Monthly Archives: September 2017

Mornings Like This



Last night my sleep was disturbed by cramps in my toes, cool air coming in the windows and – as usual – the dogs needing to go outside.

I have an organic apple cider vinegar tonic that works wonders on leg cramps. I put one cap-full into about two ounces of water, then drink it down as if it were a shot of good whiskey. In just a few minutes, even the worst Charley horses have relaxed their hold. I did not get up to take it last night, though I was aware that the pain was interrupting my rest. I think the cramps are sometimes brought on by dehydration. I’m not much of a water drinker, but when my muscles start to seize up, it’s a good reminder to get a glass of water. Not last night.

We’ve had a string of hot days and nights, and every window in the house is open, to welcome any breeze. I’ve abandoned all blankets and comforters, and had one thin sheet for cover. Last night, when the breeze turned cool – to the point of goosebumps and shivers – it would have only taken a minute to close the window beside my bed.  Just a few steps would have allowed me to retrieve a fleecy afghan. I did neither.

Though too lazy to rouse myself enough to do a single thing to make myself more comfortable, when the dogs needed to go out, of course I got up to let them out. They do not share the same schedule. Sometimes I think they deliberately tag-team their outings, to get more treats. Rosa Parks went out at 12:45 and 3:50. Darla took her turns at 1:30 and 4:25. At just before six o’clock, they went out together to chase the turkeys out of the yard. In every case, I stumbled to the door to let them out and in, then shuffled right back to bed to resume my restless slumber.

I slept in, then, until I woke up naturally…no alarm clock. From my bed, while petting and talking to the dogs, I watched the sun move up over the treetops. I got up, finally, and made coffee. I took advantage of the bright sunshine to pluck a few errant hairs growing out of my chin. I took a walk through the garden, where ripening continues, and the sunflowers are just beginning to bloom. I had a rich, chocolate cookie with my first cup of coffee, while checking the news. With my second cup, I played – and won – a game of on-line Scrabble, then started this writing. I am now fully awake, with enough caffeine and sugar to keep me going. I have my planner in front of me and am ready for the day!

I love mornings like this!IMG_1448



Hot Days in September



The temperatures here over the last week – including on the first full day of autumn – have been unseasonable high. Mount Pleasant, Michigan was the hottest place in the whole United States the other day! Here on Beaver Island – almost unheard of any time of year – we’ve enjoyed a whole string of days with readings in the 90’s!

From  what I see and hear at the hardware store, some of us are enjoying it, anyway. I’ve sold fans, grills, beach toys and fishing gear as if it were mid-summer. I’ve heard stories of long days on the beach or out on the water, all the more special for being unexpected. I, of course, was at work hearing about it, not out having fun.

Still, I have found time to enjoy this bonus heat wave. I’ve driven to the Fox Lake in the afternoon to let the dogs cool off in the water, windows wide open to the fresh air all the way. I’ve wandered in the shade of woods and fields to get the last blackberries. I’ve made my way through the garden, stepping carefully, now, to avoid the wandering vines and splayed-out tomato plants. And I’ve stepped outside in the evening to see the stars and take advantage of the cooler air.

It is, these days, almost too warm for good sleep. I’ve heard it from others, too. For each person grinning about an unseasonable beach day, someone else is saying, “I can’t stand the heat!” And even I, who loves the warmth, have had moments where it has seemed just too hot. While working on a project yesterday (which is why I’m writing this a day late), I had to keep stopping to wipe the away sweat that was running into my eyes. I took breaks just to get a glass of water and sit in the shade!

What goes through my mind, though, is, “Of course it won’t last.” That helps me to appreciate the weather today. The other thing that comes to mind is the inevitable cold, icy discomfort of winter. In February, won’t these bonus summer days be a nice memory?

Summer’s Last Sigh



Though I’ve been enjoying having the windows open to the fresh, cool September breezes, I got up night before last to close every one. It was cold! “Frost,” I thought, and spent a good time before falling back asleep assessing the losses. I should have anticipated this, I thought, and at least covered the tomatoes. But I was wrong.

Yesterday morning was definitely chilly, but there was no sign of frost. Summer is still underway. The garden is still plugging away, with beans growing and tomatoes ripening. That huge pumpkin plant (with not a single pumpkin on it that I can see) is continuing to spread its vines all over the back fence. The grass is still growing, and still needing to be mowed (and I am – still – stuck with a mower that won’t start). The berry brambles – though showing their fall colors – are still producing fruit.

Though I had – as always – my long list of things I wanted to accomplish on my Monday, the cold air gave me reason to set it aside. How many more good days of summer will there be? And won’t I miss them when they’re gone! Better to take advantage, when I can. The dogs were happy for the change of plans.


With camera, gathering bowl, and a big lidded cup filled with coffee, we went by car to the drive that leads into my Grandpa’s wood lot. My cousin has mowed wide paths through the clearing that make it easy to get to the blackberries that grow wild there. It seems like the plants were aware, too, of the short time left in this growing season: the vines were the fullest I’ve seen, with ripe berries. I easily filled my bowl.

Next, on to Fox Lake, where the dogs rewarded me with wag-tail enthusiasm when they realized the day’s adventures were not yet done. There was still a chill breeze, but the sun was bright and the sky was clear. With no book or journal to take my attention, it was just me, the dogs, and the view. I sat right down in the sand. It was a perfect way to spend one of the last days of summer.




Late in the Day



It’s 6 P.M. on this Sunday…almost time to feed the dogs, think about my own supper, and settle in for the evening. Instead, I am brewing a half-pot of coffee, to see if it will result in enough energy to tackle some of the many tasks on my list.

I rarely make more than one pot of coffee per day and – though it seems like I drink a lot of it, as I am often refilling and re-heating it – almost never finish all of it. Though I drink coffee all day at work, I seldom drink it once I get home in the evening.  I’ll probably regret my exception today: the caffeine will likely kick in when I would like to go to sleep tonight, and I’ll be mad at myself for stupidly falling off my schedule again.

Right now, though, it seems like the best idea. I’ve been thinking of how much I’d like to lay down on the couch and get a little sleep…for the last several hours. Instead of indulging that urge, I put laundry through the paces, and stumbled through other chores. It’s too late now for a midday nap; it’s too early to go to bed. So…coffee it is.

My writing habit is usually – and best – handled in the morning. My mind seems clearer then, and my mood is brighter. I usually turn on the computer as soon as I get up. While the coffee is brewing, I drink a big glass of water, check the news and my mail. Then, over my first cup of coffee, if it’s a day to write, I write.

I’m trying, though, to get back into a regular walking habit. This morning, rather than turn on the computer, I took Darla for a walk down the Fox Lake Road. Then, showered and changed, I went to town for a busy day of work at the hardware store. After work, it was blackberry-picking time.

Until a frost ends the season, I will accept nature’s bounty without complaint, no matter how much it cuts into my day. Picking blackberries is a prickly job, but not a hard one. It’s almost meditative in the wandering repetitiveness of it. It’s good outdoor time for the dogs. Whether I’m picking along the mowed paths on my Grandpa’s wood lot, or just circling my back yard, it’s a task with a sweet reward. So, with two quarts of fresh berries cleaned and refrigerated, the long list of “to-do”s was next.

Laundry is, at least, uncomplicated. It’s just a matter of transferring things from one machine to another, then folding and putting away. Other tasks can be tucked into the in-between moments while waiting for loads to finish.

The rest of the list, though, takes thought, planning and decision-making. Before clearing the papers from the table, should  I take the time to pay the bills that are waiting there, to balance the checkbook, and to straighten the files? Do I want to empty and clean the inside of the refrigerator…and that one especially messy cupboard…or just give the room a surface clean and move on? Should I just head upstairs to the studio, and leave the cleaning for tomorrow? Through it all, the sofa is calling me…and my list of tasks is hardly diminished.

So, at six o’clock in the evening, I make coffee, and sit down to write. A few complaints combined with a not-too-upbeat rundown of my activities so far. That’s the best I can muster this late in the day. At least it’s one more thing I can mark as “done!”




Timeout for Art: Adjustments



I spent some time last week kind of giddily shredding and weaving painted papers together. I then followed up by mounting the woven papers on to painted supports. This week, the – less-fun-but-more-important – item on the agenda was to work at pulling it all together.

I want to preserve the colors of the woven papers as well as the painted backgrounds. I do not want it to appear that two totally disparate elements have been mushed together. I want there to be some chemistry there, between the background and foreground. Maybe that means down-playing or subverting the weaving, so that the background pops. Maybe it’s in subduing the background to let the woven papers take center stage. I think the answer lies in some combination that will allow both to show to their best advantage.

One idea was to add an additional layer of pattern over the entire surface, to make both other elements seem secondary to the whole. Another was to darken the edges of the woven papers, and the background around them. That’s the idea I tried, by rubbing paint selectively around the woven panels. So far, it’s all just an exploration or possible solutions. Nothing wondrous yet.

Here’s the Scoop




Lately, when out in public, whether at the grocery store, hardware, post office or bank, I’ve been – unasked – bursting out with a story. Perhaps encouraged by a glance that seems to go on a bit too long, or a quizzical look, or a raised eyebrow, I get the feeling that an explanation is needed…and I am quick to oblige.

My face, these days, bears what I have called “the mark of Zorro.” Actually, though, it’s more of a simple “zig” than a “zig-zag.” The scratch begins under my right eye and runs diagonally across the bridge of my nose to my left nostril. There, it shifts course and makes another diagonal swipe across my upper lip to the right corner of my mouth. It was bright red for a day or two, then relaxed into a brown scab which slowly wore away until, presently, I am left with a distinct pink line. It will probably heal without leaving a scar.

Some people say, “What happened to you?” and I am happy to explain. I didn’t fall down, drunk, or trip into a thorn bush. It wasn’t clumsiness or stupidity. I have nothing to be ashamed of, though I’m embarrassed by the big mark on my face. It seems so outrageously visible, I feel an explanation is necessary whether prompted by a question or not. So, I’ve been spontaneously jumping into an explanation. This is the story:

My back is out, and I sleep more comfortably downstairs, where I can press by body against the back of the sofa for support, and where I don’t have to navigate stairs in the middle of the night. So, I’ve been sleeping on the couch. When I sleep on the couch, Rosa Parks takes position on the back of the couch, where she can see out the window. Darla sleeps on her big cushion on the floor beside me.

Last weekend, in the middle of the night, something came into the yard. At the time, I thought wild turkeys, though I’ve since been told that turkeys don’t usually move around at night. Maybe it was a coyote…or a deer…or a stray cat. In any case, at about three in the morning, when I was sound asleep, something came into the yard. It startled Rosa Parks, who sounded the alarm with her shrill bark.

Instantly, Darla was on the job. In her eagerness to assist Rosa Parks in frightening away whatever was invading our territory, she forgot I was on the couch. I had barely been frightened out of sleep by one dog barking when the second – larger – dog jumped on top of me with such force, I thought she had broken my nose.

I staggered in to the bathroom to stanch the bleeding and assess the damage. So enthused were they at their thorough job of protecting me, neither dog realized anything had gone wrong. Neither of them would ever hurt me on purpose. As I held a cold compress to my poor bleeding face, I doled out treats and told them, “Thanks for taking care of things.” I’ve considered, though, that – in the future – when my back is out and I’m forced to sleep on the sofa, a football helmet might be a good accessory!IMG_1308IMG_1309

Report from the Fox Lake Road



We are not yet officially done with summer…but fall is clearly in the air. Even the warmest days offer a hint of autumn in the feel of the breeze or the smell of the air. Sweaters are a nice accessory to have on hand these days. By evening, they are a necessity. We have not yet had a frost, but temperatures have dipped to the forties some nights. Yesterday, I turned the heater on to chase away the morning chill.

Leaves are beginning to change color. The rhododendron beside my big door has a cluster of bright red leaves at its center. The “Autumn Joy” sedum in the side bed has taken on a rosy glow. The blackberry brambles, though still offering fruit by the double handfuls, are drying up. The leaves are showing yellows and reds; the thorny canes have become downright dangerous. The maple trees, with just a slight change in disposition, have reminded me of the glorious show they’ll soon be offering.

In the garden, I pick beans and tomatoes every day. Now and then, the nearly dried up pea vines serve up one or two new pods. In September, fresh garden peas are a special treat. Butternut squash and pumpkins are plentiful on the vines. If the weather holds long enough for them to ripen, I’ll be rich with golden squash!

Around the perimeter of the yard, low in the fields, High in the centers of the big juniper bushes, blackberries are ripe for the taking. Some days it’s just enough for a bowlful, with cream, as dessert. Other days, I fill my big colander. I still have blackberries in the freezer from last year’s harvest, measured and sweetened for pie-baking or sauce-making. That means what I harvest this year are for using right away.

I’ve made three pies, and given two away. I have twice made a dinner of blackberry pancakes. I eat a bowl of blackberries every single day after supper. Right now, I have three large dishes filled with berries in the refrigerator, and one on the counter, waiting to be cleaned. It’s been a very good year for blackberries!

I took the dogs down to the Fox Lake today, when I got out of work. Once again we had the place all to ourselves! That, more than anything, signals the end of the busy summer season. On the tenth day of September, that’s how things are here on the Fox Lake Road.


These Days



I took some time yesterday to update my bullet journal. Through the busy summer months, it had been kept up in just the most rudimentary fashion. Yesterday, I filled in the workdays and paydays, habits and activities to the monthly charts, based on the notes I’d jotted on the daily pages as I rushed through my days. I went through the long-term lists for home and garden, and highlighted the tasks that I’ve completed.


I made pretty good progress in the garden; in the house, not a bit. But, winter is coming, with more time to devote to painting and repair.

There is still plenty to do around here, no doubt. In addition to all the items on my list – many of which take money as well as the time that I seem to always be so short of – there are sorting, deep-cleaning and organizing tasks all through the house. There is – new to my household – the old footstool to reupholster. Soon, if the weather holds, I’ll have tomatoes to put up for the winter. The lawn needs to be mowed. On top of all that, I have big plans in the studio, with projects to finish and new skills to learn. And, the exercise program that I’ve neglected for so long. Every single new day, week and month, I think, “It’s time RIGHT NOW to re-commit to that!” There is plenty to keep me busy, but – these days – I do not feel overwhelmed.

I was recently able to pass on the Beaver Beacon, the bi-monthly news magazine that I have struggled with (as writer, editor, reporter-at-large, bookkeeper, distributor, bill-collector, and sometimes photographer) for the last two-and-a-half years, to someone more capable of the job. I have gone to press with my last issue, and expect it to arrive any day now. I feel like I’m learning to breathe again.  I’m remembering what it is like to wake up in the middle of the night without a sense of panic and a long list of things to do immediately. Now, there is no guilt and self-recrimination involved when I simply roll over and go back to sleep. These days, I feel like there is time, and that I will find the energy, for whatever life brings.


End-of-Summer Day



Yesterday started out cool in the morning, rallied for a short time in the early afternoon with a bit of sunshine and rising temperatures, then finished off with a combination of cold, damp and wind. An autumn day.

So clearly was yesterday an autumn day, I resigned myself to the idea that summer was over. “Maybe, at least, we’ll get a nice, long Indian Summer,” I thought. Then, today dawned bright and clear. Warm, even. Glorious! A true summer day! All the better – and better appreciated – because it was not expected.

When I got home from work, I first made the rounds of the yard and garden. From the garden I harvested a handful of green beans, a half-dozen peas (still!), and three almost-ripe tomatoes. Circling the perimeter of the yard, I filled a bowl with blackberries.

Inside, then, I fixed a sandwich for lunch, and debated what job to tackle next. House-keeping? Studio? Home repair? A Sunday-afternoon nap? When I opened a book, Rosa Parks gave out an audible sigh as she lowered her chin to her little paws. No fun for her.

That decided it.

“Rosa Parks, do you want to take a RIDE??

Enthusiastically, YES, was her answer. Darla got in on the excitement, too.

I loaded two dogs, one book, one camera and one bottle of beer into the car, and off we went, down the road through the woods to Fox Lake…which rarely disappoints. It was beautiful today, with bright sunshine on blue water, and just the tiniest nip in the air that served to remind me to savor this day.

We walked along the shoreline and then through marsh grass until we came to the Fox Lake bog, which is beautiful in its own way. Back through the trees, then, to the boat launch where I opened my book – and my beer – and relaxed while the dogs continued their wag-tail explorations. Only when they were ready, when they had left all the sights and smells to come and sit at my feet, did I suggest we move on.

But not for home yet. A stop at “the forty,” which was my Grandpa’s wood lot, was next. I had not packed buckets, but drew out an empty ice cream carton and a cottage cheese container from the bag of recyclables in the back of my car. While the dogs, freshly curious, checked out the paths, I filled both containers with blackberries.

The glories of the season, and two dogs wagging their tails: it was a perfect end-of-summer day!