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WNIJ Perspectives

Perspective: Connection To Home

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Indiana Dunes State Park

With all of the headlines vying for attention, the rising of Lake Michigan and the loss of the lakeshore is one I’m particularly disturbed to see.

I’m from the Piedmont region of North Carolina, midway between the mountains and the coast. Like some who grow up amid such natural beauty and geographic diversity, I never truly appreciated these unearned windfalls that are North Carolina birthrights.

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So, almost two decades ago, I began my first academic job search, looking in places that offered what North Carolina did not -- a real winter. It wasn’t mountains or coastlines I craved, it was cold weather and snow.

My job search brought me to northwest Indiana, where the idea of “lake effect snow” seemed romantic at the time. My future colleagues, though, were concerned I’d get “cold feet” about leaving the warm south and took me to see the beaches of Lake Michigan to “seal the deal.” I chuckled inwardly as I tried to imagine how a “lakeshore” could possibly measure up to the beaches of Ocracoke or Oak Island.

Contrary to my expectations, this wasn’t a lake like the ones back home, it was a bold-faced, all caps LAKE. Floored by the magnitude and majesty of Lake Michigan, I realized at that moment how much I valued proximity to water, never having imagined not having it. Lake Michigan would suffice.

I’d come looking for climate diversity, but found Lake Michigan, as well. That lakeshore has provided a sense of connection to home and to something inside me that’s kept me anchored in the Midwest for seventeen years. Thus, the loss of the lakeshore -- and the tipping point for my move to the Midwest -- brings a sense of grief I could not have predicted all those years ago.

I’m Suzanne Degges-White and that’s my perspective.

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