18 on November 9

In one class that I’m teaching, I have about 8 students who are either are from a different country or their parents are; there are at least two students with obvious disabilities and another two that need accommodations; there are 5 women who appear to be non-white and 6 men who appear to be non-white. And I have one woman who appears to be white and five men who appear to be white. I may have a student who has refugee status. Eighteen students. This is one class. One class out of many repeated throughout my institution and many institutions across the country. Those who know me know that I am the opposite of any kind of religious Jew, but still I know the words and can hum along with the chorus if I have to. Eighteen is symbolic number in Judaism as the letters that spell out 18, also spell “life.” That’s why when you don’t know what else to give the kid being bat mitzvahed or your co-worker on her wedding, you give a “multiple”: $18, $36, $54.

My grandfather was born on November 18 in 1916. He would’ve been 100 next Friday. When he was about 12 or 13, he became very sick. There was no penicillin in those days. But he survived (and hence, so do I). He had no bar mitzvah, I was told, but he did acquire a middle name, Chaim–life–though it was always represented as “H” in his initials: Sol H. Becker; but that’s the peculiarity of transliterating Hebrew. But all through this season, I’ve been thinking about Honey (what we called him) who my aunt told me had been a Republican. I found that surprising, but I don’t know. I do remember the Tricky Dicky doll he gave me, but I don’t remember any political conversations with him, but then he died when I was 18.

So we all need a little 18 today and for the days to come to survive this. We have penicillin now, and we have each other. But I need to keep thinking of my students. What do they have? What does the kid who is studying on a visa have with his family a world a way? What about the girl who visited me in the Writing Center who wears a head scarf and misses her mother another million miles a way? Or the black kid who tells me his mother’s not around (didn’t ask where she was), but she taught him how to feed himself on chicken and canned green beans. Or the students who have whispered to me they’re Muslim when we talk about how strange somethings are about Christmas (and we still like the gifts)? I’m a Jewish woman. I worry about these folks when everything seems to be fine. What now?

Today and tomorrow and the next days as I fumble around in my own grief, I have to remember those students, those 18 multiplied by themselves and others. It’s not infinity, but it’s a lot. I’m not sure what my grandfather or even my grandmother (who lived another 30 years after Honey died and she turned out to be a raging Liberal in so many ways) would say. They would be 100 and 99 now. They would tell me probably to get up off my ass and go to work. They might tell me they love me, but to stop the kvetching.

I can’t tell my students much. I can’t tell them who or what loves or cares for them. I can only tell them they deserve my attention, not my grief. I can’t do much, but I can pay attention. They deserve this.

18, 36, 54, 72, 90, 108, 126, 144, 162, 180, 198, 216, 234, 252…

The Difference Between Hope and Faith: Musings before a Historic and hopefully not Histrionic Election

The first time I voted was in 1984. I had registered to vote when I was still in high school and only 17, but someone had set up a table in the hallway at school and so I registered—as a democrat. At that ripe age of 21, I thought of myself as a life-long democrat. I had voted for Humphrey in mock elections in kindergarten. In ’72 I was such a McGovern supporter that I bit a neighbor girl when she said what I thought were ridiculous claims. (I can’t remember what they were, but they probably had more to do with his hippy supporters. I do remember that my mother had a conversation with me about not biting people—but I didn’t get in trouble.)

During Watergate, I was in the fifth grade. My language arts (English, literature, social studies) was Mrs. Sawyer—mother to Diane Sawyer. Yeah, that Diane. The family were Republicans. Diane’s father died when he was in office as Jefferson County (Louisville, KY) Judge/Executive—an important position in Kentucky politics. In fact, this was one of Mitch McConnell’s first political positions. But ’73 and ’74, we were made to watch the Watergate proceedings at least once a week in class, all with a running commentary about how Mr. Nixon was innocent, the Nixons were lovely people, etc. I continued to watch the proceedings at home and even at 10, I drew my own conclusions. I credit Mrs. Sawyer with teaching me to think critically, and she had a very strong influence on my politics, though, probably not in a way that she would’ve approved.

So in 1984, I was excited to be voting for the first time. I remember calling my mother since I was far away in Upstate New York at college. I wanted to know who she was voting for. I wanted to make sure she was voting for a dem, since I’m pretty sure she had voted for Reagan in ’80. When I asked her, she said: “I’m voting for Gerry!!” I reminded her that Ferraro, the first woman on a major party ticket for vice president, was not running for president. She said: “I know. I’ll vote for that guy if it means I can vote for Gerry.”

My mother echoed probably what a lot of people felt. Sadly, Mondale didn’t inspire us—he was smart, but too serious, too quick to point out the problems. After four devastating years of “Morning in America,” we needed someone who give us some hope as democrats, and sadly, that was not Fritz Mondale. But at the same time, he did what no other candidate of a major party had done: he put a woman on the ticket. She was smart, hard-working, and frankly, she had that spark, though not enough given that Reagan won in a landslide. And still, my mother said what a lot of women her generation reiterated time and time again—they wanted to see a woman in a major political office—and I did too.

The older women in my family are not overtly political animals. I mean, my mother voted, but she didn’t get excited about it, except when Gerry Ferraro was on the ticket. My grandmother told me that when my grandfather was alive, she had voted the way he did—even when she didn’t agree. But still she told me years ago, and also years after he died, that abortion should be safe and legal and free. She had mentioned this to me as we were getting ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s and their social program at the time was making sure all children were wanted and cared for. I was surprised to learn my grandmother—a woman who was born in 1917, was so pro-choice, but my aunt told me later that she probably knew many women who had either unwanted children or had back-alley abortions since getting birth control was difficult in the 40s and 50s since a woman needed her husband’s permission.

But my sister and I political. I go to rallys. I have yard signs. I’ve phone banked. I’ve given small amounts of money. And I have a picture of me and Tammy Baldwin that I prize. She has given money to dem candidates. Her husband worked for Tom Harkin in ’88. Her youngest stepson was 10 during the 2004 election. When Lieberman dropped out of the running, my nephew wanted to know if we had ever had a Jewish president. My brother-in-law said, no son. “How about a black man?” Uh, no. “How about a woman?” Sorry son. And then he said, “Well that’s not FAIR.” (The five year old walked around saying he’d vote for Kucinich, but he didn’t have a chance.)

Yeah, that’s my family.

And even now, my sister’s youngest worries about a friend of his. His dad is from another country and he worries that the dad will have to go back to where he came from and the mom will have to marry someone else.

So, yeah, we are that political.

I have never voted for anyone who wasn’t a dem. And I don’t think I’m a knee-jerk liberal. I’ve thought about the issues that matter to me: choice, education, equal pay for equal work, gun control, and again choice, education education education.

And here we are, poised to vote or see how our early votes are reconciled. After ’84 and then ’88 and then 2000 and 2004, I thought I had learned how to lose gracefully. I mean, after all, when the first time you vote, your candidate loses in a landslide, wining only his home state of Minnesota, well, you learn to take it on the chin. Better luck next time.

Still when Bill Clinton won in ’92, I remember watching the returns, nearly delirious as it came clear that he would win. I felt the same thing when Obama won for the first time in 2008. I had hope.

But hope is a tricky thing. It’s not the same as faith. That is, the faithful have hope even when there is no hope to be had. But the hopeful? Our hopes can be dashed. If I didn’t feel that in 84 or 88, I sure as hell felt it in 2000 when I went to bed at 2 am not knowing who would be president. I was living in San Angelo, Texas at the time, and I knew I was a tiny tiny blue dot in a sea of red. In fact, I can’t tell you how many friends sent me the Texas Survival email joke:
Due to the popularity of the Survivor shows on television, Texas is planning to do one entitled, “Survivor: Texas Style.”

The contestants will all start in Dallas, then drive to Waco, Austin, San Antonio, over to Houston and down to Brownsville. They will then proceed up to Del Rio, El Paso, Midland/Odessa, Lubbock and Amarillo.

From there they will go on to Abilene, Fort Worth and finally back to Dallas.

Each will be driving a pink Volvo with bumper stickers that read: “I’m gay; I love the Dixie Chicks; Boycott Beef; I voted for Al Gore, in 2000; George Strait Stinks; Kerry in ’04; Hillary in ’08 and I’m here to confiscate your guns.”

The first one who makes it back to Dallas alive is the winner.

And when I woke early that morning, I turned on the radio, and still I didn’t know. I then powered up my computer—and still I didn’t know. We had gotten snow overnight—a rarity in that part of Texas for November. I didn’t think much of it, but a few minutes into looking at the computer screen, I lost power. There was too much heavy snow on the flat roof of my apartment building. So, I took a cold shower, got dressed, and went to go teach. And I learned what others knew. We still didn’t have a presidential winner—and we woudn’t know for another month. In fact, the speaker for my Ph.D. graduation in December of that year was a congress person and he was called back to Washington for a vote or meeting. I don’t remember who spoke or what they said, but I do remember that I didn’t have nearly as many flags behind me when my post-grad shot was snapped as either Al or George had behind them when each spoke to say, “No, I’m the President.”

But this election is so different. And I won’t waste time here explaining that. You all know. Certainly there were rumors that my college students repeated in 2008 about what might happen to Obama when he won—and thankfully none of that has come to pass. But the fear, the lack of respect, the outright sexism, xenophobia, racism, and on and on has worn on me and us all out.

And still, I want to hope.

In my adopted home of Wisconsin, I have learned what it means to be in a swing state. We have had all sorts of visitors in the state as well as in my very liberal city. And Wisconsin is such an odd duck of a state. I mean, we have Madison and Milwaukee—two cities that tend to vote dem for very different reasons. One being a college town and the other being a union town. And then there is the rest of the state who loves football and hunting and brandy. This is not bad or good. It just is. And still Wisconsin was the home of fighting Bob La Follette, the founder of progressive politics. More recently, we’ve had senators like Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold (both part of the tribe) and Tammy Baldwin, the first-out-of-the-closet woman in the Senate. At the same time, our governor is not of this stripe.

Still, I was lucky enough this past Friday to go to a rally where Vice President Joe Biden was speaking. It was a spontaneous decision. I knew he was speaking, but I thought, the traffic and all would be too much. But then I realized, I’d be driving home about the time the rally would start. I realized, I’d be driving right by the theater. And then I thought, in Joe-fashion, what the hell, why not?

I parked downtown so near the theater, I thought it was a fluke. After a dog (or a dog with a job, as we like to remind our own dog) sniffed my car, I parked and walked out of the garage to stand on the sidewalk next to the vice president’s limo. “Wow,” I said the cops on the street, “that’s pretty cool.” They agreed.

Inside, I was herded to the balcony, but still, I could see Russ Feingold. When he introduced Biden, every human in that theater who was able rose en masse. I caught my breath and I was choked up. The feeling in the room was hope and promise. I moved to the edge of the balcony so I could see better. And when the speech was over, I moved to the floor. Even though I was caught between a very tall man who didn’t know when to stop shooting pictures, a woman bellyaching about the fact she couldn’t move or breath and a secret service guy intent on keeping us back, I was about 18 inches from the vice president—and to quote Biden himself, “That’s a fucking big deal.”

So Tuesday is tomorrow. We’ve already voted. But I think I will put on a pant suit rather than my typical leggings and boots to teach. I will go and teach my morning class and mention to my students how they need to vote. I will then drive later that day to teach my evening class, and I will encourage my students to vote before the polls close. On the way home, I will do what I typically do and listen to a podcast of This American Life because it’s an hour long and my drive is also an hour. I will wait to watch the returns with my husband. I am sad that my grandmother didn’t live to see this day, but then as she reminded us all for the last nearly 20 years of her life, she was ready to go. Still, I think she’d think this was cool.

I told my husband the other day, we have bourbon if the results aren’t good and champagne if they are. I’m not going to kid you. I am terrified. I believe that there is a truth that exists, but I also know that truth doesn’t necessarily lie outside of those who construct it. I can just hope. And I am hoping that my hopes won’t be dashed. I know that even if my party wins, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. But I’ve got to hope that it’s not just that I’m right—I’m just one tiny little blue dot, but that all of us are right and with her.

Now, if you haven’t, dust off your pant suits or wear white for those early suffragette who fought their tushes off so we can have that privilege. If you need a ride, let me know. Just get out there and vote. temp-profile

An Embarrassment of Riches

It’s an embarrassment of riches. It’s life in a red state. It’s time to roll up the windows in the car so neighbors don’t sneak over and leave produce on the front seat.

There are too many god-blessed tomatoes.

IMG_1510   IMG_1505

Back in the spring, when I bought six tomato plants at the Farmer’s Market, it didn’t feel like too many. In fact, I thought I was showing restraint. There are just so so so many kinds—Abraham Lincoln, Arkansas Traveler, Banana Legs, Black Brandywine, Black Cherry, Bloody Butcher, Box Car Willie, Dingwall Scotty, Hazel Mae, Heidi (yes! and they’re originally from Cameroon, so I don’t think they’ll do so well in Wisconsin), Mortgage Lifter, Money Maker, Stump of the World, Prize of the Trials, and on and on… (Okay, I didn’t see all of those at the Farmer’s Market, but I do like the poetry of the names.)

And like I said in an early post Baby Deadhead Guy always gives me good advice. I bought a Juliet from him and some other variety, but I can’t remember. More on that later.

Charlie Brown Tomato PlantI had tried to seed-save from the volunteers I had from last year. Two seedlings survived, but only one took when I planted it. It is the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree tomato plant.

But we had prepped the soil, and actually most of the mint was gone from plot where I planted the tomatoes. The nitrogen and compost were down for about a month before planting those monsters. Once I got the plants in, I wanted to label each plant so I would knew which tomato was which. But it was late in the day, and I still had to buy those little label stake signs, so I placed the pots that the plants came in by each plant, thinking that I’d buy those signs in the next day or so and then I could label them.

Then it rained. A lot.

Our plot is on the southeast side of the house, facing our neighbors. It’s the side yard. Our neighbor’s house is slightly higher than ours, so when it rains, water runs down into what amounts to a little valley where the garden is. The area becomes a little marshy and the ground is mush. And after a hard rain, I think I should have planted rice.

So those little pots that the tomato plants came in, that had all been labeled? They were washed away from the plants and lined up against the chicken wire surrounding the garden—so who knows what is what.

The Who Knows What the Hell This Is

The What Kind of Tomato is This?

I do know I planted Sun Golds and Juliets, and I can recognize them. I remember buying Glamour, a medium to largish red tomato. I also remember buying Independence Day tomatoes, which are a tich smaller and redder. I think I have identified these. But the other one that I think I bought from Baby Deadhead Guy: no clue. It’s yellow/gold, it’s sort of big, and it’s great as a sort of bruschetta with a piece of fresh basil, a slice of mozzarella, a splash of balsamic, and salt and pepper. If you know what this bad boy is, please leave a comment here. Really. I would really like to know.

Also early on, it’s hard to say what is going to happen. It’s like expectant parents. You wait.

While coolish in June, July and August have been mostly hot and humid. In fact we had to water some in June and maybe early July, but since then, we haven’t all. Of course, that’s because we also bought a rain barrel.

We had thought about a rain barrel since we moved into the house. Our inspector had noted the little valley of rain the day our house was inspected. It was raining cats and dogs and llamas that day, so she went out to inspect the outside of the house, but couldn’t get up on the roof. She suggested a rain garden, but I am allergic to mosquitoes. I don’t get bites, I get welts. If someone says it’s not buggy to me, I still get bitten. Mosquitos see an all-you-can-eat-buffet neon sign on my forehead. I put on bug repellent just to take the dog out. So a rain garden was not going to happen. But when June looked dry, we started to think about a rain barrel since there’s no faucet on the side yard, and we have to drag a hose half way around the house. So I found a nice one online at Target. Trav installed it easily. And then I was sure we wouldn’t get a drop of rain ever again. But instead we’ve had the opposite luck, and we’ve learned that mosquitoes also like rain barrels.

And it has been an epic year for tomatoes—they love this hot, humid weather.

First, we started to get the Sun Golds. They’re an orange cherry tomato. They are super sweet. Okay, they’re like crack. You can just eat them. We put them on pizza, and I also pop them whole into a sauté pan with olive oil and garlic and pesto and chicken. I let them blister and burst and then I stir in pasta. Sometimes I add chunks of zucchini. We are partial RP’s Pasta, which one can buy at the Farmers Market in Madison, but also grocery stores in the area. They have more flavors at the Farmers Market and I think it’s fresher. Oh, and they even have gluten-free for those are allergic to gluten.

Sun Golds and Juliets

Sun Golds & Juliets (just a few)

Then the Juliets started to come in. They are also super sweet—and I think better than Romas. Again, I use them on pizza, pasta, etc.

The no-names and Independence Day came in next, and then we’ve just starting getting the Glamours. They are monsters.

So we have started eating a lot of pizza and pasta. Bruschetta. I’m thinking about making sun-dried tomatoes, since Trav really likes them, but it’s an all day, baby-sitting the oven sort of thing. And I’ve also made sauce. That was an hour of chopping, followed by an hour or more of sautéing (though that wasn’t that bad—I just had to stir every once and a while).

I started with this. Chopped Tomatoes

Then it looked like this: Sauce

I ended up with this.    Frozen Sauce

So this weekend, as I’m writing syllabi for the classes that begin Monday, I will also transforming more into sauce.

It really is an embarrassment of riches. We have so many.

You say you want some? Sure. Come over, you can have some Sun Golds. You can hang out and chop with me. We’ll trade tomatoes for some zucchini. Or chocolate. Roasted coffee beans. Or if you want them all, including what hasn’t been picked yet, a Honda Hybrid Civic. It’s doesn’t need to be new, but it does need to run and be reliable.

My new car someday

 

On Nature (or Not)

Recently a friend said maybe I should write a nature essay after I posted a lot of pictures of my first “hike” in the Ridges Sanctuary in Door County. (I say “hike,” as this was a very leisurely walk—it wasn’t hard.) The first thing I said was, “I don’t know where to begin.” But I’ve been writing long enough to know that is exactly where to begin. And so, nature.

Let’s be clear about this. I am no nature girl. I am allergic to grass, oak mold, and mosquitoes. Except for the mosquitoes, these allergies didn’t present until I was in my teens. I’d cut the grass, and then I couldn’t breathe. When I began college in Boston, I thought I might die given how congested I was. Thank the gods for Sudafed.

I also hate to be really hot, and likewise, I hate to be really cold.

I camped when I was a girl scout, but there were latrines at the very least. The idea of shitting in a hole really leaves me cold. And then there was that snake one of the girls saw by our camp fire site. Hell, there was a snake on the trail up to the dorm complex, College in the Woods at SUNY-Binghamton where I finished my undergraduate degree. I remember I was on my way to see my creative writing instructor whose office was up in College in the Woods. I heard girls in front of me say, “Oh my god, there’s a snake.” I didn’t see it, but I turned on my heel, went back to the Union, took a bus to my apartment, and seriously considered transferring back to Boston University where I began college. I figured Boston, as a city, was safe from that kind of nature.

And then there is the very real fear of mosquito bites.

When I began graduate school in Mississippi, I was invited to a party at one of my classmates’ houses. Chuck had a nice (by graduate student standards) house not far from the apartment I rented. I walked over just before sunset.

I was new and I was meeting people at school for the first time without the screen of school and officials. So we all hung out talking and drinking. It was a nice enough evening, so I sat with others in Chuck’s backyard, talking far into the evening.

The next day I woke up itching. I think I had over 20, maybe 50 mosquito bites all over my legs. I rode my bike (no car for my first year and half in H-Burg) to the drug store. The pharmacist didn’t gasp, but he did recommend I should get Calamine lotion and Benadryl. I spent the rest of the weekend lying on the floor (my furniture was on a truck between Boston and H-burg), propping my Calamine lotion-covered legs on the wall. When one of my new friends asked me on Monday if I had been bitten; I didn’t say anything—I showed her my legs. She gasped.

This wasn’t as bad as when I stepped in an anthill about two years later when taking my dog (Poppy, not Josie Dog) out before bed. I had on sweats with elastic at the ankles and Birkenstock clogs on because I knew it was buggy. But I didn’t see the anthill, though I felt it right away, as I ran into the house, panicking, slapping ants off my feet and then hands with Poppy looking at me with a question on her face (Humans! They do such Weird things!) I ended up with 35 bites—I counted—on my ankles, feet, and hands. When the Assistant Dean saw me that Monday with scabbed-over ant bites, he said in his very Mississippi Southern, dramatic voice, “You coulda died.”

I know. And that’s why I’m not so good with nature.

But see, I do think the outdoors are pretty. I have a great view from my office of our backyard. The back edge of the yard looks heavily wooded—and it is, sort of. Our yard backs up to a school and a gymnasium. The treed area is really a tree break that the school agreed to put up when the gym was built about 30 years ago. We are happy that it’s there. And it gives our yard a feeling of privacy, and, well, of nature.

IMG_0380At the same time, I do like taking pictures, and that means I need to go outside sometimes. A lot of the pictures I take are of flowers at the farmer’s market here in Madison. It’s an amazing farmer’s market. I think it’s the biggest, local farmer’s market in the Midwest. I read that somewhere.

I do garden—but I am not planting native plants in my garden. I have tomatoes, herbs, and lettuce. And still last night, I could only go out and pull diseased leaves from the plants after lathering myself with about a half a bottle of bug repellent. It took me as long to grease up as it took the pull the leaves, but I do not have any bites.

More recently, I wanted to be braver—and we were on vacation. We were very lucky. The weather was beautiful nearly the entire week. Other people would say it’s not buggy. I am not other people, however.

But it was me who suggested the hike at the Ridges Sanctuary. It was me who bought a new bike to try out.

It was me who didn’t cover herself with bug spray.

And it was me that managed to get a mosquito bite between my toes. Now there’s talent.

So nature and me? I will never go in “to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…” but I respect those who wish to.

I realize the power nature can have. One only needs to live through a hurricane or a tornado to appreciate that power.

IMG_2001

Tree that came down in the neighborhood after straight-line storms.

I know people who camp—who build their own shelters, hike in with their food and water and start fires with god knows what. I appreciate that kind of ingenuity. That is not me.

I also realize others fetishize nature as well as take it for granted. I try not to, but I know I’ve been careless at times too.

So here’s the question: can I just appreciate it? Do I need to camp to be at one with nature? Do I need to build my own shelter? Is it okay to be in a cabin with running water and maybe electricity at a temperate time of year? Can the bugs and vermin live outside? (They didn’t pay rent.) Is it okay if I just see the outside from my window some days because I’m writing or reading or getting ready to teach?

So is my living like this less deliberate?

Probably, but I need to get back grading papers…

View from Office

View from my home office

 

 

Door County: An Epilogue

We’ve been back for several days now, and we are back, for the most part, to our regular pursuits. There was a birthday (Trav’s), Fourth of July (Josie Dog’s least favorite human holiday and it is fast becoming our least favorite–try explaining to your dog that it is not Armageddon or the End of Days), and I am almost back at my desk to finish planning my English 1 class, scheduled to begin next Tuesday. But here are some photos I took when we were at the Ridges Sanctuary that I needed to edit. We don’t know the next time we’ll be up in Door County, but we know whenever it is, it will be in a little cottage with dog. 

Click on each image to see what it is.

Currently there is a orchid restoration project at The Ridges. These orchids are wild flowers, so no hot house here. To learn more, see: The Ridges Sanctuary Research Booklet.

Jane, our main guide, noted that most flowers are about this big (and she hold her hand up and show). That said, nothing much bigger than a walnut.

For some perspective, take a look at these…

These wood lilies were a bit bigger than a walnut, but not much.

And for a different sort of perspective: roots.

If you have any questions about what you see, let me know. If I don’t know, I’m sure I can make something up…

DSC00224

Moon set over a swale field

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Four & Coming Home: The End for Now

There comes a time in most vacations—at least for me—where I start to feel restless usually on the last. I need to go home. When we were on our honeymoon in Mexico, the last day we did a stupid thing and went to one of those hard-sell vacation-share things. I had just wanted to see the casitas—large rooms with outdoor showers (not that I wanted to shower outdoors; it seemed too easy to have a gecko in the shower). We did see them, but we then got such a hard sell (they brought the manager/owner guy over), that Trav (non-meat eating PETA-loving, Paul McCartney fan) to tell the guy if he didn’t get the hell out of his way, there would be trouble. (And there was, we told the concierge, and not only did she get us into brunch late, a tote bag of swag was waiting in our room—a full size bottle of rum, Kahlúa, t-shirts, a baseball cap, a sarong, and later champagne was delivered to our room—and we still got the $50 gift card). Also, later that day while horseback riding, my horse, Atún (Tuna Fish) decided to lay down in the sand with me still on his back, so I had to throw myself off him, so I didn’t get crush—and that was after galloping through the jungle to the beach, so yeah, I was ready to come home.

But I didn’t really feel like this, this Thursday. I could’ve stayed longer, even with a forecast of rain. I could live here. Okay, maybe not here in this tiny cabin, and maybe not through a long, long cold winter—I’d be too squirrely, but I could certainly see us here for months in the summer. Maybe if we save our pennies for retirement. Maybe.

So this, our last day, we were a little slow to move after the biking and sunning on Wednesday. That, and somehow in a week that wasn’t too buggy I managed to get snagged by some schmuck of a mosquito. If you are allergic to mosquitos as I am, make sure to bring the bug spray and use it, say when you decide to go hiking in forested wetlands. I had gotten rock in my shoe when we were at the Ridges, and I had to take off both my shoe and sock, so I have a bug bite between my toes; and I can’t say how I got one on my belly button, but let me put it to you this way, that mosquito had to be creative, because I don’t flash this middle-age belly outside or in public. Sorry for that image.

So on Thursday, the weather people were forecasting rain in the afternoon, so we went to a few orchard stands just south of Fish Creek, and then had lunch at Wilson’s in Ephraim.

Wilson’s is an old soda fountain—and let me tell you, it is seriously the real deal. It’s been open since 1906. They have a lot of ice cream treats. They have a lovely porch, where we sat—just across from Ephraim Bay. Really nice view. While we were waiting for our lunch to arrive, a family sitting near us was having lunch. One of their teen-aged daughters (she was a tall, skinny thing) had ordered what looked to be a strawberry milkshake. It came in an old-fashioned milkshake glass along with extra in the stainless steel cup from the machine. I thought the child’s eyes were going to pop out of her head when saw this thing.

We just had sandwiches: Trav had a chicken salad sandwich and I had a whitefish. We, of course, then had ice cream. That did not suck either.IMG_1418

More lately Ephraim has been in the news. It was the last community in Wisconsin that was dry. It’s been dry for its entire 163 years. I say, “was,” as July 1st Ephraim began selling booze. While I have absolutely nothing again alcohol, there is something just a little sad about its ending.

Boy, am I getting old or what?

Darlin’, hand me a cocktail.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, the weather can be capricious, but this time the weather people proved correct. The clouds began to build, and we decided to go back to the cottage and take Josie Dog over to the dog park in Sister Bay for a little while to get her ya-ya’s out. Luckily no one was there. Josie Dog doesn’t like other dogs; she once tried to take on a English Mastiff at puppy class who outweighed her by at least 50 pounds. Luckily, he was just a big, stupid puppy so he didn’t take off her head. But at the dog park, she was able to chase tennis balls with abandon and shake the daylights out of her Frisbee. I have to say, this dog park is one of the nicer ones I’ve seen. There’s a little shelter in the middle with tennis balls and even a tennis ball hurler—I think most dogs are in dog heaven with this sort of equipment. The clouds, though, were looking really threatening, and there was even some thunder, so we packed up our brave brave dog and went back to the cottage in the nick of time.

No sooner did we get back then the heavens opened up and Josie Dog found her safe spot, under the bed with all the Christmas and other holiday stuff that the cottage owners had stored. And we took naps.

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Safe Spot: Under the Bed

For our last night in Door County, we went to Parador in Egg Harbor. We had been to Parador back in 2012 and had a lovely dinner, so we made reservations, which I would recommend. However, our phone call was lost, so when we showed up, they didn’t have a reservation for us. It wasn’t a problem—they sat us in one of the dining rooms upstairs that was nearly empty. I would suggest to them to work with a reservation service (I know OpenTable can be spendy for restaurants), but this might help sort out this sort of thing, but everyone was nice and we did get a table.

The dinner itself was very good. We started with the cheese board, which featured three, local Wisconsin cheeses. One was a chèvre (goat cheese; usually soft), another was a cheddar, and I can’t remember the third, but it was a hard cheese. There was also a piece of a honeycomb on this, as well as spicy pecans and some grapes. It also came with four sad little crackers. We ordered the “bread service,” which was a small, warm baguette. It was good, but I’m not sure why they don’t include this with the cheese board.

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Amish Chicken Sliders with Cheese Board & Sangria in the Background

We (the Trav part of “we”) order Amish Chicken sliders. These were amazing. Three smallish pretzel rolls, with pulled chicken, slaw, and some sort of sauce called “Canary” (think Canary Islands). It was spicy and crunchy and so good. I ordered Garlic Tiger Shrimp—garlicky, fat shrimp—also good, but his sliders rocked. We finished with churros, which are served with a chocolate sauce. There was some chocolate sauce left over. Our server was surprised that we asked for a to-go container—but wouldn’t you if there was chocolate left???

We had some cherry donuts left over; we dipped them in the chocolate for breakfast. Oh, yeah, we’re on vacation.

Then on Friday, we packed up, loaded the car, and then dropped off the keys. We were sad. Josie Dog was stoned on her Happy Dog Pills. We got home, unpacked the car, and we’re back at. Trav is mowing the grass; I’ll be weeding; and I just caught Josie Dog on the couch. So we’re home. But we’re thinking about our next trip there or the cottage maybe we can rent on a regular basis to come up to year after year.

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Goat on the Roof at Al Johnson’s

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Last Day: Still Happy

Water view

View from Fantasy Retirement Cottage

Day Three: Poetic Musings on a Long Bike Ride: Or When Trav Tries to Kill Me as I Schlep Up Hill

This will be my last post from Door County, as we leave tomorrow. The nice people at the realty agency say we much be checked out by 10 sharp, so tomorrow morning, we’ll be packing up the car, giving Josie Dog her happy pill, and driving home. But please check out my blog later on the weekend to learn of our final days of Door County Adventures with Dog.

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My friend Sara says, when considering Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” that when Frost says of this road that taking it “has made all the difference.” When this poem is studied in school—and it is, as it’s one of Frost most anthologized after “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”—that taking that road less traveled was a good thing. Perhaps, we like to imagine, it lead the speaker (and now us the readers) to some unique experience, some insight that only we and the poets got to have. And maybe it did, but Sara’s point, is that we don’t know as the speaker (and this is the English professor in me, but let’s separate the speaker from the poet, please) never tells us—and Frost, as the poet never tells us. Maybe it was an amazing unique experience to see this vista for what seems to be a first time, or maybe it was a sad little mud pit that mired the speaker up to his ankles in muck. We don’t know. And at the same time, we still long for what seems to us to be unique.IMG_1971

Hang on, I will not continue in this vein, but remember, I am a poet.

This is what I think—really—as we rode our bikes at Peninsula State Park. Wednesday, we had decided, would be our day at the park as the weather promised to be perfect—and it did not disappoint. We packed a lunch, swim gear, and bikes to spend the better part of the day at the park. We did not take Josie Dog, though, they do allow dogs in the park, but not at the beach. Since we planned to ride for a while, it was best to leave her at the cottage, and she didn’t mind as she had access to the bed and her favorite nylabone.

If you don’t know, Wisconsin’s real resource after cheese is its state parks. Even near our home, we regularly go to Devil’s Lake, which is a beautiful state park. Glaciers formed the lake there and hills seem to rise almost right out of the water. Also, they don’t allow motorized watercraft, so it’s very clean.

Okay, but this is about Peninsula State Park. Because it’s so economical, we bought a yearly pass, which allows us entry in to all of the states’ parks. For $28 for residents, we can go to any and all of them as much as we want until the end of December. The daily price for residents is about $7. For non-residents it’s only about $8. You can’t beat that with a stick.

Oddly, when we got into the park, there was no one staffing the pay station. It seemed one had to be on the honor system. Or what Trav said, “That’s what we call Budget Cuts.” It is not enough for Walker to strip public schools and the university system of money, collective bargaining, and governance OR enough to strip jobless folks of their dignity (here, pee in a cup before you receive the unemployment funds that you contributed to when you were working) OR for transparency for those elected officials, but Walker and his ilk also went after the parks. What did those trees, plants, lakes, and rivers do to them? That is to say, in 2015, the state (and by state, I do mean Walker and the state legislature) determined that the park system, overseen by the DNR would shift to a model where “the people who use the service should pay for the service” (Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelton). Though according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, this model is untested, it was put into place so Walker could look like he’s lowering taxes and at the same time look like he’s socking to those foreigners (folks from Illinois, Minnesota, and the like). Let me be clear, prior to 2015, the state paid 28% from its annual fund. That is not much, but clearly it matters, since there was no one in the booth to collect those fees that the parks need.

So the DNR had to raise rates (the raise isn’t too bad), as well as cut positions. There are other more unsavory cuts to the DNR, but I’ll let you all do that research on your own. Suffice to say that the market forces have not yet dictated the prices as Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) says that they should nor have the parks needed to accept outside corporate sponsorship—so no “BP Devil’s Lake” or “VISA Peninsula State Park.”

Rant over. For now.

So, we drove into the park, going to the beach. We were able to park in the shade and then we had our lunch at one of the many picnic tables near the water. While having lunch, we watched the boats (canoes, kayaks, different motorized boats, and sailboats). The best thing we saw was a woman on a stand-up paddleboard with her dog. We could not imagine being able to balance on a paddleboard to begin with, but certainly not with skitchy Josie Dog.

After lunch (there is recycling in the park!), we packed up the picnic things, Trav took our bikes off the rack and we headed for the trail.IMG_1959

There are three basic trails, according to the free brochure provided by the park. There’s a Red Loop (3.8 miles), Black Loop, (8.3), and Total Red (10.4). Once riding, there are trails that are named, Sunset and Sentinel were two I noticed. We took off from the beach, so I think we were initially on the Sunset trail. This is a nice trail—either paved roads (there are cars, but they were careful as we were) or wood-chip and gravel covered paths. The trail took us by some nice overlooks of the lake (well, Green Bay) as well as by Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, a lighthouse which no longer functions as a lighthouse (and hasn’t since 1926), but one can take a guided tour of it. It’s a sweet little building.

From there we followed the trail along the water. It was mostly flat with breaks in the trees where we could see the water. There were even little beaches with a bench or two. At one, we saw folks with their dog, a pretty retriever of some sort. They were throwing her a toy to chase into the water. She was leashed, but they gave her plenty of lead to swim towards the toy. She didn’t seem too thrilled by the aspect of going too far into the water, and the toy was not far, but she thought too far for her—so she barked at it. I wonder if she was a cousin to the Josie Dog.

We continued on. The trail looped around to a more forested path, with limestone cliffs to the left. Last time we biked this trail in 2010, five wild turkeys crossed our path, but today, there’s no one but an occasional cyclist or two.

When we come upon other cyclists, they are friendly nodding or saying hello. But there aren’t very many and in those stretches of time, I feel like we have taken the path less traveled, even though, we know many others have.

We could’ve finished our ride of the Sunset trail, but it was only 40 minutes, so we decided to keep riding. We rode by an old cemetery first opened in 1904. We didn’t stop, but I could see some old stones as well as some that seemed more contemporary.

The trail that we followed now was a road (read: paved), but it was narrow, so it felt more like a path. We saw no one for long stretches. This path while pretty, cut through woods and more open fields. The road is Middle Road, so it felt like we were cutting up the middle of something. We didn’t run into anyone until we had to ride (okay, I pushed my bike) up a huge hill. Trav managed to ride, but I did not. There was a couple walking down the hill who said something about it being Heartbreak Hill and we should be riding down. I don’t know if this is possible, but I told them, I don’t even walk up the real Heartbreak Hill—I take the T.

I know I am out of shape, but I’ve been working out. I can swim for 30 minutes or more. I walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes at Level 3 on the Rollers setting. So why do my lungs feel like I should just spit them out here and be done with it?

When I got to the top, I communicated to Trav in “sign language” what I thought about him and riding up the hill.

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“Sign Language”

The rest of the ride wasn’t too bad—especially the big hill down to Shore Road and into the parking lot by the beach. We did go by some folks on a Segue tour. I could tell the tour director wasn’t thrilled with a little grandma-type woman who either wasn’t following directions or wasn’t listening. He was very put out with Bubby. I felt bad for her. It’s only a matter of time before we’re all Bobbie, if we’re lucky.

Just before we got to the parking lot, two fawn crossed the road in front us. If you are not familiar with deer and their behavior, they typically travel in twos. So if you see one, wait for the other to avoid damage to your car or bicycle.

These sweet things, though, were babies. We found them a little off of the road feeding. We shot them in the best way—quietly with our cameras.

When all was said and done, we decided we had biked at least 10 miles. We were gone for nearly two hours. My arms were a bit sore, but I actually felt good.

We decided to beach it for a while, which meant switching out the bike gear for the beach gear. There were far more people on the beach than there had been at lunch. But we found a place on grass, and we pitched our beach blanket. We were only there for an hour and half, but the sun was warm, though the water was a bit too cool for swimming. It should be noted, though, the beach was sandy and not rocky at all. No need for sand shoes.

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Ten Miles and We’re Smiling

At about five or so, we packed up as everything was getting too shaded, and we headed back to clean up for dinner. We decided to go to a new place in Sister Bay, called “Lure.” Lots of fish. We had a late reservation, so we missed sunset, but the dinner we had was so worth it.

The restaurant is new, but our server said up until May a restaurant had been there called the Mission Grill. I can’t remember it, but then we don’t do a lot of meat. Trav thought the building had a look of something like a church. At Lure, they have their specialties, but they also have this brilliant concept called “Simply Prepared.” What this means is that they have about six different sorts of fish (halibut, salmon, Door County whitefish, mahi mahi, rainbow trout, and grouper). Then there are six sauces/preparations: mango salsa, lemon beurre blanc, soy ginger, miso glaze, picatta butter, and citrus vinaigrette. You pick one of each. Trav had the mahi mahi with mango salsa. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I had a Cesar salad and then an appetizer of coconut curry clams. They were tasty, small bites with a curried sauce—that had a bite, but they were good. For dessert, we shared a strawberry rhubarb crisp. The ice cream wasn’t homemade, but I actually liked it better. The dessert itself wasn’t overly sweet at all, and it was nearly slap-your-mama-good.

By the time we finished, it was after 9 and getting dark. It’s amazing how much later it stays light up here. It reminds me a little of when we lived in Rice Lake when in the summer our neighbor and his kids would be playing softball with glow-in-the-dark ball and bat. We sometimes ate so late, from our dining room we’d see the ball bouncing across the nearly dark yard.