Tag Archives: winter

Spring is Here!

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Can you see it?

You have to really look for it, out here on the Fox Lake Road.

My yard still holds much evidence of the long winter.

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But this is Spring!

I can see it in the bare-earth muddy tracks in the driveway, that continue down my road and the next two…but then open on to the King’s Highway that is (I swear it!) bare pavement for the first time in months.

Inside, the heater is taking a rest, some days, when the sunshine warms the living space (I did not lose my home to the cost of heat!). A gigantic chunk  of snow and ice slid off my roof the other day (and the roof, now exposed, seems to be still intact!).

There is a small patch of bare ground outside the back door, reminding me of the chores left undone when cold winds and early snow interrupted. I could rake that little chunk of yard, and pick up the twigs, and have that one bit clear and all ready for the season.

If I look closely, in south-side corners and full-sun edges, I can see the daffodils pushing up through the frosty soil. I can see the leathery leaves, now, of five Rhododendrons that appear to have survived the Winter. My little cherry trees are loosening their branches, trapped so long under the deep snow, and lifting them up to the sunshine.

I have seen the robins outside my window. There is an old rotted log – too large to move – that sits at the edge of the yard. It must have insects in it, because the birds find it very attractive. Birdsong enlivens the evening air.

And the dogs know. The smells of Spring are out there, and they want to explore. A chipmunk (forbidden!) has started making his rounds of the yard and garden. The soup-like consistency of the snow will no longer support the weight of even my smallest dog, making chase impossible. Ah, well, there is a spot on the back porch where the snow has melted and the morning sun makes it warm enough for a dog’s nap.

And I know. From the lightening of my mood to the drag in my ambition, I recognize Spring Fever.

My friend Kevin (whose great blog is <www.nittygrittydirtman.wordpress.com>) said truly, “after all, little darling, in the words of Lennon, Harrison and McCartney, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter.”

Finally, Spring is here!

Where Am I?

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Well, here I am.

I was away from home for two weeks. I attended a meeting in Lansing filled with interesting, knowledgeable and helpful people. I was able to connect and spend time with one daughter, two nieces, one grand niece, one brother and five sisters. Plus assorted and dear in-laws. I went to Nashville with my sisters! I came back from my vacation energized from new sights and sounds and adventures.

And then I ran out of steam.

I’ve been sick. We’re fairly protected, here on Beaver Island, from many of those things that make the rounds in the wintertime. When one manages to get away, it usually results in some sort of contagious nuisance grabbing hold. I came home with a bad head cold that – just when I’d decided a head cold was the worst ailment – moved down into my chest. I truly believe a broken leg would be easier to live with than a bad cold. But then, I’ve never had a broken leg.

My method of dealing with a cold is to mask all symptoms with as many over-the-counter medications I can manage: non-drowsy tablets to get me through the day, and the strongest drowse-inducing liquids for nighttime. So, I’ve been pretty drugged-up.

I came home to still Winter. Normally, the end of February is a good time to get away. Usually, by the first of March, signs of Spring are starting to show even when we’re still in Winter’s grip. The days are longer, the sun is brighter…there is hope. This year, I believe Beaver Island recorded a temperature – or at least a wind chill – of something like 25 below zero on the first of March. And, it wasn’t just a fluke. That was just an average day in the mass of cold days we’ve had this month…finishing off a winter that came early and hit us hard. In fact, today – March 19th, the eve of the first day of Spring – we are getting more snow! I am winter-weary.

I came home broke, and behind in everything. None of my jobs offer “vacation days.” We have a quaint old arrangement that an hour of work results in an hour’s pay. If it doesn’t interfere with business – or the plans of others – it is possible to get time away…but it will not be compensated. This vacation has been on my calendar for months. The fact that this hard winter resulted in less business (so fewer hours of work), higher utility bills and a whole new idea of the cost of snow-plowing would not cause me to cancel this trip. I’d figure it out. I had a few obligations for articles coming up in the first couple weeks of March. I work well under pressure, I assured myself. I’d figure that out, too. So, I’ve been busy…working, writing, turning in hours and paperwork, paying bills and filing taxes (while drugged up on over-the-counter cold medicine).

After two weeks out in the hustle and bustle of the mainland, a full week in the big city of Nashville and seven (twenty-four hour) days with my sisters, it might seem logical that I – the loner in the family – would be happy to get back to my little house on the Fox Lake Road on my little island away from the fray. The opposite is true! I have been so lonesome for my family, I wake up every day missing them! I wander this sad house alone every evening. I almost never suffer from loneliness, but now it has me in its grip.

I woke up this morning with the remnants of a dream still on my mind. It was filled with family, living and dead (though all very lively in my dream!), and busy with buying and selling houses and moving furniture. It was noisy with planning, friendly discussion and debate. As I awoke, I struggled to keep my Dad’s voice in my head. His words: “It’s good, then, you’ll be down here when it’s time to put in the garden.”  Though tears were drying on my cheeks as I got out of bed, it was comforting to note that Dad – from his high perch – knows that Spring is coming.

And I’m here…waiting for it.

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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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.

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.