Tag Archives: blackberry

Presents/Presence

Standard

august2015 123

I made it through another birthday.

I am still here.

The longer I live, the more it seems death is all around me.

All of my grandparents are gone, though their stories still guide me. Both of my parents are gone; I seem stubbornly unable to get used to that fact, and still enjoy their influence in many aspects of my life. Of eleven brothers and sisters, there are only six left. I miss the ones that have died, and cherish the ones still here. That’s all I can do.

At my class reunion in July, it was noted that a full ten percent of our graduating class had passed on. Another member died this week. In every case, I think, “Oh, so young!” I am, of course, remembering them as they were in high school.

I guess I’m not “so young” anymore. That is made clear every time a friend, acquaintance or family member dies. It’s always too soon and I am never prepared. It may even, age-wise, be a bit below the average life-expectancy…but, clearly, I am now in that age where loss of contemporaries is a big part of life.

It seems the only thing to do, while I’m still here, is to truly be present in this world, in my life.

Early birthday celebrations with my family and friends brought good wishes and cards and gifts: books, bags and bath salts, bottles of wine and a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Creme. Later, an annual birthday dinner with my cousins provided much laughter and good cheer, and more thoughtful presents. There were cards in the mail and hand-delivered cards and messages. A complete birthday meal, fully prepared, wrapped and delivered by my friend, Pam, to be reheated at dinnertime. Over one hundred birthday greetings on Facebook. Telephone calls from each of my daughters and from one grandson, each one a treasured gift.

There have been unexpected presents. I was invited to attend a benefit dinner, held at a stately old island home. We dined on lobster and steak under a beautiful evening sky. I received a big bouquet of gladiolus from two nice ladies who accepted a ride to the grocery store with me. A big, flowered bag was hanging on my doorknob the other day, filled with treats and treasures and a thank-you note. It was from my neighbors, who have a rustic cabin in the woods, and – with my blessing – draw water from my well when they are on the island. None of the gift-givers knew it was my birthday week!

There are other gifts:

  • My little dog, who wakes me with kisses, and greets me at the end of the day with a wildly wagging tail, who entertains me, keeps me company and makes me laugh every single day.
  • A doe and her twin fawns, who I often see at the end of the Fox Lake Road.
  • The wild blackberries ripening in the fields around my house.
  • Fox Lake, a short drive from my home, where the dog loves the smells, and I love the view.
  • My aunt, who struggles with health issues but is still able to share stories, opinions and memories from her long life.
  • A job that supports me, and gives me a feeling of accomplishment. I would never have predicted that I would be capable of tasks like cutting and threading pipe, making keys and mixing paint, and that I would get such satisfaction from the ability to do them.
  • Other jobs that enrich me: artist, baker, cook, gardener, writer.
  • My big, blessed family.
  • My friends, far and near.
  • My home, shelter in this world.
  • The moon, last night, in that deep blue sky.
  • The big owl that nests nearby, perches on my fence post, and spreads his wings to fly when I come home after dark (and who, thank God, leaves my little dog alone!).
  • The sunrise every morning and the sunset every night.
  • This beautiful island in the middle of Lake Michigan.
  • The beach all around, with stunning views all year.

These are the gifts that I tend to take for granted, that go too often unnoticed or unappreciated.

It seems the best thing to do, while I’m still here, is to truly be present in this world, in my life.

An Assessment of My Day Off

Standard

june2015 008

I got up at 4AM to respond to two Emails that had been disturbing my sleep.

I did a bit of bookkeeping, wrote a couple checks and played a game of on-line Scrabble.

At 7:30 in the morning, I decided to go back to sleep. Three phone calls came in while I dozed, but I let the machine pick up.

At 8:30 I got up and made coffee. I checked the answering machine and made a few telephone calls. An hour of writing, a bit of tidying the house, then a shower.

I pulled up some grasses from the edge of the walkway, and pruned some dead branches from the spirea bush.

I drove to town, picked up my paycheck at the hardware store, and went to the bank. One short visit with Sue, who carries my work in her sweet gallery here, and a look around at her new offerings, then back to business. I checked on my car, which is in the repair shop. He was still working on it, and told me to keep the little Tracker he’d loaned me, for now. If he got my car finished, he’d drive it out to my house and pick up the “loaner.”

Home…first inside, to greet Rosa, and to make a sandwich for lunch.

Mowing the lawn was my big plan for the day.

I was away in May, when I should, first, have mowed. I returned home to an overgrown lawn, followed by rain that soaked the long grass and made it impossible to mow every time I had a day off to do it. Then my riding mower went on the fritz. It’s an old, old Craftsman, with tires that go flat overnight and a gas tank that leaks, but it keeps on running…until it doesn’t. My neighbor and I have been talking about it, had a guy come take a look at it, but so far no firm diagnosis, and no cure.

Last weekend, I bought a new mower. It’s a cheap push mower, with pathetic little wheels for this rough lawn, but better than nothing. The mosquitoes were about to carry us away! It was like a jungle out there for poor little Rosa Parks! Something had to be done! Every night after work, I’ve been mowing a little…except the evening when it rained…and the evening when I got invited to dinner…and the evening I had company. Today, with the entire afternoon to devote to it, I could get some mowing done!

I did, too!

Not the back yard, which has such huge clumps of quack grass that I’ll have to take the trimmer to it first. Not the south side of the driveway: that got roughed-up when the guys came to set my garden shed in place, and needs to be smoothed out with rake and shovel before the grass can be tackled. Not the trim work around the house, flower beds, fire pit or trees. No time for that.

The yard on the north side of the driveway is about seventy feet wide. From the house to the stand of trees at the front, where I stop mowing, is 150 to 200 feet. That’s the area I mowed today.

From 2PM until 4:30, when I mercifully ran out of gas (which signaled time for a break), then back at it from 5PM until almost seven-thirty. The tall, tough stalks topped with yellow flowers have to be mowed over several times, and sometimes pulled by hand. Areas where the grass was especially thick…or wet…or both…had to be approached slowly, one small bite at a time, or it would cause the lawn-mower to stall out. Wild blackberry bushes had gotten a good start in the front near the wood, and crackled as the blades broke them up. As dusk came on, the insects came out in force. Several applications of insect repellent hardly slowed them down. A dampness in the air suggested impending rain; I was determined to finish that section.

I did it, then stowed the lawn mower back in the shed and came in for the night.

I count three black fly bites, and about a dozen mosquito bites. Two new bruises, with no explanation for them.

Leftovers for dinner: poached tilapia, and some vegetables and grains in a light sauce. It all seemed a bit healthy, so I re-heated it with a pat of butter. Perfect! Chocolate almond ice cream with a sliced banana for dessert.

One long, hot bath.

One large glass of plum wine.

Thunder…a storm is rolling in.

Bedtime.

Forward…and Back

Standard

july24,2013 005

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)

Finding Fall’s Rhythm

Standard

Image

This morning, I threw on warm, loose clothing and filled my lidded coffee cup. I added a tattered wooly blazer and a black felt hat with a large, orange silk flower in the rim. I put the camera in my pocket, and set out for a walk.

The dogs were stunned!

In the last several weeks, every invitation for a walk has turned into a disappointment to them.

Summer traffic discouraged walks down the Fox Lake Road.

Any off-road walks were necessarily abbreviated because of the mosquitoes.

All excursions were limited by my schedule.

There were days when, having arrived home late, I tried to convince them that a brisk jog two or three times around the perimeter of the yard counts as a walk.

Or a few trips back and forth to bring groceries, mail and other supplies in from the car.

A wander through the garden to pick what’s ripe. Perhaps followed by the added bonus of pulling weeds and dead stalks, and adding those items to the compost.

Most often lately (and most convincing, I might add) it has been a long meander through the berry brambles, in the woods and fields that surround my house.

In my busy end-of summer mode, multi-tasking was key.

The dogs weren’t fooled.

They know that when I have my bucket and head for the blackberry bushes, they are getting a “wander” not a “walk”. They follow for a while, then find a patch of sunshine for a nap.

They know a true squirrel-chasing, smelling-every-new-thing, heart-racing walk when they get one.

This morning they got one.

We headed out the back door, across the side yard and through the field to the old logging trail. Dodging mud puddles, we turned left toward the deep woods. We did not turn back at the moss-covered stone that marks the back of my property. The cool morning had at least temporarily quieted the insect population. We took the curve to the right.

Past the little deer blind, tucked into the woods.

Past the cut logs and treetops where Dusty has been cutting firewood.

Around the next bend to the left, then several curves more before we came to the open area with the little hunting camp.

Just beyond the building is a pond, almost completely hidden by the tall grasses this time of year. If we get close, and wait, I’ll sometimes be rewarded by the sight of a Sandhill Crane. A pair of them have nested there for several years now.

The dogs generally find something wet and mucky to roll in, and consider that their own reward.

They were thrilled for the long outing!

They didn’t realize I had more on my agenda than their good jaunt.

I was scouting the path to make sure it was passable for my planned hike with my friend, Judi, this afternoon.

I was gathering ferns and grasses to try out an idea for a children’s art project.

I was taking photos of this lovely Fall day.

Finally, now that cool weather has made the woods more accessible, I was checking to see if the blackberries were producing well out beyond my patch.

This time, happily, they were duped. They thought the walk was for their benefit alone.

This afternoon, with Judi, we retraced our steps for another pleasant walk.

Invigorating, relaxing, beautiful.

Just exactly what we’ve been waiting for, here on the Fox lake Road.

Distractions

Standard

Image

The dog days of summer.

Heat.

Humidity.

Lethargy.

We take our walk early, the dogs and I, before the sun gets too high in the sky. I take a cup of coffee with me these days. No brisk walk for exercise, but rather a leisurely stroll. I watch the dogs chase chipmunks and listen to the birds and chipmunks tease them from the treetops. When my coffee mug is empty, I fill it with wild blackberries. Leaves are already turning color in the woods. Cool mornings make me aware that Fall is just around the corner. Sometimes, back home, I sit in the shade of the maple tree with a book, savoring wild berries for breakfast, enjoying the breeze, slowly getting ready for my day.

The days are busy enough.

Many employees have gone back to other lives on the mainland, so our work force is diminished. Vacationers are looking at the “last chance to get away before the weather turns” so business is still good. I’m still learning and adjusting to new routines, and I’m getting more hours in than I did for most of the summer.

I’ve had company here. Three of my sisters and other family and friends came for a week on Beaver Island, and to help me celebrate my 60th birthday. We had good talks and several excursions, outstanding meals and lots of puzzle and game time. Every spare minute, I wanted to spend with them!

I decided to read Jonathon Kellerman this summer. He’s a good writer of not-too-dark murder mysteries that are written in series with the same cast of characters. Easy to follow, not too heavy, mindless summer reading. Except that I find them hard to put down. And he’s a very prolific writer. Having never read his books before, I’ve been blasting through a book a week, and will still never finish his Alex Delaware series before the summer is over.

Blackberries, as I mentioned, are ripening. It’s easy to start by just looking, fill a hand, then a hat, then rush back to the house for a bowl. A wander ’round the yard turns into a serious walk around the property and before I know it, an afternoon is gone.

In my garden, I’ve been harvesting potatoes and tomatoes and squash. Everything else is finished for the season, and just as well, because I’m weary of it. I had big plans this year that never quite came to fruition, and left me feeling behind and discouraged in the “gardening department”. I’m over it now, and looking forward to next year.

We are all noting the passage of time, here on Beaver Island. Many restaurants and gift shops are seasonal. Fall is in the air. School will be starting soon. Every day I hear someone say “I need to get out there before they close for the season” or “We won’t have many more beach days this year”.

I have a list of things I’m anxious to write about. In anticipation of my birthday, I wrote a list of the sixty most influential women in my life. My sister, Cheryl, and I had a long talk about Life Lessons. I’m planning to elaborate on my visit with my family, my jobs and on turning sixty.

Right now, easily distracted, I’m trying to experience and enjoy all the summer has to offer, before the season is done.

Weeds

Standard

Image

I like flowers that have a little wildness in them.

Image

I’ve tried roses before, that promise cabbage-like, perfect blooms in shades of apricot or cream. I’ve fought the many things that challenge these dainty beauties, from soil that is too sweet, to rust, to aphids. For my efforts, I’ve sometimes ended up with one perfect flower. Too beautiful, even, to leave outside in the elements, it must be cut and brought inside, displayed in the good vase, in a location of special honor. Company should be invited over then, on pretense of a meal, so that the flower can be admired. Every day, change the water and trim the stem, to prolong the bloom time. When it is finally done, collect the petals and dry them, to be saved for some later, unknown – but special – purpose…

Then comes winter. Though ringed with dry leaves and shrouded in an inverted, rigid foam bucket designed just for this purpose, these beautiful hybrids rarely survive. But…

Below the graft is “peasant stock”…a hardy root of something closer to a wild rose that, if left, will come up healthy and worry-free with common blooms by the dozens in pinks or red or yellow. Butterflies abound, but other insects don’t seem interested. It will stand the heat of summer and the freezing temperatures of winter. It will grow into a loose shrub or a climbing vine. This is my kind of rose!

It’s the same throughout my garden.

Image

I go for the tiny species tulips, grape hyacinth, and common iris. I love the poppies, day-lilies and hollyhocks. I have waves of the wild daisies just now giving way to the wild brown-eyed susans. Wild roses and blackberry canes lean into my yard, and just beyond, the course milkweed perfumes the air with the most delicious scent.

Image

Specimen plants may be fine for others, but I enjoy my weeds.