BEAVER ISLAND, MICH. -- The world is such a sneaky place that even here, at the top of Lake Michigan, one can't get away from it. It surely seemed safe to give you readers a week's respite from these vaporings while I wandered some of the most beautiful beaches and wooded trails in the world. But no.
Saddam Hussein respects vacation no more than he does borders. And so a week that should have demanded nothing more mentally taxing than cutting down the weeds in the driveway and zapping the poison ivy under the landmark pine was marred by earnest discussions of Mideast politics on ''All Things Considered'' and bulletins from Baghdad or Moscow or Kennebunkport.
But there is insulation in remoteness, and the sounds of desert warfare were largely muffled by the thick blanket of nostalgia that enveloped this island last week. Mostly, we were living in the past. And given what was happening in the present -- including the discovery that it would cost $1.88 a gallon, instead of the previous week's $1.58, to refill the pickup -- the past seemed a good place to be.
The week of recollection and reunion began with Marilyn and Joe Reed's 40th wedding anniversary, a surprise party arranged by their children that drew family and friends from as far away as the East Coast. The young Reeds had converted four decades of family album photos into slides and had managed somehow to get the carousel to switch pictures in time with recorded music of the '40s, '50s and '60s. The sound-and-light show reduced all of us watchers to teary-eyed laughter.
At the end of the week came the traditional island homecoming, the weekend of the Bud McDonough Memorial Softball Tournament, the Saturday night dance and the August Dinner in the Parish Hall. The ferry from Charlevoix was packed with hundreds of former residents, glad to be back even briefly on the island where they once lived.
In between the Reed anniversary and the homecoming was the Beaver Island Historical Society's dinner honoring Helen Hoffman Collar, who at age 88 is up here for her 76th consecutive summer.
The erect and independent lady now seems quite recovered from the long-ago shock of seeing her only daughter marry this itinerant reporter. Last week's dinner honored not only her fidelity to Beaver Island but her unique contributions to the recording of its history.
Almost 40 years ago, she began sorting out the relationships and setting down the stories of the Irish fishing families who settled on the island after the short-lived Mormon Kingdom of St. James ended with the murder of James Jesse Strang in 1856. (That is another story.)
Her researches took her into the land records in the Charlevoix County courthouse and the census forms stored at the National Archives in Washington. But by far the richest and most rewarding parts of her work were the tales she gathered -- and meticulously cross-checked -- from the second-generation survivors who had heard their parents' firsthand accounts of the island's settlement.
Tape recording was much too intrusive a technique for this story gathering, she said in her remarks the other night. ''A bunch of us would have tea together, and I'd steer the conversation to what I wanted to know . . . and as soon as I got back to my cabin, I would write down what they told me.''
The results of her researches filled many notebooks and file boxes and provided material for the articles she published in the Michigan and Beaver Island history journals. More prized on the island, however, are the drawings she did from faded family photos of those early settlers (and later donated to the local museum) and the family genealogies she constructed.
Helen Pike, a white-haired islander who recalled the youthful Helen Hoffman ''stopping at our house with her daily supply of candy bars,'' said in her remarks: ''One of my most cherished possessions is the genealogy chart Helen made. It is in our family Bible, but I can't begin to tell you how many times I've taken it out to make copies for others in the family.''
There were gifts and proclamations, but the gesture that clearly moved the honoree most was the decision by the museum trustees -- all islanders -- to name the planned, climate-controlled addition to the museum as the Helen Hoffman Collar Archival Center.
When she rose to respond, her eyes shining with excitement, she told some of her favorite stories of those early settlers, who came from the islands of Rutland and Aranmore off County Donegal or from the ports and farms of County Mayo. She recalled the wondrously inventive nicknames they used to distinguish the various Boyle, O'Donnell and especially Gallagher clans. And she told of the island of her girlhood, a place without electricity or radios and with only a handful of phones, where even the news of World War I battles was softened by vagueness of detail and the passage of time.
Last week, especially, that sounded like a wonderful time and place.