The Girl from the North Country
Tobermory, Ontario, 1978 Photo: Mike Smith
In April of 1963, Bob Dylan recorded a composition he wrote entitled “Girl From The North Country.” Great lyrics squeezed in between a feeling of sadness and longing to go back.
To her? To the North Country? Maybe both.
My editor Rita Smith posted some pictures and brief stories of her 17 year old self up there in the “North Country:” on the shores of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, in a place called Tobermory. Anyone who has ever been there can testify to its rugged beauty, its breathtaking view, and the power of nature within its domain.
The backdrop of Lake Huron with a young lady, full of life, in her prime standing on a rocky coastline is enough to make anyone want to go back to a time. A place. A moment far away when things seemed easier and less complicated.
I’ve seen all of the Great Lakes from both the Canadian side of the shoreline as well as the US side. Its no wonder why Rita fell in love with the place. Who wouldn’t? In my opinion, Lake Huron and the four remaining Great Lakes are listed up there in the top five of God’s creations.
But in the song “Girl From The North Country,” Dylan warned the listener that the north country can get rough:
“If you go when the snowflakes storm
When the rivers freeze and summer ends
Please see if she has a coat so warm
To keep her from the howlin’ winds”
When winter hits Ontario, Michigan and Illonois, it can change the summer beauty of the lakes into one of the most treacherous landscape ever created.
Everything freezes. The shorelines pile up with jagged ice pile up. The wind that blew so warm in the summer can slap you hard in winter.
Great Lake freighters docked in Duluth for the winter become coated heavily with ice and snow, while wave after wave slams against the shorelines in Chicago, Thunder Bay, Toronto and Tobermory.
You could close your eyes and think that Dylan wrote the song for someone just like 17-year-old Rita: young and vibrant, strong and defiant. When the summers were warm and easy.
But there is always a price to pay. The warm summer days on the shores of Tobermory must yield to those times when the rivers freeze and the winds dominate.
So, too, must we who were at one time young, strong and invincible trade our warm summers to harsh winters of life. Learning good and sometimes hard lessons, we bend, we shiver, we keep keeping on, hoping that one day we may find again a moment in time that transports us back in to a place where a shoreline awaits. A warm breeze brushes against our face.
Back to a time where being a girl from the north country was as easy as standing on a rocky shoreline being able to just breath.
"Girl From The North Country" If you're traveling the north country fair Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline Remember me to one who lives there For she once was a true love of mine If you go when the snowflakes storm When the rivers freeze and summer ends Please see if she has a coat so warm To keep her from the howlin' winds Please see if her hair hangs long If it rolls and flows all down her breast Please see for me if her hair's hanging long For that's the way I remember her best I'm a-wonderin' if she remembers me at all Many times I've often prayed In the darkness of my night In the brightness of my day So if you're travelin' in the north country fair Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline Remember me to one who lives there She once was a true love of mine