Long Lake – a photo essay

Posted October 5th, 2012 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on Long Lake – a photo essay

Fostering Ecological Hope
Reflections on Culture and Meaning

by Margaret Swedish

I went looking for autumn yesterday. It was getting a bit ahead of me here in Wisconsin, two weeks early, as it turns out. I usually reserve some time mid-October to get out of the city to bask in the beauty of it. But as the locust trees on my street turned brilliant yellow, and it was still September, and my favorite maple tree in South Shore Park went its annual radiant red, particularly resonant in the early morning or evening sunlight, I knew something was amiss.

Yesterday I responded to the call from deep within that said, “You are missing this. It is not on your schedule. It will go on with or without you.” So I got in the car and headed for the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine. This region of Wisconsin is unique in all the world, a large area of eskers, kettles, and moraines left for us by retreating glacial ice some 25,000-10,000 years ago. Long Lake and others in this area are gifts of this last Ice Age.

Just in time. The fall color was in places close to peak, in others peak and even just past peak. The change came early this year, a result in part of our deep summer drought. Trees shed their leaves early as a way of protecting themselves. Predictions were for a dull display, but abundant spring moisture still in the ground, along with an early cold/frost/freeze spell changed that forecast dramatically. The deep discontent I was feeling about it, about not being in it, finally got to me and off I went.

I had planned a whole other topic for this week’s post, but this overwhelmed those plans as well. Sometimes what I want more than anything is to just invite people to fall in love with our natural world all over again, head over heals in love, the kind that makes you lose sleep at night with that all-consuming longing. Nature is not only our partner, but we are its – it is part of us as intimately as any other relationship. You can tell who cares about our ecological crisis and the degree of that care by how much they are conscious of and living within that intimacy – that love.

Would I fill the body of the one I hold in my arms at night with toxins, carve up his or her body to get something I desired for myself, starve them, open them to let their life forces spill out, wasted forever? Would I sell their body parts to make a profit?

So here’s another invitation to fall in love (of course, if you’re reading this, you probably already have, so why not share it with friends and family, colleagues and communities of which you are a part?).

Long Lake has been for years now one of my favorite places to retreat during the quiet months from Sept-April. I often find myself alone there, or nearly so, as I did yesterday, especially after the sun retreated behind gray clouds and the wind rose up and the temperatures began to fall (this was a time to leave?).  After spending a few hours there, I went off on the country roads farther north and ended the day at Parnell Tower. Here’s a bit of what I witnessed:


Long Lake is named so because it is long, 2.5 miles running north to south. This photo is from the north beach where I love to sit, listen, watch, sometimes read a book, sometimes write a poem.


Restoration of shoreline wildflowers and grasses adds to the contrasts of color, raucous and full of joy.


I call this photo, "red." Ya' think?


I leave the city because I hate being told what to do. Moment of indecision...which direction shall I take, and who, really, can deny me entry?


I mean, really, how can you not take this road?


Or this one...


Or this one.. you see what I mean?


One of nature's casualties


In the end, the long view - from Parnell Tower


And from the other direction - a wow!


How will we say what this day means to us unless we enter it fully, consciously, and aware? How will we save what we love unless we are willing to be with our loved ones, to share their journeys and longings, their gifts and blessings? How will we come to know our world unless we go to it, our hearts open, ready always to receive and then to give back?

There are few things more important than to find a way to stop what we’re doing and look, look deeply, lovingly, fearlessly, unselfishly, without being anxious about what it might mean, how it might change us – and then to enter in.


 All photos: Margaret Swedish

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