The grey ghost of a harbor town like Duluth has always held tight to a corner of my imagination. Growing up landlocked it was the closest I’d ever gotten to a real ocean. After college, it was an exotic weekend destination with an assortment of friends.
Susan and I made that North Country pilgrimage a number of times in my old VW. We would sit on some rocky shoreline and wax philosophically about our lives and destiny. We were both stalled in that preverbal fork in our lives, deciding which way to turn and with whom. Later in life, the ‘dream catcher’ became my weekend nest when it wasn’t being rented out.
The North Shore was the setting for one of my first screenplays and a lot of subsequent treatments; some of which came to fruition and others that never quite materialized into novels or plays. It was training ground for Melanie and me while building up mileage for the Twin Cities Marathon. It was a wonderful place for Sharon and me to get lost wandering the rocky shoreline and surrounding woods.
Last summer Sharon and I journeyed back up north for the first time in a long time. It was a welcome retreat to the land of scented pine trees and sea-salt breezes. Lake Superior hasn’t changed at all with its blanket of green hugging its shoreline. The feelings came tumbling back in wonderful memories of the North Shore and that great inland ocean.
Memories have a funny way of embellishing the good times and diminishing the bad ones. Time and progress keep moving forward and the North Shore is no exception. Duluth has been steadily improving its downtown core but along the way, commercialism has crept closer to my old haunts.
For example, Canal Park has unfortunately gotten more crowded and commercial. Parking meters blanket the area and the loose casual hippie atmosphere has been replaced by a land rush to corral as much of the tourist dollar as possible. Never the less it still provides a fun place to watch those ocean-going behemoth ships trailed by minnow sailboats ply the harbor waters.
It’s still a place to imagine what it would be like crewing on one of those ocean-going vessels. That fantasy was first ignited in my imagination back in high school (blog: Old Man and the Sea). It hasn’t left since. Too little, too late, too long ago but still it keeps poking its curious head up every once in a while.
The next morning a bone-chilling fog has snuck into town with the morning dew. It was enveloping and blinding and provided just the right atmosphere for my noir movie if only the script was complete. Fog is a constant reminder of that inland ocean on top of the city. It only adds to the mystery and intrigue that makes Duluth the perfect spot for story ideas.
Our involvement with Duluth and the North Shore deepened about fifteen years ago with ‘the Dream Catcher;’ one of only fourteen octagonal units clustered near the main chalet on Spirit Mountain just outside of Duluth.
For Sharon and me, ‘Dream Catcher’ was the perfect retreat from the commercial storm below. It, along with the other Mountain Villas, are rental units each individually owned. They provide income to their owners as well as a welcome retreat on select weekends when they’re not being used.
We owned our unit for over ten years and it provided an ideal place to camp out and enjoy all that the North Shore had to offer. It was the Bay Front Blues Festival, folk singing at the coffee house in Canal Park, the Lighthouse, Skyline Drive and Two Harbors. We both felt a tingle of sadness when it was time to sell and move on.
I have a lot of wonderful memories of sitting on our deck overlooking St. Louis Bay and watching the ships pass under the lift bridge. It fueled a plethora of storylines meant for sharing. Some were written while others remain sequestered in a file folder. Maybe they’ll be unlocked sometime in the future under the desert sun.
Isn’t it strange how that works out sometimes?