Some random thoughts at the end of a long, hot summer - about writers we like to read, and some new Michigan magazines we've discovered, about cabin things accomplished and a new way of looking at life.
It's probably not surprising that those of us who spend an inordinate amount of time staring at yellow pads or computer screens should also follow the swirls, curlicues, and cursors of our fellow scribblers - especially those we particularly enjoy and read regularly - with a mixture of admiration, jealousy, and even awe for that brilliantly turned phrase, clever opening gambit, or elegant ending.
People like the flamboyantly erudite AA Gill, food, entertainment, and sometimes travel writer in the Times of London. Or Peter Egan in Road & Track and Cycle World, whose seemingly effortless prose and motorized meanderings have been enchanting gearheads for years.
Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl is another whose well-chosen words and culinary wisdom serve as monthly comfort food in our house, as do those of Christopher Kimball in Cook's Illustrated.
"Up North," where we spend a good part of the summer these days, we also have some favorite scribes. A relatively new "acquaintance" is Deborah Wyatt Fellows, founder and editor of Traverse magazine, who always seems to strike just the right note and capture the season in her monthly leaders.
The magazine, which has just celebrated its 25th birthday, would make a great gift for any Wolverine lover, as would her book Reflections of a Life Up North ($40, www.traversemagazine.com).
Northern Michigan, which for us at least means anything above Bay City and "the tension line," is fast becoming a hotbed of literary talent, with a whole host of new titles available to the eagle-eyed.
There's a Traverse magazine knock-off called True North, which we particularly like. Well-produced with a nice selection of Michigan-based stories, it would be of interest to any traveler, armchair or otherwise.
On a more basic level and aimed right at the heart of anglers, hunters, and outdoorsy people is Michigan's Streamside Journal, published eight times a year. Written by experts in their fields, a typical issue might include stories on land conservancy, cedar fishing kayaks, or a flyfishing icon, and hints on training your hunting dog. An excellent value at $16. (www.michiganstreamsidejournal. com)
Our up-north neighbor, Tom Buhr, is both an avid trout fisherman and conservationist. When he's not doing one or the other he's writing about it in Michigan Outdoor News. He also edits Riverwatch," the mouthpiece of the Anglers of the Au Sable, an organization headed up by Rusty Gates, a name synonymous with trout fishing and protecting the health of Michigan's rivers and streams (www.ausableanglers. org).
It was in Riverwatch, in fact, that we first learned of a program to repopulate the banks of Au Sable with thousands of cedar trees, which are crucial to the health of the river, providing shade for the stream bed, root systems that prevent erosion, and hidey-holes for trout.
Sometime in the mid 1990s, a fisherman named Howard Johnson noticed that many of the old Northern White Cedars on the Au Sable were dying out and not being replaced by enough young ones, so he launched a "Cedars Project" to ensure that a new generation of trees will grace the river banks for the next 500 years, at least!
With a branch of the "river of sand" running outside our own log cabin, we signed up for the program, and recently spent a couple of down and dirty days digging up dirt, planting seedlings, and protecting them from hungry white-tailed deer with wire cages.
They'll probably take 20 years or more to grow to any kind of maturity, but at least the grandkids and their progeny will get enjoy them. Not to mention the trout!
Speaking of maturity, your wannabe Luddites have finally succumbed to the digital age! And after half a century of picture taking with aged Agfa Isolettes, Nikons, Pentaxes, and Fuji point-and-shoots, we finally ended our boycott of newfangled technology and bought a digital Fuji 345 FinePix, and have been happily experimenting ever since.
Apart from the portraiture aspect, which is always iffy with a point-and-shoot, our new palm-sized wizard has already produced some remarkable images. And, best of all, there's no waste on poorly exposed or blurred images.
Simply delete. And reshoot.
It's a miracle. Wish the rest of life were so easy!
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