Sunday, December 31

“…Of the big lake they call ‘Gitche Gumee.”

If you are a Gordon Lightfoot fan, you know that the blog title is the second line from the misty ballad, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Lightfoot’s amazing voice turns this into a haunting tale set to beautiful music. For reasons not clear to me, “The Wreck…” has been circling in my brain for some time now. It led me to wondering about Gordon, what’s happened to him? I did a Google search (how did we ever live without the immediate access of search engines?) and printed out the lyrics to the song. Lightfoot's depiction of men lost in water and the mysteries of Lake Superior are profound. Interesting timeline of the ship's history.

I was surprised to learn that Lightfoot had, at one time, been near death but appears okay now. I’ve since downloaded my Lightfoot favorites on the MP3 player and the “…Edmund Fitzgerald” is now permanently etched on my brain! This led me to researching the name “Gitche Gumee,” which is an Anglicization of the Ojibwa “Gichigami,” which means “big water.” Who remembers the Wadsworth poem “The Song of Hiawatha,” where Gitche Gumee is mentioned? I think that’s the very first time I heard the term, when I had to memorize parts of the poem. Call it ocean envy, but in many ways both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior have always seemed like oceans to me: massive, deep, beautiful, and unpredictable, calm yet able to produce whipping waves, high winds, and deadly tombs. Scary sea creatures are the only thing missing in the lakes that I know of. But many other mysteries abound in lake waters.

While doing research for the Lake Michigan trip, I remember a couple of guys who endured my relentless need to go over every detail ad nauseum. They implied that I should just get on with it, go with the flow, and be more spontaneous. Given that, the preps for the Lake Superior tour are going to bug them. I’ve already started and the trip is about six month away! But in my defense, what may sound like anal retentive behavior to some, is my way of mentally preparing for the exploration, demystifying every aspect of the route, and facing whatever apprehensions may lurk beneath my skin about being out there alone. The preparation process produces a calming and anticipatory response. Remember, I’m alone out there. In my opinion, I don’t think any woman in her right mind ought to go anywhere—including—and perhaps especially on a motorcycle without having prepared a great deal. No offense, men, but some of you guys make venturing out alone difficult and sometimes dangerous for women. I wish I could throw caution to the wind, just hang loose and get out there too. Sorry, I don’t trust men that much. I’m not afraid to go anywhere, but I am going to to be smart about where I’m going. I expect the best, but prepare for the worst.

I need to know where I’m going; I need contingency plans; I need to see in my mind’s eye the curves and dips in the route--not so many as to detract from the fun--just enough to feel confident about riding my own ride. It’s when I’ve mastered my plans and reigned in my unconscious anxieties that I can comfortably and freely venture off the beaten path. I realize too that riding with someone can eliminate some of these rituals I create, but that hardly addresses the real issues, does it? We enter the world alone, and we will leave it alone. Riding solo is my mediation on being with me, myself, and I. It’s one of the few things I do now where my full and total presence is mandatory. Okay, before I get too maudlin, I’m going to close…