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

.

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.

.

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. 

.

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.

Adventure Calls

So fellow travelers, our morning walks these past few days have been blessed with crisp blue skies and cool, dry air .  Indeed there is a hint of autumn in that air, a brisk reminder I have only a handful of days left to squeeze in any road trips before work intrudes on my freedom.

The view at Seventh ( or was it Eighth?) Lake in the Adirondacks

Every summer since my Spirit of Sixty Road trip I have journeyed to at least one new area in New York. Last year I hiked my first of several Adirondack Fire Tower trails, a challenge I found both exhausting and exhilarating. The experience opened  an inner well of motivation I was glad to tap in to and I was grateful to discover my body was still capable of persevering through the short but steep, rugged inclines I encountered on the “moderate” trails I had chosen to try first.

Fire Tower at the summit of Blue Mountain, ADX

In the month since returning from my trip to the West Coast, I have not been able to fit in another road trip. I was first occupied by my commitment to help coordinate the wedding of two close friends and then focused on a series of diagnostic processes designed to keep my trusty RaVan on the road.  The term “RaVan” is how I refer to my little 2002 Toyota Rav road warrior, which my husband has been helping me convert into a camp-able vehicle. He has built a bed, a small storage table, custom made blackout panels for the windows and will be installing a power station with a deep cycle battery wired so I can run small electronics and keep my phone charged without running down the main vehicle battery. All I need now is to solve the mystery of the “check engine” alert.  How lucky am I to have a brother-in-law who is one of the best mechanics (and owns two repair shops) in town?  One component at a time we’re getting there.

Oppressive humidity has also kept Delilah and me off all but the shortest of local trails. You know it’s bad out there when you come home drenched in sweat just from a ¾ mile walk around the block at 7am in the morning. So the change to cooler weather is most welcome, even if it is a harbinger of the coming change in seasons.

Time to fire up the RaVan and hit the road for new vistas from summits yet to be explored…..Stay tuned.

Post walk treats for my best trail buddy

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

Through the Eyes of Love

So fellow travelers, some thoughts born from recent human interactions.

When I was a little girl I would see batches of Rudbeckia (commonly known as Black eyed-Susan) growing in empty lots along the side of the road. Growing up in the Bronx, you don’t get to see many fields of wildflowers, so these bright yellow flowers dancing in the breeze of passing cars, really caught my eye. When I asked if we could please stop and pick some I remember being told,  “Oh those are just weeds growing in dirty places.”

My gardening friends often post memes about weeds and two of my favorite quotes are:  “Weeds are just flowers growing where we don’t want them” and “God sees flowers where we see weeds.” The memes always have pretty images of  flowers like thistles and dandelions (which are actually healthy for lawns because their deeper tap roots bring minerals closer to the surface, replenishing what shallow rooted grass needs.)

Our judgements about other people bear similarities to our attitudes about weeds. 

We have expectations about how people should look, dress, behave and live their lives. Much of this is driven by culture and as the world has become increasingly connected through social media, those cultural boundaries are tested often to breaking points. Shifts in social norms also test generational boundaries and just as Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s 1970 book “Future Shock” predicted “too much change in too short a period of time” has created massive disorientation. Ironically, the more connected we are on-line, the less connected we feel individually.

True connection requires going beyond the quick “scroll, click thumbs up or down” patterns of social media feeds. The relative anonimity and illusion of safe distance makes it too easy to spout off a bit of vitriol, hit “comment” and move on without having to take responsibility for our words. Authentic connection requires us to take the time to understand the hows and whys of other people’s behaviors. Those behaviors are outward expressions of how humans feel about themselves. This is particularly true of children, whose ability to express themselves with raw, unfiltered honesty usually triggers a negative response in adults. Acceptance of differences is hindered by our fear of “otherness.” This is where bullying begins; bullies are terrifying because they are terrified. 

Working with differently-abled students and having transgender children within our own circle of family and friends has granted me the opportunity to become more aware of my own judgements (many of which, I will admit, focused more on the parents than the kids.) This in turn has allowed me to be more mindful of my judgements towards all other people. When I find myself  upset, disgusted, hurt or angry about someone’s words or actions it is a reminder to stop and ask myself what my feelings are telling me about myself. Those feelings alert me to something about myself I am either ashamed or afraid of. 

Fearful of our own imperfections, we are quick to point out the flaws in others. Our judgements are a diversion tactic, “Quick look over here at the terrible behavior of this other person lest you notice this other terrible flaw I carry inside me.” God knows I’m no saint, judgement comes to my mind just as quick as anyone’s. I am particularly adept at judging people who are judgemental.  There’s a poetic irony in that trait isn’t there? What I’ve learned is judgement of others is really about our own feelings of unworthiness. At the core of judgment is this fear our errors are unforgivable and our flaws make us unlovable. Judgement separates us from the grace of God and by this I do not reference the “God” of any particular religion. My experience of God is the Universal Power of Love which flows in, through and around all life here and beyond. 

Clover blossom

Our fear of being seen for who we are, in all our imperfection, with all our hidden secrets and shame, prevents us from seeing others as God-who-is-Love sees them.  If we allows ourselves, we too can learn to see flowers where we once saw weeds.

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

Morning Glow

So fellow travelers, this morning Delilah and I headed out to walk just after sunrise to beat the heat.

Dew drenched grass sparkled in the early light. Cool, moderately humid air felt reminiscent of morning walks in my older daughter’s neighborhood.  Their house is located near the foot of Powell Butte (Portland, OR) so the air is blessed by mist which descends every night from the forest above. 

Early light has a radiant quality, hard to capture but oh so wondrous to behold, giving rise to some gentle words of gratitude 

Geraniums glow

Morning dew blesses the grass 

Birds sing hymns of joy

In the midst of diligent attention to the many details involved in coordinating a wedding for two very dear friends, this moment comes as a gentle reminder. The gift of peace can be found in the simplest things.

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

Tidal Wave

” A tidal wave is a regularly reoccurring shallow water wave caused by effects of the gravitational interactions between the Sun, Moon, and Earth on the ocean. The term “tidal wave” is often used to refer to tsunamis; however, this reference is incorrect as tsunamis have nothing to do with tides. ” NOAA Ocean Facts

So fellow travelers, the weekend has been filled with the sound of surf and woodland bird songs. The unique combination has stirred thoughts of both home and my week in California with my Switchfoot Family.

Bird songs familiar yet not quite recognized, rise from the pines and seagrasses like images from a dream fading all too quickly, things almost known but not quite grasped before waking.

“Back home” feels more here than where I will be returning in a week.

The sound of surf grows louder with the incoming tide. Emotions rise and swell in waves, my thoughts drifting like pieces of seaweed pushed and pulled by the force of changes underway.

and through it all runs Switchfoot’s music, songs which have become the soundtrack of my journey.

These are songs which over a decade have made hope “the anthem of my soul” and the week I get to spend with the band has become a time for renewal of Spirit punctuated by bright notes of joyful moments with old and new friends. This community becomes more like family each time we gather. It is a reflection of the honest, generous, compassionate, fun loving band of musical brothers who live their faithby example rather than preach from a stage. These guys remain truly humble through success and solidly rooted in family values. And suddenly, in the heartfelt conversations, there it is

Family

the beacon in the harbor where I have set my sights on dropping anchor in the coming year…

and thanks to the inspiration of these five amazing humans I know I will be able to navigate the tidal currents between now and then.

Some favorite moments

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

Stopping Time

So fellow travelers, fellow creative tribemate Deb German Young posted a photo from her recent travels to see Falling Water, the iconic Frank Llyod Wright house in Pennsylvania.

The image not only caught my attention, it literally stopped me mid-scroll and I gasped out loud. “What is it?” my husband inquired as we wound through traffic in downtown Portland. “Something amazing one of my friends posted on the creative page,” I said once the neurons in my brain unlocked. “Oh, ok” he responded in the matter of fact manner indicating he is fully acclimated to the “wow” moments which often occur when I check in with the creative page.

“It is as if you stopped time” I commented under Deb’s photo, tears welling in my eyes as I posted. This image, so delicate and powerful all at once, went straight through my heart, deep into my soul, calling up that thought.

Isn’t this part of why we take photos? Are they not attempts to capture a moment so when time takes its toll we can re-ignite the fading memory into the brillance of the present? At least for me this is true. I rely on the photos I have in my camera roll to help me write because my emotions are embedded in the images I capture. When I sit down to write, I need the images to bring me back to the moment so the words are more genuine.

Sometimes I have to remind myself to take fewer shots, and be more present in the experience. Over the years, as my aptitude for writing has developed, a modest confidence in my ability has allowed me step back from creative misgivings. Being intentional of when and why I take photos is becoming more habitual. Mindfulness makes everything, including creativity, flow with less resistance.

The tears in my eyes at that moment came from the emotions I am experiencing on this year’s visit. The sense of belonging has grown exponentially since last year. I just wrote about the weather factor, but as I have been crafting a post about my Switchfoot week in San Diego I am aware there is a bigger shift happening. The words to express it have not yet become coherent, but the moments I captured and stored in my camera roll are helping me get there.

Stay tuned.

Rainbow over Encinitas

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

Eye Eternal

So fellow travelers, the adventures of summer are off to a most auspicious beginning.

Yeah, I know it is hard to even tell what this is . Here look closer

That is part of a whale’s back breaking the surface of the water as it feeds in the channel near Anacapa Island off the coast of California.

It’s actually only a very small part of the whale’s back, because this whale is a blue whale, the largest known living mammal on this planet.

Our boat captain had spotted the whale’s spout about a mile away and was navigating towards it. Thing is, he told us, whales stay under for long periods of time and one can never be quite certain where they will resurface.

This one had just reappeared closer. Our captain said it was “lunge feeding,” skimming close to surface of the water.

A few minutes later the whale burst out of the waves, raising it’s massive head up out of the water just a few yards away from our boat. We could see right into it’s huge mouth, water streaming through the baleen. We could see it’s majestic, glistening eye and, much like the transcendent experience of the night sky in Joshua Tree NP last summer, it was as if that eye drew me through a portal to the existence of every living being.

It was like gazing into the eye of God.

An entire boatful of humans, young, old, captain and crew fell silent.

In an instant, this amazing creature turned and dove back down, seeming endless in length, until it’s tail appeared just barely above the surface and then disappeared back into the depths of dark water in search of more krill. The encounter lastest less than a minute.

Even now, hours later , words still fail but one.

A W E

Relentless

So fellow travelers, the rain this Spring has been relentless.

I tell myself I can’t complain if I truly intend to move to the PNW, so, I take it as a kind of meteorological training program and I say things like, “At least we don’t have to shovel the driveway or brush off the car.”

Persistent optimism. It annoys people as I am frequently reminded by the eye rolling, snarkiness going around .  It rolls off my consciousness like the rain sliding down my driveway, washing the abundant maple and elm seeds into the roadside ditch. Away they sail in the rushing water to who knows where, perhaps some will take root and grow into their own little forest.

To dwell on the negativity thrown about too easily thanks to the sparsity of verbal moderation (perpetuated, I believe, by the anonymity of social media) is to allow oneself to become mired in the other peoples muck. 

No thank you! 

My own spiritual guidance pushes me to see this negativity as coming from the storms within these people. Their feelings become so uncomfortable, they project them outwards to rid themselves of the pain and anger.  I can see this compassionately without sinking into the same quagmire.

Restless storm clouds race

Dumping rain then dashing off

Leaving muck behind

Proceed mindfully

The Buddha may teach “No Mud No Lotus” but I prefer to choose what seeds bloom in my consciousness. Making mine an attitude of gratitude has over the past few years truly changed my perspective, which in turn has created changes in my life I would never have predicted.  So let rain, I’ll splash in the puddles to wash the mud off my boots.

 

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