Friday, August 23, 2013

Notes from the northern woods.

Tuesday: I spoke this evening at the cathedral-like Kirk in the Hills, some forty miles north of
Kirk of the Hills, Michigan. 
Detroit.  (I'll post a few photos when I get the chance.)  We had a great turnout for a Tuesday evening in the middle of summer, when many congregants are enjoying the warm August evenings by lakes further north in Michigan.  It was a well-educated audience, also with rich life experience.  Several of those who came were Chinese.  Folks were tolerant of my still somewhat meandering talk on Faith Seeking Understanding -- this one has not been as refined by repetition as have my talks on "Jesus for Skeptics," "Christianity and World Religions," or "How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture" -- and asked lots of interesting and often surprising questions.  (What about Craig Keener's new book on Miracles?  Do the principles I relate in regard to Christianity and Chinese Culture also apply to other traditions?  What role did Pearl Buck play in the growth of Christianity in China?) 

My cathedral in the woods.
At the end of the evening, as we were talking in groups, a bat decided to join the fun.  He circled the room where the meeting had been held as we spoke in groups, then flew around a chandelier in the atrium three or four times, unfortunately without turning into Grandpa Munster in a puff of smoke, however. 

Wednesday: I spoke at a church out in the cornfields and soybean fields at the very southern few miles of Michigan.  This is the very church where Josh Mcdowell became a Christian, in the 1950s.  That was neat, since his writings meant a lot to me when I was a young man.  I thought I talked pretty long, but someone told me several folks actually wanted me to go on.  Well, I would have, but there were children in the audience, and one must have mercy on the kids. 

Josh Mcdowell found Jesus here. 
The pastor and his wife kindly had me spend the night, and he turned out to be quite a character.  He said the deer in Michigan are suicidal -- he's hit five of them.  In one case the deer actual ran into him, damaged his car, then ran off. 

Thursday: I drove directly north through Michigan -- a long, long drive, without seeing any of the Great Lakes that Michigan borders, for about 340 miles.  More and more evergreen trees appeared, along with aspen, eastern cottonwood, some birch, maples, and others.  Then finally the bridge than crosses the straits between Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario appeared.  I stopped to swim to the right of the bridge, which I think counts as Lake Ontario.  The rocks were pretty sharp and slippery, so that wasn't much fun.  But after crossing the bridge -- I'd guess it was about five miles long -- I turned onto Highway 2 (after going the wrong way for a while) and finally pointed the bow of my little blue vessel west, which felt good. 

A few miles to the west, I came to a long sandy beach on Lake Michigan, with shards of beach grasses poking out of the sand.  Everything south was blue -- no land in sight.  The waves were about a foot  high.  It was like swimming at an ocean beach, except the water was much warmer than Puget Sound, and there were no seaweed or crabs or salty tang.  The water was quite clean.  Quite a few people were parked along the shore here, with a couple teenage girls jumping and celebrating in the surf nearby -- I probably should have stayed longer, and swum further.  But it did feel good. 

What struck me about northern Michigan was the familiarity but variety of its trees: pine, fir, some cedars, larch I think, a few hemlocks, along with all the broadleafs mentioned earlier.  This far north, they were packed together tightly, and not very tall, on gentle rolling hills that seemed to go on and on.   Plots of what we called muskeg interspersed with the trees in places.  No doubt the harsh northern winters determine the size and species of trees that flourish -- I seemed almost to see the landscape in winter with my inner eye, as I traveled along.  But I'd really like to see it in the fall. 

Is Highway 2 the most beautiful road in America?  A case could be made. 

Friday:  I'm in northern Minnesota, traveling west.  Highway 2 is a little rough in places, and state governments don't spoil travelers with fancy rest stops, but it also goes through some beautiful country.  This morning I took beautiful pictures of ground fog over lakes in early light. 

Michigan stretches west forever, then a few miles of Wisconsin, then Highway 2 hugs another hundred miles of Michigan, then about so much more of Wisconsin to the edge of Lake Superior (but nowhere good to swim).  Small towns appear every fifty miles or so, some of them very pretty, with lovely white-steepled churches, as in New England.  This will be exquisitely beautiful in a month, as the aspen, maples, et al, paint their beauties upon the landscape. 

I'm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, now, hoping to stay at a campground near the source of the Mississippi tonight.  After another day of driving, I'll have some time to work on my new book, camping probably in the Dakotas and then Wyoming or Montana, before next Wednesday's final event of this trip.

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