“Let’s go for a walk,” I told Ashok this morning. From my sofa the day outside beckoned me. The last 3 evenings have been chilly with temps dipping into the upper 40s. I find it such a contradiction to the southern summers of the last 10 years. I have to remind myself that August is pleasant.
I put on my long sleeves and sweatpants and pack a jacket, my journal and a cup of hot homemade chai. I have my sights set on a particular bench overlooking the lighthouse.
The crowd for the farmer’s market is still sparse on the bluff. We walk down the stairs just in time to see a couple walking their rambunctious dogs. “They better not get our bench,” I whisper to Ashok and quicken my pace.
There is no need to worry. My bench sits waiting for us. A couple near the water is allowing their lab to swim in Lake Michigan. Ashok finds a fly and is busy trying to catch it in her mouth. A couple of seagulls dance and soar against the blue almost cloudless sky. A dredging rig chugs up the river channel and finds its place near the end of the pier.
Sailboats, fishing boats and runners race each other to the end of the pier. The boats move on into the lake while the runners circle back toward the beach. A group of teenagers run along the shore. The young girl whoops and screams as the cold water hits her feet. Eventually she removes her sweatshirt showing off her small frame and striped bikini top.
“It’s a great day for a walk,” a runner says to a couple walking past. “No tourists this morning,” he says a bit snarkily. I have to laugh at that. It’s a short tourist season between Labor Day and Memorial Day. Throngs of FIPs (f*cking Illinois People) inundate the area during the warmer months. The benefits of being a Chicago vacation spot outnumber the disadvantages as this rural area has great restaurants, shopping and events. But the locals still have a love/hate relationship with the tourists.
Talk at work has been of fall. These first crisp days remind people that summer is almost over. Most people here love fall. My friends are defiantly threatening to wear boots on September 1 no matter how hot it is. Pears are starting to show up at the farmers market, and apples will be following shortly. Without saying it aloud, there is the knowing that we get this place all to ourselves in a few weeks. We have a few weeks or a month until the summer businesses shutter. No lines, no waiting, no parking hassles await us.
A sailboat floats across the water in front of me. Ashok snoozes. The hum of the dredging rig drones on in the background. Children giggle and scream on the beach as the sun starts to heat up the sand. Paddleboarders make their way across the calm harbor.
The lighthouse watches it all from its perch by the river. Mornings rise. The sun sets. The crowds grow and at last dissipate. Soft summer breezes make way for winter’s gale force blasts. It freezes over in ice only to see its cover melt in the sun. If only we could be so welcoming and steady during change. But we breathe and judge and sweat.
It’s Saturday in St. Joe on one of the last weekends of summer. Enjoy your weekend, Peeps. This day will only come around once.