Thursday, July 24, 2014

Postcards of Summer

Snapshots capture images of summer. I only have to see one to again to smell and taste and feel and hear the pleasure of that moment. 

Music of Arts in the Park on a hot, pleasant blue-sky evening

that turned to black and white. Rain pelted. Coolness settled over the county.

A ball in mid-air rocketing toward the batter and a course-changing "Thwack!"

Dust. Popcorn. As the Ump cries, "Out!"
I clear day reflected on the water, or has the sky fallen to my feet?

The trill of the reel as line sails out and sinks.
The smell of fish and heat and lake water.
The thrill of a catch to be taken up the slope to home and fried.

Grandpa and Grandson share thoughts and silence
as the south wind blows and light fades.
The world turns blue, then black
broken by colored bursts of fireworks and blasts.

New places to explore and soak in beauty.
Stories to be found and told
Treasures exist in the sharing and telling
some of them new, some of them old.
Familiar places look different
from the seat of a bike.
Slow and easy
The rise and fall of the land presents gifts never seen
from a speeding car.

Ruffled white and water
stuns the senses
Wait.Watch. Wonder.

Early morning rain beads on a tomato vine
promising favors of juicy flavors.
Looking back, treasured  memories
are often closer than what they appear.

Happy Summer, Barn Door Readers. Take time to make your own postcard memories. Make time to share them. Life is too precious to rush through it. Until next month,

Mary Allen               

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Muggy Days

Muggy Days

old folks rub
the back of their hands


smooth as a teeny baby bottom

a hint of youth revisited
and not one drop of lotion

glory of Midwest humidity

by Lori Lipsky

photo: style-photographs/istockphoto

Find other poems by Lori Lipsky at Poetry Patio

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Those Darned Fish Flies!

Ask anyone who lives near one of our lakes or rivers, and they can tell you one of the most fascinating (taken in a good or bad way) events on our natural calendar is the life-cycle of the mayfly.

First, you must understand that mayflies come in many varieties. They range in size from eency-weency all the way up to duck-here-it-comes! The eency-weency varieties are rarely an issue. The gigantic Mothra sized mayflies, however, have been enough of a problem to earn themselves another name.
Fish flies.

Again, these are several varieties of mayfly, but they are the largest. The very largest, and most hated by those who have shoveled them off their porches, is the hex fly, or the Hexagenia limbata. If you're a fisherman, that's a #4 hook. If you're not, look at your palm. Yup. That's about it.

And if you are a fly-fisherman, the annual hatch of these darlings is as close to heaven on Earth as most of us come. Imagine a river full of brown trout practically roiling in the feeding frenzy that follows the nightly hatch. A fisherman merely has to float his phony Hexagenia limbata into the mayhem and it's fish on!

If you're not a fisherman, you're just shoveling dead flies. Dead, smelly flies.

The big hatches came late this year because of a cool summer (see next month's post: Oh Where Oh Were has my Zucchini Gone?). We enjoyed a large hatch this weekend while in Up North, Michigan. These were not Hex, but a slightly smaller variety. Brown Drakes, I believe. The photo shows them coating the walls of the restrooms at Harrisville State Park on Lake Huron. And no, they don't remain outside the restrooms. Imagine clogged sinks, coated mirrors, crunchy floors. You get the picture.

What I find most fascinating about the mayflies is their purpose in life: to feed fish. They have no mouths, no stingers, no way of sustaining their own life for more than a day or two.

Here's the life of a mayfly in a nutshell:

1. Hatched in the sooty bottom of a lake or river.
2. Swim to the surface (about 90% are eaten before they get that far).
3. Float on surface until wings mature (yeah, another large percentage eaten).
4. Fly high into the air. The large flies do this around sunset. Other flies in the morning.
5. Mate! The highlight of their lives. They do this while airborn.
6. Fall. Right back onto the water.
7. Lay eggs, which sink to the bottom...if mom doesn't get eaten first (this is prime time for the fly-fisherman).
8. Die...or get eaten.

All that in 24 to 48 hours.

That's the life of the hated fish fly. Of course, the problem is with those who miss the water and end up fluttering on dry land. Or in restrooms. But remember, God's creatures all serve a purpose. And something has to feed the fish.

Now put on some waders, grab a fly-rod, and join the fun!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Midwestern Mission Trips

A week ago, I was riding home in a bus with my church youth group. We had spent the week in Elyria, Ohio, working on roofs and painting. We left on July 4th and got home on the 13th.
There were four churches who went to Elyria. Two were from Illinois, one was from Indiana, and one was from North Carolina.

With 45 people, my church made about half of the people who went. The awesome thing about being half of the participants was that we all had a bunch of people on our crews who we knew already.

This was Charlie Crew, the group of people I got to work with all week. Our homeowners (bottom right) were thrilled with their new roof when we left after we took this picture. Just a little tidbit that makes me laugh: the guy in the dark shirt who I'm standing next to, is six-foot-six. If you look at my feet, you can see that I'm standing on a patio that's about eight inches tall, and I'm barely as tall as him in this picture.

In the evenings after we got back from our sites and worship was over, a group of us from my church would get together and have a little jam session. Most of the time, the only reason we stopped playing and singing was because we were supposed to be in our rooms with the lights out then, not jamming out in a hallway.

First day on the roof! The cameraman stopped by my site on our first day to get our crew picture, and he caught five of us still up on the roof.

When there's down time and someone decides to take a nap, bad things can happen....or at least look like they're gonna happen. A couple kids from my church decided they were gonna have fun while I had the camera out and was taking pictures.

This is me and my roofing buddy for the week. He was from North Carolina and we quickly became friends the first day. We sassed and teased each other like we'd known the other for years, not just a matter of days, and that made the work on the roof easier and seem to go faster. He wasn't too fond of the nail gun, which I happened to have a lot of fun using on Thursday and Friday while we shingled the majority of the roof. I might have had a little too much fun from his perspective. ;)

This was the sixth mission trip I've been on, and other than the trip in 2007 where I found Jesus, this was the best one, hands down. I'm so thankful God worked everything out so I could go this year, and I can hardly wait for the next one to come around! Until then, this is my most recent mission trip story.

Whether it was going overseas, going to a different town, or just helping someone out for a couple hours or a day, what are some of your mission stories?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Water, Water, Every/nowhere

Ohio is -- or at least, once was -- known for its moderate weather. Gentler winters -- compared to some states with extremes. Livable summers -- again, compared to some states. We're the kind of climate that people in Florida retreat to (or at least, used to) when the scorching days of summer come in like a curse.

On the West Coast, they've been battling drought for years now, and the accompanying fires. Then in other parts of the country we have flooding. A couple days of rain, and basements fill with water and backed up sewage, streets are impassible, outdoor events are cancelled.

What some people are praying for, begging for, others greet with curses. In the Midwest where weather conditions used to be in the happy medium ... ain't so much anymore.

We've been counting ourselves blessed. With our antique house and lots of things in storage in the basement, we've heard stories of people in the community having to renovate their basements twice and three times in a year from flooding -- too much of the blessing of water -- and we've said under our breaths, "Thanks, Lord, for protecting us."

Then a couple weeks ago, Mom went downstairs to get a bucket of water to wash some outdoor furniture before painting it, and called for me to come downstairs fast! We had a leaking pipe, right by the water meter. Thirty feet of carpeting and padding squished like a bog underfoot. We found the valve to turn to shut off the water, Mom started calling the city, then plumbers, to get something going on repairs, and I got to work cutting up and removing carpeting, to let the water get to the drain.

Then came two days of no water. Have you ever considered how often you use water in an ordinary day? I'm not talking about watering the lawn and taking long, luxurious baths and showers, or playing in the sprinkler. I'm talking drinking, flushing toilets, washing your hands, cooking, running the disposal. The basics were suddenly luxuries.

Nothing like a little inconvenience to teach us how rich, how blessed, we are. I'm thoroughly convinced God gives us little nudges out of our complacent, semi-napping lives, to actually bless us. We didn't complain or grumble -- out loud, anyway -- but there were times when we reached for the faucet or the toilet handle and stopped with a sigh. We turned the water on long enough to take quick basin baths and brush our teeth for church on Sunday -- all the while letting a streamer of water shoot up in the air and trickle downhill to the drain in the basement again. We filled buckets to let us flush the toilet and bought gallon jugs of water for drinking and washing our hands -- and prayed the plumber showed up bright and early on Monday morning.

It's too easy, once life is returned to normal, to forget the inconvenience, and in turn forget the ordinary, everyday blessings and riches that surround us. Say prayers for the people who live in drought and fear every stray spark or careless smoker or camper. Pray for the people who are still putting their lives back together after heavy storms and flooded streets and basements and power outages. Keep them in mind as you go through your day without inconveniences ... and maybe you won't get a nudge to remind you to be thankful.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What Goes With Orange? by Suzanne M. Brazil

Summer blooms in Technicolor all over the U.S.  But Midwesterners learn to recognize the patterns of patriotic fireworks, gingham checks of picnics and the chlorine blue of the local pool as harbingers of the shortest season.  City mouse or country mouse, we try to squeeze all the cheese we can out of these colorful, lush and all too brief months of sunshine.

We sleep less, eat more, mingle with the masses and risk hordes of voracious mosquitos to bask in the rainbow of activities denied us most of the year.  We smear on our personal vintage of SPF, lace up our neon sneakers and try to dodge the most recognizable summer hue:  Construction Cone Orange.
The minute the last snowflake melts, city, county and state officials roll out whatever series of “improvements” they’ve decided we can’t live without.  Trees are planted, chopped down or trimmed, bike paths paved, sidewalks widened, potholes filled, traffic lines painted, train tracks reinforced…you name it, there’s a cone in front of it.  We also get a confusing maze of detours that make our three favorite letters of the English language G.P.S.

On my one mile drive to the gym this morning, I encountered all these signs of progress.  Most of us appreciate the new and improved even though we could do without the traffic delays.  We all want to make the most of this brief but glorious time so we plan ahead, leave early, and avoid wearing colors that clash with orange.


The deadline slayer emerges from the cave...

I'm a little behind in my enjoyment and celebration of summer. A book deadline loomed large and I've been in the writing cave pounding out words and avoiding disruptions. But some intrusions are most welcome.

Such as the interruption of a playful kitten:

Or a lonely, disheveled dog:

It's hard on my family when I'm in the cave. It's not a literal cave, mind you. Usually I write in my chair in the living room in the middle of traffic. There are plusses and minuses to this. The plus is that I'm in the middle of the action and the family doesn't forget I exist and they feel like I'm still part of the family.

The minus is that while a lot of kids have memories of their mom baking cookies, mine will remember me staring blankly at a screen. "I remember how mom always...always...well, actually she mostly had this thing on her lap and moved her fingers a lot..."

I'd write in my office but everyone has decided that's where they store everything they don't want. My husband, for example, decided to clean his office, so he shoved all the stuff-he-didn't-know-what-to-do-with into my office.

Thanks, honey.

It's hard on spouses to be married to writers. They become widows/widowers during deadline crunch time. It's particularly painful for mine because he's extreeeeeeeeeeemely social and likes lots of attention.

 We had a bit of a tiff last week over it (because who can understand a book deadline if they've never written a book?) but we kissed and made up.

He made me delicious dinners by the pool for a week! A WEEK!

I told the kids I'd jump in the pool with my clothes on once I'd met my deadline. Today I hit "send" to the publisher, but by the time I did, they were asleep.

So tomorrow, I'll be taking the plunge!

In the meantime, I wonder if I can pick another fight with Mr. Himself so he'll cook for me again...


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