Lessons learned on the 4th of July

A salute on the 4th of July.

Capt. Glen salutes as the flag passes by at the Island’s parade.

It probably won’t shock anyone to learn that there has been a touch of insanity among the branches of my family tree. In spite of (or perhaps because of) a spark of genius, my grandfather Pike (who held one of the first patents on plastic in the U.S.) was brainy but…well, certifiable. I only mention this because in the days of WWII, anyone with a family history of histrionics was excluded from entering the armed forces. It was a rule that thwarted my father’s intention to serve and he eventually joined the Merchant Marines to do his duty during that dark time.

His patriotism was evident and as a youngster I thought I’d grasped what “love of country” meant. But other life lessons were destined to bring me to a better understanding, though it was admittedly a long learning curve.

It sounds somewhat trivial, but movies helped. My family loved those Memorial Day marathons which introduced me to the Army’s unassuming Sergeant York (who won my heart by sending most of his paycheck home to his Ma)! I met John Wayne, who portrayed a host of officers in the various branches. I learned the meaning of “Full Metal Jacket” and can recite by heart many of the lines from Top Gun. Back to Batan, Patton, Midway, and Saving Private Ryan.

Little things observed can teach one lessons, too. I recall my often brash and blustery Marine Corps husband leaving a place setting purposely empty at
a family dinner. The prayer before the meal asked for safety for the missing guest, a cousin’s husband (Ken Slater, USAF, RIP) who was then serving abroad in Desert Storm.

I was perhaps a bit harsh with my sons at times in emulating discipline and other virtues I saw in those who committed themselves to the service. Self reliance at an early age was rewarded (who says a five year-old can’t cook). Friendships, with their unbreakable vows of trust, were honored. (That’s why I’ll never know which “pal” broke that window. I only know my son had to pay for it).

Teaching at Howe Military School taught me about the transition required for turning a group of varied personalities into one structured unit. The “young gray line” of students sometimes rebelled against the strict rules which governed all aspects of their life. But their growth in just a year was amazing. You could see it in their bearing, note it in their attitude. Their esprit de corps made them personally stronger and in no way diminished them as individuals.

Living on Beaver Island has allowed me to come to know an entire group of men and women who have served our country. They continue their devotion in the way they live their lives, the ceremonies they conduct throughout the year to honor our country, and in the respect evidenced when fellow veterans are being laid to rest.
Traditions, both happy and sad, express the Island Veterans abiding respect for those serving and those who have served.

Each November 10, a Marmaluke sword is used to cut the birthday cake at the Island Marine Corps gathering, with the honor of the first slice going to the youngest Marine present. And there’s not a soul among us who has witnessed Island Airway’s missing man formation at veteran’s funeral or the AMVETS gun salute and not been touched by the experience.

The Island community and their joyous abandon in celebrating patriotic events like the 4th of July is absolutely amazing. The memory of one such day stands out as proof of their unstoppable enthusiasm. I recall vainly attempting to keep my camera dry while standing in a total downpour as the parade headed down Main Street. My photos of that day bear witness to the sodden floats and the little girls tap dancing in their red-white-and-blue outfits – their images mirrored in the pools of water on the street. The camera captured the smiles and pride on all the faces – those in the parade and those watching, all standing in the pouring rain.

As a mother, I saw both my sons join the Marine Corps and serve in a total of five combat tours. I clung to a prayer bracelet given to me by another Marine Mom throughout those years. And yet, beyond the worrying and endless prayers I had this overwhelming sense of pride in their commitment.

So, on this 4th of July, I’ll take a long moment to thank my Maker for all those experiences that helped me to a better understanding of patriotism. I’ll remember all those who have served and those who are serving now so we might enjoy a joyous holiday without the constant shadow of fears to mar our daily lives. And, come rain or shine…I’ll be at the parade when the flag passes by…with that lump in my throat and hand over my heart.

And finally…it’s starting to look like spring!

New kids on the block

Adam and Micah Richards show two of the new kids in their goat herd.

The sun is finally warming this place up a bit and we’re hopeful all the snow will be just a memory by the end of this week! The ice and snowstorm that started in the area on Friday the 13th was pretty awesome. We thought at first we dodged the bullet but then got dumped on, first with piles of ice crystals and then a second round of snow.

The May issue is nearly ready to send out the printer and I had to resort to some ‘fake news’ – photos of what spring usually looks like here on Beaver Island.

But daffodils are courageously rearing their heads through the snow banks and a loon was heard over Font Lake just the other day. Robins are everywhere, searching for bugs and grubs amidst the lingering piles of snow.

And spring is also bringing a bevy of babies, too! Lambs, bunnies, fox kits, and goat kids are bringing smiles to everyone’s faces…you just can’t help loving the little critters.

The McDonough clan are busy re-stocking the shelves at the store, which were looking a tad bare in the last few weeks. We’re all excited about that and seeing our favorite cereals and cookies lined up again.

Most of us are chomping at the bit to get out and do some yard work, but we’ll have to wait for the final thaw to get our work completed.

Our friends and relations from the sunshine state and other warm winter spots are finally returning to the Island and we’re so happy to see their faces again.

In short, we’re over winter’s hump and happy to be on the other side. Pray for plenty of sun and warm weather in the weeks to come so Memorial Weekend will be perfect for all! See you then!

And yet another reason to love Beaver Island!

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” – Benjamin Franklin

microbrewery room

Patrick McGinnity stands in what will be the brewing area which will have viewing windows for patrons.

Soon, there will be even more happiness on Beaver Island as the Whiskey Point Brewing Company moves forward with their plans to open a microbrewery early this summer!

The site is the old McDonough’s Market building, which Patrick McGinnity, founder of the Whiskey Point Brewing Company, says is just about perfect for the combination brewery and tap room.

McGinnity says his interest in craft beer goes back to his days teaching English at CMU. As he tried more varieties of craft beer he became interested in brewing up some of his own. Having a fresh bottle of homebrew to look forward to after a long evening of grading papers worked as a mighty motivator. He started in small batches in the kitchen for friends and family. When he later found himself brewing up 10 gallons (and “the humidity level in the house rose dramatically”) he began thinking seriously of starting a microbrewery on Beaver Island. He thinks it will be an especially exciting addition to the Island’s offerings for tourists.

The tap room will have large windows overlooking the microbrewery facilities so patrons can see the process and equipment. The plan is to start with five taps—most likely four regular brews and one rotating tap that will likely be more experimental in nature.

They have been working to establish a network (mostly Michigan based) for the required ingredients such as hops and grains. As to ingredients for the wines, “A lot we will try to source locally as we can, like herbs and fruits from the orchards,” said McGinnity.

Along with the beer and wine, there will be a small kitchen for preparing soups, salads and sandwiches. McGinnity says they are constantly thinking of fun events that would be interesting for the patrons. Beer yoga is reportedly one possibility (this scribe’s dream come true).

So be sure to watch for more details on when the Whiskey Point Brewing Company will open their doors. You could be at the Grand Opening of a very unique spot in the state: the first microbrewery reached only by boat or plane, and the only Michigan brewery based on an island!

For the complete story about the new microbrewery see the April issue of NorthernIslander.

Learning an important lesson from Islanders

Spring on BArney's

Spring on Barney’s Lake
is worth waiting for!

My birthday gift this year was a special one to be sure: One full day in the Emerald City (that would be Traverse City) to do anything my heart desired. Oh, I was heady with the thought of eating at all my big city favorites spots, shopping at the holy trinity of stores (Kohl’s, Michael’s and Bed-Bath & Beyond), and perhaps an excursion to the art museum to see the King Tut display.

And then the day of our departure, the weather turned. It was one of those most frustrating types of weather systems. The sun would shine on the Island but Charlevoix was socked in, and visa versa. After three hours of waiting at the airport, we finally lifted off toward mainland America. I didn’t get to do as much on my birthday adventure as I’d planned but hey, that sometimes happens when you live on an island.

It brought back a memory of a much younger version of myself, stranded by a snowstorm on the Island while my fiancé sat waiting in Charlevoix to drive me to an engagement party being held in Indiana. “You’re stuck here for awhile,” my mother advised, “enjoy it.”

But of course I didn’t. I fretted, whined and called the airport on the hour – every hour. The weather finally improved and to everyone’s great relief I was put on the first plane off the Island.

Having lived here full time for 20 years now, I have learned a great deal about how to deal with life’s little bumps in a much more mature manner. For you see, all Islanders seem to have an unlimited capacity for patience. They wait for practically everything.

Routinely, they wait in cars for dogs, deer (always more than one), ducklings, and the town turkey flock to cross the road. They wait patiently while young summer visitors on bikes weave back and forth across their vehicle’s path. They might growl under their breath, but they wait.

They wait on stormy days in the winter with an ear cocked to the sky, listening for the sound of a plane. If all they hear is the wind and snow they quickly determine they’ll have to wait a day for mail or that promised Amazon package.

They wait at the boat dock or the airports for visiting friends and relations to arrive. And when those folks depart, Islanders will stay until the plane takes flight or the boat rolls past the buoy. You just can’t rush Island hospitality.

They wait for the ice to melt enough for the little red tower to fall into the waters of the harbor and hope their ‘bet’ on when that would happen will yield a prize in the annual Ice Classic contest.

They wait for the first boat of the season. They wait for hours to glimpse the last rays of spectacular sunsets on Donegal Bay. They wait for Memorial Weekend and start of the season, and then wait for Labor Day when all can relax their pace a bit.

Islanders are resigned to the fact that winter will linger a bit longer on the Island. But they won’t bemoan her stay. They’ll wait, and relish all the more the shy appearance of Trilliums and the prolonged unfurling of green ferns in the woods. And then they’ll wait for Lake Michigan to warm up…and wait…and wait.

But that’s okay. For after two decades of living here, I’ve finally discovered the virtue of patience. Thanks Islanders, for a good life’s lesson. It was worth waiting for.

Fall weather sure is unpredictable…but beautiful

Font lake calm

With the winds calm, the skies were reflected perfectly in Font Lake.

Fall is upon us now and weather changes are daily, sometimes hourly occurrences. Last weekend was the perfect farewell to some lovely temperatures and blue skies. On Saturday, Kuebler Trail was the spot to meet friends and neighbors and even neighborhood dogs. All were out enjoying nature’s snow of colored leaves (finally) and sunshine.

This week, the gales of November came in a little early. As Winnie the Pooh would say, “We had some blustery kinds of days.”

After rain, and wind, and power outages, all those lovely leaves scattered, and tree limbs downed, the weather turned again. Wednesday was beautiful and as I passed Font Lake, the sky was repainted in the waters below. I just had to stop to admire it all. Luckily, I had my camera in the car to capture the moment to share.

Today we’re back to dark skies and rain and yet more wind. They say Halloween could even bring some white stuff in the air (either they are talking about snow or the feathers of geese flying south). But today, I’ll embrace the gloom, perhaps stick a cake in the oven or start up a slow-cooking pot roast. Every season seems to have its benefits!

Getting into the spirit of the Beaver Beacon with a look at its archives

Fall colors on Beaver Island, MI.

The trees are late in changing colors this year but are lovely today with a bright blue sky as a backdrop.

If you haven’t heard yet, the NorthernIslander has purchased the Beaver Beacon. Plans are underway to launch the first Beacon supplement (which will be included as part of the NorthernIslander several times each year). In an effort to make the Beacon a true reflection of the community, we have asked several groups to assist and share their talents. The first group of contributors include students at the BI Community School, the Historical Society, the Wildlife Club, Capt. Glen Felxison, and the Beaver Island Cultural Arts Association. We hope this supplement is ready to launch in January. And if you’d like to consider becoming a Beacon contributor (photos, stories, etc.), please call Elaine with your ideas (231.448.3046).

To get into the spirit of the Beacon, we’ve been looking over the archives…and it is VERY fun! The monthly newsletter was started in 1955 and edited and published by the Board of Directors of the BI Civic Association. At first it was usually 2 or 3 pages long and was mailed out with a 2 cent stamp. We found some real gems to share from the fall issues of 1955 and 1956. Enjoy!

DAY O’ THE MONTH…Halloween. A new twist in the direction of the old idea was given this year at the children’s Halloween party, the eve before the feast of All Saints. Boys and girls were encouraged to imitate and helped to dress like “holy people.” Awards went to Eddie and Jeanie Wojan for their impersonation of a Franciscan Friar and a Dominican Nun; also to Barbara (the Angel) Gatliff, and to Margaret, Pauline and Sara Kenwabikise, the Three (Good) Little Bears.

FISH FACTS – According to Mike Cull, Mr. Warren Ballard of Saginaw spent last week on the Island buying perch for shipment out of his Saginaw frozen fish processing plant. He bought around 2,500 lbs. and mentioned the possibility of a packing plant on the Island if local fishermen were able to supply enough fish. He paid 7 cents per lb. with an added 3 cent bonus.

RUN-AWAY RADISH…Weighing in at close to 7 lbs. with a length of 23 inches and circumference of 15 inches was grown by Sr. Cletus in her garden behind the convents. If anyone hears of a “radish race,” we think she has an entry.

REAL 9 HOLE GOLF Course…is now under construction on the Island. Ex-Pro golfer Matt Melville will be back before long to his one-time profession. The earth having its face lifted right now under Matt’s direction sis on the farm known to Islander as “Big Tom’s” located on the East Road about 3 miles from town. At present Gary McDonough and Pete (the Swede) have disked the fairways in front of the clubhouse. Matt says, “It will be known as SHAMROCK HILLS GOLF COURSE.”

4th order Fresnel lens from lighthouse gets new home at St. James Twp. Hall

Just a year ago the U.S. Coast Guard removed the 4th order Fresnel lens from the light tower at Whiskey Point and replaced it with an LED beacon. All working light towers in the Great Lakes are having the LED beacons installed. The four foot tall Fresnel lens on the Island was partly dismantled by professional lampist Capt. Kurt Fosburg, carried down the winding lighthouse steps and then transported to the St. James Township Hall for storage.

Recently contractor Tony Connaghan built an indoor display case at the hall, with a bay window on the handicapped ramp, overlooking the harbor. Just yesterday, Capt. Fosburg return to Beaver Island to clean the lens, place it on a pedestal, and worked out lighting it from within by a replica lamp from the era (topped by a red glass retro Edison blub).

The beautiful lens is in wonderful condition. On a scale of 1 – 10 of similar lenses that Fosburg has worked on, he said, “It’s an 8 ½…maybe even a 9! It’s in great shape!”

The Fresnel lens weighs close to 200 pounds and was put in place by the help of a recruited Jim McDonough and a special hydraulic lift that Capt. Fosburg brought to the Island. Throughout the day of his work on the lens many community members stopped by for a look and exclaimed over the beauty of the beacon which had resided in the light tower since 1870. We are happy it looks so good in its new home at the Township Hall.

Stop over to the Township Hall soon and see this wonderful piece of the Island maritime history!

Fresnel lens

The 4th order Fresnel lens had resided in the Whisky Point Lighthouse since 1870.

U.S. Coast Guard brings Jayhawk rescue helicopter to Beaver Island

It seemed like the entire community was out at the Municipal Airport yesterday afternoon. Sue Oole, the Director of MAD (music-art-drama) Camp arranged for the Traverse City Coast Guard to bring their new Sikorsky MH-60T Jayhawk for a visit so the youngsters could tour the aircraft. It worked right into this year’s MAD Camp theme, “Things that Fly.”

Representatives from the Health Center, BIEMS, Fire Dept., Sheriff’s Dept. and the BI Chamber – along with all the campers – turned out at the Municipal Airport to greet the rescue helicopter.

Commander of the U.S.C.G. Air Station Traverse City, Nate Coulter, answered questions and his crew conducted tours. The craft is much larger than the older Dolphin unit, has more deicing capabilities, larger fuel tanks, and can reach speeds of 161 m.p.h. A typical crew consists of two pilots, a flight mechanic and a rescue swimmer. This crew also had aboard two cadets and a flight surgeon, Commander Glen McPherson.

The MAD Camp kids had a great time and got to sit inside the massive helicopter. Today, they continue their quest for “Thing that Fly.” They will be sending up small rockets!

MAD Camp is a fine arts day camp taught by fine arts professionals who volunteer their time to bring the love of the arts to youngsters. It runs for a week every July on Beaver Island.

USCG addresses campers

USCG Commander Nate Coulter answers questions from the youngsters.

A beautiful spring on Beaver Island!

June is indeed, bustin’ out all over!

I’d like to personally send out a “Thank you,” “God bless ya,” and a “Well done!” to good old Mother Nature.

This spring, although a tad late in warming up, has been one of the loveliest I’ve seen in nearly 20 years on Beaver Island.

Early May brought us a bumper crop of daffodils and trilliums nodding in the wind. Then came the forget-me-nots and Iris, finding their spots at the edges of the woods and ponds. The apple blossoms were next, in abundance this spring. This week, the lilacs reign.

The first year here on the Island, we dug up three tiny lilac sprouts near Barney’s Lake and transplanted them in back of our new home. They are HAPPY in our location and stand about 16 feet tall now. They fill my yard and deck with their sweet perfume and bouquets of them sit about the house. My youngest son once laughed at us, planting those tiny bushes and a stick-like apple tree. Perhaps he thought we were so old that we’d never see them in their maturity. Thankfully, he was wrong.

The deep woods are glorious too. And perhaps the very best part of this spring (and I will whisper this so the Fates don’t take notice) is the total lack of the dreaded mosquitoes. There is not a one in sight! Nobody can quite figure that out as we’ve had plenty of rain, which usually brings them out until the 4th of July. But this year, one can wander the trails and see the emerging forest thicken and change from gold to green each day.

Days like today are not to be wasted. And so, before I close up shop and head outdoors, I’ll leave you all with one very happy thought as you contemplate your Island vacation; if this spring foreshadows the summer ahead, we are all in for a extraordinary treat!

Springtime lilacs on Beaver Island.

The lilacs at Barney’s Lake
on Beaver Island.

Tick-Tock, Out with this Clock!

Tick Tock

The cobalt blue light of this clock creates twilight, all night long.

They say opposites attract. If that’s the case, hubby and I are well matched. I swear by chocolate shakes, he’s a strawberry guy. He loves fish; I’m a red meat gal. I’m a night owl and he retires early with a book. And then there is the one deal breaker: He likes enough light to be able to maneuver at night. I require complete and absolute darkness.

It’s that last trait that got us into trouble last week. You see, both of us have been noting that our old alarm clock is just too small to read from across the room. Laying in bed and squinting at it, we can just barely make out the red digital numbers. That’s why I was so excited to have found a clock with a huge digital display. I should have known better.

As is his habit, hubby retired while I stayed up watching TV until late. Standing on the deck with the dogs for their ‘last time out,’ I noticed a strange glow emanating from our bedroom window. In spite of the darkening drapes on the slider door, the blue neon light was clearly visible. It looked like one of those scenes from a Sci-Fi that illustrates an alien presence in a house with an eerie illumination pouring under the cracks in the door and through the keyhole.

Fearfully, I opened the bedroom door. I fully expected to find a creature from another world, or at least Sigourney Weaver battling a monster dripping slime. What I saw chilled me to my very bones. Not only could I easily see the clock’s face without my glasses, but the cobalt colored phosphorescence revealed every detail of the room…it was virtually ablaze with light. Just like daytime, only blue.

I tried (for awhile) to sleep. I pulled the covers over my head. I strategically placed pillows to block the rays. Nothing worked. So, I pulled the plug from the wall and happily entered a darkened dreamland.

An hour later I was awakened by a beast-like roar. “Why did you disconnect my clock?” he bellowed. He turned on the bright overhead lamp to reconnect the beastly glow-monster, growling about my interference with his ‘favorite clock’ (good Lord, he’d only had the thing for one night).

“I cannot sleep with that thing,” I said.

“Too bad,” was his gentle and thoughtful reply.

At that I grabbed my pillows and made a dramatic exit to the living room sofa. I made quite a show of my sacrifice the next morning, whining about my crinkled spine, my cramped legs. Hubby finally relented and unplugged the glow-clock. “I liked it a lot,” he said, sadly.

“Too bad,” was my gentle and thoughtful reply.

I do have a use for this clock, however. Overnight visitors are sometimes quite taken aback by the absolute dark skies of the Island. Even with small nightlights in the guest room and bath, they are not used to the deepness of the midnight hours here. That won’t be a problem any more. For guests at our house will be treated to a brilliant iridescence in their room.

And as I fell asleep in my blackened cave the next night, I smiled as I thought back over the previous evening. Not bad, I thought. A problem for the guests solved and a marriage saved. Not bad for one sleepless nights work.