Of bugs and books

June 25, 2013

no mosquito sign

I’m a glass-in-half-full kind of person. I acknowledge that and I also realize it can be annoying to other people. A silver lining outlook drives a lot of people nuts. But this past week has driven me dangerously close to becoming a glass-is-half-empty kind of gal.

And the reason can be summed up in one word: Bugs.

We are currently overrun with bugs, namely mosquitos. We had a wet spring (really more like an extended winter) and there’s still a lot of standing water around. Ideal mosquito conditions. If we had wind this wouldn’t be a problem, since mosquitos have no ballast in wind, they’re just swept away. But we don’t have wind. This past week has been overcast, foggy, drizzly … and NO wind. And those mosquitos are lovin’ it. Normally this wouldn’t be that big a problem. I live in the north woods, it’s not like I don’t know (and accept) bugs.

But here’s the other thing that’s threatened my half-full outlook: Books.

I have spent the better part of a week inside a large gym helping to promote and sell books, and sign my own. And I use the term “gym” loosely – this was the Student Development Complex at Michigan Tech and the “gym” was actually four regulation size basketball courts, with extra space on the periphery to accommodate food vendors and ticket takers.  It was noisy and full of artificial light. Great event – Finn Fest – wonderful people, a good time. But still inside – under artificial light, with no exterior windows – for the better part of a week.

To be blunt, I want to go outside and those friggin’ bugs are making it impossible. I don’t care about the fog or the drizzle – that’s gorgeous and enjoyable in its own right. But there isn’t enough Off in the world to stave off those mosquito attacks. And since they’re the size of flying beer bottles they can bite through anything. This week it’s “Bugs – 10 …. Humans – 0.” They’ve won, no doubt about it.

So for all you people missing the great north woods, wishing you were here walking the beach or picking berries … this week you can count your own blessings. May your glass be half full.

                                                                                                          — Lesley

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looking out over the tip of a kayak on Lake Superior

Lake Superior over the tip of my kayak.

As Laura recently pointed out, things have been busy around here. Not just at Mudminnow but with everything else the three of us do. Hence, the unintended hiatus of Musings from the Minnow.  But, work or not, I’ve had a new kayak sitting in my garage for the last three weeks and because the weather finally cooperated I took it out this past week – several times. I suppose I could have taken it out earlier but it would have involved hauling it over snow and then paddling through icebergs. And honestly? My love of kayaking does have its limits. I’d rather work than haul a kayak through snow.

But the first place I headed was a couple miles down the beach to check out the bald eagle nest. The nest is still there, but there were no signs or sounds of eaglets in there. On one visit there was an adult hopping around on the rocks nearby, and on another visit there was one soaring overhead. But neither was exhibiting territorial or protective behavior. And on the last visit, no adults were visible.

And that’s kind of the tell tale sign – the lack of adult eagles around the nest. If there are eggs or eaglets in a nest there’s usually at least one adult eagle very nearby. But this year the nest is just part of the northwoods scenery.

Which brings me to the title of this blog. In the years I’ve been watching that nest, there have always been eagles there. I didn’t think I did, but obviously I took it for granted that I would always paddle down there and see eagles tending their nest and young. And there are plenty of eagles around here – the other morning I stepped out on the beach and there were 6 soaring overhead. There was one sitting on the rocks this morning. There just aren’t eagles on “my” nest.

It’s easy to forget that it’s a rough world out there for so many of our fellow creatures. When a spring snowstorm dumps on us, we mutter “Damn! I have to plow the driveway again? Aren’t we done with winter?” But for nesting and migrating birds it’s not an inconvenience … it’s deadly.

I’m hoping I’m wrong, that the next time I paddle down there I’ll hear squawking and see adults around. But sad as that, apparently, empty nest is, it’s also good to be reminded: Things change, treasure your present moments.  

                                                                                               — Lesley

"Willow Wisp Cottage" aka the old post office in Copper Harbor.

“Willow Wisp Cottage” aka the old post office in Copper Harbor.

Mudminnow’s often”silent” partner–by which I mean she steadfastly refuses to blog (howdy Lloyd)–occasionally lends me the use of this adorable little yellow house in Copper Harbor so that I can clear my head of the usual pressures of book design, small press publishing, teaching, and parenting long enough to remember that I set out in life to write poetry.

I spent a weekend reading and writing without interruption here in March when the snow was so deep I couldn’t find trails without snow shoes. And just last weekend spent another two days when the only change in the landscape was that I could sometimes find bare pavement to walk on. All the more reason to stay inside and write.

So today is just a small thank you for all those unsung patrons out there who help artists be artists in whatever ways they can, large or small.

Here is my suggested list, just in case you want to enter the ranks of patron but don’t have an entire cottage to lend someone:

1. Do not mock (this includes that slightly surprised look when you hear for the first time that your sibling, child, spouse, friend, etc. is writing).

2. Do not interrupt. Yes I know it was just to pop your head in and say good morning or how’s it going but that’s how the train of thought gets derailed.

3. Do not insist on reading something before it is ready to be read (only the writer will decide this).

4. When in doubt about how to characterize what your particular artist is up to don’t try. This is the “silence is golden” rule of art patronage.

5. And when your artist does attempt to share something of what they’ve been pouring their poor heart and soul into (not always successfully) listen closely enough to make an intelligent comment. And false praise is never good, but encouragement is always welcome.

There, pretty simple really. Off you go…

–Laura

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