Monthly Archives: November 2016




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.

The 52 Lists Project #48



List the things you want to add to your life:

  • Travel. Not a lot, but there are things I’d like to see and experience, that are farther than what my small world encompasses right now.
  • Culture. One big gap in my life right now is the ability to visit galleries and museums.
  • Learning. I have never really quit learning, but I’d love to have time for some classes and workshops.
  • Pleasure. I have a darn good life. I appreciate it, most of the time, and I’m happy. That’s different than pleasure, which comes from interaction and shared experience with others. My dogs bring pleasure to my life. Without them, I’d rarely speak out loud at home, let alone laugh out loud. Still, I could use to add more pleasure to my days.
  • Relaxation. It seems that even when I have time for rest, I turn it into a quest for productivity.  “The German work ethic,” I joke. I suppose I get it from my father, who never took a single vacation that wasn’t a working vacation. I would like to learn to just relax…to walk without needing to have it be a health and aerobic geared outing…to read without having to take notes, underline, remember and – at the very least – be enriched by the experience…to watch a movie without having to be drawing,  crocheting, folding clothes or writing at the same time. By the time I retire (which right now I think of as that time when I will finally be able to devote myself to working in the studio, working in the garden, keeping chickens and finishing a whole long list of home repairs), I hope I have learned to just Relax!

Barely There



I got up earlier than usual to write, this morning. My computer was glitching out again last night with slow service and other issues. Sites – like this one – that usually come up automatically on my computer were instead asking for a password.  I couldn’t switch from one site to another without everything freezing up, so password retrieval was impossible. Unfortunately, it’s not much better this morning.

I have reset the modem once, and shut down the computer three times already. Finally, I am at least on my blog site, and was able to bring up a photograph – all impossible last evening. Still, if I move the cursor too quickly to the left – which I never do on purpose – I lose my entire desktop screen in exchange for a bright red “app update” screen that I have no use for. Then I have to pull up the other screen again: the one with the grid on it, with the desktop being one of the options. Then, it seems to be an almost impossible task to click on the desktop icon without once again losing everything. It takes at least a half-dozen tries before I can get back to this screen, that I never purposely left in the first place.

This computer, with its new technology, seems to demand grace and coordination, in addition to basic computer skills. I’m afraid I’m not up for the job! I am terrified to make the wrong move, for fear of losing everything. I cannot work under this kind of pressure! I certainly cannot come up with any kind of creative writing.

I feel like I don’t know enough about computer terminology to even describe the problems I’m having, in language that makes me sound reasonably intelligent. When I finally break down and call for assistance, I can barely describe the problem. I never know if it’s a server issue, or a computer issue, the modem, the touch pad…or just me. I find myself saying things like, “you know, that blue blob,” or “that ring of dots,” or – in a true whine – “I can’t find the delete key!”

Today, when I have to be at work in an hour, I don’t have time to try for better solutions. I’m just trying hard not to make any unnecessary movements. Just type, cautiously, and send it out there. I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

Dog Comics, Part II


Clover and Rosa Parks

My next pair of dogs was Clover and Rosa Parks.

Though Clover often had issues with other dogs, she and the little dog became friends very quickly. In fact, Rosa Parks quickly took on the roll of the boss, letting Clover know when she she was being annoying, or when she could – or could not – share space on the bed or sofa. Rosa’s coloring was very much like Maggie’s; I often wondered if Clover didn’t see Rosa as a much smaller, reincarnated version of her old friend.

Clover, being the older and wiser of the two, took her roll seriously. She was the teacher, Rosa Parks the student. Clover would come upon a footprint in the snow. She’d put her snout near it, look up toward the little dog, and raise one eyebrow. Rosa would run right over, and put her own nose down to smell what Clover was smelling. They would exchange a knowing look. If it was a coyote print, the look was of concern. Deer or turkey tracks were interesting but not scary. A dead snake in the road would also demand attention. First the meaningful look, that would send Rosa Parks scurrying over. Then the demonstration: aim, flop onto the back right on top of the dead animal, and squirm. Jump up, sniff again, and repeat. “Now you try it,” I imagined her saying, and Rosa Parks complied every time.

Clover, who was very enthusiastic about chasing chipmunks, did her best to get Rosa Parks involved in the sport. Rosa pretended to be interested. If Clover was watching, the little dog would dig madly at the base of the tree, stare into its branches, circle and jump, just as Clover was doing. If Clover wasn’t paying attention, Rosa’s lazier nature came out, and she’d find a comfortable spot to watch the action. If she saw me watching, Rosa Parks would be quick to roll her eyes at Clover’s antics, letting me know that she was well above behavior like that.

Clover always rode in the car with us down to Fox Lake. Coming home, though, she preferred to run. And chase every single squirrel, and follow every single scent all the way home. Rosa Parks, on my lap, would watch Clover out the window, just as Maggie had watched her from the passenger seat as I followed closely behind. Eventually, though, I’d lose patience with her side trips, and with driving in second gear, one foot always on the brake. At some point, when she was off on the trail of a bird or rodent, I’d speed up, and let her make her own way home. That always put a look of satisfaction on Rosa’s little face. “Finally, rid of her!” By the time we got home though, her relief had changed to concern, and she – with me right behind – would head down the Fox Lake Road on foot, to meet Clover and accompany her in the final stretch for home.






Giving Thanks, Sporadic Service, Timeout for Art…and a List or So



That’s a long title, so let me jump right in, here. My internet has been awful for more than twenty-four hours, now. I think it’s the internet service, due to the behavior of the little circle of dots that goes around when the computer is working on something: the dots are moving very slowly, and somewhat erratically. Then they disappear, the screen freezes up, the keyboard doesn’t work and – my go-to solution – control/alt/delete does not even function properly. I’ve managed to do a couple restarts, which also didn’t repair the problem, and twice had to just manually turn the machine off. Things I’ve tried, and have  been unable to do:

  • Watch the Thanksgiving episode of This is Us
  • Respond to comments on WordPress
  • Play on-line Scrabble
  • Download photographs from my camera
  • Check the weather
  • Do a Google search
  • Connect with the scanner

That is on top of not being able to switch from a slow or non-working application to any other, not being able to work the keys, etc., etc.

So, my art offering, I’m sorry, is a poor, blurry photograph that happens to be already on the computer. This is actually quite a nice collagraph print, though hard to tell from the photo.


My post yesterday, about the JFK assassination, brought a few interesting responses that I have been unable to answer. My friend Bob said he had also not seen coverage of the anniversary of the tragedy. Lisa mentioned that the news also didn’t seem to be covering the hurricane currently threatening Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I’ve been frustrated at the lack of national news coverage of the peaceful protests going on at Standing Rock. I started thinking about what I have learned. Now, I don’t have television, but I do go to several news sites on the computer. Without going back to refresh my memory, these are the news items that stuck with me:

  • There was a meeting in Washington D.C. of alt-right conservatives (who, according to some reports, are neo-Nazis with a better name) who ended the meeting by raising their arms in the Nazi salute and shouting “Hail Trump.” Trump later, when asked, denounced their actions. That brought mixed responses, some sounding disgruntled that he had distanced himself, others saying that was to be expected, and others saying that he is still more in line with their beliefs than anyone else at that level.
  • Trump is looking at appointing the young, female governor of South Carolina to a Cabinet-level position.
  • Ellen DeGeneres received a high honor from the president (this was actually news I was pleased to learn).
  • A horrific school bus crash in Tennessee left several children dead.
  • Kanye West, oh, my god. I knew he was a singer, married to Kim Kardashian, with two children named North and Saint, and that he went into some kind of a rant to Taylor Swift at a music awards show several years ago. That, alone, is way more information than I need to have about Kanye West! And yet, in the last couple days, I’ve also learned that he is a rap singer, that he went into another rant, walked off a stage after arriving late for his performance, cancelled a tour, was later brought by ambulance to a hospital where he has been diagnosed with some kind of mental breakdown. Due, I think, to dehydration and stress…possibly due to the robbery of his wife in Paris last month (where she was attending fashion week…does it never stop???).

That’s it; that’s all I can remember of the news I’ve seen. Some things I’d like to know:

  • What is the weather now, off the coast of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and how are they braced for the storm?
  • What is going on with that Keystone Pipeline, and is there hope of stopping it? On a social media site, I’ve seen support for the peaceful protesters – who are trying, merely, to ensure the quality of their water and preserve what little reservation land they have, including ancestral burial grounds –  coming from all corners of the globe. I’ve seen photos of the protesters being arrested, attacked by dogs, placed in cages, shot with rubber bullets and fire hoses…will it ever stop? Is Obama working on this? Is there something that can be done (and then I ask, that cannot be undone by the next administration?)? Is this making the news?
  • And what, dear god, is going on, now, in Aleppo?

In my small world here on Beaver Island, I am thankful. Though it’s a cold and drizzly day, the weather is not life-threatening. I have my heater going and am cozy inside. Though I care deeply about injustice and tragedy, I am able to turn away from it, when it gets too much to bear. For some people in this world, that is their reality, and there is no turning away. My biggest problems, this morning, are the three pounds I’ve gained since the weather turned cold, and my sporadic internet service. I know how lucky I am to be able to say that.


Other Things



Yesterday, I wrote “Dog Comics, Part I.” Of course there needs to at least be a follow up,  “Part II.” I even have plans for “Part III.” If the dogs continue to make me laugh, there may be a whole series.

Not today, though. Today, I’m not in a comical state of mind.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It barely made the news. Well, I don’t have television, so maybe it did. It did not show up on my headline page when I went to Google News, Yahoo News and BBC News. I saw just a couple mentions of it on Facebook. Those of us that remember that day are older now, and fewer.

It’s a sign of our age, and our generation, to remember those solemn, scary days. The voices of newsmen, breaking with emotion. The images that played out over and over on television: processional cars suddenly speeding away;  Jacqueline’s blood-covered pink suit; little John Jr.’s noble salute as his father’s coffin passes by.

I was in grade school when Kennedy was shot. Before I graduated high school, television news had reported on the shooting deaths of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, and four unarmed students at Kent State University. Newspapers were daily showing graphic images of the war in VietNam. Friends, acquaintances and classmates were among the casualties. Death became a normal facet of life.

For the next generation, the big, memorable, horrible occurrence was the Challenger disaster. The generation after that saw the Twin Towers come down. And there are many young people out there who have no living memory of that horrific event, though they have grown up in a world changed by it.

I was eleven years old when John Kennedy was shot. I didn’t know how to put in in perspective. I had nothing to compare it with. I was too young to form the questions that I wonder about today. Was it as awful as it seemed to be, when I was eleven years old? How about the soldiers that fought in World War II, that liberated the Jews from death camps, that experienced the bombing obliteration of much of Europe, that saw the after effects of nuclear warfare…did they have perspective? And how did it compare?

All I knew, at age eleven, was that it changed my world.


Dog Comics, Part I



A dog is a joyous addition to a household. There is mutual love and devotion. There is loyalty, trust and companionship.

Having one dog is a pleasure.

Having two dogs is an on-going comedy show.

There is something about the way animals respond to each other, independent of how they relate to their human, that is hilarious. They jump into competition for affection, treats, the best spot on the sofa and the title of “good dog.”  They align with each other to fool me, or to try to finally catch that elusive squirrel. Perfectly dignified dogs become “Mutt and Jeff.”

My first pair was Maggie and Clover. Maggie was a 100 pound lab-malamute mix who loved to walk and loved to swim. Clover was a fifty pound pit-bull, boxer mix, the younger and friskier of the two.

Maggie was too arthritic to get up onto the furniture. She had comfortable dog beds at her level in bedroom and living room. Clover wanted to be in the bedroom, too, when I was there, but Maggie refused to let her. Her stern growl would send the smaller dog back down the stairs every time.

One day, Clover was sleeping in my bed before I got there. Maggie came up the stairs with me. She noticed the infraction, and grumbled her displeasure, but Clover kept very still and held her place at the foot of the bed. When morning came, and she realized she’d gotten away with it, and had spent the entire night in the bed. she grinned (no other dog could grin like Clover could!) and jumped on me, covering my face with kisses.

“Grrrrrr…..” was Maggie’s response.

Maggie would stroll down the Fox Lake Road, tail wagging like a flag, pausing at every interesting odor. Clover would run, full blast, flinging her head from side to side. I imagined her thoughts as the smells registered:

“Dog…squirrel…another squirrel…chipmunk…snake…another squirrel…deer…”

Meanwhile, Maggie would stand in one spot, her nose doing a thorough assessment, like a connoisseur of fine wine:

“Hmmm….dog…a beagle…neutered….five or six years old…eats a diet of dry Purina dog food…chewed on a beef bone recently…probably chasing a squirrel…”

When Maggie would start barking at something in the yard, Clover would blast out the door with her, looking for whatever threat was out there. I imagined, then, Maggie taking on a John Wayne tone, as she offered advice:

“Yeah, that’s good, keep barking…no, it was just a wren, no big deal…She doesn’t know that though…bark like you mean business…could be a coyote…could be a snake…hell, partner, it could be a bear, for all she knows…just keep walking…bark…bark…bark…out the back door and bark your way around to the side door…keep that concerned look on your face…scratch and she’ll let us in…here’s the point, now…wait for it…a biscuit! I tell ya, little buddy, she falls for it every time!”



When the Lights Go Out



When the electricity goes out, as it does – often – this time of year, my home becomes a different place: no lights, no heat, no telephone, no computer. It’s the wind that causes the outages. Our beech trees are diseased, and dying. Many are still standing, dead. Strong winds topple the trees, which sometimes then take out power lines. Often in remote locations, running along pathways cut through the woods, it can be difficult and dangerous to find the line and correct the problem…especially at night…and in the middle of a storm.

I hold good thoughts for the guys doing the work, out there in the wind and driving rain. Twice in recent weeks, not too far from my house, downed power lines have started fires in the woods where they fell. This time of year, when dry leaves cover the forest floor, fire is always a big concern.  I worry about my aunt, and others, who depend on electricity for their oxygen, and struggle in the darkness to make the necessary adjustments. And I attempt to deal with my own minor inconveniences.

First, there is darkness. As the calendar creeps toward the shortest day of the year, and Daylight Savings Time runs interference, the sun sets at about 5PM here. It’s important to have candles out and in holders, the matches where they can be found, and the flashlight in it’s predictable location by the kitchen door. My little flashlight even has a snap hook, so I can attach it to my belt loop. Stumbling around in the dark trying, by feel, to find a means of light is not fun. I’m sometimes caught unprepared by the first electrical outage of the season; after that, I am ready.

Second, there is quiet. Sounds that go unnoticed for their commonness – the steady hum of the fan that cools the computer, the whir and whoosh of the refrigerator as it runs through its cooling and defrosting cycle, the whine of one electric heater, the breathy grumble from the other – now draw notice for their silence. When the dogs are startled by a branch rubbing the window or the lights of a car driving past, I jump at the sound of their barks, a sharp discordance in my quiet home. Then, the wind, as it whips through the trees and rattles windows and doors, is what I listen to.

Third, there is stillness of mind. When the lights go out, so does my list. I cannot have cleaning time. Even if I could see, I can’t run water when the electricity is out. I cannot cook, so there is no sense in worrying about what to prepare. Candlelight doesn’t really provide enough illumination for reading or doing book work. I can’t watch a movie, play a computer game or make a telephone call. I am forced into meditation mode.

I put on warm pajamas, heavy socks, slippers and my fleecy robe. I sit on the couch wrapped in a comforter, with a dog on either side. They both enjoy being the center of attention as I stroke their fur and scratch their ears. When it is dinnertime, I feed the dogs, then prepare a bowl of cereal with milk for myself.

I pour a glass of wine. Desperate for productive activity, I work on getting caught up on my correspondence. I pull out a legal pad and my good pen. I move two fat candles to the dining room table. There, for as long as the lights are out, or until my arthritic fingers revolt, I write letters. With none of the usual rush and brevity that is caused by too many competing activities, I write long, newsy and – I hope – entertaining letters. The kind of letters I used to write before there was anything like “unlimited long distance.” Before the internet. Back when – not being especially good at face-to-face conversations – letter-writing was the best means of communicating I had.

Eventually, the electricity comes back on, and my world returns to its normal pattern. I reset the clocks, and restart the heaters. Looking over my stack of letters, I see that my handwriting suffers when I can’t see what I’m doing, and hope the recipients can read them. I blow out the candles, mostly. I leave the two on the dining room table, pour another glass of wine and just sit. It’s not necessary to return, just yet, to life as usual. I pause, then, to reflect on the peace and calm that happens…when the lights go out.