Slate Islands, Lake Superior – September 7, 2013
The meteorite’s edge glowed white as it shot through the outer reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. Who knows how long it spun through space, lost in the vast blackness, but the meteor’s time had come. It rushed on, shattering the quiet with a boom as it fell, exploding into a ball of fire, ripping downward, pieces cracking away and burning off, leaving a long, glowing trail through the sky.
Too big to burn away, it smashed into the Earth’s crust, shattering the planet’s shell, liquefying rock, splattering like a stone splatters in a bucket of water. The center crater stretched twenty-miles rim to rim.
Rain fell. Water eroded the crater down. Lake Superior flooded around it.
Grain by grain the rock washed away until only a raised bit of land remained, the last remnants of the meteor’s splash. Think of the rise of water you’d see in a slow motion movie of drops falling into a pool. As each drop fell, a plop of liquid would rush in behind it to fill the space. That plop is the Slate Islands.
They sit in a giant circle six miles from the mainland. Lake Superior floods the center through a few narrow passes, but no matter how much it rages on the outside, no matter how big the waves are, the middle is always calm and protected behind the island’s circling it like a fort.
Over 450 million years after the meteorite, trees crowd every flat piece of land, woodland caribou stare out from the shadows with their curved antlers rising off silver heads, loons call out in the twilight, and someone built a cabin near the center of the plop.
The sign over the door reads “Come and Rest” and invites in any travelers who dare the miles of open water to reach it. An old writing pad sits on the table, scribbled with years of stories and names. There are bunks and a stove, a fire pit and a picnic table. There’s even an old metal bathtub raised up on rocks a few feet from the shore.
Hundreds of fires have blackened the tub’s bottom, the last burnt under it just a few minutes ago. Its flames curled up the round metal sides and licked at the metal. Now there are only embers, but the fire transformed cold buckets of water into a steaming pool, a flame-roasted hot tub to lean back in after a long, thirty-mile day that ended with a wave-filled crossing.
I peel away my tattered clothes and sink underneath the water’s surface. Layers of dirt rise off my skin. The water soaks into me. It pulls apart my aching muscles and breaks down joints to build them anew.
The sky brightens with stars. Ribbons of white twist above me. Constellations come to life and chase each other through the night.
I gaze up, staring at the universe from that metal tub on top of a cosmic plop, counting shooting stars as they dash themselves against the sky, burn, and disappear.