Monday, December 21, 2009

Turning back

This is it. This is the night. The dark tide draws back. Not much. Not far. But enough. We have been marking this moment since we were almost without words. We used our brute strength to build the monuments that marked this moment. When food was hard to come by. When warmth was elusive. We used what we had to mark this turning point. From here until June, the light cascades back. Let us mark it well. The dark will fail. The light will come. We mark this moment.

Monday, July 13, 2009


"And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey ... So they gathered it every morning, every man according to his need. And when the sun became hot, it melted."
Exodus, 16

So, Bill's new obsession is daylilies. You should come see. This is the second summer for a lot of them and they're filling out and getting wonderful. I don't have him here for quick reference, but I think there are around 80 in the garden now and several queued up in the garage for planting this week. Some 40 of them are currently in bloom.

Many of them are the most elaborate flowers I've ever seen. Showier than orchids. Ruffled, variegated, single, double. Their colors range from the palest pink to the blackest maroon. Some have different colored "eyes." Some are a single glorious shade. Some are fragrant like nectar. Some smell like something delicously alive and clean but nothing more. All have names. Like "Shores of Time" or "Ed Brown." Bill's recitation of their names is a daily liturgy.

Each one is a miracle you can hold in your hand. Every bloom thrives for a day and is gone the next morning. It's kind of painful. We've tried gathering them up and bringing them in. They're lovely at night fall and
by morning have turned into something totally goopy and disgusting.

They are manna. Sufficient to nourish a soul one day at a time, then gone.

Therefore, in the evening, Bill goes around and picks off the spent blossoms, that are really at their peak. He tosses them into a bucket and that's it on them. Before he does that, though, we pass them back and forth and inhale their beauty. Trying to glean maximum enjoyment before they're gone. Then the slate is clean. Ready for a new morning of fresh bloom.

I am not a Biblical scholar by any means, but the metaphor of manna has always interested me. Touched me, I guess. To me it's the very paradigm of trust, which is a commodity I'm very low on a lot of the time. The Israelites were under a lot of stress in the wilderness, and they freaked out about a lot of stuff, annoying Moses and undoubtedly trying the patience of God. They tried to hoard up the manna for the desert version of a rainy day, and the leftover portion turned nasty very fast. They had to learn to take what they needed and trust in providence to provide for later. (Hey! Providence. Provide. I never noticed that before. What was I thinking?)

The Buddhists have that whole attachment concept, which is the same idea with a slightly different spin. It is our clinging that causes suffering. Our desire for every beautiful thing to last, when no beautiful thing ever can. For although the day lilies are extreme in their fleeting span, their wisdom applies to everything that blooms in the garden. Here today. Gone before we're ready.

This is the pitfall of living a human lifetime in such a magnificent world. We can't fully appreciate the beauty without seeing the fading, can't love summer without noticing how fast it goes.

We are commanded by the nature of the universe to live fully in each moment. To hold the lily and breathe in its loveliness so deeply and completely that we can toss it away without regret.

Tall order. Big challenge. Always worth a try.

And no kidding. Stop by and visit Billy's lilies. They're only here for a little while.

July 13, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What I Did On My 4th Of July Vacation

Yesterday was the BEST July 4th Celebration in the history of the United States of America and it happened right here in my neighborhood. I had the swellest day with everything I ever wanted in a 4th of July. It was sunny, but not too sunny, warm but not too warm, breezy but not windy -- just the right amount to make all the flags wave picturesquely in the All-American breeziness. And because of the rain everyone's been cursing lately, the world was a gorgeous shade of green.

We had a parade.

A parade so funny, so funky, so American, with a Salvation Army band; three friendly police cars with full-up light and sound; children in red, white and blue attire (and hair), on foot, in parents' arms, on decorated bikes; some wailing, some blissful; one young man posing as Benjamin Franklin with a degree of authenticity that in my opinion outBenned the young Ben himself.

There were floats that showed a lot of forethought and effort and floats with a whacked-together, thunk-up-at-the-last-minute, insouciance. (Notable was the cherry picker device Frank is using to paint his house, extended to its full height, tricked out with bunting and loaded with kids and grown-ups. It sailed up the street with its occupants at tree-level and Frank in his big white shirt looking BUT EXACTLY like THE Spirit of 1776. So cool you couldn't stand it.)

There was Emil (who is 90+) on his red scooter, dripping beads and wild enthusiasm.The rest of this year's photos are "not yet available" but they will be shortly at (Along with weather, webcam, golf handicaps, what music is playing currently, etc. etc. You should go to there. It is fun.)

So the parade was, as noted above, the perfect parade with more participants than spectators. And I got to be a spectator this year. Which was a role that needed filling. Yay me.

Here's my schedule of what I got to do on Independence Day 2009:

Get up. Have coffee in the yard and listen to the neighborhood wake up with birds, sunshine and happy voices.

Help fill 150 water balloons for the games. The incredibly cheap and tacky nozzle device actually worked like a charm. We all three got pretty wet; it took a lot longer than you'd think, and obviously the y chromosome makes it utterly impossible for a couple of guys -- even father and son -- to resist firing off a couple of water bombs at each other. John, very good shot. And quite unexpected. That was excellent.

Watch the quintessential neighborhood 4th parade, as noted above.

Sell raffle tickets down at the park and root for every single kid to win the bicycle.

Eat a good hamburger and some delicious taco salad and have a
a Rolling Rock in a bottle, in a Shore Acres Association coaster, before 11:30 a.m. (The coaster was $2 and worth every penny. We moved 100 of them at the picnic.)

Have another beer and guard the water balloons from 20 or so little boys who just really couldn't stay away from them. (Y chromosomes again.) Also guard and distribute prizes to kids who were mostly very polite and appreciative and who generously gave me the gift of seeing a cheap glow sword as the True Holy Grail.

Watch Bill be 100% the Bill I signed on the spend the last 40 years with, as Director of Games. I hope we ride our Emil Scooters down Shore Acres in the 2039 Parade.

See our water balloons well-used in water balloon tosses for all ages and then. at the end of the games, turned loose in a perfect freeforall, which included pelting Frank et al who were watching from that cherry picker and had NOWHERE to hide. (Lucky for you guys we didn't release the leftover eggs from the egg tosses.)

Note: I'm not even going to mention all the people (Meg, Dan, Meredith, Scott, Boo, another Dan, people, people, more people -- you know who you are; you are magificent and you know that.) who did all the work to make this event happen.

My day, continued:

Have another beer.

Sit down on our deck, listen to John's great playlist and watch the water and the boats with neighbors we knew and neighbors we're just getting to know and strangers we liked.

We flew our flag down there (instead of on the street side, where there were plenty) for the admiration of boaters and to warn off the Canadians. Or at least the dratted Canada Soldier, Bug of Many Names.

Have another beer. (Lost the previous one. Somewhere.)

Have a short nap caused by sun, busy day, and, possibly, beer.

Stroll down to Meredith and Scott's fabulous new patio on (like, no kidding, ON) the water and watch the sunset and the bonfire, have a beer, and meet and remeet their cool friends. If Domino hadn't gone out of the magazine business, they'd have been down on the patio last night doing a spread on how the young, hip, people of Shore Acres Drive celebrate the 4th.

Fireworks were visible up and down the lakeshore; everybody's city was putting on a display. And if fireworks were legal, I'm sure there would have been really cool, really loud, almost scary fireworks at Scott & Meredith's. But that would have been illegal and I hasten to say there were NONE. At all. No firework fun was had by us there. Really.

Then we came home, met Sue and Hossein on the sidewalk and got Hossein's recipe for ribs which includes, and I quote, "zap them with my magic" and went to sleep. All worn out from fun and no fireworks. And beer.

See? Perfect.

God bless the people and the friends of Shore Acres Drive.

God Bless the USA.

July 5, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Clueless. And loving it.

Bill is the sort of person who really wants to understand things. Therefore, when you stick him in a chair that overlooks a beautiful scene, he spends a certain amount of time marveling at the beauty. And then he gets down to business and starts hypothesizing about stuff. I'm a pretty serious Understander myself so I'm happy to jump right in, sometimes as the instigator.

So, here we sit, staring at the water and the sky, appreciating the view and saying things like, "Why do you think that one gull is floating out there all by himself? And crying like that? Lost? Hungry? Looking for a girlfriend?" Using our acutest powers of observation we work that one for awhile and then move on.

"Why do you think those rivers of lighter colored water are meandering all over the surface of the lake? Like that one that comes from all the way out at the horizon and ends up over by the harbor? Oil slick? Naw. Doesn't look oily. Thermal differences? Maybe."


"Pretty though."


"Why do you think some sunsets linger in the clouds for an hour. And others just 'plop down' and are done?"

"Well, I suppose atmospheric conditions...."

There probably is a factual/actual answer out there. Somewhere. We can Google around some of the questions. And we do. Every now and then we get an expert down to the deck and grill him or her. But harsh reality is, we're never going to know for sure why sometimes geese fly down the shoreline and sometimes they swim.

"Maybe it's because they're stopping to eat some goo? Goose buffet. Maybe it's because the babies can't fly yet?

"Maybe. But I don't see any babies, do you?"

"Uh uh. Do you think the babies are grown up already? Where are they anyhow?"

Experts on thinking and knowing tell us that, in the world of the human head, there are the things we know and the things we don't know and the things we don't know we don't know. I would add to that the things we'll never know. But just like to sit and wonder about until the sun goes down and the stars come out.

"So, where is Venus? Last summer it was right over there...."

June 27, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

From Left to Right. Until Tonight.

Something I didn't know before we moved here: That when Venus sets into the water, she casts a tiny trail of reflected light. Like a pinprick moon sinking down into the lake. Who knew a mere planet could do that? Not me. That's for sure. I hadn't seen, either, that a gull will chase an eagle and that the eagle seems to take that rather seriously.

I was ignorant about a ton of other things actually, but there's one that's particularly pertinent to today's post.The sunset moves. (What the heck?) A lot. And not just from early until late through winter and into spring. Not merely from 5:00 p.m. until 9:05. Left to right. From
way over there, to way over here.

From the winter solstice, back on December 21, to the summer one, which is today, the sun swings wide across our horizon on its way to splashdown on June 21. From left of the Northeast Yacht Club harbor -- almost out of our sight -- around the back of the house, to where tonight it will shine in through the kitchen door. Right in my eyes when I'm fixing dinner. It will still be in plain view from the kitchen deck when it collapses into a thin little spark and vanishes. At 9:05 tonight.

I suppose lots and lots of more knowledgeable people than me already knew that. And most of them probably understand more about how it all works than I do. But I also have noted that quite a few people whom I consider to be smart and capable don't know this either. "You're kidding!" they say. And I feel a little better.

So. The days have been getting longer ever since I took that photo last December 21 until today. The sun started its trip that evening and now it's turning back. Official time will linger at 9:05 until July 5th when it will clock out at 9:04. But after tonight, the sun will be heading, almost imperceptibly but inexorably, back to December again.

How does that make me feel. Okay, I guess. There's a lot of summer left. In fact, since it wasn't officially summer until today, I shouldn't be too torn up about it. But it is a marker. In December I always feel ever so slightly better, even with winter stretching from there until May. So on June 21 I always feel a little twinge of worse.

But never mind. It's a lovely afternoon in June. (And did Henry James not conclude that "Summer afternoon" are the most beautiful words in the English language?) We can still count on a few more days that last until 9:05 and lots of twilights that linger in a band of rose on the horizon until 11:00.

But it's all downhill from here.

June 21, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Water Sandwich

Two layers of water. Lake water. Sky water. Me in the middle. Yum. Just like I like it. Listening to Astrid Gilberto sing "Here's That Rainy Day" and considering putting together a playlist of rainy songs. For example, if you haven't heard Seal's version of "I Can't Stop The Rain," you ain't heard nothing. Go find yourself a copy of Soul. Quick. Before the storm passes over.

I was planning to take the laptop up to the Waterloo Cafe and get some work done for a change but now I'm all conflicted. Go there where it's warm and bright and congenial. (And there are probably muffins or something.) Or stay here where it's quiet, dark and somber but beautiful like there's no tomorrow.

As you might expect, I'm a fan of rain. Oh, I can get enough, although I believe that people who believe that it rains all the time in Cleveland are just working their preconceptions. Generally speaking, we don't get a ton of days like these, dark with the sound of falling water and distant thunder. I know. Because I lurk around, waiting for them.

Ah. Wynona. "Come Some Rainy Day." This is getting good. And "Love By Grace" -- that's got good old moody rain, too. You can always count on Wynona to bring you down in a good way.

One thing I miss, living so close to the sounds of waves, is waking up to the music of rain falling steadily in the night. Rustling bushes. Flattening the grass. Gurgling in the gutters. Patting down the roof. So often when it rains, the wind comes up. And wave sound trumps rain sound. Not complaining really. Just saying. Sometimes you got to choose.

Oh, "Rainy Day Man." James Taylor. Not the one on the eponymous James Taylor which, forgive me JT, kind of sucked. The one from Flag.

So if you're out there, tell me your favorite rainy day songs. I'll be here. Listening to water from the sky.

And in the meantime. Play it again Seal.

June 19, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How About a Little Ice In That?

Today, let us celebrate bugs and humidity and weeds going nuts in the garden. Let us embrace the sound of the air conditioner kicking on and enjoy the presence of water that moves and sings. Boats that aren't bundled up in tarps and parked somewhere safe on land. And birds that don't have to move to Akron to find food.

Today, let us remember that although January can be cozy and the ice is beautiful and changeable and romantic and compelling, it's also #%$#@* cold. We are approaching the summer solstice. A day so long I can almost not stay awake for all of it. Let's savor every second.

Wherever we are, let's soak up the summer!

June 18, 2009

And P.S. I know you're all whining about how chilly and overcast it is. This is nothing. Buck up.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

God Bless Curtis

Four years ago today, we came to live in this house by the water. Four great and interesting years. We bought it from a man named Curtis, and (Forgive me, Curtis, if you ever read this.) the transaction was hair raising. Because Curtis didn't want to move.

He'd lived here for 18 years. Bought the house when it was sold for taxes. Slowly, painstakingly, fixed it up and made it beautiful. But he wanted to bring his parents to live with him and this wasn't the house for that. He'd accepted our offer -- which we made about five minutes after our first visit -- and eventually, all his doubts and regrets were overcome, more by the steamroller of real estate procedure, than any real acquiescence to actually leaving. He's a good, kind man. And this was his home.

The house not only has a lot of very nice and thoughtful features, it also comes with a truly magnificent (and let's speak truth) demanding, exhausting garden. The backyard is, no kidding, water, but the front yard is land aplenty. Nice bones, cool specimen trees, pretty perennials that even our ground hogs can't eat all of. Curtis designed and planted it, and he knew what he was doing. It's a different world from the water at our backs. The best of both. We had a dinner guest once who asked me, "Do you ever think maybe you don't deserve all of this?" And I answered, "All the time."

Which comes to the roses. Curtis told me he'd always wanted a rose garden. So now we have one. Bill feeds them. I prune them. But Curtis planted them. Whenever I look at them, or at so many of the wonderful features of this place, I say "God Bless Curtis." And I mean it from my heart.

The Zen people have a saying, "The glass is already broken." I don't have much of a grasp of Zen thought, but I believe this means that in the creation of everything -- every thing -- are the seeds of its destruction. That everything that exists now will, at some point, not exist anymore. That the glass will have changed into something else and be gone. I also don't think the Zen people are being gloomy or resigned. That's not their way as far as I can tell. What they're saying to me is, "Enjoy the glass! Drink from it. Hold it up to the light. Feel the cool smoothness of it in your hand. Use it now in the knowledge of its impermanence, and your joy in it will be enhanced."

You can see where this is going. Someday this house will be gone. No question. Hopefully it will be hundreds of years. But realistically, all houses will have to go sometime before the sun burns out. (Especially houses that are built on The Brink of the Wrath of God.) And even before the house goes, we will. Hopefully not for hundreds of years, and hopefully feet first, but some day, probably before the sun burns out, we'll be outta here.

So the new people. (I hate them already.) will come. Hopefully the promise of impermanence will intensify our joy in this time and not degrade into the fear and sorrow of impending loss. And hopefully we will have been stewards of this place, and the joy of this place, such that the new people will love the things and the spirit that we leave.

And say, "God Bless Bill & Ann."

Happy Anniversary, House.

God bless you, Curtis. This bud's for you.

June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

17 Geese and a Duck

Sorry. The duck took off somewhere while I was finding the camera and getting coffee and just generally not being fast enough, even for the geese who were hanging around eating bugs and goo off the rocks. This could be a whole other set of geese, given how long it took me.

Geese love goo. I love geese. I understand perfectly that if they came and stood on the lawn and made goose doo all over the grass, or if I played golf and experienced "The Goose: Bane of the Golf Course," then I, too, would curse and revile geese like the rest of the civilized world. But they don't do that here. They float majestically by with their fuzzy babies and eat rock goo and squabble amongst themselves. In the spring, they spread their wings and do the mating dancing of geese which is akin to behavior in bars, which I have mostly observed on television. Only geese are more graceful and much less self-conscious.

Once in the night, the first summer we were here, a goose was searching for another goose, or maybe for a lost fuzzy gosling. And it cried so painfully, so anxiously and so long. I could hear it moving up and down the shoreline in the dark. Searching and keening. It was a sound to tear the soul. So, I forgive the geese for being obnoxious in the real world.

Truth is, almost anything afloat upon or flying over glassy blue water is beautiful. Geese. Ducks. Boats. Freighters, for sure. Even ordinary motor boats with their interesting paint jobs and cool names. It's even hard to hate a cormorant, diving. Or thousands of them, flying in undulating lines of black script on the horizon. "Fly, you nasty cormorants, fly!" we say. "You look just fine from here."

Not dead fish though. It's hard to warm up to a dead fish. Especially if there are several. Or several hundred. And soap bubbles aren't great. But a big log, that is really an escaped tall tree, can take your breath away. Partly by how big a hole it would make in your house if it could find its way over the rocks. Which you kind of believe it could.

Today, though, seventeen geese and a duck with an iridescent emerald head. Worth getting up for.

June 16, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Note to Self.

I ate a bug yesterday. I was trying to disperse the bug population on the kitchen deck with the blower. (Works. Kind of.) But I forgot the First Rule of Blowing Bugs Off The Deck: Keep your mouth shut. It was in and down before I knew what happened. Thus, the note. But on the other hand I think that sends a clear message. I bet the bugs out there are all saying, "Dude. She's a cannibal. Let's go someplace else." Or plotting revenge maybe .....

June 15, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Slow Beautiful.

The sailboats are racing this morning. The breeze is five to ten. (If you want that in knots, you'll have to convert it yourself.) Which means that "racing" is a generous description of what's going on out there. First, there was what seemed to be some drifting, then there was what looked a lot like milling. Eventually, they crossed the starting mark and took off (generous again) towards the west mark which is out of sight behind the harbor.

I see that the leaves of the Norway maple off the kitchen deck are stirring now, a little, so I guess they'll be coming back eventually. Maybe even putting on some serious speed, maybe with the big, colorful spinnakers deployed. On a windy, wavy day, sailboats race at a breakneck pace, slinging foam, skimming the water, canted scary low. Day like today, though, this racing could be considered the most boring thing in the world. Watching paint dry. All that.

Except. It's one of the world's most beautiful, most elemental sights. People have been unfurling sails to harness the sky since Egypt, 3500 BC. We know this because, according to Wikipedia, someone back then painted one on a vase. Wikipedia calls the sailboat "an instrument of civilization." (I call Wikipedia one of those, too. by the way.) In any case, we have often said that if sailboats didn't show up on their own, we'd gladly pay them to come by now and then. (I say that about gulls, too. If you only see gulls in the McDonald's parking lot, you're not really seeing gulls. I love their little brainless, soaring selves.)

When the guys from the yacht club motor out to take the marks down in the fall, my heart breaks just a little. Because I love the sailboat races, even when they go really, really slow.

June 14, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009


The bugs are back. We get midges this time of the year. The locals tend to call them Canadian Soldiers. However, the experts on local TV have so thoroughly made the point that they are not strictly speaking Canadian Soldiers that we always say, "The Canadian Soldiers are back, but-of-course-we-know they're not really Canadian Soldiers but some kind of something like a midge or a Mayfly." In our hearts, though, we believe they're Canadian Soldiers. They don't bite (not sure they have mouths and therefore do not eat our food either.) They're harmless, floating around, making a little singing sound, looking for love. Tiny, fragile little wispy things. Ephemeroptera of some kind. They live 24 hours.

But here's the deal, there are zillions of them. Their little singing song sometimes sounds like cars out on the interstate or a giant air conditioner pumping away. I'm not exaggerating. I really mean zillions and I'm serious about loud. Plus, they fly in your face and zoom off doors as you open them and follow the light so if you leave a lamp on in a room at night they will come in and sit upon your ceiling (and fall off dead in the morning.) They come and go, often several times, in the month of June. They (or something suspiciously like them) returned in September or October a few years back and attacked the Yankees at Jacobs Field during a playoff game. And we won, heh, heh. Last year they were horrendous, like in a horror movie entitled
Attack of The Fill In the Blank, for three days and then pretty much left for the summer. But anyway. They were here in late May and early June and this morning they're back. Another, hopefully smaller, cycle, plastered onto the deck rail and floating stupidly about.

Some people are horrified by a lot of things about lakeside living. Bugs would be one of those things. Some people just don't know what they're missing.

June 12, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A fountain named Bert.

On June 17, 2005 everything changed.

Before we moved to the lake, I dreamed of living near big water. An ocean, maybe. I'd savored a hefty handful of beach vacations, jealously guarding every moment of silent staring. Listening to the tattoo of waves breaking on sand. Tracking gulls and pelicans. Just soaking it up. Back then we lived in a nice old house. It had a nice old garden and small space for a new one which was so terrifically terrible for the planting of anything that I froze just considering what might be done with it. So, we engaged a garden designer and as part of the getting acquainted phase of the plan, she asked what I wanted in a garden. "Uh," I offered tentatively. "I always wanted to live near water." A professional, she didn't say, "Well, maybe you should move." She suggested that a fountain on the garage wall, which was, attractively enough, brick would allow the
sound of water at least.

It did. She found us a lion-headed fountain which my neighbor named Bert after Bert Lahr in
The Wizard of Oz. Bert got the job done. Provided the sound of water. Lulled me for years in that upland patch of pretty flowers. But I never stopped wanting big water. And it was so tantalizingly near, yet so far away behind the barrier of habit and convenience of living thirty years in the same lovely town. But we did it. On June 17, 2005 we moved to the shore of Lake Erie, ten yards from the water's edge, eight-point-eight miles and a hundred light years from our old familiar place. Bert came along, but when the pump died, we didn't replace it. Now we plant him full of flowers. A kind of reverse role from his old garden self. Of the sound of water, there is now a plentiful supply.

This blog is a journal of water and our life at its edge.

June 11, 2009