My graduate school and poet friend Amy just chased her heart north, to the North Shore of Lake Superior. I am so glad for her, especially because this place is one of my homes, too – never a place I have lived, but I place I have known myself to belong to, to be somehow intangibly (and yet, so very tangibly) connected to, smitten with, inspired by. It is a place I crave.
The summer after I graduated from high school, my family took a trip up to the Lake of the Woods, into Canada, and down along the North Shore Drive. When we reached the lake we had been in the van bickering and bored for too long, and then we’d gotten out at a rest stop and stumbled upon a trail. Suddenly we were all in better tempers, as the water reached blue into the distance and the breeze whisked its way around us.
And there was a moment when I stood on the rocky shore and felt my chest fill so terribly, wonderfully full. And I felt my heart know I belong here. For a long while I outlined my plans for the small house I would have where the waves rush and fall against the rocks and the pines.
I have since then known that same feeling in other places, though not so many as to make this one decrease in significance. Instead I am glad to find them, to gather them like precious stones. A few years ago three friends and I went up to ski at Lutsen, and I got to see my lake in winter. Several weeks later I wrote this poem.
at winter’s edge of shoreline, Lake Superior breaks into glass,
shards that creak and clink when we step softly across.
white-blue sky reaches down to the distant blue-black
where ice gives way and water moves free. now and then,
a rumble and groan. we keep close to shore. hold a stillness.
listening, it is, for beginners. only common sense in asking
the lake if we might cross its cracks and heaves, if
we might find the rare structures of winter on water.