AU SABLE RIVER, Michigan - It's Monday morning, and we're already feeling guilty.
Because this is always a writing day, or at least a time for stirring up some thoughts, jotting down ideas, and even doing the odd bit of research - though heaven forbid we should go too far down that road!
Instead here we are. Floating lazily down the Au Sable River in a canoe out of the Rainbow Resort Livery near Mio. We're on our way from McMasters Bridge to Parmalee, a distance of about 10 miles as the trout swims.
Thankfully, it doesn't take very much effort as the river runs at a good 3 miles an hour and all we really have to do is keep the thing straight, avoiding islets, snags, and shallow spots, not tipping over, and just watching the river banks slide placidly by.
The conditions today are just about perfect - sun glinting off the water, 70-something degrees, calm, wild irises and Indian paintbrushes growing in profusion on the banks.
We've already spotted several sunning turtles, kingfishers zooming from bank to bank, a bald eagle soaring high on thermals, and a party of 10 Canada geese.
Unfortunately, because we were probably in sleep mode, we did miss the "nature photo of the year" - a mother duck with eight cute babies, all photogenically lined up on a log for that quintessential "ducks-in-a-row" shot. Maybe next time.
Residential action is slowly returning to the river, too, as snowbirds and downstaters begin to open up their cabins and cottages for the summer season.
We've been back in our own log cabin on the West Branch of Big Creek in Luzerne for the better part of a month now. And during that time we've had our fair share of cabin-owning obligations.
Like mowing, and lots of it, with a cranky old push mower that would probably fetch a fortune on Antiques Roadshow, plus some serious tree cutting made necessary by another fearsome northwoods winter.
One balsam fir fell, blocking a favorite creek view. Another, already heavily pockmarked by pileated woodpeckers and slashed by a recent lightning strike, seriously threatened the cabin and had to go. As did a third fir that simply up and died for no particular reason.
Balsams are like that, apparently.
Anyway we called in a gem of a handyman, Orv, who for about the price of a hearty meal and a pint of beer, quickly dispatched the trees. Our own bit of sweat equity was a small price to pay for this up-north living!
In the tiny hamlet of Luzerne, where nothing much ever seems to happen, two major changes have occurred since last September.
First, Ma Deeter's, the famous log cabin bar that has anchored Luzerne for as long as anyone can remember, is now under new stewardship. Former hosts Ray and Sunshine (those were their real names) have finally retired to Arizona.
Happily, the new owners haven't altered very much. And on Wednesday nights it's still $2.99 steaks and karaoke, when the same cast of lovable characters strut their stuff and play cowboy, with an occasional assist from tattooed bikers and slumming golfers from nearby Garland Country Club.
More earthshaking, a new log and concrete BP gas station is now going up, replacing another one that burned down last year under somewhat mysterious circumstances.
The new facility will also be selling groceries and sporting a laundromat, which should create some serious angst for our butcher and baker friends at the corner market, and may even force a change in their marketing strategy. Can candlesticks be far behind?
Oh, and speaking of candlesticks, we've recently been turning down all candlelight supper invitations with, "Sorry, dear, we really can't come. We have to feed the horses."
And we really do, because our up-north neighbors went off on holiday and their usual animal caretaker was out of commission. Anyway, we're pitching in for the week and feeding Julie, a 29 year-old former racehorse and her pint-sized buddy, Jack.
It's two flakes of hay and a can of grain, twice a day. And mind the manure! Life can be real tough up here in cowboy country.
Contact Roger Holliday
and Claudia Fischer at: email@example.com
Well, that's the story from Luzerne, and in a few minutes our friend, Barb, who owns the Rainbow Resort and our canoe, will be along to pick us up. And on the way home, we'll chat about her 22-year-old daughter, Jess, newly graduated from Lake Superior State University and already serving in the Peace Corps in Moldova. (That's the one next to Romania).
Several e-mails from there have told Barb that all's well. Jess is billeted with a very nice family in a two-story villa, with parquet floors, antique furniture - and an outhouse.
She'll be studying Romanian for the next couple of months until her two-year stint as an English teacher begins.
But it's a mighty long way from Mio, Michigan, to Moldova, and Jess is a very gutsy young lady. We can't wait to pass on some of her promised reports.