Category Archives: Life

What Now?



Some days, I know what I’m going to write about before I sit down. Sometimes I can’t type fast enough, for the discourse winding out in my mind. Too many topics and too many angles for discussing them are problems I have encountered.

Unbelievable, almost, on days like this. This is one of those days when, though I have committed to writing, I seem to have nothing to say. My confidence – in having something worthwhile to say, and in having the ability to say it – wanes.

I run through current events in my life, looking for a topic I can expound on. I have girlfriends visiting the island; the second of my drawing classes is this afternoon; the garden is still offering up beans, tomatoes and squash; the summer-like weather is holding on; the lawn needs to be mowed.

“My writing has devolved to the equivalent of a newsy Christmas letter,” I tell myself. I finish the lecture with a bit of sarcasm: “Oh sure, my live is soooo interesting, I can’t talk about anything else!”

I page through a few writing books, looking for prompts that might offer possibilities. The sense of inadequacy pervades: “Impossible…nope…nope…can’t do it…not today…no way.” “A better writer,” I tell myself, “could do something with that idea.” Not me. Not today.

I know this is a passing phase, the result of rushed writing sessions and not enough time to explore ideas. It happens. I am still a writer. I am not giving up. Or, at least, I’m only giving up today.




The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #38



List the things you’re curious about:

  • My friend, Linda, has been worried about rattlesnakes lately. She lives on a river, which gives her a beautiful view, but also a generous number of wild animals close by. Her fenced yard keeps out some, but not all, pests. The fence would not keep out snakes. There has been, according to CNN, an above average number of venomous snake encounters this year; there were two serious incidents of rattlesnake bite in Michigan recently. In addition, Linda has a new puppy. Curious and friendly,  a poisonous snake could be a particular danger to her. In conversation with others about her concerns, Linda posted this set of facts: “45,000 people in the US are bitten by snakes annually. 8,000 by poisonous snakes . 125,000 deaths annually throughout the world.” Wow! I’m not personally concerned about snake bite, mainly because we have no poisonous snakes here on Beaver Island. Still, those are impressive numbers. It made me curious how that compared to deaths caused by other varmints. Linda lives in an area that has signs warning of bears. Bears! Now that is something that I’d be nervous about! Turns out, annual deaths in the U.S. by bear attack are almost zero. Likewise, sharks, despite the haunting memory of Jaws. Sharks cause, on average, only one fatality every two years. Spiders, though, kill 6.6 people each year in this country. Mosquitoes and the diseases they carry are responsible for more than a hundred deaths each year in the United States. The deadliest animals, though, responsible for the most fatalities, are farm animals: horses, cows, pigs and goats. Next in line, statistically, are insects: hornets, wasps and bees. As I am nursing a bee sting that I got while putting clothes on the line last evening, that is particularly scary. The animal next in line for causing death is the dog. Finally, I came across a few reassuring facts about snake bite (not to disregard Linda’s legitimate concerns): “the chances of dying from a venomous snakebite in the United States is nearly zero, because we have available, high-quality medical care in the U.S. Fewer than one in 37,500 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the U.S. each year (7-8,000 bites per year), and only one in 50 million people will die from snakebite.” Whew!
  • I am unreasonably curious about who Sarah Jessica Parker’s husband is. I don’t know why I care, and I don’t understand why I can’t remember the answer, but “Who is Sarah Jessica Parker’s husband?” is one of my most common Google searches.
  • I started wondering, recently, about the high incidence of pirate’s with an eye patch. What, in that profession, was causing the loss of an eye? Or was it, perhaps, that one very famous pirate had only one eye, so our idea of all pirate’s appearance was based on his? My curiosity was piqued. I did some research. According to one theory, the purpose of the patch was not to cover a missing or damaged eye, but rather to allow the wearer to see in the dark. It takes about twenty-five minutes for our eyes to adjust when going from bright light to low light situations. Imagine that a battle starts on the upper deck of a ship, in the bright sunlight. The fight moves to below-decks, where there is no light. The pirate can see right away, though, because he has one eye that has already adjusted to the dark. The idea is that he would switch the patch over to the other eye when moving from light to dark, having an advantage over those with two “good” eyes.
  • I am curious, always, about what my dogs are thinking. They reveal a lot with their expressions, and from there I usually fill in the blanks.

The Last Days of Summer



Now, in September, the signs of fall are sneaking in. It’s inevitable. And it makes me appreciate every precious bit of summer that is left.

Nights are cooler, now, often dipping into the low 40s. It’s lovely for sleeping, but I put the little heater on in the morning and wear my fleecy robe while I have morning coffee. I sometimes put a jacket over my work clothes before I go out the door. And yet, by midday, the sun is bright and has warmed everything up. Another beautiful summer day!

The garden is almost at its end. The tomato plants have withered and died, but the tomatoes hanging from the vines continue to ripen. I eat them raw every day, My lunch yesterday was a salad of fresh tomatoes, avocado and chunks of mozzarella cheese in a light vinaigrette. In the afternoon, I stewed a kettle-full of the sweet little plum tomatoes, and put them in the freezer. The bush beans are done for the year, but the pole beans – planted later – are still producing. I’m still getting summer squash each week, more than enough for my needs. I have two little muskmelon on the vines that may – if frost holds off long enough – have a chance to ripen.

I’ve pulled up the pea vines, once they were finished. When I dug my little mound of potatoes, I added the withered plant to the compost heap. Otherwise, I leave things in place. Where a plant is taking up space, it helps to keep the weeds from coming up there. The rows of bush bean plants are still green and healthy; the zucchini vines are waist high, and beautiful. Whether they continue to produce or not, I’ll continue to appreciate their lush summer greens.

The cooler temperatures have made walking in the woods a pleasant activity again, and the dogs and I are taking full advantage. Even in the big woods behind my house, mosquitoes are now rare. We take that trail every couple days, to gather the blackberries that grow on either side. Cotter’s Trail, which begins across the Fox Lake Road and leads off  through the woods to the west, is another regular walk.

When we go to Fox Lake, and after the dogs have had a swim, we walk up the access drive and down the Fox Lake Road to the big rock and beyond. Fall mushrooms are out, and now and then there is an early glimpse of autumn color. Mostly, though, these still feel like summer days: the best, most appreciated summer days.



The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #37



List ten ways to get excited in the next ten minutes:

  • Slip into my shoes and go run around the yard a couple times. I do this now and then when I’ve been sitting at the desk too long. When my muscles are tight and the dogs are languishing from boredom, a run around the yard makes us all feel better.
  • Set my red kitchen timer and see how much tidying I can accomplish before the buzzer goes off.
  • Start making something in the kitchen. Something new, or a little complicated, or with a lot of steps to completion.
  • Start a big sorting project. From the time I empty a cupboard, closet, or the refrigerator, my heart is racing until I get it put back together. The fear is always that I’ll be stopped mid-way, and have a worse mess than what I started with.
  • Put in an exercise tape.
  • Call a friend or family member. That always brings excitement to my day.
  • Sing. I don’t sing well, but the dogs don’t mind, and I enjoy it.
  • Dance. I’m not a good dancer, uncoordinated, lacking rhythm and self-conscious…but in my own home, what the hell.
  • Listen to an inspirational Ted talk, or an art instruction video, or watch the news.
  • Start an art project.

On Into September



It rained, here on Beaver Island, long and steady through the night. It was perfect for sleeping, and I took full advantage. I’ve taken a few phone calls, but otherwise have had only the dogs in and out activity interrupting my coffee-drinking, news-watching lazy day.

The clothes I put on the line yesterday are still there. Last evening, they were damp, after hanging in the still, humid air all day, and I decided to just leave them, to finish drying. This morning they were dripping wet. My newly tightened clotheslines were drooping with their weight. The second load, waiting for clothespins and clothesline space, remains in a basket on the floor of the laundry room.


Every meal, this time of year, includes something fresh from the garden. Fresh cucumbers and sliced tomatoes show up daily. Beans get a place on the plate day after day. Last evening, golden rounds of summer squash, sauteed, accompanied hash browns made from a potato dug from a plant that came up as a “volunteer.”

I didn’t plant potatoes this year, in my small garden space. I compost my potato peels, though, along with other kitchen scraps, and use the resulting humus as fertilizer and top dressing in my garden. Now and then, a plant will spring up from composted seeds or – in this case – the eye of a potato. it always feels like a bonus. This year, the volunteer potato plant, which grew up not too inconveniently in the pathway between a muskmelon and a zucchini plant, yielded eight large, firm potatoes!

Yesterday, I set squash to simmer in the kettle, and tomatoes to stew in the slow-cooker while I went out to pick beans. Today, I’ll be filling the freezer containers. I pick blackberries every day, but have not yet gotten enough to consider putting them up for winter. I eat them fresh over cereal, in yogurt, or simply topped with milk. The rain might change that. If conditions are right, the canes will continue producing berries right up until frost.

It’s early, yet, to think about frost, but several nights recently the temperatures have dipped into the 40s. That’s a reminder that it is inevitable…and not that far away. I set a large, sickly jade plant outside this spring, to take advantage of the fresh air and sunshine. It has thrived! Before I look to bringing it back inside for the winter, I have to consider a larger pot…and which piece of furniture it will replace!


Other than an occasional bloom here and there, the flower beds are almost finished for the year. Except for the upright Sedum, which is just getting started. The Autumn Joy pushes up in the springtime and spends most of the summer looking an awful lot like broccoli. In September, it has reached its full height, developed flower heads, and started to show color. Soon it will be in its full glory. On, into September!



The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #36



List the scents, spaces, textures and sounds that bring you joy:

  • Ah, for scents there is lilac in spring and milkweed in summer, sheets from the clothesline, a ripe tomato, and the fresh smell of the air when on the water. There is the foul odor of whatever my dogs have last rolled in, that makes me smile only because they take such pride in it. “Oh, Rosa Parks, you smell disgusting,” I say. In response, she smiles, her head held high.
  • Spaces: in the woods, near the water. I like wide spaces like fields and beaches; I like close spaces like narrow lanes, city streets, my little garden, and my comfortable chair.
  • I like the textures of velvet, corduroy, linen and silk. I enjoy the textures found in nature, from patterns in the sand, to the lines on a leaf.
  • Birdsong is bringing me joy this morning. The sounds of laughter, baby chatter, and the voices  of people that I love. Music.

My garden


The wooded path I take to walk the dogs


Fox Lake


Hollyhock entertaining one busy bee


Home Again (A Photo Essay)



After being waved off on the ferry boat by these good friends…


Bob and Gary

…I spent a few days with my sister, Brenda, and her husband, Keith. I got in a visit with my brother, Ted, and sister, Robin. I did some shopping to round out my planned Chicago wardrobe. Keith and I both went to get our hair cut. I packed up my carry-on bag.

Wednesday morning, I boarded the train to Chicago, along with my daughter, Kate, her husband, Jeremy, and two of my grandchildren, Madeline and Tommy. It was a marvelous time, that deserves its own essay. My daughter is an excellent planner/organizer who managed to fit an amazing number of wonderful things into a four-day trip while allowing it to still be relaxing and fun.

Travel was always an adventure for me. We took trains, water-taxis and ubers. We enjoyed wonderful walks through many beautiful and interesting parts of the city. From the cutest sandwich shop, to the best Mexican food I’ve ever had, to the brightest southern-style breakfast, to a fabulous pre-theater Italian dinner, to (of course!) Chicago-style pizza, every single meal was memorable.  Likewise, every day was filled with wonders: a  blues concert on Navy Pier; Millennial Park; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History; and – on the evening of my birthday – the Broadway production of “Hamilton!” It was all made richer by the company I kept; their insights, love and humor surrounded me, and I couldn’t have chosen better travelling companions.

Then, on Saturday, it was back to Lapeer, where I once again enjoyed the hospitality of my sister and her husband. Though they left early Sunday morning on a vacation of their own, I took advantage of their laundry facilities, their lovely view, the company of their cat, and the steak Brenda had left in the refrigerator for me.

Monday morning, Kate and Jeremy picked me up early, for the long drive up north. It was good to have the day to talk, as I’d been missing them already. We made good time, chattering along, and finished up with lunch and lots of good-bye hugs.

Back on the island, I retrieved my car from the long-term parking lot, loaded my luggage into it, and went to pick up the dogs. They were almost as happy to see me as I was to see them! Home, then, to unload the car and settle back in.

A  glance toward the garden sent me scrambling, with bowls and baskets to fill. I picked what is probably the last of the peas, most over-ripe, two green peppers, five pounds of  Italian green beans, a few pole beans of the Blue Lake variety, three huge zucchini squash, four large yellow summer squash, and over one hundred tomatoes. I then walked the perimeter of the yard, to check the status of the wild blackberries. It was a good haul!


I took the dogs for an evening walk, enjoying the woods and the quiet and remembering all the things that I love about this place.IMG_3627

Back in my kitchen, I cleaned and lightly sugared a bowl of blackberries.


I cooked Italian beans with bacon for my dinner.


As a storm brewed outside, I cleaned and peeled tomatoes, and set them to simmer on the stove in the large enamel pan. I filled the big kettle with diced squash, some peas, green pepper and tomatoes with a little water and put it on the back burner to cook. Then, before I had time to tackle the mound of beans, the lights went out.


That signaled the end of my long home-coming day!