My Watermark is Lake Michigan, Illinois.
I’m with the UIC (University of Illinois-Champaign) Freshwater Lab and I live in Chicago, Illinois and I’m originally from Lubbock, Texas. When I moved to Illinois a little over a year ago, of course I saw Lake Michigan from where I was going to school at UIC or when I would go downtown and walk around the lakeshore, but a really special memory to me occurred just a few months ago:
I was travelling in Western Michigan with some friends and we stopped in Saugatuck. We had been on the road for a few days travelling around Michigan together. I wasn’t feeling very well that day, but they really wanted to go to the beach; they said this is one of the most beautiful beaches in Michigan, we have to go, and we’re going to go swim. I had never swam in Lake Michigan, and actually being from West Texas, had not done any open water swimming -- it’s not much of a thing in West Texas, we don’t have a lot of open water, we have some reservoirs, (but) it’s not something apart of our regional culture there. I had brought my swimsuit, and I said I’d go, but I wasn’t feeling very well, feeling kinda icky, maybe I was getting a cold.
We had to walk through these woods to get to the beach. As we’re walking through I’m thinking maybe this really isn’t the best idea, it’s 3:30-4:00 in the afternoon, the sun was starting to set a little bit, it’s starting to get a little dusky, then we climbed this large sand dune and this enormous gorgeous beach just opened up below us. We went down into the shore area and stripped down to our swimsuits and went into the water. It was kind of a combination of feelings: for me it was the first time in my life I had ever stepped foot in Lake Michigan, and I was struck with how clear the water was, how brazenly cold and refreshing it was, and I felt both suddenly aware of my body and lost in the experience too. I felt like a kid again. It was as if I was in this enormous, boundless pool, and I felt playful and wanted to explore it.
My friends are very experienced open water swimmers and they started to swim their laps, and meanwhile I just waded out into the water and swam around a little bit. I started to feel so much better. We stayed out there for about an hour, layed around the beach, watched the sunset, and then we went home.