For Love of Water: I Need You Most in the Cold Season

Traverse City writer Karen Anderson’s “Love Letter to Otter Creek Beach” appeared in Art Speaks Water: Love Letters to the Lakes—a FLOW collaboration with writer and poet Anne-Marie Oomen—which was presented to the International Joint Commission on July 24, 2019. Anderson’s love letter is as appropriate for Valentine’s Day as any other day.

Dear Otter Creek Beach,

I love you in all seasons and you love me back. But it occurred to me that maybe I need you most in the cold season, the “off-season,” when weather isn’t permitting and I come anyway, yearning to experience that glimpse of eternity in the moment that is always present on your shores. And I remembered the essay “Ice Floes” from my book, “Gradual Clearing: Weather Reports from the Heart.” Here it is, with love.

Ice Floes

Ours is the only car in the parking lot on this Sunday afternoon. My husband and I walk north along the Lake Michigan shore, pulling on gloves and putting up hoods. It might be twenty degrees on the thermometer but it feels like zero.

Below zero when you factor in the wind chill that freezes my eyelashes. I swing my arms and pick up the pace. The footing is firm because the sand is frozen solid. Then, when I’m finally warm, I need to stop and dig a Kleenex out of a pocket for my runny nose.

It’s a good chance to stare and listen. Strange to be on a beach and not hear waves, but they’re lapping against the ice far out in the lake where white turns to dark blue against the horizon. In the silence I hear the creak of ice floes like voices in a conversation.

The sun has dazzle without warmth, a pale yellow disc in the southern sky. For a moment I wish it was summer again, that I was wading in bare feet and stepping over sand castles, dodging dogs and children.

In July, of course, I never yearn for February. We rarely prefer the harder path but sometimes— like today—I glimpse its harsh beauty.

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