Tag Archives: Lake Michigan

This Tail-End of Winter

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Six days into March, we are seeing signs of the winter’s end here on Beaver Island. There’s still plenty of snow along the Fox Lake Road, which is in the woods, in the middle of this island. Still, the trees all have a ring of bare earth around them, where the snow has melted away. My back yard is clear past the wild cherry tree, and much of the ice has melted from the driveway.

Closer to the big lake that surrounds us, in those places where the sun, when it shines, can more easily reach, everything melts faster. In the downtown areas, where paved roads help the process, the snow is nearly gone. This is still winter, though.

At the hardware store, we brought the snow blowers – usually on display and for sale all winter – back down to the basement. I didn’t push them all the way to the back corner where we store them through the summer, though. I suspect we may want them back upstairs before the seasons change. Often, when spring promises to come early, with melting snow and warmer days, winter smiles and gives us a foot of snow on April Fool’s Day.

Two “ice-breakers” came through last week, to break up the ice in our harbor, so that the tug boat pulling the barge loaded with fuel could get in. That barge had been locked into the ice in Michigan’s upper peninsula since late last fall. Guys with ice drills and chain saws have been out working every day, to help them get all the way in to the dock. Even now, a week into March, that ice is thick.

I walked the dogs last evening down a snow-covered trail. Someone had tried to pull in with a car, which drew my interest. Though the trail goes a half-mile into the woods, it is actually a private drive, and I didn’t think any of the owners were here. The car tracks stopped a short way in, leaving ridges more than 12 inches deep. Boot prints in the snow suggested that the explorers continued on foot, in and then back out again.

Rosa Parks had been left at home on Sunday, so yesterday she was eager to show me she was up for a walk, too. Darla wagged her tail and watched as I put on boots and coat; Rosa Parks went right to the door to wait. She had no intention of being left behind again!

My big dog, Darla, loves a walk, and is a calm and steady companion. Her ears flap up and down like bird’s wings, in time to her footsteps. She keeps me in sight as we walk down the road and – while investigating the sights and smells – never strays too far from where I am.

Rosa Parks is often indecisive about the walk. She’ll pause at the end of the driveway, thinking. No matter how much I call, and coax, and beg, she will not come with us. Sometimes she turns, then, and goes back to wait on the porch. Other days, I’ll look back to see that she has ventured out onto the road, though she is making no effort to catch up with us. Then, we have to turn around and go back…in fear that a car would come along while I am far ahead. That behavior is what caused her to be left inside on Sunday.

When the little dog is in the mood for a good walk, she’s a joy to have along. She was in the spirit yesterday. She beat us to the door, and then she beat us to the end of the driveway. “What’s keeping you?” her gaze seemed to ask, as she looked back at us, tail wagging. All the way down the snowy drive, Rosa Parks zipped from one smell to another. She bounded ahead, then circled back to see what Darla was doing. She’d glance my way, then run off again with a grin, and a wag of her tail.

Though the sun – just above the treetops on the horizon – was bright, the day was cold. The surface of the snow was firm, so that I walked on top of it, rather than sinking in, yet it was not icy. It was an easy walk, and a good one, on a beautiful, cold winter day. I think I paid more attention, and was more appreciative of the season, knowing it is nearly at its end.

 

 

 

Presents/Presence

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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.

What Voices Do You Listen To?

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My friend, Kathy, writes a wonderful blog as Lake Superior Spirit.

She had posted recently about a mental dialogue, where her “inner voice” was being a bit of a harp, providing her with thoughts of how she should and should not spend her morning. The “universe” gave her the go-ahead to do what she wanted, and what she felt was right.

I know exactly what she means by “universe” though she says the word sometimes sends the wrong message.

I think we all know that deep, resonating, to-the-heart feeling that lets us know we are on the right track…that hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck-raising feeling that assures us we have just heard a profound truth…that blessed calm that comes from the alignment of our world. If we’re smart, we pay attention when those feeling occur.

Still, I am skeptical. I wonder, for instance, if youth in Hitler’s Germany felt the hairs on the back of their necks rise up when they heard him speak, and thought – because of it – that they were chosen. I think of the “Son of Sam” killer, and what he did because he thought God told him to. Mass murderers and despots aside, I have given myself some indescribably horrible haircuts when moved by feelings that it was the absolute right thing to do. How could something that felt so right go so very wrong? I don’t know.

In any case, I told Kathy that her “inner voice” sounded a lot like my [trying to be a better person] self and her “universe” much like my [slacker] self. She said they usually had opposite roles, and that she’s learned what to pay attention to. It made me think about what voices I hear, and what I listen to.

There are, of course, many voices running through my head (and I hope I’m not alone as I just realized that, if I don’t have company in this, I have just made myself sound pretty crazy!). Some are hold-overs from my childhood; others come from places of fear or insecurity that I have left mostly behind; some are playful, cynical, judgmental and more.

They fall predominantly into three categories.

Freud called them id, ego and super-ego, I think. Mine may be different in scope than his. To avoid any misunderstanding, or possible lawsuit, I’m calling mine Boss Voice, Adult Voice and Child Voice.

Boss Voice is the one that reasons “because I said so” or “because that’s the way it has always been done”. Boss Voice is rigid; it does not challenge the status quo. Listening to that voice – when it matters – feels like the opposite of listening to the universe. It feels sour and cowardly, bitter and wrong.

Boss Voice rarely affects my life anymore. I challenged rules when I was growing up. I continued questioning as an adult. My daughters challenged me further. Nothing is credible only because it’s always been so. Every idea needs to prove its merit to stand.

My daughters would argue. They would say I am very rigid. They would note that I will not embarrass myself by singing in public. I refuse to be thrown into Lake Michigan or even splashed with its icy cold waters; I insist on taking a full hour and a half to get wet to my navel, if need be. They would cite my clothes-folding techniques as absolute proof of my inflexibility. I can picture them nodding vehemently at this statement.

They are wrong.

I am undoubtedly very particular about how I fold clothes. It is only because, after trial and error, I have learned what works. I don’t like to iron, and it can usually be avoided with proper folding. I also take into consideration the size of the drawer, shelf or cupboard that the items need to fit into. My bath towel folding has evolved over the years from “twice in half from the length, then into thirds with the binding out” to “twice in half from the length, then twice in half from the width, with the binding out” to – presently – “once in half from the length, then into thirds from the width, then in half again lengthwise, binding out”…because that is how they best fit on the shelf. That is not blindly following a rule! That is evolving with necessity and the times! That is Adult!

Adult Voice is the one that knows what needs to be done, and harps incessantly at me until I do it. It wakes me in the middle of the night reminding me of impending deadlines or neglected obligations. It haunts me when I sit down at the computer, or pick up a book or magazine to read. It makes me feel guilty when I choose a leisurely bath over a quick shower, a nap over a brisk walk. It is the scourge of my days…and it is my salvation. I would be lost without it. I would quickly devolve into the slothful, disorganized, scatter-brained 12-year-old that is still a huge part of my personality. Evident, always, in Child Voice.

Petulant, silly, sarcastic and playful, the child in me is at the heart of my creativity, joy and hopefulness. The Child Voice is the one singing loudly to distract me from all the “should”s and “shouldn’t”s in my life. It is saying “what if you don’t?” to everything I think I need to do. It is also the voice that encourages me to ignore the pattern, experiment with the recipe, forget what has already been done and forge my own path. It is both a curse and a blessing.

Sometimes, I look around and know, from the clutter and disorder, that I’ve listened too much to Child Voice. Other times I know, from my sense of despondency, that I have been living too much in only the Adult world. Most times, all of it works. Adult gets me up and cleaning house; Child turns it into a game. Child makes wild messes in the studio; Adult organizes it into art. Adult keeps me on top of my obligations. Child makes obligations fun!

What voices do you listen to?

One Week in July

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I’ve been entertaining company this last week.

Or, rather, they’ve been entertaining me.

Madeline, Tommy and Patrick arrived on the 15th of July along with my daughter, Jen, who is also Patrick’s Mom.

It was “Museum Week” here on Beaver Island, with special events every day. We went to “Music on the Porch” at the Mormon Print Shop Museum on Monday night to listen to talented islanders sing and play instruments for a “pass the hat” donation. I submitted several paintings to the Museum Week Art Show at the Gregg Fellowship Hall. No sales for me this year, but I had good response from viewers. We planned, all week, on dressing up little Rosa Parks (as a Ladybug, according to the final vote!) and entering her in the Museum Week Pet Show on Saturday, but time constraints and impending weather foiled our plans. Next year, though!

This was also the week for “M.A.D. Camp” on Beaver Island. That is Music, Art and Drama Camp, for lucky children aged seven through seventeen. In five days of day-camp, 9AM to 4PM, the participants create costumes and stage sets, learn songs and dances, rehearse lines and choreography and finish with a wonderful performance on Friday evening. That is all in addition to arts and crafts, creative writing, games and trips to the beach! All three of my grandchildren attended.

The week ended with – Thursday through Sunday – the Beaver Island Music Fest. Jen camped there, with friends she’d known since childhood, and listened to the music all weekend. I attended Thursday evening, with my grand-children, for some early entertainment and to visit with friends. We were home and in bed by 10:30, though. On Saturday, Jen took them again, for special activities planned for the children and burgers cooked on the grill at their camp-site. I took that opportunity for a long bath, a short nap and a frozen dinner all by myself.

Evenings, all week, we tried to fit as much in as possible…and we did pretty good! We went swimming at Donegal Bay, let the dogs swim at Fox Lake, walked the foot bridge down to Lake Michigan for an evening swim, dipped our toes in at Lake Genasereth, collected pretty stones from the beach at the Bill Wagner Memorial Campground and fought the big waves for hours at Iron Ore Bay. We climbed the historic lighthouse at the south end of the island. We visited my Aunt Katie, checked out her dogs, the gardens, pond, gravel pit and sheep on her property. All of the kids climbed the Giant Birch Tree, and all of them climbed the Big Rock. We climbed Mount Pisgah! Not really a mountain, but a sand dune with an elevation of 733 feet, it’s still quite a trek. We had a nice bonfire on Friday night, toasted marshmallows and made “s’more”s. We visited the Beaver Island Toy Museum on Saturday, where one dollar can still purchase dozens of items. The five dollar bill each of my grandchildren carried made choosing what to buy an almost insurmountable task!

Every day we walked the dogs. Sometimes with only one grandchild, sometimes with two or three. One special day, Jen and I walked. Every night, Rosa went bed-to-bed, visiting each child. Whichever one woke up with her would say, “Rosa slept with me all night!”. I’d reply, “Rosa loves you”. Clover usually crowded in with me, but both dogs loved having the children around. More games, more hugs, more attention…I woke up each morning to the sound of their wagging tails as they woke and remembered that “kids are here!”

I worked two jobs each day on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, then had the rest of the week off. Sunday was a sad good-bye, and back to work for me. The house seems empty, and the dogs are hanging their heads. I slept twelve solid hours last night. It was a wonderful week!