A journey northwards and back....or just trying desperately to write to my friends..

Hello friends, I've been away a long time. The fairies have tended my gardens all season without me, and only with some minimal interferences and lots of observations and digital recordings of who's appearing,blooming, and finishing......I've been wandering around at a loss for motivational writings- could you even tell I was here. The moods I've experienced this year have been distracting.
The fairies have done everything in their powers to get my attentions. First with unexpected appearances of things I didn't remember putting in a spot or location. Other ways of getting my attention grabbed my eyes and mind in furious waves of words and descriptions, then when I attempted to put these thoughts and amazements onto computer and send them ya'll's way, I'd be ripped from my musings and the word demons would erase the vivid images in my mind until they resembled piles of debris and letters.
One day I actually took a pad of paper and noticed that the day was absolutely perfect for Spring. And as I quickly wrote typical "madgardener" descriptions and short hand of sorts, I was pleased that the drought of ramblings might be over. I was blind sided. As soon as I got home and attempted to write and spin wondrous tales of what was truly a perfect Spring day, I was snatched up and before I knew it, weeks had slipped by in a whirlwind, like leaves in a pre-storm gusting.
The season's have quietly switched with each other. First, Spring resembled a too early summer. Temperatures forced bulbs and perennials and shrubs into over growth. The whacked and pruned fig tree sprouted supple limbs so flexible, that instead of being straight, they flopped about like Gumby... Tulips and daffs appeared like magic shows, then were done. The only evidence was pictures I managed to snap on the digital camera. Shrubs struggled in the fast pace of above normal temperatures, even for here. I'm used to SOME very warm temperatures, but to resemble the summer when it was spring time was unsettling, especially when they held for longer than a front of a few days.
Then sweet reprieve. Mom's Nature was over her hot flash, her cruel sense of humor or her anger at the weather goddess, whatever her reasons, I didn't argue. You'll always lose with Mom's N. She slipped a sweet ending to Spring. Cool nights, just right warmth to caress the stressed out plants and foliages out of their shock of trying to cope with all that warmth that lied and said it was high summer. I got totally distracted. With exceptions to my snatching up the camera, all attempts for writing down my brain droppings on the computer were thwarted so badly, I simply gave up.
Then I got e-mails inquiring as to the mistaken rumors of my death....or illness causing my fingers to fall off.....or some such maladies. Serious concerns that I had befallen some horrible illness. and not wanting their concerns to fall on deaf ears, I assured each inquiry that I was indeed alive, no limbs or appendages misplaced or fallen under the computer desk. And I tried to catch each individual who knocked on the cyber gate up on snatches of Fairy Holler.
It got even more insane. Where as last year I WAS ill with various assorted disasters to my body, this year it was all life and what happens if you try to cross the busy interstate of reality. I'd try to get to that island of writing bliss, and a piggy-back semi would come barreling down at me blowing it's horn, scaring the hell outa me and I'd discover more time lost, more flowers bloomed and gone, more moments not captured. I wrote titles down and sent them to the drafts folder. I took more pictures. And I ran amok in between all of it.
Before I knew it, it was time to pack for the week up in Michigan with Squire to do more work on the house before fall, (not to live, no worries there, ok?) hopeful of some peace and rest with two dogs who had never swam in water before, or played in sand, a two story cottage that gave me peace enough to look forward to going. No t.v. laid out and furnished with enough comforts to fool me into thinking I'd not MIND living in Grand Haven.....sand and all.........zone 5...yep, even cooler temperatures and lots of snows in winter. Late springs.... I packed ALL of my music cd books. All 13......that's well over 1800 cd's. I've not counted lately. I needed music. It would be the last week of June,peek time in Fairy Holler for a lot of things, but the promise of some quiet time was enticing. And Squire and his sister needed me.
The van was loaded as tight as a tick on a summer day. Squire had packed the van just exactly to where the dogs had one huge bed to lie around on top of tubs of foodstuffs, clothes, books of cd's, tools, his truck refrigerator for the perishable foods, the smaller cooler that plugged into the other outlet. I forgot my shovel.....and there was no room for the large nursery pot I had intended on putting the Japanese maple into, but when we got there and I saw the growth on the Japanese maple, I decided another plan was in order for later on. ~~~~~~~~~~~
Once packed, and we tried to leave, things began to unravel. No matter how hard we worked at departure, things were forgotten. Important things. So the last time we turned back to retrieve the apnea machine, we almost decided to leave the next morning. But instead decided a power nap was in order, and leave when we woke up and drive all night. It got up into the low 90's and that's what we left in. We had some good books on tape to listen to on the trip up, the Xm to listen to music, and I started observational passenger eyeballing up the north interstate.
The heat was such that an overcast sky promised teasings of possible rains. Desperately needed rains. I now didn't want to leave, because I wanted to be in the gardens doing stuff in the warm rains, but you can't stop in mid-trip. We kept going. I held my tongue and looked out the window, while Smeagol took middle position on the van sized bed that Squire had made for him and his "mama dawg" Sugar who stayed on the bench seat almost the whole trip. He was just able to lie with his head between the two seats and huff the cold air from the vents and snooze.
As we took I-75 northwards and started climbing the steep hills of Jellico, I started searching for flower signs. Not easy, despite it was the last week of June, the heat had done in the wild flowers as well as most end of Spring bloomers. Hot dots of flame orange in seas of green roadside grasses was all that flashed past my searching eyes of the butterfly weeds. Everywhere. I loved seeing them. Sometimes great colonies of them, screaming their colors out at the careening vehicles.
Mimosa's that reached out towards the edges of the young woods as close to the edge of the interstate as they possibly could, all decked out in soft pink puffs. If I concentrated and stared at an up and coming ferny pink puff tree, I could almost smell their musky sweet fragrances and wish to see frantic hummers flitting about.
Alternating along the roadside was columns of rising eager kudzu intent on strangling everything in it's vined path. Covering so many trees and bushes and rocks they made the sides of hills and small mountains seem like fantastic enchanted castles rising from the edges of the roadsides.
Before me, layered hills, covered in dark green trees, folded against each other, the mists and stray dirty gray clouds that were forming and gathering like forgotten children clung to the tree tops. Tall, young pines, like skinny, gaunt teenagers crowded the interstate gullies that rose along the interstate. Higher up, the mists were thicker, like tired clouds casting off extra clothes in the heat of the day. Or some crazed menopausal woman in the throes of a serious hot flash <g>.
As we cut thru the miles, all of a sudden, dense fog on the parental clouds high up on Jellico mountain, north of Knoxville, started showing up. You could taste the difference in the air. Encouraged, I let my window down and tasted the air. The humidity was heavy and thick on my tongue, and I hung my arm out to capture moisture on my skin. Every now and then, opening in surreal drippings was the familiar kudzu, like smothered sculptures.
The fogs thickened, and some of the clouds released some precious moisture, enough to cause the more reckless of drivers to slow down because the wet was just enough to cause a more defined sense of caution as the oils struggled to release from the pavements.
Anthracite coal tailings spilling like wet, soft black sand rose above the edges of the road, although I know were I to have examined the "sand" up closer to the spilling rocks, the size would be more rocks than actual sand grains. The terrain was rising and shifting, the dark greens of summer were muted by the smoke like tendrils of moisture. We kept hitting great swaths of clouds, not fog at this point of the early trip. Enough that you had to turn on your headlights to give a sense of illumination and recognition as cars passed each other in indifferent speeds. Not much colors. Just muted and dark. Pines, oaks, ferny mimosa's, a lot of their pink puffs. Queen Anne's lace, hot butterfly weeds, a few cheerful faces of black-eyed Susan's for diversity. The landscape lulled me to sleep, as the images repeated themselves without much break in diversity.
When I woke to the sounds of music, and the audible rumble strips, we were pulling off for Squire to get some more coffee, let the dogs out for a quick squat, and back into the van. Only now the temperature was about 15 degrees cooler and it was still overcast. We had gone into Kentucky, and heading for Ohio. We had the largest part of the leg of the trip to go still.
Familiar sights were now being replaced by obvious buildings and renovations. I started seeing repetitious exit towns. A Wal-fart, Ruby Toosdaze,KFC,Micky D's, large truck stops with Subway signs, some Outbacks, or now Bob Evan's. I started watching for Meijers to indicate we were approaching the Midwest or at least the skirts of it. The scenery was alright, I scanned the yards for blooms and was surprised to see day lilies were just budding out. Lilies were in full force here as mine were winding down in the heat. It seemed like I had slipped back two weeks in bloom season. Pawlonia trees were bursting with purple foxglove blossoms in weedy patches of grit and rocky tailings. I imagined their grapey smells wafting thru the window.
Most rest stops were planted in half decent plantings. Some thought given to hardiness and climate. A few serious snafu's.....like those oak leaf hydrangea's that were on the eastern side of one building getting too much southern indirect light and were browning nicely along the edges of all the leaves. But I couldn't complain. My own oak leaf hydrangea this year had strange, stunted and odd shaped outer petals. Instead of looking like fat, flowers, they were divided and almost looked like five sectioned stars or bizarre white clover leaves. Nothing like the pannacles of beauty from last year. I suspect the weather had a LOT to do with their shapes this year..
The dogs had settled down into submissive postures, sleeping and snoozing the majority of the ride, with only the neediness of Smeagol who sometimes just needed reassurance that I was close by to pet his pointed little head and tell him he was a good dawg...<g> Sugar sulked on the whole back bench seat, with only occasional visitations for a quick nose to the arm and an inquiring "helllooooo" from her sober and penetrating brown eyes. Smeagol hogged the middle sufficiently that just getting to me and Squire was a maneuver that took too much thought. So she hung in the back and sprawled out over the whole back seat.
Despite that I had left the shovel behind, I was intent in my mind on things to dig once we were up to the sandy soils of Grand Haven, and as I once again was hypnotized in road sleep, I started dreaming what I was going to do once I got to the cottage that sat back in the sand dunes and bird sanctuary where the ferns grew to almost four foot in height. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Somewhere I woke briefly to discover that Squire had pulled off at a quiet little convenient store with large trees along the side and we idled quietly and slept and dreamed strange dreams. Mine strange because Squire didn't have his apnea machine and he snored like Oregon timber cutters in earnest harvesting. I had some weird dreams until I finally woke up kinda freaked out from dreaming someone was knocking on the window and only because the dawgs were almost snoring along with Squire did I realize it was just a nightmare. I thought to myself that I was getting too old to sleep like this anymore. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Eventually we got to the cottage, in the early hours of morning, opened up the van and released the hounds to run and pee and sniff and check things out. That impressive patch of poison ivy on the eastern side of my sister in law's yard of the cottage was a concern. I spotted it immediately in it's luxuriant vigor and deep green. Not as much for me as much as for Squire and his sister......I watched the dogs carefully after that and started making them avoid the area immediately. At least Smeagol minds very well and once Sugar saw him avoiding the huge patch, it wasn't so hard to get her to reciprocate as well. They were just happy to be out and stretching and romping and checking out totally new smells.
I was more intent on getting all my music and stuff unloaded, and hitting the beaches and seeing how wide it was this year. It's always different and it never ceases to amaze me as how powerful Lake Michigan truly is. On the drive into Grand Haven I immediately knew I've not been up there for six years. Houses were where there had never been any at all. And not little, cute houses, HUGE houses. High dollar babies. With absolutely incredible plantings though. And more shopping centers and shopping islands than there ever was. I felt strangely unsettled at this despite that it wasn't my home. But I also knew Squire had seen this and wasn't as distressed as I was, or if he was, he kept it to himself as he organized the unloading.
Everywhere I kept seeing these awesome hanging baskets that were colorful and huge. I was itching to get out on my own and do some snooping around and hit the little nursery just down from my MIL's house in town. And there was also a farmer's market and nursery on the corner of the road that leads to Squire's sister's cottage just off Lake Shore Drive that I was going to check out for anything perennial and interesting. I was a woman on a mission this time. Intent on replacing a beloved lost pink buddelea whose flowers were almost as long as my forearm the last year it bloomed and was alive, and seeing what I could find that I never see in Tennessee as there are LOTS of nurseries up in that region.
The dogs were beside themselves. This was their first visit to Michigan, to the cottage, and would be the first time either of them had ever had the opportunity to swim. There was also an outlet where Pigeon Creek empties into Lake Michigan just up from the cottages and sand dunes and the flow ALWAYS changed. Sometimes every day, and the water was always no more than knee high and 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the lake's water was.
I also wanted to see if the dunes had moved any and revealed the beautiful steps and railings that were built 10-12 years ago that you could walk down to the beach by. Six years ago I was up there and the dunes had almost completely covered the railings, and the steps were gone completely. It continues to amaze me.
I helped unload all the groceries and supplies and stuff while Squire started putting things away. It really was like coming to a second home. I've known this cottage now for 28 years, even if I haven't visited it as many times. It's an odd thing. Two stories, the upper story has grooved chimney tiles that are filled with cement and laid sideways that gives the whole upper story a log house look. And the way they laid them and the ends, it DOES look like a log house on the top floor.
The upstairs is where the bedrooms and sitting room is, but we always take the bed on the screened porch. Always. I took the bed clothes upstairs and made the bed for us, noticed the white pine outside the window had grown some more. Well, duh! Six years is a lot of time to grow.... That's another thing that always impresses me as a gardener. Despite that it's pure SAND and humus sand, the trees grow absolutely gigantic! I remember when that pine was a little sapling and I was impressed at the rate it had grown just in the last six years since I'd seen it. You can barely see the lake at the top of the main dune, and I could see that the lake's waves were barely visible. So that possibly meant the lake was extremely calm. I snapped out of my daydreaming, noticed the dogs were lying on the floor where I was just standing at the many windows on the porch and decided I wanted to get down to the water with them. "Everyone into the lake! Let's go, come on puppers!" the dogs were eager to follow wherever mama wanted to go and almost knocked me over as they jumped up and scrambled mad toenails on the hardwood floor.
The steep stairwell was a bit of a challenge for Smeagol but once he got used to it, I had to laugh at his toenails tapping on the thick boards. Squire was puttering around and I asked if he'd go to the lake with me, but he had things he wanted to do, and family business was the main reason for the whole visit up there anyway, so I told him, "me and the hairy kids are going to the beach for the first time". He was dryly sarcastic and told me to not fall in.....and we were off.
Out the door, I stopped at the concrete stoop and noticed sedums were growing quite fat and nicely at all the edges,and in front of the bitter root that was everywhere. Hmmmmm, hafta ask my sister in law about taking a clump of these back with me. They seemed to be a common variety that resembled little toes, and they were starting to bloom white blossoms on thin stems about six inches above the sedums. They were in huge clumps all over the place.
The dogs had run thru the tangle of sand grass and wild grapevine that apparently the locals were encouraging to hold the shifting sands (they call these sands up there the "singing sands" as they squeak when you walk through it) and I lost sight of their tails as they bounced thru the tall grass. I did my hup hup thing that I'm teaching them to come when they hear it, and they bounced thru the foliage and sand and came to me with tongues hanging out the side all smiling and panting and excited. Sugar had that "I've already spotted and chased 56 rabbits, mama!" glaze to her eyes, and they were both grinning at me as I told them to follow me, stay with me. Sure, they were too excited and ran off ahead of me anyway. I couldn't help but laugh out loud at their excitement. It reminded me of the first time I took the boys to that same beach below. And the red haired fairy child of mine just a few years back.
As we crested the top of the dune where the steps USED to be, the dogs took off and kinda slid, and walked down the shifting sands that were quite warm to almost hot and headed right for the water. I slipped off my sandals and realized by the end of the week my leg muscles would resemble frog legs when I climbed back UP that steep sandy shifting dune to the cottage above. Oh well, the exercise would do me good.......small things..........
I kept noticing the foliage and looking for things that were familiar to me. The cottage on the opposite side of where the steps used to be had beautiful container boxes in varieties of annuals I wasn't completely sure of. I spotted Gaillardia's in a bright clump in an odd box on the corner of their patio that faced the lake and noticed they'd build a landing just a few feet below the house and wondered out loud how long it would take Mom's Nature to make it fall down the rest of the many feet to the beach. But people here know the power of this shifting sand and build accordingly.
The dogs had long left me, running along the beach and startling hundreds of sea gulls that were on the shores that later on I discovered were munching on shad that had washed upon the shores by the thousands. I was laughing out loud at their antics. Most of it was pent up energy from being in the car for 12-14 hours with no more than piddle breaks. But I knew the sand would whip them and they'd soon be ready to go back to the cottage and flop down and snooze. Or so I thought. I forget sometimes that Smeagol isn't two yet and Sugar is barely 4.
As I thought these things and put my shoes near a beautiful piece of driftwood that was perfect for my butt, I saw Smeagol hauling ass towards me, his curled tail bent backwards and tucked as under his ass as he could get it. Behind him, running with silly dog grins on their face was two beautiful and thick coated collies, one younger and the other maybe 7 years of age, and Sugar was running and playing with them with this ecstatic look on her face. She'd already made dog friends! (Sugar is a dog person, Smeagol, however has this attitude that a stranger is a friend not yet met, he LOVES people and is a people dawg). The boy was beside himself with fright at these huge dogs that only wanted to play. I tried to console him, but his fright was enough that he had decided in that little pointy head he wanted no part of these two hairy beasts who weren't vicious in the least but Smeag didn't know that. He only knew that mama dawg wasn't backing him up, so he did what I never expected him to do.
As he passed me and I hollered back at him to come back, he tore up the sand dune's steep sides, sand pouring and shifting like an hour glass,flying behind him in little puffs and sprays and he hauled ass.. and he crested the top where we'd come down and disappeared completely from sight. Oh well, I wasn't about to cut my first visit short just because he's Craven the cowardly dawg....... I was impressed at his cowardice though. Most impressive. I made mental note to check to see if I'd brought the Benadryl for possible storms coming across the huge lake.
I petted the two collies and Sugar proceeded to continue her game with them, running thru the water, teasing them. It was hilarious and I made my first mistake. I had my digital camera of course, and the memory chip was just a 256. I had also brought the memory card that had come with the Canon and a small 4 m. card as back up for more pictures. I took a short 20 second video of Sugar as she ran thru the water, teased and tortured the collies and got me so stirred up and tickled I had to record it. I had no idea that this would eat up the small memory I had....I'd find this out later on when I wanted to make more pictures.
Soon the older collie lost interest and went to a rather impressive beach house that sat on the side facing the Pigeon Creek outlet and the Lake sorta looking towards Grand Haven were it not partially obscurred by another inlet and dune, and took up an obviously favored spot on point from the screened huge porch. Sugar kept playing with the younger one, running thru the chest high water of the creek with the collie. I couldn't quit laughing.
I kept encouraging her to run thru Pigeon Creek and get wet, and at one point I noticed an older gentleman coming down the beach towards us with a rather large cream colored Lab. Oh boy.....more dog friends for Sugar to meet and play with! And about the time he got to us and Sugar got all happy with herself, I heard Squire behind me and saw he'd left the cottage and had Smeag with him. Who was rather reluctant, but kept close to him for obvious protection. Once Sugar saw "daddy" was on the beach, she flipped her head back towards me flopping her tongue out the side of her mouth and grinning her lunatic dawg face and tore up the beach towards Squire to show off for him.
Eventually we parted with the older gentleman whose dog apparently wasn't his, it was a very young pure bred Lab who got a little too excited and he broke off the visit because he apparently was uncomfortable with the games and sniffings that dogs naturally do when not threatened.
Squire wanted me to go into town and get cackleberries and maybe some ham loaf at Meijers, and told me to take my time, he'd make a pot of Irish creme coffee and finish putting things away while I went to the store. I left the dogs with him and loaded up. I had no idea what I was about to encounter.......... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
All I can say is my FIRST mistake was not entering the middle of the HUGE supermarket/clothing/nursery/etc store. No, I went in thru the nursery doors. BIG mistake. HUGE mistake. I snagged a cart and immediately lost all concept of time. And started looking at all the amazing and wonderful pots of perennials and ornamental grasses and hosta's and blooming shrubs and hollyhocks in colors I'd not seen offered. I reached into my pocket and got out the calculator and started picking out a few things. HA! A few things?? The double red hollyhock and the double yellow one were the FIRST to go into my basket.
Then I found the Mexican hare grass in 6 inch and deep pots for cheap and got Ethyll one. She'd been longing for some ever since seeing them in pre-made containers back home at Lowes and Despot. Then hosta's. One each for each of us. As I carefully chose what I was getting, customers started attracting towards me like they always do. Asking me where such and such plant was at. I'd turn and point, then if they looked confused, walk them back to where the perennial was at. They assumed I worked there until I opened my mouth and the accent was definitely Southern.
A dark and silver Persicaria, Chocolate Eupatoria, a HUGE Red Foxx veronica for cheap cheap cheap......Sunset Echinacea, three kinds of hosta's and those two hollyhocks. As I stopped where I was at, and went through the double doors into the main building, towards the grocery section, I was stopped by customers inquiring about the hollyhocks. I'd tell them where they were on the end cap and one man loved them so much he said he was buying his old mama two of each kind! wow.......I was highly amused at this point and aimed towards the grocery part. Which was always mind blowing.
I got lost in the grocery for another hour and eventually remembered Squire was back at the cottage waiting brunch on me and flushing red, I checked out. Then making my way back thru the nursery, I noticed at the last minute the largest pot of purple leafed Oxalis I've ever seen and was glad I'd not spotted it going into the nursery gates. About the time I packed the plants in the back of the van, my cell phone rang and it was Squire who had zoned out and was worried about me. I assured him I was leaving and had had some fun, and made my way back. The fun wasn't over.
I had spent quite a bit of my mad nursery money already, but knew I wanted to go to the nursery in town where I'd gotten the pink butterfly bush. More than anything I was determined to replace it while I was there. I kept having to pay attention as everywhere I looked massive plantings of colorful annuals and perennials were popping up and distracting me.
I decided to take the easier route to the cottage and noticed there was a new light at the corner of the market where I turn, and decided to stop just to see what they had. My big mistake. There was the pink butterfly bush I was looking for, in a three gallon pot for less than what I'd gotten the first one for that was in a one gallon pot! And there was huge pots of towering pink lilies I had to ignore. And oh crap, enormous pots of the green Stachys in full blossom loaded with butterflies and bees enraptured by their flowerings. I grabbed two pots of the Stachys, and the pot of Pink Delight butterfly bush.
Once again customers started asking me questions as I picked out perennials, put a few back, decided on others and counted my remaining mad money. I'd be broke the rest of the visit, but I was too happy with my found booty to worry at that moment. As I was overwhelmed by the most incredible baskets and hanging planters I've ever seen, I decided I'd have to return and try and take pictures to take back and show Ethyll who loves and adores a good planted basket. These could inspire a blind person almost. They were that good.
I saw colors of pelargoniums (geraniums) that I've never seen before. Recognized familiars but they were so lush and full I was humbled. Even those silly planter socks were lush and full of impatiens and New Guinea varieties to hang in the sun. Yep, I'd have to return later to just browse and snap quiet pictures. I resisted the urge to get that pint jar of Gooseberry jam that I've never tasted yet but long to, and headed to the car to load up the last load in the crowded back of the van. Squire would kill me later on. We had to repack that same van to return in six days............LOL
The drive back to the cottage was spent reflecting on the new streets and small subdivisions and manicured yards that were bursting with color of annuals and perennials. And the nursery was just getting sweet strawberries in, and our crops were finally over and done down in Tennessee. The largest and sweetest crop that we'd had in awhile, but still, to see strawberries just coming into season up here was another ponderism.
I came to the cross-roads and saw the huge blueness of Lake Michigan just beyond the dune that fooled you into thinking it wasn't so far, and turned towards the area where the cottage was at. No one was behind me for a change and I tooled along like a true tourist. I looked at the growth and noticed ornamental grasses all lush already and looking downright perfect. Shady perennials at long driveway entrances of houses that weren't here six years ago, only dunes and huge trees and woods and ferns before.
The bog and marsh that sits above the entrance of Pigeon Creek was covered in water lilies and some were already blooming white and yellow and I noticed that Pickerell weed was also starting to bloom, and someone had foolishly tossed in some water lettuce. It wouldn't get out of control, the harsh winter would off it come true winter.
The drive became slower as I searched for the wooded entrance driveway that led through the bird sanctuary and towards our cottage and the one beyond that was always named The Cookie Jar. The sign was gone and I almost missed the turn, and I slowed to a stop and just looked at the shaded lushness of what lay just past the narrow driveway. The ferns were growing literally up to the edges and were two feet tall. But past these, dipping down the drop off and out into the boggy marsh and woods, the ferns were over four foot tall, and I cursed myself that I'd left my shovel......rats.....I'd have to come back down the driveway later with the dogs and see about lifting a few of the smaller ones along the driveway that were going to be run over or plowed up to regrade the driveway. wow........
I was greeted by two hysterical dogs who chastised me for leaving them at the cottage and they booked off into the beach grass beside the cottage to chase chipmunks and rabbits and I quickly unloaded the perennials next to the side of the cottage. I'd take the heat from Squire once he saw the plants. He was amused and blown away. And I got that LOOK from him as he got the groceries and took them inside to the kitchen. He said I was hopeless and hoped I was through with purchases. Because WHERE WERE WE GOING TO PUT EVERYTHING WHEN WE WENT BACK TO TENNESSEE??????? He clucked and tsked and gave me grief, and I appeased him by making a brunch that almost took the wind out of him. The fresh air off the lake more than made up for my misadventures and he temporarily forgave me. He had a lot on his mind, and he'd deal with me when we were ready to return.... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The time slipped by way too soon, and I only got one moment to get into Lake Michigan with the dogs but had some good brisk walking to retrieve them and make them come back to me. They were so caught up in running the sea gulls that they just paid me no mind. That and the lake's waves obscured the sound of my voice quite well, even if they did have dog ears. (And Smeagol has hound ears and nose!)
I caught myself slipping into a routine that was a bit startling to me, and I didn't miss the mountains or green hillsides because I was so busy looking at the surrounding neighborhoods and scenery with gardener's eyes.
Now let me tell you about the unexpected bounty at my mother in law's house. On the second day I went into town with Squire to help him and his sister by running for some things they needed to do more sorting and trashing in preparation for sales in the fall. The dogs were entranced by the new smells of the two story ancient house in town. I was saddened that mom had never met Sugar or Smeagol. She'd have loved them both. I slipped the dogs and ran the errands for them, but once I got back and took the dogs out to the little side yard with the picket fence that mom had always used to potty her dogs, I almost dropped over.
I knew about the little Japanese maple in the corner, and I also knew about a great nephew who worked for Zelinka's Nursery who had planted some blooming shrubs and such in the little postage stamp yard. He had also re-landscaped the front and despite her passing, it looked quite nice. My first shock was the tens and tens of volunteer Campanula's growing in the cracks of the driveway, along the edges of the driveway, against the house in cracks. Everywhere. Pull one and intact root came out ready to be planted. wow.
Then there were the hosta's that had been sleeping in November when we'd come up after Mom passed away. The variegated one beside the gate was neat, but those HUGE BLUE ONES that were over three foot tall and lush knocked me over. With a feather. I immediately plotted some way to procure a shovel somehow. I wasn't going to leave those behind. No way. The Japanese maple floored me the worst and best. It was just the last week of June and this maple was begging to be dug up and planted in a raised tub so it could cascade and be admired. The limbs had grown two foot and were trailing along the asphalt driveway and thru the picket fence. I knew there would be no way I could safely transport it back, despite that I really wanted to, and made vows I'd return and bring it home and give it a worthy huge pot to reside in in a shady spot behind the house in Fairy Holler. High enough that she could cascade and be admired and thrive for years to come. All I could do was stand and admire and be amazed at how much growth had occurred in such a few months.
My plots were quick and decisive, I'd return before the fall and bring two sheets to gently lay the tree and root ball into and carefully wrap around the tree like a cocoon. I had been tempted to put the tree on top of the van and take it back, but I knew the drying winds would be the instant death of it, and knew the heat of the lower states would prove me out. The temperatures were so cool up here that I actually wished I'd brought a light jacket with me. And there were no jeans either, just a long skirt that I kept wearing because my legs and toes were cold at night with those winds blowing incessantly thru the many open windows of the cottage.
And like I said, the dogs slept like dead things once settled down. All the sand and running and playing and the one day they swam in the lake wore them out enough they slept like babies. Sugar's coat got silky and shiny and Smeagol leaned up even more. People would think I starved him. And he discovered he had a new love in his life. My sister in law. He immediately bonded to her and even tried to get into her car, which he never does every time she left to return to her motel room.
My wanderings were so fun, observing and checking out corners and yards, I regretted that we had to leave so suddenly. Seeing all the bike trails everywhere and the levelness of the town made me almost wish I lived up there, and rode a bicycle like I used to. Were it not so expensive to live, it was VERY tempting. And mom's house has no yard to speak of. I'd go insane for lack of space for all the perennials I wanted to grow. It's amazing how differently we look at things when we get older.
The visit to the corner market and nursery proved to be fortuitous. I got there while the main female boss was on lunch and the men were minding the large nursery and produce market. I asked if I might take pictures of the many incredible baskets and hanging gardens to take back to my friend who so loved them. The older gentleman said that ordinarily his boss wouldn't allow it, but since she was gone, he didn't really mind. Besides, he remembered me from the first day and how I'd sold a few pots of perennials. LOL I wound using all my memory taking pictures of every incredible hanging basket and container garden in the whole place. MOST impressive plantings and inspirational as well. How I longed to have just ONE of those deep wine geraniums to take home with me. Maybe next year. Maybe.
The week slipped past way too quickly for me, and before I knew it, we were starting to have to think about repacking the van. Now I had to deal with Squire as we started packing up the things that needed loading first. I was proud that during this visit, my sister in law discovered for the first time in 28 years that I am an incredible cook. And that she liked my whacky sense of humor too. We even ganged up on her brother once or twice. That was fun. It's been a long time since I've been able to tease Squire mercilessly and get away with it.
The last day would be a huge brunch with sis coming to the cottage, us leaving a bit early for the other renters who had the cottage for the 4th of July week. As I cooked up a feast and Squire loaded the van with things we wouldn't need anymore in the cottage, I actually felt sad leaving this time. I've always said I'd love to live in that cottage. But I know it's not heated and only a summer cottage. But with the many, many new houses, the past problem of being snowed in and stranded during winter was now no longer a consideration. There were bike trails on every street. And I also knew the city limits had stretched further in those six years. I knew this because I heard Squire waxing nostalgic about how he and his friends used to bike to Holland by themselves which was quite a ways.
Brunch was a hit. My Southern buttermilk biscuits and sausage and perfect eggs with hash browns and a Tennessee ripe tomato sliced for each plate with sweet sweet black cherries which were also starting to come in at the local nurseries there were on the plates and my sister started talking about I should have a little Southern cafe to feed people good Southern foods. LOL Thirty nine years of professional food service and cooking has taught me that there are those who don't know how hard and complicated the food industry really can be. It's fun to cook good hearty food for people who like it, but the problems, and sheer work and headaches are enough to make you think twice unless you're really committed and seriously love doing it. I love it, not enough to consider my own place. Not without help, that is. Now if I could have the assistance of my youngest son who is an awesome chef and gourmet/and Cajun cook beside me, then that's another story altogether!
The meal went well, and before we knew it, sis was starting to leave with Smeagol desperately trying to go with her. He'd broken her heart too, as she hung back and loved on him and Sugar, and she spotted the lush first blossoms of the deep pink of the Pink Delight butterfly bush sitting next to the side of the cottage. I offered to take her back and help pick out two of them for her yard in Illinois and she jumped at my offer and as we drove off towards the market and nursery up the road, dogs hanging out the windows because it was cool enough and sunny that they were happy to be riding along.
The nursery people greeted me and this amazed my sister in law as it was apparent that I have this way about me. I never think about it, it's just who I am. And I've never thought it was anything special, just part of the character and make up of the ol' madgardener. As we walked across the parking lot, I used my last picture on a perfect Blue Spruce that they'd planted only five years ago that were already impressive sizes. I caught myself thinking how neat it would be to grow impressive evergreens as bones in my gardens and dismissed it.
Sis wanted the Black Knight and a Pink Delight for her front yard. I picked out the two best they had and she paid for them. Were it not for the fact that she had to return to take care of her business, I know we'd had some great times together. And she threatened to kidnap me sometime to help plant and landscape her yard in Illinois. I told her anytime, all she had to do was provide me a couch and a place for the dogs as I've never seen or visited her house yet in all these years. These regrets were evident the week we spent together as she expressed her feelings that time seemed to slip past and before you knew it, it was over and done. I took that moment to give her my own philosophy of "life is too short to be in a rush, you gotta slow down and just enjoy the flowers while you can".
We gave each other some of those great hugs that leave you feeling happy, I saw a look of sadness that told me the visit was more successful than I'd thought, and knew she'd visit us in Tennessee now before time slipped away any further. We made our apologies for having to part, I knew she had a long drive alone back home and to her business and clients and we had an even further trip to make with a seriously packed van and two dogs that were reluctant to leave. It was like having children. The only thing missing were the wails and pleads to not go yet, to let them play and swim one more time like my boys had always done those rare times we were up here. Poignant moments and memories for me, and regrets that we'd not visited more and made more memories. And regrets that I'd not dragged the sons up to the cottage to see the house one last time before it is sold and it's part of a faded memory.
The week had proven more emotional for me than I think Squire and his sister would have expected. I am like that. I had wandered freely thru rooms and upstairs where I'd always been denied those years Squire's Uncle Doug had lived his whole life out. He had been a bachelor and recluse to some, including me. I'd never had the pleasure ever to meet him face to face, but had just greeted him once and he fled into the basement where he and mom used to finish antiques.
The upstairs was a complete two bedroom apartment, with huge rooms and windows everywhere. He had lived there with his mom until she passed and then the rest of his life above his sister running his own construction company. A great stairway and separate entrance as well as a door with a curtain that obscured the fact that there was a door leading to the downstairs part of the house. Mom always hated that my parents had raised me to be curious and poking into things. My parents taught me to look and touch but always return exactly where it was when I picked it up, never break it and ask questions if I didn't know. My mother in law didn't like that I was a "Nosy Nellie" and had told me so the last time I had visited her up in her house.
It was a good story to relate to my sister in law while we were up there, and despite her embarrassment and discomfort of how insensitive her mother had seemed, that wasn't the reason I shared the memory. It was to make her laugh at mom being so serious with me. And to let her know that we'd had closure about that very thing before she'd passed away just weeks before.
The hugs were emotional for me and she waved at me as I climbed back into the van with the dogs waiting and looking at her as she drove away, and I went back to the cottage to help John finish packing and to wash up the dishes and put things back the way they should be for the renters who would be there Saturday morning. I'd gotten permission from sis to dig up sedums, and I'd located a short handled shovel in the tool room off the shower room and had dug up ferns, dug up those awesome three foot blue hosta's and other smaller hosta's, and decided to resist the urge to dig up the Japanese maple. The hosta's were so huge they filled a Force Flex bag and poked out the top. The dogs were going to be crowded this time. But somehow, John figured out how to tuck ALL the perennials including the hosta's that were spilling out of the tied top of the garbage bag. The ferns were the only ones we were brutal to. I only wanted the rhizomes, and I knew I'd be back in the fall and would attempt to dig up a huge one to grow again. It would take my mattock to get it to release it's death grip this time.
Make the bed, close windows, sweep the sand out the door, we sat the picnic table outside for sister's renters, and the Adirondack chairs, then check windows again and I asked for one last walk to the top of the dune above the lake. So dogs and I went back up the driveway and I slid down the quick sands and sat on the warmth midway and watch as the dogs took off and ran the gulls and noticed the waves were more noticeable now, and I longed for a dip into the waters. No time, we had to return and Squire had to go back to work.
Now I wish I had convinced sons to come with us, but maybe another time. The cottage DOES have six beds and four bedrooms. And once Labor day and the Coast Guard Festival is over with, the town rolls up it's sidewalks and the lake is actually warmer and beaches less crowded, although my sister in law's beach is a private one and not crowded at all. With Squire's two best childhood friends just miles away to visit, we'd have more reasons to return anyway, as well as a great place to drag unsuspecting grand daughters (well, the oldest one had been, but she'd only been six) to cavort and have a rousing time.
I called the dogs, and wished I'd had a larger memory chip in the camera and they came immediately, somehow sensing that they had to really mind this time and I ran my fingers thru Sugar's coat and got all the sand out and played with Smeag as I noticed his shorter fur had no problems with sand and we headed down the driveway to the loaded van. One last check of everything, leave a light on and lock the main entrance door and we reluctantly climbed in and drove slowly down the shady and long driveway and entrance to the back of this dune and woods to the main road. Listen for approaching cars that come around the sharp curve just before the driveway, and we were off, back to Tennessee.
Somehow the trip back was quicker than the trip up, and this time there was no stopping to rest, only to let the dogs squat and fills of coffee. I'd talked John into letting me snag some stuff from Meijers before we left. He adore's ham loaf and I also had gotten my favorite spinach and cheese dip that is out of this world. Sweet cherries from the nurseries nearby were so cheap I'd gotten enough to last me the whole trip, I only regretted that blueberry season was a long way off. I can eat my weight in blueberries! Maybe when we return in the early fall.........if there are still some left.
We made our way down thru the flatlands and into familar roads and I didn't sleep this time but once, as the scenery passed by and reminded me of many trips years past, but without as many stores and buildings as now. The hills began to appear and the terrain started showing how the land still dominates no matter how hard we try and build and change it. We went over the Ohio River and I was once again impressed by Nature at her best. The hills were beginning to be more noticeable as we went thru the piece of Kentucky and more sharp sides of hills were returning and soon I knew by the smells that we were once again in Tennessee. Although I know that there are many wild flowers along the roadsides that are the same in Tennessee as there are in Michigan and along the way.
The miles slipped past quickly as we listened to a really good book on tape and only when we had to stop completely for a huge traffic jam and accident that had traffic at a complete standstill for over an hour did we completely stop. Somewhere between here and there, it had been bad enough that people got out and wandered around and talked to each other and even relaxed. It had clouded over and a few times the sky had opened up to rain warm large drops of wonderful smelling rains on everyone, with only a few who ran for cover to their cars and trucks. Most everyone laughed or stood enjoying the rains, they weren't pouring rains, just perfect for a quick and refreshing rinse on the skin.
The familiar mimosa's reminded me we were in warmer climates (no mimosa's in Michigan) and before I knew it we were close enough that the dogs actually started acting like they recognized the smells. And once we got to within 15 miles of home, they DID know and acted like antsy kids.
The heat was back, and the rains were behind us on our heels. I wanted to get home before the rains did and unload the van. I had also wanted to get home to check on the condition of my gardens and containers. See if there were dead fish in the BBQ frog fountain, see if son had killed off the inside fish, and if he'd cleaned the house like he'd promised while we were gone for the week. He'd been stranded with no transportation and had taken his last week of vacation to stay and care for the felines and my gardens and the fish.
Next time I'll do as I'd always done and take the cats with us. They hate traveling but adore the cottage and all that sand at their disposal. The two story cottage is a riot for them, with stairs and windows to sit in and enough beds for each to claim and snooze on, even one bed sits in a corner with a window and I remember one of my past cats who loved that cot against the corner window and always found her upstairs in HER bed. So taking the cats wouldn't be a problem next time . I was glad to be coming up the long dead end road and going to the top of the ridge and seeing those mountains south of us, and we stopped to get the day's mail from the huge box, let the dogs out in their game I've taught them of "release the HOUNDS!!!!" where they leap out of the side van door, tear down the driveway thru Miz Mary's yard nipping at each other's heels and then stopping only long enough to have a quick pee. Then chase each other, nipping at hams and back legs and necks and race around the end of Miz Mary's house past the junk and clutter to the driveway and down the driveway thru the gates to beat the van in it's journey to the house. Sugar always runs past, Smeagol loves to walk just in front of the van (I drive backwards all the way to the house,when I come home) as I back down to the house, but Squire was driving, so he walked alongside the van on the edge of the grass and as we came thru the gate, I noticed the vinca had finally murdered a whole clump of Zebra grass.........woah! well, we were back in Fairy Holler. Back to reality. And Southern Summer. And my fairy gardens were exploding everywhere.
A mad gardener with a mission, I went immediately into the house and plugged in the camera to unload the pictures onto the computer and then back out to unload the perennials and plants and call Ethyll. It was a good trip. I can't wait to have another adventure. Wait until Ethyll see's what I brought her back from Michigan! I can't wait to see her face.........
Thanks for allowing me to share those precious memories from almost two months ago. It's been waiting to get out thru my fingertips all this time.
madgardener, up on the ridge, back in Fairy Holler, overlooking English Mountain in Eastern Tennessee, zone 7, Sunset zone 36
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