Pleasant Peninsula

Introduction 

I have always felt lucky to have grown up in Michigan. I always bought into the state’s motto: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” I spent my childhood looking about me: Higgins Lake, Kensington Park, Lake Erie, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron (I think I only met Lake Superior when I was a bit older). The Detroit Zoo, Belle Isle, Boblo, Greenfield Village, Scotty’s Fish and Chips, Cape’s Ice Cream in Milford:  the list is diverse and goes on and on. A few weeks ago, Tom and I were lucky enough to take a trip to the Lower Peninsula. Below are some photos of the trip.

Mackinac Island

Lake Huron

Lake Huron

milkweed pod, Mackinac Island

milkweed pod

rocks, trees, steps, Mackinac Island

rocks, trees, steps, Mackinac Island

Sleeping Bear

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

pine needles and fungus

pine needles and fungus

shore, Sleeping Bear National Lake Shore

shore, Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Detroit

at the Rouge Plant, Dearborn

at the Rouge Plant, Dearborn

from Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry Murals, Detroit Institute of Art

from Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals, Detroit Institute of Art

Cotswold Cottage, Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan

Cotswold Cottage, Greenfield Village, Dearborn

 

at Scotty's Fish and Chips

at Scotty’s Fish and Chips

 

 

Coat, Hats, and Words

I am still here.  However, it has been 82 days since I last wrote in this space.

First, some words about clothes, and then some other words.

Clothes:

In the winter, especially when I wear my pink coat and my little aqua hat (rimmed with pink), people sometimes offer me their seats on the Metro. Some of the people who offer me seats seem pretty old themselves. Most of the people who offer me a seat are immigrants. I am learning to either politely accept or politely decline.  It’s difficult, but I am what I am–older than I used to be. It’s just that I wish that that fact wasn’t so apparent to everyone on the train.

pink coat, aqua hat

In the summer, I mostly wear two hats. I say mostly because my daughter gave me a third lovely broad-brimmed summer straw, but I almost lost it to the wind walking across Key Bridge, so I hesitate to wear it much. Instead, I wear a Michigan ball cap and when I wear it I look like Michael Moore. I like Michael Moore, but perhaps it is not my best look. The other hat I wear is a loose, rustic straw hat.  When I wear this hat, I feel like Ma Kettle.  Now, I just googled Ma Kettle and I see that she wore a variety of hats.  In any case, I feel like a rube and I can only hope to emulate Ma’s good sense.

broad-brimmed straw hat

Michigan ball cap

country straw hat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other words:

  • I have had a good spring and summer, so far. I have walked with my beloved one in many lovely gardens. Actually, we have also walked in the same gardens many times over and watched the plants change week by week.  I have visited with many friends and family here in  Washington, D.C. and Virginia and also in Ohio and Michigan. Tom has been on a cooking spree from Francis Lam’s kimchi and Spam fried rice and Jacques Pepin’s paella to Ruth Reichl’s chocolate jewel cake. It’s good that we spend so much time walking and going to the gym.
  • And yet, there is a pall on my heart and in my mind. I feel like I am  wandering in Minas Tirith when the darkness from Mordor starts to roll in.  Let me see if I can explain. Every day on Facebook, I click furiously on angry and sad emojis: destruction of our lands-click; rampant racism-click; women’s (and everyone else’s) health and well-being assaulted-click; children ripped from their parents and put in cages-click, click, click; mass murders of innocents-click, click, click, click. You get the idea. I pray–and that is hard for an agnostic–for the light to come in the morning, I want to be as brave, cheerful, and effective as a hobbit. I am not, but I try.
  • Some are sick and some are well. I am not the only one growing older.  A friend dies unexpectedly and a sweet baby girl is born.
  • Some days my glass half-full mantra irritates even me.  That my close to the ground cheerful wishes could stand up against all the lies and the forces of hate? Do I really believe that? Well, yes, much of the time.  I believe in kindness, generosity, earnestness, hard work, bravery and good humor. I see it in my life and I hope to die before I give up on such ideals.
  • Beauty helps me, so I will end with that.  See you in the gardens, mountains, lakes, and deserts and at the marches and maybe on the ramparts. Maybe I will be wearing a hat.

in the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

Natural Bridge, Virginia

robin’s eggshell and plants

bee on phlox, Mt. Cuba Center, Delaware

in the gazebo, Gotelli Collection, National Arboretum

 

Spring 2019

Although it has been 74 days since I lasted posted an article, I have not  been hibernating. It was more like being in a fitful sleep full of bad dreams: children in cages, floods in the countryside,  the demise of civil discourse, and lies, lies, lies. That’s in the night and also when I compulsively check the latest news throughout the day. Otherwise, Tom and I take lots of walks.

A Good Sign Every day for the last four days I have caught myself sounding like my mother.  When she was happily focused on a task, my mother sometimes vocalized a low, mostly tuneless, hum.  It seemed to be the sound of contentment. I have been humming as I work around the condo and as I pull up invasive weeds in the nearby parks.

Spring has come to the Washington, DC area.  Everywhere I walk, I see extravagant and exuberant beauty. I see the beauty not only in the flowers, but also in the commuters, the joggers, the protesters, the school groups, and other visitors to the capital city.

I try to look at the glass as half full. Some days and weeks–especially in our current social and political climate–that is difficult for me. Thinking about my mother and walking through the springtime helps restore my optimism. Below are some photos from recent walks. Happy Spring.

purple pansies

Spring, U.S. Botanic Gardens

Four Mile Run, Arlington, Virginia

REDress Project, National Museum of the American Indian*

hillside, Belvedere Park, Arlington, Virginia

pink tulips

American hollies, Rosslyn

early azaelas

Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

hellebore, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

redbud, U.S. Botanic Garden

Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building

dwarf fothergilla

tulips and a dandelion

Virginia Bluebells, U.S. Botanic Garden

in the neighborhood

  • You can find more information about the REDress Project here.

 

 

 

Winter 2019: Polar Vortex

Right now here in Arlington, VA, Accuweather claims it is 34 degrees (feeling like 22)  with maybe some flurries in a bit. It’s windy, too and I don’t think I will make it outside today.  Still, that’s nothing like the Polar Vortex millions are experiencing in the Midwest and Great Lakes states.

I am thinking of my dear ones in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. I wish I could make them soup and bread and send them flowers. Please stay warm and safe.

Soup I have loved making soup ever since I learned to make my mother’s vegetable beef soup many decades ago. Then came the back-of-the-bag split pea soup, Julia Child’s French onion soup (back when I could get cheap beef bones for stock), chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles, spicy lentil soup, and many more. One of our favorite soups is Diana Kennedy’s recipe for sopa de albondigas (meatball soup). This recipe comes from Kennedy’s The Art of Mexican Cooking: Traditional Mexican Cooking for Aficionados (Bantam Books, 1989). This soup is fragrant, flavorful, and somehow light and hearty at the same time. I looked online and saw several adaptations of this recipe. I prefer the original recipe for the directions on making the soup broth, but I  think the online recipes should also be okay. Bon appetit.

sopa de albondigas (Mexican Meatball Soup)

sopa de albondigas (Mexican Meatball Soup)

The Art of Mexican Cooking

The Art of Mexican Cooking

Bread I have always loved making bread. I think bread making was part of my brief attempt to be an earth mother. I never really fit that description, but I have made dozens of kinds of bread. Earth mother style, I guess, because I never use the stand mixer or a bread machine. I like to knead by hand. Many loaves have been successful, some have not.  My current favorite bread recipe is entire whole wheat bread from the 1984 edition of The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by (the nonpareil baker) Marion Cunningham. This bread takes some time, but, if one follows the directions, the bread is delicious and cuts well.  Again, except in a used book store, I think it might be a challenge to find this vintage recipe, However, there are many similar Fannie Farmer wheat bread recipes online. Note: I made this bread a couple of hours ago. I am promising myself a piece of toast and butter when I finish this post!

whole wheat bread

whole wheat bread

Fannie Farmer Baking Book

Fannie Farmer Baking Book

Flowers The flurries have started outside. With all the wind, the snow is flying almost horizontally: a tiny taste of what those in the northland are experiencing.  The flowers below are to remind you of the spring and summer to come. Love, Lynda

water lily, Scenic Lake, Michigan

water lily, Scenic Lake, Michigan

butterfly with black-eyed and verbena bonariensis

butterfly with black-eyed and verbena bonariensis

coleus and ivy-leaved geranium

coleus and ivy-leaved geranium

Pontederia cordata (pickerelweed)

Pontederia cordata (pickerelweed)

tulips near the Netherlands Carillon

tulips near the Netherlands Carillon

butterfly and coneflowers

butterfly and coneflowers

Winter: January 1, 2019

dawn from our window, Rosslyn, Virginia

dawn from our window, Rosslyn, Virginia

Now

Almost every morning I watch the sun rise over the Potomac River. Bands of pink, orange, red, aqua, grey, white, and, finally, sometimes, azure amaze me.  The sky amazes me so much that I remember  to mention the beauty of nature in my daily words of gratitude.

Then*

I wish I had a river I could skate away on Years ago, while getting ready for a move, my husband almost threw away my ice skates. Although I was shocked and upset, it was not an unreasonable idea he had. The skates probably hadn’t fit me since some time in my early teens and they were dirty beige, not the preferred pristine white. I carried the skates as a talisman with which I hoped could conjure up perfection like that to be found skating on a winter’s night. Maybe I thought that I couldn’t remember without tangible proof. (Note: I finally parted with the skates about six years ago).

Once more to the lake Early in the winter there might be a night when the lake was frozen solid and there was just a dusting of snow to keep the ice from being too slick. I did not have to teach my feet to fly. I could skate from our house to the other end of the lake in magic time.

On the lake my brothers would make a hockey rink that they would use until there was too much hardened snow to shovel off. They also fished through the ice using something they called a tip-up. For more fun, every winter and then again every spring we would walk out on the ice as far as we could before it cracked and broke. One time out on the ice in front of our house, my brother Mike really fell through the ice and I saved him with a hockey stick.

Later on in the winter when the ice was many inches thick, my oldest brother, Roger, would drive his junker car fast on the ice and then hit the brakes. I’m not sure my parents knew about that trick.

Also Before our family moved to the lake, in the winter my father would make an ice rink in the back of our Detroit house so we and the neighbor kids could skate. I was little and my dad would lace up my skates for me. The tears are running down my cheeks now and if I were outside in Michigan winter, the tears would be freezing as they ran. Our parents would take us to Lola Valley to skate or the Redford skating rink and by ourselves we could go down to the Rosedale club house to skate. It was always freezing cold, hard, sharp, and perfect. At the Redford skating rink I did put my tongue on the metal fence. It did hurt, but I got it loose in time to avoid something horrible.

The skates I carried with me for so many years were a metaphor for winter just as hickory nuts, dried plants, rocks, and shells were metaphors for the other seasons of my childhood.

Conclusion

I go into 2019 with trepidation about the state of human rights, our government, and the environment.  I don’t have my skates or hickory nuts anymore, but I have retained much of the optimism from my happy childhood.  So, I can say with some joy and hope: Happy New Year!

 

*(adapted from Losing It: Deconstructing a Life, unpublished work © Lynda Terrill, all rights reserved)

 

Autumn in Washington, DC

All day I have enjoyed watching the rain, sleet, and snow through my living room window.  I love such weather–if now more on paper than by actually venturing outside in it.  Today mostly, though, I have been thinking of flowers, trees, and the other parts of nature that give me solace.

It has been a challenging fall here in the capital area, and in many other places.  Flowers for family and friends, for the Carolinas, for Pittsburgh, for California, for the separated parents and children, for Bears Ears, for the sick, the hungry, and the lonely.  As a secular humanist agnostic, I don’t exactly pray, but I do remain hopeful (mostly).  I send good vibes. I mutter or whisper or chant: May you be well, may you be happy, may you have peace.  At least, here are some flowers:

"Plum Perfect" floridbunda, Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden

“Plum Perfect” floridbunda, Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden

bumblebee, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

bumblebee, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

giant American elm near the National Museum of Natural Histor

giant American elm near the National Museum of Natural History

crepe myrtle, Gotelli Collection, National Arboretum

crepe myrtle, Gotelli Collection, National Arboretum

sweetgum leaves, Gotelli Collection, National Arboretum

sweetgum leaves, Gotelli Collection, National Arboretum

rose in front of Arts and Industries

garden, National Gallery of Art

garden, National Gallery of Art

 

toad lily, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

toad lily, Mary Liivingston Ripley Garden

woodpecker, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

woodpecker, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

glade, National Arboretum

glade, National Arboretum

Gotelli Collection, National Aroretum

Gotelli Collection, National Aroretum

 

 

morning, Gotelli Collection, National Arboretum

Narrowing and Focusing: Traveling Home

The Watchman, Zion National Park

I began teaching composition approximately 45 years ago.  In all that time, I am not sure that I  managed to help many novice writers become more effective writers of expository prose. However, I did read hundreds of essays and write many comments.  Over the decades, I found that the same few bits of advice remained constant: narrow and focus the topic, have a clear thesis, give specific examples, and do not overstate.

I am thinking of about expository prose today because I am struggling  (again) with my own writing.  How will I be able to distill a six week road trip into a narrow and focused thesis-driven post that includes specific examples and which does not overstate?  I don’t know–maybe I won’t be able to manage it–but I can comfort myself with a bulleted list. I don’t  understand writing, but I do believe words have power.*

  • Our Route: Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Arizona, California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia
  • Birds: I hauled along my new binoculars (see Vision Quest), but I didn’t use them much. The binoculars seem a little heavy around my neck and they annoy me when they bang on my chest when I walk.  Still, I think I spotted a few golden eagles this trip, and perhaps a bald eagle.  We saw  hawks, Steller’s jays, a red-headed woodpecker in Wind Cave National Park, a hairy woodpecker in City of Rocks National Reserve, and more.
  • Favorite Set of Facts: “Roosevelt credited his Dakota experiences as the basis of his ground-breaking preservation efforts and the shaping of his own character. As president 1901-09, he translated his love of nature into law. He established the US Forest Service and signed the 1906 Antiquities Act, under which he proclaimed 18 national monuments. He worked with Congress to create five national parks, 150 national forests, and dozens of federal reserves–over 230 million acres of protected land” (From the National Park Service information pamphlet for Theodore Roosevelt National Park).
  • Not narrowed, not focused, not in proper order, but here is my thesis: We traveled home the whole six weeks of our journey.
    • Home was with my brothers and sisters-in-law.  We visited them in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan at the beginning of the journey. Later on, we were lucky to be able to travel in Nevada, Arizona, and Utah with two of these dear ones.
    • Home was with our friends in Salt Lake City and near Cromberg, CA.
    • Walking through mountains, forests, prairies, and canyons felt like home.
    • I am from Michigan: Water has always felt like home to me.
    • North Rim and Zion: it was old home week for the soul.
    • Kind strangers we met along the way made us feel at home. (Tom just suggested that I need to be more specific. Haha, see one of the bits of advice, above. I am talking about the bellman at North Rim, the tour bus driver in Zion, the server at the Duluth Grill, fellow hikers on the trail, people in line at the Huron Mountain Bakery in Marquette and many others.
    • Tom and I were on the road again, but we were at home together.

*NOTE: Because of the ongoing Kavanaugh debacle (my home is about 4.5 miles by foot from the U.S. Congress), I am somewhat sad and angry today.  Thinking and writing about beautiful places, family, and friends helps me feel somewhat hopeful.

In the Sierras

in the Sierras

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park, Michigan

Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park, Michigan

Lake Superior

Lake Superior

Grand Canyon from the North Rim

Grand Canyon from the North Rim

Tom above Lake of the Clouds, Michigan

Tom above Lake of the Clouds, Michigan

reading in the van

reading in the van