Tag Archives: Fall

Gone

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It has been a beautiful autumn here on Beaver Island. One for the record books, I think, with warm temperatures lasting well into November. Even the frost held off longer than usual, and several people remarked that they remembered “a foot of snow on the ground” by this time in other years.

The colors were outstanding. Maybe not as many reds as I’ve seen in other years, but the yellows, oh my! For one essay on a walk through the woods, I turned to Google, requesting “synonyms for yellow” as my vocabulary fell short of the brilliant colors around me. Every day, I’d think, “this must be peak color…” only to be proven wrong by the next day, and the next. I’d tell myself, “surely I have enough photographs of the colors this fall…” and then I’d chide myself for not having my camera when faced with yet another glorious landscape.

The greens turned to orange, and the yellows turned bronze as the weeks went by. The blends of colors changed, but only for the better, it seemed. As the fall winds shook leaves to the ground, it seemed to simply clarify and enhance the color that was left. A heavy rain turned the tree trunks dark, which proved a brilliant foil to the glistening leaves. Fall continued that way, longer than any of us expected, and probably longer than we deserved.

No more. A week of high winds caused our ferry boat to abort one trip, and cancel a couple others. It made us contemplative about “the winds of November” on the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It took down trees and power lines. And it stripped the trees of their bright colors.

I’ve saved what I could of the color, in autumn leaves pressed in the pages of books, and in one thousand photographs. The view, though, has moved into a drearier realm. I offer a sigh, for another season gone and a bleaker landscape ahead.

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Lucky, Indeed!

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I walked, with my dogs, on the path known as Cotter’s Trail that leads through the part of the woods referred to as the Black Hills, to the little cabin that sits in the area that’s called Mamie Salty’s Clearing. Beaver Island has quite a few women memorialized in place names: Middie Perron’s Trail; Mrs. Redding’s Trail; Angeline’s Bluff; Mamie Salty’s Clearing. That, alone, is uplifting.

The sun was warm; the air was fresh. Other than birds overhead and an errant squirrel or two, we had the area all to ourselves. I had a pocketful of treats to keep Rosa Parks interested in the walk; it turned out, she didn’t need any special coaxing. Darla, who is usually off following smells by herself, hung back to include the little dog in her adventures. Their tails never stopped wagging.

I walked on a carpet of rustling leaves in shades of copper and gold. On every side, the trees boasted shades of yellow, bronze and green. It was evening, so the sun was making its way down into the western sky, changing the colors as it moved. Amber and lemon lightened to shades of cream and flax as the sun shined through the papery leaves. In shadow, the tones leaned toward ochre and deepest gold. Velvet greens of juniper and pine provided the perfect backdrop.

To have this luxury just steps from my kitchen door, I know I am fortunate. Though I already have about a thousand images of this beautiful fall, I couldn’t resist taking more pictures. Every day seems more beautiful than the day before. Every view more stunning than the last. There is a dog in almost every single landscape. Oh, yes, I am lucky!

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Looking Up

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Fall is a wonderful season.

October is a beautiful month.

Every day offers an amazement of color, from the ground underfoot, to the sky overhead, and all of the growing things in between.

My grapes are ripe. A little smaller than last year, I think they are sweeter than they’ve ever been. I have a pitcher of perfect juice in the refrigerator, and a basket of the fruit always nearby for nibbling.

The bumble bees still come to find the rosy flat flower heads of sedum when the sun is shining.

The sun still warms the days, this October, but nights are cool, and mornings are crisp. After a summer of hot nights, I’m happy to be sleeping under blankets again. It’s nice to pull out the sweaters against the autumn breeze.

Walking through fallen leaves makes me feel like a child again, that satisfying crackle underfoot, the urge to kick up a flurry of dry leaves. There are paths that will be knee deep in leaves before the season is done. At this time it’s just a jewel-toned carpet.

Driving through the canopy of trees on the Fox Lake Road is an ever-changing treat at any time of day. Sunshine filters through the brightness in the trees, and the light itself is tinged with their color. Paid Een Ogg’s Road offers a wider view of the mixed forest on either side. The King’s Highway, long and straight, is a corridor of reds and golds with just the right amount of evergreen to serve as backdrop. Any view that includes water shows deep blue garnished with reflections of glorious trees.

The sky, on this island, in the fall of the year, is the most beautiful sky of the entire year. Blues are deeper; clouds are larger, fluffier, and more panoramic. Every day it tells a different story. I don’t know the reason why. I’m sure there’s a meteorological reason based on water temperature and air pressure. I don’t care. I’m just thrilled to, every day, be able to enjoy it.

I’m spending a lot of time looking up.

 

 

This Moment…

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Yesterday afternoon, I took the dogs down to my Grandpa’s wood lot, so that I could gather blackberries. It’s the end of the season, and the bushes are pretty bare. Many of the berries are hard, dry and seedy, or show signs of having been nibbled on. I walked a mile to gather a meager half cup of fruit where a month ago I could have filled my bucket standing in one place. That’s okay; I don’t mind working for the last fresh berries of the year.

A month ago, yesterday’s weather would have been frowned on, too. It was damp and cool; the sun didn’t show itself until mid-afternoon, and even then it was hazy. Not good, compared to the beautiful warm days of summer. Compared to the weather that’s coming in the next few months, it was a treasure of a day.

I am making an effort to be more appreciative.

It’s easy to get caught up in the past. Not only this summer, now gone, but other summers and other years. The older I get, the more “past” there is to dwell on. I tend to be sentimental, leaning toward maudlin.  Memories and cherished moments of when I was young…or of when my daughters were babies…or when my grandchildren were babies…can fill whole days, if I let them. A simple act of pulling out an old address book or decorating for an upcoming holiday can send me into a tailspin of reminiscences. Sadly, loved ones that have died seem to occupy my thoughts more now than when they were alive. We engage in frequent conversations, in my mind.

The future is always looming, too, in my mind and on my schedule. I run through what I have to do in the next few minutes and in the next hour. I have lists of what I want to accomplish in this day, this week, this month…this life. There are places to go and books to read, subjects to write about, things to make and things to do. The plans are never-ending. If I get a week’s vacation…when I get caught up on this project…if I win a million dollars…one thing always leads to another.

I could be out on a sunny day for a nice walk with my big dog, beauty all around me, and my thoughts will be on what I need to do as soon as I get home…or on something that happened twenty-five years ago. I’m working on it. I have started a [tiny] meditation practice. I give myself five minutes, first thing in the morning. No plans, no memories, just be present. When a thought arises, I just send it on its way. It’s amazing how long five minutes can be! If I could live more in the moment, would all time seem to expand in that way?

I don’t know. I know that yesterday, in the chill fall air, gathering blackberries in the woods while the dogs rolled in the grass, that present moment was all that I wanted.

Monday: Report

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With less than two weeks before the official first day of spring, it seems to have arrived here on Beaver Island. After three sunny days, we had rain through the night. My sleep was sound, so I don’t know if it rained hard, or steadily or just off and on. I never heard thunder. Twice through the night, my little dog woke me to let her outside. Twice, I threw off the covers and stumbled sleepily to the door. When I opened it, I could see that it was raining. Rosa Parks poked her little nose outside to assess the situation, shook her little head “no, thanks,” and we went back to bed. So, it rained enough to keep the little dog inside.

It has transformed my yard from “endings of winter” to “definitely spring.” The snow is gone! There are three  curved ridges of snow left in the entire yard. A few tiny clumps still shine out from the woods. That’s it! Even the large, icy mound that the snowplow leaves, that gets packed together and frozen so hard it often stays until June…gone!

This overnight unveiling has revealed all the tasks left undone last fall, when icy winds and cold gave me license to put things off until spring. The last of the fallen leaves are now a sodden mess over large areas of the yard. Winter’s winds have done their usual job of shaking down the dead wood from my old trees. Picking up branches and hauling them to the fire pit is an almost daily task. Still, the snow melt shows all that I’ve missed. The grass, which never did get mowed the “one last time before winter” that it needed, gives a raggedy appearance through the leaves and twigs.

The garden, too, shows a wealth of sins. The raspberries need to be pruned, weeded and thinned if they are going to do well this year. The strawberry bed needs fresh pine needle mulch. Old vines, from last year’s tomatoes, squash and beans, need to be pulled out and hauled away. My compost barrel – which seemed like such a flawless idea when I started it – is full to overflowing. The last two times I carried out the little bucket of kitchen scraps, I had to use a five-gallon bucket as an annex, as the barrel was full. It may compress as it thaws, but it needs to be emptied soon. My wheelbarrows both need repair. The small one has a flat tire; the large one, a broken handle.

Spring fever, it seems, arrived at my house before the season. I’ve been dragging around for weeks, with never enough energy to accomplish all the things I wanted to. The worry of all the things not yet finished keeps me awake many nights, which adds to my exhaustion. Saturday night, we turned the clocks forward, so I’ve lost yet another hour. And now, with the melting snow, my list of things-to-do has quadrupled.

On the positive side, there are daffodils and tulips poking out of the ground in the flowerbeds that flank the kitchen door. The branches of trees and shrubs are heavy with buds that are almost ready to roll open into leaves or blossoms. The wild ramps are already showing green in the woods. The air smells fresh and clean. It’s a little bit early this year, but I think spring is truly here!

 

Hurray!!

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I can’t begin to describe how happy this makes me!

The garden is planted!

I had other things I should have or could have been doing today.

I have to go over my notes in preparation for a township meeting tonight. I was supposed to get to Aunt Katie’s early this afternoon to do her floors (it is now late afternoon). There is much to do in my studio, with galleries opening for the summer. There are plenty of inside chores I’d like to have finished before my work week starts tomorrow. In this year of plentiful mosquitoes, the grass should not be allowed to grow the way it has this Spring.

Still, the garden had to be planted.

We have a short growing season here on Beaver Island. It is especially short here on the Fox Lake Road, where we tend to get the earliest killing frost in the Fall, and the latest one in the Spring. I depend on my garden for fresh vegetables in the Summer, and to enrich my diet through the long months of winter.

I started planting on Sunday.

It rained that night and continued through the next day.

Yesterday, I had errands in town but came home in time to get back at it.

When I quit last evening, it looked like this:

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I snapped a couple pictures of the dogs worrying a garter snake at the fence…

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…and some blossoms from  around the yard and garden…

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…before calling it a night.

This morning, I set everything else aside, intent on finishing the garden.

And I did!

Well, the left side of the plot (not shown in any of these photos) could still use some attention. The perennial beds there – with strawberries, blueberries, asparagus and raspberries – need to be weeded and edged and mulched. The plot for my tomatoes plants still needs to be hoed up and fertilized. Tomatoes and peppers are still in pots. Flower beds need to be raked and weeded.

In the gardener’s world, nothing is ever completely finished (until, perhaps, it is buried under two feet of snow…but that’s when planning begins!)…but I feel a sense of completion today.

The garden is planted!

On the Edge of a New Season

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We took our walk yesterday – the dogs and I – off the road and through the woods to the east on trails that have been impassible since December, clogged with deep snow.

Some winters the temperatures drop and stay cold long enough to let a hard crust form on the deep snow. Then, I can walk far into the woods, to places I’d never dare venture without my footprints to guide me home.

Not this year.

We got plenty of snow this Winter, here on Beaver Island. We had cold, too, of course…but not extreme temperatures for days on end. The snow stayed soft, often slushy. Sometimes the little dog would run gleefully across the surface, chasing some scent or another, teasing me by refusing to come when I called. The bigger dog would usually break through, and find herself in snow too dense to walk in. Me, too.

Certainly it’s a workout, trudging through deep snow, but it’s not the type of exercise I want. It’s hard on the joints, and travel is too difficult to go any great distance. I prefer an easier walk at a better pace, where I can enjoy the fresh air and the antics of the dogs, and not be too exhausted to do anything else when I’m done.

The snow is melting, though.

There are pools and puddles where the snow has turned to liquid faster than the earth can absorb it. There are huge swaths of bare ground. In fact, I carried my camera in order to document the last of this winter’s snow.

It may have been a bit early; the forecast is now calling for more of it this weekend.

Still, it was a nice walk through an area I haven’t seen for a few months.

We took the trail that runs parallel to my house, back through the woods on the old logging road to the little hunting camp. There’s a pond behind the cabin, where a pair of Sandhill Cranes spend their Summer. I was anxious to see if they’d arrived yet this Spring. In the Fall, the course grass grows so tall and densely around the pond, it’s not possible to get close to the water. Summer, the mosquitoes keep me out of this area most days.

Spring is the time for this walk.

The pond is still covered mostly with ice. There is still snow in the woods. I did not see the birds that I was looking for.

Yet…the trees have buds at the ends of their branches that will soon open into leaves.

Two robins kept me entertained as they hopped around the yard.

Squirrels chattered and dashed around from tree to tree, keeping the dogs busy with chasing games.

And…near the pond, I’m sure I heard the frogs!

Whatever the forecast brings this weekend, Spring is close upon us here!

Distractions

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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.