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It’s hard to keep playing in a silly way about such things as “trashy blogs” today. A dear friend has been diagnosed with cancer and I am nothing but sad.
But, nonetheless, shall I share with you the wild animal which announced itself during yesterday’s trash-cleaning expedition? No, Gerry, it was not an armadillo or possum. Believe it or not, we don’t have possums here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, although I’m sure they’ll be trekking this way soon. The creatures always end up moving north, whether we’re talking about wild turkeys or black squirrels. No, Carla, it was not a snake, although those long and slender fellas should be announcing themselves soon, usually in our woodpile.
It was…it was…
Are you ready?
The season’s first wood tick! Yes, wood tick season has begun. Sigh… These are not usually the creatures which carry Lyme disease. These are second cousins of the Lyme-disease carrying deer tick.
It’s not uncommon to have a half dozen, or a dozen, or two dozen, of the little creepy-crawlers climbing into your socks and behind your ears and attempting to burrow in your scalp or stick their tiny pincers in any available juicy skin.
We’ll have lots to talk about wood ticks in the next few months, when I’m not so sad.
P.S. today’s outdoor adventure involved wandering in the drizzling rain in the woods. That’s all.
Don’t read on if you don’t like trash. Please. Find some other blog upon which to linger. I’m not even posting pictures until you’re gone. Because this is going to be one of those wild and crazy trashy blogs.
Here we go. First picture:
Yep. Today was Trash Day. Time to fulfill the annual Earth Day pledge and clean up the litter along the road. A week late, due to our foot of fresh snow April 22nd. One mile of road, more or less. You walk up the road carrying little plastic bags and fill them with whatever trash human beings have tossed from moving vehicles onto the grasses and weeds and streams and snow. Because the bags soon become too heavy to lug, you place them alongside the road, unfurl another, and continue to collect beer cans, beer bottles, pop cans (that’s soda for you non-Michiganders), cigarette packages, Styrofoam coffee cups, liquor bottles, and just about anything else you might imagine. Later you drive your car back and pick up the 5-7 smaller bags and dump ’em in one huge blue Waste Management garbage bag.
I was not imagining finding applesauce. What a shock for the first trash discovery of the afternoon!
Then again, who would have imagined a pink sock just showing up on the road? Did a little pig-tailed girl sitting in the back seat fling it out the window of the car, just because she could? Did it blow out the back of a pickup truck? Was she eating applesauce and threw both out the car window, mad at her mama? There’s so many stories hiding in this litter. From negligence to stupidity to ignorance to strange humor to under-aged minors wanting to get rid of evidence…the side of the road tells its strange trashy stories.
You wouldn’t believe what I found next. Lottery tickets! Yes, bits and pieces of a half dozen Michigan lottery tickets. What if we won? I pondered how to split the winnings with you blog readers. Unfortunately, those of you who don’t comment are out of the loop, because I don’t know who you are. Thus, the winnings will have to be split among commenters. I’m really good at figuring out numbers and budgets, so this is the scoop: we’ll add the number of comments, divide it by commenters and figure out a percentage. The more you comment, the more you win! We didn’t really win on these tickets, but there’s still hope for the rest of the year. Keep commenting. You may get lucky. 🙂
Oh there are so many other photos you could see. The Ryan’s Irish-Style Cream Liqueur almost looked good enough to sample (NO Mom and Dad, I DID NOT SAMPLE IT!!) The shot gun shell (empty) seemed like a possible good north-woods piece of trash, probably discarded during bird hunting season. The Grizzly chewing snuff package…well, I guess you have to see the snuff package. Lots of our guys chew this stuff. Don’t ask me how or why! It’s one of those north-woods things to do. No, Barry doesn’t. And I didn’t sample this either.
Oh, yes. I had a spiritual experience in the midst of the trash, as well. Three quarters of the way through the up-and-down-aerobic exercises (where are those pointed sticks the highway department gives out to help people spear up trash like sensible folks?) I realized…oh no!…I was out of plastic bags. What to do? The only thing possible. You say a prayer. It goes like this, “Please, I need another plastic bag to show up along the road, soon, if possible.” The secret is to completely release expectation. Be prepared to walk home. But then praise the Universe mightily when the first bag of the day appears. Hurray! It actually appeared.
Something else really exciting happened today, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear. Hint: a wild creature appeared among the trash. Can you guess what it was? Stay tuned! Until tomorrow then…
I have nothing to say today. One of those days when it seems like there’s not going to be any theme to hold this blog together. Here’s what happened today: I went out to the mailbox, with the camera, prepared for a lovely jaunt in the woods. Here’s what really happened: I turned around, headed back to the house, tossed the mail on the kitchen table and settled down on the deck to finish reading a book in the 42 degree sunshine.
So I was outside at least an hour today, but it all centered around a virtual tour of some intergalactic planet and some Jesuit priests and strange extraterrestrials. It was called “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell and not the kind of fiction I usually read. But it was intriguing. Really intriguing. I’m glad I read it…but can’t determine if it’s a book you recommend to others. The New York Times Book Review insists it is.
The above photo is our Bud Creature from April 26th, from a different angle. Or maybe it’s not the Bud Creature at all, but a cousin hanging from a nearby branch. I am hoping this new angle might provide better identification. Could it be an elderberry tree? Anyone know definitively?
So we have a root. Yep. Not much more to say about that one. How about a rotting leaf being swallowed up by new spring grasses poking through its dying corpse?
Still not impressed? Looking for something more exciting, like perhaps our perennial garden plants finally poking their way through the leaves (which really someone should gather up and toss in the woods)? Exhibit A, below, is supposedly our Bleeding Heart, although I am an ignoramus when it comes to naming plants along the front of our house.
My friend Nancy was utterly convinced I would become a true flower gardener, but she’s finally conceded Barry seems more interested than yours truly. I do like ’em, honest I do. When they bloom, they’re gorgeous. For some reason it’s easier to get excited about strange bud creatures and odd angled roots and rotting leaves. Go figure.
What else to share? How about the most exciting news ever? OUR SNOW IS ALMOST GONE. Yep, the last vestiges. By “last vestiges” I mean the areas where the snowplow pushed the snow into hard banks. I could only count three small areas in the yard where the snow remains. Three small areas! One, two or three days from now it WILL be gone. Aren’t you all pleased as punch?
So now you know it’s possible to ramble endlessly about Nothing.
You know how tame the deer were around here this afternoon? One of the ladies, probably a pregnant doe, decided to lie down on the side lawn. She was so relaxed she didn’t even move a muscle when we wandered out on the deck with a camera. We said “It must be Lempi” (our injured limping doe) but when this one finally rose, and ambled off, she walked perfectly and simply looked casually over her shoulder before meandering into the woods.
It’s so much fun to travel to another town, another woods, another river, another beach, and view the similarities and differences which arise. Marquette is a city between 70-80 miles from our house and it’s always an intriguing place to visit, to explore, to find interesting photo-taking opportunities.
In between sipping coffee at the Dead River Coffee Shop, buying organic groceries at the Food Co-op, lunching on a delicious Mexican vegetarian Border Bowl at the Border Grill, lingering at the library and wandering along the lakeshore and at Presque Isle…I pondered about Simple Living.
Years ago we moved to these northwoods, attempting to go back to nature. To live closer to the land, a less crazy lifestyle, a place where we could raise our kids in the woods and make granola and camp along Lake Superior. We could grow organic vegetables, chop wood to heat our house (which we eventually built by ourselves) and general live the Simple but Good Life.
Things would be easy. Things would be simple. Things would be at an easier pace than the crazy folk running around in circles in the city. (oops, sorry to all the cityfolk…especially our children…who moved from the woods to some of the biggest cities in this US of A. I didn’t mean to call you crazy.)
All these decades later I’m wondering…did it happen? Did our dreams turn out? Is this really the “simple” uncomplicated life?
I think the answer is (as always) Yes and No.
It’s been a great life. It took me many years to adjust to living so far in the backwoods, away from the towns and cities that also intrigue me. The woods and the flora and fauna have grown steadily on me over the years until it’s a sort of love affair. From the tiniest sprouting greenery to the hot summer splashing on the beach to the autumn leaves bright red and orange on the maple trees to the deep winter snows…the land and its people have deepened in my heart until it’s almost impossible to imagine NOT living here.
Yet it’s not necessarily the “simple” lifestyle we dreamed about when we first moved here. The world has a tendency to follow us wherever we go. You can live in the middle of the woods and be busy, crazed, rushed, addicted, nervous, worried, saddened or lonely. I think no matter where we find ourselves, it’s our state of mind that matters more than our locale.
You can live in the midst of a huge city and experience simplicity, presence, quietness and peace. Or you can find it in the forest or along rushing rivers or sitting atop a rock overlooking Lake Superior.
The sign leading into Presque Isle Park shows a peaceful scene of an Ojibway (Anishnabe) native canoeing peacefully. Was his life really as peaceful and simple as the sign alludes? I think it depends so much on the individuals ability to walk simply through the turbulence of the times. Of course, perhaps some cultures support that more than others…
Of course no trip to the big city is complete without a visit to a coffee shop. At least one. Maybe two. I unexpectedly met a friend of my daughter’s outside the Dead River Coffee Shop and got a hug. He’s headed for Thailand in a couple months. Wonder if that will be a simple life? 🙂
It’s been 127 days of this outdoor commitment. And today was HARD. I was enjoying spending the time indoors writing a short story (OK, it was a weird short story, but I was writing it, all right?) and there was so many other intriguing things to do. For one, read. For another, mess around on the computer.
Outside it was raining and dismal and cold. I did NOT, I repeat, did NOT want to go outdoors. The commitment aspect reared its ugly head and defied me. But, I went. Opened the door, walked outside…and really enjoyed a half hour wandering following a small stream through a ravine.
The slight headache dissolved, the mourning doves cooed, the grouse beat their wings rhythmically and the rain drizzled. I repeat, for the hundredth time, do not believe your mind. Go outside anyway. You’ll enjoy it after the first ten minutes or so.
How do you like the art photos here? First the strange little budding creature! I gasped when I saw him, his arms outstretched, speaking some sort of spring-language we can barely understand. Then the dried wildflowers tried to imitate Monet. I think they succeeded. What do you think?
I think it’s amazing what you find when you go outside. Every single day it’s a surprise. Thank goodness for that!
The marsh beckoned us as we drove south of Houghton. We decided on an outdoor adventure along US 41, after a rather mediocre Chinese lunch and three errands at local stores. I had walked this boardwalk last fall, but Barry never wandered along the shores of the Pilgrim River before. We said goodbye to the car, wondering if we needed boots for snow, and started out.
No boots were necessary. Almost all the snow had melted away. We barely reached the river’s edge when I saw them: the prize red berries hanging out over the rushing river. Of course I had to leap off the boardwalk, maneuvering perilously close to the river, attempting to get as close to the berries as possible. (You all know how much I love those berries, don’t you?)
The boardwalk leisurely maneuvers on both sides of the river. First the walker may attempt to follow the right-hand side down to the Portage Canal. If you re-trace your steps back to the bridge and walk up hill a short while, you can meander down to the canal on the left-hand side of the river.
Oh it’s lovely to visit a marsh! Especially when one is dry atop the boardwalk, skimming over the swampy areas. The river rushes out to the canal, brown and blue and fierce. All around cattails and alders and dried grasses wave in the breeze. The temperature today settled between 45-50 degrees which translated into warm when the sun shone, and cool when it disappeared beneath the clouds. Barry took off his coat, then put it on again.
A lone fisher-fellow tossed his bait out into the quick-moving river, attempting to lure steel-heads from the depths. I’m sure Barry wanted to join him in seeking the elusive fish. Instead, we walked and shared memories of childhoods playing in marshes. There’s a trick to walking in swampy areas. You have to step from elevated grass patch to elevated grass patch. If you miss…you get soaking wet feet. Fortunately, today we stayed dry on the boardwalk. Except when one of us grabbed the camera and dove for the elusive photograph. (But, our feet stayed dry!)
Do you see the undulating waves of swamp grasses? The bump-formations arise after a winter of heavy snow lying upon the grasses. We took at least a dozen photos of the swamp-grass bumps from twelve different angles. Barry jettisoned from the boardwalk and took a magnificent photo of the grasses up close. However, we both decided the overall vista shows more of what the land actually looks like.
It really was a lovely afternoon. I love it when you do something different, something unexpected. How often have we driven past this particular wetlands, also known as the Nara Nature Park, without stopping? It’s so often worth it to step out of the ordinary routine, to try new walks, new vistas. I hope we stop again, perhaps in the summertime, to see the wildflowers and leaves and grasses.
Here is the elusive trout lily, the leaves just beginning to unfurl and burst forth from the earth:
We drove through Chassell on the way home. There’s the oddest sight south of Chassell. Someone has placed a snowmobile in a giant trap, dangling way above the road, outside a local business. We’ve stared at this, puzzled, for months. What in the world…? There’s a t-shirt hanging below it that says something like “Trapping in the Upper Peninsula” or “Trapped in the U.P.”, I’m not sure which. We had to stop and get a photo, just to show you. What do you think of this?
Let’s discuss the sky.
I am suddenly unexpectedly enamoured by the sky. It started last weekend (as some of you remember) with that crazy blue-colored sky on the way to Marquette. That sky woke you up when you looked at it. You wondered if you’d ever seen a sky that particular color before.
This morning, the Thunderbirds started rumbling. You know what it sounds like when they rumble low in their throats. The skies look black and blue and white and all sorts of miraculous colors, and the Thunderbirds rumble. It sounds like poetry. It keeps the listener alert, wondering what’s going to happen next. Will it rain? Will it pour? Or will the rumbling keep to the north, or the south, or somewhere far away?
The sky changed sixteen times on the way to work this morning. First, it was calm and dawn-like, a soft pink staining the horizon. Then it churned. Then it rumbled with the flapping Thunderbird wings. Then it softened. I kept leaping out of the car to take photos. Snap, snap, snap!
Fortunately, we don’t have a challenging commute. One morning, a few weeks ago, I didn’t glimpse a single other car. This morning, maybe three or four cars passed during the ten mile ride to work. It’s laid back. I pulled over to the side of the road, sized up the sky, and drove another two miles, pulled over again, and never even saw a car. We’re kinda lucky, aren’t we?
Here’s a local Ojibway (Annishnabe) legend. In the beginning there were originally six beings who came from the sea to live with the Annishnabe. They were the Bullhead, Crane, Little Moose, Bear, Marten and Thunderbird. They created the original clans of the people. Unfortunately, whenever the Thunderbird (Bineshii) looked at the Annishnabe, they died. The other five beings urged the Thunderbird to return to the sea, because his powers were too strong for the People. That is why the Annishnabe do not have a Thunderbird clan to this day.
Don’t you sometimes feel that thrill of fear when you hear the Thunderbirds rumbling? I do.
After a spell of drought, followed by our massive three-day storm, the earth is lapping up the water as fast as it can. More rain is predicted this weekend. The news forecasters have lowered their voices and suggested “flooding possible”. We hope not.
I went inside to work, not thinking too much more about the Thunderbirds. After all, there was work to do! Suddenly, glancing out the window, I noticed rain pouring down on the asphalt . A few minutes later, a silvery misty fog arose all around the building. At break-time, I hurried outside with a camera.
The snow is melting, melting, melting. Amazing how fast it disappears after a good rainfall. I enjoyed at least an hour outside in the 72 degree temperatures this afternoon, exploring and photographing emerging tree-blooms. Another low-pressure system wandered in late afternoon and the temperatures plummeted to the 50’s. Up and down we go, riding the roller coaster of spring.
Isn’t she beautiful? OK, don’t answer that one. She’s unique, that’s what she is. Especially with those rock-eyes, spruce cone mouth and dried fern hair. I thought the red scarf added some dashing color to her white existence. What do you think?
Today’s theme is dedicated to Play. Outdoor play. What children do when they open the door and run outside. They find one million and one ways to play, to have fun, to throw snowballs, to build snowmen, to engage with whatever presents itself in a joyous and playful manner.
So I made a snow-woman! What a novel idea. The snow was just at that melty-condensed-roll-’em-into-a-snowball stage. So I patted together a small ball of snow and rolled it along the side lawn. It gathered bulk really fast. Then rolled the middle ball of snow just so, not too big and not too little. Plopped it on top of the first ball, situating it levelly so it wouldn’t fall off in two seconds. Then fashioned a tiny head. I didn’t want to do anything ordinary like find a carrot for the nose, so I searched the melting land for possibilities. The problem is that you can’t find two matching pebbles. So the eyes turned out lopsided and looking strange. But who cares when you can create wild flying hair out of dried ferns and a spruce cone mouth?
If any one of you stopped by to visit, you could have made a snow-companion. Or we could have had a snowball fight. (Although I never did like those much as a child…my brothers gleefully enjoyed those much more.)
This brought up all sorts of thoughts about favorite outdoor games as a child. Please tell me your favorites! I am truly interested. When we were kids we used to play “Ally, ally over!” and throw a ball helter-skelter over the top of our house roof. Unfortunately I don’t remember the rest of the rules. There was a team on eachside of the house, and it was a variation on the old kick-the-can theme. Whoever caught the ball began running around the house to the other side. It was great fun.
The girls played jump rope and Barbies and house. The boys played in the sandbox and tossed balls every which way until they finally organized into games like baseball, kickball, basketball and football. My dad taught us a strange poem from his childhood which went something like “I’m going downtown to smoke my pipe, and I won’t be back ’til broad daylight. If any of you children misbehave I’ll beat you ’til your black and blue with my old rubber shoe.” (I swear this is true. Right Dad?) I just googled this and, sure enough, a variation of this rhyme was played in country schoolhouses in Michigan in the 1930’s! We somehow fashioned a game out of this politically-incorrect poem which involved our front porch and running after each other and capturing children and keeping them on the porch until they escaped. Hmm…
Our kids, living out here in the middle of the woods, rarely had a large group of neighborhood children with which to play. Instead, they were forced to create games to play with the two of them. Fort-building was the #1 Favorite game. In the summer-time it was woods-forts. In the winter-time it was snow forts. Let me see if we have a photo of the all-time winter fort winner!
They also enjoyed a favorite personal game known as “Blind Dog”. One of them wore a scarf over their eyes, while the other led them blind-folded through the woods. It was an act of faith. Kids, if you’d like to explain this game further to all of us, feel free to comment.
I am eagerly awaiting to read more favorite outdoor games.
Earth Day, 2009. It’s here. Did we all celebrate? Did we all give gifts to the earth? Did we all feel deep appreciation and love for our gently spinning planet?
As I mentioned yesterday, my “official” annual gift has been postponed. The side of our road will be de-littered as soon as the snow melts. The blue garbage bag awaits in anticipation.
Instead, I spent an hour or so down by the Silver River this afternoon, admiring the river-waters. My, is the water cresting after the latest deluge of snow! As you sit very quietly along the riverbank, your pants getting soaked by the damp earth, the sound of snow clumps falling into the river resounds everywhere. Ker-plop! Down flies another wad from the cedar branches, from the hemlock arms, from the maple twigs.
It’s a hushed world in the swamp next to the river. Dried orange and green cedar lies beneath the trees where the snow has melted away. Birds sing and call, and ducks float away, just beyond the camera’s range. The base of the trees often look strange and stunted, full of holes and odd angles. Look at the tree legs below. You can almost imagine that the tree walks around at night.
It looks so placid. So tame. Even with the water levels high and swirling by, it’s usually not a fierce river. As it lazily winds out into the Huron Bay, at times it’s so shallow in the summertime you sometimes need to poke and prod along the sandy bottom to keep the craft moving.
Last weekend a professor from Michigan Technological University lost his life while kayaking upstream on the Silver River. The white-waters up higher grabbed his kayak and pinned him under a tree sideways. He died. The river can be dangerous as well as calm. It’s a lesson we all need to remember when exploring on, around and in nature’s waters. I thought of him and his grieving family, and gently touched the river.
I found the remains of a dead crow or raven under the cedar trees. Only the feathers remained.
As for giving the Earth another gift today, I couldn’t decide what else to do. We live fairly simply. We conserve, we try not to spend excessively, we try to fit in with nature. Every day is Earth Day, in many ways.
In the end, I decided perhaps my love and gratitude might be enough. Maybe our combined love and and joy and thankfulness for the Earth is being heard deeply today. Bless the earth and bless all of us, everyone.
Did everyone receive his or her party invitation? I’m hoping everyone is prepared for the Big Event tomorrow. We all know whose birthday it is, right? We all know what we’re celebrating tomorrow on April 22nd, right?
In case you haven’t opened your party invitation…it’s EARTH DAY! (That translates as the Earth’s birthday, for those of you who didn’t know.) That means it’s party-time.
Has everyone planned a gift? If you’re reading this blog consider yourself tagged that the Earth needs a present tomorrow. Something small perhaps…or something large. Anything that says “Thank You” to the planet which so lovingly supports us, clothes us, feeds us, delights us, nourishes us in a thousand ways.
I have a problem concerning Mother Earth’s gift. Every year for dozens of years, since the kids were two feet tall, we’ve picked up litter along the road. Unfortunately, the sides of the road are covered with snow this year. Litter pick-up will have to wait until perhaps Thursday, Friday or Saturday. (You can come along one of those days and watch the fun.)
So what ideas have you pondered to honor the earth? Turning off lights for a while? Taking a shorter shower or bath? Turning down the thermostat? I would be delighted to hear ideas, as we’ll need to do something sweet tomorrow. The nitty-gritty picking up will come later.
So we were snowed in again today. Barry made it to work with the 4 wheel drive Studebaker, but I wasn’t going anywhere. The snow continued to swirl endlessly as the low pressure system stalled out over the Great Lakes. Points south are getting rain, but we’ve been blasted with between five inches and two feet of the white stuff. Here in the lakefront belt, I’m guessing we received a foot of snow. But since it’s melting and warm (32-34 degrees) it’s all compressed to a heavy damp wet mass.
Try to imagine how difficult it was to walk to the mailbox at mid-day. Every step felt weighted, like maneuvering through cement-like snow.
Of course the local schools were cancelled. Of course the roads were…challenging. Of course we’re looking longingly toward later this week when the temperatures are scheduled to rebound into the 50’s. Barry even suggested I shovel the deck so we can lounge outside later in the week.
One final note, now that the snow is letting up. Do you know what one of the top searches on this blog is? People randomly type in “vegetable scraps” and guess whose blog comes up? This one! All because I tossed in a photo of vegetable scraps we feed the deer during the winter. Therefore, to appease all the folks searching the Internet for “vegetable scraps” I am about to offer another tasty arrangement for the deer, thrown under the oak tree at noon today.
By mid-afternoon, a lone doe made her way to the scraps and munched every last tidbit. Except for one celery stalk.