Category Archives: Life

Maturity

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Maturity is one of those concepts whose meaning has changed through my life.

As a child, maturity was something we wanted to achieve. Being mature was equated with acting in a dignified, grown-up manner. In voices dripping with sarcasm, “Oh, that’s really mature,” was a common insult among my brothers and sisters. “You’re being childish,” was another. Other, similar chastisements came from parents, teachers and friends, as well as siblings.

“Grow up!”

“Act your age!”

“Behave yourself!”

“Quit being such a baby!”

So, I strived to be more mature. Through my childhood, and right on into adulthood, I worked to control my temper and my tears. Both have always been my most common responses to frustration or stress. Those, and sometimes a case of the giggles at the most inappropriate times. They still are. Clearly, none are very mature ways to deal with difficult situations. I still try to do better.

Something changed, though, while I was rehearsing conversations, practicing alternate reactions to possible scenarios, and reading up on The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense. I got old! Wrinkles and gray hair would give me away if I tried to deny it, which I don’t. But, you know how old age is referred to? Maturity!

So, maturity has finally found me, though not in any of the ways I went looking for it. I still lose my temper more often than I’d like. I continue to embarrass myself by my inability to control my tears when I’m frustrated by a confrontation. Sometimes, still, I laugh when it is definitely not the proper response. I doubt anyone, though, looking at my wizened countenance, is going to tell me to “grow up,” or “act my age.” Clearly, I have matured. I’m just not yet very mature!

How Do We Go On?

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The photo I snapped this morning, to record our first “sticking” snow of the season, came out almost like a black and white image. That’s fitting, as this place seems to have lost a lot of its color today.

Though there have been a few, always tragic, crashes involving private or charter planes, accidents, here, are rare. On Beaver Island, we have two air taxi services: Island Airways, and Fresh Air Aviation. They make dozens of trips a day between the mainland and our remote island, delivering passengers and packages and mail, and that are, for four months of every year, our only physical connection to the mainland. They serve our needs in a hundred ways, safely and thoughtfully. Both do a wonderful job. Island Airways has been around the longest, having served the island for more than seventy years.

Yesterday, coming in for a landing on a blustery day, one of the Island Airways planes crashed. The tragedy unfolded through the afternoon. In town, we first learned that all of our emergency vehicles and personnel, ambulance, EMT, fire trucks, and sheriff, were headed south. That told us that it was something big; faces reflected the tension as we waited for more news. Slowly, information came, as people came in. It happened at the airport. The Coast Guard sent helicopters. it was a plane crash.

“Wait,” we told ourselves and each other, “you know how facts get garbled.” We reached out hands and gave out hugs, and looked into faces filled with worry and concern and sadness. That bit of connection was all we had, as we waited.

By last night, there were news reports. Three dead at the scene; two airlifted out in critical condition; one of those died. At this time, one young girl is the only survivor. Some names were revealed. They are people we know. We know their smiles, their history, their projects, their families. They all feel like family. The island grieves together. It’s like a thick fog we are stumbling around in. What do we say? What do we do next? How do we continue?

Social media, which is often filled with current events, family pictures and petty grievances, is suddenly awash with images: a candle’s flame. One light in the darkness, posted and shared, sometimes with a few words, sometimes alone. It’s just a small way of reaching out, from whatever distance, to say “I feel it, too,” “I care,” “We are family.” Just a small light, a tiny spark, to help to lead us through. Until we figure out how to go on.

Longing

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The feeling of longing, I think, is something we grow out of as we get older.

It was certainly a big part of my childhood, all those desperate, sometimes contradictory yearnings:
  • can’t wait for new school clothes
  • can’t wait to start school
  • can’t wait for snow
  • can’t wait for Christmas
  • can’t wait for the new baby to be born
  • can’t wait for warm weather
  • can’t wait for summer vacation
  • can’t wait to go to Beaver Island
  • can’t wait to be whatever future age seemed most filled with promise at that time. I tended to long for the multiples of five, at least until I reached fifteen.

These things, that I knew were coming but seemed impossible to wait for, mingled with a few other longings that were not likely to happen. I wished that I were an only child, much loved and appreciated by my [much more stylish than in real life] parents, and that we lived in a house surrounded by a white picket fence. I longed to grow up to look like Annette Funicello. I prayed that “Little Joe” Cartwright was real, and would fall in love with me.

But, I grew older, and away from many of those childish desires. As a teen-ager, I still wished to look like Annette Funicello, or any number of other shapely, beautiful women. I couldn’t wait to grow up, and get on with real life. Though I still could hardly wait for Christmas, and summer vacation, most of my longings involved falling in love, getting married, and starting a family. Oh, and an ideal little home, filled with French Provincial furniture, and a yard surrounded by a white picket fence.

As a young adult, married with children, most of my longings were centered around home and family. I remember feeling desperately afraid that I wouldn’t measure up. That permeated every area of my life. I longed for change in my looks, personality and parenting ability. I longed for a better life personally and financially. I longed for a better house, though I had perhaps given up on the white picket fence. And there were times, though few and far between, when I felt perfectly satisfied, and that I had every single thing I ever wanted.

Later, while raising children on my own, I let go of the desperate ache for something more. Then, it was a blessing just to get by. It was so challenging just to manage to pay the bills, to put food on the table, to keep my daughters happy and healthy, that I didn’t wish for anything beyond that. I was satisfied. Through that experience, I learned to be happy with what I have.

Now, with age, longing is not really a part of my life. There’s no sense in wishing for the seasons to change. They will change in their own time, and the years pass quickly enough without me wishing them away. I look forward to holidays, or summer, or up-coming trips, but I’m happy in the moment, to wait. I am content with what I have. When I feel I’m lacking something important, I put it on a list, and work toward getting it. There is no feeling of desperation involved. There are people, gone now, that I miss, that I would love to see again, but no amount of wishing for it will bring that about.

I still have goals, and aspirations. There are things that I sometimes think might make my life richer…but even then, I’m skeptical. Mostly, I am happy to live my life devoid of longing. Because that is a life filled with contentment!

Learning

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I love to learn. I say that easily…but is it true?

More accurate, I guess, is that I like knowledge. I like knowing things. I like being smart. What I often lack, unfortunately, is the required humility to be a good learner. It’s often difficult to be open to instruction. I’m impatient. I want to jump ahead, to already have the information or ability. And, because I am pretty smart, am a good reader, have some problem solving skills and artistic ability, I tend to over-estimate what I’m capable of.

I have often walked into classrooms fully expecting simply to show off the knowledge or ability I already possessed. Then, at the first test, submitted paper, or art critique, I’ve been stunned to realize that I’m not nearly as exceptional as I led myself to believe. After that shock comes defensiveness and false justification. Who or what could I blame for the fact that I’m not as bright as I thought I was? Humility follows, and with that, finally, the ability to learn.

It’s not usually easy to get to that point. It feels like a surrender. A failure, somehow. Once there, though, it’s a good feeling, to be receptive to new information and to give in to the idea that there is more out there to learn. That, in fact, I don’t already know everything.

That’s not always the case, of course. There are classes I’ve taken that were clearly well beyond my realm of knowledge or experience, when I entered knowing that I was a novice, and was fully open to being enlightened. Spanish, for instance. Art History. Geology. And any course involving Mathematics. The experience, then, is like that huge leap from zero to one. That’s when learning is most rewarding: offering brand new ideas; opening windows and doors in the mind; and creating pathways for thought and comparison that hadn’t existed before. For that feeling of enlightenment, I am a lifelong learner.

Though my instruction comes mainly from books these days, I actively pursue new information and insights. One book leads to another and then another. I became interested in Women’s Studies in the 1970s; after reading Greer, Friedan, Daly and other modern authors, I was anxious to know more about the history of the movement. That led even farther back, to the persecution of witches, women’s lives in Medieval times, and then back to ancient Greece and Rome. A few years ago, I went down a path on Arctic and Antarctic exploration. They are good books to make our Michigan winters seem mild and quite bearable! Recently, a historical novel set during the French Revolution has spurred me to learn more about that period of time.

I am always striving to be a better – more enlightened, healthy, contented and organized – person. To that end, much of my reading is in the realm of self-help. And, though I could count a dozen books I’ve read, for instance, on forming good habits, and they often even reference each other, they rarely seem redundant. Part of that stems from my belief that I have a lot to learn. Part of it is because I forget. It seems my memory is not as good as it once was, and I don’t retain knowledge the way I used to. That’s okay, I guess, as long as I keep giving myself more information. Luckily, I love to learn!

Coming Home

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Though going away can be invigorating, rejuvenating, refreshing, and exactly what the spirit needs, eventually, one has to come back home. And, no matter how well a trip goes, I always look forward to coming home.

I miss the dogs when I’m away, no matter what trusted, conscientious and caring hands I have left them in. For my last trip away, since the island has lost its kennel, my grandson, Patrick, came up to take care of the dogs. Darla and Blackie Chan took to him right away; Rosa Parks was the last, stubborn hold-out. Even though he made every effort to make friends, even stopping in on his vacation last August to let her become familiar with him, Rosa Parks refused to be nice. She continued to respond to his presence with snarls and scowls and constant barking.

Patrick came up here two days before I had to leave, to get to know the routine, and let the dogs get used to him. When Rosa Parks snarled and barked, I closed her in the bathroom for “time out.” After five or ten minutes of that, she was willing to join the group, limiting her bad behavior to a ferocious scowl. On the day after I left, Patrick sent me a message telling me “Rosa Parks is finally warming up…” Great news! Other messages informed me of their behavior, both good and naughty, and let me know that Patrick was taking his responsibility seriously. Even though I knew they were being well cared for, I was glad to get home to them!

I loved having time with family and friends when I was downstate. Leaving them to come home is comparable to ripping off a Band Aid. It hurts! It’s hard to wake up and not have my sister Brenda right there to talk to! I have to get used to not having my family nearby, to not being able to run into old friends on the street. Though I love my solitary life on Beaver Island, coming home is always an adjustment.

I have to get used to letters and phone calls instead of in-person visits. On-line shopping replaces quick (though, granted, overwhelming) trips to Meijer’s or Walmart. And, though my time away was short, local prices give me a bit of “sticker-shock” when I first get home.

On top of all that, coming home is exhausting! Or, maybe it was the travel that wore me out, and it just catches up with me when I get home. Either way, I was drained! My first day back, I saw Patrick off on the plane, picked up my mail, and got a few groceries. Home, I greeted the dogs, and unloaded the car. I pulled the clothes from my suitcases, swept the floor, did a couple loads of laundry, and washed the mound of dirty dishes my grandson had left. A walk with the dogs, a simple dinner and an early bedtime finished the day.

The next day, I excused my laziness as a need to catch up. I did a lot of sitting around: a little writing, a lot of reading, and too much time staring at the computer screen. The day after that, I checked the garden, picked what was ready, and stewed the vegetables to process and freeze for soup stock. That was just about all I accomplished that day. The following day, though still spent in lazy restfulness, was also my day of reckoning.

I noted that I had let my good morning exercise habit, developed over many months, drop by the wayside between travel and home-coming. The rest of my well-established morning routine was hanging on by a thread. I had let rain and drizzly weather keep me from walking the dogs two days. My kettle of steamed vegetables was still in the refrigerator, waiting to be processed. My empty suitcases were still sitting at the foot of the stairs. Enough! Time to get back on track!

There have been times in my life when a trip to the mainland has ended with me going immediately back to my job. I’m so glad that wasn’t the case this time! This particular trip demanded almost a year of preparation, and several months of long days and intense labor on my part. Travel is always an adventure, tiring and exhilarating at the same time. And, maybe my present age is a contributing factor. Whatever. In any case, it appears that I need almost a week to recover upon coming home!

Walking in October

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There are a many good reasons to get out for a walk. Walking has benefits for both my physical and mental health. It strengthens my bones, makes me feel fit, and is a great stress reliever. My dogs love their daily trek down the Fox Lake Road. So much so that, when I wasn’t here to take them, little Blackie Chan set out on his own. It sent my dog-sitting grandson into a panic, and gave me quite a scare, too, but it all turned out okay. Now that I’m back home, I make sure to get them out for their fresh air and exercise.

In October, there are a few more reasons to step out. First, I just received a new book: Walk Your Way to Better: 99 Walks That Will Change Your Life by Joyce Shulman. I’ve only gotten through the prologue and first chapter, but so far find it to be both inspiring and motivating. Second, an on-line course I’m taking today talked about “Gratitude Walking” for good health and peace of mind. Third, the colors are beautiful, and changing daily. Fourth, the weather is outstanding, mild and warm here on Beaver Island. Fifth, winter is coming. No matter how mild this season, it will be followed by cold weather, and snow, and ice that will make walking outside less pleasant often, and sometimes nearly impossible. Better to take advantage when I can.

Finally, and this is new information to me, this is “Walktober!” I learned about it through my friend, Kathy, who writes her blog, Lake Superior Spirit, from the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She has, over the years, often been a source of information and enlightenment. This is no exception. She told me (well, me and any other person who is wise enough to read what Kathy has to say) about Robin, who whose blog is Breezes at Dawn, and who had the bright idea to share our October walking experiences. Kathy wrote about a lovely walk with her mother, and inspired me to share my walk as well. Because it’s so lovely out there, today I’m going to share it with a few photos.

Going Away

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I was away for a week. I left the island, and travelled down the state to the town where I grew up. I saw family and friends, and met new friends. I helped set up my artwork in a beautiful gallery space, and attended the opening reception. It was a wonderful time!

I stayed at my sister Brenda’s house, so we were able to get some good conversations in. We also managed a few games of Scrabble, including one night when my sister Cheryl joined us for additional competition. I got out to “the lake” one evening for a visit with my brother, Ted, and he came to the reception at the gallery, too. There, I was able to connect with my brother and sisters, and many nieces and nephews. One of my grandsons came to the opening, along with his lovely fiancee, and my beautiful little great-granddaughter, Delilah.

I met up with my friend, Mary, who I have known since I was six years old. She brought along her son, Jeremiah. I last met Jeremiah when he was about six years old. He’s now all grown-up, handsome, intelligent, and retired after twenty years in the service! Where have all the years gone?

On my way to meet Mary, I ran into my dear friend, Susan, who had just walked through the show. She was, as always, tremendously positive and encouraging. As we crossed the street, I met another Mary. She had just gone to the gallery because she recognized my name. It turns out, we are related! Her mother was Myrtle, who was a sister of my Grandpa Ted! We exchanged phone numbers and made plans to catch up.

Richard, who, like Mary, I first met in the first grade at Bishop Kelley School, came to the opening. So did Darlene and Sue, who I graduated high school with. And Doug, who comes to Beaver Island, and often delivers the hometown newspaper to me there. And my friends Bob and Sue, who I have a summer home on Beaver Island, and who I know through the hardware store.

Joyce, who was once married to the cousin of my ex-husband, was there. She writes a column for the Lapeer paper, and did an article about me, the week of the opening. We’d had several telephone conversations; it was nice to see her in person, to be able to thank her for her kindness. Lois and Kevin perhaps travelled the farthest to attend the opening reception. They are relatives as well as my friends, and they own the Beaver Island Studio and Gallery, that carries my work here. Though I am fortunate to have so many supportive friends and family members, I’m happy to report that there were also people there that I hadn’t met before!

The purpose and the highlight of this trip was the art show, but as any islander knows, any excursion demands that we get as much in as possible. So, going away also means shopping; I bought toothpaste, deodorant, and a new wristwatch, and remembered how much I despise huge department stores. I got a haircut. I had many good meals that Brenda prepared, and a few meals out in restaurants. I spent quality time with family and friends. When going away from home is necessary, I wish it could always go as wonderfully as this trip!

Honesty

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Honesty is one of those concepts that hides a dark side. Of course, honesty is a virtue. It’s a valued characteristic in friends and associates. We all like to be considered honest; we strive for honesty in most areas of our lives. We begin sentences with, “Honestly….” to add a bit more credibility to whatever comes after.

A lack of honesty is an often-named character flaw that carries a great deal of weight. If someone is not trustworthy, they are not a good candidate for friend, spouse or employee. When you hear, “I don’t think they can be trusted,” even if it’s just a feeling or an intuition not based on actual behavior, all kinds warning bells go off. We never want to get too close to a dishonest person.

Still, we all know someone who is “a little too honest.” Usually that refers to someone who will not pretend to like your new haircut, or your fashion choices. Sometimes, it refers to an unwillingness or inability to soften the edges of their viewpoints for the sake of amiable conversation. Sometimes it is simply a comment on their bluntness. That’s because, though we revere honesty, most of us partake in a good dose of dishonesty as well.

I know that I do. “My pleasure,” I’ll say in response to a thank you for any number of difficult and unpleasant tasks I perform at the hardware store. “No problem,” is my answer to most apologies, though sometimes the inconvenience was great. “Beautiful,” I have offered, to color choices or design solutions that would certainly not be my own.

These are small indiscretions, and I excuse myself for them. Cutting and threading pipe, for instance, is not a pleasure, in any sense, but I do enjoy some aspects. There is reward in doing my job, satisfaction in being able to accomplish a specific task, and true pleasure in being able to help a customer. Being kept waiting, or being pushed or bumped or stepped on is not nothing, but when it’s not purposeful, and followed by “so sorry,” it really does seem inconsequential. And, is it really dishonest to appreciate someone else’s choices, simply because they would not be my own? I don’t think so.

My greatest dishonesty comes in a different form. I am notorious for “selective sharing.” Though I write about myself and my life on a regular basis, and often post photos on social media, you shouldn’t get the feeling that you know me too well. I’m pretty good at showing the good parts, and hiding the things that I don’t like. I can zoom in on a photograph, to show off an area of garden, without a single weed in sight. I can post a picture of a prepared meal, without showing the stack of mail that is sharing the table with it. While allowing viewers to assume that I will sit at the table to eat, rather than at the desk, in front of the computer, watching gossipy videos.

My daughter is coming for a visit tomorrow, with her son, and a couple friends that I haven’t met before. Today, I’m cleaning house. I’m washing sheets, sweeping floors, and polishing sinks. I’m clearing small collections of dead bugs out of the light fixtures. I’m doing tasks that have been neglected for so long, they aren’t even a part of my weekly cleaning routine. Honestly, I don’t even have a weekly cleaning routine. My goal is to welcome them into a sparkling clean house, and to greet them with, “please excuse the mess…” That’s just how dishonest I am!

Timeout for Art: Not Making Art

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There’s been lots of activity in my world here on Beaver Island. Last week, my family was here; four sisters with three of their partners; four nieces with their families; and a few cousins just to round out the numbers. There were days at the beach for swimming and playing, trips to explore the island, and evenings at the beach for sunset. There were puzzles and games keeping us up until all hours of the night, and shared meals gathered around big tables. It was wonderful!

It didn’t, however, leave much time for other things. I neglected my home, garden and yard. My dogs became accustomed to – though not happy with – my erratic coming and goings. I struggled through shifts at work, with little sleep and no energy. I didn’t write. I never stepped foot in the studio.

Then, there’s the “catching up.” Mowing lawn and weeding garden and flower beds compete for my time. Showering my dogs with love and attention is also at the top of my list. Then there’s laundry. Housework. And, I admit, nap-time. Then back to my outside-of-the-home jobs. Which, especially at this time of year, can be exhausting, leaving little energy for anything else.

Though I’ve had no time or energy for making art, I’ve been busy at tasks related to studio work. There’s always something to do! Last week, I switched out the mats and frames of collages for a couple who have been good customers and loyal supporters of my work. I framed new work for an upcoming show, and put wire hangers on the backs of some others.

While working outside, I deadheaded my daylilies and bagged the spent blooms. Added to my collection of leaves and petals in the freezer, they’ll be there when I need them for papermaking. Yesterday, I delivered my work to the building where the Museum Week Art Show will take place, then filled out the paperwork and paid my fees. Last night, I cut to size, dampened and wrapped printmaking papers, so that they will be ready to print on this evening. That will be the first actual art work I’ve done in weeks! Often, though art-related activities take up much of my time, there is no art-making going on!

Happy Day!

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Today, I’m good.

I slept well, and woke up feeling rested, strong, and ready for the day.

I’ve lost about ten pounds so far this year. I notice it a little bit in my face, and I have a few pair of pants that now need a belt, but mostly I look about the same. Still, it feels like a good accomplishment.

The dogs seem content. Though they each have health issues, this has been a good week for them.

I’ve got several good books going. I’m reading That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs, Everything is Figure-outable by Marie Forleo and Indelible by Laurie Buchanan. For my morning study time, I’m reading The Power of Daily Practice by Eric Maisel, PhD. For my evening walks, I’m listening to Eternal by Lisa Scottoline.

I’ve just completed filling every page in my sketchbook with drawings, and I’m ready to start another.

My bush beans have finally poked through the ground in the garden. The peas are up, too. The pumpkin is looking quite impressive. After a traumatic start, I think my tomatoes are all going to make it. The pole beans have just started to climb their tepees.

I had a couple really productive days outside last week. I moved a rhododendron plant to make room for several daylilies that I had to thin and move from another bed, to make room for two Gold Drop Potentilla that I bought on sale. I think the bushes will stand up better to my big dog’s thrashing through the flower beds looking for snakes. The daylilies seem to have handled the mid-season transplant just fine. In fact, I swear they seem a little relieved to be out of the big dog’s path of destruction! My hollyhocks are up, taller than me, and loaded with buds, just outside the kitchen door.

I crawled around on hands and knees pulling weeds. Nothing new, except that I can actually see the progress I’ve made. I moved the last of my straw to the garden, to mulch the tomatoes and squash. I picked up a bunch of windfall and a dozen dog toys. I mowed the back yard and, oh, it looks nice!

I met a few friends and cousins after work for a drink on Friday. On Saturday, I ran into a couple other cousins, and had a good chat over coffee. Then I ran to the gallery for a wonderful conversation with another cousin, who shared the news that my work is selling well this year. And even better, reported that she’s getting good feedback about it, too.

Today, before work, I’m going to stop in at the farmhouse to say good-bye to my cousin, Keith, as I won’t be able to be in town to see him off. I’ll be working at the golf course, then, for the rest of the day. After today, though, I have three days off. Oh yeah, plus…the boat that will be coming in to the harbor and carrying Keith away…will be delivering my sisters to the island!!! Oh, Happy Day!!