Along the Pictured Rocks lakeshore, an old pine sits upright atop a limestone tower called Chapel Rock. Two eight inch thick roots wind and twist out of the pine, crossing the 10 foot gap between Chapel Rock and the mainland. This root bridge brings water and nutrients to the otherwise dry and barren limestone, keeping the pine alive. Every person on every boat tour of the shore loves this little tree. It should not still be alive - and yet there it is.
And on the west side of Marquette there is a beautiful little neighborhood called “The Village”. In a city of 20,000, on the north shore of a remote peninsula, this neighborhood is home to restaurants, shops, galleries, and a local brewery. Every person who visits Marquette loves this little neighborhood. It does not have to exist - and yet there it is.
Oh how we love to overcome, and oh are we good at it.
And yet, there are some circumstances that we cannot overcome. The universe is getting colder and there’s nothing to be done about it. The laws of physics catch up to even the most abstract human endeavors. There is a large uninhabited island just off the Pictured Rocks lakeshore and despite being roughly the same size of Manhattan, this island will never be a dense center of art and commerce.
This weekend in Marquette, I visited the lakeshore and the Village, I stared out over at Grand Island, and I thought about Owosso.
What are we supposed to do about all these little cities? Cities like Owosso? Everyone who visits Marquette loves The Village, so why doesn’t The Village exist in every small town in America? And if we try and build a neighborhood like The Village in every American city - what sort of endeavor is that?
Are we trying build Manhattan in Lake Superior? Undertaking an absurd and impossible task? (And even perhaps missing the beauty of these cities as they exist now? Lake Superior, after all, is remote and pristine and quiet - beautiful things that Manhattan will never be.)
Or are we practicing hope? Overcoming? Are we, perhaps, building a root bridge? A root bridge that will support a tree, a tree that people will come to see, and say to themselves as they leave: “That doesn’t have to exist. I’m so glad it does.”