I’m in Love With a Great Lake: Everyday Magic, Day 946

I’m in love with Lake Superior, and the more I visit, the deeper I fall. Not only is this the greatest of the Great Lakes, containing 10% of all the fresh water on earth, but it’s wildly ancient, mysteriously mutable, and stunningly gorgeous in all its colors and moods.

Having just perched on the side of the lake in a cabin for a week, once again, I saw this inland sea turn pink, gray, navy blue, baby blue, black, brown, orange at the edges at sunrise, and purple in the center at sunset. Always in motion, the waves incessant, this lake calms to a purr of itself at moments, then roars into hard slaps of water on the lava rock of the shore.  The Ojibwe got it right in naming  this lake Gitchi-Gummi, which means “the shining blue sea water” because it’s truly an inland sea that surely holds many, if not all, of the secrets of the universe.

But the macro sings through the micro too, especially in the rocks which, depending on what beach you explore, range from cobblestone of similar size and shape, black flat ovals artfully spread among themselves, or the rainbow of agates threaded through many beaches. I found milky white nubs, green slant-specked squares, reddish ovals, and dozens of other variety. Coming through these precious sweethearts of time, compressed and tossed back out by their maker onto each other, I found treasure upon treasure, some shining, some quieting, some rough skinned and speckled.  No matter the rock, every edge tends to be rounded, smoothed, making each stone good to pick up and hold.

I love the sound, the light, the smell, the whole way of being there with this being of a lake that always seems more like a mythical animal, so alive and dynamic, hurting and healing, giving its all every direction across its 350-mile expanse and dancing in place. Every view is a good view, reminding me that this is usually true if we can open up our vision to see the periphery, depth, or height of our times and places. The gift of life, even and especially in these times of hollow-your-hope news, is so beyond what we think, and to some extent, do that we can only see a glimpse of ourselves, so look around, says the la

I look into the lake unable to fathom its average depth of 500 feet with its deepest point at about 1,300 feet. That it’s crazy cold (40 degree average temperature) and holds the bones of many ships and humans, not to mention other forms of life. That it cracked, yes, cracked, into existence 1.2 billion years ago because of the North American Mid-Continent Rift, an outlandish volcano, which left a half-moon-shaped scar from Minnesota all the way down to Kansas with all the lava-pressed rock to prove it.  That it’s home to over 80 species of birds, thousands of  birds, and so many other animals, like the three otters I saw swimming by some years back. That it’s utterly alive, alive, alive — a heartbeat of energy and presence. 

Arriving, I sat on the deck of the cabin and watched. Middling, I watched and walked. Leaving, I stood on the deck and took more photos of this beauty in action being, this freedom and depth lighting up with the sun and moon.  I’m deeply grateful for my time there, and already, and just a few days past, I dream of returning to where the Iron Range tumbles down to the sea, and the power of the life force sings in harmony and dissonance, waking us up to what is.


On the Cusp of the Vacation: Everyday Magic, Day 945

I’m lucky. I get to go on a vacation, not something everyone has the privilege of doing so that they can enter into a great un-doing or other-the-usual-doings in a new or old place. For us, it’s a particularly ancient place, on the cool shores of Lake Superior (truly superior!) by way of Ames, Iowa tonight, where we will luxuriate in temperatures 10 degrees cooler than the holy hell of the weather here, then Minneapolis, which is cool in multiple ways.

At this moment, the car is packed except for the vitamins, which would melt. The gas tank is full. I have a little cash in my wallet, and plans for a eat-as-we-drive dinner (hello, cold burritos!). Most of the errands, at least the ones I can remember, are done, and within an hour, we’re off. Within a two or three hours, we’ll remember what we forgot, shrug, and keep going.

But for this moment, I want to take in all that’s here and now: Shay the dog sleeping on the cool floor beside me, the wind ruffling Cottonwood Mel, grown so big that he fills two winds, and Dar Williams singing “Closer to Me” on itunes (aka WCMG’s private radio station playing my favorites all the time). The air conditioner sings its low-hum enchantment, and the glass of some fizz water and mostly ice is covered in the cold film of condensation. Stepping outside to ready the tarp for covering the new tractor, I’m reminded what it is to live in a giant Midwestern dryer, tumbling us with bouts of heat and wind. The mountains of clouds to the south tease us with the illusion of rain one day before melting away like everything else. The tomatoes in the garden hang on for life after a good watering in the dark last night, and the lilies sheepishly open smaller-than-usual petals just enough to exhaust themselves.

What Lake Superior Looked Like (for a moment) Last Time We Were Here

This is the life I’m leaving for 10 days, a good life although lately a hot life, in the hands of our son and a friend who will keep animals and plants watered and fed. This is the place I love to return to, and although even swimming in the pool last night was almost too warm to enjoy, it’s a place I always feel a little sad to leave. Then again, I always feel more than a little excited to hit the road and see what new homecomings each turn brings into view.

Getting Down on the Gitche Gumee: Everyday Magic, Day 594

Where have I been? In a different time and climate far, far away from 100+ degrees days. I’m with my family in the big north of Minnesota, along Lake Superior (named by the Ojibwe “the Gitche Gumee,” which means big water), and the water is big. In fact, this lake contains 10% of all the fresh water in the world, and according to our guide at the nearby Split Rock Lighthouse, if you were to put all the other great lakes into this one, you would still have room to spare. Another way to envision the size: 350 miles miles across and about 160 miles tall. So what we have is something not quite lake, not quite ocean, but to all of us who watch it, more a changeable and amazing animal of water.

The changes are startling and beautiful. From the blue, calm lake feathered with pink highlights late afternoon our first day, or the greenish-gray crashing waves yesterday after the storm, the lake is never and always the same place. We sit on the deck of our very-small (slightly bigger than a RV, Ken tells me) cabin, where five of us roam, eat and sleep, and watch the water. Although the black rocks, stippled with orange lichen, are about 2 billion years old, they receive the waves and slower ebbs of the water, only about 10,000 years ago, as if they’re old friends. Meanwhile, the seagull family, to whom we are famous for our stale bread, come calling, some of them standing on our roof and yelling down, buy cialis online uk no prescription “What the hell, people? Where’s the friggin’ bread?”

Other moments aren’t so predictable. A few days ago, we saw three black heads swimming north. “Snake?” Ken wondered. I envisioned giant black inland sea snakes, but no, this was a far more amusing and whimsical species: otters. We raced up the shore as the otters got closer, watching them swim and play, mostly fixated on going upstream but also leaping a little higher at times out of the water so I could see some of their long shining bodies.

The neighbors are also friendly, so much so that we shared a double-grill feast last night with them, our friends Joe and Susan (in another cabin) and a large herd of roaming kids. We talked the economy, books, what strength of poison is necessary to spray on us to keep our skin from total mosquito immersion (and with 200% of the usual rainfall, the mosquitoes are fierce), God, the discovery of a fundamental particle that determines why objects have gravity, and whether Tom Cruise had it coming. We also ate a lot of hot dogs, silver dollars (grilled foil packets of potatoes, onions and other vegetables), corn, potato chips, burgers, watermelon, s’mores and other outdoor vittles.

Today it’s off to hike along waterfalls, tiring our legs to match the good-ache we feel in our arms today from yesterday’s canoeing at full-speed to escape an approaching thunderstorm. Mostly, though, it’s watching this water watch us, at this moment golden and black in the clear sky’s sheen, and later, whatever it will turn into next.