A rainstorm, a cleansing

I have written a lot about grieving and how ive carried it for years, deep down in a dark and quiet place because it was not possible to share such a thing openly. I had a husband. I had children. Nobody knew him. I was alone. I buried it and went on.

Until I came home. I have written so much about this. You have patiently gone along with me as I rebuild my camper and my life. This blog is as sacred as the confessional. I start from the bottom and work upwards.

Today it rained. It rained as it needed to rain and the water cleansed the smoke from the wildfires in California and some say Canada. Lightning strikes hitting the ground were impressive. I sat in the vehicle I was driving and waited for the deluge to stop because I couldn’t see. I listened to the pounding rain on the roof of my car and watched the rivulets of water streaming down the windows. Rivers of water. All I had cried through the years and now since I’d come back.

In the aftermath of the storm there is peace. The world is different for the change but it finds peace.

So will I.

I am not dead. I am still here. Still blessed with good health and children I love and a home and a job and the ability to do work I love through writing or Tarot reading . My life is not over. It is filled with possibility.

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Up North—47.7°N 87.5°W

I was sitting with my cousin today in northern Wisconsin where we live and we hadn’t seen one another in twenty five years. She asked me why I came back home because she was curious. What brought me back? I knew right away what had brought me back. An ancient lake singing an ancient song to my soul, a lake old as the history of the earth itself. As the earth shifted over thousands of years and magma flowed, the treasures of the lake, its amethyst, iron and copper, as well as living treasures in the form of 80 species of fish, and forest and fauna slowly developed. Lake Superior is an ancient prehistoric valley filled with water. It is so deep–1,332 feet at its deepest point and an average depth of 500 feet. Human history is young in comparison to the ancient lake. Whispers of the past come to me:

Ochiptwe Gitchi Gamee (Ojibwa big sea water)

Lac Superieur (Upper Lake, French, 17th century)

Lake Superior (British Anglicized name, 1760’s–because they thought it larger and thus “Superior” to the rest of the Great Lakes).

It is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. Nipigon country and the river of the same name in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, is a primary and largest inflow; there are over 200 rivers that feed it. It has the highest elevation of the five Great Lakes, and drains into Lake Huron via the St Mary’s River. These are the facts. But there is something more; something alive and vibrant and ancient and pure that sings on despite clashes with people and their desire to take from the land without giving back.

(Image from CBC.ca)

The lake has an aura of mystery about it, that morning mists illuminated by slow sunrises seem to magnify; home to wolves at Isle Royale, whose mournful cries are the song of this Great Lake’s spirit. For it does have a spirit; a strong one. Humanity has never conquered it. It has seen ice ages come and go and been the home to many peoples over many thousands of years; the Plano, who created dugout canoes and hunted caribou after the retreat of the glaciers in the last Ice Age, the Shield Archaic people, hunters and miners who developed trade networks, believed to be ancestors of the Ojibwa and the Cree; the Laurel people who developed seine net fishing, Algonquian people who hunted and fished, developed snow shoes and birch bark canoes, and tribes who have lived around the lake for 500 years before white Europeans came–Dakota, Fox, Menominee, Nipigon, Noquet, Gros Ventres, and Anishinaabe. Their pictographs can still be seen; humans the second hand of time; the lake, timeless.

The lake calls you home. No matter where you go or what you do. It calls to you.

I left home tethered to it; wandered around the world half-listening to the song of that great inland sea not realizing how fully it was a part of me.

Most of the towns that grew up on its shores describe bays and what treasures were found in them: Beaver Bay (prized for hats), Silver Bay, Taconite Harbor, Agate Bay; or portages when the French explorers came–Grand Portage, Little Marais, Grand Marais, or names of the many falls around the lake–Chippewa Falls, Eagle River Falls, Sturgeon Falls, Gooseberry Falls. The list goes on and on. There are many more falls than those pictured below:

There is much to write about as I listen to Superior’s song, a song that is the song of my life wrapped up in this place I carried with me to the other side of the world. It is a lake of stories and I will add mine to the ancient ones it holds.

We must begin with the Ancient Stories. They may be true for the truth is so often stranger than fiction. So the journey begins. In tandem this lake and I. Its voice tells me this story and I understand it. We must honor the spirit that lives within us even if it seems frightening for in that chaos of darkness and upheaval that lives inside of us is a path that if we are brave enough to walk it leads us into sacredness. My journey as well as the journey around the Lake is circular.

The Anishinabe tell of the great underwater lynx like creature who lives in the depths of Gitchigumi – the creature called Mishi Peshu or Mishipashoo. He is the ulitmate metaphor representing the power, mystery and innate danger that comes from these sacred waters. With razor like spikes on his back, the face of a lynx or panther, and the body of a sea serpent, this creature demanded respect. The Anishinabe offered tobacco and prayer to the creature spirit before they embarked out onto the waters in their canoes. The calm waters of Lake Superior can be quickly transformed into raging squalls and huge waves from the northern, north-eastern, and north-western gales that often suddenly crop up. These gales sweep over the open water, quickly picking up momentum and causing huge waves, some up to 40 feet high.

(Credit: Chi Manidoo)

There are many more stories and I will tell them to you. Look for more. Listen to the song as it unfolds.

Walk with me.

The Girl with Special Knowledge of God and other tales

Today I wasn’t feeling so hot. I somehow got a sinus infection so I went to get my medicine and decided to stop off at Target for some organic snack stuff because I didn’t feel like cooking.

I should tell you that I love pens. I’m an office supply freak. I couldn’t just walk by the stationery aisle without looking at the pens and Sharpie markers and other colorful delights. Like neon colored Post-It notes. That aisle of temptation is where I met my stalker walking opposite towards me.

She was merely a girl. A young girl. I should have known better than to make eye contact. I did. I thought she wanted to get by me.

Nope. She glowed with the aura of a True Believer. She smiled at me. I couldn’t stop my face from smiling back. There was nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. That is when she pounced.

I should preface this by saying my longtime readers will understand I have my own faith that I am quite secure in. I also have two degrees in English Literature and Theology, with a concentration in Religious Studies. While education may not be the sum of faith it sure helps to know your Bible. Which came in handy because this girl was about to drop some Secret, Special Knowledge on me.

“Do you know about the Bible as the Word of God?” she asked beaming with a positively beatific expression on her face.

“Why yes. I am quite familiar with the Bible,” I responded. It was like pouring gasoline onto a fire.

“Oh…well…I’m sure you don’t know about the hidden Word of God in the creation of Man,” she replied smugly.

Hidden word of God? I thought. Now I was intrigued. Let’s see where this goes.

Noting my interested expression she proceeded to enlighten me that theology schools didn’t have the Secret Special Knowledge (herein known as SSK). Neither did any church. “Except mine,” she finished triumphantly.

Uh oh. Now I knew we were in for it. Only her church has this SSK. Hm. Cult? Red flag No 1.

“God gave our pastor and only our pastor this SSK. Would you like to see it?

Oh boy would I! She opened her Bible app to Genesis 1:26:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

With a conspiratorial look she got very close to me and she whispered “Let US. US. God wasn’t alone in creating man! Nobody knows this! Nobody teaches this! Who is us?

I suggested “Angels?” She scoffed. “Do you really think God let angels help Him create man?”

I didn’t see why not and this is something scholars debate but as I had tossed that out there for fun, I thought it wise to not respond. I took another stab at it.

“Us is God and the Trinity? At this she started.

“How did you know that?”

“I learned that in theology school,” I said gently.

“No! Impossible! ” She started grilling me on Bible Knowledge and trying to correct me by saying I was not as familiar with the Bible as I thought because God frowns on education and only teaches through the Holy Spirit. And only her church had this Secret Special Knowledge, remember. Suddenly she said I didn’t know the Bible in the same way she did. The girl was trying to spiritually gaslight me to make me doubt myself and my faith.

Nope.

By this time I’d had enough and politely excused myself.

It is to me rude to try to convert somebody when they are minding their own business but I get that these types are trying to follow the Great Commission so I can forgive that. But nobody and nobody has Secret Special Knowledge and shouldn’t claim to in order to take advantage of someone else’s ignorance of Scripture and theology.

I spent the rest of the time in the store dodging the Girl with the Special Knowledge and her friend who tried very hard to corral others to share this Secret Special Knowledge and no doubt try to strongarm somebody to come to church.

I don’t think I’m the only one who gets annoyed with this and annoyed with the idea that someone else couldn’t possibly be happy with their faith and they must be converted to yours. God likes us to be an example to others to show Him to others. He doesn’t expect us to weasel or wrassle people to the ground and smack them with the Bible over and over as if you are a child who knows nothing. Scripturally He most certainly does not want people to offend others to the point they want nothing to do with Him or Christians.

Be ever mindful of how you approach people, how you bring the Word to others. Please.

The world is a big place. There are other faiths. Let’s respect one another and love one another.

Wisconsin Point, Superior, Wisconsin

Photo Credit Philip Schwarz Photography

There it is. The turn off Highway 53. The long winding narrow road through the trees that seems to go on and on without a hint that a beach and the wide expanse of the lake lay just beyond. There is a Native burial ground almost at the break in the trees to the right where people have left mementoes.

From CatholicDos.org:

“Wisconsin Point (three miles in length) and Minnesota Point (seven miles) located in Superior, Wisconsin make up the largest freshwater sandbar in the world. They were formed by two rivers. The French traders who approached the west end of Lake Superior would eventually start calling the larger river on the right the St. Louis River (after the King of France) although the Ojibwe’s name for it was “Gichigami-ziibi” meaning “Great Lake River.” The stream on the left was called the Nemadji River (after the Ojibwe word “ne-madji-tic-guay-och” for “Left Hand River”). The Nemadji River marks the boundary between the parishes of St. Francis Xavier and St. Anthony.

Fr. Claude Jean Allouez, S.J. (1622-1689) camped on the shore of Wisconsin Point in 1666 while ministering to the Ojibwe. The following year, he would establish a mission along Bluff Creek near the shore of the bay. Frustrated though with few Ojibwe willing to join the Catholic faith, he abandoned his evangelization efforts in about 1669.

Today, near the Superior entry lighthouse at Wisconsin Point, a stone marker states:

Here was the burial ground of the Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa people dating from the 17th century. It was removed in 1919 to St. Francis cemetery, Superior.”

Actually, only about 180 remains from the most identifiable graves were moved (including at least one chief– Chief Joseph Osaugie (1802-1876). Sadly though, once placed in a mass grave at St. Francis Xavier cemetery, they were improperly cared for over the years. For example, when the slope of land on which they were reburied had been undercut by construction of a road, bones and decayed clothing could be seen spilling toward the river. As far as what happened to the 100 unidentified graves that were left on Wisconsin point? Some say Chief Osaugie’s descendants know their location, but they are not about to give up their dead.”

I spent many a somber moment pausing there, listening to the whispers of the trees and the quiet breeze until I could almost see the days when no white person had set foot on that land. From here you can smell the water. A quick walk up brings you to the golden beach which stretches for a fair ways until it curves round out of sight.

I lay here nights on the soft sand watching the aurora borealis while the waves washed up on the sand. I walked barefoot in the wash, my footsteps disappearing in the waves as if I had never trod there. I loved the feeling of the cold water on my feet and I would gaze over the water to the blue line on the horizon wondering what lay on the other side of the blue line. Now I am on the other side of the blue line looking homewards, missing the sight of great red ore oats with their distinctive long shape and white trim cruising out to the wide lake beyond.

The lighthouse lies on the end of s great long break wall that is really a long pile of rocks; precarious to walk on when the weather is wet and with a little effort it is well worth it to achieve the lighthouse at last on its concrete block. My soul wanders when I lean up against the short wall on the other side of the lighthouse; across that endless expanse of blue something in me rears up, this sense of wandering and possibility, wildness and passion. I love this great inland sea that is beautiful in its calm and unpredictability; where I went agate hunting on its beach as a young woman and sat on the great driftwood logs with a little fire going at night listening to the fire pop and hiss, smoke floating upwards, while the water and the waves sliding forever in and out spoke to me in their languages speaking of time and eternity and ages long past when no human being was there, and when the first humans to live there fished and lived and loved.

I stand on Erie’s shore sometimes, in Hamburg, New York. I fulfilled the wanderlust of my younger years; I know what is on the other side of that far blue horizon line and 30 years on the other side I hear the great water that lives further northwest calling to me. It is the song of home.

The lake

(Image by TripAdvisor.ie)

In my mind I can see her; endless and blue, blue expanse to the horizon where the pale blue of the water meets the sky in a darker navy blue line. She is placid when I think of her, still and clear like a mirror. On the day I think of her I am hundreds of miles away to the east of her looking over what to me is a smaller, tamer inland sea, that called Erie. The Iroquois called Erie erielhonan, meaning “long tail.” The French fur traders who traded with the Iroquois shortened the name to Lac Erie, and Erie is how we know the name today. It is smaller and shallower than Superior, called by the Ojibwe Gitchee gumee, or “shining big sea water.” As I stand here on Erie’s shore, in Buffalo,NY, I feel as if Buffalo is the garrulous old ex-steelworker biker sitting at the bar while Superior is the wild woman ever tumultuous. This sense of wildness is something that never leaves me no matter where in the world I have travelled. I have seen the great Pacific, and the older seeming mighty Atlantic. We have met in passing, and while both oceans are to be respected and are majestic in their own right, it is Superior who sings to me when I feel far away from home. It is Superior who is mysterious to me, so many legends permeate her name. She has claimed many, many ships and has thousands of untold stories. No matter how long I have been gone, it is Lake Superior who calls me home. In the subsequent essays to come, as I write I can feel the wind coming off of her in a long ago summer night when the world was sleeping and I was alone on Park Point beach. The wind was whipping up the waves into five foot swells and I, I felt wild with her. I fearlessly stripped down and entered the water, and felt so alive in the cold, mercilessly cold water that rarely reaches any kind of a warm temperature even in the summer, so alive that I remember that moonless night 26 years later. I was a young fool. I should have known better than to get in the water with waves coming up that high. That night, I felt a kinship with the lake; never did it enter my mind that my lake would ever hurt me–would want to hurt me–and so I let it baptize me and cradle me in its watery arms. It was like being in the womb of Mother Earth; it was primeval and it was safe and I safe in it. As I swam the waters calmed and gently one last gentle wave deposited me back on shore. I lay there in the warm night watching the sudden appearance of the Northern Lights–its scientific name the aurora borealis–known as wanagi wacipi (ghost dance) by the Lakota, and also by the Salteaux of eastern Canada and Tlingit and Kwakiutl in the north in their respective languages. The lights danced overhead in shades of green and blue and yellow and I reached up with my hand and tried to touch them. Here I belonged; not a traveler of the world but a citizen. Here my heart is complete. Here is home.

I belonged here.

I belong here.

There is much more to tell. My heart is full of her this night. I have long felt I had a story but it took 26 years, six countries, and the failure of the most important love relationship of my life to identify and perhaps uncover, what that story was; the one that was too close, but yearned to be told. This and the essays to come see that story. Superieur–Superior.

I saw that I had forgotten how beautiful the drive to Thunder Bay was; the towering sighing groves of fragrant Norway pines, the broad expanses of clean white sand, the sea gulls, always the endlessly wheeling sea gulls; an occasional bald eagle seeming bent on soaring straight up to heaven; the intermittent craggy and pine-clad granite or sandstone hills, sometimes rising gauntly to the dignity of small mountains, then again, sudden stretches of sand or more majestic Norway pines — and always, of course, the vast glittering heaving lake, the world’s largest inland sea, as treacherous and deceitful as a spurned woman, either caressing or raging at the shore, more often turbulent than not, but today on its best company manners, presenting the falsely placid aspect of a mill pond.

Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Murder

(Photo by C Scherer)