Stretching Time

 So fellow travelers,  flipping the calendar a few days ago brought a moment of peace I was deeply grateful to take in~

For the first time in 21 years,  turning the calendar to August did not generate a rush of urgency fueled by the impossibility of “fitting in” all my planned adventures in the remaining weeks before going back to work at the end of summer.
Yes, eventually summer heat will give way to the welcome crisp air of Autumn, my favorite season for hiking and camping. However, this year, the end of summer does not bring an end to my free time because I retired last June. So I stood for a few minutes and looked with profound gratitude at August’s small white squares of days so graciously open to possibilities.
Of course as Pandemic2020 rages on in these not so United States of America, possibilities are not as easily translated into plans.  In this too, being retired has helped me embrace the simple joy of stepping into each day with a heart open to what the day has to offer. That is a big (but very welcome) shift for an organized, over-thinker who makes lists and starts packing weeks before a trip. 
In fact as I write this post, Isaias’ path up the Atlantic coast has shifted westward just enough to dump “tropical rainfall” here, which means delaying my intended departure perhaps until tomorrow for this week’s camping trip. No worries- my favorite little campsite is reserved through the end of the week and waits, just like Inner Peace, for me to show up and claim it.

Walk gently on the path, my friends and let Love light the way.

Life’s a Beach

So fellow travelers, yesterday’s adventure started with a this view

Which, after packing up camp, I traded for this view

Favorite picnic spot on Lake Ontario

The pandemic of 2020, as I’ve mentioned, has created several changes at our state park campgrounds. Check in times are later and check out times are earlier. So the birds obliged my requested wake up call at dawn, giving me time to catch that fiery sunrise before breaking camp.

It’s been a quiet few days, but the Fourth of July-ers started showing up yesterday. Lots of loud music at newly occupied sites and several rounds of small fireworks, which thankfully stopped not too long after the posted quiet time. Although one extremely loud rocket did send a young raccoon scurrying across my campsite. Later that night it appeared at the screen door of my tent and peered in at me, almost as if to ask if it was safe now.

Although a bit startled by it’s return visit, I did not want to frighten such an obviously young one so I whispered gently, “We’re gonna be alright.” I swear it gave a slight nod before rambling off.

But I laid there, wide awake for a long time wondering.

Are we? Are we really going to be alright ?

Eventually, the night time chorus of frogs singing by the marsh lulled me into a deep sleep.

A gentle round of Qiqong stretches while watching that fiery sunrise helped me find balance. There is something innately reassuring about the consistent rising and setting of the sun. And now, sitting with my feet in warm sand, waves rising and falling in steady calming rhythm, Wisdom speaks again

Eyes on the horizon
let the lessons of all yesterdays

remind us we can not move forward
if we only look back
and here, in between, what was
and what is yet to come,
to be present in this now moment
is to begin anew.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may Love Light our way.

Forest Zen

So fellow travelers, this morning’s moment of zen brought this view

and these words

Under the canopy
bathed in forest healing
wisdom of the ages
sinks in and heals my heart

While doing Qi Quong to stretch out the inevitable stiffness which goes with sleeping in a tent, I looked up . Much like the moment, two years ago (almost to the day) in Joshua Tree National Park, I felt a wave of energy. The closest I can come to describing it is to say the energy lifted my consciousness into a more Universal level.

This has been happening more frequently so either I am spiritually evolving or I am losing my mind. Come to think of it the later maybe an essential component of the former.

In my early years as a Seeker one important lesson I learned was these transcendent moments find you when you are ready. The harder you try to recreate them the more elusive they become.

Still, I did come camping here at a favorite forest retreat with the intention of re-calibrating my energy. Honestly, the past three months have felt more like three years~ nothing like a pandemic and social revolution to rev up emotional intensity. So the transcendent infusion of Unity, Peace Hope and Love are gratefully received and, Grace willing, passed along to those who are well met on the path today.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may Love light our way.

Editor’s note: This post was created June 30th, but cell service on site was not sufficient to upload and edit photos, so it’s posting a few days after.

Of Squirrels and Hope

So fellow travelers, a key turning point in my adult life came when a meditation teacher gave me permission to stop “shoulding” on myself.  Or as Master Yoda might put it “do or do not, that is all.”

The fact is, current reality* leaves me little time and even less energy for writing. The amount of screen time I am obligated to engage in to meet my assigned responsibilities for on-line education leaves me with little to no motivation for spending  additional time on line. The bright side of that is many long neglected sections of my garden are looking quite hopeful for the growing season ( whenever Spring decides to show up for good.)

Still, writing a blog does come with a sense of responsibility and, while I have no financial or commercial pressure to maintain any set number of followers, likes or comments, I often feel a “should be posting” if for no reason than simple gratitude to you, my readers.

So, while I sort out the responsibilities of the last few weeks of on-line school, I am glad my friend and fellow writer Jennifer Bowman gave me permission to share her recent piece. As she so often does, Jen has found words which give cogent elucidation to so much of what I have been feeling these past 60 plus days.

Enjoy:
https://jenniferkbowman.wordpress.com/2020/05/04/anti-depressant-squirrels-of-the-2020-pandemic/

Editorial note: My reference above to the “*new reality ” stems from my refusing to empower the current global situation with the title “new norm;” there is nothing normal about any of it. But that is the substance of another post. ‘Til then

Walk gently on the path my friends. Be kind to yourselves and others

Mother’s Day 2020

So fellow travelers, pandemics, physical distancing and unseasonal weather are only one aspect of our current reality.  To honor all that Mother’s Day means to me – this Haiku

 Snow falls cold winds blow
Yet spring flowers bravely bloom
Hope and Love stand strong

Blessings of peace and joy to all mothers here and in heaven.

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

Snow Quest

So fellow travelers, February turned into a long, dark month. 

Winter made a roaring comeback complete with winds howling in delight at our delusions of a “mild winter.” Even leap year’s extra day in this shortest of months seemed an added mockery. Displays of forced spring bulbs in my local grocery stores felt like false promises in the face of so much loss around me. 

So many, too many, grieving friends.


One friend lost his only child, a beautiful young woman just a few years older than our own older daughter. One rushed to be with another friend facing her final hours shortly after receiving a fatal diagnosis. One was blind sided by a sudden job loss. Several friends said goodbye to cherished four legged companions.

And there is our neighbors’ house, which stands shrouded in mournful tarps, scorched black by a terrible fire in late January. Thankfully the young couple, their children and both dogs all escaped without harm but they just found out the house has been declared a total loss. They have lost most of their  possessions and they had to make the heartbreaking decision to give up their dogs for adoption because they no longer have a home. Broken windows and doors have been boarded up to prevent vandalism, still, we keep a watchful eye on the property. Kid and dog toys lay scattered in the yard, the baby’s swing hangs empty, daily reminders of a life so fiercely and suddenly disrupted.

Sometimes there are no words to ease the intense grief of sudden loss. So for five weeks, while I navigated the ice dam of emotions. silence reigned my creative space. Until yesterday, when a message sent me 35 miles west on a quest to find something marvelous.

Those specs in the sky are hundreds, maybe thousands,  of Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens) arriving at a wetland north of Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. Delilah and I arrived just in time to catch this wave of migrating visitors seeking a resting place for the night. Although I only had my phone to capture photos and a short video*, a good pair of binoculars (which are always in my car) verified these were indeed Snow (not Canada) geese. The vast flock, gracefully swirling back and around, sent waves of calls across the shallow water. Wild music punctuated, by the dissonant squawking of resident gulls displeased at being ousted from the mudflats each time a band of geese would come to rest. As the sun slipped closer to the horizon, the marsh began to glow with a magical amber light and the white wings of the snow geese took on a soft rosy tint.

It was a wondrous, miraculous moment and as light faded, I drove home finally having found words to speak, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

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

*(short video can be found at this link : https://youtu.be/1fhBgofT9OM )

Tag

So fellow travelers, todays #GratitudeWeek2019 prompt from Michelle GD was to slow down and practice noticing what she calls “the tiny moments.”

Sunlit Autumn path

This is something I have become more attuned to since my Spirit of Sixty Road Trip, two summers back. Actually, it is a habit I feel I am really reclaiming because I remember myself as a kid always wanting to stop to look more closely at things yet being told to stop day dreaming. 

Today, I set out on my afternoon walk with our dog being mindful of the prompt to practice awareness. Fall colors have peaked and recent storms have blown most of the leaves off the trees. I watched the wind toss neatly raked leaves all about the neighborhood. I thought about how grateful I am to have seen the miraculous colors of Autumn here in Upstate New York for over four decades.

And as I did,  a line of leaves began to swirl around as if chasing one another in a big spiral. Right on cue this little haiku danced around my head.

Swirling in circles
Leaves play a mad game of tag
Last romp before snow

There is a decided chill in the air and snow in the forecast for later this week. The change back to standard time brought darkness by dinner time. Winter is on it’s way. I’ll need that practice of noticing the little moments to get through our longest, darkest season of the year.

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

Haiku for Autumn

So fellow travelers, this new school year began with so many changes, it’s taken me quite a while to settle into a comfortable routine. Just yesterday, signs of the changing seasons began to nudge at the edge of my awareness~ I noticed darkness lingers longer after I rise and sunset’s glow comes soon after our evening walk. 

Migrating geese trace southbound compass arrows in the crisp blue skies and cool mornings reveal sleeping cloud dragons nestled in the valley just beyond a farmer’s fields

Cloud dragons at the edge of One Tree field

The fields are fading to tarnished gold and many summer songbirds have headed to their winter grounds, leaving only the lazy crickets ticking like unwinding clocks hidden in the grass. This afternoon, I found one deep red maple leaf cast on the edge of the path where Delilah and I walk each day. I brought it home and tucked it into a little jar of zinnias from my garden an image of things to come set with a backdrop of colors which will soon become memories.

As much as I love the luxurious freedom of summer days, autumn has always been my favorite season of the year. There is  a bittersweetness to the joys autumn brings. It comes and goes in a blaze of color, golden warmth giving way to the biting cold of winter all too soon. For now, a haiku to welcome the changes looming on the horizon.

Milkweed wishes fly

flirting with the autumn wind

making maples blush

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

Back to the Beginning

So fellow travelers, back home from the last road trip of the summer, which brought me to the summit of several mountain trails.


Red Hill Fire Tower, one of two fire tower hikes accomplished this week.

Today, a turn of a calendar page, September arrives and just like that, summer adventures give way to another school year.  Back to the Beginning* we go.

Reflecting back on summer, it has packed so many good memories and peak experiences it somehow feels more than just ten weeks have passed. A measure perhaps of coming to the end of 73 days feeling satisfied not only with what I’ve done, but more essentially with how I lived those days. 

New friends

Time with family

Precious memories from a memorable event

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Even a few wishes granted

Side Stage at the Fillmore, in Philadelphia PA. Watching Switchfoot on stage from the stage was incredible. Best view of Chad’s drumming in 13 concerts! Yes, my favorite humans even staged a snowball fight as a nod to the snowed out concert last February. And finally getting to see one of Jon’s legendary after shows, singing along with so many other people- community, FAMILY at its best.

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Remarkably, this summer did not feel as if it flew by too quickly, making it unique to every previous summer I can remember.  The pace of life felt just right- a benefit perhaps to a conscious choice I made to live these months as if I am retired.

 Not that every day was perfect; mid-August brought an unexpected challenge in a long standing friendship which caught me off guard. Although the dynamics were not within my direct family, the fallout rippled through close relationships with people as dear to me as family. Navigating the emotional war zone felt like walking through a minefield, one wrong step and the collateral damage could be brutal.  

Or not.

The abandoned Overlook Hotel near the summit of Overlook Mountain

I could instead choose to not engage in the conflict, to honor my boundaries and create space for me to stay true to myself. 

Angry confrontations never resolve conflicts but choosing not to engage in confrontation is often seen as a sign of weakness. “Man-up” people say as if this stereotypical frame for confrontation as being “manly” aka “powerful and strong,” makes it more acceptable. It’s an expression which, if used in ernest, all but eliminates any respect I might have for someone.

Words spoken from anger rise from fear and people given to confrontation are always driven by their fears. Everyone is afraid and if we refuse to face those fears they become our Achilles heel.  Like an untreated wound, unknown fears will fester and eventually poison our choices with toxic dysfunction. Fear also blinds us to the goodness in our lives. It can harden our hearts and prevent us from giving and receiving love.

View from Overlook Mountain Fire Tower, a 1450 ft ascent, 3hrs 5min of hiking, 5.1 miles roundtrip and worth every step.

Sometimes the hardest crossroads are the ones where we must part ways from someone we care for deeply, yet we can continue to love them even as we move forward on our own journey, knowing they too can make a choice to change and healing will come. Standing in the shadow between then and now, I am grateful for the peace and strength gathered on this summer’s journeys. 

New season, new beginnings, let the adventures begin again.

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

*Back to the Beginning is one of my favorite songs by ( of course ) Switchfoot. I may not surf but it has carried me through waves of many changes.

Kane Mountain

So fellow travelers, this happened today !

Ms Delilah about to summit her first ADX mountain

When we set out this morning, our intended destination was Caroga Lake State Park. I didn’t plan on tackling the Fire Tower trail at Kane Mountain but much to my surprise, after driving two hours to reach Caroga Lake, the NYS park employee at the entrance asked me if I had a camping reservation and since I did not, then informed me, “We do NOT allow dogs in the day use areas of the park.” 

In all my time as a resident (this month marks 44 years ) in Upstate New York, I have never encountered a park** where dogs were not allowed unless you are camping and I have spent many weeks in dozens of state parks and Yes, most of them have areas where dogs are not permitted- for example our two favorite campgrounds on Lake Ontario (Southwick Beach and Fair Haven) do not allow dogs on the public beaches and one has a playground where dogs are not allowed and of course all NYS parks require owners to keep dogs on a leash no longer than 6ft; all perfectly reasonable limitations.  However, I have never been told that I was not allowed day use of the park because I had a dog with me, even after I explained I had come to see the park and campgrounds for a possible future visit. 

To be honest, the park attendant’s firm and rather unwelcoming manner was more a deterrent than the actual restriction itself. You would have thought I had a snarling, barking beast seated next to me; but Delilah sat quiet and poised in her well tethered car harness, collar and tags clearly visible. I have had attendants request proof of proper license or vaccinations, all of which I carry in both the glove compartment and my day pack. This person made it clear I would not be admitted into the park unless I had a camping reservation.  So I simply said “ Well, no problem then, I guess we cannot visit today.” I drove around the ticket booth and headed back to the main road.

The trailhead to Kane Mountain was only five miles back on the road we had just taken to reach the now forbidden state park. Once hiking season starts, my gear is always stored in my vehicle and because I had planned to have lunch at the park, I had plenty of water and fuel for a quick trail adventure. So back down the road we went. A change into hiking boots and a brief pit stop at the trailhead privvy  (lunch was not the only reason I had stopped at the State Park) and we were soon making our way up the well marked trail. 

The trail we hiked was the shorter, but slightly steeper trail- just over half a mile, but it is a half mile of steady vertical climbing with an elevation change of just over 600 feet.  Delilah and I have logged a good amount of trail mileage this year, but very little of it has been vertical. Vertical hiking uses different muscles and while Delilah forged ahead nimbly leaping around rocks on the trail, I felt the pitch immediately. A few minutes in I slowed my pace knowing tired legs are more prone to a misstep, particularly on the downward return trip. Delilah did not seem to mind, as this gave her more opportunities to thoroughly sniff out every whiff of critter news along the way. 

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The base of the fire tower just visible through the trees at Kane’s summit

There was only one drawback to doing this trail with my favorite hiking companion: I would miss out on the view from the tower, because it is not safe for dogs to climb up to (or even worse climb back down) the tower’s top platform. And the ONLY view from Kane Mountain is the view from the tower, because the summit is not above the tree line.

Some hikers leash their dogs to the base, and go up solo, however Delilah can be counted on to be quite vocal about my leaving her alone in an unfamiliar setting.  No big deal since this trail is an easy day trip from home, one I can return to on my own another time.  Waiting for that summit view is an easy trade-off for the fun we had taking on this trail together and there are many summits without towers to be explored. Besides, it was time to head back down before the rain clouds we left behind at home caught up to us.

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

Note: ** it occurs to me that dogs cannot visit the NY State Park exhibit in the NYS Fairgrounds which has a pond and picnic area and is in fact an official State Park ( albeit the smallest State park in the system) although that is actually a restriction inherent to the NYS fairgrounds itself.