Tag Archives: Fox Lake Road

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Walking with Dad

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I was about half way to Hannigan Road yesterday, walking my dog down the Fox Lake Road, when I heard the low rumble of the County road truck. Darla does not chase cars, or even seem to notice them, most of the time. She barely gives them a glance as they go by. If I don’t grab her and pull her away, she won’t even yield her walkway, which is right down the middle of the road. We’re working on it.

However, all of my dogs have always hated the road trucks. Perhaps it’s the sound they make when scraping gravel or snow from the roads, or just the noise of the diesel engines. It might be because they pass by slowly, sometimes stop nearby, and often turn around in front of my house. I don’t know.

Maggie looked at cars as a means of meeting folks, and would run right up to them and jump on the door to greet the driver. She’d always want to attack the road truck, though. Clover was afraid of cars, and generally gave them a wide berth. Except for Randy’s car, which she would lay in wait for, and ambush as he drove by. And the road truck, her mortal enemy. She taught Rosa Parks everything she knew, so the little dog grew up hating the road trucks, too. Now Rosa has taught Darla, and my quiet household erupts in wild leaping and barking whenever one of them drives by.

Not knowing how Darla would react when encountering the truck on the road, I hurried to grab her collar and lead her to the side of the road. We waited together until it passed by, then continued on our way. The truck was grading the road yesterday. With the big blade down but at a slight angle, it was scraping and leveling the gravel road, one half at a time. As it went down one side of the road, it pushed a mound of dirt and leaves into the center. It would do the same thing coming back down the other side of the road. A final pass would “crown” the road, smoothing the dirt mounded in the center.

As we continued our walk, my Dad had joined us. It was the smell that brought him to mind. In the same way that freshly cut grass transports me back to my childhood summer Sundays, when Dad would mow the lawn, worked earth brings thoughts of the spring of the year, and Dad in the garden. Dragging the plow behind his small tractor, he worked the clay soil every year, trying to soften and enrich it with additions of grass clippings, manure and mounds of seaweed.

I think Dad always had a garden. When we were tiny, he worked up a small plot of ground, and taught us to space the seeds by measuring the distance with our hands. He was always thrilled to see things grow. He would compete with any of his gardening friends for the earliest radishes, hottest peppers, tallest corn or largest squash. He was proud to carry in a harvest of peas or beans or tomatoes.

Though Dad was a smart man with good stories and many abilities, the garden is what I associate most closely with him. When I leaned close to give him a hug, for most of his life Dad smelled a little of smoke and tobacco; there was usually a hint of beer or something stronger; always, Dad smelled like the earth. It makes me happy that – as the old woman I am and almost twenty years after my Dad has left this earth – something as simple as the smell of freshly turned soil can bring him right back.

Monday, the First of August

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The sky is brightening this morning on a fresh new month. August!

It seems I have spent much of the last several weeks complaining. Even when it wasn’t being typed out here (with italics to emphasize the severity of the complaint), it was going on in my head. First, all the “too”s: too tired, too busy, too overwhelmed, too many jobs, too little time. Then I moved on to all the disappointments, slights and insults.

One hot day, when my dogs refused to stop barking at other visitors at Fox Lake, I had to load them up and drive (whine) all the way down to Miller’s Marsh instead. It was only a couple miles farther; it was still peaceful and beautiful; the dogs were able to cool off; there were frogs in the shallow water, birds in the trees and waterlilies blooming…but I complained anyway.

I forget how good I have it, here in my little house on the Fox Lake Road. I say, “work is too hard,” “meat’s a little tough,” or “the car is awful dusty,” without thinking how fortunate I am to have all of these things. My Mom used to remind us, as she piled our plates with mounds of cooked peas (which we hated!) that children were starving in China. She was big on gratitude and appreciation.

It’s a matter of perspective. Mine needs a shift. I need to look at what’s right, rather than what’s wrong.

This Monday, the first day of August, is a good time to start.

What Next?

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I was starting to catch up. I was feeling pretty good about it, too. A little chagrined that it took so many weeks into summer to catch up on winter’s bills, but pleased nonetheless.

The hours at the hardware store have been expanded, to take advantage of summer’s business. That gives me some over-time. There have been a few days where I worked 10 hours. Working longer hours makes it even more difficult to find time to cover events I should be covering for the news-magazine. It’s even harder to come home and sit right down to write when I’m tired from my other job.Still, I was counting the money.

I have been whittling away at my long list of hardware store charges. You know, dog food, detergent, a candy bar to help get through the afternoon slump…it all adds up. The charges tend to pile up over the winter, too, when money is tight and hours are few. I’d finally be able to pay it off! I would be able to pay my winter tax bill…just in time for the summer tax bills to come out. I would pay off winter’s propane bill, before I had to turn on the heat this fall. Hurrah!

I took today off – arranged in advance – to participate in a garden tour. I scheduled myself for Monday to make up for it. Monday, my back went out, so I ended up off work that day, too. It’s not going to be such a big paycheck after all.

Sunday, coming down the hill to Fox Lake, Rosa Parks twisted her leg. She’s been hobbling around on three legs ever since. It doesn’t seem to be getting any better. I’ll have to get her in to the vet. I’m terribly afraid that it’s that tendon in the knee, that will not repair itself and that requires surgery to fix it. My old dog, Maggie, had to have each of her knees done; Clover, after slipping on ice, had one. Now maybe Rosa Parks.

Last night, driving home late after attending a concert, I found I had no headlights. Someone waved at me, enthusiastically, from the sidewalk as I drove through town. I thought they were just appreciating the cool jazz playing on my car radio. By the time I made it out of town and away from the street lamps, I recognized the problem. I messed with a few buttons and switches to no avail.

No lights. At least the King’s Highway is fairly open, and the sky was still pretty light at 10PM. Paid Een Ogg’s Road, though, is bordered with trees. Luckily, it’s a straight road. Fox Lake Road not only has a dense canopy of trees down the entire length, but it’s narrow and very curvy, too. I found the blinkers still worked, and gave off enough light to make my [slow, strobe-y] way home. So, add the car to the list of necessary expenses.

What next?

Riding in Cars with Dogs

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On the way home from work on Sunday afternoon, faced with the balance of the day plus two days off, my mind runs through the possibilities.

I considered bringing some plants home, the sorry, leftover specimens that have been too long in their starter pots: tomatoes, peppers, cabbages and eggplant. Could I dig up a patch of garden yet? What about that sweet peach tree, with tiny fuzzy fruits already on its branches? How nice it would be to spend the day in the garden! I sensibly – though with remorse – talked myself out of it. Too much to do, to allow myself to go off in another direction.

The entire lawn needs mowing, but the back yard – that didn’t get done last week – is desperately in need of it. I brought home 50 feet of rope, with intention of restringing my clothesline.  It was a nice warm day with a slight breeze: a good day to wash sheets and dry them outside! A good day, too,  to shake out the rugs and open all the windows, give the floors a good sweeping and get the cobwebs out of the corners.

I have several hours (days??) of writing and computer work to do. I have stacks of notes from meetings and interviews to turn into stories. I have others to edit and organize. There are letters to write and phone calls to answer. The subscriber database always needs updating as the checks or changes of address come in the mail. I need to set up a filing system for advertisers, and bill out the classified ads. If I were to get all of that done in a timely fashion, my taxes are still waiting to be filed.

The studio, yes, a dozen things to do there, and the back closet where I started sorting seasonal clothes, and the kitchen cupboards to get ready for the new counter top, and weeding, dead-heading and watering the flower beds…by the time I got home, I was exhausted just from thinking about it!

The dogs greeted me when I got home. I made a sandwich, and wandered the yard while I ate it. It really was a beautiful day. Chance of rain or thunderstorms for Monday.

“Do you want to take a ride?” I asked.

Darla jumped up from where she was laying in the grass. Rosa Parks gave a series of yips as she ran for the car. I grabbed the can of mosquito repellent, my camera, a book, and one bottle of beer.

“Let’s go!”

Darla jumps in first, and takes the passenger seat in front. Her posture is impeccable as she sits tall watching out the windows. I pick up Rosa Parks and take the driver’s seat. Rosa scrambles across to position herself on my lap, with her nose out the window, her chin resting on my left arm. Darla smiles benignly across at me, to let me know that she believes that spot on my lap should be hers, but that she’ll make the sacrifice.

It’s one and a half miles to Fox Lake, down a barely traveled, narrow gravel road. The breeze is nice. Every now and then, I point out a bird or squirrel or chipmunk. If they were on foot, they’d be very interested. Riding in the car, they pay no attention to the wildlife. They know when I come to the drive that leads down to the lake. They murmur and shake in anticipation. If I accidentally drive past it, they turn to look back. Still, they each politely hold their places until the car is parked, and I open the door to let them out.

The lake is an adventure unto itself, with water for wading and new smells to investigate. For me, it’s an hour of blissful relaxation. The ride home is a repeat of the trip there, only in reverse…and more damp. No matter what’s on the to-do list, riding in cars with dogs is an excellent way to spend an afternoon!

 

Another List

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Tuesday was a pretty miserable day for me. I cried three times. I have a very low misery index: it doesn’t take much. I am often ashamed of myself for being such a complainer. I try to do better. I try to employ a  little perspective. There are people out there who are starving, who have cancer, who have sick children. There are people struggling through the aftermath of earthquakes, fires, floods or other natural disasters. There are people living in war zones. There are people out there who have good reasons to complain. I do not.

Still, I felt like it was a pretty rotten day. In an effort to be a better person, I am not going to dwell on all the things that went wrong. I’m sure every day brings blessings, too; it’s a matter of watching for them, and taking note. Today, in a marked effort to improve my attitude, I’m listing the things that were good about yesterday.

  • I slept in until eight o’clock!
  • I didn’t have to work at the hardware store.
  • I took my big dog, Darla, for a nice long (2 mile!) walk.
  • She wagged her tail the entire distance!
  • I managed to do that without hurting the little dog’s feelings, even though she had to stay at home.
  • I spoke on the telephone to a kind lady, who found it in her heart to forgive me for mistakes regarding her subscription and submissions to the magazine.
  • I had nice conversations with two special women.
  • Each listened to my tales of woe, and offered kindness and understanding,
  • And each sent me away with gifts!
  • I saw some outstanding and inspiring artwork,
  • And was able to get pretty good photographs of it with my little camera.
  • I remembered to return my rented movie, only one day late.
  • I had a magazine and a book catalogue in my mail.
  • There were fresh peaches and perfect avocados in the grocery store.
  • Since I was in town, I went to happy hour at the pub.
  • I saw three deer on my way home from town.
  • I stopped, on the Fox Lake Road, to photograph the sunlight streaming through the trees.
  • I have a bouquet of lilacs on my dining room table.
  • I made a big bowlful of pasta salad, to pack for my lunch this week,
  • And had sauteed cauliflower for dinner (shredded wheat with strawberries for dessert!).
  • Though my back is out again, I still have drugs for that.

So, look at that…yesterday wasn’t so bad after all!

The Erin Motel

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Before I gave up on the idea of braving the winter – with my daughters – in the unfinished house on Fox Lake Road, we had nearly run out of wood. I was scrambling for a source, and trying to figure out how I’d pay for it. The house was insulated, but still drafty. It was getting cold. I stapled black plastic to the exposed support beams to cover the insulation. I hung blankets over the windows.

The line bringing water to our house from the neighbor’s well froze solid. Then I  begged a $500.00 cash advance from work, in order to hire Bud Martin to put a submersible pump in my own well and complete the hookups to the house. During that time, I hauled water each day in five gallon containers (4) from the public faucet at the township airport, for washing up, cleaning and flushing the toilet. I carried two single gallons home from town for cooking and drinking. Bud tried to hook up the pump, but said it would only draw sand, so he had to pull it back out. He said Mr. Goller must have cracked the screen when he set it.

That’s when I gave up.

Then, it was too late to move into McCafferty’s Hotel: it was already rented for the winter. I talked to my friend Roy, who owned the Erin Motel. He was one of my regular morning coffee drinkers, and also often used the Shamrock to conduct his real estate business. He was an avid hunter, which he knew I didn’t like. Our friendship was based on me serving him coffee, and him teasing me. I told him we needed to find a place to live, and that I’d like to move in to the Erin. I explained that it would take me most of the winter to pay back the cash advance from work, so I was working just for tips. If my [estranged] husband sent money, I’d be able to pay rent; if he didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to pay until spring.

“That will be fine,” he said.

I told him two adjoining motel rooms would be best, as they were small. That way we could use one for sleeping, one for meals and general living space.

“Okay,” he said, “that will be alright.”

I told him our beagle, Joe, would have to come with us.

“Sure, I accept dogs there.”

“…And the two cats,” I said.

Roy shook his head. His voice was firm.

“Nope, sorry, no cats. I don’t allow cats in the motel,”

I stomped my foot.

“Roy,” I said, “my girls have been through enough already! I’m not going to argue with you about this!”

“Alright,” he wavered,”I’ll make an exception for the cats.”

So it was that my dog, two cats, my two daughters and I all moved – with a few pots and pans, some dishes, one piece of art, a few books and three suitcases of clothing –  in to two adjoining rooms at the Erin Motel. The building is right on the harbor – though our rooms didn’t have a harbor view – so we could walk to wherever we needed to go. The school was two blocks up the hill; the Shamrock was right across the street.

Our rooms were standard motel rooms: square, large enough for a double bed, dresser and chair, with a bathroom and a small alcove for hanging coats. A door near the entry doors linked the two rooms. Roy had two twin beds and a double bed moved into one room. In the other, we had a roll-away bed that we used as a sofa, a couple chairs, a card table with folding chairs, and a make-shift kitchen that consisted of a dorm sized refrigerator and a two-burner range. Each room had a large window in front that looked out onto the main street.

In order to make ends meet, and keep working after the busy season, I was working six days a week: two morning (7AM to 2PM), two afternoon (2PM to 8PM) and two night shifts (8PM to closing time). Business was slow, so it was always okay for the girls to come over after school, once they had walked the dog and taken care of the cats. They could practice piano at the Shamrock, do their homework and watch television. On days when I was home in the evenings, I cooked on the little two-burner stove, and we’d play games or cards after dinner around the card table. Though it was a rough time for all three of us, I remember laughing ’til we nearly lost control, crowded into those small rooms.

The following spring, when I was finally able to pay Roy for our stay there, I also presented him with a framed drawing I had done for him, of an elderly woman fishing off a dock, her large cat dozing in the sunshine beside her. It hangs in his office to this day.