Today Northern Michigan’s Magazine “Traverse” arrived at our PO Box. It is a very cool (no pun intended) journal. Today’s issue includes articles titled “I Come in Praise of Snow,” “Breathtaking Winter,” and “Witness to the Land: 80 years on a Leelanau Farm.”
In “Witness to the Land” I encountered the story of a man named Rex . . . and his forebears . . . and his love of the land . . . and his vision/hope for the future. Nancy Kotting wrote the article which she ends with these words: “Sitting alone, listening to his voice late into each winter’s eve, I often find myself overwhelmed with grief only to be equally overwhelmed with the warmth that came from the gift of now truly knowing my friend Rex Dobson, an ordinary man made extraordinary.”
Some of us are overwhelmed in this January of lives . . . overwhelmed with both grief and gift by the ordinary now made extraordinary.
I encourage you to read the whole article. It is in the February ’16 issue of “Traverse.” But if you can’t do that, or don’t want to, take some moments to savor these two quotes from the article:
“Rex was a man who spent his life in just one place. He remained obedient and subservient to nature, his life spent as a humble partner with, rather than dominator of, the world around him. In the end, I realized I had known a man who was once a boy and had grown into a wise elder under the tutelage of Leelanau itself.”
“I never knew how thin the line between a man and his land could be until I met Rex. I had followed him many a time as he walked his fields or contemplated the rows in his gardens, and every time I had found myself mesmerized at the sheer breadth of his peaceful empathy for all that surrounded him. It almost appeared at times to be returned in kind by both animal and plant.”
I have met a number of people like Rex since I have come to Leelanau. Wow. They are both women and men. They have an aura about them of quiet and respect, of joy and depth, of heritage and wonder. They love this place in the cosmos. They are loved by the place and by its people. Oh, of course, this is a small place. There are only about 22,000 of us in the county. Lots of us know lots of stuff about each other. Truth be told, for the folks like Rex, it is more their grace than their gravel that people speak about. We acknowledge our humanness here. And, we honor what it is we cherish. Here, we speak of the peach at its best: succulent, sweet, juicy, tender, warm – and we acknowledge that getting the peach to it’s best is not all there was.
The story of Rex is the story of his farm, the Ruby Ellen Farm, named after his mother by his father. The Ruby Ellen Farm is being conserved after Rex’s death in part by the Ruby Ellen Farm Foundation,
and in part by the Leelanau Conservancy:
Patricia and I are now quarterly contributors to the Conservancy. Having lived in Sarasota, FL for nearly ten years where developers usually carry the day, I am amazed by this statement from the Conservancy’s history page:
It all began with a vision. Ed and Bobbie Collins of Leland saw the future of Leelanau County in peril from over-development and increased demand for second and third summer homes. They feared seeing the loss of critical farmland and wetlands essential to the rural character of the County.
In 1988, their vision was put to work when they hired a young, ambitious lad with a geology degree and an interest in fishing. Brian Price and wife Susan took on the positions of Executive and Finance Directors and remain in those roles today. The staff of two has grown over the years to take on the many projects we have completed.
Since then, the staff and board of the Leelanau Conservancy has worked tirelessly to protect the places that you love and the character that makes the Leelanau Peninsula so unique. Our organization has earned a reputation as one of the premier land trusts in the country, with projects touching lives and saving land in each of Leelanau’s 11 townships. Since our formation in 1988, we’ve preserved over 10,500 acres and over 3 5 miles of shoreline/stream and river frontage, and worked with 149 families to preserve cherished lands. We’ve launched a farmland preservation program, established a renowned water-quality monitoring program and created 23 Natural Areas and Preserves. Some of the best views, most sensitive wetlands, and biggest working farms have been forever protected because of the Leelanau Conservancy. With nearly 2,800 members backing us up, the Conservancy is making a very real difference in what Leelanau County is to become. In a column he wrote for our 20th Anniversary, our founding Executive Director, Brian Price, tells our story.
(Keep your eye out for Doug and Ann McInnes in the 25 year history video . . . if you find them in the video, let Patricia and me know by way of a comment on this post. There will be a gift sent to each of you who have seen the McInnes’ in the video, and let us know that you have. Just write something like: “I saw Ann and Doug. They are noted in the video from [the year of their involvement as donors.])
Conserving the land, the water, the scenic character of a community . . . it takes the will and dream, the passion and hope, the awe and efforts, the action and largesse of a whole lot of people. There are are nearly 2800 members of the Leelanau Conservancy. It takes alot of us, maybe even most of us, aging with vibrancy, beauty, tears and grace, to do what we need to do as humble partners with the earth to ensure our grandchildren a future for their grandchildren and theirs after them . . . you know, seven generations and all.
Thank you Nancy Kotting for leading me to Rex. Thank you Leeelanau Conservancy for saving so many Natural Areas for whoever you are wherever you are on life’s journey for long and long and long . . .
Patricia and I skied this Leelanau Conservancy Natural Area late this afternoon: Kehl Lake Natural Area,
We see you . . . yes, we do!
4 thoughts on ““a humble partner with””
Lovely post, Phil. In my lifetime I’ve come across many organizations that “do good.” I’ve never, however, found one that sets important goals of preserving the Leelanau land and water and is able to meet those goals with the amazing support of the Leelanau Conservancy membership. Time after time an amazing project comes up, like Clay Cliffs, and people rise to the occasion of making an acquisition happen. What better testament is there to the love the people have for land and waters of this county. Karen
Thanks Karen. Maybe we’ll visit Clay Cliffs as it s now in the snow.
The Leelanau Conservancy blesses all with the protection of land and resources! It is such a joy to live in Leelanau County! It is God’s country….you see His/Her work everywhere you look!!!! Never forget to notice the beauty……every day.
With a rare January clear sky and bight sun, we went to another Leelanau Conservancy Natural Area – Clay Cliffs.