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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I took this picture of our family home while walking our dog on New Year's Day, 2008. You may recall from January 4's post that Mom and I had spent the afternoon before in the front room looking at photos. That seems an eternity ago.

This is the "house on a hill in a woods somewhere" that I wrote of thirty years ago. If you click on the photo to enlarge and look closely, you'll see the porch swing at the left, hung high for winter, Mom's new bay window in the center, and to the right is Mom's husband Bob who came out to greet us that morning. The house is set far from the road in a woods. Beneath the fresh snow between Kip and the house is a paved circle driveway that goes up to the front porch.

A week ago tomorrow morning, we pulled away from Mom's house and went to Port Huron for her funeral. The house looked like it does in this photo with new snow from the night before.

After that long day, Julie and I drove the 3.5 hours to the west side of the state where we live. As we neared Grand Rapids, the groundcover of snow became deeper. Thirty miles later our own roads and streets were piled high with the record the amounts of snow that had fallen since I left for Thailand.

When we got to our driveway, we were relieved to see that a good friend had come over with her snowblower and cleared us out. I don't know what we would have done if without her help. My daughter Kim's car has a parking spot beside but not in our street. (She is away at college in Chicago.) If you enlarge the photo and look closely in the pile beside our driveway, you can see her '95 Saturn hibernating in a cave of snow.
Hibernation is an amazing state of existence. In our backyard there are four box turtles that I haven't seen them since Halloween. At first frost, they disappear in boroughs dug along our basement wall. We won't see them again until all the snow is long gone. They hibernate for over five months--nearly half a year. Box turtles live to be 30-40 years old, but in this region they experience only about half of the "time" they share with us humans. Isn't that something!

Do you ever wish you could hibernate? I'd like to for a while--not for a whole winter. I like the winter. I even like snow.... Not like Rip Van Winkle to wake up having missed important events of life.... I'm not sure what I mean. Maybe a snowbound week away would do...
in "a house on a hill in a woods somewhere
in a woods where no on sees
(save those who pass with a lasting stare
at its glimmer of light through the trees)."
Update Wednesday, 2-20-08: These "lake effect snow warning" maps may help explain some of the discussion in the comment section. "Lake effect snow" is a phenomenon that occurs in places like west Michigan; Cleveland, Ohio; and Buffalo, N.Y., where cold arctic air blows across the warmer exposed waters of the Great Lakes, creating its own very localized "snow storm." West Michigan has been in a two-day "lake effect" storm since Monday night. Schools were closed Tuesday but not today (so students may learn about ice, momentum, chain reactions, and cars in ditches today--all part of a Michigan education). Sometimes the winds come from the west (Chicago area), but today’s are coming from the northwest (Green Bay area).
Between regular systems and "lake effect" so far this year, total snow accumulations for west Michigan are just under 100 inches. We will likely make that mark by March.
Added April 26, 2008: Here's an amazing clip about an extreme type of hybernation. Hat tip to Lone Grey Squirrel.


Blogger jewell said...

Yes, lately I have wanted to hibernate. The school snowdays unfortunately have come on days I have to go to work. I do not like winter. It's okay for December but then I would love Spring to come in January. I guess I get the winter blues come end of January and into February. I read something the other day that said "no matter how much snow we get or how long winter is, we know that Spring will eventually come". That is also so true in life's trials. We're glad you're home!

17/2/08 7:24 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I know what you mean. I missed the three snow days, too. Maybe that's what I need. We're supposed to get some more snow tomorrow, but since there's no school tomorrow that won't feel the same. =)
It may sound funny to talk about needing "down time" after being gone so long. I'll be fine soon.
It is really good to be home.
(And, yes, the thought of spring will be more appealing than usual come mid-March.)

17/2/08 7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your mom's house is very cute and inviting!!
Your dog too is of a breed that I would like, I think, if I were to have a pet.
My comments on this winter are...I want it to be over. This being said from someone who lives in southern Wisconsin where we've had record amounts of snow. This coupled with freezing rain makes it doubly hard to take. It seems like every other day the snow needs to be shoveled and now where to put it all is the question. So hibernating for me isn't what I'd care to do...but a break maybe. Spring will be especially appreciated this year...and it can't come fast enough. Thanks again POI for sharing!!! WSL

18/2/08 9:13 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Wisconsin Sandwich Lady,
I heard Wisconsin had also already hit record amounts of snow for the season. What we get on this side of Lake Michigan that you don't get over there is "lake effect" snow when the cold air blows across the big lake to our western counties (where I live). We have already gotten about 6" of new snow today. It's beautiful but does bring on that longing to hibernate. =)

Here is a cut and paste from the current local weather page:
"We have an extended period of lake effect snow showers ahead. There could be 2-6 inches across the area overnight and another 1-3 inches during the day Tuesday. Several more inches are possible Tuesday night. High temperatures will only be in the teens the next two days."

18/2/08 9:45 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

tom, it's nice to see you back. I hope you're feeling okay.

Gosh, you guys have had a lot of snow. I have a friend in Iowa who says there is record snow fall there as well.

You should all move to Vancouver. There are new fronds on the palm trees, and everyone will be mowing their lawns in a couple of weeks.

I feel as if I have hibernated this winter. It has been a long, dark, dreary, damp winter here in Vancouver.

19/2/08 1:14 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Palm trees in Vancouver? That is an amazing city.
There is one fringe benefit to all this snow. All that "lake effect" snow I was telling WSL about has closed down every school in three or four counties. I did not mean for this post to be prophetic. =)

West Michigander Students,
Put on your kerchief. Put on your cap and "just settle down for a long winter's nap."

19/2/08 6:53 AM  
Blogger heiresschild said...

hi Tom. i understand what you mean about hibernating. even though you've been away for a bit, it was the circumstances under which you were gone. a good rest or hibernation will do you some good, i'm sure.

i live in MD and we've only had one light snow, though they're forecasting snow for this weekend. we've had no blizzards this winter. it's been pretty mild as far as winters go.

take care, and get some rest. well wishes for you and your family.

19/2/08 8:22 AM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Personally I feel like I have been hibernating since I was forced into retirement at 46 yrs old and fell into a deeper sleep in April when my last accident happened, ergo I have missed most of the winter seeing as how I don't go anywhere unless it is an unavoidable appointment.

But once a mechanic always a mechanic and if you leave that car hibernate like that for too long a period of time you will pay for it when you do get the big melt and go to start it, so at least dig it out enough to get the drivers door open and clear the exhaust pipe (fumes) and try to start it every week or so.

Glad you're back as well Tom and don't sweat it, surely the rest period will come when you need it most. God is funny that way knowing when the best time for what you need is.



19/2/08 9:04 AM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

I did my hibernation, two months in a comma. I am glad to be alive and doing.

19/2/08 9:25 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

It has been a "do nothing" day and I must admit that I am beginning to work through some elements of grief that the busy pace of these weeks has postponed. I won't try to explain that... I know you know what I mean.

That's good advice on the car. I will try to get out there and start it soon. It's a Saturn so there's less concern about rust, etc. but turning it over once a week is good advice from my mechanic friend. Thanks.

Dr. John,
I did not know about your comma. Yes, that would be very much like hibernating and I can see why the idea has no appeal to you.

I've been thinking about Robert Frost's poem "Stopping by a Woods on a Snowy Evening" and that last line that repeats... "and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep." I think I understand better what he meant by the second line which adds even more importance to the line "but I have promises to keep."
I'm glad you're with us and still on duty.

19/2/08 2:18 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

It' great to have you back but my prayers are going to continue for you, as you face the coming days. I know being home in your own bed feels good.

I just can't believe you have that much snow. I am envious (I bet you get tired of it just like my sister does)!

I think I could hibernate- as long as I have my laptop with me! hehe

19/2/08 8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my Nancy...you don't know what you speak when you say you are envious of the snow up here in the Upper Midwest!!! I don't know about Tom, over in Michigan with his "lake effect snow"..but we here in WI really, really, really are sick of it. It seems like it has snowed every other day and that's not an exaggeration. I don't have memory of a winter such as this. It began December 1st with a blizzard and it hasn't stopped since. There was also a blizzard on Dec. 23 (both of these are in my memory as we were traveling in the midst of them!!) Trust me, it's not fun!!! Then we had another blizzard a week ago...or maybe it was 2 weeks ago now. With some more in between. This past Sunday we woke up to freezing rain (as I stated before) that first was a slushy mess and the officials told every one to stay home. Church services were cancelled and even the malls were closed..then it got cold, the slush froze and it snowed some more on top of all that. The roads here are horrendous. You in the east close down with 2 inches of snow. We have plows going full force..but where to put all the piles now?? Also the salt is running out. Listening the the weather report and now we're going to have a bad cold snap...with temps below 0 and windchills in the double digits and warnings re: all that. Then a week from now...what else...but another winter storm watch!!! Hibernation may sound nice...but give me palm trees, the beach and....oh yes the warm sun!! I'm not complaining, just lamenting (is there a difference??). There's only 30-somthing days until Spring! Guess I'm not really counting! (hee) WSL

19/2/08 11:16 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

WSL and Nancy,
It's funny to hear people from North Carolina and Wisconsin talk about their different feelings about snow.
I'm not as tired of the snow as WSL is, but that might be because I was not here in West Michigan for three of those "snow days". We did travel through the blizzards she mentioned and that really is no fun.
I've added a "warning map" for lake effect snow. There saying we may get six more inches today. We got two more overnight.

20/2/08 6:05 AM  
Blogger Julie said...


As you know, I've been away from blogging for awhile and was so saddened to read about the loss of your mother. We all feel as if we know her, thanks to your gift of writing. I know she must have been so proud of you.

The winter after losing Emma brought us so much snow that we had no choice but to hibernate and looking back, it was just what we needed!

Thinking of you during this time of reflection.

Julie in Colorado

20/2/08 12:54 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Thanks WSL and Tom for the updated information on snow. Maybe I am just envious for an "itty bitty bit" of the white stuff. If you look at the photo in my January 17 post, you will see what North Carolina snow looks like. Sure is a lot different from Tom's picture of his arrival home after the memorial service. Enjoy the snow days that come your way Tom and count them as a blessing from God. It really is God saying, "I'm in charge here and this is the snow to prove it, so change your plans, kick back, hibernate and enjoy"! hehe Easy for me to say with sunny 65 degree weather...

20/2/08 2:58 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks, Julie in CO,
Hey, Everybody JuCo had a baby daughter last month. If you read her archives, you'll see why this is an extraordinary blessing.
How nice of you to share that you feel like you knew Mom. After all those chapters I think it's true. When I gave her a hard copy of the first draft of that story for Christmas, she said, "This has been so much fun. You made me feel like it all mattered... like my life meant something." I assured her that each of our lives is beyond measure with or without printed pages, but I did know what she meant... she was pleased that others found such ordinary events worthy of reading. She loved reading all of your comments through the fall. I AM SO GLAD I began and "finished" that project.

You've hinted on the real reason you are envious of our snow without really saying it. So I'll just remind everyone that you are a retired teacher. Let's face it... teachers love those days every bit as much as kids. I know for a fact that even most of our parents also love snow days. They bring out the kid in all of us. (Even if you have to make them up, and after four of five that happens), it is a wonderful blessing that comes with teaching in snowy regions. More than any other time in my life, I really needed the extra long weekend (Monday was off for President's Day).
When I lived in South Carolina, we had a few snow days through my college years. Just and inch or two would shut everything down. They were a riot!

20/2/08 4:35 PM  
Blogger J_G said...

Hi Tom, looks pretty cold there on the west side of the state. I spent the winter of 1975-76 across the lake in the US Navy Great Lakes Training facility just north of Chicago. It was cold as cold could be along with the wind coming off of the lake. What a tough bunch of people you west Michiganders must be.

This is beautiful picture of a very nice looking house. Kip, the Westie looks like he's having a ball.

I know how hard it is though Tom. You have my prayers and you have a close family to help you through the tough stuff. I had to face everything that's required by myself. Draw strength from your wonderful family and celebrate your Mom's life, seems to me from the stories you wrote she had a lot of charcter to share with everyone. The Lord be with you and your family.

21/2/08 3:29 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Kip blends in with the snow in your photo, I think he is observing the scene and enjoying the snow day. I bet Kip is great comfort during your grief process. Our pets are like family members and can really help our hearts heal. I really enjoyed getting to know your mom- she was a very special lady with so many talents but most of all she was proud of her son and loved him dearly. My prayers for you continue!

21/2/08 6:39 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I can't imagine how hard it would have been to go through this month alone. I had another friend tell me that she had to go through similar days and nights with her Dad alone. You are right. We actually drew closer together as a family through all of this.

I've noticed that Kip gets lost in the snow here at our house, too. There is a story about the Westie breed. The Scottish man who developed the breed over 100 years ago had many small terriers that he used to hunt rabbits. One day he accidentally shot one of his dogs because it was the same color as a rabbit. He had some "all white" terriers and noticed that they stood out against the hills and heather so he decided to only hunt with his little white dogs. Those dogs became West Highland Terriers, a breed adopted by the AKA around 1900.
Thanks for your continued prayers for Bob (mom's husband) and my siblings and I as realities and "missing Mom" settle in around us.

21/2/08 11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was pondering your last comment here Tom (if I can call you by your name)...and it brought me the memories of when my own parents passed away, along with others in my life. There really is that "space" that they occupied that is gone and it really does give us the finality of a LIFE gone. You and I do have the blessed hope however to know that the finality is only for a little time. But that doesn't negate the pain that we feel. I will continue to lift you and your family up in prayer!

On another note...I had a high school friend who had a little 'westie' and she was a sweet dog as I remember. Alot of personality!

Oh..and on the weather here...we will have a "heat wave" (LOL) here this weekend in that the temps will be in the 20's (can we hope for some 30's?) Maybe some of the white stuff will disappear!

22/2/08 9:32 AM  

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