Reading, Writing and Reflecting: Porphyry Island, Part Two

My mind is still buzzing from my four-day writing retreat on Porphyry Island. The setting nourished my soul and my writing companions provided constant inspiration…and plenty of reasons to laugh.

Jean E. Pendziwol, author of The Lightkeeper’s Daughters (and numerous children’s books) was our host for the retreat. I knew I’d found a kindred spirit the moment we met. Down-to-earth, witty with just the right amount of mischief, she challenged us to stoke our creativity by trying new media (drawing, painting) and intriguing writing prompts.

Every day we had time to ourselves to focus on our own writing, read or explore the island.

My goal was to write 1500 words a day on my new novel and spend time outdoors becoming reacquainted with the wild wind, crashing waves and soaring birds of the Great Lakes. I grew up at a cottage in a tiny village on Lake Erie, so the sounds and smells of the Great Lakes have always spoken to me.

I awoke early with the rising sun and spent an hour on the rocks of the point every morning watching the lichen grow as the light grew brighter and the moon slowly faded into the blue sky.

rocks and water

At breaks, I went for walks on the black pebble beach, searching for heart-shaped stones as well as porphyries – rocks containing crystals, usually feldspar, for which the island is named.

heart rock.jpg

Some days, I spent time with the Arctic hares, bounding past my feet, or the Monarch butterflies brushing the air around my face.

hare.jpg

Other days, I was happy to sit watching the Sleeping Giant drift in and out of blankets of mist. Look closely at the photo below…can you find me?

me on rocks

I wrote a lot, which of course is the point of a writers’ retreat, but I also healed. I realized that it had been a long time since I had slowed my pulse to the rhythm of the earth and allowed my heart to ebb and flow with the constant waves. Nature teaches, if we are willing to be still and listen.

sunset.jpg

Although I am home again, far from the shores of Lake Superior, Porphyry Island remains raw and rugged in my mind and in my soul.

lone tree

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Reading, Writing and Reflecting: Porphyry Island, Part One

Ah, Porphyry Island, my new happy place!

Recently, I had the exquisite pleasure of spending four days on this rugged island, an hour’s ride by zodiac from Thunder Bay, Ontario. I was part of a writers’ retreat with Jean E. Pendziwol, author of The Lightkeeper’s Daughters.

And it was an adventure, from start to finish!

The other two participants and I met Jean at Pier 3 on Thursday morning for a briefing from Captain Greg and Captain Paul of Sailsuperior.com  They organized the transportation by large zodiac.

orange suit

We donned bright orange survival suits and goggles (such a fashion statement, but necessary for the frigid waters of Lake Superior). Superior is the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area, and has a maximum depth of over 400 metres (1330 feet).

Flying across the surface at high speed, I had to pull up the hood on the suit and tie it tightly. There I was, an orange blob in a black zodiac, wearing goggles and a wide grin!

The fog hugged the land, the spray from the bleak gray waves was icy cold as the low clouds obscured the horizon.

fog.jpg

We stopped in a couple of bays so that Jean could read sections from her novel that were based on the area.

As we approached Porphyry Island, she pointed out the light tower at the far end.

first sighting of Porphyry

Nestled amid tall trees, I caught a glimpse of a white house with red trim – our home for the next four days.

house.jpg

We followed Paul, the volunteer guide from Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior (CLLS), along the lush path from the dock to the lightkeeper’s house. CLLS restores, preserves and maintains three lighthouses on Lake Superior and ensures public access to these historic sites.

The strong winds and cold temperatures have created a micro-climate on the island where arctic plants thrive. I photographed a wide range of lichen and miniature trees along with delicate flowering bushes.

small trees

flowers.jpg

Old Man’s Beard lichen dangles from trees in the forest.

old mans beard.jpg

Monarch butterflies on their migration south pause and savour the nectar from a large lilac bush near the point.

lilac.jpg

Birds call and swoop from the swaying treetops.

When we arrived at the house, and I saw the rocky outcroppings drenched by waves and sun, with the Sleeping Giant resting in the distance, I knew I had found my home away from home.

rocks and giant.jpg