I have always loved the water. What can I say? Hawaiian. Growing up in the city, I’d always look forward to getting up north to our cabin. It was situated outside Grand Rapids and had one of the best sandy beaches on Lake Pokegama (I was about 8 years old when I could finally say that word correctly.) My cabin day routine was something like this;
Wake up around 7:30, beg mom to feed me quick so I could get outside. Explore for treasure around the woods until the sun came around a little bit to throw some warmth on the beach, enter water. Stay there until mom banged the lunch triangle, scarf down food, back into water. In the evenings, it would be pretty chilly so I’d have to be content with just playing on the beach and playing with crawfish. The only thing I hated was bloodsuckers but they stayed near the shore. When the neighbor man let his daughter and family use the cabin, then I had a buddy. His name was Todd and he’d come grab me some mornings before 7:30 so we could play in the water. Lake Pogekama days were the happiest of my childhood. When my folks decided to sell the cabin instead of keep it in the family, it was devastating. A family death.
I’m thankful for those days. It made summer, well, summer. Our home away from home. My mom grew up in Grand Rapids so the local Lutheran church was one she’d been a member of for most of her growing up life. Each Sunday, we’d get up, get dressed and have to go to church. Truth be told, I hated it. I wanted to be in the water. I wanted to sit in the sand and dig in it. I wanted to listen to the sounds. Boats, loons, and cabin noises around the lake. There was a summer camp right across the lake and if you were quiet and listened careful enough, you could here THEIR dinner bell and kids screaming in the water. (A rite of passage was to canoe over to the camp in the middle of the night, steal the clothes from the lines and drape them on the diving boards. My friend Michelle and I were stealthy little ninja’s and did this all the while the counselors were playing cards in the main cabin. We. Rule.)
Anyways. Back to church. I asked a couple of times if I could stay back. I promised I’d talk to God out in the water or while I”m resting on the beach but it was a no go. Sure I get it, but I still didn’t like it. My thinking was: Hey! God gave us this lake and beach, he’d want us to enjoy it! Right???? Nope, that argument didn’t work either. Poor me.
I still love the water. It’s my happy place. It’s MY church. Where I can go to calm myself, find peace of mind, listen to the sounds that bring me comfort. When I moved to Milwaukee and told Matt we were going to grab a coffee and head down to the lake, he was baffled. Why would we do that? Uhhhhh, why WOULDN’T we??? So we did and it was as if I had just presented the dude with Electricity. Put away the phone, find a good rock, and just be. By the way, my first summer here, I found the perfect rock. It fit my back perfectly and even had a little pillow formed for my head. I laid there for hours that summer when life got overwhelming. I loved my rock. Anyways. He loved the lake time and will even head down there with a cigar on his own.
If lakes are my church, Lake Superior is my cathedral. Growing up close to Duluth and then heading up there each summer while at the cabin, I came to love that lake. There are parts that are dark, and so dangerous. Canal park is tons of fun and we got to watch ships come in but the canal waves would come way up the cement as if trying to grab you and bear hug you into the water. The Lake near the Apostle Islands is beautiful and calm and inviting. One long weekend on Madeline Island had us in the water as much as possible due to the temps staying in the high 90’s and no air conditioning. If you weren’t in the water, you were sweating. True story.
For me, Lake Superior encompasses life. Large; strong; powerful; sometimes angry; sometimes calm; sometimes it takes; sometimes it gives; constant and constantly changing. Cold that can kill or give relief, up to how you approach it and prepare for it. The more we appreciate it, the lovelier it gets. Ya know, life.
It’s my Sunday School, where I can feel it’s energy and listen to it’s message. I don’t get bogged down with religious policy or hypocritical members. Just the waves, one after another. The sound of nature and a reminder that it’ll be there long after we’re gone. Zen.
This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.