Lake Superior Palette

Recently I took my father’s ashes up to Thunder Bay. My mother, who had been divorced from him since I was 16, offered to accompany me since I was planning to drive. I wanted to take my time and stop when something appealed to me. It was going to be a pilgrimage of sorts.

My mother was diagnosed last year with early Alzheimer’s. Her short-term memory is poor for facts but she can still enjoy experiences and recall feelings. This journey was a way to create those opportunities and she would also get to visit with her sister.

It had been two years since I had been that way. The last time I had traveled this stretch of the Trans Canada highway was to go say goodbye to my aunt. I had gone with my mother that time too. And, we offered to take my father as it was his sister we were going to see.

Needless to say, this trip was bittersweet. But I chose to take in as much of the majestic beauty of the north shore of Lake Superior as I could. Having lost two special people recently and knowing that my mother is being taken away too has made me very aware that life is precious. I am going to take time to enjoy, to experience, to pause and drink in the sensory input.

What I have taken away from this road trip is a renewed appreciation for the grandeur and ruggedness of the ancient glacier scraped topography. I have been inspired by the trees, the water, and the granite that gives this area its distinctive colour palette. I have already begun to incorporate this organic palette into my artwork.

The Lake Superior palette is beautiful and calls forth my childhood experiences to meld them with the new adult experiences. I hope you enjoy this new journey as much as I.


I was born in the 60s which makes me a genXer. I grew up in a small town on the north shore of Lake Superior. I was born to a 20 year old mother and a 24 year old father. I arrived with all my parts and a brain that was very capable of learning. All of this influenced my early life experiences and started the evolution of my identity.

Identity is fluid. It morphs and develops. Layers of experience add depth and understanding. And, there is constant change. As a child, I thought that once I became an adult I would know who and what I was. That was the way it was supposed to be. However, this turned out to be a falsehood.

Even now, in my 50s, I am learning things about myself. I am evolving, I am gaining insight. Identifying as a creative has been a part of that new path.

My encounters with other creative people has lead me to start asking questions about gender and what does it mean to me. I was born with girl parts and I have given birth to two babies. But I have never really known what it felt like to be female. I don’t wear makeup, I don’t fuss with my hair, and I don’t feel the need to keep a tidy house. These are all things that I see other women caring about. When I was young, I didn’t like dolls much. I remember liking my trucks and reading books. I had some stuffed animals but I also liked to build things with blocks and a mechano set. I like that I get to have emotions and I still melt with love for my children. I wear dresses but I don’t like dainty high heels.

I think that maybe I am both feminine and masculine. Maybe more to the female side as I do identify as a goddess. When I told my mother, she said that she had always thought of me as just being Shelley, that I had always been such a strong personality that the label of girl did not quite fit. Fascinating.

I am happy to be able to express and explore these feelings. I really think that all the discussion regarding the sex ed curriculum spurred this inner dialogue. I wonder if I would have made these discoveries earlier if I had been exposed to the idea of gender fluidity in my elementary years. Would I have felt more comfortable with my being?