Every weekend in the summer, without fail, you can find me at Long Lake. I can write that without fear of any potential internet stalkers, because according to Wikipedia there are 26 Long Lakes in Minnesota. I grew up going to the lake at least every weekend, and often much more than that. Even when I lived in the Twin Cities for nine years, I could not imagine a painful weekend spent in the concrete jungle instead of being at the lake. Who could resist a pristine sunset like this?
Not everyone understands our magnetism to the lakes, though. What is it about "the lake" - since that's what we Minnesotans call all of our lakes - that draws us out of the cities, through hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic - only to lounge next to an earthen bowl of water?
I have especially been pondering this question this summer. My husband and I moved back to our rural hometown two years ago to be closer to family, and since then we've had open access to multiple lakes on a daily basis. However, I am taking part in a three week writing institute at the University of Minnesota this July, and can you guess what I've missed most (besides my husband and dog, of course)? This view:
I know I'm not an anomaly - if I were, it would only take me two and a half hours to reach home on a Friday afternoon instead of four hours stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. So, what gives?
I don't have all the answers, but there are a few reasons I personally find the need to get next to the nearest body of water on a sultry summer day.
1) Survival. It's got to be human instinct to run for water on a 100 degree day, right? I'm just following in my intelligent ancestors' footsteps. Darwin's Law and all. If the pavement is hot enough to fry an egg, it makes much more sense to find cold comfort in a 72 foot deep lake.
2) Family. Most of us don't enjoy the lake in total peace. In fact, we've often thought of renaming our lake to memorialize the fact that so many of our family members reside there. (Unfortunately, there's already one Anderson Lake in Minnesota - we still wouldn't be distinguishing ourselves too well.) I could write all night and not mention all the stories that come from our times at the lake. However, I will give you one fun tidbit: every summer, my family has a golf and fishing derby. We meet at Cozy Point on Long Lake to have brunch and create our teams. Then, we head out to a local golf course for a best ball tournament. Did I mention we dress up for this event?
I'm Princess Belle, if you want to play Where's Waldo. On the golf course, we get frequent stares by slowly passing cars, and I'm sure we've come close to causing a few accidents. Once we finish golfing, we head back to the lake for a fishing derby, followed by - of course - a fish fry. Next is an awards ceremony. Prizes are given for best costume, golfing heroics, and fish size and number. Each of the awards is an actual trophy handed down from year to year, and they have pictures of our relatives that have passed. The "Crooning Award" for best singer is given in memory of my grandpa Dennis, who lived on the lake, played guitar, and sang in a band for years.
Last, everyone heads to the bonfire - or inside, if there are just too many blood-sucking mosquitoes - for singing. It's fun to be had by all, and it's one of our favorite weekends of the year. We have parties on Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, and just any weekend that we feel like it. Family is and always will be part of the lake for me.
3) Heritage. I alluded to it above, but my family has a long history on Long Lake. I spent hours at beaches in the cities, and they just didn't have the same effect. My ancestors purchased this land and handed it down to us for a reason. In fact, they pioneered in Minnesota for a reason, and maybe that's why. It certainly isn't the frostbite-inducing blizzards that threaten our very existence every winter. No, I'd like to think it was for summers at the lake.
4) Serenity. There is something about being at the lake that I can't quite put my finger on, but it brings me peace. For reasons unknown, our surroundings put our minds in a different place. Being at the lake puts my mind at ease. I can breathe more deeply, rest more fully, and eat more heartily. Some people spend thousands of dollars in therapy to achieve this; I, on the other hand, need only a reclining lawn chair, a cold water bottle, sunscreen, and hopefully a good book or magazine.
While there are many reasons to escape the concrete jungle, these are the few that truly convey my longing for waterfront on a daily basis. I understand not everyone is like me, but I also can't say I truly understand someone who doesn't yearn for water when the mercury climbs. Next time the dew point and thermometer are rising, if you're not already a lake girl like me, take a plunge into an icy, cool lake. You'll be a convert before you know it.