Michigan Dreams

Michigan seems like a dream to me now.... - Simon & Garfunkel in "America"
Me, age 6 or 7, Black River Harbor, MI.
My mom, age 20, Black River Harbor, MI. 1978
Michigan's upper peninsula is literally a place of dreams to me.

When I was younger, I had a recurring dream. I was on a beach of smooth pebbles, sorting through them. In the dream, I was annoyed because someone wanted to show me something I wasn't interested in. I was looking for a specific rock. It was very important. Finally, I felt like if I didn't follow the person that instant, I'd be in trouble. I turned. It was my aunt, Melissa. The lake before us was calm and blue, the sun bore down on us and I squinted. Melissa lead me on to a breaker of huge, angular boulders. We climbed over the slippery rocks, me in my water-shoes, Melissa in her Keds.
A double rainbow over Lake Gogebic.
Rainbow Falls. 1978
Kitch-iti-kipi, looking straight down into the water.

The place is a real place, and to this day, I'm not sure if I actually ever did that or not. It seems so real, but it would have been so long that dream and memory have co-mingled. I may have seen a picture of the scene and inserted myself in it. I'm fairly sure I never would have been allowed on to those rocks, especially since in the dream/memory, I am about seven years old.

When I was in my teens, our family took a vacation to the Upper Peninsula, where we sometimes stayed at a cabin on Lake Gogebic. One day, we took a drive to Black River Harbor, almost as far west as Michigan goes, where the Black River empties into Lake Superior. The beach is made of water-smoothed pebbles, not sand, and the breaker allows boats to exit the river and go into the lake without being battered by waves.

But I didn't see this when we first got there.

Our aim was to hike a trail up to some waterfalls. Rainbow Falls, I think they were called. My cousins and I ran through the woods like Pocahontas, fleet-footed, dodging trees, tireless, joyful. On the way back, we took a smaller, unmarked trail that spilled us out into the sun on that pebbled beach.

It was quite a moment. I saw the image from my dream. A smooth, pebbled beach. Driftwood. To the left, a breaker. It was like deja-vu but stronger. I had never known if it was a real place, but there it was, in front of me. I felt like I had created the place, it was so exact to what I had in my memory.

The U.P. has always held this quality for me. I have a hard time separating memories from stories I heard or things I imagined. I remember stopping on highway 2 somewhere, wading out into the warmth of a shallow Lake Michigan shore. I remember a lake so clear that you could see straight to the bottom, 40 feet down. It was as colorful and alive as a coral reef. Fish flew instead of swam. We went out on the lake on a raft which we pulled along by means of a rope strung shore to shore.

Did I do that for real, or did I read it in a book? Who can say?

I have definitely written things that certainly did not happen, but take place in real Michigan places. The Caldera (click to read)  is a dream-story set in the Lake of the Clouds. Lake of the Clouds, is not, in fact, a caldera, which is a lake formed in the collapsed crater of a volcano, but it is a high-elevation lake often wreathed in clouds.

I could go on, listing fantastic places in the UP.

But what is really special about all of the things I remember (or think I do) about the Upper Peninsula is that they are all of the earth. They are primal. They are left over from geological processes that happened millions of years ago. Michigan was created by titanic, earth-moving forces. Forces so great, that in order to comprehend them, my mind defaults to magic or dreams, where things don't have to make sense.

And the best part is...they are all real places! What I remembered as a clear lake is actually a spring called Kitch-iti-kipi. Black River Harbor and Rainbow Falls are real. Lake of the Clouds is almost as haunting in real life as it is in my fiction. And you can go there.

Black River Harbor & Rainbow Falls - http://www.superiortrails.com/black-river-mi.html
Kitch-iti-kipi - http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?type=SPRK&id=425
Lake of the Clouds - http://porcupinemountains.com/activities/lake-of-the-clouds/

A map of the places mentioned in this post:

View Dreams of Michigan in a larger map

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