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Thursday, August 31, 2023

Again, September

Once, we were there....
 

Not at all like a thief in the night but perceptibly, on Monday evening, August 21st, a good week and a half before the calendar announced ‘September’ to us, the season turned the corner. Already there had been blackberries fermenting on the stem, wafting their sickly, drunken perfume abroad, and goldenrod putting forth its brilliant pyrotechnical displays, but that Monday evening, as friends and I were finishing up the pizza they’d brought for dinner, which we’d been enjoying outdoors in the shade of black walnut and basswood trees, all at once the temperature dropped and we agreed to have dessert on the porch. The calendar didn't say so yet, but September had come. 


U.P. "home away from home" in the old days


Bessie and Heidi


Superior Hotel, Grand Marais


September used to be the time the Artist and I would take a break after our summer in the public eye – my bookstore, his gallery -- and drive up to the U.P. for a few days on Lake Superior or, the last couple of years, over to Lake Huron, where his grandfather had farmed long ago. All traces of the old farm are gone, but we hunted out his grandparents’ graves in a little country cemetery and one time ran into one of his shirttail cousins having breakfast at a lakeside diner...






... and we ventured down to the tiny crossroads of Glennie and little Vaughn Lake, where his parents had rented a cottage for a few years and for a while owned a lot that David fondly imagined, as he, a boy, cleared away popple trees with his little axe, would be his someday. When a neighbor on the lake became more than a little nutty, however, his father sold the lot. 


“Tell me a story about when you were a little boy in Detroit,” I would say when nighttime found us both sleepless. “Or the time you buried the chartreuse bop cap [his most regretted fashion faux pas] at Vaughn Lake.” Sometimes he would protest, “Oh, you know all my stories,” but I could prime the pump and weasel him into a storytelling mood every time. He was, as all friends and family will attest, a wonderful storyteller. I only wish I had recorded some of those sessions, because he was never interested in writing them down. He sometimes made brief notes for stories but never went further. Maybe, though, record his storytelling would have put a crimp in his style, and I need to be content with the memory of our intimacy and not yearn for wordy details….




I’ve been reading a very dreamy book, Pamela Petro’s The Long Field: Wales and the Presence of Absence, a Memoir. I live daily with "presence of absence” since the Artist died, but the idea she describes of having more than one sense of “home” is familiar, too, and has been since David and I went out West and I encountered and fell unexpectedly in love with mountains. Oh, and then there was Paris – and the Auvergne! I recommend the Petro book to all dreamers, but for now I ask you at least to follow this link for an introduction to the Welsh concepts of hiraeth and hwyl.

 

I did not grow up in the place where I was born, and the place where I grew up is one I longed to leave all through my childhood and youth. I love France, and I truly love Cochise County, Arizona. But Midwest, mountainless, English-speaking, Great Lakes-surrounded Michigan is my home, mon chez moi, and I cannot imagine giving it up. My own life stories are here.


Here, where every mile holds memories

 

A third echo my own life finds in The Long Field is the author’s love of stones, of rock. She writes not only of mountains but also of megaliths, rocks made to stand upright by ancient humans for reasons lost to time. The mystery of them.

 

We know we can’t live forever, but stones can, almost. Right up to the threshold of immortality. So we prop them up and carve them. We make cairns and temples and snuff bottles. Sometimes we shape them to look like us. 

 

I wonder if she has ever read David Leveson (whose name I see I spelled wrong in this old blog post). Stones, rocks, mountains – their “innocence” (as Leveson sees them) and their vast age (Petro’s focus) as compared to our own brief lives combine to make them endlessly fascinating – to those of us fascinated by them, I suppose. Perhaps others are left unmoved. Probably. Chacun à son gout, said the old lady as she kissed the pig.


Hiking Arizona rocks with a neighbor

September, though – ah, September! No more going back to school for me, either as student or teacher, and no more rambles with my love in our familiar home-away-from home, Grand Marais, with its hollyhock-lined, grass-carpeted alleys. (Here was our getaway in 2015, and another the following year.) The haunting music of the song “September When It Comes,” by Johnny and Rosanne Cash, fills me with hiraeth and the bittersweet, unquenchable longing evoked by the presence of absence.

 

On a lighter note, if you’re in Ohio and you visit these people, tell them Dog Ears Books sent you. They came to Northport and visited Dog Ears Books on August 29, 2023. 








Tuesday, August 29, 2023

No one will care, but here is Part II at last.

Cardinal flowers earn their name with bright splashes of scarlet.

I recently read a novel by the philosopher Iris Murdoch, The Sandcastle. It was brilliantly achieved, characters all quiveringly true to life, outcomes in suspense until the very end. A compelling fiction. Following my reading, I sought out the late Murdoch online and found a long interview she did with Bryan Magee, on the topic literature and philosophy. At the beginning, I noted that in mentioning philosophers in our “modern times” who were good writers, he named Bertrand Russell but omitted Henri Bergson, who also received the Nobel Prize for Literature. In naming earlier philosophers who were great writers, he included Nietzsche, my nemesis. 

 

Here are links to the interview. I followed Part I with interest and got a little way into Part II, but did not watch all five parts because, having only a couple of weeks ago read another book (nonfiction) that brought back my quarrel with Nietzsche, I wanted to write through my thoughts on philosophy as a personal quest rather than an abstract search, because (another because) in the opening part of their conversation, Murdoch and Magee agree that philosophy is impersonal and, unlike literature, does not involve the personality of the writer. 


I strongly disagree. 


Each weaves according to her nature.

I would say, on the contrary, that philosophy makes a pretense of being impersonal and that the writers of philosophy have all, until very recently, attempted to hide themselves behind language that strives to be objective and “universal.” Looking deeply at the problems on which different philosophers have focused, however, and their very different takes on those problems — not just writing style but the substance of their writing — shows obsessions and prejudices and hopes and fears bleeding through, and for me Nietzsche is a striking example.


As my subject heading to this post indicates, I doubt very many, if any, people will mind that it was way back in 2011 that I posted what I called Part I of my own Nietzsche story. If you want the background, here it is, yes, a full dozen years ago. 


For those not inclined to follow links, I'll summarize by saying that I was writing a chapter on Nietzsche in my dissertation on theories of metaphor and, bending over backwards to give him the benefit of the doubt (following philosophy's "principle of charity," a principle more honored in the breach than in the observance), I was “bracketing” – setting to one side – all his troubling remarks on Jews, women, blacks, and others said to possess a “slave mentality” to focus exclusively on what he had to say about language. How much more generous could I be? 

 

When working on any long piece of writing (and writing a dissertation in philosophy typically stretches over a couple years or more), there is a frequent need to get up out of a chair and move around. Go for a walk. Take a shower. Hit the bars. Whatever it takes to jar the brain enough to get thoughts flowing again. In my case, one fateful day I was pacing back and forth in front of a friend’s bookshelves and pulled a book out almost at random, hardly thinking it would bear on my subject. The title intrigued me: Women and Pornography. The author was Susan Griffin. I opened somewhere in the middle, again at random, and began reading -- idly, at first.


Take a deep breath and plunge forward --

Susan Griffin never once cites Nietzsche in her book. His name does not appear. And yet I kept seeing that name on page after page as I read and as a knot of dread formed in my gut. 

 

In a chapter entitled “The Sacrificial Lamb” (I borrowed the book from interlibrary loan last month and copied the relevant pages), Griffin describes what she calls “the chauvinist mind.” writing 

 

…we discover that just as the racist is obsessed with a pornographic drama, the pornographer is obsessed with racism.

 

She cites the work of Lucy Dawidowicz who concluded, after studying a rock group that proclaimed itself the “master race” and after listing items found in a Hell’s Angel apartment, “Pornography and propaganda have reinforced each other over the decades.” The psychoanalytic term for what the chauvinist’s mind does is projection. What is feared and hated in the self is projected onto another. Here is Griffin again:

 

Over and over again the chauvinist draws a portrait of the other which reminds us of that part of his own mind he would deny and which he has made dark to himself. The other has appetite and instinct. The other has a body. The other has an emotional life, which is uncontrolled. And in the wake of this denied self, the chauvinist constructs a false self with which he himself identifies. 

 

Wherever we find the racist idea of another being as evil and inferior, we also discover a racial ideal of the self as superior, good, and righteous. 

 

Griffin, next page (162):

 

…The chauvinist cannot face the truth that the other he despises is himself. 

 

…The chauvinist insists upon an ultimate and defining difference between himself and the other. 

 

What is it that is feared in the self? Appetite, instinct, emotion, the body and its needs and urges. In short, the power of nature. Thus the “other” is to the chauvinist an “animal,” while he is not – or would have himself not be, but as that is impossible (he is, after all, “all too human”), “his mind is filled with contradiction.”

 

…He both longs for and fears the knowledge of the body. Nature is a part of him. He cannot divide what cannot be divided. His mind is in his body. His body thinks; his mind feels. From his body, nature renders meaning. He is trapped inside what he fears. 

 

Anyone who is still with me this far, if anyone is, might wonder what this has to do with language and metaphor. And didn’t I say I was going to set aside all that other stuff? The thing is, everything I set aside is still right there in the writings on language. That’s what filled me with such horror that I fell into a state of shock. 


Do you need refreshing, cool water? I do. Okay....

How so? The task Nietzsche set himself was to “recover” meanings he felt had been “lost,” and this largely involved discarding later meanings, which he regarded as “decadent.” To simplify, imagine a word as a playing card. It has two sides, two different meanings which may even stand in opposition to each other: one side, the “pure” side, “lost”; the other “decadent,” one he would overcome. (This is an oversimplification, obviously, because meanings are more often multiple than merely dual, but if you want a more complicated image, make one up yourself.) In recovering the lost meaning, Nietzsche would have stripped off the decadent meaning. -- But note the problem: the playing card still has two sides! There is no way to get down to a single side, no matter how many layers are stripped away. The task of recovering an imagined original purity of meaning is doomed. 


And yet nature goes on, unconcerned with our angst!

An obsession with purity is essential to racism, just as it is in countries where women must cover their faces and are forbidden to attend school or drive or even to appear in public. It is not the women who are obsessed with their purity but the men who make the laws, who see their own purity at risk if women are too free. 

 

Policing language is nothing new, either, and you can find examples all over the world. Historically, conquered peoples’ languages have been outlawed by conquerors; various countries strive to keep “foreign” words out of public discourse; and older generations object to new meanings the young attach to older words and phrases. But as I wrote in my dissertation, words are like horses and can be stolen and ridden by those other than self-acclaimed owners, and no one, not even Nietzsche, can ever have the “last word” on any particular meaning. Languages and cultures and meanings evolve, much as do living organisms.


Nietzsche’s Zarathustra raved about clouds staining the “purity” of the sky. I ended my dissertation chapter on Nietzsche with the Gerard Manley poem "Pied Beauty." 

Glory be to God for dappled things—

   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

       For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;

   Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

       And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.


All things counter, original, spare, strange;

   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

       With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

                                     Praise Him.

 

Coming back now Coming back now to my disagreement with Iris Murdoch, I offer for your consideration: Plato's rejection of the natural world as nothing but "appearance," reality being entirely and only eternal, ideal and unknowable (the life lessons the narrator draws from Plato are good ones, but do they need the metaphysics?); Schopenhauer's pessimism; Russell's frustration that philosophy could not be reduced to mathematics (this is my own view of him, so read him yourself to see what you think); Bergson's optimism and obsession with time; my own passionate love of natural ephemera and my Bergsonian-Heideggerian obsession with time. I confess I have not read Murdoch's philosophy, but I have no doubt her personality would reside in it, even if cloaked in mystifying universal terms. 


The images in today's post are from my personal life and surroundings, places and things I love, and my hope is that they will encourage philosophobes to come all the way with me, whether or not they slow down to muse or hurry to this final line.


Clouds add so much to the beauty of the sky.


Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Home and Heroes

I live in northwest lower Michigan, but for me that is not a single place. My official homestead residence is in Leelanau Township, the northernmost of our county’s township divisions. Tell that to my new phone, though! It keeps identifying my photographs near home as having been shot in Leland Township. Wrong! Trust my camera and me instead: the camera doesn’t try to be smarter than I am.

 


I live in an old farmhouse with a dog, but I also live outdoors (with the dog), working in the yard, going for long walks, noting the passing seasons in signs like the ripening of chokecherries and the way Queen Anne’s lace blossoms curl up into little brown birds’ nests come late summer.



During my working days, I live in my place of business, of course, the bookstore that was 30 years old in July. It wasn’t always in the same location (I’ve been in four different buildings in Northport), but whenever it’s moved I have kept the basic arrangement of books more or less the same, so there is a familiar continuity from one place to the next, and my current location has been home to Dog Ears Books since – can it really be since December 2006? Seventeen of my 30 years???



On a long drive across several states, a vehicle becomes a “mobile home,” even if it’s only a two-door sedan. A van, of course, holds even more, and on a good trip one comes to live in it (or two or more live together in it) with the feeling of being at home even when not stationary (though some days are more comfortably homey than others). Over our years in Leelanau County, the Artist and I enjoyed many a “county cruise,” as he liked to call our Sunday expeditions or slow summer evening drives down to Maple City for pizza or Cedar for ice cream. We could have found pizza and ice cream in Northport, but after being in situ all day we enjoyed the leisurely changing scenery of favorite back roads, and we sought out horse farms for the pleasure of seeing beautiful animals. 



But (my point is that) wherever the Artist and I were together felt like home to me. There was one unhappy night during our otherwise joyous time in France when we wished ourselves elsewhere, but that was due to a flat tire in the rain on a narrow road and a strangely (uniquely) unsatisfactory meal. By the time we ditched the offending rental car in Fontainebleau the next day and were on the train back to Paris, everything was fine, and once back in Paris, we were “home” again. Here is an old post I found with thoughts on travel and home

 

During winters in Cochise County, Arizona, the Artist surprised himself one evening when we returned to the cabin and he remarked, “It’s good to be home.” It was only a rental, but over time it filled with our own things – art on the walls, bookcases filled with books, kitchen items and linens and cowboy boots and hats picked up here and there – so that it did, indeed, come to feel like home to us. We had routines there, we had pleasant neighbors….


 

All earthly homes, after all, are temporary, are they not?

 

Anyway, as you know if you’ve read this blog before, (and as you might guess, anyway, knowing that I have a bookstore), I also live in books. Recently reading Horse, by Geraldine Brooks, I lived multiple lives stretching from 1850 to 2020, and now, nearing the last pages of Confederates in the Attic, by Tony Horwitz, late husband of Geraldine Brooks, I am traveling through the South and meeting people I never would have met in my own “real” life. Both these books have my highest recommendation. I’m not sure everyone would respond to them exactly as I did, however. 

 

Would other readers tremble as they turned the pages of Horse, and would their eyes fill with tears, not only over certain passages when a human or equine character is in danger or difficulty but nearly all the way through the book? And was my reaction influenced by the knowledge that Brooks had begun the novel before her husband’s sudden, unexpected death and finally returned to it as she worked through her grief at his loss? Ah, but I loved the story, and not only for its horsiness, though that was certainly part of the appeal. 

 

At least one reviewer felt that the author had made the characters of Jarrett and Theo, both young black men, too good. As a white female writer (Australian to boot), Brooks knew some people would fault her for trying at all to portray the inner life – thoughts and feelings – of black men, particularly the 19th-century life of enslaved Jarrett but also that of modern mixed-race Theo. But if writers only wrote characters like themselves, literature would be a rather barren field, wouldn’t it? And isn’t it strange that fictional characters might be seen as too good

 

I can’t help feeling that the “too good” judgment says more of our times than of the author’s choices. There are many kinds of heroes in literature, after all, and not all have to be tragic heroes, brought down by a tragic flaw. They certainly don’t all have to be anti-heroes, either, I hope! Read through this list and see – if you’ve read Horse, and if you haven’t yet, then get on it right away! – what kind of hero you might call Jarrett or Theo. Or not heroes at all? Then, why not? Another question here: Does the 21st century accept everyman or classic heroes only in fantasy fiction? That seems sad.


In Confederates in the Attic, Tony Horwitz tours historic Civil War sites in ten states and learns just how alive the Civil War still is for many Southern groups and individuals, their cast of heroes and villains very different from that of Americans in other parts of the country. That is, while I don’t recall being taught in my Illinois education that any of historical persons of the 1860s (other than anonymous slave-holders) were exactly “villains,” Illinois as the “Land of Lincoln” certainly saw Abe as a hero and martyr. Yet I always had my doubts about Sherman’s march to the sea, which appeared to me somewhat like America’s dropping atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the argument in both cases being that the wars came to a close sooner, thus saving soldiers’ lives. Killing civilians, including children, to save men in uniform, though, never sat right with me. And who knows when or how the Civil War and World War II might have ended without those civilian atrocities? 

 

Joseph Campbell, in Hero With a Thousand Faces, identified a universal hero myth, in which the protagonist leaves home, has transformative adventures, and eventually returns, changed and triumphant. I wonder about this. I’ll go along with the adventures – challenges to be met, adversities to be overcome – but is life really that much like baseball, with return to home plate the only possible good outcome? I see that homecoming can be a good way to bring a life to wholeness, but I question whether or not it is the only way. Some of us whose families have not been established in the same place for generations are fortunate, as I have been and as John Denver was, to “come home” to a new landscape and to create memories there in whatever time we have.

 

One man Tony Horwitz spent time with, in a little Southern crossroads called Sutherland Station, lived in the same building where he had been born. It had been a general store when his parents were alive.

 

We sat on the porch, spitting watermelon seeds and watching traffic pass on the busy new highway bypassing town. I told Olgers about my journey and asked why Southerners like himself revered the past. “Child, that’s an easy question,” he said. “A Southerner—true Southerner, of which there aren’t many left—is more related to the land, to the home place. Northerners just don’t have that much attachment. Maybe that means they don’t have as much depth.” He paused, then added, “I feel sorry for folks from the North, or anyone who hasn’t had that bond with the land. You can’t miss something you never had and if you never had it, you don’t know what it’s all about.”  

 

Someone who has never traveled 100 miles from home, I guess, can be forgiven for imagining that people in other parts of the country are not attached to their home ground. Certainly Wendell Berry has a bond with the land of his Kentucky farm, but I know people here in Leelanau County, farmers or not, with similar feelings. “I’ve come home,” one young woman told me just the other day. She had lived away for a few years but has returned now to the house her grandparents lived in when they farmed the land. And the now-vanished log cabin site I visited only the other day housed an early generation of a family many of whose members (though not all) lived and died not far from those beginnings.

 

My personal story is that of more restless Americans: father born in Ohio and mother in California, they married in Chicago, and I was born in South Dakota, later to grow up in Illinois where my younger sisters were born. Our family started camping in Michigan when I was 12 years old, though, and when I was 18 it became my home and has been ever since, despite my love for France and a more recent romance with the mountains of Cochise County, Arizona. “I can’t imagine not living in Michigan,” I told our grandson when he asked if I might someday want to move permanently to Arizona. 

 

The catalpa trees that have appeared on their own and grown since the Artist and I began living in the old farmhouse, apple trees I planted that now bear fruit every year, old maples and basswood planted by the original owners, as well as smaller discoveries, some of them new in the past couple of years, like young hawthorns and exciting wild ginger – all of this, along with every road in the county, spells home to me and is redolent of priceless memories.




I look forward to reading very soon Pamela Perro’s The Long Field: Wales and the Presence of Absence, a Memoir. That phrase “presence of absence” certainly speaks to me. My more specific expectations of this book I will save for another time, however, when I have read it and can report on what I found in its pages.

 

Thank you for being with me today, on  whatever “today" you are reading these words. 



Thursday, August 17, 2023

Anniversary, Reading, Loss, Gratitude, Dog

Quiet reflections

First, Nice things people say,

or,

Thirty years is a long time 

 

I’ve been having a quiet 30th anniversary summer in my bookstore. Setting up an anniversary guest book, however, was a happy inspiration. Not that everyone writes in it. In fact, I usually have to urge people to leave their marks after they say something that touches me, but I know looking over these pages in the future will mean a lot to me.


On the bookstore counter --


One young man last week said my bookstore had changed his life! He said he’d been addicted to online gaming but found a book here that started him off as a reader and that I had really “made a difference.” That blew me away! Another thanked me for being a “significant part of [his] childhood.” I remember him coming in with his grandparents years ago. A young family visiting Northport for their fourth year in a row told me Dog Ears Books is now a vacation tradition for them -- and all the children wrote their names in the book. It feels strange to see myself as an “institution,” but that’s how people talk, and thirty years, I realize, is a long time.

 

On Wednesday a man wearing a t-shirt from the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan told me I had a “good bookstore.” Coming from a rare book connoisseur, that was a nice compliment – though, no, he did not buy books. (I knew you’d want to know.) Others, though, have bought a lot of books. 

 

If you come in soon, please take time to leave a written remembrance. (At least your name!) And if you feel inclined, here’s one more thing you can do for my 30th anniversary: send your friends the link to Books in Northport -- or to a particular post you think will mean something to them. Thanks for that, too.

 

 

My reading, from recent past to near future

 

I finished Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar, which took me longer than usual because I read it in the original French. I’m now ordering the English translation for my bookstore, because I highly recommend this book. 

 

Following the last page of the novel in the Gallimard paperback (1974) is a notebook put together by the author as she looked back over the years of its creation. Yourcenar began with an idea for the book’s form (conversations among different characters of Hadrian’s time) but discarded that idea when she decided it didn’t work. More than once, discouraged, she abandoned the project. Once she burned notes she had made for the writing; another time finding notes for the novel inspired her to return to it. Conceived and begun in 1924, Mémoires d’Hadrien was finally published by Librarie Plon in 1958. It is a masterpiece.

 

There is a lesson in this for all who write: not to force or rush a book into print until the author is satisfied that it fulfills the promise of its conception.

 

I’ve been postponing opening the first page of Horse, by Geraldine Brooks, because I knew that once I did there would be no putting it down until the last page. I have read Year of WondersMarchCaleb’s Crossing; and People of the Book, so how could I resist a novel by Brooks with a horse at its center?



This morning (early, dark, rainy) I looked online to check Brooks titles and saw – did I know this and forget? – that she was married to Pulitzer winner Tony Horwitz, who died “suddenly” (probable heart attack) at age 60. They had had a long, very happy marriage. I found and watched on my phone an interview with Horwitz about his book Spying on the South and then listened to another man talking about meeting Horwitz during the author’s research for what became Confederates in the Attic, and I vowed to read both books soon (though not before Horse). But what I really wanted to know was how Brooks was affected by her husband’s unexpected death and how she went on without him, so I kept searching until I found answers.

 

(Note I say ‘death’ rather than ‘passing’ and ‘died’ rather than ‘passed,’ because for me that’s part of facing what I see as reality, though I realize others see it differently.)

 

Brooks and Horwitz were married for 35 years. She told an interviewer, “We were so lucky until we weren’t,” and those words brought tears to my eyes. She spoke of how happy she always was when Tony came home from wherever he’d been and the “fun” could begin again. For a year following his death, her work on Horse interrupted by the tragic loss, she was unable to write, but she eventually returned to the project, believing that work, as Ruth Bader Ginsberg had advised someone else, would “see her through.” 



Brooks, who started riding only at age 59, now has a horse named Valentine. She has a dog. She has a son. And she has gratitude for the life she and Tony had together for all those years. 

 

I have written before on this blog that I not only feel gratitude for my life with the Artist but am grateful for it – yes, grateful for the gratitude, though that may sound strange – but take no credit for the feeling, because it is not an attitude I worked to achieve. Rather, it is a gift that my life with him has given me, on top of all the other gifts (including Sunny Juliet). And so, having lost my love but as a bookseller with a literary life, as the mother of a son (and stepmother to other lovely humans), with a dog companion, and loving (though not having) horses, I now feel a closeness to an Australian author I will probably never meet. Her writing life and work, like Yourcenar’s, along with gratitude and memories, help to light my way.

 

 

Dog stuff

 

Sunrise over Northport from New Bohemian Cafe

Waukazoo Street was quiet on the Tuesday after the Northport Dog Parade. The reason was not hard to find: New Bohemian Café was taking a well-deserved break. The crew was back at work on Wednesday, however, and I was a near-sunrise customer, treating myself to breakfast (and sharing with Sunny) before we went for our weekly early morning agility lesson. In the photos below, Sunny is just exploring and warming up before our teacher arrives. When the real lesson started, we worked too hard for photographs. 





Sunny is jumping the hurdles at 20 inches now and getting more comfortable with the teeter-totter (set lower for her than in this photo when she was only exploring it). We have even started the first exercises that will eventually lead to weaving, the hardest equipment for dogs to master, as it’s like nothing they would have to do in nature. Agility work, as I see it, is not an alternative to social skills but perhaps an adjunct, in that my dog and I have to work as a team, and she has to look to me for guidance. We need to work more directly on that social stuff, but we’ll get there. She is a good dog. And, as I sometimes tell her, “We’re stuck with each other.”

 



Tuesday, August 15, 2023

What a Weekend! (And what a transition, from dog parade to French literature!)

Summer is winding down....

This past Saturday was the Northport Dog Parade, the second-biggest day in the Northport summer – second only to crowds for the 4th of July fireworks, that is, but as for daytime crowds probably the biggest day, and the 2023 theme, “Canine Couture,” certainly inspired colorful entries. I took a different approach to watching the parade this year. I didn’t take my camera outside, just stood on the sidelines enjoying the spectacle and applauding the entries as they passed by. Other people – plenty of other people! – would be taking plenty of photographs and videos, I knew, and so it was. The Traverse City Record-Eagle even sent a reporter and photographer to cover this year’s event. In this video you can see our former township librarian, Deb Stannard, parade marshall, in a car driven by Clifford the dog.


Sunny and friend -- reunited!


Sunny and I had other important fish to fry that same evening and all the next day and on into Monday morning, because Therese and Yogi, formerly our Arizona hiking buddies, came for a visit! Sunny and Yogi greeted each other with joyful abandon and familiarity, as if they had been parted only the day before. There was playtime in the yard, there were long walks, even trips to beaches – the whole nine yards. Yogi did the first dog paddling of her life! My visits to nearby Lake Michigan now number seven for the summer. It’s probably been years since I’ve been so diligent about getting to the beach. (Diligent? Yes, that’s what I mean. Double digits are now within reach!) But again, no photos from the beach. My friend took photos and videos, though, so here are the two of us: 


Another pair of hiking partners reunited!


Once dog parade is past, and we reach mid-August, though, once the first goldenrod blooms, cherry harvest is over, and apples are beginning to ripen, fall is in the air. Pow-wow is next weekend, and for me that marks the transition from summer to autumn. It's time to get the rest of my berry jam made as soon as possible to clear the decks for making applesauce and drying apples. 

 


As time permits (i.e., at night before I fall asleep or when I wake in the middle of the night), I’m nearing the end of Marguerite Yourcenar’s Memoirs of Hadrian and plan to read it again soon in English translation, amazed at myself for being so enthralled with historical fiction, especially set in the time of the Roman Empire. But there was a reason Yourcenar was admitted into the French Academy (first woman member): her telling of Hadrian’s life in a voice she invented as his is mesmerizing and convincing.


“The true birthplace is that wherein for the first time one looks intelligently upon oneself; my first homelands have been books, and to a lesser degree schools.”  

― Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

 

What are you reading as summer of 2023 winds to an end?