Lake Erie, Ontario - Amy Geddes
I sat on a popular Lake Erie beach this summer, unsure if water would mean as much to my future daughter as it had to me. I looked around, four months pregnant, saddened by how few people I saw swimming, versus just sitting on the beach under umbrellas, eating chips and gulping pop. They seemed apprehensive, as if they weren’t sure about going in, content to watch from a distance. I wondered how they could bear being there without going in the water!
I grew up on Lake Erie beaches — they shaped me, they instilled a deep love of water that I will never be able to shake. My brother and I used to swim with the waves, make up elaborate water games and do our best to pretend we didn’t hear our mom shouting “you’ve gone too far” from the beach. Since those days, whenever I’ve been away from water, I’ve always been homesick. I drive for hours to be near it. I dream about, make plans to one day build a house near it so I can feel at home. I am happier near water, calmer and more balanced — I am able to sort out the busyness that is my life and make sense of things.
But these days, I find it hard to drum up enthusiasm among my friends to go on a beach trip, they don’t see the point. I realize my story may be unique and not everyone has the luxury of a vast archive of sparkling beach memories, maybe they don’t have any at all. They also show concern. “The water is dirty,” people say, stating: “Oh, I never swim.”
As I left the beach that day, I vowed to take my future daughter to the beach as much as I can. I wondered, though, if she’d be playing in the water alone. Will she have friends her age, as I did, who feel as connected to Lake Erie as they do the blood in their veins? My hope is that her generation will take back the beaches and lakes, empowered and able to put suspicions of poor water quality and a litany of other scary unknowns aside, and access the pure joy I felt as a child.