DAY 125, Wednesday, September 26, DEER PARK – Took the day off from writing. Max Stinson picked me up at 0700 in rain and we fetched Mike Brown from his place in heavy rain and headed east on Rabbit Patch Road. Along the way we saw a flying squirrel skitter across in front of us. We parked a couple of hundred yards from the mouth fo the Two Hearted River and humped our gear to the beach where an estimated 30 people were already set up with rods in sand spikes, casting spawn bags into a 5-10 mph north wind. 42 degrees, but we left the rain behind us and other than cold, not a bad morning. For both Max and me, our first time using spawn bags. Pretty simple, and a one-ounce pyramid weight to sling out as far out as you can, set the pole in your “sand spike,” and watch the rod tip. Next time we’ll bring chairs, and more coffee. Some mornings a little brandy or Jack Daniels might also be in order.
I loved watching he people around us. One family with three girls, two oldest perhaps 3 and 7 and dad and mom let both girls play the fish on each hook-up. VERY cool. Even watched mom set a hook while holding a toddler! They caught several fish. Two young guys beside us hooked three, got in two. Most folks there are downstate retirees, come up to the campground an stay a couple of weeks to fish and have done this for many years. Mike caught our only fish, a smallish female, filled with eggs. The guys in the cabin next door got one of Jambe Longue’s recipes and some spices from her, and ate if for lunch. Beautiful flesh.
An added attraction at this site is the availability of agates. I found 8 small ones, nothing spectacular, right where we stood. I liked that a lot, but when your head is down you may miss some strikes. I hope I didn’t, but we’ll be going back. Kings stage along the beach before heading upriver to spawn, then pinks and cohos. Next there will be a run of Menominees, followed by steelhead (the fishing for these is best during deer season!) Once in a while someone brings in a whitefish.
Mike Brown said sometimes the beach is really crowded with anglers and it is like a society within a society, very interesting to discover. Seen solo anglers fishing with sand spikes, but never before a crowd. Cool So much to do in our great state, but you have to get off your couch and then get off the main roads, and get out of your vehicle and walk a bit. The reward is worth it. I’m posting some pix to give some flavor. Glorious time of year in the Yoop, eh. Over
Pix follow and a Friday update: Fish biting like crazy today at the mouth, probably pushed by front and NE winds coming in after midnight. Over.
DAY 124 Tuesday, September 25, DEER PARK Our dog Shanny is 102 days post-surgery, but continues to have some problems so Monday Jambe Longue called our vet Jeff LaHuis at the Soo Animal Hospital and we jumped off from here around 0800. He said try to get here 10ish and we’ll get you right in. We did, and they did, we grabbed a lunch and headed back, a 190-mile roundtrip. We have an antibiotic and some pain pills for him and a pea-shooter like gizmo to launch pills down his throat. Our dog HATES pills, especially those companies mislabel as “treat-like.” They aren’t, at last to our mutt. He has a whole bag of passive aggressive tricks for not taking his meds. Every pill is a battle, every single time.
Temp around 41 when we left Deer Park, heavy frost and 32 in Newberry. First real frost of fall that I’m aware of
Back by mid-afternoon and the three of us went to Lake Superior, Shanny ran crazy and Jambe Longue found a eautiful small pink agate just as we were getting out. Nice day, all color showing, we’re guessing peak around the end of the first week of October. The dog has to go back for a re-check on the 9th, after our Oct 6 book-signing/reading in Traverse City. I got up and wrote in the morning before we went to the Soo. Over.
Living at our cabin at Deer Park is like tent-camping, for five months. It only works if you think it through beforehand, make a few rules and stay with them:
1) When one of you is trying to do something, the other one needs to stand clear.
2) Organization: A place for everything and everything in its place. If you both choose to access and use everything, then you both need to know where every item is and always return it to the same place. Otherwise, chaos. If you split responsibilities, you are responsible for your stuff and the other person will take what they need from you, when they need it. e.g, I handle the fishing gear, waders, nets, flies, lures, the whole thing. Jambe Longue handles the food stuff, eg. And we each handle our own art/writing stuff. Whoever gets something out, also puts it back.
3) Every square foot counts (obviously), but usually we think of square feet as a floor space measurement. In a small cabin you need to think of the walls as added storage space. Little things, like narrow (16-in) bookcases four feet high can help get a lot of stuff off the floor.
4) Closets would be nice, but more likely you’ll have a few wall shelves and spaces to hang clothes. But the floor below hanging cloths is great storage space. Who cares if the clothes are a little rumpled on the bottom? (OK, she cares more than I do, but not that much more.)
5) Use cardboard boxes with tops that will fit under your beds, and bed sure to label all sides so you can see what you’re trying to retrieve. Great place for canned goods, dry goods, books, art supplies, etc.
6) May through October seems like three seasons. It’s four up here. You don’t get the last freeze until after Memorial day, so you can have ice. Fall freeze comes early, sometimes by mid –Sept. it can snow or sleet in any month. We bring clothes for four seasons, including boots, down coats etc. Store off-season clothes in waterproof Rubbermaid rubber bins, outside the cabin, on the deck or even under the picnic table. Some years we put up a screened tent and this is also a good place for bins, plus you can use them as small tables for drinks and goodies.
7) Computers are now a way of life and work. We keep a laptop on the kitchen table, and push it back when not in use. A little clutter is inevitable, but you manage clutter just like space, judiciously and thoughtfully.
8) Lighting can be critical. We bring spotligts and solar lamps to be charged by day. Plus lots of SureFire flashlights with plenty of batteries. We don’t bring extra lamps, but would if the situation required it.
9) Beds and sleeping space. We have three, Bunks on the north wall and a twin-and-a-half on the south wall. She sleeps north and I to the south. Cavorting is optional. Work that out yourselves. The top bunk on the north wall is exclusively for clothes of the season, which we set out in piles. Laundry is in a bag hanging on back of bathroom door. Clothes remain folded and in piles. My stuff to west, hers to east. Some extra towels and stuff go in boxes under the bed. Extra blankets are stored on top the north bed, with float bags filled with wool hats, gloves, etc.
10) Wall hooks help a lot. The more hooks the better.
11) We have a curtain (door) between sleep area and kitchen. And a curtain on the sliding glass door. We use small plastic hooks-clothes pins to hang hats on front door curtain rod.
12) We have a small set of drawers, three feet high, 10 drawers, on wheels. Takes up little space and can be moved. Great for papers, etc. We keep it beside the fridge.
13) The fridge is small but adequate. We shop only 7-10 days at a time. Freezer is very small and prone to avalanche, but we bought a small wire frame to help separate stuff in the freezer and this helped a lot. In the past we had more freezer space and cooked all meals ahead for five months, and froze them. Meaning we only had to thaw (unthaw to Limpy) and heat. Our space is less now, so we have to cook here and plan meals a week or so ahead.
14) Footwear is stored under hanging clothes just inside the sliding glass door. A small file of three plastic doors is also thee and contains jewelry-making equipment.
15) Counter space is minimal. But we put a wooden drawing board on the gas stove top to add 4-6 more sq feet and this works great. When cooking starts, the board stores vertically beside the stove.
16) All the sides and top of the fridge are great for papers and magnets, calendar, reminder lists, etc.
17) Radiator top is also a good storage surface (It doesn’t heat up.).
18) Empty suitcases are stored at the ends of beds. Phone chargers are kept in a suitcase.
19) Use Ziplocs hung on magnets to extend fridge-side storage. Cut hole in Ziploc and slip over magnet hook. This works great.
20) We hang flyswatters from hooks over sliding glass door and refer to them as “guns.” We keep two inside, two outside and two in each vehicle.
21) The kitchen table has a benc for seating, which we push against the south wall and used for storage, both on and under it.
22) All outside bins are designated and marked.
23) Paper goods are behind the bathroom door.
24) We keep my drawing materials in a giant tackle box under the kitchen table by my chair. We have only two. Any meals with guests are served on the picnic bench on our small deck, which is open and not screened.
25) Bins and tackle boxes can be stored under the picnic bench.
26)Pop and beer are stored outside, weather permitting.
27) Wine is kept on book shelf top.
28) Waders are on hangers outside, or just inside the door. Wading boots outside.
29 )Sleeping bags are on the top bunk on north wall.
30) We have a heavy oilcloth cover on the table.
31) We bring “skinny” carpets for the dog, including yoga mats, which make great carpets.
32) Frying pans on wall hooks.
33) Cups are on hooks under dish shelf.
34) 2 kitchen drawers, plus four small cabinets. All the extra kitchen stuff go into these.
35) The dish drainer is on the counter at all times. She washes and I dry. Dishes done after every meal, no accumulation clutters allowed.
36) Our well water is not good – too much iron. We carry potable water from a local source in five and two-gallon containers and refill as needed.
37) Great, small shower, no tub. One sink, but to shave you look east, and wet razor in sink to west, behind you. Good flexibility exercise.
38) Laundry done once week, either at Deer Park Lodge, or a friend’s house.
39) “Town” is a 70-mile roundtrip. We plan every trip and don’t go until we have a bunch of errands to do. Our vet is a 190-mile round trip. Nothing is easy or convenient here, except nature and that’s all around us.
There’s probably a lot more to be said, but this sort of paints of the picture of how two adults and a dog live for five months in limited space. In fact, it is neither difficult nor uncomfortable, but planning and forethought are mandatory. Over.
Friday, September 21, DEER PARK – 40 degrees this morning; it has rained steadily since Monday, our first sustained sky drop since we got here in May and with the .3 in the rain gauge this morning, our week’s total is at 2.1 inches, not much by Florida hurricane standards, but heaps for us. We have now measured 9.20 inches since May 24. This latest drop surely will bring the Coho up the Two Hearted. Tomorrow we head for Marquette for a book signing at Snowbound Books (1-3 PM) and we have been trying to figure out what we might need from the “big town” stores. We’ve not been to Marquette all summer, and only into the Soo twice, both trips connected to Shanny’s medical problems. With a month to go we have entered the pare-down/eat-through phase of where we start eating all the things we have stored, and try to minimize shopping for anything new, other than fresh veggies. Last night we had a wonderful meal of Apricot curry chicken with a heaping salad. First thing this morning I looked out and saw a black “lump” moving stealthily out on the tip of Bill’s Peninsula, grabbed the binos and saw a large coon lumber ashore and start fishing on the other side of the pen. Next Jambe Longue crawled moaning from the warmth of the bed, turned on the coffee and went outside with her binos to search for animal life. She got to see the coon, but nothing else. This is her morning ritual: wakeup, turn on java, go outside for animal recon; read for a half hour to 45 minutes, sipping coffee; then do stretches for her back; after that she makes oatmeal with strawberries, bloobs, peaches and raisins in it. We have tried to keep to a similar routine every morning to make our movements predicable. In only 288 square feet if becomes a sort of exercise in choreography: the dog and I are assigned the roles of stay-out-of-the-way, and we’re good with that. Lon has been working diligently on a painting, doing undercoatings the past couple of days and it is a real challenge to set up to paint while your galoot is hammering on a keyboard and swearing at the computer. No idea what the day holds for us. Will visit Browns just to touch base, and probably Stinsons, and write. Weather forecasts tell us more rain is in the offing today and tomorrow when we do the over-and-back to Marquette. Jambe Longue is reading Peter Matthiessen’s KILLING MISTER WATSON, the first volume of Shelby Foote’s civil war trilogy, and Bob Linesman’s manuscript, SNOWBLOOD’S JOURNAL. She used to wonder how I had several books going all the time and now she has the disease as well. I just laugh. A blue heron has now taken the place of the raccoon and is on watch for food in motion. Hope to get this plunked into the blog later today. If not, oh well. Will have photos from Marquette after we get back. Over. And here they ARE!
A teacher friend forwarded the following letter, which arrived in her email this week. The letter-writer is not the student’s legal guardian, in fact that person’s relationship to the student is unknown and far from clear. I keep wondering (perhaps wrongly) what political tract/tome all this mishmash of political/social rhetoric was lifted from. I certainly hear these same points and arguments up here from some people. Perhaps also of interest, an old friend, a lifelong Republican, told me yesterday he will not vote republican this fall, for the first time in his life – because in his words, the country can’t afford to have a clueless selfish fool” (Romney) in the White House. Uh, by the way the current student mentioned by the letter-writer? His parents didn’t show for conferences this week, and the student cannot find his text book because he can’t remember where he done put it. Yup, the teacher needs to fix all this, all right. The text follows, names and some specific details removed to protect identities. Here we go (and as a aside from a novelist, I couldn’t make up this stuff):
“I understand that all teachers must come up with a lesson plan for school. Teachers needed them even back in the coal burning days when I went to school. But I do have a problem with the course content unless it truly represents the truth.
“I am XX’s grandfather. My two children attended the same school, one did not make it past the 7th grade and other actually did make it through, but I strongly feel the lessons learned have not been of benefit to her. Having to use graphing calculators in lieu of actually doing math with your brain because the school dictated this has caused anger for many a year because she is still incompetent in math. This is just one example. Now for the grandson:
“I have no problem if you teach the truth. Tell the children why the rain forests are being cut down and that one day of cocaine processing is a years salary to these people if they were to farm crops that really do not grow well in that soil. Tell them who and why the geographic borders were set after WWI to keep factions battling each other. This allowed England and the other Empires to reduce troops in the region and any natural resources could still be plundered. Tell them why Hitler, in part, started the National Socialist Party to get lands taken away from Germany (which is one of the first things he did at the onset of WWII, he took the lands back). Tell them why Russia was handed part of Europe on a platter after WWII. Show them Korea and Viet Nam and tell them why we were never meant to win the war. America was like a strutting peacock…brazen enough to challenge the other dominant peacocks but smart enough to not cross that line. Hey..we needed to decrease the population anyway. We Service Connected Disabled Veterans appreciate all that our country has done to us.
“Before you start referring to Global warming, stop listening to Al Gore and verify facts with NASA and other Academics who have studied the Earth’s past and the effects of solar cycles.
“Above all, DO NOT TEACH EURO-AMERICAN WHITE HISTORY. Yes the conquerors write history but that certainly should send flags that it is not the truth. America has supported China in many ways and I tis a one way street. You do realize that China is siphoning off fresh water from the Great Lakes and taking it to replenish their dried up aquifers cause by the Six Rivers dam. Being in the immediate area and with the current drought in the mid-west, this should be of great concern but we don’t hear of it. By the way, the Hersey’s factory up north is also utilizing its fair share of fresh water for bottling and both of these entities are doing it through loop holes in the law, and we are allowing it.
“If you want to teach geography, keep it current. The Colorado River is drying up and what impact will that have on millions of people? Glacier National Park has no more glaciers. Where will the first war over this precious natural resource be? Will civil unrest and revolution become the norm as positioning to retain resources is positioning for power. It doesn’t matter if it is Global Warming of cyclical solar activity, but with the melting ice caps, why did America spend so much money to rebuild a city that is below sea level? Yes that would be New Orleans. Are we going to build a great barrier around the gulf to upper east coast? No, and parts of Florida are going underwater each year. What sense did rebuilding New Orleans make other than to line the pockets of the 1 % of the people.
“If you teach this type of information I will not only be elated but will actually sleep good at night knowing we have kids armed with knowledge and CAN change the world. If not, than I am dubious whether XX should be in this course and/or school. I remember numerous 4th and 5th graded questions such as ”Grandpa, who discovered America?” My honest reply was “Who didn’t discover America!” but I added that for the sake of the schools he MUST answer Columbus. I’m tired of doing that.”
Yup, everything is the failure of America’s teachers and schools. I love living in a country where people are free to express their opinions. And do.
DAY 118: Wednesday, September 19, DEER PARK – Two days from the Autumnal Equinox. Had some notion of blogging from the Deer Park Lodge signing last Saturday, but it was more fun to talk to Ellen Airgood about our craft. Most writers have little contact with others of their kind. And Ellen and husband Rick also drive a Green Streamer and live on Muskallonge Lake, so the bond is triploid. It rained all day on Monday, and again yesterday morning, which also brought hail. The temp at the time of the hail was 45 degrees, which dropped to 35 in ten minutes. And today weather is calling for north winds gusting to 40-45 mph, so we are definitely seeing the autumn patterns assert themselves. This Saturday we are off to Marquette to sign books at Snowbound Books and visit brother-and-sister-in-law Mike and Claudia Phillips. They very recently lost their beloved dog, Bogey, who was great pal of mine. He will be missed. Other events brewing: Sat Oct 6 in Traverse City, Horizon Books where I will read from short stories, and Sat Oct 13 in Gaylord at Saturn Books for chat and signing. After the event on Oct 6, Jambe Longue and I will head over to my coach’s house, Ed and Yvonne Jarvie. Ed taught history, was principal and coached me in football, basketball and baseball, and was a great influence in my life in a lot of ways. People like Ed touch young folks in ways they don’t always comprehend, and I think it’s good to acknowledge the lasting effects of such influence. In December we’ll see another great influence, Henry Ploegstra, my former English teacher, who recently retired from Dallas, to Holland, Michigan. We saw another wolf yesterday, our 4th of summer and watched a northern harrier hunt the flats to our west for the longest time last night. Beautiful creature: Usually we just see them on a glide from one spot to another, but this one was hard at work, perhaps a young one, based on its colors. Today we may go over toward Grand Marais and hunt agates, but winds and heavy rain may scrub these plans. The pileateds are suddenly overactive around us, no idea why. Two days ago Jambe Longue got great photos of one in tree next to our deck, and yesterday another one flew through the yard. Usually they hang back in the woods and we only heard them calling and drumming. Bear hound season has begun, but we have yet to hear any hounds on the job in the swamp west of us. Last year hunters took at least three animals from there, all in the 160-pound range. Out with a DNR officer one day last season we talked to a bear guide and client trying to find a trout stream in which to cool the carcass of a 165-pound bear and the client was pissing and moaning to me about how there were nothing but small bears around. I looked him in the eye and said, “You don’t shoot a 165-pounder, it will grow larger.” He whined, “But you only get a permit every so many years!” I said, “Tough decisions, pass up the small ones and let them get bigger, or shoot little ones and complain.” He gave me the evil eye and my partner laughed. Our bald eagle sighting count has topped 400 as of this week. Makes it hard to go BTB and never see the birds. Night and morning skies have also been gorgeous and will today put up pix of the pileated from the yard with skypix. Our photos not up to Henry Kisor’s eye-busters, but best we can manage over here in the swamps.
Am reading advanced copy of Rose City’s Bob Linsenman’s Snowblood’s Journal: An American Novel of Dogs and Men in Vietnam, a story of dog-handlers in Vietnam. Wow. This one will knock your socks off and melt all your tear ducts. Great story told by a great writer, his first novel after many years of helping educate many of us re trout fishing and its mysteries. Pub date is March 2013 , I believe, from Arbutus Press out of Traverse City. Bob is a great guy who used to regularly float God and I and harangue us for hours on end for our deficient casting. Course, those crappy casts did somehow manage to take a bunch of 20-inch+ brown trout. I calculated once that God and I were chucking at a three-casts-a-minute rate, with full-sink lines, using the hyperactive Linsenman-Galloup stripping style, for two consecutive days, which we calculated amounted to about 3,200 casts for each of us over the two days, nine hours of casting each day. Some years later Bob was guiding a couple of 30-something young bucks, who ran out of gas after two hours and then he told them about the two old coots in their mid and late 60s and how they could cast without resting nine hours a day and the two guys said, “Bullshit, You’re making that up.” Sorry lads, he wasn’t and while I doubt I could do it with that much vigor today, I have no doubt Godfrey could. I guess agate hunting is delayed to next week, but Jambe Longue just came back from the beach with Shanny and she had an Oh Shit Agate in hand about the size of a silver dollar. She has the eye for sure. I’ve just been informed that instead of agate hunting, we are heading to Noobs for errands. Pix follow. Over.
Tonight after dinner, a little before 2000 hours, Jambe Longue went down to our beach to call her mom. Got message machine instead of mom, but looked west to see a bear gallop down to the lake, take a drink or sniff something, and turn around and lope back up into the raspberry patches, about 150 yards west of us. Probably the same one that has been around Stinson’s and the one we’ve seen signs of west of where it was tonight. Further west it has been digging up old logs and rooting around. Poor berry and acorns crop and few beach trees left, it was predictable that the animals would hit fall desperate for food. This should make things promising for bait hunters, though we’ve heard of none taken out here yet. One of the local gents has a deer blind south of here and last night got trail photos of a bruiser near his blind. The houndsmen start tomorrow. Stay tuned. Always a show up here. Over.
Friday, September 14, DEER PARK – People who live here year-round don’t pay a lot of attention to the weather. It is what it is. You make your plans and go and adjust as you have to. The rest of us short-timers tend to pay more attention because our time is limited. It is going on 4 a.m as I write this and it is raining with some oomph. We had spits during the day yesterday, but this has some fairly substantial drops whacking our metal roof. Strangely when I got up at 0200 the dog went right out to take a leak and showed no concern about weather. Usually he is our rain sentinel, and almost always more accurate than our media meteorologists. This summer has been a dry one. Here are the traditional averages in inches of precip by month: May 2.53; June 2.92; July 2.95; August 2.90; September 3.49 (the rainiest month of the year)’ and October, 3.01. May through August adds up to 11.30 inches and this year on August 31 our cumulative total was 6.3 inches, which left us 5 inches below the annual average for those months, May-Aug. In Sept-Oct we can on average expect another 6.50 inches, so we shall see. The problem here is in part low snow-packs for four consecutive winters, and these light winters and sparse rains are beginning to accumulate and lots of lakes are losing levels, which only speeds up evaporation and greater loss.
Muskallonge Lake is drastically low and over our months here (and four years) has receded noticeably. The area of the lake is 785 acres with the deepest hole only 20 feet deep according to on-online DNRE reports. But now we have small islands and rocky bumps beginning to appear in various places, and long SE to NW beds of yellowish weeds, seem to mark the 5-6-ft deep grooves that run in the same general directions.
Earlier this summer I think I talked some about the difference between local “lore” and verifiable history and science. As it turns out, this subject is well illustrated by the conditions of the water levels of the lake, and shows the sort of gap that can open between what is related as local history in cabins, bars, and churches, and what is actually known, verified and recorded. Let me take a crack at explaining and add that this is a problem a writer often encounters in trying to ascertain facts about places or people – that is a lot of information in some cases, but not much actual evidence.
Some local Deer Park residents have told me that the lake has a clay bottom and that “someone” or “someones” at an unspecified time and location drove pilings into the clay, which broke the “clay seal” and therefore lake water began draining into the aquifer and out into Lake Superior which sits 32 feet lower than we do. The DNRE states in its reports that the sand on the lake’s bottom does not generally leak water, that it is of a type and construct that does indeed serve as a seal, though not like clay. Locals insist the bottom is clay and one has only to wade around to find oneself skating on it. I haven’t found the clay yet.
Yet another story contends the lake once had several major springs that bubbled year-round and fed the water level, but said alleged now are no longer in existence, the evidence being that snowmobilers formerly had to go around unfrozen soft spots caused by the springs, and now they can drive right over those same places, therefore the springs must have dried up. Other local residents tell me there some small seeps from shore, but never were any in-water springs and the DNRE report does not mention either in-water or shoreline seeps. There is, of course, prejudice in some wide quarters up here that the government (DNR) never tells the whole story or the truth and therefore there is a conspiracy. Why is it that we Americans are so damn fond of conspiracies and exhibit an historical inability to live with any ambiguity? Are other countries the same, is this a human characteristic, and if so what does it suggest for the genesis of formal religion? Just wondering; Back to our “story.”
There is also a line of lore that states that the DNR once tried to divert water from Trout Creek (the lake’s sole source of water) to a nearby body called Cranberry Lake which is west of our cabin. Those who tell this story add that there are remains of culvert and diversion materials out in the cedar swamp where the creek enters the lake. There is no mention of such an effort or experiment in the DNRE report.
What there is in the report, however, is a terse, sparse account of a 1,300-foot “canal” a local resident (unnamed) landowner started building in 1958, and which apparently created a lot of public attention and furor. Given the shortness of the digging season up here (like summer) 1,300 feet is one hell of a substantial dig in so short a time. If I can get to the library I can no doubt get a more thorough account from old newspaper accounts, and if I do, I’ll pass along what I learn. The DNRE report indicates the sand in this “canal” did have the “seal” broken and the DNRE reported the depth of the dig was adequate to start water leaking through the bottom of the canal. But that canal, which is just up the road, to the east of our cabin, was long ago abandoned and is now as dry as a desert. The real problem here is nature and her cycles, and probably not any sort of man-made interventions. Some friends on the lake, whose family has been here since the 1930s tell us they have photos showing the lake at a similarly low level back then and other locals have told me that traditionally the lake levels rose and sank on an 7- or 11-year cycle, which sounds perhaps apocryphal to these old ears. As with the history of how Deer Park got its name, when it was called that before its official founding in 1876, and who bestowed the name, the answers are not readily available.
Still raining. The mutt is hiding in the bathroom. Think I’ll re-hit he hay. Last night Jambe Longue and I went over to Deer Park Lodge, and Mike Brown said his Wednesday river- recon trip revealed no salmon other than some end-of-the-fun-run kings above High Bridge, and a few pinks, Two Hearted Mouth anglers (spawn) are reporting they are catching some nice fish from those staging for their river runs and Mike believes this may be one of those years when the cohos come up in a bolus rather than trickling in a few at a time. Catching moving cohos is a lot more fun than fishing to spawning Chinooks, and with lots of fresh silvers in the river, there’s the promise of some comestibles are at hand.
Looming: Michigan State vs Notre Dame at Spartan Stadium, 8 P.M. Saturday night. We’ll get a better notion of what kind of teams the two schools have, though these games historically often defy odds-makers. I’ll be sitting in the Green Streamer listening to the game on the radio, at least for a while. Go State! Yes, prejudiced. So what? Back in my lacrosse days at MSU we loved playing the Irish. Good guys who played hard and brooked no baloney: we went at each other tooth and nail in every contest and we were all left limping for a day or two after every game. the Irish players were stand-up guys and the fever of the rivalry was wonderful to experience. Great days those…. Next spring my old teammates will gather to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Michigan State Lacrosse. We all met five years ago in East Lansing, and only one of us had passed over. It will be wonderful to see teammates again, some bigger-than-life characters with character. And next fall in Marquette our 46th Air Refueling Association will meet again to relive our flying days and polish our stories and lies.
Yesterday went to Newberry to get a haircut and encountered a lumbering snapper crossing CR 407 near Halfway Lake. He was not in a mood to pose for photographs, but I share what I managed. I was wearing sandals, otherwise I might have urged him to move into the clear. Didn’t though. See there is some discretion lurking in this old carcass. Next week Jambe Longue and I may try to mount another brook trout expedition.
Night all: Over. PS. We got .8 inch of rain this morning, more possible tonight.
Sunday, September 9, DEER PARK – This morning, 0300ish I was organizing and cleaning files in my electronic documents and managed somehow to eliminate all of my Outlook Express. I hope I’ll get them back, but have little optimism to back this. We’ll see. For now, I have no memory files of old emails or addresses. Ah, the wonder of computeroids.
My editor, Keith, will start putting his pencil on Hard Ground tomorrow and wanted my final revisions today. Of course with the glitch of earlier I had to improvise and send via Core.Com. Copied myself, which came through, and I hope same will happen on the other end. Now I have to figure out if I can copy attachments out of Core.Com into my document files. I doubt writers of earlier times had to deal with such baloney, everything being done on paper, which I still prefer. Word processing (electronic typing) is a wonder. The rest is and toy.
God and Laurie headed south today after a couple of weeks here, crawling through creeks and over agate beaches. Great fun, as usual. I think Laurie leaves with the agate acquisition disease (AAD) in full control; such has been true of G2 for decades.
This weekend I start some signings, but today I had the leisure to sit and think about writing and what it is and isn’t. Others may think similarly, but I can speak authoritatively only for myself. All writers and artists have their own ways, methods and approaches, be the medium paint, a block of wood, or a musical score.
First, a novel is made, constructed, fashioned, pick your own verb. It has to be created. It can simply pop out of one’s creative well and nearly write itself, but this is rare, not rule. Most writers have to work hard and long to make a story come to life. And even harder to develop their craft and skills. The late Shelby Foote once wrote, “The only way to learn to write is to write as many hours a day as your hand and brain will let you. It (writing) is an instrument that must be forged in the fire of labor. You discover things one by one, and you only learn by doing.”
Second, the creation is usually driven by the author’s need to ask questions, no communicate truths or answers to readers. The novel is not so much designed to reveal an answer as to explore the questions in ways that will touch peoples’ senses and emotions. Writers write first for themselves. I doubt most writers can elucidate their “audience.” Thus how can you write for something you can’t identify.
Third, while writing is work, it is unlike any other kind of work I’ve ever done in that it rarely ever feels strained like other work. A clock doesn’t tell me when my writing day is done, my body and mind do. When I feel physically tired and can’t concentrate and my typing tanks (hard to distinguish from my best typing), I know it’s time to put the manuscript aside and do normal world things, mainly to rest and let the mind clear some. These are my personal symptoms that tell me it’s time to take a break. Back in my Air Force days they put us in a high altitude environment and required us to remove our oxygen so that we could familiarize ourselves with our own symptoms of hypoxia. Very useful to know your personal symptoms in given situations. Most people don’t seek out such knowledge. The late Shelby Foote in a letter to his pal Walker Percy in 1952 wrote: “Writing, when a man is dedicated to it, has such an overpowering pull that the laziest man in the world couldn’t keep from doing it.” Foote probably overstates the case for most writers, because we don’t all work the same way or with the same intensity, or energy. But I think he nailed quite well the non-chemical, yet seemingly addictive nature of the calling.
Fourth, I don’t know how many writers use their dreams to help them along but I do, and endeavor to go to bed every night, thinking about where the writing/story ended that day and make an effort at least as I fall asleep to imagine what comes next. Usually I fall asleep before this happens, but usually in the morning when I wake up there is new material sitting in my mind, waiting to be tapped: coincidence or spoon-feeding? I’m not really sure; all I know is that it works for me.
Fifth, I keep trying to write tighter and tighter, that is to use fewer words (one word is better than two, two words better than four, etc.) for maximum effect. This emphasis will undoubtedly last all of my writing life. It sounds a lot easier than it is. One way to get on top of this is to maximize your vocabulary and I spend a great deal of time looking up words. I circle every word in a book I don’t absolutely recognize, or where I have even tiny doubt, and later look it up and when I do so, I write the word and definition in a notebook. Writing things helps me to remember. This effort to increase vocabulary is also a lifelong pursuit. One observation I have made runs along these lines: those who don’t read a lot rarely become writers; writers who don’t continue to read a lot rarely grow creatively; people who read a lot have better vocabularies than those who read not so much; and finally, there are some people who have fine memories and vocabularies who cannot use the stored data in any meaningful way, like a box full of baits you can’t figure how to fix to a fishing line.
I’d adhere that sometimes you want words that have a certain sound rather than a specific meaning because there are times in a story when you are trying to use not just the reader’s intellect, but their other senses to evoke certain emotions. There is no question sound can do this and if you doubt it think of a piece of music which “sounds” sad, or happy. That is pure sound stimulating an emotional response, and the sound of words can do similarly. Faulker was a fine practitioner of this, just as Hemingway tried to use cubist painter’s techniques and concepts in word-painting scenes in some of his novels.
Sixth, I think it’s important to let the reader have a participatory role in the story and by this I mean that I rarely describe main characters in any real detail. I would rather sketch the character and let the reader fill in the details so that they own the character as much as I do. In taking this approach, I’m certain that the picture in my mind is far different than the one in yours and that’s fine by me. But at the same time I endeavor to paint a picture that is generally the same for both reader and me.
Seventh, I never use detailed outlines. At most, I may map a rough route, as if flying from LA to Da Nang, and to do this I write the major check points down: Depart from LA, pass Hawaii, Wake, Guam, perhaps Taiwan, fly over or stop in the Philippines, and thence on to Vietnam. Each place represents something I have to write to, just as a navigator directs an aircraft or ship to a target location. But there is no real preparatory buildup around those places other than a rough sense of the order they must be reached and their relative importance; other authors use highly detail outlines. Again all that matters is what works for the individual. This rough planning is about as detailed plot planning as I can manage or want to manage: The advantage in this is that I tend to discover the plot right along with the protagonist, which keeps me tight in his mind. It would be easier from a plot and motive perspectives to write from the viewpoint and mind of multiple characters, but I like the approach I use and find it more demanding on my skills. Too easy with multiple minds in the stew to lose control of the story. The narrow focus in the individual forces focus to the story within the confines of two minds, the character’s and mine.
Eight, like most writers, I try to start as close to the end of the story as I can, this compression helping add to tension and dramatic effect. But each story is of a “size” and sometimes it’s hard to manipulate how you approach it. For example, the events in Death Roe and Running Dark actually took place in phases over many years, (more than a decade) but I compressed these events artificially to make the story more compelling in terms of time and dramatic tension. As Foote’s biographer wrote, “ The author made the historical background as accurate as the demands of fiction permit.”
Nine, though I am writing fiction, I try to get my facts as accurate as I can. I try to travel to and look at every site I work about. And I try to verify historical facts to the extent that is possible. By spending time in trucks with officers I am able to create the impression of authenticity, or that’s my goal, in terms of the equipment, communication procedures etc. But what helps me most are officers willingly talking to me about what is going through their minds as we enters various situations and after we emerge from them. It takes a lot of courage and trust to share your innermost thought processes in times of stress, but officers do this with me regularly and this helps me make the stories as authentic as possible. Foote has said quite a lot about writing history and fiction and his words are instructive. “The honest novelist and historian both seek truth, reaching it by different routes. History recreates the past by communicating facts. The novelist attempts to communicate sensation.” This last notion is influenced in part by Foote’s interest in the French author/critic/essayist Marcel Proust.
Finally, I don’t react much to books on store shelves. I see them, hardly note them. When I finish a book it’s usually a year before publication and I’ve moved on to the next story. I don’t dwell on things and thus a new book with new cover doesn’t really excite me. My satisfaction comes twice, once when I finish the first draft for me and my agent, and the second when I hand in the finally revisions to my editor. The stages of this business are: idea for a story, research, write the story, revise the story, send story to agent, get offer from publisher, agree to contract, finalize the manuscript based on the editor’s input, and move on to next story, only to be delayed when the book comes out and you have to stop for media interviews or book signings etc, the part I like least. The whole notion of explaining to some stranger what my book is “about” leaves me cold as a lizard on an ice tray. I also don’t like reading “groups.” To me books are individual things, not group efforts. We ought to decide what to read on our own, and decide on our own what the things we read may mean to us. Who cares what others think? Book groups are too much like kiddie “play dates” arranged by helicopter parents. If that offends, sorry. I would also add if you are talking to a novelist, don’t ask if what he or she writes is a fictional novel. Novels are fiction. In some ways this comment though suggests that some folks can’t distinguish between a non-fiction book about the Civil War and a novel such as Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, which was made into the film, Gettysburg.
I am often told that the real advantage from book- signings and the like is for readers to hear the author’s voice applied to characters, and to see that’ I’m a normal nice guy, the assumption here is that these things will lead to sales, but when I go to a library, frankly I talk to people and few have ever bought any book. And, when you get down to it, what kind of human beings were Alexander Dumas, William Faulkner, or for that matter own Jim Harrison? We don’t really know other than to have some sort of artificial impression from a brief encounter which is very likel to be nowhere near accurate. I don’t go to see a movie based on some star’s or director’s personal life, but based on their previous work. My point is, who cares if an author is a complete asshole? We read his or her work, not him or her, and all that matters is what’s on paper (or in electrons). The one thing I do like about readings however, in addition to meeting some nice and interesting people, is tha it often gives me an opportunity to try out stuff before live guinea pigs and see their reaction. I pay little attention to what they say, and mainly watch them as I read to try to determine how they are receiving the story. I don’t like to read from my novels because I’ve yet to figure out how to select a passage Short stories are easier to work with from this perspective, but a novel? So I often read from new, unrelated things in progress instead. This helps me, and presumably may interest listeners and potential readers. Whether people buy books from the vendor becomes irrelevant under this “paradigm.” ot. If I am invited to speak to identified group, I usually craft something unique for each audience and this process can bleed off 3-10 days of regular writing time, which at my age makes it expensive. But I figure if people are going to pay you, it’s your job to earn your payday. And I usually commit that work to paper so that there is something to leave behind that they can use in other formats for other purposes.
Nuff yakkettyings from the shores of Muskallonge Lake. Rock On agate show at the state park this weekend. Still no big push from fish coming up the river. We are still seeing hummingbird moths (hummoths) almost every evening and our eagle count is pushing 400, roughly 100 a month. Got a note from Laurie and Godfrey saying re-entry is difficult and we understand. When you step out your door to know there will be wildlife all around you, it’s tough to re-immerse in a place where all the wildlife has two legs.
Will write again Saturday from signing at Deer Park Lodge. For the second year in a row I have the pleasure of signing beside Ellen Airgood, a talented writer and fascinating lady of much depth. Last year Zeta, the Brown’s Labradoodle kept us company all afternoon. Jambe Longue will use my Saturday afternoon absence to remain at cabin to do art work. Weather for Saturday is supposed to be 66 and sunny. Should be nice.