What if Lake Huron was to take the U.S. and Canadian federal governments to court for criminal negligence causing death of its biodiversity? Far fetched? Less far fetched than it used to be.
In early 2021, a river—the Magpie River in the Cote-Nord Region of Quebec—was granted legal personhood status by a regional municipal government and an Innu Council. This means the river now has legal rights, such as its right to flow, and to maintain its biodiversity and to take legal action against any person or organization who impinges on its rights. This recognizes that Magpie is a living, evolving, cyclical entity, whose existence is independent of humans. Canada isn’t the first country to grant legal status to a natural feature, and I sure hope this nation leads the way in making it commonplace around the world.
At the top of the wish list called “Canadian Natural Entities to be Granted Legal Personhood Status”, I respectfully request Lake Huron be placed. (Of course, this would require collaboration and cooperation with our neighbour, the U.S. of A., as this almost 60,000 square kilometre great lake straddles the border.) I want it protected. I want Huron to join with Magpie and boldly lead the way of obtaining protection for all it’s fellow bodies of water around the globe—streams, rivers, lakes, seas, oceans, its sisters: Superior, Michigan, Erie and Ontario—being systematically persecuted and murdered. Without compunction. By us humans, us lethal polluters.
Why Huron in particular? It’s personal. She and I have a very special relationship. She’s my mentor, my teacher, my counsellor, my friend.
Huron’s fluidity has taught me of the impermanence and continuous evolution of life. I had the great privilege, which I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, of growing up on her shore. A solitary person, I found comfort in walking alone along her shoreline in all weather, in all seasons. Just the wind, the water, the land and me. As long as I can remember, I was fascinated by the interplay between the solid—the sand and rock and clay— and the fluid—the water, calm or agitated or raging—at the ever-evolving interface.
Huron has and will continue to shape me—mentally, emotionally and spiritually—as much as she shapes her shoreline.
From the bottom of my heart, Huron, I honour you with gratitude:
Huron, my mentor, your dynamic sand-water interface powerfully instilled in me a visceral understanding of change, about what happens not just in nature but also in the dynamic interface between my solidly held beliefs built upon a life time of experiences and circumstances, and fluid thought that comes from the depths of self-awareness and openness. In that meeting zone, I see the continuous interplay, the on-going reconfiguration of your shoreline and my mind. In some places, the waves gouge out, and in other places, the sand builds up. Together, an un-ending choreography of creation and re-creation.
Huron, my teacher, your waves have demonstrated to me that there are times in life to push ahead, to energetically reach out towards our goals. And there are also times of pulling back. The pulling back, sometimes in life called failure, sometimes called derailment or relapse, is correctly called opportunity to even more powerfully re-energize, re-vitalize and re-align with our purpose. And push forward again.
Huron, my sage counsellor, what soothing wisdom you’ve shared with me in those times I’ve dived beneath your surface. On days when you are calm, just below lies a tranquil, peaceful place. As your surface grows more turbulent, I dive deeper to reach the quiet and calmness. You’ve helped me see that having a go-to place of serenity deep within diminishes the power of the waves—life’s adverse circumstances—no matter how large they may be. There, I’m beyond their reach to impart debilitating fear, anxiety, agitation and disturbance.
Huron, my friend, you’ve supported me in countless ways over my six-plus decades on this blue planet, intensely enriching my life. Over those decades, I and my kind have not been kind to you in return. We’ve been drastically depleting your life by spewing our chemicals, pesticides and heavy metals on you. I don’t deserve to be able to call you my friend. I’m so, so very sorry. Please allow me to make amends.
Lake Huron, without doubt, is the place where I’ll want to go to one last time before I can’t go to places anymore. Specifically, to the private, undeveloped beach on her east shore where memories over more than half a century have been—and continue to be—formed.
Huron is: Innocence. Freedom. Imagination. Creation. Friendship.
When I was around eight years old, my two kid brothers—my besties—and I would make ourselves PB&J sandwiches, hike the 2 kilometres along the dusty farm path from our house to Huron, and spend endless summer afternoons, just the three of us, adventuring along her shore.
Huron is: Promise. Comfort. Empathy. Connectedness
Inevitably, childhood morphed into teenhood. I grew into a solitary person, feeling very comfortable and at home with just me and Huron. We shared our moods, sometimes matching, sometimes at odds. When I brought angst, depression or rumination to her shore, she might soothe it with tiny wavelets gently lapping my toes as I imprinted my steps on her wet sand. She might match it with a surly, grey choppiness. Or, she might pull it out of me, sending her mightiest waves to suck the sand and pebbles out from beneath my feet and cleanse the beach and my spirit of its accumulated, natural litter.
When I was in love, flying high as a kite might over her surface, or dreaming of a future as limitless as her horizon, Huron met me there, reflecting a stunning sunset or liquid trail of moonlight. Or laughingly tumble me about in her wannabe ocean waves.
Huron is: Family. Love. Sharing. Motherhood.
Life took me away from her—about a two-hour drive inland to be precise—but Huron welcomed me back frequently to her shore over the many years with my four kids in tow. Now it was my kids’ laughter and yelling mixed with that of their cousins playing on the beach while we sibling-mothers and our mother soaked up the sun, kissed bruised knees, read our books, sipped our wine, shared our stories.
Huron is: Awareness. Learning. Growth. Change.
Loved ones die. Babies are born. Marriages dissolve. New relationships blossom. Bankruptcy looms. Windfalls happen. Your children disperse. Worldviews shift. Change is the only constant. Oxymoronically, it’s Huron’s constant changeability that I’ve always found most attractive—her mood swings from calm to raging, her continuous re-drawing of the shoreline as if she’s a perfectionist artist who can’t seem to get it just right. There have been many messages in her madness that I’ve needed badly to receive over the years, messages I’ve grown on to become the person I am.
It’s been 57 years since I was that carefree eight-year-old running along the shore with my little brothers, brandishing stick rifles as we ran away from imaginary scary things.
Now I’m building sandcastles on the beach with my granddaughter, Cece, in a world replete with for-real scary things that we can’t run away from. Things that are threatening Huron. I want Cece to know Huron isn’t just that majestic beauty we gaze out over,
a stage for sunsets,
or a ginormous waterpark.
I want her to love Huron who, just like Magpie, is a living, evolving, cyclical entity, whose existence is independent of humans but intrinsically imbued in our species and all of creation.
The human brain and heart are 73 per cent water, I will tell Cece when she’s old enough to understand, and what happens to Huron and all her kind happens to us.
“If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.” – David Sobel
Note: With the exception of the underwater royalty free image, all the images in this article are of Lake Huron, most taken by the author, family or friends at or in the vicinity of the private beach the author speaks of.