Along the southern terminus of Montrose Beach lies a bird sanctuary, the sandy coastal portion of which is set off from the greater beach area by a spindly line of wire fencing.
From the recreational side, the difference in topography is notable—the broad, flat stretch suddenly giving way to a small network of hirsute sand drifts and soft, sinky footpaths. The dunes, if you can call them that, morph into hummocks and hillocks farther inland and, if one were to go farther, a thick copse wherein lurk brown bunnies and bird watchers.
It is a quiet place. One can barely hear the high notes of the surrounding city, and depending on prevailing winds, the plashing of lake water can occasionally mask the urban vibrations altogether.
The dunes yield to a coast marked with drifts of bleached mussel shells and beached clatophora. Fat white seagulls wander the wet sand at the water line, pecking spots in the greenish muck, oblivious to the feathery carcasses that lay belly up nearby.
I came to survey the Hook, a rounded jetty that juts out into the lake then curls back inward, hugging a calm cupful of lake water. Lake Michigan currently sits some 15 inches below its normal level, and that cupful has ebbed correspondingly. An ephemeral island of sand has emerged in the middle.
In years past, walking around the Hook, I imagined the water it corralled was deep and treacherous. The truth is that it was tenuously shallow. Like many things, its sensitivity to small changes wasn't outwardly apparent.