Daniel's Esperanza

Daniel's Esperanza

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Mighty Woman

Corinne Smith (Photo: The Detroit Times)
For nearly a decade, I lived next-door to a woman in Michigan who was a pioneer of her time.  I never knew it until now.  Corinne Smith was elderly and retired, very independent, lived alone, and didn’t share anything about her life.  She was reclusive, yet friendly when we saw her.  If there was ever a need for her to ring our doorbell for something, she wouldn’t come inside, preferring to talk to us on our front porch.  Likewise, when we wanted to check on her or needed to share something with her, it was done just outside her front door.  We were never invited into her house.  Assistance and help were rarely accepted from us, yet occasionally we would find a grocery bag of fresh vegetables from her garden placed inside our screened porch.  It seemed she appreciated our efforts.
We lived in Grosse Pointe, a walkable community with sidewalks fronting neighborhood yards on both sides of every street; a grocery store and retail shops were just a few blocks away.  Every day Corinne walked somewhere, often with scarf over her head and the ends tied under her chin to keep her hair in place.  It’s a visual memory I carry about her and I always wondered where she was going.  Sometimes she pulled a folding shopping cart behind her; most of the time she was without it.  I later learned many of those walks were to places where she volunteered, something she did from the moment she reached retirement age.  I’ve no idea if she ever drove a car as we never saw her behind the wheel, but given her past it is very likely she did at one time.
When we moved to Chicago in 2004, she wished us well and told us goodbye.  That was the last contact we ever had with Corinne, and I just recently discovered that she passed away in 2015.  She was ninety-four, and her obituary stated that “even as her health declined, Miss Smith resolved to live with as little assistance as possible.”  It was her obituary that surprised me.
A journalist with a Master’s Degree, she traveled extensively in the 1940s and 1950s, served with the American Red Cross in such countries as India, China, Japan, Korea and North Africa; travel writing took her overseas, as well.  In 1952, she became “one of the few women ever to ride in a jet plane,” according to a Detroit Times article.  She worked as a writer and editor for the Wyandotte Tribune, Detroit Times and Detroit Free Press, eventually having her own column.  Retiring in 1986, she was once quoted as saying, “I’ve been very lucky to have had the opportunity to travel all around the world. Not many people can list the countries they haven’t been to easier than the ones they have been to.”
When you’re a vital and active person walking through that door of retirement, hearing it slam shut as you cross the threshold might cause the outlook for the rest of your life to be a little sobering.  This would be especially so for a woman who, as far as I know, never married and had no children.  I often wondered how lonely she might be, yet she lived a healthy and independent life for twenty-nine years after retiring. 
I wish I had known this information about her when we were neighbors, even though given her solitary lifestyle, knowing wouldn’t have changed much, if anything.  It’s doubtful that any knowledge of her past would alter how and when she wished to interact with us, and it would not have modified her guarded privacy.  As a former colleague once said of her, “She was a trailblazer…ahead of her time.  She was a wonderful role model, a wonderful mentor.”
Saying such words to Corinne Smith would not have mattered much to her, however, having the opportunity to do so held greater meaning for me.  I hope she at least knew of that trail she blazed, and the barriers that were dented due to her life.  It meant something to women in general and to me; to the little girls who looked toward the future with promise and hope, wondering what they were capable of doing, she was a role model.  How I wish I could’ve thanked her.

Thursday, April 6, 2017


This is the first time I've written a short story that potentially wraps up a book that's still in the outlining process.  In other words, I haven't started the manuscript yet, but I'm giving a bit of a back story at the end of it.  At this point, I don't have plans for the book to be titled Stardust, and I don't really know where it's going until I start writing it.  I just have an idea and I'm sharing part of it (but the protagonist will see Ava again).

Nat King Cole's version of Stardust (originally composed by Hoagy Carmichael, lyrics by Mitchell Parish) was the song I had in my head when writing this.  Thanks to all for reading, and as always, copyright applies (©Veronica Randolph Batterson).


By Veronica Randolph Batterson
(©Veronica Randolph Batterson) 

“That’s yours,” he told the waitress as she brought his change to the table. 
“Thanks,” she smiled, trying to strike up the nerve for conversation.  “It’s just that me and the others, well, we’re certain we’ve seen ye somewhere before.”
“I’ve often been told I look like somebody,” he replied, shrugging. “Casualty of having a common face, I guess.”
“Aye, a casualty maybe, but your face isn’t common, I promise ye,” she winked and sashayed back to the counter, whispering to two other women who had been working that afternoon.  They glanced his way.
He thought they were around his daughter’s age, much too young to remember who he was, and he certainly didn’t look as he did three decades earlier at the height of when everyone knew his name.  He’d primarily stayed out of the public eye by choice since then and was photographed very little.  It would surprise him if they knew.
Then as if he needed reminding, the background music in the little cafĂ© nudged him toward his purpose.  The song began, stirring memories.  He grabbed his keys, got his coffee to go and strode outside.

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we’re apart

         He walked the sidewalks of Pitlochry, glancing into stores, recalling how the town used to be, and delaying the inevitable.  He had been in Scotland a little over twenty-four hours, yet still hadn’t found the courage to see her.  The flight from L.A. had been tiresome and when he landed in Edinburgh, all he wanted to do was go to the hotel, catch up on his sleep and figure out what he’d say once he lost the fear of facing her.  Instead, he took the rental car and headed for the Highlands to clear his head and think.  The more he drove, the farther away he was from the woman he’d traveled over five thousand miles to see again.  One more day didn’t matter to the twenty-five years that had already passed.
His first stop the morning he arrived had been in Callander, just shy of the Trossachs where he had spent summers as a seasonal ranger in the park.  It had been a while, but driving the hills of his youth came back to him naturally, as did driving on the other side of the road.  His behind the wheel experience began at the age of fourteen when his dad suffered a broken leg, and no one else had been around to make the trek to the hospital.  He’d maneuvered the roads as well as could be expected and, for his efforts, had been rewarded a birthday present one month early.  A guitar.  He knew it had taken his father months of working and saving to afford it.  The instrument helped decide his career path; that decision led him to Ava.

You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by

Nat King Cole crooned the song over the radio the first time he saw her, and every time he heard it his thoughts returned to that time.  He’d found himself in Nashville in 1976, just as his career was getting started.  She was a pretty eighteen-year-old innocent with a transistor radio to her ear, leaning against a tree as it played.  She hummed and swayed to the music and instantly he’d felt a connection; a friendship took root that day and grew into something greater over time.  There was no attempt at impressing him; Ava treated him with genuine kindheartedness, just as she did everyone else.  It was needed in a business that was starting to suck the life out of him, even early on; he soaked up every bit of substance she exuded and that sustained him until demands of the road took him away.
It was nearly eight years later that they had their first date.  By that time, he was burned out with the music industry, had risen quickly, made the money, needed rehab and was ready to turn away from all of it.  Then Ava walked back into his life, a young woman with ghosts of her own, and their relationship took a different turn.  He fell in love. 
“Do you remember this?” he had asked her once, turning up the volume on the car radio as the Cole song suddenly played.

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely night dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
But that was long ago
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song

“Of course. It came on the radio when we first met. I was so nervous when I saw you, I’m surprised I remember anything though,” she’d replied.
“You nervous? You hid it well.”
“An act,” she’d laughed.
He remembered taking her hand then and what followed were the happiest eighteen months of his life.  They became inseparable.  When he had commitments that couldn’t be canceled, he made sure she was there with him.  The togetherness and relationship weren’t approved by everyone.  Their whirlwind romance was endured much to the chagrin of Ava’s aunt, along with his long-time agent, Sonny, who usually didn’t care what anyone did as long as a potential deal wasn’t axed as a result.  Both had expressed displeasure at them being a couple, often enough for him to suspect their hand in what ultimately happened.
The last day he ever saw Ava, she’d been excited to share some news with him.  He remembered how happy she seemed.  Before she could tell him, Sonny called to arrange a meeting, saying it was urgent and couldn’t wait.  Ava encouraged him to go and said they would talk that evening.  Three hours later she was gone.  It was as if she’d just disappeared.  The vanishing act caused him to panic and he called everyone they knew, including Sonny and her aunt Dorothy, asking if she had contacted them.
“Why, honey, I haven’t seen her.  You two have a lovers’ spat?” Dot’s voice had drawled, the southern accent accentuated a little too much.  He’d learned long ago that southern hospitality was genuine in some, but with Dorothy he had known to watch his back.  Her knives were sharp.  She was as tough as nails, and he didn’t believe her.  Sonny had been no help either, denying any knowledge of Ava’s whereabouts.
Hours turned into days; weeks followed, blending into months until a year had passed with no sign of her.  The police found no clues, ultimately deciding she had left him on her own free will, encouraging him to move on.  He never did.  He turned to the only ‘friends’ he trusted at that time, his old buddies he referred to as alcohol and drugs, once again finding solace in the vices that Ava had given him reason to leave.  An overdose and breakdown followed, and he spent two months in a detox facility getting clean and sober.  The day he walked out, he quit the business, fired Sonny, and became a recluse.  A marriage and divorce happened, but he never forgot the woman he loved.
Of all people, it had been his daughter who found her.  Dear sweet Haley and her tech-savvy boyfriend who, until that point, he’d always found a little annoying.  They broke the news to him a week ago with Haley giving him a hug and saying before she left, “Dad, there’s something else, but she owes you that explanation.  Go to her.”  He had no idea how Haley had known about Ava, yet she’d made the same mistake he had all those years ago with the assumption Ava meant something to an old friend of his.  Uncertain what had given his daughter that notion, his own belief at the time had been driven by stupidity and insecurity.  He had wasted too much time then, and he was doing so now.

Beside a garden wall
When stars are bright
You are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
A paradise where roses bloom

He glanced at his watch; Edinburgh was about an hour and half away.  If he left now, he might just miss the worst of the traffic, have time to check in to his hotel and shower.  Beyond that, it was anyone’s guess with much depending on Ava. 
As he drove away, the sights of Pitlochry behind him, he started to have hope.  He’d told himself to expect nothing, but insist on answers and to walk away with assurances she was happy.  He made no promises to himself.

Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of love’s refrain

(©Veronica Randolph Batterson)  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Flying over Edinburgh Castle
Historically, the word “Caledonia” is the Latin name given to northern Britain when Britannia was occupied by the Roman Empire; poetically, it is the name used when referring to Scotland. When Scottish singer and songwriter Dougie MacLean became homesick for his native country in 1977, he wrote a folk ballad expressing the depth of his love for the place of his birth. His Caledonia has been covered by many artists over the years, but I think the most beautiful version is his own.  It is widely recognized, often by many, as the unofficial anthem of the country. 
When I visited Edinburgh a few months ago, my husband and I enjoyed a couple of day tours from the city.  One took us into the Highlands and it was a long day but worth every hour of the journey.  Our guide was informative, witty and eager to share a great deal of knowledge not only about what we were seeing, but also about the music of Scottish artists.  We listened to many singers, including MacLean, which accompanied our views of the beautiful Scottish scenery.  All were interspersed with the rich history of Caledonia, and it was easy to see and understand why there is love and pride for such a wonderful place.
 While there were many highlights on that particular day, seeing Ardverikie Castle on the shore of Loch Laggan, and being able to photograph and interact with some Highland cattle (or “hairy coos” to the locals) were pretty special to me.  Ardverike, by the way, was the estate used as the fictional “Glenbogle” in the BBC series Monarch of the Glen, which ran from 2000-2005.  Being a “boglie”, it was interesting to learn there are six cottages on the grounds for vacation and holiday rentals.  Perhaps that will go on the bucket list for next time. 
As some of my ancestral ties are in Scotland, I like to think that’s the reason I’m drawn to it.  The history of the Jacobites and all of those Kings named James appeal to me.  And Ben Nevis, Fort William, Rob Roy, Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Alexander Graham Bell.  The telephone, television, penicillin, radar, lawn mower, toaster, refrigerator, criminal fingerprinting…all due to Scottish inventors. The list is long; the history extensive.
I’ve enjoyed many Burns Night suppers, Highland Games, and The Feast of the Haggis events (even though I always extend the haggis to my husband in exchange for his scotch).  A Scottish character plays prominently in my latest manuscript which is out with agents right now; a fictional male lead with ties to Caledonia will be featured in the next one that I’m currently researching.  It seems writers wish to tell stories with a Caledonian plot, and readers enjoy being taken on that fictional journey.  There is something mystical about the place. 
Another bucket list visit for me will be seeing the ruins of (New) Slains Castle on Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire (between Aberdeen and Peterhead), built after 1597 and rebuilt in the early nineteenth century.  It reportedly was Bram Stoker’s inspiration when he wrote Dracula; it was also part of the historical fiction of The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley.  Its location was just a little too far north for us to make this last visit.
Finally, as for MacLean’s Caledonia, I agree with a reviewer that said, “One of the best songs ever written to express love for a person’s home nation…”  The lyrics follow below. It, along with many of his other songs including Some Hearts, Weather Eye, Loving One, The Gift (Fly Away), and Feel So Near, can be found on iTunes.


I don’t know if you can see the changes that have come over me
In these last few days I’ve been afraid that I might drift away
So I’ve been telling old stories, singing songs, that make me think about where I come from
That’s the reason why I seem so far away today

Let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time
Caledonia you’re calling me and now I’m going home
But if I should become a stranger you know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

I have moved and I’ve kept on moving, proved the points that I needed proving
Lost the friends that I needed losing, found others on the way
I have tried and I’ve kept on trying, stolen dreams, yes there’s no denying
I have traveled hard sometimes with conscience flying somewhere in the wind

Let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time
Caledonia you’re calling me and now I’m going home
But if I should become a stranger you know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

Now I’m sitting here before the fire, the empty room the forest choir
The flames that couldn’t get any higher they’ve withered now they’ve gone
But I’m steady thinking, my way is clear and I know what I will do tomorrow
When the hands have shaken and the kisses flow then I will disappear

Let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time
Caledonia you’re calling me and now I’m going home
But if I should become a stranger you know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

Monday, February 6, 2017

New Work on Fine Art America

I have some new photographs on Fine Art America that were taken in December 2016 during a visit to the Memphis Zoo.  Below are a few screen shots; the higher resolution images can be viewed at  www.veronica-batterson.pixels.com.

Over the last few years, I've added over three hundred photos, which can be purchased in various formats.  From wall art in canvas, acrylic, metal, wood, posters and framed and unframed prints, to home decor which includes throw pillows, duvets, shower curtains, hand towels, bath towels, bath sheets, and beach towels...all can be created from the images on Fine Art America and through Pixels' site. Also available are tote bags, carry-all pouches, portable batteries, greeting cards, phone cases, t-shirts, and coffee mugs. Fine Art America offers a 100% guarantee on all purchases.

Please check it out, and a reminder: these images are copyright protected. Downloading without permission is, well, not permitted, not kind, and something you shouldn't do (especially if you crop and remove copyright/watermark--very wrong!).  Plus, taking a low resolution image doesn't hold a key to buying a top quality one anyway. I do, however, appreciate anyone wishing to share the images on social media, giving me the required credit. The Fine Art America watermark will not appear on any items purchased. Thanks for looking and let me know if you make any purchases. It's appreciated.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Five Years and Counting

Universal Symbol of Compassion
On January 10, 2012, this blog was introduced as “The Reluctant Blogger” and I thought the name summed up its existence rather well.  I was reluctant.  I had been encouraged to start blogging as a way of marketing myself and my books, but it wasn’t appealing to me because I never thought anyone would care to read what I had to say.  In a sea of bloggers with a multitude of opinions on just about everything, how could I compete?  I felt I’d probably sink, not swim, because content was more important than simply saying you had a blog.  You needed readers.  Plus, consistency was relevant, too.  So reluctantly I waded in, setting a goal of at least one post per month and never believing it would last past the first year.
Sometimes I surprise myself.  Here I am five years later, still hanging around with things to say.  I’ve met and in some months surpassed the monthly posting minimum; finding topics to write about has gotten a little easier.  Being able to share the posts on social media has garnered a nice amount of readers, and I’m very happy I didn’t give up.  “The Reluctant Blogger” ceased to exist some time ago, and the title is simply my name.
I’m also happy that I didn’t take the blog into the direction I was considering.  I have strong opinions about things, and there were times that I felt sharing them on a blog would be the perfect outlet.  Given the current climate of opinions that are expressed on Facebook alone, I’m glad I didn’t take that route.  Eclectic, varied, and safe are good ways to describe this place and that’s how I intend for it to remain.  No themes are in the works either.
Speaking of that current climate, however, I will say this: words are important.  How and how often they are used are relevant, too.  We benefit from utilizing such words as ‘Thank you’, ‘Please’, ‘Excuse me’, and ‘I’m sorry’.  Use them and use them often.  I remember once being told by a server in a restaurant that I was the most grateful person she had ever encountered.  This came after about the fifth ‘thank you’ I had given her for simply bringing something to the table.  “Thank you,” I replied.  That made her laugh, but I was serious.  These basic responses are key to building values; and values allow for kindness, compassion, and courtesy. And we need these things now more than ever.
So be kind. Be thoughtful. Stop categorizing and judging. We’re a complicated lot, with many shades and backgrounds that make us tick.  Respect that.  And if you want respect, you have to give it.  Treat others the way you want to be treated, and hold yourself to the same standards you expect in others.  Be accountable.  It’s important to have opinions; it’s not okay to express them by hurting others or justifying them by being contradictory.  And while I don’t think any of us should feel entitled, I do believe everyone is deserving of the basic necessities of life.  Know the difference.  Work hard and set goals.  Humility is a strength, not a weakness.
Finally, I didn’t know where I was going with this blog post.  Usually I’ll work on a piece for a few days before posting it, but I realized last night that today was the fifth anniversary.  If what you’re reading sounds a little convoluted or “preachy”, it’s because the post was written quickly to make the date.  It really is a moment of musings.  My apologies.
Thank you (there are those words again) for reading what I have to say here.  It isn’t much, but I try to make it a little interesting. 
Onward and peace to all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Time of Reflection

A year ago, I wasn’t feeling much Christmas cheer.  It was the shadow of upcoming change that darkened the season and prevented me from enjoying the holiday.  For weeks, my focus had involved sorting through boxes that contained memories from our lives, deciding what needed donating, tossing or saving.  Packing and getting things in order overshadowed decorating, shopping, gift wrapping and cooking.  Christmas was hastily put together, an afterthought for me, because a bigger event loomed soon afterward.  And for the first time in my life, the decorations came down and were packed away as soon as December 25th was history.  It was as if a light switch had suddenly been flipped, and the holiday was forgotten and over.  Time to move on.  Time to face big change once again.  And on December 30, 2015, I said goodbye to a house in Chicagoland that had been home to me for twelve years; a new place waited in Memphis, a new job for my husband. 
It’s difficult to explain the emotions that get attached to a house.  It is just a building, after all, and a dozen years don’t seem like many to some people.  However, it’s the level of living and the significant events that made those years full and meaningful for me, and that’s what makes a house a home.  The house saw both of our daughters graduate from high school and college; it was our home when one got married, and the other became engaged.  Within those walls, I wrote books and saw three of them published; anniversaries and birthdays were planned and celebrated, holidays passed and parties were held, vacations enjoyed.  The golden retriever that moved into that house with us lost her life to illness during those years; the sweet angel with fur that just moved south with us entered our lives as a puppy there, too.  The tenure might have been short, but the content was full. 
It was tough putting the house on the market.  The “For Sale” sign was placed in the yard on January 2nd and five months later it sold.  During that time, I never lost the emotional attachment but I could only endure one visit in order to check on it.  Walking into that empty shell which had meant so much to me and seeing the condition it was in due to viewings was too much.  It was a disappointing list of things that hit me full in the face when I opened the front door, and it looked tired; the disrespect shown by strangers for something that had been part of my life took its toll.  I never went back.  The day our house sold was bittersweet, but I know the new owners are making their own memories in it.
Those who have gone through it know this: moving is hard.  Doing so across country means uprooting and leaving everything you’ve come to rely on behind you.  The day to day things taken for granted have to be rethought anew, with much of it trial and error until the fit is right.  In the past, the kids moved with us, easing the difficulty of that unknown, but this time was different.  One daughter remains in Chicago, while the other lives in Colorado.  Plans now have to be made to see both of them, and that’s tough on a parent.
And when the family moves because of one spouse’s job, that spouse has an immediate source of interaction to help with adjusting to a new place.  While moving is usually difficult for children, they too have support from schools and new friends.  It’s the other tag-along spouse/parent who is left dangling, trying to make things work while struggling to figure out his/her purpose that moving affects the most.  You feel lost while trying to establish yourself; planting seeds to initiate new roots is timely and they don’t always take right away.  It’s easy to feel like a failure.
The year has passed quickly, as they all seem to do nowadays.  It saw our oldest get married in May; we took a trip to Scotland and England in October, and spent Thanksgiving with the youngest in Colorado.  Family will arrive in a couple of days to share Christmas, which will be celebrated as usual.  No rushing and the decorations won’t be taken down on the 26th.  The latest manuscript is now in the hands of literary agents, and there are thoughts of the next book.  I just organized a food drive that I hope becomes an annual event, and I’ve already participated in an author fair.  My new house is starting to feel like home.  You see those seeds are sprouting.
Take the time to reflect, and if you have the time, don’t rush.  Enjoy the season with friends and family.  I wish all of you the happiest of holidays; Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

SS Edmund Fitzgerald 
A memorable and surreal moment of my life came in November of 1994, several months after we moved to Detroit, Michigan.  My husband had taken a job downtown and we lived in the suburban area of Grosse Pointe; the most convenient access to and from the city for us came via Jefferson Avenue.
Driving this route provided a startling contrast in scenery.  Beauty and blight.  Manicured lawns and vacant, overgrown lots.  Occupied, historic buildings and abandoned, vandalized ruins.  One structure that consistently caught my attention was a particular church; in fact, whenever we were within a couple of blocks, I found myself looking for it as if making sure it hadn’t disappeared. It never did.  The building stood at the corner of the entrance for border crossing to the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.  Perhaps that was why it was more noticeable to me at the time.  We’d often take the tunnel, crossing under the Detroit River to simply go to dinner or to do things in Windsor, Canada.  Its location made it a building that couldn’t be missed.  But I like to think learning the history of the building is what appealed to me, how it stood stoically, and had withstood what too many other historical buildings in the city of Detroit had been unable to do.  It had survived. 
So it was one Sunday in November that we decided to attend a service at this church.  The Mariners’ Church of Detroit held a surprise for us.  Inadvertently, the day we chose to attend was the very day its bell “chimed till it rang twenty-nine times for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald”.  It isn’t an exaggeration when I say the gooseflesh ran down my arms once I realized what was happening.  I remember glancing at my husband, and thinking, “No way!” and thanking whatever force that had guided us there for that annual event.  Not only did they ring the bell, but each crew member’s name was read, too.  Then the choir performed, singing that famous Gordon Lightfoot song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which notably mentions the church in the lyrics: 

The Legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early
The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well-seasoned
Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ship's bell rang
Could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?
The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too,
T'was the witch of November come stealin'
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing'
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind
When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin'
Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya
At 7 pm a main hatchway caved in, he said
Fellas, it's been good t'know ya
The captain wired in he had water comin in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her
They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters
Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams
The islands and bays are for sportsmen
And far below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered
In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the maritime sailors' cathedral
The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call 'Gitche Gumee'
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early

Lightfoot released the song in 1976 as a tribute to the twenty-nine men who lost their lives in the shipwreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior, November 10, 1975.  Launched in 1958, the freighter was considered the largest carrier on the Great Lakes at the time, but was no match for hurricane-force winds and thirty-five foot waves seventeen years later.  On November 9, 1975, the ship departed Superior, Wisconsin with 26,000 tons of ore bound for Detroit (not Cleveland, as in Lightfoot's lyrics).  That evening the National Weather Service issued a gale warning for Lake Superior, upgrading it to a storm warning at 2:00 a.m. the next morning.  The captain of the Mighty Fitz made radio contact that afternoon:  "I have a bad list, lost both radars, and am taking heavy seas over the deck. One of the worst seas I've ever seen."  At 7:00 p.m., the freighter, SS Arthur M Anderson made contact with the doomed ship and had her on radar, but approximately twenty minutes later she disappeared.  Every crew member perished and no bodies were recovered.  An excellent website that provides bios of these brave men is www.ssedmundfitzgerald.org.
Creative and artistic liberties were taken by the singer/songwriter with respect to the song, such as the name of the church, mentioning what the cook said when there was no way of knowing this, saying the ship was bound for a city it wasn't.  All of this was to make a wonderful song that works.  Lightfoot eventually changed some lyrics for performances, including the reference to a "musty old hall" when one of the parishioners of the Mariners' Church complained to him that the hall wasn't musty.  I would agree with this statement.  It is now performed with the lyrics "rustic old hall" instead, although I think "classic" is a better adjective.  
The Mariners' Church of Detroit 
The Mariners' Church of Detroit, built in 1849, was established according to the will of Julia Anderson in 1842, who saw it as a Maritime Mission for maritime travelers on the Great Lakes.  Today it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, considered an Independent Church adhering to Anglican traditions, and was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.  It began the annual remembrances of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975 that continued until 2006.  It then extended the event by remembering all of the lives lost on the Great Lakes.  Today the church holds a Blessing of the Fleet every March for those going to sea, and a Great Lakes Memorial Service every November for those who have lost their lives at sea (this also includes military personnel who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service).
That day twenty-two years ago was pretty special to me.  It was one that came with such surprise because of the obvious unplanned timing, but more so because I'm not sure I ever realized the church in that song actually existed.  I think I assumed it was simply part of a special homage from a great songwriter who created one of the most memorable songs of my youth, one that has withstood time.  In fact, the song's longevity is much like the church that's mentioned in it.
November 10, 2016.  Forty-one years later.  For more information on the wonderful church that hasn't forgotten, continues to remember, and stands proudly, visit www.marinerschurchofdetroit.org.