Growing up in Whiting, Indiana– just eight blocks from the lake – spending almost every summer day on the beach and in the water, I didn’t realize how much Lake Michigan was becoming a part of me. It wasn’t until I moved to New Mexico that I missed what I had taken for granted. Typical, right? So it was especially sweet for me to take Aw’gy to the beach on Wednesday.
My new home is just 20 minutes south of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. (See the Dunes website.) Aw’gy starts whining as we drive the tree-lined street toward the park entrance. Could it be that he picks up a familiar scent from visiting family campers there in October? Does his doggy DNA recall his beach walk that day?
We’re greeted with the sign I anticipated, “No Park Fee Today.” It’s January 4. Why would anyone want to stand in a toll booth near the lakeshore? But it’s also 35 degrees, on it’s way to 48, and there’s not a cloud in the sky. A beautiful day to walk on the beach. Of course, not for Aw’gy. There’s no “walking” for him today. I open the Subaru door, say “okay” and he’s gone like a black flash, kicking up sand as he heads toward water.
Friends in New Mexico didn’t seem to understand how one could miss a “lake.” There are lakes in the southwest but they’re inland ponds compared to the Greats. Besides, most of my SoNewMex buddies grew up in the desert southwest and appreciate that natural beauty. Sure they have mountains, pine trees, juniper, sage. If you could bottle and sell the fragrance that permeates the mountain air you’d be richer than Buffett. (Warren, not Jimmy.) As I’ve written here before, the skies are not cloudy all day and it doesn’t stay cold very long.
But they don’t have the Great Lakes and all the beauty that surrounds them.
Living in Lincoln Park for more than 20 years I was never more than a few blocks from the lake front. I wonder how many miles I jogged, walked, biked, rollerbladed and even cross-country skied up and down the lakefront. Friends and I enjoyed many air and water shows and world-class fireworks displays. And I cried at the shoreline when the divorce started raging in 1999.
I remember walking the concrete path from Fullerton south to the North Avenue bridge. Crying. I was so sad; just recalling that time causes my throat to tighten. I left the path and crossed the sand to the shore. “Look at you,” I said to my lake. “You’ve been here all along. You never change. You just keep doing what you’re doing, being the wonderful thing that you are.” I’ll never forget the insight that followed.
“You haven’t changed either,” my head said. “You are still the singing, dancing girl you’ve always been.” The visit to the lakeshore that day helped change my life. By nature, I am a happy person. I had lost that so many years ago, but that event put my feet back on the sandy path to myself.
How do I describe how grateful I am now to be just a few miles down the road from this life-changing place? What comes to mind is the scene from “Contact,” wherein Dr. Ellie Aroway, played by Jodie Foster, gazes at a celestial event. “No … words,” she said, “they should have sent a poet.”
Okay, okay, Lake Michigan is not a celestial event. But when nature gets up inside your body, your psyche, it is awesome. My wish for you in 2012 is to get closer to nature and that it will bring you, too, closer to your true nature. May all your beachy dreams come true!