Spiritual Coaching Vol 3 – Spiritual Places #5 Pictured Rock http://www.dennymeyer.me
It’s nice to look back at pictures from summers gone by when I struggle to face the -15 degree wind chills of winter. If you think that sounds menacing, imagine the cold winds and snow that rush the shores of Lake Superior and the Pictured Rock National Lakeshore. It is a stunningly beautiful place. The colors in the cliffs are created by the minerals in the rock. The cliffs are composed of the Munising Formation of “Cambrian Period” sandstone. On top of the Munising Formation is the younger Au Train Formation from the “Ordovician Period”. The Au Train Formation is a hard sandstone and acts as a “cap” over the other layers. Streaks on the face of the cliffs come from the groundwater leaching out of the rock. With it come iron (red), manganese (black-white), limonite (yellow-brown), copper (pink-green) and other minerals. As the water evaporates, these minerals leave streaks of color.
Although the Pictured Rocks lie adjacent to sections of Lake Superior that are rich in fish, the sandstone cliffs are dangerous to canoes and other open boats skirting the coastline. Pierre Esprit Radisson, the fur trader, made this risky passage in 1658 and noted that his Native American companions offered some tobacco to the local spirit of the cliffs.
During the Romantic Era of the 1800s, a series of American writers described their feelings upon sight of the Pictured Rocks. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft visited in 1820 and remarked upon “some of the most sublime and commanding views in nature”. As long ago as 1850 developers planned a tourist resort, Grand Island City, adjacent to the Pictured Rocks near the current site of Munising.
After the lumbering era ended around 1910, many of the parcels of land making up the current Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore reverted to the state of Michigan for unpaid property taxes. Congress enacted a law in 1966 to elevate the shoreline between Munising and Grand Marais to the status of a National Lakeshore. Yet, the designation cannot capture the sublime beauty of this place nor the foreboding feeling of being on the water and having a sense of the deep waters and treacherous shoals that are all about.
I love the stories of places like this. Longfellow’s epic poem, ‘The Song of Hiawatha,” provides the legendary history of the Pictured Rocks. According to the tale believed by the Indians, Hiawatha was born on Gitche-Menesing (Grand Island) and raised by old Nakomis, the Daughter of the Moon, who instructed him in the movement of the stars. As a young brave, Hiawatha was taught woodcraft and canoeing, and hunted among the Lake Superior cliffs and forests.
According to the legend, an Indian, Pau-Puk Keewis, the storm fool, wrecked Hiawatha’s lodge and slaughtered his feathered friends. Pau-Puk then sought refuge deep in the caves in the Pictured Rocks. Our God is not nature but instead nature reveals the true love of God to all of us. God is love. Psalm 121 reminds us, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” The beauty of creation is all around us. Sub-zero temperatures can not suppress the enthusiasm I feel when I see our creator at work all around us – every day. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His mercy endures forever.”