July 05, 2017When I was a little girl, the absolute best part of the summer for me and my sisters was our annual family vacation up to Charlevoix.
My dad would take one whole week off of work—one whole week!!—and devote it strictly to family fun. He found a beautiful, secluded and remote place for us to stay on the ocean-like shores of Lake Michigan. It was called 'Nine Mile Point,' and was located north of the little town of Charlevoix off of US-31. A gravel driveway led to three log cabins that were built almost right on the shoreline.
Rustic and old-fashioned, the cabins were a grand departure from our tidy, structured home in the suburbs, and a grand adventure for my sisters and I.
Just a few feet from the doorway we'd converge on a sandy beach, and then don our flip flops so we could dip into the pristine—but frigid (even in August)—waters of the mighty Great Lake, where the cabin owners—the Woods family—had created a little cove surrounded by monolithic-like boulders. Lined with ropy veins of dark color, those big rocks sparkled like glitter in the sunlight.
There was a real, old-timey Huck Finn type raft made of logs lashed together that my sisters and I could play on. It was absolute heaven...except, maybe, for my mom.
Mom had to pack a trunk and several suitcases to keep four ambitious girls in clean, dry clothing—not to mention kitchen items and other more modern stuff that the cottage lacked. I imagine it was more work for her just getting ready to go on vacation, making it no vacation at all for her. Plus, she cooked and cleaned (we had to do chores, too) throughout much of the week—though it was a real treat when we'd get to go into town for breakfast or dinner, or a visit to the Dairy Barn for ice cream.
Mostly, though, we loved staying at the cottage. There was so much to do there. Roaming the woods for natural treasures—there were lots of berries and wildflowers everywhere—or exploring the lake on the raft or in the water kept us busy from sunup to sundown.
And when the sun set, there was a glorious campfire pit, lined with more of those huge, beautiful stones that only Lake Michigan hurls onto her vast shores.
The Woods family even had a 'pet fox.' (I know, I know...) They found it alone and helpless and took it in. Being able to watch the gorgeous, slinky animal go about its day was yet another magical attraction of the "great northern wilderness" for my sisters and me.
In our eyes, visiting Nine Mile Point was like going to the Alaskan bush. Back then, Charlevoix was a small, sleepy town whose residents endured the seemingly endless, brutal winter seasons for the few glorious weeks of summer that arrived each year. Over the years, we became part of the 'summer resident family' in town, with my parents making friends with many of the year-rounders who operated businesses there, and my sisters and I making friends who also vacationed at the same place during the same week of each year.
Today, Nine Mile Point is a condominium complex. No longer magical, no longer wild, it's a place for summer vacationers—and some year-rounders—to call home on the mighty shores of Lake Michigan.
In fact, all of the places we ended up renting (Nine Mile Point, Water's Edge, Stroud's) are now condominium complexes...such is progress and progression.
It is ironic, though, that it was the place where I first saw the poem 'Prayer of the Woods,' which was brought to my attention by my dad. It's still close to me, on a postcard that hangs on the wall above my desk. I revisited the poem a couple of weeks ago, while teaching one in a series of six yoga classes at Seven Ponds Nature Center.
As with last week's poem, it's too beautiful to keep to myself:
Prayer of the Woods
I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun, and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on.
I am the beam that holds your house, the board of your table, the bed on which you lie, and the timber that builds your boat.
I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead, the wood of your cradle and the shell of your coffin.
I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.
Ye who pass by me hear my prayer: Harm Me Not.
Email Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.