Airport Jazzmen

So fellow travelers, I see so many passing through this busy airport tonight. I wish one and all safe and easy journeys.

It’s been a long day that started at 5am trying to get airborne for our annual adventures in PDX. Having made it to Chicago O’Hara airport by switching airlines we grabbed a bite to eat before hopefully boarding our next flight.

We discovered the little food court where we found the Billy Goat Grill (of SNL cheezeburgu cheezeburgu no coke Pepsi fame) Hearty diner food and good beer at decent prices and these guys posed  center court playing their heart out.

Looking around at diversity scattered about the tables, young and old, dark and light skinned, dressed in hijabs or jeans I noticed a majority of my fellow travelers were plugged into devices of different kinds. No one would have heard a single note of our center court concert.

Ah well at least we were all gathered peacefully under one roof. Harmony in silence, together yet not quite connected. Thoughts which made their own rhythms

Haiku for airport jazzmen

The jazzmen play but

No one hears their melody 

 Ear buds tuned us out 
Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready. 

Zen moment: The Bench

So fellow travelers, after several days of camping at a favorite location, my focus has been on preparations for our annual expedition to Portland.

I’ve never had such a difficult time getting organized for a trip. For about a week I have drifted from one process to another, packing a few things, cleaning out the fridge, packing a few more things, folding some laundry, repacking etc. I wondered if the relentless heat of this summer drought has fried my brain as badly as my garden.

 

To clear my mind, I took our dog for a walk along one of our favorite lakeside trails. There, down a side trail a quiet bench invited us to rest a while in the cool shade. As I sat I realized I spent most of the past month thoroughly enjoying the freedom of having my time to myself. I have in fact become so acclimated to living in the moment of each day I was having a hard time deciding what I wanted to wear for the next few days let alone what I needed to bring for two weeks of traveling in city, mountain and coastal locations. The simple awakening was the shift I needed to get back in prep mode, splitting an extensive to do list into smaller manageable tasks.

Thanks little bench for the zen moment

Favored spot beckons

Sit Leave the busy lists go

Be in this moment

See you in PDX my friends.

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

 

Spring break blues

So fellow travelers, I have a touch of spring break blues.

Suffice to say it’s been a strange day with just this haiku as a redeeming element, the photo gathered on a brief chilly dog walk when the rains had passed.

 

Leaf buds holding out
Grey wind blown rain reflections
November in Spring.

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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.

Delilah meets the Bumble

So fellow travelers, a few weeks ago Delilah and I had a rare encounter

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DD meets the Abominable Snowman

With the snow nearly gone I thought I better get the story told before it became as unseasonal as the record warmth we’ve been blessed with this month. Delilah was none too sure about this strange creature. She barked furiously when she first saw it and insisted on checking him out.

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Approaching cautiously

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Hmmm. No reaction

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Bravely sniffing, checking more thoroughly

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“Hey you’re ok! Wanna play?”

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“No ? Ok, maybe another time. I got squirrels to chase now. Bye!”

 

Nice weather and lingering daylight has had us scurrying to the lake trails this past week, so we haven’t gone by this neighbor’s house for a while. When we did pass by again the other day, Delilah paused for a minute or two looking at the now green and empty lawn. It took me a second to realize what she was looking for.
Oh well~see you next year Mr. Bumble
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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Battle of the Lap

So fellow travelers, Lake Ontario continues to spread her fluffy white presence through the streets and by ways of our towns and villages.

The three day MLK Jr. weekend has been extended to a fourth day off by a snowday. It will mean some quick assignment rewrites for my teaching colleagues who have to wrap up the semester by Friday. Still,  I am truly grateful to avoid driving in the blustery winds and periodic white out conditions haunting my view from the big window over my deck.

After a round of shoveling, required to access the yard for the morning dog run, I have settled down to complete a few writing assignments of my own. Delilah immediately made it clear who wins the battle for the favored spot on this snowed in morning.

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“Back off Annoying Thing.  This lap is taken. “
Delilah 1 : Laptop 0

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

On teaching to what is not tested.

So fellow travelers, I’ve written before about the turbulence in education created by current trends which focus on “high stakes” testing. It’s a misguided push by politicians and private companies which basically results in a “teaching to the test” mode of education.  This is particularly true in areas where test results are being directly linked to state funding of school aid and staff performance.  In fifteen years of working as a special education assistant in our local school district I have seen a lot of educational trends come and go.  I have never seen anything so destructive to the educational process; its most damaging impact, in my opinion,  is the way this type of testing shatters kids’ confidence in their ability to learn.  Morale these days is at an all time low, yet educators are a resilient bunch, riding waves of change as they quietly continue doing what they do best: teaching our kids. Every now and then, I catch glimmers of hope.

  Take today when the students at C.W. Baker High School were greeted by this colorful display.

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Here’s a closeup of what’s printed on the star balloon at the top of the arch.

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We are celebrating a magnificent achievement!

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At the beginning of the year, the Key Club announced an ambitious project with the Make A Wish program. (If you’re not familiar with the organization, google them; they do really good stuff.)  The students wanted to raise enough funds to fully fund one local child’s wish.  This meant raising $9,500 before spring break and after break our administrator announced that goal had been reached. From “Buy a Star” to zumba classes the students created a six month series of diverse events giving everyone an opportunity to support the project.   Today blue popsicles will be handed out to every student during lunch.  Balloons appeared by the project board in the main hallway.

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So now a  nine year old girl with cystic fibrous goes on a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas because students at our high school decided making a difference mattered.

I’m not sure how the New York Board of Education plans to measure this achievement on any of their tests.  Frankly measuring the accomplishment is no where near as important as knowing the experience of achieving this goal will remain with the students long after any testable knowledge has faded from their memory.

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

Ponderous thoughts

So fellow travelers, as most folks know we’ve had one hell of a winter here in upstate New York.  In fact, our local news station’s weather team recently posted a report that January through March is now noted as the coldest first quarter start to a year on record.

You go Old Man Winter. Yay you.

Yes indeed there are still several very ugly looking grey spattered snow piles scattered about my yard.  My favorite walking trails are still frozen over. Until a few days ago there was a substantial layer of ice on the surface of my little pond.  Complete with two frozen tell tale fish shaped swatches of orange embedded deep in the ice.  Dammit.

Just three weeks ago, while I was out of town my husband sent me an excited text “You have survivors!” along with this phone shot:

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Those are several good sized fish swimming below, not frozen in the ice…..What the heck happened since then?

What happened was high winds. followed by a deep freeze, after the short lived ever so slightly above freezing warm days resulted in this:

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That is my pond “percolator”,  the air exchanger which circulates life sustaining oxygen into the water below the frozen surface.  It should look like this:

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Frozen in place but upright, as it had been a few weeks before my husband’s phone shot.

It’s current position, tipped over and frozen in place means the lower section had separated from the top “percolator” thus cutting off the circulation of oxygenated water to the fish below.

Not Good.

So as the snow receded from the surface of the pond this week, it came as no surprise to find a few frozen fishcicles embedded in the ice.  Every spring I find a couple of “floaters” as the ice melts and open water returns. They are quickly removed, as soon as they can be scooped out with the pond net, as I have seen (and smelled) the ugly aftermath of anything not promptly cleared away getting trapped in the pond filter.  The filter isn’t running yet and wont be until the water temperature of the deepest section hits a consistent 50° or above which will probably take a few weeks of ice free nights and warmer days.  Still, not wanting to take any chances, I have been poking at the ice on the pond everyday with the blunt end of the net pole to see if I can break through.

So the morning I saw the ice had broken into floating chunks resembling ice flow, I grabbed a snow shovel (we don’t put those away until Memorial Day) and prodded at the ice puzzle to gain access to the chunks decorated with orange ovals.  Now that the surface was completely snow free, it looked like the kill total was up to three. Careful maneuvering and some skillful scooping techniques freed the three sad chunks for the compost piles.  No, they wont stink up the yard,  the crows will nab them before that.

By late afternoon, there was one small ice flow left spinning thoughtfully around the center of the pond.  The open water revealed a lot of organic debris along the shallows where I will set potted water plants as soon as the last frost date has come and gone.  I began scooping up the skeletal remains of various leaves and in so doing caught glimpses of two more orange and white corpses. Sigh.  Even more discouraging, was the lack of any sign of surviving fish, maybe because I was careful to avoid stirring up the deeper center of the pond where the water is well below the freeze line.  Then again, so many farmers talked of how much deeper that freeze line had run this terrible long winter.  Again Not Good.

However this morning, as a quick rain shower created gentle circles on the now ice free surface,  I caught glimpse of a flash of orange.  The fish always dive down when I stand at the ponds edge, so I waited and sure enough first one…

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then another

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and another…. wait…there! a flash of grey next to it…..

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and best of all the unmistakable long wisp of our only all white resident a graceful fantail that not so long ago was just a little fry, the one my daughter named Ghost…..

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I carefully counted these symbols of the resilience of life. They spoke of hope justified, bringing perhaps a message to keep the faith no matter how long, dark and cold a passage on the journey may seem.

Final tally so far:  Old Man Winter 5   Survivor Fish 8  and counting…..

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

The Story of Spring 2015 43.167° N, 76.33° W.

So fellow travelers,  I am currently taking an online photography class from CGBF photo guru Jeff Anderson. The classes I gifted myself with last year pushed me out of “auto” mode and gave me the basic photoshop skills I needed to make steady progress with my Canon DSLR.  This class is assignment based;  Jeff gives us a themed assignment, we shoot, he guides and critiques, we learn. His assignments are always challenging, designed to get us to step outside our individual boxes and stretch our techniques. I refer back to the notes from previous classes whenever one of my own photo expeditions doesn’t quite produce the results I was seeking.

I look forward to the assignments but I must admit the current one has been a bit of a bummer:

Spring Equinox!  Today (the assignment was posted last Friday) is the first day of spring. With anywhere from one to four pictures (NO MORE THAN FOUR!) Tell us the story of spring’s arrival where you are. 

Use the whole weekend, maybe into Monday. Let the pix tell your story, no words necessary. “

I spirits sank as I looked out the window where a fresh cloud of Lake Effect snow was sugar coating the little quilt squares of grass that dared emerge so soon and beautifying ugly black speckled roadside snowbanks. Ummmm, yeah. I have a whole folder full of pretty snow pictures, I have yet to see a robin anywhere on my walking routes and I just don’t imagine emerging frozen dog poop will look photogenic. ( I tried; it wasn’t)

I posted a comment on the assignment page that my photos might bear a stronger resemblance to a collection of Christmas Cards and Jeff responded it doesn’t have to look like spring, just tell the story ( without words) of springs arrival in our respective areas. Armed with his encouragement I decided to bundle up and get started.

So for the past three days, I headed out at different times (with hopes the flat grey light would yield different qualities….it didn’t) for about an hour of finger chilling photo journaling of the 2015 Vernal Equinox at 43.167° N, 76.33° W.

My first day’s find was the pattern of new fallen snow on the back porch snow shovel

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but when I tried to use the macro mode to capture super close ups of the tiny flakes I wasn’t able to access the setting.  It would take too long to unlace my boots to trudge upstairs to find my camera manual. I moved on.

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A combination of warmer temps, sunshine ( yes it does happen here occasionally) and strong wind gusts followed by an overnight freeze last weekend has trapped  my pond “percolator” at an odd angle.  I have left it running, because if one looks closely one can see the heated tube is just warm enough to create a sliver of open water around it.  That will have to suffice for the fish (there are survivors, we’ve seen them swimming below the surface of the ice) until the pond really thaws.

Day two was a wash, it started with a swirling white out which changed to rain by mid morning. I was on the road by then anyway to help crew the drumline show and would not be back until after dark.

So although this morning dawned grey and snowy I headed outside once more for Day Three of my quest.

See?  More like Christmas than spring.

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My garden reindeer still frolicking in the snow.

Yes those lights still come on at night. I can’t get to the outlet to unplug the timer.

 

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The only birds to be found were the little fellows perched on St Francis.  They change color depending on the ambient humidity (blue is low, pink is air-con time) Do that count as “blue” birds of spring? I did find his shot at the big feeder.

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I consider this my most successful image.  I wish there had been better light to make the snow sparkle more, but I am pleased with the shot; other than the addition of the signature this is SOC.

I had brought a bucket of seed to refill the feeder with me. When I was done, I finally found what I was looking for.

The one little signature of Spring, quietly waiting to be noticed in the debris under the Mountain Laurel bush.

 

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End of Story….

Or on second thought  a New Beginning

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

Enough is enough

So fellow travelers,  this morning I came across a phenomenal photo and poem posted by Jon Katz on his Bedlam Farm Blog.  Jon is the founder, mentor and “grand poohbah” of the Creative Group at Bedlam Farm, which I reference here frequently.  If you want to know more about us, look it up on Facebook. Our posts are open for public viewing but not commentary; that’s how the admins keeps the negativity out, the positive inspiration flowing and the ministry of encouragement thriving.

He posted the photo on the CGBF page first and it has generated an inspiring chain of responses from my fellow members reflecting the rich diversity within our group.  Soon after, I came across his blog entry with the added poem.  The one-two impact of the combined photo and poem kick started something deep within me.

It’s no secret this has been one hell of a winter. It started out deceptively benign.  Back in January Syracuse actually set a record for the longest consecutive days without measurable snowfall. For a city that routinely wins the Golden Snowball (a friendly competition between cities in Upstate New York for the highest seasonal snowfall total) that is an unusual statistic.  To be honest, given Buffalo’s unprecedented “Lake Effect” event back in November, which dumped between five to seven feet of snow over several days in a small area just east of the city limits we were more than happy to concede this year’s award before the season had even begun.  No one in CNY was eager to catch up to that kind of snowfall total, even spread out over the an entire season.

Somehow Old Man Winter didn’t get that memo, because sometime during the last week in January it started snowing …. daily …. everyday ….. for twenty three straight days along with record cold. (I put in the link to verify the data)  For the first time in twenty-eight years the dog(s) and I were snowed in.

I live on a busy road, hazardous to walk on at anytime but rendered too dangerous in winter when the shoulder disappears under snowplow created snowbanks several feet high. So, to get to the area where I walk, I cut through my kind and tolerant neighbor’s backyard.  Every year there is a point where I have to clear several paths from our deck to the dogs’ yard, the bird feeders and across my yard to the street beyond. I wrote about this last year when we were snowed in for a few days during the 2014 Winter Olympics.

This year it was all I could do to keep clearing the paths to the dogyard, bird feeders and my pond ( I have to keep the aerator clear of snow)

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At times I shoveled two or three times a day, each round taking well over half an hour.  The path through the backyard was lost within a week and remains completely buried. Unfortunately  so are all the walking paths in the local parks within reasonable driving distance, not that either our or the foster dogs were anxious to stay out long during February’s record setting subzero cold snap.

This past week we did finally break into double digits ABOVE zero with one or two days just at or slightly above the magic 32° F mark.  The snowpack however is both deep and dense even as Lake Ontario so generously continues to add here and there to the totals.  Just ten minutes of attempting to expand the trails out back ended in a half hour stretched out on a yoga mat with an ice pack tucked under my back.

Jon’s poem about sadness and the accompanying photo of the abandoned house in the snow set loose a roaring reaction. I realized just how depressed and trapped I had been feeling. “Enough is enough,” I said to a startled Delilah seated on the couch next to me. I snapped my laptop shut, threw on snowpants, laced up my heavy duty snowhikers and headed with fierce determination to the back yard.

Recent deer tracks among the many critter trails leading too and from the large bird feeder near my pond gave me an idea for finding a way out of the backyard.

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Using the broad footprint of my snowhikers and the shovel for support, I started plowing my way across the back yard from the pre-shoveled bird feeder path, along the deer trail towards my neighbor’s fence line.

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I knew I would have to shovel at some point but at first it was less strenuous to simply stomp through the snow.  I took frequent breaks, sipping water to stay hydrated.  It didn’t take long for me to shed my down vest.  About midway through the yard I hit snow up to my knees.  At that point I began shoveling the top few feet and then stomping down the remaining snow.

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Looking at the depth of the deer tracks it hit me just how long those nimble legs really are.

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I made slow but steady progress until I hit the corner where our neighbor’s yard meets ours.  One step forward and I was in snow up to my hips! Using the shovel for leverage I struggled out of the snow pit onto the path I had created behind me. Looking at the snow drifted up against his fence I knew this section was likely to be deep for quite a ways, if not all the way to his driveway.  I stuck the shovel in handle a few feet beyond where I had sunk into the snow to check the depth.

DAMMIT.

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Soooo close, yet so far.

Fine.

Since Daylight Savings Time kicked in last night I guess it will now stay light long enough after work for me to drive to a park where the running trails are cleared and get in a decent walk before dark.

DAMMIT  Winter you win.

But I swear only just this year.  I’m investing in snowshoes for next winter.

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My trusty winter hiking boots with a set of EMS stabl-icers  courtesy of my fantastic CGBF sister Kate Rantilla.

 

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