Have you ever had an interest grab your curiosity to a point that it becomes an engaging hobby at best and at its worst, an obsession? In “Five Thousand Quotations for all Occasions,” I looked up curiosity and found the classic, “Curiosity Killed the Cat.” Also included was, “Curiosity is one of the permanent characteristics of a vigorous intellect,” said Samuel Johnson. Since I am going to share with you where curiosity has led me, I prefer #2.
In 1977 my husband Joe and I toured a log home in Brown County. From that moment on, Joe was determined we would have a log home and he would be the one to build it. Two decades later we were in a position to fulfill his dream. The journey commenced by touring three log home companies with our final destination being Hiawatha Log Homes located in the Hiawatha National Forest, Munising Michigan.
I immediately fell in love with the Upper Peninsula despite the fact that it was February. I had never seen five feet of snow along the roads. Nor had I ever visited a pub where the coat closet was BIGGER than the restaurant! I quickly learned my Hoosier fashion was not meant for the conditions and was forced to buy a coat. We stopped at the national park gift shop and this is where I bought my first copy of Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha.”
“By the shores of Gitche Gumee by the shining Big-Sea-Water. ” Those words are ones that most of you will recognize. I cracked the binding of the paperback and began reading, quickly becoming frustrated with the cadence of the song. However, after reading it out loud twice (it’s a long car ride) I came to find comfort in the rhythm and the emotions of the words. I cried real tears when I read of Minnehaha’s death to famine. Annually thereafter I would bring it out when the snow would fall and experience the same emotions of wonder, sadness, joy, and heartache.
Then I began to buy used copies of the book. One, then two, now my collection is a dozen. OK, a baker’s dozen. “How many do you need and what will you do with them?” Joe will ask; I somehow never find an answer. With each new book, I learn more about Mr. Longfellow, the Indian people, and the Land of Hiawatha.
This year I asked if our vacation could be on the eastern side of the UP, along the shores of Gitche Gumee, Lake Superior. I wanted to visit the many places described in the poem. This June we spent two full glorious weeks exploring.
I got to visit seven beaches and collected rocks as black as coal, as pure as snow and ones that look like ghosts! I took a tour boat and saw the beautiful Pictured Rocks seeping manganese, copper, and calcium. I climbed a portion of the Grand Sable Dune. We kayaked lakes and rivers. We hiked down the foothills of the Huron Mountains to discover remote waterfalls with crystal clear water and heard the voice of Minnehaha, Laughing Waters. We visited the breathtaking Tahquamenon Falls where I dipped my toes in the river.
I learned that Longfellow based his poem on the writings of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. Schoolcraft was the first Indian agent to study and record the life of the Indians of North America, specifically the Algonquin-speaking tribes of the upper Great Lakes. Schoolcraft interviewed thousands of Indians and carefully documented the Native American customs, religious beliefs, ceremonies, music, and folk tales. He published over 20 books and numerous articles. It was from these documents that Longfellow located the material he needed to craft “The Song of Hiawatha.” In the last bookstore we visited, we found a copy of “Schoolcraft’s Legends.”
As we entered that store, I shared with Joe that I am interested in researching Ernest Hemingway as I would like to visit Key West in the future. Minutes later, here he comes across the store with another book saying, “You aren’t going to believe this,” and handed me a copy of “Picturing Hemingway’s Michigan.”
“This engrossing book vividly evokes the northern Michigan that Hemingway knew and loved as a youth that stayed with him for the rest of his life.” My husband looked me in the eye and said, “Does this mean we aren’t going to Key West?” It seems my hobby keeps lulling me back to the shores of Gitchee Gumme.
Where has curiosity led you? I would love to hear.