Monday, March 10, 2014

No. 87 – Cherish the Day

Performer: Sade
Songwriters: Sade Adu, Andrew Hale, Stewart Matthewman
Original Release: Love Deluxe
Year: 1992
Definitive Version: None, although I found a cool live version in Milan of all places just before Laurie and I flew there.

I haven’t given it a lot of thought, but this might be the hottest-sounding song of all time. I definitely can envision it being played at a dance establishment, but when I hear Cherish the Day, I think not of pink neon and body glitter but gray skies and pine needles. I close my eyes … and I see Torch Lake in October 2004, vividly. I saw many incredible things that fall, things I’d never seen before and might never see again.

A few days the first two weeks I was there were really warm—one day, I even wore shorts as temperatures soared into the mid-70s—and there wasn’t much wind. That changed in November, but October was mild. One morning, when I awoke to the sound of Maile scratching at my bedroom door, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked out over the lake: I couldn’t see anything more than 20 feet out into the water.

I’d never seen fog at Torch Lake, certainly not like this. It was as though an entire cloud descended over the lake that even light couldn’t penetrate. It was opaque, like in the remake of King Kong. What made it all the more amazing was that the light over my shoulder through the woods indicated that it would be a sunny day.

Maile and I took our walk, and on this day, Maile was feeling spry, so we hiked all the way to the yacht club, which had been boarded up for the winter, about a mile from the compound. Down there, out on a point that reached far out into the lake compared with the family compound, the fog shroud sat a mere 10 feet off shore of the almost flat calm lake. I threw a few stones and watched them disappear before hearing the splash. Incredible!

By the time we got home, the fog was lifting, and sunbeams of various densities poked through the haze and illuminated the field across the road from the compound. I could see Taffy’s barn (Aunt Nan’s pony who long had since passed) emerge ghost-like through the haze. I didn’t take my camera to document the vision, but I don’t have to. It’s burned in my brain as clear as though I were seeing it now.

At night, the lake was almost completely dark. This was in stark contrast with the summer, when a string of lights dotted the lake. That so few people were there at this time of year meant I could take liberties with my trespassing and go places I couldn’t ordinarily.

One such place was the old Hibbard log cabin, called Minisa. It’s two doors from the compound, and it always seemed to be closed up. A newer home has been built on the property nearby, but the log cabin remained standing, nestled so deep into a grove of pine trees that it looked like something out of a Grimm’s fairy tale.

I knew that in the woods nearby was a totem pole that when I was a kid was visible from the lake. I was surprised, but glad, that I found it again, now worn down from years of weather and almost totally overgrown by bushes and trees.

On the other side of the street and farther up was a newer service road. Maile and I hiked it one day back to the meadow behind Aunt Josie’s apple orchard and the pig sty that been the site of a memorable rainstorm-fueled romp many years before. The road was beneath the power lines, and it was hewn out of a grove of fir trees that stretched for hundreds of yards.

But the firs weren’t giving up the land without a fight. In and along the service road a battery of tiny trees grew in defiance. The ground was so fertile that it seemed that any seed that dropped into it took root. The trees ranged from a couple of feet in height to three-inch sprigs that had a single green frond. I thought of my little fir tree that Orchard Nursery in Columbus gave away for free and I planted out back of my house. Dozens of those were here for the taking.

So I was mostly by myself, but I wasn’t alone, not with Maile and not even the entire time. In mid-October, as the League Championship Series heated up, Dad and Laura came up for a weekend to take part in one of the few off-season activities that went on—an apple squeeze by a yacht club member down the road. It’s a good thing they did, too, because I had to make a run to civilization, and they could watch Maile while I was gone.

The week before, I found out, to much dismay, that my cellphone charger crapped out, so my phone no longer accepted a charge. This, of course, was no good in and of itself, but it was particularly troublesome, because it was my primary means of communication. If I couldn’t charge the battery, I had to replace the phone.

Back then, the closest Verizon store was in Grand Rapids, three hours to the south. Fortunately, I knew someone who lived in Grand Rapids, so I called Dave and asked whether I could make use of his guest room. He happily obliged.

I spent a night there, got a new Samsung flip phone and watched the Yankees begin what ended up being the biggest collapse in Major League Baseball history as they blew Game Four of the ALCS to the Red Sex. Dave and I went to a nearby BW-3 for wings and happy taunts of the Pinstripes.

Missions accomplished, I headed back on a gray day the day Dad and Laura left, with the sultry voice of Sade accompanying my ride back to the hinterlands. My stomach had been feeling a bit rocky lately, and the music soothed the savage beast that lay below. I had to get whatever was bothering me out of my system in the next two weeks. I had a big weekend planned in early November in Chicago, you see, and I didn’t want to take a sour stomach with me.

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