Tag Archives: Summer

Second of June, Beaver Island, Michigan

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The weather is doing strange and unpredictable things this Spring.

More than usual, I think.

After several cool days, I stepped outside one morning last week to the kind of heat and high humidity – already at 9 A.M. – that we wouldn’t normally see for a month yet. The scent of lilacs wafted along in that heavy air from trees and bushes that were miles away.

I felt blessed that day, walking in that warm, perfumed breeze.

The next day was warm and sunny, but the winds increased.

Rains came in next, and the temperatures dropped.

Today feels downright cold!

Business is following the weather, in its unpredictability.

It doesn’t seem to matter if folks are traveling one thousand miles to spend their summer vacation here…when the cold weather lingers, they seem to know it. If the weather is bad, the visitors don’t come. In addition, severe Winter storms caused school districts to take “snow days” that they have to make up at the end of the year. Many schools are still in session.

There are other factors.

Seasonal shops and restaurants are just now opening up for the Summer here on Beaver Island. Suddenly, there are more choices of where to go for lunch, dinner or “happy hour.”

A busy day leaves me feeling hopeful and encouraged…and a little bit scared. This long, spare Winter has been hard on my budget; I’m anxious to get some money coming in again. I look forward to the busy-ness of Summer. Still, it has been close to fourteen years since I last worked as a server in this harbor-front establishment. My bosses were kind enough to accommodate my requests for location and hours; I would hate to let them down. Every busy day that I manage to keep the pace, I congratulate myself a little bit…but I know it’s going to pick up. I haven’t really been tested, yet.

A slow day…or two or three of them in a row…makes me even more afraid. Will this be the year, finally, when the poor economy or the price of travel will keep people away? Will we get enough visitors this Summer? In this tourist-based industry, these are annual, underlying fears. Most of our income for the whole year is dependent on a few short weeks when the sun is bright and the sands are warm. June is always a slow month, I remind myself; things will get better.

My own fortunes…and my moods…are as up and down as the weather.

An income tax refund allowed me to catch up a little bit, and pay one large bill that has been hanging over my head all Winter.

My little dog ran into the road, was bowled over and badly bruised by a car. That demanded an emergency visit to the veterinarian (a godsend at times like that!) for a thorough examination, x-rays,  a shot of cortisone and pain medicine for the following seven days.

I sold two paintings through Livingstone Studio – the summer gallery that carries my work here – in the first week that they were open.

I broke a tooth, eating rice cereal one morning. The order of that day was two hours in the dental chair, a temporary crown and a well-used credit card.

I hired a man to take out three trees that have been encroaching on and shading my garden. That’s a bigger deal than what it sounds like. It is amazingly hard to find someone on this island to tackle small jobs. Everyone is too busy; many don’t want to mess with things like that. The few times that we’ve had someone willing to work exclusively at odd jobs and repairs, they’ve had more work than they can handle. I was thrilled to find someone to do the job for a fair price, in a timely fashion. I’m still pleased about it, even though…

I came home last night to find that the last tree had fallen in the wrong direction, poking a hole in the roof of my old shed and taking down a good portion of the back of my garden fence.

That’s the way it’s been…highs and lows.

My dog survived…things broken are repairable…so in the end, more good than bad.

As the weather warms up, the tourists will come.

It’s cold today, but Summer is on the way.

That’s how it is, for me, here on Beaver Island, this second day of June.

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!

Hanging On

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In the Summer, these leaves are nothing special.

A simple leaf shape. A plain green color.

In Autumn, when other trees are sporting dozens of shades at once in hues from brightest yellow to deep magenta, these leave fade – uniformly – to this pale, barely orange tone. Tree wide, without variation.

Unremarkable.

It’s only in the Winter when I start to take notice of them.

These are the only leaves still clinging to the branches.

Some days, when the snow blankets the ground and the sunless days leave the pine needles looking black, these leaves are the only bit of color in the woods.

All through the Winter, and right into Spring, they hang on.

Through winter storms that stripped pine trees of their branches and caused tall maples to bow, these leaves just stayed.

That alone is pretty remarkable.

Winding Down

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Autumn.

The wind is shaking leaves from the trees so steadily it sometimes sounds like rain.

There’s a chill in the air. Nights have gotten downright cold! I’m not yet ready to turn on the propane, but I’ve conceded to having the electric heater on a low setting, just to take the chill off.

I’ve cut back the iris into little fans just above ground level and pulled the daylily stalks. I dug up and moved the last of the daylilies from the border. I’ve pulled up all of my tomato plants, stored their wire cages and turned over the soil. I cut out all the dead raspberry canes and pruned and thinned the rest. I cleared and prepared a bed for the rest of the strawberry plants.

I dug the last of the potatoes and brought in five small winter squash. I have a bag of mixed peppers in the refrigerator that I’ll dice and freeze tomorrow. I have beans, summer squash and plenty of berries in the freezer already. My aunt (bless her heart) canned tomatoes for me: twelve perfect quarts.

I moved my T-shirts and sleeveless shirts to the small dresser upstairs, and brought down my long sleeves and sweaters.

I bought yeast, though I haven’t had time or inclination to make a batch of bread yet. Home-made soup and warm, fresh bread is a weekly ritual in the months of cold weather.

The little gallery I worked at is now closed for the season. The restaurant at the Lodge served it’s last dinner of the season last Friday. I am now down to one job, at the Shamrock Restaurant and Pub downtown. Until next marking period, when I’ll teach two art classes at the school as well. Business is still steady, but it’s an easier pace than it was even two weeks ago.

I think I’m done with Jonathan Kellerman! His books were good summer reading, with characters that became familiar and story lines that were not overly strenuous. I’ve been looking over my bookshelf, and am ready for something quite different. I’ve already started The Chicken Chronicles by Alice Walker, and am thoroughly enjoying her beautiful prose. I’m looking forward to Sacre’ Bleu by Christopher Moore, his take on the Impressionist artists. I love his irreverent humor and imagination! Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, Revelation in the Cave by Nancy Flinchbaugh and Yonnondio by Tillie Olsen are also on my stack.

I’ve been doing some rearranging and organizing in the studio. I have a few paintings underway that I’m anxious to finish, now that I have time for making art. I want to get the printing press adjusted and ready, too, as I plan to do some collagraph print-making this winter.

Autumn was always my mother’s favorite season. I didn’t understand it when I was younger. I liked Spring, with its new growth and fresh starts and Summer’s heat and busy-ness.

Now, I understand!

Brandon

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Brave.

Exuberant.

Funny.

Kind.

These words all describe my grandson, Brandon.

I saw him first when he was only a few hours old.

It’s hard to believe that was seventeen years ago!

Moments stand out:

The first time Brandon and his older brother came to stay with me for a week on Beaver island, he was only 10 months old. Wiggling toes in the grass was as wondrous as wiggling toes in the sand! I got as much pleasure out of everything he saw and experienced as he did. He was such a joy to watch!

For many years, the boys came every summer.

We’d start our days at Iron Ore Bay. For me, a thermos of coffee and a book. For the boys, hours digging in the sand, making bridges and trenches and rock walls, finding stones and feathers and shells. Breakfast scraps were thrown to the gulls. When we were too hot, or too sandy, the water was right there.

We walked every day. My arsenal included sunscreen and insect repellent, and plastic bags to be fashioned into waterproof capes in case it rained.

We worked in the yard and garden. The grape arbor was transformed into a fort each year. The compost bin often harbored garter snakes. The big toad, George, could be observed most evenings on the kitchen stoop. Moths would gather on the windows at night.

Evenings, we’d fix dinner together, play cards, read or watch a movie before bed.

I know it wasn’t perfect. There were hassles and arguments and tears folded in among the good times. It lives in my memory, though, as an almost perfect time.

As I watch these boys grow up, with all the issues that go along with that, I hope they, too, have good memories to sustain them, when things get hard to deal with.

Tomorrow, my grandson will be seventeen years old.

Happy Birthday, Brandon!

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.