Heading into the storm. It felt a lot worse than it looks.
People always want to know how autobiographical our strip is. Sometimes it’s more and sometimes it’s less, but the story of Len and Abby’s camping trip is definitely based on a real event. Last summer Patty, myself and my daughter went hiking in Northern Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Lakeshore. I’m a Michigan native and I visited the dunes regularly as a kid. I’ve always regarded them as one of the most beautiful and magical places on earth, all the more so since so few people outside Michigan know about them. It’d been a good 10 or so years since I’d visited and I was eager to show them to my daughter, who’d never been there at all.
Long story short, we set out on a 2-mile hike to Lake Michigan on a cloudy and drizzly morning. We clambered up enormous sand dunes and were rewarded with a wide vista of dark, green storm clouds heading straight for us. Reluctant to give up and go back, we decided there was a good chance they’d blow over and kept going. Big mistake. We ended up a mile in on a rugged, difficult trail, with absolutely no shelter, getting pounded by a raging downpour.
After huddling for awhile next to sandbanks we pretended were keeping some of the rain of us, we turned around and headed back. The rain never slacked off as we struggled up and down steep sand hills, getting wetter and wetter, terrified of lightening bolts. I’ve rarely seen a more welcome sight than the parking lot when we finally reached it. Of course, it was once we finally reached shelter that the rain decided to stop.
And we still had to ride bikes a couple of miles back to the hotel.
It wasn’t that fun, but it built character. And the dunes, as always were awesome. I hope my daughter makes it back there some time on a sunny day. Meanwhile, we have, with some changes, a story to tell.
Some things happened like they always do. The leaves peeped out, the crocuses sprouted, then the riots of magnolia, peach and azalea blossoms, sprinkled with dogwood. Soon, they all turned brown and dropped away and everything was green. The attic, where I work, went from cold in the morning, ‘cuz we don’t actually have heat up there, to hot and stuffy, too bad, since I prefer to have the windows open, but manageable, since there’s an air conditioner in the wall.
But lots of things have changed. My son has gone from day camp to overnight camp to home from college, looking for jobs and spending his downtime on the couch, watching Adult Swim and stroking his beard.My daughter’s still young enough for another summer at overnight camp, but not many more, and when she gets back, it’ll be time to learn to drive. The sand castles, pool passes, waits in lines of cars to pick up one kid or another at the end of the day that filled the summers of years past are gone now, fallen away like spring flowers, passing over and way like a wave you duck into instead of trying to ride on your boogie board.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is summer’s promise. I understand the impulse to spend the night of the Solstice dancing around a fire, celebrating the midpoint of the year, like they do at Stonehenge, where I’d love to go on the Solstice some day, not because I’m a pagan or a druid, but just because it seems cool. As usual, I’ll probably have to make do with a drink on the porch. Here’s to summer! It’ll be gone too soon.
Well, Passover starts a week from tonight, which means it’s time for our annual Passover story. We’ve been doing this for 11 years now, since the strip’s second year, and we went through the low-hanging fruit a long time ago. Meaning that some years, in our effort to do something new, we’ve cobbled together stories that we were less than happy with. This year, though, we actually found a nice universal and simple topic we somehow missed. Hope you enjoy it and, if you’re a Passover person, have a wonderful holiday. AFTER you clean the house.