The Island, the Beach, and a Touch of Alaska 3/12/17

Hi Friends!

Most of this afternoon has been spent on-line, working out details for our May trip to Alaska.  I had no idea there’d be so many decisions to make!  Most of the hard ones involve choosing from dozens and dozens of excursions that can be added to an already packed schedule.  Do we want to visit a sled dog camp?  Do we want to actually ride aboard a sled pulled by sled dogs?  Do we want to take a small boat out from one of our ports of call to see whales and other marine life?  Do we want to hop a small plane for a bird’s eye view of wildlife and glaciers – or a helicopter that will actually land ON the glacier, where we can get out and walk around!  Of course if we’d won a recent lottery, all this would be so much easier to figure out.  But – no lottery money arriving here, so we’re trying to work out what’s going to fit into our budget.  More to come in the weeks ahead on that!

Hmmmm . . . wonder if that ice in the water will be melted by May?

Sticking with that “cold-weather” theme, Mackinac Island had their fair share of winter weather this week.

Friend Sue Conlon and husband Terry had to cross the Mackinac Bridge this weekend, and conditions were rough! That sign says, “High Winds, Escort in Progress”.  That means someone did not think they could cross without assistance, so a Bridge Authority person drove their car across for them.  I think I read the bridge was closed for a short time that day because of the high winds, but I could be mistaken on that.

A snowy scene from the island last week, just proving that work continues there, regardless of the weather. (Photo: Josh Carley)

A panoramic view across the icy Straits of Mackinac.  (Photo: Greg Main)

The Mighty Huron had a tough time plowing through the ice in the Straits on Saturday, but she made it.   (Photo: Clark Bloswick)

A beautiful shot of the full moon from beneath The Mustang Lounge sign. (Photo: Josh Carley)

Probably the biggest news from Mackinac last week was the mysterious disappearance of the wildly popular Mackinac Island News & Views Facebook page.  Clicking on the site brought a puzzling message saying simply, “This site has been archived.”  The site is the “go-to” place for information on the island, and the beautiful photographs placed there on a daily basis keep Mackinac fans entertained year-round.  There were hundreds of comments and pleadings for the return of the site.  Then, just as mysteriously as it disappeared, it opened again for business this weekend.  All 23,000 of its fans – including this one – rejoiced and celebrated!

Wanted to share a couple of stories tonight that are both really interesting and very informative reads!

This first one covers last week’s visit to Grand Hotel by hotel President Dan Musser III and several full-time employees, “2017 Winter Visit to Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island:  http://www.grandhotel.com/2017-winter-visit-grand-hotel-mackinac-island/

This second story was featured on-line at MyNorth and will make you want to book a stay at Grand Hotel just to eat there!  It’s titled “Dinner at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island: 130 Years of Caviar and Aristocracy”.  Click here: http://mynorth.com/2017/03/dinner-at-the-grand-hotel-on-mackinac-island/

FLORIDA NEWS

Ted and I will be dropping off Maddie and Bodie at Lily’s (our wonderful petsitter) and traveling to Kissimmee FL on Monday to meet for lunch one of Ted’s by-birth aunts and her husband (Aunt Marsha and Uncle Dan), along with Lindie, Mike, Kel and Gwen (we met all four of these cousins on Mackinac this summer, and Kel and Gwen were just here a couple of weeks ago).  So glad several of these new relatives like to come to Florida for the winter!  Aunt Marsha is Ted’s birth mother’s youngest sister.  Pictures to come next Sunday!

Bodie joined me Friday night on the deck to wait for the sunset.

It didn’t disappoint!

It’s still amazing that we get to enjoy views like this on an almost daily basis. We’ve learned that a scattering of clouds always produces the best shows!

It was a great night!

See you back here on Tuesday with a “throw-back”!

God bless.

 

Throw Back Thursday – Bear Learns Some Life Lessons 3/9/17

Personal Note:  As promised, a second blog from the paw of sweet Bear.

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First Published August, 2009

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Hi!  Bear here.

Sometimes I just get too comfortable with my life.  I think I know what each day will bring – I get up every morning when dad wakes up and watch him make the coffee, then I sit around with him for a while.  Then when I think I just can’t wait another minute longer to go outside, I go jump in the bed with mom and wake her and Maddie up.  Once Maddie’s awake, I know we’re going outside pretty fast, because that little girl can’t wait like I can.  When she wakes up, she’s gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now!

When we come back in, dad gives Maddie and me a bacon strip out of a bag (he thinks I don’t know it’s not real bacon, but I’ve had real bacon before, and believe me – that bag stuff is not real)  But, I never refuse food, so I eat it.  Then mom feeds us, and she and dad sit around and drink coffee, or go out on the deck and watch the people go by.  At some point, mom gets her yogurt out of the big box with doors, and Maddie and I wait while she eats it.  We know when she is finished because she always scraps around in that yogurt carton with her spoon.  When we can hear the spoon hitting the sides of the carton, we know that’s all she’s gonna get out of there.  Then she takes the spoon out and sits it down.  That means she’s done, and we can move in close and clean out that little bit of blueberry or strawberry yogurt that she has left – I call it breakfast dessert.

Then we settle down for a morning of rest – inside on the couch, out on the deck, or my personal favorite – right in front of that whirly thing that sits on the floor in the bedroom.  If I lift your head up a little, that wind can go right through all the fur on my neck and really cool me off.  The whirly thing is GREAT!

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Sometimes I have to get up when I hear dad come back from town on his bike.  I love that I can look out the back bedroom window to where he parks his bike!

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And so the day goes.  The only real change from the routine comes when I go get a shampoo and grooming.  I can tell those mornings because when mom says, “Let’s go”, she gets my shampoo and conditioner out of the closet and puts them in a bag.  Then I know I get to go for a ferry ride and a truck ride, and then I get pampered all day by the nice people at Bark, Bath, and Beyond.

So this morning mom’s reading her email, and suddenly she says, “Oh my gosh Bear, we’re going to be late!”  She jumps up, throws on her backpack, and says, “Let’s go”, but she doesn’t stop at the closet for my shampoo.  Instead we run downstairs, she puts on my collar, attaches my leash, and off we go down the hill.  I think to myself, “No worries, whatever it is, I’m sure it will be fun!”

As usual, when we walk down the hill we pass lots of people who say how handsome I am and want to pet me.  Mom is really in a hurry, but she stops long enough for a little girl to say hello.  She knows how much I like little kids and how much they like me ’cause I’m so soft and cuddly – just like a teddy bear (which is kinda how I got my name).

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Before we get to the end of the street, mom says, “Here we are.”  Here?  Where’s here?  We go inside this fence and go toward an open door in this building that’s like a big barn, and then I suddenly “get it”.  Mom brought me here last fall when I was sick.  This is where Doc Al takes care of the sick dogs on the island (he might take care of cats too, but I don’t want to think about that).

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Doc Al is a vet, and I know that he mainly looks after all the horses on the island.  But, if one of us smaller animals gets a tummy ache or something even worse, Doc Al is who everyone on the island calls.  If he’s nearby on his bike, maybe at one of the stables or barns, and someone calls him with a sick pet, he will just get on his bike and make a house call!  He will do the same thing if an animal is too sick to get to his office.  You see it’s different here.  Mom and dad can’t just put us in the car and rush us to the vet when there is an emergency.  And carrying a 90 lb. golden retriever down the hill to Doc Al’s office would be a little hard , even for my big, strong dad.  So, when he needs to, Doc Al comes to your house on his bike.  How cool is that!

When we get to the open door, Doc Al is on the phone, but we go on in.  I’m still wondering what’s going on because I’m not sick!  I feel great, in fact.  I know I have to take 2 pills a day because something in me called a thigh-roid gland doesn’t work right.  If I don’t take the pills, I get sloppy fat – would you believe I weighed 103 lbs. last year!  But it was this gland thing I had going on that was making me gain weight – it certainly wasn’t because they give me too much to eat!  Good grief, you’d think I was a Yorkshire Terrier by the amount of food they put in my bowl.

Anyway, Doc Al gets off the phone and gets down on the floor with me.  He’s telling me how nice I am and how good I look, then all of a sudden I notice he has this HUGE NEEDLE in his hand.  What the heck is that for?  He asks mom to take off my collar and hold my head because he’s going to draw blood OUT OF MY NECK!  Are you kidding me!  My animal doctor at home in Georgia has done this before when she was testing my thigh-roid gland, but she always stuck me in the leg.  My NECK?  Mom is holding my head, and Doc Al is trying to find my skin under all my fur, and I’m thinking, “Geez I wish I was back home in front of my whirly thing!”

Doc Al finds what he is looking for and sticks me.  I hold very still because mom and Doc Al are telling me over and over again how good I’m being.  That’s because I’m so scared I can’t move. If someone was sticking a needle in your neck, you’d be scared too!

He’s finally done, and I’m still breathing.  He stands up and puts all my blood down on the table (I’m pretty sure he took at least a quart!), so I figure I’m safe again.  Then he writes a bunch of stuff down and tells mom that he should have the results back tomorrow.  I guess then we will know if I have to change the number of pills I take for my thigh-roid condition.  I still like Doc Al though, even though he did kind of surprise me with that needle.  It really didn’t hurt a bit – I’m a pretty tough guy.

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We’d started back up the hill for home when mom takes out her camera again (can you believe I belong to someone who takes a camera to the vet’s office?).  She says it’s been too long since she took any good pictures of me, so today’s the day.  I’m happy about that – I love to pose for pictures!  When we get to the big yard in back of the island school, there are a bunch of geese there.  I LOVE to chase geese!  But what does mom do?  Gets me up as close to them as she can, then tells me to sit and stay!  Stay?  It’s GEESE, for pete’s sake!  So there I was, a few yards from about nine million geese, and I have to stay!  Why did I learn that command anyway?

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After that, we just walked around the grounds at Grand Hotel, and mom took lots of pictures of me in front of lots of big flowers.  Things were going pretty well until she told me to down/stay in front of this HUGE bed of flowers out in the road at the Grand.  As soon as I started to lay down, I smelled something in the grass that I really liked.  I smelled it some more, then I just HAD to roll in it.  Mom didn’t get mad though ’cause she knew it couldn’t be anything bad smelling at the Grand – they wouldn’t allow that.  Man, that was some sweet-smelling grass!

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She took one more picture over in front of the Grand’s Flower Shop, then we went across the street to the Pro Shop and took a breather before going home.

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So it’s been a pretty eventful day for me. Mom asked me to write about my experiences on her blog, so after I went for a long walk with mom and dad and Maddie this afternoon, we had supper, and I sat down to think about all that had happened.  I came up with three lessons I learned that you should write down and maybe put on your refrigerator – ’cause they are pretty important.

1)  You should always leave the house looking your best, because you never know when you might have to pose for pictures in front of nine million geese, even when you just want to be chasing them into Lake Huron.

2) If you are going to roll in something that smells good to you, always make sure it is on the grass at the Grand Hotel – seriously, I didn’t even get in trouble.

3) You should always be ready for anything and always be alert, because when you least expect it, someone might stick a needle in your neck.

Well, the whirly thing is calling my name – talk to you again soon!

Throw Back Tuesday – Bear Writes a Blog 3/7/17

Personal Note:  Today’s blog and the one coming up on Thursday were written by Bear – this one is his very first!  I always loved it when Bear or Maddie asked to take over the laptop and pen a few words – it meant I got a vacation from writing that day!

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First Published May 27, 2009

Hi! My name is Bear.  I’m a golden retriever.   That’s me in the picture below with my bratty little sister Maddie and my mom Bree (well, actually her name is Brenda, but she told me once she had never liked that name and had always wanted to be called Bree).  I don’t care – I just call her mom.  Maddie and I are not really related, although there was this 90 year old lady one time who looked at us and asked, “Are they brother and sister?”   Pleeeasseeee!  Do you see who mom is holding tightly in her arms in that picture?  Do you see that the brat has on a collar AND a halter AND a leash??  Do you see me just sitting there looking gorgeous without even a COLLAR on my beautiful neck?   Sister??  Geeezzz!

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Mom had been fretting all day yesterday about the weather and about how she couldn’t come up with a story idea for her blog (whatever that is).  She said the weather was really nasty – 46 degrees at 2:oo p.m., cloudy, threatening rain, not a good day to go out and take pictures. (I personally consider that a perfect day.  It’s chilly and there is a good chance I could get seriously wet.  What else could a golden retriever ask for?)  Anyway, she and dad (that’s Ted) were having a little “discussion” about him forgetting something in town again and that “somebody” had to make another trip down the hill.  So I said, “Come on, mom – let’s you and me go to town together.”  I know what you are thinking – dogs can’t talk.  But I swear, two seconds later she looked at me and said, “I think I’ll take Bear to town with me.”  Need I say more?

So she started getting on all these clothes – undershirt, sweatshirt, fleece coat, blue jeans, socks, wool cap, gloves  . . . . . . .  good grief! It’s not Antarctica!  It’s just Mackinac Island in May.  Tomorrow it will be sunny and 70!    So, she’s finally ready, and we start to leave.  Maddie comes running down the stairs like she’s going too, but mom says, “No, sweetie, it’s just me and the big boy this time.”  You should have seen her pout.  Mom put on my collar (a Georgia Bull Dawg collar, I might mention), attached my leash (leash law downtown) and away we went. I promise I did NOT look back and stick my tongue out at the brat.

Yeahhhhhh!  We got to the bottom of the first rise, and it started RAINING!!!  What fun is that!!  I could stick my tongue out and catch WATER!!  I don’t know why mom was so cranky.  I did happen to notice that all the tourists who ride around in those buggies pulled by those insanely big horses were all wrapped up like mummies.

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When we got to that gigantic white building where about a gazillion people stay every night , we spotted Anna who works for Grand Hotel .  She is always there somewhere outside the Grand, and she always has the most beautiful smile on her face and is so friendly.  Me and mom and dad just love Anna.  She is from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and dad always says to Anna, “That’s where I was born!”  He must have said that to her about a million times now.  I think that’s what happens when people start getting a “little older.”

By the time we had talked to Anna a few minutes, the rain had stopped.  That’s how it is on Mackinac Island – one minute it’s raining, the next minute it’s sunny.  I LOVE it!  Our IMG_0592next stop was the bank.  Mom stuck her head inside and asked if it was ok to bring me in.  The nice ladies in the cages said, “Sure!”  This really sweet girl wanted to pet me (I’m soooo used to that), and mom asked her if she would hold my leash while she did her banking, and she said she would love to.  I got a LOT of good petting and ear scratching from  her!

We stopped in to say “hey” to Bill and Jim at Mackinac Realty (they sold us our great condo), but only Jim was there.  He offered to babysit me while mom went in the post office, but mom said no, she’d just tie me up outside.  Huh?

Mom explained to me that dogs were not allowed in post offices anywhere, including Mackinac Island, unless they are seeing eye dogs.  I told her that I see with my eyes, but she acted like she didn’t hear me and tied me up anyway.

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We started back home, then ducked into the shelter under the awning at the Great Turtle Kite and Toy Store to warm up a minute.  The cute girl in that store invited us in (I can get mom in ANYWHERE).  I was really bummed out when I discovered that this was a KID toy store, not a DOG toy store, but I had fun looking anyway.

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When we got home, mom said, “I still have no idea what I will write about tomorrow.”  So I put my head in her lap, and said, “Don’t worry, mom, I’ll write it for you.”  And so I did.

News from North to South 3/5/17

Hi Friends!

The big news from Mackinac is one of my favorite four-letter words . . . . . . SNOW!

Over 8″ of the white stuff fell this week, and residents are happily off their bikes again and zipping everywhere on their snowmobiles!

This awesome photo from Mel Bunk (taken from St. Ignace shows a snow squall sitting directly over Mackinac Island.

This awesome photo from Mel Bunk (taken from St. Ignace) shows a snow squall sitting directly over Mackinac Island.


Anything sitting for any length of time was soon wearing a thick layer of snow - like these snowmobiles parked along Main Street. (Photo: Doud's Market)

Anything that sat stationary for any length of time was soon wearing a thick layer of snow – like these snowmobiles parked along Main Street. (Photo: Doud’s Market)


Eugenia Murray was downtown duringall that snow and took this beautiful photo of Market Street as the snow fell.

Eugenia Murray was downtown and took this beautiful photo of Market Street as the snow fell.


When Patrick Conlon left work at Grand Hotel, he headed up into the island interior to capture this great shot . . .

When Patrick Conlon left work at Grand Hotel, he headed up into the island interior to capture this great shot . . .


.. . . and Stefanie Congdon shot this one as she was leaving Stonecliffe.

.. . . and Stefanie Congdon shot this one as she was leaving Stonecliffe.


Hmmmm - sweet 9-year-old Kaylee (Tracy and Gabe;s daughter) sold 39 8 cases (that's 464 boxes) of Girl Scout cookies this year. Thank goodness the snow fell, and they can deliver all these by snowmobile!

Sweet 9-year-old Kaylee (Tracy and Gabe’s daughter) sold 38

cases (that’s 464 boxes) of Girl Scout cookies this year. Thank goodness the snow fell, and they can deliver all these by snowmobile!
A rare capture. A sun pillar

A rare capture by Robert McGreevy during sunrise on March 4 – a sun pillar.  Amazing!

So glad the islanders got a big snowfall, even if it did come late in the winter months.  I don’t think there’s any way now there’s enough time for an ice bridge to form, so this will mark the first time in I don’t know how many years the island has had ferry service the entire winter.  I may be wrong on that, but it seems as though last year there were maybe two weeks when the ferry couldn’t get through.  Someone let me know if I got that wrong.

Here’s a date to put on your calendar as you’re thinking about future trips to Mackinac – the 2017 Lilac Festival is June 9-18,and here’s a link that will give you all the details: https://www.mackinacisland.org/mackinac-island-lilac-festival/

One last Mackinac note: Many of you have written me about what’s happening on the Mackinac Island News and Views Facebook page.  If you go there, you will see a notice that the page has been archived.  I haven’t been able to find out what’s going on, but I just can’t imagine the page will no longer be maintained.  It’s a fountain of information about what goes on day to day on the island (not to mention the incredibly beautiful photographs that are posted), and there are literally thousands of followers who LOVE that page – including yours truly.  Hope it’s back up soon!

FROM SUNSET INLET

We were so excited Kel (one of Ted's newly-found cousins) and his wife Gwen stopped overnight with us last week. They were headed down to Cocoa Beach from Michigan for two weeks of Florida fun! We first met them when we spent a day showing them around Mackinac last summer. Hoping to see them on the island again this summer!

We were so excited Kel (one of Ted’s newly-found cousins) and his wife Gwen stopped overnight with us last week. They were headed down to Cocoa Beach from Michigan for two weeks of Florida fun. We first met them when we spent a day showing them around Mackinac last summer. Hoping to see them on the island again this summer!


Our view of the sun setting from the top deck was pretty impressive that evening!

Our view of the sun setting from the top deck was pretty impressive that evening!


Thought this was a cute pic of the three of us - four if you count the turtle!

Thought this was a cute pic of the three of us – four if you count the turtle!

That’s it for now.  See you on Tuesday with a “throwback”!

God bless.

 

Remembering A Dear Friend 3/4/17

Personal Note:  On this day four years ago, my dear friend, Chris Ann Nelson, slipped the bonds of this earthly life and joyfully began eternity in Heaven.  I share this blog from a visit we had in January of that year, approximately two months before she passed.  The life she led still serves to me as an example of Christianity.  I solemnly try to be like her – and dismally fail.  But I keep trying.  Love you, Chris Ann – you are missed.

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Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:30-31 NKJV

After writing – and deleting – at least a dozen opening sentences, there seems to be nothing for me to do but forget the technical aspects of writing and just speak from my heart.

The first question Chris Ann asked, after we hugged for a full minute and after we were seated in the Nelson’s cozy living area, was – “How did you make up your mind to come?”

I stammered a bit trying to explain, but finally what I said was this.

“I made a list of pros and cons.  The list of cons was long – filled with dozens of excuses that ultimately just boiled down to “stepping outside my comfort zone”.  The list of pros had only one entry:  Spending special moments with a dear friend – one who has always inspired me to try and be a better person.

It was a no-brainer.

My trip began with Ted driving me into Albany to the airport.  We left the house around 4 a.m. My plane to Atlanta left at 6:00, and 45 minutes later I was at Hartsfield-Jackson.  With an almost 2-hour layover, I had time for a little breakfast and two cups of coffee, which I ate seated at a little counter looking over the Delta arrival gates.  Leaving from Albany had spared me from the terror (my own) of going through Atlanta security.

I called Terry Conlon ( Terry and his wife Sue had invited me to stay with them on this visit) as I was boarding for Flint, MI and found him already on the road.  It was a three-hour drive from Black Lake to the airport, and it was snowing.  He assured me though he would be there ahead of my plane.  In retrospect, if he had known he was going to be babysitting a forgetful, air-headed Southern belle senior citizen, he may have turned around and just driven back home.  But that’s a story for another day.

The first face I saw after leaving the secured section in the airport at Flint was Jill’s.  She had driven over from Lansing just to meet the plane, and she immediately told me my coat wasn’t heavy enough.  We found Terry waiting at Baggage Claim, and when he snagged my super-big checked bag off the carousel, he accused me of packing Ted inside.

“How long did you say you were staying?” he asked, and I couldn’t tell whether he was kidding or not  :).

Outside it was cold (20-something), snowing, and very windy. We said our goodbyes to Jill (who would be coming up to Mackinaw City later in the week) and began the 3-hour trip north.

Outside it was cold (20-something), snowing, very windy, and . . . my coat wasn’t heavy enough. We said our goodbyes to Jill (who would be coming up to Mackinaw City later in the week) and began the 3-hour trip north.

Determined not to fall asleep and snore in front of Terry, I proceeded to talk his ears off (I’m sure he wished I had gone to sleep).  We stopped for lunch along the way, in Gaylord for some goodies, and arrived at Black Lake outside Cheboygan around 3 p.m.

It had snowed on us the whole way, and I know I exclaimed, “Terry, look at that!” a hundred times.

“What?” he’d say.

“That red barn against the snow.”  “That white farmhouse against the snow.”  “That tree against the snow.”  “That cow against the snow.”

You get my drift (no pun intended).

The Conlon's home-away-from-home is beautiful (looks great against the snow, doesn't it)!

The Conlon’s home-away-from-home is beautiful (looks great against the snow, doesn’t it)!

Black Lake is totally frozen over

Black Lake is totally frozen over.  It’s hard to tell where the yard becomes the beach, and the beach becomes ice.  Everything is all white – as far as you can see.

Terry and Brinkley are walking on the beach. The wooden trough is where deer come every night to eat the corn Terry puts out. From the house at night - with the help of a strong spotlight, we watched two, three, and sometimes as many as five deer eating contentedly in the dark.

Terry and Brinkley – walking on the beach. The wooden trough is where deer come every night to eat the corn Terry puts out. From the house at night – with the help of a strong spotlight – we watched two, three, and sometimes as many as five deer eating contentedly in the dark.

Sue - watching Terry and Brinkley.

Sue – watching Terry and Brinkley on the beach.

Needless to say, I love Brinkley, who could be Bear's twin sister.

Needless to say, I love Brinkley, who could be Bear’s twin sister.

Terry, Sue and Brinkley - the wonderful family who helped make my visit so special.

Terry, Sue and Brinkley – the wonderful family who helped make my visit so special.

The Conlons made me feel immediately at home.  I love visiting with folks who just say, “The cups and glasses are here, the cereal is there, there’s berries in the frig . . . . . make yourself at home.”  So comfortable.

After a great night's sleep, we left the next morning for Mackinaw City. Sue had made a big pot of soup to carry to Chris Ann and Burton - along with some fudge and fruit.

After a great night’s sleep, we left the next morning for Mackinaw City down county roads lined in snow and slush.  It had snowed all night, and there were still flurries, which were forecast to last all day. Sue had made a big pot of soup to carry to Chris Ann and Burton – along with some fudge and fruit.

As long as Chris Ann and I have known each other, I had never visited her at home.  I’d seen numerous photos of the Burton Cottage – inside and out – and was as familiar with their view of the Mackinac Bridge as I am with our view of Surrey Hill.  Chris Ann posted a photo of the sunrise from their cottage every morning this summer on Facebook.  The photos did not even begin to do real justice to their home and what they looked out on every day.

Looking through the big picture windows that flow around the front corner of their home out onto their yard, the beach, and the ice-packed water of Lake Michigan is

Looking through the big picture windows that flow around the front corner of their home out onto the snow-covered yard, the frozen beach, and several hundred yards of  ice-packed Lake Michigan water nearly takes your breath away.  The Mackinac Bridge in the distance completes the picture, and at night that bridge is aglow with colored lights from the Mackinaw City side all the way across the Straits of Mackinac to St. Ignace.

The Conlons and I found Chris Ann and Burton waiting for us with open arms – literally. I hugged Burton tightly and squeezed Chris Ann as tightly as I could.  Chris Ann’s wonderful friend, Mary Saul, had been there several days and nights, sleeping on the sofa next to Chris Ann.  She left us to have lunch with another friend, but returned later that afternoon and spent Thursday night again at their cottage.

When I walked into Chris Ann’s home with a camera in my hand, I felt like an idiot.  Months before, Chris Ann had given me permission to tell her story, but now I didn’t feel comfortable invading her privacy.  I was there to see her and talk to her, not to write a story.  I planned to take a few snapshots of the bridge from their window and that was all.  But after I’d been there about an hour, she asked me if I wanted to take photos.  I looked embarrassed, and said, “I will do whatever you want, Chris Ann.”

Her answer was, “Your readers know the story up to now.  Don’t you think you should tell them the ending?”

From that point on for that day and the next, I had my camera nearby.

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Burton and Hank, their little Terrier.  Burton made the beautiful stained-glass wreath hanging in the window.

Hank's favorite nap spot.

Hank’s favorite nap spot.

Checking Facebook.

Checking Facebook.

Thursday was not really a good day for Chris Ann.  Every hour or so she would glance at Burton, and he would rise and measure out liquid morphine for her to swallow.  She told me she was also on morphine in pill form and had a morphine patch.  Although she tried to hide it, she was obviously still hurting, even with all the meds.  As long as she was interacting and talking, she seemed to be able to force her way through it, and she postponed medicating several times I felt she really needed to.

We ate the soup Sue had brought for lunch, and I later looked through photo albums filled with family pictures.  She shared a book with me that a neighbor from their home in Florida had just published and dedicated to her.  The amazing photographs in the book of herons and other birds were taken in Chris Ann and Burton’s backyard.

Sue and Terry came to pick me up around 3 p.m.

Mary called me early on Friday morning.  The Burton’s daughter and son-in-law, Cheryl and Kevin, were coming in Friday night, and Mary was going home.  She had an appointment that morning and asked if I could stay with Chris Ann and Burton until another friend arrived later in the afternoon.  I planned to be there most of the day anyway, so all was good.

When Sue and I arrived at the cottage around 10:30, we all chatted for a few moments, then walked outside with the dogs.

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While Sue threw Kong toys for Lily and Hank to chase, Chris Ann walked around the yard.  We kept saying we’d get her coat, but she said she was fine.  “For the first time in my life, I’m hot-natured,” she said, smiling.

Checking the birdfeeder.

Checking the bird feeder.

bbb

Looking across the Straits.

Back inside, glowing from the light coming in off the snow .. . . and from within.

Back inside, glowing from the light coming in off the snow .. . . and from within.

Sue left to run errands and eat lunch with her son, Patrick.  Not long after that, the Hospice nurses arrived, and while they visited with Chris Ann and Burton, I sat in the dining room and tried to find a few pieces to fit into the jigsaw puzzle set up on a table there.  It wasn’t long after the nurses left that Jill arrived, bringing Chris Ann some cookies and a Wendy’s Frosty . . .

gggg

. . . which Hank helped himself to.

People have been bringing food in since Chris Ann and Burton arrived back in Michigan, so lunch was easily prepared.  Cathy Klea, a special friend of Chris Ann’s, arrived to visit for a few minutes, and Jill and I volunteered to take Hank and Lily for a long walk.

And then the most amazing thing happened.  Chris Ann said, “I want to go with you!”  Burton and Cathy both looked on amazed as Chris Ann walked to the hall closet, pulled aside several hangers of clothing and pulled out a stunning, full-length mink coat.  While Chris Ann donned the coat, a matching hat, and her boots, Burton told us the funny story of how he had purchased the coat decades ago.  He kept looking at Chris Ann in amazement (we found out later she had not walked more than a few feet in a couple of weeks, and that was inside).  I grabbed my camera, and what happened next was 30 minutes of sheer magic.

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Dignity and grace . . . .

. . . and everlasting love.

. . . and everlasting love.

Some serious posing . . .

Some serious posing . . .

. . . with a little fun thrown in.

. . . with a little fun thrown in.

All ready to go outside - that's Cathy on the right.

All ready to go outside – that’s Cathy on the right.

Cathy and Chris Ann.

Cathy and Chris Ann.

These next photos need no captions . . . .

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After these glamor shots, Jill and I anchored Chris Ann between us, and she walked about 25 yards up the lane in front of the house.  Then we returned her to the warmth inside and took the dogs for a good run.

The rest of the afternoon was spent inside.

Sharing with Jill the book of birds that were photographed at their Florida home.

Sharing with Jill the book of birds that were photographed at their Florida home.

Visiting.

Visiting.

Ellen joined us later in the afternoon.

Ellen joined us later in the afternoon.

Two friends - just being silly.

Two friends – just being silly.

We stopped in one more time on Saturday morning, before we left for the Island.  Chris Ann and I hugged for a moment, and I whispered in her ear, “We’ll be back in May.  If I don’t see you then, I’ll see you in the sky, my sweet friend.”

As I finish writing this around midnight on Monday, I’ve just received word that Chris Ann is having a really bad night, and Hospice was called in earlier this evening.  Her Michigan family is on the way back, and her daughter in Oregon flies home on Tuesday.  Please join me in praying for Chris Ann – for her pain to ease, for her family to surround her, and for her passage into Heaven to be a peaceful one.

What a celebration there’s going to be when this Angel arrives.

I love you, Chris Ann.  I love you.

Throw Back Thursday – Stick Season 3/2/17

Personal Note:  Loved looking back at this October stroll through the Annex on Mackinac Island. Seeing Bear in several of these photos brought back so many special memories of that sweet boy.

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First published October 23, 2012

She calls it “stick season,” this slow disrobing of summer, leaf by leaf, till the bores of tall trees rattle and scrape in the wind. – Eric Pinder

Tonight I’m inviting you to come along with Bear and me as we walked for almost two hours on Sunday afternoon.  It was a beautiful day to be on Mackinac, and it seemed strange not to go to church that morning (Little Stone Church closed for the season last Sunday).  Ted took Maddie and walked her to town to pick up a newspaper, and Bear and I struck out in another direction.

I hadn’t been to the Annex in over a month, so I was anxious to see how the trees were looking in that area of the Island. Bear and I walked down Cadotte toward the Grand, then turned right on Algonquin just past the “caution” sign.  Algonquin runs behind the West Bluff cottages.

As we crested the first hill, I glanced at the path we sometimes take from Four Corners through the woods to Algonquin. It was literally covered in leaves now.

Walking down the back side of that hill brought us to the corrals where Teddie and McGuyver spend their summers . . .

. . . but both of them left the Island last week, and the corrals were empty. Either I’m going nuts or that is a new building (the yellow one) since the last time I was in this neck of the woods. Maybe they renovated an old shed that was there. Gotta ask Mary about that!

The “stick season” may be upon us, but even with some of the leaves already fallen . . .

. . . it seems the ones still clinging for life to the trees are putting their hearts and souls into making their last moments as beautiful as possible.

Bear, his nose always to the ground, seems to be finding it difficult to understand why there is less horse poop to taste test these days. I tell him it’s because there are fewer horses on the island now. He just keeps on looking though.

All of these are private corrals, and they’re all empty. Remove the horses, and you remove that earthy smell that lets you know it’s Mackinac. I miss the horses . . . and the smell.

At the end of Algonquin, we turned toward the lake. I stopped to frame a photo of the lighthouse between these two trees in one of the West Bluff cottage yards . . .

. . . then we went through the turn stile onto Pontiac Trail. Bear seemed to sense something different and came running back to me after he’d walked ahead. The bluff below Pontiac has been clear cut, something that is done every several years. It did take some getting used to, but just like the trees along Cadotte, before we know it the trees will be tall again.

The tree cutting (which opened up views of the stairs down to the water) does allow for exceptional views of the Grand now from along the trail.

At the end of Pontiac Trail, we made a sharp right, then a left onto Lake View Blvd.

We usually stay on Lake View until we reach Hubbard’s Annex, but on a whim we took a less traveled trail . . .

. . . and I found myself on a path I had never been on. Bear and I had a wonderful time wandering around back there – seeing a couple of houses, barns and stables we’d never seen before. It was amazing to find a spot on the island that was new to us!

It was later than I thought it was (we stopped to chat with some ladies who were staying at the Grand and needed directions), so we headed back home.

Every time I walk up this hill now I try to memorize this view of the condo so, during the winter, I can close my eyes and visualize it.

For the last week these trees down at the horse corral below the condo have been becoming brighter and brighter. I knew when I walked back Sunday afternoon, I wanted to photograph them and that splash of red the gate added. What I didn’t know was that a few horses had been turned into the corral a little before we arrived . . .

What a beautiful frame for these taxi horses . . .

. . . and the big Belgians who pull the drays.

Hope you enjoyed our little walk . . . it sure was nice having you along!

 

Throw Back Tuesday – The Many Shades of Lilac 2/28/17

Personal Note:  Ahhh -Mackinac Lilacs!  Once you’ve been on the island for the Lilac Festival, you’ll always want to come back for the next one!______________________________________________________________________

First Published:  May 31, 2012

Until we moved to Mackinac Island for our summers five years ago, I never gave much thought to lilacs.  Before we bought on the Island, we’d come up for two weeks in July, thereby missing the lilacs blooming and the Lilac Festival by several weeks.  It was actually our second summer on the Island – when we arrived in May for the first time – that brought them to my attention, and ever since then the topic of “when will the lilacs bloom” has become almost as important as “when will the fall colors arrive”.

Being from the south, I didn’t know a lot about lilacs.  The closest thing we have to a lilac in Georgia is the crape myrtle – they’re even called “the lilac of the South”.  Our crape myrtles (we have two in the yard at the lake in Georgia) are white-blooming, but they come in pink and several shades of purple also – just like lilacs.  What crape myrtles do not have is that unbelievable perfume lilacs produce, and that perfume is hovering over Mackinac Island right now – a scent so sweet and heavy you could almost float on it .  The lilacs are in full bloom – not good for the Lilac Festival which doesn’t begin until June 8; but hey – no one has any control over when they bloom but the good Lord.  And who’s going to fuss about His timing?

Tonight I just want to share a few photos I’ve taken this week of the lilacs I see on a daily basis.  Most of these are in the downtown area, so you know there are hundreds more lilacs around the Island that aren’t even represented here.  It’s been fun for me this week to try and capture them in relation to something else – a home, a building, other trees, water, even a wedding carriage.

I sure wish I could attach a scratch-and-sniff add-on right here so you could inhale the perfume as you look at the photos.

Grey-white Percherons and the burgundy Grand Hotel omnibus, with lilacs blooming in the background. Does anything say “Mackinac Island” any better than this?


From the corner of Cadotte and Market, up to that first curve on the way to the Grand, the lilacs are putting on a major show!  These are some of the Island’s oldest lilacs.


The last and worst snow and ice storm of the winter took many of the over-a-hundred-year-old lilac bushes in Marquette Park. The ones that remain seem to be trying their best to make up in quality what they lost in quantity.  Maquette Park is a fantasy-land of lilacs.


I never tire of admiring all the different shades of purple these trees produce. From dark . . .


. . . to light . . .


. . . and everything in between.


Lavender Adirondack chairs enjoy the shade of a lilac bush so large I’d call it a tree – in the yard of what else . . . the Lilac House Bed & Breakfast!


A private tour buggy turns onto Market from Fort Street. The lilac bushes here are in front of the Market Street Inn and next to Weber’s Florist.


This wall of lilac bushes all but hides the Mackinac Island Public School, across Cadotte from Little Stone Church.


Lilacs form a canopy over the preparation of a wedding carriage.


Beautiful Trinity Church on Fort Street, perfectly framed by white lilacs on one side and lavender on the other.


Steven Blair couldn’t ask for a better setting for his Artistic Mackinac Gallery and Studio. Can’t imagine a shade of purple that’s not represented here.


The lovely McGreevy Cottage on Market Street.

I’m hoping some the lilacs you’ve seen here will last another week for the start of the Lilac Festival, and there are other later-blooming varieties that will fill in over the next couple of weeks.  But have no fear, Mackinac Island’s Lilac Festival is ten days of wonderful entertainment with everything from the arts, to good food, to the best parade in all of Michigan.  Come on up- I promise you will have a great time!