This & That from My Dot on the Map

Last week I was sitting in my reading room by an open window doing some sudoku puzzles, wondering what deep-in-my-brain memory the sounds and feel of the day were eliciting. It was the experience of late summer when the kids were back in school and all was quiet except for some distant sounds, like maybe a rooster crowing and a tractor in a far away field. Maybe the memories are from long ago on the small urban farm where my grandparents lived. It really doesn’t matter where the associations are buried in my brain because they are of late summer and they are so very sweet.

We were having a period of perfect weather (except for some violent storms), more typical of September than the middle of August here at my dot on the map in Michigan. The days were pleasantly warm in the high 70s/low 80s F. with low humidity and a gentle, cool breeze. The nights were cool enough to sleep under a light quilt with windows open to the sounds of the night chirpers. Many times during the day I stopped to breath deeply and slip into the relaxed state of being that I experience at this time of season.

The bees know fall is coming!

I took refuge in this place where past and present weather-triggered experiences are intermingle, especially taking refuge from the horrors that are happening in Afghanistan, the frightening politics of the far right, and the rising threats of the Delta variant, and all the climate-related disasters. I am trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I can experience the joys of life while there is so much evil and suffering in the world. Does my breakthrough guilt make any sense? I wonder if there is a spiritual connection where I can shed some tears to lighten the burden of some mother and daughter who fears Taliban rules, rape and death?

I am having trouble finishing this post because I continue to be consumed with finding a better work-flow for getting my images from my new camera into Lightroom. In the meantime the dog-days of late summer have hit my dot on the map. It has been hot and humid for the past week and now early fall weather is just something to look forward to.

My flower garden has that late summer look where spring bloomers have either been trimmed back or need to be and summer bloomers are going to seed. Whereas spring has the exuberant energy of new growth and greening trees, and summer has the explosion of blooming flowers and lush dark-green trees, early fall has a tired look. My garden has mostly completed its yearly cycle of reproducing itself through seeds with only asters, sedums and mums yet to bloom (and maybe my morning glory). I enjoy this tired look because it reflects what I experience on good day, the tiredness of work well done. I look at my garden and smile because it is doing such a good job and now I will do my fall chores to keep it healthy.

I need to spend some time this fall thinning out buttercups and daisies that have gone beyond their allotted spaces. I also have to dig out where grasses are taking hold in the middle of clumps. Not easy work for me but I will be more relaxed when it is finished. Weeds tend to stress me out. There are some summer bloomers, like cone flowers and bee balm, that are here and there due to silly planting or self-seeding that I want to put together. Once I get into my fall routine in the garden, I find joy in cleaning up and making it all tidy for next spring. I am given encouragement to keep working by day lilies and irises who are sending up new shoots to get some of the remaining light before they go to sleep for the winter.

Even as this year’s garden is finishing up, I am looking toward future years. As soon as I get all this work done, I will take some photos of the bare bones of my garden to study and mark up as I’m thinking of shifting the ratio of my mixed garden. I think I will be going more towards small evergreens and flowering shrubs with my favorite flowers as fillers in between. If I don’t make these changes I don’t think our aging bodies will be able to maintain this home and we will be looking for a condo. That may mean giving up my purple porch swing.

Someone Else’s Hideaway

We spent a few days in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan this past week. One day Jim and I took off to explore some backroads. One of them led to a boat launch to this beautiful sandy-bottom lake. There were no houses on the lake and there was a sign that said catch and release fishing with only lures. There was a couple already there with their kayaks.

We commented on how beautiful the lake is and they said it is their hiding place. I apologized for finding them and their place, and they were gracious. They live in the area so they shared lots of interesting information about the lake, the storm damage from the night before, and what it is like living next to the government national guard training grounds. We also shared stories about getting wet while canoeing and loosing valuables. I sure wish kayaks had been available when we were younger, or maybe I wish I was agile enough to kayak now. My artificial knees make it hard to get my feet far enough under me to get out so I would have to roll over into the water. Not very graceful.

Our friend, Lynn, shared an interesting conversation she had with someone who hadn’t lived in Michigan. She was talking about going to the UP (Upper Peninsula) and the other person said something about the LP. Lynn had to stifle a laugh because she had never heard the Lower Peninsula referred to as the LP. Me neither. We live in the Lower Peninsula and go the the UP for vacations. I wonder if people who live in the Upper Peninsula refer to where we live as the LP.

There is a political/social history to these regions that is probably familiar to all territories. Before the Big Mac bridge was built in 1957 connecting the lower and upper, there was a ferry that made travel slow and expensive. The state capital, Lansing, is in the lower part of the lower peninsula and people in the UP felt very isolated both economically and politically. People especially on the western end of the upper peninsula have felt more connected to Wisconsin then to Michigan. They still do. I’ve been wondering if our references to these two regions reflects the fact that the lower peninsula is economically and politically more powerful or if it is just a pattern of speech that is reversed depending on where we live. Next time we visit the UP I’ll have to talk to some Yoopers to find out.

Notice the sign background is of the Upper Peninsula. Lake Superior to the north, Lake Michigan & Huron to the south, Wisconsin and Minnesota to the west.

Red Flowers on a White Brick Wall

I think this mural was what drew me downtown to try out my new camera. Every time we drive by I marvel at the beautiful work the artist did. The flower above is esthetically pleasing to look at but it is a part of a larger mural painted by David Rice in 2019.

There is so much depth to still life that I fell like I could reach out a pull out one of the flowers – except I would scare one of the butterflies.

I don’t seem to take photos of many things in red except for old barns so I though it a good selection for Jude’s “Life in Colour” challenge for August of “red”.

Portrait: Ma Ma Tu Tu

A street art mural on Cortland St. in Jackson, Michigan. A portrait beautifully done, with a tear escaping from her eye, painted by Claire Foxton.

My inspiration for this post is Becky’s Monday Portrait challenge.

June Close-Ups

Wildflower taken at a local natural preserve.

During the Covid pandemic we found fun, diversion, and emotional healing by spending time in nature where we could be almost normal when all social gathering was dangerous. The past two springs I have spent a lot of time in my garden attacking weeds (a good target for virus-anger), moving plants that weren’t thriving according to my original garden plan, and dividing plants (some of them 10 years old) to increase their flowering and to spread their color in the garden. Now, in the first week of June, my garden is covered in new green growth with small patches of color here and there. Within a month it should be a sea of color – in fact I think I can see the green growth quivering, just waiting for the right moment to send forth its blooms.

Geranium growing in a container.

Yes, I am waiting for June to do its transition from spring to summer. I look daily for signs of flower buds on my perennials and just finished up an application of liquid fertilizer designed for blooming plants – just in case nature (and my soil) needs a little help.

Bearded iris that has a beautiful variegated leaf.

I am having to wait – something my personality doesn’t do gracefully. My waiting is helped a little by the wonders of digital photography and computer science. I decided to go back to the digital files of past Junes to find close-ups and macro shots for the CMMC where Cee is asking us to provide close-ups or macro photos. I had a good number of them because I had bought a close-up lens filter in June of one year so I put in some practice time with it. I haven’t used it lately so maybe that would be a fun project as my garden begins to flower again.

Freshly washed local strawberries anticipated towards the end of June.
Wonderful black cherries grown on the northern sandy shores of Lake Michigan.
Last year three of us ate 60 lbs. (give or take) of Michigan high bush blueberries.

And how can I fail to mention the most important anticipation associated with June – the promise of freshly grown Michigan strawberries, blueberries, and black cherries. We wait all year for this production and June means that we have only one more month of waiting. Depending on weather conditions and where they are grown in Michigan, they may start during the last week of June and into/through July. Strawberries have the shortest season, sometimes only a couple of weeks if it is really hot.

Surface of Lake Michigan on a calm, blue-sky day.

June is also an excellent time to visit the northern Michigan resort areas because their tourist season doesn’t go into full swing until after the Fourth of July holiday. June holds all of the excitement of a new season of warmth while still being a bit cool for swimming in the Great Lakes and our many inland lakes. We will be heading up to the Traverse City area with our camper next week-end for a few days (we save the Upper Peninsula for later because summer is slow in coming that far north). I think I will put the warmer quilt on our bed as the nights are still pretty cold in June but too warm for flannel sheets (I hope). I am looking forward to walking the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan, shopping the charming stores of the small tourist towns, and maybe even visiting a winery on the Mission Peninsula for a sampling and maybe a lunch.