“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee …
Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?”
(Gordon Lightfoot, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald)
The bowl of stones sits quiet on the shelf. The story it tells is one of peace. Sifting my fingers through the stones, I touch each surface smoothed in a tumbler far greater than I could own. Sand’s gritty texture and wave’s mighty power have done this work – smooth quiet surfaces, no jagged edges to jar contemplation. They hold the memory of a day, a sanctuary from the turmoil of the times. I pause and let their beauty fill my soul.
Lake Superior. Duluth sand bar, walls and stone monument built on boulders to hold back the power of Gitchigumi. A boat tour had marked the other efforts of man to build a safe harbor to withstand the force in this great lake. Rubble was the only testament, casualties of war against nature’s might. This sand bar and the moving bridge that opened the mouth to the harbor within was the work of engineers calculating loads and pressures to find that edge of being that would let this fortress wall protect stiller waters behind it. It was not constructed quickly, this last ditch effort to control the havoc of nature.
I walked along, shoes tucked into my backpack so I could feel the sun-warmed sand caressing my feet in a way no one touched me at this time in my life. I see a stone near the water’s edge and pick it up. It is smooth, almost soft to my touch, flecks of glitter catching the sun. I look out into the water and see other stones, colours and hues and shapes uniquely shaped by the artistry of natural forces. There – a shiny black stone. There – a broken geode whose crystal shards could not stand sharply against the wearing of the waves and sand. A flat grey skipping stone, another with white ribbons of colour marking rounded grey. One white stones shapes the remnants of a wizened face, looking up at me from the sand. Smoothly rounded sculptures that once were broken glass add other colours to the array. My hands caress each one choosing those that will go in my backpack as memories of these moments.
My body tunes out the heat of sun reflecting up from the sparkling water. I am focused, intent on finding that one more stone. The owners of the bed and breakfast are on the beach and carry a share of my treasures back to wait for me there. My back pack still grows heavier and I must choose to let some go. I travel on, leaving a cairn upon the sand. Waves lapping against the hem of my skirt tucked into my waistband to ride high above the gentle rocking of the currents. At day’s end I would be red and sore carrying the marks of my forgetfulness but they would fade. The stones would remain, quiet testaments of this day of rest before the storm winds blew again.
The stones sit quiet in their bowl on the shelf. I brush my fingers over the textures left by their journey and I remember.