By: Bob Thacker
I’ve lived a wonderful life. That is to say, I’ve lived a life that’s been filled with wonder. It’s not hard to find, and I don’t work at it: Wonders come to me. They come in autumn light streaming through a crimson maple, or a vibrant carpet of lupines spread out along the highway, or torrents of summer rain cascading into waterfalls. I revel in the silent majesty of the Milky Way, seen from my balcony, or the flurries of hummingbirds dashing in and out of our feeder. I feel intoxicated by the fragrance of wild roses or by hearing the roll of thunder and the crash of stormy waves pounding on the shores of our own inland sea, Lake Superior.
I’ll never forget the first time I encountered The Lake. I was a 10-year-old kid from Nebraska. We didn’t have lakes where I lived; we had ponds. I’d never been on the edge of a body of water so large that you couldn’t see the opposite shore. Lake Superior astonished and terrified me. It made me feel tiny and insignificant and filled me with wonder.
I say the North Shore is where “my soul lives.” It’s sacred to me. It’s the “happy place” I think of when I get my blood pressure checked or when I can’t easily drift off to sleep. And every time I feel a sense of anxiety or am troubled, if I step on the shore and gaze into seeming infinity, all my problems seem tiny. It’s where, in the far distant future, I wish to have my ashes scattered.
For more than 60 years, I’ve returned to Lake Superior again and again. I brought my family. My children clambered over the rocks on the shore. They trekked through endless forests. They’ve seen the double rainbows that often appear over the lake after storms. They know the Caribou, Sawbill, Gunflint and Gitchee Gumi trails as if they were streets in our own neighborhood. Two of them even got engaged on the cliff outside our home on the shore.
Now my children’s children are discovering Superior’s wonders. They canoe, kayak, hike, ski (downhill and cross-country) and snowboard, and skip a million rocks on the frigid waters. They know where to find the best pancakes and taste real maple syrup made from the sap of trees in the deep woods surrounding the sugar shack. They know where to find the best pies and would say that locally made wild-rice blueberry sausage is a delicacy, as is the deeply smoked trout. The older ones know where to sip the best local craft beer, wines and coffee.
The North Shore is Bohemian. Artists, writers and poets call it home and co-exist with the outdoorsy rustic types. In Grand Marais, fine art can be found right next to the camping gear and tackle shops. A sign on a local general store sums it all up: “Live bait. Cappuccino.” Juxtaposition at its best.
Frankly, I can’t imagine what my life would be without the North Shore. Because of it, I’m living not just a “good life” but a wonder-full life.
Artist Bio: Bob Thacker and his wife, Karen Cherewatuk, live in Northfield, Minnesota, where he is retired and she is a professor at St. Olaf College. He has many passions in life and feels that without the North Shore, his glass would truly only be half full.