Today brought to mind the character of Caliban, perhaps Shakespeare'si ultimate fool and servant to the bard's most magical character, Prospero. Remember the Tempest that struck in the afternoon of August 2, 2015, knocking huge trees down on Alligator Hill near Glen Arbor? That Tempest laid low scores of trees in the Maple Bay Nature Area, a thicket of beech and oak. The Grand Traverse Conservancy cleaned up the trails, cut the trunks into lengths and left it all on the ground for bacteria, fungi and flora to digest.
I discovered the preserve while driving US-31 in the early evening, searching for an Elk Rapids area grocery store. Plenty of farm stores purveyed apples and pies and I was looking for stick-to-your-ribs fare. I saw the nature area and abandoned that mission. I was having a eureka moment. Maple Bay stood near the Petobego State Game Area, a game area so new there's few paths if any cut into the woods. I looked yesterday and found not so much as a parking spot or a trail head. Shows up on maps and yet the game area just took form.
My plan was to take a swim and then see if I could hike into the shoreline pond, Petobego pond. I was almost right. The steep downhill path through the forest led to a beach environment, untouched for a long time, planted with plants I had never seen before. A sign threatened deep water. A kite boarder zipped close to shore and then reversed directions and zipped halfway across the East Bay in a matter of minutes. If I had binoculars, I probably could have gazed into the wine tasting room of Two Lads on the Mission Peninsula. I found a beach situation surrounded by shrubs, short cottonwood trees and dwarf trees that reminded of crab apples, the trunks far too straight.
I covered my sandals with my dry swimsuit and so fashioned a pillow. Unafraid that some creature might nibble on me, I curled up on the shady sand and fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing into the tumbled pebbles of the beach. I dreamed of children I had to help make shadow animals on the wall of a concert hall called The Block, a lovely amenity of where I lived. Muskegon, where I hadn't set foot since last Friday. The projectionist there also runs operations for the symphony and he added colorful flares and animations to the projected light, making odd, eye-catching shadow animals.
I awoke with a beagle licking my schnoz. The beagle's owner had him off the leash and was yelling at the beagle for being so fresh. I gave him a scratch on his beagle head, and then beagle mom and beagle ran down the beach, beagle chasing and returning a tennis ball from the waves. I rubbed my cheek and felt my three day stubble and remarked to myself. "I have become Caliban". Although I knew I had to be my own Prospero. If only I knew who to make myself my own slave, to use myself with kindness for my own sake.
I knew I wasn't crazy. I had just passed an online personality test to substitute teach in the Grand Haven School District. The longer I sat there, the more dogs and dog lovers found me sitting on the sand, surrounded by a shrubbery screen. The nature area had become a doggie beach for wealthy people living on Torch Lake. I finally got up and tried to walk to Petobego Pond, and where the beach transformed into sand cliffs, snarky signs ordered me to walk only on the wet sands. A small sliver of land had stayed in the hands of individuals. I probably could have sneaked on through and now that I have a map that shows the exact property lines, I probably will sneak on through tomorrow. Caliban can.
Mother loved to read to me from a wide variety of books, Disney, the Bible and the dictionary. We once read the bible story of Nebuchadnezzar, who lost his mind and went to live among the shrubbery, more an animal than a man. She even showed me the engravings of William Blake depicting the King of Babylon on all fours. The thought frightened me but not enough to give up taking naps on beaches in September.
Clearly, though, it's time for me to emerge from the woods and shave my beard and study magic as carefully as Prospero studied magic
"Alexandrov Caliban" by Unknown - http://www.sheleg.ru/foto1/main.php?g2_itemId=434. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -https://commons.wikimedia.org/…/File:Alexandrov_Caliban.jpg