My Bay Life

The bay permeates the Wills and Dennis families in so many ways that a guy could spend his golden years tracing those golden threads. // Photography Courtesy of Thomas
Traverse City

So I’ve become a homebody. Nobody is more surprised than I. But if you saw my home, you’d understand.

You’d understand especially in summer, for everyone wants to be in Traverse City in the sweet season. Can you blame them? Days on the bay and the inland lakes, evenings downtown at theaters, breweries, bookstores and restaurants. We even have a nightlife now — one that doesn’t necessarily involve a bonfire on the beach and the hex hatch on the Boardman.

Summer! Its brevity only makes it sweeter. Our nightlife and daylife blend then, and our swimsuits never quite dry. The days are long but there are so few of them that we get a little boisterous from trying to pack so much in.

Last summer we got especially boisterous with our son Aaron and his beautiful wife Chelsea Bay, she with the middle name bestowed by her parents Mike and Carrie Wills in honor of this place so central to their lives. Chelsea’s grandfather is Warren Wills, who lives down the hill from us on East Bay, in a house where Chelsea and her sisters spent part of every summer since they were old enough to swim. The bay permeates the Wills and Dennis families in so many ways that a guy could spend his golden years tracing those golden threads.

But these are golden years, too, and we never forget our good fortune in living here.

Chelsea and Aaron spent the summer camped in our backyard, and suddenly our bay life became richer. (Nick and Jessie were living in Montreal or we would have known riches beyond reckoning.) Our kids can do their work anywhere, on laptops and smart-phones, for their generation has made the world their office, and we gathered often during the day to shoot baskets in the driveway, investigate bird songs and walk to the shore to check the status of swash marks and Pitcher’s thistle.

Evenings we swam in front of Warren’s house, then cooked together, still in our swimsuits, and dined on our patio looking over the bay.

Other adventures were for the weekends: Birding and picking wild berries at the point. Sailing with Mike and Carrie on West Bay while the sun dipped below the hills of Leelanau. Paddling canoes from Haserot Beach and riding the pushy waves north until we’d gone just far enough to make it home before dark.

Our bay life is about more than just water. It’s about the work we do, though that is often about the water as well. It’s about the foods we love — many of them grown and raised by our neighbors — and the rituals of gathering, preparing, and eating them. But especially it’s about family and friends and our moments together: the laughter and music, campfires in the backyard, fishing trips and canoe outings, late nights under the stars.

It’s cornucopia, life’s abundance spilling over — and summer’s stern reminder to make every day count.

Award-winning author and BLUE “Reflections” columnist Jerry Dennis writes from Traverse City (

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