My husband bought a T-shirt a few days ago that has on its front the outline of each of the Great Lakes. Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior- HOMES. Having grown up here, it never occurred to me until now that I am at home in the Great Lakes. I felt a need to come back here after the death of my mother, not necessarily to live, but just to make sure it was all still here. To breathe it all in, to touch the solid hardwood trees where I grew up with her. I brought the family back over Christmas and felt a nice sense of…well, it felt like a coda, if you know music. The extra section at the end that closes the piece. And even as I bring the kids back here almost every summer to see my dad, I needed to come back for a longer time this summer- I think losing one parent made me want to cling to the other. And we were fortunate enough to make it happen this year. Our farm is off of a stretch of narrow, windy road dubbed the “tunnel of trees,” because the beautiful, expansive branches of the deciduous trees on either side of the road stretch across to form sort of a shaded tunnel for more than 20 miles alongside the shore of Lake Michigan.
But the shade is unique- because you look up and see the sun shining through the broad green leaves, creating a gleaming, light-filled canopy. And now we’re lucky enough to visit here, to drive our babies along that road and listen to them “ooh” and “aah” from the back seat, and to take them to the beaches where my parents took me. In fact, from our rental, just five minutes from my dad and his wife’s house, we can actually walk to the beach. And we have been.
We walk on a wooded path, down several boardwalk steps, across a beach-grassy dune, to a small patch of sand, where we set up our chairs and let our dog run up and down the beach jumping into the waves and the kids immediately start building castles and wading into the water. It’s not like the salty, turquoise water of Hawaii, which don’t get me wrong, I love and miss. But it’s a dark blue, fresh, subtly shimmering water, as vast as an ocean. There are stones found only on these shores that I could be perfectly happy for the rest of my life just searching for.
These beachy days are perfect.
Sometimes you find a book that so perfectly mirrors the space you’re in, do you know what I mean?
We’ve been fans of the Ladybug Girl series, where little Lulu, often quiet and left behind by her bigger brother, has an imaginatively brave alter ego, LADYBUG GIRL. Our gentle heroine is brave and strong, and all the while remains her beautifully vulnerable self. In Ladybug Girl at the Beach, by David Soman and Jacky Davis, Lulu has every intention of going swimming during her first trip to the beach.
But when she sees how heavily the waves crash, she quickly decides that she’d rather build sand castles. She’d rather fly her kite and then get ice cream. She’d rather just walk on the beach with her trusty dog, Bingo.
But when she finds that her beach pail has been taken away by a rogue wave, she transforms herself into Ladybug Girl (and as Elsie recites each time, “Ladybug Girl isn’t afraid of ANYTHING!”) and finds herself in the water, which is actually not scary and is actually really fun. She plays in the waves until her family is ready to pack up late in the day, and what a mild and yet momentous day it’s been!
I don’t want this summer to end, I’m loving it here! How’s your summer going?