September 8, 2010

Extreme Weather

Posted in Holidays, Weather tagged , , , , , , , , , at 7:17 pm by Liliana

Extreme Weather

Extreme Weather

My family and I spent last week at our cottage near Lake Michigan. It was a relaxing, quiet week.

The first few days were hot and humid. The lake water was warm and I spent hours swimming or walking on the beach.  I tried reading but the heat was oppressive and all I wanted to do was nap. I sat or lay in the sun and went in and out of sleep. It was hard to imagine that any other kind of weather had ever enveloped this lake. Summer heat was the only reality we knew.

On Thursday evening there was a large and violent storm. The rain poured out of water-logged skies. Thunder shook our cottage and lightening illuminated the windows. Curtains manically danced in the wind as did papers, books and anything caught in the breeze.

I am not afraid of storms, in fact I love them. But this storm was so powerful and out of control, it made me uneasy. I stayed awake for a long time, keeping vigil over my family.

As we slowly started moving around the cottage the following morning, we seemed to have entered an entirely new season. The house was cold. Not a little cold, not just a bit chilly, but brisk in a way we have not had a chance to get accustomed to. I pulled on a pair of pants, a sweatshirt and a sweater. Nena put on a pair of her softest, warmest socks.

Sam suggested that we turn on the heat. It seemed to me a preposterous idea to turn the heat on when only the day before we were bemoaning the fact that our cottage had no air-conditioning. But finally, I relented. We turned the thermostat to sixty eight and right away, we all felt more comfortable. We spent the day inside, on couches, under blankets, reading and watching movies.

I cannot remember that I have ever witnessed such a sudden transition of extremes. It’s hard to know how to interpret all these changes.


August 29, 2010

Long, Hot, Busy Summer

Posted in Holidays tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 3:53 pm by Liliana

Walking by the lake

Walking by the lake

This has not been a summer to sit in the hammock and relax – not for my family, nor for me.

It has been a wonderful, eventful and adventurous summer.

But it has not been the kind of summer I have always idealized – long, lazy days of idling, reading, talking, napping, cooking, swimming, thinking. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had that kind of summer since I was seventeen years old. But I always have it in the back of my mind, a vision to relish and idealize.

These are some of the things we did do this summer:

I am sure that I am forgetting something, but right now, I can’t think of anything else.

The fact is, I am on vacation this week. I am at our cottage near Lake Michigan, relaxing and idling to my heart’s content.

This is how I hope to spend the time.

  • Sitting on the front porch for hours, drinking coffee and looking at the birds pecking seeds from the bird feeder.
  • Walking by the lake in the early mornings or at sunset.
  • Swimming in the warm lake water.
  • Talking to my daughter about the newest books she’s read and the latest songs she’s been singing.
  • Reading.
  • Buying fresh produce at the farmer’s market.
  • Cooking something new and unexpected.
  • Congregating at the long dining table with my family, eating a beautiful meal.
  • Talking.
  • Watching a good movie at the old movie theater, eating tons of popcorn.
  • Walking to our favorite ice cream store on a hot afternoon. Eating nothing but coconut ice cream.

Happy Summer to all!

July 29, 2010

Oil Spill in Michigan

Posted in Breast Cancer, Cancer, Health, News tagged , , , , , , , at 6:41 am by Liliana

Detail Map of Michigan

Detail Map of Southwestern Michigan

A state of emergency has been declared in southwest Michigan’s Kalamazoo County.

Last Monday, July 26th, 2010, more than 800,000 gallons of oil have leaked into a local creek when an oil pipeline sprung a leak. The pipeline is owned by Enbridge Energy Partners, of Houston.

The oil is now heading downstream the Kalamazoo River.

Kalamazoo River flows into Lake Michigan only 60 miles away in the town of Saugatuck.

The pipeline has been shut down, but the damage is already done. Officials are fearing contamination of local water supplies. Residents of the area have reported strong noxious fumes, and wildlife soaked in oil.

My daughter Nena and her fiancé Peter have been staying in our cottage near Lake Michigan, not far from the spill. They had planned to move to New Orleans in the fall, but I was trying to dissuade them.

Worried about health effects from the oil spill, I believed it would be much safer for them to stay in Michigan.

Source:  Kalamazoo Gazette

Source: The New York Times

June 6, 2010

My Front Porch

Posted in Children, Family, Holidays, Home tagged , , , , , , , , at 6:51 am by Liliana

Front porch

Nicky painting; Grandpa and Sam playing chess

Sitting on the front porch of my little cottage near Lake Michigan is one of my favorite activities.

The porch is spacious enough to hold a large wicker sofa that we got from my friend Jan. Next to it we have placed an old blue bench that we cover with soft cushions. All around are chairs – from rockers to cheap IKEA models. In the middle of this grouping sits a little table just waiting for that coffee cup or a tall lemonade glass.  My husband Jeff had put the table together from a hand painted metal platter that my friend Ann gave us as a housewarming gift and a metal base that I found in a junkyard. They fit together beautifully.

On the other side of the porch, there is room for a large old farm table that I actually paid money for in a moment of sentimental homesickness. It reminds me of Serbia. The top is painted light pealing green, the base is black. It is beaten, uneven, and uncomfortable for big people because there is no room for their legs. The tall man in my family hate it, but the girls love it. The table is surrounded by a flock of light, cheap, black IKEA chairs.

My favorite activity at this table is to clean green beans. I don’t know why. Maybe just the idea of sitting there on that lazy porch, having the time to clean green beans that I have just purchased at the farmer’s market that morning invoke for me the idea of a perfect summer moment.

Other things I like to do on that porch: sit on the wicker sofa and read; take a nap in the sunlight; sit there in the morning before anyone wakes up, drink coffee and look at birds; serve Turkish coffee on a pretty platter in small cups in the afternoons; sit with family and neighbors in the evenings with a glass of wine or beer, and talk about everything.

We had a large group of family members at the cottage for Memorial Day weekend. The front porch was everyone’s favorite place to assemble. My father played countless games of chess with his grandchildren.  My niece, Nicole, painted the scenery. We ate our meals there. We had our drinks there. We talked. We talked more. And early on Monday morning, we watched as the Memorial Day parade procession passed by our house.

April 14, 2010

Kaya at the Lake

Posted in Friendships, Pets, Weather tagged , , , , , , at 7:02 am by Liliana


Kaya as a puppy

My family and I spent a few days at our cottage near Lake Michigan. Kaya, my sister’s dog, came with us.

Kaya is a two year old Siberian Husky, taupe and caramel colored, with bright blue eyes. If Silver was a sensitive soul and Bella more intelligent and aware than many humans, Kaya is the kind of dog who loves everybody and everything and needs constant company. She also likes to be the continual center of attention.

On Friday, I woke up early to a sunny, blue-skied, but windy and chilly morning. I had a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal and hoped to snuggle under a warm blanket and read for hours while the rest of the house slept. But Kaya had other plans. She came over and sat down right in front of me and stared at my face with beseeching eyes. She knew I understood what she wanted.

After a few minutes, I couldn’t take the pressure any longer. I gave her the rest of my coffee and oatmeal and went upstairs to get dressed. I put on two pairs of pants, two sweaters, and a warm fleece jacket. I found my sunglasses and Kaya’s leash. She howled with joy.

We walked out into the sharp wind and the cold sunlight with Kaya leading the way. She knew the direction to the lake and kept lifting her nose and sniffing the wind like a scout. We crossed the bridge, and when she saw the lake in front of us, I had to hold on tightly as she pulled along.

The water was dark green, foaming with waves; the sky above was bright blue with white downy clouds. We had miles of beach on either side of us and no one around. Kaya stuck her nose into the sand like an ostrich, and then kicked the sand high into the air and all over me. Kaya is like that – she has an amazing sense of humor. Another thing that makes her different is her love of water. Unlike most huskies, Kaya runs into the water freely, and has no fear of getting wet.

Kaya and I played on that cold Lake Michigan beach like we had no cares in the world. We ran. We raced. We found an old tennis ball and played fetch, again and again and again. She pulled me through the water and the sand and I held on to her leash for dear life. We were both wet, sandy, cold and sore.

Back at the cottage, I washed the sand off the ball, dried it carefully and gave it to Kaya as she snuggled up for a nap. I took a long, hot bath.

February 27, 2010

Lake Michigan in Winter

Posted in Weather tagged , , , , at 8:10 am by Liliana

Lake Michigan in winter

Lake Michigan in winter

Dead of winter in Michigan – lots of snow, gusty winds, metallic sky, temperature in mid teens. It’s cold, the roads are treacherous, not pleasant to walk outside.

Still, I love to walk, especially along Lake Michigan. I find the lake beautiful at any time of year but in wintertime the character of the water becomes vastly different from what it is in more temperate seasons. It becomes transformed and magical, like something out of a fairy tale.

The sand and the snow embrace in tall drifts blown by fierce and unyielding wind. The tenacious wild lake grasses are holding on for dear life, and the sea gulls and sand pipers are nowhere to be seen. The water is frozen into silent, white ice sculptures for miles along the beach, but the sound of cold, angry waves beyond still make their presence preeminent.

I am wearing a sweater, a fleece jacket and a heavy winter coat. I have a woolen scarf wrapped around my neck and a warm hat on my head. My hands are hiding in heavy mittens. Still, the wind gets through all those layers and I feel it’s freezing breath on my skin. I am cold, but also energized and happy. To share this moment with the lake, the wind, the wide blue sky is a privilege and a gift.

January 31, 2010

A day alone

Posted in Books tagged , , , at 8:17 am by Liliana

A day alone

A day alone

I like solitude. Not for terribly long periods of time, but every once in a while, I find it necessary to regain my strength by spending a day alone. This has not been an easy month – not for the world, nor for my family. Tragedy in Haiti, economic depression, political stand-off, friends and family members who are losing their jobs, or have been unemployed for long periods of time. And then the relentless bitter cold of a Michigan winter.

I drove through the snow to our cottage on Lake Michigan. Our neighbors had turned on the heat, so I entered a warm, snug house. I unpacked and lay down on a couch to relax a bit. I fell asleep. When I awoke, I felt happy and refreshed. I made some lunch – a simple omelet with toasted rye bread. We had blueberry jam in the refrigerator, and eating it brought thoughts of summer. Then I sat down to read. I was reading two very different books: Julian Barnes’s “Nothing To Be Afraid Of,” on facing mortality and one’s fear of death, and John Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” about climbing Mount Everest. One to face life, the other to escape it.

By late afternoon, I had to go for a walk despite the fact that it was freezing cold. I put on two sweaters and a fleece under my jacket, a warm woolen hat, a scarf and gloves. My neighbor, Lisa, had lent me her boots to use, since I had forgotten mine. I was ready for an outing so I walked down to the lake. Very few people were around, and the lake was one cold and frozen mass of jagged ice.

Once I got back home, I sat down to work on Nancy’s quilt. The house, and the town beyond it, were blissfully quiet. I didn’t turn on the music or any other distraction. I sat in the glow of soft light, concentrating on one stitch after another, not thinking about anything in particular, letting my mind and emotions run free. People I hadn’t thought of for awhile came and went, like gentle callers on a winter evening.

I got hungry, but was too lazy to cook. Looking in the refrigerator, I found some yogurt and fresh berries. It seemed like the perfect dinner. Then I had a slice of peach pie and a cup of tea. My books were calling me again. Which one to read? I closed my eyes and picked one at random. I settled in my bed, and quickly escaped to Mount Everest. I read and read and sometime before the climbers reached the middle of the mountain I was already asleep.