For the last 18 years, the Walton brothers have taken to Lake Michigan in their canoes every July 4, paddling south into Frankfort to watch the fireworks from just outside the breakwater. Tonight, as I watch them paddle by, I have just finished reading Robert Downes’ book Windigo Moon, a novel about the Anishinaabek peoples of the northeastern shores of Mishigami (Lake Michigan), and I find I am thinking of the native peoples who hunted and paddled up and down along this coast. What was it like to stand on this high dune and see raiding warriors from the Fox tribes of Wisconsin coming across these waters, or white traders coming up from the south to trade iron pots and diphtheria for mink and beaver?
Just now, there’s a storm moving straight north through the middle of the lake with low growls of thunder that cannot match the hostile booms soon coming on the tail of darkness.
Four mute swans flee north, bellies skimming the wave tops. They’ve skittered out of the bay as the crowds and noises swell. Like me, they have a distinct distaste for the warlike cacophony of fireworks. Not even the Sleeping Bear can sleep tonight.
What would the ancients have thought of all this drumming without any drums? All this whooping without any dancing? All this firing without any fire? So many stars so low to the ground all along the shores of their beloved Mishigami?
I look down. My lifetime love paddles past with a wave. I can sense his delight in both the paddling and the pageantry even from way up here. I am glad, tonight, for the freedom to celebrate this land that we call ours, even though it isn’t. Like our ancient brothers and sisters of the Anishinaabek, we are just passing through.