Down Many Roads…

The endless journey of life's adventures


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Nothing to say…

“Blessed are they, who have nothing to say, and who cannot be persuaded to say it!” (James Russell Lowell)

English: Elmwood, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ho...

English: Elmwood, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Home of poet James Russell Lowell etc. Photograph taken by me, September 2005. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

American poet James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) penned these words a long time ago, and they still ring true today. As I was scrambling for a blog topic the past couple of days, his words kept popping back into my head, and I began to realize that perhaps I really have nothing to say. And until I actually do have something to say, maybe I should stop trying to force the issue.

Yet, I could write about the mess that the world finds itself in, particularly the evil that is ISIS and how our government is attempting to deal with it. But even though I have very strong concerns about this latest threat to our precious way of life here, I don’t want to come off as just another reactionary, spouting that “we should have done this…we should have done that!” As always, I leave it to those folks—our leaders—to make sense of it all and stow the politics long enough to protect our country and  all of us in it!

Of course, I could devote hundreds of words to the current sordid state of affairs in the NFL, with its rampant, out-of-control domestic/child abuse, but what really more can anyone say to make much sense of a league gone mad, featuring massive humans—wealthy beyond reason—operating in a world that places them way up on pedestals and adorns them with crowns for being so good at what they do—on the field of play, that is.

I could throw out several paragraphs detailing my continued struggles to get much writing done on my next novel, the one in which I’ve been becalmed and landlocked for such a long time. However, I really don’t like to whine and complain, beating a dead horse over and over again. I’m sure readers don’t deserve having to read any more about it, either.

Jack.ninth b'day

Jack poses next to the sign at the local gas station to check out the special birthday message!

Amidst all of the sadness, sickness, and horror that swirls about in this world of ours, I’ll keep it to a couple of pleasant and good things. Yesterday, my one grandson, Jack, turned nine. We celebrated with one of his favorite dishes—Grandma’s lasagna, salad, and cake and ice cream. Before we ate, he and his younger brother spent an hour or so out in our back yard having a terrific time playing whiffle ball and laughing and running and sweating.

They knew nothing about the tragedies that surround them or the growing evil over in Syria and its neighboring countries. They couldn’t care less about professional football players who don’t know how to behave in a civilized manner. And they most certainly couldn’t give a rat’s patooty about Grandpa’s writing issues!

In their own beautiful world, life is still very good. They have a mom and dad who care and provide for them. They have warm beds to sleep in—safely—each night and a good school to get to every morning to learn and grow and try to be good citizens of the world.

As we all sat down to dinner and enjoyed the delicious offerings from my wife, I couldn’t help but feel a real sense of pride in my son sitting across from me and my two grandsons, one on each side of me—my legacy!

I do hope the world will turn out OK for them in the years ahead.

So I guess I really didn’t have anything to say after all!


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Early Autumn?

“When an early autumn walks the land and chills the breezefall magician lake
And touches with her hand the summer trees,
Perhaps you’ll understand what memories I own.” (Johnny Mercer, Ralph Burns, and Woody Herman)

These opening lyrics from a very beautiful and romantic song with a haunting melody, “Early Autumn” by Johnny Mercer, Ralph Burns, and Woody Herman, come to mind this morning as there is a definite chill in the air, even though there is an all-illuminating sunrise kissing the day awake.

And although autumn doesn’t “officially” begin until next Monday, September 22, it seems to have jumped the gun a bit these past few weeks. It’s been sweatshirt weather for the most part, and all of the signs that summer has flown the coop are hanging out there for all to see.

There is a slight tint beginning to appear on the trees all around, the initial stages of their lovely fall colors that will be in full force when October arrives.

The tall corn out in this neck of northern Illinois, still green and vibrant, is gearing itself up for the harvest season that will be here in the weeks ahead. It’s way too early yet for any of that, but there’s just a feel in the air that autumn is creeping around out there!

This is my favorite time of the year, even though there’s much to be said for all of the other seasons of the year. But autumn! The splendid weather and a sense that the summer fun is put away and the comfort of home is good. The sting of winter is still a ways off—but really not that far!

Football is in full swing now. The baseball season is winding down, the playoffs and World Series on the horizon. My White Sox will be nowhere close to either this year, but that’s what spring is for months away—new dreams and false hopes!

Rural orchards offer delicious apples and cider. Bright orange pumpkins will soon dot the landscape, and festivals will pop up here and there in hamlets and towns far from the hustle and bustle of cities and other places that are still moving way too fast to notice.

English: Apple. Polski: Jabłko.

English: Apple. Polski: Jabłko. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so, whether or not it really is an early autumn, the feeling and goodness of life all around us is here. Here’s to a wonderful autumn, everyone!

“A winding country lane all russet brown,
A frosty window pane shows me a town grown lonely.”


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The end of the season, battery recharged!

jollyYetIt’s over!

That sounds kind of like an old Roy Orbison song from long ago, but our summer at Gregory Beach on beautiful Magician Lake “up there” in Michigan has come to an end. Funny how time just keeps moving right along—and much faster the older we get, it seems.

And though I was very busy this past week attending to all of the tasks that go into the “closing” procedure of this old place, I’ve had a lot of time to think and reflect on just what a wonderful summer it has been, a summer basically “away” from lots of writing. For a long time this summer, I’ve questioned my lack of desire to write (my current WIP or my blog posts), and I’ve finally come to terms with that as a time needed to “recharge” the attitude.

So if nothing else came out of this summer besides many wonderful hours spent in the sunshine, on the water, on the porch, or reading peacefully in the wonderful summer breeze, I have gained a fresh perspective on what kind of writer I want to be and, perhaps, not be so hard on myself when things aren’t turning out the way I hope they would.

At any rate, I’m rejuvenated and looking forward to jumping back into the writing fray now that I’m Time to Write!home and in the wonderful environs of my writing room. My spacious writing desk, not yet cluttered with notes, folders, scraps of doodles, and other pieces of mind droppings, sits in front of the two large windows, my “windows to the world” of bean fields and the water tower out there alongside the Union Pacific tracks.

Being home is certainly good. I’ll miss those summer months at the lake, but it’s time to turn the corner and get things back in order around here. Today will involve finishing unloading the cars and getting all the things inside and unpacked and put away. And through my two large windows I can see—in dawn’s early light—that the grass needs attention once again, so I’m mentally putting that on the calendar for tomorrow morning. Ah, routine once more!

Up early this morning, the coffee going, the house opened up, and the MacBook at the ready, I have that “writerly” feeling once again. Yes, there are stories to write and blog posts to create and to share with anyone interested enough to drop by for a few minutes each week. Here’s to a good week for everyone….CortlandWriter


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Air Conditioning, Back-to-School Time & Other Random Thoughts…

The Simple Joys of Air Conditioning…

I was back home in Illinois for the better part of this past week, and the air conditioning nearly spoiled

A Fedders air conditioning unit.

A Fedders air conditioning unit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

me. Our air conditioning here at the ancient cottages consists of open windows, window fans, and the breezes that mercifully waft our way most days. So, not having been home for several weeks this summer, I was overjoyed to have the house always in a constant state of comfort for the hot and humid conditions lurking outside.

Now, back at the lake in Michigan,I’m writing once again from the cottage porch this morning, and the forecast is calling for warm and humid conditions for the next several days, and I have the cottage “air conditioning” turned up full right now. The windows fans are whirring right along, and I must say, it’s rather pleasant at the moment, and a pontoon cruise and immersion in the lake will hit the spot a bit later this afternoon. Ah, summer!

That time of year…

Driving back home the other day, I passed many schools whose signs welcomed everyone back for a new school year and that Open House or Curriculum Night was scheduled for the very near future. Oh, boy!

Retiring from my teaching career in 2007, I immediately told everyone who cared to listen (or not!) that I would certainly not miss those Open Houses or Curriculum Nights or whatever glowing name they have been given. Early on, they were exciting and fun and positive, but as the years wore on and attitudes shifted in so many ways, those special evenings became tedious and more negative than positive. And the fact that teachers had little say as to how these evenings should be run—dictated to what should be covered, etc.—drove my lack of enthusiasm for such events.

So whenever I pass by a school in these first weeks of a new school year and read that Open House and/or Curriculum Night is fast approaching, I wonder if the teachers inside that building are experiencing feelings of dread or worse: helplessness. Of course, I’m speaking only from my point of view, as I know many teachers whose favorite part of the year were those special nights. For what it’s worth, it’s all necessary, and we teachers always found a way to get through it, for better or worse.

The Writing Life…

It seems as though I’ve done more reading than writing this summer, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Of course, I’d love nothing better than to have finished my current draft of my WIP (Sandbar’s Secret), but for one reason or another I have been quite unmotivated and/or uninspired to get myself in front of my MacBook and work on the story. I know it’s there, but I just have come up short when it’s time to get going and pull the laptop out of its case and do it.

So to rationalize my lack of output, I’m using the excuse that I have important books to read for a couple of book clubs I’m in, and I’ll be closing out the cottage and lake season in a matter of weeks, so once I’m back in my home environment, and have my computer always out and atop my desk in my writing room, Sandbar’s Secret will get finished!

There, I’ve said it! Now, whether or not it makes any realistic sense I’m not sure. Everyone experiences that period when words don’t come or the story doesn’t go the way we want it or we lose faith in what it is we’re writing. Yes, I am eager to finish the story, but it just doesn’t seem right to attack it now. Am I lazy or just too into the peace and quiet of life here at the lake? Suggestions, anyone?

Cover of "The Warmth of Other Suns: The E...

Cover via Amazon

All that said, it’s time to give it some more thought and close out this post. Besides, I have to get back to reading a terrific book about the Great Migration in America titled The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. It’s a huge book, but an enjoyable and easy read.

Have a wonderful week ahead, all…CortlandWriter


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“Brutus” Comes Calling…

A week or so ago, we were sitting on the front porch watching the traffic out on the lake, when a fellow “beacher” from down the way came by, rather excited, with his small terrier on its leash. He told us that a very large snapping turtle was lying in the middle of the lane in back of the cottages, apparently having crawled from the green, slimy swamp on the other side of the lane.

Brutus1

Brutus the first time!

Sure enough, as we went around to the back, the big turtle, covered with lime green swamp slime, was sprawled right in the center of the dirt lane, causing my wife to go get a long-handled rake from the storeroom to move the prehistoric critter back off the lane and into the weeds in front of the swamp to prevent it from being hit by a car or truck.

With a good amount of prodding and nudging with the handle of the rake, Carolyn was able to turn the snapper (it wasn’t very happy about all this attention!) and it slowly plodded into the weeds, disappearing from our sight.

This turtle “journey” seems to be a once-a-summer occurrence as  turtles of various sizes make their appearance right about this time, and are either making their way from the lake to the swamp, or from the swamp to the lake.

Obviously, this old relic, whom our neighbor dubbed “Brutus,” had its destination set for the lake, a good fifty yards from where he’d been resting in the middle of the lane. Although its quest to make it to the open waters of the lake had been thwarted by my wife’s dextrous rake handling skills, at least the turtle was safe and back in familiar environs.

Our good humanitarian deed complete, we went back about the business of chatting on the porch and figured that was the last of our cumbersome friend from the swamp.

Fast forward a week or so and imagine the feeling of déjà vu that hit me front and center when I happened to glance out onto the dirt lane late one afternoon and see our determined, algae-covered snapping turtle once more at rest, obviously intent on finishing what it wasn’t allowed to do the first time.

And thinking the same thoughts about assisting it out of harm’s way with our trusty rake once again, I got up to do just that. I don’t know if turtles can read minds, but at this precise moment, it raised up on large, stocky legs and actually lumbered onto the grass and traveled a good distance—at a pretty good clip—to where I watched from the screened porch of the cottage, near the edge of the slope that leads down to the lake.

After a while, the old turtle stopped and lowered itself once more, probably to rest and check its GPS for the best route to pursue to the water ahead. I went on about my important business of reading and thinking about the need to get my writing routine jump-started once again, and every now and then would look out the side screen to check on my intrepid, plodding friend.

I could see that it was nearly halfway up the grassy yard between the cottages, and about this time it rose again and moved along some more, nearly reaching my Weber grill and plastic lawn chairs a short distance from the edge of the slope. Tired out, it dropped down again and lay there for nearly an hour.

It’s amazing how certain events trigger thoughts of all kinds. It was just me this time, the wife having returned to our home in Illinois, and next-door cottage neighbor, John, was out on an afternoon pontoon run, so there was no one immediately to share any thoughts with. Just me!

What came to mind was a short story my 8th grade literature students read years ago about a grandfather and two young grandsons, who are driving along, and come upon a turtle in the center of the highway. Though I can’t recall all of the details very well, I do remember that the boys, in all of their youthful exuberance, want to kill the turtle and eagerly look for sticks or rocks to carry out that deed. But it’s Grandpa’s wisdom that prevents any of that from happening.

He tells them something to the effect that it would be easy to defeat the large, helpless creature, lying there out of its natural environment, but they should consider turning things around and realize what it would be like if they were in the water—the turtle’s domain—and see who would have the advantage then.

I think the boys learned a wonderful life lesson, and they actually helped the turtle from the highway and gained a greater appreciation for life and all of God’s creatures—great and small—that populate the world we pass through. I wish I could remember the author of the story, or even the title. I tend to think it was titled “The Turtle,” but that was a long time ago. But it was obviously a very good short story.

As late-afternoon became dusky twilight, and I was in the midst of eating my leftover meatloaf on the porch, the ancient turtle decided it was time to move on and leave Weber grills and plastic lawn chairs  and curious humans behind. And so, with a concerted effort and a few more creaky exertions, “Brutus” made it over the slope and into the thick brush and down to the water’s edge in a relatively short time.

Brutus2

Nearing the edge of the slope, Brutus knows the open water is near!

Soon, there was a splash, and I hurried out to see the determined turtle easily and smoothly swimming out alongside our pier and then under the deck fifty feet from shore, disappearing
into the safety of its own world.

Best wishes out there, Brutus! ….CortlandWriter

 


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Fall online Scrivener courses now open for registration

Mark Anderson:

For anyone who wants to learn how to use Scrivener, consider one of Gwen Hernandez’s courses this fall. She knows her stuff and is a superb teacher!

Originally posted on Gwen Hernandez:

Image of Scrivener mug and course announcementFall is coming soon, which means it’s time for another Scrivener course (or two). Based on student feedback, I’ve decided to make some changes.

1. I am splitting my original four-week, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink course into two different classes. That means less time commitment per course, and less money to spend if you’re not ready to move into–or only need–intermediate and advanced concepts.

(If you’re waiting for a Compile class, don’t worry. The next one starts December 8th.)

2. We’re getting a new classroom environment, one that I hope will provide some of the benefits of the previous platform, but without the technical problems.

The new classroom is set up like a web forum. Not as pretty, but it allows for organizing Q&A by topic, and makes the content searchable. A big plus for those who can’t remember where they saw a post.

To learn more–and/or to register–keep reading! Or, for more detailed information on…

View original 414 more words


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In touch with the past…

Meadville, Pennsylvania

Meadville, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m writing from just outside the place of my birth, Meadville, Pennsylvania, following our annual “cousin reunion” in Canton, Ohio, earlier today. This is the third straight year the Anderson cousins and their spouses have gathered for an afternoon of wonderful food, conversation, and rehashing of so many memories from our younger days.

Today’s event had all of that, plus an extra touch of our family heritage, thanks to my wife’s efforts in locating details about great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, etc., through her genealogy searching this past week and Ancestry.com.

In fact, just in the last few days, I’ve learned about ancestors I’d never heard of before, and neither had most of the others in attendance today. It kind of makes me realize how I fit into the big picture of my family tree and how it continues with my own kids and grandkids. I find that pretty cool!

The plan for tomorrow is to meet up with another cousin and his wife in the little town of

Map of Crawford County higlighting Cambridge S...

Map of Crawford County: Cambridge Springs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cambridge Springs, just a bit north of here, and spend a few hours going back to places where our great-grandparents, grandparents, and various aunts and uncles lived. We will roam the cemeteries where so many of them are buried, and we’ll pay tribute to their having lived and helped make things possible for us to exist as we do.

It has been many years since I’ve been back here, and I have a feeling that visiting these old places will help keep the memories of those wonderful relatives of mine alive and the past not so distant. There’s a story to write about all of this down the road….CortlandWriter

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