I have a favourite lakeside spot that has long held a special place in my heart. As a child, my parents took me to the beach to swim and play. As a teenager, when the smelt were running in the spring, groups of us would delight in scooping them up by the bucketful, building a huge bonfire on the beach and enjoying a fish fry. As a young adult, I strolled with lovers in the moonlight along the meandering shoreline. I would take my frail Great Aunty there in her waning years and I would bundle her up and we would picnic in the shelter of the car. Now, I find it to be a haven of peace and inspiration for me.
It is about 26 miles from home - not that far and easily accessible by car. IT is the delightful little village of Port Stanley on the shores of Lake Erie, the fourth largest lake in surface area of the five Great Lakes system and the shallowest of the Great Lakes.
Because the lake is so shallow, it is prone to developing extremely rough waters very quickly, especially during storms. It also has a wicked undertow. As a result, it is the resting place for about 1,150 shipwrecks, one of the most dense concentrations of any waterbody in the world.
Port Stanley is the largest north shore inland federal harbour which attracts impressively large lake vessels and is home to a commercial freshwater fishing industry reknowned for its yellow perch and walleye.
In the summer time, the tiny port is alive with cottagers, boaters and beach goers and it is the time of year that I avoid going there, simply for that reason. However, in early spring and mid fall, it is virtually devoid of people and those are the times of year I take my little retreats, enjoying the wildness and splendour of it's natural beauty. I look forward to that time and make several journeys on what has now become a bi-annual ritual for me.
Before the onset of winter, I enjoy the changing skyline and the turbulence of the lake as nature prepares for the long cold to come. The gulls dip and dive in the air currents as the wintery winds take control of their flight. The disconnection from the hub bub of the city is refreshing, the brisk winds invigorating and I am in awe of the power of nature.
Intricate patterns are formed in the sand
where the waves have been whipped up onto the shoreline by frenetic winds.
And the desolate life guard's tower steels itself for the winter blasts to come.
In the springtime, the promise of life anew is made even more poignant as the beach is littered with the detrius of the storms and the carcasses of fish and gulls which has an almost haunting beauty to it.
My walks there are soulful and thought provoking and in my explorations along the beach, I often find little cast offs from nature that I use in my work.
It's also a reminder of life's passages, the journey we are on and the frailty of life vs the forces of nature.
And then on the blueness of the horizon, there appears a little fishing trawler chugging back to the safety of the harbour. The first run of a new season, braving the early chill with hopes of a fresh catch and the promise of a good year. And all is well.......
I hope I am able to continue my little pilgrimages here for yet some years to come, for the times spent at the port renew and inspire me, filling my heart and soul with joy.