Barb Barton (Artist-in-Residence, 1992)

Barb Barton Portrait
Barb at Isle Royale

Isle Royale Reflection

"To me, Michigan is the most beautiful place on Earth and nothing embodies that beauty more than Isle Royale. As an avid backpacker and outdoorsperson, the thought of spending three weeks there filled me with joy. It was bittersweet though, as I had just accepted a job as an endangered species biologist with The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania. My time on the island was my last goodbye to the state I loved.

I spent a week of my time exploring the island by way of a six-day solo backpacking trip from Rock Harbor to Windigo. The most memorable moments were at Feldtmann Lake, where I sat for two days on the shore, simply being. I watched countless moose feeding at the water’s edge, unconcerned about my presence and walking literally 20 feet away from where I was sitting as they circled the lake. I saw a female moose keep her little brother from coming to shore, forcing him to go underwater for his meal. I watched a dragonfly nymph crawled out of the lake, across the sand, and up my leg to perch on my knee. I found beautiful quartz crystals nestled in the shallows, glistening in the sunlight like diamonds. I took a tarp with me on that hike rather than a tent, and made creative lean-to shelters each night. At Feldtmann Lake, I awoke to breathing in my ear – a moose was grazing right by my face. I whispered, “Moose, moose, I am right here!” I slept the rest of the night with a candle lit next to my sleeping bag. That morning, a bull moose walked by in the early morning light, his shadowy figure framed by trees and backlit by morning skies reflection off the lake. I snapped the last picture on the last roll of film and it turned out beautifully. Right after he walked by, a mother moose and a very small calf walked through the same frame - no film left! That scene is now but a beautiful memory in my mind.

I gave two concerts while on Isle Royale, and surprisingly both were standing room only. That was hard to believe given the remoteness of the island. The song I wrote while on the island was titled “Letter to Joshua” (now called “My Michigan), a goodbye letter to my nephew asking him to “take good care of my Michigan.” I performed that song all over the East Coast after I moved away and I could always identify the Michiganders in the crowd – they were the ones with tears streaming down their cheeks. I came back to Michigan in 2000. For good."

- Barb Barton, November 2019
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6 minutes, 25 seconds

Barb donated this song as part of her residency, originally called "Letter to Joshua". This was recorded at her Turtle Dove CD Release Concert in January of 2010 at the UU Church in East Lansing, MI. It was her encore performance.

Barb Barton
Barb Barton

Photo by Myrna Jacobs

About the Artist

Barb Barton was an Isle Royale Artist-in-Residence from June 16th to July 1st, 1992. She is often called a renaissance woman. She is an award-winning singer/songwriter and author, a wild foods gatherer, beekeeper, endangered species biologist, and so much more. But her love of the Earth defines everything she does. Barb began writing songs when she was in elementary school after learning guitar at the age of six. She began her professional career in 1979 as a singer and guitarist in a rock and roll band but transitioned to folk music a decade later. As a songwriter, Barb delivers memorable and moving lyrics touching on subjects that we all share. She uses music to touch people’s hearts and introduce them to subjects they might not otherwise know. Her percussive guitar playing, her use of alternate tunings, and signature style has impressed audiences wherever she goes.

Barb was awarded Singer Songwriter of the Year by the Michigan Artists and Songwriters Association the year before her residency on Isle Royale and won Best Vocalist in Folk Music at the Detroit Music Awards in 1992. She also won a 2018 Michigan History Award and a 2019 Michigan Notable Book Award for her book “Manoomin: The Story of Wild Rice in Michigan” (MSU Press). Barb has a BS in Fisheries and Wildlife Management from Michigan State University and an MS degree in Ecology and Organismal Biology from Eastern Michigan University. She continues to perform in the Great Lakes area and still her most requested song is the one she wrote on Isle Royale, “My Michigan.” Visit Barb's personal page to learn more.


Last updated: January 17, 2020

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