edenfalling: circular blue mosaic depicting stylized waves (ocean mosaic)
I am sadly behind on my posting. Woe, alas, alack!

Anyway, Wednesday was another slow day -- you may note that was kind of the running theme of my vacation. This is not a bad thing! Unwinding is necessary and beautiful! But I think if I'd had a two-week vacation rather than only one week, in the second week I could really have started to tackle some chores and trail maintenance.

Wednesday breakfast was catch-as-catch can, which for me meant toaster waffles and another clementine. It rained several times, but Mom and I got in a decent walk (the inland path to the south portage, and then home around the southeast shore of Windigo) without being dripped on excessively, so that was nice. I also finally started reading Don Quixote, though I did not get past the translator's notes and the prologue on that day.

Dinner was BLTs, and we had champagne cocktails beforehand to celebrate general island happiness and getting a firmer answer about both what the problem with our boat was and when the repairs would be complete... though alas, we did not have a returned boat itself to celebrate.

I think I forgot to mention the boat problems earlier? Anyway, there was a leak in the bottom of the boat, so we took it in to the marina for repairs. (We still had the rowboat, which is equipped with a 15-horsepower motor, so we weren't stranded or anything, but that's not a great boat for rainy or windy days.) There was some confusion about the source of the leak, but eventually they proved it was a crack in the fiberglass hull, which had to be scraped and widened, filled in with new fiberglass, and then coated with several layers of protective material that each take a while to dry/cure.

So on Thursday morning, because the boat was not yet ready, the marina owner sent one of his staff out to pick us up in one of their general maintenance boats, and then loaned that boat to my parents for Thursday afternoon and Friday morning while the boat repairs continued. We got to the airport on time, and all my flights went smoothly. There was a minor delay at Detroit when the plane door didn't close correctly, but maintenance came and promptly fixed it so that was all right.

I am sad that Fuddruckers no longer has an outpost in the Detroit airport, since that had been my go-to travel dinner for many years, but I guess nothing lasts forever. And now I am home, and in fact back at work, so, you know, life goes on. *wry*
edenfalling: circular blue mosaic depicting stylized waves (ocean mosaic)
The thing about the island -- and this is both good and bad -- is that it's very easy to lose track of time because the rhythm of the days is very different from the normal workweek.

Anyway, on Sunday I don't think I did anything in particular, aside from finally finishing the edits and extensions to "Second Chances." No, wait -- Dad, Mom, and I collectively walked down to the east portage and then I peeled off to come home via the woods while they continued on to the south portage and walked home from there.

On Monday, we had pancakes and sausage for breakfast. Mom has also been feeding me clementines, which is nice; they are just about exactly the right size for the amount of fruit I want in the morning. I went down to the dock to get some reading done -- still working through Religion in the Japanese Experience: Sources and Interpretations -- after which I took a nap. Then I took the big hedge-clippers and did some trail maintenance along the east portage loop trail I'd walked the day before. It still needs a LOT of work, but it's slightly less dire so I feel I got something accomplished. And I got home in time for us to have steak (grilled out in the back yard) for dinner, so that was nice.

I also wrote and posted another installment of "Edmund and Ginny Go to Harfang," because why not.

Today we had soft-boiled eggs for breakfast, accompanied by the leftover apple-bran muffins from Friday. Then we walked all the way around Lake Windigo (the lake in the center of Star Island). That is a fairly decent walk, though we stopped several times to admire various views, and also to chat with two of our neighbors up at the north portage. (The portages are all from Cass Lake in to Lake Windigo, in case that was not obvious. The north portage is suitable for anything; it is very short, wide, and sandy. The east portage is suitable for canoes. And the south portage is not really a portage -- it is just a regular woodland trail -- though I suppose you could carry a canoe along it in a pinch.) The trail needs a bunch of clipping, though, and a few places really will need to be rerouted over the next few years because they are in danger of collapsing right into the lake.

When we got back, I took a nap (longer than I meant to, but I suppose that makes up for staying up later on Monday night than I meant to -- Dad and I were talking about this and that, got really into our conversation, and mutually lost track of time), and then went down to the dock to finish Religion in the Japanese Experience: Sources and Interpretations. So that's two reading projects knocked off, go me!

(I have signally failed to start reading Don Quixote, though. *sigh*)

I also picked a starship design for the Amber Lotus -- the Red Cross ship in "Intervention," aka my WIP Big Bang fic -- since my artist wanted a visual reference. That was a little annoying/embarrassing, since I had actually picked a starship type a year or two back... and then forgotten to write my choice down, so I had to recreate it from scratch today. *headdesk*

Hmm. Other things, other things...

I do most of the table-clearing and dish-washing at the cabin, since I find it meditative and also I don't help much with the cooking. I have obviously been doing a bunch of that.

Mom and I have also been working through a book of crossword puzzles I bought a few years ago for use on trips (sometimes crosswords are more my speed than a book; sometimes it's the other way around) and while most of them are pretty reasonable, there was one that had straight-up terrible clues -- hopelessly non-specific, and not even any clever jokes to resolve ambiguities. We had to cheat repeatedly to get anywhere, which is annoying since we have done harder-rated crosswords with much less difficulty.

And now I think I will go to bed, since I want to get through tomorrow without collapsing for a two-hour nap. *wry*
edenfalling: circular blue mosaic depicting stylized waves (ocean mosaic)
I got up at 4:00am EST on Thursday, so as to shower, eat breakfast, finish packing, and set up my apartment before heading outside shortly before 5:00am to wait for my cab. In the event, the cab was about ten minutes late, but I still got to the airport and through security in plenty of time. The flight from Ithaca to Detroit went smoothly, and I made my transfer with several minutes to spare even though they were slow to unpack the plane-side checked bags. (These are bags that would be carry-on items in larger planes, but small jets have small overhead compartments so they basically wrap a tag around your suitcase handle, stash it in the cargo compartment with the actual checked bags, and then hand it back to you at the end of the flight.)

cut for length )

As for my reading: I got through the entirety of C. S. Lewis's The Problem of Pain, which was one of my "I am not entirely sure where I picked this book up, but I should probably read it before donating it" books, and another several sections of Religion in the Japanese Experience: Sources and Interpretations, a textbook composed of various themed excerpts from other works and brief explications thereof.

Lewis is, as always, infuriating because I disagree vehemently with a number of his assumptions, with most of his theology, and with a bunch of his implicit politics... and yet he keeps coming to conclusions about human experience and what a good life should look like that are unnervingly close to my own in some respects. So it's a constant swing between, "yes, exactly, that was beautifully put!" and "but HOW can a reasonably intelligent and well-meaning person be so WRONG?!?!" Some other day I should probably quote one of the passages I thought was most apt, and also take a stab at analyzing one point where I think he went most terribly awry.

(Also science has marched on and Lewis's chapter on animal pain and consciousness is consequently even more awful and wrong-headed than when he wrote it, though I think I would have considered it awful and wrong-headed even decades ago because he's arguing from a foundation of theological assumptions which I utterly fail to share. But that is something where I could point to actual science to prove that he is talking through his hat, whereas the other point is more of a philosophical/ethical thing, and thus less subject to hard proof... though one could probably cite various studies on criminal justice and prison reform which I believe tend more toward my side of the argument than toward his. Hmm. *makes note to look into that* But anyway, I'd want to do more research and marshal my arguments in logical order before venturing into that particular alligator swamp.)

And that is what I have been up to for the past three days. :)
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
Aunt Jan sent me and Vicky an email last month, the text of which is as follows:

Attention Writers: Loon News postcard just came. The John Mosedale creative writing prize of $50 is still on. It will be give to "the best short fiction, non-fiction, poetry or memoir" - 750 words maximum. Due March 20 if you happen to get inspired.

Also the Loon Theme is "Whimsical or realistic, painted, colored, drawn, photo or digital, anything goes because you've captured what is special about TREES. No larger than 8 1/2 x 11.

(The Loon is the combined annual newsletter and directory for the Star Island Protective League: it contains reports from the League meeting, reports from the Forest Service, photos and yearly updates from each cabin/family, creative works, obituaries, a phone directory, emergency information, an island map, and so on.)

I could maybe flip through my photo archives to see if I have any particularly good tree photos, but there is no money associated with the images.

The Mosedale writing prize, on the other hand...

I won that in 2010 for my poem Inland, Walking South. I have not been able to enter in a bunch of the intervening years (there is often an age restriction on the contest), and did not win the one time I did enter, but I think it would be fun to try again. :)

Jan says the theme only applies to visual submissions, but I figure to be on the safe side anything I submit should also be tree-related. Now I just need to figure out something to write...


Suggestions, anyone?
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
1. I got a flu shot today! Thus far, I have not encountered any of the weird side effects I've had in some previous years -- I mean, my shoulder aches like somebody smashed it with a hammer, but that's normal and expected, so eh -- but one year my body didn't glitch out on me until about twelve hours after the shot, so... we shall see.


2. In other news, there's a frost advisory for Tompkins County from 3am to 9am Friday morning. This is more relevant for areas up on the hilltops than areas down in the lake valley, but even so, I think I may bring my peppers in overnight. It would be a shame to lose them because of one bad night when the following week is forecast to be much warmer.

ETA: My peppers, back indoors:

peppers, temporarily indoors

They take up a lot more room these days!


3. My parents, having arrived home on Monday, took two days to do laundry and readjust to American time, whereupon they packed their car (...okay, minivan, whatever) and headed back out west to Minnesota. They will arrive in Bemidji on Saturday the 20th, pick Vicky up from the airport, and all reach Star Island that afternoon. Vicky will stay with them for about a week, as I did back in August.

I will be heading down to NJ one last time on the 26th and 27th, to collect my parents' mail and send any relevant bills to them, care of the local marina. They intend to close the cabin around the 8th or 9th of October and pick up the Camry on their way home (at which point we will do lunch and I will make them help me take my AC out of the window for the winter), but if the weather turns nasty and/or very cold, they may leave up to a week sooner.
edenfalling: circular blue mosaic depicting stylized waves (ocean mosaic)
I am writing this one day after the fact, but oh well, so it goes.

My flight from Bemidji left at 12:30ish, so Mom, Dad, and I left the island at 10:45 so as to reach the airport in plenty of time. Bemidji is a very dinky airport, but their staff are very, shall we say, careful, so getting through security takes a while. I suspect this may be because they are such a dinky airport. The Ithaca airport, for all its tiny size, gets a fair amount of traffic -- it is served by THREE airlines! *gasp shock awe* -- and so their staff are a lot more practiced and efficient.

I had a three-hour layover in the Twin Cities, during which I ate lunch, did a couple crosswords, and read a chunk of The Iroquois by Dean R. Snow. (I have been on a local history kick lately.) Then, right after I boarded the plane to Detroit, the captain announced that a line of thunderstorms was moving over Detroit, which meant planes currently in the air couldn't land, which meant planes currently on the ground but intending to head for Detroit weren't allowed to take off; this is, I believe, known as a ground stop. Anyway, we sat at the gate for about 45 minutes, and ended up taking off almost exactly one hour late.

I had a scheduled two-hour layover in Detroit (which is more like one and a half, really, since layovers are counted with reference to departure time rather than boarding time), so even after losing an hour to the weather I still had time to run and grab some dinner -- a bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions and pickles, from Fuddruckers, mmmmmm -- and make it to my assigned gate with fifteen minutes to spare. The flight into Ithaca was smooth and on time, and my suitcase (which I had voluntarily checked in the Twin Cities, since the flight was full and they didn't have enough room in the overhead compartments) was waiting for me at baggage claim.

Then I discovered my car battery was dead.


Fortunately the guy staffing the parking lot ticket payment booth was just about to get off-shift, and he offered to give me a jump-start. I got my jumper cables out, he duly drove over and fastened them (and now I know how to do that myself in the hopefully unlikely event of another dead battery), and got me going again. I then spent over half an hour driving randomly around the greater Ithaca area, to make sure I got the battery recharged enough to be able to start the car again today. (I haven't checked that yet, but I need to go buy groceries this afternoon or evening, so fingers crossed!)

I think what happened is that when I parked, I turned on one of the auxiliary ceiling lights by the rear-view mirror to make sure I hadn't left anything in the car. Then I forgot to turn it off and didn't notice the light since it's pretty faint and I was parked close to a street-light. But even a small, faint light bulb will drain a car battery over the course of a week, so whoops.


In other news, all my peppers survived my absence! Actually -- and this is the really crazy part -- I seem to have more peppers than when I left. Last week I took the bitten-off top half of the much-abused pepper my mom brought me and stuck its stem into the empty pot that used to hold a completely uprooted pepper. And I think it has grown new roots! At any rate, its leaves are all still green and healthy-looking rather than wilted and shriveled, so I'm pretty sure it's been getting water and nutrients from somewhere, and it is sitting upright in a patch of soil, so... we'll see!
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
We had oatmeal for breakfast today. Mom likes to add dried fruit as she cooks it, so there were craisins and dried apricots mixed in; this adds extra deliciousness. :-)

A thunderstorm ambled through between 7 and 8am, and the rain continued off and on until about 10am, but there were several clear hours in the early afternoon so we (Dad, Mom, Dottie, and I) went for a moderately long walk around 1pm. We went to the south shore and walked all the way to the campground, then cut inland. We decided not to go all the way to Windigo, since the path along the southeastern edge is very overgrown and swampy this year (like the part by the east portage was before Dad and I fixed it), so we came home more directly through the forest. The wind today was mostly from the south or southeast, so we had a nice breeze in the first half of the walk, but the interior of the forest was very still and too humid for Mom's comfort.

We did some chores upon returning home: vacuuming and laundry, mostly. I took a nap from about 3:30pm to 5pm, during which another, bigger thunderstorm (or maybe a chain of small ones?) hit us. There is no real insulation in the cabin, half the walls are made of windows, and the ceilings are quite low, so the sound of falling rain is loud and clear. I find it soothing.

After dinner Mom and I finished a couple more crosswords and played a round of Bananagrams, which she won as her final draw letter was an M, which is a lot easier to play than my final draw of Z. *wry*

I have printed my boarding passes for tomorrow and am partially packed. Mostly I am waiting for one pair of pants to finish drying, and of course for all the stuff I need to use in my morning routines, to say nothing of the laptop on which I am typing these words. But everything is folded and ready to put into the relevant bags, so the actual packing should not take more than five minutes.

And that is pretty much that.
edenfalling: circular blue mosaic depicting stylized waves (ocean mosaic)
I set my alarm for 8:30am, to make sure I got up and fed the dog at a reasonable time, but I ended up waking at 8am because my feet were freezing. The temperature dropped into the fifties overnight, and the wind continued to be fairly strong -- it just swung from east-northeast to east-southeast. I got up to close a bunch of windows, and figured I might as well feed the dog then. I also let her out on a leash to pee, though I didn't take her for a walk since it was raining steadily, and chilly rain is miserable, particularly in a forest.

I went back to bed and got up for real shortly after 9:30am, at which point I dressed in yesterday's clothes, put on one of Dad's cruddy cabin jackets, and took Dottie for a short loop walk. (It had stopped raining, but the forest was still dripping incessantly.) Then I showered, ate breakfast, and spent the morning online and finishing Anna Karenina. Victory is mine!

I took Dottie for a second walk around 1pm, dropping the second dock board on the northern muddy patch of the Windigo trail as we went. I split some more logs when we returned home, and then quite sensibly spent the rest of the afternoon indoors.

I like gray rainy days when I have nothing to do and nowhere to be. They make me tired, both physically and mentally, but sometimes it's nice to have an excuse to sit around and think about existential things. And the final chapters of Anna Karenina are useful in that sense, since I find a bunch of Tolstoy's themes worth arguing. I mean, yes, we are bubbles of insignificance in the vast cosmos, here for no reason whatsoever. So what? That just means life can mean whatever we want it to mean. And really, if you think people can't be kind and do good without reference to an overarching god, what does that say about you? I think reason is not selfish -- or if it is, it's just reason that hasn't thought far enough. It is better for you, not just everyone else, to establish fair and just systems, since nobody can ever be top dog all the time, and the golden rule is sort of preemptive self-defense from some perspectives, regardless of any emotional/spiritual impulse toward fairness.

(I hear that after writing Anna Karenina Tolstoy only got MORE didactic. Since I already find his particular brand of didacticism annoying, I think I should not read any of his later works.)

Anyway, Mom and Dad returned to the island around 6:45pm, and we ate dinner around 7:30pm. Dad's reunion was fine, but not as well-organized as it should have been. (The venue was slightly too small for the number of attendees, so it was difficult to move around and find people he used to know.) I don't think we have any specific plans for Monday, though Mom has said she doesn't want to leave the island. That is fine with me. :-)
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Mom and Dad left for the Twin Cities at 9:30 this morning, leaving me and Dottie on our own. I have been spending a bunch of time online, and have also gotten into part 8 of Anna Karenina -- I have about 40 pages left of a 820-page edition.

I walked Dottie twice. The first time, shortly after noon, was really two walks. You see, she mopes when her people are away, and one symptom of this is sitting down and refusing to move. So I had to bodily carry her out to the powerline slashing, set her down, and start running, which is enough of a jolt to overcome her resistance. Once you get past that initial balking, she's almost always fine and enthusiastic. So I took her through a short loop trail, and then when we got back to the cabin, instead of going in, I grabbed one of the remaining dock boards and got Dottie to accompany me on the Windigo east portage loop trail so I could lay the last board on the southern muddy patch of the path.

I walked her a second time at about 5:30pm, again on the east portage loop, and dropped the first of two boards on the northern muddy patch. And I walked her one last time, just now -- a tiny walk back to the slashing, north past three cabins, and back home -- so she had a chance to pee if she wanted.

In between walks and reading, I split a bunch of logs. I have nearly finished the small pile of pine logs. There are two that were too long for the mechanical splitter, which I may split manually with a wedge and sledgehammer tomorrow. The rest of that stack is stuff that's too skinny to bother splitting. I have also split several logs from another woodpile, but that one is much larger and I doubt I will finish it this year.

I ate cold cereal for breakfast, my leftover pizza for lunch, some ham and crackers for a late afternoon snack, and Dad's leftover salmon for dinner.

Yesterday was dead calm and hot. It got humid overnight, but today the wind has picked up and it's dried out through the afternoon and evening. I have turned off all the fans and closed a few windows, and I may close a few more before I go to bed.

And that has been my day. Very quiet, very calm. :-)
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
On Thursday I did nothing much: went with Mom to take Dottie on a walk in the early afternoon, and goofed around in the lake for a while. I am in pretty good shape as far as walking goes, but that's only one kind of exercise and I discovered that as far as swimming goes... I am VERY out of shape. I should work on that, or at least incorporate some other activities into my "pretend I am a vaguely active person" regime.

At 5:30pm, we went to the Shaws' cabin for what was billed as conversation and snacks, but ended up including enough food that it counted as a filling dinner. Mmmm. I chatted with an island resident who was interested in my job search (she is a former HR person, so it's kind of her field) so perhaps something will come of that. Or perhaps not. Who knows!

Today we had pancakes and bacon for breakfast (yesterday was English muffins and soft-boiled eggs, FYI), after which Dad and I carted two old and slightly worn/rotted dock boards to the muddy, swampy parts of the Lake Windigo path and dropped them to bridge the worst of the muck. There are three remaining boards, which I will attempt to position over the weekend while Mom and Dad are in the Twin Cities for Dad's 50th high school reunion. I figure I can just walk Dottie on a set loop and carry one board each time.

Tonight we took the boat over to the mainland and drove to Bemidji to mail some letters, do a little shopping, and eat out for dinner. We went to Tutto Bene, which has changed owners and revamped its menu and general presentation over the last couple years. It's a touch expensive, perhaps, but the food is VERY good. The chefs are confident enough that there is no salt or pepper provided on the tables... and you don't need any, either, because the food is good enough to stand as-is. :-) I got the pizza of the day -- which was pepperoni, pesto, gorgonzola, asparagus, red onion, and arugula, on a thin, hard crust -- and then had the calamari appetizer as my entree. It's not a typical American calamari. There was no breading, and the squid pieces are served on top of polenta with olive tapenade and some scallions. It is also delicious, and just the right size to produce no leftovers. (I did bring half the pizza home, and will probably eat it for lunch tomorrow.) Mom got a salad with cucumber, avocado, and greens, and then a hangar steak with king oyster mushrooms, cooked greens, and interesting mashed potatoes. Dad had the soup of the day -- Tuscan-style vegetable, with a tomato base and contents that included local yellow squash -- and then the fish of the day, which was white Alaskan salmon served with grilled cherry tomatoes and... some other stuff I can't remember.

(I am not sure why I report restaurant meals in such detail. I suspect it may be because they are the kind of thing Mom tends to remember and use as reference points, the same way she remembers details of hotels and motels we have stayed at. So I am creating a cheat sheet to help me say, "Yes, I know what you are talking about" when she brings up a past meal, instead of giving her a blank stare and saying, "We ate food?")

Anyway, topic change! I tend to use my vacations to read Notable Books that are part of the general Western literary canon. This has seen me through Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, and The Possessed; Victor Hugo's Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame; and a couple other projects. This summer, I have, for the third year in a row, set myself the goal of finishing Anna Karenina. (Last year I got distracted by Wolf Hall, so I have no regrets.) I am in part 7 of 8 parts, and probably in the final eighth of the book by page count, so the end is in sight!

Maybe next year I will take another stab at War and Peace, which defeated me handily several years back and which I have yet to work up the mental oomph to tackle a second time. :-)


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Elizabeth Culmer

October 2017

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