Essay: Ghosts in the Stones

Downed Tree, Lake Michigan Beach, 11x14, by Elizabeth G Fagan, digital art on, from Lake Michigan's Left Coast
Downed Tree, Lake Michigan Beach, 11×14, by Elizabeth G Fagan

Lake Michigan reached record low-water levels in January, 2013, creating bountiful beaches on Wisconsin’s shoreline. By Winter, 2014, however, the Lake started rising. By May, 2016, it had risen four feet. It swallowed those sandy beaches, took down trees, erased landscaping, rearranged boulders.

Lake Michigan Rocks 1, 8x8, by Elizabeth G Fagan, digital art on, from Lake Michigan's Left Coast
Lake Michigan Rocks 1, 8×8, by Elizabeth G Fagan

At the same time, the Lake was coughing up stones. Millions and millions of Great Lakes stones. Stones of all and textures, uniform in size and shape within their particular rock-neighborhood. Pieces of the region’s bedrock are plentiful; sedimentary rocks from the Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian periods. Much of Wisconsin lay beneath the Laurentian ice sheet in the Wisconsin Glacial Episode, the most recent of the ice ages. The state is blanketed with glacial drift.

It’s Lake Michigan’s nature to turn stones into smooth ovals. But some of those rocks contain fossils. Or did contain fossils. Limestone, sandstone, quartz, and chert often contain irregularities, traces that can be identified as fossils.

When I look at the weathered rocks, I see ghosts.

Elizabeth G Fagan in Chicago
Elizabeth G Fagan in Chicago

Elizabeth G Fagan is a writer and artist who resides on Lake Michigan’s shoreline in southeastern Wisconsin—a place she calls Lake Michigan’s Left Coast.

Fagan attended The Hammonasset School, a private arts high school in Connecticut, where she began writing and taking photographs. She attended Grinnell College (Grinnell, Iowa) and the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC) to earn a BA in English. She continued at UIC to acquire an MA in Linguistics with a specialization in teaching English as a second language (ESL). She became an editor at a Chicago–area book publisher; she went on to operate a successful writing and consulting business.

At the dawn of the internet era, Fagan saw “the web” as a publishing platform for the world and wanted to be part of it. She returned to college to earn an associate degree in Web Development from DePaul University (Chicago). At first, the internet was a place for optimistic, excited nerds to create innovative user experiences and connect with one another. Fagan witnessed the online world’s evolution to a commercial platform patrolled by increasingly malevolent forces. Fagan stepped away from her career in website development. Regrettably, she predicts a time when we will all say, “the internet was nice while it lasted.’

Fagan is passionate about the natural world and its creatures. She highly recommends the work of Chicago-based nature photographer Mark Swanson.

Contact Elizabeth G Fagan

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Art, content, photography,, Lake Michigan’s Left Coast © 2015–2019 Elizabeth G Fagan
Unauthorized use is prohibited


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