Up North

Just a Little Equilibration

The subtle little signs of the seasons changing from summer to fall were in evidence up north over the weekend.

Acorns falling like rain from the trees.

Forest ferns curling and turning brown.

Goldenrod in full bloom along all the roadsides.

Pops of color from changing leaves in the forest.

And this one (my favorite). . .

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In the fall, the morning air temperatures tend to be much (much) colder than the lake water temperature.  As the sun rises, there is a thick mist floating on the lake surface . . . until the air warms up a bit, and the temperatures equilibrate again.

It looks mystical . . . magical.  I love it!

This weekend, the misty lake got me thinking . . .  because this is what happens to me.  My inner-temperature is still set at "summer" -- but the world around me is turning to "fall."  Like the lake, I'm slower to adjust -- and need to equilibrate to the changing seasons once more. 

(Always working on finding my balance!)


Keeping Track

As I have mentioned in the past, I am a record-keeper.  I have been journaling since I received my very first diary (one of those little lock-and-key numbers) for my 10th birthday.

Up north, here at our cottage, I've been keeping journals to record our up-north-adventures since we first built the place -- back in 1998!

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These journals are a treasure-trove of information now, and we find ourselves dipping in every once in a while -- especially if we want to find the exterior dimensions of the cottage . . . or to remember what year we added the shed . . . or bought the pontoon boat . . .  or to look up who it was that we hired to take down a dead tree near the house.

It's also fun to look back and read the details of what the kids did as they grew up at the cottage (because Erin had just finished 2nd grade and Brian was still in preschool our first summer up here) and how things evolved over the summers.  My journals keep track of wildlife sightings, special guests, fishing trends, and life changes.

Although I still keep an up-north journal, I don't update the details of each of our trips up like I once did.  Things up here have settled into a . . . sameness . . . now -- and it would get a bit too repetitive if I wrote about each visit in detail like I used to.  I imagine, though, that I'll always maintain a cottage-journal in some form or another.

As I was looking back at my old journals this week, I found another kind of journal tucked in with the rest . . .

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Back in June of 2000 (I know because I looked it up in my cottage journal!), Erin and I used to take walks in the woods surrounding our cottage to find wildflowers.  I was only beginning my gardening adventures back then, and didn't know much about wildflowers.  We would go out in search of whatever was blooming, collect a few specimens, and then look them up in our trusty wildflower guides.  (The internet wasn't A Thing yet, so we relied totally on our guides.)

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As we got more interested in wildflowers, we started drying and pressing our best specimen plants to create a "journal" of our wildflowers.

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It was quite a project.  We completed the journal over the course of that up-north-season; filling the entire book with flowers and leaves and even a few pressed berries.  Erin even used it for a school nature project somewhere along the way.

I haven't looked at it in years, but it was fun to stumble across the journal and . . . remember.  I'm actually surprised at how complete it is; and how well it's held up over time.  The colors, though?  Totally faded.  

I still take walks and look at the wildflowers whenever I'm up north.  Sadly, there aren't as many.  Our lake association has taken to mowing the roadsides these days.  I'm not exactly sure why, but I imagine it appeals to the same folks up here who plant grass and try to create lawns (in the woods) (I know).  I don't pick any of the wildflowers any more -- mostly because I want them all to seed the roadsides.

But also because these days, I can "collect" them this way:

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(From top to bottom:  Queen Anne's Lace, Bull Thistle, St. John's Wort, Moth Mullein, Ironweed, Common Evening Primrose)

Collecting and documenting is certainly much easier these days, thanks to smartphones and the internet.  It's fun to look back over your memories -- no matter how they're recorded!

 

 


Gilligan Goes Fishing

Up at our lake, we have a very old pontoon boat that we mostly use for just cruising about. . . looking for wildlife, enjoying the sunsets, scouting for fish.  

Tom is The Skipper.

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I am Gilligan.

This means I help do things (that Tom can do on his own, but I like to have my own role, y'know?) . . . like cast off, manage the anchor, or navigate back to the dock.

It works.

We rarely fish from the pontoon, but when we do?  Gilligan is super busy.  (Because fisherman are fickle and want to try out new spots constantly.  That anchor-managing keeps Gilligan hoppin'!)

We had my dad up for a visit to the cottage for a few days, and we took the pontoon out every afternoon for leisurely fishing.

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The dogs love to come out with us on the pontoon boat.  While they prefer just cruising, they certainly don't mind kicking back and relaxing on the boat while we fish.  And Jenny -- who LOVES fishing -- remains on high-alert for the sound of reeling-in-a-big-one (or, for that matter, even a little one).

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Sometimes we luck out . . . 

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and someone lands a good fish.

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But, mostly . . . it's just lovely bobbing along, watching the summer unfold on the lake.

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And what does Gilligan do with the downtime on the pontoon?*  Well.  In the past, I have tried to bring books or a knitting project along.  But, y'know . . . it never fails.  Right in the middle of a row, or after settling into a new chapter, The Skipper calls for assistance with the anchor . . . and we're moving again! 

So now?  I bring a magazine.  And my camera.  And these . . .

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Birdwatching at the lake is endlessly entertaining.  I watch the loons.  I love watching the herons and kingfishers.  I even found a bald eagle perched in a tree the other day.   You just never know what you'll spot -- and it's a whole lot easier to put the binoculars down in a hurry when someone calls for . . . 

GILLIGAN!

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I call that Win-Win!

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* I get a fishing license every year.  But I'm just not that into fishing.


Working on My Balance

For a few years now, I've wanted to try stand-up paddle boarding.  I mean . . . it looks so fun!  Just paddling along, enjoying the lake views.  Y'know?  Kind of like kayaking. . . But not.

I decided that THIS was the year!  (After all, BALANCE is my word for 2017.)  Tom got me a paddle board for my birthday.

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Let me tell you, folks.  Stand-up paddle boarding?  Not so easy!  (The whole getting on and getting off part, alone, was nearly enough to do me in. . . )  I have very good balance and core strength from years of practicing yoga and Pilates -- but when I stepped on that board?  

Oh. My. 

So.

Damn.

Awkward.

(Kind of like being in a canoe for the first time.  Remember that feeling?  Like any movement you make - no matter how slight - is going to upend the whole works?  Yeah.  That feeling.)

My legs were shaking so badly I thought, surely, I'd fall in and have to swim back to shore . . . defeated.  And that's when I started talking to myself.  Out loud.  

You are strong.  

You can do this.  

The worst thing that can happen is you end up in the lake.

I was determined.  I kept at it.  Eventually, I figured things out -- how to turn around, how to control my speed, that I had much better balance when I relaxed.  And, before I knew it, I was Doing It!  And it was FUN.

In the end, I learned some important lessons about BALANCE from my stand-up paddle board; lessons that can be applied to, well . . . the rest of LIFE:

  • Feeling out-of-balance in any new situation is expected, so give yourself some time to adjust to your new reality.  Live with it for a bit; it will become more natural.
  • Yeah, you'll probably feel a bit awkward and embarrassed to be trying a new thing in front of other people.  Oh, well!  You'll get through it.
  • Tensing up is a natural response when we're trying something new.  Try to let go of that tension.  If your legs are shaking . . . take a deep breath and relax.  
  • Remember that it's okay to take things slowly.  Be deliberate in your actions.  Figure out the basic techniques or elements you need to feel in control of your new situation.
  • When your confidence wanes, talk to yourself.  Find some mantras that are meaningful to you and repeat them - frequently and out loud.
  • Practice!  The more you do it, the more natural it feels.
  • And - most of all - smile.  Because it's fun to try new things.  And when we smile, we remind ourselves that life is good and we can Do This Thing.

Before I head home later this afternoon, you know what I'm going to do?  Yeah.  A bit more work on my balance!

 


Up North and Beyond

Yesterday, Tom and the dogs and I headed up north to our cottage for a few days.

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We're enjoying time on the lake . . . watching the baby loon learn to dive, marveling at the grace of herons, endlessly throwing toys for the dogs to retrieve in the water, trying out my new stand-up paddle board.  It's quiet and comfortable and remote.

Although . . . 

Turns out not all that remote, really.  After all, we have (spotty) cellular service up north at the cottage.  And (slow-ish) wifi.  We can stream Netflix.  And that keeps us connected with the world at large.

Next week, though?  We're headed beyond Up North . . . to WAY Up North.*

On Sunday, we leave for Beaver Island (the northernmost island in Lake Michigan).  We've rented a cottage right on the lake for a week, which will be incredibly beautiful and so cool and sure-to-be-relaxing.  

But . . . now we're talking Remote.  Because there is no cellular service.  No wifi.  No television at all.  Just a landline for emergencies.

And I can't wait!
(Although I'm sure I'll have some Google-withdrawal.)

Enjoy next week -- and we'll catch up when I return.

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* And, of course, it's all a matter of perspective.  Because there's the whole of Michigan's Upper Peninsula even farther Up North!


Up North: On the Trail

Last week, Tom got a new bike.  While we were at the bike shop, I picked up a copy of this handy little magazine:

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This guide includes maps and detailed descriptions of bike trails all over the state.  And, right there in the bike shop, I randomly opened up the guide and it happened to be page 70 . . . the Pere Marquette State Trail . . . which is very, very close to our cottage up north.  (And we never even knew it was there.)

So we brought our bikes with us this trip, and decided to check out the newly-discovered trail.

We went yesterday - between rainstorms, just assuming we'd get rained on.  (We didn't.)

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We rode a little over 12 miles, fighting deer flies and avoiding lots of caterpillars on the trail.  Other than that, though . . . it was just Tom and I . . . through woods and and tiny towns on an old CSX rail bed.  We crossed a few bridges and rode past wetlands (marl bogs) that, ultimately, feed into the Pere Marquette River (a truly lovely river famous for its trout fishing; the river is the reason we have a cottage up north in the first place).

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(This is a memorable location.  It was here that I stopped to take pictures, forgot my foot was still clipped into my pedal, collapsed with my bike, got a major foot cramp -- because foot still clipped in pedal, and accidentally popped Tom under the chin as he was helping me untangle myself.  A lovely moment in married-people bike riding, as you can imagine.)  (The view was nice, though.)

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It was a great ride -- and good exercise, too.  (Because surprising uphill section.)  We'll definitely do it again -- and plan to explore other parts of the trail as the summer unfolds.

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Best of all?  The trail begins/ends right behind Jones Ice Cream -- one of our favorite places to visit in town.

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YUM!  A perfect ending to our biking adventure up north.


Hey, June!

Tom and I are up north for a few days, and I can't imagine a better place to welcome June.

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June . . . is probably my favorite month (although, really, all the summer months are pretty great).  

So.

Hey, June!  Welcome.

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Bring on the sunshine.

Watch my garden pop.

Listen to the bird song.

Play outside.

Keep moving - but sit back some, too.

Breathe in the summer!

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Bring it!

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Today's post is part of Think Write Thursday.  To read what everyone else has to say about June, click here.  And to sign up to receive the weekly prompts, click here.


On Processing and the Power of Running Away

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Yesterday was such a hard day for me -- in the way that grief makes everything feel impossible.  I couldn't quite manage to do the things that make for a "normal" day.  I just needed to "process."  And for me, that means reading, talking, analyzing . . . basically, figuring out how my brain - and my heart - was going to adjust to holding and dealing with this new reality.  

So I read every high-quality analysis I could get my hands-on.  I talked to my sister.  I talked to a good friend.  I talked to Erin.  I journaled.  I knit.  I made feeble attempts at household chores.  And I thanked my lucky stars that Tom had left earlier in the day for a planned trip up north to the cottage for a few days to close things up for the season and host his annual poker game.  Because Tom - who was going through his own painful grief process - grieves in a very different way from me.  He turns inward.  He doesn't speak.  He needs to process his feelings without interference.

But then . . . I heard Hillary's most gracious speech.

And I totally lost it.

I needed to be with Tom -- even if it meant silence.  

So I ran away.

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I threw my knitting, a bottle of wine, and the dogs in my car -- and I headed north.

To grieve and process (in our very own ways) alongside Tom.

We sat around the fire for a couple of hours . . . 

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Talking some, but mostly not talking.  Tom reflected.  I read more analyses and opinions and updates.  We pet the dogs.  We drank.  We processed.

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We watched the sun go down and moon come up.

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This morning, I'm ready to pack up and head back home.  I feel a bit more . . . put together now.  In my own head.  Certainly more resolved.  And ready to move forward.  (Stay tuned.)

Running away for a day . . . was the right thing for me to do.

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Although I didn't participate today, please be sure to check out the Think Write Thursday group here.

 


Fall Interlude I

For obvious reasons, I didn't get up north to our cottage much this summer.  (Like . . . only twice.  And that was early in the season.)  Luckily, fall is a great time to head north -- when the days are still pretty summer-y, but fall is in the air.

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In the fall here in Michigan, we often have foggy mornings . . . 

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but the fog usually burns of as soon as the sun rises, revealing those sparkling blue skies from my earlier photos.

It's been great to have this week up here.  I've had plenty of time for reading and thinking and writing and knitting.  The dogs love it, too!  We've had time for swims in the lake and walks in the woods.  And campfires.  Everyone loves campfires.

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Just so you don't think it's all fun and games up here in the fall . . . we're also up here to bring in the boat and the docks for the season (because you don't want to be stuck doing that once the water starts getting really cold!) (ask us how we know. . . ).  And Tom has started a major project:  replacing most of the 102 steps leading down to the lake.  (Yeah.  He isn't creating a "yard-Jenga" game here.)

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We'll be heading home tomorrow -- but we'll be back soon.  I'm going to treat myself to several more fall interludes this year.  (And Tom, y'know. . . those stairs!)