Running. Around Gitche Gumee.

6:37 am, Sunday morning. Father’s Day 2017.  57º F, rain is falling. No, better depicted as the heavens opening up, c’était le déluge!

I’m running.

An eerie, fifty foot layer of fog hangs over Lake Superior. I’m looking out at the break wall at Presque Isle Park in Marquette Michigan. I’m alone on the “Island”, as it is referred to by the locals. The park is closed to car traffic.  Alone on a 323 acre island, my idyllic state.

It’s not November, but I start humming passages from Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald:

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
In the maritime sailors’ cathedral
The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call ‘gitche gumee’
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early

The day before, we walked this same two mile track.  Black flies were feeding on the leeward side of the island, Humans were on the breakfast menu. You don’t see a single insect on 47th and Madison in NYC with tons of auto exhaust and air conditioner coolant spilling into the atmosphere 24 x 7 – the invisible chemical mist numbing everything in its path.

I pass Canadian Geese with their 9-month old goslings, the flock not accustomed to many humans. The Mothers hiss and lunge at me. Seagulls, with their fat bellies, do not beg. Gitche Gumee and its shoreline, offers a full, round-the-clock menu. Auto license plates here explain what I feel: “Pure Michigan.

The downpour has down-shifted to a hard drizzle.  I hug the shoulder of the path which is partially sheltered by the tree line. Rain water streams down the asphalt, and begins puddling. I forgot to pack Glide for this trip, the magic of a thin coat of wax on the nipples offers just enough protection from chafing. My shirt is sopping wet, the polyester blend acts as coarse sandpaper. They stand no chance. You will pay dearly for this.

Later that morning, I would have breakfast with a former college roommate at The Coachlight.  $12 for a heaping plate of scrambled eggs, a sirloin breakfast steak, crispy hash browns and buttered wheat toast, all served hot on a hot plate by a waitress who really did give a sh$t about you having a good meal. “Ketchup or steak sauce sir?” It’s OK to smother your steak and eggs with Ketchup here. No pretenses. I glance around the restaurant, patrons are eating, whispering in their conversations, the peace occasionally interrupted by fork and knife on plate.  Good people, old friends, solid food at great price. Make America Great Again? It’s already great here. I just finished the thought and Brian spoke of the meth and opiod crisis inflicting this community.  I block it out and sip ice water from a tall, clean plastic glass – the clean, cool water, having no trace of chlorination, is pumped from deep down in Lake Superior. Pure slides down my throat.

Fifty minutes into breakfast, he shifts the conversation from Him over the past 20 years to Me. I was hoping the clock would run out.  I was on Day 3 of leaving Me behind. Three days of stepping out of my skin, my body, my mind – stepping away from a life of perpetual and frenetic motion. Three days of STOPPING this rush after rush after rush of Something. My body, post the 5-mile run and a steamy 15-minute shower, had settled in a trance. I didn’t want to, and couldn’t, bring myself to ME.  I pivoted the conversation back to him, and let the clock run out.  As we were paying the check, he asked the waitress if she could take a picture of us. “Of course!” Brian respectfully asked if he could post the shot on Facebook.  We hugged, and left.  It could be another 20 years, if ever, that I see him again. I walked to the car, and soft rain continue to fall.  I missed This.

We are driving back to the airport this morning to catch the early morning flight to Detroit, connecting to NY.  The headlamps from the rental car light up the highway and the tree line which walled us in on both sides in darkness.  Dawn comes early in these parts, and dusk doesn’t arrive until after 9pm.  The soft hues of both ends of the day chant Peace.

Three days is too short, yet the pull of NY begins to tug, restlessness is setting in. The insides wrestle with the wish for this and the need for that.  And the punch line: So Love it here, but can’t stay.

I’m part way through Catherine Lacey’s new book: “The Answers” when she delivers one for me:

No fighting.

No flying.

Just float.


Notes:

  • Photo: Thank you Eric Kanigan, taken on June 16, 2017 at Presque Isle Park, Marquette Michigan
  • Related Posts: Commuting Series

Comments

  1. Marquette… one great place to visit. Been there many times. Always loved it. The draw to stay was always a little less than to leave when my time was up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes Bill. I went to school there. Beautiful country. And love how you have characterized it: “the draw to stay was always a little less than to leave when time was up” Beautifully captured. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. you had a sweet taste, but weren’t ready for it to be your meal. yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds idyllic, DK, and makes me think of my days growing up in Central Illinois. Life is a bit slower, more reflective. I love it when I visit and I’m happy when I return to the East Coast. 🙂 Glad that you had a good trip….

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I grew up a block from Lake Superior – in Minnesota. It was an idyllic place to grow up and even though I’ve been away for 40 years, the lake still calls me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Spent grade school in Detroit. Dad woke me up one night and we walked up to Jefferson and watched 10,000 Natl Guard move in while smoke blew through the windows. Good times.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That is a good Answer. But floating assumes slower, not frenetic, motion. I’m sure you’ll find the trick…to continue floating after these peaceful days.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Have you healed? 😉
    I so understand the pleasure derived by a slower pace and hooking up with old friends and the desire to return to the “pace we know”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Anonymous says:

    Oh and thanks. Now I’ve got Gordon Lightfoot playing in my head. Can’t get more Canadian than that, th?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A book for your queue – ‘No Matter Where You Go, There You Are’…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I’m so glad you got away David. I hope you can float for as long as you can. Don’t take too many deep breaths in the street of NYC 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  11. it’s always great to catch up with folks, David. Happy late Father’s Day! ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

  12. People think such transitions are far easier than they are in reality. To move from NYC, a bustling city if there ever was one, to the woods of Lake Superior with biting flies and, I presume, furlongs of silence would take a) passionate dedication to doing same and b) years of your life to make the adjustment. It can be done, to be sure. But it’s not a journey taken lightly. And so you discovered something more about yourself. And isn’t that worth something? (PS: Lightfoot’s been much on my mind of late, as has Joni Mitchell. I garden singing their tunes – and not the tunes most heard on radio. Mitchell’s “Judgment of the Moon and Stars” about Beethoven has been my latest mantra – reminds me of every artist’s struggle. Lightfoot’s “Softly” is seared into memory. Both have contributed so significantly to our cultural heritage, for sure.) Aloha, David. (And wtf about GLADE?!)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Sandpaper! I was wondering how a sandpiper got under your shirt!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Over at Alive On All Channels today, something that fits this post…
    “If you’re born in a cubicle and grow up in a corridor, and work in a cell, and vacation in a crowded sun-room, then coming up into the open with nothing but sky over you might just give you a nervous breakdown.”

    — Isaac Asimov – Foundation

    Liked by 1 person

  15. sounds like a great place to unwind; is that the kind of place you would want for retirement?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. City to Country. Country to City. Oh those big Biting black flies are no fun! I find its interesting, this longing for the loveliness the serenity of nature yet knowing it has become in a way, too alien to really accept fully. anymore. (speaking for myself, of course)
    I may need now, to add another book to my “list” as those final 3 lines of the post… are so perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

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