Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Spider and the What?

Tonight Terry and I sat out on the patio until dark and enjoyed  cocktails and wine. But as we sat on the patio about three feet in front of us a tiny spider began to construct it's web.

The web had one anchor point on the ground just in front of me, another in one Cedar tree to my left and another in the Cedar to my right. Now, how he established these anchor points I do not know. The spider was lucky to be 1/8 of an inch in diamter, but he had long lets and could traverse the ten feet to the tree and ground in less than a minute. He began back and forth building the web that was to be suspended at our eye level, we were sitting in chairs, and the web was half wayfrom the two trees and ground anchor.

Back and forth he went, we became enamoured with him. Soon his pattern began to change and he started going around in that octagonal pattern we see in webs. Around and around he went and we were mesmerized by his effort.

Finally he settled himself in the exact center. It was a little white blob where he had attached all of the central lines for the web. One small insect flew into the web early on and it wasn't long before he snatched it and consumed it on the spot. Then he sat, and sat, and sat. The darker it got we could finally see the pattern of his web in the light of a flashlight. It was amazing. The web was a good 6 to 8 inches across and the strands were maybe one quarter of an inch in separation.

We finally went in to the house and left the spider to his craft. It was impressive and so much effort. I hope he gets his prey and in the morning I'll check, but I'll bet the web will be gone as will the spider, up into the tree until tomorrow night. Providing it was a good hunting area.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Visit with Relates

A little more than three months after my second major surgery this year I took off on a whirlwind trip to Minnesota. I felt pretty good and thought I'd be OK and for the most part I was fine.

I left on Sunday, June 22, 2015 for St. Louis and spent the night with my Nephew Sam and his wife Sarah. They were under the weather when I got there as they'd been in Northern Illinois for the weekend and had picked up a 24 hour bug. Still it was pleasant to see Sam and we had a good visit.

On Monday morning the 23rd Sam dropped me at the St. Louis airport and off to Minneapolis I did fly. My oldest daughter Kristi met me at the airport and we stopped for lunch on the way to my sister & brother-in-law's home in St. Peter, MN. Kristi had to work that night so she stayed for dinner then left for her home in Hopkins, MN.

I stayed with Pete & Phyl from Monday evening till Thursday afternoon. It was a nice visit. St. Peter is a wonderful little town in the valley of the Minnesota River. We ate out, mostly and talked. On Tuesday evening their kids came over and we had a good old family gathering. Becky and Sam Rustman were there along with their son Noah and newborn son Silas. Jim Zahn and his wife Kathryn and son Evan were there along with Becky and Jim's mother, Cathy Zahn
who is Pete and Phyl's daughter.

We drank some beer, some whiskey and had a great time with much laughter and fun. It was great to see them. I have not seen Becky or Jim since they were little kids. Pete and Phyl have another daughter Beth, but she lives in Arizona and I did not get to see her.

Wednesday passed nicely and Cathy, Pete, Phyl and I had a nice dinner out. Some more visiting and then Thursday came and so did Kristi. I finished the first half of my trip in good measure.

Thursday evening Kristi and I went to Jenny's home in Minneapolis and the three of us walked to a nearby restaurant and had a wonderful Italian dinner. Drinks, meal and a long walk nearly did me in but I made it. Then Kristi and I sat up for a while on her balcony enjoying the evening air and having another much needed drink.

Friday was a hoot. Jenny came to Kristi's and the three of us went out to breakfast in Hopkins. We moved on to some antique stores and I found a few finds one of which turned out to be a Munising woodenware bowl. It would be from the 40's or  50's as the woodenware burned down in the early 50's. The kids had fun trying on some goofy old clothes. then a nice lunch at the 819 Pub in Hopkins. Kristi and I went back and took a nap while Jenny left to get her skates repaired.

The three of us met Wayne, Jenny's husband, and my grandchildren Lindsey and Marissa at the COV a nice open air restaurant overlooking lake Minnehaha. Had a nice meal and some drinks then back to Kristi's with Jenny in tow. We finished up the night there and had a huge time laughing and talking. It was a wonderful time with my two wonderful daughters.

Saturday, June 27th Kristi and I went to Jenny's and I took my grandchildren to lunch. We were kind of rushed as Lindsey had a birthday party to go to and I had to drop her off at 1 PM. Wayne had gone on a 22 mile run that morning and was napping in the afternoon. Then the block party started. The city blocked the street at 4 PM and the neighbors had all pitched in for a Bounce House for the kids. Dishes to pass were plentiful, the meat was your own doing. So I got to meet Jenny & Wayne's neighbors, eat some good foods and enjoy some brats.

After the party Kristi and I headed back to her apartment and I insisted we stop at McCoy's for a night cap. On to the apartment and another night ending around midnight.

Sunday brought a beautiful sunny day with temp in the 70's. We had a wonderful outdoor breakfast cooked by my daughter Jenny and it was the best breakfast I'd had in Minnesota. Her fried potatoes were the best. It was a super morning with my kids and off the airport we went.

I flew back to St. Louis, Sam picked me up and this time I got to visit with Sam and Sarah as they had recovered from their bug. I stays a short time but was anxious to get home so I left and drove back to Paragould that afternoon. I arrived home about 7:30 PM and was glad to be there.

I was fatigued for a few days, and my system was upset but other than that I had no major difficulties. My daughters walked my ass off while in Minneapolis, but I needed the exercise so all in all it was a great set of memories to add to my expanding collection.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ghosts came to the cookout

Saturday evening, August 12, 2014 was the end of a nice. Terry and I had gotten quite a bit of work done around the house and we were set to enjoy some grilled pork chops, dressing and collard greens. It was cocktail hour, which at our retirement home means it is 4 PM.

I got an urge to cook the chops over a real fire instead of gas grill or charcoal. I rounded up some nice chunks of cedar. I like cedar, it burns clean and hot and produces wonderful glowing coals.

After round one I started a fire in the old grill I have and got it burning nicely. In the meantime the sun was setting which back lights our woods just west of the house. It is a magical time with light streaming through small openings in the tree canopy illuminating pieces of ground. Terry and I are slowly naming some of these areas, such as our Garden of Good and Evil. The appearance of a beam of light on some small bushes in the woods makes me think of the cover of the book by that title. Sometimes light will shine through a bird feeder making it look like someone turned on a light. Such is our entertainment.

Finally the coals were ready and I put the pork chops on. Standing by the grill with a drink in hand enjoying the woodsy scene and our dogs lying peacefully on the patio gave rise to the ghosts. One my favorite memories of being a young person in Munising revolves around family and an old cabin on Ostrander Lake.

My grandfather, James Dean built that cabin out of logs he harvested. It was a very rustic cabin that did have LP gas for lighting and cooking, but that had been installed in the 60's. Before that, the only means of light was lanterns, cooking was over a wood stove. Water was pumped from a hand pump in the house.

My sisters and their husbands would come up north to visit Mom and Dad in the summertime and stayed out at camp. In the evening after Dad got off work we would gather a the cabin and more often than not we would cook out on an old charcoal grill. Mom made potato salad, other sides and food was abundant. But it was the conviviality of the time that sticks out in my mind. Brother Pete Disher and Chap Smathers would start telling stories. Both were very good, but Chap could do Swedish accents that were just hilarious. My sister Carol with her flashing Irish eyes and wonderful sense of humor was caught up in the laughter as was my sister Phyl who could join in just fine. Carol had the reputation of butchering jokes and it was always uproarious when she would usually tell the punch line and then try to fill in the empty space. My mother stood quietly by admiring her children and enjoying the togetherness. My dad would roar with laughter and I am sure that lake resounded with the sounds of this family's gathering.

As I was grilling the pork chops with a Manhattan in my hand I sensed the gathering of old. Sure enough, there was Carol laughing and enjoying a drink along with Chap, Pete and Phyl and Mom and Dad. We were all gathered under my Cedar tree overlooking our woods in the peacefulness of our back yard.  Jokes were being spun, I just couldn't hear them, but I sensed the merriment. Talk was of the times, of friends, and of places and people everyone had enjoyed over the past year since the last time they had gotten together. You know the type of talk, "catching up." I stood there in silence caught up in the moment and just could see my Dad rocking back and forth on his feet laughing as only he could.

Then the pork chops were done. I promised to the assemblage that we would have another cook out soon and I'll bet the ghosts will show up again. God love them all.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Toast!

A toast to my wife. She turned 64. A more loving woman I cannot imagine, nor a more caring one. She is loyal, she is gentle, and she loves me more than I deserve. Yet I have taken care of her. She isn't good with financial issues and I have provided for her. She can buy things if she wants, we can enjoy good food, and our property is paid for. In retirement we can relax and bask in our mutual efforts to live in a rural, olde tyme way.

Yet intruding on this scene is my cancer history and her diabetes. We both have crosses to bear that may make our life short and our  time together brief. I pray not, so does she. The longer we live in "our" log cabin and improve our land and grow small crops the greater the ownership we feel. History is being lived and enjoyed, day after day, month after month and year after year. I am 69 and she is 64, we hope to have many more days of taking care of the land, growing things, and planting flower beds. We hope there is much grass to mow, and much land to clear that we may enjoy the look of the sun filtering through the trees and the filling the senses with joy and beauty.

It may sound surreal, and to some degree it is. However, we sit and drink our cocktails and talk of the flowers and watch the Downy Woodpecker come it to feed at the suet biscuit. We watch the dragon fly sit on the clothesline and dart to and fro snatching its meal that is too small for us to see. We watch ants march across the clothesline from 4:30 to 5:30 as if they had schedule to keep. We watch the dragon fly make room for them as they are not his prey. These are the things we watch and talk about.

We talk of the herb garden that I am working on preparing. We talk of what plants need water tomorrow. We talk of the Peaches coming ripe and how shall we process the bountiful crop it appears we are going to have. We talk with our children on the phone and laugh at their humor and rejoice in the success. We talk about what improvements we would like to make, but we enjoy what we have done already. "Blackie" the Black Walnut tree we uncovered from "honeysuckle" vine is flourishing in the light of day the freedom of weight on its branches. Bentley, a cherry tree forced to a right angle to the ground by the weight of the vines is presenting a wonderful, gravity defying attempt to grow, and we shall support it as we must. The small flower bed in front of Blackie and Bentley is thickening and looking better and better as the days move along.

Things are at peace in the house and home. We are growing old and both hope we have many more years to enjoy our efforts.

Monday, December 30, 2013

More Thoughts on the Valpo Weekend

I had the privilege of spending much of the day Friday, December 13 then all day Saturday and Sunday with my kids. We were in Valparaiso, IN to share in the joy of Kristi graduating with her BSN degree from VU. Daughter Jenny flew in from Minneapolis, I drove from Arkansas, and Kris was home. So began a remarkable weekend for me.

We spent time in downtown Chicago and had a ball. We toured the Willis Tower, known to us as the Sear's Tower which was a remarkable experience. I had never been there and the kids had been there maybe 20 years ago. They are getting older, damn. It was so much fun to see the city from 1000 feet up. We talked about various landmarks, we took pictures, we laughed and all stood in awe of the little transparent booths that hung out from the side of the building giving you a view of straight down. Roads looked like ribbons and cars seemed as though you could reach down and wind them up to keep them going. Jenny took a picture of her hand lined up over a building that gave the appearance of a giant hand going to pinch the building.

We had a fun cab ride back to the corner of Michigan and Jackson with a cabbie who was from Nigeria. A very nice man and we had a nice conversation with him.

Back to Valpo and our first night sampling the dining spots in Valpo. The decor was wonderful, the food, well so-so. We had intermittent snow throughout the weekend making the whole experience very Christmasy and even more wonderful because we have not shared that experience in many years. We took outdoor pictures of the girls sitting next to a statue of Orville Redenbacher. He was a native son of the area. We took pictures in various place we visited.

We had one of the best times visiting Pick's Bar. I had a real old fashioned and the kids a beer and some wine. But we sat there in the convivial atmosphere of an old tavern with Christmas lights, the people in the bar stopping to converse with us, the bartender very attentive and pleasant. The conversation was light, fun and the laughter of my girls just rang in my ears with such a pleasant sound. I could have stayed there all afternoon.

This really is not about the food and the atmosphere. I was not really looking for any grand insight, just the opportunity to spend some time with my kids. I did come away with a great deal of parental satisfaction and joy. The kids and I had time to sit and visit, to follow a line of thought to some kind of conclusion, to ask questions and learn what rationale might be behind some of the things we talked about.

I was especially honored that they took a real interest in one of my old work war stories. It made me feel good. Not many have heard those stories, my ex-wife did not understand them and there just isn't much interest in what you've done from you more recent employers. So that really made me feel good.

I also came to a better understanding of just how well grounded my kids are in their lives. They have friends, Jenny and her husband Wayne seem to have got the parenting and career efforts sorted out. Kristi has a plan and is executing it to her own need. They are good kids. I find myself having different opinions on some things and similarities on other, but that is how it should be. I believe their mother and I raised them without preconceived notions of who they should be. They appear to have formed their values and ideas and direction, certainly with some hereditary input, but a lot of it on their own. They are both very independent, stand up for themselves with ease and confidence and project the finest I think we can expect of our offspring.

Both girls are extremely close to one another, yet they are different in so many ways. I think that they understand each other without feeling threatened or criticized, I think they care for each other simply because they can. I came away from that weekend assured in my mind that I don't have to worry about either girl. They really do have it all together. I feel privileged that they ask for advice and listen and that we have such a good "grown up" relationship. I am extremely comfortable in their presence and they in mine.

I hope we can repeat that experience again some day. It was a real treasure for me.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Weekend of Memories

I left Arkansas Wednesday, December 11 bound for the Chicago area and my niece Debbie and husband John's home in Oswego, Il. The trip was punctuated by frequent stops to deal with my "new normal" after my abdominal surgery two years ago. However it wasn't bad and was not much of and issue for the entire weekend.

I arrived in time for dinner at Deb's and she and I sat around the rest of the evening visiting about family and things. Thursday morning was "jammy" time. She and I sat around in our pajamas, drank coffee and "gabooned." That is my Dad's word for visit at length. We were joined by John and had just and excellent day.

In the afternoon as Debbie prepared an excellent baked chicken, potatoes, chicken gravy and green bean dinner I went through old family pictures she had brought back from her mother's home after my sister Carol's passing last February. It was a real trip down memory lane. I could relate a number of stories to Debbie that she had not heard before and we relived many memories of when Chap and Carol and the kids came to Munising.

It was so nice to be among good family, you can't help but feel comfortable and at ease with Deb & John.

Friday morning I left and went to Valparaiso, IN to see my oldest daughter Kristi. We unloaded my car at Ned's house, my hospitable digs while in Valpo, then on the road to Midway Airport to pick up the youngest daughter Jenny.

I will relate some more in another blog as it would make this one too long. Suffice it to say it was a memorable weekend. We had time to sit and "gaboon" without having to be any place except for Sunday we had to go to Kristi's graduation from Valpo. The time allowed me to gain further insight into the lives of my two lovely daughters. It was the kind of weekend where you are relaxed, enjoying each other's company and just talking about anything that pops into your head. 

Those kids have grown into mature young adults, Jenny and Wayne raising a family and Kristi is just divorced but seems happy and looking forward to new life events. Both have a good handle on their lives and are so animated and enjoyable to be with, I could not have asked for a better weekend.

We were able to spend Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning together and I wouldn't trade it for anything. It was enough time that I came away reassured that all is OK with both, that their lives, while challenging, are rewarding and fulfilled. I cannot tell you what that peace of mind means to a parent. It was long enough that the ride back to Arkansas was pleasant and not regretful. I am a joyful man.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Ride from Marquette

When I was quite young, say five years old it would've been 1950. I was born in December, 1944 so I had almost a full year to wait until the subtraction of age from year became accurate.

My Uncle Earl and Aunt Becky (Rebbecca) lived in Marquette, MI where he was a pharmacist at Pendle's Drug Store. Earl was my father's brother. Several time a year my Mother, Father and I drove to Marquette to have dinner with Earl, Becky and their sons John and Pete. It was a good outing for me. I was quite young and my cousin Jon was some eight years my senior and Pete was five or six years older than I so I wasn't good playing material. However, they did try to include me in things their play, but I'm sure I was an anchor.

Aunt Becky always set a formal table. There was a dining room in the small two story home, and it featured a real solid wood Dining Room set with a Hutch and Buffet. Usually dinner was a nice beef roast or some traditional Sunday fare. Aunt Becky was English, so we had things that I am sure were traditional for that ethnic background. One of the things Aunt Becky made was to most delicious coffee I've ever tasted. I did not drink coffee when I was five, but in later years when my wife and I visited she would serve lunch and after the meal coffee. Beck always asked how many cups of coffee you would drink after lunch, and always just made enough. Somehow she mixed an egg in with the ground, and I believe she boiled the coffee. I've tried it and ended up with coffee grounds lumped by the egg and a very weak imitation of the drink. So, her recipe died with her.

Back to my story. We usually left to return to Munising, some 50 miles East, about 6 or 7 PM. It was about a hour home and we would be home in time for bed and Monday morning. It was the trip home that sticks in my memory. Marquette had one of the only radio stations in the Upper Peninsula. I'm sure Escanaba had radio and perhaps Sault Ste. Marie, but we got Marquette loud and clear. Sunday evenings radio broadcast the various radio dramas. The Green Hornet, The Shadow, Amos & Andy, The Great Gildersleeve, etc. My dad would tune in Marquette on the way home and I was treated to all my favorite radio stories.

Many of our trips were in cold or cool weather, it is that climate that tends to dominate the U.P. So I would be in the back seat by myself while Mom and Dad sat in the front. Heat from the car heater would blow under the front seat and warm my area nicely. Many times I would lay down on the back seat and listen to the radio shows. This my friends was security at its highest. Warm heat, The Shadow knowing "what evil lurks in the hearts and minds of men." I usually did not sleep, I just laid there and listened. I was safe, secure, and was going home where a warm bed and peaceful sleep waited for me. It is my belief that at no other time do we know such safe security as when we are little children being cared for by Mom and Dad.

There are children who missed that period, and miss it today. I find myself, at times walking in the quiet woods of our home wishing for that sense of security and safety again because now I have the responsibility. When a wise man said we may never return home, I know in my heart what that means. I accept it, but it doesn't mean I don't long for that feeling form time to time.