Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lake Superior Vision Quest

We leave the placid shores of Lake Minnetonka

for the shining big sea water, Gichigami. (Kitchee Gummi?)
Our destination, Duluth, is a gem of a city nestled into the cliffs of the north shore of Lake Superior, on the far western tip of the Great Lakes.
Duluth is an industrial harbor, servicing mining and grain corporations. Taconite iron ore pellets and wheat abound. Big water, big boats, big machines.
The mixture of natural beauty and industry in Duluth has always seemed oddly magical to me. Minimalist sculpture in landscape. I always think that more R&D should be done with this combination, giving nature a chance to work on some of the problems created by industry instead of just being destroyed.The first part of our vision quest is to visit my father's grave - it is the 6th anniversary of his death.
The day he was buried was bitterly cold with icy snow flurries, but today the weather is warm and benevolent - unusual for April in Duluth.He is buried next to my brother Mark who died at the age of five from an inoperable brain tumor. I was three at the time, and my sister Sherry was born soon after his death. Yellow roses were Gordie's favorite flower. The day he died Shirley, Sherry and Dan were in his hospital room as the rising sun moved slowly up his white-sheeted body, making him glow gold as his soul flew away. I will always be sad that I missed these last moments by just a few hours.Next we drive to Canal Park to our hotel - here is our first view of the famous Aerial Bridge:Finally!!! Ahhh, a sigh of huge relief and joy. The air, the water, the light! The sun! The warm land breezes braiding into the cooler winds off the lake!Sherry and I walk the shores of Park Point, a kind of barrier penisula nearly six miles long that divides the lake from the bay, then take a break and enjoy our driftwood cigars.

Beach creatures abound. Sherry wants this particularly beautiful piece of driftwood for her birthday. Where is Brett when you need him? Or maybe several Bretts? Here is Sherry skipping a rock with excellent form:
video
The water is no more than 35 degrees F., a bare - brrrr! - three degrees above freezing. And that's about where it will stay until August or so, barring the odd southerly wind blowing warmer water from the south shore this way. That happened one year, bringing people down to the lake for the unusual occurrence of swimmable water, and several people had to be rescued by surfers with fins and boards after being caught in rip currents.One young man actually did drown. It was one of those sad small-world events as he happened to be the grandson of my godmother Elizabeth, at the lake with his fellow house-mates from their home for the developmentally disabled. No life guards on duty because there's not usually a lot of swimming in this part of the lake - except for the hardy few, it's too cold! This is how Duluth keeps the riff-raff out - were the weather better and water warmer, it would be as crowded as the Mediterranean. I put my feet into the crystal clear water with rubber boots on and the cold goes into my bones. We see a little boy about two years old sitting and playing in the tiny waves, his bare feet and legs beet red. There are numerous young adults chatting on the sand and I am wondering - should I say something? Do they not understand HOW COLD THIS WATER IS? - when the baby pushes himself up and hobbles red-legged up the sand to his parents.On the way back we go through the Aerial Bridge in the sunset, then eat dinner at the fabulous Lake Cafe in Canal Park - Sherry has liver and onions which she loves in spite of my gagging. Here she tries to cover it up with the figs so I will stop making annoying faces: My mom and I get into a bit of a raised-voice to-do about Fox News, which she watches religiously every morning because they give her the stories that she doesn't get anywhere else.
I say, excuse me? that's because they lie? which makes her mouth go into a little 'O' as if I've said, sorry, Shirley, there is no Santa Claus. She feels beleaguered and put upon by her children who CAN'T STAND TO BE IN THE SAME ROOM WHEN THAT STUPID NETWORK IS SPEWING VITRIOL AND DISTORTIONS AND MISINFORMATION. But we get through this testy moment and upon leaving the restaurant find that the temperature has gone down about twenty degrees during dinner. Later she buys me two beautiful glasses that resemble the ones in the Dutch still-lifes that I coveted, these made by Anton Vojeck of Oulu Stained Glass in Oulu, Wisconsin.

What's not to love about Duluth!

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