Tag Archives: snow

More Snow

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Once again, our attempts at a good walk have been foiled.

The dogs are bored, and I’m getting discouraged.

Clover and I went down the road for our walk a few times, when the extreme cold or ice didn’t stop us. Guilt at leaving the little dog at home was the only damper on our enjoyment. A bit of a thaw allowed the three of us to get out together to walk the old logging road into the woods. Still, not close to our usual routine for frequency or distance.

Now, we have more snow!

In other years, there has been a long dry spell between the end of hunting season and the beginning of lasting cold weather. Time that we could walk through the woods, keeping grasses and snow trampled down. Time to reacquaint ourselves with the path, the landmarks and wildlife along the way.  Time to get accustomed to our route so that we’d know the way when it was buried in deep snow.

Not this year!

In other winters, the snow has come down wet and heavy, forming a nice crust that would carry my weight. Then, we could leave the path. We could explore deep into the woods, knowing we’d have our footprints in the snow to lead us back home.

Not this year. Not yet, anyway.

We had our first snow early, and it hasn’t let up. Five or six inches at a time it has fallen, accumulating quickly into a deep landscape of fluffy snow. So light, snowmobiles could not go out on it; so soft, it would not carry my weight, with or without snowshoes. I don’t think an entire week has gone by without a fresh layer of snow being added to what is already here.

In years gone by, one companion was my old dog, Maggie. Maggie loved a good walk! Part Malamute, part Lab, she was undaunted by the weather. Cold didn’t bother her. Though she had bad hips, she could “swim” her way through snow that seemed impassable to the rest of us. She would lead the way. Clover and I would follow.

Not anymore. Maggie left this world a few years ago. Her spot has been filled with Rosa Parks.

Rosa has much the same coloring as Maggie. She is similar in shape, carrying a bit of extra weight around the middle. She has the same bossy attitude and snippy temperament. She even has similar health and food issues! However, she is considerably shorter and one hundred pounds lighter than Maggie was. This winter, that’s a definite consideration!

Clover is feeling her age, of late. She doesn’t have the endurance or stamina she exhibited even a year ago.

Me, too! Tramping through deep snow is hard on my knees and exhausting all around. I can go a short distance, but long walks are out of the question in this weather.

This winter has slowed all three of us down!

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Getting Away and Settling In

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The older I get, the more nervous I get about driving.

The longer I live here on Beaver Island, the more I am intimidated by traffic and speed.

It’s not road conditions.

We, here in northern Michigan, are well aware of ice and snow.

I have driven to work before the plow truck came through, making the first tracks through deep snow.

I have made it home on roads slick with ice.

I’ve had my share of scary sliding, fish-tailing and spinning events that make my heart pound and my hands shake.

The differences are this:

  1. On Beaver Island, I rarely contend with other vehicles. My car, for most of my trip, is the only one on the road.
  2. I can pick my speed, based on the conditions. If worn out tires and slippery roads dictate a speed of 15 miles per hour, I can pretty much guarantee there won’t be an angry four-wheel-drive pick-up driver tearing up from behind and zipping around me.
  3. If an accident happens, it is usually car-to-snowbank, car-to-ditch or car-to-tree…not car-to-madly-careening-down-the-icy-freeway-sideways-semi-truck.

I drove down-state this last weekend, for a Christmas party and a pre-Christmas visit with family and friends.

I watched the weather predictions closely, and with trepidation. It was a fickle forecast, changing almost daily from “not bad” to the terror inducing “winter storm watch.” By the time my departure day on Friday came around, it looked like the most I’d have to contend with was a little “lake-effect” snow around the Kalkaska area.

That held true, and my drive down was an easy trip.

In Ionia, I met my daughter, Jen, and my grandson, Patrick, for dinner and presents, conversation and games.

The next day, Jen took the wheel. We brought Patrick to his Dad’s house, then headed for Saugatuck.

More talk and laughter, more family and friends and the thirty-fourth annual Pine & Pasta Party.

The party had its start when my friend Bob, newly divorced, decided that decorating for Christmas would be more fun with a few friends. It has evolved over the years into a much anticipated holiday tradition. Bob makes a big pot of his famously good spaghetti sauce and cooks up pasta to go with it. Guests bring breads and salads and munchies. Bob and his brother Gary – AKA “The Bare-Chested Christmas Tree Wrestlers” – bring in the tree, set it up and string the lights. Some visitors add the ornaments while others advise and dictate placement from the comfort of the sofa. Many of the decorations were contributed by guests over the years and reflect the times past. One of my favorites is a garland of hand-sewn silver alewives, presented in the year our beaches were smelly with that fish. Drawings are held, and gifts distributed. My sister, Brenda, was the proud winner of a box of miniature hotel soaps from all over the country…collected by Bob in his travels with the Red Cross. Others were lucky enough to receive prizes retrieved from cereal boxes or earned with box tops or coupons. Every guest was given a commemorative ornament, inscribed by Bob with the event and year. I don’t make it to his party every year, but have a nice collection of ornaments reminding me of when I attended. It was a great group this year, and I’m glad I was there.

Sunday morning, up early and on the road.

First east, to pick up Patrick and bring him and Jen home. After that, I was on my own.

North, to Charlevoix, where I’d get on the small plane that would take me back to the island.

The roads were clear and the trip was without complications. I had allowed enough time so that when I came into wet, snowy conditions less than a hundred miles from my destination, I was able to slow down without worrying about missing my flight.

I arrived early at the airport, and – with inclement weather threatening – my flight left shortly after.

A smooth flight and a perfect landing on the island, then retrieve the car and load my bags, a quick visit with my aunt, to the boarders to pick up my dogs…then home!

It has hardly stopped snowing since I got here, day before yesterday!

I was ready for a trip, and happy to get away. It was a great chance to reconnect and visit and play.

I was happy to get back home, too, to my cozy house in the snow.

I’m ready, now, to settle in for a while.

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!

Happy Spring!

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We got another winter storm this week, here on Beaver Island.

It left us with a few inches of new snow, on top of what was still on the ground.

It is snowing again, now.

We’ve had enough of Winter, sure.

We had one whopper rain-to-sleet-to-snow storm in December that took down trees and disabled electrical service and left us a little bit frightened of what else the season would give us.

Beyond that, I don’t think we’ve broken any records for low temperatures or amount of snowfall.

Still, it’s been a real Winter.

Especially compared to last year, which was almost no Winter at all.

I’m hearing people say, “Enough!”

Tired of the snow. Ready for Spring.

I understand. I feel it, too.

Still, I feel a bit sentimental about snow this time of year.

This might be our last snow of the season. I get wistful.

It is just undeniably beautiful, after all, with the trees casting blue shadows across the white surface, the sun shining down…

Whatever nature gives us, it won’t last long now.

The days are longer; the sun shines brighter; the earth is warming up.

I love the Springtime. I’m ready for it.

Still, I’m happy to be watching the snow coming down, this first day of Spring!

The Color Of The Sky

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“None of them knew the color of the sky.”

That’s the first line of Stephen Crane’s short story, “The Open Boat”.

When the world is reduced to the small vessel, the ocean and the sky, desolation and hopelessness are apparent from the start.

With little to work with: a small life boat, the sky, the water and a few characters, Crane turns this short story based on true events into a masterpiece of hope and despair. The flat, motionless ocean, a glimmer of light from the sky, a word or gesture between kindred souls…carry the reader along in weariness, discouragement, hope and sadness.

I think of his first line in the dismal days of this season on this small island.

Sunshine is a rare commodity on Beaver Island, most winters.

There’s something about the water temperature compared to the air temperature that keeps us frequently cloaked in haze,this time of year. The sky is most often some variation of  gray. The sun, if visible at all, is a pale glow through the mist.

Snow covered, the woods take on the limited palette of a faded photograph.

Everything is gray, or nearly gray. There is a leaf that clings to branches through the winter. In the autumn, it’s pale orange is one of the least impressive of all the colors offered. This time of year, that bit of orange hanging from dark limbs is often the only bit of color in the view.

Humans, too, are in the throes of winter.

We walk carefully out on paths covered with snow or ice. We talk cautiously, as conversations seem able to turn quickly into tense discourses. We get excited over new faces on the streets. We appreciate the sun when we see it. We get out with skis or snowshoes or sleds when we can. Otherwise, we keep plodding on.

Winter is here.

Spring is not so far away.

New Paths

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I’m awake before dawn this winter morning, the first day of February, with too many thoughts to sleep through.

A couple inches of new snow fell here on Beaver Island, the night before last.

We’d had a warm day, a little melting and considerable wind before that.

The path I followed down Cotter’s Trail, created by tramping through the snow twice a day, had been obliterated.

No deeply patterned tracks from my winter boots.

No paw prints, large or small, in the fresh snow.

There were no traces of rabbit or deer or coyote.

No patterns showing the route snowmobiles took.

Just pure white, unblemished snow all the way.

Beautiful!

A little intimidating, too.

I thought of the distance between footfalls, the curve of the new path we were creating and whether my tracks looked as if I were walking “pigeon-toed”. It seemed like a lot of responsibility, being the first one down the trail.

I feel that I’m making new paths in my life, as well.

That has happened before, off and on over the years.

I like to think of myself as a fairly steady person.

I don’t jump in and out of relationships. Friendships are forged for a lifetime. I’m pretty steadfast in whatever job I am doing.

It doesn’t feel like I’m digging a hole, just traveling the same path each day, until change is upon me.

Whether the need for change comes from outside forces or from within, it comes with a whole host of varied emotion.

There is the realization that I have, in fact, dug a little rut by following the same route for so long. It takes a little extra effort to veer from the path.

There is exhilaration, excitement, that adrenalin flow of new adventure and new possibilities.

Finally, there is anxiety.

Whether it’s an untouched canvas, a different job, a new friend or an unblemished snow-scape, I want the marks I make to be good ones.

That’s why I’m up before the sun this morning.

Snow Dog

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I could rarely tell when my younger daughter, Kate, was not feeling well. She didn’t slow down for anything. Not for quiet time or bed time or a fever. I’m ashamed to admit there were at least a couple times when I sent her out the door in the morning, only to have the school nurse phone to tell me she was sick.

My oldest daughter, Jen, was a different story. With the slightest bit of a virus, she’d get a round, red spot on each cheek, would otherwise be frighteningly pale, and was down. No interest in play time or meal time or anything. Her ailments were probably no worse than Kate’s, but her behavior always elicited more of a reaction. It was scary.

My little dog, Rosa Parks, is a lot like Jen, in that when she doesn’t feel good, it is instantly noticeable. Her tail goes down. Her ears droop. She gets very snippy. It’s so different from her usual behavior, that it gets my attention right away.

It happened a few weeks ago. Rosa Parks did not feel well.

I called the vet for advice. He was unreachable… on the mainland, having a medical procedure of his own. I left him a voice mail anyway.

I observed her through the day. I telephoned the veterinary hospital on the mainland. Of course they couldn’t diagnose, but they listened sympathetically. Rosa Parks was not improving.

I had to make a decision, before it got so late in the day that I had no options.

I called my boss and arranged for my shift to be covered by someone else.

Called the airport and scheduled a flight.

Phoned Aunt Katie to give her an update, and arrange to use her mainland vehicle.

Contacted the vet hospital to let them know to expect us.

I threw a few necessities together, gathered up my little dog and headed out.

We flew off the island at three PM.

Blood work, x-rays and a thorough examination, two prescriptions and a lecture, and we barely made it back to the airport in time for our 4:30 PM flight home. Had we missed the plane, I’d have had to add the cost of dinner and a motel room to the already quickly mounting expenses.

I could make a credit card commercial!

Missing one shift at work: $50.00…

Round trip flight to the mainland: $100.00…

Veterinary bill: $350.00…

Knowing my little dog will survive…PRICELESS!

It turned out that she had a pancreatic infection, and would most likely have been fine until our own veterinarian got back to the island…but she looked so sick! For the peace of mind, it was worth it.

However, the veterinarian we saw did bring up another problem.

My own veterinarian has mentioned Rosa’s weight  and said that I’m a bit too free with the treats where the little dog is concerned. We have explored medical reasons for her plumpness. He has, though, always been understanding and kind.

The young mainland doctor was a tad more direct.

It brought out a side of my own personality I was unaware of until then.

“I can’t believe she’s not even two years old,” he said, “she is carrying way too much weight!”

“She has thyroid problems,” I explained.

He looked at me as if that were no explanation at all.

“For a chihuahua, she’s really quite big-boned,” I said, “I think she may have a bit of mixed blood.”

One skeptical eyebrow raised.

“She’s really all muscle,” I said, “or at least more muscle than fat!”

His expression told me he was unimpressed.

“Look, I give her precisely the amount of dog food recommended for a dog her size!”

“If that amount of food is keeping her at this size, she’s getting too much food, no matter WHAT is recommended!”

Well, okay.

So, we talked about cutting her food in half, banishing treats, weighing her weekly…and I really did listen, and have taken it to heart.

Still, on my way out, I told the nurse, “I understand that she’s carrying a bit of extra weight, and she does, I know, look a little waddle-ish in here…but if you could just see her in the wild!

Yes, I really said that.

I thought about it today, though, and it wasn’t as outlandish a statement as it seemed at the time.

Today, with ten inches of new snow, my old dog, Clover, faced with a wall of the “white stuff” when I opened the door, was not going out until I got out there to shovel a path. Not so, Rosa Parks. She plowed right out in snow deeper than she was! When Doug came around with his plow truck to clear my driveway, I had to run out in my bathrobe to grab Rosa Parks. She gave me a look that seemed to say “What, you’re just going to let him move our snow??”, and she kept right on barking. By the time I got back in the house with her, I was covered in snow balls to my waist! She was undaunted. We took two long walks today. My camera – needing new batteries – wasn’t fast enough to snap her in action. She really is a sight to behold.

In her element, that is. My chihuahua…in the wild!

Snow Day

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We have about five inches of fluffy new snow here on Beaver Island.

I had the day off.

With two bits of business writing I was determined to get done, a new exercise routine planned,  several things underway in the studio, and a living space that could use a serious once-over…procrastination was the order of the day.

The sun was shining.

Yesterday’s winds had calmed.

The dogs were in perfect agreement.

Morning, just after coffee, I bundled up and headed out.

Down the driveway to the Fox Lake Road and a short jaunt over to Cotter’s Trail. We followed the trail about halfway in, then took the drive that leads past two pole barns and into the wide path through the woods back to the Murray’s summer home. Usually from there I’d go up the driveway to the road, and home from there. That’s about a 45 minute walk.

Today, we circled the yard, walked past the pond and re-traced our steps back through the woods. Back at the Cotter’s Trail, we veered to the right. We continued down the trail past Crazy Larry’s old campsite, past the deer-camp sign, Tom Mann’s little shelter and the cabin that used to be Cotter’s (and so will always be known as Cotter’s, though the ownership changed nearly thirty years ago). We continued into the woods toward the West Side Drive.

The dogs were willing to continue our adventure, but my legs were burning from the long walk in deep snow. I made my turn before we came out into the clearing, and we headed back home.

By the time I was ready for our afternoon walk, the snow mobile riders had been out. Their runners firm and pack the snow, leaving a nice path. They had followed the power lines that run parallel to Fox Lake Road. That’s the way we walked. First south, through the meadow and up to where the road makes a sharp turn, then north, past my house and on to where the power lines cross the road, and home from there.

I still have my long list of things I should have done today.

There’s still time.

It was a great day to be out in the snow!

Is It Really Spring??

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It certainly seems like Spring here on Beaver Island!

After a winter that was hardly a winter at all, we’ve now had several days in a row of unseasonably warm weather. Hovering near 70 degrees! I remember years when St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated with a foot or more of snow on the ground. Today I worked outside in short sleeves!

My cherry trees have little nubs pushing out where the buds will be. Daffodils, jonquils, early tulips and even day lilies are poking up their leaves in my flower beds. I found this cluster of crocus in a sunny spot in the front yard, not far from a patch of snow.

The dogs believe that Spring is here. The melting snow opens up a world of new smells for them to explore. The warm weather brings out the chipmunks and squirrels to tease them. Just two weeks ago we had almost eighteen inches of new snow. Walks were slow-going, plodding and slippery affairs. Rosa Parks, pushing through heavy snow up to her chest, would sometimes give up and need to be carried. These warm days, though, she never slows down. She bounds through the fields and down the trails, circling every juniper and climbing every bank. Clover doesn’t even try to match her pace. Their tails never stop wagging!

Home from the walk, I tore into some yard work. After a year of neglect, a season under wraps and a month of high winds, everything needs attention. I picked up branches and twigs, and added them to the fire pit…waiting for a calm day to have a bonfire. I raked the leaves and cleared the weeds out of the two small flower beds on the south side of the house. I set up the lawn chairs. I put away the snow shovel (I don’t believe Spring is here to stay, but I do believe I’ll manage now without the snow shovel).

I hear warnings that the trees will bud too soon with all this warmth, and a killer frost will wreak havoc and the harvest will be ruined for the growers that depend on it. I hear that the danger of wildfires will be extremely high with the mild winter followed by such warm weather. I hear the lake levels will be down, with all of the devastation that brings, because of so little snow. And of course, Global Warming looms, a danger to all life. Should I hate this Spring day? Do I make any of this worse, by loving the weather? I don’t think so.

Since the weather will do what it will do, I intend to thoroughly enjoy this beautiful, serendipitous day!