Feeling Grateful

A friend suggested that I check out YouCaring, a fundraising site. At this point, pride and fierce independence are not an option so I set up a fundraising page and hoped that some funds would come my way. I shared it with just about everyone I know and asked them to share it as well. That was late June. Today, August 2nd, I’m happy to report that thanks to a couple of VERY generous donors and several others I am just over 2/3 of the way to reaching my fundraising goal.

Contractors have already begun working to demolish the Guest House and expect to be finished with what I can pay them for this summer, by 8/19. Artemisia won’t be quite as pretty with the rubble left by the demo but my worries about that cottage falling into the lake will be lifted.  And then next year…is next year.

I’m in California working right now but I’ll be arriving in the U.P. for one more week up there on 8/12, just in time for the peak of the Perseid meteor showers. Hoping for clear skies!

If you are able to make a financial donation (no matter how small) please see my fundraising page at YouCaring Fundraiser for Artemisia

Thank you all for your kind words, good wishes, donations, and prayers. I am humbled by your kindness and generosity.

–Callista

gratitude rock

 

 

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A Heartbreaking Loss

Guest House 2016(Photo taken by a beach-walking neighbor, 2016)

I’ve been so stressed and heart-broken that I haven’t even thought about posting anything here since 2014 because that is when disaster struck in the form of an autumn mega-storm that literally ripped land out from under Artemisia about 16 feet of bluff-top in front of the Guest House, plus about 10 feet at the shoreline). Local meteorologists referred to it as a “100 year storm” and locals said they hadn’t witnessed anything like it since the 1975 storm that sunk the Edmund Fitzgerald. Hmmm…it came a tad sooner than 100 years. Climate change in action or just bad luck?

Both cottages have been condemned for being too close to the lake. I lost the income the Guest House was providing and had to evacuate my mother (whom I had just moved IN to my cottage earlier that year) from the land. She spent an uncomfortable 6 months in an apartment in Hancock before my fiancé came to the rescue and purchased a beautiful old home in Calumet for us. We all find it plenty ironic that it was significantly less expensive to do that than to remedy the problems out at the lake.

I’ve been working just a few hours under the equivalent of two full-time teaching loads since that time to pay off the loans taken out to fix up the property. Losing the rental income really hampered my ability to keep up with that debt.

I called every State, Local, and National agency I could think of to ask if any assistance was available. Nada. Although the September 2014 storm caused massive damage along the coast from the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula down to Ontonagon County, no disaster was declared and property owners were left to their own devices. Only my neighbor, McLain State Park got any government assistance. My homeowner’s insurance did not cover damage by wave action – my insurance agent told me that such insurance wasn’t even available. Having just purchased the property at the tail end of 2010, I currently owe more on the property than it is now worth without the value of the two cottages. And even if I could borrow more money, I just can’t work any more hours to make the payments on an additional loan. I had hoped to have all of the old debt paid off by the end of Summer 2017 but some unforeseen expenses and a pay cut for the Spring 2017 semester put my  “I’m finally debt-free“ Happy Dance several more months away from my original goal.  So I’m stuck with no money and a very expensive problem.

About half of the enclosed porch of the Guest House now hangs in the air about 40 feet over the shoreline. The edge of the bluff slowly creeps closer to the bedroom of my cottage. That cottage has been spared “urgent” status by the grace of some very stubborn trees and huge chunks of mine rock that had been dumped there many years ago. But each season strips away more land.  About half-dozen mature trees and lots of smaller ones between the cottages are gone. The Spruce tree planted for my grandmother by friends back around 2002 or so (decorated every Christmas AND Easter during her life!) is still alive, hanging upside-down, hanging on to the top of the bluff by some stubborn, thick roots. As she breathed her last in 2006 I was praying for her transition while decorating it with red ribbons while a seagull hovered overhead.

All of the erosion control structures built between summer 2011 and September 2014 have disappeared into Lake Superior. My workers retrieved about a hundred of the cedar logs that had washed down to McLain State Park and they now rest on my land, waiting for a new assignment.

I don’t want my cottages to fall into the lake. My neighbors don’t want my cottages falling into the lake and then washing up on their shores. I suppose the State of Michigan doesn’t want that either. People keep asking me what I’m going to do. Well, what CAN I do?

I’ve gotten bids for moving the cottages, and the cost is way beyond my means, and there are serious logistical issues to deal with even if the money should become available.  I’ve gotten a bid on tearing down the Guest House and even that is way beyond my means.  So I pray, and buy a lottery ticket now and then. And I keep working as much overload as my College District will allow to pay off my debts so that I can consider borrowing again.

The land is what is most precious to me. I’ve accepted the loss of the cottages and hold the memories of all the hours spent fixing them up dear to my heart. I’ve already donated the major appliances, light fixtures and even the kitchen cupboards to Habitat for Humanity.  I’m glad someone else will benefit from my loss.

Next, I’m planning to put the word out that any organization willing to cut up and take away the Guest House can have it for free. There is a lot of good wood in there. It was a very solidly built house and served as a year-round residence in this tough climate for many, many years. The challenge will be taking portions of the house up and down the steep, narrow driveway so I don’t know if I’ll find any takers, but what else can I do?

If you have ideas, please leave a comment here.

Holding on to the Spirit of Artemisia as best I can.

— Callista

Because I know I’ll forget to post this on July 6th

Copied from Amber Lotus Publishing

HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY TO HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA

HH-cc

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has stated that the highest respect one can show the teacher is to practice the teachings. To that end, and in honor of his birthday on July 6th, we offer the Eight Stanzas for Training the Mind from the Tibetan lojong, or mindtraining tradition. Tibetan Buddhism suggests that reciting these verses, meditating on their meaning, and ultimately merging them with one’s mind will greatly assist one on the path to enlightenment. His Holiness has recited these verses every day for most of his life. They provide a tool for transformation and a pathway to the radiant mind of enlightenment.

Eight Stanzas for Training the Mind

  1. With a determination to accomplish
    The highest welfare for all sentient beings
    Who surpass even a wish-granting jewel
    I will learn to hold them supremely dear.
  2. Whenever I associate with others I will learn
    To think of myself as the lowest among all
    And respectfully hold others to be supreme
    From the very depths of my heart.
  3. In all actions I will learn to search into my mind
    And as soon as an afflictive emotion arises
    Endangering myself and others
    Will firmly face and avert it.
  4. I will learn to cherish beings of ill nature
    And those oppressed by strong sins and suffering
    As if I had found a precious
    Treasure very difficult to find.
  5. When others out of jealousy treat me badly
    With abuse, slander, and so on,
    I will learn to take all loss
    And offer victory to them.
  6. When one whom I have benefited with great hope
    Unreasonably hurts me very badly,
    I will learn to view that person
    As an excellent spiritual guide.
  7. In short, I will learn to offer to everyone without exception
    All help and happiness directly and indirectly
    And respectfully take upon myself
    All harm and suffering of my mothers.
  8. I will learn to keep all these practices
    Undefiled by the stains of the eight worldly conceptions
    And by understanding all phenomena as like illusions
    Be released from the bondage of attachment.

And from Callista: Such simple words and yet such a huge challenge to actually live such a life every day. Imagine if more people just tried

Namaste

This is what we built: Artemisia, a forest retreat in Michigan’s Keweenaw

The old white exterior paint was covered with just a hint of green so that the house blends better with the forest. The BBQ has its rain bonnet on.

The old white exterior paint was covered with just a hint of green so that the house blends better with the forest. The BBQ has its rain bonnet on.

We were so very happy to share this space with visitors starting in fall 2012 and ending fall 2014. The guest book was full of praise and tales of good times.

What happens next? I don’t know. I just have to be in the now.

The "fortress" taken while wading the lake on a warm August day.

The “fortress” taken while wading in the lake on a warm August day.

A tidy kitchen.

Fully equipped kitchen – just bring the food.

Bathroom with new fixtures, plenty of towels, forest views.

Bathroom with new fixtures, plenty of towels, forest views.

Twin bedroom - two beds and a dresser.

Twin bedroom – two beds and a dresser. Lake and forest views.

Living/Dining room with books, puzzles, games. And a futon bed.

Living/Dining room with books, puzzles, games. And a futon bed.

All-weather porch with rocking chairs and writing desk.

All-weather porch with rocking chairs and writing desk.

The bathroom only had a shower. I'm glad I followed the advice to wait awhile before installing a bathtub.

The bathroom only had a shower. I’m glad I followed the advice to wait awhile before installing a bathtub.

Mosquito-free (mostly) picnic gazebo

Mosquito-free (mostly) picnic gazebo

Queen bedroom with lake and forest views

Queen bedroom with lake and forest views

A tidy kitchen, fresh and clean.

A tidy kitchen, fresh and clean.

Transformation

Ed and Barb - Rip up and haul away old carpet. Then pull every carpet tack out of the floor.

Ed and Barb – Rip up and haul away old carpet. Then pull every carpet tack out of the floor.

Have a giant yard sale.

Have a giant yard sale.

Thanks for helping, mom!

Thanks for helping, mom!

Nate saved me money on giant nails but cutting his own from rebar - for the "fortress."

Nate saved me money on giant nails but cutting his own from rebar – for the “fortress.”

And so much more! People were buying stuff from inside both houses, went through the junk in the shed, and peeked behind the curtain I'd put up in the basement to separate the stuff for sale from the stuff I hadn't had time to go through yet. Yoopers are willing to put in the work for a bargain!

And so much more! People were buying stuff from inside both houses, went through the junk in the shed, and peeked behind the curtain I’d put up in the basement to separate the stuff for sale from the stuff I hadn’t had time to go through yet. Yoopers are willing to put in the work for a bargain!

What does it take to transform an unkempt nearly 100 year old house into an inviting vacation retreat?

MORE prep, MORE of than damn blue tape, and MORE painting. Thank you, Barbara!!!

Seemingly endless hours prepping and painting. If we never see blue tape again it won’t be soon enough, right, Barb?

Raccoon damage to the bathroom ceiling, attic and roof.

Hire guys to repair raccoon damage to the bathroom ceiling, attic and roof.

Remove ugly and rotted structures, build new stairs

Remove ugly and rotted structures, build new stairs

Remove and burn trash

Remove and burn trash

Sand, re-caulk and re-paint old windows

Sand, re-caulk and re-paint old windows

Prep for painting and have a new screen door built to size.

Prep for painting and have a new screen door built to size.

More painting prep. I didn't count how many tubs of wood filler we used.

More painting prep. I didn’t count how many tubs of wood filler we used.

Living room and bedroom floors were scrubbed, sanded, cracks filled, primed, then painted.

Living room and bedroom floors were scrubbed, sanded, cracks filled, primed, then painted.

Picnic gazebo had been boarded up years before. Full of junk and critters inside.

Picnic gazebo had been boarded up years before. Full of junk and critters inside.

That is old wallpaper made to look like paneling. When we peeled off the painters tape after painting the trim, the wallpaper came off, so we painted the walls too.

That is old wallpaper made to look like paneling. When we peeled off the painters tape after painting the trim, the wallpaper came off, so we painted the walls too.

Shy Barb and I take a break.

Shy Barb and I take a break.

Painting

Painting

More painting

More painting

Filling gaps where critters can get in. Actually this is me at my house. I got that orange goop everywhere.

Filling gaps where critters can get in. Actually this is me at my house. I got that orange goop everywhere.

Hire professionals!

Hire professionals!

Bring in the big toys to bring in materials for the erosion control structure

Bring in the big toys to bring in materials for the erosion control structure

Fill in the cracks between the building and the new screens you paid to have built. Um...did they not know that my intention was to keep flies out?

Fill in the cracks between the building and the new screens you paid to have built. Um…did they not know that my intention was to keep flies out?

Spend lots of money having very strong, hard-working guys build a giant fortress on the hill.

Spend lots of money having very strong, hard-working guys build a giant fortress on the hill.

I really should have taken more “before” photos

The hazardous waste pile

The hazardous waste pile

From Father's basement

From Father’s basement

From the shed

From the shed

Going to the dump

Going to the dump

Torn up wood shed

Torn up wood shed

Even with most of the furnishings out, the house was dark and dingy

Even with most of the furnishings out, the house was dark and dingy

This little guy had fallen down from the attic where mama raccoon had left him

This little guy had fallen down from the attic where mama raccoon had left him

When I bought the property from relatives at the end of 2010 both houses were stuffed with all that the former occupants had left behind. It took two years of going through the houses, the basements, and the garages, sheds…giving away, selling, throwing away, burning, and cleaning and  re-using before I could get seriously into fixing up the Guest House for visitors. I really should have taken “before” photos from inside that house. A lady who had been there many times to visit Father Srebernak years ago just stood inside the doorway with her mouth agape. “It’s so LIGHT!”

Yes, the filthy wine red carpet was gone from the living room, the ugly old green gone from the bedrooms, walls and ceilings were washed to remove decades of cigarette smoke residue, and walls that weren’t covered in paneling were painted. It also helped that every bit of wall space was no longer covered by furniture and overflowing bookshelves.

My biggest source of pride was when the basement was finally fully cleared out. There had barely been a path through all the old stuff down there. EVERYTHING that wasn’t a fixture was taken out so that we could don masks and spray with a bleach solution. Later, we followed up with mold “bomb” foggers – one for the basement, one for the house, one for the attic. $45 each per fogger and worth every dollar. Skip the bleach – it burns your lungs unless you have the right kind of mask.

As I find them, I’ll add photos of the process that friend Barb, handyman Ed, handyman Nate and all his guys, and I went through to turn Father’s (and Charlie Belyan before him) old house into the sweet little vacation retreat that it was. My thanks to all who helped me, including the local artisans who created much of the decor.

It was hard work, and it was a joy.

Spring Equinox 2015

The equinoxes are all about balance; a time of equal day and night as we cycle through the seasons of the sun. Old things fade away and we look forward to the new. It is in my nature to be an optimist and I do my best to live my life in gratitude. Still, I am grieving for the loss of all that I spent so much effort on building at Artemisia. Tallying up all the expenses for my tax return really brought it all into consciousness in a glaringly painful way. When I left Artemisia last summer to return to California for work, I was happy that the big, expensive projects were done and that I could look forward to paying off the related debt, enjoying income in 2015 that wouldn’t immediately go toward the erosion control project, and making time to work on the wobbly-spiral meditation trail I had laid out, and my herb garden.

It is so very hard to let go of what was to accept what is. There is no more guest house. And I don’t know how long “our” house (mom’s and mine) will be safe atop the bluff…not long, I suspect.

The future of Artemisia is a mystery to me at present. I have only my faith to remain optimistic that some solution will present itself so that we can spend at least some time living on the land this summer. So far, the County Commissioners have remained mute on the subject of declaring a disaster so that we can apply for FEMA aid, so I intend to start working with my neighbors up and down the battered shoreline to put pressure on the three counties involved to make that happen…as soon as I am free from working in California to spend time on-site.

As I have no way of paying back any more money than I’ve borrowed already, I’m not going to be looking for loans. But my boyfriend is thinking that he might buy our retirement house now rather than later…but not on the land. He wants a place in town for various reasons but also doesn’t want to sink his whole retirement fund into building on land that is eroding. Nevermind that the houses perched on the cliff now had managed to survive for 100 years. Climate change  means that old assumptions no longer hold up.  So…we will continue working with the pros at Michigan Tech and our neighbors along the lake to research effective erosion control measures that can be put into place before building anything new. Between the new erosion control measures, removing the old structures, and building something new, the costs are out of reach of our ability to do much of anything at Artemisia now anyway.

So…here we go into an unknown future, one cautious step at a time.

Skimming through old photos taken on the land and nearby at other sites in the Keweenaw renew my sense of gratitude and hope. I love this place that has called to me for so long. I’ve committed myself to being a steward of this space. That is not something that can be left behind with things of the past. I look with hope and happiness toward a future that will be different than the one I’d planned, but I’m confident that it will be beautiful and magical in its own way.

Into the light we go!

January 2015 Guest House Unsafe

January 2015 Guest House Unsafe

January 2015 Major loss to the bluff next to my house

January 2015 Major loss to the bluff next to my house

New deck built 2014

New deck built 2014

November 2014 from the beach

November 2014 from the beach

The ground being undermined

The ground being undermined

Stormy Weather

I promise I’ll get around to posting photos eventually, but for now the sad news is that Artemisia is uninhabitable at the present time. A freak storm comparable to the 1975 storm on Lake Superior that sank the great ship, the Edmund Fitzgerald, hit the western end of the Lake in mid-September, 2014. Subsequent storms continued to tear away at all of the work we had done on the bluff to stabilize it. Where there was once a steep, vegetation covered slope there is now zero slope. “Wild sand” rises straight up from the lakeshore to the top of the bluff. And by December it had undermined enough of the earth at the top that the edge of the bluff was just one foot away from the porch of the guest house.

The Guest House has been emptied and everything taken to storage. It is much too old a structure to spend $40,000 to have it moved back away from the edge. All that work on the bluff and all that work fixing up the house (that I’m still paying for)…going, going, gone.

The main house, where my mother had just begun living full time (back in June 2014) was evacuated too and mom, her four cats and cocker spaniel are now living in an apartment in Hancock. Although it was still safe to be in our house in January, I couldn’t cope with the risk of getting an emergency phone call once the snow started to melt and spring storms would take more land, making that house too, unsafe. By some miracle, the slope directly in front of the house has held but we are quickly losing ground on both sides of the house. Now I’m thinking that house is not worth moving either. At any rate, doing so in winter is way too complicated and expensive. The center of the house is very old, already in need of upgrading and has already been moved one. The bedrooms on either end of the house were built well in the 1980s but it is not feasible to just move the newer parts…or my new roof (2012).

So…we are feeling the loss and hoping for a future that allows us to live on the land again if only part-time during the warmer months. But my income stream from renters and the joy of sharing the beauty of the land and lake with vacationers is halted.

The silver lining to this very dark cloud is that I’ve been meeting more of my neighbors and have been amazed at the helpfulness of complete strangers. Small town, rural charm is working its magic on me.

Seeing Trees

A Superior Meditation

1-5-13 In the afternoon sunshine and  30F temps, the outer layer breaks up to reveal icy azure.

1-5-13 In the afternoon sunshine and 30F temps, the outer layer breaks up to reveal icy azure.

 

Toward the park, 1-5-13 calm afternoon

Toward the park, 1-5-13 calm afternoon

Okay, these pictures got out of order. The top two are from 1/5/13 and the bottom 3 are earlier. It looks like this little icy “mountain range is here to stay, but it has moved toward shore a bit.

When asked if I have beach to hang out on, I answer, “sometimes.” Because sometimes I have a sandy beach. Sometimes I have a stony beach. Sometimes water comes all the way up to – or even over –  the edge of the stairs at the bottom of the bluff.  Right now its icy right up to the lower stairs. There is a certain amount of snow and ice at the edge of the lake that appears to achieved permanence for this winter. Beyond that is another fifty yards of ever-changing iciness. Yesterday the lake was quiet and the ice and snow reached waaaaaaay out. There were even a couple of snow-covered ice floes further out. Today the lake was wavy and only the crust at the edge of the beach holds its snow.  I never tire of looking at it, marveling at this force of nature,  the ever-changing Gitchee Gumi.!

Update on what kind of beach we have (1/5/13). Between slightly warmer temperatures (25-30F) and some dry wind, snow has been lost and I can see SAND on the beach. Whoo-hoo! If only I could count on it being there next August when the water is warm enough for swimming. Whatever…it’s all good here at Camp Artemisia.

Freezing calm

Freezing calm

What waves will do

What waves will do

And a couple of days later, the ice is back with a second row of spray humps

And a couple of days later, the ice is back with a second row of spray humps