Ah yes, living in Michigan can be a challenge at times. You may try to stay off the news (politics, man’s inhumanity to man, COVID, etc.) except to catch the headlines. But life itself occasionally throws a blow that you just weren’t expecting.
Maxy-cat is 18.5 years old. He’s been deaf for awhile. He’s on thyroid medication. His vision has been deteriorating. And this weekend, the deterioration is complete. Maxy is blind. We’ve adjusted his living arrangement to the main floor for safety. We are taking him to the litterbox and to his food and water regularly, and he seems to be able to go from there back to his heated bed. We are hoping that over time, he is able to get around the house himself, and will be able to play with catnip toys and have a good quality of life. There are a few feline ophthalmologists in Michigan, but none are taking patients until January at the earliest and they won’t schedule that far out. He spends a good deal of time sleeping, and as long as he is asleep he doesn’t notice his lack of vision or hearing. I hope his little cat dreams are full of outdoor adventures, chasing squirrels and running. It’s taking all of my focus to not dissolve into hysteria, and that focus is giving me the headache of a lifetime for the third day in a row.
This autumn has been a fantastic time for mushrooms everywhere. There are so many different kinds in the woods behind our home and on the Bark Park trails. I’ve taken a few photos to share. Isn’t nature amazing?
These last two are a form of puffball known as the brain puffball, or Calvatia craniiformis. They are giant…take a look at the size of the leaves around them. We have not had a frost yet, and it has been a lovely mild autumn so far. I wish it could stay like this forever.
In other news, Bob attended in person and I attended virtually the SYRCL’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival. It featured 13 short environmental films and was quite enjoyable. I love short films. You can still catch some showings by going to the website, linked above. I’m working on a crochet blanket for a dear friend who needs a hug, and I’m obsessed with tiny notebooks. I’m staying busy with journaling as well. Anything to keep the hysteria from becoming consuming. It won’t be long before I’m starting my next bullet journal for the new year. Hard to believe we are nearing the end of October.
Ah, time again for some misc. summer updates. It is a busy time of the year, no? And I actually left the house and did something outside of work! Mom and I went to the Leila Arboretum Society‘s summer garden tour this year. We hadn’t been before. This year’s gardens were on the north side of town, and many were in very small lots. It is amazing to see what can be done in such a small space. If you’re interested in seeing some of the photos, swing over to My Michigan Garden. It was a really fun time, and I’m glad we went. I think, give it another year, Mom’s garden could easily be on the tour. It’s that good.
I finished Tim Madigan’s The Burning last night. You know how a non-fiction book can be a horrific tale, but it is written so well and is so enlightening you’d call it a really good book? This is that book. I think anyone who reads it would be horrified over the events in Tulsa and how the story was essentially buried for so many years. I think you’d be hard put to read it and not think reparations are due, not just for slavery but for how black people in America have been treated every day since slavery supposedly ended.
Next book up is Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary. I told you I was no longer shopping at amazon, so I got the book from New Story Community Books in Marshall. They happened to have a signed copy in stock, but they can order whatever else you need. It is a fantastic store, and I highly recommend locals shop there! A friend recommended the book and I read a sample online, and I can’t wait to start reading it. I think it’s going to be really good. If I finish that and still have time on my summer reads, Tom Cooper’s Florida Man will be the book after that. Originally I only set three books and was concerned I wouldn’t have time to get through them, but all three books so far were very engaging and pretty fast reads. Don’t you think summer reading just hits differently? I love it.
We finished the HSSCM Pet Portrait fundraiser (here is the catalog). There is one painting that hasn’t come in, and I will need to paint it myself if it doesn’t make it by the end of the month. Currently, I’m doing a special cat portrait in gouache for a dear friend who lost her handsome panther just recently. You can see I have the colors blocked in, but that’s it. I figure it will take another three hours or so to finish it. I’d like to say it will be done this weekend, but I’m not confident in my time. After I finish this one, and the one that didn’t make it to the HSSCM event, I’ll hopefully get back to watercolor. I find the days are very long and hard, and by the time evening rolls around I’m too mentally tired to paint.
Can you believe we are nearing the end of July? The cicadas are singing on the hot afternoons, and smoke from the wildfires out west are creating hazy sunlight skies. Bob is quite busy at work, and will be attending some events coming up for his job. I’ll be attending the MSU Master Gardener conference virtually in August. My thoughts are already turning to Halloween. With no event, there will be no costume this year. But maybe I can entertain myself with some historybounding? Who knows. There are so many things I’d like to do to entertain myself, and so little time outside of work. And some of the hours (many of the hours) outside of work are still dealing with work issues.
The average temperature for this upcoming week should be around 47/25 so it looks like we’ll be having nicer weather than what we deserve (or should have). The maple in our backyard popped over the weekend. I’d expect with these upcoming temperatures, we’ll be seeing more signs of spring shortly. I need to get out on the Bark Park trails and see how the pussy willows are coming along. Friday is the first day of spring, and we’re mid-month now. I really need to get my bike out. I’ve done so little exercise this winter I totally expect to not be able to even get in ten miles.
This little image didn’t come out very well. It’s actually not a bad impression of the reference image, but it’s still not great. Still, in the interest of posting successes and failures, here’s painting #35, in gouache on watercolor paper. I have so many reference photos, but this weekend I just couldn’t get enthused about painting any of them. Maybe it had more to do with motivation and mood than potential images. I did manage to play the recorder each day, so at least I have that going for me.
This week is short, but full of dreadful meetings. Planning on doing continued creek cleanup at Mom’s house this Friday, and hopefully this time I won’t fall in the water. Last time I was in the water, but got stuck in the mud and fell over backwards. Then, as I laid there on my back, my hip waders filled with water. I wound up being wet and muddy from toe to neck. I’ll bring an extra pair of pants on Friday just in case.
Ok, I’m fairly pleased with this one, painting #34. I think the tree on the right could use a little more work, but overall, not bad. The reference image was from a Smithsonian magazine, and it’s done in gouache on watercolor paper.
It’s warmer today and tomorrow, but I don’t want to enjoy it because the next few weeks will be back to cold. Close to average for this time of March, but still. I wouldn’t say I’m looking forward to spring, as I don’t like people being outdoors making noise. I do however prefer to not be cold. My lungs seem to enjoy warm, moist air. The opposite of Michigan six months out of the year. I should have gotten my bike out for today. I’m not much motivated to do anything except play the recorder. I am motivated to do that. I’ve been also playing a bit of Beat Saber on the Oculus Quest 2. And watching British mysteries in the evenings while I crochet blankets for the cat room at the shelter.
You may be asking yourself…what? The recorder? If you are a certain age and went to school in Michigan, there’s a good chance you were forced to play the recorder in elementary school. And 30 kids playing the recorder at one time is just as horrific as it sounds. Who knows why we did it. I barely remember. But I recently came upon a professional recorder player on youtube and it really is a lovely sounding instrument. As recorders are hella cheap (for the kind you can learn on, not professional quality of course), I picked one up and decided to learn to play it. And it’s really quite nice. I don’t recall picking up another instrument so quickly. Also, whereas with my other instruments I’ll get tired of playing after awhile…aching neck, sore mouth, etc. there is none of that with the recorder. If only my experience in elementary school had been better, maybe I too would be a professional recorder player now. Here’s a nice little bit of recorder playing for reference:
How I became a fat, pretentious cyclist…and why you shouldn’t hate me.
I know you hate me. You yell things out your window at me. You wait until you get up right behind me and lay on your horn. Thankfully, so far, I have yet to have anything thrown at me but I know the more miles I put on, the more likely I’ll be hit with a projectile. Probably you are mumbling to yourself about how my padded bike shorts make my legs look like sausages in casings. To you, I’m just another fat, pretentious bike f*ck. But let me tell you how I came to be this way.
I got my Trek Navigator 300 bike sometime between 2001 and 2003. I’m sure I have the paperwork somewhere. It was around $400. And with that, I got a helmet because safety is important and I don’t want a closed-head injury. That’s all I had. I didn’t ride very often at all. I didn’t especially even like to ride. I wore shorts and a t-shirt.
Time marches on. I aged, like one does. I had a tragic skateboarding injury. That led to pursuing other kinds of exercise. I have a Y membership and swim. I occasionally stand up paddleboard. And last summer, I dragged out the old bike. To my surprise, I liked biking better this time around. I’m biking in the neighborhoods of my childhood. It’s generally peaceful and relaxing. And as I am on a diet and trying again to lose weight, it should theoretically be helping that. But as I’ve put on the miles, I’ve had to add some things to my bike. Believe me, I don’t like adding all of the accoutrements as every bit takes more time and makes the activity less of a childhood pick-up-and-go free feeling. The more hassle, the less I want to do the activity. That’s why I don’t paddleboard as much as I’d like.
The first addition was SPF rated shirts. I don’t want to prematurely age. To that I added gloves to keep the sun off my hands, and a neck gaiter, because I don’t want a wrinkly neck. Simple changes.
Then I added a rear-view mirror for my handlebar. As I am riding local roads, I want to know what’s coming up behind me. I also started using hand signals – even though I almost NEVER see motor vehicles using them during my travels. I want people in cars to know my plans. I also added a bike bell (cute and kitty-themed), mostly for when I’m on linear park as I don’t want to come up on a blind curve and be hit or hit someone.
Now, although I am putting in some good miles, I am fat and on a low-carb, low-calorie diet so I don’t have a lot of extra ooomph to make me go fast. I am a slow rider. I am also rather uncoordinated. For those of you on a low-carb diet, you’ll know that one needs to drink a lot of water. I could get my little water bottle OUT of the cage while riding, but do not have the coordination to put it BACK. And when I would try, I’d drop it in the road and have to circle back around, get off my bike, put it in the cage, get back on and start up again. So this year, I bought an Osprey hydration pack, one of the little backpacks with a water bladder that you wear and drink through a tube. And you know what? If I keep hydrated on my ride, I don’t wind up with a blinding headache all afternoon. But this addition I fear has pushed me from looking like a fat middle aged woman on a bike to a fat pretentious cyclist.
The final step in the process happened last Monday. It was hot. In fact, the last week of rides were all rather hot. And you know what happens when you put on so many miles and it’s extra hot? You are required to take a few days off biking, avoid sitting, and start looking for padded bike shorts. This itself is a challenge. Bike shorts are not made for fat people. And if you get a size that actually you can wear, it’s not pretty. I warn others to avert their eyes lest they turn to stone.
I believe my final step will be getting a flashing head and tail light. When I see other bikers with them, you can really see them coming and it might make it just a little easier to be seen. And with that, my transformation will be complete. Born out of both the need for safety – especially with people in large vehicles who hate me for simply biking – and for my own comfort.
I did not add these items to belong to some elitist club of bikeholes. I’m just trying to get a little exercise on my lunch hour. I try to represent the bicycling world in a positive way. If the sidewalks are clear of pedestrians, I hop on there because I don’t want to be in your way either. If there are people on the sidewalk, I ride in the bike lane or on the extreme side of the road. I use my hand signals. I probably see you before you even notice me. I double and triple check for traffic before I enter intersections and while I am going through. So far this summer (since the end of May), I’ve put on 265 miles. Last year I hit just over 600 May – October. I average 12 mph and normally ride an average of 15.5 miles, all on my lunch hour. I’m not worthy of your hate.
In 2020, I decided that I would take up painting with acrylics. Thought it could work a different part of my brain. I have started my first painting, which is based on a photograph I took of a sunrise at the shelter. It’s not quite done yet, but it is coming closer.
If you know you will be sending international mail over the next year (say, you write holiday greeting cards on behalf of the homeless cats in the Humane Society shelter, and those cats have an international following), you’ll want to note that some postal rates including international stamps go up in price on January 26. First class forever stamps are unaffected. It’s only 5 cents a stamp, and I’m happy to support USPS. February is International Correspondence Writing Month – InCoWriMo. So hopefully friends and family will receive some snail mail. I’m not committing to a letter every day, but hopefully those with whom I regularly send letters will receive one during the month.
So far, we’ve had a little bit of snow in November, December, and January but lots of more reasonable temperatures in between. I know a lot of people don’t like the freeze/thaw cycle, but I find it nice to have snow and cold and then have it all go away. I can’t personally do much to change the weather anyhow, so I might as well enjoy it when I can. I am not quite counting down the days until spring, but I am looking forward to the day the sun rises before 8:00am.
After sporadic posting altogether, and only postcards in months, it is time for a February Update. One of my goals is to post two times a week in February, so you should be seeing a few update posts not related to postcards in addition to the regular postcard posts.
Now that we are past Groundhog Day, we have 45 days until the official start of spring. We have not seen much sun lately, and February is supposed to be a bit colder than average. The starlings at the shelter did return to the nest earlier in the week, which is a good sign. We have one robin sticking around, but I saw him in December so I am thinking he just lives here year-round. Still, I have heard the male chickadees singing their spring song a few times. I am still hoping I can be out on the paddle board April 1, but that may be a bit early.
The past few days have been hot, hot, hot! I finished the second book in the series fo Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, Hollow City. It was just as good as the first. And, on thinking on it, I’ve determined that the writing and the way the tale unfolds sort of reminds me of the My Father’s Dragon books by Ruth Stiles Gannett. I will be getting the third in the series, but probably won’t start it until after summer.
I’ve been working on another project as well.
You may remember that I did an ill-fated land paddling thing summer of 2014. This new project is safer, if you don’t count drowning. I am wearing a life vest and a leash, and sticking to the shallows. I looked back on my notes from the land-attempt and found this “First, the balance thing. Try standing on one foot for more than sixty seconds. You might not enjoy it. Your foot might hurt. And your knee. And your shin. And your calf. At first, I could only do ten minutes and it was agony.” Um, yeah. Same thing on the water, although my first attempt was 15 minutes and involved suddenly sitting down on the lake bottom twice (I was only in up to my knees, so it was no big deal). Last time around I was getting better by the fourth time I did it. Loving it by the 11th. And unfortunately the whole thing finished up on #13.
Anyhow, I am reaching out and grabbing a firm hold on summer. Hope you are, too.
Thought it was well time for a garden update spring 2016. Things have been growing quickly! I planted radish, carrot, beet, lettuce and arugula seeds on May 6. Planted all the flowers on May 21, and the cemeteries and vegetables on May 25:
We had our first squash blossoms and the start of peppers on May 29:
And by May 31, things were really starting to look good. It’s been a fantastic year for hostas for some reason.
The Siberian Irises are in bloom, and the salvia looks great.
We had our first white globe radish out of the garden over the weekend and should be able to start pulling them regularly this week, along with the arugula. I did some supplemental lettuce planting, and added more beet seeds where they all didn’t come up. We have the start of tiny tomatoes and a good four peppers coming. It’s been hotter than normal, with lots of sun. I’ve been watering every night.
This is the best time of year to live in Michigan. Everything is fresh and growing.