Ladies of the Lake, A Great Lake Reflection

    Mothers and daughters are complex. I admit many times in my life, I envied those girls who called their Mom their best friend. Our relationship could have compared to the mood, of the Great Lake Michigan -when she was calm - we had our toes in the surf, the mood was beautiful, serene, and ever so peaceful.

On other days, mom and I look at the horizon from the shore- You could feel the storm coming as the clouds crept across the sky.  The bright blue sky faded out, turning into an ashy haze.  The sun disappeared behind the clouds, the waves becoming ever more restless and the tide rolled in. 

The storm was brewing , mom and I had taken our last big deep breath of fresh cool air.  The winds have changed. An ominous rumble in the gut would be the tell tale sign. Waves crashing into the rocks, wind whistling by and the thunder would shake the ground. Bolts of lightning danced across the sky.

The waves grew taller, the beach grew smaller, the space between her and I could have spanned the 22,000 plus miles of water ten times over.  Our hearts sinking as deep as the EdmundFitzgerald.  We would exchange angry words.  We would sling the mud. We would slam down the phone.  The damage of the storm would unfortunately last weeks, months and even years

Mom and I seemed to have our own problems simultaneously, somehow one of us will be blaming the other for the place we were at that time. Be at a bad day at work being in a bad relationship or unhappy with her own life choices.  We would get so mad at each other there be times we wouldn’t speak for weeks at a time or the only way we were able to effectively communicate was through writing letters to each other. 

"For many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness “, a line from a 1930's poem The Desiderata, resonated with us deep. Holding hands while feeling the water splash onto our legs and run down our toes was always a welcomed calm. We didn't speak of it, but we shared that uncomfortable feeling of thinking we were all alone in this world. The water would bring us together, if even for a few moments in time.

I would pick up the phone as my brother would typically be the literal middleman, as he would try to calm the storm and bring us back to common ground.  Mom or I would call the other with haste eventually - more or less because we just didn’t want to fight anymore.  

Looking back now I think we rode the waves best we could.  We always said we were sorry.  We always said I love you.  

After some time and space apart mom and I would go to for a drive down to the harbor of Lake Michigan in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  We had our peaceful place.  We had a blanket for the sand. We would walk in the surf letting the cool waters wash our feet and our souls.  

One of my favorite pictures ever is one of mom and I holding hands, watching the lake move in all of her magestic waves.  

We could be at complete peace, hand in hand. If the human body is made up of mostly water it makes sense that being by the water it is helpful for a mind body reset.  The nurse brain in me says “Well, since thousand gallon waves crash, tide rolls in, and then recedes once again, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated allowing those feel good happy chemicals to be released from your brain.  

My most serene memories with mom glitter across like the sun reflecting on the water in the magic hour of dusk. 

While Lake Michigan has her many moods, she remains consistent other ways. The lake is difficult to navigate.  The lake provides us with water to drink. The sand is light.  The waters run deep.  The light houses along the shore remind us there is a light, even in darkness.  

I will forever cherish the lake and the lessons she taught us. Now you know why we are ladies of the lake. 

Emily Unger-Evans
- a journal entry and excerpt from the memoir “The Tao of the Daughter”…
- dedicated to my mom, Marianne Unger.
Thanks for reading!

Leave a comment