Sunday, November 26, 2023
Those of you as far from me geographically as Seattle, Washington … Tucson and Dos Cabezas, Arizona … northern and central Illinois … and, coming closer, Kalamazoo, Michigan … all of you are in my thoughts today, but Leelanau County and Traverse City friends seem “faraway,” too, as the first real snow accumulates in the yard and on the roof of my old farmhouse. I’m not feeling isolated. Cozy, rather. It’s so lovely, after a busy week, to have a whole day at home, me and Sunny Juliet, with nowhere else we need to be.
Did I say it was a busy week? Monday was a trip to Traverse City for new snow tires. I took Frederick Franck’s Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing to read while the tires were being mounted, because just reading Franck’s books is a meditation -- actual drawing practice that much more so, however, and something I want to get back to this winter. Tuesday I cut a tiny little pine tree and took it to the bookstore, then cancelled agility class for Sunny and me, needing those four hours at home to mix cookie dough and shop for Thanksgiving. Wednesday was my day to decorate the bookstore tree, along with accepting deliveries of new books, and that evening I began preparations for the next day’s dinner.
|Like Charlie Brown, I love my little tree!
Because Thursday, of course, was Thanksgiving! A different kind of holiday for me this year, as I fixed turkey dinner for a friend and took it to his house to share the meal with him. This man was like a brother to the Artist for many years, they were that close, so I would tell people, “He’s like my brother-in-law,” and now he has forgotten the Artist and had no clue who I was, either. He knew me a few short months ago, but when I arrived at his house on Thursday afternoon, having called the previous Saturday to tell him I would be coming, he asked, “Do we know each other? Do you live around here?” When I reminded him it was Thanksgiving, he was astonished. Still, he was pleased to have company, and his appetite was good. It was strange to be with someone so familiar to me, whose house is so familiar to me, as well, a friend with whom the Artist and I shared many holidays past, but for whom I am now become a stranger. How much more difficult it must be for family members in such a situation….
Friday evening was a cookie baking session with my friend Susan, accompanied by lots of visiting, naturally. (Susan and I shared happy memories!) Then at last came Saturday! Horses in Northport! (Sadly, for me, on a shorter loop this year that did not include Waukazoo Street, but I think that was to avoid long wait times for all the families who wanted the horse-drawn village tour.) Activity gatherings and open houses all through the town! And at 6 o’clock, Santa turned on the tree lights. What a day!
|Carolers at the bookstore
|Passerby stopping to admire artist Deborah Ebbers's work...
|Crowd awaiting Santa and tree lights...
|Our beautiful village tree!!!
So you see why I was ready for a Sunday of rest!
After busy days all week I turned at bedtime to re-reading: Ellen Airgood’s The Education of Ivy Blake and Walter Mosley’s Walkin’ the Dog. Two very different works of fiction, but both favorites of mine, with characters I love and satisfying but not simplistic conclusions. Writers whose work means a lot to me. Another comforting young person’s novel was Elizabeth Enright’s Gone-Away Lake. Enright really knew her botany! Then, beginning Friday night, came a first-time read, The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse, by Alexander McCall Smith, Not one from any of his series but a stand-alone tale from World War II England and Germany -- and not sugar-coated, either, but still, in the most difficult decisions his characters must make and in the complicated emotions they experience, delivered with Smith’s characteristic gentle wisdom. Peter Woodhouse, by the way, is a dog….
Now two nonfiction books, both begun but neither more than one-quarter read yet, await. Undaunted Courage, by Stephen Ambrose, needs no introduction or explanation. The other, Beyond the Outer Shores, by Eric Enno Tamm, is the story of the man who inspired Steinbeck’s “Doc” in Cannery Row, and I’m learning a lot more about Steinbeck, too, namely, his friendship with Ed Ricketts and their collaboration on tidewater collecting expeditions. Fascinating.
Ricketts and Steinbeck on the Pacific shoreline, Enright delighting in her bogs. For me the natural world these days is snowy meadow, woods, and orchard --
And yet, although I could not possibly be more at home than here in my Leelanau farmhouse, it felt strange this month not to be crossing the country from Great Lakes to Southwest, as the Artist and I had done for several years and as I did once again last year with Sunny Juliet, from the north woods and Great Lakes to prairie to Great Plains to high plains and mesa lands and finally mountains. My little ghost town neighborhood, our “mountain family,” so far away! One friend there sent me a Thanksgiving video her son made of wildlife in their yard (deer, fox, coati mundi) and her house and yard and the entire ghost town from a drone overhead, a video I know I’ll watch over and over. The music with it is perfect, too.
|Other years ... another life
But here I am in my own beautiful home place! And it is snowing! What kind of a winter will it be? I remember my first northern Michigan winter, Traverse City in 1970-71, when it was never not snowing, whenever I looked out a window, and the icicles grew like stalactites from roofs to the ground. Bundling up my toddler to pull him on his little sled to the tiny Oleson’s store on Front Street a couple of blocks from our house was an expedition that consumed half a morning!
Whatever comes this year, right now it’s good to be in a warm house, looking forward to homemade turkey soup and meanwhile catching up on desk work and housework, with periodic breaks for outdoor dog fun. Winter is underway, my friends. And when spring comes again, we older ones will be looking back and saying that, in retrospect, winter flew by. I already know that will be true.
May everyone traveling today be prepared and safe, and may the freeing of hostages from Gaza continue with maximum happy results -- until all are once again home.