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.