north shore – week five

‘Sup, folks? I know I’m late this week, but, there are gaps in cell service when you’re in the middle of nowhere, and the Wednesday/Thursday posting was arbitrary to begin with, so who cares! Let’s get on with it!

Week five. WHERE IS THE TIME GOING!? I’m in creatively-named Lake Superior Provincial Park. It’s a big park. If I’m not mistaken it covers an area roughly three times the size of Thunder Bay (the city, not the metro area). Again, it’s a beautiful length of shoreline that somehow manages to be unique from the others. Noticing a pattern here? You know, I’ve been through this park many times, but it’s been a “while” since I’ve camped in it. In fact, the specific campground I’m at right now is a new one for me (the park has two campgrounds a half-hour apart and I think I’d only ever camped at the other one). Regardless, every time I’ve been through this park with my family we’ve stopped at Old Woman Bay to marvel at it.

Except, well …

For some reason, after I passed Wawa (a half-hour-ish drive away and the last place I had cell service) I tried to picture what Old Woman Bay looks like. And yet all I could remember was that it was just somehow an amazing, beautiful bay that was special, different from all the others. But I couldn’t picture it. I just remembered, I just knew, that it was special.

And is it ever. Before you see the sign, you come down a big hill facing it and you think, “yup, that’s the place.” There’s a cliff face on the south side of the bay that catches the late afternoon light something magical, and at the time there was a low cloud bank hanging over the top of it. It looked exactly like something the Group of Seven would have painted (hell, they probably did …). For some reason I’ve had difficulty getting a satisfying photo of the cliff face; it’s sort of like photographing the Sleeping Giant – there’ll be nothing wrong with the photo, but no matter what you do you will never quite capture the feeling of looking at it in person.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some great shots of the Giant – and enough shots in general to last me several lifetimes – but none of them come anywhere close to real life. I’ve deliberately avoided the cliché of taking a front-side Sleeping Giant photo for the project even though it fits the theme, although it occurs to me I’ll probably have to cave on that because it’d be such a glaring omission.

Anyway, I spent a couple days writing on the beach at Old Woman Bay. I have this really cool new accompaniment pattern and a great chord progression to show for it. No melody yet, but give it a few days – this part always works itself out eventually.

I’ve reached the point where I actually have to tear myself away from the pen and manuscript in favour of working on things I’ve already written. Fun fact here – if I tell you I “finished a song last night”, that’s code for “it exists only on paper and I can’t actually play it yet”. I write with a guitar in hand, but the ideas go straight onto paper and are often reworked until they’re barely the thing I originally played. I don’t record something until I can play it from memory, and making something up doesn’t mean I can play it well enough to crank out a recording of it the same day. 

But, I keep having ideas for new songs that I don’t want to pass on writing. It’s not the dilemma I worried I’d be facing*. I feel like I should be able to do both at the same time, but it’s easy to lose track of time when you’re in a writing flow with no one around to remind you to eat and make coffee and do literally anything that isn’t “write a song”.

(*the dilemma I worried I’d be facing involved a lot of frustrated crying. But it turns out deadline pressure is actually a wonderful thing – people have been telling me this for years, but for better or worse this is the first time a composition project of mine has had a fixed deadline.)

And now I’m going to talk about my favourite piece of gear this summer: the Zoom H5. It’s not something I expected to be using for an album; I’ve had it a few years and I own it (as does almost every other professional musician and their dog, apparently) to make archival recordings of gigs and rehearsals. This summer, it lives in my coat pocket, I take it with me everywhere, and I’ve made some fantastic ambient sound discoveries with it. I had planned to record everything through my UA Apollo, but despite being a great piece of gear, that thing A) takes long enough to boot up that it’s not ready when some of the good stuff happens, and B) can’t go everywhere I want to go to record ambience. The shore of Lake Superior isn’t exactly rackmount-friendly (I own the rack version, not the Twin), but the H5, on the other hand, is perfect for this purpose. I have it on a camera tripod, and I’ve had some unforgettable episodes perched over it to get a thunder roll, or a loon call at 2AM, or rain on the lake, or train noises. I have more ambient sound than I know what to do with – well, I know what I want to do with it, it’s more that I just wish I could find space for all the great things I’ve found.

Next week I’ll still be in Lake Superior Provincial Park. I’m hoping to hike more trails (got to keep up my average 15k/day step count hehe) and learn more about the area, so perhaps next week’s post will touch on that a bit.

Sweet dreams**.

(**I wrote this post at midnight last night …)

And now the photos!

1. WHAT IS UP WITH THESE CLOUDS. THEY’RE SO COOL. 2. There is a freakin’ TREE growing on a freakin’ ROCK. How awesome is that!? 3. This is my raven friend. It hung around with me at Old Woman Bay. Maybe it thinks I look like the kind of people who feeds large birds (it’s not wrong). 4. My campsite, Rabbit Blanket. 5. Old Woman Bay.