the boundary waters.

I remember the first time I visited the northern most stretch of Minnesota, when I was a young girl...

The deep forests were stark – full of pine & birch; a land full of canyon lined rivers and rugged boulders, covered in wet mosses and polished agate; deep green marshes knee deep in moose and loon, who called out by dawn and twilight; valleys full of gliding eagles whose shadows would linger in my wild, youthful eyes; fresh wolf and bear tracks lined the gravel back roads, each leading further into the wilderness - hinting that its first inhabitants were still abound if I wandered off the path; sometimes, even in midsummer there was a crispness in the air that I couldn’t shake no matter warm or cold; so rich it would permeate my skin; so thick & palpable, I could actually draw sustenance from it.

The shores of the great Lake Superior were rugged - born of rock & driftwoods; The horizon line, a gorgeous sweep of heavy blues that lulled my eyes further and further into its cold and ship wrecked waters; air tasting of minerals across my tongue.

And then came the night, with the warmth of a radiating campfire; popping like fireflies in and out of existence; the scent of evergreen and ash woods, burning away, and built from our own hands - cut only a stone’s throw from the woods that sheltered us. I would wrap in my sweaters as the night began to cool, and laugh with everyone who would also be wrapping themselves in their own sweaters; taking in the earned smiles on aging faces, whose aging hands would sometimes be wrapping the little crests and resting breaths of a sleeping child; everything in harmony with the night; living whole where we were. We’d all seemingly glance up at the same time, somewhere late into the hours - as we would endlessly talk in a thousand trailing conversations, that would weave in and out of each other, forming others; And our words would cease as the cosmos took the stage, like shimmering diamonds, every one of them visible against the darkest backdrop that only exists in the middle of nowhere; the sound in those nights – a pure silence, beyond the cascading waters and the wind that hummed from trembling branch to branch; a profound silence; the kind that offers up the deepest breaths and truest healing; and once every few years, when we’d wander the muddy trails to a nearby road – only as bits of echoes & laughter gathered by the night… the lot of us would lay down on the dirt road & look up to find the aurora borealis forming, for which (at 27 years of age, and many many many visits later) I’ve still no words to describe what it means to see it; To have been witness to the moment the earth reminded me that i was alive. None.

As morning would commence in its buttery, irrepeatable light, we’d peel ourselves from our warm beds, as the weather would suddenly turn from sun to fog to rain to sun to rain to fog in a matter of minutes, over the sweeping, unapologetic valley views and endless lakes the north woods are renowned for; everything so full of an irreverent and uninhibited beauty; repeating itself day after day, and forever.

[this is all i wanted to post over here | you may read the full - related article here - for which this was written]

- ash