Jan Zita Grover (Artist-in-Residence, 1998)

A cove with a rocky peninsula has a small cabin on it, to the right is open lake
The cove near Dassler Cabin

NPS Photo

Isle Royale Reflection

"For weeks afterward, I fell asleep to breakers crashing in the cove below, to the faint human sounds of tour boats slipping across the mouth of Tobin Harbor. I had dreaded re-entry, and I had been right to dread it: traffic proved to be the assault it is, an assault we’ve accommodated our treacherously adaptable selves to; city sounds, even in my quiet town, rocketed through my skull like grenades. I moved from front bedroom to back, the better to hear those island sounds when I sought sleep. I can hear them still, almost a year later, near dawn, when Duluth has quieted.

I was interested in the interpenetration of human and other animal worlds before going to Isle Royale, but perhaps no place else has been so clearly the others’ world, one we two leggeds merely visit and then leave to those who dwell there. I liked visiting their world, artfully managed as it is near the largest human habitations. I liked the discomfort it engendered in me, in other people whom I met, so many of our toys and tools withheld. Here, the island’s deeper inhabitants said, This is what we give you: TIME.

That’s all: for giving up the human baubles, we’re given time.

I like to think I saw the lichens grow. My stay was one with little rain, but each small cup fattened around its raindrop. Watching lichens grow is not a mainland activity. Perhaps it should be. How can a human, with her short lifetime, write meaningfully about a world that unfolds over centuries instead of mere tens of years? How can humans dare to manage nature with such evident confidence? We are like children playing at a tea party: someone else, after all, will sweep up the remains."


- Jan Zita Grover*

 

About the Artist*

Jan Zita Grover was an Isle Royale Artist-in-Residence from August 28th to September 12th, 1998. She was born and educated in Northern California, then worked for years as an AIDS worker in San Francisco. She has lived in Minnesota since 1991. “Like so many other residents of economically depressed northeastern Minnesota,” she says, “I piece together my living from a variety of part-time, self-generated jobs: pet sitting, book editing, and freelance writing.”

Her first book, North Enough: AIDS and Other Clear-Cuts (Graywolf Press, 1997), won the 1998 Minnesota Book Award for creative nonfiction. Her second book, Northern Waters (Graywolf Press), was published in fall 1999. In 2008 she published a children's book called A Home for Dakota. In 2000 she was at work on Ditched and Drained: A Minnesota Story and Amity Creek, a cultural and natural history of one small watershed in Duluth, Minnesota, where she lives with her six dogs. When she is not at work for pay, she explores the backcountry of Pine and Carlton counties.

*[Source for all Jan's page content: Root, Robert and Jill Burkland, editors. (2000). The Island Within Us. Houghton, MI: Isle Royale Natural History Association. p 138. Print.]

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Last updated: December 13, 2019

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