Not often do we find ourselves looking out into a blowing, white snowstorm on Halloween morning. Well, that’s exactly what has presented itself today here in northern Illinois. Of course, the possibility of accumulating snow has been in the forecast all week, and, sure enough, it was spot on! It will be interesting to see just how many little ghosts, goblins, and other ghoulish creatures come knocking on our door later today with determined attempts at garnering candy.
As I write this late in the morning, looking out my workroom window to the east, the snow is swirling and buffeting around the tall trees and the tall golden corn in the field beyond. That golden corn crop should have been cut already, but the weather has been an uncooperative force all along. When farmers are still struggling to get a harvest started—let alone completed—this little weather quirk will be one more fly in the ointment.
It has certainly been rough for them all the way through this year. From the beginning, being able to get into the fields in early spring was near impossible for many weeks, due to the massive amount of wet weather we had here in northern Illinois. Next, there was quite a number of storm damage done in the summer months, causing many crops to be lost. Now, when harvest time should be in full swing, there’s this day of snow, as though conjured up by the Halloween spirits to further test the patience and mettle of those dependent upon a successful harvest.
We’re definitely living in strange times, and one need not look any further than out my workroom window on this Halloween day, 2019, to begin to believe it!
Let the trick-or-treaters bundle up warmly and tread carefully through the white stuff later today, as they go about the business of gathering the goodies that await them. And best wishes to the farmers as they try to make the best of this continuing pattern of misfortune.
It’s already the middle of May, and this is the first piece of writing I will have posted since way back in February. No excuses! No rationalizing! No nothing! I’ve just been totally and completely uninspired to sit myself down in front of my Macbook on a regular basis to crank out words and thoughts. It’s not as though I haven’t had plenty to write about. Quite the opposite.
Since that last post, there was…
…my serving as an election judge here in our county.
…the usual list of mundane duties to attend to right around the old estate.
…a large number of books to read for the two book clubs I’m in.
…a visit to our good friend, the travel agent/coordinator, to book a cruise on Holland America Lines to the Panama Canal next January.
…a White Sox opening week game to attend with my son, as we so often did when he was young and I was younger, too.
…a long weekend trip to Nashville with another couple who had never been there before, and one they thoroughly enjoyed!
…a regular schedule of trips to Ohio to see my mother as she deals with being 89 and the “joys” of health issues surrounding that realm. Now that it’s Mothers Day tomorrow, she is particularly in my thoughts—now, more than ever.
… a celebration of birthdays for family members, and memorials for some friends who have passed.
What’s ahead for summer?
There are plans for upcoming auto trips to quaint and remote places for Carolyn’s genealogy research and an annual NASCAR “race weekend” over in Michigan in June, the weekend, a day after which I’ll celebrate being another year on this earth!
There is the week in July when Carolyn and I will take the grandsons out to Casper, Wyoming, for a three-day covered wagon adventure on the Oregon Trail. Stay tuned for reports afterwards. There will surely be much to share here on this blog!
So there’s still much ahead, and my desire to once more write and blog and offer up thoughts, perhaps, is slowly re-kindling. I’m hoping it will. In the meantime, to all Moms out there, I hope you have the very best day ever tomorrow—wherever you might be. None of us would be anywhere without you!
Doctor appointment, grandsons’ ballgames, yard work, and friends’ 50th wedding anniversary party necessitated our vacating the cottage last Wednesday. Within the last two weeks, we’ve logged many a mile traveling to the NASCAR race, and then the following day motoring on to Fairborn, Ohio, to attend Carolyn’s uncle’s funeral services. He was almost 93 and had lived a good life and everyone celebrated that fact.
After the meal that followed at the church, we made the four-hour drive back to the cottage in Michigan and quickly made ready for the drive home to Illinois the next day.
And now, all of the duties, etc., completed, it’s time to reverse the process and gather up the clean laundry, pack the suitcase and my MacBook, a cooler with “stuff” we bought at the store, and get it all in the back of my Equinox for the trip back to the lake sometime tomorrow. I say “sometime” because I’m expecting a visit from a technician for Frontier Communications (our Internet service provider) to check out why our Internet has been dropping out way too frequently lately. I would like to be here when he/she arrives, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an early arrival. But, it will be what it will be…
But wait, there’s more!
Once back at the cottage, we wont be there for long. It will be a quick turnaround, just long enough to unload and spend the night before taking off for Ohio for the weekend. My mom’s high school 70th reunion luncheon is Saturday afternoon in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, and a few weeks ago she strongly hinted that she’d love to attend but had no way to get there.
It didn’t take me long to see where she was going with this, and I figured I couldn’t let the opportunity pass to get her there! With nothing definite on our calendar for this coming weekend, I told her we’d enjoy driving her up there (about three hours or so) from Port Clinton. Obviously, there aren’t that many classmates remaining, but a couple of her best friends are, and she deserves to be there with them.
Anyway, I always enjoy going back there—my birthplace—so it will be a nice occasion. We’ll get her to the gathering and go explore the area as I remember all of my summer visits there as a kid. We’ll go out to the old farm that was my grandparents, and the place that inspired my short story “Pinewood Farm.”
A few hours will pass, and it will be time to pick Mom up and drive on back to Ohio, spend the night, and zip on back to Michigan on Sunday. We’ll be tired and ready to plop on the porch or the pier for a couple of days and realize all of the miles we’ve accumulated. At the same time, I’ll smile and know just how good each of those miles was.
Little did I know the other morning, when I set off on my morning walk, that I’d return a wealthier individual.
Usually, I’m content to make my circuit around and through the neighborhoods and come back feeling as though I’d done something good for my heart and body, feeling good and ready to take on the day ahead.
On these walks, I often see all kinds of items lying about on the sidewalks or in the streets: Discarded wrappers, a plastic water bottle, toys that have been left out and forgotten, etc.
Usually, I’ll pick up the wrappers or bottles and carry them back to my recycling container and toss the toy or ball into the yard.
Well, as I said, one recent walk added to my overall wealth and fortune. Yeah, besides the gathering of the usual misplaced items along the way, I noticed a small item that glimmered in the morning sun. It was a dime waiting to be rescued from its lonely and precarious position in the middle of the street.
Eureka! Usually it’s a penny that I’ll spot and on a rare occasion a quarter, but a dime seems quite rare for whatever reason. Finding this one, I immediately wondered how it had ended up in the center of the street. Had it slipped from a pocket? Had someone carelessly dropped it? Did one nonchalantly toss it away, thinking that there wasn’t much worth for one ten-cent piece? How long had it lain there?
Oh, so many questions to ponder as I ambled homeward. (These are the kinds of things that carom around in my mind on walks such as these.) But I didn’t hesitate in bending over and picking it up and putting it in my pocket to be dropped into the money jar that sits on the shelf next to my desk.
I know folks who don’t bother to pick up these found treasures, opting, instead, to walk on by, thinking that it’s not worth the effort, I guess. True, in the large scope of things, a penny or a dime doesn’t amount to very much.
In my view, however, a penny or dime makes me that much wealthier than before I left the house. And there’s nothing like being worth ten cents more than when I began. I guess it’s time to get going on another walk. Maybe I’ll come back even richer!
Last weekend, I made a quick trip out to Ohio where we were “treated” to five inches of snow late Friday night, creating a winter wonderland. Ordinarily, that’s something I enjoy—just not on April 8th!
And although we didn’t have any snow here at home in northern Illinois, it was annoyingly cold to begin this week. However, a gradual warming trend has crept in, and it’s actually beginning to show promise that things might be good for the foreseeable future.
It is even rumored that it might warm up to the high 60s (F) on Saturday. I say “rumored” because I don’t often put much credence in some of the weather folks’ predictions. As always, we shall see.
Because of this weather turnaround the past couple of days, I’ve been able to continue with my “de-winterizing” of things outside: Removing the protective screening from around most of our bushes and hauling all of the deck furniture and tables and plant stands up from the basement yesterday. (Love those stairs!)
I still need to get the hose and reel and patio furniture out from beneath the deck where they’ve hibernated since last fall. Those duties are on my “To Do” list for today, which is an even more delightful day than yesterday was. (I guess I shouldn’t be so quick to judge those weather people!)
Another sign that maybe the winter blahs have fled is how much lighter it is in the morning when I get up—usually between 5:30 and 6:00. Nothing like watching the sunrise while I brew that morning coffee and read whatever it is I’m reading at the moment. (American Gospel by Jon Meacham)
I’ve even resumed my morning walking regimen, striking out the past few days in brilliant sunshine for my twenty minutes of brisk enjoyment of the neighborhoods around here.
This morning as I set out, I was greeted by a very happy and loud cardinal, singing and calling out to one and all from his perch atop our neighbor’s tree that he, too, was glad that things have turned around to the more pleasant side of life.
When I returned feeling wonderful and ready for the day, I took my coffee out to the deck and savored the sights and sounds and smells all about.
The grass I mowed yesterday is even greener this morning!
There’s a robin snooping about and investigating the big evergreen for a nest, I’m sure.
The morning air is still cool, and a fleece jacket or sweatshirt is in order, but there’s just something now that seems to be pointing to the warm days not too far off.
As the morning turns to afternoon, there is no need for the jacket, and I’m even “inspired” to complete those remaining “de-winterizing” jobs out there. I’ll even find time to sit in the sun, on the deck, and listen to that cardinal’s happy song. Can’t wait to hear what he has to say tomorrow morning as well.
Yesterday marked the beginning of that time of year which means that it’s time to break out the “tools of spring/summer” once again, and pick up right where we left off back in the fall: Yard work!
To some, it’s something to be dreaded, or at least not something one eagerly looks forward to. I guess I’m just happy to be outside again, doing “summer-y” things in late March, even if it’s nothing more than getting the mowers ready and tidying up the garage from winter’s debris.
A week ago, I put down the first lawn fertilizer/crabgrass preventer, which actually signaled the beginning of the yard work season. Yesterday, with the grass having grown enough, and the temperatures hovering around 60, I mowed our palatial estate.
Riding along on the bright green John Deere, I basked in the sunshine and realized how great it felt to be doing this all again—this being out in the fresh air and doing good things for the lawn!
I also realized that there is a lot more to be done in the days ahead: All of the chicken wire we put up around the bushes to thwart the bunnies this winter needs to be taken down and rolled up and stored away. There’s lots of edging to do along the driveway and sidewalk. And the trusty weed trimmer will need to come out of mothballs very soon in the days ahead.
But these are all wonderful “problems” to ponder while easily cruising along my course of cutting the grass for the first time this year.
Yep, there is something special about the start of a new season, even if it’s yard work! Anyone else agree with me? Disagree?
It’s another glorious day here in beautiful northern Illinois, and I have to force myself to stay inside and work on this post. I did get my brisk twenty-minute walk in earlier and am ready to put forth the proper effort to post this today. However, I’m going to need a stretch of rainy days soon in order to get the necessary motivation to move along on the writing! Be that as it may, today is a special one.
It is the 10th birthday of our first grandson, Jackson, and we had the opportunity to have him here after school yesterday and to enjoy one of Grandma Carolyn’s famous meatloaf dinners. He and brother Matt did quite a number on the delicious morsel, so today’s lunch offerings for me will be rather slim.
I clearly recall the morning Jack was born ten Septembers ago. I was just getting my first period 6th graders started on a language arts lesson when the office buzzed me to tell me I had an important phone call. Sensing that something very important was about to be imparted to me, the students became unusually silent—waiting for me to convey the news we’d all been eagerly anticipating.
As soon as my son said, “Dad, you’re a grandpa of a little boy, named Jackson Joshua,” I stood up from my chair and my smile and excited expression were all the students needed to know that the waiting was over. They spontaneously burst into shouts and clapping, and didn’t even make fun of me for the tear or two (or more!) that trickled down my cheeks at this important moment in my life.
“Who does he look like?” I asked.
“Winston Churchill,” my good son replied.
I suppose that was a pretty good description, since most newborns tend to be wrinkled and squinty and like cigars!
From that moment on, these ten years have swiftly flown by, and they’re seemingly speeding up all the more. We have enjoyed so many wonderful moments with this kid, and anticipate making more memories as the days, weeks, months, and years continue to grind away at breakneck speed.
Jack arrived at the perfect time, too. That was the fall the White Sox won the World Series, and I was only a short span away from retirement. To this day, I call him my good luck charm, despite recent on-the-field ineptness by our favorite baseball team. As for the retirement part, it’s been all good and getting better every day.
Typing this now, I think of the fun Jack must be having at school right now. He’s all smiles and laughter and making sure everyone around him is having a good time. He’s basking in the glow of being 10 and milking everything he can from this special day. Go ahead, Jack, it’s YOUR day!
Grandson number two, Matthew, will celebrate eight years in January, so we can do it all over again. Grandma Carolyn will probably be “conned” into preparing another meatloaf dinner, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s easy when you truly love these little guys the way we do.
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 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
I was back home in Illinois for the better part of this past week, and the air conditioning nearly spoiled
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?
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.
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