Naked, I ran into the waves with my fellow women. The wind touched my skin and the sun’s unblinking eye watched from the horizon as we laughed and splashed. The cold water delighted us. The bracing feel of waves crashing into me was as if everything was being ripped away from me but this moment where the sky was painted in pastel hues that faded into indigo thunderheads.
We were at a secluded spot on Lake Michigan, modeling for a photography project called “The Women We Are”. I had waited patiently for the time when I would be released from props and light reflectors so that I might return for a time to my beloved Great Lakes. I am a Michigan girl at heart. At night I go to sleep knowing I am surrounded on three sides by the protective and moderating waters of these lakes. I also know the danger of the lakes. The riptide that pulls you down, the rocks that lay in wait. The sisters are all complicated, both giving and taking. In that moment she gave to us a gift of beauty and strength. I was renewed by my freedom. The rebellion of my body unclothed, kissed by the waters, was sweet indeed.
Each sister has her own personality, gifts, and dangers. I know Lake Michigan and Lake Huron most intimately. I think of them as the twins, touching at the tip of the Lower Peninsula where the Mackinaw Bridge spans the rocky waters there. Michigan shares a gentler and more joyous face with us. Her sandy beaches and powerful wind whipped waves remind me of perfect paintings of Victorian beaches or vacation brochures. She has a dark side, the riptide. Even as recently as the past season she has pulled young or inexperienced swimmers down to live with her under the waves. Never underestimate the danger of the lakes.
Huron shows a sterner face. Her rocky beaches are harder to walk on, and in my meditations she has not always been friendly. The subtle movement of her water meeting the land can be hypnotic, and trances are easy to reach with her. You must earn her trust before she will happily part with her stones and treasures. She seems to have a soft spot for the joy a child finds in a shiny rock or a gull feather. The Saginaw Bay is part of Huron as well. It can be a dark and stagnant place, which I wrote about here.
This summer I visited Superior for the first time ever. It was a pagan pilgrimage for me, and I had been advised of her powerful and dangerous nature. Her energy was compared to a high power line, and stories of the many ships sunk in her icy waters completed her ominous reputation. I had been told of the mists that come in over the water, obscuring vision and the temptation to go so deep into trance that it was difficult to come back. As we drove northward through the pine woods and rocky terrain so unlike the Lower Peninsula the mist rolled in, just as I had been told. The hair on the back of my neck rose with the anticipation of all things Wyrd. We arrived and there was no easy or immediate access to the beach, so typical of my family, we hopped the fence and wandered off anyway. I met her for the first time, and hype aside, what I found was peace. The Eldest Sister brought me peace, calm, and healing. I saw the gentle side of the harsh sister.
Each of the Great Lakes has given me gifts, and I have given them small things in return, like a child bringing a mother a bouquet of dandelions. What could I truly give them that they don’t already have? I give them my respect. I have donated money to keep them safe and whole. There is an ADF prayer, written by Ceiswr Serith that goes:
The waters support and surround us
The land extends about us
The sky stretches out above us.
At the center burns a living flame.
May all the Kindred bless us.
May our worship be true.
May our actions be just.
Blessings, and honor, and worship to the Holy Ones.
The waters truly do support and surround me. My lakes, my land, my home. I am grateful for the gifts given, may what I give be received with joy and understanding. May everyone partake of the gifts of the Ladies of the Lakes, in wisdom and joy.