The wind breathes a song of ancient wisdom – only listen to the rattle of the ghost forest up on the dunes. It’s the story of Dapine, mother bear, proud parent of sharp claws and soft fur. Her cubs dancing on rolling Wisconsin plains, two brothers in the summer sun, animated by a boundless spirit. A bond unbreakable, unbelievable, takes us back to that terrible month when the sun hung too close to the Earth for too long.
Day after day, the leaves curled and the grass progressively turned orange. The forest was brittle and dangerous. Then one night lightning struck and set a dry patch ablaze. As luck would have it a fierce wind howled and blew the flames higher and farther, until the flames towered over the forest animals. Instinctively, Dapine ran for Lake Michigan, that immortal body, her cubs racing behind her, tripping over their young, clumsy paws. Though safe in the calm, placid waters of the lake, she saw in the thick black smoke the desolation and starvation that awaited her cubs once the fire died. Where they’d rolled and played and sweet honeycombs had bounded, charred nothingness would smolder.
So Dapine swam, desperate, one stroke at a time, towards Michigan. The journey was long and difficult, and the young cubs struggled to keep up, panting, tongues agog. On the second night of their journey, a great storm whipped the lake into a panicked frenzy. Hail pelted their thick coats; lightning made their fur stand on end. And somewhere in the wild waves she lost her cubs, their panicked faces illuminated by one last flash of light before being enveloped in permanent darkness.
Dapine swam against the tide for many hours in search of her cubs. She cried out their names, desperate, painful screams full of sorrow. But no answer. Exhausted, she turned back the following morning for the northwest shore of Michigan. Drenched and tired, she finally pawed her way onto the promised beach. At last. The sky was deep and blue, the green expanse of trees swayed in the wind. There was food, shelter, and water.
But no cubs.
All Dapine could think of was her cubs. She felt little relief or happiness in having made it alive to Michigan. Day and night, she faithfully watched the endless waves hoping to catch a glimpse of her lost cubs. In her many, fevered dreams, there they were, safe and warm in the old den, gnawing on the fish bones held between their tiny claws. She quickly grew wane and emaciated, her hair falling out in tufts on the soft sand.
Seeing Dapine, the Great Spirit was moved to tears by her story, from the veil of impartial observation to utmost mercy. As the earth shook and a hard rain fell, he raised two large landmasses above the waters of Lake Michigan in remembrance of Dapine’s cubs, North Manitou Island and South Manitou Island. He imbued the islands with their innocent energy, so that it would be a grand memorial to Dapine’s loss. She saw this, and like animals always do, knew right away what it meant.
And so with heavy sigh, Dapine closed her eyes and slept by the waves. It was then she felt a sudden lightness, her soul hovering over her own body. Carried by the force of the Great Spirit, she ascended up beyond the worries of the world, where in the limitless sky her cubs hopped from cloud to cloud in excitement, reunited with their mother at last.
Back down on earth, Dapine’s body turned to sand, more and more sand. In her place a great dune emerged, which from the Manitou Islands resembled a giant sleeping bear. The Great Spirit did this as a testament to the power of love, the story of Dapine and her cubs. Even today, the area is called the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and the story is written of on plaques and in books, never forgotten.