Category Archives: walking

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.

Toll the Bell, Fellow…

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Several years ago, while writing for the New Yorker, E.B. White published a poem about the death of a cow. He prefaced it with a newspaper clipping telling how “Sir Hanson Rowbotham’s favorite Red Polled cow” died following having been “bitten on the udder by an adder.” It is a humorous verse noting the unusual manner of death and, wordsmith that White was, playing on rhymes and near-rhymes pulled from the English town, the cow, and the snake (“What is sadder than udder stung by adder?”).

The first line of White’s poem reads, “Toll the bell, fellow,” and, though this is not a humorous piece, I’ll borrow it, as it seems appropriate for relating the loss of a loyal companion. The health of my little dog, Blackie Chan, took a sudden turn this last week, and he died on Thursday. For him, the sound of a bell ringing out a death knell seems appropriate. With the clapper partly wrapped in leather, the sound would be clear and bright as it struck one side…then dull and muted when it hit the other. He was here, up for anything…and now he’s gone.

Blackie Chan came to live with me three years ago. He was eight years old, and had been a member of my daughter’s household since birth. Kate’s kids were nearly grown, and she was going to start travelling for work. I already had Rosa Parks, who was one of his litter mates, so I offered to take Blackie Chan in. He quickly adapted to this home, and I learned to love him right away. Along with my big dog, Darla, it was now a three-dog household.

Rosa Parks came to live with me as a puppy. She’s always felt comfortable with her self-chosen #1 status. Darla came to me after spending nearly all of her first six years in a shelter. She tries very hard to please, and to always do the right thing. Blackie Chan was the latest to join our family, and was determined to fit in. No dog ever worked harder at it. Blackie Chan melted my heart with the seriousness and sincerity he put into every single activity or interaction.

When I mentioned a walk, he’d keep up a steady bark (“Let’s go, hurry up,” he seemed to be shouting) while I put on shoes and jacket. Though Rosa Parks often lags far behind, and Darla takes her time exploring every smell, Blackie Chan stayed right beside me, always facing forward, with intense concentration, as if it were a task that he needed to get right. He put that same earnestness into everything he did, from waiting on his rug for dinner to be served, to standing to greet me when I came in the door.

Though he took his job seriously, Blackie Chan could always make me laugh. He was so small that barking, or even a sneeze, would cause his front legs to rise right up off the ground. Nearly blind, he was often hilarious in his efforts to follow my voice. He used his own voice to comical affect. He didn’t bark at birds, squirrels or the road truck as the other dogs do, and often put on a look of stunned confusion when they’d go on a tangent. But, if he wanted in from outside, or help getting down from bed or chair, his whine was impressive. His persistent bark was used mainly to tell me to “get a move on” when he was waiting for dinner, a treat, or a walk.

For his whole life, Blackie Chan never gave up his efforts to gain the “prime sleeping position” next to my pillow. Our nighttime ritual consists of treats and pats and ear rubs, when I tell each dog how pretty, how smart and how exceptional they are. I finish with, “you guys could be in the Westminster Dog Show!” Then I turn to switch off the light. In that pause, Blackie Chan would always bare his teeth and snarl at Rosa Parks, in an attempt to get her to give up her spot. She never did. When I turned to face him, he wore a small smile and a look of perfect innocence (“that wasn’t me…I don’t know who was growling”) as he settled down to sleep in the curve behind my knees.

I laid Blackie Chan’s body in the grass while I dug his grave. I wrapped him in the same pink and yellow blanket he had arrived with three years ago. I spread flower seeds over the soil, and built a small cairn of flat white rocks to mark his resting place. I think of all the joy he brought to this household, in his time here. I miss his presence, and I’m sure I will for a good long time.

Toll the bell…the small black dog is dead.

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.

A Few W Words

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I was going to write about water today. I toyed with the idea, anyway. I mean we can all relate to water, after all. it’s one of those “crucial to life” things, as necessary as air to breathe. There are hard water issues in my house, and all the complications that brings. I have filtered water for drinking. I live on an island surrounded by water. My grandson, Tommy, loves the water. Or, more accurately, swimming. I have dozens of photos of him grinning while up to his neck in water. Once, when he was visiting, he and I walked the length of Iron Ore Bay together, chatting as we went. I was on the sandy shore; he was several yards out in Lake Michigan. Since today is Tommy’s birthday, that would be a fitting topic. Alas, what I’ve written here is just about all I could come up with regarding water.

I considered writing about walking. I walk every day, so it would seem like I could come up with a few paragraphs on the subject. Turns out, it’s not that simple. I could write about writing! That’s another activity that I do every day, even when I’m not posting a daily blog. I write out a list of things I’m thankful for every morning. Then, I write a page of notes from whatever book I’m currently studying. Right now, it happens to be a book on writing: A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart. I’m in the process of writing a story to tell during Open Mic Night. Still, I couldn’t think of much to say about writing.

Weather crossed my mind, as did Worry, Wonder, Wind and Weeds. Nothing really inspired me. Then. the internet started going out, at least three time in the last hour. When it goes out, it’s impossible to predict whether it will come right back on, or stay out for hours. If I was going to get a blog published today, I’d better get busy. It’s not quite up there with water, but we’ve sure grown to depend on our Wi-Fi!

Lazy

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If I were asked to describe my character in five words, my list would be: shy; stubborn; trust-worthy; hard-working; and lazy.

“Shy” would get a snort of disbelief from the questioner. Nobody thinks I’m shy anymore. I talk all the time. I talk too much. I have a tendency to interrupt, or to talk over people. I know. But, I was painfully shy as a child, and I still feel shy. I spend a good deal of my alone time cringing and shaking my head over something I said, or the way some interaction went, and mumbling to myself, “stupid…stupid…stupid!”

“Stubborn” might not seem accurate to those that know me a little, but everyone that knows me well would nod solemnly in agreement. Thinking, probably, to themselves that “stubborn” might not be a strong enough word. Maybe “bull-headed” would be better.

“Trustworthy” would probably not be challenged.

“Hard-working” would be easily agreed upon by those who have seen me at any of my jobs.

“Lazy” is a puzzlement. How can Cindy be lazy?? She works all the time! And how can she describe herself as both hard-working and lazy?? Isn’t that a contradiction? Well, apparently not, because I am definitely both. Again, if you look to my family and friends and former partners, you would see lots of affirmative nods. And I’d have to agree.

I do work hard. In addition to jobs I hold to support myself, of which I often have more than one, I do volunteer work. I plant a big garden; I mow my large yard. I walk the dogs every day. I write and study and draw every morning. I publish a blog regularly. I exercise every day. Sometimes, I think I fill my days with work to challenge my firmly held belief that I am lazy. But there is truth in the adage that says, “You can run, but you can’t hide.”

When I was little, there was lots of evidence of my lack of ambition. I was a master at avoiding chores. Once, my mother noticed that, rather than bend over to retrieve something from the floor, I’d developed the ability to pick things up with my toes. “Oh, Cindy,” she grinned, shaking her head, “that has got to be the height of laziness!”

Fifty years later, I went on a weekend trip with my sister, Brenda. I mentioned that I needed socks because most of mine had holes in them. “Really,” she said, “I don’t think I’ve ever gotten holes in my socks.” “Hmm,” I thought, “must be that I work much harder, to wear out my socks.” Later, getting ready for bed, I watched Brenda lift one leg at a time, cradle each foot in her hands, and gently peel off her socks. “Wow,” I told her, “that’s pretty impressive!” “Why,” she asked, “how do you take off your socks?”

I demonstrated my method: step on the toe of the left sock with the heel of the right foot; pull the left leg firmly back, dragging the foot out of the sock; repeat on the other side. Brenda grinned, and nodded, and the look she gave me said 1) “No wonder you wear out your socks so quickly,” and 2) “That has got to be the height of laziness!” Yup, there’s no escaping it, the truth comes out.

Up and Down

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It has been a week of highs and lows in my little life here on Beaver Island. The news outside of this small sphere has been so decidedly dark, I can hardly bear to look. I hate to even turn to the reports these days. Let the world go on without me for a while, I can’t stand it any more! Here in my tiny portion of the world, there have been plenty of ups and downs.

My sister, Brenda called. She told me she thinks she may come for a visit in the spring, when our sister Cheryl comes up to open the farmhouse. That was wonderful news! I miss my sisters so much, always, that it does me a world of good just to know they are coming, and have dates to look forward to. She also told me they had figured out a way to get my artwork, that has been stored in Brenda’s basement since my show ended last fall, back up to me on the island.

I wrote to Lois, who has the gallery that carries my art here, to let her know the work was coming, and to make sure she had room for it. I had foolishly planned on selling everything in October. Though my sales were good, there was plenty to contend with after the show was over. I hadn’t planned on having to get it back home. I don’t have room to store it here. “Bring it on,” was her answer. What a relief!

I ordered a trampoline. It was a decision that was a long time coming, and I felt pretty good about it. I managed to lose a couple of the pounds I’d gained back over the holidays, but not nearly enough. I’ve doubled the distance I walk, most days, and expanded my indoor exercise to thirty minutes each day. I read that working out on a trampoline burns twice as many calories as running for the same length of time. And, it’s much easier on the joints! I’d watched a couple videos that used mini trampolines for a good workout; it didn’t look too hard.

I researched further, compared prices, and ordered. One 40-inch exercise trampoline. With a safety handle. Weight capacity 350 pounds. Foldable for easy storage. I was extremely proud of myself. Then, the doubts started creeping in. People that I told were surprised. Or shocked. Aghast! “How old are you,” the woman at the airport asked, laughing, “and what in the world made you think you wanted a trampoline??” Still, I don’t think it was a bad idea. I used to love jumping on the bed…

At the first of the week, the lovely spring-like weather inspired me. Tuesday, I washed all the rugs, and hung them outside on the clothesline. I opened the windows to the breeze, and swept through the house. By Wednesday morning, Michigan’s fickle weather had reasserted itself. I woke up to a cold, sleety rain. One clothesline pole had split and fallen, leaving all the rugs on the wet ground. In the bathroom, I saw that the ceiling had sprung a new leak, and was dripping a steady stream into the bathtub. In the kitchen, I started the coffee and bent over to give my big dog a belly rub…and put my back out!

That was a discouraging morning! Since then, I’m happy to report, the guys came out and patched my roof. I got in to the Health Center and got prescriptions that help my back pain. I’ve got the rugs back inside, and down where they belong. As for the clothesline pole, that will have to wait until the ground is no longer frozen!

My trampoline arrived on Friday. Today was the first day I felt well enough to even get it out of the box. It looks sturdy; it’s quite cute. It’s going to take up a little more floor space than I’d anticipated. It’s not as easy to fold for storage as I’d been led to believe. Turns out, it takes two people to get it opened up. Since I am the only one here, it’s going to stay in its folded-up state for a while. That’s okay. The way my back feels, it’s going to be a while before I’m going to be doing any jumping up and down!

Just in Time!

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For weeks now, I have been meaning to get busy in the spare room upstairs. There is furniture to arrange. A large bookcase has to be emptied and moved to make room for a dresser. Once the bookcase is set up in its new location, the shelves have to be filled again. One chair, a small rack that holds DVDs, and a couple framed pictures have to be moved, too. The box spring should be brought down the stairs and outside, in anticipation of having it hauled away. I’m not sure that I can manage it on my own.

I decided that, as I’m shuffling things around, I might as well put another coat of paint on the floor of that room. Of course, there is sorting and organizing and cleaning to do, too. Every day, I plan to start; every day, I find an reason not to. Once again, because I never do learn, I have built a manageable job up into an insurmountable task, that is now too intimidating to handle.

When that job is finished, if it is ever finished, I have plenty to do on the other side of the landing, in the studio. From cleaning to creating, the studio always has a long “to-do” list. Downstairs, where I manage – though barely – to stay on top of things, there are plenty of tasks to catch up on. Now is the time for spring cleaning. All of the windows need to be washed. The rugs should be cleaned. Thinking ahead, I should order plants and seeds for the garden, and I have a few seeds to start in the house.

I couldn’t seem to find the energy tackle any of it. Every day, more of the same: ice; cold; snow. The end-of-winter doldrums had caught up with me. I did not want to get out of bed in the morning. I forced myself through my daily routines: make the bed; write in the journal; study; draw; exercise; go to work; walk; do the dishes. Most of the time, they are just rituals that add order to my life. Some days, in this long, slow time of year when the landscape hardly changes and it feels like winter will never end, those habits are the only things that keep me from dropping into depression. Often, they are the only things I accomplish in a day.

Then, suddenly and seemingly without warning, everything changed. There was a hint of spring in the air. The sunshine was especially warm and cheering. Overnight, what had been a thick layer of snow and ice on the Fox Lake Road turned to slush. By the next day, there were large patches of gravel showing, and the slush had melted. My little dog, Blackie Chan, usually hates to get his feet wet. He will shake off each paw with a look of disgust on his face, if he steps into anything other than solid ground. And yet, the day before yesterday, that little dog walked all the way down the road, in water to his knees, smiling the whole distance. I know just what he was feeling!

Today, I can see bare earth in patches across the back yard. When the sun is shining in, it’s warm enough to have the door open to the screen. The rhododendron has unfurled its leaves, and has tiny buds forming on the stems! I think I’ll hang the rugs out on the clothesline today! It’s early yet, for spring on Beaver Island. Here, we can usually expect at least one more major snowfall. Several years, we’ve gotten a blizzard after the first of April, and we often have patches of snow still visible through the month of May. Still, today it feels like spring, and I’ll relish it. I say, just in time!

A Jumble of Thoughts

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I’ve been tossing around ideas for what to write about. I have a few, but haven’t taken time to flesh any of them out. To avoid letting another week go by without a blog post, my plan is to let the thoughts flow through the keyboard.

The last two (or three…or more?) books I’ve chosen for my morning study time have been in the Self-Help category. I always feel like I need help, so books offering ways to improve myself often appeal to me. Until I reach a point where I’ve had enough. Eventually, I get tired of the implied criticism wrapped up in pointed advice. Finally, I am fed up, at least for a while, with reading how to make myself a better person. Halfway through Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy, a guide to quit procrastinating, which followed the similar and self-explanatory Getting Things Done by David Allen, I promised myself that I would shelve the entire self-help category of books for a while.

There are ways to improve myself without nit-picking about my flaws. Studying Spanish, for instance, doesn’t make me feel bad about my current state of foreign language skills. Learning a new method of making art would not diminish what I’ve already done. There are plenty of areas of interest for me to explore, and I’ve been looking forward to getting started. A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart is the book I chose to delve into. What a pleasure it is!

In fact, by sheer coincidence, I’ve started three new books all within a day of each other. For reading before bed, and for reading in restaurants, airplanes or waiting rooms. I depend on my Kindle reader. It’s easy to transport and, as my vision gets worse, the screen is easier to see in situations where the light is unpredictable. I finished Killer Instinct, the first in a series of mysteries by Zoe Sharp, and downloaded the second, Riot Act. I listen to books on Audible when I’m walking the dogs. I just finished The Maid, by Nita Prose, and started All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. For reading in the morning, when my mind is clearest for concentrating, and when I’m at the dining room table, with good light, and the ability to take notes, I am now enjoying A Writer’s Coach.

Hart suggests that there are two types of writers, planners and plungers. A planner likes to know the central point and the general direction his writing will take before getting started. A plunger jumps in to a topic and starts writing whatever comes to mind. “After a while,” he says, “a focus emerges.” This process is “free writing.”

It’s early yet – I’m only on page eleven, after all – but I may differ with the author on this point. Rather than “two types of writers,” I think it might better be introduced as two ways of writing. I know I work both ways, at different times. Sometimes, I know what I want to say, and have a good idea of how I want to say it. Other times, like today, I just plunge in!