Anyone can love a beach in the summer.
Deep winter is my favorite beach time, and this winter, while I was forced to work from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, I loved it best at dawn.
Instead of packing my lunch and catching a train to work, I left my apartment in the dark and walked east.
As soon as I turned towards the lake, I was drawn in by the glow—maybe pink, or apricot, or golden, or sometimes just a haze on the dawning horizon. In ten minutes time, I could be at the edge of the beach and touch the water, but of course, in the height of winter, there’s ice meeting the sand, not water.
This winter ice is dramatic; swirling, churning, floating in pancakes. Volcanoes of ice erupting steam. And the rising sun enhances the drama.
On a hazy morning, the floating ice chunks lit by the rising sun could be a Monet painting (if Monet painted Lake Michigan).
I am not the only one who loves the beach in the winter.
There’s a couple that dances in pagan ritual for the rising sun.
And a woman who beats a drum to accompany the sunrise.
There are dog walkers and joggers and photographers with expensive gear.
If you live in Chicago, you know there’s a microclimate on the lakefront.
If Chicago is cold, the lakefront is bitter. The wind slices your face. When I pulled off my gloves for a few seconds to take these photos, my fingers froze.
This lakefront winter—all I can say is I needed it.
I would watch the seagulls with their improbably thin legs facing into the strong wind. They face into it, I’d tell myself.
Overwhelmed, at times, with fear, sadness, and loneliness that was close to abandonment, I needed something to achieve that wasn’t sitting alone in my apartment every day, being unproductive. Facing into the wind, towards the rising sun, this felt like survival.
One of my coworkers said she kept a gratitude journal during the shutdown. She’s a better person than me—I don’t feel grateful. I want all the people who died from Covid to be alive, I want the sick people well, I want our jobs back and for the kids to be back in school. I hate the devastation to the arts community brought on by this year of closed museums, theaters, and performing arts centers. I see my neighbors lined up around the block for the food pantry, and I hate it. I want my missing year back.
A year ago everything shut down. I stayed home for most of it, but now I’ve starting working onsite again. Chicago is still cold, but the ice has melted. I take the bus to work and I leave the house too late to watch the sunrise. I miss it.
I’m not starting a gratitude journal, because screw you, COVID-19. But thanks, I guess, for the sunrises.