Once, some forty years ago, Lake Michigan lapped the stairs at the base of the bluff in front of my house. This year the water level is again high and, after the last storm and toppled trees, I now have an uninterrupted view to the white-capped horizon that stretches to Chicago. But, as much as the vista has expanded, I now feel constrained, confined, unable to patrol the beach two miles north and three miles south as I love to do. I even need a ladder, these days, just to get down to the rubble from what appears to have been a marine invasion.
Down on the beach, I duck through tangled tree limbs reaching for water with leaves instead of roots. Pieces of docks and decks, boathouse doors and steps-to-nowhere fight for attention. The stern of a Sunfish sailboat protrudes from a ten-foot sandbank. A barricade of automobile tires impaled on cable-twined, cast-iron posts is visible for the first time since it was installed in the 70s. That was the last time we had high water. It was a time of upheaval not just along the shores of Lake Michigan but across the country with anti-war protests, civil rights battles, women’s rights, church reform, presidential reckoning. Do cycles in nature cause seasons of change?
Fifty years on, we are in it again. Pandemic forces are washing away the way things were, and the way we ‘always did.’ Lockdown, isolation, distancing. Body counting, this time of non-combatants, here and abroad. Righteous marchers protesting murders. And so, I rest in a yawning cavity at the base of a sixty-foot bluff wondering if we have reached the high-water mark of this cycle yet? Nature with its climactic changes, seasonal cycles and a novel virus is making us re-think where we are, how we got here.
Maybe it takes general upheaval to confront norms and status quo…to reimagine. Maybe there will be another productive hiatus with changes in attitudes and laws like between the last landmark watermark and the current one. And sometimes there is just plain generational drift—some attitudes simply fold of their own weight and the openness of progeny born outside parental biases. Sometimes. Hopefully, we won’t always need hurricanes and tornadoes and oil spills and global epidemics to jolt us into spasms of legal change and national consciousness, to convince us to move our houses back from the brink.
Retired trainer, and writing instructor, Joe Novara and his wife live in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Writings include novels, short stories, a memoir and various poems, plays, anthologies and articles. Read more at https://freefloatingstories.wordpress.com/