I found myself at the lakefront without a phone again, with two important differences from the last time it happened. For one, I was dressed for a courtroom and not for the beach. And for the other…it wasn’t my fault! Far from being left behind somewhere in a spasm of forgetfulness, my trusty smart phone was right beside me…but in the midst of a software upload.
So I took myself to the nearby shoreline where I usually abscond for my lunch break and just soaked in the view. I rested my elbows on the railings of a shaded pavilion that sat at the base of “North Point,” and once again thanked the fates that brought me to a job in this place.
The irony was not lost on me that, if the phone had been working, this is exactly when I’d be snapping photos like this one and uploading them to Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, complete with hashtags and tagging. It’s a whole different set of brain cells at work in that matrix—visual rather than language. Dear Lord, I’ve even got an Instagram account for my children’s book!
Instead, I watched the waves roll in and the words started to roll in as well. So here, in old-fashioned words, is what was there.
I parked my car in the shade of a beech tree by the sidewalk that ran along the lakefront, and meandered up to North Point, a promontory of flat “table rock” that is a gathering place for birds, and a breaking point for the enormous waves that spring from Lake Michigan. The lake itself is renowned for its treachery and savage beauty, and the loss of life that spring from both. Just a short distance from the pavilion stands a monument to the sinking of the steamship Phoenix on a cold November night in 1847, up to 250 lives lost offshore in a shipboard fire visible from shore.
Today the lake was far calmer. Rambunctiously haphazard enough to make whitecaps and waves that broke into white froth when they hit the slabs of rock at the point, but not so unruly as to disturb the comings and goings of the birds sunning themselves on the point. There were dozens of white and grey seagulls, of course, at the outer edge. Closer to shore, where shallow pools of water broke up soft green vegetation, Canada geese stood calmly and majestically in the shallows up to their leathery ankles, looking like tourists taking in the sights. Around them, darting from pool to pool, were mallard ducks paddling and quacking amid stands of purple loosestrife. Yes, I knew I should be booing and hissing at the loosestrife, which is an invasive species…but with the light glinting off the blue water and general sense of quietude to the scene, the stalks of purple flowers arising from the greenery just looked…pretty.
Further out, the water changed color, creating a blue parfait of sorts—cobalt at the horizon, then a rich turquoise closer in, shading to the color of “seafoam green,” one of my favorites from the big boxes of crayons we used as children. Gauzy transparent clouds hung across the sky straight overhead, but just above the cobalt blue at the horizon, the clouds looked like puffs of whipped cream.
I eventually pulled myself away from the point, and headed back to the car, though I wasn’t done relaxing yet. The sunlight felt warm on my skin and the lull of the waves was gentle and incessant. I found an ocher-colored wood bench by the water and sat down. The wood seat was toasty, which offset the cool breeze coming off the water. Between manicured lawn and untamed water lies a sharp jumble of rocks that, while looking inhospitable for strolling, still provided enough sustenance for wildflowers and other plants. Milkweeds still stood tall, long past flowering, their green pods swelling with the seeds and fluffs that would spill on to the wind later in fall. Inward-curling skeletons of Queen Anne’s Lace swayed to and fro, and young aspen saplings shivered and quaked.
Duty eventually called, in the form of the solid grey art deco courthouse where I work. It dominated the horizon at six stories, and I reluctantly drew myself away from the blue water and the warm bench and the tossing wildflowers to get back into court.
But I still like to think back on the waves and the seagulls and the lake in blue parfait, and I’m glad that for just that day, I didn’t have a phone that worked!