Monthly Archives: March 2016

Timeout for Art: Making Time

Standard

march2016 142

It may have been a mistake to commit to sketching every day in Lent.

It seemed like a good plan. Ideally, drawing can make you more aware of your surroundings. Zen-like, it can make you more “at one” with the world around you as you let distractions fall away, and center only on the subject and your hand on the page. It seemed like a good time, and a good way, to hone rusty skills and reintroduce a habit that has given me great enjoyment in my life.

A few days of quiet, meditative drawing made me think it was possible.

Then my crazy, hectic life got in the way.

“Oh, God, I’ve still got to draw something,” I would grumble to myself while brushing my teeth before bed. “Dammit!”

Then I’d scramble for the sketch pad, something use as subject matter, and something to draw with.

“Where is my good pencil? Rosa Parks will not hold still! Oh, hell, I’ll just draw the lamp. I don’t have patience for this!”

The string of thoughts running through my head most evenings are the polar opposite of the peaceful…meditative…let-the-worries-of-the-world-fall-away state of mind I was striving for, when I took on this commitment. The work produced reflects my lack of devotion.

Sometimes, no matter how noble the intention, real life gets in the way.

Advertisements

Springtime, Fox Lake

Standard

 

march2016 128It may have been simply my own feelings of sadness, in anticipation of leaving my little dog for a week, but I thought Rosa Parks looked downright depressed on Sunday.

march2016 104

Though it was chilly, I suggested a walk. Rosa loves the idea of a walk. She leaps from her bed at the suggestion, bounds to the door and leaps into the yard. However, this time of year, her allergies to almost every growing thing are at their worst. Though she’s on daily medicine to suppress the symptoms, as soon as we near the end of the driveway, she starts shaking and scratching her ears. Sometimes she pushes through, though later her red ears and watery eyes inform me that it’s not easy for her. Most spring days, she sits down, and refuses to go on.

When that happened Sunday, we got in the car, instead.  The snow has melted and the roads are in pretty good shape. After this mild winter, we aren’t dealing with two feet of mud or flooding issues this spring. We would go have a look at Fox Lake!

The landscape had changed over the winter. Many birch trees have fallen; undergrowth is higher than I remember it; the second drive in was overgrown with brambles. I twice drove past the drive down to the lake! I, who visit it two or three times a week, in season! When I finally found the drive, I was still in doubt. I didn’t want to pull in and perhaps find myself unable to turn around to get back out. I parked at the mouth of the drive and we walked.

Rosa Parks recognized right away that we were in the right place. These are her old stomping grounds! Her allergies don’t seem to aggravate her near the water. Fresh smells are everywhere. She set off ahead of me, madly wagging her tail.

She checked around the latrines, then sniffed around the stone-bordered campfire site and the picnic table. She examined the shoreline for anything that might have washed up. She peeked under every upturned boat. We followed the noise of ducks and geese, along the trail as far as possible, then through the trees and brush to the hidden, shallow arm of the lake, to see where the birds were swimming. On the way back, Rosa tested the water herself. It was a good day.

march2016 125

 

 

 

Traveling

Standard

march2016 134

Yesterday was crazy.

My list was long and diverse.

I had to “copy and paste” several blog entries to Wordpad, and mail them to myself so that I could print them out when I was in town (I no longer have a printer). Then I had to take them to the Community Center to read them into a microphone, to be broadcast on our little radio station (WVBI…”the voice of Beaver Island,” found on Beaver Island at 100.1 FM, and worldwide at http://www.wvbi.net). My appointment was at noon.

By two o’clock, I had to be at the County garage, to catch up with the head of our road crew. I interviewed him for the news magazine, and wanted to give him the chance to correct any fallacies in the article before we go to press.

I had laundry to finish: dark clothes in the dryer to be folded; towels to be dried.

Clean house, keeping in mind that whatever I neglect will be there, a black mark on my happy homecoming, when I get back next week.

Because, yes, I am traveling. I’m going to Connecticut, to introduce myself to my tiny new great-grandson, Lincoln, to see the parents: my oldest grandson, Michael, and his love, Samantha. Grandchildren Madeline and Tommy will be there for good company on the long drive. My daughter Kate and her husband Jeremy will share the driving, so I don’t have to worry about that.

Good thing, as I had enough to worry about!

I had to pack – secretly, so the little dog wouldn’t notice – clothes for this variable weather (which means layers!) that would be suitable for out to dinner or other excursions, comfortable for travel, plentiful enough so I won’t have to consider laundry and compact enough to fit into one small suitcase. Then, of course, there are the other rules for clothing: nothing binding; doesn’t make me look fat, or short; doesn’t make me look old trying to look youthful…but doesn’t look like grandmother clothes. Finally, everything must match, or at least coordinate, so that I can make last minute variations to planned outfits.

Then there is everything else that needs to come with me. Credit cards (check balances beforehand!), books, notebook, camera, sketchpad. Appropriate writing instruments. Yarn and crochet hooks, because I am at the last possible moment finishing a gift for the new baby. Medicine. Make-up. A special reminder to remember tweezers and the small magnifying mirror, as it is discouraging to have that annoying chin whisker make an appearance when I am hundreds of miles from home.

I had to spend time with sweet Rosa Parks, who will (my heart breaks) spend the next seven days in the doggie kennel. I had to give her lots of loving attention, without being so over-the-top that she’d know something was going on. Because I cannot tolerate those sad eyes, that reproachful stare…

I had to schedule my flight and call my sister with an approximate time of arrival. I’ll have an overnight at her house before we head out.

I had to take time to see Aunt Katie, to bring her up to date on my travel itinerary, get the car keys and last minute instructions.

I had to figure out my blog. At this time, I am toggling between two computers. The archaic one, that is about to become obsolete, is the one I understand. I can easily download pictures onto it, I know how to hook the scanner to it, and I can predict it’s behavior. The new one, which I’m sure is capable of doing everything the other one does, is still alien to me. I don’t know how to download photos from my camera; I’m not sure how it works with the scanner; the keys often seem to be a little bit off to the left. Foolish to pack two computers, when even one may not fit in the car for the trip.

I worried I wouldn’t find opportunity to write.  Do I want to pull away from rare enough time with loved ones to get my daily blog published? Do I want to shelve it for a week? The answer to both is NO! One solution I thought of was writing a weeks worth of blogs before I left. That might have been workable if I’d thought of it before my last – too busy already – day at home. So, I’m going to compromise.

First, I am putting the address series on hold until I get back. We’ll just pause, at Corner #16, with no great drama, until I’m back home. I loaded a bunch of photos to the WordPress site, so I’ll have access to them when I’m away. I am cutting corners: while I’m traveling, these 500-words-a-day are not going to happen. But I’ll still check in with a daily post.

So, that’s how yesterday went, full of worry and preparation.

Today, I’m off!

 

Life at Corner #16

Standard

 

corner 16 001

Kate and Jen, coloring Easter eggs, 1981

Living one year on Beaver Island had changed me. I had grown up. I had more confidence in myself. I was more comfortable with my life.

Before Beaver Island, I would beg my husband to take us somewhere (usually to his parent’s house for dinner and a few games of cards) two or three evenings a week, when he came home from work. Though I’m sure they got to the point of dreading our drop-in visits, now they were so rare, my in-laws even brought it up. Our relationship with them hadn’t changed.  I was just less needy.

We were busy, too. Our first year back seemed to fly by. Jen zipped through the second grade. She started third grade the same year that Kate started kindergarten. They were in swimming classes for part of the year, and ballet classes for part of the year. I was back in college, in Flint, with a full load of classes, and working as a server at the Big Boy restaurant in Lapeer. Terry traveled to Arkansas for a few weeks to help his cousin with a big job there. I wrote an essay for a national organization, and won an Honorable Mention. Sometimes, with a deadline for a drawing or painting class, I’d turn our kitchen into an art studio. For a few days, meals would be basic picnic fare, as I took over table and wall space for creative endeavors. We planted a big garden in the summers there. My sister, Cheryl, and I started bicycling together. Now and then, I babysat for her children.

corner 16 002

Easter morning, 1981

We had left Beaver Island with a stack of bills, and a packet of information on new land parcels for sale on Eagle Hill Drive. We intended to get caught up, then buy land, eventually put up a small house, and move back to the island with a secure place to live. It was a good plan, and we were making good progress on the stack of bills…when my husband fell off a roof.

Terry broke both arms and sprained a leg. We were lucky! It could have been much worse. With my restaurant tips now our main source of income, all plans slowed. Still, I continued to send little checks, five dollars here, ten dollars there, to the patient creditors on Beaver Island, to pay off our debts. Mrs. Chapman, whose husband had provided us with both gasoline and fuel oil, would always send nice receipts. “Thank you for the effort,” she’d write, “every little bit helps!” I continued, too, to put a little bit in a savings account every week, looking to the future.

corner 16

Jen, looking for eggs, Easter morning, 1981

 

The 52 Lists Project #12

Standard

april 10, 2013 012List your best qualities:

(This is one of the hardest lists I’ve done!)

  • I have pretty good hearing. Not as good as my sister, Cheryl, who can hear a whispered conversation two rooms away…but not bad.
  • I am pretty strong – physically – for my size.
  • I often remember my dreams.
  • I have nice hands. They are a lot like my mother’s hands, and that pleases me a great deal.
  • I enjoy all kinds of music.
  • I try to see all sides of a situation, most of the time.
  • I am kind, most of the time.
  • I am a good reader.
  • I write well.
  • I can handle a lot of solitude.
  • I have a pretty good sense of humor.
  • I am willing to endure financial sacrifices to make better choices ethically or environmentally.
  • I am kind to all living things. Except mosquitoes…flies…and sometimes ladybugs.
  • I am often very patient.
  • I am quite stubborn (sometimes that is a good quality!).
  • I am a good cook.
  • I’m good at arranging things. Not like the mafia “arranges things,” but like items on a shelf.
  • I am a hard worker and a loyal employee.
  • I am a loyal friend.
  • I’m a good letter writer.
  • I am devoted to my family, sisters, brother, cousins, nieces and nephews, children and grandchildren. I love them for all of their kindness, silliness, and strength. I am proud of every one of them for their smiling perseverance.
  • I have a good memory.
  • I am a good story-teller.

(Odd, that the list I claim is the most difficult is also one of the longest!)

Corner #16

Standard
march2016

Cindy, in the kitchen at Corner #16, 1980

“Corner #16” was at the intersection of M24 and Burnside Road. My next address was 31 E.Burnside Road, just two buildings away from that intersection, in the back half of a duplex that was made of the building that was once the Deerfield Township Hall. The new Deerfield Township Hall, a big, modern building with a large, fenced parking lot, was across the road.

Our building was a long rectangle of cement blocks, painted in that pale green that is often associated with hospitals and other institutions. The large yard was fenced on three sides. On one side of our house was  a cute little residence where an older gentleman lived. He had a stash of “the good stuff,” he told us: the spray for insects that was now illegal. If we’d like, he could spray our yard, too. “No, thanks,” I told him, “I don’t mind the bugs.” He was friendly and kind to us, but I can’t remember his name or much of anything  about him except for the DDT. Past that house was Bryan’s Market, on the corner.

In the other direction, there was a drive with small houses lining it; more yards and houses and drives that led into little subdivisions continued down Burnside Road, with an occasional old farm house. My sister, Cheryl, lived down that way, in a nice home that looked out on a pasture.

Just a short drive south on M24, and off to the right was Sweet School, where Jen would start second grade. The school had classrooms for kindergarten through third grade; after that the students went in to North Branch for school. Its smaller size seemed perfect, as a transition from the Beaver Island School.

Continuing south on M24 would bring us to Lapeer, ten miles away. From there, it was about twenty miles to my college classes in Flint. North on M24 from our house would bring us to the highway leading into the village of North Branch. Though we were technically in Deerfield Township, our address was North Branch.

There were two sets of cement steps, and two doors on the driveway side of the building. The first door led to the front unit, where a young couple lived with their twin babies. The second door led into our new kitchen. It was a spacious, open room with a row of cabinets filling the far wall. The refrigerator was  straight ahead, on the wall that divided kitchen from living room. There was an old stove there, too, with only two working burners and no oven. For about the first eight months that we lived there, I used my electric frying pan to bake bread and rolls, lasagna, even birthday cake! The dining table fit nicely in the center of the room. At Christmastime, there was plenty of space for a large, decorated tree in there, too. I loved that kitchen!

Just to the left of the entry door, a wide passage led into the living room. Windows on both exterior walls all had deep sills, compliments of the concrete block construction, that were perfect for holding houseplants. A “front” door in that room led out to the back yard. It was the biggest living room I’d ever had, almost twenty feet in either direction.

Two doors on the far wall led into  bedrooms. For a home with such an expansive living space, the bedrooms were tiny. Their dimensions were, I’m guessing here, maybe 10′ x10′ with a closet carved out of one wall. A hallway to the right led to the bathroom, which also held the washer and dryer. A door at the end of the hall hid the hot water heater.

This was our new home!

 

Leaving Beaver Island

Standard

 

garden island 014By the time the summer of 1979 arrived, with all of its crazy activity, I was kind of ready for it.

My husband and I had come to an agreement. The girls and I would stay on the island for the summer. I would work through the busy months of June, July and August at the Shamrock, to repay their investment in training me, and to set aside some money for our future plans. Terry would continue to work on the mainland, with occasional trips to the island for visits. He would find us a place to live on the mainland, with consideration to school systems for our daughters, and proximity to his work and my college. We would both concentrate on paying back the huge fuel oil bill we’d run up. He said, “I can do this (meaning, depending on the day and the conversation: quit drinking, drink more sensibly, control his temper…), but I can’t do it on Beaver Island. Not right now, anyway.” We would keep our sights on island life, but would get our lives in order and come back with a more secure lifestyle.

Jen and Kate had made friends, and were looking forward to summer on Beaver Island.

I had gotten to know my co-workers at the Shamrock, and become more familiar with the job.

I was pretty confidant that things were going to work out…and they did.

Of course, no amount of planning could have prepared me for the onslaught of customers rushing in to the Shamrock every morning. We often served a hundred breakfasts before the morning ferry left at 11AM! Then, it was a rush to get everything cleaned up and ready for the lunch crowd. It was ridiculous and crazy, some of the hardest work I’d ever done, and a great bunch of fun. It was a gigantic confidence-booster,  to – day after day – handle problems big and small, and continually get the job done.

I’d pick up the girls after work, and we’d go home to get ready for the beach. Because the farmhouse was a short mile and a half from town, we often headed right back to the public beach on the harbor. We could easily get a few hours of relaxing, playing and swimming in before going home to get supper on the table. Because the farmhouse was used by all of the family for vacations, there were often aunts, uncles or cousins there to share the meal.

It was a good summer. Too soon, it was over. Jen and Kate went downstate with their Dad one week before I left, to spend some time with their grandparents. During that week, my friend Linda visited with her friend, Mary, and my Grandma Florence and Aunt Katie both came to the island. The night before I was to leave, I went around the island with friends, Beth Ann and Diane. I got home very late, and quite drunk. Aunt Katie was waiting up. “You’re never going to make that 8:30 boat,” she said, “You’re not even packed!”

Little did she know the powers of a life-long procrastinator! I was packed, ready, and had the car down to the boat on time the next morning. A dozen friends and co-workers were there to see me off. That’s when the tears started. By the time the horn sounded, I was crying out loud. Passengers squeezed my shoulders or patted my back in understanding. “Awww, I know…we always hate to leave, too,” they said. My friends drove to Whiskey Point, where the lighthouse sits, to wave a final farewell. I’m sure my sobs were audible across the water. By the time the ferry boat reached Charlevoix two hours later, even the most sympathetic of the passengers were getting fed up with my tears. “Come on…” one man said, “there will be other vacations!”

I pulled myself together for the four hour drive ahead. By the time I got through the “roller coaster road” and into Gaylord, I was anxious to see my daughters, and looking ahead instead of behind.