Friday, September 30, 2016

Making the Best of a Sad Situation

The other day I was surprised to read Bella's blog and find these words about The Marmelade Gypsy: "You cannot help but be cheered by its brightness." Bella and I have never met but we've read each others' blogs for years and it was a wonderful way to start my day. And I needed that. (Cheers, Bella, and thank you!)

I'm not always bright. Or cheery. Most of the time, yes. There's a stubborn streak of optimism that doesn't keep me down too long, that "look on the bright side" characteristic that can be incredibly annoying to those who don't! In fact, if I'm honest I would have to add "cheerful optimism" to my list of what some would consider my more annoying habits (along with nail biting, clutter and one I can't control, my cough!)

But the past week hasn't been filled with happy. I've felt more than a little battered more than once. An elderly friend in hospice. Another who was moved by her daughters to live closer to them in assisted living -- but who was angry about having to leave her home of many years and her friends in this town. And then there was the weekend.

The weekend started out well enough, even though we knew there would be sadness along the way. Rick and I would be saying a final goodbye to Minisa, the cabin on Torch Lake where his family had several wonderful reunions in recent years. While others said their final goodbye in July after the reunion, we were fortunate to have another chance for a last look, before it is mowed down for a new owner to build their new home. But before we went there, we would celebrate with a wedding.

Diane and I had worked together for many years and her daughter, Amelia, was getting married. We went to the wedding, which was on the way up north, as we began our weekend.

Being with a friend on such a special day was really wonderful, the wedding was beautiful -- all systems go. We would be at my happy place -- my little cottage on the lake. It was too early for color, but it would still be quiet. We'd see Rick's cousin Mary. Enjoy being up north. Maybe the weekend wouldn't be so hard after all. We would make the best of a sad situation.

Then we arrived at the cottage. Longtime readers of the Gypsy have seen my postcards from the lake. Our little cottage on Otsego Lake in Gaylord, Michigan, is nothing fancy. None of the cottages on the lake really are. It's not really a "McMansion Lake." It's small, with two bedrooms, an impossibly tiny bathroom, a wonderful view of the lake and a wooded lot next door filled with beautiful, tall pines and bushes that in years past brought baskets of huckleberries that produced wonderful breads and pies. The neighbor's cottage was on the other side of the lot so it felt secluded, up-northy.

When my neighbor Eulah died, the house and lot passed to friends and last year they sold it. I knew the new owners -- who had their own construction company -- would tear down Eulah's little house and build on both lots. But we weren't prepared for what we saw when we arrived.

The lot had been clear cut from the lake to the road. Piles of lumber were stacked tall. Enormous trees -- some we estimated to be 100 years old -- were pulled up by the roots. There wasn't a huckleberry bush on site, save for a row on our property line.

I cried. Rick couldn't sleep. It was like the land had been raped, like you could hear the trees screaming "Why?" We expected trees would come down for the footprint of the house. But every single tree? I guess you don't cover up the monuments.

We woke the next morning and after surveying the carnage, took off for Minisa. Time with Mary and Gus is always good.

Mary showed us photos of Rick's great grandfather, great and great-great grandmother. Beautiful women.


Then we went to Minisa for a last goodbye, for a walk around the cottage, a look within. Contents of the cottage that hadn't been shared with family members were in neat piles for the estate sale company to price and mark. That was tough.


And seeing the house without the long porch table where so many wonderful dinners and late night conversations had taken place was like seeing a beautiful house without its soul.

And it felt a little easier to leave. Only a little.

The soul of Minisa isn't the structure or the treasure trove of things within.


The soul of Minisa is Mary and Gus and all the family that inhabited its walls on summer days for nearly 100 years. And that soul is, in turn, a part of our own.

After an early dinner with Mary, there were smiles. And that was important.

We ran away from the sound of construction equipment clearing the lot the next day and took a road trip. Elmira is the kind of town you go through, not to. A couple of restaurant/bars, a convenience market, a "cute" store, a few battered buildings and a church. But we found that the Railside Bar and Grill had wonderful Polish food and the most delicious perogies. A friend we hoped to see in nearby Boyne City was away -- but his house sitters invited us in for a delightful hour of conversation. And we found a book store and wine shop and tasted olive oils and vinegars. When we came home, the trucks were gone.

The next morning we were off for home, the storms in place, the fridge cleared out, the beds stripped of summer sheets. We don't know if we can go back this fall -- not because of schedules, though that is always a factor. We don't know if we can bear to see the vacant lot beside us, so empty, so sad.

But there was one sign -- a sign of promise, of hope, as we left the cottage that rainy morning.

A Native American saying had it right: "The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears."


Valerie-Jael said...

Sorry to hear that you had some sad moments, saying goodbye is never easy. I can imagine your shock and sadness at seeing that cottage and all the trees pulled and chopped down. I know how sad I was here last week when my tree was cut down. But it's still important to cherish all the good memories in your heart, no one can take them away! Have a good weekend, in spite of it all, hugs, Valerie

Beth M. said...

My heart aches for those trees. And everyone who knew them. <3
It's why you go to a place like that--to live amid nature's beauty. Any structure erected will never be half as beautiful.

Mary Rose's said...


And here I thought I was the only one who cried when trees are cut down for "progress."

Let's go plant more trees.

Love you, Maryanne in SC

Jacqueline~Cabin and Cottage said...

I can feel the heartbreak. Some of us plant our roots deep, and losses can be so hard. Seems like a lot to take in at once. Sending cheer and hugs your way!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Oh Jeanie, I am so sorry to read this and see those pictures. Your dear little cabin must feel so naked and exposed without the protection of those trees - and their beauty. Changes like this are so hard to stomach. I can understand why you don't want to go back this fall. I'm sorry you had such a tough and sad weekend but I am glad that there were moments of comfort admidst the sadness. But what a heavy and emotional weekend. I'm sending you lots of hugs.

And I agree with Bella - there's so much happiness and joy in your posts and you can't help but smile and feel better after visiting your blog. BUT - that doesn't mean you aren't entitled to post about the heavier stuff because that's just part of being human. I do admire your ability to look on the bright side of things as I have to say that is something I tend to struggle with. But take your time to mourn the loss you experienced this past weekend...

Julia - Vintage with Laces said...

I'm so sorry Jeanie. I would have been upset as well. It was such a beautiful lot with all the mature trees. It shouldn't be allowed to cut so many trees in such a location. It was a tough weekend for both of you. Hopefully the one ahead will bring happier moments for you.

Becca said...

Oh my, I completely understand your feelings about your neighbors land. Changes like that seem so unnecessary and disrespectful in many ways. Hoping for happier moments this weekend.

BTW, Thanks for pointing me back to Bella's blog! I didn't know she was still writing.

Tammie Lee said...

change can be so hard! seeing forest torn down, heart wrenching.
I live in an area where a lot of logging goes on to build houses all over our country. It is sad to see.

I wish you peace. So glad you found the rainbow amongst it all.

Jean | said...

Jeanie, I know your optimistic nature will restore your equilibrium, but oh how sorry I am that you had to experience this. Why were those people even allowed, legally, to remove 100-year-old trees? Is there not some sort of conservation in place? I'll be interested to see the monstrosity they put up in place of a sweet cottage.

La Table De Nana said...

I hear you loud and clear re the trees..:(I have stories too..and it really does feel like you are in mourning:(

When does your cottage get exchanged to the new owners?
What a spot Jeanie..I must say..seeing that cleared lot would make leaving a teensie bit easier.
Keep your cheerfulness...that too can be snapped up in a heartbeat..
I love your smile.

~*~Patty S said...

Rape of the land and disregard for nature makes me cry too.
Sorry for the sadness.
Into each life a little rain must fall comes to mind.
Thank you for sharing your cheeriness ... more of that is always a good thing.
Take care and what a precious ending to your heart felt post.

Keicha Christiansen said...

Oh my goodness Jeanie! I share your heartbreak at all those beautiful old trees being cut down. How tragic, and how unneccesary. What a shock for you. I'm so sorry that your beautiful place of refuge and reflection has been so drastically altered.

You had a tough weekend. Lots of sadness mixed in with some bright, happy moments. Cherish those. Sending you big hugs!

I need orange said...

Oh, my.

I hate when one tree comes down, even if it's a storm that does it. For those people to take down ALLLLL those trees................

Oh, my.


Sending hugs.

Valerie CottageMakingMommy said...

This was beautifully written. It's so true life is full and so many varying moments. I'm sorry about the sadness and the house. I don't know why people feel that bigger is better. They move to be near nature and then tear it out. It makes no sense to me.

The happy moments you had this Summer look lovely and you are very lucky you got to say good-bye to the house and your friends.


Kitty said...

I have tears in my eyes a I write this. The others have said it all. And I can't help think that God had the last word when He sent that rainbow. Life, and all its beauty, will go on. Love to you both.

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

I am so sorry for all the sads, Jeanie. Larry and I both hate to see clear cutting--a lot has been done around here. Those are trees that will never come back, habitats destroyed for individual ecosystems. The "development" that replaces it will never have the life of the natural. *hugs* to you!

Laura Beth said...

Your optimism is one of the many things to love about you! I'm glad you found some sweetness this weekend.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Your post, written with such dignity and grace had me up, then down, then hopeful, then completely let down. Even the rainbow at the end wasn't enough to cheer me from the loss of those wonderful trees.

Your photos were clear about how the land must have felt after being not just raped, but murdered viciously, too. First cut to pieces, then torn out by the roots. If someone did that to a human, they would get life in prison, or death, depending on the state. These people will never feel any of that. I applaud you for finding the best of a bad situation in all this. Good for you.

My name is Erika. said...

I'm with you about how a lake cottage should be. We get all the Mcmansions around here too. Kind of sad though, one that they cut down all those gorgeous trees (I guess they don't like the woods) and two, that the old spirit of a lake is changing. I also am a look on the bright side person, and I know exactly what you are talking about. Hugs-Erika

Bella Rum said...

Oh, Jeanie. You made me cry. I'm so sorry for all your loses. I do understand. I grew up on the water, and there was a historic pier for which my grandmother donated land back in the 1930s. When I was living with Dad, my family tried to fight City Hall when the city decided to tear down the pier. Of course, we lost. It was a sad day when they start demolition. I'll never forget it. Every once in a while, I get a twinge of concern about the pasture behind our house. Who knows if the owners will sell one day. We could wake to the beginning of construction, a sobering thought.

When I wrote about your blog, I forgot to mention what a big heart it has, just like its author. I cannot believe they took down those gorgeous trees.

Jennifer Richardson said...

Oh Jeanie. Oh friend.
I love the way you love the land
and share your grief in how it was dishonored.
Such a sorrowful season.
I can only hope that the new owners catch a fresh vision
for some redemptive kind of planting and generosity with that
same space. And that the wood is used to create beauty that lasts.
I'm so sorry for your loss. Big sigh with you.
Prayers for extra loveliness in your world.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Oh, Jeanie! What a roller coaster of an emotional weekend! I'm so sorry about the destruction of the land next to your cottage! It seems that in years past, people had reverence of the environment and lived simply amidst wonderful big trees and wild-growing edibles, like your lot next door. Why, oh why, do people build ego-driven McMansions in such special places today instead of enjoying the simplicity of a small place that blends well with the environment? Your little cottage is so perfect. It's a shame that the beautiful forested area beside it is gone. What a tragedy that is, with 100 year old trees pulled up by the roots. I'm so very sorry!

Marilyn Miller said...

That would be so hard to see that stripped land. I hope your trees will be OK with the others taken down. And also to say goodbye to Rick's families home. They say life goes on, but sometimes it is indeed hard. What a beautiful rainbow of hope and a wedding too.

bj said...

OOO, so so sad, dear Jeanie...heartbreaking...when I go to the little town where I grew up and look at the church parking lot when my mama and daddy's house was for who knows how many years, I have to stop my car and cry.....

Summer said...

So sorry about your sad moments, dear friend. I would have cried about those trees too ♥

Joanne Huffman said...

That's a lot of hard changes for one week-end.

Victoria Zigler said...

You made me cry about the trees... It's so sad that they were just ripped up. All the things those trees have seen, and they have to come to such an end for no reason other than because someone new wants them out of the way. Poor trees!

I'm glad you were able to find some things to enjoy about the weekend, but can understand why even you have struggled to be your usual cheerful self this week after the weekend you had.

Lynne said...

Oh my . . . Oh my . . .
I have chills and tears . . .
How could they possibly do that . . .
How . . .
What a few days of an emotional rollercoaster . . .
Be tender with yourself Jeanne and hold that rainbow in your heart . . .

Lynne said...

My childhood friend was Jeanne . . .
It popped right out and I didn't realize I had transposed her name . . .
Forgive me Jeanie . . .

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

My heart hurts right along with yours. I feel your sadness and I share in the optimism and disappointment that you have so eloquently captured in your magically way of writing.
No matter how you look at it, it's wrong.
The wedding and rainbow are beacons of hope though.
Thinking of you,

Sandra Cox said...

I'm sorry, Jeanie. You had a lot to cope with.
Hope next week is filled with joy.

Red Rose Alley said...

Jeanie, it sounds like you are going through many changes right now. I am as well, so I understand all the emotions. So sorry to hear about your friend in hospice. Look at those grand trees, wow! I love that picture of the old blue house with the lake in the distance, such a pretty one. The old photos of Rick's loved ones are treasures, indeed. And what a beautiful rainbow. I believe when we see a rainbow, it is a gift. Thank you for the gift of the rainbow on your blog today, Jeanie.

Thinking of you during this unsettling time. Keep smiling if you would, it's a light to the world.


The Artful Diva said...

Oh, what an emotional had quite a time of it. I'm glad the rainbow was there to say farewell.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

That Native American quote...goodness, that is pure reason, faith, love, wisdom and yes, TRUTH.

Jeanie, I am saddened too to see the destruction of this site, the killing of trees. There are really not enough statements to declare when one sees such things. You are right; it's not the structure itself, the things inside, but the story of a family and lot of friends who made memories here. You know, with all the impressive lake front homes we see here in Minneapolis and it's environs, I wonder how many people had to witness their memories being torn down to make way for fancy mansions.....but the greater power above and within us showed you a sign, the rainbow. WOW, that is testimony to the tears of grief and to the cleansing of sorrow. Be well, never stop creating those memories, no matter where you gather.

Shelia said...

Hi Jeanie! I'm so sorry to hear about the trees. It is said when you think how long it takes them to grow. I know it would be hard to go back as it just wouldn't feel the same. Glad there were some happy moments. You're amazing, my friend.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Katie Clooney said...

Oh Jeanie...How sad to hear about those beautiful trees. What a beautiful tribute that you wrote! Sounds like there were some smiles through the tears.

Maggie said...

Hi Jeanie,
I'm late coming to this post but so glad that I finally saw it. I hate what they've done to the trees, such desolation! The photo of Rick looking so sad during your final visit to the family's place made me sad too, thank goodness for rainbows is all I can say!

Carola Bartz said...

It hurts to see that sad, empty lot next to your lake cottage. I would have cried, too - a lot. How can someone tear out all those trees? What kind of a mansion do they want to build there?
You are right about that family and friends make the soul to a place, and that is what you take with you and what is in your heart. And it will be there forever.

shoreacres said...

Here I am, just getting caught up -- and I'm both astonished and mortified by what happened to your neighbor's lot. The first thing that came to mind was, "What the *$&$&@ is wrong with some people?" Honestly -- I just don't understand it. On the other hand, I do. Seeing nature only as commodity, and being so detached from nature that it seems only an obstacle to our wishes is so common. I would love to have ten minutes with those people. That's all it would take for me to tell them what's on my mind!

Privet and Holly said...

Life is such a bittersweet dance,
isn't it? Happy times, sad times,
most in-between, but all part of
the choreography. Love the last
quote, as it's so true! Oh, how I'd
adore a little cottage like yours!

xo Suzanne

Anne Gammage said...

Hi Jeanie and Rick,
It is so sad to see the lots next door to your cottage so decimated!
We lived in northern Ontario for 19 years and were lucky to have plenty of space, living on 160 acres with a river meandering through the middle. Neighbours' activities didn't affect us as much as what you've had to endure with a property changing hands in such close quarters. Living on a smaller space as we do now, it is something that I wonder about if our neighbours should ever sell. What would happen? If we ever leave our property for whatever reason, will new owners wantonly cut down the trees - buttonwood, eastern cedar, and spruce, along with lilacs, dogwood, and a huge highbush cranberry, all planted ourselves and watched as they grew?
People don't seem to realize the impact they have on their surroundings and more and more it seems to be about 'want' versus 'need' when it comes to ripping apart the landscape for ever larger abodes, even when the building doesn't suit the space.
I wish for you both that the memories of what was there sustain you when you carry on with your cottage visits in years to come.
All the best,

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