Sometimes you just have to get up from the desk and go outside. Especially when the Sun is out, the air is warm and soft, and the water looks like the Caribbean. After all, everyone says it’s good for your health, your psyche and your creativity – right?
Or you can just be honest with yourself and say “Today is perfect for playing hooky!”
So I packed my camera and some water, hopped on my bicycle and headed for Clinch Marina Park. Ten minutes of easy riding and I was on the break wall soaking up the beauty of West Bay, watching all the activity, people on the water in everything from paddle boards to classic yachts. I walked around the barrier, then climbed down on the big rocks and rubble that protect the wall from the lake when it becomes furious, and continued hiking, my soul opening up to Nature with each step, definitely very close to Heaven.
Around the World
From where I stand, on a proper boat I could sail the entire world – the waters are that connected. Through the Great Lakes, out the St. Lawrence past Montreal and Quebec, to the Atlantic Ocean – just follow the route that the big freighters run. If your boat is a bit smaller, take Lake Michigan to Chicago and down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.
While we’ve not made either trip (the ultimate Le Grand Traverse?), friends have and it’s quite an experience. If you haven’t read The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas by Jerry Dennis – you should, it is an excellent read; lively, full of history, geography, culture, and personal stories from his trip on an aging schooner from Lake Michigan to Maine.
The boats were out in full force that day – kayaks, paddle boards, runabouts, sailboats, the Canim and the Manitou. The Canim is a beautifully restored 1930s 96 ft. fantail yacht built of Douglas fir, once owned by Buster Keaton and now berthed in Harbor Springs, just a short jaunt up the Bay.
The Manitou is one of the 2-masted schooners that live on West Bay, with excursions around the Lake Michigan region. She is a 114 ft. replica of an 1800s passenger “coasting” schooner, typical of many that plied the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast. She is truly majestic to see under sail, and provides sailing trips and education to many throughout the warmer months.
Ramble and Play
I continued to clamber over the rocks, pausing to rest and absorb the view and essence, taking photos, and observing all the people at play. Just past the marina to the west, kids were running through the sprays at Splash Park, making castles on the beach, swimming in the cool clear bay waters, eating hot dogs – the pure fun that kids are good at. Adults too were relaxing, keeping an eye on the kids, reading, swimming, soaking up the sun, and looking at all the boats on the bay.
As we say about The Great Lakes –
No Salt, No Sharks, No Worries.
The soft sounds of the water and light breeze were interrupted only briefly when the Coast Guard helicopter passed over, doing a bit of reconnaissance and training. Even though it’s a regular sight, I always stop to look up and watch, even wave if its altitude and angle seem right. The other occupants of the air that afternoon all had feathers and made no noise, except for the obligatory squawks from the seagull crowd. Like some on Facebook, the gulls seem to think everyone else needs to know about their every movement.
I almost never played hooky in my earlier life, never gave myself permission for play outside of my regularly scheduled “off time.” Even in my younger years most of my time went to productive efforts – school, homework, chores and later part-time work, and other efforts to add to my learning and the college fund. I’m not complaining, mind you, in the 1950s and early 1960s a lot of us grew up that way and the discipline served me well in adult life. But it wasn’t until I had kids, and my wife introduced me to Up North, that I started to learn more about how to play, even though the briefcase always accompanied me.
So I learned to play hooky both from the physical journey to a new place and a personal journey to a new, more balanced life. And what did I see and do by the Bay? Everything – and nothing. What did I accomplish that perfect few hours? Nothing – and everything.
And that was enough.