The boundary between the lake and the sky is blurred today. They are the same shade of grey. A few loosely formed clouds dip below what might be sea level. But that would be impossible—clouds falling into the water.
From my third floor window on sunny days, I see the true horizon on the surface of Lake Michigan through leafless tree branches. On dreary days like this, it’s impossible to know if the heavens meet the earth. I’m lucky though. If my building faced west, the visible horizon would be obstructed by high rises, the prairie, and forested limestone bluffs in the The Driftless Area of the Upper Mississippi. How would I know my place in the world? At water’s edge, I can imagine the circling of the horizon around the earth. I feel the earth move toward it.
As it is, when the sky is blue and the lake bluer I see the offing, that mysterious part of the sea closest to the horizon where sloops disappear and mermaids live. This is what I miss the most when I’m away from the lake. And when the offing blurs into the colorless sky, I’m thrown off kilter. I lose my place in the world’s geography.
I’ve been staring, gazing and glancing out the same window sitting at the same desk between Zoom classes and story-writing for the last nine months of the pandemic. I’ve studied all four seasons. And I’ve had it. I’m not a nature writer or a poet. If I were, I’d still rather write about people than how the universe on the other side of my window affects my mood.
I miss public life. I miss the culture of going to the movies with friends. On Saturday mornings, Marca Bristo used to text me a list of movie choices, times and locations. Usually she had a restaurant in mind too. She talked me into seeing movies I would never have picked myself, like Nazi movies which I’d sworn off for life until Marca wanted to see the Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
Our long-held love for movies expanded in the era of Roger Ebert. In our after-movie chatter, either Marca or I inevitably reminisced, “Roger would have loved this one.” We went to the movies between side effects of her chemotherapy to keep everything as normal as possible. Our friendship went beyond movie gab, of course. She didn’t speak too much about the details of her cancer but she did talk about the process of dying. What a privilege to be such a friend. How could I know the last movie we’d see together would be Once Upon a Time in Hollywood?
Marca died six months before the covid shutdown. I’m glad she didn’t spend the last year of her life shut out of the movies. Gazing at the gloomy horizon isn’t what makes me yearn to sit in movie theaters. Missing Marca does.