My daughter -- we'll call her Moonbeam for our purposes -- is an aspiring artist with a day job. She has a style all her own, as you can easily see from the painting posted here, called "Nokomis and Her Mother."
Moonbeam gave this painting to me as a gift, and I treasure it. For me it holds several layers of meaning. The reference in the painting's title is to Longfellow's poem, "Song of Hiawatha," which contains these lines recounting Ojibwe legend:
By the shores of Gitche Gumme
By the shining big sea waters
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis ....
Moonbeam earned her degree in Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota, where practically every other street name, and many of the lake names, reflect Ojibwe legend. Several of her paintings, including this one, were inspired by Longfellow's poem. I also read the title of this painting as honoring the relationship between mother and daughter -- Nokomis and her mother the Moon -- and in that way, it is extremely personal to me.
Another way I relate to the poem is through Moonbeam's great-grandmother, who used to recite Longfellow, and in particular this part of the "Song of Hiawatha," as well as Alfred Noyes' poem, "The Highwayman," to me whenever she visited. My grandmother had only an eighth grade education, but she also had an excellent memory and a love of poetry that was never lacking for appreciation in our modest household, where there wasn't much money for books.
Ultimately, and in a way I'm sure Moonbeam probably didn't intend, I also view this poem as a reminder of Gordon Lightfoot's classic ballad, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," which is about the sinking of the freighter by that name on Lake Superior on this date in 1975. Lightfoot's song begins with these haunting lines:
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumme
The lake it is said never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy ....
Ojibwe is, of course, the preferred name for the Chippewa tribe, and Gitche Gumme is Lake Superior. Lightfoot's ballad is perhaps the most evocative and haunting ballad I have ever heard. A friend sent me this video this morning to remind me, and I thought I would share it here, thus bringing my memories full circle. With thanks. <3