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The Color of Fall

Awhile back, what seemed like eons ago, we wrote about the 'color of spring' (and even more recently, one called the color of summer).  It seemed like all of nature was just popping here Up North, as winter finally released its icy grip.  The robins were back, and the loons were calling like crazy across from us in Lake Leelanau, busily setting up their nesting territories.  Now, months later, most of them are gone, and the beautifully colored autumn leaves that we enjoyed earlier this fall aren't far behind.  And the colors were simply stunning again this year.


As the season itself goes, this has been one of the warmer ones on record.  Just a few weeks ago -- on October 9th to be exact -- we were on a near-empty beach at Sutton's Bay enjoying the warmth of that summer-like day.  It was sunny and 82-degrees that Sunday, one of many that we had during the week before.  The boys and I even went swimming, just to be able to say we did something perhaps a little out of character for an October day.  With camera in-hand, Shannon wisely decided to stay on-shore to record the event (though I felt compelled to confirm with the weather service the next day what we keenly felt whilst in the water...it was only 56-degrees; no wonder we were the only ones swimming in it).  While it was fun to cheat the calendar and go swimming during the second week of October, the warmth of the sun that day felt really good after the boys and I got out of the [ice]water in time for Shannon to snap a shot of us before handing out the towels.



Suttons Bay, MI - October 9, 2011


What was only a couple of weeks after that fun October swim, we had our first heavy frost; the big hill behind our home was covered in it.  Even the pine trees that surround our home sported a thick coat of frost that shone like so many millions of diamonds against the rising sun that was cutting through a light fog later that morning.  Around here, "frost-on-the-hill" is another way to say "sledding-before-school"...and our boys did just that.  With the flood lights on to better illuminate the backyard, the boys gathered their sleds and hastily mounted the frost covered hill with squeals of delight; they were indeed excited to be able to get a few runs in before heading off to school.













Our new puppy, Cole, who by now had heard all that racket from his kennel perched near the patio doors inside our home, was adding his own chorus of excited yelps to those of the boys.  I harnessed him up early that morning and took him out to the top of the hill to not only quiet him down, but so he could "do" his morning routine; a side benefit (for him) was getting a better glimpse of what his older buddies were busy doing.  Alas, watching our two boys fly down the frost-covered grass of the hill on their sleds proved too much for our puppy; he dug all four paws in and commenced running pell-mell down the hill after them -- dragging me behind him as if I were on skis.

I might as well have been on skis; I had slick-bottomed house shoes on; and PJs; and a house-coat.  Looking, I'm sure, like something out of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's the 'Wreck of the Hesperus', I was on my bottom almost as fast as Longfellows' old ship was, while Cole was still daring to drag me in the general direction of the boys toward the bottom of the hill.  I tried to imagine what the same scene would've looked like with a lot of snow on the ground (which isn't far off); I had to smile at the thought of what a fun mess that would have been.  By the time the snow does arrive, I'm sure I will have found my winter boots to walk the dog out with, who, I am confident, will know what the operative word "HEEL!" means, and that he will know how to abide by that little word.

Now, about this puppy; Cole almost deserves a blog entry all his own, though we'll keep it short so as not to bore our friends.  I came by Cole while Shannon and the boys were away in Canada on their memorable fishing trip back in August (which seems like only last week).  Coming to us as a free gift from special, long-time friends, Cole came to us from his first family who cared for him in Kansas City, via the town he and I were both born in: Grand Rapids, MI.  A wonderful, lovable black pure-bred Labrador Retriever, he's a slightly smaller version of what many Labs grow to be; his mother was 50-pounds, and his father only ten pounds heavier than that.  What he lacks in stature, he makes up for in spunk and Cuteness...with a capital 'C'.

I cannot say I had designs of that first week with a puppy being some kind of cake walk, but I didn't expect the worst, either.  Regardless, that first week at home alone with our new friend turned out to be no small ordeal, one I hope to never again repeat.  With no one to watch him during the day, I could only imagine what I would find when I got home from work at night, especially after he had a rough first couple of days (he ended up doing great during the day, by the way). 

The poor little fella wasn't here 24-hours when he found a grape under the center island in our kitchen and woofed it down before I could get it out of his mouth (grapes can make dogs really sick, especially if they eat a lot of them).  That was a Saturday morning, after I'd picked him up the night before.  Shortly thereafter, he left a big calling card on our nice, plush green living room carpet (maybe he thought it was 'grass').  Well, that afternoon he left another surprise on our deck.  By that night, yet another couple of events happened on the garage floor.  I was beginning to wonder what I'd gotten myself into, never having had to deal with a dog before.

The next morning was Sunday; I got up early to go check on him, and was glad I did.  Cole had pooped and thrown up in his portable kennel, some of which managed to attach itself to him.  I'll bet you can almost imagine the odoriferous, magnanimous mess that was waiting for me as soon as I opened the side door of the house leading into the garage.  Wondering if I should don a full-body hazmat suit, bio-hazard gloves and a respirator (like some guys may think about doing when vexed with the thought of changing their new-born children's poopy diapers for the first time), I just decided to quick roll my sleeves up and get the poor little fellow out of his now-toxic kennel post haste; he was only too glad to be let out of that thing.

Looking sheepishly back at me, then it, he promptly threw up again, then a third time whilst heading for the lilac bushes near the front of the garage; I was just trying to get him away from anything of value that was within reach of his leash.  It was then that I spied some undigested little pieces of that darn grape in his, well, 'stuff'.  He was miserable, and I felt miserable for him.  Alas, that wasn't the last time he would have 'issues' shooting out both ends that day, nor was it the last time I had to power-wash and disinfect his living quarters.  And that was all before church that morning; there was the whole rest of that day to go, but I'd rather not dwell on that.

I'm convinced men are drawn to strange thoughts when not blessed with the benefit of the great leavening agent God provides them through the formidable presence and wisdom of their wives.   Mine happened to be a few hundred miles further north, in the Canadian wilds (with no cell phone service) on a fishing trip with our boys.  Whilst pondering the plight of our poor puppy, I felt myself entertaining fleeting thoughts of what mercy killing would be like.  OK, I really didn't meditate on that malice all that much, especially since Shannon and the boys had not even laid eyes on our new little friend yet, and the thought of trying to explain such a caper to them would not have gone over well; about the same affect, I'm sure, as if I told them that I had reluctantly bumped off Santa Claus.  Instead, I tried to console Cole with cool sips of water through the day, and by providing him with a continually cleaned-up, disinfected kennel (I can highly recommend Simple Green cleaner; it's biodegradable, and works on anything).  By nightfall, he was a decidedly different dog -- for the better; his problem had passed.

Thankfully, Cole recovered from his errant 'grape-of-wrath' experience (which, quite possibly, was exacerbated by the shock of moving into a new home that was hundreds of miles away from his old one).  He and I actually managed to make it through the week none the worse for wear.  Toward the end of that first week, we were even enjoying each other's company; man's best friend was starting to live up to his reputation.  And just in time, too.  Shannon and the boys would be returning home from Canada via her parent's home on Duncan Bay (in Cheboygan) the by next weekend, and I would drive north with Cole in the back of my car to meet up with them. 

What a grand greeting that turned out to be.  Poor dog almost ran out of spit, what with licking everybody with his trademark slurpy kisses; I believe he was taking to his new family just as much as we were taking to him...and he could sense the love.  Today, he continues to be a very lovable part of our family, one we wondered what we ever did without; it just seems like he's always been there.  We're indeed thankful to God for the gift of our little friend, and certainly to his former owners, without whose kindness and generosity in providing us with a puppy would most likely never have happened.



The days now are getting shorter, and are filled with anything from bright sunshine one minute, to dark swirling storm clouds the next that bring no small number of water spouts out on Lake Michigan (what some old mariners up here call the Witches of November).  Even as of tonight's writing, we were all seated out on the front porch enjoying a blazingly colorful thunderstorm out across the lake as warmer air was moving to the north, up the coastline, and over the now cooler waters. 

Fall can indeed be a very beautiful, but a very dynamic season of the year up here; no less one we feel privileged to enjoy Up North.  While our days and nights are getting colder, and snow flakes have already been in the air, we know that winter is not far away.  With it will come more fun experiences, more laughter, and certainly more 'Up North Captured Moments' to write about.  With them all come the knowledge that we get to enjoy a place of singular beauty and warmth, no matter how cold it gets outside.  Even now, this is written by the warmth of a cheery fire on our field stone hearth, to the giggles of our children in the next room who are enjoying some last minute belly-laughs before bedtime.  God has indeed given us so many of life's simple pleasures to enjoy in this place we call home.  Just the sort of stuff that makes the simple, uncluttered life we have Up North so worth living.  Until next time ~ Soli Deo Gloria.