“My escape is to just get in a boat and disappear on the water.”
— Carl Hiaasen
It was a long, and in many ways, not-so-hot summer. Living in the Midwest, we never regret summer. Even a bad summer day is generally preferable to a bad winter one. We will take the approximately three days of perfect weather we have coming to us and savor them.
Still, it can be safely said that at least one month just phoned it in. June, I’m talking to you. It was cool and almost sweater weather for most of the month of June.
July showed promise, and in many ways, we had a perfect July. The holiday weekends all performed admirably. The weather was bright and sunny and for the most part dry — although not so that we were fixing to die. It was just lovely.
August came on like it was going to show June how summer is done. I think it was easily 1,000 degrees some days. On more than one occasion it was hotter in the Midwest than it was the depth of the south. That is not OK. I did not sign up for that.
Still, you don’t want to wish away warm weather.
Stormy weather can be metaphorical as well as literal. This was the summer we lost things. People, places, jobs and relationships. Through it all there was one constant that kept me — and us — grounded. One activity that kept us connected through crazy schedules. One place that became our happy place.
It was in the boat and on the water. We have one favorite lake — most boat people do — and here we would spend some of the best days of summer. I found that on the boat I didn’t worry. It’s as if the very act of being out in the water with the wind in your face, blows your troubles away. I know it sounds trite but it certainly feels true.
I also find that the dichotomy of being confined within 20 feet or so of space with people you like or love — combined with all that open water — feels somehow both close and endless indeed. On the boat, I learned that you can have some pretty meaningful conversations over the roar of an engine, or you can say nothing at all while listening to the lapping of the waves. I’ve learned that blueberries stain boat carpet, and that potato chips do not. I justify my snacks accordingly.
We learned that just because the boat rocks — literally or metaphorically — it doesn’t mean you have to jump overboard. If, however, you want to, that can be pretty refreshing, too. We drove all the way to the lake to boat for a few hours and spend almost as long driving home. We finally wore out one faithful sport tube (R.I.P. Big Mabel) and immediately ordered a second. Thank goodness for quick delivery. Big Mabel 2.0 performed admirably.
When we grow tired of having too much fun burning up fuel and our cheeks cruising the lake for sport, we motor on over to a quiet, no wake zone.
We call it party cove, although our parties are more children splashing in the water, crumbs dropping in the boat, mothers chasing kids around with sunscreen and fishing poles that don’t wiggle nearly as much as we might hope. In one photo, at least a half dozen children are sitting on or hanging on the tube floating blissfully in the cove. A cute, new couple, heads pressed together. Another splashing in the water nearby. Younger siblings, the ultimate chaperones, clamoring over and hanging on.
Where but on the water would teens spend so much time in close proximity to their parents by choice?
Floating on my back like a turtle, eyes closed, while the sound of children splashing and having fun drifts around me. This is my ultimate happy place. Gulls circle overhead. Fish too smart for a pole splash ripple the water. We will drop those blueberries and chips after all. The videos show splashing, singing and laughter.
The air is now warm, but the water is cooler. It is time to pack up the boat — and the summer.
I hope we always take with us the many amazing memories we made on board and on the water in summer 2015 — and more importantly that we return for many years to make many more. There were days when we could ill afford the time, gas money or the snack fund which often outruns the fuel gas. There is just something about sitting in a boat that works up the appetite. We spent money on gas and snacks and sunscreen. I consider it an investment in memories, sanity and love.
We really couldn’t afford not to.
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