Return to Sterling: postscript

So fellow travelers, a few more thoughts rattling around my brain about the first hike of the season.

I returned from my Spring Equinox hike feeling more peaceful than I had in weeks. As I said in my earlier post, I didn’t know what shifted, I just know something settled in my heart which eased my troubled mind and lifted my spirits.

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That night I woke around 3am from a dream so lucid and powerful it took a few minutes to understand why I was laying in a dark room. Just seconds ago I was sitting at a picnic table next to my camper, writing notes in my journal. Everything, I mean everything, made sense and I was writing it all down in concise, clear phrases.

Of course the knowledge of what I had actually writing faded with the dream, so unlike Einstein, who discovered his famous E=MC2  in a dream, I have no worldly wisdom to impart yet the sense of clarity stayed with me.  I settled back to sleep feeling content and solidly grounded.

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A few hours later, I would wake to my phone buzzing with an emergency message from our High School crisis team. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt my ability to be fully present through the difficult day ahead came from the grounding experience of my Equinox hike and the resulting dream. This kind of mysterious, almost mystical alignment is not the norm for my trail adventures. As much as I enjoy hiking, most of the time it’s simply a good long walk with a few bird sightings and maybe even a handful of photos worth keeping. I think this is why I didn’t write about it originally.

Over the next two weeks, trails called to me in a more meaningful way and I continued to seek guidance and solace by hiking in whatever location came to mind, drawing strength from solitude. I sense a deeper level of awareness has been opened and wanted to acknowledge this. Even as a kid growing up in the Bronx I felt a strong connection to nature, although my experience was mostly limited to simply climbing a favorite tree by our apartment. Yet now I feel more deeply attuned to the little sacred moments which will fill my heart with hope and keep my footing steadier on the Path.

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

 

Easter Lace

So fellow travelers,  I miss Spring.  It was here not long ago.

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Pretty little periwinkles in my daylily bed. I regret to report they expired after snow and frost hit this week.

and I found it not too terribly far away when I traveled to Philly to spend Easter Sunday with my family.

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Yellow explosions of forsythia by my parents townhouse

Back here in Upstate New York, Old Man Winter has sent Miss Spring scurrying away.

Maybe she will come back when she reads this haiku I wrote in her honor:

 

Even the willow

Puts on it’s finest green lace

Dressed in Sunday Best

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Creekside willows blowing in the gentle breeze on Easter Sunday morning

Chasing Light

So fellow travelers, the light as I was driving into work a few days ago was incredible. Incredibly poetic and incredibly frustrating too. Driving past image after image I longed to capture, unable stop all I could do was take mental snapshots and make notes of shots to get on a future morning off, provided of course conditions are similar. Which they rarely are. Patience and creative expression are testy balance sometimes.

So I drove on, past rose tinted tree tops, past glowing willow trees, past a stunning hilltop view of the tiny church steeple washed in peach and gold above still darkened village rooftops, past my favorite field…no wait.

Here I could easily pull over, roll down my window and grab a quick shot with my phone.
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I am working on a series of images featuring this tree in different light through the seasons. I hope I can capture this same light with my DSLR another morning before both tree and field green up, but the weekend forecast may not cooperate.  This day dawned cold and clear; our weekend says cloudy with snow.  I have that shot already, several versions in fact.

By the time I pulled into the parking lot, the light was already shifting from watercolor washes to pure white daylight.  As I pulled into the high school parking lot, I did catch this view of the steam vent on the roof.
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Rose tinted smoke signals reminding me of some “official statements” the staff and community received via email the day before. (For the record they are unrelated to the recent death of one of our students. They stem from an entirely different matter.)  Thoughts began to flow in a rhythm of their own.

Obscure smoke signals
are not clear
communication
The veiled messages
do not hide
lurking ugly truths
Hollow protocol
feeds rumors
adding to turmoil
A community’s
trust broken
can it be rebuilt?

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

Editorial note : for this poem I used a form new to me called lune with 5-3-5 pattern. I am learning a lot from the work poets are posting during National Poetry Month and hope to explore many new formats in my own writing.

… on a message from your sponsor

A most excellent post from Lisa Dingle. I hope I have managed to raise my daughters with a bit of this wisdom too.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Next Apartment for One, Next Adventurous Chapter

Dear kids,

I see you.

Yes you.

Growing up.

I see you in your ‘in betweens’ – between high school and college, between college and ‘not’, between ‘first step out of college’ and ‘next step beyond that’.

I want to remind you of something I’ve mentioned once or twice as you were growing up.

Did you just roll your eyes? Don’t make me fire you.

Try to remind yourself to be present for it all.

You are at points in your life where it is so natural, so reasonable and totally okay, to look toward the ‘what’s nexts’.

What’s next after high school, or what’s next after college or after the first years of your job or steps in your career (or toward a different career).

The thing is, beyond the planning and stuff, the ‘what’s nexts’ are sort of an illusion.

As if…

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Return to Sterling: Lakeside

So fellow travelers, if there is one lesson I have learned and taken to heart, it is this:

When my soul is restless, when something is amiss, when my body, mind and spirit are out of sync there is only one reliable remedy I can take.

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I take a hike, or at the very least a good long walk, where I am likely to encounter more birds than humans.

This is not a remedy unique to me, as I know from reading the most excellent writing of other bloggers, many of whom I am blessed to also count as friends. In fact it is not uncommon for someone to write about an experience which happens in sync with one I have just had. The synchronous posts used to deter me from writing out of a self imposed concept that being authentic had to also be completely original. Gradually I realized this synchronicity was actually a hallmark of how connected many of us really are.

After all my standard salutation “fellow travelers,” is a reflection of my true belief that we are all on this journey together, whether we walk parallel or different paths. We all need joy, yearn to love and be loved, seek peace and want to be heard. Allowing myself to put my experience into words and images, even when they were similar to other posts was a conscious choice to acknowledge my experiences.  The more I do, the clearer my voice has become to me, because when I started this blog I had no idea how to write with “voice.”

Even before our school community faced the challenges of coping with a student suicide, I was struggling with a vague feeling of foreboding. Reading pieces from my creative friends told me I was not alone,  a reassuring and clear directive to listen to my restlessness and seek calm where I knew to find it best.

So it was I found myself on the trails at Sterling Nature Center.

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The eerie sights and sounds at the heron rookery did nothing to calm my uneasiness.  As water, even in stormy weather, is my favorite centering element I decided to head for the Lake Trail. Along the way I watched an ermine dart along the opposite edge of a creek, too elusive for me to photograph clearly.  Some moments of joy are not meant to be held.

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Ermine, hiding behind the logs on the far side of the creek.

I spotted salamander egg bubbles on  another creek’s surface, a sure sign of spring which fortified my resolve to face the single digit wind chills I knew were blowing in off the lake.

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The rhythmic pulse of waves grew louder as I approached the shore. Signs of winter’s force blocked one trail, so I headed towards the beach. Weird ice formations in random spots decorated the shore like a mad artist’s sculpture garden.

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Flat, grey lighting made it difficult to capture the full impact of these images. At least the shoreline provided a colorful array of stones, rolling like gems being polished in a tumbler.

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I sat for a while on a large fallen tree and let the waves wash through my mind. I sat, I am not sure for how long, feeling the waves shifting and rearranging my jumbled thoughts until I sensed my face had gone numb from the cold winds.

I stood and headed to the trail leading back up the hill, yet my feet trudged past the trail and kept going up the shoreline, climbing over more fallen trees, walking, walking, walking on tired legs until I reached this view

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A sharp cry above me drew my attention to an osprey flying inland from the lake, pursued by several gulls intent on stealing the fish clutched in it’s talons. They were moving too fast for me have any chance of getting a focused shot; I made a conscious decision to watch rather than reach for my camera.

And suddenly there it was ~  I felt the jumble in my mind shift, like the tumblers of a complicated lock clicking into place.  In that decision to consciously be in the moment whatever it was I seeking settled in my heart.  I had no idea what it was, only that it was there and my spirit was calm.

Suddenly aware of being tired, hungry and quite cold, I headed for the trail leading back to my car, promising myself one stop on the way home

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Comfort food from Rudy’s a Lake Ontario legend.

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

Fortune Teller’s Bones

So fellow travelers, I used this imagery twice in recent posts so I took some time to listen closely until a haiku emerged.

Cruel winds rattle leaves
Hollow fortune telling bones
Winter lingers long

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and now we return to the trail at Sterling ….

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

Photo Note:  the image is  one I played around with in an editing ap I have on my phone.  The original was not all that interesting until I tried some effects. I’ve had it sitting in my files knowing it would find it’s poetic expression one day.

Return to Sterling

So fellow travelers, a few weeks ago the Vernal Equinox dawned on a Sunday morning with a cold, unforgiving forecast.

It would have been easy to hunker down in the warmth of my favorite reading chair and finish the compelling book I was reading about bees.

Yet some persistent need sent me rummaging for my hiking boots and daypack. The simple fact that I could even consider hiking on the first day of spring was an extraordinary opportunity not to be missed. Trails are usually still buried in snow well into the early weeks of spring.

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A brief  glimpse of sun through the kitchen windows sparked my resolve to head Northward to a favorite trail along Lake Ontario.

I left a disappointed dog sitting in the hallway.”Next time,” I promised her each time she wagged her tail hopefully while I laced up my hiking boots.

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I am never quite sure how I manage to leave this face behind.

This trip would be a scouting expedition. There were reports of owls nesting  in the midst of a Great Blue Heron Rookery as well as an eagle nest in the same area. With the trees still barren of leaves, the opportunity to spot returning migrants darting through branches is at its best right now.  All too soon, the forest canopy will fill in making it more challenging to spot those elusive songbirds and the hungry birds of prey who follow their migrating meals.

Lake Ontario is less than an hour’s drive north, provided of course I am not distracted by say a flock of wild turkeys dashing across the road requiring me to pull over and snap some photos.

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or stop to check if the trumpeter swans have returned to their nest in a small swamp along the way

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No one at the nesting site but a lone red wing blackbird

and I took a few wrong turns because I forgot to grab the GPS when I left. Sterling Nature Center is at the end of an elusive dirt road reached by a maze of several smaller country roads which may or may not still have their signs intact after a season of snowplow passes. Once I pulled into the parking area, this glimpse of brilliant blue water under a crisp blue sky encouraged me to brave the brisk winds blowing off the lake.

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As I’ve mentioned,  hiking in high winds is something I avoid whenever possible.  So the distant cry of hawks over Dragon Fly pond encouraged me to pull on a wool headband and head for the trails to the heron rookery

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But first a little photo op  with this happy fellow, who was so busy at the feeder he didn’t mind my quiet approach and shutter clicks as he ate.

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Chickadees may not be a rare sighting yet I am always thrilled to see them anytime, anywhere. They are loyal little spirits who keep my connection to nature alive through winter’s fiercest weather and remind me warmer days and greener views will come.

For now mosses are the only green showing in these woods

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although there were some splashes of color to be found here and there

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Perfectly framed by a rugged yet graceful arch

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Winter Aconite by the feeder gardens

The wind whistled through the barren tree tops and rattled dried leaves still clinging to bushes along the trail.

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Long dead leaves rattling in the wind like fortune telling bones.

Even before reaching the water, the haunting echo of geese and herons calling created an eerie atmosphere. Standing alone on the observation deck it was hard not to get spooked by the weird sounds and ghostly image of the twisted trees.  I regretted leaving my dog at home.

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Still, it was good to have my hands free to switch between my camera and big birding binoculars as I scanned the nests in search for the one being occupied by owls. There is a helpful photo posted on site with the owls nest marked which guided me to the right spot.  I could just make out two ear tufts flicking now and then in the blustery winds. Time will tell if the owls will still be here when Favorite Youngest Daughter and I set out for the annual Birdathon event in six weeks. Last year a mid April storm caused the nest to fail and recent bad weather may have the same outcome this year.

Meanwhile I had another section of the trails I wanted to explore, a path which would take me along the lake, an area I come to often when trying to settle an uneasiness in my spirit.

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to be continued

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

 

 

 

 

Weather or not: The art of hiking from home

So fellow travelers, I woke this morning to howling winds and white out conditions.

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SOC shot of the view from my bedroom this morning blurry from blowing snow.

 

Looks like Ma Nature’s big April Fool’s joke this year was to send us snow in a bit more abundance than the “scattered snow showers,” originally forecast. I scurried downstairs to check the bird feeders which I topped off yesterday in anticipation of our spring migrants needs for extra fuel to stay warm through this cold snap.

A mound of snow blew in the back door telling me I would need to retrieve the shovels from the garage where I had foolishly stashed them a few days ago. I should know better than to put them away before Memorial Day Weekend, after all its not unheard of for Lake Ontario to send me snow for Mother’s Day.

Delilah declined to leave the back deck until a path was cleared, then promptly dashed around the yard sticking her head into snow drifts in search of critter trails.

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The crowd around the feeder scattered only as far as the nearby pin cherry tree by the pond, chattering urgently as I refilled the feeder and seed trays.  They barely waited for me to retreat more than a few steps away before descending to feast voraciously.  I could see I would need to refill the feeder again well before days end.

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Patient little Junco waiting to dart down into the crows and redwing blackbirds  feasting below

It was the blustery winds which put an end to my plans for another Sunday hike. I don’t mind hiking in snow; I have sturdy boots, warm socks and liners, plenty of layers to pile on and a light weight walking stick with depth markings along the side. Unlike my over confident stashing of snow shovels, I don’t put away my flannel lined hiking pants and fleece sweatshirts because even in the dead of summer they might be called into service on a chilly night camping by Lake Ontario or in the Adirondacks. Wind however is a deal breaker and I will avoid hiking in it if I have that choice. My ears were frostbitten when I was very young and remain sensitive to wind. They ache even in warm summer breezes; I have quite the collection of earmuffs, headbands and colorful bandannas to keep them covered.

After coming to terms with the weather induced change of plans, I realized I could still visit a favorite trail by working on a post I started about my Spring Equinox hiking trip. So right after this next round of shoveling and refilling feeders, I will download photos from my DSLR, fire up the photo editor on my laptop and get to work with a nice mug of steaming hot chocolate.

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sneak preview of this year Spring Equinox hike…..Stay tuned !

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

April Fools

So fellow travelers,  a few days of sudden warmth has all kinds of early spring surprises popping up. Just a few days ago there was still frost on the hardier garden herbs.

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Isn’t it about thyme for Spring?

 

My forsythia bush has not bloomed yet so I was almost startled to find little clusters of violets tucked around the base of our elm trees showing their colors already.

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They must not have heard the weekend forecast for an arctic cold front and snow showers!

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So I wrote the brave little purple hearts this haiku:

Violet pioneers
Braving a forecast of snow
Bloomin’ April Fools

I’ll probably pick a bunch to brighten up one of my window sill altars. They’ll be much warmer inside and will remind me winter weather will soon be just a dream.

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