Friday, 21 October 2011

The St. Marys Rivery, by April Yates

The water is moving by at a pace which is tranquil and calming to the human mind. I sit hand in hand with him, legs just touching, resting on the bench, watching the sight. The water has a glint of sparkle as the sun hits the ever moving surface, and seems to have secrets lurking beneath it.
The St. Mary's River is a river full of history. It is a place full of stories from people who are from all corners of the globe, and from all walks of life. It is a place that everyone can enjoy from a young child splashing in the water to an elderly couple taking a slow stroll along the shore. I feel blessed to be near the St. Mary's River. It brings a sense of comfort to me while I'm at school, because I grew up in a town with a river as well.
The water moving through the St. Mary's River is alive and changing, and yet in the same instant is unchanging and as faithful to Sault Ste. Marie, as is the snow in December. The river is unique in this way, watching generations grow old and new generations come into play. I thought about this as I sat on a bench with him, our hands interlocked. It was great to see him, and especially to bring him to this place, this park, and the water.
I told him about the first weekend I was here, and how a group of friends and I decided to 'explore the Sault' we took a hike downtown. It was the first time I had seen the locks, and the St. Mary's. We went up what is known as the "Tower of History", and climbed all 291 stairs to see the sights from above. It was well worth the climb. The sight of the river was incredible. It made me feel at home, and filled me with a sense of wonder.
We watched the elderly couple next to us and wondered if that would be us. The river held our thoughts from each other. It would remember us, remember this moment, and in turn we would remember it. There are so many things unspoken; that the ripples of the water can speak for us.
I've been at Lake Superior State University for a little over a month now, and I see the water every day. From the campus I can see Canada and view the St. Mary's River. I only have a few memories from this beautiful sight so far, but it seems to be a part of daily life here. My favorite part about the view is that it is now part of my home. I love knowing that I can take a walk downtown and let the water talk to me, tell its stories, and feel its immense history.

Stellanova's Passion, by Leslie Askwith

I met the poet Stellanova Osborn when I was working for the Sault Tribe newspaper. I must have gone there to interview her but can’t remember the details of our conversation, although I have a vivid impression of her presence.
She lived in an apartment at Lake Superior State College, as it was called at the time, with a view of the St. Mary’s River and Canada on the other side. The window overlooked the bridge connecting the two nations and the steel mill with its plumes of smoke and occasional fires burning at the tops of stacks like an Al Gore nightmare. She can’t have loved the sight, for her poetry expresses profound feelings for the St. Mary’s River country and the man to whom she was married for two days, Chase Osborn, the only Michigan governor from the Upper Peninsula.
Stellanova was a wisp of a woman, 92 years old, a glowing presence, light skin and thin white hair. Her body seemed so insubstantial that it seemed to be little more than a frame upon which to support her spirit. Her face was animated and her eyes, lively. Perhaps she was happy to have a visitor, perhaps glad to have someone asking questions about her life, as I must have been there to do, but more likely, she was always an interested participant in her own life.
For her past was intriguing. Her story could have been portrayed as historically important, mystically beautiful and scandalous. For most of her adult life she had worked for a former Michigan governor, Chase Osborn, who, with his wife, Lillian, adopted Stellanova Brunt when she was 37. Upon the death of his, by then, estranged wife Lillian, in 1948, the adoption was annulled and she married her adopted father. He was 87 and she, 54. He died two days after the marriage.
On the day I visited, she reminisced about her life with her beloved “governor” on Duck Island as though they’d watched the sun set over Lake George a week ago, not more than 37 years before. She spoke dramatically, in a style as expressive as the words of her poems. “Golden deed on golden deed, Did not so much, Set this man apart, As sunrise after sunrise, Stored in his heart.” (From Man Apart)
At the end of our visit she read a poem aloud. It was from a collection of her poetry, Summer Songs on the St. Mary’ and when she finished, she autographed a copy and presented it to me … “ With good wishes for her hard work and the famous group of humans to which she contributes, Sincerely, Stellanova Osborn and the Governor, December 20, 1986.”
Stellanova died two years after our visit and was buried next to the governor on Duck Island, on a point of land overlooking the St. Mary’s River. Her gravesite is as she’d hoped it would be, marked by a boulder and shaded by trees. “When I lie down in my last sleep, My flesh and bones and dust shall keep, Contented company with these, Northern rocks and northern trees, That I have loved so long! And when some soul their music hears, Attuned to the symphonic spheres, That song shall be my song!” (Pleasant Dreams)
Her poetry intertwines her profound love for the governor with the St. Mary’s River country, specifically, the island where they spent six months of the year. Duck Island is separated from the east side of Sugar Island by a string of small lakes and narrow streams and is owned by the University of Michigan and open to the public. When I visited there with my Girl Scouts in the 1990s, we were accompanied by the property’s caretaker, a Native man who teased the girls by pointing out the porcupine quills he’d stuck into crevices of his truck’s front bumper, an inscrutable joke to most of us white folks.
It was a damp cloudy day and as we wandered around the main living area, it was easy to envision life there as Stellanova knew it. There were several log cabins on a hill, all with porches overlooking Lake George where she surely sat at twilight “While the moon and the evening star, Peer over the alder’s shoulder, And even the littlest clouds, Are admiring themselves in the water.” (From Twilight Mirror)
In the morning she bathed in the river … “To come upon, This shore at morn Is being like Aurora born.” … My spine is cold, My hands are ice, But this - oh, this Is Paradise.” (From Sudden Glory) And she swam in the river at night. “What have nights in Paris, To compare with nights like these, Where I can see the Big Dipper, Between two pin cherry trees? – Where my camp-fire’s smoke and my frosty breath, Are one with the Milky Way, And the river closing over my head, Has taught me that to pray, Is to bathe the spirit at the start, And the ending of each day!” (From High Life)
One of the structures was a decaying three-sided sleeping room, just the size of a bed, where, our guide told us, the governor slept on a mattress of balsam boughs when there was too much commotion in the main cabin. I remember it as being built of logs, although my memory is sometimes faulty, and considered whether or not she may have been referring to this place when she wrote, “The logs that shelter no one now, Still speak. How they have proved, No cabin can be desolate, That has been so much loved!” (From Eloquence)
Her poems enrich my experience of the St. Mary’s River Country. I recognize the meaning in her words when biking along Scenic Drive on a peaceful misty morning. “God walks upon these waters in the morning, In the sublimity of mists that roll, From Echo reaches to the Neebish Rapids, Flooding the deepest fiords of the soul.” (from October Dawn) They express my reasons for taking my sorrows into the forest. “When I carry, The woes of the world, Into the woods, Branches reach out, And brush them gently off.” (From Censors)
She may be speaking to us in other ways as well. As I was writing this, the phone rang and someone asked for “Star.” I said I was not her and wondered if it was simply coincidence that a call came for someone else named Star while I was thinking about Stellanova or whether it was the kind of divine happenstance she may have been referring to when she wrote, “The sun will come. The chickadees are calling. The weeping fog will rise. There is more to the world today and always, Than meets the eyes.” (From Curtain)

A Poem by Jennifer Randell

Just Across the St. Mary’s River
sitting in the car
I stare down
at the water below
carrying massive cargo
ships blow their horns
locks open
rising water
ships continue
right beside
raging river rapid
flowing over the rocks
rushing past the men
standing in the rapids
casting and reeling
hoping to catch fish
right beside
where the water gives way
to the green shores
the trees sprout
along the winding
beautiful boardwalk
where couples walk
enjoying the view
of the beautiful
blue waves
of the river
the great divide
of two countries
my countries

A Poem, Anonymous, but powerful

Constant motion;
It’s kinetic state ignorant of nationality, language, or religion
The bridge o’er which spans is locked and guarded
By the constantly vigilant watchkeeps of two nations
And yet she moves, ever onward

Dammed to provide heat and light
And yet she moves, ever onward
Uncaring and unknowing
Of the conflicts of Nations and people and machines

Icy and swift she flows,
And nips at the toes of anyone daring enough;
Daring enough to enter her embrace
And still she moves onward

She dances with the light;
Dancing with the light, of Day and Night
A ceaseless,
Timeless dance;
Which Humanity is blessed to behold
A dance as old as the Earth itself

Mesmerized I gaze,
Into the Heart of the City.
And I wonder, just wonder
How old she could be
As she moves,
Ever onward;
And dreams of the Sea

St. Marys River, by Alexis Schefka, LSSU Student

I'm sitting on a bench right now, the light from my computer blocking my vision from anything else around me. If I take it away my eyes could adjust, but it's getting dark. Sherman Park is where I am, the beach is about five feet away from me. I'm looking out onto what looks like a giant bay. I can see windmills in the distance and lights from what looks like a factory over in Canada. It feels like the trees are getting getting ready to end their day just like we are. They look very relaxed, especially with each branch and leaf swaying in the chilly night breeze. I don't have a jacket but it's peaceful enough that I don't mind. The sky is the prettiest right now. The horizon directly in front of me is very pink. Whenever I see that I think, “red sky at night, sailors delight.” That means tomorrow will be a nice day, and in the Soo, that doesn't seem to happen a lot. I think sunsets are such strange things when I actually think back and think about what they are. Any other time of day you cannot stare directly at the sun but at this time, you can. It would be sad if not for the fact that you know it's rising someplace else. When it finally sets, it almost feels like the sun is underneath you, but you know that it is just sharing its energy with others.
The water seems to be holding its breath for how calm it is. Nothing seems to be moving or living at all. But I know that as soon as I were to submerge myself underneath it, it wouldn't change at all unless I had the type of adaptation that marine life do. It seems creepy in a way especially if the water is completely black with darkness. In that case I feel safe on this piece of land, but with the sense of safety comes a twinge of guilt; guilt for living on the safe side.

St. Marys River, by Mark Stephenson, LSSU Student

The Saint Mary's River is a feature of the Soo which many have taken for granted. In the mind of a local, the river is such basic feature of the land that, just like air, earth, or sky, is simply there. They do not spare a thought as to how strongly the town is shaped by the presence of the river and it's locks, nor to how much money and attention it brings. It is, at most a source of good fishing and annoying tourists; something which separate us from all of those Canadians, who constantly seem to be coming over.
In the eyes of an outsider, however, the river is an amazing thing, both an artery of trade, and source of natural wonder; and ab excuse to buy fudge. Dear old Sault Sainte Marie Michigan may not be the most touristy of tourist towns, focused as it is on such serious topics as it's university, it's active border, and all the fishing, but in the eyes of a visitor - or, I dare say, fudgie - the ago-worn buildings bare dignity and age, rather than just a desperate need for new shingles. Indeed, to such eyes the river is an amazing thing, filled with all sorts of amazing ships and interesting things - this is where a local would complain about the constant noise - and how one can sit on a park bench, and simply watch it all slide by.
But what of the eyes of one who has come here often enough to have such wide-eyed wonder worn away? Someone who is not as jaded, perhaps, as those who have always sat before the beauty of the river, and yet still cannot claim the title of true resident. Eyes such as these do exist, and as a possessor of such eyes, I can attest to the ability to find continuing wonder in such a river as our dear Saint Mary's. While it might not be the mighty, surging artery of trade and wealth that it once was, while it might not be liquid poetry, flowing as it does in it's otiose fashion, it still possesses a certain beauty.
Early mornings, shrouded with fog; this is the best face the river presents. It is the time of day in which the fishermen still move slowly, not yet warmed by coffee and tea, and prepare for a morning upon the water. Will they catch something? Perhaps. For many, though, the goal is not meat for the table; it is peace upon the water. Drifting out upon the water, surrounded by fog, backdropped by the mills and smoke of Canada, listening to nothing but the ripples of fish; indeed, this is the best way to enjoy the river. A joy least appreciated by those who see it the most, and most appreciated by those who see it the least.
Oh irony, how you never cease to amaze.
So whether you be a jaded local or wide-eyed visitor, don't forget to appreciate that which the river offers. Sit before it, sit upon it; contemplate the quiet fog and beautiful silence of the river and the town upon it. Forget not that wonder comes not only from the bright and colorful, but also from the slow and soulful. Those who have look past this beauty, be it due to a jaded mind, an obscured eye, or being too occupied by chapped fingers, I suggest simply that you take the time to reflect; what you'll see will surprise you.

St. Marys River, by Devin Provo, LSSU student

I watch as the freighter passes silently through previously calm water, sending ripples to the edges of the river. I have been sitting here for a while now, taking in the sights and sounds near this river. Nearby there is a playground full of young children laughing and playing with their parents. They are oblivious to the awe inspiring sight lurking just a few hundred feet in front of them. My attention is diverted back to the enormous ship looming ahead of me. The water level rises as the ship continues to glide swiftly through the cool, blue water. Looking around, I see others marvel at its magnitude. They too look as though they came to the river to find some peace, almost as if it is a temporary escape. This provides a source for the smiles upon the faces of all who witness this sight. The freighter passes out of my field of vision and slowly the water resumes to its previous state. This simple event has brought happiness to each and every one of the people who were in its presence. It is the simple things in life that bring us the most joy.

Relaxing on the St. Marys, By Sean Majer, LSSU Student

As I get out of the car at Sherman Park, I feel the calm, cool breeze blow past me. I look out and see the vast, flat St. Mary’s river. As I walk down the narrow sidewalk I can see the remnants of a broken staircase. You can see how flowing water has carved the landscape. The hill leading down to the beach is eroded and uneven. As I take my first step into the cold, wet sand I feel how soft it is. It squeezes in between my toes as I walk to sit by the water. I notice how clear the water is and walk in. Only then do I realize how shallow it is. I begin to wonder how long it stays at that depth. However, it is getting close to sunset so I choose to stay on shore.
I look for a place to sit down. At the end of the beach to my left and right there are large rocks that extend into the water. I consider sitting on them, but then I see an old log buried in the sand directly in the center of the beach. It is perfect timing because the sun is just about to set. The shades of orange and pink show through the clouds. It looks so beautiful and it’s so calming. As I sit here, I listen to all of the different sounds of nature. I hear the ducks quacking to my right and seagulls to my left. I hear the soft splashing of the water as it comes ashore. Nature is a beautiful thing and it has so many sounds; all you need to do is listen.
As I look out over the water I notice the bright glow on the water from the sunset. I see hills in the distance that stand out even more with the sun behind them. Out of the corner of my eye I barely see the reflection of the sun on the windmills as they spin. I continue to sit on my log and observe nature. Just as the sun starts to disappear below the horizon I can see the flashing lights on top of the hills in Canada and on the buoys in the water.
Nature is my second home. I love being outside and being active. I feel so at peace and relaxed when I am outdoors. I would rather be in a secluded spot alone, but at night Sherman Park was pretty much just that. When I need to get away from everything and relax, this is probably where you will find me.