For someone with my addiction to constant motion, I sure seem to have a problem with change. For the past year, you might have noticed a drop-off in posts here. It’s not for lack of material. I didn’t know what it was, actually, until a few things recently made it clear. Life doesn’t always keep up with the pace of the story we’re trying to tell about ourselves.
I started this blog to record stories that needed to be told. Everything else about the blog, including the nomadic life aspect, was secondary to that. Living on the road was an adventure, and sometimes I needed to scream about it here, but the point wasn’t to show off my traveling expertise. The point was to learn things and connect with people.
Unfortunately, no sooner did I start on this adventure, than everybody in my generation decided to become a nomad. You couldn’t throw a stick at a downtown scene without hitting someone who was building out a sweet camper, a cargo van, an old school bus.
When I embarked on road life, the last thing I expected, or wanted, was that it would become chic. I wanted to be an outsider like Jack Kerouac, visible only as a finger pointing at something you’d never otherwise have noticed. It got to me when I saw how much interest was growing around the new army of nomads, who had (I groused) nothing interesting to show for their life except their modular carpentry skills. Which, okay, those were awesome. And okay, there was probably a little of that “I was here first” attitude, too.
The point is, I started feeling like nobody would pay attention to the stories I was collecting unless I first made them pay attention to me. I kept collecting stories, but when I went to write them down, something had changed. Instead of simply telling the stories, I was trying to make them say something I thought people wanted to hear.
Thank God I met Bryan—while he was ready to be a nomad with me, he was definitely not on board to Instagram every highway bend we passed or every craft beer he drank. His utter disdain for social traction helped me stop viewing nomadic life as a competition, and start just living in it. Jesus, what a first couple of years we had. Biking up and down both sides of the Columbia River during a sweaty Portland summer, teaching those West Asheville hipsters how to get down at the Double Crown’s rhythm-and-blues night, fattening up for the Catskill winter on dumplings we brought back from Vanessa’s in the Lower East Side, getting drunk on stout and red wine at the Boylans’ barn and then hiking back through the redwoods in the dark.
We continued to collect stories—loads of them. Many of them we lived ourselves, with only each other as witnesses. Others we stood in the middle of–on a cold outcropping amid the Blue Ridge Mountains, looking up into sequoias where the Merry Pranksters used to drop acid–and felt the stories without being told. They crackled in the air, they emanated from the ground. And while I could research them and even put them on my blog, they couldn’t belong to me. People can tell you what they know, but a place doesn’t give up its deepest treasures to folks just passing through.
One summer night in 2015, on the shore of the world’s only freshwater ocean, we woke up to a curtain of rosy light blowing across the night sky—too far from civilization to be city lights, too high to be the embers of the late northern sunset. It may seem overly romantic if you’ve only seen the northern lights in pictures—Lord knows they’re lapping nomadic life as a social media trend—but for us it was a marked signal that a new story had started.
I always said that if I found a place that made it worth staying, I would. I said it in the cavalier tone of someone who intends never to find that place. But if you can’t argue with the road when it’s tough or long or demanding, you sure as shit can’t argue with it when it ends, or where.
Which brings me to the reason I haven’t written much on this blog in over a year.
It’s because I’ve been trying to write about it as if I’m still a nomad. And folks, I’m not that anymore.
There, I said it.
You probably don’t care as much as I do. Hopefully, you’re mainly here for the stories. Because that’s always been the point. I just forgot for a while. Sorry.
I thought it was up to me to give these stories meaning through my search. That was dumb. Obviously, it’s the stories that give meaning to me.
They made me tough out life on the road. They brought me together with Bryan. And with every season that goes by, they confirm that this place needs us and we need it.
We’re here to find and tell the stories of the Keweenaw Peninsula, and those are stories that don’t need a damn thing from me to be profound. There’s profundity enough in the hot pastels of a boreal sunset, in the grave concern on the face of a bald eagle and the subwoofer thrum of its wings, in the gold-flake flurry of snow blown across a shaft of morning light, and certainly in the stories we keep hearing from the community of people who ended up in this place in much the same way we were.
Whatever it is in Copper Country that calls to people, it sure knows how to pick a team. In just the past year, we’ve found ourselves in league with sustainable builders, organic farmers, outdoor guides, graphic artists, innkeepers, coffee roasters, music teachers. I feel at home among their ranks, fighting alongside them for the life of this place. I hope I can help them see how extraordinary they are.