Tag Archives: Beaver Island

What’s Happening

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After a lot of wavering on the issue, it seems spring has finally arrived here on Beaver Island. Though frost was threatened for last night, I don’t think the temperature dipped that low. Even if it had – a frost in May is not unheard of here – I stand by my assertion: spring is here. The proof is everywhere.

Our Beaver Island ferry boats are making daily trips, now, back and forth to Charlevoix. It has been a month since they’ve needed the assistance of the Coast Guard’s ice breaker. The shops and stores in town have restocked their shelves. There are cars – more than winter’s one or two – parked along the street; there are people – more than one or two – going in and out of the businesses.

Lately, I’ve encountered other vehicles on the roads, on my way to and from town. Sometimes, there’s a car ahead of me, kicking up a cloud of dust. Now and then, I’ve had to wait for a couple vehicles before pulling out onto the King’s Highway. In the winter, I am usually alone on the road for my seven-mile trek into town. Now, we have traffic!

In the woods, every view offers a hundred shades of green and yellow. Some trees are in bud; others are in various stages of unfurling their leaves. The forest floor is blanketed with wildflowers, mosses, grasses, piney ground-covers and wild leeks. I’m sure there are edible mushrooms there, too, though they escape my vision.

In my yard, the forsythia and service berry bushes are in full flower. Lilacs, hummingbird vine and snowball bush are just showing buds. The rhododendron by the back door is covered with magenta-colored blooms. I’ve been daily breaking off the drooping blooms of daffodils while welcoming other varieties as they open. Tulips are still blooming.

The peonies are pushing up their red leaves; poppies are showing their fuzzy, fern-like foliage. Day lilies and iris are displaying their sharp green leaves, to make their presence known, and remind me of what’s yet to come. The lawn, after a recent rain, is suddenly desperately in need of mowing. In the garden, one pea plant has just barely pushed a leaf out of the ground and, if I were to bring a magnifying glass, I think I could honestly report that the spinach is up.

After two weeks of spring-like weather without bugs to contend with, now the mosquitoes have hatched. I noticed them yesterday morning, while working out in the yard, but they were not a distraction. By the time I walked the dogs in the evening, they were impossible to ignore. I pin-wheeled my arms all the way down the road. This morning, every time the big dog comes in, she brings a swarm of them with her, all hungry for blood. This is the down-side of spring, here in the woods off the Fox Lake Road.

As one final testament that spring has arrived, I have family here! Yesterday, my cousin Keith and my sisters, Cheryl and Brenda, came to open up the family farmhouse for the season. They dug right in to projects, clearing and sweeping and freshening. I pitched in a little, while relishing their company. Last night it was red wine, pretzels and euchre around Aunt Katie’s kitchen table. The season is upon us!

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Reading Material(April A~Z Challenge)

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When packing for my trip off the island, I had plenty of things to consider. Reading material should have been the least of my worries. For the bus that would take me from Charlevoix to Flint, Michigan, I was allowed one 50 pound bag, plus one small carry-on. For the trip by plane from Bishop Airport in Flint to Orlando International Airport, I was allowed one 40 pound bag to be checked. No carry-on.

Beaver Island was in the middle of a snowstorm, with ice and freezing temperatures. That storm had already gone through the Flint area. Still, it was April; what the weather would be like tomorrow, or the next day, was anybody’s guess. Do I add a winter coat? What will that do to my weight capacity? Because part of my plans for this trip were also to solicit my sister’s help in filing my taxes, I had to also allow room for several folders of receipts and forms.

When I checked the long-term forecast for the area of Florida we’d be in, it showed cooler temperatures and thunderstorms for three of the seven days we’d be there. Who could tell if that prediction would hold? On top of that, all Florida clothing had to travel well, be versatile, and promise to hide my fat. I know, I was asking a lot.

With so much to consider, I had fallen into procrastination mode until there was no longer any time to waste. I was becoming more tense in every day that went by. The time for making lists and considering options was past; it was time for action! Finally, on the day before I was scheduled to leave, I had two revelations:

  1. I would leave my computer at home. In this day and age, there are computers out there to use, in a pinch. I could check my mail, post my blog and be done with it. No temptation to waste time on social media or in playing internet Scrabble. What a relief to not have to worry about where and how to carry my laptop computer, and all of the cords and accessories that accompany it. How nice to have one less thing to weigh, and carry! What a good time to practice going technology free!
  2. I would weigh my books first!! Because my electronic reader had recently given up the ghost, I had three books set aside to take with me on vacation. Peony in Love by Lisa See, The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, and We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter: paperback books that each sounded like they would grab and hold my attention on a plane, on a rainy day inside, on the beach, or before falling asleep at night. Stoking the Creative Fires by Phil Cousineau was the one technical book I allowed myself. A Morning Cup of Yoga  by Jane Goad Trechsel would keep me up on my daily practice. Then, of course, I had to have my journal for writing “morning pages,” my sketchbook to document my trip in pictures, and my bullet journal for keeping track of everything else.

Whew! That did it! Once I made the decision to prioritize reading material, everything else fell into place. Logically, I can say that it shouldn’t have played such a major roll in my decision-making, with all of the other things I had to consider. In the end, though, it seems that having my books with me made all other decisions easier.

 

This Tail-End of Winter

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Six days into March, we are seeing signs of the winter’s end here on Beaver Island. There’s still plenty of snow along the Fox Lake Road, which is in the woods, in the middle of this island. Still, the trees all have a ring of bare earth around them, where the snow has melted away. My back yard is clear past the wild cherry tree, and much of the ice has melted from the driveway.

Closer to the big lake that surrounds us, in those places where the sun, when it shines, can more easily reach, everything melts faster. In the downtown areas, where paved roads help the process, the snow is nearly gone. This is still winter, though.

At the hardware store, we brought the snow blowers – usually on display and for sale all winter – back down to the basement. I didn’t push them all the way to the back corner where we store them through the summer, though. I suspect we may want them back upstairs before the seasons change. Often, when spring promises to come early, with melting snow and warmer days, winter smiles and gives us a foot of snow on April Fool’s Day.

Two “ice-breakers” came through last week, to break up the ice in our harbor, so that the tug boat pulling the barge loaded with fuel could get in. That barge had been locked into the ice in Michigan’s upper peninsula since late last fall. Guys with ice drills and chain saws have been out working every day, to help them get all the way in to the dock. Even now, a week into March, that ice is thick.

I walked the dogs last evening down a snow-covered trail. Someone had tried to pull in with a car, which drew my interest. Though the trail goes a half-mile into the woods, it is actually a private drive, and I didn’t think any of the owners were here. The car tracks stopped a short way in, leaving ridges more than 12 inches deep. Boot prints in the snow suggested that the explorers continued on foot, in and then back out again.

Rosa Parks had been left at home on Sunday, so yesterday she was eager to show me she was up for a walk, too. Darla wagged her tail and watched as I put on boots and coat; Rosa Parks went right to the door to wait. She had no intention of being left behind again!

My big dog, Darla, loves a walk, and is a calm and steady companion. Her ears flap up and down like bird’s wings, in time to her footsteps. She keeps me in sight as we walk down the road and – while investigating the sights and smells – never strays too far from where I am.

Rosa Parks is often indecisive about the walk. She’ll pause at the end of the driveway, thinking. No matter how much I call, and coax, and beg, she will not come with us. Sometimes she turns, then, and goes back to wait on the porch. Other days, I’ll look back to see that she has ventured out onto the road, though she is making no effort to catch up with us. Then, we have to turn around and go back…in fear that a car would come along while I am far ahead. That behavior is what caused her to be left inside on Sunday.

When the little dog is in the mood for a good walk, she’s a joy to have along. She was in the spirit yesterday. She beat us to the door, and then she beat us to the end of the driveway. “What’s keeping you?” her gaze seemed to ask, as she looked back at us, tail wagging. All the way down the snowy drive, Rosa Parks zipped from one smell to another. She bounded ahead, then circled back to see what Darla was doing. She’d glance my way, then run off again with a grin, and a wag of her tail.

Though the sun – just above the treetops on the horizon – was bright, the day was cold. The surface of the snow was firm, so that I walked on top of it, rather than sinking in, yet it was not icy. It was an easy walk, and a good one, on a beautiful, cold winter day. I think I paid more attention, and was more appreciative of the season, knowing it is nearly at its end.

 

 

 

In the Middle of the Night…

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A month ago. when I woke up in the night, it was with a sense of dread, and near panic. Forefront in my mind were the one hundred things I had yet to do, at least half of which I was behind on. Deadlines loomed. Mistakes and missteps haunted my thoughts. There were always money worries. My household bills were behind because I was using my personal income to make ends meet for my  business.

I was often driven out of bed by obligations to be met, a budget to review, or jobs to be done that my schedule didn’t allow for. I would sit at the computer, then, trying to write an article covering an event that I had been unable to attend because I was at my other job. Or, I would once again cover the dining room table with paperwork, trying to figure out what I was missing, that there was no profit here. There were many nights of too little sleep.

Days were spent juggling my job at the hardware, a couple other side jobs, the duties and obligations associated with my business, and everything else necessary to keeping a life running smoothly. That was my life for the two-and-a-half years that I held the position of owner and editor of the Beaver Beacon news-magazine.

When I took on that job, it seemed like a good idea. I have many long years of study, and college degrees I have barely used. I’ve spent most of my adult life working at menial labor in customer-service positions. That’s something I am really good at; that is grtifying all by itself. It has also allowed me to live on Beaver Island, which I love. It has provided me with enough income to support myself, and the freedom to pursue my artistic calling. Still, at times, I’ve felt that I’ve sold myself short. So, over the years, I’ve occasionally applied for or taken on other positions that seemed to better suit my qualifications. The Beacon was one of them.

Almost immediately, I realized it was a mistake. I was overwhelmed, incapable of giving it the time it deserved, unable to fix the things that were going wrong.  I spent about two years trying to find someone willing and able to take over. I contemplated other options, none of which were good…for me, personally, or for the long-standing place the Beaver Beacon has held in this community.

When everything seemed hopeless, someone came forward. After several discussions, many questions answered, and papers signed, Steve and Elaine West, who have successfully managed to put out the Northern Islander for more than a decade here on Beaver Island, have added the Beacon to their repertoire. They have good ideas and exciting changes planned. I can’t wait to see how the whole thing evolves under their guidance. I’m looking forward to contributing an article now and then…when it’s not a crucial deadline that keeps me from sleep!

Now, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I smile. Sometimes I get up to let a dog outside. I may, if the weather is mild, step out onto the porch to look up at the stars, or to see what stage the moon is at in the night sky. Other times I just lay there in the darkness, appreciating the calm, and the warmth of the little dog sleeping at my feet. Sometimes I stretch, roll over, and go back to sleep. This is the way I want to always spend my nights!

 

Today

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When I’m struggling for what to do, how to behave, what to say…I find a quote – or it finds me – and the message speaks right to me, and gives me direction to go forward. This one is a gift from my friend, Lisa, who writes from rural Ecuador:

“Today: Soak in what’s real and what’s real is unhurried. The ground. The air. The exhale. The planted seed. The shift. The season.” – Victoria Erickson

And there it is, just what I need to find my footing.

Saturday, my Aunt Katie came home from the hospital, weak as a kitten, and resigned to the fact that there was nothing more that could be done to improve her situation. My cousin Bob brought her back to Beaver Island, where she was born and raised, and where she has lived since her retirement, more than thirty years ago. We helped to get her settled in her own house, where her biggest wish was to watch the Detroit Tigers baseball game.

I moved in to her house, too, to be there, and help however I could. Though Aunt Katie was, at times, frustrated by pain, weakness or the inability to perform a task(“This hand just doesn’t work right anymore!”), she was always brave, rational and composed. “That’s the way it should be,” she said, speaking of the fact that she would die before her sister, Margaret, “I’m the oldest, after all.” When I showed concern over her discomfort, she told me calmly, “That’s just part of the process, Cindy.”

Though we both recognized that these were serious and important times, we stayed true to our own natures. I still managed to get on Aunt Katie’s nerves with my inability to find whatever she sent me after (her little pills, the breathing machine, oatmeal) though her directions couldn’t possibly have been more precise. Any show of sadness or sentimentality was met with a sharp rebuke. Once, when my hand rested on her shoulder a bit too long, she gathered enough voice to say, “Cindy! Cut it out!” She still managed, now and then, to hurt my feelings and aggravate. We were both able, though, to let little grievances go, and focus on the big picture.

I was rarely alone with Aunt Katie. Her niece, Shirley, grand-niece, Paula, and Paula’s husband, Tom, flew over for a day. They brightened Aunt Katie’s spirits, and left behind enough soup to feed an army! Her nephews Bob, Greg and Keith were present and attentive. Phone calls were frequent and welcome. I’d help Aunt Katie hold the phone to her ear as she listened and responded.

Friends stopped in with gifts of food, well-wishes and encouragement. Aunt Katie smiled and nodded appreciation as I named her guests. Bob’s fiancee, Joann, spent one long night in the chair at her bedside, murmuring love and comfort. Donna and Sue, the hospice nurses, were frequent guests, always kind, helpful and full of good advice. The deacon came, to offer communion and other sacraments. Aunt Katie’s friend and helper, Eileen, stopped in for a long visit, and she and my aunt had a beer together. When I came into the room, Aunt Katie was smacking her lips and, with a little grin, said, “That tastes good!”

My aunt died Monday evening, with family and friends around her. She was eighty-eight years old.

My sister Cheryl, and her son, Bob, arrived the next day. Together with those of us already here, plans and arrangements are moving along. Photos are being gathered; memories are shared. Last night four of us ordered Aunt Katie’s beer choice before dinner, and toasted her as we clinked our bottles of MillerLite together. We’ll have a steady stream of family arriving over the next several days.

This morning, I picked my dogs up from the kennel. I stayed home from work. I have not yet contacted the family to see what I should do next. Today, I’m taking time to let it all soak in. One step at a time.

Only Tuesday

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Mary has suspended the memoir-writing workshop that I was devoting my Tuesday writing to, in order to finish another book. So, I’m going to give it up for a while, too. It’s spring, after all; there is much to do.

The other night, while in the middle of a telephone conversation, I happened to notice a rhododendron – under the big maple tree – had burst into bloom. I grabbed my camera and ran outside. From the house, the flowers looked watermelon red. On camera, they are a milder color. Still, it was worth the trip.

This time of year, when mosquitoes are in a biting frenzy, “no-see-ums” and other biting gnats and flies abound, and a tick has been known to find its way from tall grass to tender skin, a trip outside has to be “worth it.” I make my way from home to car and back again without a pause. If I plan to stay longer in the out-of-doors, I prepare for it.

First a good spray around my ankles of tick repellent. Then an all-over spray of a good, Deet-based insect repellent. I spritz my hands, next, with a milder, oily concoction, and rub it onto my face, around my ears, and into my scalp. If it’s a very bad day for bugs, I may add a head net.

The price of gas here on Beaver Island causes me to make every trip to town really “count,” with visits to post office, bank and grocery store combined. Likewise, the amount of preparation to spend time in the yard causes me to do everything possible to make it worthwhile. Are there clothes to be hung on the line? That should be first, before I get my hands in the dirt. Are my tools all ready? And where – once again – is the tape measure? There must be gas for the lawn mower, in case I tire of gardening. A walk or a trip to Fox Lake with the dogs can be wedged in somewhere, too.

Once I’m inside, showered and changed, trips outside are rare. It has to be for something really special. A few days ago, I decided – after dark – that I was in the mood for a rhubarb crisp. Nothing else would satisfy. I had all the ingredients on hand…except for the rhubarb, which was growing in the back yard, just behind my garden spot.

I was clean, and in my pajamas. I didn’t want to cover myself again in insect-repelling chemicals. I just made a run for it. My big dog, Darla, came along for the adventure. We blasted across the yard to the rhubarb patch, my arms flailing to shoo the bugs away. “Run! Run! Run! Run,” I called out in time to my footfalls. No time to waste! I twisted off a couple dozen stalks of the pink and green fruit, and beat a path right back to the house.

I cut off the big leafy tops and the tough bases. I chopped the rest, and put it in the colander for a good rinse. I combined flour, brown sugar, oatmeal and butter into a nice crumble. I put half of it in the pan, sprinkled it with cinnamon, and spread the rhubarb over it. I covered it with the rest of the crumble. Another dusting of cinnamon, a few dots of butter and one tablespoon of water sprinkled over the top, and it was ready for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

I served it, when it was done, the way I used to give it to my daughters for breakfast: piping hot, in a bowl, with milk. It was a perfect spring supper! Just like the rhododendron photo, it was worth the trip!

 

 

 

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?”