Tag Archives: walking

Walking with Darla II

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On a day when I have to work, the dogs know they should be thankful for whatever they get in the way of exercise. If I get up early, it might be an actual walk, while the coffee’s brewing, down the road to the drive that marks one half mile. If I sleep late, it might be a simple wander around the yard. If I sleep very late, I may just send them out on their own while I drink coffee and get ready to rush off…with the promise that I’ll make it up to them later, with a ride down to Fox Lake, of course.

Rosa Parks could really go either way. Some days she passes on the walk altogether. She often has to be carried out to the yard, when it’s early. She’d opt for a ride any day, if given a choice. Darla takes her walk seriously, and never misses a chance. If she realizes that I’m not going to work, she gets down-right demanding. That’s a good thing, in this household. Who knows what I would forget, if the dogs forgot to ask!

Darla is a mild-mannered dog, though, and even her “demands” are pretty tame. When she wants to keep her spot on the bed or the couch, it’s passive resistance all the way. She just makes herself totally limp, and pretends to be unaware of my coaxing. When she wants to be petted, she tucks her big head under my hand. When she wants to take a walk, she picks up whichever toy she has decided gets the honor of coming along and puts her chin on my lap. “Look,” she is telling me, “the giraffe is ready to go for a walk!”

We check with Rosa Parks, then, to see if she feels up to coming along. If not, she gets a biscuit to keep her occupied. Darla and I head out, the little stuffed giraffe in her mouth, tail in the air, a bounce in her step. She waits at the end of the driveway until she sees the path I will take. North, if it’s early, where the open road offers sunshine; south, later in the day, to take advantage of the shade. Sometimes – especially if Rosa Parks is with us – west, down the long drive to Cotter’s cabin. There is no traffic there, yet plenty of squirrels to keep their attention.

Darla likes to be in the lead, but she always knows my whereabouts. At some point she tires of carrying the toy, and puts it down on the side of the road. Sometimes she picks it up on the way home; sometimes she retrieves it another day. She always seems to know where she’s left them.

Yesterday, walking home, we came upon two scooters, parked at the roadside, and two men looking at the trees. Darla went ahead to see. I called out a hello, and told them she was a friendly dog, in case her size would frighten them. “We like dogs,” they called back, and put out hands for her to sniff while I caught up. We had a short conversation, then, about dogs and trees and the weather. Darla rested at my feet until I was ready to continue our walk.

Home, she boasts, just a little bit, about getting a walk if Rosa Parks didn’t. She takes a big drink of water, and is ready to relax. Our exercise is done for the day.

Talking to Myself

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I do it all the time.

Talk to myself, that is.

I live alone.

I’ve always been a loner.

Much of the time the conversation is only going on inside my head, but sometimes I talk out loud.

I’m the only voice I hear most days, out here in my home on the Fox Lake Road.

I could suggest that I’m talking to the dogs, but even they can tell the difference.

I talk to myself at work. As I walk into the kitchen to pick up an order, I’m often reminding myself what I need to grab in the way of condiments and side dishes. As I arrange the plates and bowls on the tray, heaviest items in the center, all handles turned in, tall items squeezed between other things so that they won’t topple, I’ll say, “Okay, don’t anybody move,” as I lift the tray over my head. I am often unaware that I’m speaking until Kathy comes around from behind the grill to ask “WHAT?!?” From the look on my face, she determines that the conversation was only with me; she rolls her eyes, waves her hand and goes back to her station.

I talk to myself while walking the dogs. I work out ideas for class plans or art projects. I work out furniture arrangements or planting schemes. I hold imaginary conversations. I assert myself in ways I rarely would in real life. I replay discussions. I never speak out of turn, lose my temper or say mean things, in these talks. I am also never prevented from speaking my truth.

Lately, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time defending myself, to myself, in conversations in my mind.

It seems like I’ve been fielding a lot of criticism lately.¬† More people, in just the last two years, have felt the need to tell me I am lacking – and how, and why – than have in the last thirty years! I’ve questioned whether I am in some way inviting negative opinions. I have not been requesting critiques! Of course, there is some truth in everything that is said. That does not mean it is a valid or necessary insult. I’m often not in a position to defend myself.

That’s where talking to myself proves invaluable.

It helps to sort the truths from the exaggerations and distortions. It helps to clarify who I am, despite how others choose to interpret my words or actions. It helps me to move forward and away from the hurt.

When I was told that I am an inconsequential story-teller, I said – petulantly – “my stories are too consequential!”

When my boss found fault with my scheduling on a regular basis, I defended the over-staffing or under-staffing – to myself, in imaginary conversations – just as regularly.

When I was told I never really stood up for anything, I had long, grumbling talks with myself. “I marched for Peace in the ’60s!”, “I fought for the Equal Rights Amendment in the ’70s!”, “I have voted in every single election!” , “I left two good jobs to stand for my principles!”

When it was suggested that my service was not up to standard…well, the conversation in my head turned into the blog titled “Dear Harry”. If you’ve read it, you have an idea the way my mind works when on the defensive!

When I was told I was not working hard enough to maintain a friendship, I talked to myself until I was able to talk – and clear the air – with my friend.

Most recently I have received a letter filled with a one-sided account of an unfortunate encounter. It makes me look pretty sorry, indeed: petty, mean-spirited and vengeful. If it were wholly untrue, it would be easier to brush it off. Because there is truth to it, and because of the source, I don’t take it lightly. Because it was delivered with a clear directive to not respond, I am impotent to clarify or work it out…except in talking to myself.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Do you talk to yourself? I’d love to know I’m not alone!

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.

Blazer

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I like a blazer.

A blazer is nice to throw on this time of year, as a jacket. They usually have good pockets (always handy) and add a touch of class to whatever else I’m wearing. I’ve had a couple blazers that I purchased new, but I’ve also gotten a lot of good use out of some that have come to me in other ways.

About twenty years ago, my friend, Chris, and I stopped into the Re-Sale Shop here on Beaver Island. The Re-Sale Shop was still in its old location, in the old Livery building. Chris was looking for rags, for her husband’s garage. I was just keeping her company. My daughter, Kate, could spend twenty minutes and two dollars there, and come out looking like a million bucks. I could spend a lot more, and would look like I’d dressed out of the rag-bag. I just didn’t have the knack for it. On this day, however, someone had just dropped off a pile of suits. I bought three jackets: two in different shades of gray with a very subtle stripe, one in a nice tan tweed. I still have them, and still get compliments whenever I wear¬† them!

The blazer pictured here is not one of the new ones, nor one of the treasures found at the Re-Sale Shop. It is one that my daughter, Jen, bought…new…a long time ago…when this look was stylish. She gave it to me more than ten years ago. It’s obviously seen a bit of wear. It has snags and tears from being worn on my walks through blackberry brambles. The elbows are worn; the lining is torn. Still, it’s a nice jacket to throw on as an extra layer, when looks don’t matter. Turns out, it still manages to dress up a look, in a pinch.

Last Sunday, I had a ten o’clock flight scheduled, to go to the mainland for the day, to visit my aunt in the hospital. I had planned ahead so that it would be a stress-free day. Then I overslept. Eight o’clock, Sunday morning. I had to make coffee, shower, dress, and walk my dogs. I had to leave myself enough time to stop at the farmhouse to pick up several books and a robe for Aunt Katie, and the keys to the mainland car. I’d promised her I’d also take her dog out for a walk while I was there. I had to be at the airport by 9:30!

Okay, I started the coffee brewing. If I was going to fit everything in, I had to walk my dogs right away. I was in my pajamas. The dogs didn’t mind. We took the path through the field to the logging road, then crossed Fox Lake Road to Cotter’s trail. We walked the half-mile down to the cabin, then circled around by the pole barns, then on the trail through the woods to the new Murray place, and back out to Fox Lake Road to head back to my house.

I was almost home when I heard the car. I checked to make sure Clover was off the road, and swooped Rosa Parks up into my arms. Dogs safe, I then remembered how I was dressed. Brown jersey pajama bottoms, sagging at the fanny, bagging at the knees; pink flowered T-shirt top; navy blue and gray argyle socks pulled up over the cuffs of the pajama bottoms; red and black slip-on Hush Puppies. And the blazer. I hadn’t brushed my hair; I hadn’t brushed my teeth. There was no place to hide.

The car drove up, slowed down and came to a stop. The window came down. “You look awfully nice,” I heard, “All dressed up to be out walking the dogs!”

This Lazy Day

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It’s not that I haven’t accomplished anything today. Actually, that list is quite long and runs the gamut from regular daily chores to stripping beds and washing blankets; from sealing several collages in my studio to making home-made dog treats. The problem lies not in what I’ve done, but in what I haven’t done.

Procrastination is not without it’s benefits. When trying to avoid one activity – in this case, rearranging my kitchen to fit my new 32-drawer apothecary cabinet in it – I can find tremendous energy for many others. So, I’ve answered letters that have been waiting weeks for my response, I’ve read a magazine that has been sitting unopened for two months and I wore the dogs out with two long walks.I’ve gone through old photos; I’ve cleaned out old files. I have dog treats baking and my bread rising, soup on the stove and fresh sheets on the bed.

My fear is – no, not a fear, but sure knowledge – that once I start emptying shelves, I am going to be in an even bigger mess. I can’t figure out how to do this in an organized way. If the cabinet was here, I could be filling the drawers and putting them in place. As it is, I’m filling the drawers and moving them from my laundry room floor to my dining room floor. The mess is just spreading! The cabinet cannot be brought in until the old cabinets…and counter-top, shelves and table…are moved out. There is no garage. It’s winter! This stuff is heavy!

So, now it’s almost seven PM. Time to feed the dogs, get myself a bowl of soup and a glass of wine, and re-think this project.

Happy Holidays

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I had a wonderful Christmas Day!

My family – at the suggestion of my oldest daughter – contributed photos and memories for an album, so that I could have them all with me here in my distant home on Christmas morning. It was perfect! It made me feel as if I were reminiscing with each of my sisters, my brother, my nieces and nephews, my daughters, grandchildren and friends. It made me laugh and it made me cry. It was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

I had a nice conversation with my sister, Brenda, who was waking up in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. We agreed that this was a different Christmas, but that it could still be a good one. I also talked to my daughter, Kate, who chatted to me about her plans, and assured me that the gifts I’d sent had been appreciated. Her enthusiasm and boundless energy dealing with four children and extended family always amazes me.

I took the dogs for a long walk in the fresh snow. I tied red bows to their collars, and let them run free all the way down the trail to the old Cotter cabin. Back at home, I built a squat little snow person to welcome my guests. A little misshapen with the icy snow, she’s quite attractive anyway with her chrysanthemum flower eyes, little carrot nose and crocheted cap tied under her chin.

I cooked Christmas dinner for four! I was thinking of my mother, recently deceased, who cooked for twenty or more every Christmas for most of her life. How did she ever do it? I planned for days and made five trips to the grocery store. I was hard at it for most of the day, all day, from 8:30 in the morning until dinner went on the table at 6:30 in the evening! What a wonderful diversion it was! The guests were my Aunt Katie, my cousin, Bob, and my friend, Vince. The menu:

Pickled Okra

Pickled Mushrooms

Ham, Onion and Cream Cheese Pinwheels

Homemade Rolls with Butter

Roast Turkey with Stuffing

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Gingered Carrots

Cranberry Sauce

Cherry-Berry Pie with Whipped Cream

Pumpkin Roll

We all ate until we were full, and I sent leftovers home with each guest. I warmed leftovers for my dinner last night, and plan a pot of turkey soup tonight.

Happy Holidays!