Kangaroo Lake in Door County – The Magic of Studying Details, Then Turning Around

Kangaroo Lake

Kangaroo Lake – South View © 2014 Bo Mackison

The mid-October day was mercurial – one moment skies were blue, the next a wave of gray clouds pushed in from nearby Lake Michigan. Blustery winds buffeted me, causing me to lose my balance more than once. Then calm would descend for a brief respite for the wind and chill.

October in Door County, for sure, Wisconsin’s northeastern most point, a peninsula sticking out into tempestuous Lake Michigan.

Kangaroo Lake is one of the more protected places on the peninsula in fresh water lake in the center of Door County, and a wonderful place to go during the autumn festival days. Most of the crowd who comes to enjoy the views hug the shore of Door County, bay side and lake side. But there is much to be said for the wild beauty of the interior, too.

I loved studying the autumn changes of Kangaroo lake, standing on a narrow bridge of road that crosses the northern most bay. Fallen leaves were bobbing on the surface, the reeds were stripped of there green finery and their fuzzy seeds, and stood knee deep in the cold, stunningly blue water. Beyond, fir trees lined one side of the lake, and deciduous trees in this year’s last blaze of glory hugged the opposite side.

Then the sun disappeared in the scattered clouds.

Once I had taken in the scene with all my senses, as is my habit, I turn around to see what is behind me.

Kangaroo Lake

Kangaroo Lake – North View  © 2014 Bo Mackison

And the sun slid from the cloud cover, causing the lake ripples to shimmer in a sheet of dancing light.

A solitary island caught my attention. Birds were darting from the trees to the water and back again. Creatures were slipping in and out of the shadows and the shoreline brush.

Kangaroo Lake — its two faces. Both to be explored and adored.

Visiting with Aldo Leopold

Through the Sand Barrens to the Wisconsin River

Through the Sand Barrens to the Wisconsin River © 2013 Bo Mackison

I visited with Aldo Leopold.

Well, I didn’t exactly see Aldo in person, but I walked the paths Aldo walked, gazed at the river scenes Aldo studied, photographed the prairie flowers Aldo sketched and wrote about, and clumped along in the sand where Aldo would have walked 70 years ago.

You may be wondering who is this Aldo Leopold. His name is not a household word unless you are into the study of ecology and environmental issues. Yet he was one of the first scientists to discuss the land ethic — taking care of our earth is a sustainable manner.

Curt Meine, a research associate of the International Crane Foundation, wrote:

“Aldo Leopold was a forester and wildlife ecologist who wrote A Sand County Almanac, a collection of essays about the natural world and conservation. The book was published posthumously in 1949. A Sand County Almanac went on to become one of the key texts of the environment movement. Leopold is closely identified with “The Land Ethic,” the final essay in the Almanac, in which he argued that people are part of the “land community,” and so bear moral responsibilities that extend beyond the realm of the human to include the non-human parts of that community.”

Path through Sand Barrens

Through the Sand Barrens © 2013 Bo Mackison

Sherpa and I walked from the quiet country road that meanders through wooded land, past Aldo Leopold’s Shack, and through the sand barrens to the shores of the Wisconsin River. The land is rather wild, even though it is a part of the Aldo Leopold Foundation and has a schedule of tours to walk some of the trails, visit the inside of the shack, and listen to the life story of Leopold. Most people don’t hike the extra mile to the river, and so we spectacular hiking and plenty of solitude.

Aldo Leopold's Shack, A National Landmark

Aldo Leopold’s Shack, A National Landmark © 2013 Bo Mackison

Leopold was a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in the 1940s. He purchased this simple shack during that time, and he and his family spent most weekends here. He was a keen observer of the natural world and its interconnectedness with man. He wrote detailed accounts of the world as he observed it — phenological records — including weather, plant cycles, animal activity. And man’s impact upon the natural world.

Prairie Rosinweed

Prairie Rosinweed © 2013 Bo Mackison

“Keeping records enhances the pleasure of the search and the chance of finding order and meaning in these events.” ~ Aldo Leopold

Canoing the Wisconsin River

Canoeing the Wisconsin River © 2013 Bo Mackison

“There are two things that interest me, the relationship of people to each other and the relationship of people to the land.”
~ Aldo Leopold

Prairie Meets River

Prairie Meets River © 2013 Bo Mackison

“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching- even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”
~ Aldo Leopold

Aldo's Land

Hidden Land – Aldo’s Land © 2013 Bo Mackison

“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” ~Aldo Leopold

Sand Barrens Sandscape

Sand Barrens Sandscape © 2013 Bo Mackison

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.” ~Aldo Leopold

Today I celebrate my 60th birthday. I had intended on taking a day trip to the Leopold land, but inclement weather thwarted my plans. So instead, I’m sharing photographs from a day I spent at Leopold’s Shack in August. I’m also sharing a few of my favorite quotes from Aldo Leopold.

It is, in part, from studying his writings that I have developed my own land ethic and sense of values.

Visiting with Aldo Leopold

Through the Sand Barrens to the Wisconsin River

Through the Sand Barrens to the Wisconsin River © 2013 Bo Mackison

I visited with Aldo Leopold. Well, I didn’t exactly see Aldo in person, but I walked the paths Aldo walked, gazed at the river scenes Aldo studied, photographed the prairie flowers Aldo sketched and wrote about, and clumped along in the sand where Aldo would have walked 70 years ago.

You may be wondering who is this Aldo Leopold. His name is not a household word unless you are into the study of ecology and environmental issues. Yet he was one of the first scientists to discuss the land ethic — taking care of our earth is a sustainable manner.

Curt Meine, a research associate of the International Crane Foundation, wrote:

“Aldo Leopold was a forester and wildlife ecologist who wrote A Sand County Almanac, a collection of essays about the natural world and conservation. The book was published posthumously in 1949. A Sand County Almanac went on to become one of the key texts of the environment movement. Leopold is closely identified with “The Land Ethic,” the final essay in the Almanac, in which he argued that people are part of the “land community,” and so bear moral responsibilities that extend beyond the realm of the human to include the non-human parts of that community.”

Path through Sand Barrens

Through the Sand Barrens © 2013 Bo Mackison

Sherpa and I walked from the quiet country road that meanders through wooded land, past Aldo Leopold’s Shack, and through the sand barrens to the shores of the Wisconsin River. The land is rather wild, even though it is a part of the Aldo Leopold Foundation and has a schedule of tours to walk some of the trails, visit the inside of the shack, and listen to the life story of Leopold.  Most people don’t hike the extra mile to the river, and so we spectacular hiking and plenty of solitude.

Aldo Leopold's Shack, A National Landmark

Aldo Leopold’s Shack, A National Landmark © 2013 Bo Mackison

Leopold was a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in the 1940s. He purchased this simple shack during that time, and he and his family spent most weekends here. He was a keen observer of the natural world and its interconnectedness with man. He wrote detailed accounts of the world as he observed it — phenological records — including weather, plant cycles, animal activity.  And man’s impact upon the natural world.

Prairie Rosinweed

Prairie Rosinweed © 2013 Bo Mackison

“Keeping records enhances the pleasure of the search and the chance of finding order and meaning in these events.” ~ Aldo Leopold

Canoing the Wisconsin River

Canoeing the Wisconsin River © 2013 Bo Mackison

“There are two things that interest me, the relationship of people to each other and the relationship of people to the land.”
~ Aldo Leopold

Prairie Meets River

Prairie Meets River © 2013 Bo Mackison

“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching- even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”
~ Aldo Leopold

Aldo's Land

Hidden Land – Aldo’s Land © 2013 Bo Mackison

“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” ~Aldo Leopold

Sand Barrens Sandscape

Sand Barrens Sandscape © 2013 Bo Mackison

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.” ~Aldo Leopold

~~~~~~~~~~

Bo Mackison is photographer, book-maker, collector of stories, naturalist, curator and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  Today I celebrate my 60th birthday. I had intended on taking a day trip to the Leopold land, but inclement weather thwarted my plans. So instead, I’m sharing photographs from a day I spent at Leopold’s Shack in August. I’m also sharing a few of my favorite quotes from Aldo Leopold. It is, in part,  from studying his writings that I have developed my own land ethic and sense of values.

Autumn Yellow

Yellow Leaves

Yellow Leaves © 2013 Bo Mackison

In taking time to contemplate the small – in observing the details…we can experience life on a manageable scale.
~ Marilyn Barrett

 

Sitting under the emerald ash
green-yellow shimmers,
pierced-work light filters through
and quivering, touches the ground, settling
in the flutter of fallen leaves.
Wayward chickadee hops branch
to branch, twee-hee.

I am the statue. The tree bursts open
with flits, twitters, chase scenes,
each bird shouldering its way to the feeder
shoving match, the littlest chickadee
flies into leafy cover.

Earthy October and dusty leaves,
crumples of brown, closing my eyes,
I imagine my hands, they open
the trunk. It’s filled with yellowed letters and
faded handwriting, cancelled stamps on
featherweight airmail envelopes.

Red squirrels scavenge the hickory nuts,
their tails a shimmer like can-can skirts.
My feet are bare, toes grip the earth, it is how
I hang on to this spinning world
when it dips and dives out of synch.

And we creep towards the coming dark,
hail the purple skies and the last gasp trees of scarlet.
Color my world. Cheery-cheery trills the cardinal.
Twilight descends, the first star shines.
Make a wish. Spin around twice.
Go inside and turn on the lights.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Bo Mackison is photographer, book-maker, collector of stories, naturalist, curator and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.   Autumn color is coloring my world.

Wabi Sabi Flowers of the Prairie

Autumn Flowers

Wabi Sabi Flowers © 2013 Bo Mackison

That art which matters to us – which moves the heart, or revives the soul, or delights the senses, or offers courage for living, however we choose to describe the experience – that work is received to us as a gift is received. ~ Lewis Hyde

I walked the prairie yesterday, or more accurately, I walked a prairie remnant yesterday. So little of the prairie remains, but I am grateful for even the bits of prairie that I explore.

I imagine a time when the prairie would have been endless, a spaciousness of waving grasses, stalks of eight feet tall flowers, and no space to even place your feet as you walk through the dense habitation. A prairie is dense.

For a while, I followed an animal trail, probably deer, until the path simple vanished and I was in the midst of grasses, browning stalks of plants, all several feet higher than I stood. I stood there awhile, just absorbing the spirit of the autumn prairie. The prairie is no longer deep greens studded with summer yellow flowers; it is muted blue, golden, russet, yellow-green.

Standing in the prairie, taking a few photographs of the prairie, I recalled one of my favorite quotes. It is about art, but I can easily apply it, word for word, to explorations in nature. In the midst of this remnant prairie, the experience moves my heart, revives my soul, delights my senses. And yes, surrounded by the natural world, inhaling the dusty air,  studying the flowers turning to seed, and watching the grasshoppers leap from leaf to leaf, the prairie experience offers me courage for living a meaning-filled life.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Bo Mackison is photographer, book-maker, collector of stories, naturalist, curator and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  Today, once again, I walked the prairie and found answers to the questions swirling in my head.