** in this new series of my blog “see michigan” i’ve decided to better journal and track the beautiful places sean and i have discovered in michigan. i hope it serves to remind me (and if other people stumble upon this written work) a desire to break from Normal and explore the New around us. Because this land, it’s pretty awesome. **As soon as we reached the beach, we took off our shoes. In reflection, I realize this is a sacred ritual for Michiganders: to remove your shoes when you reach the shore; an unexplained practice learned from generations of observation. It’s nothing we talk about, nothing we plan. It’s an instinctual reaction to a native’s deep seeded love of the Great Lakes. Their greatness bred into our spirits. Our inherent appreciation longing to preserve their legacy. A sign of homage, of respect to things greater than we.
It had been one year since my last encounter with the mighty lake and I was taken aback by how easily it was personified by the conditions. I was wearing the shell from Sean’s winter jacket, hoping it would protect me against the blackened Lake Superior. But even the proper gear was no match for its frigid breath. Hearing the challenge in Superior’s gusts, I handed my possessions to Sean and walked to the water; a mosquito to a vein, a gosling to their nest, a child to their mother.
Having grown up exploring the shores of Good Harbor, I was unaccustomed to the larger rocks dispersed on Grand Marais’s beach. Sinking deeper until the water reached the bottoms of my pants, I was soon overcome by numbness. But the souls of my feet adjusted quickly, no longer effected by the nagging rocks, tripping my step and wedging between my toes. Like a duck retrieving fish from the water, I quickly dipped my hand beneath the shallow shoreline to obtain a red stone. Pulling it back, I laughed, feeling the water sneak down my arm between the large jacket sleeve. I palmed the stone and looked to Sean, whose smile lured me from the waters to the safety of the sand.
I told him I had forgotten how different Lake Superior was from the other lakes, and not just because it was cold. It has a force the other lakes lack. We stood in silence for a moment, letting the wind’s chill force us together. How small we must have appeared in contrast to the vastness Lake Superior. Sean told me he thought this lake was the most accurately named of all the lakes. With my arms around him, staring to the Canadian shoreline I had to agree. It felt superior in ways you can’t explain other people, only to tell them to “go there”.
I wondered how many great loves had stood on this shore, looking to the water with human fascination. Like time and eternity, it is impossible for us to understand this facet of nature’s superiority. Our story in this place is as permanent as the rocks scattered on the shore: real and present to the eye and then buried beneath the others, resurfacing in history only when the water is ready to push them out again. So we reach into the water and hold tightly to the rock we find, feeling grateful for the moment- to hold what is here, to love what is now.