Monday, March 11, 2013


 There is an island far, far away, where only those with a strong heart would be able to survive, in the years around 1865, when it was first settled, by Icelandic and Scandinavian immigrants.  In fact, it is located in some of the most treacherous water conditions on Lake Michigan.  The island is in Door County, Wisconsin.  Although the name these days may bring to mind colorful and quaint doors of picturesque fishing villages, that is not the origin of its name.  Rather, Door County got its name from the fact, that to get to Washington Island, a traveler would have to pass through "port des mortes" or "Death's Door".    There are hundreds of wooden shipwrecks located in the waters here.  Fortunately for me and other tourists, new navigational aids have solved the water -crossing issues, and thousands of tourists are delivered here safely, via ferry.    
 This photo, as well as the heart-shaped rock photo above, were taken at School House Beach on Washington, Island ( ).  It is only one of five beaches in the world with similar geology, and is part of the Niagara Escarpment.  Since it is a naturally protected harbor, it was the island's original shipping port.  The rusted chain in the photo is a reminder of its more commercial days. 
 These days, the beach has an area marked off for swimming, and there is a diving raft.  The shaded area surrounding the beach, has picnic tables.  If you like being on a beach, but do not like sand in your shoes, this is the place!  The beautiful, smooth limestone rocks that make up the beach, are a geological marvel, and removing them is strictly forbidden, with a $250 fine per rock!
 However, there are no rules that prohibit visitors from trying to skip rocks across the water, as shown in this photo!
 Likewise, there are no rules that prevent your "creative juices" from going crazy, making designs from the rocks.  I took this photo of a past visitor's "sculpture", because it reminded me of the flag for a place I had never heard of, until my son went there on a climbing expedition.  That place was called Baffin Island in the Arctic region of northern Canada.  This style of figure representing a human being, is seen a great deal in the art of the native inhabitants of that area.
 Likewise, the first time I saw a stack of decreasing-sized rocks like those in this photo, was driving through Canada.  I would see them perched on bluffs along the highway, and the locals told me they were markers used by the First Nations people of Canada.  These remnants of Canadian sculptures that were on the beach when I arrived, makes me wonder if the tram-load of tourists that visited here just before me, had all been from nearby Canada!   I referenced "tram", because that is how I was able to tour around the island.  I did not take a car on the ferry.  Rather, there is a regularly-scheduled tram that tourists can hire to drive you all around the island , with stopovers at important locations, such as School House Beach. 
 The next stop the tram took us,, was here at the Prayer Path, leading to another marvel on Washington Island.  The Prayer Path led us through the woods to the site of the Stavkirke, or "Stave Church". 
 The original Stavkirke structures were medieval, wooden, Christian church buildings.  Most of the original, surviving stave churches are in Norway. 
 The name "stave church" relates to  the building's structure of all wood  materials.  This "post and lintel" construction is a type of timber framing, where load-bearing posts are called "stav" in Norwegian. 
 Many stave churches have outer galleries running around the whole perimeter, loosely connected to the plank walls. 
 Originally, these outer galleries probably served to protect the church from the harsh climates, where they were located. 
 My first introduction to a Stave Church was in the state of South Dakota, followed by another location  in Wisconsin on the "mainland".   However,  the first sight for millions of people these days of a Stavkirke, is probably in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot in Orlando, Florida.  That version was completed in 1988. 
 The Stavkirke on Washington Island was a "home-grown" project and community effort, with many volunteer labor hours.  It was begun in 1992 and completed/dedicated in 1995.  Trinity Lutheran Church is the owner and manager of the property.  The Stave Church has regular services in the summer, and is available for weddings and baptisms.  (In fact, if you read the Wedding Blog at, you will see they used my heart-shaped rock photo, in one of their blog posts about getting married in Door County, Wisconsin).   Reading about the hardiness of the early settlers of Washington Island, and the strong Christian faith that made them want to build a place to worship God, reminded me of the memory verse for my First Place 4 Health ( ) Bible study from 1 Chronicles 22:19 that says "Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD you God."   Completing such a massive project as the planning, funding, construction, and maintenance of such an impressive project as a Stavkirke, definitely shows that these folks devoted their hearts and souls to seeking the Lord!  I am confident that seeing the fruit of their labor brings them "miles of smiles" and will do the same for you!     Tricia
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