Friday, October 9, 2015

Autumn Count

Yeah, an autumn count isn't regular. But these aren't regular times and now is ripe for an assessment of the forest even despite all the trees...

Iron County WI, 2015

It was September 29th, 2011 when on the Gogebic Range autumn took a hard turn just as I embarked upon this Odyssey. Because I'd once and forever soon run out of film and the intention was to spend it well, it figured that the narrative arc of the project would inevitably possess a beginning, middle and at some point no matter the potential for abrupt untidiness, an end. A year, I figured.

The film lasted fourteen months and with work yet undone, I'd figured wrong. Funny, how narratives take on lives of their own.

Then (if my always suspect math is correct), after 117 separate entries made over the span of 36 months, in September 2014 I took my first month off from delivering to you those goods I'd harvested. Not bad, considering the recalcitrant and obscure nature of the field.

This year on the prairie, autumn turned the morning of September 28th, a few days after I'd returned from Superior.

One could almost smell the big lake on the wind that flowed down hard from the north where the growing season'd ended the day before. Just the same, even now in my yard goldfinches fatten on sweet basil, catnip and the spiky skeletons of Black-eyed Susans. But the sunflowers we grow for them are about gone now and that means soon, the goldfinches will be as well.

Our newest baby girl, August 2015

Fresh to the autumn prairie are a few scattered Crows and Blue Jays, too. I hear those more than see them. Though the prairie's an important part of their ancestral home, these days the family Corvidae are loathe to live there and have become merely edge season transients passing through on their way to somewhere more hospitable. Crows (in particular) are smart. Having suffered a holocaust within generational memory, who can blame them when they avoid the place like the plague?

On the Gogebic Range, Crows and their cousin Ravens are so black, they shine beneath the bright autumn sun in clusters of hammered silver.

Any day now Sandhills will be on their flyover in squawking skeins that draw me to the yard no matter the weather. Maybe this'll be the year that I capture video of those on the wing while they purposefully avoid airplanes and mutual catastrophe in a crowded flight pattern.

There's also the fact that while I was on the Range a few weeks ago, the smarmy schmuck who once tried to cheaply peddle the very last resources of the Gogebic to his carpetbagger crony from Florida realised he wasn't Presidential material after all. The People spoke and Scott Walker slunk away to lick his wounds. That's gotta count for something, right?

Lastly -- at least god willing & the creek don't rise -- before this month is out I'll turn sixty.

Keweenaw County, 2015

That should happen just about the time oak savannahs reach their peak autumnal glory, smallmouth lose a scosche of caution prior to the rivers freezing and the first snow falls upon the wilds of the Superior basin, provided winter hasn't jumped the gun before then. There'll be ­­Slate-Colored Dark-eyed Juncos in the yard, stopped by on their way south maybe even from the woods around Dan's Cabin, to pick over what no longer sustains goldfinches.


Along the Penokee Hills, 2011

I've been dissatisfied with the public state of this project for quite the while now. The narrative was intended to be on point, substantive and maybe even occasionally entertaining. For a good while, it was pretty much all of that. But once the film was exhausted, the road trip framing device couldn't sustain the narrative because the story itself was changed.

And yet still with work left undone.

Among other things, it's to my shame that I didn't feature the Lake Superior Bi-National Forum before it got defunded. And I've not yet managed to wrap my brain around the conundrum that is the late, ever great John Voelker.

Lucky for me no one'll be defunding him, eh?

So starting with 2016, I'll make this a quarterly offering in the hope I can then return it to something more reliably rich and without also having to sacrifice my broader creative interests and/or opportunities, which are about as robust as they've ever been.

Thanks for being here, it's still chuggin' along only because you are. So please don't go wandering off too far, there's more to come.

In the meantime, by all means get out to revel in the wonders of autumn while there's still time to do it, as winter's just over the horizon and time's a wasting...

Ottawa National Forest, 2011


  1. My new favorite image: "Squawking skeins."

    Your perfectionism (as always, saturates, creating a perforation so light penetrates, pierces, and reveals the clouds' underbelly) is exquisite in its creation, devastating in its destruction. And always, you begin anew.

    Thank you for that.

    1. I'm humbled by your generosity of spirit and kindness. Thank-you, dear Ginger. Just gotta keep on keepin' on...

  2. Replies
    1. Thank-you, Avital. Sometimes autumn's beauty near to overwhelms.