Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Get Lost

My theme for 2009 was Free Fall. And it certainly proved to be true. I've learned more about letting go this year than I could have ever imagined. It was a tangled year, full of twists and turns and steep drops. This year, I've been able to let go more than ever of the things that once gripped me.

My life became cluttered with the sorting of medical paperwork for more than one family member. I've learned more than I care to about the medical mess this country has gotten itself into. And I've learned a little about home insurance in an eleven-month journey to finally enjoying my new front porch, provided by last winter's snows too heavy for the old porch to support. 2009 has been full of the challenges of navigating rules, providing documentation, and finding people who are willing to do what they commit to.

I'm looking forward to the end of my 2009 "Free Fall" as the paperwork flutters behind me. This final letting go will be monumental for me. I can no longer see the importance of things I've been taught must be held with great reverence. An early January bonfire ought to clean up the last of the mess. And that is the Free Fall blessing of 2009.

Now, I'm looking at my 2010 theme and feeling like it's time to "Get Lost!"

I'm ready to be a pioneer, an adventurer, stumbling in to new areas to survey broadly and examine minutely. I want to investigate new waters, explore new wilderness, discover what others may have long ago left behind and, when necessary, make my own crude maps as a way to encourage myself to go deeper.

I will not be a seeker, searcher or one on a quest. I'm not interested in any theme that might carry deep meaning or be a cause in any way. There will be no exploration plan or search for knowledge.

Beating about, kicking around, casting about, putting out feelers, and finding myself up a creek are more my style. All I'm looking for are a few effortless escapades and the simplicity in being lost.

"Explorers have to be ready to die lost." ~Russell Hoban

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Winter Solstice Sun

With the Winter Solstice on December 21st, we in the North Country are immersed in more dark than light. I feel exhilarated when a sunny day comes my way and I don’t have to take all the responsibility for being the bright spot around my home. At the sun’s highest point during each day this time of year, it does not quite rise above my treetops. What I am left with though, is the beauty of sun spilling through the trees, making shining jewels of the snow that filters down through the branches.

I’m looking forward to seeing 2009 blown away on the white winds of change and curious about what 2010 has to offer.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winter Colors

For the rest of this winter, I’ve chosen to be colorful. Today I wear my big red shirt over my yellow sweater. When the dogs and I walk, I’ll throw my old and worn yellow and purple scarf around my neck and pop my matching hat on top. I’m bundled up for whatever winter decides to throw my way, with deep pockets, high collars, goose down and long sleeves. I’m a warm display in an increasingly chilly environment and I’m sticking out like a tropical bird in all this winter white.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


There's a hard frost this morning. As the wind blows through the leaves, I can actually hear them clinking against each other. Soon, when the sun comes up and warms them, many will loose their grip and fall to the ground in a rain of gold and orange and red and brown.


Cold morning. The steam is rising off the creek, creating ghost-like wisps through the cedars.

I wonder about the seemingly substantial, the things in our lives that feel so solid. And then, just like the steam on the creek, the images of something once very real are gone in an instant with something as minor as the shift of the sun one degree. And I am left wondering if I imagined it. I suppose it does not matter if I imagined something as fleeting as the steam rising off the creek or my entire past. The memories are still rich and they sustain me.

At the time, each experience is wonderful, or painful or peaceful or even magical in that one moment when it is present. And then, in the blink of an eye, it becomes a memory, something in the past to hold on to.

Our memories are ultimately all we are, I suppose. Something so simple, so sweet, so painful, or so inviting is really nothing more than a fleeting moment. But in that moment it also becomes a memory we will hold on to forever.

Sometimes I imagine myself being able to craft my future. If I just do this…If I just say that…If I am able to save a certain amount for later…If I invest in this…If I take time each day to plan...

And yet, when I choose to be still, to put all the plans and plots and good intentions on the back burner to simmer, I’m present enough to really experience the things that will create lasting memories. I don’t have to work for them. I don’t have to create rituals to make them happen. They are just there for me. And as my bank of memories grows, my present becomes more luscious. The past and the present become woven. The future? Well, I’ll just wait for it to become the present and I’ll see what memories unfold from that.

"Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories. Stored in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart." ~Thomas Fuller

"Memory is not so brilliant as hope, but it is more beautiful and a thousand times more true." ~George Denison Prentice

Friday, September 04, 2009

In The Eddy

With August, we finally got summer. It was brief. Now, with the onset of September, I'm seeing more of the golden flowers that mark the end of summer. Around my home, there's a burst of Black-eyed Susan and Goldenrod. And today is the day of the Corn Moon, the full moon in September that in older times marked the time to harvest the corn.

As I fall deeper and deeper into the acknowledgment that summer is waning, I seek with eagerness the solace of a September that will embrace me with a sense of home; that is, that deep and unconditional welcome that rarely comes from any other source but going home. Home does not have to be literal in the sense that it is the house, the dwelling, the town in which one lives or grew up. Home can be, and more often is for me, falling into the embrace of nature, especially during this time of year. There seems to be nothing more motherly, more welcoming, more at home, than nature's autumn embrace in the North Country. I'm antsy to see what has occurred locked away in the woods around my home when the summer's heat and biting insects kept me from exploring more deeply.

In The Eddy

I'm in the eddy. I've taken a break. I've swung out of the current, pointed myself upstream behind a boulder or a fallen log, and allowed myself to breathe. I've become quiet so I can hear the world turning and get my directions.

For those of you who don't paddle, an eddy is the downstream side of an obstruction in the river. It's a place in the river, because of that obstruction like a log or a boulder, where the water is moving more slowly and in a different direction, in a circular flow as the water backfills into the pocket created behind the obstruction. Eddies are most useful to paddlers as a place to rest, read the river, and make decisions about the next move up or down the river. Paddling from eddy to eddy, slipping into an eddy for a break, gives you the opportunity to assess your next move. Often, when running rapids, I enter and exit a series of eddies as a way to pause and pick my path. The key is in the timing.

With autumn nipping at my heals, the timing is just right. I'm in an eddy of my life as well as a more seasonal eddy. September and I have swung out of the current, taking a break, assessing our next moves. Breathing.

Come on in, the water is just fine.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cut It Out!

This July, in fact this summer, has presented us with weather I associate with Northern Michigan and Ontario at its best. Daytime temps have been mostly in the upper 60's to upper 70. Evenings and nights bring perfect sleeping temperatures of mid-40's to mid-50's. I've been able to be active instead of sluggish during the day and sleep well each night. BIG, BIG Thanks!
While family obligations keep me closer to home than I would like, I've been able to escape twice this summer on fishing adventures. And to add to the great summer temperatures, this has been a notable fishing year. The catches have been more plentiful and bigger than I've seen in several years. 

Cut It Out!

Even though my life is really very simple, I've been thinking again about simplifying, oh, just a little bit more. Yes, AGAIN! I have no debt. I coach through the 3rd Wednesday of each month and then I play through the 4th and occasional 5th week of each month. I live in the woods, where I'm up early enjoying a cup of coffee in the backyard while listening to the creek and the neighbors, all four-legged except the birds. My exercise routine is on my living room floor and the trails through the woods around my home, not at a gym. I eat simply, enjoying what I harvest as much as possible. If you were to invade my freezer right now, you'd find wild huckleberries, moose, wild raspberries, walleye, northern pike, morel mushrooms, chives, rhubarb, jumbo perch, caribou, lake trout, and venison. When I head out on holiday, I leave phone and computer behind. In fact, I leave electricity behind. In fact, I often leave the car behind, in exchange for boat or canoe.

In my 20’s everything I owned was harvested from the earth or the lakes and streams, uncovered at the Goodwill store, a yard sale, or my Mother's basement. In my 30’s or 40’s, I had the money and the urge to collect my own, brand new stuff. In my early 50’s all that stuff, especially the “brand new” stuff, started to wear out and I had no desire to replace it. Now, as I move in to the last half of my 50’s, it intrigues me that just a short time ago I saw every item and activity I'm about to oust as a necessity.

I've learned that the art of simplifying has two steps.

First, we must pitch those things that no longer serve us. It may be an item in our home, it may be an activity we do for shallow reasons, or it could even be a person in our life who at the worst drains us and at the best takes up our time. I will not tell you this is always easy. I will tell you that you already know what needs to go. Admit it.

Next, we must take what's left, those things that we love and enrich our life, and make them less complex. This is the fun part for me. I enjoy taking something important and meaningful to me, analyze it in order to understand the elements that really energize me, and then cut out all the fluff.

“Your Lifestyle should enhance your life, rather than spending your life enhancing your lifestyle.” ~Coach Thomas Leonard

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Plows and Chocolate

It's May in the North Country and the plows are out. Well, plows that help us prepare to sow seeds for a new crop, that is. Not snow plows, a sight which fortunately is behind us. I think.

And “plowing” is indeed the way those of us in the north tend to take on Spring. We've been idle for so long that we start plowing as a way to satisfy our perception that we are behind and need to get caught up. We plow though yard chores long overdue as we'd forgotten how much we had not finished around the yard before that first snow fell. We plow through stacks of paperwork on our desks that somehow felt okay and almost comforting during the winter months. We plow though things in our closets long forgotten and send them off to Goodwill or the neighbor's yard sale. We plow through our vehicles and are amazed at what we've allowed to accumulate; dirt and road salt, piles of fast food wrappers, and gloves, scarves and other winter necessities hidden under the seats. And we plow through the garage, trying to find the source of that odor we could not smell during the cold winter months. And just where, oh where, did I last leave that rake. I know it's in the garden somewhere.

I call all this Spring Frenzy. If you find yourself in the middle of your own little frenzy, which had gone unnoticed until you started reading this newsletter, take heart. It's curable. Go read THIS and then find a pickup truck, not a plow. It will be okay, I promise.

"It's life isn't it? You plow ahead and make a hit. And you plow on and someone passes you. Then someone passes them. Time levels." ~Katharine Hepburn

Lately my friend Kelly and I have been talking about how ego interferes in our lives. And one big ego problem we all seem to have acquired, sometime around beginning grade school, is the notion of deserving or earning. That is, that we get the good things in life because we have earned or deserve them in some way.

So I asked Kelly to go ask her daughter, Emma, a preschooler, how she gets the things she most desires. As Kelly predicted, Emma is convinced that all she desires will come to her if she just asks, nicely of course.

Kelly and Emma have what they call “Chocolate Moments.” Chocolate moments are for nothing. There is no reason for a chocolate moment. There are no rules. Chocolate moments are just because.

Kelly says Chocolate Moments happen something like this. Chocolate is kept in its usual spot in the house. It is always there and it is always available. Kelly will give Emma “the look” which signals a chocolate moment is about to happen as they raid the chocolate stash. Emma, knows chocolate moments happen just because. Not because she was good, not because she ate all her dinner (in fact chocolate moments can occur before dinner), not because she cleaned her room, not because she was polite, not because she was sick and needed comforting, and not because she said “please.” Chocolate moments just happen.

Insert whatever works for you...”___________ Moments.” Whatever your chosen moment, drop everything and take advantage. Often! Like Emma, you deserve your own moments not because you were good or you in some way earned them. You deserve them just because...well...you just do.

"Life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get." ~Forrest Gump

May Michigan Morels--Keeping 'em for Winter

It’s morel season here in Northern Michigan. I’ll be picking for another week. Then I’m headed north to one of my favorite fishing spots, where if I’m lucky, the morels will just be emerging.

As I prepare another batch of morels today, I thought I might share my method for eating morels in the middle of the winter. I used to dry them. Then, on a cold winter day, I would re-hydrate my morels enough for scrambled eggs or throw them dried, right into a soup or a sauce for pasta. A pesto sauce with morels is heaven! But always, in the middle of winter, I missed the delight of eating fresh morels.

Here’s what I do now to get as close as I can to eating fresh morels all year. After I’ve picked a fresh batch in May, I always, rinse the morels in cold water and cut them in half lengthwise, in order to rinse out any dirt or bugs inside the morel. Next I lay them on a paper towel to let all the excess water drain. As the drying continues, I change the paper towel often. I continue this process until the morels are still fresh, but beginning to lose their moisture.

Of course, I keep a few for my next meal. As far as I’m concerned, one should be eating morels every day during the season. But a few I want to preserve for the long winter months. These, I dump in a paper bag with white flour and just a little salt. I shake the bag lightly to cover the morels and then I remove them and shake any loose flour from each morel. You want the morel totally covered with flour, lightly, but not caked. If your morels are heavily caked with flour, you didn’t remove enough moisture first.

Next, I set each morel on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer. I take care to make sure they are not clumped together but spread out. The morels need to be individually frozen. I usually let them freeze overnight, enough to make sure they are well frozen.

When I remove my morels from the freezer, I quickly put them in a freezer bag and get them back in the freezer. Lately, I’ve been using freezer bags that have a suction cap which allows me to remove excess air. I can't remove too much air. Morels are delicate and I can crush them if I'm over zealous.

Here’s why this method works so well for me and what you need to do when you cook your morels. Freezing floured morels individually on the baking sheet allows me to easily break them apart and cook as many or as little as I like. I simply remove the amount of morels I want to cook and immediately return the others to the freezer. But before I take them out of the freezer, I get my pan hot with melted butter. Then, I place each morel, cut side down, in the frying pan. I don't mess with them! They are thawing as they cook. Once one side is thoroughly cooked, I turn them over, individually again, and cook the other side. When my morels are thoroughly cooked, I then stir them in the pan the way I normally do when cooking fresh morels.

Follow this method, and you’ll be amazed at how fresh your morels taste and feel. And I'm all ears. Share your morel cooking techniques right here please.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Snow Fleas

I'm still enjoying the snow fleas. I expect I've got at least a couple more weeks before all the snow melts and I can no longer see those little critters. I've learned that they are always there. They are just more noticeable on the snow white background.


50 degree temperatures feel oh so much different in March than they did in September. It's the same temperature, just a different month, a different angle, and therefore a different perspective.

That's just my experience here in the north. Do those of you who live in more temperate climates tire of hearing those of us in the north go on and on about our weather? We can't help it. It's such a big part of our lives.

Right now, with the sun shining like I have not seen it shine in over four months, I'm more alive. The affect feels razor sharp after dreary dark and overcast snowy days for months. Oh, we have had some sun on occasion. It's just that now, with spring, our sunshine comes with colors. Don't ask me to explain in any kind of a scientific way. I'm sure there is one. But it's not until late February or early March that I see those colors in each day's light. Sunshine in December and January can, on occasion, be bright, but it's never colorful.

But now, oh my! There's still plenty of snow but just look at the colors in the light! Perspective is greatly affected by the angle in which we view our world. With each new angle, there is a new perspective. During the equinoxes, both spring and fall, when this globe we ride is in balance, I'm usually thrown off kilter because I must move from a perspective I've made routine for several months into one that I always know is coming but still surprises me.

There's nothing to do really but hang on for the ride. I'll soon be into a new six-month routine. And then, just when I think I've got it down, fall will sneak up behind me I'll be seeing things differently all over again.

“In order to keep a true perspective of one's importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him.”

“Bunny slippers remind me of who I am. You can't get a swelled head if you wear bunny slippers. You can't lose your sense of perspective and start acting like a star or a rich lady if you keep on wearing bunny slippers. Besides, bunny slippers give me confidence because they're so jaunty. They make a statement; they say, 'Nothing the world does to me can ever get me so far down that I can't be silly and frivolous.' If I died and found myself in Hell, I could endure the place if I had bunny slippers.” ~Dean Koontz

Speaking of bunnies, ...

Saturday, February 07, 2009


The gifts of February in Northern Michigan come in tiny, tiny packages: a momentary sight of a deer before she heads back down to the creek where the snow is less deep and the temperatures are just a little warmer; a few snow fleas, just a few, to remind me that there is, indeed, life within all this stillness; a few more seconds of light each day; a glimpse of the sun over the tree tops at the southern end of my property before it dips again below the tree line; a few minutes more each week when the sky is cloudless. The world around my home is locked up, frozen. So each tiny change feels monumental. 

Once spring and summer arrive, my senses will be overloaded. I’ll take in more and therefore probably notice less. So now, I relish noticing the little things. In February, it feels luxurious to take in the tidbits, the morsels, doled out in my frozen world. I enjoy being reminded that the small things in life are as important as the bigger events.

So here are just a few tidbits from my February appreciation list:
• Fluffy warm socks, size BIG.
• A movie at a friend's house, in PJ's of course.
• The wonder of coming upon another’s snowshoe tracks deep in ‘my’ woods.
• Skipping around the house to my favorite songs.
• Wood fires.
• A good Manhattan, up!
• Sighting a downy, hairy, red-headed, red-bellied and pileated woodpecker in one day.
• The smell of sunflower seeds and cracked corn as I scoop the critter food into my bucket.
• My pair of old dogs.
• Northern Pike and Walleye from the freezer.
• Venison from the freezer.
• Moose from the freezer.
• Morel mushrooms from the freezer.
• Huckleberries from the freezer.
• Novels so rich they take the whole month to read.
• Ordering my annual supply of fishing lures from Lucky Strike Bait Works.
• Organizing the tackle box.
• Down in all forms (mittens, vests, coats and douvets).
• And…Lots of berry pies!

Happy Valentine's Day, All! Here's to letting the tidbits fill you up!

“When you die, if you get a choice between going to regular heaven or pie heaven, choose pie heaven. It might be a trick, but if it's not, mmmmmmmm, boy.” ~ Jack Handy