Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My Love and Fear of Water

Jutting out into the frigid water of Lake Superior, the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s U.P. is the home of the tiny town of Copper Harbor. It is a beautiful and quiet place with a population of around 32 bona-fide, year-round residents. In the summer it is a haven for kayaking and mountain biking and for simply relaxing and exploring the landscape which is what I intended to do for a few days as I traveled the western half of the U.P. After spending the morning under an overcast sky sifting through wave-polished stones on the rocky shore of Hunters Point, my sister and I stopped for an enormous lunch at Harbor Haus. Sitting at a table in front of a wall of windows providing a panorama of the largest of the Great Lakes, we stopped talking as the view began to change. An eerie silence blanketed the restaurant as others started to take notice of the scene before us. The water at the shore outside the window seemed to be receding steadily. The occasional clinking sound drew attention to the quiet as people set down their silverware and stared at the lake. In the distant horizon, where storm colored water met grey sky, a shadow was moving toward us. The moment we all realized what we were seeing, a strange calm settled over the room. Without words, we all began to stand, staring transfixed at the shadow, a moving wall looming larger and larger in the closing distance. No one questioned what we were seeing. No one said a word. No one panicked or tried to run. Silently, each person looked around at others standing around them. I met the eyes of two men standing at a nearby table, a waitress holding a pitcher of water by the bar, and finally my sister standing next to me. As those around us started to do the same, we clasped hands with each other, then with whoever stood near enough to reach. Looking out the glass wall one last time at the lake and the shadow that was close enough now to see just how quick and violent our destruction was going to be, I closed my eyes knowing that every one of the people around me, who I now felt an inexplicable love for, was doing the same.

Then I woke up.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

DeTour Passage

Rodney and I sat at the picnic table watching the sun rise over the St. Marys River. It was 6:15 am and the sky above was deep midnight blue. One star was still winking at us to the east and an orange strip was just beginning to make itself visible on the horizon.

I sipped my coffee and turned to Rodney. “ This is nice,” I said. “Quiet, kind of chilly out…I like it.” Actually the fall morning was pretty cold. My breath fogged between the two of us as I attempted conversation. “I’m glad to be spending this time with you, Rodney.” My uncommunicative companion stared at the water. Slowly the orange was pushed out of the way and replaced with yellow. Layers of color were waking up and stretching as I drank my coffee. Yellow, orange, light blue, dark blue, midnight, black. The little star twinkled.

The water in front of our rental cottage was DeTour Passage, named for the tiny town on the shore and for the fact that this is the bottom of the waterway linking two of the Great Lakes. On the other side of the river sat Drummond Island. Ships traveling the Great Lakes waterway squeeze through this passage to make their way down from Lake Superior to Lake Huron or the other way around. We had been witnessing this happen over the last few days from our front porch. Now as we watched, a huge ship lit up with yellow lights in the morning gloom and puffing a wisp of dark smoke against the orange sky lumbered slowly by, almost silent in the still water. Looking up squinting I could just barely make out our friendly star shining feebly.

“What should we do today? We could take a walk into the town a little later when things open up. I know you are suspicious of that Halloween scarecrow out in front of the post office, but maybe you’ll feel better about it today. What do you say?”


“I’m not sure what you mean.”


“Fine, I won’t push it. Want to walk the pier and look at the boats? You can bark at that buoy in the water some more.”

Rodney sat up and wagged his tail energetically, looking at me with doggie intensity. I had no idea what he was thinking but figured I couldn’t go wrong with a walk on the water at sunrise. Coffee cup now in the sink, I plucked my friend’s leash from its hook and, leaving the door unlocked, we headed out into the perfect morning.