Letter: A missive from a summer resident in small town USA

Thanks to all year-round Islanders for keeping Manitoulin the wonderful place it is

To the Expositor:

Greetings from Whitewater, Wisconsin.

As a long-time seasonal resident, I try to keep up with Island news through The Expositor and social media. Given the current crisis I thought I might try to reply with some information about conditions in this part of the world. Especially since I suspect that much of the news heading north emanates from the creature squatting in the White House, and his minions.

Whitewater is a small town with a big university. The number of students enrolled is considerably greater than the year-round population of Manitoulin. When University of Wisconsin, Whitewater shut down two weeks ago and the campus was evacuated, the town of Whitewater became very quiet. Very quiet indeed.

In truth, the town appears to be empty, although the 4,000 or so of us non-students are still here. We are just self-isolating. All the schools are closed, with the curriculum moved online. The Sweetspot, our great community coffee house is closed. Both fitness facilities are closed. A couple of restaurants are offering carryout only, and two of them are providing free bagged breakfast and lunch for families in need. The regional grocery store is providing free shopping and home delivery.

In sum, we are taking the pandemic seriously and working to help each other. We wave a lot as we pass each other on walks. We communicate through Zoom, Houseparty, FaceTime. The same goes for family. Sue and I have been uploading learning materials and activities to our family Slack workspace. I read (remotely) a chapter of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ to the grandkids every bedtime.

On the political side of things, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and our local county party, are working assiduously, though virtually, to make sure there is no repeat of the 2016 debacle.

Also on the upside, my canine companion, Pax, and I have added the beautiful UWW campus to our creekside, woods and prairie walking routes.

Rhubarb begins to poke its head up through the soil as an early harbinger of spring.

And spring is (almost) here. Snowdrops and Siberian squill in bloom. Silver maple buds swelling. Rhubarb poking through and beginning to unfurl. Gangs of robins working the backyards, spring peepers tuning up along the creek.

And the cranes. Whitewater is part of a significant flyway. Every day the sky echoes with their staccato trumpeting. The kettle-moraine landscape around here is a favorite staging area for the birds as they wait for melt and thaw further north. The past few evenings some of us neighbors have, in separate cars and communicating by cell phone, been out crane spotting. It beats watching the news.

In sum, the people of Whitewater are being careful, helping each other, and trying to make the best of this mind-boggling situation. And, through family and friends around the state, as well as in Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois and Texas, I believe the same is true of most Americans.

Sue and I now spend about half the year here in Whitewater. The other half, May through October at our cottage on Mudge Bay. While we are looking forward to our Manitoulin time, we know that our typical schedule might need to be adjusted. We will not move until it is safe and prudent to do so—and we believe the same is true of our other seasonal friends.

Thanks to all year-round Islanders for keeping Manitoulin the wonderful place it is. (And thanks to Island friends and neighbors for checking on the property.)

As Edwin Way Teale said, “North With The Spring.”

Jim Nies

Kagawong and Whitewater, Wisconsin