The detritus of a beach day lies strewn about me like so many artifacts, jutting half in and half out of the sand. I sit on my warm, rumpled towel; ice cream cone images stitched colorfully upon it here in this sunny place between Bayfield and Washburn, Wisconsin. Later, I will sit and rest on driftwood which lies on the beach, as I follow my children’s’ small footprints and the memory of my father’s large ones. Floaties, buckets, squirt guns, footballs, flip flops, hats, oars, and umbrellas. Add to this sunburns, bug bites, splinters, and unidentifiable rashes. Each time we combine families we add a few things, lose a few things. Add a few memories, lose a few brain cells. Have a few fights, dole out hugs and tears, maybe true confessions, maybe whopper fish tales, maybe sincere apologies and musings.
Time at the cabin, time at the beach. Time taken, time shared. Time with good friends. Time with family. Time to realize: we are now; life is now. A part of summer, a part of our interwoven lives, our childhood memories, our grown-up daydreams.
Days in the waves. Days in the still and cool waters, in the warm swampy tadpole edges. Mornings on the porch, dawns of cool mist, hands wrapped around warm coffee mugs with hushed conversations between. Afternoons on the sand, in the bright sunshine, with screen door slams, poetry jams, cool glasses of lemonade and suds.
Hours together. Hours of packing, driving, and unpacking. Work first and then the playing; chopping, stacking, mowing. Fishing, fishing, and fishing. Trolling, casting, sitting, waiting, wishing, hoping. Cleaning, cooking, fish frys, family members, friends, sunsets. Lined up for dinner oldest to newest, biggest to littlest. Plates rattling, glasses clinking. Everyone, everyone together in this place; this place to savor summer. The big lake, Lake Superior, here beside this Chequamegon Bay means summer to me. But also the small inland lakes, with their cabins nestled and hidden in the woods, with long lines of family and friends trailing annually to meet one another, arriving on a log step beneath a wooden porch with smiles and hugs each year; this is summer as well. Summer in Wisconsin. Here, in our woods, our lakes, our beaches, summer is summer more than any other place. It is in our hearts, our memories, our family histories, and our souls.
Evenings. Evenings on the dock, walking the woods, watching the pounding rains, kinging one another, stealing bishops and rooks, dealing cards, telling tales, slapping skeeters, laughter. More laughter. More skeeters. Smiles, sighs, stars, wishes.
Time at the beach, time at the cabin. Days in a life, days filled with pinecones and rock collections. Warm, sleeping children, happy hearts, beating hearts of love, beating the drum tap of days, dropping them one by one into life’s jar like so many fireflies, so many glowing memories; added one upon another until full and overflowing with summers saved.
Now crisp fall days and lean days of winter will come. Then the smell of pine and cedar will drift to our senses out of context and we’ll remember: time taken, summers saved. We’ll remember and run down cellar; peer at the jar, open the lid and let it flow over us with a fond ache and a smile. Go ahead. Dip in and eat it with a spoon of gratefulness. Summer canned; is there anything better?
Song: “Summer Song” by The Decemberists