Saturday, April 30, 2011


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

The widespread and often complete destruction of homes and businesses in cities and rural areas throughout the south this past week by tornadoes is difficult to comprehend.  

Television footage has shown us what it looks like, but the smells, sounds (or lack of sound) and emotion experienced by those persons most affected can only be imagined.  In so many cases, it appears, homes and personal possessions vanished into the stew of rubble and trash.

Quite frequently, here on Washington Island, we remind ourselves of the safe environment we enjoy, generally free from threats of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, or forest fires.  We tend to crab about the tourist season, the economy, the level of Lake Michigan, things that do impact our lives but that we can often adjust to until the pendulum swings another direction.

Reality TV and the show "Hoarders" has taught us how debilitating it can be to collect things, and to hang on to them for years, tied not by their usefulness but by the emotional bond we have with them.  Most items, it would seem, have not seen the light of day in those houses jammed with stuff, and the owners would be hard-put to say when they last used or saw a particular item.  But it's there, somewhere, and they know that, and the parting seems too painful, so the item stays, joined and buried by more of the same as days, weeks and years go by.   The accumulation eventually becomes a hazard to physical and emotional health.

This morning, I lightened my own load of stuff, saying good-bye to a teddy bear that had been in a closet in one house after another for some 62 years.   I think I got it as a Christmas present on my first birthday, because it was captured on an 8mm home movie taken by my father.  My mother, bless her, made some clothes for him (it), and I suppose those ties of my early birthday and the clothing Mom added to the teddy bear made it too hard to part with.  So, here I am at 63 years of age, and my bond with this toy...which has not been often viewed during the past 60 years because it was either in an attic or a trunk, is an object I still found hard to part with.   But this morning, the bear is on its way to the compactor at the Island Exchange, then from there to a landfill close to Green Bay, WI following a bouncing ride on the ferry and over highway by trash truck.  

Imagine:  it is harder in some ways to ditch an emotional piece of the past like that teddy bear, than old friends and acquaintances.  That's a screwy view of the world.

Good riddance!  I feel better already!  Did I think tossing that toy stuffed bear out with the garbage would hurt my mother's feelings?   (I won't tell her.  She is 94 and hard of hearing anyway.)

And another set of items also left my sight this morning, via UPS package:   two mementos from sailing days 40 years ago.  They had collected dust and got an occasional review from me when I stumbled upon them, but they will be much better appreciated by members of the Bonneville Sailing School in Utah, where the boat I sailed on now resides and is being restored.

A home run:  Get rid of more stuff, along with the emotional baggage, and that stuff being received by others who may actually use and appreciate it!

A friend who lives in Seattle is going through a similar experience of moving from one home to another and having to sort out, sell, or throw things collected or purchased over decades.   He said, "The ideal situation would be to go through a natural disaster that lets me escape with only my health and the clothes on my back."  

There is wisdom in that thought, the elimination of the emotional process that goes along with paring down our lives.   Although none of us would actually choose to go through the trauma experienced by folks who have lost everything but their lives and loved ones, there is a perverse envy in the fact we see they now have a clean slate, that is, assuming their emotional state will allow them to get on with their lives.

If we believe in prayer, in the transfer of positive spiritual energy, and the wise use of our wealth to help others, it is our wish that in the future we can live without debris and avoid the sometimes painful tripping over our past.  We can replace collected objects and their weight with great hope and prospect for what the future might hold.  

-  Dick Purinton

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Main Road, Washington Island, Wisconsin -

A four-man crew from Nation Roofers, Milwaukee, have made rapid progress with installation of the first stage of the new wrapper system on the Wilson and Carol Trueblood Performing Arts Center (TPAC).

Metal channel of a "hat-shaped" cross section has been screwed to the block walls half-way around the building, and a crew of three men using a second lift device followed up, screwing metal-clad foam panels to that channel framework.

A metal base channel that will accept the bottom of the long, vertical panels was fastened around the foot of the walls the entire perimeter of the building.  Doorways received special treatment, including foam to fill air gaps that might allow heat to escape easily and water shields over the openings.

This project, part of a larger effort to rectify shortcomings found in the original design and construction of the 2003 building, has progressed quickly thus far.   The final wrap of horizontal metal siding will follow the foam panel installation.  The end result will be a wind and water proof exterior, and a gain in insulation value from approximately R-4 to R-24.  

Photos were taken today, April 7th.
              - Dick Purinton

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

What can be made of a personal encounter with a bald eagle, an encounter in which that eagle seemed to lead me down the road?  

I’ve been wondering what that experience might mean since posting Saturday’s blog. 

Was the bald eagle fascinated with the green 2002 Dodge pickup I drove? 
Or had that eagle decided at that precise moment I drove past to dive from a nearby tree, swooping low over the cab where I sat at the wheel, to teach me a lesson?  If so, what lesson?  

Within seconds of overtaking me the eagle took the point position, never more than 200 feet ahead and  never more than 30 feet above the pavement as I followed south toward the ferry dock.

Was it coincidence that the eagle maintained a course over the centerline of the road, rather than vigorously flapping its wings to gain altitude and escape confinement from between the tree lines?  Why hadn’t it peeled off to the right when it came to the opening that was Green Bay Road and flown westward and upward?

My first thought upon seeing a bird overtake me from above and behind had been that an owl had descended, a bird type I’ve often seen sitting or flying along that road.  But this eagle’s white head and leg feathers were soon unmistakable, as was its beaked profile when it turned its neck to look back at me. The eagle alternately glided, then flapped its wings, then it glided some more, casual in its flight, never appearing hurried.

Ego would like me to say that this was my experience, just for me, a special treat because I must be special.   (And, I haven’t yet ruled this out!)   At the very least, Saturday morning I had a curious encounter with a bird.   I also recognize it as having been a singular moment, yet not unlike other special moments I’ve experienced in nature, events that have brought me greater appreciation for the continuum that is life on earth.

I am mindful of the extraordinary experiences people report to have had with pets and with wild animals, sometimes claiming to gaze into eyes filled with wisdom and inspiration, and also with inanimate objects or natural events where truth is imparted related in a way that can be intimate, personal and spiritual. 

I shouldn’t rule out the chance this eagle was in its own way communicating directly with me, and not simply reacting to my chromed pickup truck.  Could it see into the pupils of my eyes, or into my soul, even through the windshield safety glass and my bifocals, as it briefly but repeatedly glanced behind?   
I followed its movements closely, and I had all I could do to stay on the road, using my peripheral vision while taking the Point Road curves at 35 mph.   My eyes were glued on the eagle, and I was reminded of the X-wing fighter scene in a Star Wars movie as the gunships jockeyed back and forth between canyon walls.   If I was being toyed with, it was by a bird that seemed to enjoy its leadership role.
Then, after a half-mile of easy flight the bald eagle pulled up its wings in a stall and settled easily onto a large maple tree limb.  It was a high perch, and from there it sat and observed for the next hour or more, moving nothing but its head as vehicle traffic passed below and through the wooded corridor.

At home, later, I read a passage from a book by Steven D. Farmer, Ph.D., titled Animal Spirit Guides (Hay House, 2006).  The passage for eagles included these observations -
      If an eagle shows up, it means:
  *  There’s an opportunity for you that you’re considering, and it would be best if you take advantage of it soon.
  * There will be a new beginning in a positive direction following a recent period of strife, one in which you’ve gained a great deal of stamina and resilience.
   * Detach and rise above the mundane so that you’re able to see your life and circumstances with a broader perspective and greater vision.
   *  It’s a time for a great spiritual awakening, one where you experience a greater connection to the divine.
   *  This is an important time to get creative inspiration from the divine, so heed any guidance you receive.
   * Whatever you put out, positive or negative, will now return to you in some form, more quickly than ever.

   If it is a bald eagle:
    * You have an increasing ability to walk between the material world and that of spirit.
    * Dive into inner depths, paying close attention to any visions or inspirations that arise.
You are to call on EAGLE when:
     * You’re caught up in the little details of life and have lost sight of the big picture.
     * You’ve recently had some spiritual insights or revelations and want to integrate them into your daily life.
     * You have to face some major challenge as a result of massive life change.
    *  You’re in a period of struggle or difficulty, one where you get completely caught up in the mundane aspects of your life’s drama.  When an opportunity presents itself and you’re not sure whether to act on it or not.

…and finally…

   You’re a very spiritually evolved individual and a born leader, and people gravitate quite naturally to you.
   You’re willing to endure challenges and struggles because you’re confident that you can meet them, and you trust that they’re necessary for your spiritual development.
  Even though you’re an old soul, you must still go through various initiations throughout your life that will ultimately lead you to living a completely spiritually directed life.
  You’re passionate, and have a bit of a temper that you have to watch.
   One of your main life lessons is learning to conserve your energy and apply your focus to what’s truly important.
   You take advantage of opportunities without hesitation and with a strong faith that there will be lessons or gifts that you’ll discover in doing so.
   Pay attention to the sensations in your backbone as an instinctual trigger to be more alert to what’s going on around you.

These lines above used "for identifying and understanding your power animals and spirit helpers" tend to read something like fortune cookies in that many conclusions can be taken from them, but they also contain elements that are truthful and positive about our lives and our relationship with one another and our world.   

So, what do I believe happened yesterday?   Was I a participant viewing a display by an agile eagle, and that was all?  

The bald eagle is a wonderful creature, one small piece of an even more wonderful creation.   My bald eagle encounter caused me to ask questions:  what had I done that morning that was different? Was this a special message for me?  Why did I deserve this experience (instead of the driver in the white Chevy pickup who came along ten minutes later)?  

I believe my encounter was special because this eagle had my attention then, and it still does.

My experience was not a result of driving a green Dodge truck at 10:15 am on a Saturday.  For some reason (whether considered a force, circumstance, coincidence, or miracle) I was connected with this bird.  It floated and glided easily, and it controlled its movement within the narrow confines of the forested roadway, maintaining a comfortable and consistent distance between us.  This bird was having fun.

Was there an eagle spirit in that fun?  I rely on my reflection of events to get a sense of message.   I admit, my experience was far more special than if I had seen a snake or turtle in the road and had swerved to avoid it, or if I had spotted an eagle from afar.  This was intimate and meant for me. 

I believe that the universe is the work of a Creator, and that the bald eagle is one of the more beautiful and cherished of wild life creations.   This particular bird and its timing on an otherwise gray morning has made an impact by its presence.       

What do you think?

   -  Dick Purinton

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Days this past week were marked by cold nighttime temperatures, frosty mornings, and then milder, sunny afternoons.  

As snow melted from the roofs, steam arose, water dripped and then froze.

Sparkling patterns of icesicles were too tempting for Aidan and Magnus to resist, trumping for the moment Oreos in the Ziploc bag.  

Toward week's end it warmed enough by noon to create respectable sap runs, this being the second major week - and likely the last - for local sap producers.

Detroit Harbor is still frozen over, and although ice shanties have been removed, a few fishermen still try their luck, making the trip out on snowmobile or four-wheeler.   Except for the soft edge where the ice sheet meets shore, this harbor still has a two-foot thick covering of hard ice.   But very little ice is seen along the ferry route these days, and a good thing, since the ferry schedule increased Friday to six daily round trips from the two trips of Jan-Feb-Mar.

There's more and more bird activity, now that spring is on its way.   Geese have moved in, staking out their claim along the marshy shoreline.  Swans can also be seen, dozens of them swimming in open water near the ferry dock.   Sandhill cranes are around now, too, squawking as they take off across the harbor.   We've had a hawk in the neighborhood that likes to bring its lunch of a small bird or rodent to the edge of the beach where Main Road ends.  Early one morning it gave chase to a gliding pheasant along the waterfront.  We think we've also spotted the first great blue heron of the season.

Eagles are seen near the islands year around, often sitting out in the open on protruding ridges of ice when the ferry passes by.  No longer a strange sight, eagles are still wonderful to spot, for their size, color, and commanding presence.

That is why I was taken by surprise this morning as I rounded the major curve on Lobdell Point Road and a mature bald eagle swooped down from a tree behind me, then led me for at least half a mile along the twisting Point road.   This eagle stayed over the centerline of the road, about 30 feet above the pavement, as occasionally it turned its head to one side or the other to see if I was still following.

When it had banked around the sharp corner at Gordon Court and passed the graveled Henning Road cut-off, the eagle coasted up to a perch in a large maple tree on a branch that overhung the roadside.

That was pretty amazing, I thought, following close behind a low-gliding eagle, with the bird leading me toward the ferry dock, so-to-speak.   I was just as surprised 45 minutes later when I drove the mail van from the ferry to the U.S. Post Office.   This same eagle was still on the same branch and was now posing for a couple who had spotted it as they drove along.  They were thrilled and amazed by their find.   After unloading the mail, I drove home to get my camera, then took a few photos of the eagle on my return to the dock.  (Unfortunately, my digital camera's telephoto feature no longer works.)  

Unsure of my photographic results, I drove on to the Ferry Office, picked up a small hand-held video camera, and then drove back to film the eagle.  He (it) was still in its perch.

Could this be the same eagle we've seen in summer each day sitting atop one of the two poles near the Plum Island fog signal building, the one the ferry crew calls "Walt," because he appears to routinely track  ferry activities?    This eagle from its Lobdell Road vantage point, whether it was Walt or another, had observed the string of cars discharged by the mid-morning ferry, as well as other vehicles passing to or from the ferry dock.  

Attentive. Interested. Patient. That is how this bird could be described.

This brings me to my last paragraph, a pitch for the Island Birding Festival, scheduled for the weekend of June 4-5-6.  For a listing of activities and a registration form, please go to this site:

Its a great way to enjoy the outdoors and to share information with other birders, and an opportunity to see parts of these Door islands not otherwise accessible to individuals.  And, this year there happens to be a guest speaker for Saturday evening's gathering who is an expert on bald eagles!
  - Dick Purinton