Monthly Archives: June 2014

Ode to Mrs. Pollack

When I was in 5th grade my teacher, Mrs. Pollack, gave the class a creative writing assignment.  As a reward, the best would be displayed in a cabinet in the hall.  I do not really remember much about what I wrote.  Although, I do recall that I compared monarch butterfly orange to that of a pumpkin.  That comparison pleased Mrs. Pollack very much, and I was awarded first place.  As promised, my writing was placed in the glass cabinet for all who passed by to see.  However, she rewrote it in calligraphy on an orange butterfly-shaped piece of construction paper. The re-write was necessary because my handwriting was and still is atrocious.  Though Mrs. Pollack tried harder than anyone to improve my penmanship, her efforts in that area were for naught.

I was proud to have what I had written in view of all the students and teachers at my school!  Mrs. Pollack even invited my mom for a private viewing of the display.  But even more than this special honor, what I remember most, is when Mrs. Pollack removed the butterfly scrawled paper from the cabinet.  She gave the class some busy work, and then, asked me to help her take down the display.  I followed her down the empty hallway.  The echo of her heels clicking on the too shiny floor was the only thing that broke the eerie silence.  She opened the cabinet, removed the butterfly, and gently placed it into my ten-year-old hands. She then leaned in close, and whispered in my ear, and said, “Someday, you are going to be a writer”.    What I felt in that moment I cannot really say, but it felt true.

As the years passed I have heard Mrs. Pollack’s whisper again and again.  “Someday, you are going to be a writer.”  In my twenties, I dreamed of having my own column in the newspaper called “Chronicles From the Robinsnest”.  In my thirties, I attempted to write a book.  After 40 pages, life became too busy and I gave up on the project thinking someday I would get back to it.  In my forties, I wrote technical documents for seminars I was conducting for work.  And now in my fifties, I decided to begin a blog.

The mystery for me is this:  Am I a writer because I have a natural ability to link words together in a way that others might enjoy or learn from, or is it because a teacher placed a notion in my head when I was ten years old?  My belief is that I most likely would have found my words at some point, but would I have had the courage or confidence to put them out there for all to see?  The answer is impossible to know.  What I know is that Mrs. Pollack’s whispered words planted a seed.  The seed rooted deeply within me and has been germinating ever since.  As I write these words I feel the small sprouts of leaves bursting from within.  I feel the unstoppable momentum of something being born and I can hardly wait to see what grows!

Mrs. Pollack, I am a writer.  I am the author of technical documents and blog entries, and maybe someday, I will even finish the book I started so long ago.  Thank you for planting that seed, for believing in me, and inspiring me.  I am blessed.

Song of the Blog: Elusive Butterfly By Bob Lind


Me / 10 years old

Me / 10 years old


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© Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Spring At The Lakehouse

Spring has come to Michigan.  We know this because it is April 20th.  It must be spring!  And yet, the bitter wind is howling, the temperature is below freezing, and it is snowing.  This followed by a week of flooding like I have never seen in my more than 50 years.  So many of us are convinced that spring has not come, and that it may never come this year.

Still, the plants and the animals know that spring has come!  Each year there are signs that spring is on its way to the Lakehouse.  First the Red Winged Black Birds arrive in mid February.  They come in droves, noisily ending the quiet solitude of winter.  Some folks find them annoying.  They are, indeed, a greedy bird and often bully others.  But, I find myself grateful as I watch and listen to them at my feeder, as they replenish their bodies from their long journey North.

By the end of February I start looking for my favorite couple.  Each year I worry, hope, and pray, for the safe return of Bud and Lydia, the nesting pair of Sandhill Cranes that live at the Lakehouse.  This year they were a week later than usual and I feared they had perished over the winter.  As a result, Bud wasted no time in dancing for, and throwing twigs at Lydia to entice her to do whatever birds do to get babies.  The courtship is comical and tickles me to no end.

Shortly after the cranes come home, a variety of migrating ducks and Canada Geese begin to arrive.  Each year, all the birds share a small patch of water where the ice has melted, with the two Mute Swans that are here year round.  The swans at the Lakehouse are extremely antisocial and it is often amusing to watch their less than hospitable interactions with the new arrivals.  I have come to consider Canada Geese the clowns of all waterfowl.  They honk all day and night for no apparent reason.  They tease and taunt all the other birds until they get a reaction.  I have even watched them fly up high above the lake, circle, only to drop back down onto the ice, chest first, to slide across the slick surface.

As the lake begins to thaw the Bald and Golden Eagles stop by for a fishing trip.  One year there were at least 28.  Quite a sight to see!  The Eagles have two fishing methods.  The first fits the classic image of the Eagle swooping down into the water, and reemerging with a fish in its talons only to fly away to some unknown destination to eat its prey.  The second, less spectacular or publicized method, is for the Eagle to stand upon an ice ledge, grab an unsuspecting fish from the frigid water, place it on the ice just inches away, and unceremoniously begin to eat.  The second, less glamorous method, is the most common at the Lakehouse.

At the end of March, the Crocus began to bloom and the foliage of other plants, such as primrose, hyacinth, and daffodils begin to peak through the soil or snow.  Soon, the first morel mushrooms will appear.  For me, just the thought of morel mushrooms in the early spring, induces obsessive night time dreams of hunting for and finding bushel upon bushel of the delicacy.  The reality of mushroom hunting is that it seldom, if ever, matches the imagination.

Lastly, on April 18th, I awoke to the haunting call of my beloved Loons.  The loons have not always lived at the Lakehouse.  They came one year after a terrible, yet, magnificent thunderstorm.   The thunder and lightning was constant!  Light flashed brilliantly all about, lighting its erratic path from heaven to earth.  The thunder rumbled and the house groaned and shook.  Lying in bed I thought of Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz, and wondered if the house would still be standing when I awoke.  In the morning, the house was, indeed, still standing.  The sun came out, and for the first time, I heard the call of the Loons.  I wept with joy.

The spring of 2013 is certainly not the spring we all dream of during the dark days of winter.  But spring is most certainly here.  The plants know it.  The animals know it.  And the light grows longer each day.  The cold and dreary days have not stopped nature from its annual rebirth.  It is the time of year for all of us to renew our hopes and dreams, and to be born again. Thus I take my cue from nature and embrace and rejoice in the spring of 2013.  I hope you will too.


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© Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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