Balance Point

So fellow travelers, today is the equinox (autumnal for northern hemisphere and spring/vernal for southern hemisphere travelers)

I greeted the semi annual balance point of day and night hours from a different vantage point this year. A high desert sunrise more than makes up for anything it lacks in colorful foliage.

My time here has become an annual tradition. A gathering of spiritual explorers in a sacred space. We come to renew our connection to each other and to the Light and Peace within us.

On my last walk from the Zen Garden to breakfast I heard the signature hum of tiny wings and spotted a bright Anna’s hummingbird darting in and out as it drank from a fountain . A different offering of color for this change of seasons.

Winged gem dancing
with bubbling healing waters
harbinger of joy

A bright reminder to live from joy and yes, to stay hydrated.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Orion’s Return

So fellow travelers, a few weeks ago I received a reminder from Earth Sky (an astronomy news site I subscribe to) that Orion will be returning to the evening sky.

Orion is the hero of our dark winter skies, shining valiantly through the bittercold nights which seem to last an eternity. His reappearance is my reminder that Light prevails even in the season of deep cold darkness.  And ever since my good friend Kate wrote a poem which featured Orion, he also stands as a reminder of the gift of solid friendships; to see him rising on a cold night fills my heart with warm memories. Ours is that rare kind of friendship which picks up right where we last hugged goodbye, impervious to time or distance.

Sunset view from one of our adventures

Today in honor of her solar return ( aka birthday ) the stars at dawn gave me these words to wish her well.

Orion returns 
behind him winter lurks but
friendship keeps us warm

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready
You can follow Kate’s poetic journeys at her blog Life with Horace

Haiku for Autumn

So fellow travelers, this new school year began with so many changes, it’s taken me quite a while to settle into a comfortable routine. Just yesterday, signs of the changing seasons began to nudge at the edge of my awareness~ I noticed darkness lingers longer after I rise and sunset’s glow comes soon after our evening walk. 

Migrating geese trace southbound compass arrows in the crisp blue skies and cool mornings reveal sleeping cloud dragons nestled in the valley just beyond a farmer’s fields

Cloud dragons at the edge of One Tree field

The fields are fading to tarnished gold and many summer songbirds have headed to their winter grounds, leaving only the lazy crickets ticking like unwinding clocks hidden in the grass. This afternoon, I found one deep red maple leaf cast on the edge of the path where Delilah and I walk each day. I brought it home and tucked it into a little jar of zinnias from my garden an image of things to come set with a backdrop of colors which will soon become memories.

As much as I love the luxurious freedom of summer days, autumn has always been my favorite season of the year. There is  a bittersweetness to the joys autumn brings. It comes and goes in a blaze of color, golden warmth giving way to the biting cold of winter all too soon. For now, a haiku to welcome the changes looming on the horizon.

Milkweed wishes fly

flirting with the autumn wind

making maples blush

Walk gently on the path my friends and ma adventure find you ready.

Back to the Beginning

So fellow travelers, back home from the last road trip of the summer, which brought me to the summit of several mountain trails.


Red Hill Fire Tower, one of two fire tower hikes accomplished this week.

Today, a turn of a calendar page, September arrives and just like that, summer adventures give way to another school year.  Back to the Beginning* we go.

Reflecting back on summer, it has packed so many good memories and peak experiences it somehow feels more than just ten weeks have passed. A measure perhaps of coming to the end of 73 days feeling satisfied not only with what I’ve done, but more essentially with how I lived those days. 

New friends

Time with family

Precious memories from a memorable event

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Even a few wishes granted

Side Stage at the Fillmore, in Philadelphia PA. Watching Switchfoot on stage from the stage was incredible. Best view of Chad’s drumming in 13 concerts! Yes, my favorite humans even staged a snowball fight as a nod to the snowed out concert last February. And finally getting to see one of Jon’s legendary after shows, singing along with so many other people- community, FAMILY at its best.

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Remarkably, this summer did not feel as if it flew by too quickly, making it unique to every previous summer I can remember.  The pace of life felt just right- a benefit perhaps to a conscious choice I made to live these months as if I am retired.

 Not that every day was perfect; mid-August brought an unexpected challenge in a long standing friendship which caught me off guard. Although the dynamics were not within my direct family, the fallout rippled through close relationships with people as dear to me as family. Navigating the emotional war zone felt like walking through a minefield, one wrong step and the collateral damage could be brutal.  

Or not.

The abandoned Overlook Hotel near the summit of Overlook Mountain

I could instead choose to not engage in the conflict, to honor my boundaries and create space for me to stay true to myself. 

Angry confrontations never resolve conflicts but choosing not to engage in confrontation is often seen as a sign of weakness. “Man-up” people say as if this stereotypical frame for confrontation as being “manly” aka “powerful and strong,” makes it more acceptable. It’s an expression which, if used in ernest, all but eliminates any respect I might have for someone.

Words spoken from anger rise from fear and people given to confrontation are always driven by their fears. Everyone is afraid and if we refuse to face those fears they become our Achilles heel.  Like an untreated wound, unknown fears will fester and eventually poison our choices with toxic dysfunction. Fear also blinds us to the goodness in our lives. It can harden our hearts and prevent us from giving and receiving love.

View from Overlook Mountain Fire Tower, a 1450 ft ascent, 3hrs 5min of hiking, 5.1 miles roundtrip and worth every step.

Sometimes the hardest crossroads are the ones where we must part ways from someone we care for deeply, yet we can continue to love them even as we move forward on our own journey, knowing they too can make a choice to change and healing will come. Standing in the shadow between then and now, I am grateful for the peace and strength gathered on this summer’s journeys. 

New season, new beginnings, let the adventures begin again.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

*Back to the Beginning is one of my favorite songs by ( of course ) Switchfoot. I may not surf but it has carried me through waves of many changes.

Kane Mountain

So fellow travelers, this happened today !

Ms Delilah about to summit her first ADX mountain

When we set out this morning, our intended destination was Caroga Lake State Park. I didn’t plan on tackling the Fire Tower trail at Kane Mountain but much to my surprise, after driving two hours to reach Caroga Lake, the NYS park employee at the entrance asked me if I had a camping reservation and since I did not, then informed me, “We do NOT allow dogs in the day use areas of the park.” 

In all my time as a resident (this month marks 44 years ) in Upstate New York, I have never encountered a park** where dogs were not allowed unless you are camping and I have spent many weeks in dozens of state parks and Yes, most of them have areas where dogs are not permitted- for example our two favorite campgrounds on Lake Ontario (Southwick Beach and Fair Haven) do not allow dogs on the public beaches and one has a playground where dogs are not allowed and of course all NYS parks require owners to keep dogs on a leash no longer than 6ft; all perfectly reasonable limitations.  However, I have never been told that I was not allowed day use of the park because I had a dog with me, even after I explained I had come to see the park and campgrounds for a possible future visit. 

To be honest, the park attendant’s firm and rather unwelcoming manner was more a deterrent than the actual restriction itself. You would have thought I had a snarling, barking beast seated next to me; but Delilah sat quiet and poised in her well tethered car harness, collar and tags clearly visible. I have had attendants request proof of proper license or vaccinations, all of which I carry in both the glove compartment and my day pack. This person made it clear I would not be admitted into the park unless I had a camping reservation.  So I simply said “ Well, no problem then, I guess we cannot visit today.” I drove around the ticket booth and headed back to the main road.

The trailhead to Kane Mountain was only five miles back on the road we had just taken to reach the now forbidden state park. Once hiking season starts, my gear is always stored in my vehicle and because I had planned to have lunch at the park, I had plenty of water and fuel for a quick trail adventure. So back down the road we went. A change into hiking boots and a brief pit stop at the trailhead privvy  (lunch was not the only reason I had stopped at the State Park) and we were soon making our way up the well marked trail. 

The trail we hiked was the shorter, but slightly steeper trail- just over half a mile, but it is a half mile of steady vertical climbing with an elevation change of just over 600 feet.  Delilah and I have logged a good amount of trail mileage this year, but very little of it has been vertical. Vertical hiking uses different muscles and while Delilah forged ahead nimbly leaping around rocks on the trail, I felt the pitch immediately. A few minutes in I slowed my pace knowing tired legs are more prone to a misstep, particularly on the downward return trip. Delilah did not seem to mind, as this gave her more opportunities to thoroughly sniff out every whiff of critter news along the way. 

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The base of the fire tower just visible through the trees at Kane’s summit

There was only one drawback to doing this trail with my favorite hiking companion: I would miss out on the view from the tower, because it is not safe for dogs to climb up to (or even worse climb back down) the tower’s top platform. And the ONLY view from Kane Mountain is the view from the tower, because the summit is not above the tree line.

Some hikers leash their dogs to the base, and go up solo, however Delilah can be counted on to be quite vocal about my leaving her alone in an unfamiliar setting.  No big deal since this trail is an easy day trip from home, one I can return to on my own another time.  Waiting for that summit view is an easy trade-off for the fun we had taking on this trail together and there are many summits without towers to be explored. Besides, it was time to head back down before the rain clouds we left behind at home caught up to us.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Note: ** it occurs to me that dogs cannot visit the NY State Park exhibit in the NYS Fairgrounds which has a pond and picnic area and is in fact an official State Park ( albeit the smallest State park in the system) although that is actually a restriction inherent to the NYS fairgrounds itself.

Adventure Calls

So fellow travelers, our morning walks these past few days have been blessed with crisp blue skies and cool, dry air .  Indeed there is a hint of autumn in that air, a brisk reminder I have only a handful of days left to squeeze in any road trips before work intrudes on my freedom.

The view at Seventh ( or was it Eighth?) Lake in the Adirondacks

Every summer since my Spirit of Sixty Road trip I have journeyed to at least one new area in New York. Last year I hiked my first of several Adirondack Fire Tower trails, a challenge I found both exhausting and exhilarating. The experience opened  an inner well of motivation I was glad to tap in to and I was grateful to discover my body was still capable of persevering through the short but steep, rugged inclines I encountered on the “moderate” trails I had chosen to try first.

Fire Tower at the summit of Blue Mountain, ADX

In the month since returning from my trip to the West Coast, I have not been able to fit in another road trip. I was first occupied by my commitment to help coordinate the wedding of two close friends and then focused on a series of diagnostic processes designed to keep my trusty RaVan on the road.  The term “RaVan” is how I refer to my little 2002 Toyota Rav road warrior, which my husband has been helping me convert into a camp-able vehicle. He has built a bed, a small storage table, custom made blackout panels for the windows and will be installing a power station with a deep cycle battery wired so I can run small electronics and keep my phone charged without running down the main vehicle battery. All I need now is to solve the mystery of the “check engine” alert.  How lucky am I to have a brother-in-law who is one of the best mechanics (and owns two repair shops) in town?  One component at a time we’re getting there.

Oppressive humidity has also kept Delilah and me off all but the shortest of local trails. You know it’s bad out there when you come home drenched in sweat just from a ¾ mile walk around the block at 7am in the morning. So the change to cooler weather is most welcome, even if it is a harbinger of the coming change in seasons.

Time to fire up the RaVan and hit the road for new vistas from summits yet to be explored…..Stay tuned.

Post walk treats for my best trail buddy

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

After the Storm

So fellow travelers, it has been a week of intense storms.

This afternoon a dark, violent outburst flung powerful cracks of lightning with thunder claps close enough to rattle windows throughout the house. Thankfully a quick survey of the yard revealed no damage other than a few large branches down here and there.

As sunlight breached a gap in the dispersing clouds, raindrops glistened everywhere in my garden while chirping goldfinches descended on a patch of diamond studded sunflowers.

Rain storms cease and now

Only soothing bird songs fall

From newly washed trees

There have been storms of a human nature around me as well, fall out from long standing issues with which I am not directly involved, but find myself deeply concerned for the emotional well being of people I care for as much as my own family.

Just like physical injuries, neglected emotional wounds fester and mar our ability to engage in healthy relationships. Unresolved trauma and grief give rise to fear which often explodes as anger. Anger blinds us to the consequences of words spoken in fury; trust shatters, hearts fracture, bonds break. Only the power of love can call us back from the brink and only if we stop raging long enough to hear and heed that call.

Someone has to dare raise a voice, perhaps more forcefully than expected, to be heard above the raging storm. Stop! Listen! Anger, like thunder, is a warning to disengage, seek refuge, find safe haven. Let the storm pass, let tears bring relief, so the wounds of the past can finally begin healing and love shine like diamonds of cleansing rain.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.


Warrior Mothers

So fellow travelers, surrounded by family and friends, two of my dearest friends were married yesterday.

Favorite youngest daughter flew in from Portland to be here for this long anticipated event and her help with the venue decorating and floral arrangements was a tremendous blessing.

The ceremony took place in a peaceful little grove of birch trees, leaves dancing gracefully in the wind. Grandkids and nieces greeted guests, filled and handed out paper cones with birdseed, read poems, carried rings, scattered flowers, rang bells and made a rainbow with celebration flags.

In a day filled with sweet, funny, joyous moments, my favorite is this one

Ashley drove 3,000 miles, across the country in a van with her four children, aged 2 to 11 to be here for this special day. She is brave, determined and yes, more than a little crazy and she is my hero for undertaking a trip most people would find far too daunting to even consider, for perservering through check engine lights and bad motels and for maintaining a miraculously positive perspective through each long day.

These words are for her and for her Mom, my dear friend Lisa. who raised this fierce warrior Mom

Warrior mothers

iron wills

open arms

fierce intention

tender hearts

raising bright comets who race across the skies of time

and shine like beacon stars to guide us forward.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Through the Eyes of Love

So fellow travelers, some thoughts born from recent human interactions.

When I was a little girl I would see batches of Rudbeckia (commonly known as Black eyed-Susan) growing in empty lots along the side of the road. Growing up in the Bronx, you don’t get to see many fields of wildflowers, so these bright yellow flowers dancing in the breeze of passing cars, really caught my eye. When I asked if we could please stop and pick some I remember being told,  “Oh those are just weeds growing in dirty places.”

My gardening friends often post memes about weeds and two of my favorite quotes are:  “Weeds are just flowers growing where we don’t want them” and “God sees flowers where we see weeds.” The memes always have pretty images of  flowers like thistles and dandelions (which are actually healthy for lawns because their deeper tap roots bring minerals closer to the surface, replenishing what shallow rooted grass needs.)

Our judgements about other people bear similarities to our attitudes about weeds. 

We have expectations about how people should look, dress, behave and live their lives. Much of this is driven by culture and as the world has become increasingly connected through social media, those cultural boundaries are tested often to breaking points. Shifts in social norms also test generational boundaries and just as Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s 1970 book “Future Shock” predicted “too much change in too short a period of time” has created massive disorientation. Ironically, the more connected we are on-line, the less connected we feel individually.

True connection requires going beyond the quick “scroll, click thumbs up or down” patterns of social media feeds. The relative anonimity and illusion of safe distance makes it too easy to spout off a bit of vitriol, hit “comment” and move on without having to take responsibility for our words. Authentic connection requires us to take the time to understand the hows and whys of other people’s behaviors. Those behaviors are outward expressions of how humans feel about themselves. This is particularly true of children, whose ability to express themselves with raw, unfiltered honesty usually triggers a negative response in adults. Acceptance of differences is hindered by our fear of “otherness.” This is where bullying begins; bullies are terrifying because they are terrified. 

Working with differently-abled students and having transgender children within our own circle of family and friends has granted me the opportunity to become more aware of my own judgements (many of which, I will admit, focused more on the parents than the kids.) This in turn has allowed me to be more mindful of my judgements towards all other people. When I find myself  upset, disgusted, hurt or angry about someone’s words or actions it is a reminder to stop and ask myself what my feelings are telling me about myself. Those feelings alert me to something about myself I am either ashamed or afraid of. 

Fearful of our own imperfections, we are quick to point out the flaws in others. Our judgements are a diversion tactic, “Quick look over here at the terrible behavior of this other person lest you notice this other terrible flaw I carry inside me.” God knows I’m no saint, judgement comes to my mind just as quick as anyone’s. I am particularly adept at judging people who are judgemental.  There’s a poetic irony in that trait isn’t there? What I’ve learned is judgement of others is really about our own feelings of unworthiness. At the core of judgment is this fear our errors are unforgivable and our flaws make us unlovable. Judgement separates us from the grace of God and by this I do not reference the “God” of any particular religion. My experience of God is the Universal Power of Love which flows in, through and around all life here and beyond. 

Clover blossom

Our fear of being seen for who we are, in all our imperfection, with all our hidden secrets and shame, prevents us from seeing others as God-who-is-Love sees them.  If we allows ourselves, we too can learn to see flowers where we once saw weeds.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

Morning Glow

So fellow travelers, this morning Delilah and I headed out to walk just after sunrise to beat the heat.

Dew drenched grass sparkled in the early light. Cool, moderately humid air felt reminiscent of morning walks in my older daughter’s neighborhood.  Their house is located near the foot of Powell Butte (Portland, OR) so the air is blessed by mist which descends every night from the forest above. 

Early light has a radiant quality, hard to capture but oh so wondrous to behold, giving rise to some gentle words of gratitude 

Geraniums glow

Morning dew blesses the grass 

Birds sing hymns of joy

In the midst of diligent attention to the many details involved in coordinating a wedding for two very dear friends, this moment comes as a gentle reminder. The gift of peace can be found in the simplest things.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.