Thursday, February 18, 2016

Finally a Winter Wonderland

I've posted a new write up about winter and soup over on my other blog at:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

New Ventures

After Jim's took me a while to recover, to be able to think again, to do anything but just motivate myself to get out of bed and move forward like I knew he would want me to do.  So, now today, it's been 8 months and I am moving forward again.

Thanks to the constant support of friends, I've renewed my efforts to continue to follow a path of creativity which has been so fulfilling in the past.  I've decided to discontinue writing on this blog and move my efforts over to a blog which bears the same name as my small business, VJ Hurst Creations.  So, if you've followed this blog in the past, Thank've inspired me and your reading my blog regularly kept me wanting to write these last 8 months...something I was unable to do until November.   I am slowly working at getting back into it and my writing group's anthology is JUST about to be published on Amazon and CreateSpace!

So, please move on over to my new blog on is located at  I just announced a brand new 2016 Photo Wall Calendar which I think turned out very nicely.  Info about ordering is over there.  Slowly, it is getting going has a new look and I hope a fresher feel to it to mirror my new life.

If you are on Facebook, please like my page VJ Hurst Creations and I hope to do more YouTube videos, so good luck finding me on that social media platform...if you do, please like my VJ Hurst Creations channel.

Jim, I think, would approve....


Sunday, May 10, 2015

In Memorium: Jim Baruzzini - An Ending and a New Beginning

Jim in his new leather jacket hamming it up at home, April 2015.
About a month ago, something life-changing happened.  My partner, love, significant other, housemate, best friend of 13 years died suddenly.  This statement still takes my breath away.  How could such a vital, happy, loving man, father, friend, love of my life, pass so suddenly? One minute here and the next moment be but a memory, a last photo, a final phone is beyond understanding.  I am reluctant to write of this but yet so many of us have or will experience this loss of a partner. 

Tree Swallows at Magee Marsh, Lake Erie Beach 2015.
Many things assure me that he is still here, in another form and in another place but yet still present.  I see him in the birds that fly....he knew I loved birds so when they startle up from the ground and fly free into the sky, I remember how much he loved being the 'fly guy' and relished the freedom and variety that flying somewhere gave him.  I feel him in the wind as it touches my face and reminds me of his hand on my cheek. In his presence, I always felt a deep sense of being at home and safe....he being a mixture of all the things I loved in a man, strong, supportive, a pain in the butt when I was being a pain in the butt, someone who would give me that 'look' when I needed to rethink something I was considering ..not in a judgmental way but just a are you sure look.  When I walk somewhere in the woods and breath in the sweet scent of the woods, feel the sun on my face, hear the sounds of the trees, he is with me my memories of times we did these very things or just enjoyed life on our back porch.

Jim & Vera in 2002
He was someone who enjoyed that vital cup of coffee in the AM as much as I did and often brought me one as he was always up long before I was...we laughed a lot so when I see other's laughing I remember our private jokes gleaned from funny or irksome things we did ...we made them into jokes so that they wouldn't be bones of contention between us but reminders of the fact we all have aspects of our personality that our mates must accept ...the good always with the irritating...all made up the complete without the other would a different person make.  So, often, I find myself remembering that we made each other laugh. How small a thing that seems but often was the glue that held us together.

Jim Contemplating
Contemplating things that we said to each other and words of wisdom he said to me...I realized that his quiet strength lay in his ability to "see" a person for who they were, accept them and then solve problems based on what he heard while trying to understand not respond.  This is a giant a-ha ...he learned this from years of introversion and customer service jobs where fixing a machine could safe a person's life. 

Jim with his smallest to hold on to Aiden as long as allowed.
He started at the simplest of places to solve a problem, "Is the machine plugged in" which reminds me to start at the smallest place and deal with issues/problems one at a time. He, also, trusted that he had the skills to deal with anything that came his way...he trusted himself to have the inner strength, wisdom, brains, combination of all those things to deal with whatever came his way...this certainty sometimes disturbed people who were less sure of themselves but he was able to figure out the trickiest of problems using this understanding of himself and patience.

Jim, Vera, friends, Matt & Anna at Harper's Ferry 2003
Confidence in one's abilities goes a long way towards keeping one calm in a difficult situations...panic starts from the basic feeling that WE cannot solve or handle ourselves in a crisis.  Another big a-ha for me ...realizing these things have helped me through this ...for I believe in myself...I have the skills and strength to get through this and emerge a 'better' nay stronger more understanding person.

Still lovin' every minute of it.
I think the most powerful truth which has come forward for me is this, that Love never shrinks but always expands.  When Jim died, I became a completely different person....I was alone.  I felt small, frightened. I spoke only of the support person had gone leaving me homeless...because I could not speak of the deep...that the person I loved the most had left me suddenly and inexplicably and how in the world would I go on, what was my purpose, where would my path lead me now?  I wanted to shrink into myself until I realized that above truth...what/who we love always makes us bigger, always expands and to deny this would be a I chose to open my heart even wider and embrace all that is and was 'us'. 

Me now, still smilin' -  walkin' the journey thanks to supportive friends....Photo credit: J Andrew Davis Photography 2015
...and really, each new day we awaken to the fact that nothing is the same, I am not the same.  Life is fleeting and we cannot know the moments we have one with another.  So enjoy, do, be, live, love, do not accept mediocracy.  Be all that you are supposed to be embrace the unknown and the scary.  I do not know right now where or what I'll be doing so don't ask...:)  I do know that life is a great adventure and I will walk confidently forward.  Many thanks to all those who love and support me....without you, life would be a lot less interesting and definitely harder.  Please stay tuned.....

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Everywhere Outside Can Be An Adventure

Perched on a rock overlooking the Rio Grande River in New Mexico.
Do you remember the first time you did something scary?  Something that made you think...maybe I might not live to see the light of the next day?  I bet most of you will say, sure I do and in your mind a picture of driving on the interstate or your first encounter with a bear or rattler on trail will come to mind.  Well, for me the first thing I remember that made me so scared was sitting in a tall tree at about age 10.  As the wind moved the tree back and forth with greater and greater force, I thought, the heck am I going to get down?! 

Oh, how I love to climb up in a tree, up in a tree so high
I did get down from that tree and went on to do other scary stuff.  The standard for my idea of scary, of course, becoming ever greater as I aged.  How large were the effects of that early risk taking behaviors on my willingness to take more and greater risks throughout my life?

Given the freedom, kids will touch anything, once
If given the freedom and opportunity, all children are born explorers.  They do not know what a risk is…..everything is new, bright and shiny!  They are so close to the ground things like ants, grasshoppers, butterflies, tiny tree frogs are easy to inspect if able to be caught.  Following nature to secret places, deep in high grass or up a tree or into a creek turning over rocks, plucking that first snapping crawdad from under rocks, takes daring and courage.  Building upon a solid base of challenges to a child’s courage, walking through small injuries and learning that a burst of adrenaline is a good thing and is not going to kill you is all a part of growing up.  Well it used to be.

In hot pursuit....
In this day and age, parents must balance the possibility of injury vs. the pay off.  A child who is courageous, able to deal with stress and challenges in a positive manner and is curious often runs ahead, literally, of a parent's ability to catch him/her.  If a child doesn’t learn to deal with difficult situations and doesn't discover that they can work out either a good OR a bad solution for themselves, how then as adults will they have a basis for making good decisions? Risk taking and dealing with challenges in increasingly difficult situations builds confidence and teaches a child how to make good decisions. 

I am sitting on the edge of a cliff to take this shot in Santa Fe NF, NM
I can’t say that I make perfect decisions even now as an adult; I tend to go towards the unknown, the challenging, the risky.  Often, I fall on my butt. It usually is a lot of fun though and I learn a great lesson which empowers me to move forward. 

First view of Lake McDonald, West Glacier, MT
I’ve seen a few mountain tops, not as many as I have wanted to but still, I’ve seen them.  Paddled a few streams again not enough.  I’ve listened to animal noises in the dark, alone, on a wilderness trail and slept but haven't done this enough.  For me those early challenges, explorations into the backyard trees, woods and creeks pushed me to explore and to seek what is around the next corner.  I learned early that everywhere and everything outside can be adventure and that HAS made all the difference.

Dang, it's cold!
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Robert Frost

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fall's Splendor

The mower didn't exactly purr but it ran well enough to propel me at moderate speed through the prodigious piles of fallen leaves which had accumulated over the last week.  The weeks of rain had made the yard a swamp and I'd waited until the last day before it was going to start to rain again before mowing the overly long grass.  The azure sky was dotted with cottony clouds completely unlike the clouds that would come marching across the Northeastern Ohio sky very soon.  These clouds, layered atop one another like the snow drifts they contained, would mark the coming of winter and would, sooner than I was ready, cover my yard in white.

But today, I rode my mower under tree limbs still covered in scarlet and red.  The sunshine as it filtered through the leaves cast first yellow then red shadows across my face which made the edges of my mouth turn up as I cast my eyes skyward.  The light wind tossed the branches playfully around like children swinging, legs outstretched as they reached for the sky.  Leaves launched themselves into the air and the floated around me as the exhaust tossed them back up into the air.  They circled and circled in a carefree dance, the wind and mower creating mini ground tornadoes of amber and scarlet.

Autumn is my favorite time of year; the seasons change, the weather is a perfect combination of hot and cold, the skies are perfect, cloudless blue and my birthday occurs.  Since, this year I officially crossed over into maturity, I find myself thinking of endings and how seasons so wonderfully mirror the seasons of our ages.  

Spring is carefree, happy and innocent like children, then comes summer and storms, lightening and lots of heat and sweat just like those child bearing years when we find passion and purpose.  

Then comes Autumn the mellowness of changing leaves, changing seasons, animals storing up against the winter lack and the perfect blend of weather with long, cool nights perfect for snuggling mimics where I am now in life and I was reminded of this as I circumvented the yard.  I thought about what a wonderful time this was age-wise for me.  I feel both wise yet free to be myself, able to be brilliant all while falling into winter.  The trees shedding their brilliant leaves in a wild showy cascade as they dance wildly in the wind; bare branches free of burdens and cares know exactly how precious each moment is and so enjoy it with abandon.  I am learning to live this way with an attitude of enjoying just where I am at that moment because I never know when that last moment might be.  The snow can fall at any time. 

Winter then is in the air, I think, peering out the back windows at the sky as thin high clouds stack up like cards on the horizon.  The squirrels run around the yard in frantic bursts of energy.  Huge black walnuts held in their mouths do not seem to slow them down.  I've put the snow stakes in the driveway and cleaned the mower of its blanket of dried grass and pine needles.  I've moved the snow blower to the front of the garage and rearranged all the moving machines which are housed in the garage so that I can back my front-wheel drive car into the garage.  The weather woman says we'll have snow showers on Friday and Saturday.  Winter is coming, soon, it seems.  Will I be ready?

Monday, May 26, 2014


Seated by the window in Green Getaway cabin, the thunder rolls around me like marbles in bag, just loud enough to announce its presence;  a portend of what’s coming or going.  Lightening flickers, half-heartedly, overhead.  Rain chatters on the tin roof.  This small cabin has become a nest in the woods, a peaceful place to concentrate on MY ART.  The cabin is appropriately named as it sits just off the driveway in the woods.  The sweet, spicy smell of Lilies of the Valley and rain-washed dirt drift through the open window while a single Red-Winged Blackbird complaint breaches the wall of quiet which envelopes me.

I am 3 days into a weeklong women’s writing retreat, gifted by generous women in memory of one talented female who thought that her gifts to the world weren’t particularly art.  Because of her outstanding and unrecognized talent (largely only by her, others recognized her gifts) which left this world when she did, this weeklong getaway, WIDIA, What I Do is Art, was born.   I am not completely sure what lucky happenstance put me in a place where I am able to afford a week to come to this but here I am.  Many thanks to Gloria for pushing me to do this, Sue & Marcia for accepting me into the program and Jim, for his constant support of me even when he doesn’t understand.  Viva la difference!

Last summer which was spent in Montana demonstrated to me the benefits of living off the grid.  The immersion in nature, the lack of outside electronic stimulus, the simplicity of life when lived in the now allowed a freedom to think and be myself mostly without the intrusion of outside influences.  It was important to be involved in the lives of those around me and to be kind to them for I knew the next day there was no way to avoid seeing and working with them.  Small indiscretions became big walls of dissension if not dealt with in a timely manner.  Cliques developed and loneliness floated about formless and ghostlike unable to be ignored.  The community mattered so when something happened 30 miles away either to the east or west it took only a little while for the news to arrive at our doorstep.  How I am still not sure.

In order to entertain ourselves, we ate together, laughed and shared our memories, our hurts, and our joys. Our differing cultures were evident.  We shared meals which, bathed in potatoes and homemade cake, completely different than any cake I’d eaten before topped with a beautiful strawberry cut in the shape of a flower, brought us together and made it seem a little more like home.  We toured Glacier, packed in small cars or on the Park buses, jumping out whenever possible to view glorious vistas of mountains, rivers, glaciers, snow, flowers and mountain goats, which appropriately took our collective breath away.  At night, we’d share where we’d gone and what we’d seen ohhing and ahhing over photos and the recollections of moose and bear encounters.  Even now these thoughts bring a tear to my eye as I reminisce and miss my friends who are far away. 

Those of us who were older shared craft beers and whiskey around stoves and campfires, the light from which softened the wrinkles and graying hair.  In July, the berries arrived making the steep climbs, up mountains a feast and well worth the effort.  I thanked the woodland creatures for sharing their bounty with us believing that the Mother of all would provide enough for all who were in need.  Still, I tried not to gorge myself on the red, blue and purple berries. 

Tiny alpine strawberries the size of an eraser packed a surprising burst of intense flavor…these were my favorite.  Huckleberries followed creating a fervor amongst us all as we rushed to the mountains sides to collect and hoard as many of these small blue beauties as we could.  We went on Huckleberry Pie tours discovering which vendor in the park made the best pie.  Luckily, we walked off the calories every day either out on a trail or running up and down the 3 flights of stairs.

And so, I learned the rewards of a summer spent doing what I wanted, a summer spent living in the moment without too many outside influences.  I learned that nature is both wonderful and terrible, it’s transforming energy life-giving no matter how intense the storms, snow or wind.  I experienced becoming even a small part of the larger cycle as the modern world slipped away and I became part of the food chain.  This escape defined for me what is real.  The fertile ground running through my fingers when I plant is real and full of life.  The wind which bends the trees and the breezes which touches my cheek lightly is real, the touch of a friend and their cheery hello is real, the brilliant sapphire sky and sun are real and living as one with earth’s creatures both wild and human is real.  The cyber world…..not so much.

Now, as I miss me some Montana, I am grateful for this break from the modern world full of bustle, turmoil and imagined important to-do lists.  I am grateful for the lack of media, stoplights and gas stations.  I am grateful for my two feet which propel me down the trail, however short.  I am grateful that the hum of the distant interstate reminds me simply of a field full of bees making happy working sounds.  I am grateful that my path led me to Green Getaway Cabin and if ever I am able to return it will be with fond memories and feelings of joy and reunion like coming home to an old friend. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

With a Bow to the Grateful Dead - It Really Has Been a Long, Strange Trip

It all started with a thought: "I want to spend some time in Florida in January".  It seemed innocent enough. Who wouldn't want to leave the frigid north land of Indiana/Ohio THIS January?  I sure did.

I'd made the decision, after being laid off from ANOTHER job, to just not work for anyone anymore. Realizing that, after all, I was the only one who really cared whether or not I ate...I decided to finally start my own small business.  Yup, just like that.  I'd had enough of sending out resume after resume. I was fed up with the waiting and the silence.  I'd had enough of shutting down businesses and working at jobs that were uninspiring and low paying.  I can hear you guys...I know you KNOW how I feel.  Having spent some years doing work that WAS inspiring, it was hard to accept that the world expected me to settle and sweep floors at a big box store where I do not even want to shop.

So, I gathered some ideas and headed south for a visit, little knowing that I was not going to be back home for two months.. During that time, I'd have some great experiences and meet a bunch of new people. I would visit with long-time friends and share a hot springs tub with new.  I'd see some beautiful sunsets , take some great pictures and cry a bit.  But then how can we know where we will end up when we first start down the trail.  The journey is just that, a journey with surprises around each bend.

Florida was cold yet sunny, windy and sometimes rainy.  I found the contrasts and levels of gray upon gray reflected in the sky, the beach, the birds to be mesmerizing.  There were a lot of birds...Cormorants, Red Headed Mergansers, Plovers, Sandpipers, Gulls, a life bird which I got no pictures of and now can't remember....but at that same place I saw a Common Loon which was cool.  The above bird is a Black-bellied Plover and it too, is a life bird!

During this time, I had an amazing experience with 2 dolphins  Both are regular visitors to the seawall by my friend's house and visit her often.  One late afternoon, I saw the fins breach about 20 feet off the wall...they were fishing.  They have developed a behavior where they will cruise out from the wall driving the fish ahead of them and then surge in to the seawall...or at least that is what I've told myself they do.

I believe they are probably some of the most sentient beings on the planet.  So, when I went out I just wanted to get a few photos of them out in the channel.  As I stood on the seawall, the larger of the two, approached and did a swim by.  "He" circled and came back for another pass, moved out into the channel, came back for another pass followed by the second dolphin, smaller and what I call the "female" but who knows.  After several more passes, he swam by the wall one more time turned, dove then came up blowing out his good-bye with his expulsion of air.  What a wonderful experience and as they swam away I raised my hand in good-bye as they swam towards the bigger water of Tampa Bay.

So, that was just the beginning of the trip which took me to Atlanta to weather the second, Icemageddon, to Northeast Georgia for the first couple of weeks of Thru-hiker season, to Amicolola Falls State Park for the AT Kick-off and then finally, ended with a trip over the mountains in a freakish snow storm, to Hot Springs where I spent several days visiting with good friends and enjoyed the hot springs for the first time.

And now, I am back in Northeast Ohio awaiting spring and the birth of grandchild number five. awaiting the entrance of a new life into this crazy, roller coaster ride we call life.  Bring it on...I can't wait!