A View from the Cottage

February 6th, 2014

Beside the Inland Sea by Gretchen N. Paprocki:

A review by David Deedon

It has been more than half a century since I last wrote a book review. Not only that, but Beside the Inland Sea is a book I would never have picked up to read, let alone purchase. So why did I buy and read this book?  And why did I choose to attempt to tell you about it when my writing is generally fiction or humorous (or both)?

Gretchen Paprocki and I never met. She passed away from brain cancer about a year before I joined a writing group. Her husband, Doug Paprocki, was in the group for, I believe, the express purpose of “labor(ing) to suitably convey in finished form Gretchen’s impassioned endeavor and to provide an epilogue to our having sold the cottage.” Those are Doug’s words in the Afterword of Beside the Inland Sea. So, for roughly three years, twice a month, I heard part of the manuscript read by Doug to the group.

Even though I fully expected to enjoy the book, based on what Doug had read to the group, my first thought of purchasing it was to support Doug just as I would hope to be supported by those who know me, if I ever publish any of my writings. Actually reading the book was a bonus. It was truly enjoyable and informative. Having read this fine narrative, I felt an obligation to pass on my impressions to all who would listen or would read this.

The ‘Inland Sea’ of the title is, indeed, a freshwater sea. We know it as Lake Michigan. From the Introduction to the Afterword, and in each of the twenty chapters in between, each of which have one word titles, you will learn how nature changes the landscape at the shoreline as well as back from the shore in the woods. You will also see the results of man’s activities and how it may override, or at least redirect nature’s efforts.

The book starts with the history of the reshaping and resizing the Lake Michigan Dunes at Muskegon County, Michigan. Wind, waves and water levels cause constant change in the dunes and the amount of actual beach below the cottage where the Paprockis spent much time over a quarter century period.

Not only does Gretchen Paprocki give the natural history of the area for that quarter of a century, but she gives some general history for a much longer period. This includes the ownership history of the cottage, nearby cottages and the woods behind Paprocki’s living quarters.

Throughout the book, Paprocki explores a variety of natural happenings at the dunes and in the woods back of the cottage they inhabited. Included is the migration of birds from the area, to the area, and those just passing through the area.

She also covers other wild life forms such as Deer Mouse, Grey Squirrels and White-tailed Deer. And, of course, there is an abundance of variety of rooted life — plants. She writes of events such as which plants come up first each spring and the effect of the lumber harvesting from decades ago. Even the lowly lichen, moss and fungi, along with their place in the ecology, are covered.  Some are pictured and you might be surprised to see how colorful some of the fungi are.

My review may not do justice to the Paprockis’ talents so I must put in some straight forward statements that will help you understand what the rest of the review is trying to present.

First, I said “the Paprockis”, rather than just Mrs. Paprocki, because Doug was the photographer for the book, he finished preparing the book for publication and he wrote the Afterword. All together, his contributions were substantial.

The writing is descriptive beyond, well, beyond description. It is easy to visualize the beach, the woods, the cottage, the plants, the birds and the animals.  One can almost hear the birds as one reads her descriptions of the songs being sung by them.

The book would have stood tall without any pictures, but the 256 pages contain over 100 excellent photographs of the subjects. These beautiful photographs greatly enhanced an already great book.

This is a must read for anyone who would like to live in, or even visit, a Lake Michigan Dunes or a location such as the Paprockis cottage in western Michigan.

Beside the Inland Sea is published by Arbutus Press of Traverse City, Michigan and should be available at any good book store.  It is available at amazon.com.

Sleeping on the Sofa

December 1st, 2013

I know what you’re thinking. You are wondering what David did to cause Margaret to send him away from his comfortable bed and out to the living room. Most of you are thinking he has been messing around with another woman and got caught.

Well, you’re wrong. I didn’t get caught. I mean, I did not mess around with any other woman. I wrote the vows Margaret and I recited at our marriage ceremony and I meant every word of them. When I said, “. . . give you myself, my life and my love till death shall separate us. I vow to forsake all others and let none come between us.” I meant every word and death has not yet separated us so the vows still stand.

Now, don’t you all feel a little sheepish for having doubted me? Well, you should!

So now that you’ve accepted that I’m not a cheating rat you are probably still trying to figure out what sin I did commit to get ousted from my sleeping place. Did I get drunk and do some foolish thing that landed me behind bars for a night? No. I’m a non-drinker and have not had an alcoholic drink in more than 35 years.

Did I go on a gambling spree and blow next months mortgage? No. Although I enjoy a certain amount of gambling, I do very little of it. I don’t even buy lottery tickets.

Maybe I went out and made a major purchase of some item Margaret just does not think we need and can’t justify the spending for it. Well, you could have me here. But you don’t — not this time. I have been known to make purchases against Margaret’s will, but never got ejected from our bed for it. At least not yet.

If all of the above applies to you, that is to say if you’ve been thinking all those negatives  about my character, you may be one of those persons who get all their exercise jumping to conclusions.

I’ve been sleeping on the sofa so Margaret can sleep better. I’ve had a cold or flu or some other temporary health disaster and my coughing all night long made it very difficult for Margaret to sleep. She didn’t kick me out, I volunteered to sleep on the sofa.

It has been tough for both of us. She still woke up sometimes when I coughed but not as much as she would were I laying beside her where I belong.

Everyday I would try to figure out what the problem was or some way to make me either get better or at least feel better.

Because of my sore throat I wanted smooth foods to eat. I asked Margaret to buy me some pudding. Because of high sugar content and the fact that we know artificial sweeteners to be even worse than sugar, she did not.

My forehead felt a bit warmer than is the norm so I checked my body temperature. It was 99.2 degrees. Nothing to be concerned about with that number.

After a few days and nights of this I thought I had the solution. Being an RN, I thought Margaret could administer this solution. I asked her to put me into a coma until this ended. She did not do it.

I checked my blood pressure. The systolic was higher than the diastolic. Nothing wrong with those numbers.

Margaret came home telling me about an incident with her two year old patient and chocolate pudding. All I could think of was to ask if there were any left-overs? No.

I checked my pulse. It was higher than my waist and less than my weight. Nothing wrong with those numbers.

I walked past the open bedroom door. I stopped. I looked in. I said, wistfully, “That used to be my bed.”

Margaret told me my cough was getting better. Of course it was, I’ve been practicing a lot.

I checked my temperature, blood pressure and pulse. Added them together and divided by my shoe size. The answer was just above my body mass index. Nothing wrong with those numbers.

I must be healthy, I just think I’m sick. Oh, dear! So I guess I have an even worse disease than the flu. Hypochondria. It has to be worse than the flu. Look at how much longer the name is.

So as I bring this to a close, I know some of you are wondering: Is he still sleeping on the couch?

I shall bring in the famous, 20th century poet, Derby (1941 to present — and beyond — I hope.  If not I may fall dead at your feet at any moment.)  Here is Derby’s poem “Questions” in answer to your question of where I am now sleeping.

Questions

It is good to ask questions,
With answers your knowledge will grow.
But pass this thought through your inquisitive mind:
Not all facts are yours to know.

Halloween

October 31st, 2013

Trick or treat. Trick or treat is actually blackmail. Give me a treat or I’ll pull a trick on you. If the extortion laws were fully enforced, the Juvie Courts would be very busy in early November.

In my dad’s day, I’ve been told, the trick was to push over the outhouse. That would have been very embarrassing to an occupant. It would not work today as it would be difficult to push over a modern bathroom.

In my youth the trick was to soap up windows on cars and houses.  Since soap washes off easily, this was no big deal, except when one of the little monsters substituted wax for soap.

If not satisfied with the booty they receive from you, today’s generation of spooks and goblins are likely to egg your car or distribute a few rolls of toilet paper to the branches of your favorite tree.

Good things and bad things happen on Halloween. Read the rest of this entry »

The Speech

October 9th, 2013

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening.
When I wrote this speech I did not know what time of day I’d be delivering it. Or, for that matter, why I’d be delivering it.

First things first.  I am not a comedian.  So if you feel the need to laugh, grin or smile at anything I say, please suppress such needs or you will insult me and embarrass yourself.  This is a serious talk. Read the rest of this entry »

A Story for the Twins

September 16th, 2013

My youngest sister, Dawn, and her twin girls, Anna and Samantha, came from Seattle for a visit. They flew from Seattle to O’Hare airport where they rented a car. When I say “they’ I mean Dawn rented a car.  The twins are only twenty years old — that is, ten years each.

Using the rented car they went up to Zion, Illinois, to spend time with one of our brothers, Skip. Then on Saturday, the three ladies came to Lafayette to visit Margaret and me. We had met the twins a couple of times at family reunions.  I had met Dawn a lot of times — especially in the first three years of her life while I still lived at home with our parents.

We adults all enjoyed each others company and played catchup on our lives while the girls played with dolls and other toys they had brought along. We went out to supper and came back to the house for a while before Dawn and the twins went to their motel.

While I was happy for the conversations with Dawn, I think it was the disappointment in having had so little interaction with my nieces that started me thinking about telling them a story. Read the rest of this entry »

A Trip and a Quiz

August 5th, 2013

Let’s take a little trip.

Following is a list of 23 cities and towns we will visit. The list is in alphabetical order. It is highly unlikely we would travel to these areas in the order listed as I am sure it would make the trip much longer than if we were to take the time to plan our route for efficiency of travel.

This is just a pretend trip so you won’t need a passport. In fact you won’t even need a pretend passport as we won’t be pretending to leave the United States of America. Read the rest of this entry »

Two Masters

July 9th, 2013

Random Thought Series

“Man cannot serve two masters”

I guess that’s why bigamy is illegal.

Goodbye, Slim Whitman

June 22nd, 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013, Otto Dewy Whitman, Jr. died of heart failure. He had been born on January 20, 1923. He was ninety years old. His professional name was Slim Whitman.  Slim’s wife, Jerry, died in 2009. They had been married for 67 years.  He left a daughter, Sharon, and a son, Byron.

Slim was known as a country or country and western singer, a folk singer and a yodeler. He did all of this but he did much more.  His country music was not hillbilly music.  Although he sang many sad songs about lost loves, etc. he did not sing the HonkyTonk that was so popular on the country stations in the fifties and sixties.

Most of the time when I hear a singer perform a song that was made popular by somebody else, I compare the versions and almost always find what I believe to be the original to be the best.  Not so with Slim Whitman. Read the rest of this entry »

A World Full of Questions – A Hand Full of Answers

June 17th, 2013

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning a voyage to Mars in the 2030s. When the NASA capsule lands there, they may find sixteen or more Earthlings already settled in.

Mars One is a Dutch nonprofit organization that is planning to send four Earthlings to the red planet in the year of 2023. The idea is to colonize our neighbor. If all goes well they will be sending another four astronauts every two years until…maybe forever.

Speaking of forever, that is how long these space travelers will stay on Mars, in all likelihood. There are no specific plans to ever bring the Mars One colonists back to mother Earth. Read the rest of this entry »