Saturday, May 10, 2008

Chippewa Park

1936 postcard of Chippewa Park. This land is Ojibwe land, but in 1917 the city of Fort William co/erced/nvinced the Anishnabek of what was then called the Mission Reserve (created through the Robinson-Superior Treaty of 1850 and now known as Fort William First Nations) to sell 270 acres to the city for $25,000. You can read a 1982 history of Chippewa Park online; this history is told from the settler side. This land, of course, holds many stories; many are unwritten, but they're there.

72 years later the bathing beach above tells another story. Of course, the story in the old postcard is merely an artist's rendition and may be more fiction than fact. The city was promoting the park for its settler population, so this postcard can be read as early propaganda selling the idea of leisure, which was becoming a new market. At the horizon, you can see the foot of Nanabijou. Walk to the point, to the last tree...

and on the other side: a rock shelf, once the ancient shore of the huge glacial lake that existed before Lake Superior, many moons before the explorers, colonizers, settlers and mapmakers arrived...

this rock has a language all its own, a beautiful language that needs no tongue

and if you cast your gaze up through the years of sediment

way up


you will see that something intimate is going on here...

look down. The water paints the rock shelf reptilian

and a nightmare of driftwood screams at your feet

Watch out! the cobble beach stumbles your step...

stares back at you ...

and secret codes appear silently out of nowhere. Bending down, you run your fingers along the lines, then lift your eyes ...

and look out, out to the horizon, and see that you are home again no matter where you travel.

you walk to the water's edge

eagle emerges

the sound of water running through stone enters

just as the sun goes behind the clouds. Suddenly, you shiver. It's getting chilly here by the north face.

Time to leave.

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