Sunday, January 11, 2015


We drove to Jackson Harbor Saturday afternoon
and found everything in place,
exactly as anticipated.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

For the past week temperatures have not varied more than a few degrees above or below zero.

Each day seems like a replay of the one before, although its been sunny and bright, and I suppose that alone makes it seem better if you're indoors safe and warm or in a spot outdoors sheltered from the wind.  

Recent ferry trips have gone like clockwork.  Ice to the west of the Door passage dampens the sea,  even when, like the other day, a large bite of ice left the waters in the Door and sailed out to the lake.  The exposed warmer water produced sea smoke or steam against the much colder air.   Because of ice upwind a mile or two from Plum Island, the brisk westerly winds didn't produce much of a sea.   The Potato Dock, loaded up from spray a few weeks back, received another light coating to freshen the glistening ice banks.

Arni J. Richter enroute to Northport, Saturday afternoon, Jan. 10.

We've taken to making short drives in the car to break up the tedium, with Mary Jo chauffeuring and me coiled up in the back seat.  It's an impossibility at this point to bend my knees tightly enough to get in the front passenger seat, and so we're imitating "Driving Miss Daisy" with me in the back seat offering suggestions on when to turn, what to see next.  It's in the grand tradition of Esther Bjarnarson and her green Checker taxi, with Oliver contentedly in the passenger seat, a fixture on the Island for many years.  

"You can dictate to Mary Jo, and she can
type your blog," Erik suggested.   

After several tries with my camera, I got a shot of the elusive Erik Foss who nearly always manages to duck, weave or otherwise put himself out of camera range.  Erik wondered why I hadn't done a new blog.  

"I posted one yesterday," I said.  "What'll I write about, anyway?  Any news you can give me?"

They spotted a snowy owl on the ice, and then an eagle, Erik said, but his curiosity soon switched to the topic of my knees and why I was sprawled in the back passenger seat.  My explanation included a display of the 9-inch scar over my right knee.

Bill Jorgenson and Pete Nikolai, who together with Erik were the Arni J's crew, nearing 1 p.m. rolled the UPS cart aboard, then pulled up the stern ramp and applied power to the screws.  The wash thrown up by the propellers was mixed with ground ice as the ferry started for Northport on its afternoon run.

How good it would feel to be to be able to join them, I thought, but slippery decks, multiple sets of stairs and weather elements presented barriers I'd never before considered obstacles.  I'm thankful the daily job of operating in winter is in the hands of such capable men.

We've taken to watching the ferry load up and then leave the island pier while parked along the side of the old office - an activity I'd never expected I'd be doing, or something that would give me such pleasure.  We were reminded of Arni's daily routine of parking his car at the ferry dock while in his nineties, observing the ferries come and go and reminiscing on how things had changed from the old days.

From Mary Jo's perspective - and she's been a saint - our current routine might seem more like, "You're driving me crazy," rather than "Driving Miss Daisy."  

At home, indoors, we're on our seventh jig-saw puzzle (tough ones with 1000 pieces).  WPR provides background music throughout the day.   Mary Jo helps me with physical therapy and fills the woodbox, stokes the fireplace, and fixes meals.    Her world has shrunken in scope along with my own these past weeks.  Visits from grandsons become highlights of our day, along with a leisurely spin in the Toyota along snowy Island roads.  It's become one way to relieve January's tedium.

The big football game - Packers vs. Cowboys at Lambeau field - begins at noon today.  This is the day for which many fans have waited, and it becomes the high point of not only their season of football, but of the winter itself.   We could say there might be disappointment on the part of some fans that the game time temperature time won't be colder than +17 degrees, when we've just experienced much colder days.   Talking about the weather and describing the effects of cold temperatures seems to describe best where we live and how we've chosen to live, even though most of us are content to watch such football games from the comfort and warmth of our living room recliners.

With Jackson Harbor frozen solid, the old
Welcome's mooring lines become window dressing.

-  Dick Purinton

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