When the wind is up — and the wind is often up — Point Betsie is a quieting place.
I don’t mean that it is without noise, for on this point of land, exposed to three of the four quarters of Lake Michigan’s winds, there is much wave clamor and wind howl. I mean it quiets us. Even when we’re determined to be heard, we have little voice in the matter. The wind outshouts us every time.
When I was growing up, Point Betsie marked the southern boundary of home turf. My family and I spent many days exploring the beaches from there to Platte Bay and around Sleeping Bear Point to Glen Arbor. In late August and into September we fished for salmon in Platte Bay, sometimes trolling as far as Point Betsie but never beyond it. Like countless lake-farers before and since, we relied on the point and its lighthouse as a landmark. We would triangulate it with the flank of Sleeping Bear and the mouth of the Platte River and know where to begin setting our lines. And like so many others before us, we took comfort knowing the beacon was there if we needed it.
Though I loved to fish, I was always glad when we beached to eat lunch and explore the shore. After storms, especially, the beach held treasures: brightly colored fishing lures lost by fishermen, beach glass and Petoskey stones. I followed trails through the marram grass to swales hidden behind the dunes, to shallow ponds as warm as bathwater and islands of spruce where songbirds flitted in the shadows.
On a beach the boundary between the wild and the civilized blurs. And that’s good. The boundary should blur. It’s porous, after all. Examine it and you can see there’s no clear distinction between the natural and the artificial, between inside and outside, between self and world.
When the wind is up at Point Betsie you can watch whitecaps charge the shore. Each wave rises, grows steeper, reaches a peak, and throws itself roaring onto the beach. That roar is the sound of the earth being changed.
One of the wonders of a beach is that it is constantly changing, while changing very little at all.
Award-winning author and new BLUE columnist Jerry Dennis lives in Traverse City.