We are again spending the night on the shores of Lake Huron, this time in Michigan’s Port Crescent State Park.
It is hard to beat the view of waves breaking a matter of feet out the front door of our trailer, accentuated by the gentle sound of the surf. The cool off-shore breeze guarantees a good nights sleep in this dark sky park. Fingers are crossed for a cloudless evening.
Port Crescent recalls the memory of the thriving logging community that once occupied this spot in the mid to late 19th Century. The shores were believed to hold an inexhaustible supply of timber. As with most things ecological, the capacity of humans to exhaust the inexhaustible was gravely underestimated. The decades long accumulation of “slash” (discarded remnants of logging and milling operations) on Michigan’s “Thumb” Peninsula were a recipe for disaster.
A major forest fire in 1871 was a “treetop fire” that burned the tree crowns but largely left the remaining trees to die as they stood. Another fire was sparked in 1881 and became one of the worst conflagrations in US history. The tinder dry conditions, high winds, and the abundant fuel in the forests resulted in a flash fire that consumed over a million acres of the Peninsula’s towns and forests in the first 24 hours! This was to be known as the Great Thumb Fire. Few area residents were spared as the fire consumed oxygen, asphyxiating some, literally boiling others to death in the rivers, wells, and lakes where they sought refuge, and ending the lives of hundreds. Most of those who survived were left homeless by the onslaught. It was essentially the end of the town of Port Crescent. Here at the Park stands the base of a 120 foot tall smokestack, a legacy of one of the sawmills and the sole remnant of the town.
Switching gears… Today we stopped for breakfast at a local diner. In the men’s room was a sign that struck me as funny enough to warrent a picture.
Further along I found the message of the sign resonating with me and bringing me to contemplate the concept of “friendship”.
The friendships that we enjoy in our places of work and our communities are familiar to all of us. Those friendships are certainly valued, but easily taken for granted.
In our journeys we have become acquainted with hundreds of travelers (and Camino Pilgrims). Those friendships are built upon the foundations of our common undertakings. Those friendships are known from the start to have only a brief opportunity to flourish and to be enjoyed. Appreciation of the comradeship is left for one’s memory as there are no guarantees that paths will ever cross again.
Flowers on the arctic Tundra have a very limited time within which to fulfill their life cycle. They compress an entire season into a few weeks. Far flung friendships flourish (say that fast 10 times!!) in much the same way, igniting and maturing in the shortest of times… and then suffering a parting with no promise of renewal.
We are grateful for each of these encounters. We are fortunate that there are occasions that our life path again intersects with that of far flung friends. An encounter at a dump station in Texas with a reunion in Alaska… An shared campfire in Alaska followed by a chance encounter in Madrid Spain… Friendships forged on the Camino that continue to flourish in Kansas City or are renewed in Colorado, Canada, the Netherlands… Friendships sparked by email or Facebook communications that are later treasured in person in Wales, California, New Hampshire, or upstate New York…
We do not take these friendships for granted. Whenever the prospect for renewal occurs it is cause for celebration whether it is a friend from school days, or a visitor from New Zealand. Each is a blessing and an affirmation that life is good.
Peace Everyone. Pete