Today is a day when nothing is going to get done. There is a breeze, which can’t be denied, but it only serves to rush hot humid air from one end of the yard to the other. The trees seem to shake their heads in puritanical protest as the hot wind caresses their leafy boughs. Standing in the back yard, harried by the hot breath of that wind, an epiphany comes to me. I realize it is either mint juleps on the porch in a dress of white organdy, fan languidly waving… or a trip to the beach. As I’m short on bourbon and mint leaves, the beach will have to do. Gathering husband and Kera the dog in hand, off to the beach I go.
This visit would be significant. I love the beach, winter, spring, summer or fall. This would be my first trip back since I had been sick in the spring. I am not a good patient and after almost 2 weeks in bed I had begun to sneak outside to lie in the grass and watch the garden come to life. My therapy, as far as I was concerned, would consist of seeing how many times I could travel around the perimeter of the yard. This had not gone over well with the household in general and the beach had been a distant dream for the past 3 months or so.
The dog and I are equally enthusiastic as we head down the tree crowded dirt road to the narrow strip of sand that marks the closest access to Lake Erie (though, unlike Kera I do refrain from sticking my head out the window). At one time, in the 1800’s, this narrow strip of beach had accommodated the business of a bustling community that has since disappeared. The stone pillars from the old docks still remain at the base of that leafy roofed road as a reminder of more fiscally advantageous days.
It is a weekday so the beach is all but deserted which suits the dog, and I as well. The tide is high and the beach has been swept clean of most of the usual debris. Unfortunately, Kera is particularly adept at finding bits of dead fish which she simultaneously enjoys eating and rolling in. It is a small price to pay for a coveted visit to the beach. Flip-flops off we head down the shoreline.
It is cooler here with no trees to block the breeze coming off the lake. The high winds and waves have made the water murky with lake plants and sand but I don’t care. First I’m wading and then, before I can be stopped, I’m deep enough to swim and it is glorious. The lake is alive with movement and the heat of the wind, so cloying at home, is a welcome companion as it crests the waves.
Kera heads off down the beach (she likes to wade but not to swim) and we pursue in leisure. Huskies have a very strong pack instinct so she never gets too far ahead. The clay cliffs tower above. The cliffs are dotted with small holes carved by swallows. When twilight falls the swallows will emerge from their cozy caves. Diving through the air between the high cliffs the swallows will make a fine meal of the insects drawn to the shores of the lake. The bases of the cliffs are fringed with green vegetation. Some sedge, but otherwise mostly the unexpected. There are black-eyed susans and grapevine. Rhubarbs grows here and wild raspberries. The wild raspberries aren’t as sweet as the domestics growing in the yard. The husband spits them out but I’ve always had a taste for the wild; they’re sweet and dusty, plump with the sun and the gift of the lake. Too soon it’s time to head back. It’s then that a mystery is discovered.
Cast up upon the shore is a bottle. Not an unusual sight but something about it drew my companion’s attention. I hear him call and come to investigate. Imagine my delight when I behold his salvage. Wrapped in saran and topped by a plastic lid, the bottle holds the promise of a whole new world. Lid off, peering inside… the sheet of paper, tightly rolled, is quickly tipped out. The bottle has not stayed airtight and ink stained water follows the scroll. Carefully the paper is unrolled to see…
“Fat Louie you were special when we looked at you, you were the first one to get a name. Because you were the specialist one in the bunch. We set you free so you wouldn’t die…"
Our message in a bottle is a letter to a fish. How fantastic and utterly unexpected. Fat Louie has been set free so that he "wouldn’t die, we wanted the best for you because we loved you. You didn’t squirm when we picked you up".
I carefully fold the message up and put it in my backpack along with the bottle. Such hope contained in that bottle. It’s funny how easily you can get drawn into someone’s life, someone’s heart. I hope Fat Louie is okay and I’m glad that someone, somewhere is thinking about him. I’m thinking about him too.
There is a number at the end of the message. I call it when we get home. I leave a message on the answering machine to let them know that the bottle has been found and that there is no sign of Fat Louie (as far as I can tell). Good hearts need all the encouragement they can get. It’s a small act to let them know their words of kindness don’t go unnoticed by the world.
With the passing of the afternoon, rain has come. The air is cooler but the wind still teases the trees under a salmon pink sky. The colour of the sky is most unusual but then it has been a most unusual day. A most unusual day is the best kind of day as far as I’m concerned and I am thankful for it. I hope Fat Louie is as well.