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.

No place like it on earth…

The photos I posted a couple days ago of some of the quieter moments of my time at Lake Louise are not entirely representative of my time there. THIS is what the week is all about:

Summer camp was not an experience I had as a child, but since my late teens I’ve had a connection to this amazing place, one of my top five favorite places on earth. At eighteen, I worked as resident staff for an entire summer, I’ve been a counselor a number of times, and I’ve had the privilege of accompanying my husband/camp pastor in a do-whatever-happens-to-need-to-be-done role since our son was born. I got engaged there, I was baptized as a believer there, my son first laughed there at six weeks old, he took his first steps there the next year. My Lake Louise friends are some of the most satisfying and helpful friendships I enjoy.

To me and so many others for more than seventy-five years, there’s no place like it on earth.

A New Appreciation for August–Oh, and a New Story

Before I get to the post, just want to make you aware that…

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August’s Short Story Is Now Available!

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Kayaks, Lake Superior, bad weather, a mysterious woman…this story blends together elements of adventure on the open “seas” and psychological drama to create a time-bending tale that feels to me like the beginning of a much larger story waiting to be written. Hope you enjoy it! Click here to buy it for slightly less than $1 for your Kindle.

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Now, to the point…

It is the final day of August and, as I mentioned earlier in the week, I have just begun to develop a bit of a good feeling toward this month.

Since childhood, I have disliked the month of August, which I always thought of as just one more month of hot, humid, numbingly boring days before school finally started up (yeah, I was one of those kids who loved going back to school). Little League was over, the bloom of freedom I felt in June had withered, and I have always disliked very hot weather.

Into adulthood I have maintained this disdain for August. It is a month where you dress for the heat and then freeze inside every business because they set their air conditioning so insanely low. It is a month where wasps and bees, previously seen as happy-go-lucky and dopey, mindlessly buzzing about in the yard, become aggressive and swarmy as they start fretting about the impending winter. It is a month when lots of spiders and bats–BATS–start exploring your house (and your poor husband must get a painful and heart-stoppingly expensive series of eleven rabies shots after a close encounter, eight in just one sitting).

Still, there are a few perks, right?

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The farmer’s market is flush with fresh local produce. My backyard vegetable garden is busy working on a bumper crop of tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers. Homemade tomato sauce is bubbling on the stove top. There are peaches and apricots and plums to can. 

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Ah, but the flower garden is in such disarray! It looks terrible! Besides those common little black-eyed susans, nothing at all is blooming! And the weeds! The weeds!

Still, there was that field of nodding sunflowers we saw as we drove home from our hiking trip.

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And the sound of cicadas. And the hints of fall. The gold carpet of dying ferns beneath the evergreens. The audacious red display of the sumac along my weekly commute. The precocious tree here and there that simply cannot wait to show off her red and orange autumnal gown.

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The rumblings of the thunderstorms that wake me in the wee hours of the morning. The shimmering clouds of blackbirds gathering for their fall migration.

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The dreamy quality of the light. The foggy mornings that burn off into brilliantly sunny days.

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Yes. Maybe…just maybe…August is getting a hold on me.

But I still hate March.

Sometimes, What You Seek Finds You

For most of my 33 years on the planet, as soon as I learned of the existence of Michigan’s state stone, the Petoskey stone, I have been searching for one. You can buy them all over up north in stores, pre-polished and sometimes cut into the shape of the state or a bear or some such thing. But I wanted to find one. And so, every trip I’ve taken up north to areas that potentially have Petoskey stones, I have walked, hunched, eyes peeled in the hopes that I might find one. Just one. That’s all I would need to be satisfied.

The Petoskey stone can only be found in certain parts of the state because it’s not just any rock. It’s a fossil. Fossilized coral from the long ago days when Michigan was beneath a sea. Now, any visit to just about any natural lake in the state can yield marine fossils. I have scads of them. But Petoskey stones are one particular type of coral and are found, unsurprisingly, in the Petoskey, Michigan, area.

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Devonian fossils like the Petoskey stone can be found in the blue regions.

In their rough state they look like pockmarked gray rocks, unremarkable and, compared to the lovely igneous rocks you can find in all colors, pretty forgettable. But shined up they reveal their true beauty.

As I said, I have never found one of these myself. But suddenly this week at Camp Lake Louise (an area to which Petoskey stones are not indigenous) six—yes, six—of these stones found me. (This is the spot I’d insert a photo, but I forgot my camera cord at home and my laptop refuses to read my xD card. Curses! I’ll share them with you at a later date.)

The funny thing is, they’ve been right under my feet the whole time. I’ve been up here probably fifteen times, once for an entire summer, and have walked over these rocks every time I’ve been here. And for the past five years I’ve stayed in a cabin mere paces from where I found the stones. In fact, two of them I found right up against and under the deck.

How did they get here? The ninety-year-old craft shop guru Wilma tells me that some time ago when they were doing some sort of construction project they brought in fill from another area of the state. After that, people started finding Petoskey stones a lot. My stones have apparently been working their way to the surface for a while.

It’s funny how you can look for something for so long you almost feel that you were destined never to find it. And then suddenly, without warning and without much effort on your part beyond keeping your eyes open, you can be overwhelmed with success.

And now I must get back to work here at camp, feeling the breeze off the lake, listening to loons, watching the bald eagles fish, and scanning the ground for treasures.