False Moon

So fellow travelers, unusually warm weather has created some strange images in the mornings. Today for example I was greeted by rose-violet air. No, it was not the sky, but the air itself which glowed. Dawn had infused the thick fog hovering just above the ground with the color of sunrise. I watched the air around me shift subtly from lavender to gold. The effect was mesmerizing.

Some mornings, the fields I pass on my way to work have revealed wispy cloud dragons sleeping between rows of apple trees and stacks of hay. A few days ago the fog was so thick I momentarily confused a neighbor’s driveway light for a celestial body. The sun? No. The moon? It made no sense,  hadn’t I just seen the waxing crescent moon the night before? Then I laughed as I unscrambled the nonsense my perplexed brain had generated. Quite a metaphor for some down right confounding exchanges I’ve encountered in the past few weeks. Judgements passed based on expectation instead of personal interactions, assumptions based on past experience instead of current circumstances, misunderstandings based on indirect communication, all hallmarks of the murkiness of humans trying to relate without being fully open to one another.

 

Naturally a bit of haiku emerged from the untidiness.

 

False moon morning fog

Doubt not friendships tried and true

Trust your heart not lies

 

Fuzzy cell phone shot of the would be moon

It is well to remember actions speak louder than words and before speaking we are best advised to listen.

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

Old Friends

So fellow travelers, once in a while I get text alerts from NASA letting me know the International Space Station will be visible as it passes over my location.

ISS in skyPhoto credit:  Society for Popular Astronomy

Ever since my first sighting a few years ago, I get a thrill from spotting this brilliant white speck as it zooms across the sky. Part of this is the challenge of navigating the directions to pinpoint the ISS location, part of it is sheer amazement at the accomplishment of sending and keeping something so substantial in orbit and a good measure of it is realizing as I look up there are fellow humans zooming along in that white beacon so far away.  How lucky they are gazing down at our home planet below as they do all sorts of fascinating scientific stuff. For a few minutes, I feel like I am part of the grand adventure.

This sense of wonder is so uplifting I have been known to rise hours earlier than my usual wake-up time for the chance to see the ISS. Of course, living near Syracuse, NY, which ranks in the top three on the list of cloudiest cities, there is never a guarantee of clear skies, so any sighting truly is a gift.

Earlier this week, luck graced my choice to rise early. A star studded crystal clear sky greeted me when I stepped out on to our deck. Steam rose from my coffee mug as I scanned the familiar icons.

The vshaped “head” of  Taurus, seven glittering sister stars of the Pleides cluster riding on his back, Sirius and Procyon the dog stars resting at the feet of their Master Orion. The atmosphere was so clear, I caught a rare (at least for me) sight of  Orion’s sword, a string of tiny stars dangling from the line of brighter more easily sighted stars in his belt.

These are constellations which reign the night skies in Winter. The reminder sent a chill through me but I smiled warmed by the thought that Orion connects me to some good people I once described* as  “old friends who’ve just met.”

I’ll be seeing some of those friends soon. True friendships unaltered by a futile battle of words intended to create division by doubt, forged like steel by trust which shines as constant as the stars.

Then zooming over the tree line to the west, the bright white dot of the ISS shot into view. I tracked it’s long graceful arc through the stars already beginning to fade in the predawn light.  It left me these words

orion

 

Orion rises

I’ll catch his stars with my heart

Friendship’s beacon calls

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  gatewaytotheuniverse.org

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

*Postscript:  “Old friends who’ve just met” are words from a post written just three years ago; that it feels more like three decades speaks to the level of upheaval wrought as a friends struggled to separate from toxic leadership within a creative collective. A significant number of the original members split off into a separate community. It has been nearly two years since the first fractures formed, yet periodically the shock waves of those events still reverberate through both communities, fueled largely by anyone still harboring anger and resentment. Fear and doubt can be powerful challenges to communal ties if left unaddressed. The admins of the newer community are reasonably adept at fostering an open dialogue to address issues when they come up. Not everyone can tolerate the intensity of emotional discussion; some friendships have disintegrated. I am grateful the ones that matter most to me have weathered the storms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voices in the Myst

So fellow travelers, now that the school year is in full swing my sweet summer morning ritual of sitting with a good cup of coffee and writing for an hour or so has been pushed back again.

I miss it.

 

(Photo : a bit of humor a friend sent me on social media. I might have to add this mug to my collection)

Writing not only helps me process life, it actually compells me to seek out experiences. Other times something happens and I’m thrown off balance.  I hit the trails, letting the my emotions swirl and boil at will in the relative safety of solitude. Then, when I am ready I sit at my laptop and let the words come.  Often those words need a sleep or two to become cohesive.

This summer more than ever I drank deeply of the spirit to follow the call in my heart. Relinquishing the freedom to rise and write was harder than ever this September.  My wake up call for work is too early to allow for time to write before leaving and so far I have been too exhausted at day’s end to put coherent thoughts together.  So, for now I accept I am back to weekend writing sessions and yet even as I do it’s only possible because I know I will have that freedom once again.

Creative exploration and expression are an essential element of my ability cope with the increasing challenges of my job. The beginning of this school year has brought some positive changes but also a growing awareness our administration’s expectations far exceed their ability to support the special education teams I am part of. (“Make it work,” for example, is not a productive response to staffing shortages.)  Coming into this year I made a committment to strengthen my own support system. I am determined to prevent a repeat of the detrimental impact stress had on my mental, emotional and physical being last year. In combination with other routines my creative time is part of my self preservation.

Why we have to fight so hard to stay on track with making positive choices is a puzzle. Getting caught up in negativity rarely feels good, yet we all find ourselves stuck from time to time. Self-awareness is a gift which calls us back from the pits of distress but we have to be listening to hear that call.

First light this morning revealed a thick mist settled eerily just above the ground. As the sun rose, it cast strange colors into the fog. I slept poorly last night, unsettled emotions from powerful conversations echoed through out the darkness. So I sat by my pond watching the “myst”erious interplay of light and fog.

A shot from another equally misty morning

Feelings shifted

Words came

and just like the rising sun dispersed the heavy fog,  clarity lightened my thoughts

Mystified

Suddenly lost in the fog

you stop

unable to see the path

standing still

breathing deeply to calm the fear

and over your breath you hear them

the voices in the mist

angry, monstrous sounds

you dare not proceed

yet you cannot go back

so you wait

and now you hear cries of pain

the need to help compels you to move

even as the fog thickens growing darker

so you hesitate

and stepping back a bit you see it

a ray of rose gold light

piercing the mist

watching as it grows stronger

dispersing darkness

as the path emerges from the fog

you realize those voices came not from out there

and the monsters you feared are yours

to leave behind or carry forward

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

 

 

 

 

 

Safe Haven

“Hope rests on a foundation of understanding and happiness is sheltered by a roof of tolerance.” Hugh Prather

So fellow travelers, working at our local high school I see the damage that bullies inflict not only on their targets but on a community as a whole. Just last year, our community lost a very precious young life to the ravages of bullies. Every now and then I also encounter bullying from adults who should know better.

Always I feel at first a flash of anger igniting remnant embers of past hurts from childhood tormentors. Yet in my heart I know anger begets more anger, perpetuating the cycle of pain. Stepping back gives me a chance to gain perspective, refocus and respond rather than react. That’s easier to do when you are a bystander, a far bigger demand if one is the target.

Recently waves of hurt and anger rocked an online community I belong to, created by falsehoods lobbed by a very public persona with their own following.  It was just the most recent in an ongoing cycle of attacks cleverly veiled as righteous anger at fabricated injustices. The details are less relevant than the effects.

Here is where communities either stand or fall.

And ours, I am proud to say, stands not only united, but stronger and closer than ever.

Too often we are unaware of the pain a simple comment or action might cause others. Those who are hurting often do not realize their pain isn’t obvious until they speak up. When this most recent attempt to malign the characters of key members of the community surfaced it swiftly proved those accusations false simply by the honest, straightforward response of those attacked by this outsider.

Our community is stronger because people had the courage to speak up, share their pain, admit mistakes, ask for and receive forgiveness. When a space is truly a safe haven truth can be spoken on all sides. No single voice dominates or controls the dialogue. Then clarity and healing are possible because all voices can be heard. Our community has the blessing of this freedom because it was founded specifically to create a safe haven. I have no doubts about the integrity or intentions of those who lead the group and I am grateful to be a member.

Today, early morning light and heavy dew revealed dozens of tiny spider webs draped everywhere around my yard. It’s a common late summer sign of egg sacs having hatched and hundreds of tiny webmasters were busy working under the cover of darkness. Tiny strands strung with glistening dewdrops festooned my yard like the remanents of a joyous party.

 

Magic threads appear

 

Build bridges of trust and faith

 

Friendships strong as steel

 

 

 

 

A beautiful metaphor for webs of deception transformed into a celebration of friendship, iluminated by the Light of Truth.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may you find true friendship along the way.

 

 

 

 

Sunday’s at the Rescue : The Beat Goes On

So fellow travelers, one small downside to the extended trips we take to the Left Coast each summer is I miss all the action for a couple of weeks at the local dog rescue where I volunteer.

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‘Cuse me, are my people here yet?

Going into my sixth year of volunteering (I started seven years ago back in November 2010, but took a year off to attend to important family responsibilities) it does not take long to get back into the swing of things no matter how long I am gone. So bright and early this Saturday, I headed off to help welcome sixty new furry arrivals seeking homes. When I pulled into the parking lot just after 7:30am the big truck was already in position, ramp down ready for the our transport team to get the dogs out and settled in.

adoptersline.jpgThanks to the dedication of a hardworking staff and a solid core of trained volunteers, Helping Hounds Dog Rescue has become a well organized operation. Transport shifts are hectic. Cooperation and flexibility are essential. There’s a lot to get done before doors open to the crowd of potential adopters who line up well before Noon.

Adopters waiting for doors to open.

Before the transport dogs are brought in, all the dogs currently on site have to be fed and walked, crates cleaned, water replenished and laundry started.  Thanks to the “Morning Marauders” weekend team this happens with good humored, coffee and donut fueled efficiency so by the time the Transport Team shifts into gear the new dogs will have the full attention of everyone on hand.

By the time the dogs arrive here, they’ve been through a lot. Whatever the circumstances (strays, puppy mill raids or owner surrenders) which find them in held in high kill shelters, its a terrifying experience for any animal. The lucky ones are “pulled” by rescue organizations in Texas and Alabama, given vet care including spay/neuter and sent to foster homes to wait for an available opening on the transports headed to other states.  When a slot opens up, the dogs are loaded onto the transports often traveling several days (yes they are fed and walked and cared for along the way) to reach their new home state. So by the time we meet them coming off the truck, they are understandably a bit stressed and disoriented.

 

Some of them bound down the ramp, thrilled to explore this funny smelling new place. Others have to be coaxed or carried to the stations where they have their arrival photos taken and are fitted for collars with official HHDR tags. It’s not uncommon for us to end the shift a bit damp but we all agree it’s worth wearing a little eau de pee in exchange for a gentle lick on your ear as you comfort a trembling little chi-mix or shy puppy. A good breakfast, a few walks and extra buddy time for any dog in need of comfort does wonders to soothe nerves and settle fears.  Most are ready to meet potential adopters by the time the doors open and people start streaming in.

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Pups resting before the doors open to the public

At that point I usually switch roles to answering the phones, freeing up the staff to focus on processing adoptions. Other volunteers act as tour guides showing people around and answering questions, bringing dogs out to meet interested adopters or at any moment assisting when a call goes out for a “crate cleanup in the puppy room.” Staff approved volunteer team members assist with “meet and greets” a required process of introducing a family’s established dog(s) to the dog they are considering for adoption. Transport Saturdays are crazy busy, people can wait over an hour to finalize their paperwork and go home with their new companions. A few grumble, but I’ve never heard anyone say it wasn’t worth the wait once they’re walking out the door with their new companion.

 

Bags

 

One nice benefit of working the phones is I get to see a lot of the dogs go home. I always have several favorites in each new pack, dogs who touch my heart for one reason or another.  My heart fills with joy as I pull their “Going Home” bags made by their foster families, then watch their new families eagerly pick extra toys or treats from our donation shelves, tucking them in with the things sent up from the families who so graciously gave them a place to rest and then let them go to make room for the next foster. To give love and let it go takes some resilience, I know, I’ve been on that side of the rescue process. Its the ability to focus on keeping space open for the next dog which makes sending them on their way ever so slightly easier. There’s no shortage of dogs needing homes so fosters know there’s will soon be a new furry guest to love.

One new addition to our transports are the Kelly Dogs, whose transports have been sponsored by a fund started in memory of Kelly Wilson, an avid HHDR volunteer who died in a tragic accident. Kelly’s enthusiasm on transport days even on the coldest, wettest of days was contagious. She and her new husband had just adopted a puppy from Texas just before she died; her family and friends wanted to help make more adoptions like that possible. Many people don’t realize there are substantial costs involved in pulling dogs out of high kill shelters and getting them to areas where the demand for adoptions is higher than the supply of available dogs (*see notation below.)

Kelly’s fund makes sure her love for these dogs lives on.

Kelly Dogs : DaVinci, Wynken, Marco, Blynken & Frida getting ready for their official photo

By the time my shift is done I’ve fully embraced the expression “dog tired” yet as tired as I am, when I leave at the end of a shift to head home and walk our own rescue girl (herself an HHDR alumni) I leave knowing I have done something to make a difference. That’s a feeling which refuels my spirit and I am grateful for the opportunity to  live it.

Walk gently on the path my friends and remember kindness matters.

*HHFB_IMG_1471630236490DR works with several rescue groups in Texas and Alabama to bring dogs up here where very eager families are seeking to adopt. The process is not without concerns. There is always the question of how this impacts local dogs in need of homes. I addressed this aspect in a post from a few years back.  The issue of finding a solution to the over population of certain breeds in local shelters is not a problem any community can adopt its way out of.  Education of the general public and cohesive communication between rescue organizations is essential. Our area is fortunate to have groups working towards a brighter future for breeds, I for one am blessed to have in our own family. Photo : Zeus and Coffee, our daughter and son-in-law’s rescue pitbulls. 

Editorial Note: Sunday’s at the Rescue is a series of posts about my experiences working with rescue dogs.  It is named for Sunday, a sweet young dog who came through the rescue where I volunteer, stole a piece of my heart (as so many of them do) and got herself adopted into a great home. If you like this piece, you can search the blog for other posts with that title.

The things we take from ourselves

Writer, photographer, fellow seeker of awe in the sanctuary of nature Jennifer Bowman puts the impact and losses into solemn perspective. I am grateful her friendship and recommendations guided me to find Punch bowl Falls on our first trip to Portland four years ago. That and a few of the trails in the Gorge are experiences I am grateful I gathered before they were lost to this season’s wildfires.

The Trailhead

Eleven years ago today, I spent my birthday at Glacier National Park. That was back when I owned a house in northwest Montana, and I spent every possible moment there. And because it was my birthday, I wanted to go to Glacier, because I love Glacier. I looked back at my ancient blog Trailheadcase (I’ve been blogging continuously at one site or another since 2005), and was reminded that it was chilly enough up at Logan Pass to require a coat on my almost-four year old (now almost 15), but warm enough to play in Lake McDonald in shorts and a t-shirt. Such is life at elevation.

1416192024_9c3b301464_b St. Mary’s Lake at early afternoon, during the 2003 fires.

Tonight, eleven years later, Glacier is on fire. A lot of it is burning. The venerable Sperry Chalet, one of Glacier’s famous backcountry lodges, was overtaken by flame. I’ve been watching this beloved…

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Turning the Page on an Endless Summer

So fellow travelers, today is the final day of the 2017 Great New York State Fair .

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This photo is from 2011 because I won’t have photos from The Fair this year.  You see, for the first time in forty two years I am not going. This is a decision without precident and far out of character for me. I love the Fair! I’ve attended every year since I arrived as a college freshman, when free buses ran us from Syracuse University up to and back from the Fairgrounds during the week before classes began. I’ve been so many times I know about the Sheep to Shawl contest where teams sheer, card, spin and knit wool to compete for ribbons. I’ve enjoyed the Rooster Crowing Contest in the Poultry Barn an event which landed us a pet bunny (the girls got bored and wanted to see the guinea pigs and bunnies, you know the rest.) I’m a regular “People’s Vote”r for the table setting and wood carving competitions. I’ve seen more amazing things sculpted in butter and sand, wondered at intricate quilt designs and applauded teams of rescue dogs performing high jinx while raising awareness that shelter animals make great pets.

Then there is the food, around which I plan my intinerary.  Arrive early enough for a breakfast of Belgian waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, conveniently located in the dairy building right by the afore mentioned butter sculpture’s rotating glass refrigerated display case. Snack on maple snow cones or maple cotton candy before checking out the astounding enteries in the photography and quilt competitions in the Home and Art Center. Peruse the ribbon winners of the flower of the day in the Horticulture Building, then grab a baked potato with the works (butter, sour cream, and cheese) while my feet can endure the long line at the booth, after all at a dollar it’s always been and still is the best bargain of the day. Walking the midway offers fresh squeezed lemon or limeade and fried dough at one end and at the other end, if I time it right, I get to watch young dancers and drummers from different tribes performing while I enjoy my favorite Green Corn soup at the Six Nations Cook House.  Eventually I meander back to the cool shade under the trees by the NYState Parks mini lake for dinner from either the International Building or Dinosaur Barbeque where the picnic tables are within view of Chevy Court where free concerts are staged.

So why am I missing it this year?  While our annual trip to Portland and a day of jet lag fatigue kept me out for nine of the thirteen days of this year’s run, I still had both time and advance tickets available. And I do love the Fair, it’s my annual end of summer tradition.

And there, when I woke up this morning on the very last day this year’s Fair,  I realized there was the key : End of summer.  It’s a reality I am in complete denial of, an inevitable shift in time I cannot stop even if I choose not to turn the page on the daily calendar sitting in my kitchen. If I don’t pass through those gates then this summer cannot end, right?

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You see, this summer has been extraordinary.  After the inordinate impact of last year’s challenges at work, I dedicated this entire summer to getting my physical and emotional health back. From the Spirit of 60 Road Trip to favorite trails rediscovered  and the adventures of our trip to Portland, I’ve focused on understanding why I veered so far off course, what I need to do to stay balanced, establish clear boundaries, reset priorities and how to thrive rather than survive the challenges of the coming school year. Every day possible, I woke up and asked “What would I most like to do today?” then followed that call as best I could.  I might find simple joy in a treat at a favorite cafe, wonder at a rare bird sighting, strength in hiking a difficult trail, healing in the hug from a loved one. It’s a routine I will continue as best I can going forward with the new school year.

So this morning when I asked myself what I most wanted to do the answer brought me here instead

Potters Marsh and Three Rivers, a favorite birding spot

It was a quiet, peaceful hike. Ducks, geese and sandpipers that nest along the banks of the marshes in the spring have raised their young and moved on the for season. Only a steady stream of dragonflies and bumblebees stirred over the still waters. Crickets shrilled their late summer chorus from under towering goldenrod.  A constant wind brushed the tree tops, the rustle of drying leaves sounded like waves coming ashore. Following the trail into cooler woods I was rewarded with the distant call of blackbilled cuckoos. On the way past the eagles nest also now empty, we came across a small snapping turtle struggling in a patch of sand in the middle of the path. After letting Delilah sniff to satisfy her curiosity, I gently set it on the edge of the big pond. One small act of kindness somehow settled the restlessness in my heart.

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Hey where did he go?

So, after I came home, when I finally did flip the page on that daily calendar in my kitchen one quote reminded me I have the power of asking the “right” questions. It read :

“We are either throwing our emotional weight into the balance of fear and anger or we are adding to the world’s measure of hope and kindness.  This is cannot always be seen, but it can certainly be felt.  Today, I will ask myself two questions: ‘How do I feel in this situation?’ and “How do I want to feel?’ ” (Hugh Prather)

What I want to feel is the warmth of an endless summer shining in a heart free to answer “What do I most want to do today?” and I know I have the choice to honor that no matter what the coming seasons bring. Besides, those Great New York State Fair advance admission tickets will still be good next year.

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

 

There and Back Again: Redefining Home

So fellow travelers, it’s been a quiet few days since we’ve returned from our marvelous trip to the Pacific Northwest. There’s more than a hint of Autumn in the air, one local weather watcher reported a record early frost in her area a bit north of here. Delilah and I found signs of way too early color on our first walk.

 

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HRH Princess Delilah met us at the airport with squeals and cries of sheer delight. She arrived courtesy of her escort Mark B. who along with my good friend and camping buddy Lisa provide our spoiled rescue Diva with the best of care when we are out of town.  They also happen to be the adopted family of our former foster Sammy aka Sammers Wiggle Butt. He stays with us when they go out of town.  I’m deeply grateful for this reciprocal arrangement, without it our extended annual visit with our kids would not be possible.

Parting goodbyes grow harder for me each time as every trip deepens my connection to the wild wonders of the PNW.  The irony if this is not lost on me, since I had said for years that region of the country was one I had no interest in moving to. Never say never.

Functional graffiti on a side street in PDX

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Each year we explore more areas, seeking out potential towns to purchase a retirement home. My husband tracks property values on Zillow and I seek out natural vistas and new trails to explore. We learn more about the issues each area is facing  and I am planning at least one future trip to experience the colder rainy season. I expect I’ll remain a willing convert, after all you don’t have to shovel rain to get to your bird feeders or brush it off your car to load your groceries.

Rain 2014 the only year its rained during our trip

 

Since returning, I noticed I had a hard time saying I was “home.” Yet I also felt content to be back, walking the neighborhood with Delilah, cleaning my little fish pond and weeding the small forest attempting to take over various areas of my yard. I gathered flowers from the wildflower patch I seeded last spring and discovered a dozen or more tiny fry had appeared in the pond during our absence. Seeing them wiggle in the waterfall current and darting around the lily pads sent a wave of joy through my heart which ached to have coffee at the bagel shop* where Favorite Younger Daughter works and hike just one more mountain trail with either one of my girls.

Then insight dawned.

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Just as I can equally love two daughters with their unique talents and temperaments I can have and love more than one “home.”  It simply means I am twice blessed and for this I am truly grateful.

 

Massive sunflowers greeted me when I got home. They are the first ever to bloom after many unsuccessful attempts to grow them. I laughed right out loud when I saw them. Maybe it was good to be back at this home after all.

 

 

 

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

*If you happen to find yourself  in Portland  do stop by Spielmans.  Their custom roasted coffee is excellent and they make the best bagels I’ve ever had- and I grew up in New York City so that assessment bears some weight.

 

 

The Wrong Donations – Some Tough Words on Disaster Relief

Gracious humor, gentle and direct.

My Best Laid Plans

I need to make a statement. I want to say it as kindly and gently as possible, but this message really needs to get out there. It’s important. Please hear me with as much grace as you can, because I mean it with all love and gentleness.

My children and I spent hours yesterday sorting the donations that are pouring in. That picture is the mountain we were faced with, and it was still coming. We’re not the only ones. Hundreds (thousands?) of volunteers all across our state are doing the same exact thing. Why? Because your hearts are in theright place.That’s why.

I want to make that abundantly clear. It is beautifully apparent that you are thinking about us and that you want to help us figure this thing out. You are doing anything you can, and that has brought such profound joy to our hearts. I personally…

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