By the time I get out to the Point it is still an hour until sunset. The sky is largely clear with the sun shining brightly on the lake. There are some clouds low down on the western horizon and there is likely a storm somewhere over in that direction because the waves that are striking the rocks twenty feet below me are nearly a foot and a half high. They crash and the resulting plume of water rises nearly to my height before falling back to the rocky shore far below.
That’s one of the things that make this place so interesting. It is a small point of land which sticks out into Lake Michigan but it is enclosed by two widely angled arms which funnel the waves inwards. It is really a point within a shallow bay. To make it even more unique the rocky cliffs making up the shoreline here are undercut with a narrow notch leading up the cliff face from the top of this undercut cave like formation. Thus when a wave comes rolling in to break against the rocky spaces carved at the bottom, it fairly explodes upwards, sending fantastic sprays up the rock face towards the sky. Even in relatively calm periods the small waves breaking still provide an unexpected response.
The point is located in a tract of land of some thirty five acres, which was left to the county for a park seventy some years ago. The county has never had the money to really develop it, so it remains an area of second growth forest with over a thousand feet of shoreline. There are a couple of hiking trails but not much else. Besides, there is a state park with developed picnic areas along the shore on either side which tends to draw visitors away from the country park. This means more than a mile of the lake shore is public land with no other buildings or development.
The first time I came here was with Tom and that was almost six decades ago. We’ve repeated that visit hundreds of times since and have always considered this as “our” place. It has a nice rock ledge - where I am now sitting - that provides a comfortable resting place with a great view out over the lake. The sound from the breaking waves combines with the nearly ever present breeze to lull one into a lovely relaxed state. To these are often added the occasional cries of gulls, ducks or geese. But sound is just the icing on the cake. The view out over the water towards the west, while presenting nothing fixed or solid except the wooded arms of the bay, fills one’s visual sense; the slow, rolling, never ceasing motion of the waves, the splash of the spray as they break, the very occasional view of a slow moving tanker or ore carrier in the distance. Even knowing that there is a distant shore out of sight some sixty or eighty miles away does nothing to disturb the peace of the scene spread out before one. But the absolutely best time is at sunset. Often distant clouds catch the sun. While sometimes their hearts remain dark, their edges are often turned to molten gold or fiery orange or the dull red of dying embers.
It is the twelfth of August and for nearly sixty years Tom and I have come out here together. Not every day or even every month, but hundreds of times over that span and, if we can, always on the twelfth of August. I think this is actually the first time I have ever come out here without him - I know it’s the first August twelfth. It feels so unusual now to sit here by myself. It has always been the two of us.
I close my eyes and let the sounds flood my ears and the warm late afternoon sun bathe my face. I just catch myself before I reach out for Tom’s hand, and I think back to the first time, to when it all began for the two of us.
It was in my junior year of high school. My name is Lynn Bryant. In my junior year I was five foot five, with blue eyes and dark blonde hair down past my shoulders. I wasn’t skinny but, as were most of the girls then, was fairly slim and in pretty good shape physically. In Michigan around a small town a lot of the things to do were active and usually out of doors - especially at that time. I mean no video games, no cell phones, no computers. There was television - two channels - but nothing much of interest during the daytime. No, we played outside a lot - games, biking, hiking, skating or snowshoeing during the winter, swimming during the summer ... that kind of thing.
And of course there were boys. At seventeen they were one of the major areas of interest. I don’t mean to give the impression that they were a totally separate activity - most of the things we did involved both groups. Well, sure, there were times when the girls did something by themselves. I think mostly just to have an excuse to be able to talk about the boys. They were probably doing the same thing, talking about us. But there were also many couple activities. There were football games and other school sports. There were dances. Our town and two nearby ones each had a movie theater, as well as two or three drive-in movies that were within reasonable distances. There were hamburger joints and a miniature golf course. And of course there were a number of “lovers’ lanes” and other “parking” places. Yeah, anytime the car isn’t moving and the engine is turned off, you are parked. Sure, but you know what I mean.
I wasn’t going with any one boy but dated four or five. All of them dated other girls as well, but none of us had a problem with that. There were a few in our school that I was sure were sleeping together but not any of my group. That sort of thing didn’t happen that much just then. Or at least wasn’t talked about as much.
Ours was not a huge school, nor was it a tiny one, but there were about eighty of us in my class. That meant that we all pretty much knew each other well enough to recognize and speak to, even if they weren’t in our own group. So when a new face appeared, everyone knew it within a day or two at the most. Tom transferred there in late February. His family had moved there from somewhere in Ohio. Northern Ohio at least, so snow wasn’t something totally unknown to him.
He was about five inches taller than me, had medium brown hair and blue eyes a little lighter than my own. He looked like he might have played football but I later found that his build was not the result of that, but rather of other physical activity. He had a ready smile and easy going manner which quickly let him fit in. He migrated towards our group and by the time he had been there six weeks he was as much a part of it as any of us.
I found him easy to be with and we seemed to work or play together quite well. By late March he had dated a couple of the girls in our group but he hadn’t asked me out yet. I think he likely would have quite soon, but before that could happen the school had a Sadie Hawkins Day dance and I asked him.
The dance went quite well. We got along fine, even managing to tease and playfully insult each other without going too far. I found he could dance well, never stepping on my feet and giving me a firm lead. Afterwards we went for something to eat and when he took me home I gave him a good night kiss. The first time I had ever kissed a guy on a first date.
After that he did ask me out but we didn’t become exclusive or anything. He dated other girls and I dated other boys. This pattern continued throughout the summer and on through senior year. By spring of senior year almost everyone in our group was eighteen. This mostly meant that we had a little more leeway in where we could go and what we could do, but otherwise didn’t change things very much.
That year had an unusually warm spring. In mid April Tom asked me if I would like to go on a picnic and a hike that Saturday. I quickly agreed and when Saturday dawned it was clear and sunny with a high of seventy five predicted. He picked me up early - about ten - and we planned on being gone the rest of the day. I had made some sandwiches for our lunch and Tom had said he would bring things for a picnic supper.
We drove over to a state forest area about fifty miles away and parked at a trail head. Backpacks weren’t nearly as common at that time but we each had a small day pack and quickly set out for our hike. It wasn’t mountain climbing or anything, but a nice walk through the flower filled woods and up and down some small hills. We found a clearing under an ancient maple that must have been at least a hundred fifty years old and sat down to lunch. While we ate we talked and among other things found that we were both planning on going to the same college the next fall ... the state university a couple hundred miles away.
We finished our walk and arrived back at the car about three. On the drive back Tom suggested we eat at the state park on the shore near our town and I readily agreed. We made our way to the picnic grounds on the shore next to the swimming area. As anyone who has lived around the Great Lakes knows, swimming in them is usually a rather chilling experience, even in late summer. The shallow area here was OK in July and August, but now the water would probably not be more than ten or twenty degrees above freezing, so even with the warm weather the picnic area wasn’t crowded. Just a couple of other tables were occupied. Tom brought out a cooler with hamburgers and soon we had a fire going in one of the grills.
While we waited for the coals to get ready, we talked. I had been to this park a number of times but somehow had never gone over to the undeveloped county area next to it. Now Tom mentioned that he had wandered over there once before and that there was a nice place to look out over the lake. I said that sometime we could go over and see it.
.... There is more of this story ...