I am riding in the front seat of my mom’s Jeep Cherokee. The windows are down and a light touch of northern summer air fills the car, crisp and strong and infused with thick pine and earthy humus. We drive by virgin forests mixed with re-planted tree groves, their lines upon lines of lumber trees startlingly symmetrical. Downwind are the younger and smaller and more scattered groves of the company trees’ descendants, between which are meadows where the sun reaches all the way to the dry earth and scraggly brush. There, we hunt for blueberries.
My family is happiest in reckless places like this. We live each summer a ten minute drive from this place on a lake where hundred-year-old Norwegian pines tower above our family cottage and birches sprout in fits across our land.
The doctor told my grandmother’s parents that she would die as a child because she had an incurable heart murmur, so my great-grandparents built a cottage on this lake—Lake Nebagamon—for the country air to give her strength. The lake kept her strong for 93 years, feisty and wild almost until the end. Each summer our family returns to the cabin to remind us of who we are and where we sprang from. The wind’s hymn laps over the lake. The northern sun declares its love on our faces and on our knees and on shoulders, imparting moments of freckled glory. Then at night, on our backs on the dock, stars draw our praise and fall around our hearts like fiction.
I think of the summer nights my sisters and I spend—have always spent—dipping our naked bodies in that lake, laughing with voices so similar that our own mother can hardly tell them apart. Letting layers of skin burned in that northern sun flake off in the water and leave scales on our chests and our faces in their wake. We are sirens. We are mermaids. We in this place are the stuff of myth-making.