Monday, April 07, 2008


If you've been reading here for any length of time, a few things have probably become pretty obvious.

I love to travel around, and don't need fancy facilities to be happy doing so. I come from a long line of pioneers and entrepreneurs, and we get restless. The urge to see what's around the next corner - or what's around a corner way way far from here - becomes overpowering, and off we go.

My health is not good, and hasn't been for quite a while. I've been disabled since age 32, and last worked on a regular full-time job in my profession in early 1991. I do my best to thumb my nose at all this, and after doing what I need to manage it, set it aside and get back to having fun.

Since a large share of the health status is due to allergies, changing environments can be a big help. I'm allergic to many thousands of substances, and once I settle down in a different area for a few months, I can easily sensitize to whatever local pollen, etc. I wasn't allergic to when I first got there.

But it still helps to escape the local allergens for a while. It comes in waves as different kinds of plants decide to bloom. Late winter is *Tree Time* here, from mid-February to late March or so. After a couple week's break, Weeds kick in. That's what's hitting me now.

So the annual Fossil Farm trip gives me a little break, and the timing is great. Even though it's still Florida, it's North Florida. The climate is noticeably different, so blooming times are too. The plants aren't all the same either. All of that helps.

Being in a state of continuous allergic reaction takes a toll on anyone. Even those who aren't bedridden from it feel the fatigue and sickness, and that terrible *allergic fog.* So when I do escape my allergenic environment for a while, it perks me up considerably. I'm still in a constant state of allergic reaction. That hasn't stopped since 1990. But the level goes up and down; and when it decreases, I am one happy camper.

Camper is sometimes the operative word. I love camping. Exploring. Seeing nature. Climbing trees. Collecting fossils and rocks and checking out new flowers. Seeing mountains and the desert. Those hearken back to my childhood.

I love to talk to people too, and find out where they're from and what they think about everything. One bit that always strikes me? How, no matter where in the world you travel, people instantly glom on to the fact that you're Not From There. What they do with that information tells me things about their characters, as individuals and as a group.

Last summer I decided to run away for a while. This was a careful and conscious decision, rather than poor impulse control, or a result of some subconscious devious trick my mind played on me. No, that's one thing I'm pretty conversant with: I know my self, my motivations, my subconscious mind pretty well by now. Not perfectly, of course not - but we don't hide much from each other. That's got its upsides and its downsides; but mostly, our lines of communication are wide open.

No, I gave it some thought, put together my plan, and off I went.

And what a trip it was.

Towards the end of summer, I found myself waaay high up in the Midwest, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Home of the *Yoopers.* (Say it: Yoo Pee. Yoopers.) Home of beautiful rocky hills, glacier formations, minerals, rivers. More childhood memories: after we left California when I was seven, the Great Lakes entered my young life. I had a bit of saving beauty to rescue me from the loneliness I felt missing the mountains and deserts and ocean of my earliest years.

The UP is more like a bridge than a peninsula. That's where their term *Trolls* comes from. If you're not a Yooper but a Troll, it's because you're Not From There, but from farther south. Trolls, you see, live under the bridge.

If you chance to see a map of the UP, you'll note a large section of land jutting out of the north side of that bridge into the waters of Lake Superior. A true peninsula. I like to think of it as the UP of the UP.

It's called the Keweenaw Peninsula. One thing that especially appealed was the way a river cuts through the entire peninsula, making the last 2/3 or so into an island. I like that. I love being surrounded by water. My little town in Florida is surrounded by rivers and canals, so it's called the Island City. Venice, Florida, another fave town of mine, is called the Island Village for the same reason.

Having studied my maps and my bank accounts with some care, I decided to go camping at McLain State Park. It's right on the river shore of that island, and right on the beach of Lake Superior. It's only nine miles from Houghton, the largest town in the area; this made for a good home base. From there I could beach-hop my way all up and down the peninsula, collecting beautiful rocks, agates, river rock, anything that caught my fancy. The minerals and rocks there are astounding in their beauty and color and variety and abundance.

And the people are very nice. They know the difference between themselves and folks who Aren't From There. But overall, they're accepting and tolerant and courteous. They don't like ill-behaved tourists any more than I do, yet they're quite patient with them. They also don't automatically turn a cold shoulder on you just because you're new. They wait and take stock of you first. I like that.

I'd happened upon a time of the season where most of my fellow campers were locals, or semi-locals. The main tourist season was drawing to a close. Kids were back in school in far-away states, or getting ready for it. The campground was quiet and peaceful, not completely full, and the people there were well-behaved.

It was wonderful. Exactly what I needed just then.

I set about remembering how to camp by myself. We camp at the Fossil Farm, but our meals are cooked for us in the pole barn, and we don't make our own campfires. I realized my fire-making talents had gone rusty from disuse. It took a little while to re-learn. But by the time I left, I was back to my old one-match fire starting skill.

I drove around the peninsula. I went from beach to beach, checking them out. I drove through old mining and fishing towns, some fallen into states of great disrepair with the changing fortunes of the mineral and fishing businesses, the mines. I loved Houghton, with its gorgeous old turn-of-the-century buildings, masonry, beautiful craftsmanship.

A person who loves beauty and art and quality work can't help just driving and driving and staring and staring around there. Then, consider my old profession. It involved a great deal of rehab management, including mortgaged real estate that secured loans made for the express purpose of revitalizing beautiful but run-down historic buildings. You can see why I'd be particularly entranced with the real estate out there.

Ah, but I'm a blogger too. It was particularly difficult to keep up posting from McLain. My campsite had - of all things! - electricity, but no signal. So I'd drive in to Houghton to post and check my email. There was a little coffee shop that had free wireless and kindly let me sit there for hours, reading and posting, all for the price of a cookie or muffin, and some conversation when business was slow and the coffee cowboy wanted to talk.

No problem. I love to talk to folks. In person. In my blog. In comments on other people's blogs. It's amazing how, from time to time, we find someone we instantly and powerfully resonate with, here in our little corner of the 'sphere.

From Desert Cat, who I *met* when I was still only commenting and *closet-blogging* and who became my blogdad; to Pretty Lady, who we both immediately felt is in our nuclear blogfamily even though we're not blog father-mother-brother-sister at all; to blogdaughter Jan and several other fellow bloggers and/or steady commenters here, who feel like family in their own right - the parallels, the connections between our backgrounds and interests, can be startling sometimes.

Lately I'd been wandering over to Caducity, a new blog by Artemis, blogdaughter and IRL friend of LL's. She recently finalized a traumatic divorce from a terribly controlling and abusive husband, and her courage and gumption, her steadily growing strength, was wonderful to see. There are children involved, and the Evil Ex (EE) is not the father that he should be to them. He puts on a show, but forgets things that are important to the little girls; his motivation in parenting, in sharing the custody arrangements, all that, is clearly no more than seeking ever new opportunities to control and hurt Artemis.

This is never a good situation, of course not. The kids get hurt. Without fail. Using children in a tug-of-war over control is hideous behavior. The other spouse, if they aren't bad guys themselves, face a terrible dilemma. If they explain to the kids that the EE is lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating, whatever - in the end, this is really harmful to those kids. They may grow up feeling angry at the EE, but as adults, they'll see things from both sides, and may turn on the parent who was trying to raise them right. In the process, they may overturn everything they learned about the importance of judging character.

Yet who wants someone like an EE to hurt their kids with deceptions and manipulations? Isn't it better for the kids to know who they're dealing with? Shouldn't the other spouse fight against the EE's actions, in order to defend those kids - even if the kids see what's happening and get emotionally involved in the fights?

No easy answers. I've gathered, from reading, that the best way to react to an EE is to stay out of the fray, don't let an EE provoke more battles. To calmly explain to the kids that they need to respect both parents; that the other parent may do things differently, things this parent doesn't necessarily agree with; but that's their right as humans and as parents. Studies tend to show that to expose the very real faults and errors of an EE type parent to the kids does them more harm than letting time and understanding take its course. They'll see the truth soon enough.

Similar situations are played out all over the world every day. It's no less heartbreaking for that.

Commenter Mr. Bud and I have been *talking* back and forth in comments at Caducity. We seem to have a lot of similarities in how we think about these things. Me, I have no children; but he does, and he went through a Divorce from Hell himself. With an EE of his own, he's lived through many of the situations Artemis is just now embarking on. Stuff you'd think would be over once the divorce is final, things you must work out as best you can, to keep them from shattering your heart and your life.

At this juncture, Mr. Bud sees his own kids only at intervals. Apparently his own EE now lives far away, and that's how the arrangements came to pass. Right now they're all in Sweden. I can't imagine how it must feel to not see your children for months on end. How incredibly lonely it must be.

He described Fun Child Rearing Activities at one point in a comment thread. I read his comment and wished he'd been my dad. Make no mistake, my parents had many very good Child Rearing Activities too. There were, in fact, a lot of similarities to what Mr. Bud described.

They didn't involve much TV or videogames or trips to McDonald's. They employed lots of creativity and thought and constructing of forts and all sorts of self-reliant means of amusing one's self and learning, all at the same time. Independent thought, problem-solving, all that good stuff. Yum!

As I walked along the beaches and hills of the Keweenaw Peninsula, I was often alone. Sometimes one or a few others would be on the beach too, usually far off. Signs of human visitation were sparse. They'd stand out at me. Old campfires. Piles of rocks collected and then left behind. Messages drawn in the sand.

I came across one such message that struck me with its pure and simple loveliness. Someone had made a heart. Not your standard Hallmark Card stock either. It was graceful, and had a little tail at the end. The rocks weren't just whatever had been close by. They were clearly collected, carefully chosen, nicely sized, beautiful every one. Inside the heart was a barely visible note - someone & someone else...In the upper right, in small white rocks, it enclosed a duplicate of the larger heart. So you could also read the message as someone *hearts* someone else.

I took some pictures of it. I take lots and lots of pix, and the vast majority never make it to the blog. This heart drawn on the beach and left there - this one made it. I was just as entranced by it when I got to the coffee shop and viewed it again, so I posted it. Here. It's the last pic in the set of four pix of the beach at McLain.

The caption I chose was, *Someone loves someone...* because everything about how it was made said so. It was not just a statement but an act of love, that message on the beach.

And it was, you see, art. I just posted about this not three entries down: art is about more than beauty; it's inextricably intertwined with communication and with love.

Having *talked* with me in comments, Mr. Bud has decided to read my archives. I think he's the first one of my readers who's approached the archive reading ceremony with such dedication. This is gratifying to any blogger, and I'm pleased and touched he's doing it.

Once again, the many similarities in our own lives are striking. His work these days involves rehabbing those very historic buildings securing delinquent loans I spent so much time trying to resolve and nurture, back in the day. And that's just one of many parallels between us.

A few days ago he was perusing my entries from the McLain State Park period. He came across the heart on the beach, the message carefully built then left behind in that nearly uninhabited far north island 2000 miles away from my home. And he got a bit of a shock.

Because that heart on the beach was drawn for him. It was made by his eleven-year-old son, during one of his rare visits home.

That boy loves his father and his father loves him. Child was teasing Dad about a nickname Dad had acquired. As I hear it, that's a more comfortable son-to-dad way to express love; the boy used his own name but the dad's nickname: *kid *hearts* funny-name-for-dad...*

That son has artistic talent a mile wide, which showed in his lifelike drawings in very early childhood. Mr. Bud and the Pirate and their families were out at McLain, and he'd spent a half day on the beach, carefully and contentedly collecting just the right rocks to make the heart.

His dad, as it happens, lives only a few miles from McLain. At one point, it looks like Mr. Bud's kids were actually camping at McLain at the same time I was. They were with the EE in the *cabins,* quite close to my second campsite. They may well remember a funny-looking middle-aged woman, disabled and camping all alone, zooming up and down the park's paved paths on a scooter, saving her feet for walks on the beach.

For those memorable walks on the beach.


pepektheassassin said...


"A connecting principle
Linked to the invisible
Almost imperceptible
Something inexpressible..."

--Police album --Synchronicity [1983]

What're the chances?

Pretty Lady said...


Same karass, yes?

This sort of thing has happened in my life more than once. I've come to expect it. It's as though 99% of the people on the planet have almost nothing to do with me, no matter how hard I may try to befriend them; the other 1% are family, and I can't avoid them if I try.

k said...

It's amazing, isn't it?

LL said...

Small world!

Mr. Bud said...

So, I'm asking my older son if he remembers anyone riding around on a scoot that weekend (turns out, yes they were there) and after much talk.. "Dad, *girlfriend* was there that weekend, there could have been a terrorist attack and I wouldn't have noticed"

They grow up. Without looking. They just plain grow up.

I think you got the shocker here. I mean yeah, first off what are the chances? I mean.. That's our backyard! I mean.. And out of the pictures... you chose that one? But besides all that, it was all the subtle interconnections.

I don't know how to put into words to explain to artemis how to live through what she's living through. You just yearn to explain to your children what a evil thing your ex is doing, and how much better things could be if using them as pawns wasn't their objective. There is NO personal reward. There is NO satisfaction of revenge or getting even. You just have to have your heart ripped out of your chest with a rusty spoon and stomped on, and take it.

But see there is a reward. and it's right there on the beach. They grow up, and they 'get' it. And although the revenge side of me wants them to 'leave' the evil ex, (because they have reached that point) that is not what's best for them. (our issues currently) I would have NEVER said that 5 years ago, after battling and battling to just have 'some',.. heck, 'ANY' time with them.

The reward for never giving up, and taking it in the chin is this. I have happy healthy kids. We talk and have a relationship.. better then I have with most adults. I know their deepest secrets (heck, I know all their friends' secrets too..haha) They don't have any hang ups. They don't have the potential to take their own lives (#1 in children of divorce of fighting parents) They don't do drugs, smoke, drink or have sex issues. (#2-4 of the top 10) and I can go on to all the other pre-teen/teen nastys that are DIRECT results of fighting parents.

Although the reward may seem tiny to most, it is huge to me. And you took a picture of it. And that is a truly strange connection. a bit emotional that one was...

and... yeah, our little island is wonderful. Until the bridge breaks down... and you realize you really ARE on an island!

AspergantuS said...

K... dear... you've been tagged.

k said...

Mr. Bud. Aspergantus. May I have your email addresses, please? I'm at:

ksquest [at] gmail [dot] com

Thank you!

k said...

Mr. Bud, please excuse brain spasm.

Granny J said...

Absolutely remarkable, that is -- and beautiful, too.

SeaPhoenix said...

Gotta say, that's just purty darn cool. I was within a couple hundred miles or so from ya last week, K...Stayed in Ft. Myers for a week or so.

Desert Cat said...

You back from fossil digging?

pepektheassassin said...

Did you fall in?

Pretty Lady said...

k, please let us know you are merely exhausted from hauling home some fabulous fossils, and not buried at the bottom of the pit!