Essay: February @ Lake Michigan’s Left Coast

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

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 a February afternoon, my Lake is noisily chewing away the car-sized icebergs that formed on the beach during the frequent days and nights of single-digit temperatures.

The too-cold weeks of the young year have caused the black cat Jimi, the orange cat Bridget, the German Shepherd Rosie, and herself to huddle inside our heated cottage. The shaggy red fox, the small herd of deer, the fat gray squirrels, and the denizens of my brimming bird feeder 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 Fagan, Lake Michigan
Elizabeth Fagan, Lake Michigan

A former Chicagoan, Elizabeth G Fagan is an artist, photographer, and writer who resides in southeastern Wisconsin. She calls her place in the world 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 earned a BA in English at Grinnell College (Grinnell, Iowa) and the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC). She has an MA in Linguistics with a specialization in teaching English as a second language (ESL) from UIC. Fagan later gained an associate degree in Web Development from DePaul University in Chicago.

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