As I write this, I’m trying to figure out how to position my laptop so that it doesn’t burn my already tender legs. I’m red from my hairline down my chest, around my bikini line and down the front of my legs. I’m damp all over because this cottage lacks air conditioning, even though I’m in nothing but a bikini. I’m trying to type in between chewing on a strawberry popsicle. Yes, I’m on vacation, and it feels so good.
Living lightly is never far from my mind, but it has weighed especially heavy on me while I’ve been here at Macatawa Bay in Michigan, right off of Lake Michigan. Evidence abounds of global warming. The lake is low this year because of pitiful snowfall this winter, leading to a pitiful snowpack and a pitiful amount of freshwater running down the rivers to the Great Lakes.
Crazy A, who’s hosting me and other friends here, says when she was young jeans and a sweater were standard, even in the summer. Now the sun is high and hot in the washed out sky. It feels like we’re at the Outer Banks, instead of at a latitude of 42 degrees. Yesterday it was exactly 100 degrees, excluding the humidity. That’s only near record highs, but it still doesn’t feel right.
We talk about all this and tsk tsk climate deniers, but it doesn’t stop us or the residents of Macatawa from frolicking on the waters, and I’m not talking about in canoes. On the Fourth of July we took her motor boat to watch fireworks, which is the best way to watch them. You’re on your own boat, away from the crowds, and the fireworks are practically on top of you.
And Thursday the four of us dropped Crazy A’s motorboat in the water and took it to pump $200 worth of fuel inside of it. That boat is thirsty, but $200 seemed like a lot. ”Why is it so expensive?” I asked the typically hot guy who was pumping it for us (All guys who do these summer resort jobs are tan, muscled and so great to look at). “We have to pay a lot in insurance to pump it over the water like this. Spilling it would cause a lot of environmental damage–more than spilling it on the ground. Then they can just scoop out that ground that is effected,” he told me. “But here it’s just in the water.”
So do I feel awesome about using this much gas cruising around in a small boat? No. But seriously, what am I going to do, say no? Yeah, just imagine that: “Sorry guys, I’m going to stay at the cabin since I don’t believe in using gas.” I might as well have just not come. When it’s 100 degrees outside, the best way to stay cool is to get out on the water with a breeze, only a step away from jumping in. And if my friends go, I am going.
We motored the boat slowly out the channel, past Big Red lighthouse (and also past a boat called “Moisture Missile,” seriously? You named your boat that??) and once we were into the waters of Lake Michigan, gunned it, flying over the waters along the coast until we found a spot where no one could see us but the sun, dropped anchor, stripped down to our bikini bottoms and dove into the clear, agate waters.
In between swims, we drank Summer Shandies, a local lemonade flavored beer, and lounged on the deck reading. I tried to position myself strategically, since the front of my body is so burned.
Non-Toxic Sunscreen: Effective or Just Annoying?
Before I left New York, I bought the least toxic sunscreen out there according to Good Guide: Badger Sport. A drawback is that it has the consistency of a soft clay, and leaves my skin white. So my friends have been calling it my “geisha paint” and “hippie clay.” I wouldn’t mind if it was effective–I’m now proud when it comes to protecting my skin. But despite never seeming to come off (it’s still in the crease of my elbow 24 hours after I put it on) I’ve been getting burned.
I might switch back to regular sunscreen today and see if I’m getting burned because I’m using nontoxic sunscreen, or because I’m am a super-white chick who hasn’t been in the sun for a year.
The Dune From Hell
After some time bobbing on the waves, Crazy A kicked the boat into gear again and we sidled up to an almost empty beach. It’s so far from any roads that it is almost only accessible by boat and very in shape people who are crazy enough to walk all the way down the beach. “So only rich people can get here?” I asked. “Well, even poor people have boats here, so no,” Crazy A told me. “Some people don’t even have cars in their driveways, just boats. They just tow their boats to the dock themselves.”
Our plan for this beach was to climb the dune that rises steeply up from the water. Crazy A has been doing this since she was a kid, and said it’s hard, but fun. You gotta get your exercise somehow, right? She threw four Shandies in her backpack cooler to drink at the top and we waded to the beach.
That dune was hot. Painfully hot. Our leisurely climb turned into a series of suicides, as we scampered as fast as we could until our feet couldn’t stand it anymore, then stopped and buried them in the sand to gain some measure of relief. Then, once we had caught our breath, we would scamper again. One friend gave up a third of the way up, and would show us her blisters later. But we kept going. We were going to reach the top, godamnit.
When we finally got there, we collapsed in the shade of a bush and pulled out our lemonade beers to drink. But A.D. had made the mistake of putting sunscreen on her face before leaving the boat. “Ow, ow, ow ow, that really hurts you guys,” she said, rubbing her eyes. “Don’t rub it,” Crazy A told her. “That will make it worse. Why don’t you pour some of the beer on your face to wash it off?” A.D. did so, and cried. “Holy shit! Worst advice ever!” and took off back down the hill to the fresh lake water with huge bounds. We watched her go. “That dune sucked,” I said to Crazy A. “Was it always this hot?”
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“No way, man,” she said. “I’ve climbed that so many times and it’s never been like that.” We finished our beers and ran back down the dune to the lake to cool off. We climbed on the boat, made sure A.D.’s eyes were now OK, and broke into our stash of snacks from the Holland farmers market: hard goat cheeses, white fish spread on fresh bread, kettle corn, dried fruit, raspberries and cherries. (I’ve also been eating a nut butter for breakfast I got at the market called pepita. It’s got flax, pumpkin, sunflower and hemp seeds, plus cinnamon and allspice. It’s very sweet and yummy and includes all your omega-3s, but it is three times the price of almond butter.)
Air Conditioning Optional
As guilty as I feel about the fun I’m having on Crazy A’s motorboat, I think I might be evening out my global warming karma by staying in this cottage without air conditioning. Sounds awful, right? Except this hundred-year old cottage is so well shaded by trees and the dune behind it that it never gets over 80 inside. And when you’re at the beach and all you’re wearing is a bikini and a pair of Soffe shorts all day, it doesn’t matter if you get a little sweaty.
Fun With Alternative Energy
Yesterday we WASPed out and decided to go sailing instead. We’ve been joking that there should be a .gif of my reaction when I found out Crazy A has an account at the Macatawa Bay Yacht club. I was holding my purse at her car as everyone walked away empty handed. “How will we pay for our drinks?” I asked. “[Crazy A] has an account at the yacht club,” A.D. said. I dropped my purse in the car, slammed the door, wiped my hands and marched off toward the club. Hello free rum runners!
But drinks would be for later. This time we went straight the boat parking lot (I’m sure there’s a better name for it, but that’s what it is) and Crazy A set about getting a little sailboat ready, rigging it up, tying knots and hooking things up with the mastery of an old hand. Neither A.D., K or I knew how to sail (I went to sailing camp about 16 years ago and that’s it) so Anna basically gave us a lesson.
It was a perfect day for sailing: a light breeze, and not too many motorboats creating wakes since it was a weekday. No, you can’t lounge on a sailboat–unless it’s one of those huge pleasure cruise ones that comes with a crew–but it’s a great kind of fun. When you’re skipping over the water, leaning back to balance the boat with a rope in hand keeping the jib taught, it’s a fabulous feeling. And no gas required.