Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Anna in Michigan

Anna Hubbard grew up in Grand Rapids, and spent many vacation hours on the sands of Michigan.  The atmosphere and terrain is very different from the Ohio river valley, but it gave Anna a good background for the camping and boating she would do with Harlan.

When we took a trip around Lake Michigan not many years ago, we kept an eye open for the small lakes Anna's family enjoyed.  The following essay came out of our finding the dunes of the Sleeping Bear Dunes Nation Lakeshore.  'The Legend of Sleeping Bear', by Kathy-jo Wargin is a beautiful and touching telling of the story.  I highly recommend it, as it will enhance your understanding of my wonderful experience.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Finally I've come to a low spot in the road where I might make it to the beach, and it's opening out to a small parking-lot within view of the water.  Earlier along this scenic drive I stopped at a lookout point and stood there with my feet solidly planted into fine white sand...but the rest of me reeled with surprise.  I wasn't expecting to see such sweeping views from a dune, but this was a mountain of sand so immense that gulls flew below me, skimming the rippling sapphire of the lake.  And the wind!  The wind tugged and buffeted at me so that my spirit soared with the gulls and I felt that I too should by flying.

There is a story about this beach I stand on, and about the two islands I can see from here.  Many moons ago a mother bear encouraged her two cubs to swim after her to escape from a fast moving forest fire.  Across the great lake, all night, the mother bear swam, calling her cubs after her. When the exhausted mother bear made it to shore, she waited, but sadly the cubs were lost.  Ojibwa legend explains the two islands off shore rose in memorial to the cubs.  As the wind blew, the mother bear continued her vigil until until her own life drained away on the beach.  It is said a small unmarked dune remains in her final resting place.

Now I scan the horizon in search of a bearlike mound.  I am conscious of the shared experience of dedication, loss and hope, so my energy surges.

Kicking off my shoes feels so free and good that I pick up pace, enjoying every sinking strenuous step in the soft cool sand.  This I can do.  Sand blows in my face, but it can't stop me now.  I see her! A small eroded dune covered in fur-like grass, but strangely surrounded by bare, clean sand. I circle around to the other side where no human can see me.  Waves pound along with my heart as I throw my arms wide open and allow myself to fall into the full round of the hill.

Sunny childhood days spent on the shores of this beautiful lake are still with me.  It's been a long time since I've played in the sand, and today I am content to be hugging a sleeping bear.

*Above:  The young Anna on a Michigan dune.  Photo courtesy of George Bartnick
*Nancy and Judy play on the shores of Lake Michigan.

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