Tag: Lake Michigan

Day 9: Already?

Turn around and go back down.
At the top, you must turn around and go back down.

Yesterday I was finished with the play. I’d gotten to a point of hating it that felt complete. I sent it to a friend, thus making it her problem, and prepared myself for a new something.

First, I finished watching the Bergen DVD someone lent me. Then I took a scrap of paper with some notes scribbled on it from an old project, and ceremoniously carried it to the huge bonfire pile behind the house. Next, I changed clothes several times, looking for the right thing to wear for a walk to Lake Michigan. What IS the right thing? Packed a notebook because I planned to find a place to start writing the new something.

I walked to the lake, a mile or two away, trying to think of the new something, and then thinking about why there should or shouldn’t be a new something. All along the way were huge houses of the rich, surrounded by lots of space and long driveways and immense lawns. The only sounds were made by landscapers and their leaf blowers, and barking dogs.

When I got to the road leading down to the lake, I was met by a sign. “No pedestrians allowed on road.” Temporary fencing surrounded the park and walking path that led to the bluff about the water. I stepped around it and walked to the edge. I sent Georgia a text message, “having existential crisis. You busy?”

I stepped over another, flattened fence to walk down a long flight of concrete steps to the beach. When I got to the bottom there was another sign. “Entrance at top is CLOSED. Stairs may be used for exercise, but at the top you must turn around and go back down.”

The water was almost turquoise, joyous-looking, drinking in sunshine. Huge boulders, smoother than the ones on Chicago beaches, formed a neat, rounded cove. Everything was ready and waiting for another twenty degrees.

I walked along the beach and then found another way back up to the bluff, a long set of wooden ramps that were also closed, according to the sign. When I got to the top, the fence wasn’t broken, but I climbed over it and made my way out of the park.

Georgia called back and reported on people from her workday. The 22-year-old co-worker who’s done it all, including lucid dreaming. “I’m an expert at that,” she sniffed when Georgia mentioned that her young son had just gotten a book on it. Another co-worker who dispensed her usual portion of unhelpful tips. A customer who came in as she always does, playing Words with Friends on her phone and commenting on each move as if Georgia knows her friends. Another customer with a consistently bad smell who came for his lunch. She advised me to try my hand at a mystery.

I got to the library, sat at a table, took out my notebook which is bound with an old book cover, The Beginning Writer’s Handbook, and prepared to try my hand at a mystery. However, I had forgotten to pack a pen, so I read the latest issue of Fra Noi instead.

On the way home, I stopped at Walgreens and purchased a Signo 207 – in blue instead of black, for a treat, then popped into the Jewel, where I purchased toothpaste and candy. At dinner (vegan moussaka, greek salad, turkey roasted with carrots and celery), people were beginning to feel like people instead of residents.

After dinner I sat in the living room with my new pen and my old notebook. I started thinking there might be a different way through the play, and started writing some new scenes.

Figure in a small craft, drifting

I hope to God this is a metaphor.
I hope to God this is a metaphor.

I took a canoe out after breakfast, anticipating a peaceful meander across the quiet lake. Maybe drift over to BooHoo, a dune that rises from the small lake and spills over on the other side into Lake Michigan. I wore my suit, in case I felt like a swim. I packed a bottle of water. I went down to the shore and surveyed my craft of choice, a charmingly dented metal canoe. I pulled it into the water, got in, and began.

From the outset, it was more work than I’d thought. The further out I got, the more work it became. The canoe was stubborn. It wouldn’t go in the direction I wanted. I had to paddle hard and fast on the right side only, just to avoid hitting a fishing boat. I got a little closer than seemed polite but avoided looking over. My original thought of getting to BooHoo, over to the left, was a joke.

I’d forgotten a hat so I tied my shirt around my head. I tried a couple of stints of letting the pretty water take me where it might, but it quite definitely kept taking me into the shore. So I kept paddling, hard, on the right side only.

Finally I made it to opposite shore. I pulled the canoe to a shallow spot against the grasses, then had a quick wade in the water. I didn’t go all the way in because I didn’t want my sunscreen to wash off. I was beginning to realize what a job it might be to get back. The wind that had pushed me so rudely away from BooHoo had also pretty much pushed me to this side of the lake.

I aimed the canoe where I wanted to go, climbed in the back, and started paddling. I paddled and paddled, on one side and then the other, and the canoe blithely turned 180 degrees back toward the grasses. “Come on,” I said out loud.

The canoe began making a screeching sound, like the bottom was scraping over rocks, when by now we were afloat on clear water. “Just come on.” I tried thrusting my paddle down to the sandy lake floor, to push myself in a mighty burst of direction, but the paddle never hit bottom. So I kept paddling.

I was alone on that side of the lake, no one to hear the screeching that was louder the harder I paddled, and we started making progress, skimming instead of circling. I realized I should have tried harder to tip the canoe over before I’d even started, to empty out the water that was now sloshing around my feet and probably making the boat heavier, but it had been too heavy.

When the canoe suddenly did another 180-degree turn I said “No way” and climbed forward onto the middle rail. This new position gave me better leverage, or at least felt like it did. I shoved the lifesaver seat cushion under my butt to make the rail more comfy. “Why isn’t there a seat here?”

From this position I paddled hard but mostly directly all the way back. I felt like I’d learned something about when to paddle deep and fast and when to just skim the surface. I made peace with the fact at any moment the canoe could forget this new understanding we’d forged and ram me right toward the wrong shore and a line of moored boats and a great deal of embarrassment. I kept paddling.

About halfway back, I saw a kayaker paddling approaching, his kayak forming the other half of a V I did not want to make. First I tried to out-paddle him, to get so far ahead there’d be no danger of meeting up. Then I realized again that I had no control over speed. Maintaining direction was my full-time job. As he got closer, I thought of various friendly things to say, two paddlers out on the water. “Now I know why everyone uses the kayaks ha ha!” or “Heh heh now I know why all the kayaks were taken!” though they weren’t. But that might sound more complimentary.

The kayaker was burly, silent, paddling steadily and seriously. I drifted a little and let, “let” him pass me before any of my words might be necessary. If he had paddled to the middle of nowhere, likely he wasn’t looking for conversation either.

After he passed, I paddled on toward Duncan’s boathouse, and when I got close enough, to Duncan’s floating dock, and then past it to the bit of beach beside the pier, where I pulled the canoe up as far as the resting kayaks, hung my seat cushion on the cabinet door, went up to my room, and had a nap.

The shape of things to become

Not pictured: iPhone picture.

This morning I put my iPhone in the dresser drawer. I’m going to try to do without it for a day, and if that works, two days. It feels ridiculous to be in a place where I don’t need to be connected, and yet I can’t stop checking weather and email and Facebook and rock tumbler reviews. I did want to call Liz today. Maybe I can take it out just once, to use only as a phone, if I put it back right after.

It will never stop, the sand shifting from year to year, sometimes a wider beach or a narrower one, sometimes the shipwreck visible and sometimes not. It will never stop, but we will. We’ll get too old to climb Baldy, then too old to get to the big beach, then finally too old to come at all. Or perhaps before any of that, some of us will just tire of the place and its preciousness or its sameness or whatever we choose to accuse it of, while it goes on just the same, black squirrels scurrying through pine forests, dune grass looking at the water, stones polishing themselves in the waves.

Tips for types

sand and sky
Has the sky always been made of sand?

I keep making this mistake that people are what they are right at this moment. That the old man with bags of cans always was and will be an old man with bags of cans. That because Ginny is what’s called a snowbird, which I’d never ever even heard of ‘til someone explained them in Vegas, that’s all she ever was and is – easy life, multiple homes, limited interests. But as usual, I know nothing about people. I learned today that when Ginny goes for a walk along the beach she brings a grocery bag so she can pick up any bits of stray trash. I bring a bag so I can gather stones for my new backsplash. Someone seeing me would call me a grabber, a nature stealer, someone who can’t see beauty without needing to own it. Or at least, that’s what I accused Bobby of, right in this spot, years ago.

Like Bobby, I want to take this place with me, make it part of what I call home. Unlike Bobby, I go for small stones whereas he went for boulders. Looking back, I bet he was just sad. Frustrated. Seeing other performers getting better recognition, better venues, better reviews. He wanted his piece. And he was stuck with someone who wasn’t helping him fight for it. Someone who didn’t live and breath clown theater, which probably sounds inane to most people, but that’s exactly why he needed someone who lived it and breathed it. And instead, I was mostly waiting for him to get past it.

For whatever reason, we considered ourselves stuck with each other and did whatever we needed to do to give ourselves some choices. I chose books. He chose boulders. Temporary manifestations of the need to control time and place. Now etched into memory as the unsupportive girlfriend and the clown who wanted a boulder.

There’s almost no garbage on the beach, just an occasional piece of package wrapper or inexplicable purple ribbon. Ginny’s forgotten a bag, so she’s carrying them in one slim, manicured hand. With the other, she picks up possible backsplash stones and hands them to me for inspection. I don’t ask if she thinks I’m weird or selfish for taking them. She doesn’t seem like the judgmental type. But then again, I know nothing about people.