Deep waters fill my cup. A teabag bobs like a small raft, brown stains the water. The cup — Polishware handpainted in circles and flowers, blue and orange — is too hot to hold, so I pull down the long sleeves of my flannel shirt like makeshift potholders, and I grip the cup between my covered hands. Heat seeps into cold bones. It’s 40 degrees F tonight, and the Hub has all the windows flung open. I huddle in my recliner, tuck up my knees, and sip hot tea. I contemplate deep waters.
In my mind’s eye, I can see to the bottom of the lake. The deep water is so clear it acts as a lens. I scope the watery landscape for large agates, but sediment covers the rocks, and they all look like brown cobbles. Farther out, the shelf drops so steeply all you can see is clear blue, clear blue, clear blue. I don’t dare venture that far, a novice in a kayak. I know better than to tempt Lady Lake into an invitation to tea below. The vastness of water feels so big it swells around me.
I once lost sight of mountains. In all of my life, I could look to familiar ridges and peaks. I used to tell people I was born in the Gabilans, raised in the Sierra, and educated in the Rockies. Then we moved to Iowa. The final mountain ranges faded, and prairie flattened all around me. In a panic, I wondered if this was what it was like to lose sight of land. Did a sailor feel what I felt when the shore dipped away? Roads laid out in grids across Iowa, and every day I’d get lost; the farms with house, silos, and cornfields all looked the same. There were no mountains to guide me home. Laura Ingalls Wilder once lived in Iowa and never wrote about it. All I have to say is that I lost my identity there.
Deep waters brought me home. Not to Montana, but to Minnesota with its North Shore of Lake Superior — the craggy, wild side of the lake. I orientated to co-ops, local food, and up north. Identity adapted. No mountain, but I could feel the energy of the lake, and I was lulled. Every summer, we tossed the canoe on the Expedition, loaded up three kids, tents, and outdoor cooking kitchen. On a lake in the boundary waters, the Hub and I paddled, the kids on shore, when we heard our daughter bellow, “Mooooose!” We cut across those deep waters of emerald green, headed to the rocks and pines of shore, frantically calling out the names of our children. That canoe never glided so fast. One daughter bumped into the backend of a moose and scared it worse than it scared her. We laugh to this day over her bellow. That kid could have been a yodeler. I decided I was pleased that moose lived near mountains and deep waters. A connection.
They say moose crossed the ice of Lake Superior when it froze between Canada and Isle Royale. The wolves followed. Another camping trip north, the kids and I rode Voyeguer II across Lake Superior to visit the most remote National Park in the lower 48. Over deep waters, the air temperatures drop 30 to 40 degrees from land. We saw another moose that day, swimming along the shore of the island. We hiked the park trails, and when the Voyeguer blasted its horn to call passengers back to harbor, we turned around, passing another person from our boat. He started to say something to me about my dog. I gave him a funny look because I had no dog with us. The wolf who decided to be our canine companion dashed off into the trees. No one had time to yell, “Wolf!” Somehow, the kids were less excited over a predator following them than running into a sleeping moose. We crossed back over those deep waters on 14-foot swells.
That’s how I like to enjoy Lake Superior — on her shoreline facing the roar of rolling water. She’s become my mountains, my solitude, my place of reflection. May we all take time to reflect. Waters run deep.
June 11, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story deep waters. It can be literal or metaphorical. Think of a place and person and situation. Explore. Bathe. Renew. Go where the prompt leads!
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Into Deep Waters by Charli Mills
What to place in my memory box? That last night out at the Fitz when the sun slanted across the western horizon dazzling like a copper-clad ruby while five-foot waves chomped the last of winter’s ice. March 13. We reached across the table, five friends sharing poutine and smoked brisket. We sang happy birthday. Later we dodged deer crossing the road back to Calumet, we stopped for a Bota Box of red wine. We found toilet paper, joking that Yoopers wouldn’t panic buy TP. Into deep waters, memories plunge. Most vivid — the last time I felt normal.