Diamonds are a girls best friend.

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I lost one of my diamond earrings a few days ago. I was sad. The earrings were a gift from my dad many decades ago and they had become my “go to, everyday” earrings. Touching them, wearing them, seeing them always reminded me of dad.

I carefully put the remaining single stud in my jewelry box knowing that I would always keep it there, all by itself. It’s solitary status among the sparkling jewels reminiscent of so many of the traits dad and I have in common.

Yesterday I found the lost earring, right on the floor of my bedroom. I had walked there every single day, several times a day. However, there it was plain as day, missing its backing, but calling for me to find it in the knots of the carpet.

When I picked it up my first thought was “dad went away for a couple of days, but he’s back now.” I am wearing the earrings once more and I’m not sure if I’ll ever take them out again.

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Love Wins

My imagination has been running wild lately and I would like to put a halt to it. Hannah leaves for college in a week and here is what I have been imagining:

  • Roommate troubles
  • Wild & raucous parties
  • Orgies
  • Hemorrhaging money
  • Her first drunk dial home
  • Wanting to go anywhere but home for the holidays
  • Lost cell phones
  • Academic probation

19023330_10155464312578216_2640556330581430746_oI have no idea where any of this is coming from. Hannah has always been a great kid, a solid student with awesome friends. Why does a mom’s brain always go to worst case scenarios? It is a paralyzing pattern fueled by my crazy imagination. Well . . . maybe also fueled by personal experience and her three older siblings.

But I will break this pattern with brain training. Here is a productive (and healthy) image:

  • Hannah will build her communication skills with her roommates
  • Her parties will be civilized and infrequent
  • She will get a small job and save money
  • She will call us every week (sober)
  • She will miss me
  • She will excel

This is going to be tough.

My human brain also runs rampant with worst case scenarios, but lately the most horrifying thing is that those images are not my imagination.

  • Neo-Nazi’s and other white supremacy groups are marching in the streets in battle fatigues and armed with assault rifles
  • Two leaders of nations with nuclear capabilities are playing a horrifying game of chicken
  • Russians hacked our elections
  • Healthcare for women is under attack
  • #notmypresident is a spineless, infantile, misogynistic, ignorant, demagogue

We are living in horrid times. I am feeling as nervous, scared, anxious and uncomfortable as I was right after the election. This is not the world I want to launch Hannah into. And frankly, I don’t need this added stress just days before sending my youngest off to college. Can I just call everyone home, snuggle, watch movies, play games and hide from the world? A few good rainy days (or even weeks) forcing us to stay inside would be helpful. So would potato chips, popcorn, Milk Duds and Reese’s.

But no. What I need to do right now is more brain training and set an example. I must be a kind person and send loving energy into this ugly world and hope that the ripple effects keep Hannah as well as Emma, Ross, Max, Kate and Carter – and everyone else I love safe.

  • I will shower my family with love – always
  • I will do my best to look everyone in the eyes and smile
  • I will not shadow my heart with judgements and prejudice
  • I will use my voice to stand up to bigotry and hatred whenever and wherever I see it
  • I will advocate passionately for reproductive rights, gun violence prevention and climate justice

I live to support my children and grandchildren and help them find their way to peace and happiness. Through all this we will do our share to make this a world of peace. This part should be easy.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.  –Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.20729363_10155696593743216_7517340660322051388_n

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Homemaker at Heart

Some say being a homemaker is passé these days. Having lots of rooms and others to decorate and clean them is often what makes a house a showpiece. However, I thrive on making our home an oasis in the world for my family.

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When the children were small, laughter, play, exploration and safety was the fabric of our home. Imagination thrived as dress-up, art, books and nature consumed our daily lives. We were in awe of each other and the wonders of the world. Our busy days ended when we curled up on the couch each evening. The days fell away as the warm blanket of love wrapped us all together. We grew sleepy and magically drifted to the place “Where the Wild Things Are.”

As years passed and play and exploration no longer required parental supervision, I strove to make our home a respite from the stress of growing older. In our home, friend fights, mean teachers and occasional lapses of judgement were tucked in with the promise of a return to brighter days. Even when the children tried their hardest to push us away, we stood strong, tall and together, each evening making repairs to the walls of our fortress, keeping our home intact so the children would know they are loved and safe.

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As the children have grown to be adults, some with children of their own, I continue to strive to make our home a combination of all these things – a place to play, a place where judgement is left at the door and we can bask in what really makes a home – family.

When Hannah leaves in the fall I will miss the ritual of getting up and making breakfast each school day, reminding the children (and myself) that each day brings new adventure, dreams to fulfill and new stories to write. I’ve been doing that for almost 30 years. Soon, I will be having breakfast alone and planning how my home will nourish me now. I will continue to make our home a respite from the world. I will be planning our family celebrations.

I have lived in many houses, but it is not the structure that makes the home, it is the faith, beauty and love inside that binds a family.

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The Beginning and The End

'17 Flower Assembly-38.jpgI cried last Friday. It started with that choked up feeling in my throat. That feeling that I know will soon spill over from eyes and down my cheeks. Dabbing away those first few tears, throat sore and swelling, I hid behind my camera as she knelt to the kindergartner that was handing her a flower. By the time the girls were singing the Alma Mater tears were rushing like a spring waterfall and I could see that many of the seniors also felt overwhelming emotions with graduation on the horizon.

I remember the trepidation Hannah felt when she went to Laurel School for the first time those many years ago. But last Friday I could feel her excitement as she got into her uniform for the last time. Over the years, she has loved every Laurel School tradition that has grounded her in this amazing community. Last Friday’s tradition is the one that marks the beginning and the end. This ritual is so special as each kindergarten girl is invited to give a single flower to each senior girl on her last day of classes, thus launching each generation into a new and exciting chapter in their lives.

But this is also a beginning and an end for me. It is time for me to define myself as more than just a parent. I’ve started to look for myself in the mirror again and I’ve been easing myself into periods of uninterrupted leisure. For Mark and me, it is a beginning that we never had. We have only known each other with children around and I relish the thought of getting to know him as if we were young and carefree. Our dreams of travel are getting bigger and grander as we peruse the guidebooks.

On the other hand, after a full 30 years of raising children, my baby is about to launch (throat swelling starts here.) My time will no longer be dictated by “who has to be where” and “what do we have to eat?” I am not young and certainly not carefree and when I look in the mirror I make sure the lights are soft and dim. One more child is entering the big bad world of adulthood and she will ride the roller-coaster of life mostly on her own for a while, hopefully confident in the knowledge that mom will always have her arms out to catch her.

I cried this morning and I choke up almost daily. I think I’ll go buy myself a flower.

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Night on the Beach

The sun was sinking beyond the horizon as we sat on the beach to watch. The colors were muted, hazy, dreamy, glowing orange and yellow.  The sand was warm yet cooling as the time slowly slipped by. We were nervous at first, sneaking glances at one another, not sure where the conversation would lead. There were probably others on the beach taking their evening strolls, but for us, it was our secret kingdom. The vast beach was our own personal dominion with the wonders of the ocean waves and endless views helping to calm our minds as we settled into boundless and broad conversations. We talked and laughed, told stories about ourselves and revealed our truths.

images.jpegWe decided to build a sand castle and though it certainly wasn’t a showy place, it was a fortress. Strong, yet vulnerable. Plain, yet quirky. The sand castle we built held our thoughts and dreams. We dreamed of travel to lands afar, we told of battles won and lost and adventures still ahead. The tide rolled toward the moat, filling it, wearing it down and sometimes breaking a wall, but we rebuilt it, several times that night.

The night grew dark yet the breeze was still warm. I stretched out on the sand feeling its warmth on my face as I drifted off to dream of Kings and Queens, dragons and fairies.

I woke to start a new life with this man. In the sunshine of a new day we knew that we would build our castle, our fortress in the real world. Always our oasis in the storms of life, sometimes our castle needs a bit of reinforcement and fortification, but ours together – always.

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The Kindness of Strangers

 

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Tuesday was a gorgeous, sunny spring day. The morning was warming up quickly yet still a bit of a chill in the breeze.  I had an appointment in Shaker Square and as usual I was early. I parked my car and headed out in one of my new favorite outfits, hair washed, make-up donned and feeling confident this meeting would be mutually beneficial. As I made my way around the square for a time-eating stroll, a large, disheveled, toothless man stared me down. As he approached he tipped his head toward me, smiled wide and said, “gooooood afternoon beautiful.”

I know in these days of rabid feminism (of which I often participate) I should have been appalled at the frank objectification of my looks. I know many would admonish me for even looking at the person who gave the impression of being homeless, let alone broadly smile at him and respond right back with a “good afternoon to you too”. I also know that his well-intentioned compliment made me stand a little taller, smile a little broader and made the sun feel just a bit warmer.

We are always so quick to judge people by their looks, their clothes, their demeanor. We often try to look beyond words for other meanings, nefarious or otherwise. But on this beautiful spring day a kind man on the square made me feel good, not just because of his words, but because we were both eager to accept the kindness of a stranger.

As I came around the other side of the square I saw my new friend once again approaching me. I smiled and waved to him like we were old pals, he tipped his head  and we said hello, again. The folks coming and going around us at the rapid station gave us quizzical and curious looks but we were just happy to see each other again.

Spring is in the air. There is still kindness in the world and I remembered to keep my judgements in check that day. I hope I made his day as much as he did mine.

Sweet Life Blues

Nervous, anxious, keyed up, antsy . . .  I was running at full power once the last-minute decision was made to finally go to the 40th reunion of the opening of Vegetable Buddies. I went by myself and I was filled with angst, much like I was all those years ago taking the train or driving to South Bend for weekend visits. I wonder if Niles still has an AMTRAK station. But I digress, this time it was going to be a whirlwind 24 hours.

I got to the Doubletree around 4:00 and I needed to burn off some of that manic energy boiling up inside me. I went for a walk/run down the St. Joseph river, had a light dinner at a local restaurant and got back to my room in time to take a shower and get ready. I love travelling by myself, but this time I was rudely reminded why I don’t like to stay in hotels. This lone traveler was put in a very nice room on the 5th floor with a beautiful view of the river. I sat down to admire the view and the first thing I heard was the running, screaming and laughing of at least 5 children under the age of 10. Still full of angst, I lost my attempt at a Zen moment at the window and got into the shower. I was immediately assaulted by pounding on my door. Even my cries of “go away”, “cut it out”, “get lost” didn’t disturb the rug rats assault. Just as I put a towel around me to go scare them with my ½ naked appearance, the pounding stopped (however, the squealing and screaming did not.) I finished my shower, got ready to go and I bravely headed out the door (fully dressed) to find that the children were so obnoxious because their parents had sent them out of their rooms and closed the doors behind them. But, I digress again, still feeling those nerves I suppose.

The original Vegetable Budddies was about great music and it was the institution that defined a group of my friends. The people that I met, the music that I heard and the experiences I had there have influenced my life since. At Buddies beer flowed, pool balls clanked, romance bloomed and burned, lifetime friendships were made and back rooms held stories that we don’t want our families to ever know about. Buddies was also the hangout for a local community in need of a decent music club, an alternative to the horrifying era of disco and an oasis in the shell of a city that was South Bend at the time.

Both these groups of people made it this past weekend to the 40th reunion. I arrived at Buddies just as the club started filling up. A bit uncomfortable at first but jitters quickly melted when I spotted someone I knew and it just got better from there. The “VIP” section was filled with past owners, past employees, past frequent flyers (this group included me), and many of their families. The talk was full of reminiscing and exclamations about how we have all aged (or not so much). The last time I had seen many of these folks was 20 years ago. With some it had been even longer.

As I ran into more and more people I knew, the exclamations of “OH MY GOD” and heart felt compliments were tossed around like love bombs to long lost family members. And yes, there was a long-lost family member. Nearly 90-year-old Margaret was there. She was my brothers second mother, she was, and is my inspiration to always be kind, always share love and often wear braids.

We talked about what we are doing now but very quickly got to the task of trying to remember how Buddies was laid out “back in the day.” The wall was here, the bar was there, the pool tables over there, food came out of a hole in the wall over there (what was the cook’s name again?), remember those bathrooms? . . .  We googly eyed the mural, the corn man, the concert posters and teary eyed the memorial wall. On the memorial wall was a poster with photographs of the “Buddies” that didn’t make the journey with us long enough. My brother is on that wall. There is another poster with an ongoing list of those that have left this plane. What we did not discuss was the fact that we were all getting closer to making that list.

I had great fun wandering outside the VIP section as well. I met a lot of people around our age, most of them were South Bend lifers. They didn’t know the former owners and couldn’t remember all the bartenders, but all of them were there to relive the magic, to hear yet another amazing concert and to reconnect with old friends. The conversation on that side of the club was predominately centered on favorite concerts. Among those mentioned, John Mayall, Dr. John, Muddy Waters and Luther Allison came up frequently. They also had stories not to be told in the presence of family members. I talked to someone that hung out at Buddies every weekend, “yes for the music, but mostly just because it was such a cool place.” However, I did have to disengage a couple of guys that started talking about nursing home options in the area for their parents. I pointed out how inappropriate that line of talk was on a night like this and steered them back to great music.

And the music was great, just like shows in the original Buddies, the musicians this night felt the love and energy of the crowd; they rose-up with the love and energy of the crowd. There was dancing, clapping, shouts of yeah and whoops of joy and understanding. I’m sure they played longer than they had intended and the crowd was grateful.  By the end of the night we all basked in the glory of that love and energy. I didn’t sit down once until the show was over.

I walked back to the Doubletree around 1:30 a.m., my path lit by the glow of the almost full moon, contemplating how I was going to exact my revenge on those thoughtless parents that let their children loose on my angst filled afternoon. Opting to share the love of the night I let the monsters sleep and felt like I had so many years ago – like a dragon slayer, ready to take on the world but waiting for the right moment.

As I said before, the original Vegetable Budddies was about great music and it was the institution that defined a group of my friends. Those people that I saw, remembered and felt this past Saturday night are my family. We share a common love of music and each other. We lived together in an era that was full of stagnation and bad music but found a few years of joy, love, craziness and of course music. Those feelings of freedom, love, creativity and experimentation have influenced my life ever since.

Vegetable Buddies defined an era for us, gave us life-long friends and taught me to get to know people, all people, and really listen to their songs.

Thanks Andy.

Ode to a Friend

Dear Priscilla,

cbkSo I drove by the Euclid Tavern the other day.  It has truly been decades since I even thought of that place, but when I did I was instantly carried back to a certain Sunday in 1995.

Back then, Mark didn’t know us very well and he erroneously gave us his tickets to a Sunday Performance of the Cleveland Orchestra. When he so graciously handed them over he told us about the regulars that he had known for years, that he only saw on concert days.  He knew their intimate mid-concert sleepy noises, he knew their proclivity for splayed legs, but he didn’t know their names.  He was so proud of his occasional participation in this elite social circle.

You and I, however, were on a great adventure that day.  With abject disregard for socially acceptable behavior in the confines of the great concert hall known as Severance, we headed out in our leathers (I do believe yours was borrowed), jeans and heels to the nearest bus stop.  Smiling at strangers and chatting with vagrants we were a bubbly pair waiting for the #5. Waiting, waiting and waiting – at least an hour until some kind soul informed us that the bus didn’t run on Sunday. So we walked, and walked and found more friendly faces to smile at.  By the time we made it down Murray Hill we were parched.

Having just finished law school, I of course knew the best dive bars in the area.  The Euc was the closest, so cheap beer it was.  Upon entering on that sunny Sunday afternoon, we knew we had found “our place”.  Our feet peeled off the floor with a tug at each step and that sour hoppy smell of last night’s party assaulted our noses with a familiar odor reminiscent of college days.  The light was dim, the music was loud and the sunlight streaming through the open door carried in the promise of redemption.  We were the only people there at the time and the biker-girl bartender (generously, yet arguably tastefully tatted up) slammed a couple of beers on the bar. And so we were off to solve the problems within ourselves and to share our adventures with the world. (Do you still have our notes on napkins?) It was 1995 when we first decided to document our adventures.  It’s now 2015.

When I passed by the Euc the other day I noticed it had a bright and shiny new neon sign.  However, when I looked inside it was still the dingy, poorly lit space with uneven, sticky floors and I swear I smelled a Moosehead.

I was instantly struck with the thought that the Euclid Tavern stands as the perfect metaphor for our lives.  It’s been there forever – and yes dear Priscilla, we have known each other long enough to admit that we have been together forever.  We too have shiny new signs.  We have reinvented ourselves many times over the decades.  Not always in a good way, but always with a shiny new sign. And we remain the same inside: dark, craggy and sometimes stinky but always with that ray of sunshine we call redemption, or hope, or change, or whatever is needed that day.

The Serious Side of My Trip to Oklahoma

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Around May 24 of this year the Kingston Oklahoma area was deluged with rain storms that flooded rock solid, parched grounds. Since homes are not built with basements in most of the south, people saw water in their living rooms up to 1’ high. On June 18, new rains and swollen rivers and lakes flooded those same homes. Homeowners were then seeing flood levels of 2-3’ in their living rooms.

Our UMC East Ohio Conference Early Response Team of 15 was divided in two and one team was sent to a Lake Texoma neighborhood while my team went to Tishomingo, birthplace of Miranda Lambert, her Pink Pistol gift shop and the Pennington Creek neighborhood. Both communities were feeling the stresses of disaster: confusion, isolation, helplessness and hopelessness.

On the shores of Lake Texoma many families were devastated that their beautiful homes were soaked. Fortunately, they were able to move many of their possessions to upper floors, rent storage pods and stay with relatives or neighbors nearby. The community came together and helped each other find resources such as UMCOR Early Response to help when all seemed hopeless. The Lake Texoma team removed carpeting, some drywall and did mold remediation.

In the Pennington Creek Community the lake and creek had flooded their banks, washed out roads, soaked living rooms, destroyed possessions and rendered people almost homeless from their small, one-story bungalows. Dennis, our homeowner was a recovering alcoholic with 2 years of sobriety. He had had 18 years until he found his wife dead of a prescription pain killer overdose. Dennis was rapidly running out of money to pay for the local hotel that had given him a discounted rate for 2 weeks. There we also met Donald, in his 80’s, staying at the same hotel but only for 2 more nights. We also had another senior stop and beg us for help as she was living in a borrowed camper next to her home until she could get assistance.

 FEMA and the Red Cross responded to both communities after the first flood. But by the time our team arrived 2 weeks after that second flood, they hadn’t been heard from again.

My team removed all of Dennis’s possessions out of his home. We removed drywall from floor to ceiling, removed moldy, wet insulation from all the walls, and pulled out paneling, hardwood flooring, linoleum, refrigerator, cupboards, bathtub and toilet. We literally gutted Dennis’s house. We had to leave all the debris on his front lawn because the city had not provided dumpsters to the neighborhood. Moldy, stinky piles were collecting in front of houses throughout the neighborhood. And just like his neighbor, Dennis was hoping to borrow a camper to live in next to his home until rebuild teams could help out.

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I’ve been on several Early Response trips and have always left knowing that I have been the hands of god helping in times of disaster. I have left with the faith that others will follow to finish what I had started – basically healing and rebuilding lives. But on day 2 of this trip I developed a nagging, uncomfortable feeling that I couldn’t shake.  I talked about it with a friend and again with our Team Leader. The more I talked about it the louder my gut screamed and the more visceral my emotions became. I left Tishomingo with a deep concern that this poor, aging neighborhood would remain neglected and unserviced. On our last day, we heard hushed rumors that FEMA would be back to condemn many of the homes.

At a particularly low point for me, our Team Leader, Jason Frazer shared this prayer hoping it would settle my soul, and it did. I would like to share it with you:

“A Prayer for Prayer” by Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman

O My God

My soul’s companion

My heart’s precious friend

I turn to You.

I need to close out the noise

To rise above the noise

The noise that interrupts –

The noise that separates –

The noise that isolates.

I need to hear You again.

In the silence of my innermost being,

In the fragments of my yearned-for wholeness,

I hear whispers of Your presence –

Echoes of the past when You were with me

When I felt Your nearness

When together we walked –

When You held me close, embraced me in Your love,

Laughed with me in my joy.

I yearn to hear You again.

In Your oneness, I find healing.  In the promise of Your love, I am soothed.

In Your wholeness, I too can become whole again.

Please listen to my call –

Help me find the words

Help me find the strength within

Help me shape my mouth, my voice, my heart

So that I can direct my spirit and find You in prayer

In words only my heart can speak

In songs only my soul can sing

Lifting my eyes and heart to You.

Open my lips, precious God,

So that I can speak with You again.

I continue to pray for the flood victims in Oklahoma and especially for Dennis and his neighbors in the Pennington Creek Area. I ask you to pray for them as well.

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Joys of Camping

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Newago State Park, Michigan

Day 1

I have to admit, I momentarily regretted my decision to camp by myself. After dropping Hannah and Abby off at camp, I drove from the sparkling waters and sunny skies of Lake Michigan toward the stormy grey skies and unknown lands of Newago State Forest. The beautiful summer day became cloaked in the steel grey and pastels of weather brewing. But, not to be defeated, I turned on my headlights, turned on some loud music and drove into the forest.

Things were quite different a few hours later as the tent was pitched, the dog was walked and fed, fire wood had been purchased, kindling chopped and the sun was out like a still life in the late afternoon sky. I decided to celebrate – chips, dip and chardonnay.

After cocktail hour, a stroll around the lake was magic for my senses. The turquoise blues of the massive lake complemented the vibrant wet, luscious greens of the dense pine forest. The warm setting sunlight created shadows that danced on the water and played hide and seek through the trees. I spied small oaks seedlings in massive quantities worried that they may have been of the poison variety so I prayed to the gods of forest to spare me last trips misery – yet another itching return from camping.

My nose was teased by the damp, earthy scent of moss and by the thousands of gnat-like insects eager to tickle my sinuses. I could literally smell the green in the woods. The pine, the oak, the maple all newly watered by the rain was full of life and vigor. The smell was better than Old Spice, any day. Slowly the breezes brought the smell of campfires and dinner cooking which was comforting in a way.

The woods were alive with a symphony of sound. Woodpeckers provided percussion, boats on the lake provided the hum, waves lapping the shore were the tympani and in the alcove of a small campsite I stumbled upon an upright bass, a fiddle a banjo and a most haunting voice to complete the effect. I was definitely in the enchanted forest.

Wandering on I was overjoyed by the discovery of the perfect marshmallow stick. This perfectly straight, 3 foot long hardwood beauty needed only a carved tip to provide orgasmic goodness to my taste buds later in the evening.

So overwhelmed by my sensory experiences I sat by the shore of the lake to take it all in. Within moments I was close to hysterical watching Darby, my six month old, big eared, short-legged welsh corgi bravely protect me from the 2-inch waves slapping at us. His barks were adorable, his legs were sinking in the sand and he was pitifully unable to stop those darned waves. Then, the light bulb went off, his head cocked just a bit towards me as it occurred to him that digging might actually be the appropriate method of attack. So dig he did. A great one-foot hole that almost swallowed him up. A hole that he stuffed his nose into and immediately inhaled copious quantities of sand and brackish water.

He vomited a good portion of that night.

Day 2

Ahh, morning. Not a bad night’s sleep considering my air mattress doesn’t hold air. It had been a long time since these bones had slept on the ground. Darby woke me up bright and early and we crawled from the tent to greet the chilly yet beautifully foggy morning. The new day began with steaming coffee and a roaring fire.

The morning fog gave way to a sunny, breezy, beautiful summer day. The sounds of birds, boats, wind and children filled my ears. I grabbed my journal, my camera and my dog, had breakfast at a picnic table near the lake and felt perfectly content.

Later I took a walk by the dam. I walked and walked and walked. I walked through woods, across an embankment and across fields. The Muskegon River stayed 75 feet below me down an eroding wall of mud, the kind that could swallow you whole if you slipped. Across the river were summerhouses with docks, boats, waterslides and beaches.   Families playing and splashing in the river shared coolers full of sodas and beers.

Being quite the adept party crasher (a talent honed by solitary camping over the years) I was eager to make new friends and share in their beverages. Yet Darby and I continued to trudge on, parched because I forgot our water canteen. The sun continued its trajectory to the top of the sky, burning brightly, sending serious 90-degree rays directly at us, the kind that only SPF 75 can protect you from. Finally, the sound of rushing water was loud enough to make me believe we would have wet toes soon. My hot feet were tingling at the thought of a cold, wet stream. Darby’s thirst was checked for just a second as he dashed toward the sound. But alas, the view of the rushing tributary could only be seen from the 3-foot wide, wooden bridge, suspended 20 feet up from the crashing, cold water. Foiled yet again by the eroding embankment.

Later that day . . .

I was completely convinced that I had single handedly eliminated 90% of the park mosquito population with my smoldering campfire. The firewood purchased at the stand down the road was so wet that it absolutely refused to flame. Two Sunday papers and a trip to the store for lighter fluid later, I had a small flame.

Meanwhile, Darby was completely zonked out. As I was enjoying my mid-afternoon smokefest, a plate of cheese and salami, and a glass of chardonnay, Darby remained complete immobile under the picnic table. I do admit that we walked a lot that day and a nap was definitely under consideration.

That evening I sat at yet another picnic table, scarred by initials, stained with food, overlooking the lake. I watched boaters take their last turns around the darkening lake. I listened to the retching of the skier having failed yet another attempt to get up. Apparently having swallowed another gallon of lake water. Darby sits perched at the edge of the embankment, curious and fascinated by the vista.

As the sun set behind the trees, as quiet calm comes over the lake, I breathe. The loudest noises I can hear are the gentle waves on the shore. The evening ends with peace.

Day 4

The peace and serenity that charmed the campground for the past couple of days was completely obliterated by the unruly rambunctiousness of new arrivals. Last evening four women and their 8-10 children descended on us with annoyingly loud noises irritatingly like a pack of laughing hyenas. The screaming children were up until 12:30 and the drunk women made a ruckus until 2:00. Sadly, the demeanor of the friends I had made changed by morning, as we were all tired from disturbed sleep and disappointment at the loss of serenity. I didn’t linger long after breaking camp that morning.

While it was a disappointing end to a glorious preceding couple of days, the peace I found at Newago State Park is still with me – as is the cold I caught.