Photos By Lil De Laat
For the 13th year the midwinter musical montage that is the Luthier’s Concert warmed up a capacity crowd at the Black Box of the Dogwood Center.
From the country sounds of Sue Anderson playing a guitar crafted by the late Robert Sayers and the ukulele version of ‘8 Days a Week’ strummed by Don Benson and his granddaughters Cyanne and Cora Schuitema to the sardonic stories put to music by the Ralston Bowles and the enchanting emanations from Jim Spalink the musical journey brought a sea of smiles and appreciative applause from the Dogwood crowd.
The concert, a collaboration between the NCCA Artsplace and the Dogwood has long been a must see as the performers once again shared the stage with the magnificent instruments created by the talented group of artisans known as luthiers.
Bowles slapped out his tunes on a Bryan Galloup piece of work while Catlin Hill took one of Elon Howe’s violins through its paces. Resonate guitars were given some welcome moments on stage in the capable hands of Keith Caldwell and first time concert performer Tim Scheerhorn who has been creating the dobro inspired pieces for three decades while Benson spoke of introducing his progeny who joined him onstage to lutherie and Spalink introduced a harp and a lute to the musical mix.
With Faune Benson Schuitema’s captivating photographs of the instruments serving as a backdrop in the gallery, concert-goers mingled with the luthiers before the show making inquiries and admiring the impressive works on display.
Kudos to Ms. Benson Schuitema of the Dogwood Center for once again filling a February evening with a pleasant variety of tunesmanship.
Cooking For Picasso Book Review
By Alexis Mercer
My parents recently cleaned out their 'bonus room' - the area above the garage which over the years has served a wide variety of purposes. It was a dance studio for me in middle school, a computer and movie room when my sister and I were in high school, and for the last few years - both a library/den and a music room for my dad, who plays the bass guitar.
As a result of this cleaning, I received boxes of books. Some for my kids, some for their teachers' classrooms, and many my mom labeled as "must reads for Alexis." (I come by my reading obsession honestly from both of my parents - what can I say?)
The recent weather, and therefore lack of school, has provided ample opportunity to dive into the pile. My first choice - Cooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray.
The choice proved perfect for frozen days in Michigan, somewhat stuck inside the walls of the house. Within the pages of the book I was transported to the seashore in France to a town called Juan-les-Pins beginning the spring of 1936. Descriptions of the salty air blowing off the Mediterranean Sea kept me warm and happy.
Ondine is the main character in one of the two plots that are intertwined but separated by 70 years. The only child of restaurant owners, Ondine finds herself the personal chef for Picasso, who was renting a house nearby the cafe, to recover from his messy divorce and to find new inspiration to paint. At the young age of 16, Ondine poses for Picasso and becomes a subject of multiple paintings.
Celine's (the second protagonist) story takes place in America in 2016 when her mother falls ill and is placed in a nursing home by Celine's older twin step-siblings. In an attempt to rescue her mother from their obvious plan to take their mother's inheritance, Celine travels to France near the birthplace of her great-grandmother Ondine.
Cooking for Picasso is a light-hearted story that is perfect for escaping the ice and subzero temperatures, keeping the reader entertained with a fictional tale of love, loss, adventure and mystery.
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Introducing N3 Contributor… Tim McGrath
I grew up in the time of Fizzies, PF Flyers, Slinkys, The Monkees on TV and Cheez Whiz. I graduated from Wyoming Park High School in the ‘burbs of Grand Rapids, and later, Calvin College. In spite of the rigorous academics I encountered in those places, I received my real education on the blueberry farms my family owned and operated near West Olive. Along the way I met and married my wife, Cheryl. We moved to Fremont in the summer of 1978 when Cheryl began her career at Gerber Products, and I began my career as a teacher in the Fremont Public School district. I’ll be forever indebted to Mr. Al Foster, who took a chance by hiring that slightly ragged young man whose grades weren’t exceptional in college, but had nice teeth and hair.
I had the opportunity to work as a special education teacher and a fourth grade teacher at Cedar Street Elementary (now Quest), Pine Street Elementary (now FPS administration), and for most of my career, DaisyBrook Elementary School. I retired from FPS in 2012 after 34 years of service in the district. What a wonderful time it was!
We have two grown children: Katey and Kevin, along with two perfect-in-every-way grandkids, Deegan and Ali.
By Tim McGrath
“Gracias, Grazie, Merci, Danke, Spasiba, Takk”
It’s the beginning of a new year and we’ve heard the call to be better people. Set those goals; make those resolutions. Gonna do it this time dag nab it; no more messing around. Sign up, swear to it, get that free app, call somebody…. So, how’s it going? Mmm,hmm, I know.
There’s this one thing that might help us be better specimens of humanity this year: it’s called Gratitude. But, let’s be honest. I, for one, am already grateful for lots of things. I’m really and truly thankful for my wife and family, friends, health, warm home, food, our country, puppies. Who can argue with this? No one can, my friends, no one. What I’m suggesting this year is we look a little closer at things swirling around in our little piece of the universe that might be overlooked, but add a certain panache to the whole thing. Mind you, the few things I present here are just the tip of my iceberg. It wouldn’t take long to add more. Join me on this odd little journey, won’t you?
Chocolate covered peanuts: There’s just something about those little chocolate dipped goobers that bring a deep sense of thankfulness. An ordinary day shines brighter when popping in a handful. That’s right, by the handful, no singles here. Then there’s the two or three that get stuck together – The Double Dutch Sweetie. Oh, yeah.
Shoelaces: Indispensible: hard to imagine a world without ‘em. If you don’t believe it, think back to the last time one broke as you were frantically getting ready to go to (fill in the blank). And, how delightful it is to string a new pair in those favorite shoes, cinch ‘em up tight, and walk a little taller. “Notice anything new?” you ask your friends.
Non-collapsible paper straws: With all the hub bub swirling around our use of plastics and its impact on the environment, whomever created the non collapsible paper straw is a genius deserving a Nobel award, seriously. Remember the flimsy ones we got with our impossible to open milk cartons at school? A few good sucks and the whole thing collapsed. Well done, sir or madam!
The little arrow next to the gas gauge on the dashboard: As a once-in-awhile car renter, I’ve been caught short too many times at gas stations in far away places. I pull up for a refill only to find the gas cap is on the opposite side of the vehicle from where I’ve guessed it to be. This requires refilling the car by stretching the hose over the trunk and, of course, finding it’s too short. Those people who had been waiting patiently in line to refill become less than amused by my shortcomings. Exasperated looks, head shaking; I don’t blame them. Then, one glorious day, like a beacon of light, I discovered the little arrow on the dash by the gas pump icon. What’s that for, I wonder. Hmmm…, could it be? Sure enough, it indeed tells what side of the vehicle the gas cap’s on. Who would’ve thought? Someone in the engineering department, that’s who. Wonderful little thing.
Consider the following. You’re talking with that one person who’s the negative nelly, the pooh-pooher, the cup-is–half empty type. Tired of hearing the same dreary chatter, you decide to try out some of your newfound favorites. How about: “Hey, I am so grateful for zippers. No more fumbling around with clunky buttons on everything. And, what about those aglets? Can you imagine the mess our shoestrings’d be without them? And, don’t even get me going about Velcro. Life sure is good, isn’t it?” you say.
You get the big idea here. I’d wager if we met over coffee or a beer, we could go on for hours playing the “I can top that one” game (especially if it’s over beer). At the end, though, I think we’d be smiling, and maybe just that much happier. Who knows? So, what do you say; what little things will be on your gratitude list? You can start this anytime; could be June, or tomorrow. There’s no quiz later, either.
At Hit the Road Joe
Two nights of service Sat. Feb. 9 & Sun. Feb. 10
Doors open 6pm first course @ 6:30
Tarragon, portabella, and sausage cream of mushroom soup
Wild rice, toasted pepitas, beets, and fennel composed salad with a tangy Russian dressing
Herb crusted Prime Rib, au jus, loaded twice baked potato with mashed parsnips, cheddar, and dill, roasted asparagus, and homemade bread
Dessert to be announced!
Make reservations by calling (231)652-6020
$35 per person, includes dinner and one beverage!
A guide for the persistent paddler
By Charles Chandler
Don’t put your paddles up when the temps are trending down and the snow is falling. Paddling Newaygo County’s rivers in winter can be a sublime experience. Some sections of the big Muskegon or the White, a smaller free-flowing spring river, are usually open all winter.
My favorite is the White because you will have this small classic Newaygo County river all to yourself. When kayaking this beautiful river, you will notice that the water in winter has a different quality. It appears to thicken, slow down and develop a soft silken appearance, perhaps the effect of a winter sun residing low in the southwestern sky.
Then there is the snow on the cedars. Nothing can create that winter wonderland experience like new snow on riverside cedars. Sometimes when you glide past a grove of snow-covered cedars they appear dark and mysterious. Sometimes when alone I get that ominous feeling as if there might be something really scary hiding in those shadows, a thought quite possibly influenced by a lifetime of scary movies, I would guess. Yet on another day when the air is crisp and the sun is high in a perfect blue sky, you will see those same cedars sparkling with snow and give thanks for the gift.
Often there is not something scary in those shadows but a small band of deer who have chosen those very sheltering cedars for their winter bedding. Seeing these woodsy residents with those big eyes, dressed in their thick winter coats trimmed with white is a special moment for the folks who cherish wildlife watching. It is my strongly held opinion that deer do indeed know when hunting season is over. On sunny winter days, they will often come and bed with their backs to the river. I have had more than one doe stand up, stamp her dainty hoof and gave me an irritated snort as I passed close by.
I imagined her thinking, “really, a lady finally gets an opportunity to do a little sunbathing, and then you have to disturb me floating around on that stupid looking red plastic log thing.” A thought quite possibly influenced by a lifetime of Disney movies, I guess. Sometimes, though, you can glide quietly by and they won’t even get up.
If you are a birdwatcher it is amazing at how active the woodlands can be in the winter. Sounds are sharper and seem to travel farther during this season. The birds appear to have some kind of winter schedule and often you won’t hear a peep and then if on cue the orchestra tunes up. The crows and blue jays always seem to have some squabble going or a bit of news to deliver. The woodpeckers and kingfishers and a few ducks are always around. The red tail hawks start their courting rituals in January and can be seen circling overhead. I always listen and watch for our little resident Brown Creepers. They look like tiny brown mice as they zigzag around and up the bigger trees always searching in the bark for sluggish insects. If you are lucky sometimes you will see a shadow float by and lookup and a majestic bald eagle will be passing overhead. To see the white feathers of that awesome bird framed against the deep blue sky always give me a chill.
For your first winter paddle on the White River, I suggest the three-mile section from White Cloud Rotary Park down to Flowing Wells Park. For a longer paddle try the five-mile section from N. Baldwin Ave down to N. Luce Ave. Both of these stretches have adequate places to put in and take out.
Make no mistake you will need to gear up for winter paddling because getting wet in our Michigan Winter weather can quickly lead to hyperthermia and put your life at risk. To be perfectly safe during winter paddling you will need a dry suit. A wet suit or a pair of fishing waders with an adequate base layer of wool or polyester fleece could be a marginal substitute provided that in case of a tip over you could remove your wet clothes and get into dry ones quickly. Some type of warm hat that covers your ears and waterproof gloves are essential. Always take a waterproof dry bag and pack some hand and toe warmers, a change of dry clothes, energy bars, waterproof matches or fire starter kit. A thermos of your favorite hot beverage and a camera, binoculars and mobile phone should round out your gear. It is further suggested that you paddle with a partner and be sure to have someone spot your car at your takeout location. If you need to do a little gear shopping check in with Greg Slominski at 37 North located at 8129, 27 State Rd, Newaygo, MI 49337. Greg will give you good advice and has a great line of Jackson kayaks and paddling gear.
If it has been exceedingly cold and shelf ice is forming along the banks or over the river, make good safety decisions and don’t go. Stay home, make some hot chocolate, locate that book you have been planning to read and curl up with your spoiled pets. Cruise the internet and spend those Christmas gift cards on some new sporting gear. Or dig out those snow shoes or cross country skies and get ready to hit the trail.
However, if the weather has been mild and you want to extend your paddling year in Newaygo County then put that kayak in the water and glide silently through our beautiful river corridors. On one of your trips you may get that perfect snowfall that defuses the light and quiets the woodlands and when that happens you will experience a feeling of serenity like no other.
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