Monthly Archives: October 2022

Heading into November

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Yesterday, I got a good walk in. My little dog, Rosa Parks, opted to stay home. She was happily dozing on her cushion near the heater. She didn’t rouse herself when I put on my shoes. She ignored me when I grabbed a jacket. She opened one eye when I filled my pocket with kibble, but did not get up. So, the big dog and I headed out on our own.

Darla is an easy dog to walk with. Though she wags a greeting to every vehicle that comes along, she easily yields to them. She wanders ahead to explore the roadside, but she stays within sight, and she comes when she’s called. Unlike the little dog who expects to be coaxed along and rewarded with treats, Darla needs no encouragement.

It was a lovely day, sunny and mild. The fall color is still evident, but clearly nearing its end. Last week’s bright hues have dulled. Bronze has replaced gold, and many trees are bare. Fallen leaves cover the edges of the roads. It feels important to get outside to see the season’s glory. To take notice. To appreciate the warm days. For all of these reasons, it was a good day for a long walk.

Way back in January, when I was laying out my goals for the new year, I decided to be more disciplined about walking. One mile a day, on average, was my plan. Because there will always be days when a walk is impossible, I was determined to make up for those times with longer walks on other days. Then, all the things that got in the way last year, and the year before, continued to foil my good intentions.

Daylight Savings Time makes darkness come early. Weather is always a consideration, from winds that threaten to topple trees, to ice that could cause bone-breaking falls, to driving rain or extreme cold. Mosquitos and gnats can be discouraging in the warm months. Then there are days when I’m just too tired. And days when aches and pains – my own, or those of my little dog – affect my plans.

Almost every day, I get out for a walk with the dogs. Too often, though, I turned at the half-mile mark. That, combined with those days that I didn’t walk at all, served to bring my average down. The longer walks haven’t happened as regularly as they needed to. Now, at the end of October, I’m falling far short.

Last weekend, on another beautiful day when Rosa Parks again stayed at home, Darla walked with me all the way to Fox Lake. She enjoyed a swim before we headed back home. That was a four-mile walk, and I was encouraged. Yesterday, we walked a mile south on the Fox Lake Road, then turned east onto Hannigan Road, to check out the scenery there. We walked the length of that road, then turned, and retraced our path. The colors were spectacular, and the distance, round trip, was six-miles.

My goal of walking 365 miles this year is possible, but it will be close. I’m eighty miles short of that number, with 62 days left in the year. Today, my joints are aching, and Rosa Parks is limping. It doesn’t seem likely. But, I’m not giving up. Whether I reach the target or not, we all benefit from the exercise. And, on days as pleasant as yesterday was, there is plenty to appreciate along the way!

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October, Fox Lake Road

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Fall is a beautiful time here on Beaver Island, and this year is no exception. The changing leaves are “nearing their peak,” I hear, from the folks that monitor those things, but I think we still have a few weeks of breathtaking color ahead. More big winds or heavy rain could change that prediction, of course. The cycle-of-life, displayed so well by the bright autumn landscape, asserts itself in other ways throughout our lives.

This fall, the island has lost two much-loved residents. Marilyn was an inspiration to many. She had strongly-held and fearlessly-voiced opinions on many topics. She was active all through her life; until very recently, she could be seen daily riding her bicycle down the length of the King’s Highway, whenever the weather allowed. Though she lived well into her nineties, her vibrant personality was such that her death seemed to come much too soon.

Gerald lived his entire life on this island, except for the years he spent in the armed services. Red-haired, with a crooked grin and a twinkle in his eye, he was always a character. Family and friends were important to Gerald, and he enjoyed time with all of them. He was a big supporter of the school athletic teams; he served on several community boards. Gerald was active in the Beaver Island emergency services, for fire, health and law enforcement. And, he was a plumber. So, his presence was felt by every single life in this whole community, and his death – from cancer, too soon – touched all of us.

On the bright side, my next-door-neighbors are expecting their first baby. Any day now, as I understand it. Fall weather can make travel by boat or plane unpredictable, so they are on the mainland, near hospital and doctors, until the little one arrives. It seems like the whole island is waiting, with them, for this welcome addition to our island community!

In my own life, that stretches beyond my small world here, there are similar ups and downs. My mother-in-law died this last week. I first met Pat when I was just sixteen years old, and she was a huge influence in my life. She seemed much more youthful than other adults I knew. She had only two children, both nearly grown, and she worked outside of the home. She was feisty, foul-mouthed and lots of fun. I can picture her, still, with her red hair, in orange-and-brown-striped bell-bottom slacks, a cigarette in one hand while shaking a finger in someone’s face, giving them her “what-for.”

We didn’t always get along so well. We clashed over my relationship with her son; we argued over how I raised my daughters. Some of the things that I valued about Pat when I was a teen-ager were the same things that drove me crazy about her when I had teen-aged daughters. Still, I always loved her. As dementia took away her sharp mind, she seemed to have forgotten some of our disagreements, and some of her grudges, too. The last time I spoke to her, Pat said, “we always had good times together…” Yes, we sure did.

Also, this October, on the date of my Dad’s birthday, my niece, Sarah, is getting married. A wonderful family event, that I’ve been looking forward to. As I live hundreds of miles from most of my family, any excuse to get together is welcome. Weddings are special, because it’s a good opportunity to see everyone at once, all gathered for a joyous occasion.

This year, it turns out, travel is not possible. We no longer have a kennel on Beaver Island, and I have two dogs. My dogs aren’t good with strangers and, especially after over two years of Covid restrictions, everyone is a stranger to them. Even if I could find someone willing to come to the house to feed and water them, see that they got their medicines, and let them outside, it wouldn’t work. If someone could manage to get the dogs to go out the door, I’m afraid they wouldn’t come back in. I’ve been gathering information about kennels on the mainland, but so far have not gotten anything worked out.

So, I’m unable to make it to Pat’s funeral. And I won’t be able to attend Sarah’s wedding. I’ll be thinking about everyone, though, as I take my October walks, with my dogs, through the beautiful ever-changing display of colors on the Fox Lake Road.

Lazy Days of Fall

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I stay pretty busy all year ’round. Even now, at seventy years old and in semi-retirement, I have plenty to do. I work two part-time jobs in the summertime; when one of them comes, seasonally, to an end, I volunteer at a local non-profit. I am an artist, with several projects (along with a hundred more ideas waiting for when I have time to pursue them) going on at any given time.

I am solely in charge of the care of my house, yard and garden. That’s a simple sentence, and I didn’t realize the magnitude of it until I found myself on my own. When there is no one else to help make decisions, carry the workload, or accept part of the responsibility, it feels huge. Though I’ve been doing it now long enough to be used to it, sometimes it still seems like a lot.

I eat mostly alone, and at home. I prepare every single meal. And before that, there’s the growing, harvesting and preserving, the planning and shopping, and then the inevitable clean-up. This is just one small aspect of my life. I have two dogs, with all of the commitments that come with them. There are daily walks, medicine to dispense, and vet appointments to schedule, as well as all of the companionship that makes having pets so worthwhile.

I’ve never liked housework. I’d find it daunting if that were the extent of my home maintenance. In my house, though it was built more than thirty years ago, there are still things involving carpentry that have never been finished. Because of its age, there are other things that have deteriorated, and need to be fixed or replaced. Home repairs easily overwhelm me. Whether it’s hiring a contractor or tackling a project myself, this is not an area that I’m comfortable with.

I try to keep the grass mowed regularly in the summer. A mowed lawn gives the dogs a place to play, and is less attractive to ticks and mosquitos. Keeping the weeds out of the garden and flower beds could be a full-time job all by itself, if I had the stamina. I put in lots of rock borders around flower beds. When conditions are right, they look lovely. Too often, they signal the need for me crawling around on hands and knees to get rid of the vines and grasses that weave in around the stones.

Before long, snow and ice will determine my outdoor chores. I hire someone to plow the driveway, but I shovel paths through the snow from each of the doors. The amount of snowfall determines the size and frequency of that job. It’s out of my hands.

Right now, in these early days of fall, nothing seems very pressing. My little garden is finished for the year. The blackberry season is done; my grapevines did not produce fruit this year. I’ve decided to hold off on my last mowing until there are more leaves on the ground. I’m not yet ready to get busy in the studio. I have a few home projects pending, but am waiting for help to begin them.

Saturdays and Sundays, which were taken up by a summer job for the last four months, now seem like vacation days. Time has opened up, like a gift, and I’ve filled the time with only joyous things. I’ve been taking long walks, enjoying the fall colors, and taking lots of pictures. I’ve got a couple crochet projects underway. I’m reading. Making soup. Baking bread. I live a busy life; this lull won’t last forever. Right now, though, I am loving these lazy days of fall!

Lost…and Found

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Lost and found seems to be the underlying theme of my days lately. I blame my failing memory, a lack of care and too many distractions. Whatever the reasons, the facts are undeniable.

A month ago, I went on a house-wide search for the little device whose sole purpose is to retrieve photos from my camera’s SD card. I spent several hours over as many days looking, and thinking about where I might have put it, and searching some more. I know I wouldn’t have thrown it away, but I was running out of places to look. I finally gave up.

Near the first of September, close to the last page in my morning journal, I went to the bookcase to pull out another. Though the journal is a simple composition book, I am particular about the ones I use. I like wide-rules pages, sewn binding, and a marbled black and white cover. I usually order them in a multi-pack, so that I always have them on hand. I use the journal each morning for my gratitude practice, random thoughts and observations, dreams that I remember, and notes from whatever book I’m studying. Each journal lasts from several weeks to a few months. That, it turns out, is plenty of time for me to forget whether or not I have another composition book waiting.

When I couldn’t find one, I went on-line and ordered three more. That should have been plenty of time to get them here before I ran out of pages. It wasn’t. Though the order, when I tracked it, said it was delivered, it was not. I contacted the seller, who asked if I’d like a refund or a replacement. “Please re-send the product,” I replied, “as quickly as possible.” By that time, I was at the end of my journal. Two days later, a reply came from the sender saying they had issued me a refund. Ugh!

The grocery store here on Beaver Island used to carry composition books. Though pricier than the ones I usually order, I was willing to pay…but they had none. So, I went back to the computer and placed another order for three composition books. Due to arrive here in four days, delivery was delayed twice. It shouldn’t be so difficult!

Then, I lost a pile of cash. I’ve been looking at possibly buying an electric bicycle; my house needs a new roof; I was hoping to be able to travel downstate to attend my niece’s wedding. Money deposited in my checking account is quickly absorbed into regular necessary spending, so I’d been keeping some cash out, set aside for one of these “extras.” Before I took my day trip off the island, realizing that was too much cash to carry around, I took the money out of my purse, and put it “somewhere safe.”

Then, I forgot where I put it! I thought I knew where it was, but when it wasn’t there, I had no idea where to look. I’ve been searching for it for weeks! I’ve gone through every file in every file drawer. I’ve gone over everything on all of my shelves, including emptying every basket and shaking out each book, in case I might have tucked the money between the pages.

During the search, I found my SD card reader, tucked into a seldom-used briefcase that sits under my desk. I found my stash of extra, empty composition books, not far from where I had already searched for them. I found my good binoculars that have been tucked away for so long, I forgot I even had them. And, after a prayer to Saint Anthony, patron saint of lost items, I finally found my money! And took it right to the bank, before I could misplace it again! I’ve had enough of “lost and found!”