For three days I have eaten eggs and spinach for brunch then ended my day with salmon and green beans. (There may be a glass or two of Riesling in my diet as well).
And apples and raspberry black tea.
Further, a note to self on future vacation trips might be that I have clothed myself with a swimsuit, flannel shirt, cutoff shorts and a dress. Sandals.
Sixteen thousand photos, twelve hundred videos and twenty-two thousand emails await my organization prowess. I have a massive to-do list and equally numerous preconceptions of what I will finish – my mini-missions – and a cluttered mindset to ease into relaxation.
All of this I had designated as my ultimate vacation assignment along with answering the questions of my own existence and realigning my goals and purposes.
Oh my goodness! Yes, truthfully those were my expectations.
But first, I drive just a hair over three hours to Lake Michigan. I stay just north of my parents’ birth city. As a child, my family spent weekends and countless summers with my grandparents. As an adult, I returned here each summer hoping to instill a love for the lake in my own son.
Last year my only return was to attend my uncle’s funeral and join with his family, my family.
I cried, of course, at the usual spot as I drove, coming to the sign which told me I was fifteen miles from the lakeshore. I cried twice more as I crept closer in the Jeep. The familiar bends on the county road leading to the tree lined beach stunned me as I allowed myself to be swallowed. With the final bend I was paralleling the lake’s beaches on my left side as I continued my drive southward.
Days prior I didn’t think my vacation would materialize. “I could still cancel reservations,” I had reasoned with myself. Work Schedules had conflicted but they worked themselves out.
I began my trip later than expected. As I drove, I started to remember prior vacations. With a strangely comforting feeling, I realized I was once again revisiting ghosts. I was anticipating these ghosts of vacations past!
Many of those memories involved family disputes and some were misunderstandings. And still others were awakenings of their own, memories of historical wrongs and beasts from a familial past. I remembered the summer of 2010 when my then husband fell ill, my mother decided to not take her blood pressure medications and my father fell, his femur shattered.
A Day of Sun.
My first full day next to the lake propelled me into the isolation my mind craved. Jokingly I left work with the tale I would be watching waves and seagulls. And the barest of communication possible. I ate a breakfast of eggs with spinach and feta cheese with coffee and water. I had slept longer than I would have imagined necessary. And I felt amazingly, pleasantly healthy.
I grabbed blankets and music with my coffee. My first priority was sitting in the sun next to the lake. For an hour I swung on the log bench swing, watching boats while listening to the waves.
I knew I had work to catch up, but I also knew I had personal time to catch up. The day was one of those rare August days and rarer lakeside days which were warm enough for swimsuits. In fact, the day practically begged a person to shed clothes.
After wondering what should be next, I obeyed the day’s command. I quickly changed into my suit. It’s not the perfect swimwear but I like it well enough. A black one piece with enough texture to hide a bulge and bump here and there. It’s halter neck looks rather finished with faded jeans.
Realizing I had not been walking on a beach for a couple years, I smiled as I shed my sandals. Since I fashion myself a bit of a fashionista, I found it peculiar that my perfect swim coverup happened to be my old red flannel shirt which really has no fuzz left to it’s flannel.
The waves lapped gently at the shore. It’s been many years since the lake has receded enough to reveal its beaches here. When my son was younger we had small trees and sand grasses which dotted the sand. Beach strolling had been an adventure. Then the years of high lake levels, some of which rose fifteen inches, churned at those plants. One could hop through the beach forest but it had washed itself into a boggy unpleasantness.
The beach cycle returns. The high lake levels eventually tore the plants, then receded to digest them in its cold belly. I tiptoed to the water. The lake was still summer warm. As I walked I saw the sandbars and hesitated with the conditioned warning of my childhood.
Smiling I strode to the first rippling of sand. Still soft, the sandbar was new or ready to be shifted away. The waters were warm and soothing.
I stopped to sit in the edge to dangle my feet into the water. I bunched my shirt atop my sandals for a pillow then lied in the sand. I found myself praying upwards, offering thanksgivings into the gorgeous blue canopy. I started to wonder why I would hide G-d’s importance in my life.
And no vacation by the lake is complete without bicycling. I found more suitable attire in t-shirt and cutoffs as I would be heading to town. Just a few short miles of limestone covered trails through the beach’s trees and I would be pedaling in the town of my childhood summers.
No matter if I was inside or biking, the lake’s smell surrounded me. It was a pleasant watery fresh smell filtered with trees and sunshine topped off with the heated perfume of beach sand.
I could navigate with only enough attention to notice changes. I had biked these streets off and on for decades. To the piers to check on my grandfather and father as they fished, I smiled as I could still see them in my minds eye.
Hello, lake. Hello, Steph.
The only different event of day two is the necessity of sunscreen and lotions. I do not know where I got the idea that late August sun does not burn but let me state that it is false. Take care of that skin!
One would think the churning of those memories would be depressing but I realized as I repeated the mindplay of them that the lake held them. I thought of the events of this past year, of the sicknesses of family members. How close their lives had been to not surviving.
I wondered how I could pollute the lake spirit with such memories. Such an odd thought for a fifty-seven year old creative, numbers type like myself. How dare I?
But I kept walking through the gentle waves. For miles I strode on sandbars, then upon the shore. I looked to the horizon, not seeing the shoreline of the neighboring state. Not only could the lake hold my memories, it could lessen their weight. It could infuse me with light and remind me of fluidity.
The lake could remind me of gratitude. I have legs with which to walk and a mind to ponder. I have a lake who beckons me and reminds me to…
Strut! I found myself strutting just a bit…
Lots of love, s