Essay: February @ Lake Michigan’s Left Coast

An Artist Suffers for Her Art

Blue Afternoon, February, Lake Michigan, 5x7, by Elizabeth G Fagan, digital art on lakemichigansleftcoast.com, from Lake Michigan's Left Coast
Blue Afternoon, February, Lake Michigan, 5×7, by Elizabeth G Fagan, digital art on lakemichigansleftcoast.com, from Lake Michigan’s Left Coast

Seventy percent of Earth’s fresh water is locked in the ice of Antarctica. The Great Lakes of North America contain 20 percent. All other lakes and ponds and swamps; rivers, streams, and rivulets make up a mere 10 percent of the planet’s freshwater.

The glacier-carved inland seas that lie in the much-besmirched middle of the United States and Canada are aptly named. I am privileged to reside some 50 feet from the second-largest-by-volume and third-largest-by-surface-area of the Great Lakes.

In this tiny spot on the western coast of Lake Michigan, my freshwater neighbor is a tyrant, every day unavoidable, every hour defining the sights and sounds, the temperature, the wind, the cloud-iness or -lessness of the place I inhabit. The four seasons abound here on Lake Michigan.

A placid lake it is not.

Lake Michigan constantly roars about something or another. On this comparatively mild mid-February afternoon, my Lake is noisily chewing away the car-sized icebergs that formed on the beach during the all-too-recent and frequent days and nights of single-digit temperatures.

So far, the too-cold weeks of young 2018 have caused the black cat Jimi, the orange cat Bridget, the German Shepherd Rosie, and herself to huddle inside our poorly heated cottage and mostly watch netflix. The other neighborhood creatures apparently use their wits to survive.

The shaggy red fox, the small herd of deer, the fat gray squirrels, and the denizens of my brimming bird feeder—among them three species of woodpecker!—are accounted for; the others are presumably and intelligently asleep somewhere.

Photographing Lake Michigan is a challenge. Experiencing it is not simply a matter of sight; the lake is a place to listen, to smell, to touch, to ponder the massive majesty. The photographer’s challenge is to capture details, moments, islands of beauty that abound here on Lake Michigan’s Left Coast.


Elizabeth G Fagan is a writer and artist who resides in southeastern Wisconsin—a place she calls Lake Michigan’s Left Coast. She’s endured the curse of being a writer since attending a private arts high school in Connecticut, where the bad habit was encouraged. She also became a photographer at that high school. She spent all the time she could in the school’s darkroom, creating black and white images from film. Alas, as a second bad habit acquired. Fagan is passionate about the natural world and its creatures.

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