Archives for posts with tag: #teacherswrite

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The cottage had been built in 1958, by Northwest Specialties of Elk Rapids, but they didn’t add running water until the year before Sarah’s first summer there ten years later, when she was six.  Prior to that, everyone bathed, did dishes, and washed clothes in the lake.  Drinking water was collected from the nearby spring, and it was clear and cold and magical.  Running water was a cause for celebration, because that meant a toilet.  No more traipsing into the woods to use the Bear Trap, which was what they had named the outhouse years before.  These details were not part of Sarah’s memories, but part of the collective memory of the lake.

The lake holds these collective memories still today, and it will continue to gather each tale, hold and keep it until someone digs it up from around the fire pit to be scrutinized and shared by the circle.  They are the nuggets of lore that have been contributed to over time by those who have come and gone over the many years.  Each contribution painted in the perspective of the contributor.  Each colored in the circumstance, familial filter, and lens of those who shared their stories around the fire pit. It is this collective memory that muddies the water between truth and myth.   

“I truly believe that some of these stories have been repeated so many times, that we have just come to believe they are true,” Nancy reached for a chip from the assortment of happy hour delights that covered the table on the porch.

“Lake Legends,” Laura quickly and alliteratively coined the phrase that accurately described the phenomenon.  “I think they’re all bullshit.  Like the one where Grampa Mertz pulled out a gun and shot a water snake while we were all swimming.  No way!  I think I would’ve remembered a gun at the lake.  Especially if someone had fired it in front of me.”

“Grampa was Detroit PD before he retired, and slept with a pistol under his pillow up until he died.  It drove my dad nuts.  Dad was worried that us kids would get into it.  We were forbidden to touch it, but we would sneak into his room and look at it every once in a while.  So there absolutely was a gun up here,” Margy confirmed. “Text Tom and Betz, they’ll tell you.”

Sarah leaned back in her chair at the table and held her Oberon, in its Torch Lake koozy, to her chest.  Ever since the late 1930s when her grandfather and his cousin (Margy’s grandfather) first bought land on Torch Lake, family had gathered on one porch or another to share food, drinks, and mostly stories.  Most of them were, in some way, true.  Some had, like a rumor on the playground, transformed into legend. At this point, many of the participants in the stories were long dead, and only the tales remained.

Laura typed a message into her cell phone to Betz.  She would know.  Sarah reached for hers and typed one out to Tommy.  In the back of her mind Sarah recalled that day, swimming out in the lake with Tommy, Betsy, and Laura.  They had done that every day of every summer for as long as they could remember, so that wasn’t news, but Sarah also vaguely remembered a snake in the water and running away from it.  “I kind of remember this,” Sarah said quietly.

“It’s bullshit.  Never happened,” Laura looked down at her phone to check for a return message.

Betz finally responded to Laura’s text.  “Yes, there was a snake, and yes, Gramps shot it.  We were all there.  How can you not remember this?”

“Ask her if the snake was on the shore or in the water when Mertz shot it,” Sarah suggested.  “I think it was on the shore.”

“She says,  ‘In the water.’”

Sarah’s phone vibrated and she looked at Tom’s response.  “Sigh, are we still debating this story?  Look, it went like this.  We were all out swimming in front of the cottages.  I was on the water bike when a snake slithered off the shore and was heading straight toward me.  People started screaming about a snake in the water.   I abandoned the bike in front of the cottage and swam in, trying to avoid the snake.  The snake, perhaps in response to the screaming, turned back toward our bank.  Gramps had heard the commotion and had gotten his .22, so when the snake reached the bank, Gramps shot its head off.

I remember Grampa Kay yelling at me for ditching the water bike in the lake.  I suspect that he was secretly rooting for the snake. The water bike was right out front, and I was about to be attacked by a snake.  What did he expect?!  I also recall Gramps dragging the snake’s body around to the back of the cottage.”

“I really think I remember this,” Sarah shook her head and absently took another pull on her beer.  Collective memories are weird, she thought.

“It’s all bullshit,” Laura stated.  “Just another Lake Legend.”

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“I truly believe that some of these stories have been repeated so many times, that we have just come to believe they are true,” Nancy pointed out, reaching for another chip.

“Lake Legends,” Laura quickly and alliteratively coined the phrase that accurately described the phenomenon.  “I think they’re all bullshit.  Like the one where Grampa Mertz pulled out a gun and shot a water snake while we were all swimming.  No way!  I think I would’ve remembered a gun at the lake.  Especially if someone fired it in front of me.”

“Grampa was Detroit PD before he retired.  He slept with a pistol under his pillow up until he died.  It drove my dad nuts.  Dad was worried that us kids would get into it.  We were forbidden to touch it, but we would sneak into his room and look at it every once in a while.  So there absolutely was a gun up here,” Margy confirmed. “Text Tom and Betz, they’ll tell you.” 

Sarah leaned back in her chair at the table and let her Oberon settle to her chest.  Ever since the late 1930s when her grandfather and his cousin (Margy’s grandfather) first bought land on Torch Lake, family had gathered on one porch or another to share food, drinks, and mostly stories.  Most of them were, in some way, true.  Some had, like a game of telephone, transformed into legend. At this point, many of the participants in the stories were long dead.  Only the tales remained.

Laura typed a message into her cell phone to Betz.  She would know.  Sarah reached for hers and typed one out to Tommy.  In the back of her mind, Sarah recalled swimming out in the lake with Tommy, Betsy, and Laura.  They had done that every day of every summer for as long as they could remember, so that wasn’t news, but Sarah also vaguely remembered a snake in the water and running away from it.  “I kind of remember this,” Sarah said quietly.

“It’s bullshit.  Never happened,” Laura looked down at her phone to check for a return message.

Betz finally responded to Laura’s text.  “Yes, there was a snake, and yes, Gramps shot it.  We were all there.  How can you not remember this?”

“Ask her if the snake was on the shore or in the water when Mertz shot it,” Sarah suggested.  “I think it was on the shore.”

“She says in the water.”

Sarah’s phone vibrated and she looked at Tom’s response.  “Sigh, are we still debating this story?  Look, it went like this.  We were all out swimming in front of the cottages.  I was on the water bike when a snake slithered off the shore and was heading straight toward me.  People started screaming about a snake in the water.   I abandoned the bike in front of the cottage and swam in.  The snake, perhaps in response to the screaming, turned back toward our bank.  Gramps had heard the commotion and had gotten his .22, so when the snake reached the bank, Gramps shot its head off. 

I remember Grampa Kay yelling at me for ditching the water bike.  I suspect that Grampa Kay was rooting for the snake. The water bike was right out front, and I was about to be attacked by a snake.  What did he expect?!  I also recall Gramps dragging the body out back.”

“I really think I remember this,” Sarah shook her head and absently took another pull on her beer.  Collective memories are weird, she thought.

“It’s all bullshit,” Laura stated.  “Just another Lake Legend.”

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Gentle sway

Sun warming

Wind whispering

Breeze tickling

Sunlight dappling leaves

Waves licking

Sails rippling

Coffee brewing

Bacon sizzling

“Come on in, breakfast is ready!”

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“And we are nearly ready to go.  The sisters have assumed their positions around the pot, each with cup in hand.  We have Oreo Cookie cup, New Orleans Jazz Fest cup, and rounding it out, there is 70s Flower Child mug.  It looks like a great day for coffee, don’t you think, Skip?”

“I do think so, Bob.  The participants are gathered around the Mr. Coffee, and all eyes are on the pot.  And these eyes are not pretty, Bob.  We have Oreo Cookie cup with the blood shot, red, swollen eyes of way too much fun last night.  Next to her, we have Jazz Fest, and these eyes are flying at half mast this morning.  Not sure how competitive this one is going to be able to be at this hour.  Flower Child looks like the perkiest of the bunch.  She seems rested and relaxed.  Those two other cups are going to have a run for their money with Flower Child in the mix.”

“Well, Skip, looks can be deceiving.  I never underestimate a tired, hungover woman when coffee is involved.  I remember once… Wait!  It looks like… Yes, the drip has stopped.  The drip has stopped, and we are off to the races!”

“Flower Child reaches out toward the pot as the last sputter of drip empties into its 12 cup receptacle.  It’s Flower Child at the start, but wait!  Here comes Oreo Cookie with a shockingly quick box out!  Flower Child crashes loudly against the cabinets.  Jazz Fest seems dazed by all of the ruckus and leans against the counter to gather herself. Flower Child attempts to recapture her position, but it is too late.  Oreo Cookie has swept in and grabbed that first cup of liquid sanity. It looks like Oreo Cookie is our winner, Bob.”

“Hold on, Skip.  There seems to be a commotion coming from the kitchen.  Oreo Cookie has taken that first, delicious sip.  Her face is screwed up in horror. What could possibly be happening down there?  It appears that Oreo Cookie is yelling something.  Let’s see if we can make it out.”

“All right.  Which one of you A**holes made decaf?!”

“Come on!  It’s right up here, past the clay bank,” Tommy shouted over his shoulder as the rest of us scampered behind on the trail.

“Gramma said that her name is Emily,” said Betz.

“I don’t see why we have to go down there.  What if she’s weird.   Then we have to pretend to be friends with a weird girl all summer,” Laura grumbled pulling up the rear.

“I’ll bet she’s nice.  Gramma says she’s our age.  We might really like her,” I chimed in.

“Nice try.  I doubt it.  I’ll bet she’s super weird and she’ll mess everything up.”

“Lighten up, Laura,” Betz said as we entered the clearing past the clay bank. “There’s the house.  Fancy, huh?”

We all looked in wonder at the A-framed structure rising up before us.  It was a far cry from our little cottage and certainly different from the sleeping cabin that Grampa ‘Kay built in 1940. That’s where we kids slept all summer.

“They have carpet!” Betz marveled gesturing toward the remnants left alongside the house.

“Shag,” whispered Tommy. We were accustomed to linoleum flooring.  Practical because of the beach sand and pine needles that hitchhiked on our bare feet to invade the floor of the cottage. Gramma waged a constant battle against the assault.

“OK, let’s get this over with,” Laura said walking up to the side door.  The front of the house was one giant window facing the lake, so the side door seemed like the right place to knock.  And knock, she did, with the rest of us crowding behind her.

A surly teen opened the door.  “Ya?” she said one hand on her hip.

“Can Emily come out and play?” Betz asked.

“There’s no Emily here,” replied the girl, and she abruptly turned and closed the door.  We stood in astonished silence on the porch.  Maybe Gramma was wrong.  Maybe there was no girl our age in the A-frame.

“Well, that’s just great,” Laura said sarcastically.  “Now what?”
“Back to the cottage for lunch, I guess.” I said heading back down the trail.  The others turned to follow me.

“Hey!” We all turned in unison toward the voice.  “I’m Amy.  Where you guys just at my house looking for me?”

Little did we know, that this moment would change our summers at the lake forever.

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The Power of One

The world, it seems broken.  
But what can be done?
Don't underestimate the power of One.

One can acknowledge the problems we see.
They aren't about them,
they're You and they're Me.

One can decide to reach out and connect,
with those who are different
 from what we expect.

By learning from others,
their truths and their tears, 
One can cast away prejudice, judgement, and fears.

One can build bridges between you and I.
It may not be easy,
but shouldn't we try?

It's not about cops
and it's not about color.
It's mostly about us not trusting each other.

Trusting's a risk that we all need to take.
Are you One to take risks
for humanity's sake?

If you are, please come join me.
I'm One, and I'm ready.
To stand for what's right, I'll be strong. I'll be steady.

Your One plus my One, makes two, that's a start.
It may be imperfect 
but it comes from the heart.

Together we'll model how it could be done, 
so don't underestimate
the power of One.



 

“Mo!  You better come here!  Looks like another one.”  My footsteps crunch the pine needles, leaves, and twigs beneath them.  My feet move me forward, but my eyes search behind for my sister as I approach the scene.  I sweat, despite the cool breeze, and my mouth goes dry when the buzz of flies and the smell of decay assault my senses.

“Jesus Christ!  Not again?  Why does this shit keep happening?”  Mo is all business.  She gets things done.  She shakes her head as she approaches the scene, hands on her hips, disgusted.  She’s done with this, but that won’t make it stop.  “This has become an epidemic.  Every single time we come here, we have to deal with this crap. When is enough, enough?”

We stare down at the bloody mess, no longer horrified, but annoyed.   Bones, cartilage, and torn flesh blanket a section of the wood’s floor like that spill that happens when old Chinese tumbles out of your too full fridge and the carton busts open right there on the linoleum.  What a freaking mess.

“What do you think happened, Mo?” Mo is short for Maureen, but I dare anyone to call her that.  My eyes search for answers in the crime scene, darting here and there, trying to make sense of the mess.  I wring my hands a bit, knowing that the clean up isn’t going to be pretty.  It never is.  But we can’t just leave it here.  Someone has to do it, and that someone is us.

I’m the nervous sister.  Not quite timid, but definitely more cautious and far less foul-mouthed than Mo.  She swears like a sailor on shore leave.  Nobody seems to mind.  It kind of suits her.  She’s bright red, I’m a dull yellow.  People call me Kit.  My name is Katherine, so it went from Kat, to Kitty Kat, to Kit.  Dad sometimes calls me Kitten, but he’s the only one that can get away with that.  I’m a little nervous, I’m not a doormat.

“How should I know, Kit? It’s the same every time.  Is it man?  Is it nature?  We don’t know, and we probably never will.  All I know is we better go suit up for disposal before Sonny gets here.  You remember what happened last year.”

I think back to last summer and suppress a grimace.  Sonny found last year’s contribution to the Circle of Life before we did.  He carried that spine around like he was leading the band with it.  Not just part of it, either.  The whole dang thing.  Finally, we wrestled it away from him.  Sonny’s not quite right in the head.  Generally sweet, but trying way too hard to be Alpha.

“I’ll go get a bag and some gloves, Kit.  You stay with the body.  This is some bullshit right here.  Damn it.”  Mo trudged off toward the house leaving me alone with the corpse.

“Bambi sleeps with the fishes,” i muttered to no one in particular.

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