At some point every summer, I sit in a 14 foot Alumicraft boat in the middle of Muskallonge Lake in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and drift. It’s peaceful, serene and necessary. This experience sustains me and gives me something to hold onto in this often slippery world.
As a teenage boy, I was given freedom to roam the lake with an outboard motor. This was long before I had my driver’s license. When starting and stopping the motor I am treated to a rare and delicate fragrance; the grey puff of a gas/oil mix. It is my mechanical equivalent to a lilac, my favorite flower.
I could live off of that smell.
My Dad’s motor was a Sea King, Five Horsepower, purchased at Montgomery Ward in 1958. In the seventies and eighties newer motors were introduced at the cabin but nothing was as dependable as Dad’s Sea King. One winter someone broke into the shed and stole two of the newer motors but left the old Sea King. But the joke was on them, the Sea King was the only one that worked!
Muskallonge Lake is one mile N/S and two miles E/W. When I’m floating alone in the middle of the lake, I could not be further removed from civilization unless I was drifting in Lake Superior, which is only a mile away. It is ironic, because being alone, in the middle of nowhere is where I feel the most connected to my family, even those who are gone. . . especially those who are gone.
I believe being alone gives us an opportunity to reconnect with old memories while at the same time unlocking others. I remember details of family vacations from over four decades ago and share them with my family once in a while.
“How do you remember this stuff,” they ask.
The secret answer is: “I remember it because I have never stopped thinking about it.”
We cook, drink, share our lives, love, fish, explore, play cards and board games all while carrying on about earlier versions of our lives at the cabin. We miss those who are gone and make fun of those who didn’t come that year. . . . well . . .not really, we miss them too.
We pack a lot into the time we have at the cabin, but there is never enough time to do everything we want to do. Why is it we feel like we did everything as a kid but cannot come close to repeating this feat as adults?
Once every last item is packed into our vehicle, the car door slams and seems out of place as it echoes in the forest like a gun shot. The screen door of the cabin slams with a friendly wood on wood slap. Then we get a lump in our throat, saying goodbye to those who are staying but it is really more like saying goodbye to those we we are leaving.
At the end of our time together we have laughed so much we have to open the windows to let some of the laughter out. It necessary in order to create room for what we know will be coming next year.