Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Two Tyttos on the Way to the Kaymala

After leaving the Porcupine Mountains to join Debbie at Brimley State Park, I was feeling a bit out of sorts.  I had dreamed my whole life of going to the Porkies, and I wasn't ready to leave yet.  Arriving at Brimley in the cold and rain didn't help.  But since I enjoy time with Debbie so much, I was starting to settle in, though with a lingering sadness that I just couldn't shake.  Our second morning at Brimley was still cold and overcast, but the rain had stopped.  I took advantage of the weather to stock up on firewood, fill my water tank, and clean up inside the tin can.  Then we were off again to explore the more civilized sites around Brimley.

First stop:  The Old Indian Burial Ground on the Ojibwe Reservation.  Debbie and I wanted to explore inside the grounds, but signs on the wrought iron fence prohibited entering, and I am a rule follower, so we used our imaginations to determine what was inside all the little boxes.  I had read somewhere that Indians would bury their dead in a shallow mound for 9 months, then dig up the bones and place them in a wooden box above ground.  I didn't know if this is true, but a quick internet search at the Coffee House revealed the boxes to be Spirit Houses, which were built to house the spirits that protect the grave, and supplied with tools and resources the dead would need to enter the spirit world.  We couldn't see what was inside the boxes, but had fun guessing!


I had promised Debbie we would go to a lighthouse.  The previous year was the first time she had seen one, and after falling in love with all the lore about Michigan Lighthouses, Debbie made a pledge to see as many as possible.  We drove 7 miles to the Point Iroquois Lighthouse, and by this time I had to use the restroom, like now.  (This seems to be a recurring theme on my travels with Debbie).  As we pulled into the parking lot, I spotted a restroom building on my right and parked in front of a sign that read "Due to the government shutdown, this facility is closed".   Noooooooooooo!  The Point Iroquois Lighthouse is federally owned.  Did not know that.  We got out of the car, and with a certain amount of envy I let Rooney pee on a bush.  An old man came ambling over to us, asking if we needed to use the restroom.  I guess his first clue was the fact that I parked right next to the door to the Ladies' Room.  His second clue may have been the fact that I was walking with my legs crossed.  He explained that he was a volunteer light keeper, and had keys to the bathroom.  

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"What are they gonna do?  Fire me?  I'm a 78 year old volunteer, I don't care what they do!"  I fell a little bit in love with the old light keeper.

We couldn't tour the lighthouse, but after gratefully using the restroom Debbie and I walked down to the shore of Lake Superior.  The lake was whipping herself into a fury, with cloudy skies and a fierce wind.  Wearing my Hunter rubber boots, I was able to wade the frigid waters to find a few interesting rocks, while Debbie braved going barefoot.  It was a beautiful area and we happily spent some time rock hunting and letting Rooney swim.  As we were leaving, we saw a sign informing us it is a Federal Crime to remove any rocks from the beach.  We ran for the car, laughing and emptying our pockets along the way, lest some Secret Service Agent was hiding in the trees with binoculars, waiting to slap the cuffs on us and haul us away to Leavenworth.  

That pretty much ended our exploring for this trip.  The weather really was miserable.  A bonfire and a good book sounded just right, so we headed back to the campground.

I always try to keep moving on these trips, because I am well aware of what habits we will fall into at the campsite.  Sit, and eat.  Sit some more, eat some more.  Watch the clock until it's 6:00pm, then add drink to the routine.  To be honest, sometimes I enjoy doing nothing for a while, but then I get bored.  That's when the trouble usually starts.

I was restless.  The rain had started up again, this time harder.  There are no trails in Brimley, nowhere to hike.  The beach behind our campsite was cold and wet.  The campground was just about full with Halloween campers, people were outside around campfires with massive tarps over their sites, children were running and laughing, families shouted back and forth, and here sat Debbie and me, anti-social, alone.  Boring.
Then I realized that the official campground Trick-or-Treating had begun!  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  Debbie rudely ignored my newfound enthusiasm as she stayed right next to the fire reading, but I went out to the front of our site with a bowl of candy and my Martha Stewart decorations to greet the families.  While I wasn't technically wearing a costume, Debbie pointed out that the wind and rain had done such a number on my hair, I easily could pass for a scarecrow.  
I spent an hour exclaiming over the kiddies' costumes, calling out to Debbie who pretended she couldn't hear me over the wind, and passing out all the candy.  By the time the last of the trick-or-treaters moved on, I was restless again.  Then the rain picked up, coming down hard enough to make the fire sizzle, and we were forced to run into the tin can.

If you've never seen my tin can, let me explain how this works.  Even though the trailer is 22' long, there is about 4' of empty floor space inside.  Within that 4' space, I have a chair and table.  Now, add my 130lb dog to the 4' space.  You start to get the idea, right?  It was crowded in the tin can.  
Between leaving the mountains too soon, the crappy weather, no trails, a crowded camper and a full campground, I was starting to get a little crazy, and Debbie was not a happy camper.  It was time for a change.

The rest of our evening definitely involves shenanigans, probably involves a little rule-breaking, but I will neither admit or deny the involvement of Captain Morgan.  That's for you to decide.  It began when I heated some apple cider and pulled out a booklet called A Troll's Guide to the Better Understanding of the Yoopanese Language.  Things really started looking up when, after the third mug of hot cider, which may or may not have been embellished by the Captain, Debbie challenged me to speak nothing but Yoopanese the rest of the night.  I double-dog dared her to do same.  All of that would have been great for a few laughs, but we upped the ante when we decided to take our skilled language use to the streets…or at least the drives in the campground.  Donning raincoats and flashlights, we left the warmth and safety of the tin can to visit the four-holer (a bathroom with four stalls) and speak to as many people as possible in our acquired language along the way.
At each decorated site we passed, we called out to the groups of hardy campers huddled under their awnings with kegs of beer, "Lookin' spooky over there, eh?"  If the campers replied with "Oh ya, you betcha!"  Debbie and I laughed and high-fived each other, knowing we had found real Yoopers.  We easily conversed with natives about such important matters as terrorists (people from Detroit who only come to the U.P. during deer season), Chicquito Repellant (12-gauge shotgun), Nubbas (knitted hats worn by Yooper grannies), Camp (Yoopers' second home), Side By Each (standing next to each other), and Kits (children).
One such conversation went something like this:

Yooper:  "I see yer wearing da Kromer" (Official hat of Yoopers, a Stormy Kromer)

Me:  "Oh, ya, you betcha.  Youse guys dem guys wit ta Yooper Caddy?"  (Chevy Impala with no rust)

Yooper:  "Ya.  She was in da crotch, (garage), but we git her runnin"

Me:  "She do a Yogi?" (a controlled 360 degree skid)

Yooper:  "Oh, ya, you betcha.  Not wit a Trooper doh"  (Meaning a student from the lower peninsula who attends a U.P. college should not attempt a Yogi, even in an Impala)

Me:  "Youse got sinkers dere?"  (asking for one of their donuts)

Yooper:  "Ya, but dey got hard.  Need mud"  (coffee)

Me:  "I got mud.  Need sinkers"

Everyone:  Laugh

I must say, Debbie and I got pretty good at Yoopanese.  Or in udder words, we was reg-you-lar Jackpine Savages, eh?  All we needed was plaid shirts and no one would have ever guessed we were Lopers.

We weren't making fun of Yoopers.  I love the way they talk, and the way they laugh with us, not at us.  I love Yoopers because they are cheerful, positive, and hardy.  They welcome even a Troll like me, make me feel like I belong.  They are helpful and creative and strong.  Maybe, that's the real reason why I keep dragging Debbie to the U.P.

Maybe I wasn't really trying to force Debbie to love the wilderness.  I think, all along, I wanted to introduce her to a place where community is everything.  Perhaps I wanted Debbie to know that when I leave home, I go to a place that is its own little country, with its own rules and language, its own culture, and its a good place, with good people.  I just want Debbie to know she is welcome here.

We get so caught up in everything in our real lives at home.  Cell phones, iPads, and internet govern our time.  Throw in a few meetings and a crisis or two, teenage kids' drama, and the PTA, and it's easy to forget about the people in your life as you are overwhelmed by the problems in your life.  But in Michigan's U.P., the information age still consists of neighbors visiting neighbors.  The problems arise from a fickle Mother Nature, and life's joys come in the simplest packages.  Yoopers are slow to judge, quick to help, hard to offend, and easy to know.  For one hour that night, Debbie was one of them.  She walked in the rain.  She laughed.  She ended sentences with "eh?".  She left all her fears and worries in the tin can and put herself out there with no pretensions.  This is what I wanted to share with her.

The tin can is a means of travel.  It makes it possible for me to find peace.  But perhaps Debbie and I are cheating ourselves by hiding in a corner of a campground.  The peace isn't found in the tin can, it is found when we leave the tin can, put ourselves out there, and join a community of good people.  We are already talking about where we might go next year.  She still has her list of requirements for our location, with things like water and electricity listed as a high priority.   I have only one condition:  we must go to the U.P.   It's where we belong.
AUTHOR'S NOTE:  The title of this post uses two Finnish words commonly heard in the U.P.  
Tytto means "girl", and Kaymala means "toilet".