Saturday, May 30, 2009

......And We're Back!

I know that it was a harsh, long winter in Michigan. I know we broke snow records. I know Michigan summers are so short, but when I look out my window and see the diamonds sparkling on the lake it is already difficult to remember the cold and darkness that was.

Moving out here for the season is always such a process. But because of the relative shortness of summer here we are determined to be out on the lake as much as squeeze out every last bit of warmth and sunshine and blooming gardens and barefeet on the beach and sunsets that look JUST like the old-timey pastel-colored postcards from the 1920's and '30's. And so, we load up carload after carload of clothes, food, books, knitting, laptop computers, coffee,dog paraphernalia, grandbaby paraphernalia, food, TV's, new plants for garden, food, games, wine, food,clean bedding and towels, toiletries, food and food and head to Lake Monterey.

We are in the second year of adjusting to this new place and slowly making it "ours". The inspirations...the things we want to do to recreate this place are exciting and daunting. There is no lack of inspiration . I have all sorts of wonderful ideas to make this the cottage of my (modest) dreams. But more often than not, when I consider the energy or funding necessary to pull these dreams off, it is easier to sigh and be distracted watching the Great Blue Heron fish for his dinner from the dock just across the cove from us. (He is there right now, beautiful and huge!) Or to find the nesting tree for which the female Oriole is so feverishly collecting materials.

Lake life teeters between the real sense of lowered blood pressure .....and ANGST over all the work that needs doing around here. Life slows and "obligations" back in town take a back seat to enjoying a new sense of multi-tasking: simultaneously enjoying a sunset, a sudoku puzzle and a glass of wine.

"Summer is so short and we really need to sit back and enjoy it!"
"Summer is so short and we really need to get these projects completed around here!"

For this weekend though I WILL BE CONTENT to:

Marvel at how quickly my Autumn Clematis is reestablishing itself on the trellis ( which I want to paint a cheerful color...oh oh!).

Become acquainted with our new neighbors who earlier this week dashed over to help Christian who was trying to get the dock into the water by himself . We will accept their offer to join them at their campfire...NICE people.

Go through my old design magazines to cut out ideas of fun things we COULD do to "scratch" my interior design itch AND make this place even more wonderful.

Watch the robins and orioles so busy with nest-building. And the chipmunks and squirrels gathering acorns and the little seeds at the ends of the "helicopters" fallen from the trees, dashing back and forth in such haste, as though there weren't ample oak tree treats for every rodent in Allegan County x10!

I really should do something...but I think I'll just have another cup of coffee, enjoy being able to have the windows open to the cool breeze off the lake, and watch the Blue Flag Iris spears open in my garden . As Miss Scarlett always says, "Fiddle de dee. Tomorrow is another day."

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Difference Of Day And Night

Over the course of our thirty three years ( this week) of marriage ,we have designed and built more homes than most. In all of those homes I have always had a vision for just how I planned to use each room, just what furnishings would occupy which corners, just where all my treasures ( "another man's junk") would reside, colors, patterns from the time the rooms were pencilled on my drafting board. Our present home held the one exception. The developer had a "sun room" area on the back of the house. We chose to enclose this and give it "four season" usage, but having had no space like this in any of our other homes, I really imagined maybe we'd look out into it from our great room to the views through the many windows out into the backyard fields and trees.

It wasn't until we moved into this home that we discovered that this "sun room" is in constant use. It is roomy and comfortable and the windows on three sides of it offer cooling breezes and the views we anticipated. Here resides the "Mecca"...the toy stash the grandbabies migrate to within minutes of entering our front door. The bird bath and feeder are situated on the deck not six feet from the fingers tapping this posting, and birds come to eat and sing and preen apparently aware that we won't harm them despite our closeness. This is the room that I virtually live in. The home of my sweet little, red, Dell laptop, always blinking it's cheery blue lights at me. It's where I do my Bible study and day dream. It has been a sweet surprise to realize how much of our days are spent in this space.

But I think the sweeter surprise may be it's transformation in Spring and Summer nights!

The idea of "Sleeping Porches"is thought to have it's origin on the plantations where children would sleep on the upper porch "galleries" to escape the steamy nights of Southern summers. In the late 1800's and early to mid 1900's, with the invention of screening , Doctors urged sleeping in fresh air as therapy for people suffering from TB and respiratory problems. People began to build homes with "sleeping porches"...screened in rooms with multiple windows to provide maximum cross ventilation. If you drive through old neighborhoods, you'll recognize these appendages to front or back upper floors of many vintage homes.

There is nothing more magical than sleeping in my sunporch turned "sleeping porch" on a moonlit night. The moonlight floods in the windows and everything outside is so clearly visible. I love laying there watching the clouds swim across the "midnight blue" ( that was a favorite Crayola color) skies. The moon hides behind them and then pops out like a giant flashlight being turned on my face. The breezes are cool and fresh and make sleeping in any other room seem so confining to me. I almost hate to fall asleep it is so beautiful and sometimes I cannot help myself. I get up and wander to the windows to get an even better view of it all. It seems as though it's just me and God....and all the little animals I have sometimes seen skittering along the back hill.!Rabbits play, a huge skunk waddles on the sideways slant of the back hill, the occasional possum and woodchuck scurry faster than their odoriferous friend.(We can always smell him before we see him out there!) One night I had the strong sense that someone was out on the back deck and turned on the light to find two HUMONGOUS raccoons feasting on black oil sunflower seeds at the bird feeder. I haven't seen them but I know there are deer out there as well. I hope to catch them, maybe on some full mooned, snowy night NEXT winter. And there are all the sounds of the night. The frogs singing in the wetter areas of the fields, and the crickets, and what causes those little sudden outbursts of bird squawks? Bird nightmares ? The reality of a predator stalking them in the night? As tired as I might have been when my head hits the pillow, the magic of the breezes and moonlight passing through the open windows always serves to refresh me enough to watch and smell and listen for alittle longer before closing my eyes. It gives such a strong sense of peace that I find I sleep better, more deeply....and sleep is a great gift.

I have a lovely little "vest pocket" garden below the sun/sleeping porch. It has my favorites, lilacs, Rose of Sharon, peonies, ferns....I think maybe I should plant some "Moon Flowers" down there this week.
"On my bed I remember You;
I think of You through the watches of the night.
Because YOU are my help,
I sing in the shadow of Your wings.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me."
Psalm 63:6-8

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Down The Primrose Path......

How many people actually HAVE a primrose path? Have you ever seen a primrose path? Now you can say you have because here is mine in all it's May glory! I have always loved primroses...primulas actually. Each Spring I'd be astonished by their beauty and after much consideration as to which of the gorgeous blossom colors to choose I'd splurge, buying a potful at the grocery to enjoy for afew days before they'd invariably croak. Imagine the THRILL I had to discover that Reatha, the previous gardener at our place at the lake had nurtured this beautiful spring surprise! They are so happy in this shady spot where they are flourishing with no help from any human. They truly smile up at me in yellows, roses, orange, purples and fuchsia.

...and they are not alone. A week ago there were only hints that life was returning to the gardens. There was the most wonderful surprise...that the deer, despite an unusually harsh winter and their annual habit of using my shrubs as their personal salad buffet, had left everything UN nibbled. This means that I won't have to wait until sometime after the fourth of July for areas in my gardens to look more normal. My old fashioned Bridal Wreath bushes will sport beautiful, long, cascading branches of the peppery sweet miniature bridal bouquets.

It's all coming back...From the incredible Redbud tree whose breath taking blooming I often miss because it happens before we actually are out here to see it ( I'm enjoying it this weekend, YEAH!) the Autumn Clematis whose little beginnings of growth will result in a trellis bending with the weight of it's tendrils and multitudes of sweet smelling white star flowers always AFTER we've moved back to town in the fall.

Maybe most heartening is the return of all the shrubs and perennials we planted and transplanted last summer as we sought to make this new place more "ours" by transforming the back lawn into yet more perennial gardens with a curving pea gravel and stepping stone path from the parking area to the front porch. Beside the dollar investment in new plantings which I would be sick to lose, I will admit I played "musical plants" moving some favorite perennial "friends" and a lilac bush way too big to expect survival. Yet, there it stands, big enough that you'd think it'd been growing in front of our little house for many years and it's leafed out and is chock full of tight dark purple blossoms ready to stun me.

My greatest anticipation was to scurry out here after the snows to see how my two biggest investments had fared. Twin hydrangea bushes which , if they make it, promise to grow to a nine foot privacy feature between the yard and the road. They did, and I am now able to look forward to bowers of beautiful parchment, spring green and pink panicles ( that's your new word for the day from me)...maybe not so much this or next year, but you know what "they" say about the third year of a garden plant!

The Lily of The Valley is going bonkers! There are pips of it as well as stray daffodils spilling out of the garden bed into adjoining areas. In afew days the leaves of the two dogwood trees in the middle of the ocean of Lily of the Valley will complete their opening process and by the time the beautiful white stalks of flowers of the lilys appear they will be shaded by the baby dogwood leaves and pink flowers.

I'm looking out my window, down upon a small sea of Iris...packed in tightly in both front and back gardens they are sporting bulging, tightly wrapped flower so so many deep purple turbans! Next to them, grows a patch of short, slender green shoots; looking like a horticultural overgrown "crewcut", these will soon be a happy little plot of the teeniest, tiniest miniature irises in bright orange with yellow throats speckled with red!

I go through this every year, but as I mentioned, it has been a LONG LONG and harsh winter with record breaking snow fall. It only results in my (really) wanting to try to do a cartwheel to express what I feel seeing my bleeding heart plants already imitating shrubs, begging to have their picture new hosta plants poking their clans of pointed asparagus green tips out of the bark promising to soon fulfill their covenant to edge my walk each year.

Oh, and there are my coral bells...three different colors, golden green, deeper green and the beautiful red grapey colored ones. All will shortly send up stalks of tiny pink flowers to swing above their shiny leaf collars. Can there possibly be a better season than this?...a better time of this season that this week when we KNOW there can be no more snow? Don't you just KNOW that HEAVEN will be a garden? I cannot wait for that!