Birds Before Bennington

So fellow travelers, this weekend’s road trip planned so many weeks ago evolved into something much more than expected.

As I prepared for the concert road trip, birding reports of returning migrants long delayed by April’s record setting cold began showing up in my messages. Even though I did not register to bird for this year’s Birdathon event, I could feel the compelling pull of the annual challenge we had risen to for so many years. On our last Birdathon Favorite Youngest Daughter and I finally broke the 100 species mark. Last year, even flying solo, I tallied a respectable total count of 73 species and I only birded for seven hours in a half dozen favorite locations, about half the time and distance we would cover as a team.

Calculating the time I would need to get to the concert, I set my alarm for first light, tossed my birding notes and checklist in the front passenger seat (next to the bin which holds my binoculars and travel copy of All About Birds) and finished packing my car.

When that alarm went off Saturday morning I hit snooze and rolled over. Half an hour later the punctuated calls of our resident yard robins and cardinals roused me from a surrealistic dream clearly scripted from the nerve wracking events at work the day before. I had slept through three replays of that snoozed alarm. Damn.

Grateful my husband had thoughtfully set up the coffeemaker the night before, despite the stress induced foul mood I had been in, I hit brew now, threw on hiking boots, packed a cooler with water, snacks and fruit and, after glancing at the forecast for both home and my afternoon destination, grabbed a rain jacket. Even after sleeping through that alarm, I managed to head out so early, our dog did not wake up to follow me downstairs. Travel mug filled with warm life restoring java, I paused in my driveway to listen~

Robin
Cardinal
House Sparrow
Goldfinch
Mourning Dove
House Finch
Red-bellied woodpecker
Blue jay                                                                                                                                                      Crow
Chipping sparrow
and of course our newest tenant “Chester” the House Wren

Eleven birds and I hadn’t even left my driveway.

As I drove up our road a great blue heron sailed high overhead. Always a welcome sighting, I had been told decades ago this graceful flier was one of my totem spirit guides. Driving across the bridge in the village I spied a pair of ospreys fishing for breakfast among the cormorants. But dark clouds moving in from the west threatened to shut down the opportunities to catch early morning activity and calls, so rather than stop to watch as I sometimes do on my way to work, I drove on to my next location where I hoped migrating warblers would be sheltered.

By the time rain arrived I had managed to log thirty-eight species in about two hours. I checked two more hot spots but found only a few persistent residents whose species I had already tallied braving the intensifying rains.

It was time to head East for songs of a different nature. (to be continued)

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

Verdi in the Woods

So fellow travelers, cool overcast conditions have not dampened the enthusiasm of songbirds this morning.

Sipping tea at the kitchen table of a favorite AirBnB I’m focused on the serenade echoing from the woods behind the cottage. It’s a glorious chorus of melodic phrases, punctuated by bright chirps and an occasional bass riff by a woodpecker somewhere deep in the forest.

Morning serenade
Woodland concert wakens me
Friendship sings again

This weekend’s road trip was set in motion when I received word of a choral concert which included three friends from our creative group. It was an opportunity not to be missed and well worth the seven hour round trip drive, which of course gave me the perfect reason to stay over at this favorite spot.

The only hitch in this plan was the schedule conflict of the concert date falling on the same weekend as the annual Birdathon marathon, an event I have participated in for twelve years, nine of them with Favorite Youngest Daughter.

Still this performance led by Maestro Cailin Marcel Manson would include a mulitude of choral and orchestral musicians taking on Verdi’s sweeping Requiem. It promised to be as rare as any of the unusual sightings popping up in my local birding reports (which so far this season have included an Avocet, a White pelican and a Western meadowlark.)

I reserved my ticket, booked my overnight accommodations and marked my calendar. Little did I know how crucial this respite would prove. (To be continued)

a little watercolor sketch of one of my morning greeters.

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

Seismic Shifts

So fellow travelers, five weeks to go in the final stretch of this school year.

Like marathon runners “hitting the wall” going into the last quarter of the run, our team is digging deep to find the energy and willpower to see this through. Resources depleted, we keep each other refueled and focused as best we can. Requests for additional support and questions we ask go unanswered but recent events may force some issues to a critical point. Time will tell and until it does, we forge on.

Cold wet weather was keeping me and my trusted four legged companion Delilah off the trails and slowed the return of spring migrants to a trickle. No hiking, sparse birding, minimal walks had me plodding along in a fog until a sudden tragedy jolted me back to awareness.

We received news a close friend suffered a tragic, unexpected loss leaving her family reeling in shock. Tragic news has a way of setting seismic shifts in motion. When a friend is in need, all concerns about other matters are dispersed by the call to be of assistance; it does not matter whether this assistance takes the form of action or the gift is simply being present to listen. To be silent and strong when someone feels their world shatter around them, to be the one who can take action when others are immobilized by shock, anger or grief is what it means to “be there” for someone reeling in disbelief at the chaos life has sudden thrown at them.

To be present for others requires us to shift our focus outside ourselves even as we reach within for strength and compassion.

As the priest spoke of departed souls being near in times of loss, three large turkey vultures swooped over the trees. The black messengers circled the graveside gathering of family and friends several times gracefully spiraling higher and higher into the air carrying with them the prayers of the grieving and heart broken.

I no longer pass off such moments as mere coincidence and in the instant of accepting the sign, comfort took form in these words.

Dark raptors soar high

Ancestral spirit blessing

One soul welcomed home

There can be lessons in times of loss. Healing and grace, forgiveness and awakenings, gifts embedded within grief.

Walk gently on the path my friends and  if you too are grieving a loss, may peace settle on your hearts.

Perspective

So fellow travelers, on the road this weekend again and I’m struck by the picturesque contrast of bright spring greens against stark hillsides.

Persistent rain and swaths of fog veiled the views in light too flat for decent photos but I did catch one image at a rest stop on the way to Philly for the weekend’s family brunch to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Cold wet yuck to some

Life giving rain to others

Perspective matters

I’m grateful to be spening the weeken with my Mom, even as I count the days until I can visit with my own daughters whom I miss so much when we gather as a family here. Yet some close to me are struggling with the heartache of loss as Mother’s Day arrives. Whether recent or over years a loss suffered in motherhood or from mothers now gone becomes more acute at times when so many are celebrating. If tears, like rain must come, my wish they bring healing to those whose hearts ache an this healing blesses the life still waiting to be lived.

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

Distant Light

So fellow travelers, much of what has come when writing has been a litany of complaints.

Cold, wet weather. Heavy grey skies. A dismal monotony of ongoing stress. Nothing to post because doing so would validate the dreadful waste of precious time my days at work have become.

Being required to attend yet do nothing while madness takes hold is proving to be almost beyond my capacity to maintain balance. We thought we had seen the pinnacle of senselessness last year; little did we know the demands yet to come.

 

There is light in the distance

So you just keep pushing towards it

One step at a time

I found this photo I took on New Years Day. It feels as if we have endured years rather than months since that moment.

Then, today for the first time in months, I ate dinner sitting by my pond as the setting sun tinted the sky with warm shades of rose gold.

A few fat bumblebees danced between clusters of just bloomed dandelions and violets.

Returning migrants sang from budding trees.

Joy, like Spring, too long delayed rose with their chatter.

An early evening star appeared, offering a promise to hold a born of sincere gratitude.

Grace to see this journey through to the end.

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

Art Class

So fellow travelers, making space in my days for creative time has become an essential element in my practice of stress management.

There are other aspects in my plan including trail walks (weather permitting, which it has not for far too long into what should be Spring), yoga, meditation, and periodic end of the week debriefings (aka happy hour) with friends and colleagues. Never under estimate the therapeutic effect of venting and laughter over a good glass of wine.

Up to a point these have kept the impact of stress at a manageable level. I certainly am in a better state than I was this time last year. It’s in my overall lack of energy where the impact is most noticeable. With the school year three quarters done, I’m feeling like a marathon runner who’s hit the wall * at the 19th mile. I am banking on spring break next week to help me refuel and hit the reset button so I can cross the finish line mentally and physically intact. “Nine weeks to go, we can do this,” my teammates and I coach ourselves through the cycle of repetitive issues each day.

To push myself out of the motivational doldrums of this seemingly endless winter (indeed it is snowing again as I write this on April 19th) I signed up for an art class at our local Adult Education Center. It was listed as a multi-media painting class, but has turned out to be exclusively focused on watercolors. The error was I believe a bit of Divine Intervention intended to nudge me out of my creative funk because had I known it was a watercolor class I doubt I would have signed up for it; watercolors are a medium I struggle with and I have resisted taking on their elusive techniques for years. The instructor is a witty woman with a sharp eye and charming Germanic accent. My brain tried to tell me more frustration is the last thing I need right now, yet the focused, humorous directives delivered in the soothing rhythms of her gentle voice have drawn me into this challenge.  Besides, it is warm and dry in the classroom where we meet. Absent the opportunity to be inspired by chance moments on the trails I would usually be hiking this time of year I’m grateful to find joy in the small triumphs of mastering simple tasks with a challenging medium.

Art class

Feeling color
Hearing space
Tasting light
Smelling paint which
Touches my soul

 

 

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

 

*the term hitting the wall refers to a point when runners deplete their bodys supply of glycogen, a carb stored in muscles and the liver, resulting in fatigue. The brain kicks into self preservation mode and wants to shut down. It requires tremendous mental resilience to push past this point and continue on to the finish line.

Nine weeks to go.

Desperately Seeking Spring

So fellow travelers, mindful of the childhood lesson “If you can’t say something nice, it’s best to say nothing at all,” I’ve been silent here.

Truth be said I have little which is positive I could say about work, this creative funk or lack of trail walking due the weather.

There was this moment on our deck this morning when words bubbled up into little burble of words.

Paw prints in the snow
Birds sing faithfully for warmth
Spring is deaf this year

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

Rejoice

So fellow travelers, this Easter Fools morning greeted me with a joyous serenade. Sweet notes, bright enough to wake me just before dawn.

As I watched Light gently transform the last shadows of the night through the window I caught a glimpse of orange as the solo songster flew off towards another tree. So clear and bright was his song, I could still discern the notes as they drifted across the greenspace in front of my parents little townhouse. I drove to Philly yesterday to celebrate my Mom’s 88th birthday. My two brothers and their wives (who have become more sisters than sisters-in-law to me) and nieces and nephews and their partners all gatherered around a table toasting the blessing of being family.

Immersed in the glory of it all I uncharacteristically missed grabbing a photo, although when it was time for the cake we did grab a photo op with Mom and the grandkids.

When I shared the photo online a friend asked if it made me miss my daughters. No, I said, not as much anymore. Of course I’d love to have them here, but in their absence being with my nieces and nephews is a joyous experience. They each shine in their own unique ways and the older ones have chosen partners who are so genuine and funny. I feel renewed by their spirit and humor.

It has been a long winter, harsh in ways beyond weather. The silence here in my blog is a measure of its toll. Yet struggles, like seasons, shift and eventually pass. Today’s predawn solo songster found me waking to a heart filled with gratitude, rhythmic words spontaneously taking form, affirming a time of renewal.

The wait feels endless
Light shrouded in mists of doubt
Until robins sing

May the blessings of Spring bring renewal to you all.

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

The Twenty-first Crossroad

So fellow travelers, people often speak of kids growing up “in a flash.”

That has not been my experience as a parent.

The passage of three decades from the birth of our first child to this moment of Favorite Youngest Daughter reaching adulthood has felt more like a marathon, one I ran far more willingly than any actual foot race. My husband is the marathon triathlete. I am more likely found on a 5 mile hike than a 5-K run (yes, I am fully aware 5K is actually 3.1 not 5 miles.) But I digress.

Anyone who has undertaken the daunting responsibility of raising kids knows that parenting is not for the faint of heart. Yet nothing in this life I have accomplished has been as rewarding as the adventure of watching our two daughters grow from curious high spirited little girls into creative, independent young women.

 

 

And even as we skyped with Favorite Youngest Daughter last Sunday on her 21st birthday, it’s clear the adventure is far from over. In many ways our lives are beginning a new phase of this grand journey, a stage where my daughters and I relate as women, supporting one another as we take on the dreams and goals we’ve set for ourselves.

Still, as a awesome writer and friend of mine recently blogged “We are never quite the same after someone we’ve loved leaves our everydays.” While Ms Dingle is referring to her grieving the recent passing of a cherished family member, it occurred to me as I read her post I too have been grieving. I realized this process began the morning I left Favorite Youngest Daughter standing on the platform in a train station in Tokyo, two years and six months almost to the day of her recent hall mark birthday.

The memory is a vivid as if it has just happened this morning. I can still feel the effort it took to walk away after giving her a long hug goodbye.  My eyes tear up just as they did that moment,20150831_212415 as I willed myself not to look back, knowing if I did I might run back to stay with her and make the parting impossibly difficult for both of us. This was her moment to step onto the path she had chosen, I had to be strong enough to let go because letting go said “You can do it, I believe in you.”  Still, sitting on the train which would bring me back to our hotel, I had wild thoughts of not getting off, of riding the train until it circled back to her station, of  not going to the airport or getting on the flight that afternoon which would take me and my husband back home. My heart hurt so much I could barely speak when I did arrive at the hotel where my husband had remained to check out while my daughter and I made a pilgrimmage to a sacred memorial which held special meaning for both of us.

In retrospect I see now that was the moment when the heartstrings of full time motherhood fully broke. Yes once a mom, always a mom but from that moment on I would have to learn how to be a long distance mom for both my daughters.

Favorite Youngest Daughter had stepped into independence in a way far different from her older sister. Favorite Older Daughter’s crossing into independence was more gradual, evolved closer to home and by the time she left for college, she had already found her ally and partner for life, the devoted young man I now refer to as Favored Son-in-law. The moment those heart strings began to release came as I watched them get ready for her senior ball. In the way only a mother’s heart can know, I sensed it was a glimpse into her future.

 

 

Our younger daughter’s break from home came as an all-in-one major leap of faith which took her half way around the world for her first solo flight. She has never looked back. Oh, she’s been home a few times and those visits have been deeply rewarding, as have our visits to Portland each summer when we reconnect as a family with our older daughter and her husband.

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Recently the inevitable goodbyes felt surprisingly harder; I hugged my kids tighter, longer, my tears stung sharper. Insights from my friend’s writing granted me a fuller awareness of the grief embedded in this change from full time motherhood to long distance mom. Looking back I find it’s been there in my writing for a while.

With clarity comes the gifts of perspective and acceptance. Those “everydays” Lisa writes about are the void we must reframe and reclaim as our own and as I said before, our adventures as women on life’s path are far from over. Acceptance allows me to see the sign posts pointing the way to undiscovered adventures and whether I walk those paths alone or with friends and family I am eager to set forth on this next stage of my own journey.

 

 

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See you on the trails.

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

 

 

 

Razor’s Edge

So fellow travelers, the ability to maintain an objective space for others on their journey requires unyeilding concentration.

How therapy dogs accomplish this is nothing short of miraculous.

Me? It’s a daily challenge, but this old “dog” is doing her best to learn the tricks.

Sitting in a quiet space watching madness ebb and flow
dancing on the razor’s edge between sacrifice and salvation
a million lifetimes evolve within each moment
none are your stories to tell
yet to listen
to simply be present
is enough
for now

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This dotted line of hope appeared in the early morning sky.  Spring is coming.

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