In my last post I mentioned the legend, "Lake Superior rarely gives up her dead." I'd like to relate my personal story of a shipwreck that defied that adage.
While driving along Lake Superior near Whitefish Point in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, I happened upon a sign pointing to a scenic outlook. A steep one lane road led to the top of Mission Hill. The treacherous road was worth the trek to see the panoramic view of a peninsula jutting into Spectacle Lake.
Atop Mission Hill, across the dirt road from the outlook, is a historic Indian cemetery with many graves dating in the 1800's. To my surprise I found eight stones flush to the ground with nothing on the stones except one word, "UNKNOWN." I could not help but wonder at the story behind the simple graves. Later that same day I accidentally stumbled upon the answers to my questions. While visiting the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point, I found a display dedicated to the SS Myron shipwreck.
The SS Myron was a wooden steamship built in 1888. She spent 31 years as a lumber hooker on the Great Lakes until she sank in 1919 on Lake Superior during a November gale. In the spring of 1920 the remains of eight sailors were found encased in ice and they were buried in the old Indian cemetery atop Mission Hill. I had chills as I read the story.
An editor from the UK recently asked me, "Where is Lake Superior and why does it have a lighthouse?"
At first I was stunned by the question. I was born in Michigan, USA, so I easily assume everyone knows the Great Lakes are 84% of North America's fresh water and 21% of the world's supply of surface fresh water. Only the polar ice caps contain more fresh water. On the map one can see the Great Lakes are nestled between Canada and the USA states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Lake Superior , the largest of the five Great Lakes, is considered the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, stretching 2,726 miles of shoreline between USA and Canada, with an average depth of 483 feet.The Ojibwe call it gichigami, meaning "be a great sea."
According to legend, Lake Superior seldom gives up her dead. There are over 6,000 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, having an estimate loss of 30,000 mariners' lives. There are about 550 wrecks in Lake Superior, most of which are undiscovered. At least 200 shipwrecks lie along a treacherous 80-mile stretch between Munising, Michigan, and Whitefish Point. The famous Edmund Fitzgerald lies just 15 miles to the northwest of Whitefish Point.
There are more than 115 Great Lakes lighthouses, and it was the lonely little East Channel Lighthouse on Grand Island near Munising, Michigan, that inspired me to write "WOLF EYE SLY."
I hope I answered the editor's question!
In yesterday's post I mentioned photographs often spark a writer's imagination. I have first-hand experience with this concept, because it was after viewing a photograph that I launched an entire book series.
While on a boat tour of the Picture Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, I snapped a photo of the East Channel Lighthouse on Grand Island in Munising, Michigan. It was later, when I had returned home and was gazing at the photograph, that I became captivated. The lighthouse looked so lonely and vulnerable. I had to know more.
A little investigation on Google, and I learned the East Channel Lighthouse has a fascinating history. Built in 1868, the lighthouse did it's part guiding sailing vessels on the Great Lakes for over a century, but years of erosion took their toll, and the lighthouse was in critical danger of eroding into Lake Superior until a local rescue committee was formed. Through private fund raising the lighthouse was restored to it's current condition.
My imagination rocketed, and soon I envisioned a fictitious lighthouse on a rocky point, an eccentric old lighthouse keeper who found buried treasure and moved it, and a whole town full of crazy characters. The story took on a life of it's own, and I envisioned my heroine and hero for this love story. WOLF EYE SLY, the first of my WOLF EYE LIGHTHOUSE SERIES, was born.
Plotting romantic comedies while delving into photography are two activities you don't see combined very often. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the duo is rare. I have discovered that my two favorite endeavors, writing romance and art photography, somehow combine nicely in ways I never would have expected. On the surface both seem like very different activities, but they are both creative processes, and one seems to fuel the other.
Like a burden or a life quest, I was born with the desire to write. At a young age I told my teacher I wanted to write books. This 'knowing early on' seems to be common among many writers. I have read in authors' bios that they also knew from a young age they were meant to write. I feel I didn't find writing, it found me. I must do it or die. On the other hand, I chose photography as a hobby in my adult years, and to my surprise the hobby turned into a passion. I learned that traipsing around with my Nikon is good therapy. I am never in a bad mood after shooting a sunset. I always return home with a smile on my face.
Interestingly, I learned photos often spark ideas for stories. I opened my eyes and realized love stories are all around me.So now I focus my lens and stay sharp. I never know when the next idea for a story is right there on my memory card.
It was my birthday yesterday, and what a year it has been. While I'm reluctant to shout out to cyberspace I've burned another decade, it is corny but true that one gains a certain wisdom as the years roll past.
I have learned there is nothing more humbling that receiving a gazillion birthday messages on Facebook. Family, friends, acquaintances, and little known friends of a friends suddenly popped up to wish me happy birthday out of the goodness of their heart. It only takes a minute to write a few words of well wishes, but when it is read over and over the cumulative effect was magnified to the tenth power, and I felt very grateful.
I have learned that my daughter is now a young woman. I'm not sure when this invisible baton was passed in the tag team of life, but she's pursuing her dreams with gusto, and that's all I ever wanted. When she was a little girl I read somewhere that "Parents are big people helping little people be big people too." I succeeded.
And most of all I have learned I need to keep writing, writing, writing. Why? Because it makes me happy.