Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Cats of Copper Harbor

When traveling the Superior Basin, Heather & I prefer to stay hard by the lake.

Some years ago, the motel we chose in Copper Harbor proved better suited to a single fisherman or an exhausted hiker arriving off the ferry from Isle Royale than a pair of tourists, but glass doors opened onto Superior and when that’s where you most want to be, you take what comes with the bargain. That evening we repaired to the Harbor Haus to eat within an inch of our lives. Afterward, we returned to the motel and sat outside to watch night fall over the lake. In time we retired to our too small bed and contentedly fell asleep.

In the dark of night I awoke and looked out the window. Outside one of nature’s most magnificent shows was on full display, the Northern Lights cascading across an inky sky. I woke Heather, we covered ourselves for decency and warmth and left the room into the cool night air to better savor the sight.

We weren’t long outside before my eye was drawn to movement where there shouldn’t have been any.

A small cat pranced across the roof of the motel then climbed down to greet us, purring up a storm while he rubbed against our legs. Exactly what that cat was doing on the roof I can’t say, though I like to think he’d been enjoying the sky show.

Cats are victims of much popular misconception.  As nature’s most adept terrestrial predator, some folk call them “sneaky”.  Blessed with self-dependence, they’re said to be aloof.  Those who’ve enjoyed cat’s company know they’re not exactly either.  This cat sat with us and together we three watched the magnetic field of the earth make a spectacle of itself across a clear night sky.

When the Aurora faded and it was again time to go to bed, our new friend proved reluctant to leave us.  He strode into our room like it was he who’d paid the freight and we watched with amusement while he examined the place with that curious mixture of studied detachment and deep fascination perfected by cats.  Apparently satisfied with the arrangements, he joined us in bed.  We went back to sleep with our unexpected companion contentedly nestled between us, purring in the dark.

Surveying likely prospects for the night ahead

After an hour or so, the cat was ready to be let back out into the world and I obliged him, barely waking to accomplish the task.

Later that morning while packing the car, I happened to look up. Down the block, a woman cleaned the second story rooms of another hotel.

When she left a door open, our friend the cat slipped inside.  While we checked out, I told the story of the cat to the innkeeper and he took it in easy stride.  It was the town cat that’d visited us.  No one knew where he came from, but he seemed to like it there just fine and was welcome to stay.  He'd free reign to come and go as he pleased -- carte blanche to all the best places in town.  And the night before, when we were the only goofballs with our door open in the middle of the night, he'd chosen to spend some time with us.

Independence and forbearance in combination aren't lost in the world. It survives both in cats and in small towns all across the Superior Basin.

And it positively thrives out on the Keweenaw.


  1. Story-check
    Kindred Spirits-check
    Excellent cats-check

    Yep. xxoononnie

  2. I knew I'd need photos to accompany the piece, so wandered around town one evening while I was there. After I convinced the little black fellow I was a friend, he trotted around after me for half an hour or more -- and gave me even more than I'd hoped for...