I want to tell you about the Porcupine Mountains. And about Lake Superior. And about the cabin where I lived for two glorious weeks while I was there for my artist residency.
But I also want to tell you that it can be a little discombobulating returning to normal life after living for two weeks in the rare and wonderful circumstance of a wilderness cabin with no running water or electricity or people. Of course “normal life” is bit of a stretch, because my husband and I are in the midst of major changes. Days have a tendency to be whirlwinds. I think everyone is feeling the whirlwinds of change these days, and I highly recommend two weeks—or a few days, or even a few hours—of solitude and forest for some perspective. Wilderness is our deepest home.
So, back to the Porcupine Mountains, or as they are affectionately called, the Porkies. They are not big mountains, but don’t judge a mountain by its elevation. These swells, peaks, valleys and cliffs will wedge their way into that realm of your heart that is reverence. I think that’s in part because they back up to the greatest lake in the world, Lake Superior, which is in and of itself an amazing wilderness. But also they are deep north woods, very remote, and inhabited by all manner of wild animals, including wolves. There are old-growth forests, and marvelous stands of hemlocks. Walking along the Lake Superior Trail, with thick birch forest to the south and blue lake to the north, you feel as if you are at the end of the earth, or more precisely, the end of civilization. I don’t know about you, but I loved that feeling.
So I also loved living in the little cabin, which was built by a small group of amazing and dedicated people specifically for the Artist in Residence Program, in memory of their friend, Dan Urbanski. That this cluster of individuals had the drive and organization and perseverance to handcraft a timber-framed cabin in the wilderness, and then continue on with the management of the Artist in Residence program, speaks volumes to their character and also their love of these mountains and their friend Dan. After all, the cabin bears his name, and not just as a title, but as a possessive noun. Dan’s Cabin. You can view his photographs and “wilderness diary” entries at his website: http://quietlywild.com (recommended!). Here is a little video I made of the cabin:
I can’t decide which aspect of the landscape was most inspiring: the great shifting moods of Lake Superior, which might be a loud and stormy gray, a brilliant cerulean jewel, or a dark liquid mirror dancing with the last gold of the day;
the waterfalls–of which there are many, both delicate and stupendous, swirled with foam and carving shale into intricate designs; the hemlock groves, which was a reunion both joyous and heartbreaking for me, having experienced the near demise of the tree in my own mountains;the Autumn color–a flaming brilliance unlike anything I have ever experienced– breathtaking when viewed from Summit Peak, for which the Superior blue served as a distant backdrop;
the cliffs above the Lake of the Clouds, crowned with delicate alpine plants and red pines that stood sentinel over that cup of blue that was the Lake of the Clouds;
or the calm beaver-crafted pools along the Little Carp River, adorned with floating golden leaves and reflecting a cobalt sky amongst the towers of white spruce and ridiculously orange sugar maples.
I can’t decide, and I don’t have to! Because I will be painting all of this–and more–in the coming months. And in so doing I hope to somehow process the magnificent, cumulative experience and translate into something that can convey what I feel in these photographs. I get the passion that made the cabin, that gathered friends together to honor this wilderness, and a person who loved it so dearly. I have been touched by it, and will never by the same.