The older we get, whether we want to or not, we learn to say goodbye.
I’ve lived in Michigan since I was four years old. We’ve lived on the southwestern side of the Lower Peninsula since 1960.
I’ve always loved Lake Michigan. I’ve slept on the shores, I’ve tiptoed in and tiptoed quickly back out, I’ve bodysurfed it naked and clothed, I’ve played Frisbee in it, I’ve tubed it, I’ve floated on it. I don’t drink out of it, at least not on purpose. I’ve been scared by it’s undertow and rip currents. I’ve walked the shores and watched the sunsets.
When we lived for a time in Florida, I pined for the Lake. Fresh water, quartz filled sands (they squeak), and 200 miles of it. Michigan has 3,000 miles total of lake shore.
We just call it “the big lake.” All other lakes require names.
I looked up the facts recently. It is the only all American Great Lake, though the DNA of both Lake Michigan and Huron are the same. It has a surface area of 22,400 miles. It is the 5th largest lake in the world. Twelve million people live along its shore.
Michigan probably came from the Ojibwa word “mishigami”, meaning “great water.” There is certainly a lot of water around us. There certainly used to be a lot of Ojibwa peoples here.
As soon as I could drive, I started visiting the lake on my own. Not real often, but it’s a very rare summer that doesn’t see at least 2 or three visits. It used to be that August would bring temperatures of 86-89 degrees F, and when I could, I’d head for my favorite beach.
There is always a breeze coming off the lake; it is always cooler and far more pleasant at the beach.
A small cooler of refreshments, a blanket, a towel, a book, smokes and the beach and the lake, especially when it has waves, was a really, really good day. Playing in fresh water waves, with no scary biting or stinging creatures is a peak experience!
The water temperature dictates when I actually enter the lake. Generally, I won’t do much but stick a toe in prior to July 4th.
But, I have just spent some hours on the lake shore, and for the first time of my life, did not want to go in.
The April flood here saw tons of raw sewage spill into that fabulous lake (again). Every time it rains very much at all, raw sewage leaks into the Grand River, which carries it to Lake Michigan. Years of this. A big, big spill this spring alone.
I can’t remember the exact date, but sometime recently, it was revealed that Entergy released “slightly” radioactive water into Lake Michigan at the Palisades plant.
And BP, through its Indiana government sponsor, is seeking a permanent allowance to continue to release mercury into the lake.
I just didn’t want to go in.
My husband did. He told me later that I made the right choice, that the water was very dirty.
I got to enjoy that wonderful body of water for 52 years and I’m really grateful for that. I only wish that future generations could have that experience.