The lovers walk by the pro shop that looks like a castle. The joggers tread lightly over the ice as the dog walkers let their companions off the leash.
And a few emo souls like me stand by the lake to think in the new year.
The Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course still opens for occasional rounds of golf in the winter, the man letting himself into the pro shop to get to the dry goods storage told me. Not on days like Jan. 1, 2013, where a thin crust of snow and ice whited the fields, but on days where the brave might brave some cold-but-clear, the Chicago Park District will let them whack a few.
The rest of us by the cobblestone clock tower that houses the pro shop were just there for wanders, dog-walks and emo soul-searching on a day we’re told should mean something.
Lake Michigan is probably my oldest friend in Chicago. I moved here 10 years ago this year to work on the water, giving the narration and serving the drinks for a “to your left, Sears Tower” boat tour company. The slosh of the lake on the shore set the tempo for my time since. It’s where I go when I get all thinky. It’s where I go when I need a reminder that the overclocked tick-tock of city life is an abnormal pulse that’ll void the warranty if I let it.
It’s where I go for peace. The lapping waves calm me. I like the ending endless of a view that seems to go eternal but I know stops in southern Michigan, where people point to their hands to say where they’re from and throw octopuses on ice when hockey games go well.
10 years in Chicago. Holy hell.
It hasn’t been 10 years straight, but I needn’t give you the rundown. The suburbs hire more than the city does and I moved to Bangkok for a bit. But I’ve been staring at that lake for a decade. It’s different lovers who wander by in the snow and I’m sure some of my first batch of dogs are dead by now, but the lap of water and the peace it brings have been my only constant since 2003.
Maybe that’s why I came on New Year’s Day.
There’s nothing special about January 1. That date’s no more magic than boozing through an Auld Lang Syne every May 23 or July 19. The forebears were just clever enough to start counting from the midwinter so there was something to look forward to mid the ice and hypothermia.
The lake seemed endless as I stood by the golf course pro shop, but I know it hits Michigan and octopus tossers on the other side. The future seems endless too, so we number and tick off the days weeks years. The thought of endless future after Mayan 126.96.36.199.0 seems terrifying. The thought of a 2013 looking out on 2014 seems a little more manageable.
Happy New Year from a man watching the water.