Category Archives: Family

Well

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Lord knows, I can always find plenty to say when things are going badly. Sometimes I think the only reason I keep this blog going is so that I’ll have a place to voice my complaints! Many days, it seems like if I’m not grumbling about something, I have nothing to talk about. So, for everyone that endures the whining, I think I’ll get a few words down now when things are going well. And plenty of things are, in fact, going well!

Used to be, I’d fall into a terrible, self-pitying depression every year around my birthday. I’d take note of how little I’d accomplished in my life up to that point, how I wasn’t loved or appreciated, and how old I was becoming with nothing to show for it. No amount of well-wishes and birthday cheer could drive that blue mood away. And oh, if I had to work on my birthday, or if one of my children forgot to call, well…it was just that much worse. I’m happy to find that I seem to have outgrown that tired old habit. Now, my birthday comes and goes pretty calmly. This year, I managed to turn seventy without any melodrama.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having time to spend with people that I love. I took a day trip to the mainland to meet my best friend in Mackinac City. It was too short, but we had a good visit and a nice lunch in the time we had. I’ve had time to chat with several cousins when they were here on the island. Recently, my nephew and his wife came here on vacation. Then, my four sisters were here for a long weekend during the Emerald Isle Irish Feile’. I enjoyed the entertainment, some wonderful meals, good conversation and even puzzles and games, all in the company of some of my favorite people. The day after they left, four cousins arrived. It’s always a pleasure to see these women who I’ve known since they were small children.

Animals are active on Beaver Island this time of year. Wild turkeys walk in procession across the roads, and the migrating birds are starting to gather. The chipmunks and squirrels are busy, gathering acorns or just rushing around. I feel thankful every day that so far I’ve managed to get to work and back home without incident, though they seem to rush out in front of my car as if they have a death wish! On my daily walks, I often startle deer that are nibbling in the berry brambles.

My meager garden has been offering up loads of cherry tomatoes, and enough summer squash for my use. In addition, my cousin has shared the bounty from his garden. I’ve enjoyed lettuce, peppers and kale, and enough green beans to put several quarts in the freezer.

I repaired my clothes dryer. I was able to get my whole five pound bag of coffee ground. I cleaned the refrigerator, and the freezer above it. I started a new book. The dogs are both doing well. I won four dollars on a scratch-off ticket. I lost three pounds and, for five days in a row, at least, have not gained it back! There’s a hint of fall in the air, and that makes me appreciate every single warm day. Usually, I’m able to notice everything that’s going wrong. Right now, there seems to be an abundance of good things!

Coming Toward the End of Summer

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Here we are, one week in to September already. If the calendar didn’t tell me the end of summer is coming, the cold mornings certainly would. I put on my heavy, fleecy robe as soon as I get out of bed in the morning. It’s too early to light the pilot on the heater, but I think about it when I’m shivering in heavy socks and layers of clothes as I go about my morning activities.

The end of summer is always a mixed blessing. I love the warm, bright and sunny days, the bustle in town and the swarms of visitors enjoying our beaches. By the time September arrives, though, I’m looking forward to the quieter days of autumn. This year, these end of summer days bring special joy.

Right now, my nephew, who hasn’t been on Beaver Island in twenty years, is here with his young wife. They are both interested and enthusiastic visitors. Yesterday, we did a little tour of some of the businesses, beaches and historic sites. This evening, I’m joining them at the family farmhouse for dinner. We’re hoping to be able to entice my cousin Bob to join us for a couple games of Euchre.

On the same day that they are scheduled to leave on the boat, my four sisters will be arriving. They will be here for a long weekend. That is the weekend of Beaver Island’s Irish Feile, when we celebrate the heritage of “America’s Emerald Isle.” There will be lots of music and other activities that we are planning to take advantage of. Mainly, I’m really looking forward to spending time with my sisters!

When their visit ends, a couple cousins will be here. It’s always a pleasure to catch up with them, too. Late summer is an easier time for me to find time to enjoy company, as work is less demanding after Labor Day. Though the mornings are cool, the days are still pleasantly warm this time of year.

Though I don’t have much of a garden this year, I harvested enough tomatoes to cook up a kettleful to put in the freezer. I’ve had summer squash as a part of my dinner several times a week for the last month. Today, I’m going to pick beans at the farmhouse, and I brought cucumbers and kale home yesterday from that garden. My grapes are ripening, and so are the wild blackberries. I have an assortment of wild fall mushrooms brightening a corner of my front yard. As I don’t know the edible from the poisonous, I only enjoy the way they look.

The Northern Lights have been visible lately in our night sky, and the Milky Way can be very impressive this time of year, too. Next weekend, the full harvest moon will brighten the sky. Though I hate to have summer end, this end-of-summer time brings me plenty of joy.

Keeping Track

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I’m pretty good at keeping track of things. Obsessive might be a more accurate term. At a glance, I can tell you how many books I’ve read so far this year (40), and how many miles I’ve walked (172). I have daily records of my weight, work I do for myself and for others, and phone calls. It might take a few minutes to find the information, but I have records of Christmas gifts going back more than forty years. Gifts, recipients, and cost. Now, I feel like there’s something else I should be paying attention to.

Lately, it seems like my mind is slipping. In the middle of a conversation, I can’t think of the right word; I forget the reason I walked into a room; I get the names of my dogs mixed up. Most of it is nothing to worry about. I’m nearly seventy years old; I’m busy; I have a lot on my mind. This stuff happens to everyone, even people much younger than me. A couple recent incidents make me wonder, though, if it’s not time, at least, to start keeping track. Here is one of them:

A few weeks ago, a couple came in to the Community Center to see me. They were here on the island for the first time, or the first time in many years. They introduced themselves. I cannot now remember either of their names. He was the grandson of my Aunt Lizzie, who was an older sister of my Grandpa George. He was here with his wife, and they were on the island looking into his genealogy. Aunt Lizzie had, I think, two or three sons, and at least one daughter. I knew two of the sons, Walter and Hubert. They were maybe close to my Dad’s age. The man was the son of one of them, though I can’t remember which one.

Anyway, in between me preparing food and otherwise helping other customers (because I was at work, after all), we had a nice chat about family history. Though none of us had much information, it can be enlightening to compare notes, and it was a topic we were all interested in. Our mutual great-grandfather, whom I had always known as Henry (Heinrich, when he first arrived in this country from Germany), he knew as Caspar. I’d never heard that before!

Anxious for the opportunity to continue the discussion, I invited them to meet me at the family farm when I got out of work. I told them there are pictures hanging on the walls of Henry and his wife Elizabeth, as well as photos that included Aunt Lizzie as a small child. We’d have a chance, then, to exchange research and contact information, when I was not being pulled away by my job. They liked that idea, and assured me that they had transportation and directions. “I’ll see you just after seven,” I told them as they walked out.

Then, I forgot all about it. I finished work and drove home. I walked the dogs, fixed dinner, did my chores and went to bed without a single thought about it. The realization didn’t come to me at three AM, as sometimes happens with things like that. I didn’t think of it the next day, or the day after that, either. In fact, a good two weeks had passed when my cousin Caroline, whose grandfather John was an older brother of my Grandpa George, invited me to meet her for a drink. As I drove down the King’s Highway, past the family farm, headed for the pub, it all came back to me. Oh, no!

That poor couple! I imagine them waiting there in the driveway, expecting me to show up at any time…and I never came. I have no way of contacting them, to tell them I’m sorry. I can’t even remember their names. I would never intentionally do something like this. I was horrified! But, also, a little nervous. This is bigger than just daily run-of-the-mill forgetting! Maybe I’d better start writing down, for the record, these major slips. Though if Aunt Lizzie’s grandson and his wife had a say, they might suggest I apply my energy to keeping track of my appointments, rather than documenting the lapses!

Summer, Still…

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Three weeks ago, near the first day of summer, I wrote about my childhood memories of this season. I could have chosen to write about summer days when my daughters were young: long walks to the park, outings to local swimming places, and long hours spent on the white, sandy beaches of Beaver Island. I could have written about summers when my grandchildren visited here: mornings at Iron Ore Bay, days full of adventure, and evening drives to see the deer. In my memory, this warm season meanders slowly along, allowing me to savor every sensory summer offering.

But, here I am, in real-life summer. The days speed by. How can we be halfway through July already?! And all I feel, most days, is exhaustion. It’s not only that it’s busy, though it is. There are hoards of people in the shops and on the streets. The harbor is filled with boats, and the beach downtown is full of people, every time I pass by. There is also the tiredness that comes from the long list of “to-do”s that are not getting done.

Always, there are things to do, and I’m behind in almost everything. My income taxes have still not been filed; there are galleries to contact regarding future shows; I have to follow up on some paperwork for the state. My flower beds are weedy, and the lawn is ready to be mowed.

I gave up on the garden when July got here. If I did manage to find the time to clear the weeds, turn the soil and plant, there would still not be time left in this short season to see results. So, my vegetable garden, this year, consists of three tomato plants, a few kohlrabi, four hills of summer squash, and one row of beans.

I’ve closed the door of my studio. Expecting company, and needing to clear space upstairs for them to sleep, I used the studio – which was already over-full – to store two totes, three big baskets and a large piece of exercise equipment. Those things can now be moved back out, but it doesn’t solve the problem: there is too much stuff in that small space, and I don’t have time to do anything about it. Even if I did, I don’t have time, this summer, to work in the studio.

Last week, My daughter Kate came for a visit. I expected her, plus her husband and two of her sons, but at the last minute, work conflicts got in the way of any of the men making the trip. What a treat! I love my son-in-law, and seeing my grandsons is always wonderful, too, but I almost never get to enjoy Kate’s company alone. I loved it! Having her here gave me a reason to stretch beyond my little world, as well as a perfect companion.

We visited all the gift shops. We walked the dogs together. We took a drive around the island, and I got my feet in the sand, at the beach at Iron Ore Bay, for the first time this year. We went out to lunch, two days in a row! We had simple suppers at home, and spent the evenings playing games. Having come from a big, competitive, game-playing family, that’s one of the things I miss most, living alone. Kate and I got in enough Boggle and cribbage to satisfy me for a while!

Kate’s visit was short, but enjoyable. It reminded me what summer can be, if I allow myself to relax and take part in it. I intend to do just that…before this summer, too, is just a memory.

Summer!

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Just As The Calendar Began To Say Summer

by Mary Oliver

I went out of the schoolhouse fast

and through the gardens and to the woods,

and spent all summer forgetting what I’d been taught—

two times two, and diligence, and so forth,

how to be modest and useful, and how to succed and so forth,

machines and oil and plastic and money and so forth.

By fall I had healed somewhat, but was summoned back

to the chalky rooms and the desks, to sit and remember

the way the river kept rolling its pebbles,

the way the wild wrens sang though they hadn’t a penny in the bank,

the way the flowers were dressed in nothing but light.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

I love all of Mary Oliver’s poetry, but this particular one spoke to me today. As we dive in to another busy summer here on Beaver Island, and I quickly get caught up in the rush, it is the summers of my childhood that appeal to me. In a perfect world, my days would be designed to mimic the hot, long and lazy out-of-school days that I remember.

Of course, I know that my memory is both faulty and selective. That’s what nostalgia is all about. I can set aside the garden chores that I hated, and the tedious, scorching days trying to entertain myself outside. I’ll choose my remembrances instead from the wonders of a childhood summer.

There was the swing set, and the big sand-pile next to it, always freshened with a new truckload of sand in the spring. And the hours spent swinging, or just laying on the warm metal slide, to bake in the sun. There were willow trees that offered cool shade: one in the back yard, one in the front yard, and one behind the house next door.

There was the orchard, just beyond my grandparent’s garage. Still within our allowable range of travel, but out of my mother’s sight, it allowed for daring and dangerous escapades that we couldn’t otherwise get away with. We ate green apples and pears, practically as soon as they appeared on the branches, in amounts that should have made us desperately ill. I don’t think we ever got so much as a stomach-ache. I still prefer un-ripe fruit, though not quite as green as when I was a child.

We took a million chances climbing the trees there. We always tried to navigate the high branches – by swinging on them, or crawling to the very ends of them – to access the flat roof of the garage. That was the challenge, and the ultimate goal. I don’t know if we ever succeeded.

There was a grape arbor, and a snowball bush whose growth provided a cool, sheltered space under its branches. There was often a playhouse in the yard. In the field beyond, there were thickets that could be made into forts or make-believe homes, depending on the storyline of whatever game we were playing.

Water could be found in buckets and kiddie pools, squirt guns and squirt bottles. Often, we hooked the sprinkler up to the hose, and kept it going until the grass was oozing mud. Sometimes, we took the long walk down to the Hilltop beach, herding younger brothers and sisters, lugging towels and snacks, and one pack of matches for the dreaded encounters with “bloodsuckers.”

The garden was beside our yard, and matched it in size. Some of its care fell to the children (as a child, I would have sworn all of it fell to us), and part of almost every day was given over to weeding and watering. Still, there is magic in watching things grow, and my childhood was filled with that enchantment. I could pick a tomato, and eat it warm from the sun. I could fill a large bowl with fresh peas, and take them into the shade to enjoy them. Strawberries gave way to raspberries as the summer marched on.

These are the bright memories that hold the essence of what I believe summer should be. I know it’s possible…I lived it!

Thursday Thoughts

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This blog is going to be a bunch of jumbled thoughts. I don’t have time to be fussy about it. Usually, I jot down a few ideas, and put them in a kind of sensible order before I begin writing. Then I edit as I go. I check spelling if I have any doubt, though I am a good speller; I go to the Thesaurus if I have the urge to re-use a word too often; sometimes I rearrange sentences or even whole paragraphs. Not today.

It’s already late in the day. I stripped the bed this morning, washed the sheets and comforter, and have yet to remake the bed. My supper is in the oven. It has been a busy, stressful day, and I’m ready to be done. I’ve been feeling guilty, though, about neglecting this blog. There are few things in my life that I have stuck with for as long as this, and I don’t want to let it go. So, here I am, rushing to get something down, while my chicken finishes cooking.

This is my first day off in a week! I started my summer job at the golf course, which takes up my weekends, now, until the end of September. At the Community Center, a couple of my co-workers were out sick, so I filled in. Some of those were short shifts, and nothing was too difficult; still, a day when I have to go to work is a day when I don’t get much else done. It all piles up and waits for me.

Yesterday, after working a couple hours in the morning, I went to the bank, the post office and the grocery store. I took the dogs down to Fox Lake for a swim, which was a nice break for all of us. Then, I hunkered down to put together a packet for a gallery where I’d like to show my work.

I had a good start on it a month ago. Knowing the deadline was in June, and knowing my propensity for procrastination, I was determined to be ready. Then, my family was here for a visit. Then, my little dog got sick, and then died. And my job at the golf course started. And a couple co-workers got sick. And suddenly, the deadline – June 10th – was right on top of me.

So, yesterday I rewrote my Artist Statement and cover letter. I opened a Paypal account, necessary for the entry fee, and I started revising my resume. Because I tend to go right down a rabbit hole when confronted with things like that, I spent far too much time reading about and looking at samples of resumes and CVs and went to bed last night with the deadline still looming.

A couple recent rains have sent my lawn into a growing frenzy. It really needs to be mowed! I have to get the garden worked up and planted, if I’m going to get anything out of it. I bargained with myself: take today to finish everything that has to be done in order to submit the application to the gallery, then tomorrow, take the whole day outside.

It worked! I submitted the packet just before 4PM. I did a little victory dance, then took the dogs for a long walk. I made a big salad, and put a couple drumsticks in the oven to bake. It should be done any minute now. Tomorrow, I’ll be outside. Maybe, I’ll get to some semblance of “on top of things” by the weekend!

We’re All Still Sad At My House

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Though my remaining two dogs did not, at first, seem to know or care that Blackie Chan had died, the realization that the little dog is not coming back is sinking in. Darla and Rosa Parks are sticking very close to me in the house and yard. They look dazedly around when they finish their dinner, wondering why Blackie Chan is not barking, reminding me to distribute the after-dinner treats. “What do we do now,” they seem to be asking, “are we going to even get treats?” On our walks, Darla seems to forget that Blackie Chan isn’t with us; she circles back to try to locate him, as if he just got distracted and fell behind.

I’m kind of going through the same thing. When I need to roll over in the middle of the night, I carefully lift up on toes and one elbow while I rotate from one side to the other, so that I don’t disturb either little dog. Then I remember that there is only one dog in my bed these days. Funny, I swear I could feel the weight of the little black dog curled up behind my knees. Darla and Rosa Parks watch expectantly when I come home from work, to see if I have their little companion with me. And I walk into the house expecting to see him there to greet me, along with the other two. Oh. Yeah.

This is a bargain we strike when we open our lives to dogs. Their life-expectancy is simply not comparable to ours. Even at my age, I would not expect my dogs to out-live me. Blackie Chan was already eight years old when he came to live here. He was nearly blind, and had severe arthritis in his spine. He had congestive heart failure. I knew that this sadness was inevitable. Still, it came as a surprise. Neither the veterinarian or I expected that he would die that day. When the vet asked me to come back in two hours to pick him up, I fully expected a much improved dog to be coming back home with me. I wish I’d stayed with him, because he died there with strangers. And we are all still sad about it.

With that being said, I know there are bigger things to grieve. The death of a small dog does not compare. I’ve lost people; I know. There is sickness and loss and death right here on this small island, where everybody knows everybody, and most feel like family. A tornado recently touched down in a northern Michigan town not far from here, with some loss of life and extensive damage. The more I expand my view, the worse the news gets. Two more mass shootings in this country in the last three weeks. Ukraine. Global warming. A person could die of sadness and misery!

I don’t want to ignore it; I have to be aware. Still, it’s painful; I can only take so much. After a while, I just have to turn away from the news, put blinders on, and close out the big world with all of its tragedy. Make a cup of tea, light a candle, draw a bath, think of nothing but my own issues. Darla and Rosa Parks don’t like to be too far away from me these days; they crowd into the bathroom with me. That’s okay. We’re all still sad here.

All the Things…

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My friend, Paul, came into the Community Center last week. His greeting, on seeing me, was something like, “Oh, there’s the lady that writes when she feels like it…” That was his way of letting me know that he noticed when I didn’t post a blog last week. From Paul, I’ll accept the scolding. He may be my most loyal reader! He frequently offers an opinion or a comment about something I’ve written. He has often told me how much he enjoys my essays, and he misses them when I don’t write.

Still, I gave him a rundown of what had been occupying my time, then told him my next post would be about all the things that I’m doing when I am not writing. “Good idea,” he said. Spring is a busy time of year out here on the Fox Lake Road. There is plenty to do, and I’ve been working hard.

I finally got the box spring moved out of the spare room upstairs. After months of worry and procrastination, when everything else I plan to do in that room (paint the floor, move a small stand and a large bookcase to the other side of the room so that the two dressers can inhabit the same wall, put down a rug, set up my Pilates chair) hinged on getting the box spring out. Finally, I tackled the job, wrestled it through the door and around the corner on the small landing, and down the stairs. It is now resting comfortably in the tall grass of my back yard, until I can figure out where to go with it next.

After tripping over the stuff for a week, I – at long last – got all of the papermaking supplies cleaned, sorted, and put away. I enjoy teaching papermaking, but it involves a ton of prep-work, and even more clean-up when it’s done.

Last Sunday was a warm and beautiful day, so I abandoned my long list of things to get done in the house, and headed outside. I picked up windfall from under the old maple trees. I pruned the vines of climbing rose that had nearly taken over my front door. I cut back the wisteria, then started on the grape vines. They had nearly buried a forsythia bush, and it needed to be pruned, too, when I uncovered it, I cleared some weeds out of the daylily bed, raked around the rhododendron, and pulled some blackberry brambles out of the poppy bed.

My friend Judi stopped by, and I sent her off with a clump of rhubarb and a few Oriental poppy plants. I spent seven hours working in the yard that day. I hauled away twelve wheel-barrow loads of debris. Then I took the dogs for a walk. And then ibuprofen, a hot shower, and a small dinner before I collapsed into bed.

Tuesday was my only other day off last week, and I spent it outside, too. I finished pulling up the blackberry brambles, and worked on weeding and removing leaves from the flower beds. Before and after work, I’ve been trying to put the house in order – or at least in a state of less disorder – and other tasks that are specific to this time of year. I stored winter sweaters, and pulled a few warm-weather clothes clothes out. I turned off the furnace, and opened windows to the screens. On one nice day, I tossed all the dog beds, rugs and cushions outside where I swept and pounded and shook them clean, and left them out in the fresh air while I gave the floors a good cleaning.

Today, I walked the dogs early. Then I baked a cake. I went to town to meet the boat. One cousin, two sisters, a nephew and his daughter, my grand-niece, arrived on the ferry. Happy day! They’ll be here only until Friday, so I plan to spend as much time with them as I possibly can. So, if I don’t post another blog in the coming days, it’s because I’m busy enjoying time with my family!

First of May, Fox Lake Road

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The first day of a new month always seems like a good time to assess how things are going in my life, out here on the Fox Lake Road. Just in time for May, the last of the snow has melted. It is not yet warm, though the sunshine makes a huge difference. On my walk today, I was wishing I’d worn my winter parka, rather than the light blazer I had on. Gloves would have been nice, too.

In spite of the cold, pale blue flowers – Siberian squill, I think – are showing up in waves across the front yard. Daffodils are ready to burst into bloom. Daylilies, tulips and iris have pushed their pointed leaves out of the ground. The tips of branches on vines, trees, and shrubs are swollen, ready to soon unfurl leaves and blossoms.

It occurs to me that, since this is the first of May, we are now already one third of the way through this year. Usually, that thought would inspire dread, for all the good intentions and sincere plans that I made, and made no progress toward accomplishing, that would now have to be tackled in the balance of the ever-shrinking months remaining. At the start of this year, however, I was pretty easy on myself. My list of resolutions is both shorter and less exacting than usual. Thanks to that, I’m not doing half bad!

I did write “walk every day,” “exercise every day,” and “blog at least twice a week.” That’s always a mistake; one miss and I’ve failed for the year! Instead of chastising myself for not meeting my expectations, I’ve simply made a note to remind myself, next year, to not quantify my plans. “Walk,” “exercise,” and “blog” would be sufficient, and would make success much more plausible!

Other items on my list of New Year’s aspirations, proof of my melancholy mood and intent to go easy on myself, include “laugh,” “have adventures,” “be kind,” and “live in the present.” One major actionable plan was “get roof repaired,” which I have done. I also wrote, “continue intermittent fasting.” I have continued it, though I’ve hit a slump in the weight loss department. All in all, one-third of the way into this year, not bad.

The last month was a good one. I worked twenty-two days in April. I read six books. I published a blog twenty-six days in a row. I walked twenty-three miles in April, though the month was cold, and marked by high winds often combined with snow, sleet or rain. When the veterinarian came to the island, I got my dogs in for vaccinations, routine care and, for Rosa Parks, the removal of a large fatty tumor. I set up my new mini trampoline the first of the month, and have worked out on it almost every day since. It hasn’t helped with weight loss (either!!), but I notice improvements in stamina and balance.

So, looking ahead to this month, my list is long. Before the black flies and mosquitoes hatch, I have raking and clean-up to do in the yard. The vines need pruning, blackberry brambles have to be trimmed back from the fringes of the yard, and there is a dead juniper that I intend to dig up and haul away. There is work to prepare the garden for planting. I have to inventory my seeds, and order what I’ll need. Oh, and the clothesline pole needs to have it’s upright position firmed up before I dare use it.

Inside, the list hasn’t changed much from the last time I looked, as I’ve hardly gotten to any of the cleaning and organizing upstairs, that I planned to do last winter. When I still had my hardware discount, I bought polyurethane for my floors with intention of touching them up and putting a protective coat on them. It’s almost time to cry “uncle,” and put those jobs off for next winter; the busy season is coming upon us quickly.

I’m working on an application for a gallery downstate, to have my artwork considered for a show next year. The deadline isn’t until June, but I know how quickly time flies by. When my sisters come up to the island this month (and YAY, my sisters are coming to the island this month, and I’m SO excited, and it’s deserving of SO much more than a casual mention in this blog!), they’ll be bringing my artwork back up to the island that didn’t sell in the show last October. That will go directly into the Beaver Island Studio and Gallery. So, I haven’t been under pressure to be producing new work in the studio this year…so I haven’t. I’m starting to feel the pull, though, for some studio time.

Well, that’s about it, I think. That’s the way things are going on this first day of May, out here on the Fox Lake Road.

Young

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That’s me on the far right, looking exhausted even way back then!

On days like today, when I wake up tired, with no energy for the day ahead, I think fondly of when I was younger. From this vantage point, it seems like things were easier. Maybe that’s just a trick of memory. I know for sure that I didn’t take full advantage of the strength and vigor of youth. Now, it seems I have more drive…but less ability.

Today, I called the island mechanic about a problem with my car. It has been louder than normal, and I thought the exhaust system might have come apart. Mufflers aren’t the most complicated things on an automobile, but I didn’t even consider for a moment trying to handle the situation myself. It brought back memories, though, of how differently I managed when I was younger.

Once, while living in Lapeer, Michigan, and attending college about twenty miles away in Flint, the exhaust pipe dropped down while I was driving down Court Street. It didn’t fall off, which would have been easier, but just dragged along under the car, throwing up sparks and making all kinds of noise. I was almost at my destination, so I continued down to Mott Community College, parked, and went on to my scheduled classes.

At the end of the day, I scrounged coin from the bottom of my purse, ran in to the campus book store, and bought the largest spiral notebook I could afford. As I walked to my car, I unwound the spiral from the pages it was holding. I tossed the stack of paper and my books onto the passenger seat, and crawled underneath the car. I assessed the problem as well as I could, and figured out how to remedy it. If I fit the wire through a hole in the side of the exhaust pipe rather than try to wrap it around, the wire from the spiral notebook was just long enough to secure it off the road.

That’s what I did. Then crawled back out from under the car, got in, and drove twenty miles to Lapeer. I picked up my daughters from the babysitter, and went home. I said, “look what Mommy brought home for you guys,” as I stacked the loose papers from the spiral notebook in front of them with a couple pencils. Then I made dinner.