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Special places

Thursday, August 6, 2009

All of us have those special places where we go to relax and escape and revive our tired souls. A place where we long to be, a place of cherished memories and family connections, a place where you find peace. For some people, that place may be on an exotic island in the Caribbean, and for others, that place may be found at a certain campsite in Roaring River State Park or at a lake house on the shores of Table Rock. For me, that special place is Pentwater, Michigan.

Since I was a little girl, my family has been vacationing in Pentwater at a cottage named Dune Crest. The cottage has changed very little over the past 45 years. It sits high on the dunes that surround Lake Michigan, and its wall of windows and back deck provide a breathtaking view of the lake and the beach below. Wooden stairs, over 100 in all, lead down to the beach, and a boardwalk connects several of the cottages that make up the small conclave known as Campbell Park.

The town of Pentwater is a little smaller than Cassville but its population swells during the summer months as more and more people have discovered its charm. There are quaint shops, a few restaurants and a wonderful coffee shop located across from the Village Green. On Thursday nights, there is a community-wide band concert in the park, and walking to the pier at the public beach to watch the sunset is a nightly event for many.

The image of Pentwater is crystal clear in my mind, because my family just returned from a glorious week there. Mike and I have been taking the boys to Pentwater since they were babies, and many of our best family memories have occurred in Pentwater. Mike and I spent our honeymoon in Pentwater, and for years, we celebrated Ryan's birthday at the cottage during the Fourth of July holiday. The boys have built huge sandcastles on the beach and played in the waves until they literally fell asleep on the sand. Sunsets are also a big deal in Pentwater, and we've watched hundreds of them from the deck of the cottage, reciting our "going, going, going . . gone" mantra until the sun splashes down into the lake and spreads pink across the horizon.

I always knew the boys loved Pentwater as much as Mike and I did, but this past week, my oldest son, Nick, proved it. Much to our delight, he chose Pentwater as the place to propose to his girlfriend of almost three years. On the second night after arriving at the cottage, Nick and Meg took a walk on the beach, and Nick kneeled down on the white sandy shore of the lake and asked Meg to marry him just as the sun was setting. We weren't there of course, but the proposal was recounted to us later that night after the two returned to the cottage to share their good news. Nick and Meg's engagement becomes another cherished memory I have of Pentwater, and another reason this place holds such a special place in my heart.

On the morning of our last day in Pentwater, I took a solitary walk into town and then back to the cottage by way of the beach. As usual, my heart was heavy as I thought about leaving Pentwater, not to return for another year. When I got to our beach, I stood and looked out over the lake and was inspired to make this last morning special. With a piece of driftwood, I wrote out my thoughts in the sand. These thoughts turned into prayers for my family, and as the waves washed away the words in the sand, I knew God was there, watching over me and those I love. I felt His presence and His providence, and I was filled with the peace only He can offer as I counted my many blessings, which now include a new member of the family.

I think that's what I like best about Pentwater. It's a place where I feel close to God and close to my family. It's the place where both my children and I grew up playing in the sand and waves, and the place where my grown-up son chose to mark the beginning of his own family.

Pentwater has become my retreat, my special place and I hope you have one of those places too. If not, it's never too late to find one. I hope you discover it soon.

Lisa Schlichtman