Worms and traditions…

It took a little longer to walk Chester today. I got up early to get a quick walk in and start work earlier than usual. But it rained yesterday. Chester had to sniff every little earthy item and doubled down on the bunny sightings. I had to save the worms.

I can’t save them all, so I have rules. If there is a worm on the concrete, it is eligible. If it shows signs of trying to get to grass, or actually shows any sign of life at all, it moves up in the hierarchy.  Bigger worms get priority, mostly because they have more hope of recovery once in the grass. It’s kind of like the American Idol of worms.

I save worms as sort of a penance for all the ones I used when fishing. My dad was a Fisherman with a capital F. He always was, but his favorite spot was about four hours north of Toronto, in a little place called Arnstein. He and my mom went there on their honeymoon by accident. How on earth do you end up in Arnstein? How can you get that lost? But, there weren’t cell phones, or GPS, just a good old map. Anyway they got lost and found a place called “Cudmore Clear Lake Cottages.” Every year, and I mean EVERY YEAR after that we went to Arnstein for 1-2 weeks. There are 8 cabins, and we tried them all. None of them had television. Our favorite cabin, Pine Point, didn’t even have inside plumbing or electricity. We did three things; we played hearts, we swam, and we fished. And fished.

Like I said, my dad was a Fisherman. In the spirit of “if you can’t beat them join them” my mom entered the fray. I have a photo of myself with a bucket. They would put a bucket in the boat, catch a small fish, and I would play with it and watch it. Then they would let it go. My sister, brother and I were indoctrinated into several “Dad truths”…

  1. You have to get up really early to catch the big ones. Once the sun comes out, the fish hide.
  2. If it’s raining, it’s even better. Fish love rain.
  3. Don’t rock the boat or play with the oars, it scares the fish.
  4. There’s no boat like a Cudmore boat.
  5. Let your (usually cold or wet) feet take care of themselves and you take care of yourself.
  6. Everybody carries something on the trails.

Did I mention that most of the lakes were a good hike away? We had these mosquito net things that you could put over your head (oh, trust me you needed them) and raincoats. We’d douse up with bug spray and keep moving. The only time we would stop was the Wolf River Bridge, since there were relatively few bugs there. We could take off our sweat laden hats and mosquito nets for a few minutes of “Off” scented air. Then we were off again. When we got to the boat, it was locked, and heaven help the person who forgot the key (it happened). We had to bail the boat with the cut in half milk jug and peel off the layers of clothing. Then we would push the boat, hop in, and head into the lake.

The fishing is matched only by the beauty of the lakes. Each one has its own character. Twin Lake was full of water lilies. I would lean over the boat, pull gently so as not to break it, and smell the fragrance that no one could bottle. Cook’s Lake was known as a pike lake, but it was ringed with dead trees and was kind of scary. Once we were coming back later than usual, in the dark, on the trail. Every step sounded like bigfoot or a bear. George’s Lake was the long hike through the cow poo and natural landmarks. My dad had names for everything. There was “Big Stump PO” and “Soggy Boggy.” Long Lake was no hike, but well, long. And windy! Jack’s Lake was by a dam. We never had much luck there. Our cabin was on Clear Lake, home of the diving board and snapping turtles.

After I married, we went to Arnstein with our children. I think they loved it as much as I did. I still remember how our boys took to using the motor so easily. There were a couple trips that my husband couldn’t go on, so I took the kids. On one, my daughter and I got lost on a 5 minute hike. We bushwhacked for 45 minutes before we found the trail. She saw my proud moment when in front of another fishing boat, I couldn’t get the outboard motor to go straight, and we went around in circles.

I still go when I can. I went a few years back with my sister and brother and their families. What I miss is the time with the family. I miss playing hearts. I miss sitting on the porch while dad messes with his tackle box and tries to untangle whatever horrible snag we put in the line. I miss going down to the camp weenie roast and hearing all the old guys tell fish tales. I miss the crazy dogs they always had roaming around—they would jump up and come right in to your cabin if something smelled good, especially Ben!

Things change. I used to feel the need to do everything exactly like we always did. I wanted to eat at the same places, and go to each lake, and walk to the barn. It was imagined permanence in an ethereal world. Nothing gold can stay, right? Traditions change as the people change. We make new traditions, and if they only last a few years, so be it. I have a sticker on my cabinet door that says it’s good to let go. I miss the old times but try to think of them with a smile and move on. They aren’t gone, they are part of me.

During one of the trips, I was feeling sad to leave Arnstein. I couldn’t sleep and got up in time to see the mist on the lake. I took a kayak out on the still water. I sat in the mist with no one else in sight.  I looked over to my left and a loon appeared out of the water and floated next to me. It’s as if he was saying he’d see me again. I like to think he is waiting for me. We sat for a few minutes, then he left. I of course realized my butt was soaked, and I went back too, but even a soggy boggy couldn’t break that spell. Here’s to traditions, old and new. May you and I have many more. Now go out and save a worm!

Me, my sister and brother at Twin Lake.
From the cabin porch on Clear Lake
We aren’t going around in circles…Izzy runs the motor better than I do.

This and that and a doggie song…

My thoughts today are jumbled. None are worth a whole blog post, like a usual doggie song or my bucket list stories, so I decided to do a this and that entry. Let’s start with a short doggie song, shall we?

If you ever watched American Idol, you may remember a clearly older gentleman that got through to the judges. When he sang his “Pants on the Ground” song, everybody over a certain age (or level of class) stood up and cheered. I once worked with a teacher who was young, but would tell the boys, “No one wants to see your gotchees.” And we really didn’t. Anyway, Chester and I made up a song today…it’s only a couple verses but in all honesty, that’s about all there was to the original too. It’s called “Trash on the ground” (today is Friday you know…)

Trash on the ground, Trash on the ground, whatcha gonna do with your trash on the ground.
Trash on the ground, Trash on the ground, critters pickin through your trash on the ground,

Trash on the ground, Trash on the ground, wind must of blew your trash on the ground.
Trash on the ground, Trash on the ground, not lookin cool with your trash on the ground. The end. Sorry, I know you wanted more.

While I was driving to work I heard a bit of an interview with Ian Anderson, of Jetro Tull flute fame. He’s Scottish, and was describing a recording session. He was saying how another player was sick when he was supposed to record.  He said his bandmate “subjected himself to some dodgy curry.I love this! I am going to make this my new catch phrase. I have to modify it a little but it will work. I will say “I subjected myself to a dodgy donut” or “I subjected myself to some dodgy Taco Bell.”  “I subjected myself to fried swiss cheese on a stick.” “I subjected myself to gas station sushi.” Yep, I’m ready!

I like to look on the bright side of things. Last weekend I had totally finished laundry, and even put it away. Then I found one dirty t-shirt of John’s. But if he goes missing, the police dogs will need something to smell. Otherwise they would just find my Tide.

Chester and I can tell it’s spring. Not by the temperature but by the noise in our neighborhood! The birds are insanely loud at 5:45am. With the windows open, I can hear the train whistle. The Painesville Speedway is roaring back. And, even in the house, I can hear our neighbor’s music. He plays a lot of Pink Floyd, which is OK, since I like Pink Floyd. But when he yells “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat”…well, there’s no going back. It’s spring! 😊

Finally, we had chicken-garlic pizza for dinner. Chester loves chicken-garlic pizza. Who knew? It does wonders for doggie breath I’m sure. Chester is one spoiled dog. Below is what I looked at while eating. Don’t yell at me, but yes, he got a piece…I KNOW….sheesh.

The Gift…

One of my first memories is sitting on my mom’s lap, at probably about four or five years old, humming along to jazz music on the record player. My mom said to my dad, “she knows this song already.” I didn’t know the song, but I sensed her pride.  I just was able to predict the notes. Being the first child and all, I guess they thought I was gifted.

Fast forward to fourth grade, when we were permitted to take up a stringed instrument. If we wanted brass, we had to wait until fifth grade and I wasn’t able to wait. Patience is not my best trait. My cousin, Jane, played the cello, and Jane was cool, so I chose the cello. Plus I liked that it was large and unusual. I was signed up for private lessons, rented a ¾ sized cello, and off to the races. It was easy for me. I graduated from the tape on the fingerboard in no time flat.

Leaping ahead to high school, I was able to take a music class and actually get a grade for it. We had a small orchestra; a few cellos, a viola, one bass, and maybe 6 violins so I joined up.  We played a lot of quartet music and small ensemble pieces, with band members stepping in on occasion. I was first chair for all of my years; freshman to senior. Easy breezy, right? Well, it was until my senior year. That year I didn’t deserve it. 

Sometime that fall, the Whitmer High School Band and Orchestra Boosters wanted to focus on the orchestra at one of their meetings (the ratio of one meeting for the orchestra to about 10 meetings about band = the ratio of orchestra members to band members.) Needless to say, we didn’t get a lot of attention. Plus we couldn’t march at football games, so there it is. Anyway, for the yearly nod to orchestra, they asked if two of us could play solos at the meeting. Mr. Hainen, our director, chose me and a freshman cellist named Steve Taylor. I didn’t know Steve very well, but I knew he was pretty good, and my general attitude was “whatever”. I had been working on the Boccherini Cello Concerto in B flat, which was a good audition piece for college. It was technically difficult, and about 7 minutes long. I practiced more than my usual 15 minutes before my lesson, and it sounded accomplished.

For some reason I went first. I’m not sure why. Maybe Steve was running late since the younger student usually plays first. No matter. I played the Concerto as well as possible—hit most of the notes, not too many strained ones, except for the ones up higher, and ended with a flourish. The applause was deafening (OK maybe I’m imagining that, but it’s my story), and I bowed in gratitude.  I sat down with a Mona Lisa smile and Steve got up, or rather took a seat, to play.

I am not sure if time actually stopped at that point, but it did for me. When Steve started to play, the reason music exists became clear. He played “The Swan,” a short, simple, classic cello piece. The music was serene, relaxed, flowing and in short, perfection. The soul in that piece flowed through him, through the cello, and swirled around the room before it drilled right through my heart. He had The Gift. I remember leaning forward so I wouldn’t miss a note.

It’s funny; you would think that the emotion I might feel would be jealousy, or resentment, or even motivation to work harder, but it wasn’t. I probably grumbled about him a little throughout the year, but inside I knew that no matter how much I practiced or worked, I would never play like that. If you have had the experience of seeing someone with The Gift in person, you understand. This freshman kid had something I would never have. The truth is, I saw the cello as a means to an end. Through the cello, I would get a scholarship, an easy “A” in school, and a certain amount of respect. He seemed to see the cello, and the music, as the end itself.  He made it talk. It’s been 40 years and I never forgot that moment. It still takes my breath away.

One of my favorite movies is “Amadeus.” It explores themes of talent and giftedness; who gets it, how it affects people with it and without. I am Salieri minus the animosity. All I know is that some people, for no apparent reason, have this thing, this magic, beyond the rest of us. No matter what the field, it isn’t common. There are many great cellists, and many more like me, who are pretty good but not great. We can play well and enjoy doing so.  But even among the great ones, there are some who just rise above for whatever reason.

It seems random, the ones the lightning bolt hits. They don’t “deserve” it, and though they work hard, they don’t “earn” it. I only wish that were possible.  They may not want it. Some thrive, able to balance out their lives. Some don’t. Some can’t handle the responsibility or magnitude of this talent. It’s hard to have what others strive for. Kind of like winning the lottery in a way. I had a teacher who won the lottery and said it ruined his life. He didn’t know who was being real.

Some run away from it. We lose some, and I write this with heartache; the pain is great when a young, bright light is extinguished. A young man I saw perform a few years back recently lost his life. He had it..when he played you couldn’t help but watch. He lit up the stage. When he died, the pain touched so many, in everlasting ways.

When David Bowie died someone said they were glad to have been on the earth at the same time as he was. I am so happy to have been able to see and hear Steve and the other amazing artists during my time on earth. This isn’t a “poor me” writing designed to elicit praise. On the contrary, I am very happily mediocre. I can’t wait until I see it again in someone new, like a treasure hunt. You don’t know who has it walking down the street, what child, what high schooler, what average middle aged man or woman. But you know when you are in the presence of it because you feel like angels are speaking. And there is nothing you can do but listen.  

PS…I am happy to report that after 40 years, I found Steve Taylor. He is a cello professor at Valdosta State University in Georgia and has had an incredibly successful career! I contacted him and think my sister and I will have to take a bucket list trip to Georgia sometime when he plays😊 As a bonus, he said he settled by Mr. Hainen. 😊 😊 Life is good.

Doggie Songs, opus 2…

All dog walkers will understand this one. To the tune of “Lost Without Your Love” with apologies to David Gates and Bread…

I left without the bag,
I thought I had one but I didn’t, what a drag. I pull him homeward but it’s very plain to see, my plans will have to be, another trip for me.

I left without the sack
The very item that I never want to lack
Cause walking doggies in the Pines community
Neighbors all agree
to act responsibly.

(sing it out now!)

I left without the bag
Oh the quickness in my step begins to lag
And I think about the shame of walking past
I reach my house at last
I grab the bags aghast…

and though I’ve cleaned his s***, Chester doesn’t care a bit.

The end……

Birthday, bells and a blizzard…

Hello on this beautiful March 31st! Today would have been my father’s 88th birthday. He was a prankster and liked a good (or really, really bad) joke. He would have enjoyed today. Happy Birthday, Dudley.

I did not walk Chester this morning. Best intentions don’t mean a hill of beans to Mother Nature. Unlike most areas of the country, or even Cleveland proper, those of us to the east received three plus inches of snow last night.

Yesterday and Friday I was at the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers’ Spring (haha) Festival in Dayton. Our partial choir joined 400 other ringers for an intense whirlwind of rehearsals, classes and friendship culminating in a concert at 5:00pm last night. After the concert, we were impressively efficient in packing our bells and gear, mostly since Cracker Barrel was waiting for us. All was well until I jinxed us by saying “It’s only 6:15” when we were pulling out of the parking area and heading to the yellow and brown beacon of the chicken fried steak, turnips and greens, and fried apples. Oh, and the apple butter, biscuits, hashbrown casserole..need I go on? Dinner (and shopping of course) were successful, although i’m still not sure why Cracker Barrel has so much beach glass stuff. Anyway, we hopped or waddled (depending if you had the fried apples) back into the vans to head back to Perry. Then the snow hit.

Hours later, after two tired but very brave drivers peered into the snow globe or galaxy far far away and tried to follow the tire tracks made by some unknown driver (who may or may not have gone into a ditch) we made it back. We unloaded and skidded our way home after midnight.

Now I love living by Lake Erie but lake effect snow is another thing. It continued to snow all night. It’s April Fool’s Day tomorrow people! I’m not laughing! Enough already! The last time it snowed, I fell while walking Chester. One minute I was up, then I was down. I always wondered what Chester would do if I fell. Would he run home and alert John? Would he stay by my side, knowing something bad happened? Would he be like Lassie and bark for help?  The answer is none of the above. When I fell, he thought I was playing and started jumping around like a manic kangaroo on top of me. That helped a lot, let me tell you.  I struggled up, with him licking my face and biting the leash, and limped home. Some rescue dog.

Chester and I are taking today off. We are going to cuddle on the couch, eat milk bones (him) and drink tea (me). We are going to turn on the fireplace and watch the snow blow around in the back. We will rejuvenate. Tomorrow, it’s back to our morning routine. The snow can’t last forever. It makes spring all the more of a miracle. The flowers will come up, the trees will bud, the ice will break. We just have to wait a little longer.