Salt Free, Shark Free, Superior to You
With the heavy humidity that’s been pressing in on us lately, I’ve felt a fresh longing to head north. I never longed for vast bodies of water until recently. I grew up in the Midwest, landlocked with only the occasional lake to break up the stretching expanse of prairie. My family has visited the north shore of Lake Superior frequently—it’s become sort of a staple vacation for us. The older I’ve grown, the deeper my love and respect has grown for Superior. It’s a certain sort of love the inhabitants of these places have for the vast watery habitats. An intense respect, awe, and sense of humility are inextricable from the adoration. You cannot stand on the shores of the mighty Superior and not feel her age, her power and her wild heart.
I’m a hot person, and I’ve always been a hot person. I am a human heater, no electric blanket required. So, Superior is the perfect place for me, because the middle of July produces gorgeous 70-degree days with that perfect breeze that cuts through your fleece and your flannel, reminding you that whatever warmth you feel is fleeting, and Superior will spread it’s icy chill to the land again soon enough. The lake never warms up. Even when the temps manage to creep their way up past 70 (not often), even in late July/early August, Superior holds on to her all-encompassing cold. Put your swimsuit on and run in next time you’re up there in the summer (or in the cooler months if you’re braver than me!). Don’t think about it, and don’t test the water first because you will talk yourself out of it faster than you’ll lose the sensation in your fingers once you’re in the water. The immediate, painful numbing of your body is wholly unpleasant and ignites a primitive panic in your core—the part you can still feel—but upon exiting the water the warmth that tingles from your center to your extremities contains a powerful rush of endorphins and ends up beings strangely enjoyable and deeply satisfactory. That’ll wake you up better than any coffee. (Resisted the urge to make a bad cold brew joke here, good choice or no?)
Every time I make my way up to the shore I hope desperately that it will storm. For one thing, everyone sleeps better when the driving rain and reverberating thunder is their white noise machine, and for another, Superior after a storm is a spiritual experience. Superior makes no apologies on a calm day. It’s glacial fingers and their numbing grip are unmerciful. But when a storm rolls in, Superior is otherworldly. First, there’s the fog. Those low-hanging, fluid, velvet shrouds that spread over the water and onto the shore. Then the waves, breaking as they near the land. They are pitiless, shattering on the rocky shoreline, vomiting up fresh agates and sea glass from Superior’s depths. The spray is sharp, and the wind is pure. The sinking mists are absorbed by your jeans and your eyelashes and your hair, and the wind picks up the loose, damp strands and flings them wherever it pleases. Superior is so unconcerned by your presence, so unimpressed by your existence. Whether you are there to witness her or not, she will do the wild thing that she is wont to do. And that is one of my favorite reminders, why Superior has such a beloved place in my heart. Before the force of the wind and the waves I am so very small, so very inconspicuous and so very unimportant. We spend a great deal of our time elsewhere in our lives being important. We are always being seen, and being noticed, or trying very hard to go unnoticed. It is absolute freedom to stand before an entity who has no spare time for such a small human at her shoreline because she is so busy doing exactly what she was created to do.
I realize I’ve personified Superior. Perhaps she has a good deal fewer human characteristics than I’ve made her out to have, but then I’ve always had an active imagination. And I suppose I long to have a few of the characteristics I imagine her to have. To care a little less about shaping myself into something that’s agreeable and pleasant, and to spend more of my time living at full roar, as my friend Katie Kostovski says. Superior is a place of wild purity and pine trees, severity and clarity. A bit of Lake Superior has worked its way into my bloodstream, and when the humidity of July strikes, it calls me back to the place where I feel the freedom in my irrelevance.
My top 5 favorite pieces for Superior:
- Patagonia Snap-T: because it’s COLD, man
- Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote: Perfect for day hikes, stashing your flannel and hauling your watercolors around
- Hydroflask 22 oz. bottle: hot chocolate to keep you warm, water to keep you hydrated
- Patagonia NanoPuff Vest: lightweight and windproof, holds it’s warmth when wet, must have for misty walks on the shore
- SmartWool Hiking Socks: for tons of hiking, for socks and Chacos, for cozy nights in the cabin, for wearing on your hands while you comb the beach for agates, for everything you’re doing ever