August 24, 2016

The "Big Lake"

When I was in high school, when my parents bought me that used Ford Tempo, I would drive out Port Sheldon Road to the "Big Lake" (the pet name we Michiganders call our beloved Lake Michigan). I would drive out there when I was feeling especially blue, something I felt often at 17 years old, and I would walk through the beach grass to the old weathered lifeguard chair. And there I would sit, allowing my ears to be abused by the deafening crash of Autumn waves against the cold beach, and I would wonder about all things, big and small.

If I had been a tortoise, that chair was my shell. If I had been an eagle, that chair was my cleft in the high rock, overlooking all the world as I knew it.

Last summer when I was in Michigan, I noticed (to my dismay) that my chair is on its last leg, so to speak. Pieces of it were laying in crumbles beneath the sagging chair, where the roots of the beach grass met the grains of sand. Gingerly, affectionately, I gathered a few of the pieces - wood so gray and soft it may as well have been the bones of old man's hand - and I placed those pieces in the pocket of my sweatshirt.

Now they are here with me in East Asia. I will keep them with me always.

And this past summer, during our very quick stop in west Michigan, we made it to the Big Lake, of course. And I touched my chair. And I swam in the waves. And I sucked down the fresh lake wind. The empty storehouses of my heart filled up once again, readying me to face another two years of polluted city life in East Asia.

And now I'm back (back "home," you'd say), sleeping in my own bed in my own apartment, stirring pudding over my own stove. But all the while, as I turn the whisk around and around at the bottom of my IKEA pan, I am thinking and dreaming of the Big Lake. And I can't help but smile.
The view from "my chair"
My dear Uncle Tom, driving the kids to the beach from his house 
My bearded Arkansan husband, hotdog and Gatorade in-hand.
My Liz, ready to roast her dogs. Cutest Michigander ever.
My little bro, with the names of his children lovingly tattooed on his arm. 
My dad, lighting sparklers for the kids.
Another generation of Big Lake magic.
The gold of the sand at sunset.
The gold of the sunset itself.
The gold of the glowing fire.
Mom's crinkly laugh and hubby's happy face beside the fire.
Hubby's bad relationship with cool air.
My favorite friend in my favorite place.
My favorite friend and her favorite little girl, looking at the sunset with identical profiles.
Liz's daughter, Cadence, burying Jubilee and Zion in the sand.
My brother Jack and his wife Melissa.
It's a big, big lake. xoxo