I’ve been lucky, not just because we have a new little puppy chewing our feet, but because my sister has been here for the past couple of weeks, and because we got to experience 3 different concerts over the weekend.
On Friday night my community band performed our concert, “Spring Potpourri,” directed by a guest conductor and featuring several of our members as soloists on assorted pieces.
We’ve grown a lot over the years, both in numbers and musicality, and it was fun to play together, under the lights on a stage with a pretty decent sized crowd applauding our efforts.
I’ve said it before, and it’s still true, as adults there are few opportunities to receive applause. No one claps when we make supper or do the laundry or go off to work or mow the lawn.
Most people have never had the thrill of accepting applause for anything.
Applause is one of the many rewards for playing in a community band. Friendships are another. And the joy of playing music is the best reward of all.
Saturday evening my sister, husband and I went down to hear the Ann Arbor Symphony play Debussy, Prokofiev and Dvorak. This concert was played at the historic Michigan Theater, built in 1927.
The principal flutist talked prior to the concert about what a responsibility she had playing this piece, the work is so famous and the expectations are so high. Of course she played it absolutely beautifully. My sister plays flute, so it was special to listen to this work on Saturday night.
Then on Sunday afternoon she and I drove about 45 miles to Imlay City to listen to the Belle Valley Community Band play their spring concert, which was filled with Irish and Scottish music, and featured the Alma College Pipe Band.
You don’t get to hear a pipe band every day, and since my sister also plays bagpipes this was a very special concert as well. The community band was so fun to listen to and when you add in bagpipes, well, it was spectacular!
I was thinking as I looked at the crowd almost filling the gym bleachers and seated in rows of folding chairs down on the gym floor, that it was pretty cool to see a community come out in such numbers to support their local musicians.
And I wished that every community band or orchestra, every community theater group, every group of artists putting together a show would have such support. It’s a win/win for the artists and their communities. Everyone leaves smiling, no matter the venue, no matter what type of art.
Please go google the words community band, or community orchestra or community theater in your town. Odds are you have one near by. They’ll have a website and you can probably find their spring concert or their spring production, or their spring art installation.
Mark your calendar and then show up. You’d be amazed at the talent all around you.
And they’ll be thrilled to have more people there, enjoying their work and applauding.
I read the book in the summer of 2016. It remains one of my favorite books, though now in 2022 I remember the feelings I had reading it more than the details of the story itself.
Just this week, while noting the buzz about the new Tom Hanks movie, I learned there had been a movie made in Sweden based on the book, back in 2016, and that that version is available through Amazon Prime right now.
We have Amazon Prime.
But before I get ahead of myself, here’s the review I wrote after reading this lovely book six years ago:
“I loved it. Every bit of it, and especially the crotchety old man Ove. Little by little, baby step by baby step the author explains why Ove is as he is by revealing bits of his past. His relationship with his parents. His love for his wife. The bits of drama and tragedy that shaped him. He is sullen and moody and angry but all of that seems reasonable in an unreasonable sort of way.
I can’t tell you more or it would spoil it for you. Just know that under that gruff exterior is a gentle and loving man who just didn’t know what to do with himself until a crazy neighbor moved into his neighborhood.
The writing is gentle and profound and simple and true.
“And time is a curious thing. Most of us only live for the time that lies right ahead of us. A few days, weeks, years. One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead.”
“It is difficult to admit that one is wrong. Particularly when one has been wrong for a very long time.”
“But we are always optimists when it comes to time; we think there will be time to do things with other people. And time to say things to them.”
I didn’t want this one to end. But I knew it had to…everything does, and Ove had been trying to end things for a very long time. It’s just that the neighbors interfered with his plans, and in the process gave him a reason to postpone the inevitable.
Ove had a heart that was too large. You’d never know it when you first met him. But if you let him in you’d know that truth for sure.“
So anyway, with vague memories of a book I loved, my husband and I sat down last night to watch the original movie complete with English subtitles. Some small bits I didn’t remember, but the gist was all there. I remember sighing with tears in my eyes at the end of the book. The tears were running down my face at the end of the movie.
I knew it would be that way…but I was surprised about why my eyes filled with tears. It wasn’t the ending, which I knew, but the fact that I suddenly saw my own parents in Ove and his wife, and I truly, madly, hope that what I saw at the end of the movie is true.
But I can’t tell you what that is, because I don’t want to spoil it for you.
I’ll probably go see the Hanks version, set in the US instead of Sweden. No need for subtitles. I’ll probably enjoy it, maybe even love it. But I doubt it will pack the emotional punch I experienced last night.
Because when you’re expecting it, it’s just not the same.
I’ve been thinking about the best way to share this, some eloquent words that capture the loss our family experienced this week. But there is no easy way.
My last post, Wordless Wednesday is an image I captured in May when my aunt and I were walking through Hudson Mills Park. She was looking for dogwood and trillium. I was trying to capture as much of the experience as she’d let me.
Which means most of my images were taken from behind.
We walked slower this spring than we had the year before, took the shorter trails, gauged whether a hill was too steep or manageable. We stopped to rest on convenient benches more often. There was, after all, no hurry. In fact there was more savoring the moments because we both knew it was our last spring together.
She’d been diagnosed with a terminal cancer and she had chosen not to take any treatment. They told her she’d have a good summer, and, right on schedule, she did.
My sister and brother came up, then my sister came up two more times. We visited her as often as we could. We attended her last symphony, brought her simple suppers rather than expecting the elaborate meals she has made for us our entire lifetimes. We swam with her at her community pool, walked in her beloved Mathi gardens and the University of Michigan Arboretum.
On our last visit, she sat in a wheelchair, pulling sheets of music for my sister and me to play, music she had written when her children were small. She sang along. We played music until she seemed tired, and then we talked just a bit. “Say Hi to Dad,” my sister said, “He’ll surely be waiting for you.”
It was a gift, she said, that she had these past months to spend with her children, with us, with her friends. And so that she could plan and arrange to make things as easy as possible for her family to carry on without her.
We all cried a bit, and then had a long, last hug.
This past Monday morning she left us to say hi to her brother, my dad, and to her husband, her mother, my mother, and so many other family members who had gone on ahead. And on Saturday we all said “see you later” at the most beautiful funeral I’ve ever attended.
She had, of course, planned it all, including her own words to all of us, the hymns to be sung, the prelude and postlude played by the incredible pianist, and the bagpipes played by my sister.
The time she spent with us was our gift as well. She was a gift to all of us, her family, her friends, musicians in her beloved symphony, her neighbors, the students she taught, the community band in which she played.
I can’t be sad, though I will miss her so much; she had a wonderful and joyous homecoming on Monday morning. And, as someone said at the funeral, she’s probably up there organizing heaven right now.
Thanks for all the good times, good meals, good conversation and good company, Aunt Becky. I’ll see you on down the road.
No, not me silly, you all know I’ve been camping enough to wear out a couple tents. But my sister was up from the South, visiting us here in Michigan, and one of the things she wanted to do was camp in her brand new tent.
She bought it a few years ago anticipating a vacation like this, but then Covid happened. And she was busy teaching and working on her house and time slipped away and the tent stayed in it’s packaging and summers came and went and we always said ‘next summer.’
Finally she got to retire and go on a real vacation and we scored a campsite with a view of Green Lake up in Interlochen, near Traverse City.
I had piles of camping equipment that we packed into the car, much more stuff than you really need for two nights, but you never know, right? And as we were both girl scouts once upon a time, (OK, I was a girl scout for only about 8 weeks) we were trained to be prepared for anything.
For the record none of the bad things we prepared for occurred. Like torrential rain or thunderstorms flooding the tents, or nighttime temperatures plummeting below freezing. We actually had beautiful weather every day. We should have stayed longer, but that would have been tempting fate, as it was threatening to rain the morning we were packing up to come home.
Still, though our time there was short, we had so much fun and did so much exploring. From visiting a bagpipe store near Traverse City, to picking rocks up near Northport we covered a lot of territory.
Would you like to see what we saw? Well come on!
Before we even got to our campsite we stopped at Pt. Betsie where we walked the beach looking for pretty stones. It was the first time my sister had visited this lighthouse, though it was a favorite place for our parents and is now a favorite spot of mine.
I don’t think I’ve ever been there in mid-summer when there were people laying on the sand. I’ve been there in all kinds of weather, but never when it was actually a busy beach. That was sort of fun to see.
I noticed an older couple trying to take a selfie with the lighthouse in the background, so I offered to take their picture. They were celebrating a wedding anniversary, I don’t remember the number, but it was over 50. They reminded me so much of my own parents, and I told them that and we all smiled. I got a lovely image of them grinning at each other.
We have a grainy picture of mom and dad standing in pretty much the same spot that they took during an October 50th wedding anniversary trip. Dad must have had the camera propped up on something, he looks worried about whether the shutter will go off. Mom just looks cold.
Makes me smile every time I see it.
After our time at Pt. Betsie we headed over to our campsite. We were lucky to get a spot at Interlochen State Park because we didn’t need electricity and there were a few sites open in the rustic loop. The vault bathrooms weren’t really fun, but we didn’t spend much time at the campsite anyway.
Our site was on Green Lake, and that first night we went down to the very narrow beach to watch the sun set. With high clouds striping the sky we knew to stay after the sun dropped below the horizon just in case those clouds lit up.
And we were right. It turned into the most amazing sunset.
Then we headed to bed with alarms set for around midnight when we returned to the beach to see if the Milky Way was visible. Turns out it was…sort of. There were still wispy clouds obscuring some of the stars, and a bit of a wind blowing to keep us chilled.
Still, it was very cool to be out there together under the stars.
My sister plays the bagpipes and one of her pipe sets needed some work, so she was eager to stop at a bagpipe store and talk to an expert. So the next morning I sat out in the car reading a book while they discussed what needed to be done to fix her pipes. She got so much good advice at Henderson Imports she kept grinning and saying “I’m so HAPPY about my pipes!” the rest of our trip.
Ok, so maybe it’s not typical of my camping trips to visit a bagpipe retailer, but the rest of our trip was Pure Michigan. Getting our steps in during this vacation was never a problem.
After the bagpipe experience we drove up to Northport and visited a friend in her bookstore, then went out to Peterson Park to look for more stones. Peterson Park is known for it’s stony beach, and we were not disappointed.
It’s such a pretty place, well worth the long flight of stairs from the parking lot down to the beach. And the seemingly longer flight of stairs back up to the car when you’re usually laden down with special rocks. It has been documented that it is impossible to visit this park without picking up at least one stone to take home.
After Peterson Park we drove south to Sleeping Bear National Park where we stopped for a quick dune climb. I have the lifetime national park pass, so it cost us nothing more to pull in and climb. We haven’t done that since we were much younger, but I have to say we did just fine.
We only climbed to the first summit, it’s possible to keep going for miles eventually arriving on the shore of Lake Michigan. I’ve done that twice and don’t need to ever do it again. It’s a cool walk, but it’s HOT and sandy and it takes FOREVER and once you get to the lake you turn around and do it again. No footwear is ever the right footwear to walk miles in shifting sand. Just saying.
And after the dune climb we drove out to Barr Lake which is a small inland lake that connects to Lake Michigan. We trekked from the parking lot out to the big lake and spent some time lounging on the beach people watching, then did the requisite beach rock looking for stones. Neither of us took a camera out there, which I regretted once we got out there, but it was freeing not to lug the camera up and down the beach. So just imagine a beautiful white sandy beach, with people kite surfing out on the waves, and building sand castles on the shoreline and throwing frisbees and laughing and sunbathing.
There. Now don’t you feel relaxed? We did too.
So, slightly sunburned and covered in sand we headed back to the campsite where we made dinner and settled in for a nap before our planned walk back down to the beach to try for the Milky Way on our last night.
My alarm was set for midnight and I when I poked my head out of my tent I could see lots of stars, and the Milky Way right above us. Neighbors in the site next to us had a dog that barked at every noise so I tried to be quiet as I woke my sister but she is infamous for sleeping like a rock and I couldn’t get her up by shining my red flashlight into her tent or whispering her name, so I went down to the beach by myself.
The sky was clear on this, our second night, and I shot a few images of the Milky Way out over the lake. There was still significant light pollution, and a party going on across the lake compete with bright lights, but in general I was pleased.
The breeze was warm and there weren’t any bugs, the stars were bright and I was standing in a beautiful place. It was all good except I should have tried harder to wake my sister up. She was disappointed when I got back and she woke up as I was climbing back into bed. She was ready for a night time adventure and all I did was tell her to go back to sleep.
In retrospect I should have gone back to the beach with her so she could see the Milky Way. Sometimes, as Katie always said, I can be a little dense.
In the morning the sky was dark and the air felt damp and the radar on my phone predicted rain. We hurried up to get the tents down while they were still dry. We skipped breakfast and packed everything up as fast as we could finishing just as sprinkles began to dampen the sand.
But we took the long way home, stopping at a farm market north of Ludington for some more wonderful fruit. And, of course, I stopped later for a photogenic barn.
Because, after all, what’s a trip north without a barn?
I hadn’t been there in mid-summer before, preferring migration season, when the cranes are coming and going, but you never know what you’ll see on any given day. We arrived at the park before the sun was up, and it seemed pretty quiet.
I was feeling kind of disappointed that nothing seemed to be flying when suddenly the sound of wings came up from our right, moved directly overhead and then off into the distance to our left.
I don’t know what kind of birds they were, they were just black silhouettes, but thousands of smallish dark shapes flew by, heading out for breakfast and their day in the sun.
It was pretty cool.
Then we hopped back in the car and started down Wildlife Drive where, once again, I didn’t initially see anything interesting Though there was this beautiful field of something, glowing in the early light.
And as I was standing outside of the car taking that photo these guys rose up with a ruckus from the ditch right next to me.
And a little further up the road we disturbed this blue heron. I loved his long legs as he took off.
He was less than thrilled with us…
…so we moved on down the road.
At the next corner I saw an adorable duck. So of course we stopped.
Turns out he was some kind of diving duck, and the best image I grabbed of him wasn’t him at all.
And then right after the duck was a juvenile eagle hanging out in a tree.
The light wasn’t really right to get a great shot of him, so I started looking around at what else was waiting to be photographed and found my artsy-fartsy image of the day.
I don’t know why the line of dead trees caught my eye, but something about it demanded to be captured. So I did.
Then we ran across something of a bird flasher. He seemed intent on showing off everything he had. Or maybe he was just drying off from a morning swim.
And while we were watching him my sister saw a bit of gold flitting around in a stand of thistle.
I spent a long time getting an image of him eating out in nature what I usually see goldfinches eating from my feeder at home.
These ducks were swimming as if they had some sort of mission to achieve somewhere else. I have no idea what kind of duck they are. Looking in my Michigan bird book I wonder if maybe they are female wood ducks? Or maybe juveniles.
And this family of ducks were adorable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like them before either.
But the bird that made me smile the widest was this guy. We’d been watching, through binoculars, a couple of bald eagles perched in a tree very far away when I happened to glance to my left and saw this:
There was an adult bald eagle in the top of a tree much closer to us. Still far away, but much closer than those eagles across the field.
We spent a long time taking shots of him, as I was struggling with my focus all day. I kept trying, manually adjusting, trying to find a place to prop my long lens because I was worried about camera shake.
My glasses were fogging up and sliding off my nose which irritated me so I put them on top of my head and then realized I couldn’t tell if anything was in focus without them. I decided to trust the lens.
Eventually I figured, what the heck, I’d try to move closer to him. I walked, under cover of the tree line toward him, moving slowly and as quietly as I could given the gravel road. I couldn’t tell if he was watching me.
I caught a bit of him through the trees then tried to move out into the open to get an unobscured shot. But he wasn’t having any of it, and that was the end of that.
But man that was fun.
We were nearing the end of Wildlife Drive, but there was still a bit more to see. We’d noticed monarch butterflies all morning, flitting among the milkweed, wings glowing in the early morning sun.
And now that the sun was higher warming the air we noticed even more.
Having not learned my lesson with the egrets, the heron, the diving duck, and the eagle, I tried to move around the butterfly to get a better angle.
But he wasn’t having it and that was the end of that.
Turns out there was so much to see along the road that had initially looked empty, and just before we left the Refuge we saw one more image that made us smile.
I know it’s not easy being green, but these guys seemed pretty comfortable in their own skins. Or should I say shells. At least they didn’t take off when I took their picture. Maybe because I shot it from the car window.
I can learn, contrary to what Katie always used to say, yes I can.
Last weekend I got to enjoy a walk in the park with my aunt. And here another weekend is approaching and I haven’t shared with you what we found.
I guess I better get cracking.
We went to Hudson Mills, a park over near Dexter Michigan, not so far from where she lives, but far enough away we don’t get there very often. It reminded me quite a lot of my favorite park, Kensington, and in fact it’s part of the same park system.
There was a paved bike/walking path, and then lots of wooded nature trails to explore. We walked some of my aunt’s favorite trails, looking for evidence of spring, especially a particular dogwood tree she enjoys every year .
Luckily for us we had sunshine and slightly warm temperatures for our walk. Perfect. These are trails she knows well, and she knew just where to look for the early wildflowers too.
We walked in the dappled shade of newly leafed trees and watched the ground intently for surprises.
You could walk right past many of these wonderful bits of spring. But if you’re vigilant, you’ll see very special things.
It was so much fun when one or the other of us found something special and explained “Look!”
There was something to see no matter where we looked.
You could spend hours wandering these nature trails any time of the year and see beautiful things.
We had such a good time walking in the woods together.
And when we headed back to the car, we ran into a goose family with one little one trying to be grown up before he or she was old enough to care.
Today I’ve been busy cleaning the house and cooking in preparation for Thanksgiving tomorrow. It’s one of the days I’m glad Katie gets me up early, I have so much to do. Katie, on the other hand, is less than happy, following me around from bedrooms to bathrooms to kitchen and back again as I alternate cleaning with putting something on the stove or in the oven or downstairs in the spare fridge.
Up and down, back and forth. She didn’t even bark at her personal nemesis the vacuum cleaner. By the time I got to that she was all but exhausted. Me too.
But there was one moment this morning when I was suddenly transported back to Thanksgiving 2004, and I had to stop and catch my breath. And then grin sadly.
You see, in the summer of 2004 my mom died suddenly, and by Thanksgiving of that year the entire family recognized that we couldn’t take family for granted. And so both sides of my family, people on my mom’s side, and people on my dad’s, from all over the country, were arriving for Thanksgiving dinner, to be eaten on Friday, at my house.
Dad and my siblings got there a day or so early and were helping me prepare. And wouldn’t you know it, I ran out of plastic wrap. It’s certifiably impossible to cook massive amounts of food without plastic wrap. So even though it was Thanksgiving morning, a time I would generally avoid going to the store, my dad volunteered to run out and pick some up for me. And of course all he and one of my brothers could find was some funky colored sticky plastic wrap which I used that day but never used again. In fact I think I still have that roll at the back of the pantry.
Today I was making vegetable lasagna for dinner tonight and needed to cover the pan with foil before it went into the oven. I had a new roll of it waiting in the drawer. But darn it all, Kroger, do you have to glue the edge down so that I can’t get it started? Does everyone have to yank the foil including the cardboard core out of the box and use scissors in order to get a piece of foil? I should just go buy another brand.
And then I envisioned going to the store the afternoon before Thanksgiving. The chaos that would be there. Just for some tinfoil. Even though I know for a fact that it’s certifiably impossible to cook massive amounts of food without tinfoil, I wasn’t going to head to the store for anything. And then I remembered sending dad out into the craziness for plastic wrap.
And I stopped tugging the tinfoil and I took a deep breath and I smiled.
Memories on this Thanksgiving about Thanksgivings long past. I guess that’s what the holidays are supposed to be about. And I should probably just stop worrying about all that food. It will get done or it won’t, Thanksgiving will be here either way, and I’m grateful to be spending it with some of my family this year.
I hope you are all in a happy place as well. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!