Tag Archives: August

Where’s the Joy?

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It seems that I have dropped into my – almost annual – birthday funk.

It is not my birthday yet…but it’s coming.

There have been a few years where the day has come and gone without the usual feelings of depression and sadness   but they are a rare exception.

It’s not the age that bothers me.

Sometimes it’s the lack of accomplishment, though that was more pertinent when I was younger. I had a whole list of things I had hoped to accomplish by the time I turned thirty – or even forty – but I never really thought I’d have anything left to accomplish if I was still around at this age (I’ll be turning 63), so I am not disappointed. Still being here, I guess, is an accomplishment!

Sometimes it’s loneliness. My mother used to say I was ” the most anti-social” of all of her children (I’m sure she meant that in the nicest possible way!), and she was probably right. Usually, I’m not bothered by being alone; often I relish it. Not on Christmas, though, and not on my birthday.

Sometimes it’s just that I am generally overwhelmed and exhausted.

Sometimes it’s remembering other years, and the losses that have marked the passage of time.

Sometimes it’s just habit.

I have just had an entire frenzied month that included two trips to the mainland, an open house, a class reunion, a memorial for a dear uncle and three weeks with my granddaughter here on the island. All of my sisters have been here for a wonderful, fun week, as well as nieces and nephews and friends and cousins…and I’m tired.

This is a busy time of year here on Beaver Island. The Fourth of July festivities were followed in quick succession by the Beaver Island Music Fest; Museum Week, including an art show that I participate in; “Baroque on Beaver” concerts and activities; a Bike Fest; “Meet the Artists” at Livingstone Studio, which I also participate in; Home-Coming Weekend, and now Jazz Fest. Add to that the people that come for birding, kayaking and camping, or just the basic warm weather and  beautiful beaches. Visitors to the island mean customers in the stores. Though we appreciate the business and love to see the people come, all who work in the service industries feel the strain by the time August rolls around.

Clearly, I have too much on my plate. I wonder about my sanity in taking on the Beaver Beacon. Even with good help – and my partners are wonderful – it is a huge responsibility that seems overwhelming much of the time. I cut my hours at the hardware to make time for the news magazine, so my income hasn’t changed – except for the things I’ve had to purchase and the times I’ve had to supplement it’s bank account out of my personal funds – but my stress level certainly has.

This month, that features many birthdays and wedding anniversaries in my family, also holds the sad memories of many losses. Both of my parents died in August. So did my sister, Sheila. My Grandma Thelma died around the end of August, when I was a child.

Though I loved my Grandma, I was a selfish child. Her death affected me mostly because I didn’t get a birthday party that year. My poor, harried mother – with seven little children and another on the way, with a husband who worked long hours and didn’t like hospitals, with no brothers or sisters to help, with her mother dying in the hospital – gave me a hug, handed me an unwrapped chapter book (my precious Heidi, that I treasure, still) and said, “This year, this will have to do…happy birthday!”

What?! No party? No balloons? No festivities? Does nobody love me? Does no one care? Am I the least favorite child in this whole family? I embarked on a major “Feeling Sorry For Myself” jag that became so enjoyable in it’s intensity, it became habit, and an almost annual tradition. It is with me, still. I recognize it, and even laugh at myself most of the time for my childish mournfulness (“My sisters will all be gone by my birthday, and I’ll be alone…and my kids will probably forget to call…and I have to work…”)…but I know to be careful, too. What starts as a little self-indulgent self pity can turn into a major depression if I let it go on unchecked.

Clearly, I have matured. I work at avoiding depression; I look for joy. I spend my birthday with good intentions and good memories.

This year, in fact, I think I’ll mark my birthday with a list of 63 joyful things I’d still like to accomplish in this life!

Forward…and Back

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Rainy…and bright.

The August garden, a crazy circus of orange and yellow and (yes!) apricot Day Lilies, Black-eyed Susan, pink Cosmos, bright Marigolds and WEEDS, is also alive with trails of pumpkin runners, tomato plants and heavily loaded grape vines hanging over the fence. The asparagus fronds wave a golden mist in front of the drying raspberry canes. The pea plants are yellow: the last, late harvest of peas went into the soup pot yesterday. The potato plants are wilting, a sign that their work is done, and potatoes can be dug soon. The cucumbers struggle on. This rain will help.

August is a mix of living and dying.

Walking down the Fox Lake Road last evening, I noticed more of the same. The wild raspberries, just like the cultivated plants in my garden, are just about done. The milkweed is dying, putting the last of its energy into producing seed pods…but their drying flowers still perfume the air as I pass. Blackberry bushes, I am happy to announce, are loaded with green fruit. It will be ripening soon, and keep us in sweet harvest until the frost.

August is a mix of dying and living.

My sisters were here, with families and friends, to celebrate life in our own crazy ways. August is a mix in our family, too, with birthdays and anniversaries interspersed with dates associated with the death of a loved one. Strength is born of sadness, but more: through loss I have learned to cherish the moment, the life we are given, and the people I’m blessed with. I feel in every hug, every baby’s laugh and every “I love you,” a tremendous gratitude for the insight to appreciate this wild life.

A good friend lost her sister last week; another lost her brother just the day before yesterday. My friend, John, is here on Beaver Island to honor his lifelong partner, Larry, who died last year.

It’s raining today, but the sun shines through.

Life is a mix.

We must forge on.

“We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.” (Jack Gilbert)

“It has done me good to be parched by the heat and drenched by the rain of life.” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

“These are our few live seasons. Let us live them as purely as we can, in the present.” (Annie Dillard)

August: Sun Shine

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The month of August, for me, brings a wide mix of emotions.

It always has.

As a child, the hot days pulling weeds in the garden were balanced by time at the lake, splashing around at the Hill Top Beach, or fishing from Magabelle’s dock. The stifling nights were often spent camping in large tents in the the backyard, with an assortment of sleeping bags and army cots to accommodate the masses of over-heated children.

The field behind our house offered mysteries and danger, wild berries and lots of hiding places. The willow trees, front yard and back, always offered a nice shade. The privet hedge shielded the back yard play area from the passing cars. We wore as little clothing as possible, and were barefoot except for church-going. I treasure one photograph of a cluster of us little children, squinting into the sun in a mad collection of underpants and shorts. My brother Ted, the only boy in the photo, is the only one with a shirt on!

August was birthdays and birthday parties, family reunions and family vacations. The start of school loomed just around the bend, but even that brought new supplies, a fresh wardrobe and its own level of excitement.

August was the best month of summer…made even more sweet with the knowledge that the season was coming to an end.

Now, as an adult, I still feel the bittersweet mixture of joy and sadness all through the month.

Here on Beaver Island, the cooler nights of August remind us to treasure each summer day. Warm weather and our “Home Coming” celebration bring the crowds. Visitors pour off the ferry boats and planes, or their own motorboats or sailboats. They enjoy the beaches and wander through the shops.

Yet, every week is marked by people leaving. The businesses are forced to rearrange work schedules to make up for employees who go to get settled into dorms or houses, to get registered for classes, to get ready to start another job, or just to get a break before the season has passed them by.

Every joy at seeing loved ones come to visit is juxtaposed with sadness at their departure.

To the many birthdays we’ve always celebrated in August, my family has added a whole collection of memorable dates. Many are happy ones: we have several wedding anniversaries in August. Others note passings: my sister Sheila and both of my parents died in this month. It is almost impossible for a day in August to go by without a memory attached to it.

This year on August 2nd – which is my godson’s birthday but also the day that, two years ago, my sister, Sheila, died unexpectedly – I had a meeting before my regular workday. My granddaughter, Madeline, and I walked the dogs early. We picked raspberries in the evening as we watered the beans and squash. We took our simple dinner upstairs to the studio to watch Jeopardy while we ate. We read two chapters before bed.

The next seven days – which included two birthdays and two wedding anniversaries – were spent in similar fashion.

On August 10th, family and friends came: Robin and Dick first, then Bob, Gary, Brenda, Keith, Amy, Danielle, John, Lillie, Nicole, Jim, Kristen and Chris. Cheryl and Joel arrived the next day.

Sunday, August 11th, was our “Home Coming” Dinner, a much anticipated annual event held at the Holy Cross Hall here on Beaver Island. This year was special, as a series of events had caused the dinner to be cancelled last year. Madeline and I made pies to donate to the dessert table.

We didn’t attend, though.

In our group, Sunday was “Thanksgiving in August.” Brenda cooked turkey and all the trimmings! Because I am never able to get off the island for that holiday, it was wonderful to enjoy that lovely meal surrounded by my family.

August 11th is the birthday of our dear family friend, Mary, who watched all of us grow up.

It is also the anniversary of the day our Mother died, two years ago.

That wasn’t forgotten, through the laughter and chatter and, “pass the gravy down this way, please.” We are happy, though, to build new memories to go along with the other ones.

Tuesday, Madeline left on the ferry boat with my sister, Amy, and her family. I waved them off, then went to work. I felt like I could cry uncontrollably if given half a chance. Yet when I stopped at the house where my sisters were staying, my friend, Bob, greeted me at the door with a big hug, and before I knew it, I was happily surrounded by the love of my family.

And the week went on, joyously.

Yesterday, all remaining family and friends left.

Last night’s dinner was a simple affair.

The evening, without diversion of any kind, seemed to drag on a bit too long.

It was awfully quiet out here on the Fox Lake Road.

I went to bed early.

The sun came up warm and bright this morning, though. It shined through the trees as I walked the dogs, leaving dappled patterns on the path.

Summer is not over yet.

There are still warm days to be savored, memories to be made, sunshine to enjoy.

There is still some August left.