Harbingers of Happiness

Crickets, frogs, swans, and the always-springy red-winged blackbird collaborate on an optimistic tune | Photography by Kim Mettler

Deer Lake sits unassumingly on the outskirts of northwest Michigan’s Boyne City. It also is conveniently located near the bottom of my driveway. My first glimpse of this serene reservoir took place a little more than five years ago, when I was on my way to tour my soon-to-be new home. Confronted with some personal challenges and moving to this neck of the woods from metro Detroit, a quiet cabin near a small town brimming over with kind-hearted strangers was just what I needed. This lake — especially come spring — and the forest around my home have since become my refuge and a source of constant joy.

Last spring, when the pandemic stay-at-home order was in effect and I was desperate for a change of scenery and fresh air, I picked up my camera and began making daily treks to an abandoned dock at the edge of the lake. Each day, a new scene emerged.

At first, it was just me in the frozen expanse, with an occasional duck landing in the tiny patch of open water near the center of the lake. Then, as the snow and ice began to melt, a curious trumpeter swan would float closer and closer to my ramshackle perch. As the days passed, I began to hear the croak of a bullfrog, soon followed by the familiar spring song of the red-winged blackbird. It wasn’t long before the washed-out brown grasses around the perimeter of the lake gave way to vibrant color, and the surrounding woodlands once again sprung to life.

As spring approaches, positivity is all around us — in the returning birdsong and the chirp of crickets, clear skies, puffy clouds, and verdant green grasses. It’s in the longer days and warmer nights. Mother Earth’s spring always speaks of hope on the horizon.

P.S. Deer Lake is a moderate-size kettle lake (formed by retreating glaciers) that sits at the headwaters of Deer Creek, which is a tributary of the Jordan River. Fall Park is located on the west shore of the lake and is a popular destination for fishing. South of the lake is a large expanse of state forest that’s part of the Gaylord Management Unit. Kim Mettler owns Michigan Barefoot Memories Photography, mibarefootmemories.com

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