“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Foreword, A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold (of Wisconsin).
Being in a Place is about a relationship; it involves everything a relationship is about — communication, affection, honesty, respect. There’s a give-and-take, an evolving dynamic that’s always present. Places change and we change.
How do you go about nurturing a good relationship with a Place? Much the same way that you might with a Person.
First of all, slow down. Take time to listen and observe silent clues. Feel with your intuition. What is happening here? What emotions do I sense? What kind of energy seems to be flowing here?
And always remember, you are in this relationship, too. Slow down and sense your own feelings, emotions, and energy. How are you in relationship to this Place?
Living in Wisconsin, I am aware of inspirational Land Lovers like Aldo Leopold, Gaylord Nelson, and John Muir, all of whom resided here, walked here, and shaped land policy. My partner Steve and I strive to be constantly aware of our relationship with Place. I personally feel closest to the Places where human impact is minimal, and my photo library reflects that. Here is a gallery of places that we have loved and that have loved us in return.
When we broke camp in the Chippewa National Forest on Tuesday morning, the condensation on our tent fly froze instantly. Time to head south to Wisconsin!
Our destination was Bayfield and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Along the way, we stopped at Amnicon Falls State Park. The river was high and rushing mightily, churning up tannin-colored water into thundering root beer cascades.
We told the WDNR ranger that we were thinking of heading towards the western section of the Nicolet-Chequamegon National Forest to camp and to Bayfield to visit the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. She directed us to the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center for more information. Now, you might not get excited about Visitor Centers, but this one is truly amazing. First of all, it’s a quality museum facility featuring interactive exhibits, a National Park Service film, an historical archive library, a bookstore, and an observation deck – three floors of cool stuff! Outside, there’s a nature trail and research nursery. I’m pretty sure the building itself is LEED certified. BEST OF ALL, it is a collaborative effort of the local community (Friends of the Center), the National Park Service, the National Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and University of Wisconsin Extension – which means that staff members from each of those entities are present to answer questions and amplify your understanding of the area. The two we talked to spent considerable time with us, giving us numerous maps and tips and sharing the vision of the Center, its history and unique features. If it hadn’t been so late in the afternoon, and if we didn’t have the urgency of finding a campsite before dark, we would gladly have stayed until closing. Did I mention that admission is completely free? Your tax dollars at work. I took a picture on each floor before heading out with an armload of information.
We camped at an old CCC site in the forest and planned our Bayfield outing. We rose to temperatures in the 20s and headed out for the Grand Tour of the Apostle Islands. The sun was shining, the air was cold, the eagles soared overhead, and I couldn’t have been more invigorated and elated!
We headed southeast from Bayfield to revisit a favorite dispersed camping spot in the town of Three Lakes, WI. Across the forest service road from this site is the Headwaters Wilderness, a true, federally designated wilderness. We first camped in this private paradise seven years ago. It’s in National Forest, so the site is “first come, first served”. I was leaning over the dashboard hoping no-one else was there. We were in luck, and this glorious day had a perfect ending.
The weather turned damp and drizzly the next day, so we only stayed one more night. Our privacy was disturbed once by a sole fisherman who had been tipped off to the spot and came to check it out. We had a pleasant conversation, and he left. We walked the fire service roads and revisited another spot where we’d camped one year when our favorite place was “taken”.
By this time, we hadn’t showered for eight days. I began to picture Steve as Sasquatch emerging from the forest… …which he found rather funny. On our way back to camp from our after-dinner walk, Steve suddenly told me to hold very still. A skunk was foraging at the side of the road. We waited. He crossed the road and began to forage on the other side. We waited. Then, he turned and headed straight for us. My heart was pounding in my chest, and I was barely breathing. The skunk stopped four feet from us and looked up. He turned tail and hustled away from us as fast as his short, furry legs could go! What a relief…what a delight!
Our sojourn in the forest was punctuated by encounters with wildlife of many kinds besides the skunk: beaver, deer, bald eagle, red squirrel, vole, grouse, spider, leech and slug, to name a few. Also hunter. Gunshots rang out near our campsites occasionally. Road hunters in blaze orange cruised by. We found the remains of a grouse at one trailhead. I am almost entirely ignorant of gun culture, mostly by choice. The relationship that Steve & I want to have with the world is non-violent, following the Buddhist koan “do no harm”. Our culture is, however, complex. There’s a lot that I will never understand, and I don’t want to judge. I am grateful that we were able to experience long stretches of silence and peace on this trip, in which we could contemplate our place in the cosmos. Perhaps we are atypical of Wisconsinites, or of Americans. “What do you do out there in the wild if you’re not hunting, or fishing, or riding a motorized vehicle?” We sit. We walk. We sleep. We listen. We look. And I take pictures.
I am very grateful for the land around me and for the people who work to protect and preserve it. I do my best to join in the work. I invite you to as well.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my photo journal.
Since I now have a Facebook account, I have been posting many of my photographs there to share with my immediate family instead of on my blog. I feel like I have rather neglected my Blog family, though, so I thought I’d catch you up with some of my favorite shots.
This one is simply a prairie beauty, the Fringed Gentian. Take a moment to read D.H. Lawrence’s poem Bavarian Gentians – he captures the dark, sensual mystery of this flower quite well.
I found the gentians while on a walk with my son and future daughter-in-law. They represent the Beginnings in the title of this post.
My son has asked me to do a special photo shoot of them next month down at Starved Rock in Illinois. I’m excited (and a little nervous!) about that.
Steve & I had a wonderful late summer road ramble last Saturday. We’re planning a 12-day camping trip for next month, possibly to Superior National Forest in MN. I’m looking forward to photographing more Fall color, mushrooms, and another Great Lake.
And work continues at the Conservation Foundation. I try to get outside locally to remind myself why it’s important to preserve the natural spaces around here.
Thanks for visiting this blog and Happy Fall! I hope you get outside often to enjoy the changing season.
All photographs © Priscilla Galasso, 2017. All rights reserved.
“Explore the classical elements of earth, air, water, and fire. How do you capture something invisible like air, or the movement of water? Or, more personally, is there a place you go to feel connected to the earth?”
Air, water and fire form a double rainbow touching Earth.
Connected to the earth, from head to toe.
Do you see something….unusual…in this photo?
Blue ‘Shroom, I saw you standing alone….
It’s a lactarius indigo edible mushroom. The latex or milk that oozes from it turns from blue or blue/gray to green when it is cut open. I’ve only seen this one.
And what’s wrong with this picture?
Boys in shorts, green grass and blooming flowers, and…snow on the ground?
Okay, I’m kidding. That’s not snow. It’s flower petals from the tree overhead.