Tuesday, May 31, 2011
For years I have been going up north to Algoma to see my aunt, my mother's only sister. Algoma is in Kewaunee County, right on Lake Michigan, and is always cool and damp, including through most of the summer. This trip we caught up on family stories, went out for fish in one of the country bars, and took flowers to a local cemetery. I have always liked the harbor there, with its red light and fog horn. When I was a girl the waterfront was filled with fishing shacks and commercial fishing boats, but now there are more condominiums and private boats. I had to do some serious cropping to make this shot look a bit like the harbor used to look.
My grandparents used to drive north for my aunt's early May birthday, and often the cherry trees would be in bloom. I have never before this made it there in time to catch the blossoms. This time all the cherries, apples, wild plum were at their best, and I couldn't resist taking way too many pictures of the orchards. This one is right outside of Fish Creek.
Although I make it my first priority to visit relatives, and my second to visit favorite art galleries like the Edgewood Orchard Gallery, the Hardy, and the Fine Line, this time I wanted to see where my cousins' grandmother's family came from. When I asked my aunt she just said the Grandma and Grandpa H. were from Belgium, WI, and that their cemetery was near there. I hadn't visited their farm since about 1960, so I had to get out my county map. Grandma H.'s family was Belgian, and I grew up with a taste for a local pastry called Belgian Pie. But I didn't know much about the immigrants from the area. That family is buried in the White Star Spiritualist Church near Namur, so I went searching for that.
The church goes back to the 1880s when a group of parishioners from the local Catholic church broke off and formed the spiritualist group. We found the church, which has occasional services, and now draws psychics from places like Kewaunee and DePere. I hadn't expected to find anyone there mid afternoon, but a group was standing outside talking, and after inviting us to come to a service any time, told my sister-in-law and I where to find the cemetery with the graves I wanted to visit. Researching family history can sometimes be really interesting!
I stayed a couple days with my husband's sister and her husband, both avid birders and naturalists who volunteer at a beautiful spot called the Ridges Sanctuary. Whenever I can I take walks there, looking for interesting plants and wildlife. This day was cool and a bit foggy, and the dripping confers and ferns reminded me a little of walks I have taken in the Pacific Northwest. The unique environment at the Ridges hosts many rare plants and animals, and I always try to spend at least a little time there.
There are a couple ways to get from where I live in southern Wisconsin to Door County, a faster interstate route, and smaller state highways. On Memorial Day weekend I wanted to take the smaller roads and avoid the heavy traffic and aggressive drivers from the major highways. My favorite route skirts Lake Michigan for forty miles, then veers off through rolling farmland toward Lake Winnebago. I had packed a picnic lunch and pulled over to eat it at a scenic overlook a bit north of Fond du Lac, at Brothertown. This scene, with the steep hill, farms, and the lake that blends with the sky, is a favorite of mine. I shared the view with a motorcyclist, and the two of us just stared for a while before heading back to our separate homes.