The Bird in my Heart

So fellow travelers, you know that expression about a bird in hand being worth two in the bush? Well, how many birds would one from the heart equate to?

Once a year, since 2006 on the third Saturday of May, I set out on a special birding adventure called Birdathon. Essentially, it’s a 24hr birding challenge and fundraiser for our local Audubon Society. I’ve written about it a few times and it is one of my favorite adventures of the year. It’s exhausting, exhilarating, frustrating and fascinating all at once. After all it’s no easy task to locate and identify as many different species within a set region in just one day. It’s even harder without my fellow “loonatic.” Missing Favorite Youngest Daughter’s trained ear for pitch and cadence I am often at a loss trying to identify a distant call, even with the aid of my arsenal of birding apps. Since our last run as Team Loonatics in 2016 I’ve been flying solo as it were and even when the weekend holds other commitments I feel the pull to head out because this event holds meaning much deeper than tally marks on a check list.

At every location there are threads which wove a bond between the spirit of this willful, fiercely independent child and my stubborn mother’s heart. The day is not about the numbers. It has evolved into a ritual of reconnection, so even when I’m standing by myself on a trail, listening intently, I am not alone. As my brain is pulling up the memory of things my daughter taught me about pitch and cadence, my heart feels the joy of precious moments shared.

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Distant songs echo

Love transcends time and distance

A mother’s heart heals

One day Team Loonatics will venture out again, perhaps for the Global Big Day at locations we’ve never charted before. Until then, I keep listening and living the lessons learned on the path of Motherhood .

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

Washed Out

So fellow travelers, last week the weather app on my phone pinged to alert me to a “continued precipitation and flood watch” forecast.

Relentless rainfall has washed away all my short and long term hiking plans for several weeks now. No fire tower challenges undertaken, no walks along park paths to look for spring visitors on the lake, even navigating my backyard requires rubber boots, which make for very poor footing when walking Delilah close to home.

Cold, wet, windy conditions meant scouting for migration hotspots was most unpleasant and unproductive. With the annual Birdathon this weekend (post pending)I’ve been in a deep funk about being so housebound. Checking my pond obe morning I noticed even the lilacs are holding back.

Buds wait holding tight

Wary of cold winds and rain

Needing sunlight’s hug

Like the lilacs I’ve felt pretty tightly bound. Good news is the forecast turned around just in time for the annual Birdathon, bringing me a much needed hug from the sun while out on the trails counting and tracking down my feathered Stay tuned for the final tally!


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

Easter Blossoms

So fellow travelers, today is Easter Sunday and it dawned appropriately shrouded in mist.

Being in a bit of a fog myself lately, this mood of ponderous mystery felt somewhat comforting, as if the gods and goddesses of earth and air had gently acknowledged my dispassionate sentiments. Unable to voice the emotions eddying within and around me, my writing has trickled into silence. So, Delilah and I have spent as much time on the trails as seasonal rains permitted. We’ve been blessed with relatively warm weather which has cleared most of the snow from our favorite trails. Although spring migration is in its earliest stage, we’ve had some excellent waterbird sightings and yesterday evening a small gathering of white throated sparrows singing close by our yard spoke of the promise of more warbling visitors soon to come.

Those dots are various water birds like mergansers and scaups visiting Onondaga Lake

When I cannot write, I seek solace in the wild. Often my experiences on the trails open up the block and words begin to resonate, but even my usually reliable haiku companions seem to have gone on hiatus. I have a dozen or so incongruous attempts and several narrative blog pieces which read flat and worse still, miss the mark of my intended reflection.

This morning I sat in deep meditation by my pond; finally, overnight temps are consistently above freezing so we can safely run the waterfall filter. As far back as I can remember, that sound of gently flowing water has always created joy in my heart. A handful of juncos and chickadees trilled their thank you’s for the fresh seed  just placed in the feeders. One perched on the branches of a quince bush full of newly emerged pinkish buds. Among them, at last, were words which sang true.

Peace waits silently

Seeking but an open heart

Joy ready to bloom

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

Season’s Edge

So fellow travelers, this haiku showed up on a chilly walk the day before the vernal equinox.

Time frozen in waves

Thaw at season’s edge reveals

Sleeping memories

What looks like waves along the shore are actually frozen layers of water

Delilah and I have been walking the East Lakeshore Trail at Onondaga Lake Park, training for the upcoming 6legged5k event. We participate in this event most years as it’s a fund raiser for local dog rescues, including Helping Hounds. As Delilah is an HHDR alumni, it’s only fitting we put our best footandpaw forward to do our best.

To hit our stride on race day, we start training early in March by walking the trail a few times a week, gradually increasing our distance from one to three miles. At least that’s our goal, but some years the weather throws things off with either late season snowstorms (both April 2013 and 2016 had snowstorms the week before) or flooding which almost postponed the event two years ago.

20170409_091703

In 2017, lake levels came right up to the pavillion near the 5K trail

This year, March has been blustery with at least one day of heavy (8-10 inches) snow but the county parks crew has done a fantastic job of keeping the walking trail clear and we are on track to finish with a respectable time.

One side benefit to walking the East shore trail is catching a view of incoming migrants resting on the lake. The ice has not fully receded, so our seasonal visitors are clustered along the edge where open water meets the slowly receding ice shelf.

Those smaller dark specks in the distance are a variety of ducks

Delilah does not mind when I stop to scan the water with my binoculars. It gives her a chance to track the scents of a variety of critters, including foxes, opossum and an occasional mink often seen skirting the shoreline.

Soon those frozen waves will thaw and spotting the various waterbirds will become more challenging. One afternoon, there will come a warbling trill from the trees. I will turn my binoculars to catch a glimpse of migrating songbird and memories of so many grand adventures will break free as the icy grip of winter finally thaws.

 

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

Birds Doing New Things

While I head out to clear snow (yes it’s still snowing on and off in March- ah Spring in Upstate NY) from my own backyard birdfeeders to keep the early spring migrants well fueled against the return of Winter-like temperatures I thought my Fellow Travelers might enjoy a trip to a bird sanctuary in warmer climates. Sylvia’s blog keeps my birding dreams alive through our long cold season.

Tonji and Sylvia's Wildlife Refuge

Sometimes we see birds as predictable creatures of habit. They have favorite perches that they return to day after day. Their behavior becomes familiar and part of the flow of the day.

This has become a familiar early morning sight. 5 White Breasted Woodswallows perched on top of this Agoho tree.

Other times we get to witness entirely new behavior. I thought it was unusual to see a Philippine Bulbul perched on the round pen. They usually hide inside the trees. What was it doing?

This looks to me like a young Philippine Bulbul. Based on the sounds, I think there was a nest inside the aratiles and this bird is one of the young from the nest.

The Philippine Bulbul was carefully, drop by drop, picking up dew from the fence posts.

I’ve never seen other birds do that on the fence posts before.

Soon there was a second…

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Spring Ahead

So fellow travelers, Delilah and I just returned home from a quick walk.

It is a luxurious 58 ° , the air smells like spring and the sun managed to sneak in a brief but brilliant appearance before the incoming front from the west shrouded the golden light in deep grey storm clouds.

High over head, wave after wave of migrating geese called out as small lines merged again and again into ever larger formations. A distant chatter grew suddenly louder as a massive mixed flock of smaller birds filled the sky with hundreds of black specks. The sound was almost deafening but I stood absolutely still, mesmerized by the vibrant urgency of this annual push for survival. I have seen these migrating bird clouds before but always far above me on the trails. Today I was engulfed in the sight and sound of this tsunami of flight a few dozen feet overhead. Even Delilah seemed intrigued, sitting still on a patch of newly recovered grass by a not quite thawed snow pile. She looked at me, then up at the noisy intruders, scanning the trees where dozens of birds were landing for brief respites.

The wave seemed endless, although I am sure we stood and watched for only a few minutes before all but a few stragglers flew off towards the tree lined river nearby. Ears still ringing from the high pitched cacophony, I started walking towards home. As we picked our way around patches of snow along the edge of our yard, I heard bright and clear, for the first time this year, a familiar call.

Cackling V flies

Cloud of black specks darts and chirps

Robin sings at last

Yes, there in my neighbor’s chinaberry tree sat a robin calling out between pecking at dinner. Finally! The Vernal equinox does not occur until next week, but I will gratefully take this sign that spring is on it’s way.

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

Digging Out

So fellow travelers, Winter Storm Harper has me spending this extended weekend digging out in more ways than shoveling snow.


“Pixie Dust ?” Really, Mike Seidel? Because S*N*O*W by any other name is still a four letter word which needs to be repeatedly shoveled.

When I sat down to write my end of the year letter to send with my holiday cards, I re-read what I had written the year before:

“Reflecting back on this year of tremendous change I wonder at the grace which carried us through the challenges.”  

I could have cut and pasted those words right onto the page for this year’s letter, but that letter remains unwritten because the transition from last year to this has felt unsettled, as if both everything and nothing had changed. I simply could not or maybe would not muster my usual namaste vibe to pen an end of the year review with good wishes for the coming year. Worse yet, whenever I sat down to write anything it was like trying to surface from the bottom of a pool of sludge.

“No mud, no lotus” Thich Nhat Hanh*

A fellow writer and creative tribe friend posted a New Year’s blog which spoke about “unpacking the boxes” which held the emotions she had neatly packed away during the previous year of change and loss (you can read Kathy’s post here) and being snowed in over this extended weekend, I retrieved her brilliant idea from the “to do” file I had tucked it into.

As I started working through the blocks, pushing myself to write, I realized I had been ignoring the depth of fear and grief embedded in the some of last year’s experiences. When I returned to work in September, thankfully I was given assignments where I can truly support the students I am working with. I was simply grateful to enjoy my job again.

A few days in, I started having powerful dreams, terrifying and disturbing re-enactments of things we had endured the previous two years. I became increasingly aware there were emotional contusions in need of healing. Fortunately I had given myself the gift of signing up for an extended weekend at a spiritual retreat so within a week of these dreams arising I found myself in the California desert, not far from Joshua Tree National Park where my star gazing “moment” had occured.

The Sky’s the Limit Observatory located near Joshua Tree National Park

Reflecting on it now, I accept that as a truly mystical experience, a moment when the magnitude of what I was seeing literally generated a physical experience in my brain that awakened every cell and layer of my being. For that one moment I was no longer a body, I was Light traveling along the stars and I felt absolutely connected to everything and bound by nothing all at once. It was a moment of pure joy from simply being alive.

The Dance of Life, garden sculpture at sunrise RW Retreat Center

Healing has come, yet it’s slower than expected and I sense there is more to be done before I am ready to move on to the next stage of life. Digging out from under the doldrums, I see the disappointment at postponing my retirement another year was more pervasive than I wanted to admit. Now I am aware there is work yet to be done and I finally feel commited to completing it.

I am increasingly aware of the daily blessings of grace and healing which carried me through some truly terrifying moments and brought immeasurable joy. Highs and lows navigated by finding crucial balance points reinforced with faith. Every day I feel a deep gratitude for the sacred network of friends and family, near or far, who bring Light and Love into my life. They are the reason faith and hope are alive within me.


View from Blue Mountain Fire Tower, Adirondacks

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

*Thich Nhat Hanh has been an essential influence on my spiritual journey. The book, Peace is Every Step is a wonderful introduction to his teaching.

Reflections

So fellow travelers, 2018 draws to a close and time spent sorting through photos has me reflecting on the vast expanse of experiences this year brought.

Sunrise in the High Desert

For all the darkness of the low points which framed the first half of the year, I am beginning to glean the significance of the growth and insights gained. There is still healing and integration in progress, but this year definitely concludes on more hopeful, uplifting notes.

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

The last few weeks have brought some losses for people around me, and I have felt their grief more intensly than expected. Perhaps this is a measure of the extent to which challenging experiences have deepened my capacity for compassion. Yet at the same time, this intensity has not thrown my equilibrium off as it might have; I take this to be a measure of personal growth, not that I am resting on any laurels. Six decades plus a few more revolutions around the sun have taught me to avoid complacency.

Idyllic summer morning

Spending time with extended family over this holiday week points to some indicators of changes to come. A change in options at work has pushed my retirement plans out by one more year; it’s ok, I accept it as more time to bank resources for a future cross country road trip I’ve been plotting out.

Meanwhile there are plenty of adventures on the itinerary for 2019. Fortified an attitude of gratitude, a desire to continue seeking joy, and a deeper committment to practicing kindness for myself as well as others I will turn the calendar page with a heart wide open.


METEOR sculpture at the Oasis Visitor Center Joshua Tree National Park

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

Christmas Snow

So fellow travelers, we woke this morning in a beautiful Chrismas Card world

Soft angel kisses

Falling gently from the sky

Blesséd Christmas snow

Gratitude always for the simple gift of Light and the presence of Love which surrounds us all. Be you gathered together or in simple solitude, be it for the day or a season, may blessings of peace rest upon your hearts.

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

Morning Star

So fellow travelers, Venus has reclaimed her status as the “morning star.”

Venus at  06.35am 12.20.2018 

Ancient Greeks recognized certain heavenly bodies moved through the sky unlike the stars which had fixed positions. They named them planan which means “wanderer.”

Gazing up at bright Venus early this morning, my heart filled with gratitude, knowing my own young wanderer was sleeping safe and warm in her room upstairs.

Morning star shines bright

One who wanders rests at home

Mother’s heart is full

May your holiday season be blessed by the presence of loved ones.

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