Strawberries and brook trout

Early in the morning Rick and I slipped from the house and stayed lost until dark. We were explorers of the near-at-hand, world travelers who never had to leave home.
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Discovery boy with magnify glass
Photography courtesy istockphoto.com/kryczka

By Jerry Dennis

Suddenly it’s summer — and not just the season of blue skies and verdant woods, of songbirds in the morning, thunderstorms in the afternoon, and fireflies at night, but the languid interlude we remember so fondly from childhood. Then as now it can seem timeless, lazy, as far removed from the productive seasons as the apple tree is from the office.

For a few years when I was very young my parents thought that summer should be for taking vacations to oceans and mountains, to Chicago or New York or Disneyland. But after one or two trips my brother and I dug in our heels and howled. Why would we want to leave Michigan in the summer? 

Our house was on an inland lake; we had a dock, a rowboat, a powerboat, a raft on pontoons. There was waterskiing to master, and walleye to catch, and islands to camp on with our friends. Twenty miles away was Lake Michigan with its endless beaches and surging schools of salmon, and within bicycle range were ponds full of bluegills and woods laced with trails and cedar swamps where the creeks were alive with brook trout. There was canoeing, swimming, baseball and playing with our dog. Who could bear to miss even a day of that? 

Early in the morning Rick and I slipped from the house and stayed lost until dark. We were explorers of the near-at-hand, world travelers who never had to leave home. It was everything a boy could want.

Or that a man could want. For I have changed little after all these years. I still prefer to stay in Michigan in summer, still spend as many days as I can lost in the woods and on lakes and rivers, searching for walleyes and warblers, for wildflowers and champion trees, for strawberries and brook trout. 

Summer is the high season for down-and-dirty adventures. It’s for exploring those small, overlooked sanctuaries that time hardly alters — the blueberry bog and the tree-shaded pond and the pine forest where the floor is softer than any carpet. It’s the season for wet shoes and a sweat-stained hat, for wearing a canteen on your belt and consulting your compass even if you know exactly where you are.

Every year, it’s the season for rediscovering the kid you used to be.  

Award-winning author and new BLUE columnist Jerry Dennis lives in Traverse City.

It was everything a boy could want. Or that a man could want. For I have changed little after all these years.

Photography courtesy istockphoto.com/kryczka

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