by Sharon J. Kennedy
(Traverse City, Michigan)
We could smell the lively scent of fresh water before we saw it, and with it a vague odor of the underwater life that lives in its depths. A small thrill of expectant pleasure zings through us as we anticipate swimming in its clear blue liquid on a hot July day. We quickened our step.
Approaching the zoo tunnel which passes under Grandview Parkway along the shoreline of Grand Traverse Bay, we see the familiar sloping curved sidewalk that takes us into the low tunnel entrance. A transformation moment occurs; the natural light dims and the cool air coupled with the underground smell of damp concrete envelopes our senses. We came into a new, heightened state of alertness and the air felt close and pressing. Our footsteps made quiet echoes and we felt the urge to make noises; we hooted and whistled, just to hear ourselves hoot and whistle back in echo followed by giggles. Light spilled in to the tunnel as we neared its end, and the cement bowl-shaped amphitheatre that signaled the zoo entrance was straight ahead. We made a sharp right, went up five steps onto a short path and crossed over the miniature train tracks toward the beachfront.
The water, clean and rippling, lay just beyond a stretch of warm beige sand. It was a familiar sight; I had spent Saturdays here with my family, and many evenings for a cool swim before bed. We stepped upon the sand speckled with dried cherry-pit-halves from the old canning company down the block and it brought a slight hint of cherry smells to my nose. These smooth brown pit-shells together with tiny bits of black, white and crystal brown sand mingle together and make up the tan color and interesting texture of our Lake Michigan beach. The sand slid through our toes warm and grainy. It began to feel hot, and hotter still, as we crossed to pick our spot out for the day. We hurried, hopping and yelping, to get there, and then quickly threw down our towels and stood on them for relief from the burning sand as we peel off our shirts and shorts. The water looks enticingly cool and we cannot wait to get into it. Gingerly we sped down through the burning sand and plunged headlong into the water. After this initial cooling off we begin one of our favorite water games, underwater somersaults. It fills our noses with water and we often came up sputtering and snorting. When we tire of this we flip over and float lazily on our backs treading water, enjoying its smooth wet relief from the heat of the day.
Today as I drive down the Grandview Parkway with my window cracked open, the familiar scent of fresh water snatches my attention and I am back there in an instant, floating on my back in the blue waters, or lying on a towel in the hot sun breathing in paradise.