A June Journey Down Dirt Roads


It is officially summer in Michigan – because it is after Memorial Day. By the tourist calendar summer is June, July and August but my sensory calendar feels a bit off kilter, maybe more in line with the lunar calendar. I feel like I am in a sort of time warp where we are past the flush of spring blooms but not quite into the full summer blooming course.

This week we decided to once again go down dirt roads, finding some to the west that we haven’t traversed before – excited to find new territory. There weren’t many wildflowers and the landscape was very green, lots of green. It got me thinking about the landscape when we returned to Michigan just two months ago. In mid April we still had barren trees within a monochromatic brown landscape. The major transformations that takes place between winter and summer, and summer and winter still feels miraculous to me after witnessing it many, many times. Unlike me, this story of nature never grows old.


There is a sense of peace that comes from looking over a green landscape that just a month ago was being worked with tractor and plow and is now growing, in various shades of green under a clear blue sky (with a few clouds stretching along the horizon with the sole purpose of providing interest for my landscape photos.)


It is time for the first mowing of the hay fields, and they seem to provide a sneak preview of the harvesting that will take place within the next few months. Julie and I each bought a quart of fresh-picked strawberries at an Amish grocery that we frequently visit. Michigan strawberries are so flavorful but the season is so short. This is the last week so we are picking up a few quarts so I can make freezer jam for us and some to share with daughter-in-law Natalia. She shares so much food with us, so it is fun giving something back to her. I still feel a sense of joy when I preserve food fresh from the fields for our enjoyment throughout the year. I have done some adjusting, however, in the foods I preserve and the ways I do it now that there are just two of us eating and I have less energy.


I really miss the old barns when we are in Florida so I’ve been yearning to find some barns that have some architectural or historic beauty. We have been down our local dirt roads so many times that we talk about when we stopped to photograph this or that barn, but don’t stop again. This week I found a new one. I love the curved roof-line of the front extension on this barn and the doors are a beautiful color. Does this farmer have a few artistic genes? Did he pick the color from the Better Homes and Gardens modern barn colors at the local hardware store?

I have been enjoying the fields where the corn is just sprouting, a pleasure that will quickly come to an end because many of the fields have corn that is close to a foot high. There is a special moving pattern formed by these fields when passed in a fast-moving car. Because of our gently rolling hills the plows create gently-curving patterns. It feels very artistic to me, but I image it has more of a scientific or practical bent for the farmer.


It was a very good morning that soothed my soul, allowed me to spend time in conversation with a very special friend, and stimulated my thinking about the beauty I enjoy as I ride dirt roads in the middle of June in lower Michigan. Life is happening at a gentle pace here – and I like it like that.


Wild in the Woods


My cousin, Sue, called me late last week telling me that the wild phlox were beautiful in their woodlot. She said mornings are the best time to see them but I have been engaged with other fun activities in the mornings that weren’t overcast so I didn’t get there until yesterday.20160530-DSC_0052

But I didn’t get there in the morning. I decided to take my chances in the evening as the sun was setting low enough to shine through the trees. I also took my tripod because I must be losing arm strength to hold my camera steady – especially in low light settings.

The light was great, and was changing so when I looked at an area I had already explored through my lens, I found new lights. Sue was right, it was magical. It was like a fairy land of lacy color.


I spent a long time and really enjoyed editing the images I got – but I think I might go back tomorrow morning to see if the different color and slant of morning light will make for some more fun shots.


The Daily Prompt today is Against All Odds for writers and Longshot for photographers. The idea is for us to write “about a situation where you’d hoped against all hope, where the odds were completely stacked against you, yet you triumphed.” My initial thought was to just do this photograph as a ‘longshot’ because the ‘against all odds’ didn’t resonate with me. I had times that were tough, when I thought the odds were stacked against me, but getting through them didn’t feel like a triumph. It was what I had to do. Period. Tough times are the balance to the easy times, no trophies expected.

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I am at the age of almost-70 and my developmental task is to look back 0n my life and come to terms with how it turned out. The easy times are a slam dunk; no need to come to terms with those years. What is left are those blocks of time when everything fell apart, when fate struck me down, when life wasn’t as I wanted it.  We all have them, times when we feel wounded, stuck, angry, afraid.

How many times have I said “I don’t need this!” I didn’t want those tough times, my life would have been better without them. I didn’t want to go down that road, tread that path. They were unwanted twists and turns in the plot of my life story. During the really bad times my fear was lodged in the pit of my stomach. There was that hollow feeling that life was over, life would never get better.

Of course, when I went through those tough times I was in the middle of my unfolding life story, not at the end – not yet. I was in the long, ongoing process of writing my life script, of becoming who I am. (Does our life story develop us or do we develop our life story?) Where I was and what was happening to me wasn’t congruent with what I felt I needed or how I thought about myself.

In those early adult years I took control of my life and knew what was expected of me. I came of age before the sexual revolution, before women demanded choices. I didn’t have many choices but I was in control – is that a non sequitur? As I look back, does it matter if I wanted to marry and have kids or did it because it was the expected thing to do?

I want to believe my daughters benefited from all those burned bras. One chose to have a career without marriage, the other married, had kids, and put her career on hold. I wonder if they will look back and wonder if they made the right decisions. Both had times of suffering and frustration along the way, both had times of joy and satisfaction. Will they have regrets, will they look back with a sense of integrity?

There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.     Kazuo Ishiguro

How different my perspective is at almost-70 than at earlier times. In earlier times that hollow feeling of fear in my stomach, the fear that my life would never get back on track, was understandable. I had no way of knowing what the future would hold.

Our view of the future is finite; sometimes we can see over the next hill, sometimes not, and sometimes not very clearly. Sometimes we distort our vision. We make our life decisions blindly – decisions to act or not, to stand steady or bend. My decisions were somewhere in the shadows between dreams outside my awareness and family needs grounded in reality.

As my life story unfolded I pushed hard to arrive, whatever that means. I was impatient for whatever it was that I was after. I was always mindful of what I wanted to be and do when I grew up, whenever that is. Sometimes I couldn’t go down a path, and sometimes the only path available was one that wasn’t in the plan. You know, that shadowy plan that would lead to that place called arrived.  I enjoyed some sojourns at arrived but they seemed short, probably because sojourns in the mud-holes of life seemed so long.

Now that I am almost-70 and looking back over the landscape of my life, I see that all was necessary. Somewhere in the landscape of the last half of my life, these paths have woven together into a beautiful pattern. I can see that no path was for naught, each was needed for my life to have integrity in the end.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be. Douglas Adams

I have been writing like I have arrived, at the end. This almost-70 age is fast becoming 70. It occupies a lot of my thinking, not in a dreaded way, but in a way that means it is significant. Once again I am wondering what the future holds but I can’t see clearly. Once again I am wondering what I need to do to arrive, now that I see death on the horizon of my life story. I am worried about the inevitables of aging – losing my husband, leaving my husband, children getting really sick, cancer. My goal has been to grow old gracefully but now that I’m here I don’t know what graceful looks like. What I do know is that I have a wonderful Lord to lead me, and I come from a long line of very strong women.

That is probably enough for me to make it to my final arrival, but if anyone out there knows how to be 70-something gracefully, I would like to hear from you.

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Mt. Rainier

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I was so moved by the beauty of Mt. Rainier when we visited that I posted a few photos immediately; if you missed them you can check it out here. Mt. Rainier put on a beautiful show for us so it is easy to forget the beauty of the surrounding mountains and valleys. We decided to drive the loop to Paradise because we were told there is a very nice restaurant at the lodge. We had prepared simple on-the-road meals each night and we had an occasional meal out. I was ready for a really nice dinner. We weren’t disappointed with the wonderful food on the Sunday Brunch buffet at the Paradise Inn.

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The drive up to Paradise is very beautiful with glimpses of Mt. Rainier, but as with so many things in life, the star of the show is made more beautiful by the support of everything around it. It is time to give credit to the supporting actors of mountains a valleys in Mt. Rainier National Park.