Stretching Time

 So fellow travelers,  flipping the calendar a few days ago brought a moment of peace I was deeply grateful to take in~

For the first time in 21 years,  turning the calendar to August did not generate a rush of urgency fueled by the impossibility of “fitting in” all my planned adventures in the remaining weeks before going back to work at the end of summer.
Yes, eventually summer heat will give way to the welcome crisp air of Autumn, my favorite season for hiking and camping. However, this year, the end of summer does not bring an end to my free time because I retired last June. So I stood for a few minutes and looked with profound gratitude at August’s small white squares of days so graciously open to possibilities.
Of course as Pandemic2020 rages on in these not so United States of America, possibilities are not as easily translated into plans.  In this too, being retired has helped me embrace the simple joy of stepping into each day with a heart open to what the day has to offer. That is a big (but very welcome) shift for an organized, over-thinker who makes lists and starts packing weeks before a trip. 
In fact as I write this post, Isaias’ path up the Atlantic coast has shifted westward just enough to dump “tropical rainfall” here, which means delaying my intended departure perhaps until tomorrow for this week’s camping trip. No worries- my favorite little campsite is reserved through the end of the week and waits, just like Inner Peace, for me to show up and claim it.

Walk gently on the path, my friends and let Love light the way.

Life’s a Beach

So fellow travelers, yesterday’s adventure started with a this view

Which, after packing up camp, I traded for this view

Favorite picnic spot on Lake Ontario

The pandemic of 2020, as I’ve mentioned, has created several changes at our state park campgrounds. Check in times are later and check out times are earlier. So the birds obliged my requested wake up call at dawn, giving me time to catch that fiery sunrise before breaking camp.

It’s been a quiet few days, but the Fourth of July-ers started showing up yesterday. Lots of loud music at newly occupied sites and several rounds of small fireworks, which thankfully stopped not too long after the posted quiet time. Although one extremely loud rocket did send a young raccoon scurrying across my campsite. Later that night it appeared at the screen door of my tent and peered in at me, almost as if to ask if it was safe now.

Although a bit startled by it’s return visit, I did not want to frighten such an obviously young one so I whispered gently, “We’re gonna be alright.” I swear it gave a slight nod before rambling off.

But I laid there, wide awake for a long time wondering.

Are we? Are we really going to be alright ?

Eventually, the night time chorus of frogs singing by the marsh lulled me into a deep sleep.

A gentle round of Qiqong stretches while watching that fiery sunrise helped me find balance. There is something innately reassuring about the consistent rising and setting of the sun. And now, sitting with my feet in warm sand, waves rising and falling in steady calming rhythm, Wisdom speaks again

Eyes on the horizon
let the lessons of all yesterdays

remind us we can not move forward
if we only look back
and here, in between, what was
and what is yet to come,
to be present in this now moment
is to begin anew.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may Love Light our way.

Forest Zen

So fellow travelers, this morning’s moment of zen brought this view

and these words

Under the canopy
bathed in forest healing
wisdom of the ages
sinks in and heals my heart

While doing Qi Quong to stretch out the inevitable stiffness which goes with sleeping in a tent, I looked up . Much like the moment, two years ago (almost to the day) in Joshua Tree National Park, I felt a wave of energy. The closest I can come to describing it is to say the energy lifted my consciousness into a more Universal level.

This has been happening more frequently so either I am spiritually evolving or I am losing my mind. Come to think of it the later maybe an essential component of the former.

In my early years as a Seeker one important lesson I learned was these transcendent moments find you when you are ready. The harder you try to recreate them the more elusive they become.

Still, I did come camping here at a favorite forest retreat with the intention of re-calibrating my energy. Honestly, the past three months have felt more like three years~ nothing like a pandemic and social revolution to rev up emotional intensity. So the transcendent infusion of Unity, Peace Hope and Love are gratefully received and, Grace willing, passed along to those who are well met on the path today.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may Love light our way.

Editor’s note: This post was created June 30th, but cell service on site was not sufficient to upload and edit photos, so it’s posting a few days after.

Our Fathers

So  fellow travelers, campgrounds in our beautiful NY State Parks fully reopened yesterday.

A favorite campsite, last summer

However, as with all things in our lives, the 2020 pandemic has imposed many changes and the process of actually being able to camp this summer is less spontaneous. Back in the BCV* era, one could just show up at the campground, acquire an available site and enjoy a campfire that same evening. Currently, reservations are required and because the on-line system does not allow “same-day” reservations, you cannot “walk in” and take a campsite no matter how many sites are open! So, two weeks ago, when the reservation system re-opened, sites booked up faster than anyone could say “let’s go camping.” I considered myself lucky to find one of my favorite sites open and, even though it was only for one night, I  gratefully clicked “reserve.”

Humidity arrived right on schedule with the Summer Solstice this past weekend and I was looking forward to Lake Ontario’s signature breeze. Even though the Rav is set up as a mini-camper, it’s not recognized as official “equipment” and I am required to pitch a tent, so I decided to get set up on site first, before going for a cool swim.

The site I pulled into was much changed from when I was there last year. It appears that the heavy rains we had in Spring washed a section of the embankment down onto the only flat section where I could pitch a tent. It was covered in rocks and gravel. Unfortunately I was not able to relocate to another site, so the attendant in the park office posted a credit to my account, which I have already applied to my next reservation. Although I was disappointed, this state park is one of several which are less than an hour drive from my home. The advantage of having my time to myself these days means a change plans is no big deal.

Zen moment spotted on the lake trail

There were many hours of daylight left to enjoy a quiet dinner under my favorite shady tree followed by a hike along the lake. The air was heavy and oppressively still, so we kept our walk shorter than usual. Delilah stopped frequently to raise her head and sniff towards the lake. I considered staying to catch the beautiful sunset view this beach is known for, but a thick haze along the horizon was beginning to obscure the setting sun. Then, a distant sound explained why Delilah kept looking back towards the other horizon. Thunder along Lake Ontario’s shore is always a clear sign it’s time to head back to shelter.

We heard a few more rumbles as I packed up the cooler and picnic blanket. Glancing back towards the lake, I caught a glimpse of the sun radiating brilliant beams as it slipped behind a dark line of clouds moving rapidly inland. The words of a haiku I had not been able to work through the day before quietly shifted into place as a prayer from childhood came to mind. It’s a day past but still the tribute I wished to create in honor of Father’s Day

Our fathers who art
Beacons of Light shining strong
Like our Father’s Heart

Sunset taken two years ago almost to the day from the same spot.

Walk gently on the path my friends and let Hope light the Way.

Editor’s note: *BCV is my term for BeforeCoVid19

Can You Breathe?

My first thought when I got up today was, “It is a perfect morning for a long walk,” and indeed it is. Sunny, low humidity, with just enough of a breeze to ward off the bugs. Judging from the cheerful chorus which greeted me as Delilah and I headed outside, my backyard residents agree. Delilah scurried forward nose to the ground, tracking the “critter news of the day.” 

Watching a distant heron float across the brilliant blue sky, waves of pure joy ran through me, grateful for the simple joy of breathing fresh air. Breathing deeply now comes with a sharp awareness that this gift of breath has been taken from too many – taken by a killer virus in a pandemic that still frames our current reality.

Then, as we turned the corner, the sharp smell of smoke wafted from the remnant of a bonfire. My neighbors who live at that end of the street tell me the new owners are clearing the lot to eventually build a house. Right now the lot looks more like a war zone than a peaceful homestead and my heart ached again remembering that humanity is engaged in a battle with more than one killer virus- both of which unjustly deny our fellow humans of their right to the simple gift of life. These words were born of that grief.

Broken windows ask
Open the doors to your soul
Hear the cries of pain

More to come~

Walk gently on the path my friends and Light the way for others to follow.

Photo note: the black and white photo is NOT from the lot currently being cleared. It is a house which suffered a major fire back in February- there is no sign of that lot being cleared anytime soon.

Actions Speak Louder

 So fellow travelers, in light of recent events, I held off publishing the last post I wrote, choosing instead to immerse myself in coming to a better understanding of what the voices speaking out need me to do.
The process left me with what fellow writer, mentor and friend Tom Atkins refers to as an emotional hangover from the anger which rose within me. I am tired, but surely not as tired as the families of too many black men, women and youths lost to senseless racist fueled violence. After a day of rest and much needed time on a newly reopened walking trail, I realized to move forward I need to start where this new path begins:

June 1, 2020
This morning,  I woke up to a new life experience.  

My first thought  was:
“What day of the week is it?”
I am sure many of you whose routines have been upended by the pandemic can relate to the experience. When you don’t get up and go anywhere for days on end it is a challenge to keep track of the days, because everyday is the same.
And if you, like some of my friends, are one of the many working on the front lines, you too lose track of time, in a far more desperate way while battling to save lives or keep essential services running. “Thank you,” seems barely enough acknowledgement for that.
So, I clicked through my “what did I do yesterday” prompts all the way back to “Ah, we had our Sunday call with  Mom and Dad, so today is Monday.” My next thought was “ Hey even though it is Monday, I do not have to “go” to work today- because I am R E T I R E D!”
“How does it feel to be retired?” people have been asking me.
Well, to use a common point of reference, it feels like the first day of vacation, filled with joyful anticipation with one key exception-
—there is no pre-set end date 
———— there is no pressure to “fit in” all the things I want or need to do now
It feels like the freedom I yearned and worked for through so many decades is finally mine.

——————————————————————————————————-

At this point, my original post included a haiku about that glorious sense of freedom and the instant I signed in online to access my blog page, the entire post felt completely and utterly void of significance. The recognition that a revolution, fueled by the senseless murder of George Floyd was gaining global momentum superseded any relevance my personal sense of freedom might hold.
I hit “pause” on this post, along with any adventure plans, and got down to figuring out how I can make a difference and turn intention into true change. Because as I affirmed in my Memorial Day post, my own freedom means nothing if it is not equally available to all my friends.

After a week immersed in the dialogue of outrage and calls for reform, I at least know this:
I do not profess to have the answers or even to have the right words to offer yet. I understand this is a time for me to listen to my friends and the black community; it is not a time to speak over those voices which need to be heard right now. I also believe silence implies complicity, whether intentional or not. So, if silence is not an option, clearly it is time my actions spoke louder than my words.  
My Words:

Unless we speak love
Hatred will destroy us then
Freedom means nothing

My Action:

Walk mindfully on the path my friends, may Love find you ready.

On Freedom, Honor and Birds

So fellow travelers, until 1970 the traditional date of Memorial Day was May 30th and until this year, our tradition steeped village continued to celebrate Memorial Day on May 30th,

Yep, regardless of what day of the week it fell on or what weather Mother Nature might throw at us, on said day, the village of Baldwinsville, NY staged a parade along the flag decked “four corners” route, across the steel bridge by one of the still operating Erie Canal locks and out past the town cemetery along the Seneca River. And every year, the stream of first responders, dignitaries, veterans and local celebrities (some from as far away as the Big City of Syracuse NY) were cheered on by the loyal residents of our district who lined the streets with their lawn chairs, kids, dogs and an occasional leashed kitty.

I will confess until I became a Marching Band Mom, I was one of the residents who stayed home to avoid the gridlock of closed streets. But there was no way I would miss the chance to catch this view of the kids who would one day also march in the Macy’s Day Parade

Favorite Youngest Daughter on the bells Memorial Day Parade 2014

So, as I mentioned, the “this is how we have always done it” tradition of a May 30th Memorial Day parade continued until this year when the Pandemic of 2020 cancelled, well pretty much everything we “have always done.” Still, parade or not, our little village is lined with flags and hanging baskets of red, white and blue flowers to honor the servicemen and women who gave their lives in the name of freedom.

Freedom right now is a much debated topic: the dialogue about how to reopen areas which closed down to slow the spread of Covid19 has become quite heated. Fueled by trolls and bots whose sole purpose is to derail any progress towards productive discourse, the terrible tendency to revert to divisive language is disheartening and disturbing to me. Navigating “virtual school” already pushed my blood pressure higher than normal; it has been necessary to “unfollow” or, in a few extreme cases, “unfriend” folks on social media.

Understand I am choosing to eliminate rude ignorance and disrespectful bullying which shows up in my media feed, not avoid challenging issues. I am willing to have a civil dialogue about difficult issues like public safety vs government overreach, anti-vaxers, conspiracy theories or global warming and the effects of climate change.

Once again current events have brought the menacing immorality of racism to the forefront in ways which, frankly, I am damn tired of seeing our society tolerate. The veterans whose lives we honor every year on Memorial Day did not give their lives for the freedoms of some Americans- they gave their lives to uphold and defend the rights of ALL Americans- every single one of them. So I sat down this morning to try and write about this, sensing I might struggle to find the right balance of reason and indignation to write words which could make a difference.

Turns out I did not need to struggle, because my friend Jennifer Bowman wrote a powerful blog post which cut right to the focal point of why Christian Cooper’s experience while simply birding in Central Park even happened. I hope everyone of my followers reads it and takes to heart the insights Jen so brilliantly brings to this issue.

https://jenniferkbowman.wordpress.com/2020/05/29/birding-race-and-the-freedom-to-enjoy-nature/

Walk bravely on the walk my friends, the journey is about to talk us where none of us have ever gone before.

Guest Post from Tom Atkins Poem: Murder is Slow — Quarry House

Murder is Slow A black man dies on a city street, the policeman’s knee on his neck, breath, life taken from him. There are riots. Of course there are. A people ignored too long will erupt sooner or later. A people not heard too long with erupt sooner or later. This is a truth we […]

Poem: Murder is Slow — Quarry House

Of Squirrels and Hope

So fellow travelers, a key turning point in my adult life came when a meditation teacher gave me permission to stop “shoulding” on myself.  Or as Master Yoda might put it “do or do not, that is all.”

The fact is, current reality* leaves me little time and even less energy for writing. The amount of screen time I am obligated to engage in to meet my assigned responsibilities for on-line education leaves me with little to no motivation for spending  additional time on line. The bright side of that is many long neglected sections of my garden are looking quite hopeful for the growing season ( whenever Spring decides to show up for good.)

Still, writing a blog does come with a sense of responsibility and, while I have no financial or commercial pressure to maintain any set number of followers, likes or comments, I often feel a “should be posting” if for no reason than simple gratitude to you, my readers.

So, while I sort out the responsibilities of the last few weeks of on-line school, I am glad my friend and fellow writer Jennifer Bowman gave me permission to share her recent piece. As she so often does, Jen has found words which give cogent elucidation to so much of what I have been feeling these past 60 plus days.

Enjoy:
https://jenniferkbowman.wordpress.com/2020/05/04/anti-depressant-squirrels-of-the-2020-pandemic/

Editorial note: My reference above to the “*new reality ” stems from my refusing to empower the current global situation with the title “new norm;” there is nothing normal about any of it. But that is the substance of another post. ‘Til then

Walk gently on the path my friends. Be kind to yourselves and others

Mother’s Day 2020

So fellow travelers, pandemics, physical distancing and unseasonal weather are only one aspect of our current reality.  To honor all that Mother’s Day means to me – this Haiku

 Snow falls cold winds blow
Yet spring flowers bravely bloom
Hope and Love stand strong

Blessings of peace and joy to all mothers here and in heaven.

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