Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Walk on the North Breakwater Pier of Ludington @PureMichigan is Always More than a Walk. August 17, 2014.

When in doubt, walk the pier. If there's a lighthouse, why not climb it. The walk out to the pier's end is about a half-mile. Climbing the four floors of the lighthouse took hardly any time at all. I learned many facts from the two women who were up at the top of the lighthouse as docents. The two went to graduate school for the teaching of reading 20 years ago. The pier now leans four degrees to the side. That's the biggest fact I remember.

The walk the climb the return required no more than an hour and ten minutes and I feel refreshed. I feel different. I contemplated my life and didn't feel nauseous and I sometimes do feel nauseous when I contemplate my life. Don't worry, I read too much Existential philosophy in college. That's what starts the nausea, remembering the reading, ideas such as "Man is doomed to be free". so I took my freedom and I walked the pier. Give me a merit badge. Just, as an prick of a Existentialist student will point out, there's no one in the universe who gives out merit badges.

The pier fascinated me along the concrete path, delighting me with wildlife insights. I saw eight Canadian geese standing on the slightly submerged rocks, pecking away at the seaweed that had grown on the surface of the limestone boulders. They were grazing like cows of the sea. Hard to believe that this species had almost been wiped out at the time of my birth.

I saw a number of plovers pecking at the concrete for what seemed to me invisible food. The birds worked in pairs, and when one took fright, all of them took flight and whizzed about the pier until they found a safe place to land. You could tell it was a couples outing because each bird stayed close to a partner when in-flight. The comical plover walk amused me, the head bobbing forward as the peg legs alternated rapidly forward. When flying, the birds flew as agilely as jets.

It's just less than three thousand feet out to the pier's end and three thousand feet back to the sign sharing this fact. The shack renting kayaks and stand-up paddle boards chalked up temperature facts, sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit in the air and fifty degrees in the water. I finished my course and sat down a bench made out of durable plastic wood, with a man's name cut into the back with a router, a name with a first, last and middle name.

A woman with a cane came to speak to me, "Sir, would you mind sharing your bench?" She had two bottles of Ice Mountain that were beginning to sweat. She sat down to my left and wondered aloud, "It's getting warmer. Do you know the temperature"? I recited my facts like a fourth grade school boy. "The air is sixty eight degrees Fahrenheit and the water is fifty degrees". I had my swim suit in my car and I wondered what it would be like to dive right into the surf.

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to disturb you", she said. "It's okay, it's the right time for a person to show up and tell me something new". I had been paying attention to Plovers and Canadian Geese. I could show an interest in my own species, Homo Sapien. We can't fly but we do make formations, sitting side by side and exchanging conversation. She didn't require too much prompting to open up. I noted a group of Red Hats dressed in their embroidered shirts and Mardi Gras beads, the group helping their friends with walkers as the party made their way to the beach pavilion. My mother had met every other week with her Red Hat society when she lived in her big, drafty farmhouse. I wondered if she had reconnected with a club now that she called an assisted living her home.

One morning, she had showered and dressed for work, and walked to her car to drive to her business as a real estate brokerage. And her left side went weak, and her left leg failed, and called 911 from the grass. She made good progress in rehab, picking small objects, screws and bolts and marbles out of a shallow box helping the most. Wearing a new pair of walking shoes, she had made her longest walk ever, a quarter mile. Her husband showed up in jogging shorts and a light colorful top. He had a sticker on his chest, "I Climbed the North Breakwater Lighthouse". She gave him the cold, sweaty bottle of Ice Mountain and I offered him my seat. The two were deep in conversation, sitting side by side, as I drove away for downtown Ludington.

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