Tag Archives: Beaver Island

Artifacts to Memories: This Pig

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I found her among the ads in the back of a gardening magazine: a cast iron piggy bank. She is different than most piggy banks, with their cartoon-like, gender-less countenance and big fat bellies designed for holding many coins. This is a realistic depiction of a pig, reminiscent of a character in an E.B.White story, with full udder pronouncing her gender and an expression that reminds me of Rodin’s “Thinker.” A noble pig.

I placed my order, with the intention of giving the bank to my father-in-law, Jack, for Christmas. When it arrived, I was so enchanted with it, I couldn’t bring myself to give it away! Jack got homemade slippers for Christmas, and the story of the pig, which made him laugh out loud and tease me with mock offense that I had kept his gift. The pig became a treasured object in my home: useful for coin collecting, heavy enough to act as a bookend, a reminder of the pigs we’d raised as children, and a beacon of hope for the small farm I hoped to someday have. It was also the first of what turned out to be quite a collection of pigs.

The next pig was a wooden cutout, varnished to shine, with an inch of twine for a tail. Then I found a pair of silly pink pig salt and pepper shakers, and a little china sow attached by short lengths of fine chain to three little piglets. I purchased a small David Bigelow intaglio print of a pig strapped into a pair of broad wings, prepared to step off the edge of a cliff. “Moment of Truth” is the title. My husband bought me a larger print by the same artist, titled “Escape from the Cycle,” that has hundreds of pigs rising up out of the grid of plowed fields and pig pens.

By that time, I was officially a “collector of pigs.” That led to gifts of swine in every form, from buttons to pot holders to throw pillows. When I spent my winters in a tiny apartment on the campus of Michigan State University, the pigs dominated the small kitchen. Three dimensional versions marched and wallowed along the top of my bookshelf. Pig towels hung from the oven door, and pig pot holders sat in a basket near the stove. It eventually became just too much pork.

When I graduated, and cleared out that apartment to move back to my home on Beaver Island, I wrapped all the little statues and packed them into a sturdy box, labelled “PIGS.” It sat in my attic here for several years as I contemplated where to display them. Life here tends more toward natural treasures. My windowsills are laden with ever-changing displays of pine cones, driftwood, shells, beach stones, and the occasional bird’s nest.  No place for pigs. Finally, I went through the box, gave several pigs away and donated others to our re-sale shop. The rest, I brought back out for use or display.

I kept the two intaglio prints; the small one always hangs above my desk. I kept a small green tin with a pig painted on the sliding lid. I kept three little squeaky rubber pigs, that my grandchildren used to play with; my big dog likes to carry them around now. I kept the jump rope with carved and painted wooden pig handles, though I doubt I’ll be starting a jump rope routine…ever.

Of course, I held onto my original cast iron piggy bank. It still has a dignified appearance; it is a good place for stray coins and continues to work well as a bookend. It makes me want to re-read the essays of E.B.White. It reminds me of hopes and dreams I’ve grown out of or abandoned. When I think about it, I am transported to a long-ago Christmas, in a much different life. I can still here Jack’s laugh, and picture his expression of mock horror as he asked, “You kept my present??” For all of that, I keep the pig.

 

 

I Give Up

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Yesterday, I made a small delivery to the Island Treasures Re-Sale Shop here on Beaver Island: one large food processor, with all of its parts and pieces, and one yogurt maker. I was a long time coming to that end, but am glad I finally arrived.

Lord knows, I have tried, over the years, to become the kind of person who processes her own food, but it never took hold. I grate my cheese with a simple box grater. When making pie crust, I use a hand-held pastry blender. I slice fruits and vegetables the old-fashioned way. The food processor seemed, always, to have too many accessories, all of which needed to be cleaned and stored when not in use.

I eat a lot of yogurt. Simple, full fat, non- Greek, plain yogurt. I buy it in the quart containers and dish out the portions, to save on plastic waste (I reuse the containers to store my homemade chicken broth in the freezer, for extra credit!). I add my own granola, and sometimes berries or a sliced banana, but it’s pretty basic. Making my own, I thought, would save me a pile of money.

Turns out, making yogurt is not difficult, but it’s kind of a hassle. First, the milk has to be heated in a saucepan to just the right temperature. It is then cooled a specific amount before being combined with the starter. It is then spooned into the individual cups of the yogurt maker which sits on the kitchen counter, plugged in to an outlet. For several hours or a couple days…it’s been so long, I can’t remember. Because, the bottom line is, my homemade yogurt does not taste as good as the stuff I buy. I don’t know why. I’ve checked the label for hidden ingredients that might be enhancing the flavor while putting my health at risk, but found nothing.

So, for many years, I stored a food processor and a yogurt maker in my kitchen cabinet, in case I should ever change my mind about either of them. Then, I started cleaning out and rearranging my living spaces. I was encouraged by my sister Brenda, who told me that the time was right – according to the alignment of the moon and stars – for clearing and reassessing. Backing her up was the Power Path site (www.powerpath.org), which labeled March the month of “Surrender,” but not in the usual sense:

SURRENDER is a word that tends to trigger a definition of failure as if we are surrendering to the enemy and as if we have failed in something we believed in and have been striving for. Our definition of SURRENDER for the month is a giving up, a release of a stance, position, or belief that we have stubbornly held onto for way beyond its useful and practical life. It is time to let go of what should have been, could have been and what ought to be in the future. It is time to SURRENDER our anger, our resistance, our judgement and our need to know.

Finally, in trying to get off the island last week, the weather didn’t cooperate. I spent one whole day waiting at the airport, and one day waiting in my home, before finally getting a flight out on Sunday morning. Saturday, I spent sorting and filing while waiting by the phone. Then, I tackled a kitchen cabinet. Everything came out. The shelves were scrubbed. Only the things that I honestly use went back in. Except for the crock pot, which I’m still trying to integrate into my lifestyle.

I’d like to think of myself as a yogurt-making, food processing whiz in the kitchen…but I’m not, and it’s time to surrender that notion. What I am is a person who has one very clean cabinet, feels good about a charitable donation, and is lighter in self-imposed expectations. Happily, I give up!

Forward Steps

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It’s another wet, gray day here on Beaver Island. One more in a long week of them. The temperatures have risen, hovering just above freezing. That allows the snow to melt, giving us surfaces that are slippery slush, cold water over ice, mush ice or – rarely – clear, depending on where you are. The King’s Highway, being a wide, paved road, is mostly clear. The Fox Lake Road, my driveway and the paths and trails around it, are a raucous combination of the other choices. I’m drinking my third cup of coffee, debating whether walking conditions will improve if I wait.

Snow melt puts moisture in the air, which gives us gray skies, cloud cover, mist and fog. All of that has been accompanied by intermittent rain. The sun came out – just briefly – over the harbor three days ago, and people stopped in their tracks to stare, admire, and comment. It has been a gloomy week. My mood follows the weather.

Though heartened by yesterday’s activities world-wide, I’m still frightened and discouraged by the political weather. I have always had trust in the strength of our democratic process, and the underlying good in people, no matter what their politics. This election, I have to say, has caused that trust to waver. I’m tired of hearing that genuine concerns are simply a matter of poor sportsmanship  or of being a “sore loser.” I’m weary of being told to wait, that everything will work out. I think I’ve heard all the same rhetoric that the people giving that advice heard, and I don’t have any idea what good things I am supposed to be waiting for.

I have friends and relatives (whose kindness, humanity and intelligence I am certain of) who back our elected president. He also has, as supporters, some of the cruelest, most degenerate and despicable people around, who spout hatred, lies and racism freely, and who believe they have an ally in Donald Trump. His cabinet picks do not encourage me. His inaugural address did not give me hope or soothe my fears. His reelection campaign – already in progress – gives me a sick feeling. Regarding his “Keep America Great” slogan, in his own words:

“I never thought I’d be giving my expression for four years, but I am so confident that we are going to be, it is going to be so amazing. It’s the only reason I give it to you. If I was, like, ambiguous about it, if I wasn’t sure about what is going to happen — the country is going to be great… Honestly, you haven’t seen anything yet. Wait till you see what happens, starting next Monday. A lot of things are going to happen. Great things.”

Again, we are told to wait. I don’t like waiting, especially when the wait is for undefined – and thus frightening – steps to “great”ness. I don’t see greatness in the cabinet choices thus far. I don’t see greatness in the plans for “the first 100 days.”  I don’t see greatness in the rise of blatant and forceful bigotry. I don’t see greatness in the many disparaging comments and attacks caused by any show of dissent or disagreement. Even the arguments, which go right back to comparisons to other candidates or the last administration, lack substance. The election is over. Being “better than…” or “different than…” is no longer enough. Now, it’s time to hold our elected officials to a standard.

Yesterday, in news reports of peaceful protest worldwide, to express support for kindness and consideration of all people, I saw greatness. That, I don’t have to wait for. What I feel like I’m waiting for, on this gloomy Sunday, are all the unknowns. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pull

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I am pulled in two directions.

I’ve always been drawn to Beaver Island. It holds my family history, and it holds my heart. It feels like home to me. Whenever I’ve had to be away from this island, I’ve kept a poem by Langston Hughes close:

Wave of Sorrow

Do not drown me now.

I see the Island

Still ahead somehow.

I see the Island

And its sands are fair.

Wave of Sorrow

Take me there.

Still, as I get older…as issues of companionship, health and capability move more to the forefront…as loss of friends and family becomes a regular part of life…as children grow up and away with hardly a backward glance…I am drawn to my home town. Lapeer, Michigan is where I was raised, and where my remaining siblings still live. My daughters are close by, as are several of my grandchildren. Driving to see other friends is less of an issue when it doesn’t begin with boarding dogs and getting on an airplane.

I join my sisters for an evening of wine, conversation and word games, and I realize how much I miss my family. I chat with my brother in the house that we grew up in…I talk face-to-face with my daughters…I have actual conversations with my grandchildren, and I feel drawn to that place.

Some things hold me on Beaver Island. My little house, in its current state of equity and unfinished disrepair, is probably unmarketable. Even if it were, the struggle to get – and then keep – this small piece of real estate makes it difficult to consider letting it go. My job here is secure, where jobs are hard to come by in other parts of the state. My aunt is in poor health and – though she gets assistance from others who love her, too – she depends on me for help and companionship. Just as I depend on her. My dogs are well suited to Beaver Island. The fields and trails and beaches welcome them. The sky full of stars holds me here…the canopy of trees…the water all around.

But still, I feel the pull.

The 52 Lists Project #41

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List all of your favorite things about fall:

  • I like the colors, of course. Even this year, when the leaves on the trees have only just started to turn, it seems like there’s a changing display every day. In my garden, the grapes are hanging deep purple on the vines across from the Sedum Autumn Joy that brightens the corner with deep crimson. The edges of the woods have mushrooms in all shapes and colors, and swaths of little daisy-like flowers, pale purple with yellow centers. The greens that stay green look more intense, when surrounded by dozens of shades of straw-rust-gold as other things go to rest.
  • Cooler nights. Sleep is best when the air is chill, and I’m tucked under a heavy comforter.
  • Sweaters. I like getting out the fall clothes, adding a blazer as a light jacket, or pulling on a sweater.
  • The fallen leaves. There is something very satisfying about wading through deep, crackly, golden leaves. Not the raking…just walking through.
  • No mosquitoes! Though houseflies and fruit flies can be an annoyance this time of year, most of the insects are gone. A walk in the woods is possible and pleasant without having to arm against biting insects.
  • The pace. Fall on Beaver Island is a slower time of year. After the busy-ness of the tourist season, it’s a welcome change.
  • The harvest. Though I didn’t plant a garden this year, I’ve been enjoying fresh vegetables from the gardens of friends and relatives. I’ve been out picking the wild blackberries regularly, and will soon be harvesting my own grapes. The other day, Aunt Katie gifted me with one dozen perfect pints of stewed tomatoes!
  • Affy Tapple. It’s the perfect caramel apple. It’s a seasonal treat, available only in the fall, perishable, and often hard to come by on Beaver Island. I’ve tried other – even home-made – caramel apples, and none hit the mark as perfectly as this one brand. They make them candy-coated (red), with just caramel, with candy sprinkles or tiny chocolate bits…I like only the classic Affy Tapple: a perfect apple coated in caramel with a nut topping. In the last few years, our local grocery store, McDonough’s Market, has tried different types. They are a small store, and have to make a large minimum purchase; they won’t keep, so decisions have to be made. Even if I begged. Last year, my dentist – in her travels back and forth from the mainland – would bring them to me, as we share that obsession. This year, McDonough’s Market has the classic Affy Tapple, and I am overjoyed! I purchase them three at a time. I have brought twelve of them home already this fall. If someone dares to raise an eyebrow or look at me askance, I say, “Hey, ‘an apple a day….'”

Mushrooms

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After a dry start, summer finished up with quite a lot of wet weather that has continued into September. The roadsides and fields are filling with mushrooms. Last week while blackberry-picking on the family wood lot, I came upon a huge patch of beautiful white ones. “What a shame,” I thought, “that I don’t know mushrooms!”

There are some delicious fall mushrooms. I know, because I’ve eaten them. Gathered and prepared by friends who know how to identify the edible ones, they are rich and flavorful. I hear folks talk about the “shaggy manes” but I don’t know what they look like. I don’t trust mushrooms, or my ability to tell the good ones from the deadly ones. I’d rather err on the side of caution.

In the spring, I look for morels. They are distinctive in appearance and perfectly safe. Even so, one year I gathered a bag full of the brain-shaped “beef steaks,” thinking they were morels that had grown deformed. Though people eat them, it is not advised. They contain a component that is similar to one of the ingredients in rocket fuel. It builds up in the human body. Some people eat them all their lives with no problem. Others enjoy them without issue for years, then suddenly drop dead after a meal. No, thank you!

In the fall, the only mushrooms I know and trust are puffballs. They grow, pure white and stemless, as big around as a basketball. Evidently, my grandfather had a bad reaction to them once, and didn’t allow them on his table. My dad said he and his brothers used to kick them around like a soccer ball when they’d find them in the pasture. I have never had a problem with them, and they pop up annually in by back lawn this time of year.

Unfortunately, of all mushrooms, puffballs are pretty tasteless. They will, however, pick up the flavors of what they are cooked with, so can be a nice addition of texture and protein. I brought a nice one inside last week, with the intention of dicing it, then marinating the cubes in ginger and soy sauce before sauteing them in butter. While it sat on my counter, a large white worm pushed its way out of the surface. I threw it out, then, and find I have now lost my taste for that type of wild mushroom.

This year, I’ll get my mushrooms from the grocery store, and enjoy the wild ones only in photographs!

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #16

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From The Writer’s Devotional by Amy Peters:

This is my family…

The German, Henry, is my family. He brought his wife, Elizabeth, and his small children to this country in the later half of the nineteenth century. He worked in the coal mines in New York and possibly Pennsylvania. The family grew. They homesteaded in the Dakotas. They moved to Texas, to farm there. For three years, there was not a single drop of rain. They moved on. In Illinois, one young son was killed in a hunting accident. It was in the German parish there that they saw the notice, submitted to the church bulletin by Father Zugelder, that there was land and opportunity on Beaver Island. My grandfather, George, was three years old when they moved north to build their farm here. Henry was an old man at that time, by the standards of the day. His adult sons and teen-aged boys put up the house that is our family farm here on Beaver Island, where my Aunt Katie lives, still.

The carpenter, Joseph, is my family. When he was seventeen, his mother put him, alone, on a ship to America, so that he would not be drafted to fight in the Franco-Prussian War. Raised in the Black Forest area of Germany, Joseph was already a skilled woodworker. He settled in to the community of Grand Rapids,Michigan, where his skills had a place in the budding furniture industry. He also attended  Catholic Church, and saw the notice Father Zugelder had placed in church bulletins. He came to Beaver Island, too, at the turn of the century. He and his wife, Katherine, had a large family. Joseph, Christie, Elsie and Willie are some of the names I remember. My grandmother was their daughter, Otelia.

George and Otelia, my paternal grandparents, are my family. Grandpa George lost his wife when my father was thirteen years old. His second wife, Florence, became family, too.

I have some distant history on my mother’s side of the family, but could not recite it without looking up the facts. My knowledge begins with my maternal grandparents, Ted and Thelma. They are constant participants in my early childhood, and frequent, friendly occupants of the memories I hold now. They are my family.

Bob and Janice, my parents, are my family. Not alone, for I cannot separate them from the brood of children, my brothers and sisters, that they raised: Brenda, Cindy, Ted, Sheila, Cheryl, Nita, Robin, David, Darla, Amy, Bobby. This is my family.

Terry, my husband, was my family for many years. With our two precious daughters, we were a family. All of Terry’s relatives were my family, too. Divorce is like cutting off a limb, for all the loss it entails. It took all of my strength to maintain “family” from the broken shards that were left.We managed it, though. We figured it out.

My daughters, Jen and Kate, are my family. We share history and memories that no one else has. They have a place in my heart that only they can fill.

Their children are my family. These are not the conventions I grew up with. There is greater physical distance and, it seems, larger societal divides. Even in this age of cell phones and social media, it is hard to keep in touch. I take comfort in the knowledge that all of my grandparents were huge influences in my life. I saw Grandpa George and Grandma Florence only a couple times a year, and my maternal grandparents were both dead before I turned ten-years-old. I try. It’s worth the effort.

Aunt Katie is my family. She and her sister, Aunt Margaret, are the last of that generation in our family. They are the link to my father, and to the past. They are also the living connections to a whole string of cousins, and cousins once, twice or three times removed. All are my family.

My friends are my family. Sometimes they fill a need that no one else can, with understanding or words of advice, or they are good for a laugh over an inside joke. Like family, at this age I find there is shared history with most friends, and that adds to the bond.

This is my family: the big dog that walks with me and the little dog that sleeps curled up near my feet. I feed them, talk to them and give them lots of belly rubs. They communicate with bright eyes, wagging tails, whimpers, dog kisses and heads dropped trustingly into my lap. In spite of friends, and all of my relatives – living and dead – there are times when Darla and Rosa Parks are the most heartfelt interactions of my whole day.