The Hole in the Sky

So fellow travelers, as so often is the way of this world a wave of busyness took over almost every spare moment of the past three weeks. 

accidental artistry

The irony of this following my last post was not lost on me. I was acutely aware, even a bit distressed, about not taking time to continue writing for the final four days of Michelle GD’s #GratitudeWeek2019 project. To be honest I hit a wall at the prompt about five things we consistently experienced every day which we were grateful for. Three came easily to mind but five ? 

I finally created an honest list:
*The first sip of coffee in the morning
*The welcome home yips and wiggles of our dog
*The light of golden hour
*Birds seen at my feeder or heard when walking
*Water as a cool drink at lunch or a warm comforting shower at day’s end

As I realized it contained nothing from work, I felt disappointed.
Then the next prompts connected more dots, as I was directed to find one “sliver” of  good in a difficult time and after that to be aware of our feelings at different times of the day and to find a bit of gratitude in each. The sum total of these exercises revealed how little enjoyment remains in what I do each day because my job has changed so much in the past three years. No small wonder I have felt disappointed; I do not want to become one of “those” people  “just” counting the days to retirement.

Then the final prompt offered a shift in the process; Michelle wrote:
“Maybe you don’t want to make a traditional list, so perhaps try one of these:
Draw a big circle (or a little circle) and write your gratitudes inside. Write your gratitudes in a spiraling circle, starting center and working out (or the reverse.) Draw a flower and write gratitudes in each of the petals. Make a star-filled sky of gratitudes by sketching out stars, then painting in a wash of color for the night sky, then filling each star with a gratitude.Have a little fun…just get your gratitudes down

The drawing I created brought such joy, my eyes stung with tears. So, in between the busyness of the weeks leading up to our annual Thanksgiving marathon of cooking and road trips to take in much cherished time with family, I began to reclaim my art studio space from the clutter of other projects.  More significant, I reclaimed my perspective at work.
Each day my only expectation of myself is that I show up ready to do the tasks required for that day with a positive attitude. Let all the systemic issues be taken care of by those more invested in the process going forward. I have my sights set on new goals and this shift leaves space for more moments of joy and laughter. Even as the weather turned greyer and darkness fell earlier each day, I began to reconnect with the little moments of beauty ~ 

and peace ~

 

and hope

The hole in the sky
where the Light comes shining through
is how Love finds us

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

November Zen

So fellow travelers, as Michelle #GratitudeWeek2019 continues the prompt for today is to think about what (or who) we might take for granted.
What came to mind was time. 

What came to mind was
……. time……
Today I had a dentist appointment and even though I ended up having a filling repaired I felt grateful. Because I had to take time off for the appointment I was given a chance to take our dog for a longer walk when I got home.

Bracing cold November winds gave me this view and haiku.

Deep arctic blue sky
Oak leaves rattle acorns fall
Sunlight hugs my soul

As the novocaine wears off and a little ache sets in I realize it is simply a reminder of how precious just a few extra hours can be.

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

Tag

So fellow travelers, todays #GratitudeWeek2019 prompt from Michelle GD was to slow down and practice noticing what she calls “the tiny moments.”

Sunlit Autumn path

This is something I have become more attuned to since my Spirit of Sixty Road Trip, two summers back. Actually, it is a habit I feel I am really reclaiming because I remember myself as a kid always wanting to stop to look more closely at things yet being told to stop day dreaming. 

Today, I set out on my afternoon walk with our dog being mindful of the prompt to practice awareness. Fall colors have peaked and recent storms have blown most of the leaves off the trees. I watched the wind toss neatly raked leaves all about the neighborhood. I thought about how grateful I am to have seen the miraculous colors of Autumn here in Upstate New York for over four decades.

And as I did,  a line of leaves began to swirl around as if chasing one another in a big spiral. Right on cue this little haiku danced around my head.

Swirling in circles
Leaves play a mad game of tag
Last romp before snow

There is a decided chill in the air and snow in the forecast for later this week. The change back to standard time brought darkness by dinner time. Winter is on it’s way. I’ll need that practice of noticing the little moments to get through our longest, darkest season of the year.

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

Reclaiming Perspective

So fellow travelers, this journey has taken some wild and strange turns since we crossed through the equinox point. 

It has left me  too stunned for words, a state those who know me will claim is a true rarity. Week after week I sat down on Sunday morning to write and nothing evolved. To be honest plenty of words have come to mind but none of them postable*. So silence ( a plague bloggers dread) has ruled until this morning when my first writing prompt from Michelle GD’s gratitude project arrived in my inbox.
Gratitude (exhales deeply)
One simple change in focus and the perspective of everything shifts and the one bright point in the past six weeks (the one I intended to write about before chaos hijacked my days at work) is reclaimed and I find the words I needed to speak

Fears rage my heart waits
Faith is safe harbor in storms
Love will sail again

Exactly one month ago we traveled to Philadelphia to for a family celebration. It was the first time my entire family gathered together since Favorite Oldest Daughter and Favored Son-in-Law were married seven years ago and the story about this photo taken that day is in a previous post. We had all come to Philly to celebrate my nephew’s wedding. It was a wonderful weekend and in addition to the joy of new beginnings we also toasted my parents 63rd anniversary.

Patience, devotion, thoughtfulness~ the foundations of my parent’s relationship which has stood for decades as the benchmark for our own marriages. And a beautiful reminder of how much I have t be grateful for.

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

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.