I haven’t been carrying the camera on my daily walks lately. That’s partly because I was sick, and it was all I could do to drag myself out of the house for shivery and often abbreviated walks with the dogs. Taking pictures was not a concern. Also, here on Beaver Island, we’ve been in an in-between stage for seasonal beauty.
The stunning fall colors are nearly gone. Though some leaves still cling to the trees, the brilliant golds have dulled to shades of brown, and strong winds have stripped the treetops. We’ve gotten snow, but not enough to cover the grasses and fallen leaves. The magical autumn views are gone, and the winter fairy tale landscapes are not yet here.
Today, feeling better, I walked with the dogs through the falling snow down the Fox Lake Road to the big rock and back. When we got home, I picked up the camera and went back outside. The long views are not very interesting, but within my yard, there are things to take note of.
This has been an odd year. Fall came early with cold, rain and high winds. Frost held off until quite late. Now here is early snow. It has cloaked the fruit trees that are still holding on to their leaves, and shrouded the Sedum in the back flower bed. My concord grapes, which never did ripen this year, are still clinging to the vines, wearing caps of fresh snow.
It seems I’ve been writing “Finish painting the Floor” in the “Tasks” box of my Bullet Journal every month for a year! I know I’ve mentioned the project in several blogs, and bored many listeners with my snail’s-pace progress. With the summer season’s long hours, company and general “busy-ness” over with, I dove back into my project with renewed determination.
I have a small house. The entire downstairs floor is less than six hundred square feet. This should be a simple thing! And yet, it is not. For one thing, I live here, in this small space, with all of my furniture and accessories taking up space. With three dogs, and their dog beds and water dishes to work around. With the necessity to always maintain a route for the animals to get outside, and for me to get to the bathroom.
For another thing I, for some crazy reason, decided that deep-cleaning should be done simultaneously with the painting of the floor. So, the task of painting has been compounded by the sorting, organizing and purging of my accumulated stuff from every cupboard, cabinet, shelf and drawer.
It has, naturally, made the original goal much more elusive, but it has been rewarding nonetheless. How nice to have every drawer that I open be neat and tidy! Wonderful to have shelves clean, dust-free, and in good order! It’s a good feeling to be rid of much of the excess: unused, outdated and unnecessary stuff that has cluttered my space.
Then, there is life. A week ago, I noticed that my newly reorganized living room bookshelves were listing at a dangerously rakish angle. One of the vertical supports had given way. Obviously I’d accidentally missed the stud when I put the shelves up several years ago. All other progress had to stop while I tended to this.
I had to remove everything from the shelves: television; stereo; speakers; baskets of CDs, cassette tapes and DVDs; and too many books. All of which had been recently sorted and arranged by category and alphabetically. With stacks of books now covering the living room floor, I ran to town to purchase wood screws, drywall anchors and spackling compound.
In my haste, I neglected to put the trash can up out of the reach of my big dog. By the time I got home, Darla had my plastic recyclables spread all over the laundry room floor. Just another detour along my route! So, first I got that mess cleaned up, then I patched the wall and rehung the shelves. Finally, I was able to replace everything on the shelves! I like the – slightly tweaked – arrangement even better than before!
After that lengthy roundabout, I got the flu. For two days, I’ve done almost nothing but make my way from the bed to the bathroom. Sleep twelve hours, sit up for two hours has been my routine. Bundled up as if I were on the North Pole, I managed the shortest, shivery walk with the dogs. I’ve been living on water, chicken broth and jello. Sipping hot tea and Thera-Flu.
Today, not yet feeling one-hundred percent, I am back at it. I’m continuing my slow progress, priming and painting small sections between dog walks and work hours and other projects. Too much time is spent simply waiting for paint to dry, but I’m getting there. Working my way toward completion. Hoping nothing else gets in the way!
Once again, I’m wide awake in the middle of the night. I lay abed until I could stand it no longer. I’ve had a glass of water, and took aspirin for a mild headache. Now I’m having a cup of herbal tea and debating the issue.
Shall I just stay up? It’s only three-thirty, but if it weren’t for the time change two days ago, it would be four-thirty. If it were four-thirty, surely I’d have given up on sleep by now, and the coffee would be brewing.There is plenty to do, if I find the energy.
I’m still midway through painting the floor. It’s a long and tedious job in a small house that is being lived in. Everything has to be moved out of the way so that, by sections, I can prime and then paint an area. The rooms are small, and the furniture is bulky.
The dogs get confused about which areas are off limits at any given time. Yesterday, Darla barged through my makeshift barricade to walk over the piece of kitchen floor I had just painted. She was trying so hard to do the right thing, I didn’t have the heart to scold her. I get confused, too. I pulled out the refrigerator, then found dinner preparation to be so complicated, I pushed it back in place without painting that area.
I haven’t tackled the studio yet. There, I have to organize stacks and stores of mat board and frames, clear shelves and sort through the contents of several totes to make everything accessible. It doesn’t sound so overwhelming when I write it here but, trust me, it is! When I was charting everything I want to get done this fall, under the “Studio” heading, I just wrote, “Ugh!”
Shall I just go back to bed? Maybe I should. A little sleep is better than none at all. If I can fall asleep. I’ll probably be more productive after I’ve gotten some rest. If I can rest. These middle-of-the-night dilemmas are always frustrating. I’m too tired to be ambitious, too wide awake for sleep, and too sleepy to debate the issue!
I had a moment of euphoria today, knowing that the fall reversal of Daylight Savings Time added an hour to my morning. I grinned and even hummed a tune as I made the rounds to turn each clock back one hour. Then, I sat down and wasted that bonus time playing a silly computer game. Ah, me.
I did spend some time today, and over the last couple days, assessing my accomplishments for October. I’m participating in the “Last 90 Days Challenge,” and there were five daily expectations:
Drink half my body weight in ounces of water
Thirty minutes of exercise
Start each day writing out ten small things I am grateful for
Give up one category of food or drink that I’d be healthier without
Get up one hour early each morning, and use that time for personal development
There were some successes, and quite a few short-falls. I never drank the 65 ounces of water that was my goal, but even on my worst days, my intake was far better than ever before. I walked every day, morning and night, easily surpassing the thirty minutes per day I had committed to. I missed my morning writing about a third of the time. I gave up alcohol and chocolate for the month, and made it through without a single “cheat.” I rarely made it out of bed an hour early; when I did, I almost never used the extra time productively.
Beyond the “Five to Thrive” list, I had my own agenda. I intended to complete a major whole house purge, clean and organize extravaganza, plus finish painting the floor downstairs, and get my studio ready to work in. I delayed my progress by taking time to list my goals and chart my progress (ah, me.). Though the ability to highlight things as they were finished was a great motivator, I am still not done.
I’m not discouraged. I’ve learned that the biggest triumph comes not from what is finished, but in continuing to try. Here is November. A new month, a fresh start, and another chance for success!
Though my Dad has been gone from this world for more than twenty years, his presence in my life is still strongly felt.
A sharp, unexpected rebuke evokes my Dad’s presence. And still, even with all my age and experience, tears spring to my eyes. I am embarrassed, and whoever made the remark is surprised at my extreme response. “It’s not you,” I want to explain, “and it’s not really me.” It’s actually more like ten-year-old me, when Dad’s mood turned without warning.
When I hear a child’s giggle, that almost-hysterical, crazy laugh that comes with extreme glee, I think of my Dad. He was a teaser and a tickler. He’d bounce a child on his knee, or toss them over his shoulder “like a sack of potatoes,” or hold them upside-down to “shake the dickens” out of them, because he loved to hear that reaction.
Dad comes to me with the smells of freshly-cut grass, or newly-turned earth. Sometimes I catch the scent of wood smoke, sweat and beer, and I feel Dad must be close. When I work in the garden I feel him at my side, ready with advice and an approving nod. When I’m struggling with a big project, I think of Dad, patiently working away at major undertakings in the meager hours available around his outside job.
My memories of Dad are strong, and good. His presence in my life is more, though, than just what I recall. His influence is a constant in my life, in hundreds of little ways. It’s always a comfort to feel him nearby. Today is my Dad’s birthday. Though he’s not here to celebrate, he’s definitely on my mind.
Yesterday morning, I got caught up in the news, and let time get away from me. By the time I headed out the door for my morning walk with the dogs, I had to hurry, or I would be late for work. I put on the eighteen minute “walk-to-run” program, and allowed not a single distraction. No time to admire the sun shining through the autumn colors; no time for photographs. The dogs got their morning exercise with hardly a rest, and we were all a little breathless by the time got back home.
I made up for it in the afternoon. I put a big handful of kibble in one pocket, to use as praise and encouragement for the dogs along the way. I slid my camera into the other pocket, to capture some of the beautiful foliage. We set out to enjoy a mild and glorious fall day. This time, I let the dogs set the pace. I chose the route.
We started off down Cotter’s Trail, then turned onto the grassy path that winds through woods and open fields. We followed it until we came to the back of the Murray’s big yard, then along the border of their property to the wood-chip covered two-track that curves through the trees. Wet from last night’s rain, it took a little navigating to keep my shoes dry. That path took us to Hoopfer’s camp.
When the guys are there, as they were last week, sitting around the fire pit having refreshments, the dogs enjoy making friends. When it’s not being used, the dogs simply enjoy the big, clear yard. They break into a run, and circle every structure, tree and stone before following me up the driveway.
At the end of the driveway, we are once again on Cotter’s Trail. If I turn to the left, I’m headed back home. Instead, we turned to the right, and followed the trail to its end, where a cluster of newer sheds and outbuildings share the clearing with the little cabin that originally belonged to Cotter.
Finally, we got back on the trail and took it back to the Fox Lake Road, and home. The colors are at their peak, or nearly so; the sunshine added both brilliance and warmth. It was a perfect day for a long walk.
Yesterday, I told about a hectic morning when a ringing telephone set off a series of events that culminated in a big mess. Turning toward the phone, I knocked a cup off the counter. It broke when it hit the floor, which had just been given a coat of paint. Hot coffee, fresh paint, shards of glass and three curious dogs already antsy for their walk combined to create havoc!
While all of this was going on, I was on the telephone. As I covered the hot coffee and broken pieces with a towel and shooed the dogs off the fresh paint, I had the phone wedged between shoulder and ear. As I dragged a broom through the gooey mess, and watched the dogs make patterns of dog prints across the surfaces of three area rugs, I was murmuring responses into the receiver. There were reasons for that.
On the other end of the line was my daughter, Kate. Any call, from either of my daughters, is a special treat. My heart leaps with joy when I pick up the phone and hear their voice. They are busy, and our schedules don’t always mesh; it can be difficult to touch base. Time between actual visits is vast. Even the space from one telephone conversation to the next is too long. Kate is working in New England this fall; I feel the distance. A chance to speak to her is always welcome, no matter what.
My daughter was dealing with a series of maddening circumstances, and wanted to voice her frustration. Of course, I was happy to listen. Because I care, and also because Kate has done the same for me. When I want to complain, Kate is one of my favorite people to talk to.
We all have grievances, big and small. I am a fairly positive person, but sometimes it’s nice to just be able to vent. I live alone, so often let things build up; it helps to sometimes give voice to minor aggravations. I’ve learned, over the years, to pick my audience carefully.
When I complained to my husband about a boss, co-worker, friend, family member, or even just a rude stranger, his response was immediate and always over-the-top. There was never an understanding nod. Instead, he was prepared to go track the culprit down and give them “a good talking to,” or, worst-case scenario, “beat the hell out of them.” Before I even had time to get my frustrations voiced, I was forced into the position of defending whomever I was mad at, and talking him down from his anger.
My sister, Brenda, is a wonderful, sympathetic listener. Still, her ability to put a positive spin on every single thing can be frustrating. I once called her, sobbing, about a painful break-up. “Aren’t you glad that happened?” was her response, “You’re going to be better for it.” She was right, of course, but I wasn’t ready to hear it.
At times like that, I should call my friend, Chris. She is always willing to commiserate with me in the very depths of my misery. If I’m trying, though, to work my way out of despair, rather than just wallow in it, Chris is not the right call.
There are people who, when they hear about an issue, want to fix it. Others want to explain how I brought it on myself. When I just want to gripe, neither reasons or solutions fit the bill, no matter how helpful. When I’m frustrated, I want empathy and understanding. I want an “oh, that sounds awful” or “I’m sorry you’re going through that” or “boy, that really sucks!” I’m fortunate to have a few people who give me exactly that. Kate is one of them.
So, when I hear my daughter’s voice on the telephone, at any time of day, no matter what’s going on at my end, I am happy to listen. Even when she is sad, angry or frustrated, and even when I’m dealing with wet paint, broken glass, hot coffee and dogs, talking to Kate always brightens my day.