Summer’s Sensuous Kiss

St. Joe

Image from Michigan Beachtowns website

After an early dinner, I decided to take Ashok for a walk downtown. The muggy, rainy morning had transformed into a gorgeous sunny afternoon with just a hint of a breeze. And I had time to kill.

Bustling with summer vacationers and weekend visitors from Illinois, Saint Joe was dressed in its summer finest. With a stroke of luck, I found a a parking spot on Main Street, and we walked down by the bluff and headed to Silver Beach. If shoppers weren’t eating ice cream or shopping for Great Lakes souvenir wear, they were photographing children sitting on the painted fish that decorate every corner. With equal measure, children were laughing and playing or crying from sheer exhaustion after a long day in the sunshine. It is summertime in Michigan.

For months I’ve strolled the beaches and the streets with my dog. Parking was crazy easy to find, and it was rare to see people just hanging out on the benches in town. If you were downtown, you had a reason to be there. The snow and wind and bone-chilling temps of winter kept people inside drinking hot chocolate and visiting with friends. With spring’s approach, every flower burst into bloom, and the people started to come. Summer’s peak arrived Memorial Day weekend, and now I am grateful if I can find a parking spot.

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This morning’s farmer’s market was crowded. I bought fruits and vegetables for the week. As of five o’clock yesterday, I am on vacation. I packed road food purchased at the market. Smoked whitefish, creamy artisan cheese, local blueberries and peaches, homemade pesto and a boatload of just-picked veggies will satisfy my hunger on the long drive. While the crowds arrive here for their vacation, I will head north – as far north as I can drive.

But tonight we walked downtown and out on the jetty by the lighthouse. Tourists who left their dogs at home stopped to pet Ashok. The cutest curly-haired twin girls squealed with delight as they saw her, and hugged and petted her. One of them wouldn’t leave her side as we walked away, and her father finally had to go pick her up and put her on his shoulders. She burst into tears to see her go.

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It was warm tonight, but I didn’t even break into a sweat until I was headed back downtown. I thought about July in Louisiana as I walked down the jetty in the sunshine. It would’ve been brutal to walk around downtown Baton Rouge at 5 PM this time of year. The cabana on the beach had a sign out front that read “reserved”, and a couple stood inside getting their photos taken as they staged flowers for a sunset wedding. White sheers flapped in the breeze as the bride giggled and fell into her lover’s arms.

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I did the math as I was walking back downtown. It’s almost the first of August. In 6-8 weeks, our temps will start dropping a bit as we slowly start the descent into winter. It won’t be long until I need a jacket to walk to the beach. And in a snap, Lake Michigan will be frozen. Summer is fleeting in Michigan. While I love autumn’s crisp air and even crispier apples, it comes too quickly in a northern climate. Summer is more than precious to Michiganders. It is divine.

Today I took the perfect bite of a Michigan summer. Sweet, sweet blueberries and peaches tickling my tongue ….. a bustling downtown ringing in my ears ….. the sparkle and bubble of Lake Michigan and its fabulous boats in my sights …. a sunset wedding tugging at my heart …. it was all here today. As I passed the Silver Beach carousel, I heard the cackle of joyful children over the tune of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. I giggled to myself. Christmas will be here in a minute.  I live here nowthis is home …. this beautiful place … where summer in its golden finery has at last stolen my heart.

 

 

 

Savoring My Life

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As my meditation journey continues, I’m shocked at how differently I’m experiencing the world around me. In fact, I should say that I’m actually experiencing the world around me. As mindful as I tried to be in the past, the meditation takes it to a whole new level.

I took an online course Friday night on how meditation changes the brain. A neuroscientist on Yoga International created this course that explained the parts of the brain, what they control and how meditation impacts them. It actually shrinks the size of the amygdala, the primary area that governs emotional reactions to danger. After being in an abusive relationship years ago, I learned that this almond-shaped brain part was responsible for my PTSD-like reactions. It was not only reacting to the moment but pulling up data about danger from my entire life. Meditation grows other parts of the brain, helps other areas improve their work and shrinks the fight-or-flight engines.

Joy is becoming more and more of a daily state. I’m still getting frustrated and angry and tired at times, but the level of intensity is much reduced. I’m also getting lots of insights on how to handle my emotions but also my work in a much more focused way. It’s hard to describe, but I feel really grounded and present. And I’m craving meditation time.

I just finished a course on the 10% Happier app using meditation to create emotional agility. The teacher, Oren Sofer, said that he likes to think that being agile with your emotions makes you the most powerful person in the room. I would have to agree. As a rule, humans either react to their emotions or repress them. Either way, the very important information they provide becomes useless or distorted just when you need them.

One of the meditations led me through an exercise where I brought up a very emotional situation in my mind. I felt the fear and anger rise in me as if the event was happening right before me all over again. He asked me to drop the story and just pay attention to what was going on in my body. I realized that the edges of the emotion felt somewhat jagged, and it sort of set up house around my chest and heart area. Then he asked me to go inside and get a sense of what I was really feeling. It was sort of amazing. I wasn’t feeling fear and anger so much as I was feeling unloveable and devalued. I WAS the little girl who was berated and ignored. I was at once sad, afraid and confused. The emotion was not only big but it was ancient. My reaction in that moment with a person I barely knew was the same emotion that I’ve known forever. It was familiar, huge and debilitating.

After sitting in that feeling and breathing into it, it began to change. And, all of a sudden, it disappeared. This took place in about 12 minutes. Oren says that when we actually pay attention to an emotion without judging it and reacting to it, it will do one of four things – increase, decrease, change or disappear. Apparently, emotion just want to be felt. It is our information center. It teaches us, and it reminds us of our needs.

This morning I made my coffee and was considering journaling while I drank it. But I realized that I wanted to just take in the moment with my coffee and my animals. Not only was I craving my morning caffeine, but I was craving the savoring of the moment. What I’m finding that as I practice meditation, I become more mindful of everything. I don’t worry so much about the future nor do I ruminate about my past. I am present. My senses are electrified. My appreciation of daily events is becoming awe. As with my coffee, I’m beginning to savor my life.

 

Celebrating the Decade of Me

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Today is a celebration.

Today is the 10 year anniversary of me learning to say “when” in a committed, pronounced, impactful way. I won’t get into the details since the story doesn’t matter,  but suffice it to say that what I did ushered in the best decade of my life. In fact, I’d say it’s the only decade where I learned to be Sharon, to stand up for myself and to differentiate my wants and needs from other people’s demands. In some ways it feels like it was a selfish decade, but a part of me says that doesn’t matter anyway. Learning to say no is a selfish act but one that ushers in great freedom and creativity. The energy I spent trying to be what another wanted is now directed toward what I want. And it feels very, very good.

 

So, I looked up my Shiatsu massage therapist from 15 years ago and booked a delicious session. Annemarie is amazing. Shiatsu is a type of massage that uses acupressure (similar in nature to acupuncture but without needles). When I was here before and struggling with depression, one session with Annemarie would shift me out of depression immediately. Now that I’m not plagued with depression, the session offered a lovely big hug that that told me I was loved unconditionally and inspired me to continue on a path that is uniquely mine.

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She recommended a visit to the Valparaiso Farmer’s Market and then suggested I try a unique coffee shop called Dagger Mountain. The coffee roastery is located in an industrial park. Thank goodness for GPS or I would have never found it. The cute little cozy shop is entered by walking through the open garage door. Inside it is just like the best little coffee shops I’ve ever visited.

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They are serious about their coffee. The single origin black coffee is served black only to showcase the flavor but they do have some espresso options. I opted for the Miel coffee drink which is espresso, steamed milk, honey and cinnamon. It is absolutely divine. I have finally – after being here just short of a year – found my coffee home. It’s just too bad it’s an hour away. But I can drive.

I lived in this area from 2003 – 2006. In fact, I worked part-time at a little sandwich shop not a mile away from Dagger Mountain for awhile. This is where I attended Purdue and earned my Masters degree. It is also the place where I got sober again after relapsing. Not unexpectedly, drinking didn’t improve my second marriage, but getting sober improved me. It was here that I began my journey to regain my strength and resolve to do what I needed to do to improve my life. Returning here today was a good idea.

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So, I’m celebrating. It’s a full moon this weekend. I feel amazing after my Shiatsu massage. I’m going to clean my house literally and do some smudging to clear my house energetically. I think this is a great time for me to make a choice for me again. I have a new decade beginning, and I’m excited about what it might bring. I wasn’t so sure about the beginning of this last decade on July 8, 2007, but I can see that we don’t always see the gifts clearly except in hindsight.

Where will I be on July 8, 2024? I can’t wait to find out!

 

 

Meditation Rocks

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In one of my favorite movies, Hoosiers, the basketball coach was battling heart disease. When the main character Norman enters his new boss’s office, Cletus is sitting in meditation. He said he was “floating”. His doctor had told him he had to manage his blood pressure, and meditation was his choice of medicine. In 1986 I knew nothing of meditation, but the scene stuck with me. Who would think some Indiana coach would be meditating? Wasn’t that just for yogis and girls?

Since then, I’ve become more interested in self-care, met many world-class athletes who use meditation for enhancing performance, and I have experienced the spiritual and physiological benefits of a regular yoga practice. I have, of course, from time to time meditated after a yoga class or practiced yoga nidra when I’m under a lot of stress or suffering from insomnia.

In 2007, I was experiencing high anxiety and relentless insomnia for months while under a stress from a failing marriage. I had never meditated regularly, but I was trying all of the herbal treatments I could find. Regular exercise and my yoga practice alone were not working. I read that meditation might work. I sat in meditation for 15 minutes every night. After only about a week of doing this, my insomnia abated. I slept. There is nothing more powerful than sleeping after a long stretch of sleepless nights. I continued the practice until I got out of the worst of the stress and then I forgot about it. Necessity is certainly the best motivator.

I started meditating in April with the Calm App. Several friends mentioned it to me in a short period of time as a panacea for the stress they were feeling. When three people mention something to me in a short amount of time, I take it to be a message from my Higher Power. My rule is I have to try it whether I want to or not. Well, I got hooked immediately. Even the short 10-minute meditations that I used in the beginning started to make a difference to me, and they contained great learning content on how to live mindfully.

I’m three months into this journey, and I feel like a different person. Well, I take that back. I still feel like the same person, but I feel like a lovable, grounded, well-rested, and valuable person. That is a very different experience than my previously insecure, frazzled, exhausted and somewhat confused experience of life. I know there is lots of science to back up the power of meditation, but what motivates me is how different I feel. I am now meditating 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening most days of the week. It’s the best investment of time I’ve made in awhile.

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I recently found a podcast made by my former college classmate Robin Roberts called Everybody’s Got Something. The first one I listened to was a chat with two of her colleagues from Good Morning America who talked about their life struggles and what they learned from them. Dan Harris was an anxious, adrenalin-seeking recreational drug using journalist who had an embarrassing panic attach on the air. He started meditating, and it literally changed his life and career. In addition to his journalism career, he is now a crusader for meditation. He has his own podcast and website called 10% Happier which has a short course on meditation, meditations for all kinds of situations and teachings from master teachers of meditation.

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Yesterday, on the 10% Happier podcast, Dan interviewed a Democratic congressman (Tom Ryan, podcast #87) who holds meditation sessions in D.C. that are attended by bi-partisan staffers regularly. In fact, in his opinion, meditation is a pretty conservative activity. It is a “help yourself” solution, no cost and wildly effective in changing your life.

If you are struggling with stress or insomnia or would otherwise just like to strengthen your brain “muscle”, you should open your mind a little and try meditation. Meditation is the new black, and, if just 25% of the population started meditating and seeing results that bring out the best in themselves, just think of how we could change the world. Athletes have known for a long time that meditation helps their performance. Their job is to perform, so they aren’t going to waste time on BS.

Cletus modeled meditation for us back in 1986 – long before I even knew what it was. His doctor knew that meditation lowered blood pressure and reduced stress. He probably got better sleep as a result. I suspect Norm could have benefited from meditation with his flashy temper and anger issue. Those things make for good drama but they don’t make for a good life. Like Dan Harris says, it won’t solve all of your problems, but it may make you 10% happier.

 

 

A Watery Loop Deep in the Woods

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In planning a hike for my first day here, I got out my handy guide to hiking in the Upper Peninsula and researched the popular hikes. Some were heavily traveled. Nope, I’m not looking for that. Some were not well-marked, and the guide said to bring a compass. Hmmm… I’m not that confident in my navigational skills that I’d go off alone in a strange land. And one or two of them just sounded like a little woods hike. I wanted to see something special.

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I finally broadened my geographical search and found a section on Craig Lake State Park. The guide promised that this trail is so remote that you wouldn’t hear another mechanical sound after you parked your car at the trailhead. It was also in moose country which meant I might have the opportunity to see a moose although it would be highly unlikely. I loved the remote nature of it, and it said the trail was well-marked, was part of the North Country Trail AND went around a lake. If worse came to worst, I could just follow the lake around. This sounded easy enough to navigate but rugged enough to feel like I was deep in the woods.

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I was a little worried about the drive to the park. The guide said the dirt road to Craig Lake State Park was 7 miles long and was very rough – rough enough that you had to have a vehicle with pretty high clearance. I wasn’t sure about that, but I sort of figured if it looked like I couldn’t make it, I could always turn around. I googled the State Park, and the same warnings were there with no additional information that made me feel better about my Rav4. But there was a Facebook page, and I got on it and read some of the posts. It sounded like people went back there on a regular basis, so I got a little less worried about the road.

That is until I saw this sign….

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I looked at Ashok and asked her what she thought….

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“What? You gonna let a little dirt road scare you?” she said. “We’re going. Drive.”

So, we started down the road, and all looked pretty good most of the way. I read later that the park service had come in and removed some of the larger boulders, so I guess the road was worse at one time than it is now. About 6.5 miles in I came upon a huge puddle of water all the way across the road. I wasn’t sure I could get through it without getting stuck, and there was no way I could get help if I did. I walked up and looked at it, and the mud did seem pretty soft. Just behind me was a little place I could park, so I decided to park there and hike the rest of the way in.

Which one doesn’t belong?

 

 

Right at edge of the lake were four guys getting out of their tents and having breakfast. Their canoes sat at the edge of the water and the campsite, and I waved as we walked by. The first part of the trail was an old logging road. The forest was lovely, dripping with last night’s rainwater and painted with every shade of deep green. A carpet of ferns covered the forest floor with a feathery touch. Sunshine dappled through the leaves, and I could hear nothing but birds.

 

A mile or so in, we came upon the cabins. A woman was walking to the outhouse when we passed by, and a man was standing in the kitchen with his cup of coffee. You can’t drive back there, so I guess you have to haul your stuff by foot or wagon. In fact, it became obvious that you would have to portage your canoes at least a mile and as many as four miles depending on where you wanted to camp and launch. This must be a great place to come for peace and quiet. And I hear the fishing is phenomenal, too.

Tadpoles!

 

The logging road ended, and the trail became single-track at the cabins. After that, the woods looked more and more like the woods in Appalachia. Except we saw no one until we got almost at the end of the trail. So, we had the trail to ourselves for the full 4 hours it took to hike it. It seemed longer than the 7.9 miles mentioned in the guide book. And the last part was really hilly. We got a workout for sure.

Lunch…

 

We stopped for lunch at little river that had been dammed up by beaver. A beautiful suspension bridge provided an easy cross, but I opted to go sit on a boulder and look at the lake for awhile while I had a lunch of fresh cherries, smoked whitefish and Wisconsin cheddar. I kept hoping to see a beaver, but I only saw dragonflies – lots and lots of dragonflies.

Toward the end of the trail, the markers got a little murky, and I got a little nervous that we weren’t on the trail anymore. However, I’d see a marker every now and then of a different color, so I felt sure we were on some trail. And I could see the lake on my right. The map confirmed that was right, so we kept walking. And, sure enough, we finally ended up right where we started. More men were arriving with their backpacks and loaded up canoes. I suppose it was going to be a great fishing weekend and guy’s getaway.

 

I’m not sure what impressed me the most about Craig Lake. The forest was really beautiful. There were a couple of lovely points where we sat to take in the view. Those were nice enough to make me want to come back and throw a tent for a few days on the campsites. But what struck me most was how remote it was. Man had not changed it much over the years. It was pristine. I had the distinct feeling that I was just a tolerated visitor in a world where I didn’t belong. They say the UP has more animals than people. I sensed that here. I felt like an intruder. And I felt immense gratitude to witness what most people never will.

 

An Outdoor Playground in Michigan

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If you recall, last weekend I had so much fun backpacking that I wanted to try it again over the Fourth of July holiday. I’d love to do the Manistee River Trail. However, as I researched it, that trail is very popular over the summer and particularly crowded on holiday weekends. No…. that’s not what I had in mind.

As I thought about Plan B, I remembered that I have always bad experiences camping on holiday weekends. Holidays are amateur hour in the woods. More than once I’ve been camped next to a bunch of drunk men who couldn’t keep their voices down after midnight. No, thanks. That’s not what I had in mind either.

The Mackinac Bridge that spans the Straits of Mackinac…..

I’ve been wanting to head to the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. I’m going to the North Country Trail Conference in late July in Marquette, but my agenda will be set with conference activities. Although I’ll be doing lots of hiking, I won’t have the freedom to explore. So, I started thinking that maybe this would be a good time to tack an extra day onto my four-day holiday and drive as far north as I can go without going into Canada.

The UP reminds me of a mini-Alaska. Winters sock it in for months at a time but that doesn’t stop people from enjoying snow sports. Snowmobiling is huge up here, and snowmobile trails are as plentiful as roads. I really want to come up here to see it in winter, but I’ll have to get my adventure hat on and take the chance on driving in even snowier weather than at home. And the summers here are divine.

Cut River Bridge and Delta

 

 

I got here yesterday, and I’ve been driving around and hiking as much as I can. I’ve been to the UP twice in the past. As I pass the places I stayed with my second husband, I realize that we didn’t do any of the outdoors stuff up here at all. WTF?? I’m not sure what we were thinking. We stayed in McKeever Cabin which is a remote cabin, but all we did was stay in the cabin and skinny-dip in the lake. I passed the road where we rode bikes, and I laughed because we rode our hybrid bikes on a stupid highway. Why didn’t we get in the woods? What a waste of time!

Lake Michigan Recreation Area…

I took the long way up here and stopped in Manistique, the Lake Michigan Recreation Area and hiked around the Cut River Bridge. The lady at the Welcome Center in Mackinaw City told me about a place called Big Spring where the water is so clear you can see huge fish all the way to the bottom. I stopped there, too, but I didn’t take the glass-bottomed boat ride. It was jammed with people and dogs, and I was looking for a more secluded experience. But the spring was lovely just the same.

Big Spring aka …..

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I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Lake Michigan look so raw and beautiful as it was yesterday. And Ashok and I saw and waded in three Great Lakes in one day – Lake Huron,  Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. All were cold. All were sandy. And all were stunningly beautiful. It was a very special drive.

Lake Huron

Most of the businesses here are locally-owned, so I visited with the shopkeepers and asked for recommendations on what to buy. I bought smoked whitefish and Wisconsin cheddar from the man that smoked the fish at the Cut River Store. I had my first pasty from Lehto’s Pasties as soon as I got on the peninsula. Pasties are meat pies that are a UP tradition. I can just imagine eating these hot hand-held pies in the dead of winter. They are so filling! We didn’t eat any of those when we were up here before either!

Ashok and I hiked today, but I’ll tell you all about that in a post of its own. Suffice it to say that I am falling in love with the UP. As I drive down the road surrounded by wildflowers, water and green, my mind’s eye overlays an image of what it might look like in winter … then in fall with the leaves changing. Click, click… those images keep shifting in my head and I wonder what it would be like to live up here. Could I take a snowmobile to work? How about munching on a pasty after a winter run? What might that cold wind feel like off Lake Superior in January? Brrrr …. I’m chilled already. Or maybe it’s the 50-degree July evenings that are raising goosebumps on my arms. No sweating this year!

Michigan Goodies!

 

 

 

The River IS Your Life

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With my meditation practice becoming a regular part of my life, I am starting to realize what it feels like to settle in and just be. About 40 minutes a day, I am comfortable just allowing the world to flail wildly around me without my participation. I just breathe. It feels comforting to just let it all go on about its business.

As the feeling of “just being” becomes more normal, I am very aware of the stark contrast of how I feel when I’m “trying to make things happen”. I am aware of my striving. I am aware of my judgment and criticism of the things around me. I am aware of the difference in the way I feel in comparison with my few minutes a day of just being me. And I’m developing a strong preference for just being. Not ironically, I’m starting to realize the benefits of meditation.

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I was canoeing last weekend, and I had a gentle reminder about striving. The person in the front of our boat was hell-bent on steering the boat to where we needed to go. This person was also the strongest in the boat. So, when he saw an obstacle ahead, he’d dig in and paddle, paddle, paddle furiously in the other direction. The current in the river kept coming, of course, and the rest of the boat would lurch in the direction of the obstacle. Our rudder person ended up in the trees every time. I spent most of my time paddling backwards trying to compensate for his over-compensation. I had to use my meditation practice to just let it be what it was and play my part. A few times I suggested that he not do that as it was throwing his wife in the trees, but he couldn’t stop this habit. And it was, in a word, frustratingly meaningful.

At one point in our journey, there was a tree felled across the river with minimal space between its branches and the water. Our “wild man” decided we should paddle wildly to get under it. The only problem was there was no room for us to get under it. I suggested just as we were about to hit it that we slow down and just pull ourselves under the branches SLOWLY. I can’t imagine what would have happened if we’d slammed into that tree. Thank heavens he relented.

Even though my job and my new preference is to just be, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have something to contribute. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Part of “being” is being who I am. The river didn’t change because our canoe was struggling. The river just kept being the river. It was beautiful. We complained because it was cold. We complained because it was high, and the water was swift. We railed against its tendency to be inconsiderate of us in where it landed its debris. The river said, “It is what it is, and I am who I am. Your job is to learn to work with me – not fight against me.”

The person in the front of our canoe seemed to have the attitude that we needed to hurry up and get this done and avoid any obstacles. I’ve been that person myself so I’m not judging. But we got better as we learned to navigate obstacles, work together even if it meant compensating for someone else’s shortcomings and just let the boat float for a time and enjoy the scenery.

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I realized that paddling – and life – is about the journey. It’s about teamwork if you are with a team or honing your own skills if you are alone. The challenge is to work when it’s time to work and to “just be” when the waters are calm. And sometimes, you have to “just be” and let the obstacles overtake you. The trick is to learn to work with the river. Use the current to help you navigate instead of fighting it. Harness its energy and work with it, and you can go right where you need to go. Let the obstacles teach you. Let the calm spells quiet you. Realize that you are not fighting the river for your life. The river IS your life.

 

 

 

Up North Sampler


Last week I had decided to go backpacking on the Manistee River Trail, and I headed over to Wanderlust Outfitters downtown. While I was buying my dehydrated food, the gal at the counter told me they had a trip this weekend, and I should go with them. 


I took the flyer and after checking last week’s dicey weather forecast, I decided to can my backpack and go along with this group instead. It would be a great opportunity to break my gear out of storage and make sure everything still worked while meeting some like-minded people.


We loaded up on a school bus Saturday at 10 AM to start the 3-hour drive north. We would hike 6.1 miles on the North Country Trail to Bowman Bridge campground in the Manistee National Forest, spend the night and kayak the Pere Marquette River this morning. I had a great time chatting with a new friend who is in my field and meeting my new comrades. Most were new to camping/backpacking and were anxious to give it a try.


We stopped at the National Forest Visitor Center, and I asked the lady behind the counter for information on the Manistee River Trail so I could prep for a future trip. She discussed which campgrounds would be good and then said, “we have lots of bear up here – lots and lots of bear.” I took a pause and realized I’d need to get a bear canister for my food and some advice on bear before I made that trip. I’m glad I waited.


The hike was fabulously green and lush. The woods here are so pristine. In the whole weekend I literally saw one piece of trash, and it was out of reach in the water. Other than that, I never see trash on the trails or beaches. We partook of wild blueberries ripe for eating and marched our way through acres of ferns, lush evergreens and beautiful grasses.


I chose my campsite at the campground and walked down to the river. It looked high to me, and they later confirmed that it was too high to kayak. We ended up rafting this morning instead, and it was a blast. The rafts were harder to maneuver than kayaks and you had to work with a team of strangers to avoid the inevitable crashes into trees, but it was fun.


I’m on the school bus home, and I feel reenergized about backpacking and am eager to do something over the holiday weekend. I still need to get a bear canister and some advice on how you put a bear in a canister anyway. 🙂

We had oatmeal and blueberries cooked over the fire!

The Mark of the Culinarily Curious

There was a time in my life I called myself an appliance genius. I was a customer service representative and later a sales trainer for the largest maker of appliances in the United States (today Whirlpool is the largest appliance manufacturer in the world, but I digress). For all of the questions that consumers had – including do-it-yourself repairs – I had to know the answer or at the very least know where to find it.  It was in that time that I learned the difference between the average appliance buyer and the culinarily curious.

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Virtue Cider near Fennville MI

I have become culinarily curious over the years experimenting with my beloved coffee and coffemakers, making my own homemade kefir and sourdough and baking homemade bread. There’s something fascinating about the interaction of simple ingredients like flour, water and yeast or the fermentation of milk. You can have your complicated recipes, my palate and my mind prefers the simple and the mysterious.

I’m noodling a coffeemaker that KitchenAid makes. I’d love to get their cold brew coffeemaker, but I already have one, so what’s the point of getting another? But I discovered their line of craft coffeemakers, and I’ve been eyeing them for months like a sailor salivates over sailboats at the annual boat show. Imagining the beautiful cup of coffee and the aroma filling my home is a favorite past-time. I already purchased the espresso maker, so it seems a bit extravagant to buy another appliance for a one-person household, but still …. I want it.

When I worked for Whirlpool previously, we didn’t have craft coffee brewers. We also didn’t have our employee purchase program back then, so on my calltaker’s salary buying one of their expensive coffeemakers was out of the question. Besides, I had not worked at Starbucks – or even visited one – and been trained on the art of making a great cup of coffee. When I discovered Starbucks as a resident of Seattle, my coffee adventure – and curiosity – truly began.

So this morning I’m dreaming of the Craft Siphon Coffee Brewer that KitchenAid makes. One of the reviewers bought one for his Dad who had always talked nostalgically of the great cups of coffee made in an old Silex siphon coffee brewer. I wondered why we don’t use siphon brewers anymore if the coffee is so good, and Google provided a very interesting article on the history of coffee brewing. Apparently, the culinarily curious have for centuries been experimenting with how best to combine coffee beans and water for the most entertaining and tasteful brew.

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Michigan seems to be a hotbed of crafty culinarily curious scientists. We are number 4 in the nation for craft breweries, and our bountiful orchards are the fodder for many wineries and hard cider makers.  Organic farms, artisan creameries and local cheesemakers are not uncommon. Maybe the long winters provide time to think about how things are made and to experiment in dark Michigan basements. Perhaps it’s the summer with its burst of energy that ignites energetic curiosity. Or maybe it’s just the history and nature of the great Midwest farmers to be culinarily curious. Whatever the cause, it is fun to talk to the culinarily curious in these parts and to taste their experiments.

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I’m guessing I’ll end up with this little coffee machine at some point. I already have too many coffeemakers for one person, but I guess that’s the hallmark of the culinarily curious. As bad habits go, this one is relatively inexpensive and coffee is something that can be enjoyed every day (with liberal splashes of decaf). As for today, I’ll make myself another cup of magical coffee from my espresso machine and say goodbye for now. It will be rainy today, so perhaps I’ll go visit a local culinary artist for a sample. Have a great weekend!

Note: If this has tickled your curiosity, I can get you a great deal on a KitchenAid coffeemaker if you are interested (more than 50% off). Just send me your email address. I’ll hook you up.

 

 

 

The Ugly Reflection in the Mirror

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I am noodling some thoughts this morning, and I don’t quite yet know what to make of our world at this moment. I have more questions than answers, and I wish all of us had more questions than answers right now. Perhaps we’d be better off questioning than trying to solve problems that aren’t even clearly defined. We are lost as a society. And, I am fearful about it.

Yesterday’s shooting was the making of a madman, but is he any madder than almost any of us? This morning I listened to the Daily, and they discussed our political environment and our leaders. It has been speculated that the play of Julius Caesar in New York which has an obvious reference to our President could be an instigator in this shooting. And it could be. As a madman with a fuse, any match will do.

But I ask you to think about the meaning of the play of Julius Caesar. My sister and I saw it last summer. Caesar isn’t assassinated at the end. That is not the ultimate lesson of the tragedy. Shakespeare’s play is about the fall of a society because of the actions of people who succumb to mob mentality and try to solve problems by murder instead of working together to heal their society. It is about people who are driven to do things they would never do because of fear and power.

The signs of abused power are all around us. Bill Cosby sits accused as an old man of abusing power over women who looked up to him. The people in power in our White House are sickening examples of narcissism and greed and power run rampant. Uber is falling apart because of men in power whose sexism and greed make victims of their workforce. And Fox News is bleeding from its own radical sexist culture. Mass shootings proliferate as grown men get carried away with the sense of power that they hold in their hands when they fondle a gun.

The seven deadly sins are running rampant destroying our civilization and common decency. If it weren’t for laws protecting those of us with less power, where would we be? It scares me as a woman that there are still workplaces that function like Uber and Fox News. It makes me sick that Bill Cosby – and many of my other less famous childhood male leaders – have been exposed as sexual predators. Then we elect a man for President that makes light of sexual assault in his language. The fact that these things happened undercover for years and went unexposed because of secrecy and fear tells me this is not new. This is old, old behavior.

The lesson of Julius Caesar is much deeper than the assassination of a President. I googled the play this morning, and there was an article in the New York Times about how the play illustrates the issues between our Congress and our President – in 2013. Do not pretend this is new. The Roman empire fell because it chose to blame one person instead of looking inside themselves to understand and heal their own narcissism. Caesar was merely a scapegoat, and his death solved nothing.

It will not solve anything to destroy our earth, tear down our society, make victims of the poor, arm ourselves just to go play baseball or make ourselves feel better by keeping someone else down. Karma is real. We reap what we sow. There are consequences to everything. And I hate to say it but I think we are paying the price for our greedy capitalistic agenda. We hate the media because the media is holding up a mirror. Look at us. It is not pretty… and it’s not fake news.