Tag Archives: change

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.

Mom’s Old TypeWriter

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I don’t know when Mom got the old Royal Typewriter. It was new – or nearly new – in my earliest memories of it. Perhaps it had belonged to her mother, and came into our home around the time Grandma Thelma died. Maybe Mom invested in it – as she did the large set of encyclopedias – to enhance the scholastic ability of her children. I don’t think Mom knew how to type, but I guess I don’t know that for sure, either. I think it originally had a hard case that fit over the top and fastened on the bottom, to protect the keys and keep it dust-free. The typewriter was an important, revered object in our house.

As I think about it, very few objects in our chaotic household were treated as important. Mom raised nine children of her own, and always had many more around. She fully expected that “kids will be kids.” That meant, to her, that dishes will get broken, toys will be destroyed, clothes will get stained and furniture will take a beating. Expect it, and learn to live with it. Except for those things that Mom set aside as precious, that were to be handled more cautiously, and treated with love.

Mom’s list was not long: the cedar chest that she’d received from her parents at the occasion of her high school graduation…along with the treasures and memories she kept inside it; books in general, and especially the encyclopedias, which had to be handled carefully, dusted regularly, and always kept in alphabetical order; the good china, which was never used, and the frosted iced tea glasses that had belonged to her mother; the nativity set that was put out at Christmastime and handled so carefully that the straw was still intact on top of the stable and the music box still worked for her great-grandchildren to hear; and the typewriter.

When we came home from school with a “really big research assignment”, we could use the typewriter for the final draft. If we had an important letter to write, the typewriter could be brought to the desk. If we had absolutely run out of options for keeping small children entertained, we could sometimes pull out the typewriter to show them the “magic” of their names appearing on the paper, the sound of the bell alerting them that it was time for their job: using the silver arm to push the carriage back over to the left. Always, the typewriter eraser was close at hand. By the time we got to high school and actually took typing classes, the biggest problem was forgetting the “hunt and peck” method of typing we’d grown so familiar with.

My mother gave me the typewriter when I was a graduate student at Michigan State University. By that time – the late ’80’s – her children were all adults, and the machine sat idle. Though a manual typewriter seemed pretty archaic, it was a godsend to me! The only word processor available  for my use – for the multitude of papers that had to be typed – was at the library, a mile from our apartment, with – often – a long list of students in line to use it. I was a single mother with a full load of classes, and no car. Having the typewriter allowed me to be at home with my daughters in the evenings. Many nights they fell asleep to the sound of me pounding on the typewriter keys, cursing as I reached for the White-Out. I still have several papers written during that time, with the characteristic shading from many corrections.

I made cookbooks for my daughters one Christmas many years ago. The opening page says “so that Jenny and Katey can have the food they grew up with, even when ‘Home’ is far from their Mom’s kitchen”. My methods were ancient by today’s standards. I gathered photographs and had them enlarged and/or cropped as needed. I used rub on Chartpak letters to make the chapter pages. I typed all the recipes on Mom’s old Royal Typewriter. A dozen hours over the course of several days and a couple hundred dollars at Kinko’s,and I was done. That was the last big job for the typewriter.

The machine sat unused after that. Over the years, I moved it from the shelf to the attic to the storage unit. I almost forgot about it. Then things changed:

First, my mother died. Which caused me to reassess everything. Caused me to look with new eyes at everyone and everything she loved. Caused me to cherish everything she had cared about, and everything she had given me.

Next, I saw a lovely room in an art magazine where a typewriter was used for making gift tags, and had a place of honor on the desk.Then I saw a piece on a news program about a typewriter repair person who is enjoying a resurgence of interest in the old machines. Last, I reorganized shelves and books to accommodate a new drawer unit, and ended up with one empty shelf.

Now, Mom’s old typewriter sits with dignity on my kitchen shelf.

…And on to the New Year

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“Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one and precious life?”

~Mary Oliver

2012. I’m expecting big changes this year.

I’ve had quite a few ideas swimming around in my head…things I’d like to do or see or be a part of. I’ve entertained these thoughts without judgment and without action. I know it’s too soon after major life trauma to do anything drastic. But I’ve been entertaining some pretty monumental thoughts.

Life is short. That fact has come crystal clear to me in the last several months. In less than two years, I’ve lost two siblings. My brother, David, was ten years younger than me. My sister, Sheila, was four years younger. My mother, almost exactly twenty years older than me and so generally healthy that we fully expected to have her around ’til age 100, died last August. If  I am more fortunate than my brother and sister, and avoid premature death…if  I live as long as my mother did (though I daresay she took much better care of herself than I did for much of my life so far)…I have about 7000 days left. On top of all that, this is the year I will turn 60. So, as Mary Oliver suggests, I’m thinking of what I want to do with my life.   Perhaps that means a change in location or lifestyle or livelihood. Maybe it will just be a greater awareness of and appreciation for my life as it is: a change in perception. Either way, there will be changes.

I’m also planning for small changes this year.

My little dog, Rosa Parks, and I are both going to lose some weight.

I have several variations of my usual collages, paintings and collagraphs underway, and have plans for a series of charcoal drawings.

I intend to learn how to download photos, to improve this blog and so that I can showcase my artwork.

I plan to continue my writing practice. I will also write letters and notes of appreciation regularly.

I am going to organize my time so that I can accomplish what I want to in any given week.

Finally, I am going to live with intention rather than out of habit.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!