And so the page turns to the next chapter of the summer, an old familiar story‚ some 40 August visits to the Lake Michigan “cottage” made perpetually new by the ever-evolving main characters. Particularly my grandchildren. In the first 24 hours, I was thoroughly defeated by 9-year old Zadie in Rummy 500 and trounced by 6-year old Malik in Trash (another card game) and happy to lose, because the real winning is simply to be in their company. And then into the waves of Lake Michigan amidst shrieks and watery crashes, some solitude in the back lake re-starting my annual swimming routine, food shopping and a long needed new bathing suit in the still charming town of Frankfort, dinner on the deck minus the sunset due to clouds. Wife, two daughters (the second arriving tomorrow), two grandchildren, son-in-law working in Portland, but having his own family reunion with siblings come to visit.
And of course, books— lots of them— a bike to circle the road around Upper Herring Lake, the walk up the steep Sugar Bowl dune tomorrow, the first of my 70’s and confidence I can still make it. A host of other annual traditions—the Cherry Bowl Drive In, the Cool Spot ice cream parlor, the walk to the lighthouse, looking for Petoskey stones on the beach and taking out the canoe when the water is calm. Usually all squeezed into one week before I go off to teach in Toronto, but this year I did the Toronto Course online in July and three full weeks stretch out ahead. True summer.
In the seasonality of our lives, I’ve loved them all, but Summer has mostly been the time when the busyness and business slows down, when the outdoor life prevails and sea, sand, sky, stars, silence and solitude sends the spirit soaring and one gets the sensation that all the other seasons prepare for this, the real deal. The childhood sense of long, long days with nothing more to do than await the chimes of the ice cream truck, of letting the mind drift and gaze at clouds or stars or ducks on a pond, of relaxing the border of skin when the perfect temperature of air outside allows the body to feel inside and outside as one, not bracing against cold nor fanning away heat.
As a child who deeply questioned the institution of school, summer was a blissful freedom. And in my revenge against school, I became a teacher who brought a bit of summer into the classroom—and then felt that same release into a 10-week vacation! (Now severely threatened as school start earlier and earlier in August. Stop!!!). So that was my rhythmic bliss for some 35 years and then the next 35 teaching Orff courses, first around the U.S. and then the world. But still some time to combine the teaching summer with summer’s teaching wherever I went, but most especially, in this annual trip to Michigan.
Zadie invites me to play Boggle, where I could go down in yet another glorious defeat—but truth be told, she’ll need another few years to beat me. But at the end of three weeks, who knows?