I’ve been away, but I’m back now, all finished at the cottage on the lake in Michigan.
Yep, I’ve managed to “power through” all of the business at hand over the past several weeks and am settling in once again here at home in northern Illinois.
One week ago, our pontoon was hauled out of the water by some friends who are purchasing her and trailored a couple hundred miles back to a lake here in the western part of Illinois—not too far from our home, by the way. The old girl will be missed, but knowing she’s going to a good place, with good folks to enjoy her, eases the oft-muddled mind of this writer!
We spent the next day finishing up closing out the cottage and filling both of our cars with final loads. There are so many memories we gathered in that place “up there” that it was very hard to pinpoint which one stood out as the greatest or favorite over the several summers we called the place home.
Yes, we have decided to get out of the summer cottage/lake rental game and to pursue other endeavors. An Alaska cruise next August awaits, as does a trip to New Orleans and Florida in late February. And being right here at home more frequently is mighty appealing, too!
this morning, when I finally decided that I’d been away from this blog (and other writing tasks) far too long, I took a deep breath and relished the feeling once more of plopping myself into my comfy desk chair, in front of my MacBook, and knocking the cobwebs off of Scrivener and gleefully letting the fingers do their thing, wandering over the keys to make the words to send along to any reader who’s still along with me. (Now that’s a sentence!)
So a chapter of my life closes and I’m eagerly anticipating what the next one will be about. I’ll look back—from time to time—and recall so many of those wonderful moments and memories made “up there,” and I’ll probably be hit with a touch of melancholy, but I will have moved along into that next chapter that is beginning right now.
Last week I mentioned that I’ve been doing more reading than writing, and though I should probably feel guilty, I really don’t. I guess it’s because I don’t always have much to say, but I always have the desire to read. And so my mornings usually are given over to reading in the peace and quiet of the cottage on Magician Lake.
Although I enjoy fiction, my tastes have really turned more toward non-fiction, specifically biographies and history. I like to keep a pattern of alternating between the various types, following a biography with a good thriller or mystery.
So far this summer, these are the books and authors I’ve finished and enjoyed, in one way or another:
Stealing America-(Dinesh D’Souza) – An intriguing work that explains a lot of things about the current state of the Democrat Party.
The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball-(Charles Fountain) – For baseball fans who enjoy the history of the game, and for a White Sox fan such as I, this is a wonderful book that provides so much background of the circumstances that helped create the most notorious scandal in the history of Major League Baseball, the Black Sox scandal of 1919.
Sycamore Row-(John Grisham) – Another fine legal tale from Grisham that is a sequel to his first successful novel A Time to Kill. The main character, Jake Brigance, is once again caught up in a very strange case that keeps one turning the pages to see how the whole thing will turn out.
The Edisons of Fort Myers: Discoveries of the Heart-(Tom Smoot) – I bought this book on our trip to Fort Myers, Florida, where we visited the Edison-Ford Estate in March. It was a fascinating work that explained how Edison came to Fort Myers in the first place and his love of the community, making this his winter home for many years.
Papa: Hemingway in Key West-(James McLendon) – This is another book I picked up on our recent Florida trip, specifically in Key West. Hemingway’s life and times in Key West and how the “Papa” myth grew is explained in this nice little book. Makes one want to dash on down for a cold drink at Sloppy Joe’s!
Night-(Elie Wiesel) – This very small—but extremely powerful—book has rested on my home bookshelves for quite a long time, with my having every intention to sit down and read it. Ironically, when I packed this in with the other books to take up to the cottage, I had no idea that the author would pass away shortly thereafter. This is Elie Wiesel’s recounting of the horror that came to his family and other Jews during the tragic Hitler years, before any kind of help in the form of liberation eventually materialized. It is the story of perseverance in the face of hopelessness and inhumanity. Rest in peace, Elie Wiesel! Your story shall not be forgotten, nor any of those people who suffered.
Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty-(Charles Leerhsen) – Another biography and baseball book about one of the game’s greatest players, yet historically misunderstood. The book enlightened me as to the misconceptions I have always held about Ty Cobb, who was cast as a racist and overall mean person on and off the field. Leerhsen provides clear evidence that just the opposite was actually the true picture of Cobb.
The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindberg, and the Epic Age of Flight-(Winston Groom) – The author has interwoven the stories of these three Americans who showed uncommon courage and never backed down from the challenges they faced in the world of aviation. It seems as though when faced with daunting adversity, each of these Americans ratcheted up his inner fortitude and met the challenges head on.
There are still several weeks remaining, and I do plan to devote much of that time to my writing. But there are still more books to read and enjoy as well.
What's next to read?
Under the March Sun: The Story of Spring Training-(Charles Fountain) Yep, another baseball book, but what can I say? There’s always room for books about baseball in the good, old summertime! Can’t wait to get to it. 🙂
What are some of your favorite summer reads this year?
It rained sometime in the pre-dawn hours. I heard its pleasant patter on the roof above my head upstairs as I was about to get up to put the coffee on. I pulled the covers back over me and lay there and enjoyed the sound.
Now, a couple of hours later, it’s gray, a slight breeze ruffles the wind chimes out here on the screened porch, and all is quiet on the lake and surrounding land. No wave runners or zealous ski boats are churning things up this morning as the “reality” of mid-week settles in.
Coffee cup filled now, it’s time for me to get to “work.” My trusty MacBook has waited patiently these past few days for me to be inspired enough to fire it up and catch up on my writing. Instead, my mornings have been given over to reading rather than the creation of my own words, and all of the noise and excitement of the 4th of July weekend wasn’t too conducive for getting any kind of writing going, either.
This morning is different, though. My current “read”–The Aviators–rests inside and will stay inside until I’m finished with this post and some work on the novel. Later, we’re heading away from the lake for lunch and a visit to an Outlet Mall in Michigan City. With the change in the weather, I suppose it’s a good day for that, too.
With some company arriving this coming weekend, I guess getting this sort of weather out of the way now is a good thing, and, besides, it is that inspiration for me to start up the MacBook and get back to writing! Let’s hope so…
In my next post, I will share my thoughts about all of those books I’ve read rather than spend time writing. Which causes me to wonder: When did/do all of the good and famous authors find time to read and get their writing done?
A week ago today, I celebrated another birthday. And it happened to fall on our NASCAR “race weekend” at our cottage in Michigan.
This annual event begins on Thursday, with the arrival of my sister and her husband from Ohio, followed on Friday by my son and one grandson, accompanied by a couple of other friends. Every June, we all make a pilgrimage two-and-a-half hours over to Brooklyn, Michigan, for the Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday.
Before that, though, there’s plenty of fun in the lake and a traditional pontoon “Sinatra cruise,” on late Saturday afternoon. (I had to fend off the many requests by my little grandson to change the music. He’ll learn.)
In years past, we’ve had good weather, lousy weather, and in-between weather. This year’s was probably the best ever. Pleasant temperatures during the day and comfortably cool ones at night were more than we could have expected.
And then there is always the concern about what the weather will be like for the day of the race on Sunday. Again, we’ve run the gamut from unbearably hot conditions to miserable rain, more rain, and still more rain in years past.
Not this year. It couldn’t have been any better from the time we pulled away from the cottage at 5:30 a.m. until we returned about nine that evening. Our pre-race tailgating was outstanding, and the race itself was one of the best. Afterwards, we all enjoyed the pulled pork our son had smoked on charcoal and hickory chunks all day on Saturday at the cottage.
When it was time to break down the canopy and flagpoles, put away the tables and chairs and load up the F-150s for the trip back to the cottage, we all were in agreement that it had been a terrific day at Michigan International Speedway. And it had been a most wonderful way to celebrate my birthday!
It’s getting late. Summer is fleeting. The slant of the sun—morning and late afternoon—seems to be at different angles now. Fewer and fewer residents are up here at the lake during the week, vacations having run out. Nights are cooler, calling for sweatshirts more often. The dark comes much sooner in the evening—and it’s dark, almost immediately!
But the real indicator that lake season is in its homestretch for another summer is our grandsons were here these last four days before they have to start school on the 14th. And the last two summers, they were barely up here to spend much time with us at all, their busy lives busier than ever with so much other stuff besides Grandma and Poppy.
Even so, what a wonderful four days it was, having them both without Mom and Dad! Whether it was splashing and rough-housing around in the lake for hours or challenging Grandma and Poppy to crucial games of Aggravation or Apples to Apples, or enjoying a summer evening visit to Frosty Boy for ice cream, it is what summer, with those we love, should always be.
There was even time chiseled out of our busy days for “down time”—reading or doing “nothing” quietly. And it’s amazing how they both seemed willing—almost eager—to open up to Grandma and Poppy about the upcoming school year: teachers, activities, friends. Often’s the case that getting any kind of information out of either one of them is as tough as extracting the Kremlin’s secrets.
Capping off our time together was a day spent at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village over in Dearborn, Michigan, a two-and-a-half hour journey from the cottage. It was something that Grandma and I had been planning for most of the summer, and it all came together on one very gorgeous summer’s day.
Originally, we’d planned to make the trip over on Monday, but watching the weather forecast call for storms for most of that day made our decision to move the trip to Tuesday mostly a no-brainer. As it turned out, the skies were the bluest blue, full of fluffy clouds, gliding along way up there on lovely, gentle breezes. Temperatures eased into the low-80s, without much humidity whatsoever. How could we not have the wonderful time we did!
I had visited Greenfield Village once before, back in 1968 when a senior in high school. I always remembered how impressed I had been at the time with the Thomas Edison workshops there, and I made sure I re-visited that part of the Village. I think I was able to convey my excitement about such exhibits to my two grandsons, even though they were more enthused with the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile on display in the Henry Ford Museum!
Throughout the course of the day, we rode in an authentic Model-T, and later climbed aboard the Greenfield Village train, pulled by steam engine fueled by good old coal.
We paid a visit to the Wright Brothers’ Bicycle Shop, where they did most of the work on their famous Flyer, and also stopped by their house (with the neat porch that wraps around the front). This was even more special since I recently finished reading David McCullough’s book about the Wrights.
Before we realized it, the day had given way to late afternoon and approaching closing time. Weary from a day of walking, the boys and I were content to find a bench and wait for Grandma to finish her assault on the Village Gift Store.
Finally, once she re-joined us, two large shopping bags laden with who-knows-what, all of us were ready for the not-too-far trek to the parking lot to begin our drive back to the cottage, with a stop somewhere in between for dinner, of course.
Getting back just after 9:30, we found it quite easy to call it a day—a very fine day, indeed—and there was nary a problem for any of us to fall asleep. Turning off the cottage lights and closing up, I realized that Carolyn would be taking them home in the morning, and it would be just me—alone—here all over again.
As I write this now, I cannot help but keep returning to that wonderful day the four of us shared yesterday. No cares, no worries, no frowns! Just Grandma, Poppy, and two wonderful little boys who will one day be grown up and off on other things important in their lives besides spending time with us. Realizing this, I’m saddened at the thought. Am I getting old? Scary thoughts abound. At any rate, I suppose we’d better enjoy these moments while we can. And so it’s these times I cherish and will always hold dear. Thank you, Jack and Matt and Grandma…
Well, here we are. Once again, I’m going to break away from my summer hiatus and post this while I have a fairly decent Internet connection.
Mid-July is here, and the first really hot, sticky weather is scheduled to pay us a visit. Can’t complain, though, since I’ve been donning a sweatshirt most mornings and afternoons around here since Opening Weekend in late May. Plus, the nights have been those we consider “good sleeping” ones.
It rained all night, and there’s nothing as soothing as the steady rain on the cottage roof, knowing that all windows and porch blinds are secured and the futon is covered with Visqueen. The summer rain is another magical reason for spending time in this ancient structure. When there’s no driving wind coming across the lake from the southwest, the all-night rains are relaxing and comforting. Such was last night’s.
I have been very busy up here in my self-imposed “exile” doing much thinking about how I’m going to rescue my novel but haven’t made the strides I’d hoped to by this point. Perhaps it’s not meant to be, but I won’t give up on it. It stays on my mind, even when I sit down to attempt to write something else in the meantime. Must be a subliminal message in there trying to tell me something. We shall see.
Even if the writing isn’t moving swimmingly along, my summer reading is! Within the past weeks I’ve read Fierce Patriot, the story of the many-sided life of William Tecumseh Sherman; The Boys in the Boat, a wonderful true story of determination and victory against all odds; Dr. Sleep, Stephen King’s sequel to his classic The Shining; David McCullough’s newest, The Wright Brothers. Next up in the reading department is a revisit to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, a book I read a million years ago and forgot just how terrific it is. I’ll follow that with her “latest” offering, Go Set a Watchman.
It’s nice to know that when the writing–or the inspiration for writing–is lacking or going nowhere, I have those friends waiting on my shelf here in the cottage and I can lose myself within their pages.
By my next post, perhaps I’ll have some good things to say about my efforts to accomplish some writing and make some inroads into baling my novel out of the tarn in which it currently languishes! I’m thinking that the only way to do so will be to take the premise that is there and start over with a fresh re-write and finally put my mind at ease. Glad my income isn’t dependent upon producing a book on any sort of schedule!
Now, back to practical things around here. My son’s family arrives this evening for the weekend, so I need to do some basic cottage tidying-up and make the bed in the back bedroom upstairs. With the warm weather predicted, it’s sure to be a couple of days of playing in the lake.
I’ll go home Sunday afternoon for a dentist appointment on Monday morning, take care of yard work, and then make a two-day trip to Ohio to see my mom. By week’s end, I’ll be back up here in “exile,” back to the task of making my novel something decent.
Here’s hoping your weekend and days ahead are all good. Until next time…
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
So far in the two weeks that I’ve been up here at my summer place of exile, in the land of southwest Michigan, I’ve read a number of fun and interesting pieces of writing. And though I should be devoting more time at this point to doing my own writing and working on my next project, I have found the reading life much more beneficial at this point. I know, as in summers past, I’ll get the writing juices flowing about this time next week. And there’s a good reason for this. But first, my thoughts about what I’ve managed to read up here on the shores of Magician Lake.
I began my summer reading with Philip Caputo’s delightful book The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean. It’s an easy and pleasurable read, mainly because I love stories of folks who have “hit the road,” and it is one that makes one wish to pack up and join up with Caputo and his wife and their two English setters as they roll along, mile after mile, in their pickup truck with a vintage Airstream in tow.
Of course there is much more than a simple reporting of the various places they pass through. More important, there are the people whose lives, for one reason or another, are forged in the towns—dying or thriving—where they live in today’s America. It’s this very thing that is the force behind Caputo’s purpose of making the long trip in the first place. As he travels along, the question, what holds us all together, surfaces at every turn, in a light and humorous voice every mile of the trip. It’s a wonderful read!
My other is A Study in Sherlock, a collection of short stories based on the Sherlock Holmes Canon, and I found each story therein to be well written and equally as fun to read as Caputo’s book.
Being a longtime Holmes fan, I enjoyed the offerings of featured writers such as Lee Child, Jerry
Margolin, S.J. Rozan, and Dana Stabenow, to name a few whose work makes up the contents of the book. I was familiar with Lee Child from his Jack Reacher books, but most of the others were new to me. I must say, that their stories in this collection have whetted my appetite to read more by each of them. I suppose that’s how we increase our reading wealth.
Now, as for my own writing efforts to finally get kickstarted next week is simple: Our cottage is busy with our two grandkids for a few days, followed by our annual NASCAR “Race Weekend” beginning this coming Thursday.
For many years, several relatives and friends gather here for a multi-day party leading up to our trek over to Michigan International Speedway very early Sunday morning for the race. We’ll return that night and everyone will filter out for their homes in Illinois, Ohio, and various other points on the map on Monday. After a brief recovery period, I’ll be ready to get my writing routine in full gear when it will be just me during the weekdays.
And so this will probably be the last post until that time. I’m sure I’ll have some cogent points to make about “Race Weekend,” so come on back next week. It’s sure to be worth the effort. Until then…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
Up at 6 a.m., having my first cup of morning coffee (not out on the porch, however, ‘cause it’s damp and chilly out there), and knocking the cobwebs from my dear, old MacBook. And it’s the first morning that I don’t have anything that needs doing at any certain time today.
Yep. “Move-in weekend” has come and gone, and it couldn’t have been better, either. To say that the weather was outstanding would be understating things immensely! Plenty of sunshine filled each day, beginning with our arrival here early Friday right on through Memorial Day on Monday.
There was not the slightest hint of a storm until late Monday evening. By that time, everything was in its place, Carolyn’s annual planting complete, and the pontoon all covered and moored in its usual spot down the slope below our 101-year-old cottage.
When the season’s first storm did roll in late Monday night, it had its normal share of wind as well as a drenching rain. It was no big thing to roll down the porch blinds that keeps things somewhat dry, and I remembered the visqueen, that polyethylene sheeting, that we always use to cover the futon when a storm is near.
So when I crawled into bed, tired, achy, and worn out from all of the weekend’s tasks and physical challenges, I felt pretty good about having everything buttoned up and secure against the thunderstorm that was now hitting us with pretty good force. Let it rain!
I’m not sure exactly when it was—around 3 a.m., perhaps—that I remembered that I had done nothing to secure our pier furniture, consisting of a few plastic chairs, a couple of footstools, and a small table. I’d forgotten all about them as they sat right where I’d placed them the day before after a much-needed bath in the lake.
Whenever there’s wind of any sort, the chairs and table are not going to win out. Instead, they’ll be blown off the pier and end up along the shore, which—thankfully—is close and in very shallow water. As I lay there remembering my failure to bungee cord the pier furniture, I knew I’d be getting in the water for an early morning “search and rescue” mission in a few hours. With that it mind, I rolled over and went back to sleep and listened to the rain on the roof.
A few hours later, as the dawn of a new day arrived and the storm from the night gone, I came down and got the morning coffee going and put on my water shoes. In the early light of the morning, I could see that a couple of chairs that had been stacked together had remained in place, as well as the two low footstools, but the three other chairs and the little round table were gone.
And so I went down to see what I could see. Sure enough, the three chairs were resting against the shoreline not far from where I was standing on our pier, and I could see that the little table had traveled farther, to the end of the pier two cottages down. No problem at all. I stepped off into the shallow water and retrieved our chairs and table and returned them to the pier and tied them down with a cord I’d brought along.
A few minutes later, I was back in the cottage and having a wonderful cup of hot coffee. The day ahead promised to be a good one for getting some reading done and to get things going for my writing routine for the summer. This post is the first effort along those lines.
There are a few little tweaks and adjustments needed to finish the move-in process, and I’ll be attending to them today. In the meantime, another cup of coffee is in order….CortlandWriter