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Lake Superior subtext
"Stories leave physical evidence. They also leave what I call juju, an ethereal sense of story that is nonetheless palpable."
-- Danielle Sosin

by Danielle Sosin


The first time I saw Lake Superior I was 5 years old. I consider it my first experience, my first connection with a sea. Even then, as my small body stood before that vast gray body of water, I felt the wonder, the hauntedness and the mystery that is Lake Superior.

I've now lived on the lake for 10 years. I see it daily, and still its power has not diminished. In writing the novel "The Long-Shining Waters," I attempted to explore just what makes Lake Superior such an intense and intriguing presence. The book's setting, its subject and its subtext are Lake Superior. "The Long-Shining Waters" is a novel about place.

I believe that place is story and that stories leave evidence. Archaeology is the pursuit of the physical evidence of stories lived before our time. Still, you don't have to be an archaeologist to know about this evidence firsthand. When I dug garden beds in my yard in Duluth, I found horseshoes, marbles, old glass bottles, toy car axles and rusty objects - only some discernable - as well as a very cool plastic horse.

Stories leave physical evidence. They also leave what I call juju, an ethereal sense of story that is nonetheless palpable. This juju can be felt through the experience of personal memory and place. When I near the neighborhood where I grew up in south Minneapolis, it's as if the air thickens around me, slowing my pace though activating my memory as layers of history clamor and crowd in: the sidewalk where my father, running alongside me, first let go of my two-wheel bike; the elm trees that once arched over the street; a round, tomato-orange transistor radio.

Yet there are places so strangely loud and loaded, that one can feel them upon encounter, even without prior memory. Lake Superior is one. In the novel, I worked with this premise - that place is story, that Lake Superior is holding its history. This is true, literally. The evidence lies scattered on the frigid lakebed.

But more importantly, I worked with the idea that the lake is holding its history in a watery subconscious way that affects the people who live on its shores. It's what I feel when I encounter Lake Superior by boat, on a beach, from its ledges of ancient rock - the echoes of what has come before, swirled in nonlinear currents of time, connecting me profoundly to larger story.

Danielle Sosin is the author of "Garden Primitives" and "The Long-Shining Waters." She lives in Duluth. www.daniellesosin.com

BookShelf:
Danielle Sosin recommends these books with a sense of place by women authors:
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
For the Time Being by Annie Dillard
Love Medicine/Beet Queen/Tracks trilogy by Louise Erdrich
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

What's on your bookshelf?
Send us 450 words about your booklife, plus your list of five related books by women authors. editor@womenspress.com

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