Vast and mysterious. Relentlessly captivating. Each visit to Lake Superior reveals another angle from which to experience awe. I leave every encounter with the giant lake changed.
She reminds me of what matters and what doesn't. Her mesmerizing presence siphons out all the unsettled, ridiculous, anxiety-ridden clutter in my mind until all that remains is peace.
Every morning Lake Superior offers up her truest self. I like that. She doesn't ask for feedback. She doesn't check in with all the local travelers to see how they'd like her to behave. No one gets to make requests.
Instead, Lake Superior just is. Her waves unfurl. Giant, splashing hills of water morph overnight into a glassy stillness. It happens just like that. I stand amazed. Witnessing such authenticity feels like a permission slip. Be a sky full of ominous clouds. Be sunshine and surprise. Be a tempestuous storm. Be however … whatever … whoever you are.
On the first full day of a recent North Shore vacation, I announced to my mom, Pam, and my fiance, Justin: "I have one goal for today. I want to touch the Gitchi-Gami." That's the original name the Ojibway gave to Lake Superior; there are many alternative spellings. It means "huge water," and it is. The largest of all freshwater lakes.
A woman with a car full of eclectic stickers told us where to find the nearest public beach. "Two miles up the road. There's no sand. Just rocks. It's right across from Isak Hansen True Value."
There was no one else there when we arrived. The shoreline beckoned. The three of us spread out across the piles of eons-old rocks, each taking in the wonder. I stepped to the edge of a large, flat stone and dipped in the tops of my fingers. Cold. Alive.
Each time I touch the Gitchi-Gami, it is a rebirth. A baptism. A reminder of my actual identity: connected. Touching the waters of Lake Superior is a sensory experience of an eternal truth woven into the fibers of everything. We're connected: to the earth, to one another, to the whole creation. To the lava that formed the lake's basin. To the lichen covering the boulders at Cascade River State Park. To the Romanian server at Papa Charlie's spending his first summer in the United States. The waters connect us all.
What color is the lake? Ever-changing. Sometimes light gray with a horizon line that darts across the sky like thick charcoal. Then the next morning, royal blue with caps of white. There also are times of nothing but colorless fog and mist.
Lake Superior is a formidable force. Strong and persistent. The Gitchi-Gami is a sage, profoundly wise and eager to teach. Beside her waters, I am a speechless student ready to learn. She whispers, "Be. Just be."