Northern Shangri-la
Brenda Ruppal

I awake to the sounds of seagulls. I envision their soaring wings outstretched and their bodies hovering on the updrafts created by the off-shore winds colliding with Oak Bluff. I could lay here and fall back to sleep, but then I would miss my morning spectacular awaiting me outside. It does not take long for me to decide, so I quickly roll out of bed, prepare my morning java in my special over-sized mug, and head out the front door to my favorite lawn chair. The warm winds from Lake Huron are light and variable, and I inhale the fresh dewy morning air. Ahhh . . . l am in Caseville, a little paradise known as the Cass City Summer Home Club.

mb sunset
Founded in 1894, this mile of private shoreline just south of the break-wall has been a hidden treasure for over a hundred years. We purchased our cabin in 1997, after years of searching for the perfect location. The club has an upper wooded level and a lower open grassy level, thus creating the name of Oak Bluff.
"Sunrise" by M. B. Looby
The homes were built many decades ago in an alternate pattern: one on top, one on the bottom, one on top, one on the bottom, so no home owner would have an obstructed view of the beautiful blue water. Our two-story home is situated on top of the bluff, allowing us to visualize the club from a 180-degree view. I truly have developed an addiction to this place, as well as to my front porch lawn chair, just ask a child is addicted to his favorite video game.

Holding my warm mug between both hands and savoring the smell of my fresh-brewed coffee, I take my first sip. I have arrived just in time to watch a majestic eagle, perched upon the large gray boulder rising out of the water, prey upon her morning catch. She has a young one waiting back at the nest, which is visible to my right, towering high into one of the bluffs' pines. The playful brown squirrels are also active this morning, for they are chattering loudly above my head on a long outstretch oak limb: "Get out of here, you are in my way," he eagerly informs me, looking into my eyes.

"OK! Don't get snippy . . . I'll head out for my morning walk." Standing up to stretch, I head toward the stairway leading down to the lower level. Descending the old cement steps, I gaze upon the flowerbeds that parallel the stairway. They are filled with bright, colorful painted rocks. These precious works of art have grown over the years, just as my perennials have. They are dated and autographed by my children, their friends, and the neighborhood youth from the bluff. It has been a cool past time to paint rocks at the Ruppals' on rainy days.

Jumping from the last step onto the lower grassy level, I hear the clickity-clack of training wheels from a child's bike cruising toward me on my right. The long cement sidewalk, which was poured in the 1920's, extends from one end of the property to the other. A large dog's paw print is the only autograph embedded in the old cement. Daily the parade of bikes, roller blades, scooters and baby carriages offer the locals a large variety of entertainment. Crossing over the sidewalk I head for the wooden arched bridge that crosses the canal and leads to the beach. "Good morning, Brenda."

"Morning!" I yell back as I wave to my friend. Stepping off the bridge, the cool white sand is squishing between my toes; the heat from the summer sun will warm it up soon enough. I head for the water and wade out to my knees; it feels warm and is crystal clear. There are minnows nibbling at my toes. Looking up across the horizon, the local fishermen are racing toward their secret fishing hole. There is also a pack of sail boaters heading toward the Charity Islands; the winds filling their sails display a vibrant assortment of rainbow colors. Breaking the serenity of the morning silence is a jet ski that motors past.

I return to my front porch and spend the remainder of the day relaxing. During summer vacations, I love to doze-off while listening to the tree frogs sing, and take long afternoon naps curled up on my hammock. Evenings here are just as spectacular. The crimson sunsets are my most treasured gift from God; no two

are equal in their radiance and splendor. Residents of the Bluff stop and stare, as if transfixed by a spell, and enjoy the visual delight with their loved ones. Next to arrive on the scene are the sounds of the frogs croaking in harmony along with the crickets. If you're lucky you can race to catch a firefly, for they are blinking on and off, teasing you with their own light show.

Shangri-la... Defined as an imaginary, remote paradise on earth. Is there a possibility that a real Shangri-la exists? I have discovered such a place, it is real. It is hidden behind thirty acres of woods just south of the bustling summer town of Caseville.

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