Somebody in my extended family–who was most certainly not my mother–made a doozy of a mistake. They drove me along the shore of Lake Michigan after sunset during a winter
storm. The force of the wind and waves intoxicated my two-year-old mind and body.
My innocent mother suffered the consequences of that mistake. With every winter storm that battered Kenosha, I howled. I howled until my father arrived home from work and bundled me into my pink snowsuit. He took me to South Port Beach, deserted by all sane people. Hand in hand, we stood long and entranced upon the icy breakwater. I sometimes wonder if my obsession contributed to my parents’ decision to move to the Sonoran Desert.
Regardless, my childhood summers were spent with loving grandparents here in Wisconsin. In those bygone days, I believed Lake Michigan was old beyond living memory and people only a recent blight upon the waters. (Remember the noxious alewife die-offs of the Sixties?) Turns out I was wrong. The Great Lakes did not reach their present size until about three thousand years ago when human beings had been wandering the continent for twenty millennia.
Recent human activity has compromised the health of The Laurentian Lakes. However, with the exception of poor Lake Erie, the situation is better today than half a century ago. Lake Michigan now receives an official ranking of “fair” and “unchanging.” Invasive species, habitat loss, and algae blooms preclude a better score.
To date, there is no official public projection of the effects of climate change on the inland seas of North America. This is worrisome, because The Laurentian Lakes contain twenty percent of the world’s surface fresh water. One consequence is likely to be increased salinity, which could initiate a cascade of environmental, agricultural and public health problems.
Whatever the future holds, Lake Michigan is still awe-inspiring, even on a calm summer’s day. This month, we are introducing Christopher’s brother and sister-in-law, residents of congested Silicon Valley, to the Door Peninsula. If the weather is good, we’ll take a clear-bottom kayak tour out of Bailey’s Harbor. It is vital to enjoy our natural world, while we work to preserve the “interdependent web of existence, of which we are all a part.”
Wishing you a restorative summer,