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

 

And Spring Slips into Summer

Foamflower, hostas, and a stunted Japanese maple frame an angel bought years and years ago and then forgotten in the garden behind the garage. Now she has center stage in the main shade garden.
Foamflower, hostas, and a stunted Japanese maple frame an angel bought years and years ago and then forgotten in the garden behind the garage. Now she has center stage in the main shade garden.

Have you ever told yourself you’d change and then actually done it? This weekend I really lived my new “to-be list” philosophy. I did do a lot, but I never made a list of things to accomplish and then checked it off, item by item. With everything I did, I felt no rush, no pressing need to do it now, no guilt in the doing or the not doing.

I spent time with my son at Van Atta’s Greenhouse and Nursery, I mowed and transplanted and weeded, I filled a dozen or more pots with annuals, I managed to keep the kitchen pretty clean. Saturday morning, Zach and I were talking about finally putting in a new fire pit sometime this summer. By afternoon, it was there! Suddenly we were roasting hot dogs and marshmallows in the backyard.

On Monday, the boy and I went downtown to visit the various war memorials and monuments and statues, and to check out the “fuzzy” Capitol building (the dome is currently covered with scaffolding as they do maintenance of some sort). We were practically the only ones downtown. We talked of war and sacrifice and men and women who served. We talked about how our state became the Arsenal of Democracy, turning auto factories into factories that made munitions and tanks and Army vehicles; how women built the machinery and the ammunition that finally subjugated the axis powers in WWII; how some wars must be fought and some do not make a lot of sense; how some people come home heroes, some come home to sneers and derision, and some never come home at all. We talked about men in our family who fought and those whose number never came up.

The wind was gusting and it started to rain on us. By the time we were home again the sun was out. We watched Charlotte’s Web for the second time in two days, and now the boy is a spider (with just four legs) who gives spider hugs and spider kisses and makes his webs out of the pile of dirty laundry his father gathered at the bottom of the stairs.

In the coming days we will celebrate the boy’s seventh birthday, his class will take a field trip to the zoo, we’ll take him to his first Brandi Carlile concert (shh–it’s a surprise), he’ll have a birthday party at the park with his friends, and we’ll celebrate with some family the next day.

May is always a big month here.

But I’m not sweating it. I’m loving every minute of it.

On My Way to Parts North…

UpperFalls10 copyWe’ve hiked Pictured Rocks and Grand Sable Dunes. This year my sister Alison and I are headed up to Tahquamenon Falls, the land of Longfellow’s Hiawatha.

“Lay aside your cloak, O Birch-tree!
Lay aside your white-skin wrapper,
For the Summer-time is coming,
And the sun is warm in heaven,
And you need no white-skin wrapper!”
Thus aloud cried Hiawatha
In the solitary forest,
By the rushing Taquamenaw,
When the birds were singing gayly,
In the Moon of Leaves were singing,
And the sun, from sleep awaking,
Started up and said, “Behold me!
Gheezis, the great Sun, behold me!”
And the tree with all its branches
Rustled in the breeze of morning,
Saying, with a sigh of patience,
“Take my cloak, O Hiawatha!”

I was beyond thrilled to see many maple trees already turning red and orange on my drive to Grand Rapids this morning, and I am hoping for at least a touch of color way up near the fabled shores of Gitche Gumee (that’s Lake Superior, in case you were unaware).

I can’t wait to get there and I can’t wait to share pictures with all of you.