Fall 2013 Equinox Newsletter

Lake Superior 2013

Seasonal Notes from the Cedar Tree Institute

I’m sitting at a table in the Falling Rock Café, an old wood-framed bookstore a block or two from a harbor in a sleepy mill town 40 miles east of Marquette. Townsfolk, university students, musicians and a group of organic farmers have gathered here for an evening of readings by local poets and essayists. The selected pieces are submissions for a short-story contest organized by the Falling Rock’s proprietors along with Lon and Lynn Emerick, respected naturalists of the Upper Peninsula, both published authors.

The writers here tonight represent a rainbow of young and old. Some are experienced, others have come to find their first public voice. As the evening unfolds, it becomes apparent all of them share a common gift: Sharply honed, practiced skills of observation.

Guidelines for submissions invited reflections on the natural world of Northern Michigan but with a specific request that contributions be unencumbered by recollections of ATV and power-boat excursions or first-person accounts of hunting and fishing.

Each writer reads aloud their piece to our small audience of listeners. A few of us sip hot coffee and tea. Following each respective dance of word and image, one becomes aware that tonight’s unfolding experience is a tribute to a bygone era: When different sets of values shaped the world. When disciplined skills of watching and listening, most of which are now forgotten, were essential to navigate by foot and canoe a rugged, dangerous Great Lakes landscape.

Eighteen years ago upon returning here to my childhood home, I spent an afternoon with Lon. He led a group of hikers on an excursion to Marquette County’s Little Presque Isle. Strolling through a stand of majestic white pine, this retired speech pathologist asked us politely to spend the next fifteen minutes in silence. At first I didn’t understand. It took a few moments. He wanted to us to experience this particular part of the forest by letting it speak to us. For that to happen, it was necessary to stop chattering.

Artists and writers, when at their best, like Lon that afternoon, invite us to slow down, to come to our senses. To return, as some of us did that day, home.

Diana Magnuson in a TreeMy wife Diana is an illustrator and artist. Over the years, I’ve watched her struggle to carve out, to protect and defend a quiet space inside herself where she invites images and new ideas to be born. From the outside, it’s looked like a fierce, relentless, frustrating effort. Last week she passed along to me “The Artist’s Creed” by Jan Phillips. A portion of that artist’s testament initially appeared unsettling, disturbing, for me. Now, I’m convinced that it’s something all of us might do well to ponder. And the more courageous among us, perhaps, even adopt.

“I believe that I am worth the time it takes to create…” Phillips writes. “And that my work is worthy of its own space which is worthy of the name sacred. I believe that the time I spend creating art is as precious as the time I spend giving to others.”

How we are to live out the best of whatever precious days are given to us remains a real question. To this little band of bedraggled writers at the Falling Rock Cafe tonight, for all who from the silence and quiet of interior worlds help the rest of us see in new and wondrous ways, to you we take a bow.



  1. EarthKeepers II
  2. A Pastor’s Journal
  3. Mind Body Practices
  4. Wings & Seeds Initiative
  5. Spirit of Place & Janus Projects
  6. Workshops & Presentations
  7. CTI’s UP Index



An Interfaith Environmental Initiative

Thanks to the support of Bishop Tom Skrenes and area denominational leaders, 250 parishes representing 10 faith traditions are working together during 2013-2014 to increase better energy conservation among 40 of our churches and to build 30 community gardens across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and NE Wisconsin. We will also be working to distribute fresh produce to low-income families.

Earthkeepers II

NMU’s Earthkeeper student team (Tom Merkel, Adam Magnuson, and Katelin Bingner) are recording public service radio spots, leading university workshops on medicinal herbs, establishing dorm room gardens, and preparing a book of interfaith Earthkeeping Prayers. Kyra Ziomkowski serves as Project Coordinator. Doug Russell assists us as technical consultant, Charlie West as the EK field theologian, and Jan Schultz as our US Forest Service designated botanist.

Our special gratitude for the US Environmental Protection Agency’s partnership with e Cedar Tree Institute and to the individuals who have chosen to make personal contributions to carry out this vision.

To learn more about being involved, visit earthkeepersup.org.



In recent months, the CTI Director served as liturgist and preacher (along with guest Bob Kraus) at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Chassel where we celebrated the baptism of Nora Elizabeth Lassila (9/17). The Director was also guest presenter for Unitarian Universalist communities in Escanaba (6/16), Houghton (7/14) & Marquette (6/16). He presided at the grave site committal service of Joe Amorelli (6/13) at Park Cemetery and officiated at the weddings of Mike Shelafoe and Mari Feld (9/14), and Christopher Shirtz and Jessica Norton (9/21). On 9/15, he co-facilitated a discussion on “Spirituality and Health” for post-polio survivors in Big Bay with Pastor Karen Hinz from the Covenant Church in Ishpeming.

During the first week of September, CTI’s Director was invited by the Seattle’s Earth Ministry and the Lummi Indian community to address the threat of the Cherry Point Coal terminal. Proposed to be built upon a traditional Native burial site, the terminal poses a threat of severe environmental damage to the region. He joined Rev. Bill Cate, former Director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, to speak to the area’s faith community leaders about the 1987 Bishops’ Apology pledging support to assist Pacific Northwest tribes in efforts to recover and protect Native American ceremonies and sacred teachings.



Tai Chi is oriented toward regulating the immune system, increasing flexibility, and reducing blood pressure. It’s based on 1400 year old exercises from traditional Chinese culture. The Cedar Tree Institute continues its weekly Wednesday TAI CHI CHAUN classes from 5:30 – 6:30 P.M. at Grace United Methodist Church (927 W. Fair Ave) in Marquette. Saturday morning monthly workshops are scheduled for 10/19, 11/16, and 12/14. For more information call 906-228-5494.

On 9/11 Jon Magnuson and Adele Guisto facilitated a mind/body workshop using these techniques for Bay Cliff Health Camp’s Post-Polio Retreat, now in its 7th year, organized by CTI’s friend and supporter Fred Maynard, MD.



Since 2008 the Cedar Tree Institute has been assisting four Michigan tribal communities to recover and protect Native plants and traditional teachings regarding their medicinal uses. Thanks to a partnership with the United States Forest Service, this work continues with on-site tribal events and special projects. Jan Schultz, US Forest Service Botanist for the Eastern Region, Scott Herron, ethnobotanist, and Tom Biron, Sault Ste Marie tribal member, serve as our coordinating team.

KBIC Native Plants Greenhouse

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Native Plants Greenhouse

For more information, visit wingsandseeds.org.

From 5/27-30, CTI worked with professor Tom Auer of MTU along with a team of volunteers leading seven youth from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community to Isle Royale National Park. This was the first official delegation to Isle Royale from the tribe since the Park was established in 1934.

KBIC Youth on Isle Royale



Ten folks from across North America spent five days together on a CTI kayak retreat (Spirit of Place) along the shores of Lake Superior, focusing on the writings of Martin Buber during the first week of August. Lee Goodwin served as co-facilitator.

Kayak Retreat 2013

Three weeks later, 12 hospice volunteers and staff joined together with Drs. Michael Grossman and Larry Skendzel for a similar retreat format (The Janus Project): “Remembering and Forgetting: The Diagnosis and Treatment of Dementia at the End of Life.” Thanks to Ray Hasenauer, Jeff Noble, Bob Groleau and Tim Fillmore for serving as our support team. Special thanks to Sue Belanger, our kayak instructor and guide.



The Iron Buttery: A Mind/Body workshop on health, based on research from Harvard Medical School. For the general public (November 2013)

The Heart Connection (Empathy Training for Medical Students and Seminarians (December, 2013)

Economics, Social Class and the Challenges of Parish Ministry: For clergy and leaders of faith communities (November 2013)


During 9/27-29 Jon and Diana Magnuson were guest presenters at the New Wind Folk School for an environmental symposium in Port Washington, Wisconsin, joining long-time friends and activists June Eastvold and Michael Frome.



  • Amount of Michigan airspace that may be used to test drones, in thousands of square miles: 20,000
  • Drone test sites the Federal Aviation Administration will choose: 6
  • Estimated cost for a new hospital in Marquette, in millions: 290
  • Cost Lundin Mining plans to invest in building the Eagle Mine, in millions: 400
  • What Michigan spends yearly on “incentive” programs, in billions: 6.65
  • Michigan’s rank nationally: 2
  • Percent of state budget spent on incentives: 30
  • Tax break Tilden Twp. agreed to give Cliffs Natural Resources in 2011, in millions: 4.07
  • Michigan’s rank for high unemployment: 4
  • NMU’s rank out of 30 Michigan colleges for a graduate’s return on investment: 25
  • Michigan Tech’s: 2
  • Average number of Monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico, in millions: 350
  • Last year’s population, in millions: 60
  • Monarchs raised and released by Washington State Penitentiary inmates last year: 2,600
  • Percent increase in late summer visitors to Pictured Rocks, partly attributed to a Kid Rock song: 47
  • Annual amount invasive aquatic species may cost the Great Lakes economy, in millions of dollars: 800
  • Estimated annual honey income attributed to spotted knapweed nectar in Michigan, in millions: 4

Researched by Gabriel Caplett, organic farmer, writer and community organizer. References for the above data can be found on the cedartreeinstitute.org website.

Our mission is to contribute quietly to the Common Good. The Cedar Tree Institute owns no property and has no full time employees. We choose not to compete with United Way agencies or local faith communities for limited financial resources. We carry on this work, thanks to small grants and donations by residents in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and to individuals, some as distant as New Mexico, Hawaii, Washington State, and New York.

To you our deepest appreciation!

Gus Sponberg

Gus Sponberg, 1944-2013

NOTE: On August 1, 2013, Arvid “Gus” Sponberg, Professor of English at Valparaiso University and longtime friend of the Cedar Tree Institute, served as MC for our annual midsummer celebration at Presque Isle Park’s Public Pavilion.

Five days later Gus died, unexpectedly, at his home on the edge of the family’s garden of a heart attack. His funeral took place in the University Chapel on August 10th. A Memorial Service is scheduled to take place in Indiana on November 8th.

To Gus’ wife Bonnie and children Erica and John our prayers. A tribute to Gus’ life will appear in the 2014 issue of CTI’s ECOTONE.


Two hundred Northern white cedar trees were planted alongside streams, in vacant lots, and logged over meadows by teams of volunteers coordinated by The Cedar Tree Institute on August 30 and September 22. Our appreciation to Messiah Lutheran Church here in Marquette and the extraordinary youth volunteer work team from Faith Lutheran in Marion, Iowa. These efforts made a repairing of the forest possible.

The Fall 2013 Equinox Newsletter is brought to you by Cedar Tree Institute.

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