A little respite at wit’s end

There is, of course, more to the Bud and Jan story but I am not yet of a mind to share it. Not because I wouldn’t share it with you, because this past week has confirmed what I already knew: that there are people who you have never heard their voice or touched their hand and, yet, these people can become your friends. It’s very odd- you write about your day-to-day life and they write about theirs and you read each other’s lives and laugh or sigh or say, “That rings familiar.” And then after a while, when times are tough, they can care about you as much as the friends you have to dinner, the women in your book club, the colleagues you work with and even the family that supports you. They are precisely the sorts of people with whom you want to share your story. And I will, but it is still evolving and still too raw.Bench

Today, I took an afternoon and night to myself here at Wit’s End to spend some quiet time. A respite of sorts before another flurry of activity around the death of my mother. On the drive out here two things crossed my mind that made it hard to keep the yellow line in focus. The first was that I was barely out of the driveway before I reached for my phone to call my parents at Lost Loon Lodge. It is my habit to call them when I am driving because that’s when I do my best on the phone. I don’t really enjoy chatting on the phone so at home it’s strictly necessary calls and so as bad as it is to talk and drive, I call them whenever I’m on a quiet stretch of road. And Bud always answers and he always says, “Momma, it’s Betsy!” and she always says, “BUUUDD! It’s not Betsy!” which he knows full well but he says it to bait me because he is playful and because he knows that Betsy and I have had some bit of sibling rivalry over the years (which has dissipated beyond my wildest expectations this past week and leaves me embarrassed to remember). And so today, I reached for the cell phone and almost pushed their button when I realized they weren’t there and I couldn’t call and see what Emeril Live delicacy was being turned into the soup de jour by Bud for my mother’s tenuous digestive system. Will he ever enjoy cooking again? I don’t know.

The other thing was a tune started playing in my head, the way they do sometimes, and it took me about 4 minutes to put the words to it. The words were: “If you go out in the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise…”

It’s the tail end of winter here at Wit’s End, with just a hint of spring. There are still some small vestiges of ice on the lake, all around the corner where it’s sheltered from the wind and where the best bass hide in the water grass in summer time. I hiked through the woods to that shore of the lake and saw something very sparkle-y and noisy. The last ice was breaking up and being pushed up on shore by the wind and small waves. As I watched, this ice piled up on itself, some of the pieces pushing 6-8 inches on top of each other. And the sun was low in the sky so it was quite a lovely bit of nature in action.Ice_3

Here is the hint of spring. Before I got to the bench and then watched the ice, I stopped at the bog. You may remember from previous posts that Wit’s End sits on 300 feet of land that front Cedar Lake, a small private lake that is heavily protected by the DEQ because it is the headwater to the Red Cedar River and the Grand River watershed. To our great good fortune, behind us are 137 acres of protected wetland and woods. The wet part is actually only wet briefly each spring. There is an actual bog that exists for part of March and all of April and then it is gone until the next year. But this relatively small bog is the largest migratory area for Ambystoma maculatum in Southeastern Michigan and hence, the wetland is protected and no subdivision or any development, at least for now, can happen in our “100 acre woods.”Wetland

Here, in brief, is the story of Ambystoma maculatum. These little yellow spotted salamanders lay their eggs on the undersides of logs or piles of matted fallen leaves at the edge of certain bogs. The next year, as if by magic, precisely after the second major rain where the temperature is above 45 degrees the eggs mature and the first night the temperature rises above 50 degrees- BAM! (Bud calls Emeril Lagasse “that f-ing Portuguese” because of my mother’s fascination with the dishes he cooks and the way she pushed Bud to reproduce them in the far North woods- and then turn them into soup. Things like Beef Wellington Soup with Pureed Maple Sugared Acorn Squash)

Anyway, BAM! They all hatch simultaneously in the water and then they make a mad dash for the surrounding woods. In the woods they live on tiny worms and roly-poly bugs and burrow under leaves and branches and once they migrate you really can’t even find one no matter how hard you look. But on this one night- because they migrate at night- they are all out there scampering for cover. With their bright yellow spots.Ambystoma_maculatum_wallays_2

Here’s one more thing about Ambystoma maculatum. They taste bad. I don’t know this from personal experience but Sophie has reliably reported it to be true. Three times in her life I have brought her out to Wit’s End on the night of the migration and she has, like a homing pigeon, raced to the bog under cover of night and come scooting back with a present for me. A spotted salamander that tastes very bad. I can tell because even as she tries to hold on to it she is spitting and acking and shaking her head with alarm. It’s true. These little amphibians have a toxin on their skin that makes them repugnant to raccoons and possums and other creatures of the night, like Sophie, when she can escape from the cottage. I didn’t bring her this year.

Today, March 11, marks the one-year anniversary of when I started this weblog. Over 47,000 visits, 474 posts and 3900 comments. Even if I subtract a bunch of the early visits as mine many, many wonderful people have found their way here. How lucky am I? Thank you.

This last photo looked to me like a sign of love that some small creature of nature had carved in this fallen tree.Wormwood

35 responses to “A little respite at wit’s end

  1. This is a note of thanks to all of Vicki’s mostly new friends. In less than a year you have become an important part of her life in this most wonderful context for her to express her heart, wit and talent. I think we live in a time where so much is going on in “real” life that it is hard to find time, or a way, to express what we are feeling. Not only has Vicki found that space here, but your genuine and wonderful response to her has been a treasure as well. And something that has touched me to see from the sideline.

    As I write this, Vic is out listening to birds and/or watching/taking pictures of sunsets and birds, and peepers, and such – in solitude and peace. Thanks for the way you are gently holding her through this…

    Rich

  2. Vicki and Rich, my deepest sympathies on Jan’s death. I know that nothing I can say will make it better, but please know that I am thinking about you and praying for you. I am glad to see that you and Betsy have grown closer (at least I interpret your statement to mean that). Please take good care of yourselves during this time of grief, and remember all the good things about your mom and the times you had together.

    Rich, my blog is only a little older than Vicki’s, and I too have come to care deeply about some of the people here, and find it an amazing blessing. But Vicki is obviously a very special person, so I am not surprised at the response she has gotten. Take care of each other.

  3. Vicki – I am so sorry to hear about your mother. God bless you and your family in this difficult time. You’re in our prayers.

  4. Vicki,
    My thoughts and prayers are with you right now. I’ll keep the whole clan…Rich, Abby, Dan as well as Bud and your siblings in my prayers. If you need anything, you know I’m a phone call away and well just down the road. I’m so sorry for your loss *hugs*.
    Love,
    Meeta

  5. This really hurts. I’m sure you know.

  6. Vicki…I am so sorry that you have lost your dear Mom…I know how hard that is and I hope you find the strength and the love to get through this very very sad time being held by those you HOLD so very close and dear to you…I send you hugs, dear Vicki.

  7. Dear Vicki, I’m so sorry for your loss. And I’m glad to read that you’re taking some time for yourself, in a gorgeous spot that so clearly nourishes your heart, mind and spirit. I’m thinking often of you and your family. Hugs to all.

  8. I’ve been keeping you and your family in my thoughts, Vicki, though it’s hard to find the right words. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  9. What a beautiful reflection on life and death, and how fitting that Jan’s daughter would find herself seeking solace on the shores of a lake.

  10. I’m so sorry about your Mom, Vicki. Bless you and your family

  11. Sending you a bunch of hugs. Beautiful salamander. 🙂

  12. Vicki… I am so sorry to read of the passing of your mother. I’ve been trying to catch up with everyone’s blogs and was so sad to read about this.

    You are a wonderful person, and I know your family will get you through this. Just know that your blog family is with you as well.

    xoxoxoxox
    PG

  13. Vicki, I’m so sorry to hear about your Mom. Many, many good thoughts and strength winging your way from here. When I finally got around to blog surfing this morning I came in here and though, “Yippee! More Bud and Jan stories!” Not what I was expecting, but there you go. 🙂 Much hugs and love to you, sweetie.

  14. My deepest sympathy on your loss, Vicki. I am always reminded of this poem by William Iverson, when a dearly loved one has passed away.

    These are the ravens of my soul
    sloping above the lonely fields
    And cawing, cawing.
    I have released them now,
    And sent them wavering down the sky.
    Learning the slow witchery of the wind.
    And crying on the farthest fences of the world.

  15. Vicki from Georgia

    I’m so sorry.

  16. Vicki and Rich,
    I’m so very sorry at your loss. That was a fine post, very touching. Take care.

  17. Vicki and Rich,

    I am so sorry. (((Hugs across the ether))) and much love to you.

    The fact that you could write such an amazing post, too– well, it doesn’t surprise me. It doesn’t surprise me.

  18. Your woods look amazingly like mine…and I’m sure bring you as much comfort in times like these. Holding your hands across the miles from Tennessee to Michigan as you grieve the loss of your dear mother. Keep the faith , y’all ^j^

  19. Vicki, I’m sending a note in the mail.

    Love and hugs.

  20. What a beautiful place to honor the memories of your Mom. It would be where I would like to be too, at such a time as this, if I had such a place. I love the ice photo. Still wishing you peace.

  21. Vicki, I’m so sorry about your mom.

  22. I am so very sorry.

  23. I hope that the thoughts and good wishes from all of us will help sustain you in the days ahead. You (and by extension, Rich, Bud and your entire family) are grieved with as if we were part of your extended family as well.

    (I call dibs on getting to be the eccentric, slightly dotty family member with the big mouth and a fondness for bourbon – I don’t get to play that role in my own family, alas, as it’s a popular one…)

  24. Vicki, I wanted to know just the “right” thing to say, but nothing can make the loss of your mother “right.” You are such a stong and loving person, taking care of others before yourself. I’m sure your mom had a hand in this. You love nature and see the beauty in the small things; another gift from you mother. You are her daughter. From your words about her, the love pours forth. The memories are there, perhaps painful right now but they will be comforting. So, take the time for yourself, for each other and know that “Those who live in the hearts of others….never die.” Prayers and hugs for you and your family and especially dear Bud. Finally, go ahead, cry all you want. God gave us tears to sooth our souls.

  25. Vicki, I am so sorry. We’ve had some problems here but that’s no excuse for me not being in touch for so long.

    Blessings on you and your family and love to all of you.

  26. Sweet Vicki,
    I am so sorry for your loss. We are all with you in spirit right now – holding your hand – rubbing your shoulders – offering you a tissue. Let your tears flow, remember the wonders and lean on your friends.

    I loved reading what Rich wrote. It’s so good to know that you are in such wonderful and supportive hands.

    xoxo

  27. She must have known how much you loved her, Vicky. The more I read about your mother and Bud, the more I came to like them. You have been blessed with a wonderful family indeed. I’ll be thinking about you in these days to come.

  28. I can’t stop thinking of you and FG and Jan and Bud and Betsy and salamanders on the banks of the Red Cedar. You have moved nearly 50,000 people with your fine writing on nature – human and flora/fauna. And, today you help us understand loving tenderness and grief as you mourn the passing of your dear mother. God’s Peace, sweet Vicki!

    If Thou art near when life is closing
    All joyful shall I fall asleep.
    Be Thou with me as I awaken
    And claim my soul when I arise.
    Ah, how serene, were thus my passing,
    Thy tender hand upraised in blessing
    Would sanctify my slumber deep.
    Be Thou with me, as I awaken
    And claim my soul when I arise.
    ~BIST DU BEI MIR from the “Notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach” by J.S. Bach 1700

  29. Peace and love to you and your family.

  30. Sending lots of love, V. I’m glad you have those cool salamanders and the birds and your photography. O, and Rich. What an amazing guy. XOXOXO, AF

  31. Vicki

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Jes and I will be thinking of you this week as you gather with your family to support one another. I think many people who read you here are touched and comforted by how you make your way in the world. You’ve many readers and friends wishing that same comfort for you in this difficult time.

  32. Oh dear Vicki – I’m so sorry.
    Much Love, Catinka

  33. You wove so many beautiful images and memories into this post; I am so sorry about your mom–too much to express with any fluency. I’m just devastated that the world is without such a special and wonderful spirit.

  34. A beautiful post, and photographs. I suspect you found comfort and solace in the visions, and words, and feelings. I know I did.

    I lost my Mom in March years ago. I remember missing her so bad it hurt with a physical pain. I welcomed the healing that I knew would come with passing time – days could not go by fast enough for that! – but I was afraid that I might somehow forget her as time went by. Her voice, her mannerisms, the little looks, her colors, the “feel” of her in my life.

    I am happy to report that now, 18 years later, she is as strongly with me as I ever need her to be. Your Mom will be with you, too, when you’re ready and when you need her. You’ll see.

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