Down Many Roads…

The endless journey of life's adventures


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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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Tales of the Coffee Mugs…

English: Since somebody objected to the image ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone who knows me or has read any of my posts here, understands that one of my most favorite things each morning is that first mug of good hot coffee. My day doesn’t really come alive until I can enjoy that first sip of the stuff—almost too hot to actually drink—with a splash of half-and-half, and then, and only then, the day is permitted to begin and all things are possible.

And over the course of the years, our coffee mug collection at home has grown to the point of being ridiculous, almost to the point of qualifying for some Discovery Channel series, I’m thinking. We’ve almost run out of space in our kitchen cabinets that are reserved for the things. Be that as it may, I have two or three favorites I go to regularly, and, conversely, there are those I never use.

My criteria for my favorites consists of the following: size, shape, design or logo or other witty saying on the mug, and memories it conjures up. For example, one of my “regulars” is from the

2328-2448-homeHockey Hall of Fame, a place we visited in Toronto last summer about this time. Another one I enjoy came from the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield. It’s a perfect size and fits my hand ideally each morning (the mug, not the museum!)

A few that I don’t care for are usually those my wife has “collected” from various places she or I have visited. For instance, there’s a squatty, round thing that would barely hold enough coffee to sustain a gnat, but it has some design from Cherokee, North Carolina, that she liked, so it takes up space in the cabinet.

For obvious reasons, we don’t have the same number of mugs at our summer cottage. My two

10810494000D--ronjon_i_dont_do_mornings_mugfavorites were the wonderful mug from Ron-Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida. It’s a perfect size and has the typical Ron-Jon art work with the shark telling everyone: “I Don’t Do Mornings!”

My other “cottage” mug was the perfect mug, in that it was solid, had the name of the restaurant from whence it was “borrowed” years ago, and made me smile every time I thought of the person who did the “borrowing” and the laughs we always shared.

I write about that mug now in the past tense because while I was washing the dishes one morning last week, it slipped from my hand and met its end in the porcelain kitchen sink. I briefly gave some thought to trying to put it back together, but that would have been a fruitless venture, so it found its way into the trash instead.

I don’t think I’ll ever have another exactly like that one. The restaurant is out of business and our dear friend passed away in late March. I really don’t need some coffee mug to help me remember all of the good times with our friend, but it was a constant, silly symbol of friendship through the years that couldn’t be broken—unlike the mug itself.

I’m sure our collection of mugs will continue to grow, and there will be those I’ll love, and those that will sit and take up space in the cabinet. Either way, they will be little reminders of the good times we share together traveling and seeing new places….CortlandWriter


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Re-discovering John Updike & a short visit home…

(Writing from home in northern Illinois)

Following the wonderful 4th of July weekend that was filled with kids and grandkids and plenty of

4th of July or Fourth of July

4th of July or Fourth of July (Photo credit: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton)

fun in the lake and in and around the cottage, I decided it was time to  venture back home for a few days to attend to those persistent “calls of  necessity.” Those, of course, include taking the recycling containers to the drop-off place at the nearby landfill, shopping to re-supply the essentials for the cottage, doing the laundry, and mowing, trimming, and edging the yard that is healthier than it’s ever been!

Regardless, it was time to come home. I was last home in early June, and today I feel kind of like a stranger in my own house. My routines in the kitchen, which are pretty automatic in the morning making coffee, taking care of clean dishes in the dishwasher, etc., aren’t so automatic at the moment. I find myself pausing to remember exactly where things go and the gentle order of operation when I’m here on a regular basis.

So, today I did the various shopping “runs” to Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart for those items I will take back to the cottage two days from now. I also put back on my bookshelves those books I finished reading during the past few weeks up at the cottage.

Cover of "Pigeon Feathers and Other Stori...

Cover of Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories

One of them, Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories by John Updike, re-affirmed my desire to get back to writing those short stories I keep meaning to finish. It was very good to read those stories I’d first discovered in my American Lit courses at Kent State, back about 1970 or thereabouts, and I saw things this time through that I failed to do then. Could it be that I’m older and wiser now? (Well, older anyway!)

I had two very good–uninterrupted–weeks of working on my novel, Sandbar’s Secret, but I had to shut things down with company and the festive weekend that was the 4th of July celebration.

And I didn’t mind shutting the old MacBook down one bit. Dragging the grandsons around the lake on a tube, dodging the insane “Weekend Warriors” on our lake, was fun, to say the least. The old 90-horse Yamaha outboard ran as smooth as ever, propelling our Tahoe pontoon around and through the waters without a hitch.

Now, with today’s “chores” finished, I can settle in and finish catching up on other e-mail and reading posts from my blog friends and offer a comment where appropriate. Tomorrow’s plan is to do the yard work early in the morning and take care of any other household duties which I haven’t gotten to as yet.

Before I know it, Thursday morning will roll around, and I will be packing the Chevy Equinox once again to return to the cottage on the lake. It’s good to know that there’s still plenty of summer left for writing and reading, and I am most anxious to get back into my novel WIP, Sandbar’s Secret, and find time to read the new biography, Updike, by Adam Begley. We have no company coming this weekend, so that is a good thing!  I love friends and family when they come spend a few days and nights with us, but I also savor those weekends when there are no such visitors!

And so, here’s hoping things are well in your world. I send you good wishes from a beautiful day here in northern Illinois, where today’s list has been checked off, and I prepare for tomorrow’s…CortlandWriter


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Update from the hinterlands…

jollyYetHello, friends and fellow writers! Just a quick post this morning from my self-imposed exile here in the southwest Michigan hinterlands. It’s a very unique morning, in that the sun is shining, the lake down below is calm and inviting, and the overhead skies are not one massive gray ceiling, promising rain.

Most days and nights during this past week (since my last post) have been chock full of rain, punctuated with thunder and lightning. Thankfully, there has been little wind to contend with.storm However, yesterday’s early morning “monsoon” not only created little ponds and lakes out on the back lane behind the cottages, it also caused some damage to one of our neighboring cottages just down the way a bit.

Situated under these old and tired oaks and maples and ashes, the cottages–and everything else–is in constant peril when storms decide to do their thing. And it’s those  stately ancient trees that get the brunt of the storm’s fury. It’s truly amazing how fortunate these 101-year-old cottages are to have withstood the ravages of nature.

I have been busily at work on my next book–Sandbar’s Secret–and I have taken advantage of the stormy weather to make wonderful progress, particularly since it’s the perfect kind of “indoor” weather for doing so.

I hope that your week is moving along well and there are no storms with which to contend….CortlandWriter

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