- Exploring: Rope, Weeds, Ghosts
- On John Denver, Courage & Love
- Lake Superior’s North and South Shores
- Remembering Baracoa, Cuba
- Leap Year Storm, Duluth, MN
- At The Writers’ Conference
- Cuba, Coming Home to You
- The Clotheslines of Cuba
The weather has been lovely, like May, with temps in the 50s and 60s. All of our snow has rapidly melted. Days like this are rare here on the shore of Lake Superior, where winter can stubbornly hang on and on. I have seen snowstorms in May and I have hiked in 95 degree temps. Not everyone likes to live here because of the trouble these discrepancies present. You have to like change, and you have to be resilient. When I went to Hawaii I was bored to death. Every day was the same: hot and humid. Here one day can be 30 degrees and rainy and the next 70 and sunshine.
Living on the shores of the big lake one has to only drive to the other shore (either Minnesota or Wisconsin) to enjoy a completely different climate, depending on how the wind is blowing off the lake. Lake Superior’s waters are around 40 degrees all the time, so if the wind blows over the water in the summer it is our air conditioner; when it blows over the water in the winter it can create huge storms like we witnessed a couple weeks ago, or it can bring early summer. And if the wind is stuck blowing towards the opposite shore, then we might have summer temps in the mid-eighties which for us is sweltering because of the 70% humidity. Not too many of us need central air conditioning, but “when you need it you need it” as Duluthians are known to remark. I can attest to that.
This week my travels have taken me to both the north (Minnesota) and south (Wisconsin) shores. It is crazy that they call it north shore and south shore when in actuality Wisconsin is east of Minnesota, and Canada, not Minnesota is north of Wisconsin. Just try to figure out our streets in Duluth: they often follow the lakeshore but are designated east and west even though you are traveling on a north and south (sort-of) trajectory (Highway 61 North goes to Canada, but as you drive that road you keep seeing, one after another, streets that say 36th Ave. E; 50th Ave E.).
I found a beach I had not visited before. Father Baraga’s Cross, an hour or so up Highway 61, has been a local Minnesota landmark for a long time, and I remember visiting it when you had to walk a little trail and it was a wooden cross that jutted up and faced the lake. Now it is all professionalized and touristized and the best part of it all was my visit to the beach where I was all by myself with my camera.
The beach at Wisconsin Point is much more isolated and a long way from highway traffic. You never know what you will find when you go on an adventure. I was also all alone on this excursion except for a pickup of fishermen who had their fishing rods sticking up like antenna from the box of their truck. This is the Superior entry and because Duluth also has a shipping entry off the big lake, we are called “The Twin Ports.” This is the Coast Guard icebreaker Alder, having just come from breaking ice in the Duluth harbor and now headed to the Superior entry to break ice.There hasn’t been any real ice all season on the big lake, but the harbor has been frozen. Our shipping season will start soon when the
St. Lawrence Seaway will open up for our ocean ships to visit us.
The Alder sounded its horn as she signaled to come into the channel. Some of the crew were in shirt sleeves, a rarity for March on Lake Superior. I followed her as she made her way towards the ice. My camera didn’t like the western sun, but you get the idea. I was lucky that my visit coincided with the Alder’s route. Later, when I headed back into Duluth over the Blatnik Bridge, I could see the Alder had made her way into the Duluth port again. Life on board is not always this easy for the crew. A couple years ago there were a couple “lakers” stuck in the spring ice and the Alder was working nonstop to try break them free.
I was happy to find these ice formations. Imagine the waves from the 68 mph winds we had in our storm earlier. The force of the big mother (when mamma ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy) threw debris and eroded the beach. I would have loved to have seen it over here, but alas, traveling over the Blatnik Bridge in a blizzard is not recommended, even by us crazy ones.
Sometimes, you can see the most interesting formations. Like this baby polar bear, and this strange puzzle.
The ice was four feet deep in places, at least 15 feet from the shore. In places I could get down to the beach and there I searched for “fairy tears,” the bottle glass that gets polished and thrown up on beaches. What a wonderful day to explore and rejoice in the energy of the lake. Thank you “Mother Superior,” queen of all the lakes in the world.
On Sunday we got a couple of inches and I was able to fire up the snow blower to make sure it was working. Last night I kept looking out the window but nothing was happening. At 3:30 this morning I got a text that classes were cancelled at the university. Yea! a snow day! Then Trillium, the princess cat, started meowing. Something was up. Then the windows started rattling and the flap on the dryer vent started knocking. The wind was kicking things around.
Still, at 7am when I made coffee there was not a snowflake in sight. “Just another mistake by the weather guy,” I said to myself.
By 8am snow started flying on the wind. I went out to feed the birds. By 10am we were having a full blizzard. I had to keep shoveling the snow away from the front door; there was a 2 foot drift in front of the garage. Trees were falling down in the woods. The wind sounded like a dozen planes flying low.
At noon I had to get out. I love to go out in weather like this. First I had to snowblow the driveway of a LOT of snow and with the wind it whipped it right back in my face and into the neck of my jacket. When the driveway was clear I backed my Journey out onto the street and barreled through a huge drift the plow had made. Very few people were driving; it was exciting.
I headed to the harbor where I knew the waves would be fantastic. I tried my best to stand up in the wind and managed a few photos. When made it back home after buying junk food (chips, salsa, cookies, pizza) I tried to barrel through the drift on my street and promptly buried the van to the doorframes in the heavy snow. A few shovels and some good Samaritans later I managed to get back safely inside the garage.
When I looked out an hour later, the driveway had completely filled in again with a huge snowdrift. Happy Leap Year!! A lot to be thankful for: electricity, good Samaritans, a snow blower, a camera, and junk food–what a great day!
Cuba, Coming Home to You
She gestures with a pointed finger
at the life vest around her neck.
Her eyebrows, black and arched,
are adornments above her almond
shaped eyes that flash as she instructs
us, her passengers, flying above
the Florida Straits, on our way to Cuba.
The Cuban face is like a drink of
cool water on a blue Caribbean day:
voluptuous lips, fine cheeks, men
with hairlines that curve to a point
over foreheads that sweep back like
an ocean wave. The women, young
or old, are sassy, sexy, rounded,
feminine in tight knits. This I
know: Cubans smell good, like
coconuts and shaving cream; like
rum or vanilla or jasmine.
This island, these people, are
intoxicating and beautiful as a
flamingo’s blush after a shrimp
dinner. It’s here I come to find the
message waiting for me; it’s here
I go to seek what I am meant
to be. Cuba, coming home to you.
I have always felt clothes on lines are works of art, each signed with the signature way the woman, or rarely the man, displays the clothes.
While I was traveling in Nova Scotia 15 years ago I became enthralled with the way the lovely farms had clotheslines strung from the barn to the second story of the house. The line was on a pulley system, enabling it to move further away until the line had been filled with clothes. I was most enamored by the way the white sheets would billow and fly in the sea breezes.
My mother hung clothes on lines all year long. I grew up on a farm in North Dakota and in the summer we would play under the sheets as they flapped in the wind, and we would make tents. The winter was a different story. Mother would hang the sheets outside, they would freeze solid (freeze-dry), and the winter air would steal some of the moisture out of them but they were still solid when we wrestled them into the house to hang on lines across the living room, where we would try to dodge their wetness as they thawed out. I remember getting up in the night and walking into a clammy, wet sheet, not a pleasant encounter! There is a certain fresh smell to frozen sheets that I have not smelled since those days, but I can smell it now, in my memory. And that’s probably why I love to bury my nose in clean, white sheets gathered in from the outdoor clothesline just before it rains.
Traveling to Cuba the first time I fell in love with how Cubans display their laundry. All of a sudden I would glimpse white shirts dancing against the Caribbean sky, or see little girls’ dresses in a row on a line on top of a tumbling down building, surrounded by wires and antennas. So I return to Cuba again and again to capture the beauty of the clotheslines. One day there will be a book about their beauty, and maybe some stories about how the women create such lovely art that always gives my eyes so much pleasure.
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