In northeastern Minnesota where I grew up, water is a huge part of daily life. Everywhere you look there's a lake, river, wetland, or waterfall. The front yard of my childhood home, where I live to this day, overlooks Grand Portage Bay of Lake Superior. The view is a daily reminder of how much I love the big lake.
I love the sounds of Superior, too, from the gentle lapping of water on the shore to the deafening roar of wind and crashing waves to the rumbling of ice sheets grinding together as they ride the lake currents. In the summer, I leave my bedroom window open and fall asleep to the soft clanging of the Hat Point bell buoy, located almost a mile away. I often hear kingfishers chattering as they fly up and down the sandy beach in front of my house. Occasionally, I'll note the distinctive call of a bald eagle, then look out to the lake to see one or more perched on a tree near the shore.
For my people, the Ojibwe, water is the lifeblood of the land—the life-giver and the life-sustainer. Without it, we would not have delicious wild rice, a staple of my diet, or bountiful fish harvests. My family has produced many skilled anglers, including my late grandpa and uncle. I have cousins who have been commercial fishermen on the lake and surrounding waterways for most of their lives, and as a result I've eaten my fair share of whitefish and walleye.
Without water we wouldn't have the countless natural attractions that draw flocks of tourists to my corner of Minnesota. As park manager at Grand Portage State Park, I have the privilege of meeting people from Minnesota and beyond, many of whom come to experience High Falls, the state's tallest waterfall. The roaring Pigeon River also intrigues visitors because it's the international boundary between the United States and Canada.
But my true appreciation for water comes from photography. I've been taking pictures most of my life, and I love the simple beauty of water. You'll find it in some shape or form in most of my photographs, whether I'm shooting crashing waves or, as in the photo above, the glass-like surface of an inland lake. This image was taken in September at Esther Lake in the Grand Portage State Forest. I had captured star reflections on lakes before, but never so many as on this night, when the lake was a perfect, mirrored reflection of the sky. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. The touch of green provided by the northern lights was the icing on the cake.
For me, water is an anchor. It brings balance to my life. It connects the earth and the sky. When I sit on the shoreline of a calm lake at night and stare out at a sky full of stars reflected in the surface of the water, I feel centered and at peace.
Travis Novitsky is a state park manager and nature photographer.