Tag Archives: lake erie

Watery and Windswept – some days on an island in an inland sea

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I have written before of our past journeys to a magical little spot of land in the middle of a not-too-very-far-away inland sea…. Kelley’s Island is a few hours’ drive and a brief ferry trek across the waves and we enjoy a different side of it every time we visit.  (For past inland island tales, click here and here.)

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This year, due to a traffic back up on the highway on our way northward, we arrived rather late to set up camp.  It was windy and threatening predicted rainfall.  No pictures were taken, no sketches were made. Tents were pitched against the bluster and the decision was made to stay off the water until the following morning when the annual Kelley’s Island Poker Paddle was slated to begin as darkness was upon us….

We slept fitfully in our tents, which while protecting us from the elements, still allow in the roar of the waves and the voice of wind; and awoke to angry skies and rumors of badly-tempered waves.

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Alas we found that for this day at least, the poker paddle event was canceled.  So a few of us hopped into cars to drive the island roads and survey the moods of the waves battering the rest of the island.  Lake Erie is a shallow lake compared to its cousins and just an overnight’s wind can kick up some surf.

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Some spots seemed more dangerous than others.  And we contemplated this temperamental lake.

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I snapped pictures of not only the lake’s moodiness, but signs that autumn was already more into full gear just this far north of us.

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Eventually, there were signs that although a circumnavigation of the entire island might be in poor judgement, there might be enough sunshine out to warrant some play amongst the waves in the safety of the little harbor at our camping place…..  And some intrepid souls decided to head out to play.

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I debated.  On the one hand, I have this boat I like to spend time in.

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But I was a bit chilled, and was enjoying being beached.

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I had just brewed a pot of tea.

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But in the end, I opted for a little time in the rough water, more as practice time than anything else.


I was rewarded with a few seconds here and there of good surfing.  And while the wind was cold, the water was not, so we practiced getting in and out of the boats to stay up on emergency skills in case of a water-bourne mishap one day.  Hopefully we will not have to use these skills in real life, but it is good to keep up to date.  And to test my stomach.  I had been on the ginger for a number of days, and thankfully, had no sea sickness.

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I came into harbor sooner than most, but eventually we all caught up with each other to warm up and see what else the day had to bring us.

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While the more intrepid stayed out on the water for more surfing, I sat with my sketchbook and watercolors and watched the colors dance on the water and the sky.

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Eventually we decided an afternoon hike might be in order.

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Kelley’s has a rich history of industry and quarrying and so one is likely to wander across remnants of days gone by being recaptured by the forest.

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We continued on through the forest, following the voice of the lake….

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…aided by what felt at times like the spirit of the place. Most places have a spirit of sorts and the spirits of Kelley’s are alive and well and willing to show us the way.

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This island is not a really big place and soon, we had once again reached the water’s edge….

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Kelley’s is renowned for a number of special things such as glacial grooves.  On this hike we visited the Alvar region of the island….

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This side of the island does take a beating from the perpetuation of the waves.


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There are even fresh water ‘tide’ pools of sorts which shine like jewels.

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We walked along pebbly shores which were seemingly made up of all shades of beigey whiteness.


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Upon closer inspection, of course, we see that no two stones are alike.  Some speak of lives lived ages upon ages ago.

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While others remind us that to show our true colors in a sometimes seemingly-bland world may be the best gift we can give.

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I broadened my collection of heart-shaped stones, recognizing that to show the shape of a heart in a hardened world often means to have been a bit broken along the way.  And perhaps tossed about on the shoreline before being picked up and treasured.

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The light began to change and to call us back through the woods and back toward camp…

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We greeted the forested friends along the way.

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Finding our way back along the path toward a dinner of perch and a more restful night in the tent.

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Fortunately, the winds and waves of one day gave way to a calm and gentle beauty of the next.  We were greeted with a spectacular sunrise just outside our tent door, which I watched for awhile….

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…before finally deciding to step outside and brew some coffee.

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It was to be a perfect day of paddling, at least in my opinion.  Placid and calm.

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It was like four hours (11-ish miles) of a water-based moving meditation.  At the end I was deliriously high from it all.  I was thankful the Kelley’s Island Kayaking Club opted to wait a day for the official event and thankful that my more adventurous cohorts still got their play time on the waves the day prior.  We all got what we needed and wanted from the weekend. The rest of the pictures from our trip to Kelley’s are merely those in my mind’s eye. I didn’t have the camera out for the tail end of this tale which involved some sunshine, a few Lake Erie water snakes popping their heads out of the water to say hello (though I kept missing them by a hair’s breadth of a moment!), grilled snacks and a poker game and finally, some well deserved brews for our group at the end of it all.


With a somber ferry’s ride back to the mainland and more cornfields than we cared to witness, we were eventually back home where we have traded in the sound of waves crashing for the far off hum of the nearby highway.  Seagull’s cries have been replaced by the sound of sirens and car-horns in the nearby city streets.  But if I listen more closely, I can hear the cluk-cluk-clucking of my chickens out back, and the sighful snores of my dogs. Down the hall, I hear my hub back at his work-a-day.  Life is good.  I am thankful for little island side trips as a gentle reminder of this.




There is a wonderful scene in the movie Finding Nemo where the little blue fish, Dori, helps Nemo’s dad overcome his anxiety about going into a great, dark chasm.  Her advice is to just keep swimming.  I subscribe to this philosophy myself on many levels, not just to stave off anxiety or depression.  Swimming, running, walking, hiking, biking, kayaking – any kind of movement…. are all great tools to get my brain to side step itself, leave the inner critic behind, and create.  I get my best ideas while on the move.  Recently my favorite activity has been kayaking where I am not only moving, but moving on water.  Balancing in a boat requires a different sense of the physical body and for me this translates into feeling quite far away from my daily self, and closer to the magical art realm within.

Recently, my hub Tony and I headed to Lake Erie with some friends to Kelley’s Island for a Poker Paddle.  The idea was to paddle around the island, pick up a hand of 5 playing cards at 5  different stops, then “play” the hand at the end of the journey for prizes.  Due to a pretty stiff breeze the night before the paddle, we stayed on one side of the island to get our cards and for two legs of the trip were faced with the biggest waves I had yet to encounter.  4-6 foot swells was how it was described to me by those in the know; fellow paddlers literally disappearing behind large waves.  It was a little scary at first but very exhilarating and I am thoroughly hooked!  So now I find myself watching youtube videos of sea kayaker Freya Hoffmeister teaching people how to roll (Greenland Style) in their kayaks and reading about her adventures circumnavigating Australia.  I find this all very fascinating.  My goal is to roll in my kayak, some point soon hopefully, but I’ll leave places like Australia to Freya.

Our trip to Northern Ohio was more than just kayaking.  We got to visit Marblehead Lighthouse on the mainland which struck me as a rather small lighthouse compared to the ones I have visited on the East Coast.  But it must do the trick for it has been working to keep mariners safe and informed along Lake Erie’s coastline since 1819.  There are a number of wonderfully charming homes to see on Kelley’s Island.  My favorite of all of these is this Steamboat Gothic style home still owned by a member of the Kelley family and built in 1861.  Lovely.

We did some hiking while on Kelley’s Island and I have loads of new images that I find inspiring for a series of encaustic paintings I am working on.  Here are some shots of world famous geological formations, The Glacial Grooves, found on the island… among other cool stuff.

Lake Erie is not the only place I have been collecting images to feed my paintings.  On subsequent more local kayak trips and even in my own back yard, I have spotted some beautiful mushrooms lately thanks to a juicy humidity that blanketed our area for days.

Along with researching textures and imagery for the wax work,  I continue to work in my sketchbook almost everyday.  While on our Kelley’s Island trip  we stopped in the post office to buy a stamp and get it canceled in our books, a great little souvenir of our time there.  I also did some drawing here and there when I wasn’t busy hiking or kayaking….

The sketchbook realm is feeling really active.  My class at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, How to Keep a Sketchbook Journal – Getting Started will start up again mid-October.  I love teaching this class as it feeds me artistically and I always learn a lot from from students.  My project with my former student, now business partner Adam, Drawing Down the Vision, is nearing completion of stage 1 and ready for our initial pilot.  Adam and I recently attended a lecture by artist Someguy, Brian Singer, who is responsible for the highly successful journal based social experiment The 1000 Journals Project.  This project is a sign that the notion of keeping a journal or even participating in a group journaling experience is alive and well.  People are feeling the need to make their mark in the world.  I am thrilled by this and intend to get anyone interested out there picking up a sketchbook and taking note of their lives.  For me it’s a way to make sure time doesn’t slip by me too quickly and to take note of the little daily stuff that really adds up to the richness that is my life.

Now it’s time to go live it.