Bayfield, Wisconsin, USA | August 15 & 16, 2010
A thousand voices of the wind called to us across the royal expanse of Lake Superior. The tiny town of Bayfield lay prostrate in the gales and tumbled down the hill toward the frigid waters. Its piers and docks like the arms of man in submission. We stood in Memorial Park and listened to the consonance of the wind: snapping flags, the hushing of leaves, and the hollow clang of rigging against masts held the echoes of previous ages rife with lost explorers and doomed boatswains. The lake claimed what the wind gifted. But to me, this largest and greatest of the Great Lakes was little more than a reflection of the sky, a rude imitation of that airy dominion.
Off the peninsula, the Apostle Islands stubbornly withstood the barrage of waves flung into their forested shores. On the exterior observation deck of the ferry brisk air chapped our faces red and filled our nostrils with the clean scent of polar regions. The morning sun hammered the water into a burnished silver, and great swells rocked the parked vehicles below as parents clamped clammy hands on their giggling children. As if at the command of the wind, whitecaps stretched and broke against the hull sending spray over the rails like liquid birdshot. Our hoods blew from our heads in limp heaps, and we bore the cold scouring, our crowns dipped into the wind, until the ferry docked at Madeline Island.
Viewed from the orchard-lined hills above Bayfield, the sky turned rose as it kissed the treetops of that island. Such art permeated the natural surroundings and people, and artists always accumulate in the shadow of dominant nature. Jewelry-makers, potters, carvers, painters, and weavers shared elbow room in the local pubs with farmers, sailors, and guides. Artists of different ilk. If art is a feeling ensconced in a totem, then for us it was a kiln-fired mug decorated with a rudimentary bear, a purchase that would turn into prophecy.
The crown of Wisconsin taught us a subtle lesson in supplication, of finding our places in some greater pecking order. Walking the brownstone trail back to our motel that last night, ice cream cones in hand, we encountered a black bear. There was no attack, no surveillance. There was only a shared fright, and two humans and a bear running away from each other into the windy night.