Life in a Northern Town

Fragile

If I ever had questions about the fragility of life, the past couple weeks put them to rest, for good. The first little 'ping' came two weeks ago when Will and I went for our Sunday photo safari. I woke up that morning with the phrase, 'the last places are worth saving'  in my head and we set out to find a few photos of those last places. It's not difficult to find showstopping photos up here and within an hour, we were cold and headed home. On our way towards Bayfield, we saw two eagles being chased by a single crow right after we left the beach. One of the eagles had 'dinner' in his talons and Will and I were amazed at the chutzpah of that single crow. He was one wrong move away from becoming dinner himself. I couldn't stop wondering why a crow would be going up against two large eagles— was he too lazy to find his own dinner or was there a bigger message in the tableau Will and I were witnessing?

Of course, I thought it was symbolic of the David and Goliath mining battle playing out in the Penokees. Talk about fragile, the mine would pollute the Bad River watershed and subsequently Lake Superior.  That kind of cause and effect is easy to understand— the bad guys pollute the water and the good guys lose everything. But what happens when it's not as clear and bad things happen anyway?

Within the past week, two eagles have died from lead poisoning (I'm not sure if they were the two eagles I saw with Will). The eagles, and other animals, eat gutpiles from deer carcasses and if the deer are killed with lead bullets, the gut piles are contaminated. To be fair, I'm not entirely sure the eagles died from scavenging lead contaminated deer carcasses but it drives home the message that everything is connected and something as benign, and even seemingly responsible, as leaving the gutpile from a harvested deer to feed eagles, coyotes, and whatever else is hungry can lead to unintended but deadly consequences.

I used to see an eagle in a tree at the mouth of the Sioux River and every time I drove over the bridge, I looked towards the lake to see if he was perched on the top branch. I haven't seen him since the news of the lead poisoning came out and I'm afraid he's gone. The sight of that eagle in the tree became a touchstone for me and I felt blessed every time I saw him. It's heavy when you realize every step, decision and movement you make has consequences, seen or unseen, and to plow blindly forward is not only selfish but irresponsible. It can feel immobilizing, the awareness of our woven destiny with everything that surrounds us. But what happens when the weave supports and sustains us?

Jim Hudson died last week and we are still reeling. Losing a man as loved and respected as Jim sent shock waves through every corner of our little town and I was reminded, again, of how we are all woven into the same tapestry. As I watched the horrible story unfold, I started to notice the support that was swelling to help Hannah, Jim's wife, after his passing. I also noticed the stories and testimonies about Jim and the legacy he left behind. He was tremendously loved, in Bayfield and beyond.

I think the first time I met Jim, he had George in the back of his police car (George had a fierce wanderlust in his early years) and with his characteristic smile, he dropped George off, swapped some fishing tips with Ted and went on his way. Over the years, I've gotten to know Jim and Hannah better and their generosity of spirit was remarkable. I remember the first time Hannah complimented Will on his photography, he was thrilled and I doubt he'll ever forget his first compliment from a professional photographer. That's just one example of how she fostered an environment where a 13-year-old boy could feel like a giant, I know there are many, many more. Talk about paying it forward, she has an overflowing account of good will, love and support coming her way.

All life is fragile and the delicate balance of our choices and their consequences can be overwhelming. From taking a stand for the Lake, eagles and other wildlife, to living your life in alignment with your deepest and most dearly held convictions, these are the threads that bind us together. There are bound to be losses that bring us to our knees but the tapestry we've built with our words, actions and lives will support us until we can walk on, towards what's next.

A bit of advice Given to a young Native American At the time of his initiation: As you go the way of life, You will see a great chasm.  Jump. It is not as wide as you think.

Joseph Campbell