Memories of the Great Lake

I had two dreams when I came to Michigan six years ago. One was to cross-country ski in the backyard, and the other was to swim in the great lake. To realize my second dream, I got into contact with Lake Michigan on various occasions…

Qing Tian 
Huron Towers

Ann Arbor, MI

July, 2012


First Look: Sleeping Bear Dunes
(August 2007)


An ocean of paint




On a spot called Empire, it was somewhat gray.



A Close Study in the Upper Peninsula
(August 2011)


Varied Moods



On the right end.jpg

Sometimes, the lake is angry. It roars and rolls up infinite intestines from a bottomless body to demonstrate how the world could end…

The end of the world 2.jpg

Children at the end of the world

The end of the World 1.jpg

When the lake is calm, its emotionless face makes me nervous. Everything is flat and smooth as if a huge piece of thin silk were to fall upon me, enclose me and suffocate me. I may well prefer the end of the world.



I like when the sun shows his sunny face, and the lake is relaxed - she unfolds layers after layers of white peony petals from her bosom in a slow motion. Clouds, rejoicing too, rise from the pine grove loitering at leisure above. Then, I saw a white dog running between peonies and a woman with a handsome body. It’s an image of happiness.


In the morning




At sunset


At sunset.jpg


The sand.jpg

I was a bit disappointed by the uneventful sunsets on the lake: the sun goes down quietly just as it rises quietly. Here, with no need to splash dramatic colors to impress any, the sun simply displays his playful nature: waving an invisible wand, he lights up and mixes waters, magically making many shades and colors in the lake. The clouds are his faithful accomplice in mood setting: with ever-changing patterns to veil the sun, occasionally, dropping a few quick tears…

A dead fish with clear eyes and mouth slightly parted. I wondered what it was trying to say.


A disoriented crayfish


Strangely, I see life from a seagull scalp and some broken shells.



I was surprised and puzzled to see a monarch butterfly fluttering her bright orange wings on the water side, till I walked to the end of the sandy beach where I saw the lake’s soft body embracing rocks, and milkweeds.

St. Joseph, MI (Christmas 2011)

On Christmas 2011, I visited St. Joseph to see Lake Michigan again. From the fishing pier, I watched great waves coming to the lakeshore one after another. There was no beginning or ending, as time. A man who was fishing on the pier told me I could find colorful glass “stones” on the lakeshore. They were broken glasses tumbled and smoothed by waves and washed ashore in varied shapes. Searching for them was another good therapy for him besides fishing. But I didn’t need a therapy. I was thinking of a new way to begin.


Revisit the UP (May 2012)

On the side of a small road


Alone in a wetland


A mystery in Big Springs


My camera missed the great lake on this trip. My mind, however, has captured and kept an unforgettable image of her. In a sunny room perched over the lake, my fingers were leafing through a collection of Klimt’s painting prints, while my eyes saw through wide glass windows a voluptuous body of blue water charged with myriad small motions, mysterious, and softer than ever. The sounds of Maria Kalaniemi’s accordion came from an old record player filling up whatever empty space left by sunlight. It was somehow unreal and strangely sad.


Eastern Lakeshore (July 2012)

My second dream finally became true during the July 4th holiday in 2012. Along the eastern lakeshore from South Haven to Ludington, I made several stops, immersing myself in the warm water of the lake. As I said goodbye to her, I realized there are certain things about the great lake I may never get to know despite this skin-close experience, just as we come across in our lives and most time only get to see one or two layers into each other. This is why Cicero regarded true friendship, only next to goodness, as the finest thing in all the world one can have.

Many layers of colors (Ludington, MI)