I am this water.
From any approach, there is a heart-stopping moment when Lake Superior reveals herself in full. It never fails to take my breath away.
The longer I am away from Big Water, the more there is that feels amiss in my life. I have lived close to the Pacific Ocean, and near other Great Lakes. But there is nothing else like this for me.
I love Lake Superior. I love her like a mother.
With Superior I am a child who needs to gaze upon the face of its parent and be enfolded in her embrace. I need her to be near. I want to hear her musical voice, whether in the whisper of waves lapping gently on her shores or in the crashing of her surf. I must walk beside her and return to her. I know all these things about myself, yet the more I know of her, the more I realize there is to be revealed.
She shows herself to me, this inland ocean, in hue and action, in air and stillness. Her horizon is so vast as to melt into the sky. I am humbled by her strength, and marvel at her violence. She cloaks herself in mystery and secretive enigma, drawing me in further.
Davina Haisell writes:
I stalk others who speak of knowing her. I yearn to be first with her, and I tell myself I am. I recognize their thoughts and descriptions exactly as I know her, and I congratulate myself, as I love her so much she must love me more. They can’t be as important to her as I, her favorite child.
On this last visit, I find myself where the voyageurs – strong coureurs des bois (runners of the woods) – gathered long ago to trade. We have visited the encampment at the Grand Portage National Monument which commemorates their long journey to the shores at Kitchi Onigaming, the “Great Carrying Place.” It is here that they would rendezvous with North West Fur Company traders who had paddled to meet them all the way from Montreal more than three hundred years ago.
The Grand Portage Band celebrates the Rendezvous with a pow wow honoring their veteran warriors. They have welcomed us in the past and we were grateful to have been taken to the holy site of the Little Spirit Cedar, which grows from rock overlooking Gitchee Gumee. Offerings from the Ojibwe have been left at the base of this tree for hundreds of years to ensure safe travels.
I gaze eastward from a Grand Portage overlook. Pete is busy packing up our campsite, but I am not done with my other beloved, Lake Superior. I am high enough that weather patterns alternately reveal and obscure the lighthouse on the northwest point of Isle Royale, over twenty miles away. It is an infinitesimal pinpoint of white on the horizon where water meets the sky.
The overlook is windy and deserted. As I lean against the fence separating me from hundreds of feet of air, I am buffeted and sprinkled with rain in a kind of baptism. The clouds move quickly across my field of vision, and I see sheets of harder rain on the horizon.
Another car pulls up and a man gets out. We are the only two people here. He joins me at the fence and nods in silent acknowledgment. “It is beautiful,” he says softly. “Yes,” I say.
“Have you been to the Rendezvous?” I ask. He nods. “Yes, I have just come from the pow wow.” “It’s a wonderful thing to see,” I say. He nods again. “I come every year,” he tells me. “I am Anishinaabe, from Ponemah.” He looks out at the water. “I have been with with my brothers and sisters by the water. I come here to dance.”
I must have looked confused, because he explains to me that some Ojibwe have taken to identifying themselves with the more ancient name of the People. I tell him about the People’s museum in Leelanau, and he looks surprised and pleased.
We stand in silence for quite some time. There is much to see and no need to speak. He beckons eastward and we watch a rainbow begin to form within the clouds. “I could stand here all day,” he says to me softly. “It seems as though we are looking into forever.”
We watch the rainbow grow. Wider and thicker, it fattens in the sky, a finger of heaven touching this water that I love so much.
We look at each other, this Person who has come out of nowhere I know and I, and then look back at the heavenly display.
“You’re right,” I say. “We are. We’re looking into forever.”
It’s a finale of grand proportions that stuns me into further silence. There is nothing more to say. I think of the age-old promise the rainbow portends, a covenant of protection by the Almighty, holding us safe from harm, representing mercy and kindness. The rainbow is a bridge between heaven and earth.
The rainbow grows larger and then begins to fade.
The Person I’ve been standing with steps toward his car and then turns back once again to look out over Big Water. Transfixed, it is as though we both cannot break the spell. Finally, we breathe.
“I will come here to dance again,” he says. I know I will, too.
I am this water.
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