Betty Duffy

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On the Dunes

We climbed Sleeping Bear Dunes one day, and my sister and I, and an assembly of our boys took the trail all the way to Lake Michigan, which is something I've never done. I've begun the trail several times over the course of my life, but have always turned back with fatigue and warnings from haggard hikers making their return that it's much longer than you think.

In distance, it's about 2.5 kilometers one way. But it's up dunes, down dunes, back up dunes etc. the entire way. We set off so joyful, with one water bottle between us, kids jumping off of the sand drifts, and skipping over the hills like fleas.

But soon the stragglers had separated from the group, and my sister carried one of her little ones and walked slower so as not to lose those that fell behind. And I ran ahead after the agile ones who were always at the peak of the next dune over, always just out of my reach. I worried they'd get to the Lake before me, jump in and be carried out to sea by a riptide, so I ran all the downhills, but the uphills made me feel like I was stuck in a nightmare where I need to run but my legs are buried in cement.

And the dunes go on and on.

Finally there, I handed the bottle around to the boys (Who were in the lake by the time I reached them), and not realizing that it was our only water, the first to take a drink took a big drink and left only a sip apiece for everyone else, and then I had that nightmare that I'm stranded on a desert island and I have to breastfeed everyone to keep them alive.

But I did not.

We slogged back through the dunes, and anyone who thinks the worst is over after the first initial steep hill is fooling themselves. All the dunes are steep, because each step uphill in the sand actually slides back about three feet. One is better off scuffing up the hills, inch by inch so as not to disrupt the delicate balance of tiny granules supporting one's body weight.

We walked for hours, and even the boys who seemed to hop across the dunes on the way out, slogged back. I saw my oldest coerce his little brother (who is bigger than he) to carry him part of the way, until their bodies drifted to the side and fell over.

But we made it.

At some point, the peak of a dune reveals a civilization of reveling dune climbers. They are still smiling and talking about how they would like to try and make it all the way to Lake Michigan. So foolhardy. So naive. And they don't ask for my opinion, "Is it difficult? Is it worth it?" I feel like a warrior returning from battle to find that those left at home were unaware a war was taking place.


wifemotherexpletive said...

boy, that dune walk was very well-put-together. i think i'm on a dune somewhere in the middle, can't decide if we should plow on or turn back... hmmm. well done.

Roz said...

I remember that dune climb very well. I never had the slightest inclination to hike all the way to the lake. But we have wonderful video footage of the kids scaling it and then flying down like jet planes.

Walking up a sand dune -- like dry quicksand it is -- is still my personal metaphor for the times I decide to take my goals into my own hands rather than waiting on God.