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Hi Santa! We’re so excited to see you around here! Did you have a good ride down from the North Pole? Did you ride in that fire truck all the way? Did you put out any fires along the way?
Santa scurried inside the Arvon Town Hall to deliver gifts to eager children. I stood around in sixteen layers of clothing (NOT Grandma’s 1970’s snowmobile suit. We do NOT bring that out in public) waiting for the hayride. We had to wait until Santa passed out all his goodies. Yep. The Fire Department puts on a bona fide hayride every year for all the kids, parents and outdoor bloggers who want to hop aboard. It’s a wagon pulled by your standard four-wheel drive pickup truck. Complete with hay bales for all of us hayride-participants to sit atop.
Oh the kids were so cute! Really adorable, every single one of them. Some of them had blue lips from sucking on blue and white candy canes. Not from the cold, mind you! Maybe twenty of us piled on the wagon for the short ride down to the township park and back. (I had been forewarned to wear lots of heavy clothing. It looked like not everyone received the memo. Without hats and gloves, it looked like some riders might have been a tad bit uncomfortable…)
However, the weather was lovely today. Truly lovely. I can’t begin to share how 25 degrees seems like a heat wave after a freezing cold previous day where the temperature barely rose to 10 degrees and the wind whipped around trees with a potent fury. Today felt balmy. At least for those of us with snow pants, hooded sweatshirt, heavy coat, two pair of mittens, warm hat and toasty Sorel boots.
How many of you are thinking the beautiful snow-covered trees were spotted during our hayride? Ha ha, fooled you big time! The tree-photos were taken yesterday down a side road near our house. I was leaning out the window of the car, snapping away. The mailman followed in his car. You could tell he couldn’t figure out what I was doing on this road. I flagged him to drive past. He kind of frowned as he went around. It was a puzzlement. What was I doing on this road? (This is one of the joys of rural living! Everyone knows who you are and wonders when you’re not doing something predictable.)
After the hayride, it was time to finish shoveling the deck. I love shoveling very slowly. When Barry shovels, it’s all done in one session. When I shovel, it may be two or three days. That’s because one must ENJOY one’s shoveling. One must only shovel until it’s time to quit. Which might be in five minutes or fifteen minutes. Never a half hour.
Hope everyone a) gets to see Santa coming down from the North Pole on a fire truck and b) gets to see a little snow for Christmas. That is, if one lives in a snow-prone area of the world. Also hoping c) that you all get to go on a hayride this year. Really! And remember, if you can’t find a hayride pulled by a good old-fashioned horse, a pickup truck will do.
You guys remember that post last winter, right? The one where Barry made me…I mean convinced me…to banish my fears and come up on the roof on roof-shoveling day. Remember the shaking in the boots? The utter fear? The palpitating heart?
But I did it. Stepped off the ladderand gingerly inched across the slippery roof to the chimney. It was a day to remember.
I did it for the Blog. And later did it one more time for chimney cleaning. To overcome fear. To reach for the skies, as they say. And to have something to write about it for the blog.
Something happened on Saturday that brought those memories immediately to the forefront.
Barry is building an addition onto the garage to house his new 1976 twenty-four foot Sea Ray boat. I shouldn’t call it “new” any more. He’s had it for almost a year and a half. It’s his baby. Right now the boat is still at the fiberglass “doctor” up in Chassell getting medical attention. (It’s been up there a lot this year.)
The boat wouldn’t fit in the garage, so guess what? Several months ago the husband gets the smart idea he needs to build on to the garage. So he can work on the boat during the winter months. (Heaven knows how much this boat is going to cost us by the time it gets in the water…and then we don’t even want to think about what it will cost us then…)
So he’s been steadfastly building the little addition despite all the weather challenges this autumn.
The other day he comes in the house looking rather sheepish. Oh no, Trouble. You can just tell.
“Honey, can you come out and lend me a hand on the addition?”
“Oh sure,” I agree breezily, not really thinking what this means.
Out we go.
We reach the garage. He gestures toward the ladder with his hammer.
“Can you climb up there and hold the end of a board while I pound it in?” he asks.
(Here’s where all my maturity, spiritual or otherwise, completely deserts me. Here is where whining sets in. It is terrible.) I am back to quivering knees, a pit in the stomach, absolute fear. At first I tell him “No way, absolutely no way, am I going to climb that ladder, what are you thinking about, I can’t do it, where are your friends? No, no, no!”
But then, sucker that I am for attempting to overcome fear, I climb slowly slowly up the darn ladder, almost to the top….and then scurry down to the bottom almost in tears.
“NO I CAN’T DO IT!” I cry.
“Yes, you can,” the carpenter says. “Come on, Kathy, I really need you to help.”
But once again I climb up the terrible ladder, and with shaking sweating palms thrust the feet onto the scaffold. Yep, I’m up there. OK. It’s been done.
Carpenter-husband starts to work, pounding. I obediently hold my end of the board. Pound, pound. I start peeking around, wishing for the camera. Where is the camera when you need it? How could you go anywhere without it?
Then it’s time to descend the ladder. Almost as scary. It’s a long long way down there. OK, breathe deep. Don’t think. Just step down, one foot at a time. (Excuse the crappy-looking shoes. They are the garden/work shoes, not the dressy sneaker variety.)
So fast-forward to yesterday. I kid you not, this is what happened. Before we decided to drive to Silver Mountain (or in the middle of deciding) I realized I had no blog. And remembered the scaffold incident. And said to Barry, “Hey, give me the camera, I’m going up and taking pics for the blog.”
And proceeded to climb up the ladder, all nine and a half feet onto the scaffold, without even thinking. Without a moment of fuss. With no fear. Stood around and snapped photos and effortlessly walked down the ladder.
Which goes to show you. When you need photos or material for a blog, you’ll do just about anything.
Pardon my French.
The time has come on this blog to discuss something which City Folks never talk about. Are we ready? If you’re not prepared to discuss…natural functions…please click over to another blog as quickly as you can. (You can come back here tomorrow when we’ll talk about more civilized subjects.)
When you live in the town or city or suburbs, one flushes the toilet and wa-la! The daily “eliminations” flush down the drain, never to be thought about again.
When you live in the country or the woods, one can not completely forget one’s toilet.
“Why?” you ponder.
I shall tell you.
It’s the Secret of the Septic Tank.
Here comes an explanation for you city folks. A septic tank is a huge underground tank into which descends one’s eliminations. The natural products mix with water, breaking down. The water filters out of the tank and the excrement (excuse me) settles.
As the years pass by merrily, the septic tank continues to fill. Every few years, one must telephone the septic guy and request pumping of the build-up. Sometimes too many years pass, as one attempts to forget one’s daily…pardon me again…shit.
Perhaps ten years has passed without a second thought! Suddenly one Remembers. One can’t call the septic tank guy in the middle of winter. He has to shut down as soon as freezing weather arrives. If the tank plugged up in the winter that would be an unimaginable horror. Because one must then dig beneath several feet of snow and frozen earth, attempting to locate the elusive hole and bucket out 750 gallons by hand! So one attempts to remember in autumn. Except THIS autumn it’s been raining raining raining, making it almost impossible for the septic guy to back in toward the tank and begin his pumping chores.
The septic tank guy arrived at 7 p.m. last night. It was already dark. The husband placed planks to help the truck back up without getting stuck. He shined lights and flashlights to help the operation. The wife (me) stood around with a camera, flashing the septic tank guy with photographic illumination as he worked. “It’s for my blog,” I explained smoothly. “Any one ever take pictures of you cleaning the septic tank before?” Surprisingly, he said Yes. Although perhaps he looked at me a little oddly.
Surprisingly also, this was not a smelly job. I thought it might be more polite to title this blog, “This is a smelly blog” but that simply would not be true. It was a clean job, a fairly simple job. Except, of course, if you ask my husband who had to dig down four or five feet to reach the elusive hole. He probably thinks this was a pain in the… well, anyway. I didn’t have to dig.
The motor on the truck whirred as the juices were sucked upward. Barry and the septic tank fellow chatted, catching up on everything that has happened in the last ten years since our previous pumping. We all decided to remember to pump again sooner. Maybe in four or five years. We must write it on the calendar! Someone has to remember these things.
I quickly grew bored with the pumping festivities and began to play with flash photography. Hey, look at those branches! Hey, look at that shadow of the moon!
So there you have it. A perfectly shitty blog. I will try to be more polite for the rest of the year. But couldn’t avoid telling you about this outdoor adventure. Hope you all…enjoyed it…
Ahem. It’s hard to talk about these things, you know.
Especially at this time of year. We’re suppose to be grateful and happy and delighted.
We shouldn’t be having feelings of…overwhelm.
But I am.
It’s Harvest Time and the garden is overloaded with vegetables to harvest. There were beans, green onions, lettuce, cucumber, kale and tomatoes to pick today. Oh, and don’t forget the broccoli.
I’m afraid I got a little stressed this afternoon. Too much to do.
One shouldn’t even be complaining this year. It’s not like the garden is on over-drive or anything after our incredibly almost record-breaking cold summer. Canning isn’t even happening yet! Freezing is only moderately happening. I’m not making zucchini relish, pickled beets or pickled beans, as in past years.
But there is still a mountain of vegetables to pick and wash and cook and eat. A never-ending supply. I spent…how many hours was it in the kitchen today? Two, three? On and off, trekking between the garden and the kitchen sink. The refrigerator is over-flowing.
The tomatoes are finally turning lovely shades of orange and red. We have picked and eaten maybe four of the luscious globes.
And I discovered the first of the zucchini poking out under all those huge leaves today. Imagine that! A month ago there were dire predictions that we would not see a single zucchini this year. But, there she is:
Here is my problem. I want to do be doing other things, rather than slaving in the garden and kitchen for hours. Here is what I wanted to be doing:
1) reading a really good book called “The Help” on the lawn chair on the deck in the lovely warm weather with a cup of tea. I tried. For five minutes. Then the 1001 other chores took precedence and the day’s relaxation was abandoned.
2) reading other people’s blogs. I am once again ‘way behind on the adventures of friends and acquaintances.
3) calling certain friends. It’s been too long since some of us have caught up.
4) oh this list could go on and on. But I was in the garden and kitchen.
Every September I feel this way. My two part-time jobs are at their busiest. And the garden is always a hard task-master, demanding you keep up every single day, whether you feel like it or not.
At the top of the list for tomorrow morning is: dehydrate wild mushrooms. That must be done, pronto. And then there’s all those tomatoes coming on which means salsa. All before I leave for Georgia in one week to visit my in-laws. (Really looking forward to outdoor adventures near Athens, Georgia!)
So, anyway, thank you for listening to this confession. I really do feel grateful for all the vegetables and mushrooms and berries. Honest. If only the harvest didn’t come all at once. But it does sure taste so wonderful…
P.S. almost forgot to tell you! It’s our anniversary today. We’ve been married…how many years now?…31 years!
Today is a very sad day.
My dear friend and former co-worker died this morning.
It’s a day awash with tears, and the drenching rain (2.60 inches since it started early Friday morning) mirrors the tears. The skies are weeping because the earth misses Mary’s presence already. The heavens may be rejoicing, but the earth weeps.
Because I spent most of the outdoor time today mourning, shall we return to yesterday?
Scot, Karen, Keely and I decided to try the fine sport of letterboxing. It’s a pastime (like geocaching which is apparently done with the aid of a GPS) where you follow Internet clues to discover a waterproof box hidden in nature. An on-line friend suggested that I try letterboxing ‘way back last spring when she first read this blog. Because the only hidden treasure in Baraga County was posted at the Canyon Falls, way out of my usual path of travel, I decided to wait before following the clues.
Yesterday’s trip with family proved to be the most opportune moment. We put Keely in charge.
Here is the website you can visit to learn all about letterboxing, and perhaps discover hidden treasure near you: http://www.letterboxing.org/
This box was hidden by someone called The Dragon back on July 11, 2003. Here is the website where you can see all the clues we followed, attempting to find the hidden box: http://www.mathdragon.net/letterboxing/MI_boxes/canyon_falls.htm
The first of the clues read:
Bench to left.
The clues continue:
Tree with roots showing on the left.
I won’t lead you through all the clues, but we followed them diligently, aiming for the hidden letterbox at the end. Finally we reached the last clues:
Right 15 paces to giant log.
(Lying parallel to the board – perpendicular to the boardwalk)
Crevice in the top of the giant log
Under a fallen tree and leaves and twigs.
Let me tell you, this was the hardest three minutes of the treasure hunt! We looked. And looked some more. And still couldn’t quite locate the box. There was no way we were going to leave without finding it! And finally, yes, digging under a few leaves…there it was in its camouflage.
We opened the box to discover some more instructions:
However, the best was yet to come! You open the little index-card book and there are all the people (most who stamped the book with their special rubber stamps of perhaps an evergreen tree, or a wild bear, or a dazzling sun) with their hometowns and some penned words of interest or wisdom or fun.
I had brought some colored ink and a set of tiny stamps, so we all added our names and a few words and a colorful stamp. (I even put the address of this blog, just in case anyone might want to read our in-depth story about our day.)
It was such a fun time. I discovered that there is one more letterbox somewhere in Baraga County, behind a local cemetery, and one day might decide to attempt to find it as well.
In the meantime I am thinking about death today. And wondering about the “hidden treasure” which may have met Mary today. While the rest of us are still on the path, following the boardwalks of life, looking at the roots and rocks and waterfalls.
Blessings, dear friend, wherever you may be tonight.
OK, I’m warning you all. This blog may get a little mushy. And it’s not even our anniversary until next month.
This blog is for my husband Barry. Because he’s the best. Seriously. He has been one of the best supporters of this outdoor commitment. Many days he waxes enthusiastically about how wonderful this is. How it’s been one of the best years, ever. How we’ve done more things than usual, visited more places than usual, experienced more adventures. He loves to read these blogs. (I suspect that’s because he’s a writer and photographer himself.) He’s a newspaper editor who writes a column usually once a week. He says: “I can’t believe it. You have to write a column every night.”
See why I love the guy?
Therefore, tonight’s blog is devoted to show and tell about his big project. What is exciting him. But don’t worry, I went outside today. Mostly sat on the deck. But for at least an hour or two. So I think that counts. I also went outdoors to help him with his project. Which you will see in the following photograph.
A show of hands now, please. Anyone know what is hidden beneath the tarp, sticking half inside and half outside the garage?
Well, obviously some of you know.
It’s his pride, his beauty, his love (besides me, that is.) It’s his 24-foot 1976 hard top Sea Ray boat. He purchased it for a lark as a fixer-upper about a year ago. And he’s been fixing it up. It recently returned home from the fiberglass doctor up in Chassell. And he’ll soon be returning it for more work on the transom, as soon as the motor gets pulled.
And guess what happened today? With the boat backed in to the garage and tarped, he pulled the motor. It was a big day at the Drue household. You have never seen a happier man.
Would you like to see a picture of the engine?
There is a little strange story attached to this boat. As he was cleaning up the area behind the swim platform (after taking it off) a face revealed itself where the screws were attached. What do you think? Does it look like a ship’s captain peering out at us from the fiberglass?
On that note, it’s time to sign off for the night. It’s been a full day. A lovely weekend. The temperature even reached 72 degrees tonight. The wind stopped blowing like crazy. Hope everyone has enjoyed their weekend!
Another blog about singing outdoors. How many of you have actually opened your door and belted out a song recently? A good tune with lyrics like “Summertime and the livin’ is easy…” or even “If I were a rich man…” or “Dream a little dream for me…”
Show of hands? Well, I haven’t sang outside all year. Not a single song. Maybe a hum or whistle on walks, but nothing which resembles a complete song. Which is probably a good thing, unless I’m way back in the woods or swamp. Because it’s always been a bit challenging to carry a tune.
Last night, however, music aficionados in Baraga County were able to listen to the White Water family stringband from Amasa, a town two hops and skip down the road near Crystal Falls. Do listen to some of their clips especially some of their popular folk songs like The Log Driver’s Waltz and Windigo. Unfortunately, you can only listen to really short clips of their songs.
At least a hundred or two hundred folks gathered, mostly wrapped in blankets, as a cold fog moved in over the Keweenaw Bay. It added a mystical edge to the songs. The voices of Dean and Bette Premo, and their college-aged daughter Laurel weave together to create fabulous harmonies. (Their son, Evan, another member of the band who plays the stand-up bass, and his new musically-talented wife Mary will join them next month for another concert down in Crystal Falls.) They play all sorts of instruments such as the fiddle, the guitar, the hammered dulcimer, the mandolin and the banjo.
They sing tunes about people who lived and settled in the Great Lakes. From the Native Americans to the loggers to the Finnish folk…their music tells stories of those who have known these trees, these winds, this Keweenaw Bay, this fog.
The audience knew all about the fog, so a song could have been written about our evening.
Dean did note, “I was thinking only in the U.P. could you have an audience in blankets and sweaters and kids swimming in the Keweenaw Bay!” (I did not glimpse the swimmers, but have no doubt they existed.)
Here is what I saw:
Years ago, when our son Christopher and their son Evan were attending the University of Michigan, Bette called up looking for a ride for her son down to Ann Arbor. It never worked out because Evan was transporting his upright bass which wouldn’t have even fit in Chris’ tiny car.
They have been playing at the Aura Jamboree since the kids were small, and we’ve watched them grow up. Every year they kept getting better and better! I think they’re one of the treasures of the Upper Peninsula.
P.S. After writing this blog, I think it’s time to sing at least one song outside. So that’s the assignment for this weekend. Just have to decide what to sing…and where…
OK, an outdoor adventure can’t get any more fun that this.
You guys are with me now, in the woods, with a flurry of mosquitoes buzzing around.
Seriously, you are!
I have taken my new laptop outside into the woods and am actually snapping photos and writing this blog while simultaneously having the outdoor adventure on this Day #214 of the Outdoor Commitment.
Do you want to know where we are?
We are nestled in one of the kids’ old forts. You can tell that because there are wooden boards pounded down and set nicely between the trees. One of the boards lies covered with spruce needles and green moss so thick you know it will soon belong to the soil again. There’s a stone which lies in the middle of the fort, and a broken coffee cup. I’m afraid the coffee cup was mine, and has a story attached to it. More later.
Back to the marvels of the wireless world which allows a laptop computer to travel into the woods! I’ve never been able to do this before. Before I was attached to the internet-world via a cord and electricity. This may have been a good thing.
But now the worlds are One. The computer and I are listening to the bird song. Such a shrill calling from overhead! The computer urges not to get any blood on its keys, from swatting hungry blood-filled mosquitoes. Thunder rumbles in the distance. Which makes one want to type rapidly, in case rain showers decide to soak the computer. And then there’s the challenge of this hard bench…oh it’s not too comfortable. But it provides back support with a sturdy spruce. If I settle down into the dried leaves, the back might be challenged.
Off, ye mosquito! Slap!
Ah, yes, where were we? In the time to upload that photo, the mind has wandered into reading emails and…sigh…not being particularly present to the Outdoors and the Fort. Except for the mosquitoes. This is the disadvantage to being too highly wired. One’s attention perhaps isn’t on Where One Is.
Since we’re flitting all around, it’s time to share the Story of the Cup.
Pardon me. Slap! Slap! Slap! Such an bloody adventure today.
Back to the cup. Years and years ago (far too many years to count) I wanted to quit drinking so much coffee. Time to oust the java habit. (WOW! Loud thunder!!) So I came outside beneath these trees and talked to the Universal Powers that Be. Asked for assistance in breaking the coffee habit. Left a coffee cut to demonstrate sincerity.
Well…looking at this cup and smiling right now…looks like something was broken! Cracked right in half! The name on the cup says “A Walk through Dreaming Meadows”. And, truly, the Powers that Be must have assisted for I am really in good relationship with the Java these days. I like to drink some, but not too much.
This place holds such good vibes. Memories of little children playing here. Our earnest son with his hammer pounding and building this fort in the woods. Our daughter (almost four years younger) running behind in delight, following wherever her older brother led.
I’m not sure if it’s spruce needles falling or raindrops, so will sign off now. Thank you all for joining me for an afternoon adventure in the fort. We’ve never been so close. HOWEVER, will probably not be lugging this computer around every day outside. That simply wouldn’t be right.
Must go now, as soon as I scoot that tiny yellow insect off the computer screen…
This morning I opened the door and walked outside just after 8 a.m. Let the feet meander where they wanted to go. Which proved to be down the ravine behind the house, up the steep hill and off into the woods.
I walked slowly, breathing in the morning air and light and interplay of shadows when suddenly a comment by Susan (from our conversation yesterday at the Aura Jamboree) penetrated awareness.
She said, “I am loving photography and taking pictures. Because of the light.”
Yes, yes, I nodded, pretending to know what she meant. It seems like two or three people have uttered that same sentence this year. I, however, in my beginning photography efforts, have remained oblivious to light. It might be happening, but the awareness remained on some other level.
Until this morning.
Suddenly…everywhere in the early morning…light swayed through the trees. Shadows danced on logs. Light illuminated. It softened. It expressed. It had its way with whatever in touched. Oh my, oh my! Light!!
Perhaps it’s because the sun was actually shining this morning after an absence. Absence doth make the heart grow fonder, so they say. Perhaps it’s because I was walking in the early morning hours when the light illuminates so fantastically. They also say evening casts the most interesting light and shadows, as well, and people urge beginning photographers to catch the early or late light.
Not that any of this advice penetrated until this morning.
Then the camera couldn’t stop snapping pictures. Dozens, dozens, dozens of photos of the Dance of Light. And realizing that it’s not simply an easy matter to figure out how to “use” light. I don’t suppose we actually “use” light…but how to work with it. To bend to the interplay. To know when to tease shadow to the forefront, and when that simply deadens the subject.
You could study this for a hundred years!
It’s funny how you can be so absorbed in noticing things like light and shadow that you hardly even remember where you might be.
So much more happened on this walk I could write three more blogs about it. Instead, let’s fast-forward two hours until re-tracing my steps up to our lawn.
Here is my advice to all readers. Get up as early as you can one of these days. When the sun arcs above the horizon and illuminates the world. Explore it. Notice the flickering light and the amazing shadows. Perhaps even bring your camera and capture some images.
Let there be light. And shadow as well. And may we truly open our eyes to see them! 🙂
Yep, just down the road a few miles you can hear fiddles and accordions and guitars and all sorts of down-home musical instruments entertaining folks who have come from miles around. They’re all listening and playing music down at the 33rd annual Aura Jamboree.
We’ve been volunteering at this event for more years than you can count on two hands. In the past I have worked in the kitchen selling bratwursts and sloppy joes, but last year I decided to change strategies and work at the front booth selling admission pins. For the cost of only $10 (if you’re over age eighteen) you can get pin made out of actual handmade wood, with the bark still on the edges. That gains you access to the Jamboree for two whole days.
My shift was from 2 to 4 p.m. this year. I figured this qualified as an outdoor adventure. Even though, technically, you’re in a small little shack with a door. If you don’t think it qualifies, I did spend time outdoors afterward trying to find some photos for this blog.
Here is the admissions booth across the way, so you can see where I spent my time:
A fine and dedicated group of local people make the Aura Jamboree a success each year. They meet and plan out the event, contact the musicians, coordinate the volunteers and a whole lot more. It takes a lot of work to make a weekend like this a success.
The “main show” takes place inside the hall. But it’s a lot of fun on the outside. Impromptu groups of musicians gather together to jam and strum and sing. Sometimes people start to dance. There was a fine rollicking dance going on while I was selling admission pins. Unfortunately, it was impossible to leave and take a picture.
The expressions on faces show how much fun everyone is having. You can buy beer or popcorn or bottled waters. The pasties (Upper Peninsula’s famous meat pies filled with meat, potatoes, carrots, onions and rutabaga) come in later in the afternoon. There’s a rush for the kitchen to buy your pasties. Don’t be late or you’ll miss them!
I guess one of the best parts of the Jamboree is meeting up with folks you haven’t seen in awhile. My friend Susan and I lamented that we hadn’t even seen each other in months and months and months. When we only live about seven miles apart. Then Kemmy and I caught up…and Mary…and Nancy… Well, you get the picture. A whole lot of talking goes on along with that fiddlin’!
You wouldn’t believe how cool it was there this afternoon. As in, chilly. The temperature didn’t reach 60 degrees. The sun went incognito and refused to shine. Two years ago we baked around 90 degrees. Some of us were trying to figure out which was worse (or better). Hot or cold? I’m casting a vote for somewhere in between for next year.