I wrote this post a few weeks ago and I’m resubmitting it in response to the WordPress Daily Post prompt of “Water.”
For yet another day (I’ve forgot how many so far) the temperature here in my part of the Midwest U.S. will be near 100 degrees. This is just one reason why I am so thrilled to be heading out on vacation in a few days. Mr. Maid and I are packing up to spend a week in Maine where the high temperatures promise to be in the low 70s. Sounds like absolute heaven!
Our plan isn’t complicated: explore the coast between Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine, hike in Acadia National Park, sample local beer and wine, and eat our weight in lobster.
As a lifelong resident of Illinois, it will be a particular treat to spend time by the ocean. The sea is so foreign to a landlubber like me. I am jealous of those who live near it and wonder if they take it for granted.
The bodies of water that I grew up with were limited to lakes and backyard pools.
The pools in our middle-class neighborhood were not snazzy “c-ment ponds” like on The Beverly Hillbillies, but the above ground monstrosities that dotted suburban America in the 1970s. My family didn’t have one, but I could always count on being invited by one of my friends to hang out and swim.
The other option for aquatic fun was to go to a lake. My family had a cottage in Michigan when I was a kid. It’s the source of many childhood memories and no doubt will be the subject of many future blog posts. There was a small lake on the property, but we never swam in it. It was filled with lily pads, cattails and other lake vegetation. There were snakes and slugs, and well – you get the point.
Instead, every other day or so, we’d drive over to Osterhout Lake for a swim. The bottom alternated between pebbles and muddy sand that would squish through your toes. My brother would scare me with hints that it might be quicksand that would suck me under. Being a big brother, it was also his job to collect handfuls of seaweed (lakeweed?) to drape on my and my sister’s heads or shoulders or sneak up under the murky water, to grab our legs and try to pull us under. Both would elicit our shrieks, to which my Mom would yell something like “Stop screaming! Unless you’re drowning, I don’t want to hear it!” Ah, good times.
Sometimes we would drive the extra 15 miles to South Haven to go to the “real” beach on Lake Michigan. Unlike Osterhout Lake, there was actually sand and waves. The water was always cold though – you’d have to walk in a few inches at a time, waiting for your feet, then your legs to adjust (i.e. become numb!) before proceeding.
Later on, in Chicago, I lived within a few blocks of Lake Michigan. I was lucky enough to see its beauty every day from the 147 bus I took down Lakeshore Drive to work. As one of the “Great Lakes,” it is huge and you can almost trick yourself into thinking you’re on the ocean, but there’s really no comparison.
Now, I live a short drive from the Mississippi River. As you cross from Illinois into Missouri, you’re more likely to see barge traffic heading toward New Orleans than anything that will bring to mind Mark Twain and his tales. It’s pretty in its own muddy way though, with the Gateway Arch and the skyline of St. Louis on its banks.
I finally experienced the ocean with trips to Florida and later the Caribbean and Hawaii. The beautiful warm water was divine and the added buoyancy of the salt water was something I wasn’t prepared for after freshwater lakes. I’ve spent some time in the northeast United States too, with its dramatic coastline and less inviting temperatures. There is simply nothing like it in the midsection of our country. It is no accident that artists, novelists, poets, and musicians have paid homage to it in a million different ways since time began.
And I haven’t even mentioned the food! You can’t imagine the struggles of the Midwestern seafood lover. If you didn’t have a fisherman in the family, you grew up on frozen fish sticks and the occasional restaurant catfish, cod, or perch (Do people even eat perch anymore? It’s been ages since I saw it on a menu.)
So, I will pack my bags and spend some time marveling at the wonders of the sea. In my short time there will try to soak up as much of the salty air (and drawn butter) to last me until the next time.