Our fence in the dunes

Coming across this photograph I took some years back made me think about fences. It was taken in the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Recreation Area near Glen Arbor, Michigan. That is a fancy way of saying the government has purchased the land and established a park to preserve for our enjoyment.

This particular fence, on reflection, seems rather new. You see I go back a long way with these dunes, since I was nine years old to be exact. There weren't so many fences then, or even paved roads, mostly just beautiful stretches of sand hills and green forest. Every summer for as long as I can remember our boys' camp used to make the short trip to the dunes for climbing and camping experiences.

I remember hot August days hiking through vine forest to reach a gentle, sloping hill of sand. We would soon be cascading in laughter down to the warm waters of Lake Michigan.

Perhaps some former lumberman or private owner of a section of the dunes constructed this fence in an attempt to declare his stewardship of the land. It would seem an impossible task. Can one ever really possess anything as beautiful and grand as a sand dune.

I remember glorious star-filled nights spent roasting marshmallows over a campfire. Our little two-man tents were often nestled in a small clump of birch trees, growing in harmony with sand and wind. As the stars appeared, counselors would tell stories. Fences could never harness the imagination filled with pictures of Indians coming to join us at campfire, or figments of some distant past awakening us in the night with eerie screeches.

There were many times when speaking became unnecessary, for the life and beauty of the dunes seemed to say all one could ever wish to communicate about what was beautiful and important.

Many people have seen this fence, and I like to think of them sharing the thoughts it brings.

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