It’s Huron, and I have lived next to it for two years. I rarely thought about it until 2015. Now I think of it every day.
The charms of Lake Huron quickly began to seduce me. The beat, for one thing. It was an unusual year in that even in mid-summer the northeast wind frequently rose and drove the lake into the beach tirelessly. At times the pounding went on for several days and nights. The repetition was a comfort, the way a rocking cradle is to a baby. Once in a while I wished for it to cease, but more frequently I was glad about the reminder of the lake – of the fact that I didn’t live in the mundane nearly lake-free country around Lansing, where I had lived for many years. This was special country.
The scenic vista had a special impact. At mid-afternoon of many summer days, the water was a wholesome deep blue while cumulus clouds ascended into the paler blue above, reminding me of the idealized drawings in the books I had read as a child. In the presence of this scene my early youth became vividly real to me, recalling a time when the future bore a seemingly inexhaustible supply of benign summer days.
The freighters became familiar. A few of them passed through often enough that their names were recognizable – the John B. Aird a prime example. Christened in 1983 in honor of the lieutenant (pronounced left-tenant by the Canadians) governor of Ontario, the 730-footer often carried coal, iron ore or taconite pellets – or so said boatnerd.com.
Sometimes the passage of the freighters was easily discerned without the faculty of sight – the “whoob, whoob, whoob” of the propeller blades pulsed across the water and seemingly into the ground beneath me. Other times they glided past in ghostly silence. Often in the deep of night the lights of freighters were discernible as the faintest of glimmerings on the horizon to the north, and these were too far away to make any sound.
It’s commonplace to say a lake has many mood and colors, but it was the moods of the beach that increasingly pleased me. Just after sunrise it was dull and still like an awakening person. At the height of day it was a blazing stage for summer dreams. In the evening it slowly released the heat of the day, like a runner catching his breath at race’s end.
The lake may have been most beautiful to me when I could barely see it. It lacked the menace of the midnight lake in winter, when the heaving waves a few yards away threatened death. In summer, even when disturbed, the lake was life giving rather than taking. More often ripples of light from the Ontario towns to the southeast illuminated a quietly busy lake; it seemed to be purposeful, but about what I didn’t know.