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Houston, we have a problem.
My lil old Sony Cyber-shot camera decided to…how do we put it nicely?…die last night.
Maybe it was all those pics of brussels sprouts. Maybe some mud inadvertently splashed into the lens and messed up the delicate machinery. Here’s what happened: I turned on the camera. The lens popped out happily and then immediately retreated in horror. I tried to fix this in at least sixteen different ways. Changed the battery. Charged and changed another battery. But, alas, to no avail. The camera simply stuttered to a standstill. Like it was sticking out its lens-tongue at me, and then retreating.
So I awoke this morning and decided Something Must Be Done. Pronto. Remember the blog, Kathy! (said in the spirit of Remember the Alamo!)
Time to buy a new camera. Even though we don’t have two extra pennies to rub together this month because of this darn garage edition, the upcoming house insurance, and my–ahem–plane ticket for San Diego next month.
The things we must do for our “art”. (This line comes from Phantom of the Opera. And the next line says, “If you call that rubbish “art“….)
I pointed the car toward Marquette. Inwardly smiling gleefully at an opportunity to drive to the Big City.
Of course the most beautiful scenic views of the years presented themselves. I felt naked. Absolutely naked. Once I actually grabbed for the defunct camera, forgetting the current dilemma.
So here are your pictures. Please use your imagination:
1) Black fluffy clouds low on the dawn horizon, swirling up into the heavens. The light is mystical, magical. You’ve never seen clouds looking like this, have you? Have you ever?
2) Icy frozen pavement threatening to send the car careening into the ditch. Well, I know this is a boring shot. But thought you should see it.
3) Oh look at that incredible photo of red and orange and yellow leaves trees! Never have you viewed cleaner, crisper, more tangible colors. You gasp in awe. You say, “What photography! This photo should hang in an art gallery! I am going to write some art galleries right away and suggest they look at Kathy’s blog.”
4) A photo which captures spitting snow on the road to Marquette. How incredible are the flakes! So white, so vivid! So…so….cold… Brrr….
OK, those are your photos for the day. Tomorrow you shall witness photos taken from my brand new camera. Yes, it’s another Sony Cyber-shot. Which means all the batteries and memory are interchangeable between the old and the new. But this time the sweet little camera has 12.1 mega pixels, (whatever that means) and the 3X zoom lens actually works. The nice young lady, Stacey, at Walmart offered to program it with date and time and teach me all the basics. She wouldn’t agree to appearing in this blog, however. Go figure.
5) So you can imagine her photo here. She is a smiling pretty girl with sparkly eyes. And I’m smiling too, taking the picture. A new camera! And a 3 year warranty. What could be better? 🙂
P.S. I spent some time wandering near Alberta, Michigan, in the autumn woods near the lake. Possible photos tomorrow when I figure how to actually upload them. Later Barry wanted to go sit out on the deck before dinner. Was he nuts? But I still had time to put in outdoors, so agreed. It really wasn’t that cold when dressed in one’s warmest winter jacket, hats and mittens.
Let’s start this blog with the fact that I just spent the last hour writing the first draft of the blog from the motel here in Marquette, happily finished it, pressed “Publish” and…guess what?…the whole darn blog disappeared. One hour worth of rambling completely flew out in cyberspace, never to be found. In retribution I packed up Miss Ellie (the new name of this laptop whose battery is now getting perilously low) and headed for Starbucks to sip a frappuccino. Double chocolate chip. But decaff, in order to allow sleep.
Because I have to be at the airport tomorrow morning between 4:30 and 5. Yes, in the blessed a.m. The plane is winging up above the clouds headed for Detroit at 6 a.m. Then I find a second plane (hopefully not after running through the airport) and should arrive in fair Atlanta, Georgia, before noon.
But excuse me. You’re probably wondering about the frog. Here’s the shortened version: after driving through three construction zones on the way to Marquette, I veered the car off onto a side road and catapulted into a nearby forest. And discovered the Frog. It leaped a few times before settling down for his photo shoot. He stared his beady eye at me and I pointed my beady camera eye at him. We bonded.
On to Marquette, for a stroll around city blocks. After enjoying dinner at Sweetwater Cafe (no time now to tell you all the dinner details) walked by Snowbound Books (favorite book store) to the Marquette Co-op (to buy snacks for tomorrow since it’s questionable if there will be time to purchase airport food) to the Peter White Library (impulsively checking out a book).
The camera was fascinated with up high shots:
And more up high shots:
This is the fiftieth anniversary of the film “Anatomy of a Murder” which was written by John Voelker and based in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s a big deal around these parts. A Yooper is what people fondly call residents of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Voila! Behold the following sign (also up high):
Battery gets lower by the minute and no available outlet in sight! Fast typing. Boy, you are getting the short version tonight. Versus the long version, which is lost in cyberspace. Below is the Marquette County Courthouse which inspired the infamous movie.
Please read the sign for more details.
As soon as this paragraph is finished (and if I have time will respond to comments from yesterday) I am going to settle down with the book from the library. Which is NOT Anatomy of a Murder. Leisurely sip the frappuccino. Sigh… relax… I was going to tell you all the name of the book and a synopsis of the plot, but sorry. Gotta run!
Today I ended up in the opposite direction of where I thought I was going. This is nothing new. Does this happen to you sometimes? You think you have a plan. You think you are going to Place A. When, suddenly, a different idea hatches and suddenly you find yourself in Place B.
I thought I was going to the Farmer’s Market in downtown L’Anse. There were rumors of delicious succulent real tomatoes. You know, the kind of tomatoes that we only get in August in the Upper Peninsula. Juicy red vine-ripened sweet tomatoes you yearn for eleven months of the year and instead have to settle for hydroponic or fake tomato look-alikes. (Our garden is full of little green tomatoes, but we must wait for them to ripen. If the weather ever cooperates.)
Instead, I drove all the way to Marquette. Don’t ask why. It just happened. Packed up this sweet little new laptop and took her travelin’. We ate (I mean I ate) a spud arame plate at Sweet Water Cafe for breakfast. Oh, yum. The server pointed me in the direction of Marquette’s Farmer’s Market, about two or three blocks away.
And was it grand! Oh what a delightful outdoor experience! Real locally grown greens, carrots, brocoli, onions. The Earth is producing big time. Thirty dollars disappeared in an instant, replaced with bags and bags of goodies.
Such a good feeling prevailed on the square. Maybe a dozen or more tents stood here and there, filled with produce and eggs and fresh baked bread and flowers and crafts and at least sixteen other things. People wandered and mingled everywhere. Everyone had a smile on their face. I mean everyone. No one looked grumpy or frowning or perturbed.
Do you see the tree-statues behind the couple in the above photo? The trees sit in the middle of a fountain. Actually, the trees are the fountain. After taking pictures (and Denise would be proud of me because I’ve now gained enough confidence to politely ask would-be subjects for their photograph) I found a bench and just sat. Watched. Tried to leave at least twice, but kept returning to the bench to bask in the carnival-like atmosphere of the Farmer’s Market.
A slight problem eventually ensued with the Farmer’s Market visit. May we skip ahead? I returned home with a basket of tomatoes for my tomato-loving spouse. He had been dreaming of tomatoes all day. He had plans for a tomato sandwich, tomatoes on eggs tomorrow and tomatoes stuffed with tuna fish. He smiled with delight as I unloaded the bag with his precious loot…and then his smile turned to a frown as he peered closer. Oh no. Oh no! It appeared I had bought rock-hard hydroponic tomatoes. How could this have happened? Shouldn’t there be a law against them selling these? How could I have been duped? At the delightful little Farmer’s Market? Alas…well, we shall wait at least four or five days and see if they ripen into something more edible…
However, everything else tastes absolutely wonderful. The cherries are so sweet, melt-in-your-mouth sweet. And the corn looks fantastic. And the brocoli. And everything else. (Everything except the only thing I started out to find today…)
The only regret I have (besides picking out the wrong tomatoes, obviously) is that I forgot to buy peaches. Peaches are tied with tomatoes for the best taste in August. Will eat the cherries verrrry slowly and appreciate them this week. Maybe next weekend there will be peaches and tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market in L’Anse. We’ll see if I end up there.
I feel like there’s way too much to talk about tonight. Where to even begin? First of all, it’s my six month anniversary “Opening the door, walking outside”. Six months! Who could believe it would pass so quickly?
The memory of those -13 below zero afternoons already seems hazy. Like, did that really happen? And was it really that hard? All those frigid winter days when it seemed so difficult to imagine going outside…but when one dressed warmly and went outside…it was almost fun. Or that freezing cold rain in Munising after 9 p.m. a week or so ago. Was it really that bad? No. In truth, it proved almost invigorating. It’s only our minds which try to convince us it’s too much.
OK, let’s move on to the first photo. Remember the robin photo from the other day? Yesterday one of the babies fell out of the nest onto the hard cement floor in front of the garage. We think it lived, however. For about an hour it sat very still and panted in the bright sunlight. Then it hopped over to the shade. And finally it was gone. Along with all the other robins in the nest (except for one, who still remains).
Last night we went to the airport to pick up our son and his girlfriend. While we waited for him, Barry and I wandered along the harbor. A very fun evening. As we reached home, and took the above photo overlooking Keweenaw Bay, both kids expressed amazement at the late hour of sunset. It’s true. During summer solstice it doesn’t get dark in Upper Michigan until 10:50 p.m. And our son lay awake at 5 a.m. in the light and…are you ready for this?…the pecking robin on his basement window!!! Yes, our beloved robin hath returned to peck. Barry’s putting a piece of plywood over the window later tonight.
So anyway. On to the Fairy King story. I know some of you are waiting impatiently. One of our regular bloggers, flandrumhill, announced a few weeks ago an ancient legend that if you wait beneath an elder tree at midnight on Midsummer’s Eve one would meet the Fairy King. Of course, doesn’t that sound intriguing? Who among us wouldn’t anticipate a meeting with the Fairy King?
Of course the problem with this is that I always go to bed around 10 p.m. Bedtime is more important than meeting with fairies, right? Except. Last night we were meeting the kids at the airport and we didn’t arrive home until after 11 p.m. and we sat around the living room chatting. Suddenly it was 11:50 and I’m yawning and ready for bed, when suddenly Barry said, “C’mon now, aren’t you going outside to sit under that elder?” WHAT? Do I really have to?
So off I went, with flashlight in hand, at 11:50. Totally exhausted. (Not really expecting to meet the Fairy King, but curious what it’s like after dark outside. Would I be afraid? Would the bears come by? Would the mosquitoes lunch on the human beneath the elder tree?)
This is what it’s like at midnight, in the dark of the moon, sitting beneath an elder tree, on Midsummer’s Eve. First, fireflies flit everywhere. Little blinks of lights shining on and off. The scent of blossoms enchants the air. It’s warm, even at midnight, although you need a sweatshirt. It’s so dark you can’t see the tree itself, although you know it’s there, having maneuvered here via a flashlight. In the distance an owl hoots, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?” You listen for coyotes, but none begin their mournful howling. You heard them the other morning, so you barely notice.
And then. The mosquitoes start humming. At first they simply hum. You smile, because you’re almost completely covered. You’re happy watching the fireflies and distantly thinking about the Fairy King and hearing the kids laugh in the distance as they marvel over the sprawl of stars in the sky. Then the mosquitoes start biting. Bite, bite, bite. Slap, slap, slap!! You think, “Well, I hope the Fairy King isn’t coming disguised as a Mosquito, because I’m out of here!”
And after seven, or maybe seventeen minutes, you bolt for the house, smiling. Happy for another strange outdoor experience. But really glad to be anticipating a warm and cozy bed.
FINALLY, it’s time to proclaim the contest winner. The person who has won a free nature book from the contest announced on June 4th. I am already feeling guilty. Everyone should get a free book. Every single person who shared their love of nature and the outdoors and this grand and glorious earth. But that can’t happen. I’m not rich. So…here we go…drumroll…the winner is….the winner is….are we ready….Emma! Congratulations, Emma, on your win. Will be emailing you very soon to find out which book you would like. Thank you all for playing! And for reading! And for making this outdoor blog & commitment so special…
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? 🙂
When we were kids, my brothers and I used to play a game. When we left home or my grandparent’s cottage up on Lake Huron, we began a litany of “goodbyes”. Goodbye house. Goodbye bikes. Goodbye cottage. Goodbye lake. And we especially always said goodbye to a blue-painted barn about a mile north of our small town in the Thumb of Michigan.
This morning, as dawn stained the horizon lemon chiffon, I took a cup of coffee down to the boardwalk. Today’s outdoor commitment had to happen early. The car leaves for the airport in a couple hours and the plane wings northward to Detroit, and on to Marquette. If all transpires smoothly, I should be home by 9:30 p.m. to view the melting snow and (of course) dear Barry.
So it’s time to say goodbye to southern Florida. I’m ready to go home, even though it’s been a magnificent week.
Goodbye, Vibrant Colors. (Please come visit us up north soon.)
Goodbye, pool. Goodbye, canals. Goodbye low tides and high tides. Goodbye rolling surf of the Gulf of Mexico. Goodbye beautiful Back Bay. Goodbye seaweed and beach grasses and creatures large and small.
Goodbye, Mom and Dad. I love you guys so much. You are the best parents in the Universe. Thank you for sharing this beauty with all of your children.
OK, there’s probably six milion other things to which to bid farewell. Enough of this! It’s merely a prayer to fare-thee-well until we meet again, if the Universe so desires.
But shall we just offer one more goodbye to the mostly-invisible dolphins and manatee? They’re camera-shy. Or perhaps wanting to show themselves as an unexpected gift on another trip. Blessings to you in the deep waters! May you continue to inspire and heal our planet and consciousness.
BUT, never despair, dear readers! I saw a leaping pair of dolphins last night down in Naples. Are you ready for this amazing shot…?
See you in Snow Country tomorrow. Can’t wait to say Hello snow, Hello spruce tree, Hello red berries growing in the woods.
Today’s blog may prove confusing. Simply because I’m reporting two days of outdoor fun. All the photos come from yesterday’s harbor stroll down in Marquette.
We had an assignment. Pick up Barry’s brother at the airport at 5:51 p.m. He was arriving from Georgia for a five day north woods (mostly ice fishing) adventure via Minneapolis. Most of our little puddle-jumper planes come from Minneapolis or Detroit. Of course his plane was delayed for almost an hour, but that didn’t matter to us. I told Barry we needed to spend more time outdoors while we were in Marquette and take interesting photos. He agreeably complied.
We explored some of Marquette’s interesting nooks and crannies, especially the Lower Harbor. First we walked to Thill’s Market for smelt bait. You tell me: why do we have to visit a fish market to buy fish to catch fish? Hmmm? Does that make sense to you?
After we purchased the frozen smelt in a plastic bag, we strolled behind the shop. I suddenly remembered a fellow wordpress blogger, Kim, at A Winter Journal, posted a blog entitled Thill’s Meditation last month. She’s a fantastic photographer; mosey on over and look at her beautiful pictures!
We continued to stroll (OK, we broke up our stroll for an hour at L’attitude Cafe Bistro for beverages and appetizer. Oh, yum, appetizer! Hummus, olive tapenade and a couscous-feta-dried tomato dip with flatbread and fresh vegetables. The country folk love that city eatin’…we sure do.)
Afterward we viewed the Marquette Yacht Club. I kid you not. This is when you can tell you’re in the Upper Peninsula and not in some fancy yachting area down south…
Before driving south to the airport, we stopped to read a plaque near the following photo. It said the fire bell in the photo warned inhabitants of Marquette of danger since ancient times. (I wondered: how ancient?) Apparently 1882 is considered ancient times, as the bell was cast in Baltimore, MD that year. It pealed fire warnings until the mid 1950’s when the Telephone began to peal fire warnings. (You’re wondering how I remembered this, right? I took a picture of the plaque!)
We stopped at the food co-op before the airport, picked up Craig (who marveled at the snow drifts and quickly searched for his winter jacket in his suitcase) then returned to the city for a delicious dinner at Vierling’s Restaurant. I was too full from the appetizers to eat more than a cup of whitefish soup.
Today’s outdoor adventure: I snoozed under the spruce tree, sitting on a cushion. It was near 40 degrees and dozens of chickadees and nuthatches dived and chirped and fluttered and scattered sunflower seed shells. After a half hour, they adopted me as one of their own and almost landed on the silent blob of green and white. Actually, they may have thought I was a tree. Such a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. Remember, I told you I was going to spend days of this outdoor commitment sitting underneath that spruce tree!
Even though we’ve lived within a hundred miles of the U.P. 200 and Midnight Run for the past thirty years, we’ve never ventured over to Marquette to watch the annual sled dog races. Credit this blog and my outdoor commitment! Yesterday I decided it was absolutely necessary to travel and see the start of the 20th annual race.
If you’ve read yesterday’s entry, you know that my friend Bertha (and some of her friends) already planned to attend. I wangled an invitation and met them at the Ramada about 6 p.m. From their 7th floor window we could see the crowds starting to gather. It’s a rumor that this is the biggest dog sled race event in the Lower 48. It’s also a rumor that between 6,000 and 10,000 folks often attend. I have no idea how many folks dressed in their warmest clothing lined the blocked-off streets. Here’s a crowd shot:
You can’t imagine how fun this was. The excitement in the crowd was palpable. The announcers got the crowd chanting “ten-nine-eight-seven (and so forth)” until the volunteers released the barking and excited dogs and they ran down the blocked-off city street with lightening-fast speed. My heart pounded with the crowd enthusiasm, the roars of approval for the dogs’ prowess, the excitement and the clapping and cheers.
I would have been 100% content if the camera had cooperated fully and captured at least one excellent shot of the dogs and sled driver (known as a “musher”). However, 90% of the shots ended up blurry, missing either dogs or musher, or otherwise inadequate. Here is the best (and maybe only) complete dog sled team shot to give you a flavor of how it appeared:
After watching several teams mush down Washington Street, we walked down the road to the bottom of the hill where the trail veered sharply to the right. Our friend called it “Dead Man’s Hill” as the teams needed to slow down to make a comfortable right turn. I maneuvered toward the front of the crowd and propped myself against a snowbank to attempt a non-blurry shot. An older woman began chatting and later shared that she used to be a musher! How cool was that? She said she no longer has trained dogs, but raced back when she lived in Maine many years ago.
The owners and mushers treated the dogs so lovingly. I swear, they were treated as well as children (at least it looked that way from an outsider’s viewpoint). Everyone there cheered the dogs with such enthusiasm and love.
After the races we ambled back up towards the Ramada Inn. Some of our party desired cinnamon almonds, hot chocolate, chips and fudge. As we wandered, I saw a woman with a tiny dog in her shirt. She leaned forward to introduce the baby-dog to a huge yellow dog. Aren’t they cute?
Afterward we returned to the Ramada where my friend was spending the night. She invited me to join them in the jacuzzi. It was a lovely way to warm up. Except. There didn’t seem to be a convenient place to change into my clothes to return to my motel. What to do? Bertha suggested I throw on my snow pants, coat and boats over the bathing suit. Does that sound like a wise idea? I did! And drove back to the motel with a wet bathing suit under a snowsuit.
Only in the Upper Peninsula… 🙂
Ladies & Gentlemen! I’ve left the county and am now in Marquette, Michigan, to watch the dogsled races. I am so excited to have driven these 80 miles east to the Big City.
It all needed to work out easily. Luckily, the roads are relatively clear. Luckily, it’s not suppose to snow much. Luckily, a motel room presented itself when other dog-lovers cancelled. Luckily, my friend is watching the start of the UP 200 races and invited me to join her. (correction: I called and asked her if I could join her in viewing the race.)
It’s so exciting to be in Marquette! I was going to write a long chatty blog about the shops, the streets, the people, the beautiful lake…BUT…the library computers are apparently sick or injured and need repair. The kind librarian-fellow said I could use this 15-minute Internet Express Station if I was quick.
So quick it is! The shortest number of words you’ve seen thus far! And no pictures, even though I’ve been snapping photos since arriving in town. Besides tonight’s festivities, I’m walking the streets looking for fun or interesting people, views or photo opportunities.
Not only are there dog sled races tonight, there’s also some sort of nature art exhibit out on Presque Isle for snowshoers and skiers tomorrow. Will report back to you all tomorrow night!
From the Big City of Marquette, Kathy 4 minutes left! Signing out!