Our lakes can be busy places, but most of the time they sleep. Smooth, quiet — no one sees what is happening. Skies of creative color, breezes sweet, birds unique. Skies reflected and silent, living things swimming below the surface — the dividing line between the water world and the air world. The world of humans, and the world of water beings.
Most of the time, the water, light and lake-creature show is unseen, private, off-limits from humans. We sleep a lot of our lives away, and while we sleep, things happen. Squirrels fly, fireflies alight and insects make a choir. We’re snoring and dreaming, and there’s a party on the placid lake.
I worry about Minnesota’s lakes a lot, and specifically our lake. The noise, the speeding water vehicles, the invasives. The loons dodging gas-powered boats. The huntables dodging bullets. The fish in warming waters. The slimy, pink-stemmed milfoil. What will my children, far-flung though they be, see in 40 years at Lake Sylvia? Stripped shorelines? Fishless hooks? No loon song to sleep by?
I passed a sign lately, a birthday celebration of a lake resident who has been on our particular lake for 70 years. I have always felt smug about my 45 summers here. But 70?! Two hundred ten months of summer. Seventy Augusts with water like silk. I feel greedy. I want 70 summers. I want my kids to have 70 summers. I want their kids’ kids to have 70 summers. For that to happen, we need to think now about how we treat our steady friend.
We will need to be kind to our shoreline, plant trees for the missing elms, pamper our septic systems, fish with restraint, boat with caution. Restore the shore. Each lake in Minnesota is one of a kind — unique in shape, shoreline and watery bottom. The lakes are placed like so many jewels in the crown of our state. They even smell different. The prairie lakes of Alexandria are completely different from the lush lakes of central Minnesota, not to be confused with the piney-smelling lakes of northern Minnesota.
Let them rest, rejuvenate and get the help they need. We rest our bodies; we seek medical help when needed. Shouldn’t we want the same for our lakes: health, longevity — there for us? Picture your favorite lake now. Blood pressure drops, memories arise, mists beckon. If we want this, change needs to happen. Our lakes need to sleep, have time away from us demanding humans. We are so powerful that we wield our weapons carelessly. Like oil wells pumped dry, our lakes are choking and gurgling. Our endless shorelines are not bullet-proof. They are fragile, vulnerable, ephemeral places. They ask for nothing and give all. Will we bully them? Will we stand up and defend them for our future?
Kris Potter lives in Minneapolis.