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Porphyry Premier by Iloe Ariss, Assistant Lightkeeper

Before I stepped foot on Porphyry Island I saw it far in the distance from the boat; a long green blur with a black tip, the rich boreal forest studded with dark metamorphic rocks, spotted with bright orange and green lichen.

Upon arriving at the dock I first noticed the large white boathouse, to the right of the fire pit and picnic bench. Birches and tall pines of several varieties surrounded me as I started walking down the path leading to the point. The quiet forest marked my footsteps as I went along, other footsteps were imprinted in the soil also, although not human, moose perhaps…or bear! I wasn’t frightened however, and when reaching the point, went straight out onto the ageless rocks.

Image captured from the tower of Porphyry Island with Edward Island in the background ©2017 Iloe Ariss.

The clear fresh-air rushed by me, and, like the small evergreen clinging to the edge of one of the rock faces, I was glad I had my feet firmly planted on the ground. As I looked out onto Lake Superior the raw power of the waves inspired in me a sense of presence accompanied by an increased awareness of human fragility. Thinking further back, to a time when Indigenous people inhabited the Island, I imagined the point uncleared, the forest burgeoning down onto the rocks, and the sheer ruggedness of unyielding nature. The sight of the Sleeping Giant resting calmly brought back a sense of stability and durability and reminded me of the history of the Island, of the difficulties the families living here had faced since 1873.

Of course I was anticipating my trip up the tower! I was very excited for the impending view and the thrill of the climb. As the large heavy door swung open I caught a glimpse of the ladder running up, up into darkness. Or what seemed like darkness, really the climb was lit by a few windows cut into the sides of the light tower. As I reached the top I realized this was an experience I would never forget. Wonder overcame me as I looked out onto Superior, the water stretching infinitely out below me, far far below. I realized that I was 25 meters above the ground, and catching a last glimpse of the stunning blue, black and green landscape I began the descent.

The large square house just north of the light tower greeted me as I sombrely looked up at its white and red-trimmed facade. Standing where it has since the late 1940’s I assumed it was well-built and maintains a strong defence against winter weather and storms. The smaller house on site had a familiar cottage-like build and many windows, out of which I could see the sun bouncing across the waves. It was at once a lonely and friendly location. A large freight ship sailed by in the far distance bringing me out of my reverie; I was reminded that humanity and all of our activities had broken through into this otherwise entirely natural and strong landscape.