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Tranquility to the max

Lake Seagull, BWCA – 30 miles up the Gunflint Trail out of Grand Marais, Minnesota.


This is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Water is the abundant molecule, but I like to imagine the magnificent canyons I’d see if it were all drained. Water is so copious up here that land never seems more than an island – the bluffs overlooking the underwater canyons which teem with unseen life. There’s a third spatial dimension up here – depth – one that city blocks and floor plans fail to capture. This world has obvious elevations, terrain contours, peaks and valleys (much of it below water). The water's surface is the contrast – vast and smooth. You can sense that this water is a slice of perfect sphere, a seet of mirror.


The new spatial dimension requires the sacrifice of time. We were fortunate enough to make the mistake of bringing in only one clock, which we failed to set prior to the two hour paddle from car to the campsite. Cell phones were the previous reference, but they were left behind because radio waves rarely make it out here. Our noon was simply when the sun was at the zenith. That was the only indication. It was unknown to us how much dusk and dawn were pushed apart at these high latitudes. One attempt to set the terribly imprecise alarm clock for dawn was embarrassingly far off; the sun had probably been yellow for hours. I have never been through longer stretches of daylight in my life.


When wind came, this force of nature has never before seemed so impressive. Stare upwind from your swinging hammock and you see unfathomable amounts of water drifting casually towards you as many island-riding platoons of trees point their leaves your way. Numerical descriptions have no comprehensible meaning on such scales


Nor has the sun ever been so impressive, inescapable, permeating everything.


The earth is rocky, but smoothed by eons of erosion. It melds seamlessly, as if smudged by the colossal finger of an artist: into water in one direction and into grass and tree in the other. Pines can be as exotic as palms.


In this place you feel the vastness of the earth and the complexity of an ecosystem. You feel the impact and the proof of personally unverified truths. The Earth really does rotate – there’s the sun arching across the sky. At night there’s an entire planet blocking your view of it, so you build a campfire in remembrance. The planet exists even in our absence – here you are in a place dominated by life, but there’s not another person for miles. Object permanence is now fully realized. Blues have never been deeper and greens never more vibrant. They mix and balance each other perfectly. You feel as though you could approach sensory and mental overload, but inexplicably you have never felt more tranquil. No worries, only the best of friends and the rawest of nature.