Category Archives: writing

Off-Track

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Clearly, my writing practice has gotten off track. Sometimes that happens when I’m focused on getting other areas of my life in order. Sometimes it’s just one more thing in my life that has fallen into disarray. That’s how it is right now. Chaos.

Summer is a busy time here on Beaver Island. Things are going on all the time. It starts with Memorial Day, and special events for the Beaver Island Birding Trail. There’s a Bike Festival. When we get through the Fourth of July parade and festivities, we are faced with, in quick succession and sometimes simultaneously, Baroque on Beaver, Museum Week, the Beaver Island Music Festival, the Beaver Island Jazz Festival, several art events, Home-Coming, and the August Dinner. There are art classes, movies, yoga classes, and special events at the library.

Work is exhausting, with longer days filled with heightened business. “How is business,” people often ask. “Really busy!” is my reply. Invariably, the response to that is something like, “Well, that’s good!” Yes. It is good. We need the busy summers to sustain us through the slower seasons. Still, I bite my tongue to prevent saying how tired I am, and how much my feet hurt. “Good, my ass,” I think to myself.

Yesterday, I painted and framed, preparing work for the Museum Week Art Show. I worked several hours on the next issue of the Beacon. I pulled some weeds from the flower beds. I did some very necessary cleaning. I spent, I admit, at least a couple hours in lazy self-indulgent relaxation, recuperating from the past week.

Today, I made two trips to town to deliver nine pieces to the Gregg Fellowship Hall for inclusion in the art show. I stopped at the marina to make the final payment on my car repair. Post Office, gas station and grocery store completed my list of errands. I stopped at Aunt Katie’s to tidy up. She is still convalescing on the mainland, but I like to keep an eye on things.

My cousin, who was cutting and bailing hay across the road from Aunt Katie’s, told me there was a broken bail I could have, if I’d get it out of his way. So, I drove onto the field and, armful-by-armful, loaded the bail of hay into the back seat and onto the front passenger seat of my car.

Home, I unloaded the hay onto the pallet near the garden shed, on top of the few remaining bails of straw. Unloaded the twenty-pound bag of dog food. Went back for the toothpaste, bottle of wine and “Iron Out” rust remover, and the stack of papers that came in the mail.  Laundry next. I put in a load of towels with the rust remover, then gave the toilet, tub and sink a shot of it, too. I tossed all of the rugs outside for shaking, and swept through the whole house. Shook the rugs and brought them back in. When the washer was done, I put the wet things in the laundry basket, and started a load of dark clothes. I took the towels out to the clothesline. I fed the dogs.

Finally, I sit down to write. It is after eight o’clock in the evening. It has just started to rain (of course…with laundry on the line!). I haven’t started dinner yet. Tomorrow, it’s back to work. I think it’s time to open that bottle of wine.

 

 

A Morning of No Enthusiasm

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Sometimes, I wake up early and can’t fall back asleep with rampaging thoughts of all I need or want to do. Not today. I lay abed long after I woke up, trying to drum up a little incentive to get up.

There was a cool breeze coming in through the open window; I was cozy under the soft comforter. Darla, from her spot beside the bed, had rested her big head on my chest, to accept all the attention I could give her. She rewarded me for the petting with an occasional big lap of her tongue on my face. Rosa Parks, not to be left out, had nestled in to the space under my other shoulder, so that my second hand could scratch behind her ears. Her throaty murmurs – the closest thing to a purr I’ve ever heard coming from a dog – let me know she was enjoying the interlude, too.

Finally, I got up and made coffee. Last night before I went to sleep, I’d jotted some notes in my journal as reminders of what I wanted to accomplish today. There it was, if I needed a refresher. There is house work, yard work and garden work. There are bills to pay and bookkeeping to be done. I have a list of stories and articles to prepare for the next issue of the Beacon.

There is a long list for the studio, including cleaning and clearing space, preparing work for the Museum Week Art Show, and packaging a collagraph to be mailed out. There is old work to finish and plans for new work waiting. As I am wise to my wily ways of avoidance, procrastination and trade-offs, I rarely allow myself to go to the studio first. It is reward, for jobs well underway or tasks completed.

Sunday mornings used to be an exception to that rule. When I had television, my Sundays started in the studio, with the TV tuned to CBS Sunday Morning, coffee conveniently on the shelf beside me, and whatever I was currently involved in, on the drafting table in front of me. It was a lovely way to wake up, and made this day of the week stand out.

When television went digital, the only way to get a signal out here in the middle of Lake Michigan is to pay for satellite TV. I’ve never been much of a TV watcher. For the news, Jeopardy, and a handful of other programs, it hardly seemed worth the cost. I do miss that excuse to spend Sunday mornings in the studio, though!

Now, I get my news from the computer, where one link leads to another, and it’s easy to waste an entire morning following a single event. It’s also simple, from this spot at the desk, to click over to social media, to see what’s going on there, and comment on a status or two. Before I know it I’ve wasted half a day.

It’s afternoon, now, on this precious Sunday. It’s high time to get into gear, and find a little energy and enthusiasm for all the things that wait for me!

Tuesday, Already

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Today is Tuesday. Tomorrow, it’s back to the hardware store, for another five-day run of long, busy days, with only bits of remaining energy left for my own stuff, crowded into the fringes of the days. So, I always have big plans for my “weekend,” which this week included Sunday as well as the usual Monday and Tuesday. Plenty of time, right? As always, my list of things to accomplish was much longer than the hours available.

Sunday, a friend was coming over to help me level and set the posts around my garden. I’d offered him dinner, in exchange for his help. I started my day catching up on the news, then my writing. After that, there was some necessary house-keeping to do, so that a guest would not be shocked, or have qualms about having a meal here. I cleaned the bathroom, and swept a mound of sand and dog hair from my floors. I cleared the mountain of bills and other paperwork from my dining room table, and put a fresh tablecloth on it.

I put dinner together, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with food after working in the garden. I boiled eggs and potatoes in separate pans and put together a potato salad. I made a side salad of romaine, peppers and carrots. I floured and browned chicken thighs, then put them in a baking pan on top of a layer of sliced red peppers, and smothered with barbecue sauce. I assembled a rhubarb crisp, to be baked at the same time as the chicken, then covered and refrigerated all of the dishes.

By that time, I had a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. I tackled those, and moved a load of laundry through the system. I doused up, then, with mosquito repellent, and headed outside. I took the dogs for a short walk, then moved a bail of straw and mulched around a row of plants. I pulled some weeds, picked some berries, and debated whether the “field” that is my back lawn would be dry enough for Monday mowing.

When my friend arrived, we spent a good two hours getting my garden posts lined up correctly, and set firmly in place. I was hoping to get the tops lopped off level, too but, it turned out, the one job took long enough. We were stepping and digging where I had newly-sprouted seeds; I was nervous and testy. He was critical of the posts I had chosen, and my alignment. Several holes had to be re-dug, to move the post two inches in one direction or another. I had put the chicken and dessert in the oven halfway through our project, so dinner was ready when we finished. A good meal and some relaxed conversation was – I hope – enough to show gratitude for his help, and a little remorse for my crankiness.

He left right after dinner. I spent another hour outside pulling weeds and moving straw, until it started to rain, foiling my plans to finish mowing on Monday. The evening was – I thought – well spent, laying out plans for all I intended to accomplish the next day. “A good list is half the battle,” I told myself. I plotted a whole series of chores and stops in town, so that today – Tuesday – I could stay right at home, to concentrate on writing for the next issue of the magazine, that is coming up close on deadline.

Monday was productive but, just like the day before, each task took longer than expected, complications and diversions got in the way, and I accomplished much less than I intended. I had four people to track down about past-due accounts; I managed to catch up with only one of them. In my pathetic attempt at bill-collecting, I devolved into a hard-luck story and tears, which threw my mood into a downward spiral for the whole day. There was a long wait at the bank. I got side-tracked at the hardware store. Another stop was at my aunt’s house, to clean her floors. As I was leaving, she asked if I would come back tomorrow (Tuesday) to help her with another project. Of course.

So, here is Tuesday, already, and I still have a long list of things I have yet to get done, on a day that I can’t, after all, spend exclusively at home. Not only that, but it’s already 10:30 in the morning! If there is going to be any hope, I’d better get busy!

 

Rain Today?

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There was talk of rain moving in yesterday. It came, but not until late afternoon. It didn’t last, but the temperature dropped and the wind came up. That, combined with the few sprinkles, was enough to bring me back inside. Today, it’s still up in the air.

Will it rain? The day dawned bright, but the sun is hidden behind a cloudy sky. The air is moist; mosquitoes are out in force. It feels like it is going to rain. If it rains, I have indoor plans that far exceed the hours in this day. There is banking and bill-paying and bookkeeping to do. I am behind in my writing. House-keeping has been neglected except for the bare necessities on busy days that included garden work. I could take an entire day just to catch up! The studio calls to me, with projects underway and ideas in my head. A whole day in the studio would be heavenly!

If it is not going to rain, the yard and garden will have my attention. Yesterday, I placed my newly constructed raised bed in place, lined it with weed barrier, filled it with soil, and transplanted strawberries. I have – after many evenings spent with diagrams, garden books and graph paper – decided where I can fit asparagus and raspberries in my new -smaller – garden. It’s now just a matter of staking out the perimeter and doing the transplanting.

Then, it is more than time to get working in the actual vegetable garden. Though it’s not too late to plant – bean seeds could wait another two weeks here on Beaver Island – it is definitely time, especially for the cool-weather lettuce, spinach, chard and peas. The frequent rains have taken the “fluff” out of my newly tilled garden spot, and allowed the roots of weeds and grasses to take hold once again. It needs to be attended to with hoe and rake, to get it back in shape. Then, the rows could be staked, and many seeds planted.

The grass, as I look out my back window, is more than knee high in places. There have been good days for mowing, that I have chosen garden work instead. There have been many days that I had the time, but the weather didn’t cooperate. There were many long days when I simply didn’t have the energy. It can’t be put off much longer!

So, the only question today, as I pour my third cup of coffee, is “will it rain…or not?”

Pushing On

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So, what is it now, that has kept me away from writing? I’ve been busy, sure, and tired. There have been a lot of things going on here on Beaver Island, and in my life.

Saturday, for instance. I worked at the hardware store. It was our busiest – by far – day this year. The side of the building has become a nursery, with stacking shelves arranged under a sun shade for perennials and shrubs, annual flowers, vegetables and herbs. Folks were flocking in to our store for necessities for lawn and garden plans as well as all the usual painting, plumbing and home repair projects.

I had started the day loading art work in the car, so that I could drop it off at the Beaver Island Gallery, on its first open day of the season. I did that in the early afternoon, just before running out to attend the memorial gathering to honor my friend, Roy. I then ran to the point, to attend the annual shareholder’s meeting of the Beaver Island Boat Company. Then, back to the hardware to finish my work day.

Home, I changed clothes, doused up with mosquito repellent, and headed for the garden. I’ve been forcing myself to get in at least an hour of work out there every evening, no matter how much I want to collapse. Saturday, I raked, dug stubborn weeds, hauled away another wheelbarrow full of roots, and assembled a raised bed for my strawberry plants, before coming in to shower. I ate dinner in my pajamas, and was in bed not long after.

In addition to long and busy days, I’ve had a few side-line inconveniences that have further complicated my life. I picked up a tick, while working in the garden, and didn’t discover it until it was firmly embedded in the skin of my inner thigh, and fairly well engorged with my blood. That was the most traumatic (and gross!) thing that has happened to me in quite some time! A trip to the medical center, a dose of strong antibiotic, a few instructions about prevention and how to handle it should it ever happen again, and I was on my way…though the nightmares continue.

My car is in the shop for repairs. That has caused me to be using vehicles that I’m not familiar with (Oh! No cup-holder? And where is the knob for windshield wipers?), changing one car for another, begging rides from here to there, and sometimes walking. It’s not a big deal. It will all be over soon, and I’ll have my own dusty, messy car back, with a nice fat repair bill to boot!

Next, my little dog, having worked herself into a frenzy over having her nails clipped, managed to get out of my grasp…and bit me. By the next morning, redness and swelling made another trip to the medical center necessary. “It was an accident,” I explained, “she was trying to bite the vet.” My tetanus vaccine was still good; another dose of antibiotic, and I was finished. All dog bites have to be reported, so next came a visit from the deputy. My dogs are up to date on all of their shots. Still, according to standard protocol, Rosa Parks had to be placed in quarantine (“House arrest,” I told her) for ten days. No rides to visit the inland lakes; no walks down the Fox Lake Road. “That’s what you get,” I tell her, without sympathy.

Yesterday, it rained. That put all yard work on hold. After coming home from work, I took a lovely, long nap. I got up in time to feed the dogs and make my own supper, then went shortly right back to bed. Today, I feel rested, and like I just might make it. The sun is shining. The grass is desperately in need of being cut. The dogs and I could all use some outdoor time. That’s where I’ll be, then, for the rest of this day.

 

Present, This Day

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Here it is, Sunday morning, and here I am, present for it.

So far, it’s not looking like the best of days.

The weather is cold, and damp, and drizzly. Yesterday, it rained. That means the grass is too wet to mow, and the garden is too soft to work in. If I bundle up, I could do some outdoor clean up. There are a dozen dog toys to be gathered up before I can cut the grass, abandoned when some other activity caught the big dog’s attention. There are two sturdy, lidded trash cans and a few other items that sit along what used to be the fence line. Now that the fence is down, they just look out of place. There’s still a mound of the vinyl deer fence in the back yard. It needs to be rolled or folded up for storage. So far, I’m not enthusiastic about any of it.

I have plenty to do in the house. I left dishes to drain-dry in the kitchen; there are clothes folded and stacked on the washing machine that need to be put away. There is a load of towels that need to be transferred to the dryer, since it’s not a good day for hanging them on the clothesline. I should wash the rugs…but I think I’ll wait for a better day.

I have several letters to write. This job has been hanging over my head for weeks, now, and I can’t seem to work up a plan or any determination. The letters are to accompany second – or sometimes third – bills to advertisers in my news magazine. The agreed upon service has been delivered: I have included the ads, paid for the printing and the cost of mailing; the burden should be on them to cancel the ad if they don’t want it. I am justified in asking for the payment, as agreed upon. Yet, I struggle.

I weave whiny, defensive, “why am I being taken advantage of this way” letters in my head. I approach it as “one business person to another.” I try out lengthy diatribes about why my bill-sending is so sporadic, taking the blame for their lack of payment. And then I do nothing. But they have probably just forgotten. And I need to collect. I have to just get it done.

I have on-going projects in the studio…several things I’m quite excited about, even. This could be a good day for making art. I could set that as my final goal, and hammer out a few necessary jobs before rewarding myself with time in the studio. It sounds good, but doesn’t stir me to get moving.

I have not yet been able to work up much excitement about any of it. I am not in a rush to move from this comfortable chair. I’m not driven to get out of pajamas, or to abandon my cozy bathrobe. There is still hot coffee in the pot; I could use another cup of it. So far, this Sunday morning, I am here, and that is all.

 

Artifacts to Memories: Things I Can’t Let Go

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There is a lot of stuff in my life. I was hoping for a more delicate term, but “stuff” seems apt. Gifts, purchases, hand-me-downs and inheritances. Sixty-four years worth of accumulated belongings. Enough to divide into several categories.

There are the things I hold on to for their sentimental value. Ranging from drawings and cards that my young daughters made more than thirty years ago, to photographs, to little gifts from friends and family, to my very first hard-cover chapter book, to my dining room table. The table was a junk store find that my Dad brought home, that was used as our clothes-folding table and extra-seating-at-holiday-time table for most of my life. Then, moved out to the garage, it was my brother David’s work and party table (the surface gained a few cigarette burns and saw marks from that phase), my sister Sheila’s table to relax with a book and a beverage…and finally my dining room table.

There are things I keep because they are necessary, or because they seem necessary to me. Most of my clothing fits this category…but so do many books, plants, baskets, candles, art supplies, art work, and a large collection of flat, round stones. I know there is too much. I go through periods of purging and paring down. These “necessities” are spared, because the thought of losing them gives me heart palpitations.

Then, there are the items I hold on to, because of an – often unrealistic – idea of the person I would like to be. A collection of beautiful yarn waits, in a basket with crochet hooks and scissors, for the day when I am transformed back into the woman I used to be: a young mother, making gifts and treasures from bits of yarn. Other baskets, boxes and suitcases hold fabrics, embroidery floss, needlepoint canvas, rug-making tools and accessories, and quilt squares. My life doesn’t have room for the activities associated with all of this “stuff,” but I can’t give up on the idea that it will.

That young woman that I was, along with a Katherine Hepburn/Jo March/Martha Stewart-esque vision of a person I would like to be are evident in excesses throughout my house, from bookshelves to closets to kitchen cupboards. I would like to be someone who drinks tea, does yoga, listens to cool jazz, wears hats, raises chickens, grows all of her own food, reads the classics, and hosts lovely dinner parties…including trifle for dessert. I am not, but many of my belonging would lead one to think so.

That is the crux of the problem, when faced with getting rid of things I don’t use. I love that young woman that I used to be, with a dozen projects going and a whole lifetime ahead to finish them. I can’t seem to let go of her, yet. I still picture myself with chickens and a big garden, doing yoga, jazz music coming from the stereo, James Joyce on my nightstand. Until I give up on the person I was, and the person I want to be, I can hardly give up her accessories!