And so it goes, my experience began with a ride on a Boston Whaler to the island on the morning of Friday, September 2nd, 2016. I was met on the shore of Rabbit Bay on the east coast of the peninsula by a long time friend of mine, Dave Buth, and one of the residency's co-founders, Andrew Ranville.
Not long after we set off shore from the mainland, Andrew suggested we dropped a couple lines into the water to see if we could come up with lunch. After several casts we each landed a Coho Salmon, which were said to be some of the largest Andrew had seen in the bay for much of the summer. I had high hopes for all that my time on the island had in store after the two catches.
The sign says it all. Unlike anything I had ever seen before, the island was comprised of a dense forest settled atop an elevated plate of sandstone and quartz.
Within a few minutes of offloading onto the island, I was introduced to the group of students and artists Dave had brought to the island days before my arrival. The large slabs of Sandstone on the shore of the island served as an excellent station for our fresh catches to be dissembled for meal-prep.
Ritz cracker crumbs were applied as a makeshift breading technique as dill, salt and pepper were spread evenly across some of the other fillets.
Within an hour of catching the two fish, we were gathered around the fire pit enjoying the fresh catches in the beating sun. With only the use of common spices and seasonings, the flavors were explosive.
Our sole means of transportation to and from the island anchored off the west shore as the sun sinks lower in the sky.
As the sun collapsed below the horizon, the night came alive. Vibrant displays of the Milky Way would shine above the treeline as the Aurora Borealis danced across the sky. Streaks of light would flash side to side in electric green bands.
I was soon introduced to the group's nightly routine of going back and forth between the wood stove heated sauna on the island to jumping off the rocks into Lake Superior. I was also introduced to Lake Superior fireballs -- the practice of diving down four or more feet to drink as many mouthfuls of water as possible. Lake Superior is by far the cleanest of all the great lakes, and at depth the water can be consumed without any filtration.
After exiting the sauna for the first time, scrambling out onto the rocks with only a headlamp was a bit unsettling. The slippery wet rock below my feet would occasionally give me a sharp jolt to remind me that both the island and the lake was to be respected, and not treated as a playground. As the sweat on my body turned cold in the open air, I jumped off the rock into the dark waters below, as directed by those who had many nights of experience behind them. After a few fireballs, we would scramble back up the rocks to the sauna to repeat the cycle time and time again.
One of the two minimalist structures on the island. This shelter served as a hub for group meals, art, and learning.
For my second night on the island, I setup my hammock atop the more than fifteen foot tall wooden platform near the southern end of the island. The perch was a three summer long project for Andrew, and it was designed to be used as an open air studio and research platform.
Early the next morning, as I hiked back to meetup with the group again I found myself easily distracted by the sun peeking through the trees illuminating my surroundings. The fifteen minute hike back very easily turned into forty five minutes.
The island is abundant with many specimens of mushrooms, both edible and poisonous. The mass collection of these mushrooms, followed by a delicate inspection and identification, led to a very tasty addition to our pasta lunch.
Days after setting out to the island from the mainland, I found myself looking out at the same view of the island as we made our way back to Rabbit Bay. This time I saw the island as a pristine environment, teeming with biodiversity and inspiration.