Photo by Norbert Blei
Editor’s Note: It’s impossible for anyone driving toward the northern tip of the Door Peninsula, not to be momentarily swept away by the view from the top of the Ellison Bay hill.
The Grand View (the million dollar view), call it what you will. Prime real estate for sure. There was always a fear that someday this would be lost to development. And what a tragic loss that would be. Given man’s insatiable greed, what, if anything, could be done about it?
On Saturday, June 23, 2012, I was invited by the Door County Land Trust to speak, in celebration, of the fact that this, now, would never happen.
This “grand view” had been secured forever, thanks to common sense—or call it ‘spirit’. Thanks to so many locals, outsiders, groups, government agencies, who did the really hard work, spread the word, found the money, attended all the meetings, aroused the interests of those in power who could make the connections, make things happen, especially the Door County Land Trust, a guiding light in this county for certain.
Given the nature of who I am and what I do…mine was a small, a very meager part. Put some words together. Tell the story. Inform. Say thanks. Trust others will listen, take heart. Remember what matters. — Norbert Blei
The Grand View
It is customary, upon receiving a gift, to say “thank you.”
So today, this moment, for this “Grand View” before us, we say “Thank You” to all who worked long and hard to bestow this gift upon us—individuals, various businesses and groups…the historical society, the state, the county, the town board—people like Frank Forkert, Bob Davis, John Lowry, Beth Coleman, Stefie Burke… And above all, the Door County Land Trust–its members, it’s entire board who put in so much time and effort to see that this “Grand View” was secured “Forever” for all of us: Tim Stone, Terrie Cooper, Dave Callsen, Dan Burke, among them. THANK YOU all.
John Muir, who read Mother Nature like an open book…who saw and hiked and knew the wonders of the state of Wisconsin referred to the presence of something like this view behind me as “The Grand Show”:
“This grand show is eternal,” he wrote. “It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is forever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming. On seas and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”
Poet Robert Frost wrote about America’s land inheritance calling it: “The Gift Outright”. “The land was ours before we were the land’s,” he wrote… “Such as we were, we gave ourselves outright…to the land vaguely realizing westward…”
But what do we do about man’s continual pursuit of land both necessary to our country’s development yet troublesome, given the nature of man’s greed in our time? The majority of Western man is now urban and soon the whole world, over half of us, will be living in towns and cities.
What’s to become of us in the absence of land, landscape, this “Grand View?”
Imagine this very setting cluttered with condos, shops, gated communities. What would we have gained—lost?
I am reminded of a local, sometimes shifty realtor (who friends and clients said upon his death: “Had to screwed into the ground.”)…who used to advertise in the local paper: “Land—The only thing they ain’t making any more of.”
What is it about man’s chronic need to profit from nature’s gifts? When Nature’s only purpose is being and surviving?
So we express our appreciation again for this gift. What else can we say but, “THANK YOU” as we gather here today to celebrate the Nature of History and the History of Nature—past, present, future. And that we honor the place of History in our lives.
When I come upon this “Grand View” almost every day (over 40 years now) I can’t help but think what a sense of earth, sky, air, water, horizon, wilderness caught the eyes of our first settlers…what our Native Americans embraced, made of this in their daily lives through silence, dreams, art, healing ceremonies, chants that mirrored the very sounds of nature.
The Winnebagos put some of this into their own words:
Holy Earth Mother, the trees
and all nature are
witnesses of your thoughts and
Spirit speaks in image. You cannot take in “the Grand View” without it silently taking you into it. Define “IT” however you like. Its presence cannot be denied.
John Muir believed that every natural object is a conductor of divinity. There is a divine presence in everything. Go for a walk. Say that Winnebago prayer of reverence for the earth. Should an animal, plant, rock, or ‘grand view” draw your attention, stop and silently offer thanks for the joy and beauty you feel.
Does “pure nature” have any other purpose but to serve us? What to do?
To save our endangered landscape…
To find an ecological balance of sorts…
To come to terms with man’s appetite for land values and the real value of land being nothing more than what it is. Open. Wild. Free.
Another great American preservationist (who once passed through Wisconsin, late in life, on his way to Minnesota)…Henry David Thoreau, concluded that wilderness for the sake of wilderness was a good thing to have around. In the 1850’s he proposed that every town in Massachusetts save a 500-acre piece of woods which would be forever wild. But it never happened. He was never listened to.
“This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun and animals…” wrote our great American writer, Walt Whitman.
“The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders…Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit,” wrote another great American writer, defender of the desert Southwest, Ed Abbey.
More history: Behind me, across this very same “Grand View,” just over my shoulder, on that far cliff sits a very unique school, a place called The Clearing, founded by Jens Jensen, a landscape architect, in 1935 at the age of 75. His gift—of nature, of education, of solace and self-renewal to all of us.
One wonders what Jensen must have seen and felt when he approached this “Grand View” over 75 years ago?
Sixty-three years ago, in a book called THE CLEARING, he wrote: “In the little village of which I am a part are many different minds, so different, in fact, that one often wonders if the little village can continue holding them together. In the woodlands surrounding this little village are many different types of trees…On the shore below the village’s ancient cliffs the rocks and the sea test the supremacy of each other’s strength. In some places the rocks have given way, in other places they have held on for centuries. In spite of all these differences, the picture as a whole is one of a peaceful little village snuggled by the bay, with woodland cliffs forming a protective arm. Nature fits differences of ideas, of forms, of habits, and of strength into one harmonious whole, making a beautiful pattern of multiple shades and hues, all complementing each other and adding to the infinite variety of Life’s ideas through one redeeming fact, Life’s weight and balance. All are linked in one great balance, and that balance is love.”
Trust the land.
Trust the Land Trust and all those individuals, town boards, organizations who seek to preserve the many gifts nature has bestowed upon us—for our own good.
Trust the historical and natural presence of this “Grand View” which we honor ‘forever’ today, the 46th anniversary of ‘Olde Ellison Bay Days”…our continuing history in the making.
Trust what you know in your heart to be both and an obligation and a gift, the great and grander view of all the natural wonder and beauty this county alone possesses—a promise kept…to be passed on to all who will come after us.