I spent a few days in beautiful Presque Isle last week. It has the pine forest feel of “up north” coupled with the nautical allure of a Lake Huron harbor. As far as I’m concerned, a vacation spot doesn’t get any better.
While I was there, I indulged myself with a little local history, visiting the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Because it was such a busy crossroads for shipping routes, the area is loaded with wrecks. The Marine Santuary has some excellent interactive displays, including a recreated schooner you can walk through. I could have spent another hour or two reading through all the fascinating information, but my kids were getting antsy.
They reengaged, however, when we snorkeled an old ship that went down in Presque Isle’s North Bay. The Cuyahoga was a two-masted schooner that sank in the 1880’s, and its remains now lay in about fifteen feet of water. It was a little eerie diving down to touch something so long dead. My imagination, as you’ve already guessed, was working overtime. As I swam through the exposed ribs, I was thinking about just how long they have been underwater, and how forever death is. One hundred and thirty years is nothing compared to how long it will continue to rest there. But just as these thoughts were making me feel a little morbid, in the shadows under the decking I spotted a school of fish. Life continuing amidst death.
Presque Isle has a good deal of landed history, as well, including two restored lighthouses. Settlers began clearing land and setting up farms and businesses just prior to the Civil War. I took a bike ride to locate and read some of the green State Historic Area signs I had been noticing, and I paused to peek in the windows of the old Kauffman homestead, wishing I had arrived on a day it was open to the public. I also wandered through the Presque Isle Cemetery. A strange habit, I know, but cemeteries are always open, and I enjoy reading the dates on the oldest stones.
As I wandered, I happened to locate John Kauffman’s grave. It was one of the earliest, and not far from the gorgeous flowerbeds growing near the entrance. Again I was struck by the beauty of life continuing after death. The land has been frozen under many snows since Mr. Kauffman went to his rest in 1913, and its been renewed each spring. Life goes on without him, but I wonder what was he was like. What was he remembered for? Did he have any regrets? Did he live out any dreams? He’s been gone a long time, but for a little while, he lived. Did he find a purpose in his life? Did he accomplish it? Because in the end, that’s what really matters.
Visiting Mr. Kauffman made me do some reflecting. My time here is probably approaching the halfway mark, but I’m certain of my purpose, I’m doing my best to accomplish it, and I know the One who will remember it even after I’m gone. That’s pretty satisfying.