Agawa Bay

Drove for seven or eight hours, crossing the Mackinaw Straits and the Saint Mary River, winding along the wonderfully scenic northeastern shoreline of Lake Superior with its thick greenery, steely juts, pebbly inlets, and watch out for moose signage every few hundred kilometers. Canadicity. Is that the right word for it? 

I knew Ontario allowed for roadside park and sleep alongside the TransCanada Highway, but I pressed on into Lake Superior Provincial Park before realizing the rules shifted and also that Wawa was another 100km ahead. Too far. Stopped at the welcome center for the provincial park to find it closed and with bear sighting posters in the window. And finally I found a park ranger who couldn’t have been more helpful, stepping me through all the options for hiking and camping, the fees for parking in a designated campsite, how to handle payment without Canadian currency, and so on. He even retrieved a more detailed paper map from his truck and delicately unfolded it onto the hood of the Element. Best option turned out to be Agawa Bay campground, a paid lot, since I’m Elementing this night and not having any regrets about it because no thank-you to tent sleeping among the bears.

Butterfly Zag

Monarch Butterfly, El Rosario Sanctuary, Michoacàn-Mèxico.

Monarchs are “tough and powerful, as butterflies go.” They fly over Lake Superior without resting; in fact, observers there have discovered a curious thing. Instead of flying directly south, the monarchs crossing high over the water take an inexplicable turn towards the east. Then when they reach an invisible point, they all veer south again. Each successive swarm repeats this mysterious dogleg movement, year after year. Entomologists actually think that the butterflies might be “remembering” the position of a long-gone, looming glacier. In another book I read that geologists think that Lake Superior marks the site of the highest mountain that ever existed on this continent. I don’t know. I’d like to see it. Or I’d like to be it, to feel when to turn. At night on land migrating monarchs slumber on certain trees, hung in festoons with wings folded together, thick on the trees and shaggy as bearskin. (Dillard, p. 258, 1974)

Before shelving Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, one of the small handful of books (at focus’s edge) I finished on this research leave, I flipped back to a couple of dog-ears to see if there were passages I wanted to keep, post, circulate, remember later. Remember when a blog was a good location to stash miscellaneous passages? In this one, mostly about monarchs and their migration, I must have taken as wonderful (i.e., wonderful enough to warrant folding the corner of the paper) the swarm’s seasonal navigation as it maybe? does it? draws on some faint memoria, a directional inheritance, passed along grid cells from every butterfly mother and every next one before her. Fascinating and strange to think of a group veer, much less over the open expanse of a great lake in summertime.

But of course reading the passage again–no same two ways through it twice–its emphasis on the veer, on turning, stand out. This, the sort of turn spotting that is more akin to following the turns taken by ancestors, those redirects inherited, a quietly encoded rule for monarchs next. So it’s a curious aside that extends turns–more than the multimodal turn, the archival turn, the digital turn, and so on–to that which is only remembered, ancient monuments, a mountain or a glacier. Turning, bending around figments; the butterflies know, but how would we regard such knowing? How would we judge it if we, too, were prone to such predictable and long-established path-following as this?