I don’t know why, but it’s easier to think about the past here.
Maybe it’s the lovely old barns that are literally along every road I drive, reminders that people have entered those massive rooms for decade upon decade of storms and weather, for years of seasons that have turned brown wood gray and windblown.
Apple trees line my driveway, reminding me each day that people before me walked this land; they planted and pruned, got stung by bees, were delighted in the pink blossoms in the spring and the ripe fruit in the fall.
As a child, we would walk far up the beach to the “Indian village” near Heins creek where, in fact, the Ottawa tribe had summered for several seasons in the late 1600’s. We would kneel in the soft sand to find chippings of arrowheads just a few inches down. The edges of those sharp, flinty rocks were sharp, so we had to walk carefully in our bare feet, and this was tactile evidence that people we could not see had walked here, worked here, swum here. They had been ready, even, to defend their lives in order to survive on this very dune where we now lolled about in summer breezes.
And then there are the lighthouses. Is there any better way to make someone imagine the past? Walk inside the homes of the former lighthouse keepers and read just a few lines from the keeper’s log, and it is hard not to imagine life 150 years ago. “Thirty ships passed today. Strong winds, most under full sail.” Or, “Visitors from town. Wife offered tea.” It was a desolate life, but an important one, and when I visit those light towers (because, by the way, there are thirteen of them in Door County,) my mind imagines the people who lived their lives at the bottom of those lights.
There are an abnormally high number of historical societies on the peninsula. So there are books in shops and libraries that tell the stories and show pictures of the people that lived here long ago. St. Louis was an old place, and I lived in old houses for the entire time I lived there. But somehow I wasn’t as affected by the past as I am here.
I like the history of this place. It makes me feel that I am part of a long flow of people that have been before and will come after. It also makes me imagine, which is always a good thing for the writer in me.