Winter is for hauntings. It is the season of candle light and barely days and long, cold nights. A dark sky spits snow and trees dance in the wind like spirits, clattering on the roof in their violent ballet. We all draw close and firelight flickers. I burn a balsam candle with the thought that the little fire chips at the heavy dark.
I strap on running spikes, coaxing myself out the door before an early sunset. I run out to the breakwater, and walk on old volcanic rocks and ice out to the lighthouse.
Winter is shipwreck season, and Decembers ago, a boat called The Stranger had no anchor and got caught on these rocks, worked over by the gales and waves. They were close to shore; I’d have been able to see them from where I stand. The story goes that a rescue was sent out, that the sailors on the boat, battered against the rocks could see their would-be rescuers, that they could see each others eyes and faces and realized a rescue would be impossible; there was nothing they could do. What a horrible thing to know.
The lake is cold this time of year, the breakwater coated in slick ice. I watch waves lick at the rock and think of horrible deaths at this spot. It’s like I said; winter is for hauntings.
The first time I saw a Great Lake I was little, with white blonde hair and a pink nose, high on sweet Lake Michigan summers with soft soft and wildflowers. When I first swam in the Atlantic I was surprised by the salt and weight of the water.
I didn’t make it to Lake Superior until later, and when I did I was thrilled that something so large and wild could exist so close to my own home— that the soft pastels, muted ripples of my Lake Michigan Ocean had a foil of bright and churning green, spiky Nordic pines an answer to dancing grasses.
But this winter is for hauntings, and now Superiors waters aren’t green but gunmetal gray with foaming white crests, and I imagine the sound of a ship breaking apart on rocks.
I shiver, because I’ve stopped running and the cold has started to seep through my layers.
It’s good to be outside in the winter, I remind myself, though I know the whole season is haunted and cursed.
Before here, back in middle Michigan I stayed up late winter nights my last year of university, looking at photos of Superior’s shores and reading about shipwrecks. Eventually, I stumbled upon a book titled Deep Water Passage by Ann Linnea about her solo sea kayaking expedition of Lake Superior.
A college student with two majors, two jobs, and what felt like no free time, I latched on to the idea of sea kayaking and Lake Superior. Eventually, I emailed the owner of a sea kayaking outfitter in the Apostle Islands, asking if she was training any new guides that summer, with my resume attached.
So I graduated college and moved to the South Shore for the summer to work as a sea kayak guide.
And I thought it would just be the summer and then I would leave Lake Superior, but as you well know, winters are for hauntings, and the places you love haunt you until you haunt them.
Hi there, my name is Maddy and I’m a writer/photographer from Michigan currently loosely based in Northern Minnesota. If you’re a regular reader, thanks for sticking around! If you’re new here, enter your email in the handy little email list or follow me on Instagram to make sure you keep getting free tips and tricks, travel guides, and stories.
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