April 3, 2023

Lost on a trail lightly traveled

A gentle, peaceful and beautiful walk in the woods turned into a living nightmare. 

Our daughter, camera in hand and optimistic in her ability to capture unique photos as dusk would soon fall, creating interesting patterns on the water and water fowl. 

"You can go ahead" she instructed us. "I'll catch up after."

Walking leisurely up the river bank, slippery with wet fall leaves, to the trail, we agreed "we'll meet you at the bridge". 

The trail was familiar and particularly picturesque during the waning autumn days. The blue sky especially brilliant this late afternoon. Knowing our daughter's penchant for photography, I knew she would be happily settling down, alone at last, focusing on the environment and wild life. We knew these woods and felt safe leaving, plus would be a mere 10-minute walk from her.

At the bridge, my husband and I watched the birds and searched the water for possible fish swimming through. The antics of the Cardinals and Blue Jay were especially entertaining. Then, waited, waited, and waited more -- she didn't show. We walked a little down the trail, casually watching for her -- she wasn't in our sight.

My emotions were catching up to our reality as I went back in time, many years ago at this very park, where a young lady was on a run and never showed up at home. Her body was found, brutally murdered, not far from our location. 

Deep breathing so the panic would not overwhelm us my husband and I retraced our steps.

Arriving at her previous position we scanned the quickly flowing water. Descending to the river's edge, sliding down, I felt a rise in fear that my daughter may have fallen off the bank into the cold and fast river. 

Few visitors passed on the trail but as they did, we asked if they saw her — a blonde girl with a large camera wearing a yellow skort, explaining that we were to meet our daughter at the bridge, which is a familiar feature to these woods, but she never showed up. 

“Oh yes, but I don’t think she was wearing a skirt”, said one.

“Was she with a young boy”, asked another, explaining that he saw a boy running down the trail.

“I think I saw a blonde over at the Huron Pond but I don’t know if she was wearing a skirt. But she did have a camera”, reported another.

It was getting darker as my husband took off to check the car, perhaps she was waiting for us there. I was further fearful as she didn't respond to messages or phone calls. Find my Friends showed the phone being stationary and in the woods. Another call to her -- her voicemail recording caused my heart to beat into my ears and my breath shallow with emotion. 

I again remembered the death of the murdered girl, meeting and talking with her mother, and how the mom's life changed forever. I don't know how people stay intact after losing a child. My daughter's voice on the recording comforted me, though. She's tough and wise in nature.

Text messages -- please call and call us as soon as you get this message -- no response.

I flagged down a couple bikers to ask if they saw our daughter, please to keep their eyes open for her. The older man seemed concerned enough that he and his son took off on their bikes to look along the river bank. “She’ll show up" he shouted comfortingly. 

The darkness was increasing and we did not bring flashlights.

Breathing heavily I stumbled down the trail as my phone rang ... an unknown number. I had given my cell to so many people on the trail, just in case, so answered with hope.

It was our daughter, demanding in a meek voice, "where are you"? She used a fisherman’s cell to let us know she was at the Huron Pond and was safe. She'd been looking for us going the opposite way on the many trails, also frantically looking. Her cell? Left in the car. My husband, who met me part way down the trail, and I hurried to the pond embracing our also frightened daughter. 

We learned from that too close for comfort experience to:

  • always carry a flashlight, a whistle and a cell phone;
  • pack a snack and water;
  • trust that most of the people using trails are good people--don't hesitate to ask for help.

Have you ever lost someone in a store, park or in the neighborhood?

What feelings emerged when you found him or her?

September 27, 2022

Candles, Crispy-ness, Color, Crafts and Coffee

The end of summer finds me eager to embrace cooler temperatures and bless-ed time in preparing my autumn list. Love the beginning of each new season but this is my favorite. Highlighting in my bullet-list on what seems important during these last three months of the year is edifying, relaxing, and I have a great sense of delightful anticipation to achieve what I write down.

  • Decorate. I pull out my boxes of pumpkins, leaves, lights and assorted "scary" decorations, and, of course, candles. After deep cleaning, set these out on the first day of fall. The splash of color in the house makes us smile as the house begins the cozy season.
  • Line books on my table to enjoy during quiet moments. Books on my list include Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier; The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg (a fun author); Hard Cider by Barbara Stark-Nemon; Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gaines. I adore Rosamunde Pilcher and Gladys Taber books, along with an occasional holiday one to get in the spirit. I set up a no excuse zone by making my reading nook comfortable and welcoming. I am pulled there by the scent of my bayberry candle.
  • Love my porch, built circa 1876. I frequently read on my newly painted - apple green - porch, a candle burning on the table and calming music seeping from Spotify. I read my magazines to the quiet broken only by neighbors strolling past waving and sending greetings.
  • Mostly, I'm a magazine reader. Love magazines by Stampington & Company's selection in particular - In Her Studio (spaces and stories of creative women); Artful Blogging; Artful Journaling; Where Women Cook (which is no longer being published but found a new Stampington magazine, Where Women Create). I have discovered a few go-to magazines -- Flow includes some fun "treats".
  • Crafts. Not being a very artistic person does not stop me from bumbling through projects. One being Dream Boards - sturdy art board filled with whatever I am fiddling with, glued down, appropriate quotes tossed in here and there, encouraging words attached - with the board brushed down with Gesso making a permanent board worthy in my eyes of framing.
  • Gatherings. I love fall parties, freshly made soups, candles on the table, bold and black coffee, doing puzzles, board games. Covid stopped these events but hope to create a few to fill my own contact needs.
  • Calendar items.  I write down festivals, activities, writer and author events, visits around Michigan. We schedule at least two trips to the orchard where we shop for apples while eating a crispy sweet doughnut and sipping cider. I missed all these outings as Covid-19 kept us secluded. So glad we can safely include many of these on our calendar.
  • Walking in the woods. Stunning fall colors, crispy leaves crunching underfoot, the smells! Our cameras sit on our hips ready to snap the elusive wildlife. Healing and peaceful -- this activity continued during Covid to include long winter walks through the snow and wind. Forest Bathing and gentle talking got us through the pandemic.
  • Cards and letters. I'm known as someone who still sends letters and cards for birthdays and holidays. I write these as I sip coffee and listen to "coffee house" music. Who doesn't like to receive a handwritten note? 
  • Friends. This is a difficult one for me, as many friends were inaccessible during Covid and many have now formed new patterns or relationships. I'm still working on how to have friendships post-Covid. Hope your friends are near and dear to you -- cherish them. 

Enjoy this crispy autumn. How do you relax and celebrate the seasons?

November 30, 2021

My Memory Box

As the holidays approach, you will find me searching through boxes of Christmas cards until I find what speaks to me from the current year. Next stop - the post office – so many new and pretty holiday stamps to purchase. Next stop is a coffee shop, and I look for a cozy one, at times with a companion, where I find the perfect seat (back to the wall, at least two chairs – one to put all my “equipment” on) and settling in to write down my thoughts to each individual friend or family member, all while sipping burning hot coffee and noshing on shortbread cookies. One thing about me, which I almost smile to admit … I’ve saved almost every letter and card received … they are safe in a box.

As I leaf through “the memory box” of my precious correspondences, I hover over the many letters written to me from my father which he filled with humor, dry as it was, always signing off with Love Daddio.

An embossed and official letter from King Olav’s secretary (Olav V was the king of Norway from 1957 until his death in January of 1991) in response to my note to him. For years, I planned to write the King to ask him if indeed he knew my Great Uncle Thorvald Olsen, who had been a mayor in Norway, and through the family storytelling, learned he was a friend to the King. Was this true? The King and Uncle Thorvald were captured in a picture sitting next to each other at a formal royal dinner in Norway. The King’s secretary wrote back to let me know that King Olav had read my letter but died before he could write back. No regrets for me except to follow my heart in sending letters when urged. 

My eyes tearfully hold and read the letters sent from a family in England who took in my father after he was injured in the war (World War II). It was not unusual for families to house our soldiers for periods of time during the war and dad lived with this family during his recovery. The wife wrote to dad’s parents in Marquette informing them how his healing was coming along. The family also shared what their situation was like in England so near to the battle and horror of war. 

Life at sea came alive through letters from Captain Richard E. Olsen, a great lakes ship sailor and brother to my father. His wife wrote updates on his excursions to me in lined notebook paper and always signed both their names. On one visit with him, I gave him a list of questions and a tape recorder. He agreed to answer the questions on the cassette, which I knew he felt honored – we sent these tapes back and forth and eventually transcribed them on CDs after his death and presented one to his wife. She so missed his voice and would fall asleep listening as her husband told tales of his adventures at sea. Quite the storyteller.

I eagerly leaf through a myriad of correspondence from relatives who piece together portions of our history, which would be lost and forgotten if these stories had been tossed away. I took notes and was able to write not only essays about family but self-published two books based on their writings. 

Carol Burnett puts variety, and music, back in her show | Lifestyle |  eagletribune.com 

One of my favorite actresses was Carol Burnett, mainly for her humor. I had written a letter to her during a very trying period in her life and she wrote a beautiful letter of thanks back to me. I hold this dearly as an example of how, no matter how famous a person is, most love a caring note of sympathy.

Included in the box is a 3-ring notebook filled with our family newsletters. I began writing The Olsen Chronicles around 2001 and regularly solicited news from family – their trials, milestones, and plain greeting each other; edited and placed in the newsletter which I printed and mailed four times a year to each family unit. We were a large family with such great humor and stories.

At the bottom of the box is another 3-ring binder filled with all the Christmas letters received. I know they were placed with love in this book of memories. 

All these written stories are a gift to our next generations. Silly? I think not.

Picture the future [you may not be living, but bear with me]. Imagine your children sitting around a table with steaming mugs of coffee or tea sharing family stories, and, of course, missing us tremendously. A pause in the conversation as they struggle to share what they learned from the stories told around the family table. The conversations run dry of memories so they pull out “the memory box” and read aloud how we struggled and laughed and loved. Through their tears they will know who they are from what we shared about ourselves.

But what if “the memory box” is empty or tossed? Nothing from the past, written, can be found. The previous generation is no longer around to pass on what experiences they had, how they solved a problem, raised their children, survived a pandemic.

Please know that your stories DO matter MORE than you can imagine.

So, with that in mind and my favorite pens sorted and ready, I write little tidbits and will grab a hot mug of coffee to drink and eagerly read your card or letter. In the new year, it will be found in “the memory box”.

(Updated with edits from 2018 posting)

1st we have coffee with Aunt Betty Turrell



Lost on a trail lightly traveled

A gentle, peaceful and beautiful walk in the woods turned into a living nightmare.  Our daughter, camera in hand and optimistic in her abili...