I've been getting sentimental. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm always sentimental, and proud of it, despite the negative connotations the word has for many. I have fond memories of, sometimes even longings for, almost every place I've lived and woman I've loved. Today I couldn't help thinking of the woman who introduced me to Lake Superior many years ago because I knew just how she must have felt when she left to return to Ohio.
I've been waiting for a strong east wind to take my beach hike and today was the day. Blue sky, 20 mph wind, and foamy white waves steadily pounding the shore. I hoped for bald eagle sightings because this has always been my favorite spot to see them and some early migrants have been coming through town. Still, as I walked away from town, I was a little detached from the world and too attached to my thoughts. There were some birds I couldn't identify, and many beribboned trees, possible future victims all awaiting a decision about what to do with a small adjacent unnecessary airport. I wondered if I'll ever hear what befalls them. If a tree falls in Minnesota, does anybody hear in New England? No eagles where I'd sometimes seen them. I was becoming resigned as well as detached. I added a tiny "greentangle 2001-2009" graffito to a building covered with much larger expressions.
I reached the end of my outbound hike through the woods and began the beach return. The waves left little beach for walking in the area near the Superior Entry, and I picked my way among the driftwood and drifttrees, choosing one water-smoothed branch to use as a walking stick. After passing a sheltered section of beach with many small deer tracks, my stick came in handy to help push myself over some wave-sprayed boulders of the breakwater. I nudged a football sized rock with my foot, intending to close a small gap between slanted boulders but it fell deep between them. I wondered what a snapped tibia would do to my plans.
Then finally back onto the main beach and a section which seemed wider and flatter than any I've seen in my time here. The Lake moves in mysterious ways. I stood looking at the temporary churning wet rainbow of deep blue, white, brown, and green. Took off my shoes, pointlessly rolled up my jeans, and headed into the Lake. Nowhere near as cold as I expected. Stood there, looking. Enjoying. Leaning on my staff and dancing around a bit when an incoming wave gained some extra height or as the outgoing water pulled the sand from beneath my feet. Regretting the days wasted on the way when I let the negative aspects of Duluth life make me forget where I was and what was all around me. Stayed there quite a while, breathing, windblown, watersprayed, wetlegged.
Eventually I returned to land and sat down on a log, pushing my feet through the warm sand to dry them, still watching the Lake and horizon to the northeast. Then, I looked down the beach toward town, and there, just above the treeline in my view, was the eagle, hanging almost motionless in the wind, flashing brilliant in the sun at head and tail. She repeatedly slid out of sight behind the trees and then repeatedly reappeared as I watched, waited, watched, waited. Every bald eagle sighting still seems like a blessing to me after all these years. Refreshed by water, wind, and wing, I stood as the eagle flew over, first with just a gentle twitch of wingtips, and then with vigorous full-length flaps.
Standing before that water, it seemed inconceivable to me that I might never experience this place again, even knowing that I was once sure I would return to New Orleans frequently and it's been twenty years since I was there.
Everything slips through these cold fingers,
It's like trying to hold water, trying to hold sand
--Bill Morrissey, These Cold Fingers
So I walked on, shaking my head at the lump in my throat and the beginnings of tears of joy, filled with gratitude for this beautiful day.
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