Archive for April 2nd, 2007

Lake Superior, Duluth, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Lake Superior, moonscape shot off Park Point Beach near Duluth, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The wind blew fierce against my face. Standing on Superior’s edge, 2,726 miles of shoreline, I watched frozen spears of water, mini-icicles, sweep back at 45 degree angles and slowly drip from seaside benches. Low native grass vegetation and trees of birch, elm, Norway pine, spruce, and cedar, were cloaked in a shimmering blanket of ice.

Earlier that morning, I had resisted the urge to ask Liz to stop the car so I could spend an hour photographing the landscape. But I would have been late for the Saturday meeting. As it was, I would arrive only 10 minutes before it began.

An ice storm hit Friday night. By Saturday, the limbs showed the weight of water. By surface, Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world, 31,820 square miles; it is bigger than South Carolina. The thing I love about visiting the Great Mother Lake is how humbling it is. When a storm hits, you batten down the hatches. You are in for the night.

In the native Ojibwe language, the lake was called Gichigami, big water. But it was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that tagged it Gitche Gumee in The Song of Hiawatha. And Longfellow’s pronunciation is the one that has remained foremost in local folklore. I could comment on the numerous ways that Native American language has been assimilated into English across this country. But that would be another write.

Safe Harbor, Duluth, Minnesota, March 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Safe Harbor, looking out to Lake Superior from Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota, March 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Saturday night, the wind raged and howled through any crack it could find in our lake facing hotel room on Canal Park. Rain and ice clacked against the sliding window. You could hear erratic gusts whistling through the 3 story vent on the bathroom ceiling.

Unlike most hyper sealed hotels, you can still open windows to the lake on Canal Park. Once in a while, we’d get brave and slide open the dripping glass. Every piece of loose paper whirred around the room. Our hair plastered back on the sides of our heads. The screen moaned with the pressure of high and low streams of invisible cargo.


Two ships in the distance docked for the night. All you could see through the fog were tiny blips that resembled deck lights. Some of the large vessels have ice breakers that chew up the frozen lake so the ship can move forward. But no one was going anywhere Saturday night.

Duluth Aerial Bridge, Duluth, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey.<br>  All rights reserved.

Duluth Aerial Bridge, longshot heading into Canal Park,
Duluth, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey.
All rights reserved.

The next morning, the mighty ships rolled through dense fog to the Aerial Lift Bridge. The bridge master barked out his warning right as we drove through the massive steel frame to head out to Park Point beach for a geocache. The road to Park Point is built on the largest sand dune in the world.

After 7 miles, we reached the end of the Point. Liz and I trounced through 3 feet of crusty snow piled on the path and located the cache under a Norway pine. Through the frozen rain spattering our glasses, we quickly unlocked the camouflage ammo box, logged our geocache name on the (now wet) tablet, then crossed the last dune to what would be a stunning view – Lake Superior’s jagged and icy moonscape. The lake had a rugged beauty that reminded me of film footage of expeditionists along great expanses of frozen Arctic tundra.

Tested Paper, Duluth, Minnesota, March 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Tested Paper, Paper Products Company, Wholesale Tested Papers wall in Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota, March 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I was thinking as we drove back down the Point, my idea of heaven might be to rent a cottage along Superior for a fall or winter and write my heart out. Duluth proper has around 90,000 people. It is a city that has preserved its character as an early port town, along with historical buildings and architecture, something I have a hard time saying about Minneapolis.

Canal Park has been revitalized by the tourist industry but carries the quaintness of a day slipped back in time. It’s a place I love to visit. Not to mention, the location of one of my favorite independent bookstores, Northern Lights Books. One thing a writer learns early on, a town with a good independent bookstore is worth your time.

Moonscape, Lake Superior, Duluth, Minnesota, April 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Moonscape, Lake Superior, Duluth, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I can go anywhere on Lake Superior and immediately sink to center. She is the womb of the earth, the Great Mother. Standing on her shores, I don’t have to search far for humility. I am reminded of the movement of glaciers, the power of dominant wind and freezing rain, the history of all who have tried to tame her, the vestige of nature in her many forms.

Great bodies of water pepper the landscape throughout Minnesota; they are like the desert to New Mexico. Vast and magnificent. Simple, elegant, powerful, and fiercely humble.

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, April 2nd, 2007

-more photographs: Duluth Photographs Set

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Monday morning and as usual I’m running late. Em is looking for the calendar I tucked into the file cabinet yesterday to get rid of the clutter for the open house. I burned the bacon this morning, and I didn’t even look away from it that long. And now I’m reminded of those dialog boxes that sometimes come up when you’re installing some program or using an online form–are you sure you want to navigate away from this screen? I shouldn’t have navigated away from the bacon, not even for two minutes. I ate the burned pieces. Can you believe it? I hate waste. I ate the burned pieces.

Heated up the milk for my coffee too high, left it on the counter while I got dressed. Came back to the milk and there’s that thin film on top. The thing I least like about heated milk. And now Jim is telling me about what he’s going to do today. He stands in the room in front of me and ticks off all the places he needs to go to today. I keep typing, look at him and keep typing. This is my writing practice. No one knows it’s sacred but me. I try to explain. Other times I’ve been interrupted, and I’ll say, “I’m writing.” Say it fast and look up and raise my right eyebrow, a swift one-movement, the words and the look and the eyebrow, and it usually works. With the girls it works. But with Jim, when we’re under stress, and there’s the moving into the new house, and the replacing of the boiler first, and a new well, and a chimney sweep, and the painting–all of it before we move. Well, it’s hard for Jim to understand that in the eye of the hurricane that is called Moving, I can sit and do a ten-minute practice.

Dee comes in now to show me a rip in her stuffed horse. Mary Christmas. Dee is still a girl, and I tell her I will sew it. When?, she says, and I nod, not trying to come up with a timeframe and keep writing. And now, a moment alone, just me and the sound of a train off in the distance. Me and the sound of the washing machine going into spin cycle. The foo-foo-foo-foo, except faster than I can type it out. It’s Monday morning. I made bacon, burned bacon, gave the dogs five of the pieces along with bacon grease on their food. Bacon food, we call it and we say it like it’s the most special thing they’ve ever had. We say it in a loud whisper, Bacon food, and they wag their tails and ripple their long bodies. I’m dressed, don’t have on make-up, will make it to work by 9. Work through lunch. Search for a day or two I can take off to do the painting. It’s hard fitting in everything my life demands. Much less writing. And I’ve been doing much less writing.

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