The last Friday in April is National Arbor Day, though some states also celebrate this on various dates, depending on ideal planting times. The importance of protecting our trees and planting new trees to replace those that die or are cut down cannot be exaggerated!
Besides providing the oxygen our bodies require, trees also offer us lovely views. From childhood, I fondly remember the stately maple trees in our front yard, each autumn turning fiery shades of red, yellow, or orange. Near the edge of our property, we had an apple tree that was just the right size for a little girl who wanted to climb trees but was afraid at the same time.
Behind our house, a huge willow tree grew. In my father’s bedtime stories, the Teenie Weenies of his tales, who were based on William Donahey’s books and comic strips, lived under that tree. I suspected for many years that this was truly the case. Walking out by the willow tree by myself was exciting but a little scary. What if I were to come face to face with one of those little people?
In my last home in Michigan, we had many beautiful trees in our yard and nearby. From small to large, some blossomed, while others provided a lovely green cover in the summer. But one small, funky tree holds a special place in my heart. It was a larch I had known since its infancy.
Each winter, I felt certain and horrified that it might die. Its branches were of the “weeping” variety, and the thin trunk appeared rather weak and almost bent. In the summers, I checked it often, lugged buckets of water during dry spells, and marveled at the feathery new growth each spring.
I miss that tree and all the surrounding beauty. There it is, below, near the middle of the photo, just to the right of the house corner. The light green on the ends is the new growth. I wonder if “my” tree still grows in that yard.
Where I now live in Texas, my only gardening space is the balcony. Although some people grow small, ornamental trees in pots, I have not tried this, yet. I recently read about growing miniature citrus trees in containers, which can then be brought in during the coldest parts of the winter. It’s a thought…
“During the last year when most countries have seen periods of confinement and people have had to limit their time spent outside, books have proved to be powerful tools to combat isolation, reinforce ties between people, expand our horizons, while stimulating our minds and creativity. In some countries the number of books read has doubled.
During the month of April and all year round, it is critical to take the time to read on your own or with your children. It is a time to celebrate the importance of reading, foster children’s growth as readers and promote a lifelong love of literature and integration into the world of work.
I have very few memories of my paternal grandfather because he died when I was so young. I do quite clearly remember, however, the day he urged my sister and me to touch our tongues to sumac that grew in my grandparents’ back yard. This is probably so clear not because of its lemony flavor but because my mother was NOT pleased when she heard about it! Like many others, she may not have been sure about the difference between poison sumac and the safe variety of staghorn sumac.
I remember at the time my father assured her that he knew it was safe. I didn’t know until he told me his story years later exactly how he knew that the sumac was edible. He recounted to me that as a child he had been worried his parents were making a poisonous mistake by planning to use sumac berries in making an inexpensive, lemonade-type beverage. As the berries ripened, he took it upon himself to discover the truth about their safety. That’s the story I tell in “Sumac Summer,” which I am happy to say has just been published by Modern History Press in the U.P. Reader #5 anthology!
Because this has just been published, I won’t be posting the story here until next year. Meanwhile, I told readers of my blog last year about publication of a story regarding an early spring walk near Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A face-to-face meeting with an indeterminate species brought about a rather humorous situation, which I chronicle in my short story, “Much Different Animal.” I hope you’ll read and enjoy it!
Much Different Animal
by Becky Ross Michael
Spring in Upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula arrives late and is a whole different animal from other places I’ve lived. Harsh realities of winter recede, inch by inch, while signs of sprouting spring replace them in fits and starts. “Unpredictable” is the key word, and if the weather is pleasant for ten minutes, you should take advantage.
“Let’s go for a ride out by Sand Bay,” he suggested, as the two seasons collided on a clear Saturday afternoon.
Happy to make enjoyable use of weekend hours away from the classroom, I agreed. “Great idea. Let’s leave the dog home,” I added, glancing at our little, black Shi Tzu. “Boo Boo’s muddy from our walk this morning, and I don’t want him in the car before he’s had a bath.”
The drive along a two-lane, twisty road from Laurium toward the bay was relaxing, as always. I imagined the smell from clear, icy waters of Lake Superior greeting us as we turned northward. That day, unfortunately, the sky darkened as we neared the lake, and the view through the windshield became misty.
We passed a small waterfall and a bakery displaying a closed sign. I looked forward to when the monks would reopen The Jampot for the tourist season. Their delectable muffins often enhanced our trips to the beach.
Spotting the driveway to a house where one of my students lived, I knew we were approaching the turnout. By the time we arrived at the graveled parking lot, the air was a thick, soupy fog.
We parked next to a lone car wearing an out-of-state license plate. Tourists didn’t usually visit so early in the spring. Donning our jackets, we headed to the path. This was in the years before the posting of erosion regulations and construction of steep wooden steps for traversing the sand dunes. Our zealous beach-dog, Boo, had helped us blaze a trail during previous summers, and it headed west at an angle to avoid the steep decline of the bank. The winter’s snow and ice were gone, but flattened grasses, bent bushes and cracked tree limbs attested to their recent occupancy.
Picking our way along the path, I envisioned warm summer days and wondered if we’d be able to see anything when we reached our goal. From the calm lake, I heard only a soft lapping when an occasional wave reached the shore. Toward the end of our descent, a male form materialized through the mist in front of us, as we gained on him. The tourist? When the figure came to an abrupt halt, we almost ran into him, standing stock-still and looking toward the beach.
“Those your dogs?” the stranger asked, with a nervous edge to his voice.
Our gaze followed where his hand pointed, through a narrow expanse of underbrush and grasses. Slinking along the sand, their ghostly forms appeared out of the haze. As their sure paws wove around piles of stones formed from the scraping of winter ice floes, the two moved past us without a sound.
I held my breath.
“I don’t think those are dogs,” answered my partner.
Eyeballs widened, the stranger turned to face us for confirmation. Without missing a beat, he ignored the path and clawed his way straight up the steep embankment.
Relieved we hadn’t brought Boo Boo along, we also decided to use caution and cut our visit short. With a bit more decorum, we stuck to the path.
Back in my elementary classroom on Monday, a typical indoor recess was necessary due to spring rains. During that wild twenty minutes, I overheard the student who lived near Sand Bay mention “dogs” while talking with a friend. With practiced nonchalance known to many teachers, I asked them if anything special happened over the weekend. The child then recounted a story about their “hybrids” escaping the house and how they found them across the road at Sand Bay.
To this day, I picture the stranger telling anyone who will listen about his run-in with the “pack of wolves,” in the untamed wilderness otherwise known as the Keweenaw.
Imperfect Foods is my new favorite source to buy produce that is less-than-perfect or in surplus at a reasonable cost, in efforts to help reduce food waste. Boxes are delivered to the door according to the schedule you choose. On the company site, I found this article about natural egg dyes. I’ve used the turmeric and red cabbage methods in the past and know they work! ~Becky
And from Publishers Weekly,
One year into the pandemic, the holidays have not yet returned to their full festive scope, but there’s still cause to celebrate the coming season. The arrival of spring brings a parade of Easter and Passover titles, as well as books on baby animals. In addition, Margaret Wise Brown’s classic Runaway Bunny, illustrated by Clement Hurd, is hopping over to HBO Max in a musical adaptation. We’ve gathered a selection of new and noteworthy springtime picture books for young readers, both secular and spiritual.
I absolutely love used bookstores, especially those that house specialty sections, such as ephemera, advertising, or cookbooks. The booklet pictured above has been in my collection for years, and I don’t remember for sure in which shop it was found. Dated 1948, this was published not that many years before I was born. The black-and-white pages offer information about handy home gadgets and detailed recipes for various meals, including desserts, like cakes and other sweets.
My mom’s kitchen arsenal didn’t include an elaborate mixer with a stand, turntable, and large bowl. The following image from the booklet is more like the mixer she would have used when making my birthday cake.
My Grandma Witzke (pictured above next to my mother) was the first person I remember who had a blender. It looked much like the one shown below.
During my early years, Grandma and Grandpa Witzke lived nearby, and we would often visit. On lucky days, Grandma would make us malts in her blender, and vanilla was always my favorite (and still is today).
Over the years, my birthday weeks have involved many memorable activities: a horse-drawn sleigh ride in childhood, moving into “my” first house as an adult, trips to Florida, an overnight stay in a lighthouse, gorgeous flowers, delicious meals drenched in wine, thoughtful gifts, my parents singing to me over the miles, and wonderful times spent with my children and grandchildren.
This year, my big event is a much-needed haircut. Whoo-hoo! These days, I’m thankful for the smallest of favors. And it WILL be a happy birthday and a good year!
I don’t know about you, but I rarely win anything. Imagine my surprise when I won a book for leaving a comment and being selected, through Kathy Temean’s wonderful and informative blog, Writing and Illustrating. Kathy is involved in SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), writes and illustrates, runs a consulting company, teaches, and is the editor-in-chief of SproutsMagazine. One of her passions is to help other writers and illustrators, and her blog is one way for her to meet that goal.
Here’s the beautiful book I won! I love biographies, especially about people with whom I am unfamiliar. This story is so lovingly written by North Texas author, Nancy Churnin, who certainly has an expressive way with words. The book is illustrated by another Texan, Felicia Marshall, and I am fairly certain the subject of this book, artist Laura Wheeler Waring, would heartily approve of her work! In her blog, Kathy has done an excellent job of introducing the book, author, and illustrator, so please visit Writing and Illustrating to learn more about them!
We Must Not Forget: Holocaust Remembrance Day and Books to Help Us Understand — FallenStar Stories
….if understanding were possible. Today, 27 January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. When the Red Army arrived at the gates of this most infamous of the Nazi concentration camps, they saw for the first time the horrors that it held. It stands today as a memorial; a stark reminder of what human […]
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrates the life and civil rights work of Dr. King. In 1994, the holiday was officially recognized as a National Day of Service where volunteers across the country work together to make a difference in their communities. The titles include children’s books about Dr. King, fiction and nonfiction books about ordinary people who stand up for what’s right, and stories about helping others and giving back.
You’re sure to find some great books here to share with your children, grandchildren, or students! Stay safe and be well! ~Becky