Tag Archives: Beaver Island

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!

 

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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?”

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.