To Alex -

To Alex...who is far away in person, but never far from my heart. I miss you. Enjoy these snippets of everyday family life here in the states.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

On being prepared.

You know those lists we keep of all the things we want to do when we grow up? The list that has even the far-fetched ideas because you just never know when one of them might come to fruition? No? Hmmm, well I'm one of those people who keep such lists....had 'em for years, and one of the items on that list has been to help women learn that they are much stronger and more resourceful than they think they are. It was a vague notion, nothing defined because I wasn't sure what that was going to mean. I knew from my own life experiences that I was stronger than I acted, that I was far more capable than I allowed myself to be, but I suppose that happens when you dig a big enough hole for yourself that you eventually need to figure out how to get out of it. You also need to figure out how the hell you got yourself into the hole in the first place...if you don't want to go there again. Anyway, I found over the years of trying to get out and stay out of that hole that I needed to be in charge of what happened in my life. You may be thinking, "well, duh," but my upbringing didn't encourage that sort of thinking. It encouraged a wringing of hands in despair and was fraught with 'big people' crushing your spirit when you failed. The problem with that upbringing is it left me incredibly fearful and it took me years to figure out 1. why was I so afraid and 2. what to do about it? I found simple answers to both - Knowledge. They say knowledge is sure feels powerful against fear in my life. 

That's a long, drawn-out explanation for why I learned to be self-sufficient in the woods. It's my favorite place to be and I didn't want to be afraid out there, but it also leads to me saying that I'm leading a group of women on a short backpacking trip in a couple weeks, and some of these women may have never backpacked, and some might be a little nervous. We'll be on a trail I've hiked before, but our starting point is from an area that is new to me. If I'm going to lead (and make everyone feel comfortable), and start from where I've never been, I should probably go find the trailhead. (There's that knowledge thing.) My guts despise not being prepared. I get this knotty, twisted feeling and I don't like that feeling, so I avoid it whenever possible. I avoid it by being prepared, by planning and knowing what's coming.
Yesterday was gorgeous weather for a little exploratory trek. I happened to have a couple extra companions who will always head to the woods with me, and we had a whole day with no plans. Ha, we packed some snacks, included a lunch to cook over a fire, my daypack with items we may need (prepared)and we set off to find ourselves a trailhead. Honestly, it's not that it was hard to find, I just needed to know where it was, and finding it was an excuse to spend a stunning fall day in the woods. That we did!
See? That's the trailhead we needed to find.

My companions for the day.

They learned how to build a fire right the first you don't need to keep lighting it. They were impressed and then I told them I was the fire goddess...'cause I am, but I think they rolled their eyes at me and both may have said, in unison, "yeah, right..."
There might have been a bit of shock when we stopped at the store for hotdogs on the way out of town. It's not something I normally cook for them, but it's a treat and hotdogs were created to be cooked over campfires. Weren't they?

Temps in the 40s, partly cloudy, a river, a bridge, leaf covered trails, a campfire, a couple waterfalls, sticks, critters, what's not to love? And now I know where the trailhead is. I'm prepared.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Into the mist...

I went willingly, of my own volition, I thought there might be something there for me. I suspected there was. Still, I went with an open mind and tried not to have expectations, just a willingness to hear and feel and learn. I arrived early to help lay the fire. It was solemn work, purposeful work, serious, but not formal. I wanted to learn and I asked questions. I asked if it was okay to ask. I received timeless answers. She explained the why to me...I understood. Other women arrived. Four to light the fire. As it blazed forth we gathered round to fellowship and wait...and prepare. More women. Soon it would be time and we began to ready the lodge, working together to cover it thickly so all light would be obscured once we entered. There would be complete darkness inside though it was only late afternoon and the sun would not set for 3 more hours. Mats were laid, a contemplative quiet began to settle over the women. They began to reach for the quiet...deep breaths, a stillness about them, I watched, then I too began to reach for the quiet. It's time....objects are laid on the alter, all metal, all jewelry, someone's glasses, my hair clip was mentioned. That too? I removed it from my hair and laid it on the alter. She entered and took her place, the pourer. I was next. Stepping up to the doorway, I took a deep breath, exhaled and paused...hesitated, I felt confused, almost afraid. I know this feeling, this hesitation....I shook my head and knelt to enter, extoling all my relations as I passed through the doorway. I was in and I took my place next to her, the pourer, my guide for this first time. I sat cross-legged as others entered one-by-one, sitting cross-legged themselves, forming a circle of women separated by mere inches from my knees to hers, from hers to the next. The fire tender carefully removed heated rocks from the fire we had built and placed them inside the lodge with us, in a pit in the middle of where we now sat, then took her place with us and the door was pulled closed. Complete darkness except for the glowing red of the rocks, but also a sudden intense heat. I felt myself choking on the heat, the smoke, I closed my eyes and involuntarily held my breath. I felt afraid, afraid of the heat and feeling I wouldn't be able to do this. I squirmed and turned my head away, trying to calm myself. I took a shallow breath, then another, then a deep breath and I inhaled the scent of, cedar? I don't recall which herb was placed on the rocks, it may have been sage, but it smelled wonderful, earthy, necessary. I breathed deeply and felt myself settling in. The rocks in front of me glowed and shimmered as heat continued to fill this space, but now it felt right. As water was poured over the rocks the space immediately filled with steam - warm, cleansing steam that filled my lungs and as we fear evaporated into the mist and I joined with these women in a ceremony nearly as old as time.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Oh, my heavenly BS!!!

No, not that BS....Brussel Sprouts! Let me first say that Brussel Sprouts have been my favorite vegetable since I was a's true. But I've always said the best way to eat them was simply butter, no nothing, just steamed and eaten naked (the sprouts, not me). Then, as often happens when you're looking for the one thing on the web, I happened across this website, Cookie and Kate, clicked on the tab for recipes, and while scrolling the list, I saw the recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries with Barley. "Really," thought I, "interesting combination...," and having just returned from the farmer's market with said sprouts, they begged me to make them in this way. Begged me! 

"Alas, my pretties, you'll have to sit tight 'til the morn because I have things I must do."

Forgive the quality of picture - it was still dark out.

Oh yes, I made them for breakfast, because I'm single, I'm a woman and I can. Ha! Now, for the 'oh, my heavenly BS', I nearly swooned when I took the first bite. The combination of sprouts, cranberries, oh, everything....all of these flavors combined are incredible. It's like a party in your mouth. It's like little bursts of flavor all over your tongue. It's like you should make some right now so you can share in the joy.

By the way, I toasted walnuts instead of pecans because that's what I had in the house. Delicious!

I'm going back for seconds now.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Spin Off

I made a concerted effort to 'spin off' this year. I was struggling and came to the realization that my heart and eyes weren't seeing the same thing in the same manner, so I spun myself off the wheel and I took a heart-break. It was difficult and felt mean, but my heart kept telling me I was doing the right thing. I needed time to make myself strong, I needed time to understand what I was feeling, I needed to know if it was me...or not. As is often the case, it was both and I was compelled to remove another set of blinders. I feel stronger now, perhaps strong enough to allow myself to be drawn back onto the wheel, but this time I think I'll ride a little further out on the spokes.

I rather like the view from here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

I'm here...

I'm just trying to figure something out that has me a bit puzzled. I feel like I'm on the cusp of it, but I can't seem to see it clearly. Working on it.
Just thought I would let you know.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I first experienced Lake Superior with my mother while my sons were still young. In fact, I think F.Y.S. was barely two the first time I went. It was love at first sight and that feeling has never changed. Always, always, when we went to the U.P. we picked rocks and after a while we came up with nicknames for the rocks that weren't what we were looking for. One name was in, leave 'er right there. We still use that one alot and now the grandkids have learned to recognize a Leaverite when they see it. Just because I have sons who read this blog, I wanted to post some of the rocks I found. Many of them are Leaverites, but several are agates that were left for someone else to find. Ha, I did not find any 'love' stones on this trip.
No kidding, this is how previous visitors have set up the fire rings. It's the coolest thing to sit near the fire in a comfy, albeit, very hard, recliner. Thank you, to whomever has done this.
 Um, this one came home with me.
 This little guy came home with me too. He has a face and he asked me to bring him home. He did!
Hmmm, this one came home too because it looks like Taiwan Son wrote on it and left it for me to find. I would like a translation of what he wrote though. Yes? I did not find any with sanscrit written on them.
 Leaverite, but I'm not sure why I left this one behind.
 Oh, definitely a Leaverite. You can't tell, but this one is verrrrry large.
 This is the lava flow I was talking about. That's what it is, right?
 This too?
The foot is for comparison. I did not rearrange those rocks. The storm waves toss them up there and they roll into place.
So, you know you're a dedicated rock picker when you purposely put rocks in your backpack to carry around for 30 miles.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

I went to the woods...

I went to the woods because I had to. I had to see if I had sisu or if I was all talk. Turns out I'm not all talk. It also turns out I'm far more than I've allowed myself to believe.
I told you it's been a rough year for me, that I was tired of getting my ass kicked, that it was time for life to be gentle with me. It was also time to clear my head of all the chatter and doubts that have taken up residency, so I went to the woods, to the mountains, actually. Where better to hear what I have to say to myself?
I went to the mountains to be alone. I went there for five days and I walked 35 miles with only myself for company, whether that be good or bad. It turned out to be very good. I'm not sure how to describe my trip. I would like to use adjectives like beautiful, wonderful, awesome, astounding, and all of those would be true, but they would also minimize what happened to me in the woods. I went with only what I could carry in my backpack, and I walked...and walked....and walked. And after awhile, I began to hear myself.
My first day out I had an agenda and I was rushing to get to my destination. I was so, so tired and in a careless moment I fell, hard. It hurt and while I considered crying as I sat there in the dirt, I thought that might be silly so I got back up and continued on, slower this time. With unrecognized wisdom I decided to stop short of my destination and set up camp. I had 5 days, there was truly no rush. I settled into a beautiful campsite next to an icy cold stream in which I scrubbed the dirt and bits of blood from my legs and knees. I slept soundly that night and silence, other than the wind in the trees, was my only companion.
I slept late and didn't get on the trail until mid morning. It didn't matter, I had already resigned myself to walking slower, to enjoying the sites around me. Turns out that was difficult to do without stopping because the trails were steep, and hilly, and rocky, and there were roots and logs to be avoided. I broke for lunch on a beautiful escarpment overlooking the Shining Cloud Falls. One of many waterfalls I would see on this trip. I saw very few people and most of those I did see never knew I was there.
 At one point I had to cross a river by jumping from rock to rock and as nature would have it, the rocks were slippery and of course I fell in the river. At first I was pissed, then I took a moment to breathe and I laughed. Really? I just fell in the river? Fine, Miss Nature, have it your way. I'll slow down more.
 I made Lake Superior by mid-afternoon and I knew I would go no further for the day. Lake Superior is my home, or at least it always feels that way. I nearly cried with joy when I saw her...truth. My beautiful, beautiful lake. My home. 

I played in the water all afternoon. I looked for agates, waded in the waves and climbed on the rocks. I sat staring out across the water, and I walked up and down the beach. I rested. I just was.
 After dinner I wandered down the beach looking for a good spot to enjoy the sunset. I found it atop what's left of the giant lava flows. Over the millenium the flows have been worn smooth by glaciers and the water, but you can still see where the flows had cooled. At least, that's what I think I was sitting on. I had two hours before sunset and mostly I just sat and stared at the waves washing over the rocks, back and forth, back and forth. I wondered if I would ever get bored with my lake if I lived on it. I didn't think so. I was pretty sure not.
This was the view from just outside my tent.
Day three. I needed to make up miles and I didn't know how far I could go. I said, "let's just put one foot in front of the other and we'll just see." Turns out it was 12 miles. A long day of hiking for sure, but I had gotten an early start and the trail, while difficult, was not as difficult as the past two days. But let's face it, 12 miles up and down a mountain are still 12 was still hard. This is the day that I can't explain what happened to me, when my mind began to connect dots, when things started to really sort themselves out. This is the day I had to dig deep to push through exhaustion, and yet it's the day that I felt like I had the biggest emotional breakthrough. Why is that? Why does that happen when we're under the most pressure? This is the day I had my aha moment. This is the day I cried.
 I spent the late afternoon and evening at Mirror Lake. I swam, took pictures of birds and bugs, sat on a log by the lake eating my dinner and gave my mind the freedom to wander. Apparently my mind likes to wander.
Just at dusk I heard them. I heard the Loons down on the water and I smiled. I don't believe there is a more peaceful sound for me than the Loons calling in the night.
 I know he's not a Loon, but he was entertaining and we had a lovely one-sided conversation.

Day four found my mind much quieter, more peaceful. I felt more at peace. I wonder if that's why I found the scenery so much more beautiful or if it really was different than the past few days? I was noticing that sometimes the breeze coming through the woods smelled like snow. It didn't feel like it, but there was a clean, crisp smell of snow in the air. How strange to think that when it's 80 degrees. I didn't fall down today.
I began day 5 slowly. I was tired, but I didn't really want my trip to be over. I needed to climb the escarpment today and it was going to be a tough, tough climb. With two miles to go before I was finished, standing on the escarpment looking out over the valley with Lake of the Clouds below me, I had a moment when I stretched out my arms and said, "I did it," and then I burst into tears. My gosh, 35 miles and I did it. My head was clear, the chatter and doubts were gone, and I had experienced a huge emotional breakthrough. I did it. Sisu indeed...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Conquering fear.

Bet you can't tell but I spent the first 40 years of my life making decisions based on fear. Then, one day, in 2001, I made a different decision that would completely change my life. Oh, did it ever, but it also started me down a path that required me to face up to those fears because there was no longer anyone around to act as a buffer between me and my fears. I mean, I had to stare them down with a stamp of my foot sometimes, but I refused to give into the fear.

Yep, here I go again, asking myself, what would I do if I weren't afraid?

Well, I'm about to face down another fear...and I'm excited about it. I hope to tell you about it next week. I'm sure I'll prevail, and I'm sure I'll have a lovely time doing so. I just know it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

How mature.

Sir S and I had a lot of time to talk while we were backpacking. We talked about all sorts of things, some silly, some serious, lots and lots (and lots and lots) of questions and some good discussions about what we wanted to do that made us the happiest. He said camping and kayaking and hiking made him happiest. I said they made me happiest as well. The conversation turned to our trip to Blue Elephant Island, the fun we had and the promise I had made that we would go back. The problem is you need kayaks or canoes to get there and I only have one. As we walked along the trail we talked about how we might resolve this dilemma. I could buy another (not likely), I could borrow one (it would probably be too big for him), "or," he said, "I could save my money to buy one for myself." That literally stopped me in my tracks and I had to turn around to see if he was serious. He was.
"You could," I said, "but it would take a lot of money..."
"How much is a lot?" he asked.
"Well, if we're patient and keep checking Craig's List, we may be able to get you one for a couple hundred dollars."
"2 hundred dollars."
"Yes, I think we could get one for $200."
"I would need a pouch like you made for M to save my money. I need a safe place to keep it," he said. 
He is now $65 closer to having his own kayak. He wasn't kidding about saving up for it. He even told his mother he didn't want birthday presents this year, he wanted money for his kayak. I think she was surprised by how serious he's taking this. I shouldn't be surprised at all. He's so like that.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ludington State Park

Well, the places you find when you join with a group of fellow hikers. I've been to Ludington, several times, in fact, but I've never been to the state park and I've never hiked the trails. Until today, that is. Our trek began on the beach, I was walking in the water, and we walked a couple miles North to the lighthouse. The water felt delicious on my legs and by the end of the hike I was wishing I were back in the water. Whew, it got warm out there, plus, half the trails we hiked today were loose sand. Tough going, but nice trails and very well marked.
I really like how bright, and colorful, and festive this guy looks. Sometimes the beaches are full of kites. Today I only saw two.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse. Normally I would have climbed to the top, but I knew we were going to be covering some serious miles today and I wanted to save my energy for the hike. Guess I'll have to go back and hike the beach again so I can climb the lighthouse. Darn!
We turned inland and followed the Lighthouse Trail through the dunes for a couple more miles before picking up the logging trail. This wasn't too bad though because the trail was a bit more hard packed, mostly. We stopped for a brief lunch, I love the food part of hiking, then followed a quick spur to pick up the Ridge Trail. Now this trail was quite difficult actually. It climbed steadily, which wouldn't have been a problem, but was once again loose, sandy soil. You know, two steps up, one step slide back. Yowza! Still, there were some pretty views from on high, especially the section where you could see Lake Michigan to the West and Hamlin Lake to the East. I was so grateful when we finally began our descent and ended up on the Island Trail.
We spied these deer towards the end of our trek along the Island Trail.
I dunno, I saw this lying in the grass next to the boardwalk and thought he looked 'lost'.
To be honest, I liked these trails, but I'm sort of into photography, and as much as I like hiking with the group, I think 11 miles in the dunes and sandy hills is a bit far if I really want to spend time taking pictures. Shoot, going that far doesn't really give you much opportunity to enjoy the views along the trail either. I felt like I had to push myself on this hike and I ended up putting the camera away because it's just too cumbersome when I'm hiking hard and I'm tired. I could go back and hike some of the easier trails again, but I probably won't. Now that I've hiked here I would prefer to find new trails that I haven't been on, explore new areas. I just don't think this was spectacular enough to warrant a 2 hour drive to hike over again. Still, it got me out of the house and into the woods so that made it a wonderful day!

But then, we stopped at House of Flavors on the way home and I treated myself to a waffle cone with Raspberry Rendezvous ice cream. Oh my goodness!