Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A 'Seneca Lake Appreciation Day'

We declared a 'Seneca Lake Appreciation Day' last week before heading out to NYC for a quick weekend visit with Michael's relatives.

A SLAD day, for locals, means you ditch all lists, all chores, all those things that you should do but don't want to, and you head to the lake. And you know all your friends will too because the weather, finally, is great. And the lake is finally warm enough for us wimps to swim --- in the low 70s, at least.

At least this wimp.

We headed out on The Spirit of Louise, our pontoon boat, in early afternoon, catching up with another boatload of relatives and friends on Cousin Roger's dock. It was too windy for us to pull in so we kept heading south to Cousin Ruthie's dock.

We packed every possible fun thing into those seven hours that we could --- jet skis, swimming, skiing, dinner.

Had to. Rain was predicted again for the next day.

About seven or more hours later, we were safely home, flashlights back in the bag to get stashed back on The Spirit of Louise for the next unanticipated night run home.

Michael and I were motoring home long after sunset, beautiful pastels in the western sky and reflections across a pretty placid lake. Bats were flying alongside, looking for their nightly bug buffet. A couple of bonfires along shore.

And no other boats.

We took a moment to simply appreciate the place, the moment, the great extended family, the blessed life we lead. Then on up our 'goat path' from the lake to the house to review a long list of delayed chores and errands. Maybe manana?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Country living is not for wimps

I'm seriously considering moving back to the city where my anxieties will be confined to the possibility of a drive-by shooting or the quality of the air I breathe. When I'm city living, I forget about the underbelly of dealing with nature -- the storms, the incessant creepy-crawly-stingy things that like to live with us.

I'll report in reverse order.

Yesterday Michael decided to do a quick mow on the half-acre or so of grass that's been growing like gangbusters lately, before we headed down to the lake for an afternoon of boating.

Just as he's finishing the upper side yard, I see him race in the back door and into the kitchen to peel off his sock because something had bitten or stung him. Ten minutes later he's covered in hives and --- with brother Dan's urging (our family paramedic) --- we're racing to the local hospital in Watkins Glen.

It got serious enough to call 911 halfway down the hill when Michael starting complaining about serious chest pain. The ambulance grabbed him at the end of the lake, started an IV of benadryl, with steroids to follow. Apparently he was stung three times by a white wasp -- a big hatch of the nasty things are around this year and they must have a nest in the ground where he was mowing.

It's the exact same spot --- the base of the big sycamore tree --- that the yellowjackets nailed me last year. As we pulled out of the driveway, I heard Michael yell up there, "It's war now, buddies."

Poisons and fuel accelerants are being gathered for the midnight retaliation, now that he's home and recovering. The hospital photo shows him taking his Benadryl-induced nap.

The wasp incident followed a quick moving strong storm cell the day before that hit a narrow path of Valois and Hector on the east side of Seneca Lake. We watched it on the radar as the red part of the storm tagged us dead on, like a bullseye on a target. It's happened a few times this summer but this was the most dramatic.

Trees came down, the wind howled across the lake, lightening strikes every few seconds followed by loud rolling thunder. I've been in a lot of storms, some out on our boat in the ocean. This rivaled that kind of anxiety.

We looked out the window and up, up, up at the huge Sycamore tree that we've been talking about trimming for the past few years --- a tree that's been here for probably a hundred years. And the big pine trees and the several huge locust trees that are much higher than the house.

Now I understand why all the neighbors have clear cut around their property. Aha!

The big willow tree came down across the road just few houses down the hill from us, a tree that was also probably over a hundred years old. And a friend's willow tree that measured more than four and a half feet in diameter came down across his truck and his new lake cabin --- with them in it! Everyone's okay but boy, will they have stories to tell for the rest of their lives.

We've been aware of nature up close and personal from all our years of sailing. But then we would get off the boat and retreat to Sacramento, the great urban, comfortable escape, get complacent again.

But between Mexico and Valois, I'm feeling a bit like the early settlers. There's so much beauty in the life and the land we've chosen. But it sure comes with a creepy, crawly, stingy, windy reminder that there is probably no such thing as paradise.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Time to 'fiddle around' again

When we were getting ready to leave Mexico in May, I remember telling Michael that I was dreaming about being able to spend the summer playing my fiddle --- practicing, taking lessons, playing with friends.

More than a month later, I'm just putting down the project list and picking up the fiddle.

I've been playing music every other Friday night at a friend in Watkin's Glen. You never know who will show up, or what instrument they'll be playing but it's always fun and they're quite inclusive of all us newbies who are starting to play music late in life.

And I've played the violin a few times with cousin Brett and brother David, both professional caliber musicians, as we play some evenings by the campfire.

In early June I headed up to the top of the actual Glen --- of Watkins Glen fame --- for the Old-Time Fiddler's Gathering, with jams facilitated by the Valley Folk Music group. We were huddled under a big tent while thunderous rains rolled over the park, then cleared to a beautiful afternoon. Some excellent musicians were there and I learned some new tunes and made some local contacts.

In the second half of the video I've posted, the guy I was sitting next to (a great fiddler!) had just played with Jay Unger on his radio program the week before. Impressive! And I met Hope Grietzer, who gave us some quick pointers on how to add a little more fun to a tune. Hope has one of the best instruction books that I've found, including three CDs of songs. It has a great selection and it's really well organized. Practice has gotten a lot more interesting and fun.

When I'm struggling with the violin, I really question why I decided to pick up this difficult an instrument. But my spirit soars when I get to play music with friends. So I guess that's as good enough reason as any to keep practicing.

I've got a great network here in the Finger Lakes in New York. And there are a couple of groups that play together weekly in Sacramento, so I'm covered there. But I still haven't figured out who I'll play with in Mexico. I just don't have that mariachi thing down yet....

Here's a video from the Glen.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My mother, the ultimate collector

My mother was a collector of all things. Some of it was pretty good. Some of it was, well, interesting. And she was good at collecting. She pretty much filled up this little cottage of ours on Seneca Lake, starting, no doubt, when she purchased the place around 1960.

Michael and I have spent the past three years sorting, storing, and giving away box loads of interesting, cute, nifty, pretty things, trying to make a simple lake home for us and for family and friends.

But I've successfully avoid the kitchen project --- until now.

The first major kitchen improvement was to take down the bookshelf that divided the kitchen from the living room. Cousin Brett did a miraculous job of putting in a breakfast bar that opened the kitchen up to the living room, finishing it just days before the wedding guests started to arrive.

Unfortunately, it also opened up the view from the living room to the kitchen.

Uh oh.

Hadn't thought about that.

For the last week I've been sitting at the new, wonderful breakfast bar, making note to Michael that the kitchen shelves sure needed to be organized, sorted, cleaned, painted, you name it, and I sure should get to it.

But I didn't.

So my dear husband decided to help by forcing the timetable.

On Saturday I returned from some errands in Ithaca to discover mounds of kitchen stuff on tables under a tent in the driveway. The kitchen was relatively unusable. The pressure was now on and the project wasn't getting any easier during the daily rainfalls.

The avoidance factor for the project was knowing I would have to take the time to decide that, yes, I'll keep that little oblong dish from the Mark Twain Hotel that someone probably lifted 40 years ago. And that cute little glass bowl that doesn't match anything else, so it goes. And maybe I'll really still use that little antique syrup pitcher.


And, really, most of the stuff was/is pretty neat. There is just too damn much of it. When my mother was alive it was painful for her to give away things, or watch me give her things away. I used to agree with her that, yes, it was a treasure. It's just that now it was going to be someone else's treasure.

So, I'm happy to report that it's Tuesday afternoon and the kitchen shelves are back up and beautiful! Even with some empty shelves yet to be filled! And someone will be getting a box of some of our kitchen 'treasures'.

And I don't want to hear one word about the horrendous job waiting for us in the cellar. I can't see it... so maybe next year?

Today we've got more important work to do. The black raspberries are ripe in the vineyard above the house and we have some jam and pie requests to fill.

The new, improved kitchen, with shelves to spare!

Postscript: Check Michael's blog for the day-to-day news from life in New York. His blog is much more up-to-date than mine.