Archive for May, 2009

Those Bees

Friday, May 29th, 2009

The bees that were taken from the garage wall have settled in nicely. Strangely enough I now recognize that I was sort of holding my breath, not wanting to get too attached, doing a bit of distancing until I could confirm that are an intact hive.

Because, truthfully, it is so painful to have a hive die. It isn’t like losing a dog or a cat who is an inside companion, and warm blooded at that. But I vibe with my bees, I thrill with with them, I love talking to them and having the whole hive respond to my energy and presence. When my first hive died, over 20 years ago, I knew it because I dreamed it.

Yes, there is an extra-ordinary connection that can happen with bees. This basically all female clump of stinging winged creatures who have a hive mentality, and function as the most consensus driven unit I’ve ever encountered.

I eat there contribution to my better life nearly every day, and I think of them often. Catching a glimpse of any bee anywhere is always a thrill.

So now that I know I have a laying queen, now that I know it is an intact hive, I’m willing to commit emotionally. I will go there with them and we will sort out their messy hive (not all the frames are in because of putting brood comb and other remnants of their old home directly in the hive). I won’t take any honey this year, and we’ll get through the winter to enjoy next spring intact and no moving of homes.

I’m with you, bees. Thanks for just being there steadily while I was still too afraid to commit.

And what great happiness it is to have such lovely calm critters in my backyard. This is a really wonderful hive.

wild things

Monday, May 25th, 2009

It was a good weekend for wild food. The usual suspects were rounded up and consumed – stinging nettles for a couple of meals, sauted with potato and wild garlic was especially nice. Also scrambled with wild garlic, dandelion, mustard, and topped with raw chive dandelion and violet blossoms.

A pasta salad included the wild garlic, fresh asparagus sauted in a bit of olive oil, ume plum vinegar olive oil and goat cheese. Leftovers of the salad were improved by adding dandelion greens, more blossoms dominated by dame’s rocket, mustard, and chives.

Gary and his daughter Irene arrived for dinner, with ramps and brownies made from last year’s black raspberries. We wrapped potatoes in the ramps with a bit of olive oil and put them into the coals of the fire. On top of the coals we cooked tofurkey brats and asparagus mixed with olive oil and coarse salt. Not wild, but still wonderful.

In the morning I picked rhubarb from the patch that has been growing with no assistance for the last 25 years – added that to oatmeal and raisins. With a but of honey and raw milk that made a good start to the day, especially combined with the extra potatoes and ramps from last night refried with olive oil.

And every meal is better gazing out at the lake. We had taken the canoe and rowboat out with the dog to watch the lovely sunset, this morning two canoes and three people to enjoy the still water and harvest cattails. Gary and I pulled them up root and all, he cut off the top leaves and near the root. Nala joined in and seemed to know instinctively to chew past the tough outer layers to get to the softer heart. She chowed down on a number of them, and tried to steal the ones that Gary had prepared in the bow of the canoe.

This dog is eating dandelions – leaves or even better she pops the flowers into her mouth, and will go through a whole patch of flowering plants and leave them headless. I watch what she eats and she has good instincts. She avoids oniony flavors, which are not good for dogs, and gos for greens and fruits. I had left a peach in the boat from Saturday afternoon, she hunted that down and enjoyed the whole thing.

On shore we peeled the cattails down to the soft center, which left a huge pile of peels and a small pile of hearts. Those were cooked in homemade butter, and the remaining ramps. To round out the meal I pulled out crackers and a tapanade of peppers and artichoke hearts in a jar. Irene and Gary had also made ginger beer from wild ginger they had harvested, combined with a bit of store bought Zingiber root.

The cattails were soft and sweet, very tasty with no after taste, a little slippery, clearly a starch, but with a unique flavor that was very lovely and mild. The ginger beer was a huge success – a very subtle sweet taste and I could have drank much more. Just wonderful.

I brought home rhubarb to freeze, it makes such good crisps year round, and it is great to discover how good it is in oatmeal! The freezing is easy, just throw it in a bag and label the year.

It is good to have the free food, but especially the variety of tastes and the fun of harvesting and eating with others who enjoy the novelty. And that includes Nala, who will certainly be begging for cattails again. Who knows, she may learn to start harvesting her own.

The other fun art of the harvest was the newly hatched damsel flies which were all over us, and the drago fly we got to watch newly emerged. Spring is well under way.

Another Canoe Trip

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

Last Tuesday Gary and I were on the river before 9 AM, and we shared a celebratory Mango a bit after 8 PM when we took out very far down river.

The beginning was Island Lake Park, just below Kent Lake Dam. The river is immediately the Huron I’ve grown to love – long stretches of trees, grasses, bird sightings, quiet, and very few signs of human intervention. Transported by the river through wild areas and a view of SE Lower Michigan that is unique and that makes me breath a bit deeper just considering the features.

The paddling was easy, the landscape keeps changing and watching the water and the vegetation is more than enough entertainment. The silly conversations, long pauses between exchanges, pointing out sightings of birds or trees or turtles to each other, it all has a rhythm, it all just flows downstream.

I did see probably the largest turtle in a natural setting that I’ve ever seen. A huge snapper was settled in the sun, his/her? shell more than 18 inches across I guessed. This snapper slipped into the water as we approached, then came back out so that Gary could also appreciate how awesome he/she was. Later some sunning mud turtles were nearly as large. A great turtle sighting day. Not so with the birds. The usual companions – geese with fuzzy newborns, the Great Blue Heron flying down river with us, red winged blackbirds with their call that always puts me into a late spring time frame. A few swans, but not many others.

We stopped a number of times to stretch and eat and enjoy the river from the land. Lunch was quinoa salad, three kinds of bread (french, biscuits and past their prime muffins) with homemade butter, chocolate milk. We had found a picnic table in one of the metro parks. It seemed very private and secluded, and Gary commented that the only possible person that could come by on a Tuesday afternoon was the guy who mowed the grass – a circle of intervention in an otherwise pretty overgrown area of poison ivy, virginia creeper, dandelions, and other weeds.

We had finished lunch and were enjoying the quiet privacy when we heard the approaching mower. What bizarre timing. We just endured the loud intrusion and after two swipes at the grass, we were again in a quiet secluded place.

We were back on the water soon. At some point, the flooding and the downed trees became more and more of our focus. The river was blocked by dozens and dozens of trees. It was great practice for me to try and figure out if we could make it past, and where and how. We took a lot of detours into the flooded woods, zig zagging around live trees and back out to the river. But we also artfully found “V’s” and ways over limbs and logs and under branches.

There were also a number of bridges and branches that required laying full flat in the canoe to pass under. The water was high enough that there were just a few inches of clearance form the canoe to the bridge. I had to quickly scoot down flat and hope that Gary would tell me if I wasn’t down far enough. We made each one, but it was a little freaky to glide under some of those very old bridges just inches away from concrete and steel.

On the river the wind was gusty and not much of an issue. Further in our journey we crossed a few lakes, and it was more of a headwind. But even after so many hours of paddling we were still strong and made fast progress. The populated part of the river is interesting for a bit, but after a while it is hard not to get snarky about the over built houses, the overpowered boats, the over manicured lawns, and of course no one is around enjoying any of it.

I was fascinated by how the river changes and is wide and narrow, turns to a lake, then changes course. With no dams, this is all just formation, and the variety of ways that water can flow is just a mystery and a wonder for me. It is a part of what makes the Huron so wonderful. You literally can’t know what will be around the next bend or just a little further. It just kept surprising me.

Finally, after a number of trips on the Huron, the whole reading the signature of the water is beginning to make sense to me, and I’m kind of getting it. What seemed mysteriously brilliant to me a year ago – Gary’s ability to know which rocks we could go over, what had to be gone around – is something I’m beginning to see. What had scared me before — there are ripples! What’s hidden?! Will we crash?! — now I could anticipate what was under the water and know what the canoe could do. And as we went by, I got constant validation and feedback that I had seen this obstacle coming and there it was.

Of course Gary’s patience with my very basic questions, and teaching me more and more were essential in beginning to get it. I’m beginning to understand it, but even better I’m beginning to feel it.

Baseline lake eluded us for a very long time, we got a bit lost even taking a wrong turn into a channel at Gallagher Lake. I think that was the name. It had been a long day, we were both tired, and we paddled a really long time to finally reach the inlet for Baseline, the last large lake to paddle, and from there a quick trip to the takeout. We rested a bit, ate a bit, under a red bud tree which provided some color and a little sweet taste to the snacks. We had spent the whole day with no other boats or even many people to encounter.

The mower guy, 2-3 people fishing, a woman on shore who recognized me and ask me to identify a plant for her, a few home owners working on their lawns. In this chain of lakes, once it was past 5:00, the pleasure cruising began. Lots of large pontoon boats, motor boats, and once we got to Baseline a few windsurfers and kayaks. Only a couple were obnoxious. The one guy who sped up and into some peaceful swans as he passed us, we saw later fishing on the side of Portage Dam where is is clearly marked no fishing. So at least he was a consistent jerk.

No large or fast boat trouble on Baseline, and we made really good time getting across. After that, the river returned to how I best know it, and I relaxed for the final hour or so of river time. The few small rapids we found were easy with this much water, and the Hudson Mills rapids were fun – even more than last year – as we shot through them into a standing wave the poured a fair amount of water into the canoe. The sign on the bridge before them warns that they can cause drowning and death. So does that mean I’ve done death defying rapids? No, I didn’t think so.

I felt a strong sense of accomplishment as we passed the spot we had put in last year, our first canoe trip from the bridge above Hudson Mills to below Delhi. A long strange year, coming back to place with Gary I had only hoped I might return to with him, and certainly 6 months ago never imagined I would.

And completing that segment means I have just two lakes to travel, and I will have canoed the entire Huron. I can do that solo this summer, or with Gary as he has time.

The take out was a relief and also some sadness the long day was over. Gary sliced up the mango and just as we finished it Blanche met us in my truck for the journey back to Gary’s car.

I was grinning and happy, relaxed and excited still. Tired and wanting to run around to further work off the excitement of what I had just accomplished. I really loved the day. All of it. So glad I could experience the treasure of the river, with a wonderful man, and the perfect sun and nature. A lot of happiness, inspired by the Huron.

dating update

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

The good news is I continue to meet many interesting, intelligent, creative men – for the most part.
The bad news is they are so very far from compatible long term.

If it is easy to identify traits/patterns/values that profoundly bother me from one date (everyone on best behavior) that just doesn’t bode well for the long term future and great intimacy.

I really do like people, men and women. I do have different standards for someone I would like to be very close with. If I think about my closest friends – intimate and non – with nearly all of them there was an immediate click, knowing, enjoyment. And then time and experience created intimacy and bonding.

And while I have friends who have very different ideas than mine in politics and religion and other values – the closest most intimate friends are people who share a world view very similar to mine. I just can’t imagine how I could (or would want to) be close with someone who just described many of my closest friends as “perverse” because they are a same sex couple.

A big part of who I am has always been aware of politics, justice, peace, commitment to action and causes. It has to be a shared experience if we are going to have a shared life. And denying climate change, asking for Bush to be forgiven based on context, not celebrating love in all its many forms (including gay), and finding heroes in people who have done great harm to the world (Ronald Reagan is but one example) are all “details” that make it impossible for me to go to the next step in any relationship. And I’ve encountered all that and more recently. And my profile is clear, these guys knew it would be a problem, they carefully avoided the issue until later.

So maybe I’m not getting as many contacts from conservative Catholics, but still a conservative element out there that seems to think it doesn’t matter or maybe that I can be changed? If you are a friend, really now, how likely do you think that is? Yeah, that’s because you know me. I’ll listen, I’ll learn, but not a lot has truly changed in this liberal brain for about 40 years now. There are fundamental values and priorities that I came into this world with, and I am pretty much the same idealistic obnoxious somewhat arrogant peace loving passionate activist I have been since I was on record at 10 trying to save a bit of the planet by organizing (and succeeding I may add!).

I remain bewildered.

But do recall – I’ve never done this before. Never dated lots of guys. Never had this sort of attention and “social life”. And I do hope it is all over soon. I think I’ve had a glimpse of an alternate reality, and that’s all I need.

I’m more than ready to settle in with someone who just simply understands me, supports me, inspires me, and I can do the same for him. We laugh, we talk, we share, and are both the better people for it. Living simply, taking risks, helping others.

It sounds so easy.

One less boat

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

My friend Joanne has been complaining about the pontoon boat, for a couple of years now. It has been tied to the dock, used as an extension of that dock. Before that we used it to swim. The lake is weedy, so we rowed the boat out, anchored it, and then had a ladder to get on and off. With a marvelous plastic swim platform, no need to that!

The pontoon boat has been slowly sinking, as a leak in the starboard pontoon got worse and worse. Since it was too much work to pull it out with all that water I also left it in for two winters. That didn’t help. But with a few chairs set up, it was a perfect place to watch meteor showers. In the evening, to see the sun go down. I lit off fireworks on the boat last summer. And a lot of kids have fished from it. I made a dog ramp so the dog could come and go easily, although none of mine ever used it.

It has been a boat worth remembering, worth appreciating. I’ve owned it for over 20 years! It was named Satva, although we somehow never got around to painting that Sanscrit name on it. The first thing I did after poling it home from it’s home up the lake was remove the motor. I traded it for help getting rid of two riding mowers that didn’t work, as well as removing the steering assembly and all the mechanicals. From then on, we rowed it, we poled it, and also had a few trolling motors to move it.

It wasn’t easy to move it by hand, but with at least one other person, and favorable wind, it was worth it. We had contraptions for the sun, so the dogs could have shade. Nearly every thing we did to that boat made it uglier and funnier. It was utilitarian, never beautiful.

Friday and Saturday the impulse was there, Joanne complained again, and her father and I (and later joined by her husband), we took the boat apart. Beginning with a screw driver, then a hammer, sawsall, hatchet, and finally an ax. It is now in pieces, some for recycling, some for reuse, and some for the trash. In just a few hours, it was no longer a boat.

The dock that is there has heaved and shifted and is uneven and also pretty much no longer needed now that there is a beach. It is also pretty ugly, and not really safe with splintered and uneven wood, cleats to tie boats to (or trip over) and so narrow that a chair is a barrier unsafe to squeeze by. There is just one spot to sit actually on the dock even mildly comfortably, and two people would be a little crowded.

A cantelievered deck would be pleasant, a floating dock with room for a few chairs and a table even better. It has become a high priority on the list. I hope we have it found and in place before the Persiod meteor showers.

A pontoon boat is really designed as the lazy person’s boat. A drinking barge – as it is sometimes called – for trolling around a lake with your drinking buddies. i won’t miss having to haul it out of the lake each year with my pick up truck or the come along. Simple boats, boats one person can carry. That seems like a good direction.


Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

A facebook friend posted this video. I hardly know how to describe my feelings about it. So I’m fascinated by it. It is just startling, and also so strangely beautiful and provocative.

Important. So I wanted to share. It is being passed around, interesting to read what others have thought.

Ken King

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Rather than repeat myself here, it would be easiest just toread the tribute I wrote for him at The Ann Arbor Chronicle. I was hoping the Chronicle would write about his death, and Mary said they were swamped with other projects. Would I? A wonderful synchronicity of people places and timing then unfolded, and the article nearly wrote itself. Of course.

I hope this is just one of many tributes for this remarkable man who has really touched so many and made a wonderful difference in the world.

Birthday in May

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

I sort of skipped over this event, because the week just got away from me. But it was a much anticipated, planned, thought about and large event in my life. So it deserves some notice and a few comments.

My 50th birthday was in February. Not much to do with a winter birthday but sit around inside and eat cake. Although I now recall that the teacher mentioned in my earlier block post today was there for my 16th birthday at Farrels. They were in Briarwood mall at the time, and it is an ice cream and cake sort of place. If it si your birthday they come out and sing to you with lots of noise and attention, give you some great ice cream treat, and everyone gets to be silly.

That works even in winter.

But I wanted to be out with friends, I envisioned a sort of parade. So I decided to celebrate three months later – May 3. I arranged for music – and ended up with some really fine musicians. I bought 3 dozen bottles of bubbles. I made great food, including five kinds of cheesecake. And I invited a lot of people. And, I made it a fundraiser. For Growing Hope.

We walked to the park in front of the Co-op, although there was also one unicycle! Once there the music continued and I served cheesecake to everyone, even the innocent bystanders. That was fun.

I’m not sure many people knew totally what was going to go on, maybe just a few of my closest friends. But about 50 ended up being part of at least one part of it, and nearly half did it all.

There are some great photos on facebook. And The Ann Arbor Chronicle weaved it into a larger story.

I’m glad I risked being silly. I’m really glad to have found such great musicians willing to play. I’m really happy to be 50. And most of all, I’m really happy to live in this community and have so many extraordinary people in my life. Wow. It is great to take that moment to say yeah, this is something. I feel well celebrated, well loved, and really happy I did it. Money is still coming in for Growing Hope, I’ll post the total later. It isn’t inteh thousands as I originally hoped. But a nice contribution and many people heard about this organization who wouldn’t have otherwise!

And I have lots of left over soap bubbles for the summer. And there was a lot of left over cheesecake, a week later, one piece remains. And no, I didn’t eat it all myself.


Saturday, May 9th, 2009

I’m on twitter in case anyone wants to follow me. I promise to only talk about what I’m about to eat if it is somehow educational. Eventually I’ll have a couple of accounts so one will be personal stuff, one for herbal holistic stuff, one just for the web project, and ?? I’m still defining the categories of my life, so for now it is all


you can find me on twitter with that name. Not sure how I feel about the technology yet, but it has actually already been helpful in learning a few things.

The odd thing is people who are looking for keywords to follow. I’ve been picked up and then dropped. But I said something critical of and they are now following me. That’s creepy.interesting.

Facebook connections

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

Because of Facebook, I had a lovely lunch today with a small Community High School Group. My brother, another Ann Arborite who was there are the same time, and a newly resurrected friend who was a student teacher ’74 ’75, now living in Boston. The requisite conversation of who died and how is always interesting, but there was much more than that to talk about. Marnee Thai was great as always, and it was a great reunion and return to that strange time in our lives. We all turned out well. And that’s nice.