Jagular: (mis)Adventures in a $300 Sailboat.

I’ll keep it brief, very brief: If you like a great read, if you like adventure, you WANT this book.

I’d greatly appreciate if you would pledge today, even $1, to my friend’s Kickstarter book project.

And if you like water or sailing – you MUST get a copy!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/634973373/jagular-misadventures-in-a-300-sailboat

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Posted in Boat, Book, Kickstarter, Self-Publishing, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Winter I Expected

Recently I sent a Facebook “Friend Request” to a high school classmate. He replied, “I don’t think I can accept your friend request. You have too many pictures of snow/ice on your Facebook page …which leads me to think it could be your fault we’re having such cold weather here.”

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At first I thought he was joking. Then I stopped to think about it and realized that some people seriously hate winter; unlike me. I love winter. It wasn’t until I moved to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that I came to love winter. I had experienced winter in Pennsylvania, which is very enjoyable and manageable – not too much snow, not too much wind, and not too cold. Enough cold to snow and enough snow to have the chance for a white Christmas and some treasured snow days close school.

I had experienced winter in Missouri and northern California. Neither of those winters were really anything except ice storms. Yuck! When I lived in northern California I actually bought snow chains for my truck thinking they would come in handy. I only used them once and they didn’t help much. They were too wimpy. 

Fourteen winters were spent in Wisconsin. Those were much more winter than Pennsylvania’s. Lots of snow but not too cold or blowy, except for the first year I lived there and it was −40 F without the wind chill. Anything after that was easy. There were a number of times I went for a stroll in the neighborhood during blizzards. It was a ton of fun. The air was crisp and invigorating, like during a thunderstorm. It just happened to be about 28 degrees and the air was full of white fluff. The marshmallows definitely tasted better in the hot chocolate after those walks.

I spent a Christmas in San Diego one year. It depressed me. All I kept seeing on television was news about the blizzard my family was experiencing back on the East Coast. Forget the comfy 70 degrees, I wanted to be bundled up playing in the snow with my sister, like we used to do when we were kids.

When I lived in Baltimore we had snow. The last winter I lived there we had three blizzards in two months. People didn’t know what to do or how to drive. They panicked and bought toilet paper, bread, and milk on their way home from the office anticipating being stranded at home for weeks on end. I had a joyful time helping my neighbors dig their cars out of the three foot drifts. It was child’s play for me compared to the two years I had spent in Wisconsin as a resident manager. Each time it snowed meant I could count on investing at least two to three hours clearing snow from the apartment complex.

Then my boyfriend, now husband, asked me to live with him. Happy happy joy joy! Right? Well he lived in Michigan. In the Upper Peninsula. Where they get real winters. At least that’s what I thought. I envisioned snow up to the eaves of the house. There would be a number of snow days that I’d spend in front of the wood stove enjoying mugs of marshmallows and cocoa as I worked my way through stacks of unread books. I was wrong.

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I’ve previously written that he encouraged me to go for a walk, outside, in the cold, and snow. That was something that I wasn’t used to doing on a regular basis; just the occasional jaunt. But he was prompting me to get bundled up and go play in the big room – outside. Quickly I learned that if I didn’t go out each day I’d miss a lot. Nikon and Panasonic accompanied me. Unfortunately their batteries often couldn’t withstand the cold for as long as I could. But they helped me capture some incredible images of winter’s magic.

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The first winter was tame. Books went unread. Hot chocolate begged for me to come indoors, but I stayed out for hours. I’d procrastinate and try to find tasks to do, like stacking wood, splitting stove wood, or sweeping the walk. Anything so I could stay outside. It was definitely not the type of winter I had envisioned. It was comfortable. Once or twice a week, snow would fall for a few hours. We’d get only a couple of inches, not the terrorizing six to eight that was predicted for an hour north or west of us. The storms would empty themselves out before they got to us. We had white on the ground most of the season, but not the piles I had envisioned.

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The second winter was warm. Too warm. It was not a real winter and Michigan’s spring came too early. Many will remember it for years to come. The trees bloomed early and then we got a big long cold spell and it killed the blossoms. Apples and cherries were scarce and expensive that year.

My third winter here was relatively easy but expensive. We had little trouble except for the week of temps below 5 degrees. The truck froze when it went through the creek crossing. That was not good. When ice and water and cold combine with metal and plastic, things break; including the front axle on the truck. We had to hike three and a half miles, in hip boots through two feet of snow, in 3 degree temps to get the Jeep to pull the truck out. That is when we decided if it was an extreme effort to try to go to work, it was not worth it.

Today we heeded that decision.

 

About three weeks ago I asked Hugh what he thought was worse – lots of snow, extreme cold (we’d already had a number of below zero days), or winds. “Winds,” he said, “No doubt about it.”

Snow we can shovel out of. Cold we can bundle up against or add more wood to the fire. Winds make both the snow and the cold worse. Snow drifts and freezes and makes the two-track road (almost) unnavigable.

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Since the beginning of December, we’ve consistently had snow on the ground. In the past, a forecast for two to four inches produced a half to an inch of snow. This year we’ve gotten almost everything that has been predicted. 

Today the marine forecast called for up to 50 mile per hour winds on the open lake. Since we live on the exposed lake shore we pay attention to forecasts like that one! The typical spots on the two-track were drifting and they were hard, solid drifts. There were chains on the Jeep and truck, heavy duty ones. We’d be able to get out to town, but only with a lot of effort.

“Do you think we’ll be able to get home?” I asked Hugh. If it snowed the two to four inches we were supposed to get in addition to a day of strong winds, we’d have a doozy of a time driving home. I knew we could always hike the mile home from our parking spot on the mainland. It would mean a long, cold, dark trek.

“No.” He replied. “I thought about bringing the snowshoes.”

Only the snow shovels were in the back of the Jeep and truck.

We looked at each other and knew today was going to be a snow day.

“Let’s go home.”

 

Despite the two feet of snow on the ground, single digits temps, and high winds, I’m loving winter as much this year as previously. The lake is frozen to the horizon. Any sailor will tell you that means miles, not feet or yards. Bays and coves quickly freeze with winter’s arrival, but the open lake has rarely done so. At least not in recent memory, until this winter.

The Bear Track Restaurant and Motel is my local lunch hangout. This week at lunch, Skip, one of the old timers, decided that we were not having an unusually cold or hard winter this year. “It’s like the ones we used to have all the time, years ago. It’s just that we haven’t had winters like this in a long time.”

 

Today before lunch I tried to stand on the point at the south end of our island. Forty knot winds buffeted me and tried to slide me around on the icy snow. I wanted to photograph the sheets of ice on the lake, but I couldn’t hold my camera still or bear the stinging snow on my face. The goldeneye ducks fished in the open spots between sheets of ice until the wind slid the ice closed. Then they struggled against the wind to find another fishing hole. Eventually I gave up my struggle and went inside.

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Inside I could hear, through the wind and windows, the two inch thick sheets of be thrust up on shore. Even though I was cozy with my hot chocolate there, I wanted to be outside. It just wasn’t the same watching it from the dining room picture window. This is the type of winter I expected and I love it.

 

So yes David, it just might be my fault that we’re having all this cold. And I’m going to continue to enjoy it, and make the best of it by capturing winter’s magnificence.

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P.S. – And yes, he was joking, he accepted my friend request.

P.P.S. – If you’d really like more of this beauty, it’s available via my coffee table book Art of Winter: A Photographic Essay. And stay tuned for information about the forthcoming iBook version of Art of Winter.

Posted in Drummond Island, Ice, Jeep, Michigan, Photography, Shelter Island, Upper Peninsula, Walk, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pulitzers, Trees, Winter, and Books

Although my book has been selling well, it apparently does not hold a candle to Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, The Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America. King’s book won the 2013 nonfiction Pulitzer Prize, mine did not. I am proud to say though, that mine was nominated. Two other books that the judges really liked were Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers and David George Haskell’s The Forest Unseen. Although I have no way of knowing, I hope the judges did enjoy my book as much as everyone else who has seen it.

Yes, I did say “seen it” rather than read it. When Art of Winter: A Photographic Essay first came out, one reader remarked, “This is my type of book – very few words.” The story the book tells is told in photographs and very few words; just enough words but not too many to distract from the visual beauty of the book. Others have given it glowing praise. Check out the reviews on Amazon.com and on my website http://www.JulieMCovert.com/artofwinterbook.html. The book trailer will give you a good sense of what the book is about and show you a number of images from the book.

From what I have learned online, my book is much closer to Haskell’s than King’s. Haskell “wanted to tell the stories of the forest.” I tell the stories of the incredible and often stunning artwork that winter creates with ice and snow. He told his story over a year, my book tells the story of one winter. Each day told a new story and revealed new creations, many of which were gone a few hours later or the next day. He focused on one square meter in Tennessee, I walked a forty acre island in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, often in sub-freezing temperatures at the crack of dawn.

Often while walking those forty acres, I thought about documenting it’s changes through the seasons. Maybe that will be my next book. In the meantime, I am looking forward to receiving my copy of Haskell’s book.

We both have signed copies of our respective books available directly from each of us. So if you like mine I encourage you to get a copy of his and vice versa. He’s at theforestunseen.com and I’m at JulieMCovert.com

Have you read either one? What do you think?

Posted in Art of Winter book, Book, Michigan, Nature, Photography, Upper Peninsula, Winter, Woods, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Adventures of Hip Boots

One Saturday morning in mid-February, Hugh was working in town, so I had plenty of time to wander with my camera. The lake was calm so I decided it would be a great day to go for a stroll in the lake. I couldn’t wear my Muck boots as I usually did because if I went in the water any deeper than 14 inches the water would come over the top and soak me. It was a perfect day to wear my hip boots!

I gleefully walked around the island and in the lake. The slight breeze made the wind chill drop below zero. After an hour of solid shooting, I was ready to go inside and so were my hip boots. We were both frozen. They were frozen almost to the point that I couldn’t get out of them. Very awkwardly I climbed out and went in to warm up with a big mug of rich hot chocolate.

Later I realized that something happened after I took them off — my hip boots took on a life of their own.

On my way to the outhouse I discovered them walking down the drive.

Taking a stroll.

I brought them back to the house.

Normally they stay in the breeze way, but I figured they were pretty cold.

Actually they were still frozen, so I sat them inside the front door.

It was warmer there and I hoped they would thaw out.

Nope! They still had wanderlust.

When I went to get some more wood for the fire I found them gone.

After some searching I encountered them down by the lake.

Actually they were on the lake!

“Hey, we’re having fun! We’re looking for a fishing hole. Want to join us?”

Looking for a fishing hole.

The next morning when Hugh turned his back on the stove, they decided it might be fun to help make pancakes for breakfast.

Making breakfast.

I soon realized there was no stopping them.

After lunch I asked them if they wanted to go for a walk with me.

“Sure!” they said.

“Prepare to get wet,” I replied.

Prepare to get wet!

P1000973 - Version 2When we were done they asked if they could go wave hello to a friend or two.

Chilling by the lake.%0A%22Hi Paul!%22

They promised to behave, so I let them.

When Hip Boots finally came in, they were pooped.

They decided to warm up in front of the stove while enjoying the local paper in the new rocker glider that Hugh gave me for Christmas.


Relaxing with the paper after a hard day's work.

A few days later, I found hip boots eager to be back in the lake.

Should I go in? Or not?

Well, considering how much they liked the water I decided to put them to work the next morning.

I needed some help cleaning ice out of the creek, so we could drive our Jeep through without getting stuck.

I was then able to drive to town and go to work.

They had to spend the day with me at my office and when they saw I had a massage table they climbed right on.

“We worked hard and are sore. Can we get a massage? Please?”

Ahh, this is more like it!

“Ahh, this is more like it!”

————————————-

Do you know where your hip boots are?

Posted in Michigan, Musings, Photography, Shelter Island, Walk, Water, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I caught sunrise

With my husband out of town, I’ve been busy working on finishing two manuscripts. This has meant that I have been working undisturbed, between posting comments on Facebook and Twitter, until the moon has travelled far across the dark sky.

The last two nights I promised myself I would quit at a decent hour, eleven instead of one-thirty in the morn. I don’t find it easy to rise before the sun when I’ve only slept for six hours. Six hours may be plenty for you, but the first couple hours are restless in my lonely cold bed.

With a jolt, I woke from my dream in which I was talking my photogging buddy Paul about catching sunrise.

The fire had died in the parlor stove many hours before; without lights I found yesterday’s cold clothes heaped the floor and fumbled for my cameras.

My body protested. Yawns tried to pull me back to bed. I glanced out the window. A couple of big swigs of cider would have to satiate me for a couple of hours. The chase was on.

I pulled on my Carhartt insulated overalls as firewood stood by the front door begging to be taken inside; stoking the stove would have to wait. There was no time to check the temperature outside. With neck warmer, double gloves, hat and parka, I’d be overdressed, underdressed or just right. I plunged my feet into my Muck boots and was out the door.

The frozen boardwalk betrayed me to the furry and feathered critters as it squeaked underfoot. Nothing in sight; good. The sun was still tucked in behind Canada’s horizon.

The stirring breeze gave my cheeks cold kisses while I chased the light for the next hour.

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Good morning world!

Now for my pre-brunch nap.

Posted in Michigan, Nature, Photography, Shelter Island, Sunrise, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments