Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Well of Inspiration

There has been a lot of negative press for the past, oh, thirty years or so, about how Michigan is a terrible place. The economy is bad. Everyone is on welfare. The winters are cold and the summers are humid. Too much crime and not enough jobs. Most of these things are true. Some of them are half true. But we also have something very special.

I came to this place last week, taken there by a friend who knew the way. I won't share the directions. There are people who know where to find it, and those people are just the right amount. Twice, I was blessed to enjoy this sacred space alone, and I would selfishly like the place to remain secluded for as long as possible. But if you are determined, you can find someone to drive you out there, on the dirt two-track with holes that will swallow your tires if you're unwary.

A part of the Pictured Rocks coast of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, it is a mishmash of sandstone cliffs and enormous boulders. The very glaciers that carved the Rocks now slap at the soft cliff faces in the form of the Great Lake herself, a perpetually frigid, temperamental beast that swallows men whole, never to release them.

The underwater boulders sift the currents in invisible patterns. One diver reported being pinned between two of the behemoths, captive to the pull of the waters. But on our first visit, we found only the gentle motion of a lake rolling over in slumber.

In the sunlight, the lazy currents rolled like gold silk, up from the crystalline blue depths. They split apart into sun-kissed lace gliding into a peaceful lagoon, or lapped half-heartedly at the rough cliffs. Where we stood could not be called a proper beach; all sandstone, with slick black algae making footing beneath the water perilous, the only loose sand one could find was in a single pocket beneath the water's edge:

...and on drier ground, where it held onto love tokens from other realms of nature.

Caves shelter birds, bats, people, from the sun that can be unrelenting, but chose that day to be merciful. In a place like this, one feels a true sense of the interweaving of the elements. Earth, air, and water tugging and pulling with each other in a beautiful war, creating each other from their own destruction.

I'd like to tell you that the peace of this scene was repeated on the second day of our visit. There are no photographs of that day; rather than try in vain to capture the scene, the second day I became a part of it. Waves taller than our heads battered us again and again. Always respectful of the force and deadliness of the lake herself, we dared to venture out of our golden lagoon, to step off the the underwater cliff where hip deep water gave way to fathomless depths.

When she'd had enough of us, Superior drove us from her shores with warnings only a fool would fail to heed. We stumbled away, intoxicated by the furious, alien beauty of the place.

These photos are a pale imitation of the true beauty of the place. It almost makes my heart hurt to look at them, because I know I can't share exactly what I felt those two amazing days. With a last look back, I returned to the mortal world, to live to my greatest potential until the time I return.

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