Hanging with Upper Peninsula Writers

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What a great bunch of folks I got to meet on my recent adventure in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. These are photos that my darling Christopher took of events.

At Lake Superior State College I got to be on a panel with Sue Harrison (middle, in black with wine glass), who just received the Writing the (inaugural) 2013 Writing the U.P. Award, and Ellen Airgood, author of the wildly popular South of Superior, which I’m reading right now. It’s good! Sue Harrison is the bestselling author of Mother Earth, Father Sky and many other Prehistory books.  Here some of us are having a drink after our event at the Soo Brewery in Sault Ste. Marie. (beside me is author and LSSU professor Mary McMyne), in black shirt at the back is Diane Pingatore, who asked us all brilliant questions at the LSSU event, and on the right are Ellen Airgood, Ron Riekki, and Scott Hamilton).

Here I’m with librarian and program organizer at Peter White Library in Marquette, Michigan, Margaret Boyle. The following day I conducted a workshop for new writers.

Here are five of us at the Tahquamenon Public and School Library in Newberry, Michigan .  (Tour organizer Ron Riekki (writer, editor of the anthology The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula Works), BJC,  Steve Hamilton (author of the Alex McNight detective series), Ellen Airgood, and the fabulous fiction writers John Smolens.

Here are Steve Hamilton and Ron Riekki and I at the Falling Rock Cafe and Bookstore in Munising, Michigan. The owner Nancy Dwyer treated me to a yummy salad with Lake Superior whitefish on it.

Here are a bunch of us on a panel at the North Winds Bookstore in Hancock, Michigan.  (Book store manager Alana Nolan,  poet Randall Freisinger, Native American writer April Lindala, Ron Riekki, and poet and fiction writer Phillip Sterling.) The bookstore is part of Finlandia University, formerly Suomi College. We stayed three nights in Hancock, and especially enjoyed Finnish pancakes at the Suomi restaurant.

Grandpa’s Barn Books in Copper Harboar was a great place to visit, and some might even want to live there.  Here on the porch are Keith Taylor, owner Lloyd Wescoat, poet Randall Freisenger, and Ron Riekki. Lloyd loaned me a bicycle and I tore all over town. Chris and I drove out to the tip of the peninsula, where I found and ate many handfuls of thimbleberries.

We had fun here too, at the Dickinson County  Library in Iron Mountain, with Ron Riekki, Sue Harrison, poet Beverly Matherne from Northern Michigan University (who writes in English and French), and Keith Taylor. What a panel!

One of the highlights of the trip to the Upper Peninsula was meeting poet and professor  Catie Rosemurgy (in yellow) in Escanaba, Michigan.  Ron and I are flanking her, and the head librarian Carolyn Stacey is behind us.

DSCN1514A Manistique Library BookWorldIronMountain BookWorldMarquetteHere is a photo taken at Harbor Springs (a few miles below the bridge, but part of the official UP Tour).  Here you’ll see Steve Amick wearing the Pacific University shirt, the owner of Between the Covers, Katie, kneeling in the flannel shirt, and a few others. We had a fun visit from my old friend Donna Deal, and we loved meeting the other  folks in the photo.

And here we are at the Manistique Public and School Library, with poet Amber Edmondson, Phillip Sterling, poet Elinor Benedict, and Ron. There are only a few places in the state where the public and school libraries are joined, and we visited two of them.

There are three more photos below. In order of where appear:

Book World in Iron Mountain: I’m with Ron, Beverly Matherne, and a bookseller,

At Marquette Book World, here are Russell Thornburn (2013 Poet Laureate of the UP), Jane Piirto, April Lindala, Ron and I).

There’s one of Ron and me with children’s book author Janice Repka (dark hair) at the St. Ignace Book World. The blond woman is the bookstore manager.


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There are three species of equines surviving in the twenty-first century: horse, donkey, zebra, and they can all interbreed, producing sterile offspring. Recently a beautiful donkey-zebra mix was born in an Italian zoo (my friend Alicia Conroy alerted me of this). Mama was a donkey and daddy was a zebra, so the baby Ippo (below) is a zonkey, or a zedonk, zebonkey, zebronkey, zebrinny, zebrula, zebrass, and zedonk, zeedonk, even zebadonk. Whatever you call him, he’s darned cute.


Americans like to think that our country was settled by horses, but really the land was tamed by mules, which are created from daddy-donkeys and mama-horses.  In my experience, the male donkey is eager to jump on mares.  There are not so many mules these days as there used to be, but there are a lot at the Grand Canyon, and you they are sure-footed enough to carry you comfortably across rough ground down into the canyon.


I just love looking at mules.  Here’s a pair of gorgeous mules in harness:


And there is another creature you don’t see so often, a Hinny, which comes from a mama donkey and papa horse. From what I’ve heard, the male horse is less interested in the female donkey than vice versa, but a friend of our family Drew Anderson used to try to breed for Hinnies.


Of course any of these animals can be female or male. While the males are not fertile, most owners still castrate them, because of behavior issues.  Twice in the history of human observation, a jenny mule has given birth, and nobody knows what to call the baby. Some call it a chimera. Here is a photo of it nursing


And because the baby is so sweet, I want to show you another photo. You can read about this outrageous birth here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12260255


A zorse is the offspring of a male zebra and a female horse. This cross is also called a zebrula, zebrule, zebra mule or golden zebra.  They can look sort of horshish:


Or their coloring can be very exotic. A zony is the offspring of a zebra stallion and a pony mare


The rarer reverse pairing is sometimes called a horbra, hebra, zebrinny or zebret, and I can’t seem to find a photo of one of these.  I’ll just finish up here with my own donkey Don Quixote. I’m wearing my Southern Review T-shirt in honor of Jeanne Leiby (RIP).


OH, and let’s add one more, a photo of writer Claire Davis with her horse Scout:


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It’s all about the Far North around here.  Chris and I are gearing up for a whirlwind literary tour of a big swath of the upper peninsula of Michigan this August.  Here is a map of the UP so you can get inspired, too. Think of cool Lake Superior breezes!


Ron Reikki is the organizer of the tour, and he invited me to be the “headliner” and visit a lot of bookstores and libraries in our great north, and I said that I would try to make it something like a vacation for me and my darling Christopher, who will be driving the more than 1500 miles.  Here is my schedule:

Dates for my portion of the 2013 Upper Peninsula Book Tour:

Thursday, July 25 – Official UP Tour kick-off:

Kazoo Books II (2413 Parkview. Kalamazoo, MI  49008) 6:30 pm, reading/signingw/ Bonnie Jo Campbell, Nancy Eimers, Kim Kolbe, William Olsen, Janeen Rastall, Ron Riekki, Keith Taylor, Eric Torgersen (info about the event here:


Sunday, August 4: Lake Superior State University (Superior Room, Walker Cisler Student and Conference Center, 650 W Easterday Ave, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783), 6:00 pm, reading/Q&A/signing w/ Ellen Airgood, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Sue Harrison

Information about event here: http://www.sootoday.com/content/arts/details.asp?c=59772

Monday, August 5: Tahquamenon Public Library (700 Newberry Ave  Newberry, MI 49868), 6:00–8:00 pm, panel w/Ellen Airgood, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Steve Hamilton, Ron Riekki, John Smolens

Tuesday, August 6: Falling Rock Café & Bookstore (104 E Munising Ave, Munising, MI 49862), 2:00–4:00 pm, signing w/Bonnie Jo Campbell, Steve Hamilton, Ron Riekki, John Smolens

Wednesday, August 7: Peter White Public Library (217 N Front St, Marquette, MI 49855), 7:00–9:00 pm, signing w/Bonnie Jo Campbell (books supplied by Snowbound Books)

Thursday, August 8: Peter White Library (217 N Front St, Marquette, MI 49855), 1:00 pm, writing workshop with Bonnie Jo Campbell (sign-up required, call 906-226-4312.) Here’s an article about the workshop: http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/589342/Writers-workshop-at-library.html?nav=5004

Thursday, August 8: Book World (136 W Washington St, Marquette, MI 49855), 4:30–6:00 pm, w/Bonnie Jo Campbell, April Lindala, Jane Piirto, Janice Repka, Ron Riekki

Thursday, August 8: Snowbound Books (118 N Third St, Marquette, MI 49855), 6:30–8:00 pm, w/Sharon Dilworth and Bonnie Jo Campbell

Friday, August 9: North Wind Books (601 Quincy St, Hancock, MI 49930), 2:00-4:00 pm, reading/signing w/Bonnie Jo Campbell, Randall R. Freisinger, April Lindala, Ron Riekki, Phillip Sterling

 Saturday, August 10: Grandpa’s Barn (385 4th St, Copper Harbor, MI 49918), 2:00–5:00 pm signing with Ron Riekki; 2:30-4:30 pm, signing w/Randall R. Freisinger, Keith Taylor; 3:00–5:00 pm, signing w/Bonnie Jo Campbell

 Monday, August 12: Book World (1104 S Stephenson Ave, Iron Mountain, MI 49801), 5:00–6:00 pm, signing w/Bonnie Jo Campbell, Ron Riekki

Here’s an article from the Iron Mountain Daily News: http://www.ironmountaindailynews.com/page/content.detail/id/541660/2013-U-P–Book-Tour-announced.html?nav=5066

Monday, August 12: Dickinson County Library (401 Iron Mountain St, Iron Mountain, MI  49801), 6:30–8:00 pm, panel w/Bonnie Jo Campbell, Sue Harrison, Beverly Matherne, Ron Riekki, Keith Taylor (books supplied by Friends of the Library)

Tuesday, August 13: Book World (301 N Lincoln Rd, Escanaba, MI 49829), 2:30–4:00 pm, signing w/Bonnie Jo Campbell, Ron Riekki, Catie Rosemurgy

Tuesday, August 13: Escanaba Public Library (400 Ludington St, Escanaba, MI 49829), 7:00 pm, reading/Q&A/panel w/Bonnie Jo Campbell, Ron Riekki, Catie Rosemurgy

 Wednesday, August 14: Manistique Public Library (100 N Cedar St, Manistique, MI 49854), 1:00-3:00 pm, panel/Q&A/readingw/Elinor Benedict, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Amber Edmondson, Phillip Sterling, Ron Riekki, Philllip Sterling

Wednesday, August 14: Book World (52 N State St  St Ignace, MI 49781), 6:00-7:00 pm, signing w/Bonnie Jo Campbell, Janice Repka, Ron Riekki

 Friday, August 15: Between the Covers (152 E Main St  Harbor Springs, MI 49740), 2:00–3:00 pm, signing w/Steve Amick, Bonnie Jo Campbell

Here’s an article that Yvonne Zip of the Kalamazoo Gazette wrote about the tour.


The tour is much bigger than me and my events. Ron Reikki’s number one goal is to showcase Upper Peninsula writers, and so I’ll get to meet a lot of them at our venues.  There are 41 writers appearing at 31 venues.  Here’s a more complete list:


This fourth annual upper peninsula tour will be featuring a new book edited by Ron Reikki and published by Wayne State University Press.  It’s an anthology of new writing by Upper Peninsula writers and you can find more about it here:



Mostly I’ll be reading,  signing my books, and chatting with folks, but I’ll be doing one free writing workshop at Peter White Library. There’s info at this link:


CIMG8677So Chris is getting ready for the drive to Sault St. Marie to start things out. (Here’s a photo of him at the cottage).  On our one day off, we’ll go to the Porcupine Mountains and see what that’s all about.  And I sure hope we run into Joe Heywood, author of the Woods Cop series. He’s got a great new book of Woods Cop short stories out this year, Hard Ground. And maybe we’ll see some of you, too.  Cheers! Bonnie

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Eulogy for my dad, Rick Campbell

Eulogy for Frederick L. Campbell (by Bonnie Campbell)

Photo of Dad taken by Chris Magson on our screen porch.

Photo of Dad taken by Chris Magson on our screen porch.

We are together here, on this day before father’s day, 2013, to mourn the death and celebrate the life of Rick Campbell, father of seven (Mike, me, Thomas, Sheila, George, Erin, Brennen). Other people might have the good sense to keep their comments short, but I’m not going to do that. My father never mentioned my writing his eulogy. He did not think he was going to die, certainly not now, maybe not ever. And neither did the rest of us.  Dad had his home health remedies, and we expected him to keep going to Meijers to pick up a couple of things, to keep lugging bags of topsoil to his garden, and to keep changing his own oil in his truck. We expected him to keep driving around looking for the cheapest gas prices—one time I know he drove all the way to Indiana to fill up. We expected him to keep showing up at our barbeques and parties and going out on my brother Tom’s pontoon boat and making goofy jokes. I figured I’d be making him a carrot cake for his 79th birthday in a few weeks.

Susanna & Five kids, photo by Rick Campbell

Susanna & Five kids, photo by Rick Campbell

My mother is Susanna, Dad’s first wife, and when they met, she was riding a horse, and he was looking up at her. If it was love at first sight, he never would have admitted it.  When he met his second wife Leslie, to whom he was married 31 years, he might have been looking up at her on the roof of a house, for she worked back then as a chimney sweep. That seems a good start, his looking up to a woman. He always looked up to Clarian Campbell, the mother who raised him in Richland a woman who fed and clothed and somehow, with Herculean strength and the patience of Job kept in line five boys: Don, Rick, Phil, Bob, and Jim.

Dad's Senior Picture

Dad’s Senior Picture

On his first or second date with my mom, he drove her from Comstock to a movie at the park in Augusta, and on the way home, there was a car crash that resulted in five fatalities, as Mom put it, “Bodies were spread all over the road.” So Dad jumped out of the car and took pictures, and that was life with a photographer. 

When I asked my little brother George recently for a memory of dad, he said, “Well, I was about ten, and he picked me up at school, we delivered some photos to the Gazette, and then we came across a car accident and we had to stop and pull over. He took photos of the wreck and we had to go back to the Gazette to develop them.”

In his years at the Gazette, Dad photographed not only accidents and ceremonies, but characters from the world stage such as Richard Nixon, Jimmy Hoffa, Richard Dyer Bennet, Lily Tomlin, and Timothy Leary—and that, by the way, is why my brother is George Timothy Campbell.  And he photographed all the local dignitaries as well; through his job, Dad knew just about everybody in town.

Jerry'sRick3Rick took photos for the Gazette for 53 years. He was part of a dream team of Gazette Photographers including his pal Jerry Campbell, Bob Maxwell, Carl Bennett; and later, Duane Scheel and Phil Mitchell, all (and here’s the miraculous part) making regular, if modest, full time salaries with benefits. You don’t see that anymore. It isn’t exactly clear how he became a Gazette photographer. When he was seventeen he was mowing J.K. Walsh’s lawn (that’s the old Gazette editor) and the next year the guy hired him to be a photographer for the paper.

My dad had some famous photos early in his career. He won awards for a photo of a swan fleeing a motorboat, for a picture of a pet deer following a boy to the school bus, for a young woman falling off a horse during a show, as well as for a picture of jobless youths on the north side, which my mom says was completely staged.  Maybe the most famous photo he took was of Arthur Bremer at a Kalamazoo Wallace-for-president rally.  Here I’m going to quote from Dave Persons writing in the Gazette: “A close inspection of Campbell’s photo revealed that Bremer was applauding Wallace from the audience. Bremer, who was convicted and served 35 years in prison for his assassination attempt on Wallace, later revealed he had planned to shoot Wallace in Kalamazoo.” But he hadn’t gotten the chance. 

Dad with all 7 kids at Kalamazoo Gazette retirement party.

Dad with all 7 kids at Kalamazoo Gazette retirement party.

So Dad won awards for his Gazette photography, but those who knew him knew the Gazette material wasn’t his best stuff. My mom has albums full of black and white photographs of everybody we knew.

Some of the photos are good just because we like seeing the people in them, and there are way too many pictures of kids with spaghetti sauce and chocolate frosting on their faces. Others, however, are brilliant works of art, some of them portraying a single kid looking so earnest, so vulnerable, so windswept that you want to cry. His best photos might be the groups of kids and adults.  He demanded that people pose for his photos and he was quick and bossy about it. Go there, do that, he’d say, and we’d do it because we were a photographer’s kids. He could capture in a birthday cake photo a smorgasbord of emotions: heartbreak on one kid, pride or fear on another, and giddy excitement on yet another. Snap. And he did this on film—some of you remember film.

Dad & other Kalamazoo Gazette photographers.

Dad & other Kalamazoo Gazette photographers.

Jerry Campbell explains how it was in the beginning, back when they started at the Gazette, before film came in rolls, when it was in “holders.” He says, “We had a limit for how many photos we could take. For a headshot you were only supposed to take one or maybe two photos.  If we went out on a regular assignment in those days, we never shot more than four or five max. It meant that you had to really pay attention to your subjects, predict their movements, keep track of them and hope you caught them in good pose.” We take photos differently now.


In the early seventies, Dad was able to capture something quintessentially American and Midwestern in his photos He took some amazing pictures of groups of kids in 1976 (and I think we have some copies here), the year of the bicentennial, when everything in America was a little brighter and sparklier and funkier and funner than it was before or after.  I remember spending time with him in the maze of Gazette dark rooms, where he dodged and burned during the enlarging process so that faces would be brighter, backgrounds darker.  

In his last ten years or so at the Gazette, he mostly did advertising shots, rather than news; he said this allowed him to be creative in a different way. And one of his coworkers (Kim “Mac” MacKellar—I guess he lives in Florida now or he’d be here) wrote “Rick was THE GUY I always requested for photo shoots both in studio and at advertisers’ businesses. He had a knack for putting the most persnickety client at ease and they were always dazzled by the results of his keen eye for the best shot. In addition he was a heckuva NICE GUY.”


My mom says she turned Dad from a conservative to a liberal. She says it was partly those years 1956-60 they spent living just off the Donaldson Air Force base in South Carolina, seeing Black citizens living in brutal poverty, having to drink from separate fountains, having to attend separate movie theaters and schools. Mom says that while they were there they might have been shot dead by their white neighbors for the fraternizing they did with Black neighbors. Dad then spent a tour of duty in Weisbaden, Germany and he became an Airman First Class. Leslie has made arrangements for some of his ashes will be to laid to rest at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, where there will be a marker for him.

Dad photographed by Chris Magson at Bell's Brewery.

Dad photographed by Chris Magson at Bell’s Brewery.

My granny, Betty Herlihy, my mother’s mother loved my father, and not just because he was so handsome. She called Dad “a real trencherman,” which is a phrase in my family for a hearty eater.  My mother tells me that she never had a leftover the whole eleven years she was married.  Leslie says Dad was a great help to her in cleaning her plate all through their marriage. He really favored chicken, and gradually  became an artist at the barbeque grill.  He brought the beer-butt chicken into many of our lives—in case you don’t know, beer-butt refers to a method of cooking a chicken on a grill by sitting it upright on an opened can of beer and then the chicken cooks from within (with steaming beer) as well as from the outside.  He actually perfected the method to make the wine-butt turkey, which was sensational—he used a big soup can instead of a beer can, and put sherry wine in it.  He would sometimes even bring his own grill to my brother Tom’s, so his turkey or chicken wouldn’t be disturbed by somebody else’s brats and burgers. Dad always liked to be with people eating and laughing.


I asked my little sister Sheila for her favorite memory of Dad, and she remembers way back in the day, when all five of us kids and Dad would climb up on the big green couch that used to be in our kitchen. We’d all pile on and he’d play the guitar and sing “Puff the Magic Dragon” and a song he made up himself called the “Da da” song. And she also remembers being at the Gun Lake cabin that he and Jerry Campbell had for two summers, 1968 and 1969.

Mike Campbell, 1976

Mike Campbell, 1976

My big brother Mikey lived with my dad his last three years of high school.  He says my dad encouraged his creativity. Electronics was something Dad had learned from his dad, Harold, and he encouraged Mike to build his own radios, and also to play piano and draw. Mike says, “I was drawing a doodle at the table one day, and Dad liked it so much, he gave me a calligraphy pen and India ink and poster board, and I still have that first drawing. It took me three months to finish it.”  Dad signed Mikey up to be in an art show in Bronson Park when he was about 19, so he could display his work. Mike says that Dad also encouraged him to be a “mad scientist” in the kitchen and devise his own cuisine.

People feel sorry for kids of divorce, and they did especially back in 1969, but we figured we kids had it made.  Before the divorce I’d never even been to a restaurant, but Dad took us out to eat, took us camping, and took us to downtown apartments that had shag carpeting and beads hanging down instead of interior doors, and then to his house on Fourth Street, near Red Arrow Highway. For quite a while, I knew my dad as a swinging city guy, with his microwave oven, and candle-making, and his knowledge of what yin yang meant.  He often had a rakish mustache and a Sonny Bono haircut, and for a while drove a Firebird, and then he married the lovely Leslie, so I remember the moment many years later when I realized he had really changed.

Photo Dad took of Sheila and pals playing softball.

Photo Dad took of Sheila and pals playing softball.

There was an old Saturday Night Live skit called “Middle Aged Man” and Mike Myers was a super hero who would dash in and show people how to hang gutters, how to protect a car’s battery from corrosion.   He knew where all the appliance warranties were. So my dad came over one time when I was trying to build a raised garden bed in my front yard, and he told me that I should use a garden hose to outline it to figure out just how I wanted it to be, for that would allow me to mess around until I got the right shape and size. And then he told me how to prune my lilac bushes.  I realized, in that moment, that Dad had become middle-aged man. He knew how to operate a Coleman lantern.  He could install a water pump in his truck, and just a year ago, he helped my brother install a well pump in my mom’s house. The only difference was that my father was still handsome, unlike the Mike Myers character.

Dad shaved head

Dad shaved head

Rick’s dad, my grandfather Harold, was a Freemason, so we know he had a secret life. Rick was not a Freemason, but there was a part of him that was mysterious and secretive. Maybe it was a kind of shyness that would make him hold part of himself back. Maybe it was because of the mystery of his birth mother, Marcella Loesser Campbell and his first year and half of his life orphan ward of Borgess Hospital. (My mother says he was cared for there by Mary Florence Harrington.) I  got the impression that Dad was always questioning, keeping his mind open to the mystery, poking around for something more, something spiritual, maybe even something magical. I think that seeking part of him is what came through in those perfect compositions he created with his camera, those perfect frames of groups of people and individuals, filled with life. His best pictures were his visions of the wilder worlds he could imagine, more beautiful and strange and revealing worlds. Through his photos, we can see his secret self.  

One of Leslie's favorite photos of Dad.

One of Leslie’s favorite photos of Dad.

He wasn’t a person who would be bossed around. A lot us wish tried to get him to go to the doctor in these last 35 years, just to see the lay of his land, maybe to have those old arteries checked, but my dad lived on his own terms. And he was able to heal himself for a lot of years.


Dad was Dad to a lot of people. Certainly to my husband Chris Magson and Sheila’s husband Matt Schwartz, both of whom had lost their own fathers too young.  Family friends as well knew him as Dad, the man at the barbeque. And we usually had a barbeque to celebrate Dad’s birthday around the fourth of July.  A family friend Gina Betcher posted a poem about Dad, and it starts out:  “July is going to seem different, as though he’s gone off to the store, and will be coming back.”

Erin, Leslie, Bonnie at Dad's memorial at Susanna's.

Erin, Leslie, Bonnie at Dad’s memorial at Susanna’s.

So thank you Dad for all the beautiful photos that will last forever because we’re finally scanning them. Thank you for helping and advising us with our home improvement projects. Thank you for giving Chris and me the crab apple tree to plant after Chris’s mom died. Thank you, Dad, for helping my brother Tom in 1997 when both his legs were broken and filled with hardware and when he was fighting infection, when the doctors said Tom might never walk again—Dad, you cleaned bedpans and cooked food, gave moral support and physical support, and you are a big part of the reason Tom can walk today, and not just walk but climb ladders and earn a living in his chosen trade. You nurtured him and taught him how to heal himself. 


Dad & I at Kellee's wedding.

Dad & I at Kellee’s wedding.

Thanks, Dad, for taking Sheila to meet movie star Jon Schneider with your backstage pass—that’s Bo Duke from Dukes of Hazard, for those of you who don’t know. Thanks, Dad, for coming around when we needed cheering up, and for always offering your help. Thank you for coming to every grandkid’s and great grandkid’s and son-in-law’s birthday party in the last dozen years with a wrapped gift. Thank you for Christmas of 1967. That was the year you hung the Christmas tree upside down from the center of the ceiling of the living room and let us decorate it that way.  Thank you for setting up the jungle gym in the kitchen, so we kids could play on it in the winter, as well as the summer. And thanks for the da-da song—if I’m not mistaken the full set of lyrics was “da da da da da da.” And I wish I remembered the tune. Thank you for being our handsome, helpful, mysterious artistic dad. We’ll raise our glasses to you later today and tomorrow on Father’s day, and we’ll tell stories about you in a few weeks on your birthday—maybe over some carrot cake—and we’ll think about you and miss you every day.

Dad & Thomas at the lake.

Dad & Thomas at the lake.


(Next Erin spoke at length, told some wonderful stories about Dad, including stories about Dad and their various family pets.)

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Submission of Eggs


I gave Deborah Gang a dozen eggs at our opening at the Book Arts Center, or rather I should say that I submitted the eggs to her, and here was her response:

Thank you for your submission, Happy Eggs. We received an unprecedented number of excellent entries, and while your work was not chosen as a finalist for the contest, we would like to use seven of the twelve eggs in our next issue: we have chosen eggs numbered 2,3,5,6,9,10,and 12, counting across from left to right. Please note that our editors strongly agreed that Happy Eggs numbered 1,4,7,8,and 11 tasted better than either Target’s cage-free organic or D&W’s cage-free organics. This was not a blind test. We do not judge submissions blind because we need to avoid the embarrassment of rejecting Mary Oliver, Ted Kooser and Alicia Ostriker. These are actual examples. Please let us know if you would like to be in V 12. #4. The theme will be The Egg Was First. Most likely. It is still under debate. Thank you, unpaid intern

I’ve concluded that my success rate in submitting farm fresh eggs from happy chickens is greater than my success rate in submitting stories. Perhaps Deborah needs a break from all things literary, but she made my day. Cheers! Bonnie

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Kalamazoo Fruit Follow Up

2012 Elderberries

When you don’t blog for a while, it gets harder and harder to start again, so I’ll just quickly give you the fruit wise developments as we head into late autumn. Brrr. The elderberries were plucked beautifully by many friends including Susan Ramsey, Jamie Blake, Sass Havilar, Chris Magson, DAvid Magson, LeeAnn Johnson, Mike Campbell, Kellee Campbell, Nic Martin.

This was fifteen pounds of elderberries, which made five gallons of wine. Here it is fermenting under a table in the back room.  Meanwhile I also found a lot of pears on the only pear tree in Kalamazoo that was fruitful, and boy oh boy, it was fruitful. I brought home hundreds of pears, enough to eat every day and feed to the donkeys and also to make five gallons of pear wine, which is fermenting in the kitchen.  Oh, the sweet smell of sugar turning to alcohol.  On the nonalcoholic front, I managed to can pints of pears, which I can honestly say are organic, since nobody even knows about the tree, let alone fertilizes it or applies pesticides. It is a very popular tree with the yellow jackets, one of whom stung my thumb.I also managed to get quarts of tomatoes, which will be very delicious in the winter.  So I have preserved, and I have blogged.  Yea!

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End of August 2012 Foraging


We are still waiting for the big tomato crop to come in, but it seems that all the tree fruit in Michigan is ripening early (if at all—let’s not talk about the cherry crop in Northern Michigan), so Chris and I thought we’d go out and check on the pawpaws. At our first stop, which happens to be in a field of a friend’s cattle, inside an electrified fence, I found a few on the ground. I picked those up and shook the trees a bit. (Remember, you cannot pick pawpaws, but can only pick them up—they don’t ripen nicely off the tree.) Meanwhile, the cattle noticed me. They must’ve been hungry, because at first they walked in my direction, and within a minute they were thundering toward me.  Chris said, “I’m glad I’m on this side of the fence,” and opened the gate for me to slip out. About a hundred thousand pounds of cattle stood there, a few yards from me, asking me where was their dinner.  I left many pawpaws behind. This is the nicest crop of pawpaws, and I am figuring that the cow manure doesn’t hurt the fertility of the trees.

ImageWe moved on down the road to a little forest not too close anyone’s house, and I hiked through briars and collected about twenty more pawpaws. The dangers there were thorns and broken glass (bottles tossed from cars.)  I exited the woods only a little bloody.

At my mom’s house we found three puffball mushrooms, small ones, out by her fuel oil tank. It’s kind of nice to have a small puffball, since a big one is such a commitment. Above are pictured the pawpaws and puffball, alongside a locally procured award-winning beer. I ate the first installment of puffball with scrambled eggs for dinner.

My niece Kellee came over today and told me that she’d been hiking in Michigan and had found both chanterelles and chicken-of-the woods mushrooms.  Not sure about the black walnuts; they’ve been falling for more than a month, but they seem hollow.  The elderberries are now ripe, so we need to get going on the 2012 elderberry wine making this coming weekend. Jamie Blake has been taking lovely artistic photos of elderberries with her smart phone.  Here are two of them.



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Ford Tri-Motor Photos – Long Time No Blog Post!

This is one of twelve Ford Tri-Motor planes, circa 1929, that are in flying condition.  You can take rides on it at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo for a small fortune. Chris has been wanting to go up in it for a long time and so we finally did, and it was great.

Here is a guy putting fuel into the Tri-Motor.  The pilot told us that he didn’t care if we used our cell phones, we wouldn’t be able to hear anything. It was pretty noisy.  There are two doors, one on the side for boarding and one on the roof, for an emergency.

One of my favorite things about the plane was that there were vent windows that you could open or close, so you could feel fresh air as you flew. Originally the plane had glass slider windows, I think.

I included this photo because it shows the non-retracting landing gear and our own shadow on a lake below.  When we landed, we smelled burning rubber from the tires.

Here is my darling Christopher in the front of the plane, checking out the controls.  What a great ride, and I owe it to Chris! We’ve been hearing this Ford Tri-Motor flying over our house for twenty-four years, and finally we went up in it.

(Okay, it’s been a long time with no blog, and I was a little nervous at getting going again, but I think I’m remembering how to do it. Thanks for your patience, readers!)

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My bike is my truck

I used to run bicycle tours in Eastern Europe with my Lipson cousins and friend Mary Szpur, and these were self-contained trips, for which each participant carries all their own stuff. Folks on these kind of tours learn what amazing machines bikes are; we regularly carried fifty pounds worth of tools, clothes, food and drink, souvenirs. Now at home, I have these open baskets on my bike, and even when I’m on a pleasure ride I keep them on. First of all, I think it’s safer, since I’m a wider presence on the road, and second so that I can pick things up along the way. Among the objects I’ve brought home are wrenches, a table, an almost dead Luna moth, grocery bags of black walnuts, and grocery bags of groceries.

I loaned my car to my niece and her husband for a few days, and so I set out to do some grocery shopping at the health food store on the other side of town, and then on the way back, when I was almost home, I stopped at a yard sale (held in an empty storefront  available for lease) and bought this chair. The guy running the yard sale offered to deliver it for me, but I said I’d be fine with a piece of rope. The gentleman of a fellow strapped it on for me.

The guy was kind of well dressed for our neighborhood, and I asked him if was from the the area, and he said yes, he’d grown up back there (pointing to a side street that dead ends at the Kalamazoo River). My neighborhood is poor and struggles to attract and keep any businesses. The jail is right there and the dog pound, which is a sad place that will accept your donations of food and treats gratefully. The streets leading to the river flood every couple years and a lot of the houses are filled with mold from having the water over their floor boards.

At the sale, I saw a guy I knew, Pat, who lived his whole life (he’s maybe 65) in one of those houses that have suffered floods, and I was telling him about some stories I’d come across from an old man who’d grown up on the river–the guy’s wife had written down stories as he spoke them–and his guy Pat sounded very interested, and I said I’d make photocopies and bring them to him. He nodded politely. I forgot that Pat couldn’t read. I was thinking I’d like to go over and read them aloud to him, but I wasn’t sure about offering. I don’t know him very well.

My bike, a Cannondale touring bike from the year 1990 made it home just fine with the chair on it, no problem at all, even with my 30 lbs of groceries. Turns out it’s a pretty good chair, but not as good as it looked. The ladder back is a little too straight to be comfortable. Still some visitor might choose the chair over the others because it’s neat and not held together with duct tape.

The phrase “my bike is my truck” comes from a great guy named Richard Sanford who came on one of our bicycle tours in 1987. He lived in NYC and insisted that he could carry anything on his bike that he could carry in a truck, and he had a trailer he pulled behind for the big loads.  He wrote a book about bicycle touring. Our tours went to Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Austria, Bulgarian, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Russia.

Here’s the chair.

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Down By the River

Well, there I was downbehind the Comstock community center, checking out the new wildflower walk, going along the mowed trails that lead you to the Kalamazoo River, and I found this bottle.  I figured I knew what it was, the residue of the one-pot method of synthesizing crystal meth, but I touched the top of it anyway, just to get a better look, and to pose the bottle for this photo, which I took with my phone. Then I looked around and felt an eerie silence and was not sure that the meth makers weren’t there hiding out. I looked around for a weapon, spotted a nice sized rock, but decided to leave anyway.

I swatted at mosquitoes and called the non-emergency number for the Kalamazoo County Police, and ended up tangled in a complicated phone tree. After pressing four options, I hung up and called 911. The guy asked me where I was (we had a big back and forth about that, since he thought by “river” I meant River Street). I waited for forty-five minutes and called back, and got the same operator. He said there was a shift change and could I wait longer. I said, I had things to do and you guys can find it without me, surely, and so I left.

On the way home, I touched my neck and whatever was on my fingertips burned my skin, and so I was in a hurry to get home and wash myself off. But I got myself behind a school bus full of teeny tiny kids, and I was slowed down a bit in a way that was sort of stressful, but also comical and sweet, because kids that age are so cute getting off a bus with their little backpacks and lunchboxes and such.

Then I kind of regretted not waiting.  I mean, I had a bunch of things to do, stuff to prepare to mail at the post office and phone calls to make before five o’clock, emails I’d neglected.  But I think I would have liked meeting the cop, walking with him or her down by the river, asking some questions about the meth situation. Maybe we would have seen the culprits in their hiding places. Maybe I would have defended the cop with a big stick. It would have been something different anyhow. Maybe the cop would have said something that I hadn’t heard before.

So I’m thinking of changing my ways.  I’ve got all kinds of obligations (work, writing, household, family) and then I’ve got some things I would like to do that aren’t necessarily obligations, such as meeting new people, following mysterious trails, visiting with people I like, but haven’t seen in ages, cracking black walnuts.  I think I’m going to start neglecting some of my obligations instead.  June is all tied up, but  I’m going to start slacking off in July. I’ll apologize in advance to those who will feel let down by my neglect,  but if you’ve got something interesting I just have to see or do, drop me a line.

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