Saturday, October 12, 2013


Young eagle trying to perch on a
small pipe. (photo by Atlas Beneda)
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Its been nearly one month since my last post.  The days have flown by with a variety of activities.  Island colors are now approaching the full palette of greens, reds, yellow and shades in between.  Long grasses and reeds have suddenly, it seems, taken on golden colors, although the grass along roadside and in lawns has never looked greener, given the abundance of rainfall in the past weeks.

We had over three inches last weekend in occasional downpours, before seeing glorious sunshine Sunday noon.  And its been one beautiful, week since then.

The first Washington Island Literary Festival was a tremendous success in so many ways.   We had just over 80 registrants, and what was so memorable was that each participant, whether audience member or  presenter, seemed to be filled with a highly congenial spirit.  Beginning with a reception at Red Cup Coffee Friday evening, then unexpectedly entertaining and informative presentations Saturday, and excellent dinner with poetry Saturday evening at the Island Dairy, through the trips on the Karfi in rain and heavy overcast, then coming out of that for two afternoon sessions...the weekend had more the feeling of a retreat with only positives coming from our experiences.

My only photos were taken Sunday morning, when some of us were waiting for the first trip (with extra chairs) to Rock Island.   That morning was a personal highlight, because I had the opportunity to talk about Thordarson and read a few pages from my book.  Our audience was just over 50, not a bad turnout considering how gloomy and wet the early morning had been.   But the crowd was enthusiastic,  considerate, and patient - and as it seemed from comments, highly appreciative of the setting for this event inside the Thordarson Boathouse.

Privileged to be named as presenters at Rock Island:
Poets Ralph Murre, Sharon Auberle of Baileys Harbor, who
read from their book of poetry, and Richard Purinton who
read about Thordarson.

For a turn-around in roles, imagine yourself reading to Norman Gilliland!  Norman, known for reading Chapter-A-Day on Wisconsin Public Radio, and who read from his newest book, Down East Ledge, Saturday afternoon, and Amanda Gilliland, were Festival participants, too, attending the Rock Island event.

"What a privilege to carry..." goes the church hymn, and it was this Sunday morning.  It was in a slightly different setting that we counted our blessings among those gathered on Rock Island.

Mary Beth Volmer and Sandy Peterson, among
those aboard the Karfi Sunday morning were
dressed for the weather.  By noon, rain had given
way to clear, blue skies.
There were so many highlights from that weekend, but the pleasant enthusiasm of everyone we encountered ranks at the top of my list.  There is no formula that can create such an atmosphere.  It just happened.  But, I believe it was fostered by the positive attitudes of Festival organizers Helene Meyer and Betsy Wallman, and then underscored with Jean Feraca's welcoming remarks Friday evening.  This wave of energy with upbeat tempo swept us along the next two days.

Other noted Island activities

Wednesday, October 9th, I took my final turn of the season aboard the Karfi as skipper.  It was another outstanding October day: sunny, blue, blue sky, temperature in the upper 60s, with a pleasant southerly wind.

Among our passengers headed to Rock Island on that first morning run were naturalists Melody Walsh and the Lukes, Roy and Charlotte.  Their mission:  to locate and measure a hemlock spotted in a previous visit several weeks ago, a new, possible Door County record.  (Eclipsing Plum Island's hemlock.)   Later that day when they boarded again, smiles indicated they were successful.  It takes time to collate measurements and have them accepted by the State, but it appears that within a few weeks we may hear Roy's announcement in his column about this tree.

Roy and Charlotte Lukes,  returning
from Rock Island.
In her lifetime, Charlotte has identified 596 different fungi species in Door County. At least,  and that was her count before this most recent field trip.

She had recently added 25 new fungi finds to her Rock Island list (now at 70 and still counting...) when she and Roy visited September 24 & 25.  Their mushroom hunting was aided, she said, by the extremely wet fall weather that increased the fungi production beyond anything previously witnessed.  She held a plastic bag of possible new fungi samples as she boarded the Karfi for the return trip to Jackson Harbor Wednesday.

Some day, Charlotte acknowledged, she may publish a book about her finds.  She photographs discovered specimens in place, then she brings a representative sample to her home for closer examination under a powerful microscope.  Each is cataloged by shape, color, spore patterns and so on, comparing each with previously noted species and reference book information.  As long as new species continue to present themselves for discovery, her book on Door County mushrooms will remain incomplete.

It is incredible to have two such naturalists in our midst who dedicate themselves to increasing the body of science about our surroundings, all with such little fanfare.

Such dedication to what we might term a "lifetime pastime" for the outdoors!   Their  passion for field and forest is uplifting.

A word about the eagle shown at the top of the page:  this young eagle had tried to capture one of the several brown trout seen in Detroit Harbor in recent weeks, but the fish was too big to pick up.  With a lack of grace and agility, it tried to perch on the top of a 3-inch pipe supporting our pier.  Later, it was observed to land on a lightly constructed kingfisher roost, a tall wooden post with a stick attached to the top.   Grandson Atlas took the eagle's photo, one of many taken over a period of ten minutes or so, while it appeared indifferent to its surroundings.

We've managed to fill another blog without even touching on the dredging project taking place in Detroit Harbor.  Next time!          -  Dick Purinton

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