Most days, we wake up with the rings and chimes of our alarms forcing their way into our dreams. Turn off alarm, lurch out of bed, stumble to the bathroom. Get ready for another day of work and play. It’s funny how sleeping outside changes that. This weekend, we woke without electronic prompts at about five each morning, when most of the time I refuse to leave my bed before seven. Five in the morning in the Door County woods is different than the mornings I usually know. It’s light and loud and alive, a celebration of the day to come. Streamers of pink dawn light flooded the tent and birds held rich, buoyant conversations all around our corner of the campsite. Even with less sleep, I felt more awake and rejuvenated than I normally do before a hot shower and hot coffee.
On our first morning, without needing to push or cajole the other, we both started pulling on jeans and shoes, eager to fulfill our promise to the other to take a dawn hike to the bay. The night before, I had doubted we would end up sticking to our plan, but there we were, walking through the silent campground together, our jackets protecting us from the chilly air. With my romantic imagination, I pictured a leisurely, adventurous hike in the woods, hand-in-hand with my dear one. We would talk about life and us, marveling all the while at our glorious luck to be seeing the world at this hour. But reality is not as neat as a novel. First, we missed the trail and it took about 20 minutes to find it. Once we did, an entire battalion of mosquitoes tried breaching our defenses, which meant hand-holding, sweet talks, and a leisurely stroll were out of the question. Instead, we both hurried along the trail, heads slightly bent, swatting clouds of blood-suckers away from any exposed flesh. Nate, whose blood must be candy-sweet, had welts the size of chicken pox scabs on his face and hands by the time we reached the end of the trail. In our haste, we also hadn’t followed the trail properly and ended up in a different place than I had wanted to go. After all of my hopes, the potential for disappointment was there.
But then we saw the silver and gold waters of Lake Michigan at dawn.
Our travails forgotten, we strolled the dock, watching the sun glimmer on the lake and a few kayakers drift past on the horizon. I lost no time scrambling down the rocks to get as close as I could to the water’s surface. Nate walked and swatted the still-pervasive mosquitoes (maybe our travails weren’t entirely forgotten), patiently waiting for me to get my fill of “lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore.” We looked out on the opposite banks. We finally had a chance to hold hands.