Thursday, October 14, 2010

Birch Creek Earthquake: A Secret Message?

Eileen Heider inspects the fissure on her Birch Creek property []

Dear George,

My brother Peter was always a keen student of Eastern philosophies and religions, and he developed a healthy sense of the hidden and unfathomable aspects of human existence. More than the rest of us, Peter was attuned to puzzling and seemingly inexplicable events, especially in family matters, and he liked to speculate about their mystical or supernatural origins. Being more literal and concrete in my thinking, I’d often react to my brother’s interpretations of strange happenings with skepticism, but I’ll admit that many of his hunches were intriguing. So when I ran across a news story in the online edition of the Marinette-Menominee Eagle-Herald about an unprecedented earthquake in Birch Creek, I thought of Peter immediately.

First, a little background. My parents, Vic and Doris, bought their 240-acre Farm property in Birch Creek, MI, in the mid-60’s, then moved there full-time in the 70’s. My three siblings and I and our families began gathering there with our parents every August for a big family reunion, and our children formed a strong emotional attachment to Farm. By his late seventies, my dad had developed an almost religious sense our property, seeing it as the homeland of our family and envisioning the day when all family members would move there and live in peace and love in a network of compounds. After my parents died, our extended family continued ownership of the property through a joint partnership of the four siblings, though our use of the property dwindled drastically over the years, and there was even debate on whether to keep the property in the family at all. After years of it languishing, my sister Vicki announced the other day that our lawyer is drafting papers to gift the property to the younger generation, a new tenant for the farmhouse has been found, and plans are underway to harvest mature timber to provide income to help maintain and improve the property. My nieces and nephews responded excitedly to these developments, and it appears that Vic’s dream, which had seemed headed for oblivion, has been totally re-energized.

Just as I had received all this enthusiastic family news by e-mail from Vicki, I ran across a news story about Birch Creek from the local online newspaper ( Eileen Heider, who lives on her 53-acre property on Bay de Noc Road, probably next door to Vic and Doris’ land, reported that last Monday morning she heard an explosion and felt her recliner bouncing around underneath her. Later her partner took a walk on the property and discovered that a lengthy mound of earth had risen up to 15 feet high in places, tilting trees 30 degrees away from one another on either side of the ridge. There was a 200-yard fissure along the ridge, four or five feet deep, and up to twenty feet wide in places. A Michigan Tech geologist came down from Houghton and concluded that an earthquake had occurred, even though there’s never been an earthquake in the recorded history of the U.P. Fortunately, the Tech guy judged the likelihood of another earthquake occurring in Birch Creek to be zero. Meanwhile the site has become the most popular tourist attraction in Menominee County.

Portrait of Vic L at his Birch Creek Farm

Were Peter around for this happening, I can just imagine what he’d have to say. I’m sure he would argue that it’s no coincidence that, just as our family was experiencing the resurrection of my dad’s dreams about our property, there was a simultaneous explosion from the bowels of the earth in Birch Creek. Peter would see this as entirely predictable and just so characteristic of Vic, who was sending from another world his a message of approval and enthusiastic celebration with all of the boisterousness of which he was capable. Leave it to our father to create an earthquake to express himself. While normal people might consider this far-fetched, I’m sure our family members would see a certain ring of truth about it. It’s definitely as plausible as the supposedly scientific claim of the Michigan Tech geologist.



G-Mail Comments

-Phyllis SS (10-22): Dave, This is the MOST exciting thing to see? Maybe your brother was right - remember that postcard you got that time that didn't even have the correct address on it? When you were hoping to hear from your brother(s) or family? Phyllis

-Vicki L (10-15): Your blog about Peter was great - had a real belly laugh. Hope it's ok I forwarded it to my kids for their enjoyment. I miss the boys - talk about them all the time.

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