Tag Archives: Michigan

Marquette, Michigan: Pristine Inland Sea

Courtesy of author

Courtesy of author


This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project. 

As a lifelong resident of Marquette, Michigan, located on the south shore of Lake Superior, I consider myself fortunate. Wherever I have lived in the city, I have been only moments from the lake, able to see it from outside my front door

Throughout my life, the lake and I have harmonized. As a child, I mimicked its spontaneity, dove in to dodge waves, oblivious to its cold temps. As a teen, I became intimate with its passionate pulse, perfect background for young romance. As an adult, I relived the intoxication of its danger, its wonder, watching over my own child’s fear and wild delight at the force of its storms. As I grow older, I find reliable companionship, the comfort of lifelong friendship in its rhythmic accompaniment during contemplative walks.

Recently, I realized how I have taken this relationship for granted as the result of a trip to the Atlantic coast.

When I first viewed the Atlantic Ocean from a New Jersey boardwalk, I said “It looks like Lake Superior.” This seemed to disappoint my host who knew I’d never seen the ocean, and I think felt deprived of the vicarious experience of my amazement. I explained that it appeared to be not so different from something I see nearly every day. However, as I spent more time getting to know the ocean, I realized the difference.

True, there are obvious similarities between the two bodies, which share vast breadth, unending horizons, but each has unique aspects, better appreciated after experience of the other. The fact that the sea is salt water, the lake fresh, is a difference which is a source of many others, for example, scent. Superior, though it has its own fishy ambience, does not overpower with pungent brine. To the panoramic view, colors differ, the sea being more aqua green than Superior’s robin egg or cobalt blue.

The large turbulent waves of the Atlantic make Superior’s seem clear and hard by contrast.  Under similar weather conditions, breaking waves of the ocean are foamier, spread and hiss a greater distance up the sand, while the sharper-edged waves of Superior seem to shatter and scatter. Because the lake is a smaller body of water, it feels more dense, compact. Ocean water has more space to stretch out, travels a greater distance, seems more diffuse. I hear this in the sounds of surf. While the ocean roars and pounds, the lake glugs, dunks, and gulps. Superior has less predictable shifts in water level, and where the regular tides of the sea litter the beach with shellfish, shells, and sharp mosaic fragments of shells, Lake Superior beaches are awash with pebbles, and agates, and driftwood.

Risks to the swimmer also differ.  There is no danger of jellyfish or shark attacks in fresh water, the most threatening creature likely to be found in the lake a transplant lamprey eel.  More remarkable is the difference in shoreline water temperature. Compared to the oceans moderate temps, Superior’s unmatched frigid bite is a nerve-numbing awakening not for the timid heart. This ultimately protects Superior’s purity, and primarily, it is this characteristic I have most taken for granted.

Marquette may be the most populated area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but even so, its beaches, for the most part, in contrast to those I visited on the Atlantic, are generally open to the public at no cost. No purchased pass is required to spend a day or season of days on Superior’s convenient sands.  Yet, on most of those days, one will not find huge concentrated crowds taking advantage of that. In contrast to the popular East Coast beaches I visited on the Atlantic, the public beaches around Marquette are not massed with people, packed like cliché sardines under miles of striped umbrellas.  There are no troupes of solicitous hot-dog vendors, armed patrol guards, enormous bulldozers at daybreak, turning over yesterday’s garbage strewn surface, no airplanes with flying billboards urging the purchase of dinner reservations, no blocks upon blocks of full parking lots, no rows of expensive clubs playing conflicting raucous music.

On the shores of Lake Superior, one is more likely to find a bike path winding through stretches of sparsely populated beachfront pine forest than commercialized entertainment. Even on the most popular Superior beaches, one can easily wander only a short distance to find solitude, privacy, peace.

Certainly, both the northern “Inland Sea” and the Atlantic Ocean are lovely at sunrise, or under the full moon of a July night. Still I have to admit, my visit to the East Coast of the great Atlantic only deepened my preference for the Great Lake above the Mackinac Bridge. I now more fully understand its unique beauty, and more greatly appreciate the privilege of living with it daily.

Jennifer Stanley is a native of upper Michigan, and has an MA in writing from Northern Michigan University. She has contributed to a variety of publications, including The Marquette Monthly, The Great Lakes Poetry Project Anthology, Above the Bridge Magazine, Country Woman, and The American Poetry Review.

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Michigan Bestseller List for May 2017

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 12.29.04 PM1) Dan Egan, “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes” (W.W. Norton & Company)

2) David Maraniss, “Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story” (Simon & Schuster)

3) Steve Hamilton, “Exit Strategy: A Nick Mason Novel” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

4) Sarah Shoemaker, “Mr. Rochester: A Novel” (Grand Central Publishing)

5) Josh Malerman, “Black Mad Wheel: A Novel” (Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers)

6) Viola Shipman, “the hope chest: A Novel” (Thomas Dunne Books/Macmillan)

7) Betsy Bird, “Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. EVER.” (Viking Books for Young Readers)

8) Michel Arnaud, “Detroit: The Dream is Now—The Design, Art, and Resurgence of an American City” (Harry N. Abrams)

9) Steve Hamilton, “The Second Life of Nick Mason” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

10) Adam Schuitema, “The Things We Do That Make No Sense: Stories” (Switchgrass Books)


Upper Peninsula Bestseller List for May 2017

1) Dan Egan, “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes” (W.W. Norton & Company)

2) Steve Hamilton, “Exit Strategy: A Nick Mason Novel” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

3) Steve Hamilton, “The Second Life of Nick Mason” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

4) Adam Schuitema, “The Things We Do That Make No Sense: Stories” (Switchgrass Books)

5) Jim Harrison, “A Really Big Lunch: Meditations on Food and Life from the Roving Gourmand” (Grove Press)

6) Steve Hamilton, “A Cold Day in Paradise” (St. Martin’s Press)

7) Kath Usitalo, “100 Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula Before You Die” (Reedy Press)

8) Jack Driscoll, “Goat Fish and the Lover’s Knot” (Wayne State University Press)

9) Louise Erdrich, “LaRose: A Novel” (HarperCollins Publishing)

9) Ernest Hemingway, “The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway” (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)

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Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, Michigan: Just Watch

26BY REBEKAH GLUPKER (Grand Valley State University)

This is the first place winner in the 2017 Narrative Map College Student Writing Contest. 

I settle down on the beach near the Old Mackinaw Point Lighthouse and take my camera out of its protective case. The sun has just begun to set over Lake Michigan, the first tendrils of pink reaching across the sky, and I want to capture the moment.

I stand for a better angle and take a couple photos, then sit back down to make sure I’ve gotten the lighting right. I adjust the camera settings and stand to try again. This quickly becomes a pattern; I want to get the perfect picture, but each new one is better than the last. After a few minutes, an elderly man shuffles up to me. He is wearing worn suspenders over his faded plaid shirt, and he adjusts them before lowering himself to the sand with a grunt.

“You can’t get the sunset with that thing,” he says, gesturing to my camera.

I clutch it protectively to my chest to shield it from his criticism. It’s old, sure, but it still works just fine.

The man grins. “I mean the sunset’s not just about the colors,” he says. “Sunsets are experiences. To see a sunset, truly see it, you’ve got to put the camera down and just watch.”

I can’t stop the skeptical look that spreads over my face, and he chuckles.

“Trust me, it’s worth it,” he says.

I shrug. Why not? I think. I’ll have other chances to take pictures.

“Okay,” I tell him and lower my camera. I dig my feet into the sand to feel the cool grains between my toes, and I watch the sun set.

The soft pink gradually expands to fill the whole sky, bleeding into the streaks of brilliant orange that appear. Then the clouds ignite, a slow burn that begins at the horizon and spreads to the nearby sky until it is blazing red, silhouetting the Mackinac Bridge in front of it. The waves beat rhythmically against the shore and a sudden gust of wind whips at my hair. All the sensations build in my chest, creating an urgency I don’t quite understand.

The sun begins to disappear below the horizon, slipping lower with every passing minute. The sky softens, and the world begins to calm. The waves lap more gently at the shore and a soft breeze kisses my skin, bringing with it the comforting scent of the lake.

My hands lie slack in my lap, and the camera has slipped off to the side, forgotten. I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. A sense of peace replaces the urgency, as though I’ve found the answer to a question I don’t remember asking.

The elderly man nudges my arm with his elbow. “Yeah,” he says, “you get it now.”

And so I sit on the beach while the sky fades to deep blue, then black, until the mosquitos start biting and the water sparkles with the reflection of the lights on the bridge.

Often sunsets make me feel tiny and insignificant, unworthy to witness their glory; but tonight I feel like I’m part of something amazing.

My camera beeps nearby, reminding me of its presence.

Power off? the screen asks.

Yes, I confirm, and smile.

Rebekah Glupker is a Writing major at Grand Valley State University. She has spent a week in the Mackinaw City area with her family every summer for as long as she can remember, and its beauty inspires much of her writing. She has not yet been published, but is currently readying several pieces for submission to school publications. 

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Seul Choix Point, Michigan: Of Shells and Strata, Time and Terrain

Screenshot 2017-01-29 08.53.27BY ROBERT ROOT

This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project. 

I’ve been tracking the Niagara Escarpment, a geologic formation that arcs from Wisconsin through upper Michigan and Ontario past Niagara Falls into western New York. In the Upper Peninsula, Seul Choix Point interrupts a long stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline, between the Garden Peninsula on the west and the Mackinac Bridge on the east. The name comes either from French explorers who thought the point the only choice–“seul choix”—for shelter between Mackinac Island and Green Bay or from a distortion of an Ojibwa word, “shashoweg,” the straight line. As my wife and I approach, I ignore college French lessons and use the local pronunciation, “Sis-shwa.” I want to see the way the Niagara Cuesta slides under Lake Michigan here.

Passing the Seul Choix Lighthouse to reach a path through the trees to the shoreline, we emerge onto a broad flat rock beach, its surface uneven but mostly uniform. Shrubs and grasses grow in crevasses and deeper indentations are filled with either lake water or layers of small white shells. We weave our way toward the water across eroded strata, broken chunks of flat rock lying in small pools or in the midst of shells. Dark mosses spill over cracks and fractures. Just offshore glacial erratics rise above the waves. It’s an overcast morning, and the waves match the grayness of the clouds and the grayness of the rocks.

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screenshot-2016-11-28-15-02-03MICHIGAN BESTSELLER LIST FOR OCTOBER 2016

1) Nicole Curtis, Better Than New: Lessons I’ve Learned from Saving Old Homes (and How They Saved Me) (Artisan Books/Workman Publishing Company)

2) Landis Lain, Baby’s Daddy (Brown Girl Books)

3) Thomas C. Foster, How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines (Revised Edition) (Harper Perennial)

4) Kristin Bartley Lenz, The Art of Holding on and Letting Go (Elephant Rock Productions)

5) Tom Stanton, Terror in the City of Champions: Murder, Baseball, and the Secret Society that Shocked Depression-Era Detroit (Lyons Press)

6) Christopher Paul Curtis, The Watsons go to Birmingham—1963 (Yearling Books/Charles Scribner’s Sons)

7) Dave Coverly, Night of the Living Shadows: A Speed Bump & Slingshot Misadventure (Henry Holt and Company/Macmillan)

8) Kristina Riggle, Vivian in Red (Polis Books)

9) Vince Flynn, Order to Kill: A Mitch Rapp Novel (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster)

10) John U. Bacon, Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football (St. Martin’s Press)


1) Joy Morgan Dey, agate (Lake Superior Port Cities)

2) Eric Sevareid, Canoeing with the Cree: A 2,250-Mile voyage from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay (Borealis Books)

3) Margaret Noodin, Weweni: poems in Anishinaabemowin and English (Wayne State University Press) [tie]

3) Gerald Wykes, A Beaver Tale: The Castors of Conners Creek (Wayne State University Press) [tie]

5) Jerry Dennis, Canoeing Michigan Rivers: A Comprehensive Guide to 45 Rivers (Completely Revised & Updated) (Thunder Bay Press)

6) Betsy Bowen, Tracks in the Wild (University of Minnesota Press) [tie]

6) Beatrice H. Castle, The Grand Island Story (John M. Longyear Research Library) [tie]

6) Ron Strickland, The North Country Trail: The Best Walks, Hikes, and Backpacking Trips on America’s Longest National Scenic Trail (University of Michigan Press) [tie]

6) Anton Treuer, Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (Borealis Books) [tie]

10) Mardi Link, Wicked Takes the Witness Stand: A Tale of Murder and Twisted Deceit in Northern Michigan (University of Michigan Press)

The Michigan Best Seller List for October 2016, compiled by Ron Riekki from eleven Michigan bookstores: The Book Beat in Oak Park, www.thebookbeat.com; Bookbug in Kalamazoo, bookbugkalamazoo.com; Dog Ears Books in Northport, www.dogearsbooks.net/; Great Lakes Books & Supply in Big Rapids, greatlakesbook.com; Falling Rock Café and Bookstore in Munising, fallingrockcafe.com; Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor, nicolasbooks.com; North Wind Books in Hancock, bookstore.finlandia.edu; Pages Bookshop in Detroit, http://www.pagesbkshop.com/; Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord, www.saturnbooksellers.com; and Schuler Books & Music in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Okemos,schulerbooks.com.  These stores support Michigan books, authors, and publishers.


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Marquette, Michigan: Landing


This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project. 

Our lives play out indoors. We are caged animals and mostly we like it t10399593_1074358783762_7630_nhis way. The sensations of earthly dependence have left our bodies but they linger somewhere else, and we resent the wind in the trees for being such a tease. But we had a beach once. It wasn’t exactly ours but we seemed to credit ourselves with its presence. It was ours but we did not buy it and we did not make it. We did not grind the sand that sloped so slowly into the cold Superior. We did not mold the sandstone into cliffs and paint them wildly with mineral powders. We were not here 500 million years ago.  But we have descended the gentle slopes, uncomfortable and exposed, waiting for the water to rise and rescue us from our ambivalence. We have seen the light of our fires thrown against the cliffs. We have kissed each other while the Aurora Borealis blazed above us. And often we were drunk. And on those nights Superior was gentler and we could feel our bare bodies become small and tight beneath the water as we darted from rock to rock. We felt that to fly could not be better than this.

There are other people on our beach now and they’ve had to pay for the privilege, five dollars I’m told. I imagine them removing their shoes, rolling up their pants, and loitering on the threshold, bouncing forward and back with the waves. This makes them feel youthful and they’re grateful for it. They comment on the frigid water and its bigness. A lake and not an ocean! Eventually they roll their pants up even higher, so high that it squeezes their calves painfully. They regret not wearing shorts but what does it matter if their pants get a little wet? Later, at home, they open one of the good bottles of wine. They can still feel the bitter Superior around their ankles. Their skin is tight and cold to the touch, but their limbs are light as they linger in the kitchen, raised, unawares, to the tips of their toes on the linoleum.

Andrea Hoyt is a writer living in Fort Collins, Colorado where she edits several magazines. 

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Michigan’s U.P. poet laureate shares top 10 books from Superior country

ScarpinoTo celebrate the release of, What the Willow Said as It Fell, the new book from Andrea Scarpino, we asked the Upper Peninsula’s poet laureate what her top ten poetry books are with ties to the U.P.

1. A Story of America Goes Walking by Saara Myrene Raappana and Rebekah Wilkins-Pepiton (an absolutely wonderful brand new collaboration of poetry and visual images)

2. In the Land We Imagined Ourselves by Jonathan Johnson

3. Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, edited by Ronald Riekki

4. Errata by Lisa Fay Coutley

5. Voice on the Water: Great Lakes Native America Now, edited by Grace Chaillier and Rebecca Tavernini

6. Small Enterprise by Mary Biddinger

7. Milk Tooth, Levee, Fever by Saara Myrene Raappana

8. How to End Up by Jennifer A. Howard (technically, this is a chapbook of short short stories, but it reads like poetry, and I just love it)

9. Father, Tell Me I Have Not Aged by Russell Thorburn (Russ is the first poet laureate of the UP, and this is my favorite of his collections)

10. Light as Sparrows by Jillena Rose

Scarpino’s book-length poem, out now from Red Hen Press, “bears witness to the body as a site of loss, to chronic pain as an all-encompassing experience, and to the mythological and medical ways we understand the body as it is continually created and lost,” according to the publisher.

“(It) asks the reader to sit with and inside the body’s many losses, to grow comfortable and restless in its vagaries, and to acknowledge the myriad ways the body shapes and informs our lives,” the publisher said in a press release. “Incorporating found poetry, including from her own medical records, and the ash and willow tree as mythological figures, Scarpino writes with lyric intensity from a place of resistance and questioning as she tries to describe, understand, and record chronic pain as a growing epidemic.”

Find the book here.



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Screenshot 2016-07-19 15.41.48MICHIGAN BESTSELLER LIST TOP 15 FOR JUNE 2016

1) Tom Stanton–Terror in the City of Champions: Murder, Baseball, and the Secret Society that Shocked Depression-Era Detroit (Lyons Press)

2) Allison Leotta–Last Good Girl: A Novel (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster)

3) Steve Hamilton–The Second Life of Nick Mason (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Books)

4) Terry McMillan–I Almost Forgot About You: A Novel (Crown Publishing Group)

5) David Maraniss–Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story (Simon & Schuster)

6) Katie Dalebout–Let It Out: a journey through journaling (Hay House)

7) Julie Lawson Timmer–Untethered: A Novel (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

8) Loren Graham–A Face in the Rock: The Tale of a Grand Island Chippewa (University of California Press)

9) Angela Flournoy–The Turner House: A Novel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

10) Patricia Abbott–Shot in Detroit (Polis Books)

11) Stan Tekeila–Birds of Michigan Field Guide (Adventure Publications)

12) Mary Emerick–The Geography of Water (University of Alaska Press)

13) Viola Shipman–The Charm Bracelet: A Novel (Macmillan/Thomas Dunne Books)

14) David Means–Hystopia: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

15) Emily St. John Mandel–Station Eleven: A Novel (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)



1) Steve Hamilton–The Second Life of Nick Mason (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Books USA)

2) Loren Graham–A Face in the Rock: The Tale of a Grand Island Chippewa (University of California Press)

3) Mary Emerick–The Geography of Water (University of Alaska Press)

4) Emily St. John Mandel–Station Eleven: A Novel (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

5) Alison DeCamp–My Near-Death Adventures (99% True!) (Crown Books for Young Readers)

6) Abe Sauer–Good Night Loon (University of Minnesota Press)

7) Joseph Heywood–Buckular Dystrophy (Lyons Press)

8) Jerry Dennis–The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas (St. Martin’s Press) [tie]

8) L.E. Kimball–Seasonal Roads (Wayne State University Press) [tie]

10) Molly Beth Griffin–Rhoda’s Rock Hunt (Minnesota Historical Society Press)

11) DeLorme Mapping Company—Michigan Atlas & Gazetteer (DeLorme Publishing)

12) Jim Harrison—The Ancient Minstrel (Grove Press)

13) John Smolens—Wolf’s Mouth (Michigan State University Press)

14) Bonnie Jo Campbell–American Salvage: Stories (Wayne State University Press)

14) Michael Delp and M.L. Liebler—Bob Seger’s House and Other Stories (Wayne State University Press)

14) Steve Hamilton–A Cold Day in Paradise (St. Martin’s Press)


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Garden City, Michigan: Corner of Maplewood and Hartel


This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project.

In an unknown world at the edge of Detroit, there is a green diamond ablaze beneath the sky. We, the young ones in this place of little pattern houses, call it the Lighted Field. Year after year, grasping at childhood, we ride our bikes with streamers on our handlebars, whooshing down Maplewood. Meet me at the Lighted Field, we say. Game or no game. Night or blinding summer day when the sun extinguishes the fierce electric lights. Meet me at the Lighted Field.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 12.40.43 PMBut this night, this 1969 night, burns brighter than sunlight. Sears my memory. Mosquitoes fry high above the infield on white-hot bulbs. Dust flies after base runners. Crowded feet in sandals and sneakers dangle between rows of bleacher seats. Bats pop. Popsicles melt. Top of the ninth. You and I make out behind the clubhouse at the Lighted Field. We run before the inning ends. To Canada.

Soon, your draft notice will land in the family mailbox, but find no soldier boy there to enlist, because of small acts across our childhood years. Chase games, hiding games. A red crayon Valentine slipped through your locker door. Secrets. Blushes. Whispering, camping in the backyard, our homemade tent cloaked in suburban sprawl. Beach towels and transistor radios at the lake. Warm sand coating our skin. Until tonight’s game. Wet, frightened adolescent kisses send us flying for your life. All the way to downtown Detroit in your old Ford, along Michigan Avenue, past the big stadium aglow, right turn to the River, through the Windsor Tunnel and out the other side.

Top of the ninth. Years too late. A summer afternoon, I park my car on Hartel and find a place on the bleachers at the Lighted Field, baking my bare, outstretched legs in the sun. Unknown, unknowable world at the edge of Detroit. There is the clubhouse where you and I used to hide and scheme and make out. Then you went to Vietnam.

No one recognizes me anymore. I watch the game. Until the day of my own death far from this place, if my old mind flickers to the green diamond beneath hot sun or beneath tall electric lights and black sky; or if the words, Lighted Field, flash and then go dark, then one last time, my heart will race and my throat tighten with grief.

A historian, writer and photographer, Amy Kenyon was born in Dearborn, Michigan and spent her childhood in suburban Detroit. She is the author of Dreaming Suburbia (Wayne State University Press) and Ford Road (University o Michigan Press).  

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Manistee National Forest, Michigan: The Bear


This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project.

5ACBD117-2B08-4EFC-A3DC-1C9D7EDAB3A7The Sunday after the memorial services, we all went morel hunting.

Sara found two more morels in the front yard of her mother’s house. I had found one the day before, amidst dead wood along M-55, where lumber trucks barreled out of the Manistee National Forest. With three morels found, even though the season was long over, we decided to take the kids and grandpa out into the forest to hunt for more beneath overcast summer skies.

We drove a few miles west and pulled off at a sign (erected in 1983) celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of a Civilian Conservation Corp camp that had toiled in the woods during the Depression. Beyond the first tree line, in the clear path beneath new power lines, Oscar (age 5), stumbled along in the grass with his hands outstretched. Abigail (age 2), toddled after her ‘buther’.

“C’mere, little cabbage moth,” Oscar said quietly, his hands moving up and down, following the loping, drunk flight of the small insect.

Beyond the second tree line, along fallen poplars, we found cup fungus, white shelf fungus, and richly colored sulphur fungus. But there were too many pines, and so we marched west were we saw more beech and oak leaves.

As we ascended a sandy hill, we found angled iron set in old, crumbling concrete.

“What was here, Dad?” Oscar asked.

“I guess it was part of the old camp for the men who worked here years ago,” I replied, uncertain. We found several stout concrete posts arrayed around a large cone of concrete almost as tall as me, with a bent and rusting piece of rebar atop it.

“A toad!” grandpa called, happily, and Oscar and Abigail ran over with me following. The toad hopped amidst the shepherd hook sprouts of fiddle head ferns, hiding beneath maple saplings. All across the forest floor, sprouting from the leaves, were tiny mushrooms and white star-flowers.

Oscar chirped as he raised his cupped hands. And inside, frightened but safe, there was the tiny form of a gray tree frog with his yellow inner thighs pulled close against his white belly.

Oscar carried him deeper into the ruins of the camp while Sara and grandpa looked under fallen logs for morels. Abigail wrapped her hand around one of my fingers. “I looking for river,” she said to me seriously. I picked her up and carried her on my hip. She whispered in my ear, “You can find a big river, and,” I leaned close to feel her lips against my cheek. Then she said, “and I find a teeny tiny river.”

Beyond the ruins there was a huge treeless bowl between two hills. Down the eastern slope of the bowl, as we descended, we found crumbling shingles, maybe from the camp, maybe dumped years later.

“I think,” Oscar said, stumbling across the shingles, “that a house sank here into the hill.”

We really didn’t have any better explanation.

But then he fell and landed on his cupped hand.

“Is the frog okay!” Sara asked, concerned. “Are you okay, Oscar?”

We examined Oscar, and the frog, and found that both were okay. Oscar took the frog back up the hill into the wet leaves beneath the trees and released him by a corner of exposed concrete.

The clouds drew close, and the air was cool.

“Maybe it rain,” Abigail said, toddling out into the treeless expanse of the open bowl. At the northern end of the bowl was a high mound built by aggressive black and red ants. At the southern end there was the curled over gray stump of some long dead tree.

The forest behind us had been a mix of pine and poplar and oak, but the forest up the western slope of the bowl was entirely deciduous, and it was there that we marched to look again for mushrooms.

“Look, here are two!” Sara called out. But when we came closer, we saw that the mushrooms had gone black and peeled back at the head. They were days old and had gone bad.

Oscar and Grandpa marched steadily further west, out onto a lumber road, where they played hey-batter-batter-swing with sticks and stones.

As Sara and Abigail and I searched, we found clumps of morels every ten or fifteen feet, all at the same level, half way up the western slope of the bowl, beneath rotting logs or against ancient trees. But every time, the morels had gone bad, turning black, melting back into the sandy loam of the hillside.

And along with the morels, a little further of up the hill, we kept finding the heavy odorless scat of brown bear. Abigail was getting tired, tumbling down into the leaves, whimpering a little.

“I don’t like the look of that,” Sara said after we found the third pile of bear scat. The bear had been marching around the western half of the bowl for quite a while, staying up along one level of the hill, drawn here for some reason.

Abigail pulled down the top of a fiddlehead fern to inspect the curled end. “Worm,” she said to me, indicating the curled up head of the fern.

At the end of it all, we had found ten rotting morels.

Defeated, we marched back down into the bowl. Abigail, exhausted, cried into Sara’s shoulder. And in the dead center of the bowl, on the flat sandy ground beneath ferns and atop star flowers, we found a skull.

“Is it a deer?” Sara asked.

But it was too stout, a deer skull usually stretching  out at the snout.

“No,” I said tentatively, “I think it belonged to a bear. Maybe a juvenile.”

It was missing its canines, so it was hard to tell, but that’s what I think rested in the middle of the great open bowl in the forest.

I scooped up Abigail, and as she wailed, I marched back to the car.

Oscar, holding Sara’s hand, paused over the skull.

“Are you scared,” Sara asked.

I crested the hill, almost jogging along the old concrete left behind by the men who had restored this wild place after a century of heavy logging.

I heard Oscar say, “No, Mom. I think I’m just a little sad.”

Fritz Swanson is the Director of Wolverine Press, the letterpress studio for the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. His writing has appeared in such places as McSweeney’s, The Believer, The Christian Science Monitor and Esopus.

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