Showing posts with label Lake Superior. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lake Superior. Show all posts

Friday, April 26, 2019

What Inspires Creativity?

If I could live wherever I chose, I'd live by water. Not a brambly river bank, but near a cool blue lake, where I could stroll on the sand swathed in the rolling fog, my cheeks caressed by tiny droplets of spray.

Some people are inspired by mountains; others love getting lost in a dense forest. For me it's water, but a special kind of water. Not a dinky mid-Minnesota freshwater pool inhabited by leaping sunfish, but a BIG lake with a murky, mysterious history ~ Lake Superior, to be exact. Gordon Lightfoot will tell you ~ the skies of November turn gloomy there.

Lake Superior is my special place, a place tucked in the creases of my memory that I reclaim from time to time. It exists in the same state where I live, yet it's a whole world away, like nirvana chanced upon in the midst of a parched field of prairie grass.

I've ambled along the Lake Walk and spied painters, their easels braced into divots of grass, staining the canvas with splotches of sky blue and green and ash. I don't linger long, but I come away with the impression these people are true artists. They could be talentless hacks from The Joy Of Painting school for all I know, but they sure look like artists.

I wrote a song once as I lounged on a chaise beside the shore of Lake Superior. The words were good, but the song itself, unfortunately, turned into one of those airy Graham Nash ditties (he spent far too much time by the water). I also journaled a lot, which degenerated into amateur pencil drawings of trees. I, unbelievably, was blocked. And with all that nature surrounding me!

The bottom line is, one can be inspired, but don't look for miracles. It's not the place that incites creativity; it's the mind. I could write a better song about My Lake sitting in my desk chair in a stuffy bedroom than I ever did when I had the whole tableau before me.

So, what inspires creativity? It's part memory, part craving; but mostly it's simply long slog ~ elbow grease.

I still wish I lived by the Big Lake, though.


My Lake Superior song:

A better song:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What I Did On My Birthday Vacation

 Sometimes I just like to post pretty pictures.

As you know, if you've been reading my ramblings, I celebrated my fifty-seventh birthday on the shores of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota.

It's funny, the places that draw you in.  We all have a kinship for certain places.  We can't define it, but we know it when we feel it.

The first time I experienced Lake Superior, I was traveling with my parents, my sister, my nephew, and most of all, my two-year-old son and the son who nobody but me knew was on the way.

My parents had visited Superior's shores before, and they kept telling me how nice it was.  A "lake", to me, was like Maple Lake in northwestern Minnesota; a place we'd sometimes go on Sunday afternoons, where my friend and I would swim and visit the concession stand, and my mom and dad would sit at a picnic table in the shade, and eat, and try to keep a handle on the whereabouts of my toddler brother and sister.

This lake was not like that.  This lake was VAST.  It was an ocean of a lake.  As my dad maneuvered the big old Ford down the steep hill leading into Duluth, I caught my first glimpse.  The aerial bridge.  The ships in the harbor.  And I smelled the air.  That was different, too.

My dad turned the car to the right, down Canal Park Drive.  We pulled into a parking lot, and the first jolt to my senses was the wave of hungry seagulls, there in the maritime park; diving and chattering, and walking right up to people, fearlessly, demanding to be fed.

There was a big old iron anchor secured to the ground, there, on the lakeshore.  To the right was the maritime museum and observatory.  We all made our way over to the museum, ostensibly to use the restrooms (it had been a long drive), but then we walked along through the museum, up the sloping pathways, past all the old pictures and the iron ore freighter exhibits.  And every single time, since that first time, that I stepped inside that museum, Gordon Lightfoot nestled inside my brain, and for the rest of the trip, everywhere I went, I heard, Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

To this day, that song gives me chills.

My first sight of an iron ore freighter skimming slowly along into the harbor, hearing the aerial lift bridge sound its horn to let pedestrians know that it was time to skedaddle.  The ship, too, sounding its horn, three times, and the lift operator responding in kind, was utterly mesmerizing. The long ringing bell, as the bridge slowly lifted to full height, to allow the ship to pass under.

There was a meandering walkway beside the lake, filled with tourists scurrying up to the breaker wall with their cameras when the ships passed through; otherwise only semi-populated with walkers and roller bladers.  A nice concrete bench called to me.  I sat with pen and paper, there in the sun, and just breathed.

To visit Duluth, then, was to visit the harbor.  The harbor was Duluth's calling card.  Things have changed a lot in those intervening years.  New tourist attractions are now clustered about the harbor.  I liked how it was back then.  Duluth is not a "theme park".  It's a real live miracle of nature.  The restaurant that used to be nestled there on the harbor, where my dad always ordered frog legs, because he thought it was cool (and he always made the same tired joke ~ "They taste like chicken!") has now been replaced with some type of cold concrete auditorium.  One can't even enjoy the entirety of the lake walk, without detouring around concrete barriers.

We would take a cruise around the harbor on one of those Vista Lake boats.  It was exhilarating.  Always cold out on the water, even in the middle of July.  One could prop oneself on a bench there on the side of the boat, and gaze out upon the lake and not have to think at all.  My mom always got my dad to take her inside, to buy a cup of coffee, but I would stay glued to my perch .

Sometimes we would stray from Canal Park; drive up to London Road, where there was a nice family restaurant, called the Lemon Drop.  One could get the absolute best walleye there.  My parents loved it, and so did I.  Alas, the Lemon Drop is no more, so I don't even venture down London Road anymore.

The North Shore Drive, also known as Highway 61 (revisited ~ yes, this is the Highway 61 that Dylan wrote about), is the scenic route up along the shore of Lake Superior, all the way to the Canadian border.  Along 61 is the Split Rock Lighthouse, and Gooseberry Falls.  And who can forget Betty's Pies?

When we visit the North Shore now, we travel another 80 miles past Duluth, but we always stop on the outskirts, at a little roadside park; get out of the car and stumble down the hill to visit the lakeshore.

Clear blue waters of Lake Superior at Duluth
It's not just the ambience of Superior.  It's the instantaneous changes of nature.  One moment, the waves are merrily rolling toward the shore; the next minute, a heavy fog muscles its way in, and the waves become angry and gray. 

It's life.
The cold spray splashing your face.  The waves that sound just like thunder, as they claim the rocks.
When the lake is calm and the sky is sunny, it can seem just like any other place in the world.  Lovers stroll the paths.  Kids squeal and throw stones into the water.  It could be anywhere.
It's when Lake Superior puts on its BIG SHOW that one feels alive.
The lake changes all the time.  Here are some of my vacation photos to prove it:
I just like this.  I call it the "shaky tree".

And, this has nothing to do with the lake, per se, but I thought you might want to see our traveling companions.

Josie on the "fairy bridge"

Most people don't take their cats on vacation.  But we take Bob.

We don't travel many places.  If I could, I would take a European river cruise.  I don't see that happening anytime soon, however.  Because they probably (likely) wouldn't accept Josie and Bob.  

But I'm happy with my lake. 

And it is mine, by the way.  I have claimed it.



Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Lakewalk along Lake Superior, Tofte, MN ~ May 19, 2012

I woke up on my fifty-seventh birthday to the sunrise over Lake Superior. 

We were spending our free weekend at Bluefin Bay.   Free, because I was the-e-e grand prize winner of the "Tell Us Your Bluefin Bay Story" video contest.  Here is what got us our fabulous weekend at a lakeside condo:

It was 5:30 a.m., so Josie and I tiptoed out to the kitchen, and I put on a pot of coffee and gave J her breakfast.  

Then we settled in on the patio, me with a hot mug, and I whispered to Josie, "Happy Birthday!"  She perked up and became all squirmy, because she was remembering her birthday on the eleventh of May, during which we said, "Happy Birthday!" a lot, so she knew that meant something good. 

This was our view from the patio:

We'd been to Bluefin Bay many times, but I had never before seen so many monarch butterflies.  In fact, I don't remember seeing any.  This time, they were everywhere, and there were couples; or at least it seemed like couples, because they were zipping along in twos.  I wonder if seeing butterflies on your birthday is a good omen.

When my husband got up, we decided to take Josie to Temperance River State Park, which was about 4 miles down the road.  We were the only ones there....heaven.  We managed to hoist ourselves (and Josie) up along several trails and what seemed like miles of stone steps, until we got to the iron bridge that crossed the Temperance River.  From there, we gazed down upon the waterfalls.  And that's when I realized, heights are not my friends.  It was time to go.  

My camera battery chose just that moment in time to die, but I did find a pine cone, so I kept it.

 Temperance River pine cone

Funny how I always take pictures to remember the good times, but that pine cone will always remind me of hiking with my husband and Josie at Temperance River.

Once back from the park, my husband settled in to do some reading (napping), and since I wasn't in the mood to sleep, I played awhile with rearranging the word blocks on the fireplace mantle.  Yes, I have yet to grow up completely, apparently.

Random Boredness

Then it was time to drive to Grand Marais for lunch and "birthday shopping".  The temperature gauge in the car read fifty-seven degrees.  I would have snapped a picture of that, but as I said.....

The only clear radio station we could get was the North Shore public radio station, which we like anyway (90.7 on the dial), because it plays all manner of weird music that we've mostly never heard before.  But, on the way to Grand Marais, the first song we heard was Hank Williams and Long Gone Lonesome Blues.  For some reason, that made me happy.  I do not know why.

Highway 61 (revisited) is a nice scenic route, but, frankly, if you've traveled it eight zillion times, and you just want to get somewhere, it can be a bit annoying at times.  There are several "slowdowns" along one's way, little so-called "towns" that are not much more than a souvenir shop and an outbuilding of some sort; or pull-offs to roadside state parks.  We were getting a little annoyed by "Valerie", who we were following, because she over-compensated for the posted speed limits.  If the sign said, 40 mph, Valerie would slow to 25.  I wouldn't have known it was Valerie, of course, had her license plate not told me.  Soon enough, however, Valerie slowed down and pulled off onto one of the state park resting areas.  I said to my husband, "Valerie is a bit too adherent to the rules, isn't she?  Oh, never mind; she's from Ontario, and then I chuckled.  North Dakota people like me are just like that ~ real stringent rule-followers. 

As for shopping, well, I am a horrible shopper.  I'm one of those people whose gaze is captured by shiny objects.  I do not comparison shop.  Hence, to go with my theme of little tiny things (like little tiny pine cones), I picked out:

 Little tiny Minnesota loon (and baby loon)

Little tiny Lily of the Valley "cafe soap"!  (the birth flower of May)

And now I am happy......with my pine cone, my loons, and my tiny bar of Lily of the Valley soap.  Ta-DA!

Once back from lunch, my husband needed to do more "reading", so I took out my digital camera (that one still worked!) and walked around and just snapped random pictures, most of which I knew would not turn out, but I did it simply for fun.

Later that night, we pulled out the sofa bed in the living room, and my husband started a fire in the fireplace.  We opened the windows on the lake, watched a movie with Josie curled up with us on the blankets, had some snacks.

It was a lovely birthday.  The loveliest birthday I can remember having.  Butterflies, tiny gifts, my husband, snuggling, Josie, Hank Williams on the radio, pine cones, and the waves.  

And I'm writing this, two days after, because I don't want to forget it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Can You Do Me a Favor?

I never ask for favors. You know me.

But here's the deal: I'm trying to win a free vacation at our favorite resort, Bluefin Bay. It's a rustic place, nestled on the shores of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota.

We've been going there for about seven years now. Josie loves it there, as you can see from the picture.

Bluefin has an annual contest. In the past, it's been sort of open-ended. One could write an essay. One could submit pictures. This year, it's a video contest.

This caught my eye because it just so happens that one year, after we returned from our stay at Bluefin, I was inspired to write a song. I think it was the picture of the pink sky that started it all. (All the pictures are mine, by the way.)

The song came easily because there's magic there. It's not just the loneliness of the endless blue, but it's the smell of the air, the crashing of the waves. The certainty that God has blessed this place, and He is smiling upon it.

So, what I'm asking is this: If you could simply leave a comment on my video, I would be grateful.

I don't know what others will submit. That's really neither here nor there. What I do know is, my submission is a true reflection of my feelings about this secluded place on the lake. So, if I win, I win. If I don't, I have no regrets.

But I think it's pretty good.

Here is the link.

And here is On A Night Like This:

And thank you.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Lake

I couldn't tell you how many times I've been to Lake Superior. But it's a LOT.

I started going there with my mom and dad and my little sister and, at times, various nephews, and later, with my own kids.

It sort of got to be a joke with my kids. "Oh, we're going to Duluth again. Yay."

I remember 1978, my dad driving the Lincoln (ANOTHER big boat, if there ever was one). I think there were way too many people along on that trip than would normally fit in one car, even a Lincoln. There was my mom, of course, and there was me, and my then-husband, and my soon-to-be two-year-old, Chris, and my nephew, Tim. And my sister, Lissa. We got bored on the long drive (and it WAS a long drive from Bismarck, North Dakota - over 600 miles). So, Lissa and I started to sing along with the radio, lounge-lizard style, singing "After The Lovin'", by Engelbert Humperdinck, and "Midnight Blue", by Melissa Manchester.

We could always crack each other up, because we had the same sense of humor. My mom was asleep in the back, and everyone else was just gazing out the window or something. My dad was driving, and here's the two of us, in the front seat, acting like idiots, and my dad is doing his best to ignore us. Ahh, good times.

But anyway, we finally got to Duluth, and all I wanted to do was sit on a bench on the waterfront, and just BE. I could have sat there for hours, but they all got hungry, so we had to go eat at a place I think was called "The Lemon Drop" or "The Lemon Tree" or something like that. The place had great fresh-caught walleye, so we always ate there every time we landed in Duluth.

I have a picture of my dad and my nephew, Tim, and my son, Chris, gathered around a water fountain on our way to Duluth, and my dad was getting such a kick out of Chris trying to get a drink. I love that picture.

So, henceforth, we made a lot of trips to Duluth.

Basically, the places we went for vacation were either The Black Hills of South Dakota or Duluth, Minnesota, with a meandering to Yellowstone National Park one year.

I have lots of pictures of Duluth, Minnesota. Probably too many. But I just never could get that lake out of my psyche. About 50% of my pictures are of Duluth.

We'd always go to the maritime museum when we were there. They had lots of old pictures. And every dang time I went to Duluth, I got this song stuck in my mind:  

It never failed.

In recent years, we've vacationed on Lake Superior many, many times. Not at Duluth, mind you, but still on the Big Lake. Somehow, it just keeps drawing me back. There's something about That Lake.

We were going to drive up to see the Tall Sailing Ships. That's something I've never seen before. Alas, plans changed.

But just between you and me, sailing ships be damned. All I want is just want to be on that waterfront again.



Monday, May 19, 2008

Vacation Pictures

We just returned from our mini-2008 vacation to the North Shore of Lake Superior. I had the pleasure of sitting on my patio on the shore of the big lake, and just snapping away.

Here are a few of my favorites.






It only took me about 4 1/2 rolls of film to come up with five good pictures. (I actually have a few more, but you know how boring it is to see other people's vacation photos.)

Digital photography has its place, but I still prefer good old-fashioned film. I think, if I were to use my digital camera, I'd be so busy reviewing the pictures, and prematurely deleting the ones I'm not happy with, that I'd miss out on the "big picture", so to speak. Plus, a big part of the fun is the anticipation of waiting for the pictures to come back from the processor.

This post has nothing to do with music, but I guess one could be inspired enough by them to write a good song.