August 1, 2019
The Caress of the Lake
Pounding. Throughout the night, their forces collide continuously, interrupted only by the perfectly timed release of sprays.
It is a sound unexpectedly raw. Bashing. Slapping. Spattering. Fiercely and boldly those dark waves beat upon limestone breakwaters.
I am on holiday! On the shores of Lake Michigan for a few days, I ride my bike, walk the beach, and swim. Swim! And I take time to return to a peace of me, a reunion of spirit, to my childhood summers and a oneness with the lakeshore.
But the water level is higher this year, higher than most years. Beaches which once stretched into the lake have been swallowed several times over. Their sands camouflage into tan-striped sandbars, leisurely outlining the depths beneath the water’s caress.
The higher waters transform my childhood lake from the frolicking toss of soulful waves into rolling embraces of dark passion. There is no comforting memories in these waves. This lake is no beacon to my soul. No sweetness lulls me into the sleep of a weary traveler. And no foghorn bellows.
In unison, the sky above the lake is sliced crystalline with a depth belonging to the night. Only the glow from the ferry on the horizon and the starlight flecks interrupt the blackness. Their lights dot the seam between the fabrics of deepest space of midnight sky and the coldest depths of Lake Michigan.
The waves pound with the presence of darkness. Eventually, my head grows accustomed, I stop listening, and fall asleep.
If the waves of darkness had been born of storm, the morning light would typically calm them. But I awaken to the insistent bashing of wave to limestone boulders below my room. Having kept the window wide open, I both breathe in the lake air and succumb to its thrashing noises. My room faces outward to the lake, the limestone breakwater only ten feet past the paved walkway. Occasionally the build-up of higher waters spurts over the limestone breakwaters, then the pavement, but still remains controlled from reaching the building.
I listen for the familiarity of other sounds, but I find none. I look up-shore. I look down-shore. I hear no sound of vacationers’ voices. No one strolls. No one is bench-sitting or park-swinging. I imagine – if only for moments – just me and the waves.
For most of the day, as I rode my bike or walked or drove, I could only listen. (I would not be soul-searching while lying on limestone breakers!) I could assign all sorts of qualities and philosophies and memories to the lake. (I usually do). I could wrestle with inner existentialism. (Again. I usually do). But this lake was not the lake of softness. I rather liked that. And I listened more.
The Place No More.
One of my favorite spots for a day drive is a place which is no more. Along the way, I pass by a one room country school which had been my father’s first teaching assignment. The past welcomes me in a pleasant drifting of drive, lake air and memories. The roads are white grey from the limestone mixed pavement. A country-store-turned-home sits too close to the intersection. And I keep driving.
The county park lies on a hill next to Lake Michigan. When the waters are lower, you can still see the wood pilings from the pier which once stood here. I close my eyes. Nineteenth and early twentieth century schooners with sails and steam docked at this shore. The tanning industry and a naturally deep access point to the lake created a mecca here.
But life changes. Businesses changed. The bustling avenues of commerce faded. Fires. All that remains are wooden pilings seen only when the water levels drop and the loveliest of picnic parks. It is a place which is no more.
The Bluest Diamonds
The blue twinkled waters returned the next day. The waters no longer slammed and slapped at the limestone breakwaters. Sailboats braved the lake and the Coast Guard cutter practiced. Vacationers returned to their perches atop the boulders, seeking out spots for photo poses. The gulls disappeared to the skies above deeper lake waters.
And I biked. And swam. And wrote.
And I have a new memory of the fiercest caress of my lake.
And lots of love. I wish you love.
With a kiss, of course…