Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nokomis, Her Mother, And The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

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


  1. I'd have to say that Moonbeam does not aspire to be an artist, she IS one. I love this painting, thanks for sharing it.

  2. One of my favorites of Beam's works, too. I put in my two cents' worth over at the Red Mud Inn. ;)

  3. Your two cents are always worth a nickel's worth of my sense, Fair. Great blog. <3

  4. Hello, jbb ~ I'm guessing you're Joe Bruns from Craig Crawford's and Facebook. Thanks for visiting. I'll pass those exact words on to Moonbeam. Getting established as a painter is VERY hard work. Stop by again sometime.

  5. Okay, okay...can Hubert the Bear, chime in?
    I'm taking a break_ from washing the dishes.
    It is raining and cold outside...not sure,
    if I'll do my nightly session on the wall...
    "I'm building a rock wall"...you know!_ Actually, finishing what I hadn't completed.

    I have my music lined up_ The new U2
    'No Line On The Horizon'...it'll be great in the misty drizzle and cool of an
    almost cold evening.

    So, Moon, Truly wonderful that you drove over to your new blog and mounted such a great little compilation of a number of indicators that come
    to one great vision of all the inter-connectedness of everything: relatives and relativity...and good sound judgment...and Ojibwe, all of it, Moonbeam's Nokomis...
    Gordon 'light of Foot' and Az(Ron)'s thought out, and you, as always connected the wheels....and it grew into another beautiful 'metaphorical' flower.

    Star power...You got it and I love it.
    Is Ron on Blogger, yet? We have to push for that.
    Remember memorizing poems, even songs?...
    'old days'_

    Humble beginnings for a stellar cultural shift.
    Technology and this internet'thingy'
    Is swiftly predicating us_ all_ Up to a new and certain level
    For_refined exposition.
    It is good that we are all becoming more facile_
    In the art of the quick connect and wi/fi designs...
    Ogle me this! What is he talking about?
    Sales meeting at four _ In the lounge!!!!

    I'm not done_ being Esquish!...It is not what I do...It's how I do it!.. I simply wanted to say beautiful and mention how_ Everything reminded me of the very best of what all of these tapestries of Life present.

    Good fitting comfort woolens for a cold winter_ coming on.

    Not a time to be putting out on Gitchi Gummi,... But some of us must take the risk, to bring home the mail (Ore carriers). So many avenues. Gordon Lightfoot_ We meet again....Just a time in my life...first marriage and living by two of the Great Lakes.
    '75...good beer and good pizza Buffalo, NY.

    Sometimes I feel like a nut... sometimes I don't.
    Signing off _ Daniel O'Herly-O'Hand

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