Sunday, August 19, 2018

Still Room for Surprise

I’ve been coming to a little spot of paradise on Lake Michigan just about every summer since 1975. A “cottage” in the woods built by my wife’s parents, next door to another built by their bet friends. About 8 miles south of Frankfort on land protected by the Nature Conservancy. And hence, little has changed in the 43 years that followed. That rare sense of being able to count on something and look forward to its constancy amidst all the change in the lives around us is a blessing in this world of hyper-speed. My wife’s parents are gone, as are their neighbors, but the next generation (mine) continues the traditions with our children and now our grandchildren.
How it goes on.

Being creatures of habit, of ritual pleasures, we, of course, look forward to certain non-negotiable experiences each year. Of course, swimming in both the “front lake,” Lake Michigan some 100 yards out the back door and the “back lake”, a short walk through the woods in the other direction. Of course, the meals and the games and the sunset dinners out on the deck. The drives into Frankfort to check e-mail at the library, shop, walk to the lighthouse, get some ice cream at The Cool Spot. Often, a movie at the Garden Theater, the old fashioned kind still in town or the Cherry Bowl Drive-In. The walk to the Baldy Dune, family portrait at the top and run down the dune. Sometimes brunch at nearby Watervale, a canoe ride or two, a nighttime sing around the campfire and if we’re lucky, the annual thunderstorm and afternoon of Monopoly. You get the idea.

One of my quirky favorites is a bike ride to Putney Corners, where one can seemingly coast uphill on a bicycle. Mystery Hill we call it and when we rode there today, I have my wife videotape me. While doing it, a man starting talking to her and told her the “real” Mystery Hill was 100 yards further down the road. I tried that one for the first time in all these years and lo and behold, it worked! Who woulda thunk? And then later in the ride, a dark shape lumbered across the road and we stopped to watch. It was a bear! Never seen one in all these years. So apparently there is still room for surprise in this life.

I always appreciate exercise, but am never disciplined about it except here, where I sometimes swim, bike and hike all in one day. Like today. Rode about 30 miles, swam almost a mile and hiked another mile on the beach just for good measure. Then went on a sunset canoe ride straight out into the lake and back. Feels good and closing out my 60’s, grateful that I can still do it.

As this blog testifies, my “happy place” is often a seat on a plane, a bed in a strange hotel room and then a room filled with strangers about to become friends through the pleasures of music.
Of course, it is also my music room with children, a piano bench with any decent piano in front of me, a Zen meditation cushion. Also a seat at an old movie theater or car ride with good music playing and friends in the front and back seat.

But there’s also here, in Michigan. The swish of the grass on my legs as I walk down to the beach each morning, the dappled path in the woods and the just-right temperature of the welcoming waters of the back lake, the moonlight on the water as the canoe glides toward the horizon. Tomorrow, it’s back to the plane, hotel, music room, but with 8 glorious days of Michigan stored in my bones, muscles and memory. Gratitude abounds.

PS Photos tomorrow.

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