The 52 Lists Project #49



List your favorite books:

I feel like I’ve done this list before, though it’s right on schedule, and the 52 Lists book does not repeat. It is definitely a topic dear to my heart, and one I’ve written about before. For this list, I’ll categorize.

Gardening Books:

  • Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katherine S. White
  • Weeds in Winter by Lauren Brown
  • Creating a Cottage Garden by Sue Phillips
  • Seasons at Seven Gates Farm by Keith Scott Morton and Mary Seehafer Sears
  • An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter
  • Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte
  • Grow Your Own Vegetables by Joy Larkcom


  • This Good Food by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette
  • Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant by the Moosewood Collective
  • The Supermarket Epicure by Joanna Pruess
  • The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo
  • Let’s Get Together by DeeDee Stovel and Pam Wakefield
  • An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler
  • Sweets for Saints and Sinners by Janice Feuer


  • The Essays of E.B.White by E.B.White
  • Silences by Tillie Olsen
  • The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
  • If It Fitz by Jim Fitzgerald
  • The White Lantern by Evan S. Connell
  • Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Trying to Save Piggy Sneed by John Irving
  • In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens by Alice Walker


  • Growing Up by Russell Baker
  • The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
  • China Men by Maxine Hong Kingston
  • The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr
  • Let’s Not Go To the Dogs Tonight: an African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller
  • The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
  • Half-Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls


  • All of the loosely related stories by Louise Erdrich, but especially Love Medicine, Tracks, The Master Butcher’s Singing Club, Four Souls and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse.
  • Just about any by Barbara Kingsolver, but especially Pigs in Heaven.
  • Everything I’ve read so far by Kay Atkinson, especially Life After Life.
  • All of the light-hearted mysteries by Laurie R. King featuring Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell.
  • Everything Alice Walker writes is golden, but The Color Purple is my favorite.
  • The same goes for Mark Twain, but I’d choose Adventures of Huckleberry Finn if I had to pick just one.

Miscellaneous Others from various categories:

  • Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  • The Arctic Grail by Pierre Berton
  • I Could Do Anything (If I Only Knew What it Was) by Barbara Sher
  • Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
  • The Poems of Emily Dickinson
  •  The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke
  • Encaustic Painting Techniques by Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch

And, oh, there are other books on art, history, nature and health that have gone unmentioned. How have I not mentioned poets Marge Piercy, Caroline Forsche and Billy Collins? And all of the other writers of fiction that have meant so much to me? For this one day, this will have to do.


Swim, II


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As a small child, I was frightened of the whole world. It didn’t seem like it at the time, though. I was bashful. I was shy about meeting new people or speaking in public. I was needed at home so couldn’t participate, much, in group activities. I was late in learning to ride a bike. I didn’t learn to swim, or skate, or drive until I was an adult. Then, as a grown-up looking back, I realized I’d been afraid.

As a parent, I didn’t want my daughters to take on that fear, or to grow up without challenging themselves. They went to preschool story-hour, Mom and child craft classes, Brownies and Girl Scouts, gymnastics, ballet lessons and roller skating. I enrolled them in swimming and water-play classes when they were very young; they could both swim well before they reached school age.

I took swimming classes then, too. My sisters, Brenda and Cheryl, did, too. We went to the Boy’s Club in downtown Lapeer, where there was an indoor pool. It was an old building that had started its life, I think, as a church. It smelled predictably of chlorine, and there were high windows letting in filtered light. I started with the class titled “Absolutely Terrified.” I did not feel absolutely terrified of the water, but I was nervous about what they would expect of me…better to start slow. As it turned out, it was a good place to begin. Though I could go underwater without panicking, I was never comfortable having my face in the water. That was where this class started.

Simply learning to be comfortable face down in the water, to open my eyes, control my breath and let my body relax was life-changing knowledge. Learning to keep my body in alignment, and my limbs close, allowed for forward momentum. That had never happened when my back was curled to keep my head above the water and my arms and legs were flailing around in every direction. I learned the breathing techniques and several simple swim strokes. I learned to dive.

After class, my sisters and I would shower and dress, pick up our children, and meet for lunch. During the summer, we packed a big salad, and went to the park to eat. Later, I continued taking Swimming Classes as part of the physical education requirements at college. My technique and stamina improved. Still, those first classes at the Boy’s Club are the one’s that stay foremost in my mind. For me, the first brave steps toward new knowledge are the most memorable.




I am pulled in two directions.

I’ve always been drawn to Beaver Island. It holds my family history, and it holds my heart. It feels like home to me. Whenever I’ve had to be away from this island, I’ve kept a poem by Langston Hughes close:

Wave of Sorrow

Do not drown me now.

I see the Island

Still ahead somehow.

I see the Island

And its sands are fair.

Wave of Sorrow

Take me there.

Still, as I get older…as issues of companionship, health and capability move more to the forefront…as loss of friends and family becomes a regular part of life…as children grow up and away with hardly a backward glance…I am drawn to my home town. Lapeer, Michigan is where I was raised, and where my remaining siblings still live. My daughters are close by, as are several of my grandchildren. Driving to see other friends is less of an issue when it doesn’t begin with boarding dogs and getting on an airplane.

I join my sisters for an evening of wine, conversation and word games, and I realize how much I miss my family. I chat with my brother in the house that we grew up in…I talk face-to-face with my daughters…I have actual conversations with my grandchildren, and I feel drawn to that place.

Some things hold me on Beaver Island. My little house, in its current state of equity and unfinished disrepair, is probably unmarketable. Even if it were, the struggle to get – and then keep – this small piece of real estate makes it difficult to consider letting it go. My job here is secure, where jobs are hard to come by in other parts of the state. My aunt is in poor health and – though she gets assistance from others who love her, too – she depends on me for help and companionship. Just as I depend on her. My dogs are well suited to Beaver Island. The fields and trails and beaches welcome them. The sky full of stars holds me here…the canopy of trees…the water all around.

But still, I feel the pull.

Timeout for Art: Rethinking Old Themes



I’ve been spending a lot of time studying this old painting lately. It was returned to me several months ago, after hanging in a gallery for about the last six years. It is acrylic paint with textured collage elements on a 4′ x4′ board. It has a nice metal frame. It is titled “Charm Against Witches” and some of the words are from a list of materials intended to do just that:

“Black Luggie, Lammer Bead, Rowan Tree, Red Thread”

I don’t hate the painting. Some areas of the surface are just precious with subtle color and texture. The trouble is, I don’t love it, either. When taken as a whole, it’s a little bland, a bit too mauve, and kind of rough. It’s a large piece to have hanging around, when I have limited space and am not crazy for it. At this point, I’m also not enthused about putting it back out on the market. It’s never a good idea to try to sell work that I have any misgivings about. It’s hard enough to show work (my heart! my soul!) that I have every confidence in. So, I’m studying it, with the idea that I may be able to improve it, and make it into something I could be more enthused about. We’ll see.




There were always several bicycles around the yard when I was growing up. I don’t think any of them were new, but they worked just fine. I was late in learning how to ride, but once I figured it out, I loved it. We rarely took the bikes out of the yard. There was too much traffic and too many curves on our narrow road. When we did, we were firmly advised to ride facing the traffic, just as a pedestrian would. We were to pull over to the side, stop, and get off the bike when a car came along. I was surprised, as an adult, to learn that bicycles are supposed to ride with traffic, not against it. It still feels unnatural and unsafe to me.

Mostly, though, I rode in the yard. I started by learning to ride between our house and the house next door. There was a skinny foot path there, so I landed in grass when the bike tipped over, and a slight slope that helped to build momentum. Once I got the pattern down, I bicycled laps around the yard.

From our front yard down the path, then a sharp right turn into the grass, a bump into the driveway, where the cinders made a satisfying sound under the wheels. Over the driveway and a curve to the left into the little orchard. If I was feeling daring, I’d slalom around the apple tree, apple tree, pear tree and apple tree while ducking to avoid the low-hanging branches, Around the garage to the back yard that joined our back yard. I’d stand up to pedal, then, imagining being a circus performer as I dodged children and objects in my path. On the far side of the yard, I’d sit down and coast along the edge of the garden, then chatter bump over the driveway into the front yard, and start again.

By the time we were teen-agers, even running was not acceptable, except in the most “lady-like” (thighs together, the only forward movement came from the movement of the legs from the knees down)way. Bicycles were out of the question. until we could drive, we would accept a ride from a friend, or walk. I don’t know if this was a general pattern, or just the way it was among my family and friends. It seemed acceptable – even desirable – to be a cheerleader, but other sports for girls were not extremely popular, from what I saw, in the sixties.

It wasn’t too many years later, though, when attitudes changed about girls and exercise. I got a pair of running shoes in the early seventies, and worked to pick up that trend. We rode bicycles as a family quite a bit when my daughters were young. My sister Cheryl and I occasionally got together to ride bikes on the country roads between our homes.

In the nineties, frustrated with one car repair after another, I invested in a good quality mountain bike. I paid extra for an odometer, saddle bags to carry my stuff, and a well-padded seat. I rode it the seven and a half miles to and from work for most of the summer. I was in the best shape of my life! Sometimes, after riding to town, working hard as a waitress all day, then riding home, I’d think, “It would be nice to take a swim,” and I’d get back on the bicycle and ride another eight and a half miles to Iron Ore Bay. I’d have a swim, then ride back home.

I loaned the bike, one year, to a distant relative who broke the chain. That was the beginning of the end of my bicycle. It waited for repair, then was stored, then moved, then hauled away by someone else who was going to fix it, then lost. My sister saw it a few years ago, tossed into a field, covered with rust. “You don’t want to see it,” she told me. Maybe next spring, I should start thinking of another bicycle.

What I Can’t Live Without



Hmmm….What I can’t live without. This would be an excellent writing prompt for someone thirty years younger than I am.

My younger self would have had some answers.

I cannot live without love, I might say. I knew then, as I do now, the importance of an emotional bond, mutual understanding, similar sensibilities and interests, a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on. It is important and wonderful, but I now know I can survive without it.

I cannot live without physical closeness, I would have said. Though sex and love were always close partners in my life, I’d have given the physical aspects their own space. Again, I now know survival is possible.

I cannot live without my family. This still feels true, and I get queasy thinking of losing anyone, but I have survived great loss in the last thirty years. My children have moved away; parents and siblings have died. I’ve become afraid to think, “This is the worst…” because I’ve been proven wrong again and again. I approach the idea with dread, but I know I could survive.

I cannot live without my friends, those people that know me, through and through, and are there for me. And yet, in the last thirty years, I’ve seen friends move away, lose touch, die, distance themselves emotionally or physically…and, broken hearted, I have survived.

I have gained knowledge and experience in the last thirty years. I have become more aware of my strength. It is knowledge that has come at tremendous cost. Still, enduring every loss, I am still able to experience joy in living.

Maybe there is nothing I can’t live without.




img_9131As a child growing up on Lake Nepessing, I couldn’t swim. Brenda could, a little bit. Ted could dog-paddle. I couldn’t even float. I could pretend to swim, by walking on my hands in knee-deep water while flopping my head from side-to-side and kicking up a froth with my feet. That was it. I loved the water, though. We spent quite a bit of time at the beach. We called it swimming, even when it wasn’t. “If you get your work done,” Mom would say, “maybe I’ll let you take the kids swimming.”

So, often, when our chores were done on hot summer days, we would gather our little brothers and sisters and walk them down to the Hill Top Campground. There was a little store there, and there were paddle boards for rent. Camp sites were visible up the hill. That was where the actual entrance to the swimming area was, off Hunt Road. I didn’t know that until I was an adult. We took a different route.

As one fairly large group of children wearing bathing suits and carrying towels, we walked up the driveway, and crossed Hunt Road. Kitty-corner  across the pavement was Lake Shore Drive, a dirt road that followed the lake.That’s the way we went. On our right were cottages with back doors and garages facing the gravel road, while their main living spaces looked out over the water. On our left was a big, triangular  field where daffodils grew wild in the springtime. Then the quonset hut with its curved, corrugated metal roof. Maxine, who tended bar at the Lake Inn, lived there. After her house was more field. The small cottages continued, one after another, on our right. At the end of the drive, a sharp turn went left and up a hill. Straight ahead was another hill. There was a house up there, where the Poole family lived. We turned to the right, where a short gravel road led to more small lakefront houses, and curved around, narrower. We took it to the end, then walked beside the one house, turned and made our way across three front lawns at the water’s edge, then down a slight dirt path to the beach.

Sometimes we were noticed, and had to pay; other times we used the beach for free. We spread out towels and tested the water. We planned who would keep an eye on who. Every small child got a stern lecture: “DO NOT run/throw stones/throw sand/get your towel wet/splash/get lost/get hurt/misbehave in any way…OR YOU WILL NEVER GET TO COME TO THE BEACH AGAIN!” We were, after all, responsible…and the ones who would get in big trouble if anyone drowned.

Then we started making our way into the water. Everybody splashed. All of us went out too deep. There were drop-offs. There was seaweed. If you wandered over too far to the left, there was muck instead of sand on the bottom. There was sometimes broken glass. There were several near-drowning incidents every summer. Yet we all managed, somehow, to survive. When it was time to head for home, we sat all the little ones down in a row on the towels, and examined their feet for bloodsuckers. When we found them, we lit a match, blew it out, and touched the leech with the hot tip. It would draw its head out, so it could be picked off and thrown away. Then, we checked our own extremities. Finally, cooled off, tired, and – now – free of bloodsuckers, we made our way back home. That was “going swimming” when I was a child.