Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Postcards From the Lake: It's Hard to Accept

Blogger Lisa asked in a comment about what had happened up at the lake to the place next door, which I wrote about last October in THIS POST. I'll tell all, but first, here's a little background and the rest of the story for those who aren't familiar with this or have forgotten.

Last year, in late September, we headed north to the cottage, arriving late after a wedding. We've had this house for more than 50 years. I was 13 when my parents decided to get a place down the road from the family cottage, which my cousins still have. (I consider that the "ancestral home!")

It was a small cottage but on a lake and on one side, next to a vacant lot. The woman who owned the lot, my neighbor Eulah, lived in a small house on the lot next to it, so basically, Eulah's property was a double lot.

And it was beautiful. Pine trees I would guess were at least 100 years old. Huckleberry bushes where we could eat our fill and make plenty of "Eulahberry" bread.

It was a little haven, an almost-woods right on the lake.

And Eulah was wonderful, one of my "Ladies of the Lake" who knew all the stories and history of the area. She and my parents were great friends. When she died at 102, it was a sad day.

Now, to fully understand this you must realize we aren't on what I call the "fancy lakes." There are many lakes in the north (and area around the bays and Great Lakes) where the property is exceedingly valuable and when you visit them, you see very large, almost palatial houses. We're not that kind of a lake. Most of the homes are older -- there has been some but little building on the lake in the past 20 years because there just isn't land. And those who did build or revamp, for the most part, did it in a lake-oriented style. A log cabin, landscaping, cottage-style.

Now, with Eulah's death, her property went to her heirs who lived there for three years (it was a year-round house) and then the lot was sold. When we arrived on that weekend last fall, this was what we found.

Every tree was clear-cut. Every bit of foliage, every bush, every twig. It wasn't just for the footprint of the house or driveway or even to make a beach. That I could understand. But every single tree? It was what made it "up north."

These trees were enormous and all tall white pine. If you look in the photos showing from the lake looking in, you can see how tall they are. And Rick can show you how wide they are.

Where once you couldn't see across the way, you now could see three lots down.

When we returned this spring, we held out hopes for landscaping. (Not a lot of hopes, but a few.) What we found was a big house that belonged in the suburbs with a three car garage and enough blacktop to make a helipad. (I have considered slipping over in the dark of night and painting a big "H" on it but I suspect they have a burglar system and probably guns.) And don't be fooled by the trees on the right -- those are the neighbors on that side.

The trees you see on the far side? Those are on our side.

If that wasn't bad enough, to make it worse, they tore down one of our birch trees and brush/shrubbery to make room for their septic field. (Like they couldn't have moved it eight feet?) The picture on the left is before and the one on the right is after. Where Rick is riding in the photo on the right is where my car was parked in the photo on the left.

Mark and Katie, parked in that spot where you see my car above, last summer.


This is a view of the same spot looking "into it." You can see the angled birch tree. Some of those in the "second row" back may be on their side but the birches in front and that other, on ours.

And looking at it from the other direction, Rick last summer.

That bare spot on the septic field with the stick in it is where the surveyor we hired last week marked the property line. They didn't take a lot but it changed the character of the drive in.

To say we are heartsick does not begin to cover it. Broken hearted? Indeed. Angry? More than a little (at least about the stuff of ours that went). And baffled? Definitely baffled. Why anyone would want to do this to the land escapes me. Why not build this in town if you want no woods?

It isn't that the house is horrible. Like I said, lovely in the 'burbs. But it just doesn't fit.

Although the thought entered my mind of making that side of my house the ugliest thing that ever lived -- lime green portapotties on the property line, offensive political signs, and such -- I have come to terms that my best solution is to not look at it. But we also feel a little lost on what to do. We might have a case for some financial restitution on the trees that were taken down from our property. Is it worth hiring an attorney? Probably not.

So, as I said, I try not to look at it and instead am investing my energies into finding things that will grow really big and really fast in the lightweight, somewhat sandy soil. No birches. Maybe some tall hydrangeas or lilacs (because after the leaves go, we aren't there anyway).

I know Eulah, who loved the land fiercely and her dear husband Bill, are both turning over in their graves. I almost feel there with them.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Favorite French Musee

Today I am going to take you to my favorite museum in Paris -- The Musee de Cluny (also known as Musee national du Moyen Age) and often called Cluny. Here's a little traveling music. You'll find it in Paris' 5th arrondissement not far from the Sorbonne.

The museum's home is an exceptional Parisian monument -- the Cluny Abbey Hotel, which was built in the late 15th century, partially on remains of third century Gallo-Roman baths.

Its styles combine Gothic and Renaissance architecture and you'll find gargoyles dormers and craggy walls.

To tourists, Cluny may be best known for housing the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries (15th century).

The tapestries have their own room, a windowless chamber (and getting pix here is tough without flash!)

Considered one of the greatest works of art from Middle Ages Europe, there are six scenes that tell the story of chivalry, virtue and romance. Look carefully to discover which of the senses the tapestry depicts -- sight, sound, touch, taste, smell and one often interpreted as Love. The detail on the stitching is exquisite.

But there are other remarkable treasures here as well, including medieval sculptures...

illuminated manuscripts and stunning stained glass.

The stained glass is really remarkable, the colors as vibrant and beautiful as they no doubt were the day they were made.

The collection of medieval and Renaissance art and objects came largely from Alexandre du Sommerard and was acquired by the state upon his death. The museum opened in 1843.

There is a great sense of peace in this museum. It's more than the religious and historical artifacts that lend to the feeling of sacred space.

It is simply a feeling that surrounds you, wandering in the quiet, cool areas.

This isn't on everyone's "see it on my first trip to Paris" list -- but I would encourage one who loves history to rethink that! It's well worth it.

Happy to join in this week with Paris In July and Dreaming of France as links become available.

At both sites you'll find links related to French travel, museums, films, books, music and more.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Postcards from the Lake: Road Trip, Alpenfest, Friends and Family

A little rain, a little sun. Sun is wonderful for outdoors, rain and gloom means road trips, reading, writing. I'll start with the road trips.

Last week I made a couple of trips north to the Petoskey/Harbor Springs area. The first was for an art fair where I did a bit of damage. The second was to enjoy lunch with my friend Susan who moved north about a year ago.

And a mighty fine lunch it was!

Of course, when I'm in the area, I have to go by the gingerbread houses and interesting homes in the Bay View area.

This area is so pretty, older homes. It reminds me a great deal of Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard, but the homes are spaced farther apart and over a different (hillier) terrain. But both were founded originally as camp areas for religious organizations (in Bay View's case, the Methodists.)

I need to go back and do another post on this area, walking more within but these pics were from as I was driving by in traffic that was stop and go.

Summer in the north is filled with loads of color, like kayaks...

...and carnivals!

It's Alpenfest time in Gaylord. I can't say it's my favorite event of the year but I can say it is colorful!

The midway always attracts loads of people, and they were out on this particular evening. The day had been rainy and dreary but it was dry enough to enjoy all the carnival fun.

Alpenfest is Gaylord's summer festival. Everyone dresses in Alpine clothes, there are outdoor summer concerts, a very long parade and a usually very bad air/craft fair (or crapht fair, in this case). You might find a good vendor but they are few and far between. At least for me. But the kids love the midway!

I even got Rick to Alpenfest! And Rick avoids stuff like this like the plague!

I confess, we weren't into the knobby knee contest or the prettiest ankle contest. But it was fun to hang out on the only sunny day of the festival and enjoy watching the rides.

This carnival organ was also pretty cool and played a non-stop repertoire of carnival music to add to the ambience.

We even caught some of the parade. I don't envy this woman who had to carry around the Alphorn and then play on it. (Family lore: I believe my uncle was part of the group from Gaylord who brought back the Alphorn for the first Alpenfest 50-something years ago!)

Despite all the cars, bands and floats (and a plethora of queen candidates), the parade is the longest parade in the world. (I really think Macy's might be shorter.) And on a day with sun like that, especially after a gloomy, rainy week, we headed back to the cottage.

One other thing on Alpenfest, which has the worst art and crapht fair in the world (I know I said that before but it bears repeating), is that someone makes a bundle selling these little Alpenbloom crowns that loads of people wear for $25.

I bring this up because the best part of the week was that for most of it Mark and Katie were here. Mark is my cousin's oldest son and I love it when he and Katie come to the lake! And Katie made her own crown from some faux flowers at the cottage for free.

No fleas on Katie! Life is good this summer!

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