Running North to Save My Soul

So last week I ran away for a day. To Michigan. Just because I needed to visit my heart’s home, the Lake. If it is only for a day I usually end up in the vicinity of South Haven and Glenn, following what once upon a time was US31, hugging the Lake as closely as possible. While I’ve long known the various city and county parks, in recent years a number of lakeside nature preserves have been set aside to protect the unique and fragile ecological wonder that is the dunes. These areas discourage any invasive activity save immersion in nature.

I have been wandering this area for over 40 years, and the changes over time have been dramatic. I watched an abandoned farm with a handsome barn south of Glenn become a golf course, then stand abandoned again–and now it is a high-end gated subdivision with huge rolling lots. Indeed, I have seen too many gated communities spring up along the Lake over the decades, making those nature preserves all the more important.

I have watched South Haven evolve from an ordinary town that happened to be on a big lake into quite the tourist mecca with hardly any downtown businesses geared toward the local populace, unless they are addicted to fudge and off-color tee shirts and overpriced doodads. With its mounds of flowers on bump-outs that make traffic on the main street difficult, South Haven is undeniably attractive, but I avoid downtown because it is wall-to-wall tourists from May through October. Once upon a time, wandering around in October, even in September, I rarely ran into crowds. No more. In my younger days, I could even wander during summer, and if it was late and a motel had too many empty units, they might give me a discount on a modest room. Those days are gone.

township park south of South Haven

I got a late start and ran into construction delays that seem particularly rampant this year, so I immediately headed to the South Haven area, stopping at a township park just to greet the Lake. Oh yes, yes. Peace flooded my soul in a moment. Walking along the Lake’s edge as its waves snatched at my feet, I gave in, tore off my shoes, and splashed in the dancing water. Soon my jeans were soaked past my knees as stones jumped into my pockets.

Dee’s Lakeshore Farm market

But I had an additional mission on this trip besides connecting with the Lake. For probably 30 years I have been stopping at Dee’s Lakeshore Farm, just north of Glenn. In fall, my usual time, I lay in my supply of fresh-picked apples–at an impossibly low price–and perhaps other produce she may have available. I may pick up some odd or end at her ongoing garage sale. Dee is a delightful, feisty, and shrewd businesswoman whose energy and appearance belie her 87 years. She gives me discounts or will throw something in free. We chat about everything and nothing. I left with a bushel of apples, a hodge-podge of tomatoes, a mum plant, and the news that finally, this is her last year. I will miss her beyond measure.

Dee, matriarch of Dee’s Lakeshore Farm

I headed a few miles north to a county park I knew for some more Lake time. I scrambled down to the beach and the Lake, warm and enfolding. How it sparkled! The horizon disappeared into the sky with scarcely a visible line.

county park south of Douglas MI

The tide was going out and I had the Lake nearly to myself. A gull approached on the possibility that I had food. Seeing none, it toddled off. I walked for awhile as again stones jumped into my pockets.

township nature preserve north of Glenn MI

Although I had packed an overnight bag just in case, I realized it was time to return. I stopped at a preserve to gaze at the Lake from a high bluff and was delighted on the way by the antics of black squirrels, who are clearly growing their winter coats, and several frolicking blue jays.

township nature preserve south of Glenn MI

One more stop at a township park where a path of diamonds led to the distant horizon. Beneath the bluff far below the Lake murmured farewell, the overwhelming of all my senses making it all the more difficult to leave. But always, I return. I must.

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