After an early dinner, I decided to take Ashok for a walk downtown. The muggy, rainy morning had transformed into a gorgeous sunny afternoon with just a hint of a breeze. And I had time to kill.
Bustling with summer vacationers and weekend visitors from Illinois, Saint Joe was dressed in its summer finest. With a stroke of luck, I found a a parking spot on Main Street, and we walked down by the bluff and headed to Silver Beach. If shoppers weren’t eating ice cream or shopping for Great Lakes souvenir wear, they were photographing children sitting on the painted fish that decorate every corner. With equal measure, children were laughing and playing or crying from sheer exhaustion after a long day in the sunshine. It is summertime in Michigan.
For months I’ve strolled the beaches and the streets with my dog. Parking was crazy easy to find, and it was rare to see people just hanging out on the benches in town. If you were downtown, you had a reason to be there. The snow and wind and bone-chilling temps of winter kept people inside drinking hot chocolate and visiting with friends. With spring’s approach, every flower burst into bloom, and the people started to come. Summer’s peak arrived Memorial Day weekend, and now I am grateful if I can find a parking spot.
This morning’s farmer’s market was crowded. I bought fruits and vegetables for the week. As of five o’clock yesterday, I am on vacation. I packed road food purchased at the market. Smoked whitefish, creamy artisan cheese, local blueberries and peaches, homemade pesto and a boatload of just-picked veggies will satisfy my hunger on the long drive. While the crowds arrive here for their vacation, I will head north – as far north as I can drive.
But tonight we walked downtown and out on the jetty by the lighthouse. Tourists who left their dogs at home stopped to pet Ashok. The cutest curly-haired twin girls squealed with delight as they saw her, and hugged and petted her. One of them wouldn’t leave her side as we walked away, and her father finally had to go pick her up and put her on his shoulders. She burst into tears to see her go.
It was warm tonight, but I didn’t even break into a sweat until I was headed back downtown. I thought about July in Louisiana as I walked down the jetty in the sunshine. It would’ve been brutal to walk around downtown Baton Rouge at 5 PM this time of year. The cabana on the beach had a sign out front that read “reserved”, and a couple stood inside getting their photos taken as they staged flowers for a sunset wedding. White sheers flapped in the breeze as the bride giggled and fell into her lover’s arms.
I did the math as I was walking back downtown. It’s almost the first of August. In 6-8 weeks, our temps will start dropping a bit as we slowly start the descent into winter. It won’t be long until I need a jacket to walk to the beach. And in a snap, Lake Michigan will be frozen. Summer is fleeting in Michigan. While I love autumn’s crisp air and even crispier apples, it comes too quickly in a northern climate. Summer is more than precious to Michiganders. It is divine.
Today I took the perfect bite of a Michigan summer. Sweet, sweet blueberries and peaches tickling my tongue ….. a bustling downtown ringing in my ears ….. the sparkle and bubble of Lake Michigan and its fabulous boats in my sights …. a sunset wedding tugging at my heart …. it was all here today. As I passed the Silver Beach carousel, I heard the cackle of joyful children over the tune of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. I giggled to myself. Christmas will be here in a minute. I live here now … this is home …. this beautiful place … where summer in its golden finery has at last stolen my heart.