edges

Yesterday I spent most of the day walking the beach and dunes. Meandering through the sand hills at the lakeside started me thinking about edges. How edges define space and separate reality. How edges can offer opportunities for growth. How they keep people out. How they keep things in. They define borders and populations, they define differences.  

On this side of the shore the dunes ramble into the water, on the other side the city builds its muscle. 

On this side of the shore the dunes ramble into the water, on the other side the city builds its muscle. 

beachcombing

Edges create tension and stop the blurring of lines. They offer entry into newness and sharpen the soft. They show the worn and messy. They collect the extraneous. They repel the unnecessary. They expose what might not be seen otherwise.

Dunes restoration fence

mapping a miracle

Yesterday I took three walks at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. One to the dunes, one through a marsh and one on the beach. I recommend them all to those who question the value of preserving national parks.

I met a scientist from India on this path. He was amazed by the treasure of it.

I met a scientist from India on this path. He was amazed by the treasure of it.

Textures and color create tempting avenues for exploration. How might I stitch this pattern?

Textures and color create tempting avenues for exploration. How might I stitch this pattern?

The sounds in this marshland were primordial:gurgling gallumps, screeching squeals, twittering clicks and clacks. The sounds of new life.

The sounds in this marshland were primordial:gurgling gallumps, screeching squeals, twittering clicks and clacks. The sounds of new life.

This park is a skinny shard of what it could have been. Having just finished a book called Sacred Sands, the Struggle for Community at the Indiana Dunes by J. Ronald Engel, I am amazed that there is anything left at all. Between the push for steel mills and power stations, deep water ports and railroads this skinny little strip was mangled, disfigured and mined for its riches. Even the district politicians in 1966 were against having a national lakeshore designation citing the economic benefits that the industry brought to the state. Hanging by threads to the remaining ecosystems the park managers focus on biodiversity and preserving what remains.

The park is a patchwork of geometry striated with roads.

I applaud the efforts of the band of devoted citizens, both in the past and present who see the value of preserving this wonderland. 

floating with the current

I floated my fabric in Lake Michigan today. Let the waves take it for a ride. The sparkly reflections were mesmerizing. I almost lost it to the lake.

The water actually looked blue when the fabric went under. 

Love the patterns that the light cast onto the fabric under water. 

Pockets full of rocks

Rocks at the beach speak of long journeys. As I gaze at the sunset I can’t help sorting and sifting through them. Organizing by color, by shape, by smoothness. I am particularly drawn to those shaped like hearts, or perfect circles, or tubes. 

But best of all are the ones with holes in them. What force of nature pierced these solid cores and left its mark?

Sand in my shoes

As a child my family would travel to lower Lake Michigan for summer holidays. I still remember that slightly moldering smell of my great aunt’s cabins, moss hanging off the roof and long stairways down to some of the most brilliant beaches of my life. Part of the journey to those cabins was watching with fascination and horror as we passed the steel mills and industrial smokestacks in and around Gary, Indiana. There was a smell of sulfur in the air and a certain dread of having to stop there while traveling through. The landscape was muscular, apocalyptic and wholly man-made.

Lake Michigan beaches are crowded with families this weekend.

The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore hugs this coast and nestles in with the muscle-bound industry here at the base of the lake.

Botanists, politicians, scientists and neighbors all fought for the unique ecosystems represented here. Bogs and wetlands, black oak forests carpeted with ferns, rivers, ponds and of course, the dunes. Mountains of dunes. Dunes that swallow trees, dunes that shelter wildlife, dunes that build and move relentlessly with the action of the wind. Dunes that actually created beaches for the people in Chicago.

My walk today was in a black oak forest at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

I will come to know this area better by spending these two weeks in residency. The National Lakeshore is a string of pearls, preserved and collected piece by piece into an assemblage of unique ecosystems. Though I am still stiff with judgment of how the land has been treated in the past, I see some reluctance on the part of the park rangers to condemn the industry in their midst. I am hopeful that the scientists are paying attention and that the politicians are working hard to save even more of the natural landscape.

Can industry honor the earth and provide jobs at the same time? How does nature adapt to intrusion? The employees of this national lakeshore are here to witness and maintain the sweet origins of the landscape. They educate the public, observe the changing landscapes, and continue the work of the people before them who recognized the richness and diversity of this unique ecosystem.