Late-Summer Love

It’s been hot and humid in the Great Lakes State.

We’re canning peaches, plums, and apricots and seeing the first apples harvested.

Birds, bees, and butterflies are at their busiest, storing away food and fat reserves for the coming cold.

It’s the time of yellow flowers.

And purple.

It’s the time of frogs.

And this year it also happens to be the time of floods.

The pond at Fenner Nature Center looks to be a foot higher than the last time I was there, and on our trip there Friday, the boy and I spied little schools of minnows swimming across the deck.

Frogs have taken to floating lazily at the surface rather than sitting on their customary rocks, which are now submerged.

In a few months the teasel will be brown and far less forgiving to the touch. Leaves that are currently melting will be crispy and skipping along the ground.

Already the international students are moving in at Michigan State University (and disregarding stop signs in the Meijer parking lot while I walk across with my seven-year-old). The rest of the college students will be back by next week. You know how people in the South blitz their grocery stores when the forecast is predicting an inch of snow? I kind of feel like I should be prepping before the U-Hauls start arriving in town.

As always, by this time I’m largely done with summer. But we have a couple very busy months coming up, so I’m trying to relish what’s left of it.

 

What I Was Up to Last Week

Saturday afternoon we returned to sticky Lower Michigan after a perfect weather week Up North at Camp Lake Louise.

Lake Louise, 2015

As always, we were up there during the 7th and 8th grade week, with my husband serving as camp pastor (copastor, actually, with one of his former campers who is now a pastor and attending seminary). We also brought with us a new friend and recent transplant from Zimbabwe.

Lake Louise, 2015

My responsibilities amounted this year to being the Fire Guy — building and lighting the campfires each night — and the occasional odd job that needed doing.

Lake Louise, 2015

The rest of the week, the boy and I were free to enjoy participating in the games, the morning and evening sessions of worship and teaching, and various lakeside activities, such as sandcastle building, kayaking, collecting rocks, taking photos, sunbathing, and speedboat riding.

Lake Louise, 2015

We were blessed with incredible weather, sunny and breezy and absolutely gorgeous.

Lake Louise, 2015

The lake was so high with all the snow and rain from the last year that in order to get to my secret rock harvesting spot we had to wade most of the way there. And the peninsula I normally spend some time on in order to get more varied angles of the lake and surrounding woods was practically submerged. Trees and bushes that had been tiny in years past are beginning to block views.

Lake Louise, 2015

Besides the fun outdoor activities, I found time to revise a manuscript on our cabin’s deck while listening to the wind in the trees and the sounds of (mostly) happy kids running around. And I got the happy news that this very manuscript has reached the final round of judging in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association’s Rising Star contest.

Lake Louise, 2015

Now we’re back home, sorting laundry, buying groceries, and facing the reality of getting back to work. But in a couple weeks I’ll be back up there again with the boy for his first time as an actual camper. It may be hard to adjust to not just doing whatever we want while we’re up there.

Lake Louise, 2015

But I think we’ll manage.

Summer canning has begun…

Canning has begun in earnest. The pantry shelves are bare and Michigan’s bounteous fruit crops are coming in.

Ten jars of strawberry jam, ten jars of currant jelly, seven jars of strawberry lemon marmalade.

Red currants ready for the stove

And leftover strawberries for dipping in sugar and eating.

Cherries, blueberries, and mulberries will fill out the rest of July, then blackberries, raspberries, peaches, tomatoes, and peppers in August and September, and apples and pears in September and October. I’ll be trying out my new pressure canner as well for things like beans and whole fruit I couldn’t do with a water bath.

Last year I hardly canned at all and was forced to buy store-bought raspberry jam. Ew. I’ve been too spoiled with homemade to ever really enjoy that stuff again.

Goodbye, Glorious June

Sunday afternoon I took in the last bits of June at Fenner Nature Center’s restored native grassland area. I strolled among innumerable flowers, bees, butterflies, dragonflies, and a few mosquitoes (They’re finally here. Hooray.) and listened to birds trilling and wings buzzing. It was the perfect summer day — the one we remember from childhood — with blue skies and time stretched out in all directions.

Native wildflowers at Fenner Nature Center, June 2015

Butterfly weed

Milkweed at Fenner Nature Center

About to bud...

Native wildflowers and grasses at Fenner Nature Center

Wildflower gone to seed

Mourning Cloak butterfly on milkweed at Fenner Nature Center, June 2015

Coreopsis and butterfly weed

Coreopsis at Fenner Nature Center, June 2015

Native grasses against a dramatic summer sky

About halfway through the afternoon I was joined by a friend who seemed content with my company for a while.

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer at Fenner Nature Center, June 2015

We eventually went our separate ways, I to the pond to look for frogs and turtles, she to another patch of grass.

It was a lovely time away from people and the Internet, though I was disappointed that I could still hear traffic and some kids screaming in a nearby backyard. It has me looking forward to quiet July mornings on Lake Louise before the campers drag themselves out of bed and hiking through Pigeon River Country State Forest in October with my sister.

I asked my husband if he ever feels the pull to be completely away from people and all people-related things. He never has that he can recall. If I don’t get that kind of alone time in the natural world, I start getting anxious. We are both reluctant suburbanites. He would prefer to live in a high rise in New York or Chicago or Boston. I’d prefer to live in a log cabin on a remote island off the shore of Lake Superior. The day after I shot these pictures, he and our son spent an impromptu day in downtown Detroit, riding the People Mover and checking out the skyscrapers.

When I think about it, this is practically the only difference between us anymore. We’ll have been together 20 years this October (since I was fifteen), and in that time we’ve grown up and into one another so that we really are one, as we should be. Our culture so prizes individuality that I think this notion is rather quaint these days. But when it works, there’s nothing better.

Bee on coreopsis at Fenner Nature Center, June 2015