Tag Archives: walk

Dogs (the April A~Z Challenge)



On Friday, the 30th of March, weather reports predicted a big storm coming our way. High winds and cold temperatures were expected. Plus maybe several inches of wet, heavy snow. Maybe freezing rain. What did we expect? When this month had come in like a lamb, of course it was going to go out like a lion!

On Friday, though, it still looked like spring out here on the Fox Lake Road. The road itself was completely clear of snow and ice. The snow was melting away from the tree trunks, even in the deep woods, and my yard was more than halfway bare. Daily, the big dog was finding toys she’d left outside, that had been buried for months under the blanket of white. Daffodils were poking their first leaves out of the ground, and the rhododendrons were in bud. The temperature was in the 40s, and the sun was shining brightly when I got home from work.

“We’d better take advantage of this day,” I told the dogs, and they seemed to agree. The big dog, Darla, is always up for a walk. She headed right out, no need for coaxing. Even Rosa Parks, who often has to be begged or bribed to come along, was right on my heels. We crossed the road and took Cotter’s trail through the woods.

Sometimes the snow on the trail was firm enough to walk on; most of the time, though, every footfall broke through six inches of mush. That’s tiring, and hard on my knees. I hadn’t changed into boots; my cloth shoes were going to be soaked. On another day, I might have turned back. On Friday, though, the sun was shining, and both dogs were tail-wagging along beside me. We walked the whole distance in, then back out. We were all pretty proud of ourselves for it, too!

The storm did come through, as predicted, with about five inches of wet snow. Before it had time to melt away, another winter storm followed it. This morning, the dogs are barking up a storm inside as the young man that does my plowing clears almost of foot of snow from my driveway. I’m glad the dogs and I took advantage of spring weather when it made its brief appearance!

[The More Things]Change…



Three days into the new year, and in my life things haven’t changed much. I spent the last two days in – mostly – slothful decadence, resolutions be damned.

I read – a lot. I finished two books and got halfway through a third. I caught up on the blogs that I follow, read through three months worth of saved magazines, and read the BBC news each day. I had long, enjoyable telephone conversations with friends and family. I watched movies: DoubtEverestMao’s Last Dancer. I watched two episodes of Chicago Code on Netflix, and That Sugar Film on Amazon. I played quite a few games of on-line Scrabble. I wrote and posted a blog on Sunday, and am doing it again today (yesterday, I missed writing, and found myself putting thoughts and events into workable sentences in my mind all day). I managed to accomplish – though minimally – a few things that were on my list to specifically work at this year.

I walked two miles each day. I kind of let that go when the weather turned bitter and the roads turned to ice at the same time that I came down with a cold. Winter is too long to indulge myself that way. It is still cold, and I still have a cough and a rattle in my chest, but I bundled up, put on my “ice-walkers” and got out there. My sore muscles tell me it was about time!

I started a new diet. I was planning to try the Whole 30 plan, which involves giving up all legumes, grains, sugar and dairy for 30 days. The more I read about it, the more I felt that – for me – it was a set-up for failure.  In the end I opted for a less drastic plan. I have given up sugar. That is drastic enough considering that most packaged foods contain it in some form, and that almost all grains (which convert to sugar) are out as well. That means no pasta, no bread, no rice, no oatmeal. No potatoes, except for sweet potatoes. No corn. No bottled salad dressing, even. So, even though it’s more do-able than the Whole 30 – which was going to eliminate just about every single thing in my diet – it is still a challenge.

I managed “Cleaning Time” every day, though I certainly did not get to any of the deep cleaning and clearing out projects that I’d intended. I kept the dishes and laundry moving through sink and washing machine, cleaned up other messes as they happened (mostly snow and ice brought in on boots and paws, and a spill or two) and scoured the bathroom fixtures. That’s it. In fact, I have a long list of things to finish up today, just to feel like I managed to accomplish my normal days-off cleaning projects.

My long list of things to do on this (three days in a row!) time off has all been saved for today. The last day. When I also have to get to the bank, the post office, the grocery store, the transfer station and Aunt Katie’s, to scrub her floors. In that way, life is the same now, in 2017, as it has been for the many years before.

I still make big plans, and I still feel disappointment when I don’t get everything done. I’ve had the conversation with myself, sure, that what I should actually work on changing is the disappointment. Accepting myself, mess that I am, would be a better thing to work on. I’m not quite there yet. For now, I continue to work toward becoming a better (read: more organized; neater; more accomplished) person. And, as usual, it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Onward, into the new year!

Walking With Dogs



Rosa Parks has not been interested in walking with me lately.

She and Clover were good walking companions, both up for chasing chipmunks and exploring all manner of smells. I once saw Clover come upon a large paw print in the snow. Coyote! She placed her nose down near it, and gave a knowing look in the direction of the little dog. Rosa Parks ran over to investigate. She also put her nose down to the indentation, and she and Clover gazed at each other. Not a word was exchanged, but an entire dialogue went on, from one dog to the other, as they each smelled the danger, and looked knowingly into each others eyes.

Ever since Clover died, Rosa has been nervous about getting out for a walk. She just doesn’t quite trust me to keep her safe (this, though I have gone over in my mind a thousand times – so I would be prepared should the need arise –  exactly how I would respond if a coyote would try to grab my little dog, throwing myself onto the offender while yelling, “Run, Rosa Parks, run!”). I thought Darla might make her feel safe again, but that hasn’t worked out quite as I’d planned. Darla doesn’t take much of an interest in the little dog, and goes about her business of chasing birds and rolling in smelly stuff without ever considering that Rosa might like to join in.

Most often, Rosa Parks stays home. She has a bum knee that makes a walking unpleasant. Still, the only way to help her knee is to have her lose some weight. That is difficult when she hardly moves from the couch. I have tried carrying her out to the road to encourage her to walk with me. Usually she turns and comes home as soon as I put her down. She stubbornly sits in the driveway, deaf to my calls, until I give up.

Yesterday, when I asked her if she wanted to go for a walk, she thought I said “ride.” She leaped right up, wagging tail and grinning. When Darla and I continued down the driveway past the car, Rosa sat down. Having loved her enthusiasm, I was not willing to let it go so easily. “Okay, Rosa Parks, we’ll go for the ride,” I told her. With Darla in the passenger seat and Rosa on my lap, we rode…one mile south, all the way to Hannigan Road. I parked on the side of the road and we all got out. If she wanted to go home from here, Rosa Parks had a long walk ahead of her. She decided to stick with me.

Hannigan Road is narrow, and lined with a mix of soft and hard woods. Darla ran ahead to explore; Rosa stayed closer to me. When I offered, after a half-mile, to turn back toward the car, Rosa kept going. “Good for you!” I told her, and we continued down the road. When we’d gone a mile, we turned. That’s when Rosa Parks sat down. I continued walking, thinking she’d catch up. She made no effort to move. Now and then, when I looked back, she was licking her sore leg. Other times, she just watched, and waited. Eventually, I went back to get her, and carried her back to the car.

Yesterday, all three of us got a walk in. As for me, after carrying my twenty pound dog down the road, I got a strength workout, too!

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.

Walking with Darla


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I’ve been on the run lately. With company here, even my days off were spent out of the house, off and running. I was able to include the dogs, sometimes. They came along in our trip around the island to explore all the different beaches. They did not come with us the day we took in all the gift and novelty shops. Or the day we went to the museums. I’ve been feeling justifiably guilty.

Rushed to get out of the house in the morning and exhausted when I got home, their exercise was often limited to following me to and from the clothesline. Then dinner. Then bedtime. A great big canine sigh should go right here. What a life for a dog! Now, Rosa Parks is still nursing a bum leg (which, it turns out, is not the ACL tendon that I had diagnosed before taking her to the vet…her little kneecap had popped out of place! We are hoping it will stay put, without surgery, but she has to be careful), so is enjoying a lazier version of normal life. A little extra attention and a couple extra treats will allay most guilt where she is concerned. Darla is another story.

Darla likes a good walk, and usually gets one at least on Sundays (which is a shorter workday for me) and on my days off. To make up to her, I got up early this morning. I set the coffee pot to brew, and we headed out the door. It took her a moment to catch on. First, she stopped to pee, and looked to me for approval. Next, she headed for the clothesline (a good guess, considering…). When she finally realized that I was headed for the road, and that this was going to be a genuine good walk, she bounded out ahead, with a big grin.

Clover used to wear her ears like a gangster’s fedora: her mood was evident by the way she arranged them. Alert, curious, happy or threatened, the ears told the story. Darla seems to have no such control over that part of her body. Her ears flop on either side of her head in a manner that shows her calm and friendly disposition. As she walks, they flap up and down, like the wings of a little bird. Her tail, with its white tip, is held aloft like a flag for the entire distance. I’ve had dogs that would give up the walk for the chance to chase a chipmunk, or to roll in something disgusting. Not Darla. She shows mild curiosity to movement and smells, but nothing deters her from her path. When Darla is out for a walk, that’s exactly what she’s doing!

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!

Pushing Through


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My little dog doesn’t let much of anything stop her.

The other day, after a particularly dense, heavy snow, we walked through the woods on the tracks left by a snow machine. It was a solid path that supported the weight of my little dog (25 pounds), my big dog (50 pounds) and even me (never mind!). The big dog doesn’t like snow, and stayed right on the course. The little dog, to the best that I can figure, saw a particular tree that she wanted to pee on, and set off for it.

Despite the deep snow.

No matter the distance from the path.

So…I waited.

She forged her way out through snow past her chest, sniffed out her spot, did what she had gone to do and, with a little tail wag of satisfaction, headed back toward me.

And the walk continued.

As if she hadn’t just managed a near Olympian feat.

Now, I tackle some pretty large tasks. Sometimes several at once.

I manage to work through almost overwhelming challenges.

The last couple weeks have been like that.

I’ve taught two afternoon art classes at the Community Center. When teaching on a regular basis, I have methods in mind and materials at hand. Since I haven’t taught art since our after-school art program ended last June, it took some scrambling to get everything ready. The night before my first class, I was up until three o’clock in the morning blending paper into pulp!

That class generates a lot of laundry: towels, blotters, felts and couching clothes. It involves a great deal of stuff, loaded, then unloaded from the car. Yesterday, when I went up to the studio to get materials ready for today’s class, I was weaving around and stumbling over things from the first class that had not yet been put away properly.

I traveled to East Lansing to attend a seminar and do a presentation.

While there, I met my daughter for dinner on her birthday, then went to Lapeer to see my brother and sisters. Then back north, to catch a plane ride home.

Driving on the mainland is no longer easy for me. I’m not used to the traffic or the speed. Winter travel terrifies me. I worry about the weather, the road conditions, the other drivers and car trouble. Two weeks ago, a one hundred and ninety car pile-up near Kalamazoo, Michigan was in the news. I’d been having nightmares about my trip ever since. When traveling alone, any problems are larger problems. It was a big, fearful challenge and a tiring trip (the praying, alone, was exhausting) but I did it.

In between trips and classes, I’ve still had all the normal stuff to do: my cleaning job; my job at the hardware store; my mostly-paperwork administrative position. And, oh yeah, my news magazine to put out.

I plod through, just like my little dog pushing through the snow.

Unlike her, when I’m done, I don’t just continue on.

No, when I finish a big challenging couple of weeks…I like to schedule time for an equally impressive collapse!

Timeout for Art: This Life


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When I was twelve or thirteen, I sat with pen and paper and cultivated the straight up and down handwriting that I’ve used ever since. It was a deliberate act of rebellion. It was an abandonment of the slightly-slanted-to-the-right cursive that the nuns had forced us to perfect, and that – by that time – came naturally to me. It was an attempt to infuse the letters with my creative spirit.

Through my adult life, I have fallen in love with clothes that have folds or flounce or fringe, bright colors and wild patterns. Artist-Chic. Trendy Bohemian.”That should be my style,”  I think,  “That is me!” Unfortunately, though they seem to reflect my personality, clothes like that do not fit my body. Seriously. It’s not just a matter of daring or convention. Instead of making me look to the world like a creative free spirit, clothes like that make me look like somebody’s frumpy grandmother. Which I am, but that’s not the image I’m trying to project.

I see creative people who sign their work with a flourish, who’s style defines them, who live the free-wheeling life one would expect of an artist.

Not me.

My simple, neat signature is the same one – other than giving up the little circles or hearts that I used to dot my “i”s with – I practiced as a child. My clothes are simple, comfortable and suitable to my life. Paint splatters are the only thing that would define me as an artist, most of the time.

I’ve grown to like it that way.

I appreciate my ordinary life.

This morning, Christmas, I put a splash of Irish Cream (a gift from Santa!) in my coffee, and carried it up to my studio. With the news on the television for company, I sorted and stacked collage materials, arranged the bits and scraps I’d saved, and covered them with a pane of glass, for later consideration.

I spoke to one daughter and one grandson on the telephone. There are more phone calls arranged for later in the day.

I put my long coat over my pajamas, and took the dogs for a walk in the woods. We went all the way back to the pond this morning. They sniffed and wandered and explored. I drank coffee and took photographs.

Now, with a cheery candle burning beside me and the dogs napping nearby, I have time to write.

Mornings like this one, this ordinary life feels extraordinary.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

A Gray Day


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Yesterday, I heard that one of our small airlines had already cancelled all flights for today, in anticipation of this weather. Warmer temperatures have enveloped us in a gray, foggy mist.

The snow is melting, revealing the multitude of chores I left undone outside.

There’s a drizzle coming down, causing me to want to delay the long walk I told the dogs they’d get today.

The house is damp and chilly. I am not yet ready to get out of my robe and onto the many tasks waiting for me here.

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This is my day off.

So far, I have moved from the bed to the desk chair, brewed coffee and poured myself a cup.

I read Phyllis’s Beaver Island weather report.

I read several blogs that I enjoy, and haven’t had time for until now.

I read my mail.

I finally responded to comments left on my blog, some left more than a week ago.

I caught up all my turns on the word game that I play.

Now, I’m writing my own blog, the twenty-third day in a row.

When I finish here, I have a list of book recommendations I want to look into.

I have a couple letters to write.

I may make a list of things I’d like to accomplish today.

For now, I think I’ll pour another cup.

The coffee is hot; this chair is comfortable.

Gray days can be beautiful, too.

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“If I Only Had a Brain…”


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I’m quite the singer.

By that, I do not mean that I’m a good singer, only that I love to do it.

When I was in the fourth grade, Sister Aloysius leaned down during Mass to whisper in my ear, “It’s okay to just move your lips, Cindy, you don’t have to sing out loud.”

Once while cradling my tiny daughter on the edge of our bed, singing to her and feeding her, my husband leaped out of bed with a horrible shudder, gave me a terrible scowl, and went downstairs to sleep on the sofa.

A group of couples – relatives and friends – used to go on an annual weekend canoe trip. A few of the guys could be convinced to bring their guitars…as long as my sisters and I agreed not to sing.

I have never let things like that discourage me.

I love to sing!

I sang many of my younger brothers and sisters to sleep when they were babies, then did the same for my own daughters. I have quite a repertoire of lullabies and songs that will pass for lullabies.

My husband (who actually had quite an impressive singing voice) and I had a collection of interactive “traveling in the car” songs. We did a great rendition of There’s a Hole in the Bucket, with him doing the role of the kindly, dense Henry while I answered with the voice of bossy, all-knowing Dear Liza.

Now, I sing my dogs to their dinner, and I sing them along on our walks.

I sing in the car.

At work, I hum…but try not to break into song.

About twenty years ago, just about this time of year, my daughter Kate was on Beaver Island, with her young son. When I took my evening walk, I’d take Michael with me to give his Mom a little time to herself. One night as we were going out the door, Kate said, “Give me a minute to put on my shoes, Mom, and I’ll come along with you.”

I was thrilled!

As we took turns carrying Michael on our shoulders, we sang and danced our way down the Fox Lake Road. We sang all the standards: Red River Valley, She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain, Red, Red Robin, My Darlin’ Clementine…

We sang John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, shouting in all the right places.

We sang all the songs from Mary Poppins.

We sang every song from the Wizard of Oz.

Without a care in the world, we belted out the songs…out of tune and at the top of our vocal capacity. What fun!

The next morning, I went in to serve breakfast at the Shamrock Bar and Restaurant.

For November, the place was surprisingly full.

Of men.

In blaze orange and camouflage.

All giving me quizzical looks.

It was opening day of hunting season!

The woods lining the Fox Lake Road had been full of hunters the evening before, as my little troupe made our singing, dancing way down the road.

I’m quite the singer, alright!