Summer Love-In: Just Add Water

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Well, after the moving stories of self-discovery the Any Other Wedding girls gave us yesterday, I think we could all use a little light relief, amiright? Thought so.

So, Lyn! I heart Lyn big time. Her blog, Another Damn Life, is one of my favourite reads; everything she writes just rings so true with me. Maybe it's because she tackles subjects that, on the face of it, are big and scary and intense - like searching for a feeling of belonging, and being a better listener - but she does so in such a hilarious fashion that you don't even notice they're big and scary and intense because you're too busy cracking up at your desk and trying not to spray your screen with coffee (I imagine - obviously I would never read blogs at my desk, because I am too busy working. Ahem). I have a pathological inability to publish a post without shoehorning in some kind of wisecrack (it's like an illness) so I appreciate her mastery of this art. 

Here she is, discussing the tribulations of growing up in California. Yeah, Lyn. My heart bleeds for you. Try growing up in a country where going outside in shorts is an annual event.

When I was a child, I had the misfortune of growing up in California.

I’ll give you a moment to extend your condolences.

One thing my years spent in California has taught me — outside of a snotty lack of appreciation for its consistently mild, comfortable weather year-round — is a fervent aversion to the ocean.

“But Harold,” you might say. At which point I would contend my name is not Harold.

“But Winifred,” you might utter. At which point I would gently point out that neither of us has ever had the pleasure of knowing a Winifred.

“But Guinevere,” you might stammer.

Close enough. Yes?

“How can you hate the ocean, Abigail?” you ask me. “It’s the ocean! A marvelous, inspiring, unknowable force of nature! A place of death, and a place of rebirth! Many men have journeyed vast distances just to kneel in the sand of its shore and gaze deeply into the abyss, begging for answers to those questions eating at their souls. Also, it’s a great place to relax with a beer.”

Yeah? You like the ocean so much? Well, you try being a kid and playing in it during the California summer.1 Go on, I’ll wait. Back already? Right. Was it cold and murky? Covered by a layer of impenetrable fog? Or was it perhaps so windy that flying particles of sand left tiny red stinging welts on your skin? Did it reek of rotting seaweed? And — this is important — were you on more than one occasion knocked over by a strong wave, dragged along the bottom, and deposited unceremoniously onto the shore, where you sat there hacking up salt water for a few minutes in full view of the other beachgoers before realizing that your swimsuit was halfway off?

Look me in the eyes. You were, weren’t you.

I understand.

But! But what is summer without a body of water in which to frolic? Nothing, I say. Nothing! Which is why I offer my patented ocean alternative: The LakeTM.

My favorite lake in the world is Lake Huron. Wrapped around the eastern side of Michigan’s lower peninsula, Lake Huron is expansive enough to generate big rolling waves, yet small enough that the water is actually pleasant during the warmer months. As a youth I was lucky enough to visit my family in Michigan for two weeks every summer, and most of that time was spent on or near the lake doing things like:
  • Jumping off a boat right into the blue lake, only to haul myself back out and do it again
  • Dashing over hot sand into the cool waves
  • Being tossed into the water, giggling, by my dad
  • Stuffing myself with hot dogs, hamburgers, and all the fixings during barbecue picnics at the lighthouse park
  • Getting utterly high out of my mind on refined sugar and chasing my cousins for hours
  • Popsicles, and eating as many of them as I wanted because the adults were too happily sauced to care
  • Watching fireworks on the beach
  • Building things in the sand with my aunt
While I’m at the point in life where I’m more inclined to choose the sauce over popsicles and I can only sustain chasing my cousins for a handful of minutes — if that — these memories still embody everything quintessentially “summer” to me.

And while I’m back in California living next to the stupid, frigid, vindictive, murderous ocean again, we do have a few scattered summer days here and there. Days when the temperature soars, the sun bakes the sand, and the water actually feels… refreshing. And if I ignore that fishy seaweed smell and squint my eyes just right, I can almost feel it.

Yes, yes. I’m back at the lake again.

Do you have a lake in your summer memories? Maybe a kinder, gentler version of the sea? Perhaps a river or creek, then? Or even just the trickle from a garden hose? Oh, you must have something. Tell us about it!


1 Ha! Deceptive statement. There are no seasons in California.

Image: 1954: Lyn's great-grandmother acquaints herself with Lake Huron

8 boats moored

  1. I don't do the sea either. Sand, salt, general dirty feeling when you come out, and all those creatures! Yuk.
    I bloody love an outdoor swimming pool though - only when I'm abroad, not in Scotland, that's just pushing it too far

  2. The Atlantic Ocean of the East Coast is way tamer. Seriously, people are always touting the Pacific but from your (hilarious) description I'm going to go ahead and claim victory for the Atlantic.

    Also all those things. That is summer! I miss it so. YOu describe it very well.

  3. I agree 100%!! When I'm traveling, people always say "oooh California, so nice." And then I have to explain, "no, it's San Francisco - very different." Its certainly nice in January, when I'm wearing a sweater and jeans, but by June, when I'm in the same sweater and jeans, its not so fun anymore...

  4. When I'm sitting at my desk in the week through the summer, the thing that keeps me sane is the thought that at the weekend, i'll be swimming in the river Thames at Wolvercote near Oxford (Port Meadow), barbecuing on the banks, watching the ducks and running my hands through the grass. And if we can't get to Oxford, then we go to the ponds on Hampstead Heath. We even swam in the sea in April in Wales. Swimming outside is almost an addiction...

  5. @Linsey -- I'm with you on pools! They're amazing as long as they're not 1) cold (wink) and 2) populated with tons of shrieking kids.

    @Lauren -- YES. I have heard that people go to this "shore" on the Atlantic all the time in the summer? That sounds amazing to me. I wouldn't dare go in our Pacific without a freakin' wetsuit anymore. You guys totally win.

    @Johanna -- Again, YES! I feel so bad for people who go to SF (or most of coastal California north of LA) expecting a semi-tropical vacation. It just ain't happenin'. Our winters, though, are a thing of envy in comparison...

    @Claire -- Ooooooh, that sounds so lovely! The river Thames! You make me want to go there. Also, yes. Swimming outside can make you feel reborn.

  6. I'll take ocean, lake, or river any day. I grew up going to the lake - usually one that felt almost like bath water, thanks to our 100F+/39C+ summers, though occasionally to a cooler one. Kneeboarding, wakeboarding, skiing, tubing, just riding on the boat - so much fun. I miss it. But I also grew up going to the ocean, though it was the Atlantic and in Brasil. (So sad for me, I know.)

    I will say this about the Pacific: it's pretty fantastic if you're far enough south. Like Costa Rica south. The water is cool but comfortable; perfect relief from the heat.

  7. I feel uniquely qualified to respond having spent my childhood dipping into the north sea in Scotland and Holland, and then having spent 10 years in southern California. I don't go to the beach either, as a result.

    (And don't let people sell you on "oh it's nicer in the Atlantic," those people have never lost digits trying to swim off Cape Cod in June.)

    My wife grew up in Michigan and as such is a lake enthusiast, but for her, the exotic escape was going somewhere with hills... which is why her preferred choice for a summer break is a lake in Vermont and our children, despite living no more than 70 miles from the Atlantic coast, have spent more time on the beach at North Berwick than at any beach on the east coast of the US.

    Which is really pretty sad, now that I type it out.

  8. Considering that we grew up on the same section of coast, I am hardly going to dispute your arguments about the ocean (particularly since I still can't eat uni, because its briny taste reminds me of nothing so much as getting tackled by a wave and driven into the sand). Also, you forgot to mention the beach tar.

    However, I will say that the Pacific is better in places that are not California. Hawaii? Freaking awesome. The WARM. And in some parts, it's so calm, it's like floating around in a bath.

    Lakes have always freaked me out a little. They're so calm. I always think that's deceptive, and that I'm going to get sucked down somewhere out in the middle. This is not helped by a formative experience at Zaca Lake, where I was told that in the center, it's bottomless, which totally wigged me out.

    So, in summation: hooray ocean, even though it's mean!


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