The trees were big. Beyond big, the giant red and white pines demanded an active reverence. Thankfully, the park service had outlined trails to walk under the canopies of green. Two hundred fifty years old and over one hundred feet high they towered.
And I walked among them.
My family hiked, looping through the innermost trails, then the longest. From under the canopies, I walked into younger growth then to the edge of an esker. A creek sliced through the muck of a bog like lowland to create the surprise of an open resting spot. I felt tucked away, looking northward into the keyhole of nature’s doorway.
I found myself to be lost in a world of trees, absent of the sounds of motors and radios. Since I labeled my forest at home as the ‘sentinel trees,’ these specimens of the Lost Forty SNA in northern Minnesota were the academy of such imposing guardians. A person prayed as one walked among them that they would be here forever.
And I breathed. The air mixed summer smells of heated soil and baked wood. Nowhere had humankind deposited any wrappers or plastic bottles along the pathways. We just walked, in awe, at a pace to smell smells and to pause aside a two hundred year old living plant.
A Big Lake
A hazy triangle of light barely visible shown through the blackened violet cloaks of Great Lake and night sky. It was the same lake which I breathed in a year ago, with my son. We stood on the top deck of a tourist boat which turned out to Lake Superior. A storm had been approaching but the captain turned us out to the middle of the lake, our into the grey of sky and lake water.
That empty grey had been beautiful. And the air was fresh with a coming storm filtered with hundreds of miles of lake.
I had stopped this time at a different set of twin cities – those of Superior and Duluth. Years ago – decades ago even – I had studied there. “Limnology.” I studied lakes but it was not the direction my academics would lead me. I had not returned to the area except as brief pass-throughs to Canada or somewhere else.
Here I was with my son, in the area I had studied natural sciences. Here I was watching the ships about which I had dreamed.
And here he was, awestruck at the bridges, railroads and ships.
As a parent, I soaked in those moments with my own sense of wonder as he wondered about the world.
Catching sight of those big ships grew into an unexpected challenge. Thankfully, harbor schedules are published as are chatting subscribers to harbor YouTube channels. Yet, nothing really can prevent the unexpected with shipping. Turns out one ship was late leaving port. It’s slip was required by one of three ships now anchored outside the channel.
The arrival of another ship necessitated a customs check (according to channel information). Even the rhetoric of the harbor proved fascinating. With each schedule change we transversed across the high harbor bridge.
At one o’clock in the morning, my son checked the shipping map as we stopped for gas. The Federal Dart was moving to leave the harbor. We recrossed the high bridge. “You know the way, Mom,” he said.
By this time, the high bridge crossing no longer seemed frightful. I could navigate the streets to the Duluth side of the harbor, to Canal Park, through the rail yards and around the port. I could not recite the street names but I could recognize by sight, by recent repetition and…
…from memories, decades old…
We did not catch one ship but two. The Federal Dart leaving vacated the slip for the Paul Treguthra. At 1:45 am, we stood alone as the one thousand foot plus cargo ship came to port.
A Big Breath.
I didn’t realize at the time, but the theme of the vacation seemed to be that of ‘bigness’ or ‘grand’. (Not that vacations need themes!) The Mississippi, the Trees of the Lost Forty, and the Great Lake with its ships, bridges and railroads dwarfed me. Over and over, I felt wonderfully blessed with the feeling of losing myself to their greatness.
I was but a speck.
And I could breathe. Big breaths.
May you have the time to lose yourself for just a bit…
Love. Lots of love, Luv.