Once upon a time, before the time of writing, famine came to Wisconsin. There was nothing for many animals to eat, and they wasted away to nothing. A mother bear with two cubs determined to leave that land and go somewhere else, somewhere across the great lake now known as Lake Michigan. The mother bear encouraged her two cubs that the land on the opposite shore was within their reach, and so they set off to swim. Ten miles from the Wisconsin shore, the first cub sank—he could swim no more. The other cub tried to keep going, but also sank not much farther than her brother. The mama bear was heartbroken, but she could not help her cubs. She swam to the Michigan shore of the great lake, and lay down on the beach, looking out over the water where she lost her cubs. The Great Spirit felt the mama bear’s sadness, and caused the two cubs to surface as small islands in the water. The mama bear still lies there, watching over her babies, while the sands heap up around and over her.
That is the story of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Probably most Michiganders know the story.
The Michigan side of Lake Michigan is spectacularly beautiful. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is something to behold. (No knock against Wisconsin, where my amazing sister lives! I’m just not as familiar with the Wisconsin side.)
I was thinking about this story while walking on the beach in Naples, Florida, where my brother lives now. I was thinking about the many associations of sand—summer beach fun, but also the sands of time.
I read this story, Sand at Gulf Shores, Alabama, just inside the Gulf State Park, which was right next to the condo we stayed in for our honeymoon. There is something about coastline that sings of melancholy, and the threshold between the known and the unknown.
This story appeared in Wild Roof Journal.