Category Archives: writing

Super Powers


Today, I mowed the grass. Not the entire lawn, but the small side yard that the kitchen door opens onto, and the whole back yard.

I wasn’t planning to. There are several memes going around about “no-mow May,” encouraging everyone to hold off on mowing until June, for the sake of the pollinators. I was happy to comply. I need very little encouragement to put off chores.

A few things caused those intentions to change. First, ticks. They are very bad this year, and I was getting nervous, thinking of them laying in wait in that long grass. Second, I swatted a mosquito yesterday, the first one this year. My house sits on a half-acre of cleared land surrounded by woods and fields. Mosquitoes can make any outdoor activities challenging; an un-mowed lawn just encourages them. Third, my sisters are coming next week. I won’t want to take time away from them to do yard work. Finally, I intended to spend this day in the studio, preparing for tomorrow’s art class. Nothing makes one job more enticing to me than when I can use it to avoid doing what I should be doing. So, by late morning I had decided that the lawn absolutely had to be mowed. Today.

I started by disassembling the massive puzzle that made up the contents of my garden shed. First, the table, that was the last thing in before I closed the doors last fall. Then, the bench and three chairs, tucked around and on top of the lawn mower. Finally, I could wheel the mower out. I checked the oil, filled the gas tank, pushed the little button three times. then pulled the rope to start it. The rope would not pull! I walked away and came back to it. Several times, expecting – or hoping – that suddenly, miraculously, it would work the way it was supposed to. No such luck.

What could be wrong? Had the engine seized up? There was oil, right to the level that it should be. There was gas. The good gas, with no ethanol to gum up the motor. I have a long, horrible history with lawnmowers. I’d spend hours out there, pulling that rope until I was sobbing in exhaustion and exasperation. When I could, I’d hire someone to come and start my mower, then mow until I was finished, no breaks, knowing that if I turned it off, I’d never be able to get it going again. My grass was always overgrown. I was constantly frustrated.

Then, four years ago, I bought the little mower that I have now. At about the same time, I learned about the problems ethanol causes in small engines. I was careful to always use the right fuel. Joy of joys, this mower would start right up for me every time. Until today. What the hell. So, I pruned the service berry tree, and weeded around the peony bed. I pulled the first of this season’s rhubarb. I worked at cleaning up the garden.

Ready for a break, I came inside, got a glass of water, and sat down at the computer. On a whim, I typed in, “can’t pull the rope on my lawn mower.” That question directed me to three youtube videos, each with a different kind, knowledgeable and not-too-patronizing man, showing me what the problem might be, and how to repair it! In my case, it was a build up of last year’s grass in the undercarriage, now hardened around the blade. It took me only minutes to find the problem AND FIX IT!

I was ecstatic! I felt like I had super powers! I wanted to burst into song, “I am woman, hear me roar!” I mowed the side yard, then moved on to the back. When that was done, even though I’d already clocked more than 12,000 steps on my Fitbit just from walking in circles and rows behind the mower. I took the dogs for a walk.

Then, fading fast, I fed the dogs, jumped in the shower, then made myself the simplest of meals: peanut butter on a flour tortilla, followed by a small ice cream cone, and finished with a large bowl of popcorn. I’m still feeling really proud of myself. As my energy fades, though, I feel like my super powers must have only been temporary. That’s okay…they came through when I needed them!

Doing Nothing


In the United States, today is Mother’s Day. I celebrated by doing almost nothing. Not that I needed a holiday to manage that. Sundays, except in the summer when my second job kicks in, tend to be lazy days. I like to watch the lighter news and features on CBS Sunday Morning. That is followed by Face the Nation which handles more serious issues. I usually make a good breakfast on Sunday. I manage to do the few tasks that I set for myself every single day, and that’s about it. Often, I make big plans for what extra stuff I’m going to accomplish, but it rarely happens. Today, I didn’t even try.

This morning, I woke up early, wrote in my journal, did a little reading, let the dogs outside and back in, then went back to bed. When I got back up, I made coffee, checked social media, read Email, and settled in for my Sunday morning programs. I made a “Dutch Baby,” essentially a large, baked pancake, and had wedges of it with mixed fruit jam for a buttery, sweet breakfast.

I took a long walk. Rosa Parks opted to stay at home. We miss her, of course, but when we aren’t hampered by the Chihuahua’s short legs and bad joints, the big dog, Darla, and I are able to go both faster and farther. Today we walked to Hannigan Road, then turned and went quite a ways down that road, too. Sometimes that area is pretty wet in the springtime, but it was dry today.

I was watching for morel mushrooms. The time is right, the weather is good, and several people have found them already this spring. I don’t have a good eye for spotting them, so I didn’t have much hope, and, in fact, did not find a single one. The wildflowers are out in force, though. Trout Lilies and the tiny Spring Beauties are bountiful, and I’ve never counted so many Trillium. They seem to have all opened at once!

In my own yard, the forsythia is already dropping its yellow flowers, and the cherry tree blossoms are just about to burst open. Daffodils, tulips and hyacinth are blooming. The rhubarb is unfurling its leaves. The garden spot needs lots of work; I just glanced at it as I walked quickly by. I wasn’t in the mood for that today!

I received Mother’s Day greetings from sisters, friends, children and grandchildren. I warmed leftovers for my dinner, and cleaned up the kitchen. Of course, tomorrow will be a full day, doing all the things I didn’t do today in the areas of housekeeping, gardening, prepping for my art class, and planning for family coming to visit next week. On this day, though, I was happy to do nothing!

Shadows and Blessings


It was a rough weekend.

On Saturdays and Sundays, I start with morning news. The coverage of the coronation couldn’t outweigh the preponderance of grim reports. More devastation in Ukraine. Violence in Sudan. Another mass shooting in this country. In another city, a driver plowed into a group of people waiting for a bus.

Here, it rained. I didn’t sleep well. There is turmoil going on within my family that I’m unable to fix or alter. Doing nothing is difficult, even when there are no helpful actions to take. And, I’m still working at getting over this sickness that has grabbed onto me and held on.

I’m much better; sometimes I think I’m completely recovered. But, I still have a persistent cough that that catches me by surprise at the most inconvenient times. And, I’m lacking stamina. My daily walk wears me out. Yesterday, I stripped the bed, laundered the sheets and comforter, and remade the bed. For how exhausted I was after that endeavor, you’d have thought I’d run a marathon! It was all I could manage to get through after-dinner clean-up and a bath before collapsing into bed, dead-tired.

No matter how bleak things seem, though, I have learned to look for the blessings. There is always something of value to find.

A phone call from my daughter, Kate, was a nice surprise. A long walk with my big dog did us both some good. Words of encouragement and understanding from friends and family made my heart swell. A long, hot bath, with scented salts and a good book, is always so relaxing. And it is such a good feeling to crawl into bed between freshly laundered sheets!

Today, the sun is shining. I think it’s going to be comfortably warm. I have the day off. There is nowhere I have to be. As for what to do, I could go in several directions. The flower beds need to be raked out. There’s still organization to be completed in the studio. I have to go over my notes for art class. Right now, I’m going to pour another cup of coffee while I consider my options!



May 2nd. It was snowing when I went to bed last night, and it’s still snowing this morning. It is not sticking around. The ground is warm, and so wet that snow disappears as soon as it touches down. It’s so quiet, it could be mistaken for a gentle rain…except that my little black dog comes in covered with it. Definitely snow. Again!

I have an appointment with the physical therapist this morning. Again. I went last week, but we couldn’t agree on why I was there. I thought our physician’s assistant had put in the order to help with recent issues of extreme vertigo. The physical therapist was expecting to help me with knee pain. I remember that visit to the medical center, the x-rays and wrapping of the joint, but I have no recollection of any suggestion of physical therapy. Because of that, and because my knee was much improved, I was pretty adamant about it. He showed me the order, signed by our nurse practitioner, because of my knee. Hmmm. I explained that my knee was better. We agreed that any work on vertigo was going to be futile while I was still suffering from cold symptoms We’re trying again today.

My friend, Judith, who writes from New Zealand, read and commented on each of my alphabet blogs through the month of April. When she told me she was inspired, and might try the same thing in May, I breezily said, “if you do, I might join you.” Foolish! That reminds me of the December, several years ago, when my friend, Joss, said that she intended to publish a blog in every day of the coming year. “I’d love it if others would join me,” she said. I, who was working three jobs at that time, one of which was publishing a news magazine, considered it. My mental process was ridiculously simple: “I have tomorrow off. I’ll do it.”

So, I published a blog every day for a year. Joss slacked off, missed a few days, devolved into just publishing short prayers, then gave it up entirely. I doggedly stuck with it. I wrote blogs based on the alphabet, worked my way through all the addresses I’ve lived at, and pulled from a list of “sixty most influential women in my life.” I featured each of my grandchildren on their birthdays, and pulled from old memories for each holiday. Somehow, I managed it.

I’m proud that I managed it. And, I’m pleased with myself for working through the alphabet this April. I’m looking forward to seeing what Judith has to say in this month of May. If you’d like to follow along, this link will take you there: As for me, I’ll be writing regularly, but not every day. I’m not falling into a commitment like that again!



Here I am, at the end of the alphabet, and almost at the end of April. Like most every year when I take on the challenge of writing my way through the alphabet, I spend about half of the time feeling uninspired, and wanting to be done with the commitment. Then, suddenly, I’m at the end, and I realize I’ve wished my way through another month. What happened to April, and all the things I hoped to accomplish? Gone, already.

Counting this one, I have written 25 blogs this month. Some were pretty short, but I’ll count them anyway. With today and tomorrow not yet tallied in, I’ve walked twenty-six miles in April. That’s down from my previous monthly totals this year, but that’s okay. I have not ordered plants or seeds, nor stepped one foot into the garden to start the clean-up there. I haven’t gotten into the studio, either, to tackle any of the necessary tasks up there. Even my reading, which asks so little in terms of energy or commitment, has been neglected. I’ve been sick this month, and that has thrown everything off. I’m not a hundred percent yet, but I’m definitely doing better, and hope to be back to normal soon.

The weather, in April, on Beaver Island this year, has been all over the place. We’ve had high winds, and rain. We’ve had at least three days of significant snowfall. And there have been warm, sunny days when jackets could be set aside. The loons are back, on the inland lakes. I’ve seen the Sandhill cranes in the fields near our family farm. Wild leeks are pushing their green leaves up through last year’s leaf litter. Waves of snowdrops are blooming in my yard; in the woods, the trout lilies are just beginning to open.

Our ferry service, which operates from mid-April until the third week in December, has resumed. That means a better selection on our grocery shelves, and greater liveliness in the downtown area. Winter activities are wrapping up, and businesses are planning ahead for a busy summer. Winters progress, here on Beaver Island, very much like the month of April does for me. First, it seems like it will last forever, with time enough for all of my plans and every good intention. Then suddenly, it’s over.

Out here on the Fox Lake Road, this is a crucial time. There is a narrow window of opportunity between the time the snow melts, and the hatching of large swarms of mosquitoes and biting flies. This coincides with the small window of time between when I realize how quickly time is passing in relation to all the things I have yet to do, before business picks up and my second, summer job kicks in. This is the time, and I’d better not waste it!

Youth and Age


Okay, at almost the end of the alphabet, I’m cheating.

First, I’m skipping the letter X. I don’t think I need to explain that decision. X is a hard letter anyway, and the way the days of April work out this year, if I spent this day on X, I’d run out of the month before I got to Z. Not that Z is a particularly easy letter, either, but still. The decision has been made.

Second, I’m serving up a poem, rather than writing a blog. I’m tired; I’m still getting over this sickness; I’ve had a long day. And, when I remembered that I still hadn’t published a blog today, I had already taken my night-time medicine, including melatonin and cough syrup in the “PM” variety. So, I’m too sleepy to be sensible.

E.B. White is one of my favorite writers. I enjoy his children’s stories, sure, but my favorite things are the essays and sweet, simple poems that he wrote for the New Yorker. So, I offer White’s perspective on youth…and age.

Youth and Age

by E. B. White

This is what youth must figure out:
Girls, love, and living.
The having, the not having,
The spending and giving,
And the melancholy time of not knowing.

This is what age must learn about:
The ABC of dying.
The going, yet not going,
The loving and leaving,
And the unbearable knowing and knowing.

Wake Up!


Mornings start early at my house. Rosa Parks wakes up first. She tap-tap-taps on me, the same way she taps on the door to get me to open it. I lift the covers and she scoots under, and curls up beside me. That usually gives me about five more minutes of sleep. Then she pokes her head out from under the comforter, and starts checking out her options. There are cushions on the floor beside the bed, to make it easier for her to get down. Sometimes, though, the big dog, Darla, is sleeping on those cushions. Sometimes Rosa Parks, who is nearly blind, doesn’t know if Darla is there or not.

If she’s afraid to jump, she starts whining. That annoying habit, she learned from Blackie Chan. That little dog was a world class whiner, and used the tactic whenever he wanted up or down. Or a treat. Or a snuggle. Rosa Parks never had been a whiner, but she’s a quick study, and she picked it up quickly. If she whines for more than a minute, I get up. I lift her down from the bed, and follow her to the door. If she thinks it’s safe, she’ll jump down, and go to the door on her own. I get up and follow. She tap-tap-taps; I open the door. While she’s outside, I run to the bathroom. Sometimes I turn on the coffee pot, but usually not. That feels too much like surrender. I’m not ready to wake up yet.

When she comes in, I get three pieces of kibble. One for Rosa Parks (“Good girl!”), one for Darla (“Rosa Parks got this for you,” I tell her), and one to give Rosa as a bonus when she comes back to bed. I get back under the covers. At this point, I can fall easily back to sleep. The little bit of activity, though, has roused Darla. Darla doesn’t whine and she rarely barks. She doesn’t scratch at or tap on the door. When she needs to go outside, she goes to the door, and breathes. Loudly. If I ignore it, or sleep through it, she will eventually come to the side of the bed and loudly breathe right next to my ear. So, I get up and let her out.

When she comes back in, I still haven’t turned on a single light. I haven’t started the coffee. I distribute treats again: one for Darla (“Good girl!”), one for Rosa Parks (“Darla wanted you to have this”), and a second, bonus treat for Darla…then back to bed for me. At this time, I’m kind of awake, but feel like I need more rest. With slight effort, I fall back asleep. I vaguely notice Rosa Parks adjusting herself next to me. I hear Darla come snuffling around, then gently stepping up onto the bed. She settles in behind my legs. I am now perfectly warm and comfortable, wedged in between two dogs.

I sleep in that position for a short while. It’s a good sleep, but as the room starts to brighten, and my joints start to cry out from spending too long in one position, I know it’s time to get up. Then, the problem is how to shimmy these old bones out from under the covers without disturbing the two sleeping dogs! In my house, waking up happens in stages!



Talking to my friend Linda on the telephone the other day, I suddenly sneezed…hard…and said, “I’ve gotta go…I just wet myself.” We immediately ended the call.

First, my friend knows that I’m waiting for a new telephone, and that until it arrives, I am limited to an old-fashioned, corded slim line phone that keeps me attached to a corner of my dining room. Second, she is my same age, so understands issues of bladder control. Third, I’ve known Linda since sixth grade. She remembers, as I do, when it was laughing hysterically that would cause an accident like that. And we often set each other off into fits of giggles. So, I didn’t think twice about divulging my problem.

Time was, though, that I would never mention it to anyone else, and certainly never write about it. I’ve always been a private person, hyper-conscious of the image I portrayed to the world, very secretive about my faults and flaws. I would go to great lengths to try to show everyone that I was “normal.” Just like them, or as I perceived them to be. What happened?

Well, age, for one thing. I don’t get embarrassed as easily as I used to. I don’t care as much what other people think. I am more accepting of myself, complete with all my weaknesses and flaws. I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that I’m never going to be the person I was pretending to be, so may as well accept it. I am nit-picky but disorganized. I am a time-waster. I am prone to laziness. I will never be a good housekeeper. I am a terrible procrastinator, and have a propensity for hoarding. Among other things.

For another, I started putting this blog out into the world. If you write about your own life regularly enough, eventually you get beyond the surface fluff, and into what is real and true. At first, that made me very uncomfortable. After a while, I realized that the more foibles and shortcomings I revealed, the more feedback I received. That has led to the understanding that we are all holding on to secrets. We all feel vulnerable. We present the best side of ourselves, and hope that’s all that others see. It’s in the darker, often hidden sides of ourselves that we make the truest connections.

So, though it often makes me cringe, I tend, now, to write from my heart, blemishes and all.



It is a wonderful feeling to hold a tremendous idea in mind, and work toward making it reality. That, however, is rare in my life.

No matter what I’m working on, I usually start at almost zero, and the inspiration comes as I get involved.

In the studio, I play with colors and shapes until an idea starts to take hold. Even then, its often just a fragment of a plan…something of interest that I want to pursue. My mind is working with “what if…” and “how about…” rather than a definite direction. Even when I have settled on a particular scheme, I find a way to inject randomness into the mix.

When working with clay, no matter how rigid your discipline, and in spite of all attempts at control, there comes a point where you have to surrender your work to the kiln. There, surprises happen. Sometimes it’s magic; sometimes disaster. A discouragement to some, I found that lack of control inspiring. I started planning for it.

The three elements of a glaze, silica, alumina and flux, are usually combined in balanced amounts, and applied to the bisque-ware. I tried mixing each element separately, then layering them on the clay body, so that the heat of the kiln would allow them to – only sometimes – merge. I embedded elements like marbles, beach glass and pyrometric cones between the layers of my large coiled sculptures, knowing they would melt during the firing process. That anticipated unknown conclusion was inspiring to me.

I am drawn to collage, and collagraph printmaking for the same reasons that I found working in clay so attractive: many aspects are out of my control. .I may decide on a row of shapes marching across the border of a collage, but I’ll select the shapes blindly from an envelope of random scraps. I’ve used the rolling of a die to determine color choices. I’ve cut materials carefully into uniform shapes, but then shuffled them so that the order of placement was out of my control. It is when I’m in the middle of a self-created problem (like how in the world am I going to make that ugly acid green work next to that lovely velvety rose?) that I feel most inspired.

Last winter, the resale shop was gifted a huge donation of yarn. People crowded in for first pick of the lovely materials. They looked for full skeins, and struggled to find enough of any particular yarn to complete a project. I went, instead, for the variety. A little of this, a little of that, in a hundred different colors and weights and textures. I worked with a basic, simple pattern, and three strands of yarn. When I came to the end of one strand, I tied on another. That way, the colors were changing as I worked. Having to “think on my feet” about which colors and textures will compliment what is already there is inspiring, too.

Of the hundreds of essays I’ve written over the years, not more than a dozen of them have been planned in advance. And, I have to admit, those are some of the dullest compositions. My most engaging writing happens when I dive in, edit as I go, and move sentences or whole paragraphs around to improve the flow. When I wrote first drafts in longhand, the arrows, scribbles and notes in the margins became a challenge to decipher when it came time to type. Then, as I continued to edit as I saw things “in print,” the mounds of waste paper were astounding! Computers, even with my hunt-and-peck typing method, have streamlined that process tremendously! Hurray for the ability to cut and paste!

Sometimes, without any idea of what to write about, I’ll select a photograph. That is often all it takes to give me a topic. Other times, I’ll land on a title, and see where that takes me. Today, feeling uninspired, I went with that. And here it is!



This is a long out-of-date photo of my grandson, Tommy. It was taken in 2017, when he was here on Beaver Island for a visit. A lot has changed since then.

Tommy is a grown man now. He’s graduated high school, got a job, bought a car…so many grown-up things! Some things haven’t changed, though. He still has that sweet smile. He still has a gentle manner, and one of the kindliest dispositions of anyone I know. He’s a little bit shy. He is tender-hearted and thoughtful. He has the best giggle in the world!

Today is Tommy’s birthday. What are the odds that his birthday would fall on the day that T is my letter for the April A~Z challenge?! So, I’ve set aside the beginnings of an essay on “Touch,” and another on “Trouble.” Neither were going very well, anyway, and I had already started a third, talking about the “Ten Days I’ve Spent in This House, Feeling Under the Weather.” But, I’ve already complained so much about being sick, even I am getting tired of it! Much better to celebrate this fine young man, on his birthday!

So, Tommy saves the day!