Forty-seven years ago, my mother bought a piece of property on a small lake in western Michigan. At the time, I couldn’t imagine what she was thinking, nor was I thrilled about spending time in what seemed like the wilderness to me. I wasn’t too far wrong about that. The property bordered the Manistee National Forest and the only access to the place was a dirt two-track road. At the age of 12, I couldn’t share her vision, but forty-seven years later, I have finally started to realize what she must have felt when she first stood here and looked out over this beautiful little lake.
Thunder Lake is a small jewel that even today is fairly remote from the rest of the bustling resort areas of Michigan. Wildlife is plentiful. Deer often come down to the water to drink. Blue herons stand on long elegant legs waiting to pluck breakfast from the shallows. An occasional porcupine may waddle down the road. This summer we heard there was an eagle at a neighboring lake, but we haven’t seen him yet.
The cabin that my mother helped build on her property is still standing, and in the summer you can sit out on the deck and look out at the water that shimmers and sparkles like diamonds in the sunlight. Summer can be hot and sticky with humidity from the lake, but most times a breeze drifts across the water bringing a lovely cool-down to the evening.
In spite of summers that are as sweet as tree-ripened fruit, my favorite time at the lake is in the fall when the trees change to towers of gold and flame. They reflect in the water, sometimes so perfectly that it’s hard to tell which way is up. This time of year the quiet is almost palpable and often the only sounds you hear are the leaves and acorns falling or a fish jumping in the lake.
I have to thank our place on Thunder Lake for getting me started writing. There was little else to do when we first came here; few other kids around my age. So I started writing in steno notebooks, stories that I made up about people who lived a long time ago. I still have those notebooks stashed somewhere, never having the heart to throw them away. I can still remember sitting in our camper and scribbling in them.
My mother passed away last year, and I don’t know what will ultimately become of her little cabin in the woods. It makes me sad to think that someday I may not be able to go there, but even if that day comes, I’ll still carry the memories with me, of the early morning fog lifting from the lake and the stillness of a loon gliding through the smooth-as-silver water.