Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Beach (07/04/05)
TITLE: Grandma's BEACH
By Cyndie Odya-Weis
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We hurried past the resting bench knowing we’d linger there on the way back … about 2/3 of the way up….mmm stair 84, I think. These 126 marble slabs through the woods were a ritual of preparation, not just on this early spring voyage, but every time- quite often during those lazy childhood summers. This bit of exercise was the work before the bliss, the preparation for a day of wonder . Onward, 110, 111, … 119, 120 – there it was … a wonderful blue bliss through the budding bushes…..blue sky, blue water, glorious blue. We stepped onto the long, wide white carpet and felt hot flat stones on bare feet. This was grandma’s beach- our own slice of Lake Michigan’s shore.
Just what was so special about those 126 stairs?? They were treacherously aerobic- in the days before exercise was in vogue. Grandma’s beach was not only magic, it was a learning ground for life.
We learned to plan ahead. After all, a quick run back to retrieve forgotten items was just not practical with 126 steps. Grandma’s beach taught us important life skills.
In these days before cell phones, we took the cowbell to alert grandma to emergencies. While we were merely a short leap over the cliff from grandma’s house, it seemed like miles away from civilization or any adult. We knew it was unlikely, however, that grandma would jump cliff or run down 126 marble slabs. This taught us self-sufficiency and responsibility.
We learned engineering and architecture- building sand castles with wind-resistant methods in places most protected from the tide. Grandma’s beach was career education in the making.
Grandma’s beach taught us to value the simplicity of sharing secrets with nature as we hid special treasures to see whether they’d be there next time. Under the rocks, behind the bushes, in a sand dune… some places held our treasures well while others released them to the tide.
We learned by lessons of the adults and faith that there was another side. Grandma’s shoreline and horizon provided these spiritual lessons. I still ponder about the other side.
Hours of leisurely lingering- throwing rocks, looking at the sky and wiggling our toes in the sand, taught us God’s gifts were ours to enjoy. Grandma’s beach provided special time with God- and special time with family as we walked and we talked and we planned and we appreciated.
We learned to capture memories in vessels of tradition. Because we experienced it again and again, Grandma’s beach was a landscape for memories that, like other family traditions, somehow seals memories of special and ordinary things- like a photo album that gathers and organizes slices of life. I remember only once in recent history when Lake Michigan froze over clear to the other side. This would have been merely a storyline in the Milwaukee Journal, but we experienced it firsthand on 126 icy, snowy stairs. Surrounded by bare trees, it was the only winter descent we ever made. As we walked along the cold white carpet, I was amazed that the frozen lake was neither smooth nor flat. The waves froze in an eerie sculpture and are etched in my memory because it was Grandma’s beach.
Lake Michigan’s 1638 miles of lakeshore holds 1180 cubic miles of water. It would take 99 years to refill it, according to The Great Lakes Atlas published online by the Environmental Protection Agency. An absolute gem of nature, Michi gami, the big lake, as named by the first Americans, quenches the thirst of millions as it whets their appetites for adventure. I appreciate every inch of it, whether I’ve visited or not, for it’s an awesome gift from God. But that 80 feet or so or shoreline that was OURS quenched my thirst for adventure and whet my appetite for life. And it holds gallons of memories that would take lifetimes to refill.
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