feeling the slow

veru1_10_19aI recently got to do a few miles on the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail. This time of year, it’s rather a lonely place, but I did spy shoe prints, bicycle tracks, and both dog and deer prints in the places where snow still covered the trail.

The day was not actually terribly cold, but it felt like it, with the biting wind. My hands felt frozen inside my gloves, and I dearly wished I had brought a scarf. Nevertheless, as always, it felt so good to be in motion and close to nature.

I wished I could just keep going. When the warm days come, I would love to take my bicycle and do the length of the thing. It traverses the country fields and woods, and a number of small towns. In all, this particular trail extends some 42 miles.

I love the little ghosty things you notice along some of these trails – artifacts of their previous life as a railroad. It’s always delightful to spot an old mile post marker, or to see pieces of the old ties off in the brush. Sometimes there are the empty buildings that obviously stood where they did precisely because of access to the railroad. They had a life, once, and held lives.

I love all that ghosty stuff.

There’s less and less of it, I notice. Progress seems to mean getting rid of things, or updating them to look like something else.

veru1_10_19bAs everything seems to go faster and deeper into all things technology and capitalized, there is something about feeling the slow. When you stand still in those places, it’s the life, the people, you feel. It’s the evidence of personal things, hands-on stuff, the actual relationships that played out in those places that somehow strike one.

As the trail comes into a busier town, it makes me feel more absent, more anonymous, more unseen. Here, there are actual people, not just evidence of them, but there’s a kind of disconnect. They are coming and going, looking at their phones, and hurrying along to the next… what? But I suppose that’s just the way it was, at least in some respects, way back when.

I can’t help but wonder what will we see along the trail some day when we look back.

on the Pere Marquette trail


veru10_14_18aPere Marquette Rail Trail made for a lonely sojourn in the cooler temperatures this weekend. Lonely was just fine with me, allowing me to soak in the solace of nature and all the autumn beauty. It was a peaceful and soul-warming place to be, far from the endless stream of stress in which we all seem to be caught up lately.

The trail is a long one (30 miles), and I only did a short portion of it, but it was just the fix I needed.

Leaves and pine needles scattered themselves along the trail. Water burbled along underneath an old railroad span. I tucked my hands down in my jacket pockets with the chill.

Geese flew overhead, calling out enroute. They are like old friends to me.

Another sound captured my attention on the part of the trail close to town – the brisk clop-clop of a horse pulling an Amish buggy mixing it up with traffic along the side of a nearby roadway. I noticed with interest that seeing something like that through vegan eyes evokes a feeling that is a far cry from the quaint charm it might have evoked at one time.


So, too, the calves in their little individual sheds that I saw on my way to the trail.

There was a time when I would feel a simple delight in such scenes. No more. I am too conscious now of the suffering inherent in our use of animals. The animals themselves, though, do inspire with their individual beauty and selves.

My trail excursion came after a thoughtful visit to a small church. A mere handful of people came together there, along with two small dogs that had the run of the place. It was the closest picture of community I’ve come across in quite a while. 

For all our memberships and ‘involvement’ in things, we’re increasingly isolated by divisive rhetoric, fear, and the stamp of our personal value in terms of purchase or production – in this world where our very selves are commodified. Churches are not exempt from the phenomena, all too often both generating and exacerbating them.

Happily, this little glimpse into a functional community revealed none of that.

This was just a few people wanting to do good in this world, in the simplest of ways – together.

It was a nice picture to carry with me onto the trail. The peace and beauty of the place, coupled with that picture, translated into a hopeful feeling.

People – wanting to do good in this world, in the simplest of ways. Together.

Kinda sounds like a plan, you know?

Woolly Bear on the move


You know Mother Nature is at work when you go to place your foot on the trail and there, poised unwittingly directly in the path of your oncoming sole, you find a Woolly Bear caterpillar inching its way along.

The Woolly Bear caterpillar is the larval stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth. It’s not an uncommon sight as autumn comes on. The caterpillar is on a mission.

veru9_11_18cThe Woolly Bears are out and about this time of year for the same reason so many creatures in Michigan begin to get a move on. The caterpillars are locating their overwintering spot, likely in the shelter of leaves, rocks, or wood.

My first Woolly Bear of the season took me by surprise by sporting an entirely rust-colored coat. I’m accustomed to seeing them banded at each end with black.

There’s lore about the coloration of these little dudes. The more ‘rust’ coloration they have, the milder the winter will be – so goes the thought. If that’s the case, this little Woolly Bear I chanced upon suggests a mild winter indeed. 

Folklore aside, the solid rust coloration is actually the result of multiple moltings. According to Peterson Field Guides Eastern Moths by Charles V. Covell, Jr.:

Colors change as caterpillars molt to successive instars, becoming less black and more reddish as they age.  Thus differences in color merely reflect age difference among larvae as they prepare to overwinter and are not a reliable indicator of the severity of the winter to come.

It’s pretty amazing when you think about it that these little guys will find their spot and manage to weather a Michigan winter. 

Then, come spring, they’ll spin their cocoon. Ultimately, voila, we have the Isabella Tiger Moth for a brief soujourn.

Who needs football or Netflix when you have this kind of magic around to observe?



The rain clears, and I am out the door.

veru9_2_18bMy feet carry me along the city streets. It’s a sleepy place this morning, but it’s still too much city for me.

“The world is too much with us,” I hear Wordsworth in my head.

And it really is.

I am unsettled, impatient, searching for that groove in my soul. But today, my locomotion fails to answer.

I go from block to block, watching where my feet are taking me. I notice a few pine cones, fallen leaves. I glance up onto manicured lawns, landscaped houses. It makes me tired.

I remember a house that gave their front yard over to a vegetable garden. I head that way, but find it, unsurprisingly, in an end-of-season riot of weeds and tired plants.

I scan the treetops along the streets. With the sun full out, I see the beginnings of autumn in them. A few leaves going yellow here, rusty-red there.

I keep going, searching, searching for that meditative stride – the fix. The world pushes in at me, though. I see cement, asphalt, bricks, blocks, and a whole lot of plastic. Plastic benches, plastic fencing, planters… flamingos and frogs. I am careful at the corners as cars lurch past.

An hour later, I am still searching but arrive back at my place anyway, heralded by the big silver maple.

And then I see them.


The monarch butterflies are staying over at the silver maple today. I see one first. As I approach, it flutters up along with several others. I realize I am seeing monarch butterflies all over the tree.

They rest among the leaves for awhile, and then they flit upward, almost sparkling in the sunshine, before settling down on another branch.

If I look long enough at any area of the tree, I see them. Sometimes they are perched in a little group together along a branch.

And then the next thing you know, surprise, up they go and everyone trades places to settle down somewhere else on the same tree.

I stand outside wandering beneath the tree, looking up into its branches, like a child.

My impatience with the world evaporates up through the leaves, and I stretch my wings with the butterflies.


you are here

veru9_1_18aToday, it’s raining.

It’s one of those light, steady rains that’s not going away.

Having recently reached an agreement with myself to get outside and walk or run every day, I pull on my windbreaker and head out.

The river that runs through the park flows swiftly in places, roiling over the hidden rocks. Eddies churn in the various corners of the route. Other spots are flat and still, quietly dotted with raindrops.

Along the edges, everything looks so dark and so green. It makes me realize how close we are coming to the change of seasons.


People blast music out from under the protection of the park’s pavilion. The smoke of barbecue wafts through the air. Snippets of laughter and chatter bite the atmosphere, eerily crisp and distinct.


On the other side of the wide expanse, another pavilion is draped with white. A crowd gathers there for a wedding, folks struggling hastily with their dressy attire in the rain.

I silently skitter along the path, noticing the cabbage butterfly flitting among the viney greens, the pair of ducks nestled against the far shore of the river.

Thunder rumbles.

veru9_1_18bA small boy rides his bicycle up and down, up down through the empty skate park. He halts and looks warily at me as I pass.

“Looks like fun,” I smile at him.

He suddenly brightens all over and smiles back.

“Thank you!” His little voice sounds surprised and hopeful and suddenly proud.

No, today, I didn’t bother worrying about pace or posture, I just made sure I got outside and moved. And I knew why it is so worth it. It’s the magic of that gentle, affirming connection with what’s out there – the earth, the sky, the air.  And the occasional soul.

march eight two thousand one

We had named it long before we ever set eyes on it. To the boys it was a certainty; to me it was just a dream. Then, one day we drove by at 55 miles per hour. It was AW who turned the car around, drove up to it, and knew it for what it was. It was our place, our dream, our hope, A’s harbor, and J’s low-tech farm. To AW, it was perhaps unfettered messing about with old cars. It was every invention the boys had ever imagined. To me it was … open windows in the summer, birds wheeling overhead, space, time, freedom, paint on canvas, love.

And to all of us it was a delightful, unfolding mystery. We had no idea at the start of it all what a mystery it was. The house itself was at once a naked statement and a truly guarded secret. The past it held was hidden from us, but tempted us and drew us in. The land and its relationships, its actions, seemed so apparent from the road as we drove past, but proved to be a complex puzzle and, in a way, one that couldn’t be solved – though that was the daily battle.

Now, though still new to this life, we are immersed in it. We find that after all the other paths we walked down, and there were many, this one is new and it’s fresh and it’s a little scary.

One day, as the windows of my bedroom blinked without opinion upon me poised silently on my knees, I heard two words. My heart paces a little now as I think of it.

I am still wondering about those words. I’ve waited a while to comply, but comply I must. Halfway will not do the job.

Pray. Write. It almost frightens me to say it.

Pray. Write.

The prayers flowed, but the ink would not. Write. Write about what? Why should I write? What do I have to say? What, may I ask, do You have to say? There are many messages I could send with my pen. Unfortunately, it has been my conviction that the truths I’ve arrived at would just drift off into space rather than explode with effect on my targets.

Perhaps, though, it is possible that a finger is poised near the veil, ready to lift it off and let one see. I suppose that means I should be very careful about my target and my intent. I think I know, however, that it is not my intent at all here. And not knowing or understanding the will of that intent, but in humility and fear, I will write with love, out of love. Perhaps I may even find that it is I who wears the veil.

Writing is a journey in itself.

Words discovered hand-written on the two sides of a single page buried in what appeared to be a new notebook, the one I took with me to start my new job.

Pray. Write.

waves in the dark

I lay alone in this embracing bed, listening to the steady, relentless pacing of the waves. They come no matter what. Lake Michigan, deep and dark, mysterious and intimate, speaks to me beyond the safety of my gable room. In the dark, I get up to stand at the window. I can see the night-lit waves, the white of the rollers driving, completely unstoppable,  to the shore, pushed by a not-taking-no-for-an-answer wind.

The winter cold, the wind, the night. It changes nothing. You just navigate it.

I feel my hand on the helm, my body both tired and alert, cold all through. Almost frightened, but comfortable just the same, trusting in the dark – my compass, the sails, the rudder, the charts, my self. The boat just goes. I feel the cold wind on my face. I ache. I scan the dark, all I see and feel is the rolling of those waves. My eye watches the fill of the sail, the cockpit lifts me up, we slide and skid along as the night black water presses us up, up and then dishes us out for just a moment before the next push. The water hisses.

We are all alone here, me and the low light of the compass, in this vast, mysterious plane of constant motion. I have what I need. I am alive.


free to leave

printsThe snow stole in overnight and neatly laid down about a half a foot of snow all over everything. The wind followed, shaping drifts and rearranging the landscape. It carried on through the morning.

I looked out my window, and I could see my neighbor out in his unplowed driveway. He had his red pickup truck with the camper on it. For weeks now, that camper has been sitting by itself in the driveway.

Henry bought both the truck and the camper not all that long ago so that he could execute his plan to get out of here. The dream was to get to Florida, and to set up there and just live simply in his little camper, go fishing, that sort of thing. He figured he could make a living diving, because he had training in some kind of diving work.

It was an angry dream. He’s been hell bent on it for at least a few years.

Divorced I don’t know when, Henry moved in some years ago with his daughter and his motorcycle. He always laughed, and always smiled, and always swaggered. He worked hard, and commuted long to make things go. When someone hit a deer in front of my place and left it in the ditch, he was all over the fresh kill. He threw parties in the summer, where he did all the cooking, laughing all the while his motorcycle buddies drank beer and ate up.

When Henry’s daughter was about 16, she started hanging out with boys. Then, she started telling lies, and spending overnights somewhere else. When she turned 18, she up and moved out to live with her boyfriend. And Henry was just finally done.

That’s when he started trying to escape. First, he moved into a rented trailer inside a pole barn near his work during the winter, so he didn’t have to commute all the time. The commute was like an hour and a half.

Then, he got a boat. It was a power boat with a name like Happy Hooker, and the plan was to live on it. Which he did for one summer, again at a place closer to work.

But underneath it, he was still just angry. He told me there was nothing here and why would you stay. There are no jobs. And you can’t sell a house around here, so maybe he’d just board it up and leave, don’t you know. And women, well, he was just done with them. Still, it took him a few years, a lot of disappointment, and a relentless childlike hope, to get him out in that driveway yesterday.

He didn’t say goodbye. I knew when I saw him out there in all that snow, checking and doublechecking, making trips inside the house and back to the camper. He was finally Florida-bound.

He must have quit his job and his long commute, and finally said what the hell. And I don’t know who it was, but a woman hopped into the passenger seat. Maybe in the end it wasn’t desperation in the driver’s seat after all.

The red truck backed out through all the swirling snow, and left. Could be all the anger’s just sitting in the driveway, left for the wind to do its work on it. I hope so.

Happy trails, Henry.

Snow fog, impromptu lakes, Ruiz and equal rights

IMG_7248Yeah, so the arctic blast was followed up this morning with lightning, thunder and rain. This afternoon, the warm temps are wafting what snow remains into fog. Elsewhere, the melted snow is flooding into seemingly spontaneous lakes, one of which is in my front yard, and others which are stretching across the roadways. Although the roads are for the most part clear, my driveway is a slippery, wet, icy mess. When I went to leave this morning, I backed up, applied the brakes, and …just… kept… going. Thought I would crash into something, but managed to avoid it. Ah, the joys of Michigan winters.

I was supposed to run with my buddies today once the lightning subsided, and I was all prepared to do it. Looking forward to it, in fact. There is nothing I like better than feeling all intrepid by running in weather. Nevertheless, power was out in some places and one of my buddies couldn’t get out of the garage and well, you know, …. run was cancelled. I suppose, I suppose I could have run anyway, but it just quashed all my ambition,

My thoughts are all over the map today. One is on a book I plan to read shortly, inspired by (thank you very much) a post from the delightful Disashi Soul. I like the premise of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz as described on Amazon. 1. Be impeccable with your words. 2. Don’t take anything personally. 3. Don’t make assumptions. 4. Always do your best.  What’s not to like? I will read the book, and let you know.

IMG_7251Another thought on my mind, of course, completely unrelated. That would be the 26th Amendment to the Constitution. When I was in my teens, I remember campaigning for this constitutional amendment. I remember that with soldiers dying in Vietnam, it did not make sense to me that some of them never had the right to vote in the country for which they died. Others felt the same way, and ultimately the amendment giving the right to vote at 18 was ratified and adopted.

Okay. I still have issues. This time it would be with our inability to ratify and adopt the simple language of the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA has languished for decades as our country can’t quite bring itself to say, “Yeah, we’re all equal.”  Really, what is wrong with us that we cannot, in all these years, manage to say that our constitution views us all equally, regardless of gender? It makes me feel embarrassed, ashamed for us. Everyone likes to act like we have this great, forward-thinking country, and yet the very basis of things is flawed because we can’t handle a simple step like this. And yes, this is on women as well as men.

Women, where are our voices? We’re a little more than half of the population of the country. We have jobs, we parent, we fight and die for our country, and yay, we can vote, but our own constitution stops short of acknowledging we are equal. The fact that the language as been on the line for decades but couldn’t quite get ratified tells us that at least some people believe we are not equal, and by their ability to hold sway, we are not.  Well, come on. This is just asinine. We may have ways we’re different, but we’re all people here.

Perhaps rather than attending Super Bowl parties we should be out campaigning for this very most fundamental issue that affects us and our progeny. How is it that we can all rally around inane things like the Super Bowl, but there’s precious little momentum for our rights, or for peace, justice, you know, that sort of thing?

This is not to disparage the efforts of those who do have the courage and focus to be out there on the issues, but it is a call for the rest of us to wake up.

And yes, there are plenty of men who get the equality issue. Nevertheless, all I keep hearing on this subject from the male, ahem,  leadership in this country is the furthering of crap legislation that is actively anti-woman. That would be from every level of government, including my own and other states’ shameful efforts against women, allowed to move apace despite pushback from the electorate. What the hell?  Or how about religious leadership that actively seeks to put women down and essentially, do them harm? Yeah, the Catholic male-led hierarchy may be leading the pack in this, but they have plenty of company across the board in organized religion. It’s. Not. Okay.

Find your voice. You can sign the petition to support the ERA here. It’s fundamental. It’s what civilized people want, male or female.


winterchairYes. I realize I am hibernating. It’s not exactly by choice, but it is by nature. Here in Michigan, we forge ahead every winter as if nothing’s any different. But, dammit, it’s cold and it’s dark. That’s just a fact. A good percentage of time, the roads just really shouldn’t be driven. We do it anyway. We do everything – anyway. We get up in the dark, go to work in the dark, and leave for home in the dark. I’ve really had it up to here. It’s the dark more than the cold that bothers me, but the whole cold thing cannot be ignored either.

I just checked, and they’re getting about 1.5 hours more daylight at the tip of Florida right now. Not that I’d like to move to Florida. But really.

Okay so this whole dark thing actually does have an effect on me. It makes me pull inward, and, yes, I just want to hibernate. So, I’m acknowledging it instead of trying to pretend it’s not happening. In that spirit, I spent the day nestled within the walls of my abode – packing to leave.  And it was very productive.

It’s not so much packing, as getting ready to pack up. I have to sort through my stuff and toss, donate, or prepare to take with. I made very good progress in this effort today. It’s getting less and less difficult to realize that I can part with most of the stuff I’ve been keeping around for, like, ever. And it feels great to simplify.

I have now galvanized in my determination to leave this place. If the dark winters and my own personal experience weren’t enough motivation, the Michigan legislature has sent a clear message to me that they neither value my opinion or existence, nor do they care if I or anyone else is able to get a job that can pay the bills. After their $1.7 billion gift to business, followed up nicely with Right to Work, and tax changes now taking effect, the regular working joe here in the state this year is paying more taxes and working longer and harder for less – if, indeed there is a job to be had. And if you’re a woman, they’ve spelled it out that you just don’t count, because they’ve taken away options for dominion over your own body – as if that was ever any of their business.  Education is being profitized, to what end we may all imagine. And, as for a simple little thing like the idea of a republic, the Michigan legislature made it clear during the wild ride of their lame duck session that they have nothing but utter contempt for the will of the voters. If anyone had any doubts about that, the reinstatement of the ‘tweaked’ Emergency Manager law after the voters specifically nixed it on referendum should have made that crystal clear.

So much for reinventing Michigan and bringing the economy back. It’s reinvented alright. Pure Michigan and all that. As far as I’m concerned, with this Neanderthal approach to governance, they may as well put up a dead end sign at the state line, or at least a warning for poor innocents to stay away. Certainly career-minded women anyway. Or students. Or seniors. Or just people who want a decent job and a career path.

So, I don’t mean to be all crabby about this, but there it is. I’d like to be all hopeful about it, but, you know, it is winter here. Like I mentioned.

Actually, I’m pretty happy right now despite it all. Sorting and packing is giving me some peace after a long struggle. Now that I’ve made up my mind, I’m going to try to expedite. It’s a big job, but it’s worth it. Indeed, it’s become imperative.

Oh, in other matters, had a great run yesterday with my crew. We covered about 6.5 miles, most of which was merely wet instead of out and out icy. It was a gift. The ice is back tomorrow.