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Clear cut

It’s a delicate subject around here.  Toss a coin up in the air and decide.  Should the land ever be clear-cut?  Should the trees be sliced off like a razor cutting whiskers on a stubbly chin? 

Foresters often say that in certain areas a clear-cut is advisable.  Many tracts are not good hardwood sites; they refuse to grow beautiful hardwoods like maple and yellow birch which have high-quality value.  If  foresters selectively harvest on these sites they never see much improvement.  If they want to have productive tracts, they will sometimes choose to clear-cut.  The result will be thick aspen (poplar) stands.  In 40-50 years these will be big harvestable trees.  The mills need these stands to mix with their hardwood.

There.  I have just given you forestry-speak.

Keep turning around in a circle

I could share the perspective of someone who loves trees; someone who doesn’t much like the labels of which trees are “valuable” and which trees are “junk”.  I could share old Native American stories about the trees being our brothers and sisters, the lungs of the planet earth.

But no.

I want to talk about the clear-cuts of our soul.

When God calls a Time Out

What times in our own lives have we felt like we’ve been clear-cut?  When everything has been torn away?  When things safe and familiar and loving have been ripped asunder?

Have we all had clear-cuts?  Some clear-cuts come on the heels of endings of relationships.  The endings of friendship, of love, of romance, of marriage.  Some come with the tears of loss:  the death of a child, a spouse, a parent, a grandparent, a friend.  Others have lost their home, their money, their job.  A clear-cut is a place in life where our beloved past meets destructive saws.  The dear trees fall.  So often don’t we weep?  We weep from the loss, the pain, the absence of the loved one.

Stump and dried flower

Afterward the brush lies all over the ground of ourselves.  We wipe our tears and stand straight.  We have to walk with faith, then, through the clear-cut of the soul.  The seeds are growing beneath the tangled brush, but we don’t know it yet.

In a few days or months or years the new trees will be growing.  We will persevere. 

The horizon

I have known many forests who have been heavily logged.  In my lifetime, I have not intimately known many forest tracts completely clear-cut.  Yes, we see clear-cuts everywhere.  But they usually aren’t on land that I have walked, loved, whispered to, dreamed upon.

Once, a long time ago, while crying in some beloved logged forest, an inner thought arose,  “Just sit here until you can feel the sacred beauty of the place.”  I sat for a long time surrounded by impenetrable brush and jagged logs and wild disarray.  I sat with the memory of the tall hemlock, the sturdy maple, the feel of the forest.  I was not going to move until it felt sacred once again, until the invisible seeds of hope and new life showed themselves.

And finally, I saw it.  A flower.  Blossoming.  And over there a precious sweep of branches.  And over there a bent cedar. 

Slowly the logged forest started revealing its promise.

We will grow again, the trees said.  We won’t be the same trees.  But we will grow again. 

Hope

I think of a dear friend who lost her husband three or four years ago.  The first year of her clear-cut was agonizing.  She wondered if she would survive.  I wondered if she would survive.  The second year was filled with many tears, but slowly the young sprouts grew.  She still grieves, but she’s stronger now.  Her new roots are growing into the earth.  It wasn’t something she wanted, but  she’s learned to see the sacred beauty in what remains.

Blessings for all of us in times of the clear-cuts of our soul.

Afternoon reflections

Rain dripped from the sky most of the day.  It was a drizzly damp afternoon.  Mist descended upon the earth.  Waves of fog rolled in. 

By 3:30 it looked like dusk.  A late autumn afternoon.

Blue fog

Here’s my daily confession.  I went into the woods today.  Shhhh…don’t tell anyone.  You know you’re not suppose to hike in the woods during hunting season.  Especially during the first week.  But I couldn’t help myself.  The woods called.  I said, “No way, woods, I will not go in you.”  The woods called again.  I said,  “OK, but just in a safe place where hunters surely won’t go.  Near the lake.”  The woods smiled.  It knew I wouldn’t refuse.

Along the curve of the lake

Drizzle, drizzle, drizzle.  Camera shutter going snap, snap, snap.  (Christopher, out there in San Diego a few days ago, suggested I turn off the sound.)  Heck no.  I like the sound the camera makes.  It sings a lively four-note tune when you turn it on.  Maybe five notes. 

Deer tracks to water

I thought today about how our favorite places on the earth look different all the time.  They look so different on a foggy day than, say, a bright sunny morning.  They look different in snow, different in the jungle-depths of summer, different in the tentative green of spring, different when the autumn leaves fall.  This may sound obvious.  But isn’t it true of everything?  We think people or things are always the same.  But everything and everyone are constantly changing.  You are brand new in every moment!  And so am I!  Isn’t this a miracle?

Fallen tree on Huron Bay

I have 2,000 more words to write on the NaNoWriMo novel before bed, so had better shut up here right now.  The “novel” now has 32,328 words.  After the first five days of sheer torture and probably terrible writing at the beginning of the month, I have had a great time birthing this story.  We need to have 50,000 by November 30th to get our…I’m not sure what we get…an award?  Praise?  Inner contentment for actually writing a novel?  Whatever! 

Hope you all had sunlight after 3:30 p.m.  If not, hope you enjoyed the early dusk.

P.S.  I am definitely back in slower-Internet land.  After uploading photos in ten seconds in San Diego…it’s back to almost three minutes per photo.  I am trying to figure out what to do during those three minutes.  Meditate?  Read?  Play a computer card game?  You can’t check any other Internet applications because the Internet politely refuses to cooperate.  Alas, the little problems in life, eh?

So the airplane lands and you drive almost two hours home.  You’re tired.  You sing to yourself to stay awake. You put the radio on…loud.  You roll down the window.  You put toothpicks in your eyelids to keep your eyes open.  (Well, maybe not that extreme…)

You pull in the driveway about 11:15 p.m.  You hug your husband, exchange a few stories and drop dead-asleep into a nice warm cozy bed.

At 6:30 in the blessed a.m. he says, “Time to get up!” and you open one eye.  In California it’s 3:30 a.m.  But then you suppose this means that on California time you went to bed at 8:30 p.m. so you get up without too much fuss.  You drink coffee.  You prepare to go to work, thanking all the stars in the Universe that you don’t have to leave immediately.

You look outside.  It’s beautiful.  The world has been painted frost-white overnight.  You put on your warm winter coat wondering how this happened…yesterday morning in San Diego it was in the 50’s.  Now it’s way below freezing.  You feel your Upper Peninsula stamina returning.

Frost on car, frost on driveway, frost in garden

You breathe the fresh morning frosty air.  You admire that the garden has been rototilled in your absence.  Now it is ready for spring planting, after the next six months of snow and ice and freezing cold.

Up close frost on grass

You wander around in the dawn, half-asleep.  You wonder at how quickly worlds can change.  Yesterday you were someplace else.  Another landscape informed your life.  Today you are awake in another place on the great earth.  Are we the same people we were yesterday?  Will we be the same person tomorrow?  Take another sip of coffee and ponder that.

Great shadows drape themselves on the frosty earth

Frost on leaf

You’re starting to wake up because it’s so cold.  You’re starting to think about all the work you need to do, both at home and work.  Traveling is a delight, but then there is that catching-up time.  You have so much to do.  But you won’t think about any of it, not yet.  You’ll just let the camera look around at the frost for five more minutes.

Frost, shadows, sunlight

Finally you drive to work.  You are not thinking about hunting season.  Not thinking about the many hunters seeking deer in the woods.  Not thinking at all.  You are driving along, when suddenly, there is A Sign.  You can’t believe it!  Look at that sign!

Berri (Berry?) Pickers go home??

First thought:  How terrible.  How awful.  All the berry pickers (meaning people from not around here) are going to have hurt feelings.

Second thought:  Hey, am I still a berry picker?  (only been here 30 years, you never know.)

Third thought: Wonder what kind of pain a person would be in to make that kind of sign?

Fourth, fifth, sixth thoughts, etc:  Maybe it’s a joke.  Maybe “BerriPicker” is the name of a person and it’s a big joke  Maybe a drunk kid did this.  Maybe some “Berry Picker” was acting stupid in a local bar and looking down at folks.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

The mind can really tell a lot of stories.  You could tell 1,000,000 stories about why the person wrote the sign.  You could make it a good story, a bad story, a tragic story, a funny story, anything.  You could make it have a good ending or bad ending.  It could be just about anything.  I think the sign maker and the outsider ended up having a beer at the local tavern.  Six months later the sign maker moved away to live someplace else and learned what it was to be an outsider.  The berry picker moved here.  Everyone lived happily ever after.

How’s that for my story tonight?  Can any of us ever know the truth?  Anyone have any stories of your own?

Dawn at Golden Hill Park, San Diego

The hardest part of an outdoor commitment (besides going outside when it’s too cold, too rainy, too miserable…)  is when you really have no time to go outdoors.

Such as the days you spend in airports and airplanes.

On these days you must make an extra effort to fit in your outdoor adventure before 7 a.m. or after 10 p.m.  You have to Plan.

This morning Chris and I were out of his apartment by 6:20 a.m. and headed for Golden Hill.  He planned to pick up his friend Chrissie at  7 a.m., drop me at the airport, and then proceed to campus for classes. 

I said, “OK, we’ll do the outdoor adventure at 6:30 a.m., ok?”

He raised his eyebrows, but he’s a good son.

He complied.  We took a nice walk through the early dawn of San Diego.

Sun shines on the tall skyscrapers of the city

We walked in silence.  The early morning air felt chill.  But in San Diego “chill” does not mean the same thing as it does in Upper Michigan.  In the U.P. we would be bundled in winter clothes, hats and mittens.  In San Diego we wore a light coat or long sleeve shirt. 

We said our goodbyes.  Goodbye, Christopher.  Goodbye, Mom.  When will we see each other again?  Perhaps next summer?  Thank you for coming.  Thank you for having me.  I love you.  I love you, too.

Downtown bridge in the distance

After about 20 minutes he headed back to the car.  I slowly walked around the park.  It would be a long day.  Little did I know then but our flight would be momentarily delayed because both clocks in the cockpit refused to work.  Luckily, a maintenance guy fixed them and we took off before impatience set in.  Later on the flight the captain announced,  “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a delicate situation.”  My heart stopped.  Here we go, I thought.  Delicate situation.  Are we ever truly prepared for “delicate” situations?  But then his voice continued, “All four lavatories are not flushing well.  Please do not put paper toweling down the toilets.”

Ahhh!  That kind of “delicate” situation.  We can live with that one…

Interplay of light and flowers

Just before we drove to the airport, a flock of birds settled on the overhead wire.  They were all lined up to go.  So were we.

“Goodbye!”  we said,  “Until we meet again…”

Birds, prepare your engines. Time to fly skyward.

All you non-hunters get out of the woods now!

All you non-hunters get out of the woods now!

Every year come November 15th, I’m outa the woods.  Goodbye forest!  You won’t catch me wandering lazily through the poplar and maple trees, shooting with my trusty camera.  No.  Not even with a bright orange vest and hunting garb and orange cap could you convince me to hike in these beloved forests. 

I’m outa here.

Although, it seems, at least a few thousand extra visitors do fearlessly enter our north woods, ready to bag their seasonal deer. That’s not counting the local guys and gals who have been excitedly planning and plotting and checking their guns and preparing their bait piles for the last few weeks.  They are all dreaming of venison stew.

Everywhere you go signs appear:  Deer apples.  $2.00 a bag.  $5.00 a bag.  $7.00 a bag. (Makes one wonder if the sizes of the apple bags are all different. One sign, I noticed this weekend, showed a picture of actual bag with the words “Actual Size” penned beside it.  Just to avoid confusion, I suppose.)

Our little house in the big woods--from the back, through the woods

Our little house in the big woods--from the back, through the woods

Nope, I’ve been properly scared over the years.  Stories of people getting shot by stray bullets.  (Not that it’s ever happened to innocent hikers…I don’t know.)  Dire warnings by loving grandmother-type neighbors, “You stay out of those woods now, Kathy!”  Sounds of gunshots at dawn:  bang, bang, bang!!!

Usually this is the time of year I say Goodbye Outdoors.  Forget you.  I am staying in my nice warm cozy house and hibernating until spring, thank you.  You can’t make me go outdoors.  Just try.

Although some years I stay inside for the first week of deer hunting season and somewhere around Thanksgiving emerge and start cautiously traipsing up and down the road.  There aren’t a lot of hunters in our rather populated woods, after all.  Most of the out-of-towners who don’t know any better than to shoot indiscriminately on private property have left to return home to turkey dinners downstate or in Illinois.  Then it’s safe.  Or so I think.

The bark face knows.  It really knows.  Everything.

The bark face knows. It really knows. Everything.

Today I wandered in the woods, “Goodbye trees.  Goodbye birch-bark face, aren’t you precious?  Goodbye pine cones.  Goodbye old fort that the kids built.  Au revoir.  Enjoy your time with the hunters.  Show them some of your beauty, eh?  Let them see your magnificence.”  And then I saw IT.  Litter.  Right there on the forest floor, behind our house.  How dare someone litter back here?  What were they thinking?

How disgusting!  Litter in the wood!

How disgusting! Litter in the wood!

And then, with utter clarity, I realized that We were the Litterers.  This was our missing grill cover!  It had flown off in a whipping wind sometime earlier in the summer and we could not find it again.  So we traveled to Marquette and brought a brand new cover, to better prevent rust and exposure to the elements.

And here was the original cover!  A few sprays of hose water and surely it would be ready to do its duty once again.  When the new one flies off on a windy day, that is.  We’ll keep this one handy somewhere.  What a lucky find!

An ancient bridge across the ravine stream

An ancient bridge across the ravine stream

What a lovely afternoon it has been.  Temperatures in the 50’s.  No sounds of bullets, yet.  The forest floor littered with leaves. 

I paused beside the old bridge which once led across the ravine.  Our son nailed it together, all those years ago, back when he was still a youth building forts all over the woods.  I looked at the bridge and smiled.

Because I am really OUTA HERE!  I am going to San Diego tomorrow to visit this beloved son!  Have not once visited him on his turf since he moved to southern California three years ago.

Would you guys like to come too?  Let’s leave the woods together.  Meet you tomorrow (or the next day) in San Diego, OK?

Approaching porcupine!  Stop the car!  Try to get a photo!

Approaching porcupine! Stop the car! Try to get a photo!

OK, all you wise-cracks.  Why DID the porcupine cross the road?  To get to the other side?

There are a million answers to this one, don’t we know.  Feel free to add your opinion in the comments.  (I’ll tell you my idea if you keep reading.)

Here’s the story behind this Cutie.  We were driving back from the vicinity of Silver Mountain–do not ask which day–when suddenly the Above Porcupine began waddling across Skanee Road. 

I slammed on the brakes, excitedly grabbing for the camera.  Where was the camera anyway?  Just about nervously dropped it on the floor in the excitement of the Photographic Opportunity.

Barry, who had been snoozing at the time, was saying, “What? What?  Why are you stopping?”

Until he saw It.

And it was headed directly toward the camera!

Bingo!!

Snap, snap, snap clicked the camera shutter as the porcupine came closer.

Until there was the Porcupine, as close as could be.

Awww, isn't he cute?

Awww, isn't he cute?

And then he proceeded to waddle beneath our car.

I looked at Barry.  He looked at me.

We were stuck.  There was a porcupine beneath our car.  If we drove forward or backward, we might run him over.

What should we do?

We waited. A few cars drove by.

“Put your head out the window and see if you can see him anywhere!”  I implored my bleary-eyed passenger.

No sign of the porcupine.

(Could the answer to the above question be:  The porcupine crossed the road so he could sit under our car.  ??)

The decision to take the nature shots of the quilly fellow now seemed  a bit…questionable.  I crept forward a little, straining the ears for any sound of the slightest thump.   Nothing.

“What should we do?” I moaned.  “I don’t want to kill the porcupine.”

Neither did we want to get out and look beneath the car, perhaps getting stuck with dozens upon dozens of sharp-needled quills. 

Neither did we want to sit on the side of the road all afternoon.

Finally my passenger said,  “There he is!” and pointed to the grasses moving in the nearby ditch, our little fellow waddling away looking like he had not a single care in the world.

Why did the Porcupine cross the road?

Aspen grove in sunlight

Aspen grove in sunlight

Answer:  To nibble the aspen bark for dinner.  Porcupines, as some of you may know, dine on plants, inner tree bark, twigs and leaves.

Anyone else have a better idea?

**My husband just said the porcupine crossed the road to star in his on-line debut in this blog. 

Hmmmm…..

Our weekend motto

Our weekend motto

This blog is Part II of our weekend attempt to Climb Silver Mountain.  For Part I, please click yesterday’s post. To summarize:  we did not Climb Every Mountain yesterday.  We searched high and low and followed every rainbow but did not reach Silver Mountain. Instead we were sidetracked into a delicious dinner at the Hardwood Steakhouse. 

 This morning our conversation went like this:

 Barry:  Let’s go back and climb Silver Mountain.

 Kathy:  No, I don’t want to drive all the way back there.

 Barry:  OK, let’s not go.

 Kathy:  Wait a minute, maybe we should go.

 Barry (a few hours later):  No, it looks like it’s going to rain.  Let’s not go.

 Kathy:  OK.

 Barry:  It looks like it’s not going to rain now.  Let’s go.

 Kathy:  Arhggghghghghghghghghgh!!!!! 

Prickett Dam

Prickett Dam

This time we drove directly there.  We did not drive through convoluted backwoods roads.  We were civilized.  We took the paved highway and followed the nicely marked signs.  There was no question of getting lost.  We knew where we were 99.9% of the afternoon. 

Kids, I’m showing you the picture of Prickett Dam.  Can you believe how low the lake is?  Remember when we camped there?  When all four of us crowded in that tiny rowboat along with our tents and sleeping bags and food and fishing poles and camped there for a weekend?  Didn’t we have fun?  Wasn’t it a lifetime ago?

 Excuse me, all the rest of you.  Needed to break for a Nostalgia Moment.  Prickett Dam was built ‘way back in the 1930’s…the construction of the power dam resulted in the death of hundreds upon hundreds of trees as the river was damned.  One can still see the stumps sticking out of the lake even when the water level is high; this year the stumps themselves rise out of the lake like giant wooden beasts with octopus-like wooden legs stretching out in every direction. They are repairing the dam; the water level will magically rise again to cover up the stump-creatures come spring.

Silver Mountain mine entrance

Silver Mountain mine entrance

 

The famous Silver Mountain steps

The famous Silver Mountain steps

After our view of the low water levels of Prickett Dam Lake, we proceeded easily to Silver Mountain. What were we fussing about yesterday?  So easy to drive there.  How could anyone get lost?  Several other vehicles parked along the base.  Darn, we didnt have the mountain to ourselves.  (We are so spoiled way up north.  It can be so isolated that you hardly cross the path of other folks in the backcountry.  How many other places in the country can you sometimes have a whole mountain–albeit a Michigan mountain–to yourself?)  

Our first peering:  at the closed-off mine shaft built into the side of the mountain.  Back in 1847 miners built a shaft 150 feet into the mountain looking for silver.  A sign says the miners were probably drawn to the area by rumors that the Chippewa had discovered silver particles along the riverbanks.  The Chippewa, however, believed that Silver Mountain was haunted, or at least bad luck.  This may have been well-founded (according to the sign) because the mine was abandoned by the fall of 1847 and no precious metals were ever found there. 

 

The Exquisite View

The Exquisite View

Up the steps we climbed.  Heart pumping faster with each set of steps.  Keep your eyes on the steps, keep your feet square on them.  Hold on to the rail.  In between the steps your feet pound upon the earth.  It almost sounds hollow, like a drum.  The mountain isn’t really a solid mountain…it’s a mine.  And keep your eye open for ghosts!

A giant stone cracked in two

A giant stone cracked in two

 After surveying the vista from the top of the mountain we descended the stairs.  An odd synchronicity met us at the bottom.  First I need to back up to yesterday.  When we were approaching the restaurant last night I said to Barry, “Wouldn’t it be fun to meet Karen and her husband at the restaurant?  I know they live out here.”

 Of course we didn’t see them at the restaurant.  I haven’t even glimpsed Karen since last June or July, when we abandoned our Artist Way gatherings.

 As we descended the last of the steps down Silver Mountain today, guess who drove up in their truck and came walking toward us?  Karen and her husband! 

 I love when this happens!  🙂

The heavens open up

The heavens open up

Have you looked, really looked, at the sky above you lately?

How marvelously the clouds dance against the sky, changing colors, opening up, obscuring the heavens, then teasing you with flashes of sunlight?

I have not stopped to truly fall in love with the sky until today.  On Day #320 of the outdoor adventure.  Three hundred twenty days of opening the door, walking outside, and I have not fallen head-over-heels in love with the sky until now. 

Of course, I’ve noticed the sky.  Everyone notices the sky. But it’s so often the earth that demands our attention.  The little things, the unusual prizes, the flowers, the leaves, the dogs, the snow.  The Beings of the Earth.

Today the Beings of the Sky tapped my shoulder and said, “Hey!  Look up!”  and I did.

Up, up and away...

Up, up and away...

What an amazing world exists above our heads.  Cloud-creatures sway and form and dissolve everywhere.  You can lay on your back against the earth and watch the ever-changing cloud-creatures.  I remember doing this for the first time at age eight.  I saw our recently dead wire-haired terrier named Buttons in the clouds.  Even though he had choked on a fish bone and died, he was somehow floating in the clouds.  You couldn’t convince me otherwise.

Sky in heavens and on earth (OK, reflected in a pond)

Sky in heavens and on earth (OK, reflected in a pond)

Earlier this year I discovered the sky in ponds and mud puddles.  That was a revelation.  It had never truly occurred to me before that mud puddles could reflect the sky so beautifully.  (And I am not the only one!  One of my good friends, an earth-lover extraordinaire recently confessed that she had not noticed that before either.)  However, do you think I raised my eyes to the sky above and stood enraptured at the clouds and blue?  No.  I was only enraptured with the reflection.

Today I was enraptured with the Real Thing.  The sky itself.

Light, clouds, depth, sky

Light, clouds, depth, sky

This morning I left for Houghton about 8:30 a.m.  Spent a good hour or longer in the coffee shop writing on the laptop, aka Miss Ellie.  Then headed off to recycle and shop.  Felt a strong prompting to phone my nephew Doug who is attending Michigan Technological University.  Would he like to join his aunt for lunch?  I really didn’t expect to get a reply, imagining how busy a college student might be. 

Yet, miracle of miracles, he had seventy-five free minutes.  Could I pick him up down by the library?  Yes.  We ate Chinese at the Ming Buffet, catching up on everything.

Afterward we agreed to meet again, hopefully before the holidays.  I then phoned my son in California (yes, the same son I’m going to visit in one week) who has the flu.  Yes, probably the dreaded swine variety.  Half of our county has the flu.  For the first time in our memory they’ve closed all of the county schools until Monday. 

Driving home, I suddenly felt achy.  Oh no, was I about to join the swine numbers?

I forced myself to stop the car behind the Pow Wow grounds and wander in the 37 degree temperatures, breathing deep the fresh air.

That’s when I noticed the Sky.

Unexpected beauty

Unexpected beauty

Who knows if it was the Sky?  But suddenly all my aches and pains disappeared.  I felt energized and exuberant and totally in love with clouds and sunlight and blue sky.

Things are looking up.

Perhaps other flu victims should spend some time with their heads in the clouds.  Just a half hour a day should do.  The best medicine on earth!  Or, rather, in the sky… What if doctors prescribed, “Take two half hour doses of the Sky for two weeks” instead of antibiotics.  Wouldn’t that be novel?

Ice

Ice

The Anishinabe (Ojibway) call this November moon “The Freezing Moon”.  We all know why.  As the angle of the earth tilts away from the sun, our northern hemisphere begins to cool.  Winter whispers in the ear of autumn, “You’re outa here!”  Autumn waves the last of her vibrant leaves, recognizing that it’s here time to go.

Vibrant oak leaves...last to go...

Vibrant oak leaves...last to go...

I’ve had a challenging day or so.  I feel overwhelmed; spread too thin.  The precious silence and simplicity that I love has been eaten away by too-much-busyness.  It’s not just the new novel-writing commitment for the month of November.  It’s simply that I am not making enough room for quiet space if my life.  My soul is begging for me to listen and I simply brush it away, “Oh, do be quiet now, I’m busy!”   It feels as if an inner voice keeps whispering, “It’s time to let go of a few things in your life right now.  Let go of a few of those autumn leaves that are ready to release into the wind.”

The Freezing "Moon"

The Freezing "Moon"

People often move to the woods or country desiring a less hectic lifestyle.  They want simplicity, quiet, ease of life.  That can happen if one cultivates it.  But more often than not, Life and Busy-ness have a way of finding you even in the backwoods.  Busy-ness can take over your life, wherever you go. 

When Busy-ness starts getting overwhelming, we need to have a talk with her. 

“This is what must go,” we might say to Ms. Busy-ness.  “This and this and this.  You might like all these things, but are they really necessary?”

And we know what is simply wasting precious minutes and hours in our day.  We know.  But it’s often challenging to let that autumn leaf fall off the branch.  To simply let go of that which is not serving us, in order to give more quality time to that which nourishes our souls.

Snowy bike

Autumn slipping away...

Snow fell on the morning of the full moon.  Less than an inch draped our car, scattering on the fallen leaves.  In town, at the top of the hill, as I drove to get my hair trimmed, I noticed at least two or three inches of white.  Amazing how one area has no snow; three miles away you almost need boots. 

Every person is different.  Some of us need huge vistas of silence, of space, of walking in the woods with the companionship of the sun and moon.  Another person is satisfied with much less.  The snow falls in different proportions everywhere; we must listen to our inner guidance and follow the quiet direction which prompts us.

A frozen Buick

A frozen Buick

Too often if we refuse to heed our wise inner voice, our body speaks up instead and suggests a nice vacation with the flu or perhaps some other illness. 

I’m going to try, starting today, to make room in the midst of busy-ness.  Perhaps the busy-ness will sit back and relax.  Perhaps she and I will share a cup of jasmine tea and some silence.

Perhaps the leaves will effortlessly release from the trees and drift in the autumn wind, beneath The Freezing Moon.

Perhaps.

Miracle

Miracle

Outdoors today:  helped Barry move and cover the wood splitter.  Then we carried long heavy boards for his garage edition.  Later we covered the woodpile.  More checks off our “to do list” before winter arrives.

All good fairy-tales start with “Once upon a time.”  Do you remember sitting on your mama’s lap, perhaps with a thumb in your mouth?  Her voice gently soothed you as she read stories of long ago and far away.  Her voice sounded like a lullaby as she brought you to lands from the past.  You no longer lived in the present on your mama’s lap; you were gone into a story.  So far gone that you later blinked and wondered where the time disappeared and how that story was so real, as real as your living room and your mama’s voice.

The old high school made into an apartment building; the Ford water tower

The old high school made into an apartment building; the Ford water tower

Stories have the ability to send us into other worlds.  Where would we be without stories, without books, without tales of overcoming and learning and crying and loving? 

I am thinking a LOT about stories since starting NaNoWriMo three days ago.  About the value of stories, and the challenges of stories.

As some of you may have guessed, my fictional story is set in our nearby ghost town of Pequaming back in 1932.  Henry Ford bought this village and aimed to make it into a model town, a sociological experiment.  He insisted that the villagers get rid of their chickens and cows claiming the animals were unsanitary and that on $5.00 a day wages each family could afford to buy milk and eggs.  He required each family to cultivate a garden.  He banned drinking, insisted workers save a percentage of their wages and did “general surveillance” of their homes.  He maintained stringent village rules, and pioneered an educational system in his private school system accredited by the University of Michigan.

The "Bungalo"

The "Bungalow"

Henry Ford was especially fond of Pequaming and annually spent a few days in his Bungalow, a seven-pillared, fourteen room home.  When he arrived, the whole town turned out to greet him with a band concert and old-fashioned dances.  Both the Mr. and Mrs. enjoyed dancing.

The Ford's view of Lake Superior through the southern-style columns

The Ford's view of Lake Superior through the southern-style columns

You may be wondering:  what the heck am I writing about?  OK, here’s the scoop.  This is actually a story which has been rambling around in my head since I was in my late 20’s.  It’s the story of a young school teacher who comes up on a train from Chicago and teaches in one of the four elementary school buildings in Pequaming.  She has two suitors, a Ojibway fellow named David and a Finnish socialist (yep, there were a lot of Finnish socialists living here at that time) named Christian.

Barry, by the way, raised his eyebrows at the name of the suitors.  What kind of name is “David” for the Ojibway suitor?  Or “Christian” for that matter?  I refused to budge.  That was their names.  End of story. 

And, strangely enough, I later opened the history book of Pequaming and discovered that a chief named David King had sold Pequaming to a white logger named Hebard in 1879.  Perhaps my make-believe David could be a descendant, do you think?  And when wandering in the Pequaming cemetery on Sunday I noted one of the old-time graves belonging to a fellow named Christian. 

Perhaps the ghosts are whispering the story to me…

The beautiful gardens were here

The beautiful gardens were here

Here is where Henry kept his Model T's and Model A's

Here is where Henry kept his Model T's and Model A's

Here is what I have learned about writing in three days:

1.  Don’t believe your thoughts about the quality of your writing or whether you have a story to tell.  Just keep writing. You can edit later.

2.  Don’t believe your feelings of frustration about what you are writing. Feelings are like the weather.  Changeable.  One minute it’s raining and the next sunny on your inner landscape.  Just keep writing.

3.  It doesn’t take much time to sit down and write 1,600 words a day.

4.  Just face the empty page and let the words come out.  Just keep writing.

Leaves of rust

Leaves of rust

Every lesson I have learned while writing this novel has mirrored the lessons of this outdoor commitment.  Do not believe your thoughts and feelings about why you don’t want to go outside.  Why you prefer to stay inside.  Why it’s too cold, too hot, too rainy, too snowy.  JUST GO OUTSIDE.  You won’t regret it.

** Outdoor time today~~raking.  And then more raking as Barry drove the little lawn tractor around chopping up leaves.  Another autumn chore checked off!

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