A double dog dare

Monday, April 22, 2002

Save yourself the dime. If the sun is shining and all is right with the world, you won't find me in the newspaper office much.

If you need me, I'll be down by the water somewhere. Look for a pile of shoes, socks and maybe a discarded tie.

A day without the feel of sand between your toes would be a day without a soul.

A few stubborn professors tried to convince me that humankind once crawled out of the primordial soup, but if so, people like me have been trying to crawl back in ever since.

It's hard to explain the music of the lake to someone who doesn't feel it. So I won't try. Either you get it or you don't.

After spending a morning listening to politicians explain why there's not been a penny in the federal Clean Lakes Fund for years, while a gazillion is spent on bombs - the waves make a lot more sense.

Some people say the lake is murky and turbid. Those people haven't tried to read a Congressional appropriations report lately. Mud is crystal clear compared to political environment strategy.

Waves come and go, but so does the attention span of a Congressman or the Environmental Protection Agency. Waves can be treacherous if you don't watch them, but so can be the ebb and flow of a federal budget cycle.

The waves keep better company, I think. Along with a sleepy columnist, there is an interesting character with a guitar here often. If the wind is just right, I can hear the chords he strums, and the beat of the water on the stone fits it perfectly.

There is a pretty girl who sits in her car and reads at this time every day. I want to ask what book it is that holds her interest so well, but I don't. She has her stories; I've got my waves.

There's a mom with a stroller who sits near the gorgeous flowering crabapple tree.

There's a handful of kids who inhabit this space every day, too. One will raise a bit of shiny shell with considerable panache, as if they had just discovered the lost treasure of Captain Kidd himself. It strikes me the little ones know this lake better, or at least more personally, than the most senior of DNR engineers.

Here's hoping the little rascals run for Congress someday, and maybe we will be able to have a Clean Lakes Act again that is worth more than the paper it is written on.

Ah, what the heck. It's hard to work up a good sarcastic snit when the sun is winking off the lake in that perfect way.

So I just eat my tuna on wheat and watch and listen. I envy the waves for their boundless


From my abortive studies in junior high science, I seem to recall that waves are a direct lineage to the pull and spin of the sun and moon in some way I will never fully comprehend. On Storm Lake in particular, they are at the whim of the winds, and if you look close, they sometimes form three or four different patterns across the span of the water as the winds dance on it in different directions. Do you see it?

Some people collect stamps or coins - I collect snippets of good writing. One says this:

"If deep water is the birthplace of the wave, then the beach is its graveyard. I witness the spectacular death of several waves in showers of spray and blankets of white water..."

This isn't one of those destination parks planned in some office in downtown Des Moines, and thank goodness for it.

This lake wasn't computer-drafted and built with an earth-scraper. It was patiently carved in the dying gasp of an ice age and scooped out by the artistic hand of a glacier. And that makes it infinitely more interesting.

I thank the DNR and the state legislators for the sliver of the lake they are dredging this spring, little as that is likely to accomplish in terms of real water quality, utility and extended life.

We all should thank the Lake Preservation Association for never letting us forget our responsibility, and also local government for belatedly getting on board.

All of this should make the politicians sit up and take notice that Storm Lake needs more attention.

Before any of them tell us nothing more can be done, I would challenge them first to pack a tuna and banana pepper sandwich, a cold something or other, roll up their pant legs, and spend a lunch hour alone on the shore, just watching and listening to the music of those waves.

I double dog dare them.

Waves speak pretty eloquently, if you let them. Don't call me, boys, I'll be at the beach.