Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Beauty lives beyond shore of 'real life'

Click here to e-mail Peter Bronson
When the morning sun toasts the sand and the big lake rolls in from the west to greet the day, the marriage of light and water makes the curling waves sparkle gold, green, blue and dazzling diamond white like a pirate's treasure chest of jewels.

Half the world is shaggy green - and the other half is two shades of blue, divided by a razor's-edge horizon where deep-water indigo meets soft sky blue. A ribbon of tan sand makes a road between blue and green. And that's where I made my morning commutes on vacation: from nowhere in particular to someplace at random, then back again to my beach chair that sat patiently by the crashing waves.

In my scrapbook, a good vacation is nothing to do and all day to do it. No TV. Definitely no newspapers. No radio. No news. Just good books, bad golf, fishing, family card games and long walks on the beach.

It's amazing what you can accomplish doing nothing.

About a mile or two down the beach, where the state parkland grows as wild as a soaring blue heron, you can find driftwood that's polished smooth as a feather on a cheek. There are dunes to climb as big as Union Terminal and dune grass that sways and whispers in the breeze.

If you walk far enough, you can even find some of the things you have nearly forgotten: The simple pleasure of walking in deep white sand, like climbing a hill of warm pillows; the cool splash of waves on your legs and lake-bottom between your toes; the honest, invigorating virtue of rediscovering how it feels to use your legs to walk and walk and walk some more. Traveling on foot, at the speed of life, there's time to approach and consider each rock and tree that would be just an invisible blur on the highway.

There's also time to approach and consider the long-forgotten hidden places in your soul, like boxes in the basement where you put away your old dreams and the poetry of life you once knew by heart.

Far beyond the last cottages, I found the black skeleton of a tree, dripping algae down its sides like the dead body of a washed up sea monster, its ripped out roots stretching like twisted tentacles, reaching back for the water.

I wondered: Did it float 80 miles all the way across Lake Michigan from Wisconsin? How long did the journey take? What kind of storm ripped it from the shore and then tossed it over the sandbars, up onto the beach?

And then I wondered about wonder. Where has it gone? "Real life'' is a ringing phone that demands answers with urgent certainty. Like the practical Wilcoxes in E.M. Forster's Howards End, we skim across the surface of life at high speed, looking down on the pitiful Schlagels who wade in from the shore and swim against the waves.

"Real life'' allows no time for wonder. There's no time to stop and marvel at the jewels of God's creation that surround us, flashing by in a blur on our morning commute.

As the sun was setting over the lake, it painted the sky like an explosion in a paint store - purple, orange, gold and volcano red.

That may have been the most beautiful moment of all.

Not the sunset. Just our family, gathered around a table, rattling the Yahtzee dice, rediscovering the intricate brush strokes of love and colors of laughter that make up a family portrait.

It's a painting as rich and wonderful as a sunset, yet it changes like waves on the beach, reflecting the passing sun of each new day.

Finding it is worth the walk.


E-mail pbronson@enquirer.com or call 768-8301.

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