Hello out there. It’s 8 a.m., and we’ve already reached our high for the day at 12°F. What a wonderful day to stay inside! The coffee is good, the music gentle in my ear buds, and the house is warm and comfortable.
And to think that it was but a mere short time ago when everyone was gushing about how pleasant the temperatures still were and how green the lawns remained.
After our recent weekend’s blast of snow, however, those lawns are blanketed with white, the trees are bare, and winter has firmly entrenched itself.
After all, this is mid-December in northern Illinois, and once the winds and cold of winter decide that it’s time for them to pop in and stay, everything turns quickly and decisively. The birds make quick work of emptying the two feeders out back.
I watch them now as I write this, and they’re so much like anxious shoppers, crowding one another on the ground below the feeders or vying for a spot on the edge of the feeders above.
I wonder if they are required to take a number to determine who’s “next” to be served! It’s clear that one of my jobs later today will be to trudge out through the snow, bucket of seed in hand, and re-fill the feeders.
And, of course, this weather plays havoc on making any sort of travel plans. Last weekend, for example, we’d planned to drive to Ohio to attend the 90th birthday gathering for an aunt and then on up to Lake Erie to visit my mom.
When the snow began in earnest Saturday afternoon, however, all plans went by the boards. The current plan is to try it again this coming weekend, but there is some inkling of more weather “issues” that could crop up once more. We shall see.
In the meantime, I’ll catch up with some long overdue writing and keep the bird feeders filled.
When last I wrote here, we had closed the cottage we’ve rented for several years on a lake in Michigan, sold our pontoon and watched it disappear from our lives on a trailer soon after I drove it onto same at the public launch site, and had busied ourselves with the lovely chore of finding places here at home for any “leftover” lake things that we didn’t wish to part with. Glad to report that all of that is finished!
And it was still pretty much summer, with temperatures riding most days in the mid- to high 80s, our air conditioning getting in an extended workout for several days thereafter.
But, as always happens, the calendar rolled around to September 22—the first day of autumn, (and, by the way, our older grandson’s birthday). The changes—slight as they were—began to appear, showing signs of the new season.
Trees sported various hues of rust and gold. Fields of tall green corn became khaki-clad acres, and the thick bean field (a vibrant green all summer) out beyond our house, now a brown rug. Both patiently await the harvest that is sure to come—soon. And by then, autumn will be full-blown into the most wonderful season that it is!
Pumpkins and apples and doughnuts and cider and corn mazes at the many farms and orchards and roadside stands so plentiful out here away from the big city, will allure folks from near and far during these next wonderful weeks ahead. On those splendid sun-drenched days, with clear blue skies and an air that requires a nice sweatshirt, everyone will feel alive and happy that autumn has arrived.
It’s a time, too, whenever I have to drive someplace, that I insist on avoiding major highways and any other well-traveled roads. I’ve learned that there are more ways to get to a place, even though it might take a bit longer!
The venerable homesteads and farms in this part of Illinois, glorious in their appearance, surrounded by expansive and seemingly endless fields of corn and beans, provide a magnificent spectacle and panorama as I roll by along the sun-dappled country road. This
experience always conjures up thoughts and imaginings about who might have travelled these very roads down through the years, long before my time. What stories they could impart!
Back home, I grab a juicy honey crisp apple and settle into my favorite chair on the deck, enjoying the last of the day’s sunshine, feeling the chill of the coming evening ever so slightly as I take one more look out over the scene that has so quickly been transformed into the glory of autumn.
It’s Super Bowl Week, and everyone is supposed to be charged up and rarin’ to go for the “big game” next Sunday! Yep, it’s all come down to this for NFL fans and anyone else who wants to hop aboard the bandwagon and become immersed in the hoopla and craziness that is conveyed through every media source on God’s green earth.
The entire Super Bowl thing is even larger and more important to two contingents: 1.) Those fans who have a rooting interest in either team (I don’t!); 2.) Those who have a wagering interest in anything related to the event (I don’t!). So as a casual observer, I can enjoy the game without any pressure and concentrate on whatever it is I’m going to be grilling on the Weber charcoal grill (I haven’t decided on that yet—BBQ chicken, perhaps?).
Yesterday, Super Bowl Week really kicked into high gear with something called Media Day. You know, the event where the players from both teams are up on platforms and expected to answer all sorts of hard-hitting questions from fawning and gushing reporters and analysts. Of course, I’m rather jaded when it comes to professional athlete interviews as none of the players seems to have anything really important to say—about anything!
Point in case: A certain player for the Seattle Seahawks “agreed” to sit for a ten-minute session and entertain all kinds of questions. His stock answer for each was, “I’m only here so I don’t get fined by the NFL.” Now, isn’t that special! Of course, the wide-eyed, gawking media folks fell all over themselves trying to get this paragon of intellect to say something other than his standard response. Now that’s a true, heartwarming American sports story, friends, and I’m awfully glad my 10-o’clock news devoted so many minutes to it last night.
As for the big game itself (which doesn’t start until very late in the afternoon), I will come home from church, change into my comfy “uniform of the day”—sweats, hoodie, and sweat socks—and prepare the charcoal for my pre-game cooking of the aforementioned chicken. Of course, I will have already had the breasts, thighs, and legs cleaned and marinading overnight, so they will be ready whenever the Weber is up to temperature.
And, out here in northern Illinois, there’s always the weather to factor in to my plans. As of right now, it’s supposed to be cloudy and windy (oh, how it gets windy here!) with snow. The highs are supposed to be in the mid 20s and the low somewhere around 6°. But as I’ve proven in the past, this will not deter me! I am well equipped with heavy Carhartt jackets and coveralls as well as nice warm boots.
Once the charcoal is going and the chicken is ready to be put on the grate, I can warm myself in the closed garage with all of the pre-game programming on my TV. There will be plenty of cold, golden Budweiser at hand, and the day will be merry, and as game time gets closer, I’ll continue to monitor the progress of the chicken and then move on inside.
I will watch the teams as they come out for the coin flip, followed by the kickoff. I will watch the game as it gets fully under way and marvel at the talents of those massive players who do incredible things on the field on this day—America’s Super Bowl!
During the course of the broadcast, there will be brand new and unique commercials that will entertain and hit us one way or another. These usually turn out to be better than the game, particularly to those of us who have no rooting or betting interest for either team. Until the chicken is done, I’ll go back out to check on it, add coals as needed, and count my blessings that I don’t have to hear any players attempt to answer the media’s questions—especially the guy from Seattle!
“When an early autumn walks the land and chills the breeze 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.
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.”
Following the wonderful 4th of July weekend that was filled with kids and grandkids and plenty of
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.
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
Wednesday, June 4, 2014Cortland, Illinois(Back home for a few days)
With the cottage all settled, and the pontoon moored snuggly and ready for a wonderful summer
ahead, I closed up and headed back to Illinois yesterday for a few days here at home.
No, I’m not homesick or bored with cottage/lake life already (far from it)! It’s primarily because domestic duties on the home front required my presence here at this particular point in time, the main one being our younger grandson’s kindergarten “graduation” program in a short time from now.
And, of course, there are the other tasks which need attention: mowing, trimming, and edging the lawn; cleaning out the garage and getting it into some semblance of sane order; taking the wife’s car in for an oil change, and various other errands to run and other ticky-tacky duties to handle. (e.g.-stocking up on beer and other beverages to avoid paying the exorbitant Michigan prices on such items!)
I also paid a visit to the post office here in town this morning to mail a copy of The Good Luck Highway to a long ago friend from high school. He saw my quick post the other day on Facebook asking if anyone needed a “good summer read,” and he wrote back saying that he’d really like to read it and would love a signed copy. “No problem,” I wrote back, “send me an address, and I’ll be glad to ship a signed copy.” Gave me a good feeling to hear from someone from so long ago interested in having my book!
With that done now, and the garage all spiffy from Tuesday afternoon’s efforts, today (Wednesday) is rainy and very good for doing the odds and ends inside, the oil change, and the store stuff. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice and sunny, so the yard work will commence in the morning, followed by re-packing the clean laundry and loading the Equinox for a return jaunt back to the cottage in Michigan late at night.
I must say, it’s good to get home for a short time and to take care of some much-needed tasks. We even were able to watch our two grandsons’ baseball game yesterday evening, and they played well and had lots of fun in doing so. They’re supposed to play another game tonight, weather permitting, and we’re going back to their house where they’re going to have cake and ice cream in celebration of my upcoming birthday next week. I don’t think there’ll be enough room for all the candles necessary, so we’ll allow for that part of it to be left out!
Now, though, it’s time to scurry off to watch little Matthew be promoted from kindergarten. Yea! It’s all down hill from here, kiddo! Until next time from the lake…CortlandWriter
Writing on this windy, cold, and rainy Monday morning, I’m happy for the good cup of coffee at the ready and the mellow jazz that plays softly in my ear buds.
It’s good not to be rushed this morning, although there are “duties” and errands to run in a while, but for now, it’s nice to catch up on a few things here at the writing desk.
I seem to have been busy with so many other things these past couple of weeks, that my regular routine of writing every morning has given way to other things around here.
I’m still catching my breath from the hectic pace I set while finishing writing, editing, revising, formatting, and publishing The Good Luck Highway last month. And while there are plans for my next writing endeavors, I haven’t etched them in any sort of stone at this point, and so they have been relegated to the “back burner” for the nonce.
As for now, we are in the midst of a very busy time, with a new lake season up in Michigan just a little less than a month away! As the next couple of weeks unfold, our concerted thoughts and efforts will, no doubt, focus on getting things all ready for “Move-in” weekend, beginning on May 23.
Of course, there are the grandsons’ soccer games on Saturday mornings (soon to be baseball in the afternoons), First Communion next Saturday for grandson Jackson, birthday celebration for our daughter-in-law this past weekend, and the advent, once more, of yard work once a week.
So the minutes, hours, and days are not lacking for anything to keep us busy and going somewhere.
Thus, I’m relishing this brief respite in the quiet of my writing room. Let the winds howl around the eaves and the rain patter against the windows and siding!
As mentioned earlier, I’ll need to venture out soon, but for now, this moment is worth savoring. And now for that coffee…CortlandWriter
I read an interesting post yesterday by Scrivener expert and blogger, Gwen Hernandez, in which she wrote about her new office and comfortable surroundings. Included was a photo of her new writing office, and I can well imagine the enjoyment she’ll have working there.
Her post got me to thinking, again, about how important it is to have a regular place designated as my office, study, work room, workshop, etc. But whatever name I give it, though, the only thing that matters is that this is a place where I write…regularly!
And, like Gwen, I’m fortunate to have my own room. It is complete with three large floor-to-ceiling book cases, two cabinet/shelf units for storage and printer and stereo, and a perfect-sized writing desk.
I have a view of trees and the street through two windows, and a room all to myself.
And, just as Gwen writes about her new office’s view of trees and the street, I also have one—my writer’s window. The view it provides is very important. I believe that if I wasn’t able to look up from my writing every now and then, out onto the back yard and the farm fields beyond to the east, and our small town’s water tower standing sentinel out a few hundred yards away, the Union Pacific Railroad freight line tracks below, I wouldn’t be as productive.
There are so many stories out there through my writer’s window in every season of the year. Right now, at -2° and the wind chill -26°, Jack London seems to come to mind. Quite timely, I think, with the special miniseries, Klondike, that I watched on Discovery Channel this week.
In spring I watch the planting of the fields, which at the moment are empty and waiting; summer is heat and watching the corn grow so tall much of the water tower is lost from sight; autumn is harvest time, amidst the golden tinges and a feeling of closing up for another year. And then, it’s winter all over again, and the search continues for new stories through my writer’s window….CortlandWriter
My Notebook for Weekend of Rocket Boys’ Festival (Part II)…
Beckley, West Virginia: Friday, October 4-Saturday, October 5
What a weekend! In my last post, I wrote about setting off early Thursday morning, with my good friend Nick, to the beautiful mountains of West Virginia for the annual Rocket Boys Festival and author Homer Hickam and some of the original Rocket Boys. Arriving late afternoon, we found our accommodations at the Country Inn & Suites to be excellent, far exceeding our expectations. Loved the first-floor room conveniently located to the lobby, the ice machine, the breakfast lounge, the coffee station, the pool, etc., etc.
After settling in and then going out for a nice dinner, we relaxed outside on one of the comfortable patios and planned for Friday, which would include exploring and “reconnoitering” during the morning to locate where the venues were and to pick up our tickets for that night’s Writers’ Workshop at the beautiful Tamarack, a very short distance from our hotel. It was there that first morning where I almost met Rocket Boy, Roy Lee Cooke. As it turned out, I would eventually meet him and another Rocket Boy, Jimmy O’Dell Carroll Sunday morning at breakfast in our hotel and have them sign Rocket Boys.
Just before 5 p.m. Friday, we found our way into the comfortable auditorium at Tamarack where Homer was to conduct a question-and-answer workshop for an hour or so. To get things started, an energetic guy wearing a Boston Red Sox ball cap sat up front on the edge of the stage and asked us randomly how we’d heard about the event and the festival in general. I told him that I had found the Web page, and he was pleased with my response since he was responsible for putting the Web site up! He was quite sincere in wanting all sorts of feedback—positives and negatives—about anything concerning the Web page and/or the events of the weekend. As it turned out, the energetic guy was Scott Hill, the guy in charge of, and responsible for, the Rocket Boys’ Festival. In fact, it was his effort and hard work that landed the Festival in Beckley (a terrific location, by the way!) after the folks in Coalwood no longer could put one on. Scott’s story is a good one, and I enjoyed meeting him and talking with him throughout the course of the weekend. http://rocketboysfestival.com/home
Soon, we were in for an unexpected surprise as Homer’s pleasant wife Linda, and a very vibrant and energetic story teller/blues singer named Rhayne Thomas kicked things off while waiting for Homer to arrive from a live-TV interview outside. Doing a wonderful job of “filling,” they shared highlights of their careers and experiences in the publishing world and life with Homer.
Once Homer arrived not long after, he spoke about his own experiences getting started
in his writing career, as well as some of the various obstacles he had to overcome to get published. Throughout the evening, he was most interested in entertaining any and all questions and comments from us in the audience, and the hour moved along way too quickly. At the conclusion, Rhayne treated the audience to a sample of her blues singing and her love of all things prunes. Yes, you read that correctly—prunes! She even passed out some samples of prune snacks. (http://www.rhaynethomas.com) Meanwhile, Homer and Linda were available for book signing and photo opportunities (see photo above). Not hesitating, I seized the chance, especially since I was in the front row a few feet from Homer, so I introduced myself, had him sign my copy of Rocket Boys, shook his hand, and had Nick snap a couple of photos and then we left the auditorium, savoring the wonderful warmth of the evening’s program just concluded.
That was it for Friday night, and Nick and I returned to the hotel for some more relaxation on the veranda, a cold drink or two, and basking in the good feeling of having just spent an evening listening to one of my very favorite authors and having met some very nice and genuine people. We knew that Saturday’s Rocket Boys’ Festival would be busy and fun, and we both looked forward to getting to the New River Park and surrounding area where things would begin the next morning.
At this point, I felt as though I had reached the pinnacle! One of my major goals I had set when I decided that I would attend the Rocket Boys’ Festival was to meet Homer Hickam, introduce myself, shake his hand, and ask him to sign my book. With all of that accomplished that Friday night, I could have driven back home then and there. But then I would have missed out on several more unique things that happened during the course of Saturday and Sunday. Of those, I shall be writing in my next post. Stay tuned…CortlandWriter
Every Father’s Day weekend for the past several years, our cottage here on Magician Lake has become “ground zero” for a NASCAR “Race Weekend,” culminating with the Sprint Cup race on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.
This annual event begins with the arrival of my older sister and her husband on Thursday morning, followed by my son and grandson and a couple other “regulars” from home on Friday. When the weather is nice—which it was early on—most of the time is spent down on the pier, in the water, or on the pontoon boat. A few of the group play golf on Saturday morning, while “gramps” stays at the cottage and has fun with grandson, Jack, and tends the coals in the Weber where a pork butt smokes gently away, preparing to end up as pulled pork for the post-race sandwiches at M.I.S. on Sunday.
My son and my sister carry out a necessary task early Saturday morning—an annual tradition—of shopping for food and other goodies needed for the Saturday night meal and the next day’s food supplies over at the speedway. Don’t even ask to go along with them as they visit the Meijer store; it’s their own domain and one which requires no “outside” tampering or tweaking!
Of course from Thursday on, there is plenty of cold beer and other refreshments available for all tastes. It’s a well-behaved gathering, full of many laughs, jokes, and various other forms of goofiness. And since we hit the road for the two-and-a-half hour drive over to M.I.S. In Brooklyn, located in the Irish Hills, by 5:00 a.m., it’s usually a pretty early night on Saturday.
This year, most of us Chicago Blackhawks’ fans stayed up to listen to the game vs. Boston. Since no TV was available, we were gathered on the porch, around the little portable radio, late into the night. Alas, the outcome was not good for us. Losing in overtime, the team gave none of us reason to stay up to listen to any post-game chatter, so radios were clicked off as soon as Boston scored its winning overtime goal.
Disappointed? Yes, but all was forgotten once we rolled out onto I-94, eastbound for a day of fun and more refreshments and good memories. Arriving before 8:00 a.m., we ended up with a decent parking spot in Lot 3A, our regular area, and breakfast was soon in the offing before the morning got too far along. Eggs, bacon, hash browns, biscuits, and gravy were tasty and well received.
And so we all settled back and enjoyed the morning, before heading into the track and our seats for the start of the race. The “iffy” weather cleared out, and it was a sunshine-filled afternoon—perfect for the race!
Sitting beside my seven-year-old grandson and my son was special on this Fathers’ Day. We are fans of Roush Racing (Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards) and both had very good races, particularly Biffle who was the winner when it was all said and done.
Afterwards, it was back to the tailgate area for the pulled pork sandwiches and various “sides” and more cold refreshments. Wife Carolyn was one of the designated drivers, and friend Ed was the other one, so we had that arranged ahead of time. It was good to relax in the shade of the pop-up tent and to enjoy the delicious food. I always enjoy that part of the day before we have to break things down, pack the Ford 150s, and drive back to the cottage. The food is always wonderful, but perhaps it was even more so this year since my driver won the race!
Writing this from the peace and quiet of the cottage porch, where just a couple of days previous there was lots of talk, laughter, and good times, I realize that it was another terrific “Race Weekend” and anticipate next year’s already. Now, I need to get back to work on my writing and revising my novel. Stay tuned…CortlandWriter