Friday, August 8, 2008

82: Swimming in Sand

My heart feels good to be here. We are sated from soup and peaches at lunch, our bellies full. My father and grandmother are slowly walking the block; I can hear her voice telling him things through the screen porch windows. She is eighty-some years old, widowed, an overwhelmingly talented gardener, a woman who shames me for not voting in the primaries, in love with the world.

Yesterday's weather brought some startling opportunities for snapshots (see previous post). The lake became a mirror, so smooth, reflecting that delicate blue sky and its fluffy clouds. I was completely charmed, and when my father suggested we take the canoe out, I lept at the opportunity. A storm had passed and a strange bird call was coming from one end of the lake. We pushed on, my camera becoming a bruise, a protrusion from my eye, becoming my only line of sight. The mist was low slung, making so much mysterious.

We found the cranes in Lower Sand Lake, a lake connected to the one my grandmother lives on, and we followed these creatures in the mist. The sky became threatening (see above photo), but I hadn't yet caught them in flight. I felt compelled and my father was game; I now realize being in a metal canoe in the middle of a lake during a storm in which the sky lights up like a tinderbox was perhaps not wise.

Even less wise is getting out of the canoe to pull it through the sandy spot where the water is only inches deep. Along the shore, the water deepens, after a channel has been dredged for boats and docks. I admit, I am a bit squeemish at the lake's bottom: sludge, weeds, shelled creatures, fish. I prefer to see what is approaching; so much can hide beneath the lake's muddy surface. But I was pulling out of necessity--my father was kind enough to have been the muscle of this trip while I took dozens of rapid fire photographs, swinging the camera around to all parts of shore and skyline. And it was going well--my pulling, his strange scuttling, a sort of dog-dragging-its-tail-end motion to get us moving. At some point, I stepped into it--a quicksand in the lake, and I sunk up to my waist, only inches of water, the rest sand. I looked at my father, startled, confused at what I was supposed to do. The wind was pushing the canoe now, and every time I moved, I sank more, the sticks and mussel shells floating along with me in the muck. He took my camera and leaned as far as he could to one side, while I clung, a little more desperate and frightened to the other edge. It began to rain. The entire time, my legs were pumping like pistons as I tried to keep myself above those inches of water, the sand sucking at my waist, my hips, my stomach. I kept going further into the deep with each thrust of my legs. I made it to shore, my arms exhausted from clinging to the canoe, the only thing that kept me up, my only pants, once tan corduroy, now deep gray from the lake, my shirt up to my armpits covered in the mix of lake water and sand. I stood there, amazed at the ordeal, wondering what on earth had just happened, remembering the sensation of what it is to swim through sand.

I returned, grateful for the washing machine and the laundry. All of me returned to the water afterwards, cleansing ourselves and trembling a little from the experience.

But those pictures. I think they're worth it. And it's the next day now, this moment now a part of our collective memory of coming to Michigan, mixed in with raspberry picking and the pontoon boat, mixed in with Jamie falling over the edge and the fathers taking off dress shoes, ready to jump into the lake, a canoe paddle what pulled him back. Memories of learning how to play chess and used book stores and Nancy Drew and making bowls out of maple leaves and stems and nearly touching a squirrel. Of bee stings and fresh strawberries and swimming across the lake for the first time.

When the wind picks up, I can hear it in the trees, in the chimes, in the shift of the porch's roof. Outside, a bumble bee hums, searching for a hold.

This place is beautiful in winter, but there is something truly magical about it in the summer. I am immediately brought back to childhood, this is true, but there's so much more: the geese and the muskrat, the sound of three cranes echoing across three lakes, turtles and wildflowers. Across the way, nothing but trees. Sometimes, we spot deer coming to the edge for want of a long drink. Sometimes, when we are lucky, we can catch fireflies in cupped palms.


shari said...

whoa. scary quicksand. your trip sounds lovely though. i really like when memories come flooding back like that.

Angie said...

Holy crap, batman. Way too freaky.