A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.
Oscar Wilde once remarked that, “we don’t appreciate a sunset because we don’t have to pay for it”. He was right - it is in our nature to devalue that which is familiar to us.I love Lake Michigan, and need to acknowledge that when I write about it with respect to policy, my objectivity is suspect. Our Great Lake is a looming battle ground, as a water-wasting nation continues in its denial, and our politically driven rush to ethanol-ize gasoline strains our water tables to the breaking point. But before we consider policy, let’s take a step back and consider what it may mean to us on a more personal level.
The name “Michigan” derives from the Indian dialect; they called it Missi-Ken, a lyrical and appropriate name meaning “large lake”. The best times of my life have been spent on her shores, in her waters, or gliding atop her surface. I recall a golden evening with my son, sitting atop the towering Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. Perched hundreds of feet above the shore as we gazed out towards Wisconsin, Miss-Ken’s sheer vastness laid hold of his spirit, and quieted him. As the sun slid down the horizon like the slow closing of an enormous, incandescent eye, it emblazoned the sky with scenes of such texture and hue as to shame the canvas of Raphael. I watched him try to absorb it all, and matched him in his silence.
Minutes later he murmured in wide-eyed tribute, “It’s not a lake, Dad. It’s an ocean”.
The eye of my memory sees her water turning from the grim, slate-blue of the depths, to the happier aqua of her shallows. I see the waves form, gather, and then break, as they gleefully gambol their way to shore. I see the bottom turn from dark, to brown, to mocha, to the white of her beaches. Looking further, I see the dune grasses, their tops swaying under the gentle caress of the breeze. Past the grass comes the rise of the mighty dunes, and I recall the thigh-burning effort of ascending them, and the sheer joy of the limb-flailing, rollicking sprint back down.
I see the bow of the sailboat sluice confidently through the waves, its white sails lufting as they grope for the wind.I see languid harbors beckoning at dusk, offering sanctuary from a hard day’s sail and the vagaries of the night. I see the stars as we lay on deck; bright diamonds tumbled out upon a jet-black table of felt, their number only exceeded by their burning purity. I see the cool-calm waters as we sip our coffee at dawn, silent and benign, and offering no hint of the howling fury they could soon become.
But even more than these wondrous images - I hear her. I hear her endless song to us as the waves marry to the shore, only to retreat again in that ancient and endless refrain.
And if we listen closely, we can almost hear singing, “Will you protect me”?The policy portion of this will come in the next post.