Tag Archives: Autumn

Gone

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It has been a beautiful autumn here on Beaver Island. One for the record books, I think, with warm temperatures lasting well into November. Even the frost held off longer than usual, and several people remarked that they remembered “a foot of snow on the ground” by this time in other years.

The colors were outstanding. Maybe not as many reds as I’ve seen in other years, but the yellows, oh my! For one essay on a walk through the woods, I turned to Google, requesting “synonyms for yellow” as my vocabulary fell short of the brilliant colors around me. Every day, I’d think, “this must be peak color…” only to be proven wrong by the next day, and the next. I’d tell myself, “surely I have enough photographs of the colors this fall…” and then I’d chide myself for not having my camera when faced with yet another glorious landscape.

The greens turned to orange, and the yellows turned bronze as the weeks went by. The blends of colors changed, but only for the better, it seemed. As the fall winds shook leaves to the ground, it seemed to simply clarify and enhance the color that was left. A heavy rain turned the tree trunks dark, which proved a brilliant foil to the glistening leaves. Fall continued that way, longer than any of us expected, and probably longer than we deserved.

No more. A week of high winds caused our ferry boat to abort one trip, and cancel a couple others. It made us contemplative about “the winds of November” on the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It took down trees and power lines. And it stripped the trees of their bright colors.

I’ve saved what I could of the color, in autumn leaves pressed in the pages of books, and in one thousand photographs. The view, though, has moved into a drearier realm. I offer a sigh, for another season gone and a bleaker landscape ahead.

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October 1st

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I worked on the schedule for the hardware store yesterday and – other than a few tweaks – it’s done for another month. At home, I have a new chart in my journal for the month of October, to help me monitor work hours and habits that I want to keep track of. I feel like I’ve turned a corner here in my organizational life-quest; I don’t want to lose momentum. Now, when work days are a little easier, is the time to solidify patterns at home for editing, writing, exercise and cleaning time.

I stopped in to see Aunt Katie last night after work. She was watching the news on her little TV set in the kitchen. The local news was reporting on “Leaf Peepers.” That’s a term I hadn’t heard before, but that evidently refers to the tourists that come north for fall color.

This year, the colors are just beginning to show here on Beaver Island. My maple trees, which will soon be glorious in shades of rust and gold, are barely tinged with color. The blackberry bushes are rosy colored now, and giving up their last few fruits. The Autumn Joy Sedum is brilliant red, and covered with bees on every sunny day. I haven’t had frost yet, but we’ve had a few cool nights. Today, it’s raining.

A new month; a fresh start. That’s how it is here in my little house on the Fox Lake Road on this first day of October.

This Morning

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Children and animals don’t understand Daylight Savings Time.

They stick to their own schedules.

My nieces and nephews with babies in the home have been noting how they missed out this year, on that extra hour of sleep.

In my household, it means my little dog starts early this time of year, asking for her dinner. It means she’s ready for sleep earlier, too. She comes to find me – at computer desk or in the studio – and cocks her head. “Still working? It’s bedtime,” her look tells me. When she gives up and walks away, I imagine a shoulder shrug, head shake and a mumbled comment about how I’ll be sorry tomorrow.

In the morning, we get up on time, no matter what the clock says.

Even if it’s my day off.

Even if it’s one of those frosty mornings when the air is cold and the blankets form a cozy cocoon and I don’t want to move.

We get up because the little dog – unaware of the time change – needs to go outside.

I turn on the coffee pot; it will be ready when I come in.

I pull my white, fleecy robe from the hook on the bathroom door, pick up the camera from the desk, grab a few pieces of kibble from the dog food bin, and slide into the shoes that wait by the kitchen door.

Out we go!

This is our routine, year ’round.

Sometimes boots and winter coat replace the shoes and bathrobe. Other days, the big umbrella is necessary. Rarely, but on a couple summer days I go out in just pajamas and bare feet.

Some days the ground is so wet with dew, it dampens my feet right through my shoes. Sometimes, a fresh snow welcomes us.

There are mornings when I’m greeted by a big moon and a sky full of stars.

This morning, frost has turned the asparagus fronds to silver. Leaves crackle under my feet. In the trees, dark branches are revealed where the leaves have fallen. They form a striking backdrop for the color that is left: yellows have turned to amber, and oranges to rust.

Over it all, this autumn sky.

This morning, like every other, I hate to get out of bed. I shudder when my feet hit the cold floor. I grumble as I maneuver my sleepy self into bathrobe and shoes. I complain to myself as I walk around the yard and garden, waiting for the little dog to finish her morning constitutional.

This morning, like every other, I am enriched by the experience in spite of myself.

Change

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I never figure coin, when adjusting my checkbook. If I deposit $438.87, I only add in $438.00. If I write a check for $12.02, I subtract $13.00. Most errors occur in adding and subtracting the coin, and I’ve eliminated it. I’ve also given myself a little cushion. If I forget to subtract the $2.50 service charge each month, I am covered. If I forget to enter a check or debit from my account, I am usually okay. With nothing more than the coin, I accumulate a couple hundred dollars each year.

It’s a nice little bonus. Sometimes it covers a little trip away; sometimes it gets me out of a bind caused by an illness or an unforeseen auto repair bill. A few years ago, with no other pressing needs, I used it to buy a camera. It’s nothing fancy – just a little “point and shoot” – but I enjoy it immensely. Because I got it with “left-over coin,” it seems like a gift.

I take more photos in October than in any other month of the year.

Change is what I am documenting.

Leaves turn from ordinary and expected greens to a wealth of gold-red-orange-purple colors that continue to delight, amaze and surprise me, though I’ve been observing this process for more than sixty years. Yesterday, the temperature dropped more than ten degrees, mid-day. We had episodes of rain here on Beaver Island, then sleet, then snow…and beautiful blue skies and bright sun in-between!

Change is the way we make note of our lives, as we live. It’s not always as pleasurable as watching autumn colors.

It includes “where did this summer go?” and “where did these wrinkles come from?” and “how did it happen that my precious babies are now grown, with problems and disappointments of their own?” It includes loss. And death.

I was, in fact, going to title this piece “Change and Disappointment.”

Beaver Island is losing its Beech trees. Every one. A disease that infected them years ago is taking them down. The woods are littered with their fallen majesty; every wind storm adds to the toll. As if that weren’t enough, fallen trees take out the electrical power and block roadways.

[even I can see the sheer audacity of that statement: “bad enough that an entire species of hundred-year-old trees is dying…but it’s inconveniencing me, as well!” Shame on me, as I continue, self-centered-ly]

A dear island gentleman passed away recently, an old friend of my father’s. I’ll attend his funeral this morning.

Last week, a man died – the father of an old friend – who I’d known for fifty years. As children, we’d raid his food stores for our midnight snacks. We’d roll our eyes at his commentary as he drove us to the Pix theater for movies. His voice, downstairs talking on the HAM radio, was background to our whispered midnight conversations. He was an integral part of my childhood.

I suffered a huge letdown with another project last week, which has caused a total upheaval in the process. I can’t quite make sense of it yet, or form words to describe the disappointment and fear…but I forge on.

“Forge on through disappointment and loss,” I tell myself. “Make the most of change.”

With thoughts like that, I headed down the Fox Lake Road last week, planning to be on time for work at the hardware store, which was the only job – at that time – that was not causing me grief. A large beech tree had fallen across the road, blocking my path. I couldn’t move it. What could I do? I could back up (on curvy road with dust-covered windows) more than a quarter-mile to a place where I could turn around, then back-track and take the long route to town. I could sit and wait for someone to come that could help me move the tree, or that could cut it out of the way. I could go around it…maybe. I got out and paced the distance from the end of the tree, across to the drive-able shoulder and off to the nearest barrier, which was a cluster of small trees. I might just make it, if I aimed just right, and turned just so, and didn’t flatten my tire rolling over the end of the tree trunk…

Well, I didn’t.

I got wedged in between the tree trunk in the road and the cluster of small trees off the road. After inching forward and back – forever, it seemed – to dislodge the car, I thought a bold push forward was necessary to get past a tiny fingerling tree that was holding me up…

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I tore the mirror right off the passenger side of my good little car. I’ve been so very appreciative of this car and so careful of it, I wanted to just cry. [I hate to admit, I also toyed with the notion of titling this piece “First Blood” to mark the first damage incurred on my watch.]

So much for getting to work on time!

So much for forging on with good spirits!

So much for making the best of change!

And yet…change is not only the things that happen, out of our control, that we fight and rail against and mourn for.

Change is also What is Left.

Change is the coin left over when you break a dollar. The eyes of small children twinkle when they give you one thing…a dollar bill…and they get back many shiny things in return. We adults all know it’s not as much…but oh, to look through a child’s eyes, and see that way! From my own experience, I know how change can accumulate.

For every loss, no matter how great, something is left, something is gained. For all of my self-centered melodrama, I still have an exciting business; I still have a working vehicle. When one sense is lost, the other senses are heightened. When a loved one dies, we look with renewed love and appreciation to those who are still with us; every memory becomes more precious.

The task is to take What is Left…and live with it. Let it grow, let it accumulate, let it be.

Sometimes – as in the autumn colors all around – what’s left is glorious.

Time to Write; Time to Pause

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I write just about every single day. Letters, often, though brief Emails outweigh traditional correspondence these days. Sometimes it’s editorial content or news items. Often it is editing and minor “re-writes.” None of it is as satisfying as the totally self-indulgent writing I do here. I can tell when it’s time to sit down and write something. As I go through my daily activities, if I am hankering to write, I find myself composing sentences in my head. Rather than just experiencing, I convert it to the written word.

“Two spotted fawns, with their mother, raised their heads to greet me as I drove past them on the Fox Lake Road.”

“Are the squirrels exhibiting bravery when they – at the last possible moment – dash in front of my car…or is it something darker?”

“A planned day off, filled to capacity with things I needed to accomplish, turned into another day at work, and my long list had to be saved for another day.”

This morning, as I sliced, with my fork, into a piece of french toast, I noticed the pat of melting butter looked like a large eye, and the cut I had made was a mouth.

“A mottled gnome snarled up at me from my breakfast plate this morning…”

I knew it was time to write.

Yesterday, plans had to be put on hold to attend to my paying job. Our summer help is gone. Though business has slacked off, as usual, after Labor Day, we are still short-handed on many days. I went in to work because it was necessary, not because I had nothing better to do.

I was feeling the pressure by the time I got home. With all of my long list of jobs being delayed (which means they are all now crowded in to this one day), and a dinner engagement last evening, my first inclination was to dive in head first, and try to make some progress. I had about an hour before I had to leave.

For the Beacon, I could pull up that one article and begin editing, or send off those obituaries; I could return a couple phone calls and respond to some Emails; I could begin my piece for the next issue, plot out the questions for an interview or write up the article on advertising; I could work on billing for the classified ads or the vendors; I could begin filling out subscription reminders. Too much!

I could rush out to Aunt Katie’s, to try to get her floors vacuumed, swept and mopped before dinnertime. Not enough time.

I could tackle a few jobs that are on my list here, but that list is long, too. Laundry, clean the bathroom, shake the rugs and sweep the floors, clean windows and scour sinks. Outside, the raspberries need to be pruned and the back yard needs mowing…and that is just the bare necessities.

The little dog reminded me that she’d been neglected for another long day, and would like to go outside.

What I needed was a pause.

We headed out to the fields that surround my yard.

My only goal was to pick one hundred blackberries. Of course I would count…I count dishes when I wash them and towels as I fold them…but I had no other plans. I did not bring the bucket, to collect them for pie or for the freezer. I didn’t even bring the small bowl, to save them for a midnight treat with milk and sugar. It was only later that I brought the camera out to photograph them. Pick them; eat them: that was my plan.

It developed into something a little more, in that hour I gave myself. I noticed the sunshine, and the play of the shadows. I breathed in the fresh air, and noted a hint of autumn in the breeze. I tasted every berry as I ate them, one by one: some fully ripe with winy sweetness, others bright and tangy on my tongue. Now and then, one for the little dog, who wagged along beside me.

When I got to twenty berries, it seemed their season was almost done, and I’d never find one-hundred. I crossed the yard to the north side, where wild blueberries and blackberries enjoy the shelter of the old maple trees. At fifty-one, I climbed the fence into the old horse enclosure, to get the big berries in there. At seventy-four, back into my own yard. At eight-five, I thought I was done, until I turned and saw what the bright sun had hidden from view. At one hundred and six berries, I decided I was not dressed to force my way into the center of the wild junipers, to get to the vines that grow there.

I spent the last five minutes just sitting…in the grass…with my dog…and felt that it was a perfect conclusion to one of the best hours I’ve had in a long time!

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Days Gone By

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Here it is, the first of September.

Another summer season gone.

Where?

These flowers open and bloom for one day.

Sometimes I notice how beautiful they are.

Sometimes I pay attention to all of the blossoms, and how many buds are waiting to open.

Too often I see how many spent blooms need to be removed.

Maybe that’s the gardener in me.

Maybe it has  more to do with age, or just my perspective of the world.

I find myself – too often – looking with pensive sadness at days gone by, unretrievable, rather than the days ahead.

Rather, even, than this present, precious day.

September is a time of change on Beaver Island.

The Labor Day weekend marks the end of our tourist season. Children are soon going back to school. Summer residents and visitors are packing up and closing cabins. There is a hint of Fall and the premonition of Winter in our cool nights and chilly mornings. The growing season is nearing its end.

This is a time of good-byes.

My birthday, falling near the end of August, gets my mind going to times past and years gone by.

The melancholy persists with the end of Summer and all the changes it brings.

Punctuated, this year, by the death of a dear one.

Bill Cashman was a good friend to Beaver Island. Map-maker, builder, writer, historian…Bill wore many hats, and wore them all with a dapper sensitivity to this island and its people. He had a keen knack for seeing and encouraging the strengths of any individual. He was a champion of lost-causes and long-shots, and often doggedly pursued an idea that he deemed worthy when all around him were prepared to abandon it.

Bill was a long and good friend to me. He hired my husband and took an interest in our family. He supplied some of the materials to build our little house. He supported me early on in my artistic endeavors, and later helped to set up a website to feature my Collagraph work. He visited my house several times to see my new work and  take notes on my processes. Bill encouraged and promoted my writing, through all my lazy, procrastinating tactics to avoid it.

I ran into Bill in the Post Office just two days before he died. Both on the run, we exchanged pleasantries.

He’d been battling cancer for quite some time. He was skinny and pale, but had a bounce in his step and a twinkle in his eye.

“Good!” was his emphatic response to my “How are ya?”

Bill knew how to appreciate the present moment!

As we move into the shortening days of Autumn, through sad good-byes and seasons past, I aspire to do the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hanging On

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In the Summer, these leaves are nothing special.

A simple leaf shape. A plain green color.

In Autumn, when other trees are sporting dozens of shades at once in hues from brightest yellow to deep magenta, these leave fade – uniformly – to this pale, barely orange tone. Tree wide, without variation.

Unremarkable.

It’s only in the Winter when I start to take notice of them.

These are the only leaves still clinging to the branches.

Some days, when the snow blankets the ground and the sunless days leave the pine needles looking black, these leaves are the only bit of color in the woods.

All through the Winter, and right into Spring, they hang on.

Through winter storms that stripped pine trees of their branches and caused tall maples to bow, these leaves just stayed.

That alone is pretty remarkable.

Winding Down

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Autumn.

The wind is shaking leaves from the trees so steadily it sometimes sounds like rain.

There’s a chill in the air. Nights have gotten downright cold! I’m not yet ready to turn on the propane, but I’ve conceded to having the electric heater on a low setting, just to take the chill off.

I’ve cut back the iris into little fans just above ground level and pulled the daylily stalks. I dug up and moved the last of the daylilies from the border. I’ve pulled up all of my tomato plants, stored their wire cages and turned over the soil. I cut out all the dead raspberry canes and pruned and thinned the rest. I cleared and prepared a bed for the rest of the strawberry plants.

I dug the last of the potatoes and brought in five small winter squash. I have a bag of mixed peppers in the refrigerator that I’ll dice and freeze tomorrow. I have beans, summer squash and plenty of berries in the freezer already. My aunt (bless her heart) canned tomatoes for me: twelve perfect quarts.

I moved my T-shirts and sleeveless shirts to the small dresser upstairs, and brought down my long sleeves and sweaters.

I bought yeast, though I haven’t had time or inclination to make a batch of bread yet. Home-made soup and warm, fresh bread is a weekly ritual in the months of cold weather.

The little gallery I worked at is now closed for the season. The restaurant at the Lodge served it’s last dinner of the season last Friday. I am now down to one job, at the Shamrock Restaurant and Pub downtown. Until next marking period, when I’ll teach two art classes at the school as well. Business is still steady, but it’s an easier pace than it was even two weeks ago.

I think I’m done with Jonathan Kellerman! His books were good summer reading, with characters that became familiar and story lines that were not overly strenuous. I’ve been looking over my bookshelf, and am ready for something quite different. I’ve already started The Chicken Chronicles by Alice Walker, and am thoroughly enjoying her beautiful prose. I’m looking forward to Sacre’ Bleu by Christopher Moore, his take on the Impressionist artists. I love his irreverent humor and imagination! Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, Revelation in the Cave by Nancy Flinchbaugh and Yonnondio by Tillie Olsen are also on my stack.

I’ve been doing some rearranging and organizing in the studio. I have a few paintings underway that I’m anxious to finish, now that I have time for making art. I want to get the printing press adjusted and ready, too, as I plan to do some collagraph print-making this winter.

Autumn was always my mother’s favorite season. I didn’t understand it when I was younger. I liked Spring, with its new growth and fresh starts and Summer’s heat and busy-ness.

Now, I understand!