Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Great Lakes Gal

I live one block from the harbor in Kenosha Wisconsin. It’s only a few blocks more to the Lake Michigan shore. I can see a sliver of the Simmons Island beach from my kitchen window. From my back balcony, I can see the Southport Marina and further south I see the open waters of Lake Michigan. On a clear day, I can see Chicago.

In the summer, all kinds of boats dot the waters. A few commercial fishing boats are even out in the winter, as long as the harbor isn’t frozen solid. Wind surfers come out on windy days, and kites are often seen sailing at the shore. On occasion, especially in the late fall, large cargo ships are visible on the horizon. I keep a pair of binoculars handy so I can get a better look at whatever is passing by.

I am outside every single day, thanks to my eight-year-old pug, Burlee. My husband walks him in the morning and at night, but I provide the afternoon relief. I am out when it is hot, when it is cold, when it is windy, and when it is calm. Every walk includes at least some notice of the lake – and I take special note of the wave action and the color, which are both constantly changing.

We moved to Kenosha to be near the lake. My husband and I and our children lived here many years ago, then we moved to a landlocked town in northern Illinois. For the next twenty some years, whenever I got the opportunity, I would visit Lake Michigan. I was happy to come back to the lake in 2004 and one of the main requirements for housing for us was that it be must be near the lake.

In a way, I am a Great Lakes gal. I grew up in Buffalo and although we did not live near Lake Erie, summers were spent swimming in its waters and playing on its beaches. My mother’s family was in Hamilton, Ontario, and many summer days were spent at Lake Ontario. The Niagara River and Niagara Falls, which connect Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, were in our backyard. The Falls is still one of my most favorite places. I have camped and hiked on the shores of Lake Superior. The only Great Lake I don’t know is Lake Huron. I expect to correct that soon, as my son has recently moved to Michigan.

In addition to being a lake watcher, I am interested in water as a natural resource. Perhaps that interest started years ago when we lived in Israel, a country where water is not taken for granted. It was fed one summer in the 1990’s when I was at Niagara Falls. We had taken the Cave of the Winds tour, where you go down under the Falls in yellow slickers and blue boots, and get soaking wet. One of the people in our group was from an arid country and he was in awe of all the water. “The next war will be fought over water,” he told us. His prophetic statement has remained with me to this day.

I come to the topic of water and the Great Lakes knowing just a little, wanting to learn more. I want to read and gather facts, but also to reflect on what the lakes mean to me. I want to observe and report what I see. And I want to share what I learn with others so that we can help protect these precious waters.

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