The Large and the Small of Lake Superior

A cold, cloudy day on the shores of Lake Superior in August.

I am in awe of Lake Superior – with a great big dollop of respect thrown in. We have visited it many times over the last 50 plus years and driven around it two times – once in each direction. A few years ago we visited with friends, camping at Copper Harbor (were the X is on the map below), at the point of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The “large” of Lake Superior is really, really big. It covers 31,700 square miles making it the biggest fresh-water lake on the planet and at its deepest it is 1,333 feet deep. The water of Lake Superior is said to be chemically pure. It is also cold and can be deadly brutal – and it is breathtakingly beautiful. I think it would be helpful if I showed you a map that was painted as part of the informational signs on a look-out deck.

Lake Superior – depicted in white

Lake Superior is border by Canada to the north and east, extending from a little ways north of Duluth, Minnesota (on the left) all around to the Soo Locks at the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and Michigan (on the right). Minnesota and Wisconsin also have economically important stretches of shoreline along the western end of the lake.

How to go from large to small when something is so very large and is comprised of water? One way is to capture the small drops of water that sprayed when waves hit the rocky coast.

Maybe seeing smaller involves seeing what contains the water and defines the lake – the coast line.

We did a lot of exploring around this area – sometimes going down dirt roads that became a narrow, rutted, and very bumpy lane seeming to go to nowhere and didn’t allow space to turn around. An easier drive was to Eagle Harbor to see the light house and maybe see a big freighter go by.

A lighthouse tells of the personality of a body of water, a personality that is volatile and dangerous enough to need a warning sign and a signal to help boats navigate perilous places. This lighthouse is a smaller piece of the big picture and provides an even smaller perspective.

When I visit Lake Superior I am reminded of the stories I have read of ship wrecks and efforts to save the people working the freighters. When I look out over calmer waters I can imagine the fear that sailors experience when storms blow in and the water becomes really rough, waves strong enough to break a freighter in half.

No, the photo above isn’t of a freighter. Do you think it could have been used in times past to rescue people? I was looking for smaller, and this would seem very small on the huge storm waves of Lake Superior.

For me, understanding the beauty of Lake Superior comes from observing, up close and personal, how nature grows on all of its shores.

I wonder if the two evergreens on the bottom right could be a start of a bonsai tree. They were so tiny growing out of a tiny piece of earth, somewhat protected by a rock or two. How old do you think they are?

We didn’t see any freighters on this day as they travel between Duluth or Superior and the Soo Locks but this is an important part of understanding Lake Superior. Ships coming and going from Duluth and Superior carry about 35 million metric tons of iron ore, coal, gain and other cargo each season – about 80% is domestic trade and 20% in international. Freighters passing this point carry more tonnage each season than the combined tonnage of the Panama, Kiel, and Suez Canals. Each year 50-100 “salties” will travel through the Soo Locks, go down Lake Huron, across Lakes Erie and Ontario, into the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic. The largest freighters are 1,000 feet long and 105 feet in beam – the largest size that will fit in the Soo Locks that lower ships from Lake Superior to Lake Huron, a 21 foot elevation change.

My bedtime has arrived and I’m tired of dealing with facts. I hope that your joys are large and your sorrows are small as you move through the coming days. Here is a Lake Superior sunset to quiet your busy mind.

This post was inspired by Patti’s Lens-Artist Challenge: From Large to Small. You can see other interpretations by following the link.

Sunday Serenity: Macro Waterlily

This is a water lily taken on one of my last visits to the Naples Botanical Garden in April. May it bring you lots of joy and serenity as you go inside nature in all its glory.

Cee posted her Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge for close-ups and macro photos this week. Although this wasn’t taken in June, I think its beauty can linger on throughout the month.

June Close-Ups

Wildflower taken at a local natural preserve.

During the Covid pandemic we found fun, diversion, and emotional healing by spending time in nature where we could be almost normal when all social gathering was dangerous. The past two springs I have spent a lot of time in my garden attacking weeds (a good target for virus-anger), moving plants that weren’t thriving according to my original garden plan, and dividing plants (some of them 10 years old) to increase their flowering and to spread their color in the garden. Now, in the first week of June, my garden is covered in new green growth with small patches of color here and there. Within a month it should be a sea of color – in fact I think I can see the green growth quivering, just waiting for the right moment to send forth its blooms.

Geranium growing in a container.

Yes, I am waiting for June to do its transition from spring to summer. I look daily for signs of flower buds on my perennials and just finished up an application of liquid fertilizer designed for blooming plants – just in case nature (and my soil) needs a little help.

Bearded iris that has a beautiful variegated leaf.

I am having to wait – something my personality doesn’t do gracefully. My waiting is helped a little by the wonders of digital photography and computer science. I decided to go back to the digital files of past Junes to find close-ups and macro shots for the CMMC where Cee is asking us to provide close-ups or macro photos. I had a good number of them because I had bought a close-up lens filter in June of one year so I put in some practice time with it. I haven’t used it lately so maybe that would be a fun project as my garden begins to flower again.

Freshly washed local strawberries anticipated towards the end of June.
Wonderful black cherries grown on the northern sandy shores of Lake Michigan.
Last year three of us ate 60 lbs. (give or take) of Michigan high bush blueberries.

And how can I fail to mention the most important anticipation associated with June – the promise of freshly grown Michigan strawberries, blueberries, and black cherries. We wait all year for this production and June means that we have only one more month of waiting. Depending on weather conditions and where they are grown in Michigan, they may start during the last week of June and into/through July. Strawberries have the shortest season, sometimes only a couple of weeks if it is really hot.

Surface of Lake Michigan on a calm, blue-sky day.

June is also an excellent time to visit the northern Michigan resort areas because their tourist season doesn’t go into full swing until after the Fourth of July holiday. June holds all of the excitement of a new season of warmth while still being a bit cool for swimming in the Great Lakes and our many inland lakes. We will be heading up to the Traverse City area with our camper next week-end for a few days (we save the Upper Peninsula for later because summer is slow in coming that far north). I think I will put the warmer quilt on our bed as the nights are still pretty cold in June but too warm for flannel sheets (I hope). I am looking forward to walking the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan, shopping the charming stores of the small tourist towns, and maybe even visiting a winery on the Mission Peninsula for a sampling and maybe a lunch.

Seating at the Soda Fountain

I love color and have had a hard time embracing black & white photography, although I have frequently enjoyed the work of others. To push myself to expand my photography work, I am joining Cee’s Black & White Photo challenge, this week focusing on seats. I just went back to my Lightroom file to contrast this B&W with the original color version and I do believe I like the B&W better.

Is it cheating, Cee, to show the original to see what others think?

I want to spend more time looking at the B&W, maybe because it triggers so many memories from across my 76 years of sitting at counters. The B&W draws me in at an emotional level and in this case color seems to produce a block.

If you are interested in joining this challenge or to see what others decide to show us in B&W, click here.

May Garden Activity

It was unseasonably cold during the last few nights of May here in southern Michigan, just a few degrees above freezing. Absolutely perfect for sitting on my purple porch swing in the not-so-early morning (eight-ish) with a cup of hot coffee. Yes it is a bit nippy but my porch faces east so I am bathed in the warmth of the morning sun. And above is what I see as I look through the railing to my garden.

And I smile and sigh. I love the combination of the chocolate and apricot irises in front of the red barberry bush. But my garden is somewhat out of order this year due to the out-of-order spring weather. Usually the apricot iris doen’t bloom until the chocolate are almost finished. This year the apricot was out about a week before the first chocolate unfurled a couple of days ago.

My daughter gave me a couple of tubers of the chocolate iris that a neighbor gave her as a good-bye gift when my daughter left Little Rock, Arkansas. It seems so exotic, so special. The buds are so very dark and the newly unfurled blossom is a lush silky golden brown, growing lighter and more golden in the two or three days before it withers away. In certain lights there are purple under currents to the petals.

My peony is also blooming on the lower terrace. I wish I had more flowers that bloomed during late spring. Maybe I will look for some yellow irises to plant next to this peony. Any other suggestions? I like the idea of yellow because it would be a nice complimentary color to the deep pink peony and would be positioned just below the apricot and chocolate that grow on the upper terrace.

The Evening Primrose is spreading aggressively at the end of the upper bed and this worries me a bit but it is so beautiful that I don’t think I’ll attack it aggressively – at least not yet. Maybe I’ll be sorry. I love how it poked its way up in the catmint, totally uninvited but welcomed.

See why I think I’ll wait another year before I decide to take action. Has anyone had a problem with this primrose weakening or taking over other plants? How can anything so delicate looking be so strong willed and naughty?

When we moved in over 10 years ago I planted what I hoped would be a tall (but not too tall) and slender (not too big around for a small space) evergreen in the corner, where the porch juts out a couple of feet, on the terrace that is 4 feet below. Beside it I planted a President clematis, given to me by a friend, and trained it up the section of fencing I placed there. You know what happened, right? The tree is much bigger around that I envisioned and the clematis ended up behind the tree, with roots fighting for moisture and nutrients. This year I transplanted it away from the shrub and did lots of amending of the heavy clay with peat, manure and nutrients to help with root regrowth. I have read that clematis don’t like to be moved so I’m hoping it will hang in there with a little pampering. It is blooming so that’s a good sign, I think. Or maybe a last frantic effort to reseed itself before it dies. Ugh.

This spring I was super diligent with weeding – starting earlier and with more energy than normal. It really worked as I’m almost weed free except for some grass in the middle of plants that I can’t get out until it rains again and of course those small pesky weed roots that break off and are left to torment me at a later time.

I have been thinking a lot about adding plants to my garden as I am gently swinging and looking out over the sea of fresh green spring growth. I printed photographs of my garden taken at different times of the growing season of previous years. I studied them and thought and studied them some more and then made a trip to the garden center. Then I would think some more and finally plant my new purchases where I think they need to be. Repeat. Plant. Repeat. Plant. I think I am at the point where I need to find out how the new plants are going to get along in their new homes and with their neighbors before I buy any more. Except…

Except my love of sedums has reignited and I still have some bare spots in my dry, difficult places – plus I found a new garden website that only sells online, has a wonderful selection, ships plants in pots, are reasonably priced, and are located two hours down the Interstate in Grand Haven, on the shore of Lake Michigan. They have a wonderful selection of sedums so I ordered some new hens & chicks to add to the ones that are established…

And ones I bought earlier this year.

The new ones are named “Cosmic Candy”. Now doesn’t that excite your cosmic energy, but you, too, will have to wait to see them until they arrive and are planted. I also ordered a couple of the larger stonecrop sedums to give some late summer color and fill in with low maintenance plants with beautiful texture and color all through the growing season.

And in the fall I’ll be relocating a hen & chicks to Florida. One that I bought this year is only hardy in zone 11 (not even close to zone 5). In the meantime I’m enjoying it every morning and evening as I sit on my porch swing and think about my garden.