Let the summer recharge begin! Here on an inland lake in Northern Michigan I have settled for the better part of the summer, taking in big breaths of fresh, clean air and enjoying (mostly) blue skies and warm days.
The return to the cottage always brings about a certain amount of work with it and when we arrived for our first visit a couple of weeks ago, I wouldn’t list “relaxing” as a key word. There were screens to put on, porch furniture to haul out, linens to change, cupboards to wipe down (yes, mice seem to prefer inside to outside in the cold Michigan winter), and bags to unpack.
There’s also a beach to weed, but that’s part of the never-ending story of summer!
But that’s done and now it’s Tuesday, July 4, a very atypical Tuesday!
The morning begins with birdsong. Gulls and other lake birds start their chatter early in the day, just after sunrise, and the quacking of the duck family isn’t far behind. As soon as there is action that indicates someone may be getting out of bed, Lizzie-the-Cat adds her own chorus to the music of creatures and her calls are well heeded.
For Rick, it’s coffee; for me, Tab. (Yes, people still drink Tab. For breakfast.) Something for breakfast. And then it’s off to our typical July 4. Rick is a cyclist in training for a ride to Quebec City this summer. He’ll be off on a hundred-mile jaunt to a small town about 50 miles from here. Once he’s out the door, I will gather a book — or more likely, my watercolors — and spend some time on the porch “doing my thing” while he does his.
I value this period of quiet creativity, listening to the morning ripples on the lake just yards away from where I sit with two jars of water (one for rinsing brushes, the other for mixing), several pans of my favorite paints and more likely than not a blank page, waiting for the first marks. Will it be a landscape? An animal portrait? A whimsical bit from my imagination? Who knows?
About an hour or so before he’s due to hit his halfway destination, Central Lake, I’ll pack a picnic for us to enjoy. Thick sandwiches with deli meats, veggies and cheese, a confetti orzo salad with bright bits of red and yellow pepper, radishes, green onions, black olives, fresh herbs, feta and a non-mayo dressing so that we’ll have no worries on food safety. We’ll round it off with chips, big cookies or brownies and cold drinks. Then I’ll hit the road, picnic in hand, camera in my bag (along with a good book, just in case I get there first!).
The July 4 parade in Central Lake has become a tradition for us. The town itself is very small, one Main Street and a lake just steps from the four corners. I’m not sure where they find all the people to be in the parade, much less those crowding the streets. And yet the sidewalks are packed and the parade itself is fairly long, reminding me of something I would encounter in a Garrison Keillor story. If one has a dog, a tractor, a truck or is a clown, they are in the parade. Good candy-tossing arms are a requirement! Queens from neighboring communities ride on floats, sweltering in their gowns in the noonday sun and yet waving with cheer. Children from area churches and Sunday Schools ride on the back of flatbed trucks, singing. Every high school band within 30 miles or so is represented, some more tunefully than others, but all with great spirit. There is red, white and blue everywhere, along with plenty of smiles.
As the parade draws to a close, we’ll find a shady spot by the lake for our picnic and when we are satiated, he’ll take off on two wheels. I’ll take off on four and explore antique stores, art galleries and fruit stands on the way home.
I will certainly beat him home and in an effort to do something that appears to be productive, I might take another stab at pulling out the weeds from the beach until I’m oh, so very warm! And then I’ll be glad to jump in and swim my “route” between the neighbor’s buoys, making sure to be out of the water by the time the boat parade comes along.
The boat parade is a longstanding tradition. Those with power boats on the lake (and a few intrepid canoe or kayak enthusiasts) deck them out with streamers, balloons and flags and at least begin circling the lake’s shoreline. I say begin, because they do tend to drop off after a bit. Being only about a mile or two from the start line, most are still in place as they pass by. Of course we wave as they honk and shout happy greetings.
By now on this atypical Tuesday, Rick has returned and soon it will be time to fire up the grill. It’s definitely a white-wine-night, well chilled and refreshing. If we’re lucky, we’ll have guests for dinner, guests who will stay for the fireworks later in the evening.
The lake is at its best as it begins to quiet down. The jet skis have moved on and most are home, enjoying their holiday meal as well. It’s a festive atmosphere. Neighbors are in chat mode, there’s likely to be music. In the air you can smell grills getting a workout — burgers and dogs, chicken and ribs. Summer may have officially started two weeks before, but July 4 seems like the kick-off to a season of refreshment.
More likely than not, there will be a spectacular sunset, with the sky taking on various shades of orange and gold and gently edging into cobalt blue. As dusk closes in and stars begin to emerge, so do boats, settling into the waters across from the County Park (and in front of our cottage) to get prime seating for the fireworks display. It doesn’t get fully dark till nearly 10:30 at night at my little spot in Northern Michigan, but the revelers don’t care. And really, why should they? Being out on a lake on a beautiful evening doesn’t require fireworks. It is simply the frosting on the cake.
And then that first burst of color. Another, and one after that. The fireworks will bring to a close this atypical Tuesday, dropping streamers of purple and gold, red and blue into the waters with approving honks from boat horns for a particularly spectacular display. As the grand finale draws the evening to an end, the horns join together in loud appreciation of a day well spent.
There will be campfires after and more fireworks set off on beaches along the way. Lizzie-the-Cat will hunker down under the quilt that covers our bed, even if the temperature is 80-something and humid, only to emerge when the noise quiets or she is hungry (again) — whichever comes first.
As for us, we’ll tumble into bed, smiling and satisfied from a beautiful holiday celebration and eagerly anticipate the next day of art and bicycles, books and swimming, ice cream and a very vocal cat. And if we are wise and honest, we will acknowledge that our atypical Tuesday at the lake really isn’t too different from any Tuesday on vacation — it’s just a little louder and a little more festive.
About the Author: Jeanie Croope
After a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.