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Natural theater
Oct. 12, 2018
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by Ivan Raconteur

Watching video of the massive waves rolling off the big lake this week makes me miss the northland.

Growing up on the north shore of Lake Superior, I was spoiled. I had a front row seat in one of the most fabulous natural theaters in the world, and it was all free.

We got to see the lake in all her moods. There were times the surface was as smooth as a pane of glass, and other times when it was as wild as a witch’s cauldron on the boil.

When something the size of Lake Superior starts moving, it is bound to be impressive. The lake is about 350 miles long and 160 miles wide, with a surface area of about 31,700 square miles.

The lake is fun to watch in all seasons, but this time of year can be especially dramatic.

People who live along the lake’s 2,726 miles of shoreline often go down to the shore to watch the show.

When things get really lively, as they did this week, it’s not uncommon for people from a wider area to drive to Duluth or other places along the shore to view the theater of nature, and that doesn’t surprise me.

It is one thing to watch the storms on video.

It’s something entirely different to experience it in person.

When the lake is angry, I like to stand along the shore listening to the roar of the rollers crashing against the rocks, while the spray slashes my face, and I can feel the power of nature through the soles of my shoes.

Storms on Lake Superior are something to be experienced, not just watched on a screen.

There are a lot of lakes in Minnesota, and some people have a very different idea of what waves are. Once you have felt the power of a lake on which waves can reach 30 feet high as they come roaring toward shore, it changes your perspective on your place in the universe forever.

Some people who live along the shore have a hobby that only people who live near big water experience. After a major storm, they walk along the shore to see what the waves have churned up. One never knows quite what to expect.

There is a sobering element in all this, too.

As much as I enjoy being immersed in the power of the lake, there have been many times I’ve been thankful I wasn’t on a boat out on the lake.

I can’t help thinking of the many people who have succumbed to her power.

More than 350 shipwrecks have been recorded on Lake Superior, and I suspect there were many more in the early days that went unrecorded.

This is a testament to how powerless we are when we attempt to defy nature.

At its deepest, the lake is about 1,300 feet deep. It must be like another world that far from the surface. The bottom of the lake is not a place I’d care to experience in person.

Apart from its raw power, the thing I remember most about Lake Superior is its infinite beauty. I have watched countless sunrises and sunsets along its shore, and this is a treat that never gets old.

I’d rather watch the lake than a television or computer screen any day of the week.

Living here in the flatlands, I pause when I see videos of the lake. I suppose they provide at least a glimpse into what lake life is like.

What they mostly do, however, is make me wish I were there in my front row seat in one of the greatest natural theaters in the world.


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