Just like art class, I decided to start photography anew with the tiniest, simplest of subjects. I had joked with people at my work that vacation would consist of watching seagulls and waves, nothing more.
I also had joked, but not to many, that I had sixteen thousand photos, twenty-two thousand emails and fourteen hundred videos stored on my phone or accessible from my phone. It might be time to clean out my tech storage devices and organize.
Just a little bit, anyway.
And although I had goals such as those for my time off, my first priority was in the getaway. I returned to the shore of Lake Michigan just as I had done my whole life.
At two hours of my three hour drive, I circled around the last big city I would encounter. I was in the final leg, heading south for a half hour. I smiled as the music changed to the lake’s classic and popular music mix. The sun kept welcoming me even in the residual city traffic.
I exited the highway almost without thought. The turns became more and more automatic, engrained through years and decades.
I colored the waves with the pen of my memory. They gently tumbled over sand and feet, reawakening the ghosts of my heart. This cycle I had enjoyed since childhood although the lake had been forbidden to me while I was alone.
As I checked into my accommodations, the booking agent pleasantly welcomed me. Yes, I am glad to be back. Yes, it has been a few years. Throughout the cabin, the smells of my grandparents’ home surrounded me. The flow of distant coffee and the heavy, almost musty, smell of lake air circled then held me. I swooned a bit at the nostalgic smells. And a bit of bleach and swollen wood added to the mix. No amount of maintenance and air conditioning could totally prevent the lake air infusion.
After unpacking, I realized the network and cellphone capabilities had grown worse. I would call my family later. I opened the window then unpacked my blankets. The lake was thirty feet away. I bundled myself in bed, fully clothed, wrapped in my woolens. Intending for only a couple hours, I instead was lullabied to late in the night.
A Daytime Discovery
Pleasantly the water level had receded, just as they had two decades ago, welcoming me with beaches and sandbars upon which to stroll. Growing up, the lane had risen to levels which pounded at the highway. Every two decades or so, the water levels would recede to reveal stunningly softened sandy beaches. Fortunately was the timing of my son’s childhood when the level dropped six feet below normal. People held weddings, gatherings and picnics yards from the usual shoreline.
I perched upon the shoreline boulders each morning to kiss the sun and embrace the waves. I fished for memories in those sun warmed, laps of the lake’s movement. Ghosts of the most painful memories tickled under me. I would look over my shoulder to the horizon.
Guilty. I am guilty. “It is me. It is totally me. Who else dredges these ghosts to tumble through my soul? How dare I repeat this?!”
I began my walk down the beach. I felt badly for the lake to be used as a dumping basin for the worst memories in my life. I looked to the horizon. “Keep coloring, keep tracing, keep filling. Please, the old ghosts are lonesome.”
I recalled the night my father’s leg shattered and his kidneys began to fail. I recalled my mother’s blank stare when she did not recognize me. She had refused to maintain her blood pressure medications. To this day the memory of working through her health escapes me. I do not remember how we made it through the crisis after crisis.
I remembered handling my parents as their lives changed dramatically. That summer my then-husband’s body produced blood clots around his internal organs. I became a Warfarin injecting nurse.
These were just the delicate outlines of the harshest situations which seemed to hit my family like rapid fire bullets. In a short time, they seemed to pile upon one another.
And my young son… I remember his character throughout all of these family matters. Oh, this language of politeness! As a mother I tried to guard him yet never lie. I tried to smother him with positivity and consistency.
“Hm. Well I might have failed at that goal.” I joked to the waves. Why again, dear ghost waves, am I replaying these memories? Why would the waves tumble through me, seeking my soul, my secrets they desired?
Oh, Lake, you would not believe what happened this year. Sunbeams glistened off the water as bejeweled wave crests, reflections from sky to water, then back to the humidity filled blue sky.
I kept walking, my toes purposely dragging the warm watered sandbars. The brilliant light poked holes in my bad memories. My heart poured the family illnesses and arguments of the past year. My failures and weakest moments leaked into the lake water.
I walked for miles with only a handful of encounters with other people. One small schnauzer curiously sniffed in my direction, pausing briefly with her owner that I might talk to her.
As I looked to the horizon, again the ghosts of my decades urged my new ghosts to join them. Tumbling memories in the warm sand lapped at my toes, encouraging them to keep walking.
Grateful for Feet
The nights along the lake blackens the world as if a person is on the darkest side of the moon. I had forgotten the absence of street lights and house lamps from neighbors’ windows. It startled my senses into a momentary paralysis. Not until my eyes adjusted with the dim lights from my own window did my equilibrium return.
I sat again atop the boulders staring to the dark lake. In the distance a car engine motored through the woods. But here, the lake water trickled between the boulders. just the lake and I mused to one another in the night. Our mutual ghosts slept while I prayed gratitude to the universe.
We both had been quieted.
My ghosts had tumbled. My mind righted. My heart, tamed.
At least for another year!