Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 4, 2012

Even in the desert, I see the lakes

Visions of the Great Lakes follow me everywhere

Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — The sweltering sun seared my skin as I clumsily mounted an oversized Dromedary camel. It was barely 11 a.m. and temperatures had already approached levels of intolerable proportions.

As if on cue, the leader of the caravan yelled "Yulla! Yulla! Yeayshabab!" in a failed effort to prod life into the unresponsive chain of camels. The lethargic progression finally departed into the Moroccan Sahara Desert like a flotilla of sailboats.

Curious, I inquired about the name of my particularly gangly camel. I instantly regretted asking for the knowledge of his name — "Meshnoon," Arabic for "crazy." It set the tone for a somewhat uneasy relationship.

Three hours into the journey I consumed every ounce of water I packed for the interminable day's trek. I held the bottle up to the sun, hoping it would shed light on any remaining droplets of water I might be able to muster. Instead, it shed light on my unfortunate situation; I was out of water.

Time crawled by as quickly as a sand slug. The intensifying heat began to scorch everything in the dominion of its rays.

As I gazed in the path of the horizon, reality swiftly coalesced with memories of my homeland. Delirium had stricken. The vast expanse of rolling sand dunes transformed into the familiar rippling waters of Lake Michigan. The glittering granules of sand became the gem-like sparkles that Lake Michigan readily emits from its crystal blue waters.

The jerky movements of Meshnoon deceivingly converted into that of a wet and wild inner-tube ride. A sudden and turbulent desert wind slammed against my body like a white-capped wave, urging me to plunge into its deep refreshing embrace. Further enticement would have been superfluous, for the Great Lakes possess my heart and always will.

Rude reality restored itself when the mirage finally melted. A pang of nostalgia grew within me when I realized I was not truly in the Great Lakes region. Childhood memories of days spent around the Great Lakes unavoidably flashed before me: swimming and kayaking and fishing and sandcastle building and tubing and diving and treasure hunting and water skiing and seagull racing and precious moments bonding with family. The Great Lakes served as my very own enchanted playground.

Many children of my generation spent their summers utterly absorbed in the latest videogame or caved in a dark room watching television for hours on end. But with the Great Lakes in my backyard, rare were the days I didn't live in the water. I was inarguably a blessed child.

The remainder of my time in Morocco was packed with adventure and excitement, but the slight yearn for Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes refused to be squelched.

In the short time I lived in a foreign land, I grew substantially as a person. I witnessed firsthand a society that struggles procuring a vital substance I had once imprudently thought existed in abundance

Perhaps the most prominent self-discovery was the startling realization of just how much I took for granted growing up near the remarkable Great Lakes.

Bridget Granger is graduating from Elk Rapids High School this month.