was to really observe what we were hearing, smelling, the general feel of the Island. Did it feel differently? It didn’t take long to notice the difference. The crashing of the Big Lake was quieter. Still present but much quieter. The air seemed thicker. Almost a jungle like feel. Not that I’ve been to the jungle lately but you get the drift. Green….everything seemed so green. I never did see them, but there was a welcoming committee of birds just singing and chirping away as we entered the forest. I hadn’t noticed them while we were on the shore. You’ll see that much of the ground is rock and roots. I didn’t get many pictures of this hike due to the camera noise after shooting a picture and even though I dumped all my iphone pictures the day before somehow I had no space when I went to use my camera on my iphone. It really was a blessing because I wasn’t distracted by either camera. I was able to just take it all in. Time to stop and feel the leaves, smell the spruce needles. The smell of home.
We returned to base camp and had a quick snack. I noticed this hanging at camp. Who knew Superior had a tide? Right around this time it started to drizzle and the wind picked up. What seemed like a doozy of a storm quickly passed us and we were met with blue skies and some sunshine. Perfect hot tub and sauna weather!
Next on the agenda was a trip to the sauna. This is such a beautiful building. Much more than just sauna! Some of us had arrived at the sauna ahead of the others which gave us some time to chat and tell a joke or two. Here’s Lois and Martha telling a “Sven and Oliei” joke to pass the time.
More to come…!
Good Night from the Keweenaw..