Fine blog by Shelley Sackier.
Today I’m offering up an interview I did with author/blogger/human extraordinaire, Jan Wissmar. I had a marvelous time with Jan and I do hope you’ll check out her work. She’s just released her third book, Willful Avoidance and continues to impress me with being someone whose work on this earth is beyond inspirational.
I hope you enjoy.
Meet Shelley Sackier, author, blogger, pilot, and whisky drinker
Today I’m delighted to welcome Shelley Sackier, creator of the always entertaining blog – Peak Perspective – and author of the upcoming teen novel DEAR OPL.
SS: The blog title and tagline (Peak Perspective: trying to climb out of the fog.) was born of both sight and wordplay. I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’m surrounded by…
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My arm was sore, but over and over I pulled the rope. The Evinrude sputtered and coughed. After a few minutes, it kicked into idle and spewed out blue clouds of exhaust near the water. The old boat motor had an ornery sound, like the voice of someone when their car doesn’t start in winter.
Finally, I rested and caught my breath while the engine warmed. I carefully cut back the motor’s choke, hoping it wouldn’t stall. After a minute, I reached down and pulled forward and into gear a small lever sticking out from the upper left portion of the propeller stem. I motored around the the 3.2 miles of shoreline on Big Casey Lake turning the rubber handle clockwise with my left hand on the steering lever, then cut the engine near the lily pads on the south shore not far from the Bald Eagles nesting in a tall jack pine.
I’m starting an old motor and riding around the lake in a metal boat in order to engage with the concrete and physical, to balance my life of academic work: teaching, grading, writing and going to meetings. That’s why a manual-start motor is the perfect remedy. It starts not with a button, but only by work of arm and hand, shoulder and elbow, and it reminds me of a time when life had more physical work and less mental clutter.
I go to the Old Style Place for exactly that… less clutter. In the cabin’s main room, there are three chairs, one kitchen table, one small metal stand for a toaster, one wooden seating bench, a few magazines and a radio — radio with a cassette player — and a small box near the wood stove filled with kindling.
Appliances include a small Dixie stove, a Gibson refrigerator and a sink with no running water. The Dixie and Gibson appliances truly are Old Style, circa 1950. There are two small bedrooms and one deck. On the deck are one sofa, one small wooden table and two chairs. These elements scream of self-sufficiency and I hear the remnants of hard work that carved out a middle class existence in parental talk, “Why should we buy a new chair or table if the old one works just fine.”
Their answer in a question was born of a classical conservatism that truly was fiscally conservative in deed not just talk. It didn’t matter if the furniture was as hard as the rocks on the beach, it didn’t matter if the beds were uncomfortable, it didn’t matter that a bath meant a dip in the cold lake. For a shower, forget it. The main thing is that it was not costing anybody anything and that made these elements precious.
“We’re lucky to have the cabin,” they said, and when I was younger I guessed it was true. But now sleep calls me. I know the beds are worn out; either too soft or too hard, and I think Goldilocks would have rejected all of them.
Before turning out the lights, I glance at a small, funny, poorly cushioned green parlor chair in the cabin’s boxy main room. The chair, parked in a corner under the Old Style light, had a special nickname among my brothers and I.
We called it “the tick chair,” because nearly every time someone sat there they immediately felt a wood tick crawling on their leg, arm or neck. We always watched that chair, and if a visiting city-girl sat in it, we’d eagerly await her screams.
I’ve been traveling for two days and I’m tired of being treated like a number. I’m finally at my destination, a cabin in northern Wisconsin. I’ve come a long way to be here, and I know my journey from Hawaii was worth it.
Opening the door, I grope to find a light switch. In a few moments, I’m listening to the crackle of a wood fire in the stove. A sustained loon wail rises from the lake. Mystical and high-pitched, it’s a sound that could be interpreted as pain.
The loon speaks in four calls: wail, yodel, tremolo and hoot. Tonight they wail. But the loon’s elegy is music to me. They’ve recently flown back from the Gulf of Mexico, a nearly 3,000 mile journey. Their call in the dark is half mariachi. It’s an eerie sound over water, something like mourning and something like a high note from a Mexican trumpet.
The Ojibwa of this area once spoke of the loon as mang, which meant, “the most handsome of birds.” It’s also the most ancient of birds, existing long before humans. North American field guides list the loon first.
The wail keeps echoing over Big Casey Lake and it’s loud, much louder than summer calls when leafy trees mute the decibels and their haunting. The loon sound abates; I step outside to see new snow. I haven’t formed a snowball in years, so I make one about the size of a baseball and fire it at a tree.
I miss wide right, and it surprises me. My right arm has grown stubborn, like everything here. I take a short walk in the woods, looking down to see my boot sole making tracks. Snow keeps falling and the woods are silent. I look down again, certain I’ll see blood tracks.