Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ending Thoughts 2013

My favorite time of the day is dusk.  The time when the sun goes down casting a rosy, orange glow across the horizon and the light from below is so bright it hurls itself into the blue and the colors merge into a vibrant rainbow of color.  The rose feathers into the blue and the edges blur.  The sky and world around look fuzzy like your favorite blanket.  The trees are solid shadows, black and sharp edged sticking into the sky.  Tree tops like a butch hair cut contrast black against the fading blue purple sky.  And as the light dims, sun sinking further around the corner of the world, the trees merge into the sky.  

The first star, probably not a star but a planet, shines alone in the sky until joined by other light beings.  Crowding the sky with sparkling radiance, the white light seems sharper the colder the night.  On very cold nights their brittle brilliance is a knife point of light cutting through the darkness. 

Yet on this cold early winter night, I think of endings, for it is the eve of the New Year.  It is the night when everyone all over the world waits for the new beginning, waits to rid themselves whether willingly or reluctantly of all that has traveled into the past.   It is the night when everyone gets to start over, gets a second chance, gets to do it all again and make it better.  Where possibilities for change hang like ripe fruit to be picked from the tree of tomorrow.

Yet, always questioning, I ask myself, is this really a wise practice?  Should I, actually, wait until the end to rid myself of that which lies in the distant past?  Should I carry each misstep, each disappointment, each reward, each hill climbed, and each success with me through a whole year?  Or should I let them go …let them float away on the tide of history?  These thoughts are ever present as I learn to live in the moment.  Something that has become important to me as I’ve aged.  

With all the things that have happened in my history, I’ve learned to value today for tomorrow is not a given.  One never knows how many days one has...so today is vitally important.  Today is all I have.  In fact, this moment as I type these letters is all I have and that which I’ve typed before…well those moments are in the past and thus are not NOW.  Yet, so much of what I learn, so much of how I grow as a human, comes from what I’ve learned in the past.  It truly is a conundrum with which I wrestle every day. 

I love living in the moment.  It feels right and true.  To not dwell on past hurts, pain, anguish, mistakes is freeing and means that I have to let go of the judgments not only that I make of others but of myself.   Everything, if allowed, teaches me how to walk my trail more authentically, more genuinely.  Everything, teaches me to be more ME.  This year, I know it sounds silly, but this year, this year of turning 60…well I’ve learned to forgive and accept and to value ME for who I am. It was a hard fought battle but ME won.  Yeah!

Am I perfectly me now?  Of course not.  Those of you who know me know this truly…and I thank you for your indulgence, love, patience and friendship.  My family, I hope both forgives me and loves me for who I am.  I have wisdom to bring….yet so much more to learn.

So, my dear ones, those of you on this trail with me, now….I love you all greatly and with all that at this moment I have to bring to you.  I will in this coming year, hopefully, become more of me so that I can be a more loving and selfless friend to you. For as I believe I deserve acceptance…I am more desirous of bringing you love and acceptance. Many thanks and in this moment...please turn to those whom you love and give them a big hug for indeed…you have this moment.   Cowabunga…into this New Year of 2014 we go!!!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Faster I Go the Behind-er I Get!

Winter Weather - mid-September at Logan Pass
Time seems to pass much more quickly than I seem to be able to keep up with it.  Only a few days ago wasn't I in Montana?  In reality its been nearly 2 months since I came home  The weather there continues to be brutal …with snow and cold temps making the mountains more stunningly beautiful than seems possible. 

New Home on the Indiana Plains
October was a lovely month off and provided me with the opportunity to travel back and forth from Indiana and Ohio, transitioning from my past life in Ohio, to the new back in my home state of Indiana.  I had an opportunity to go to the Gathering in PA, do some hiking in OH and take a trip to Atlanta with a stop for 2 days in Great Smokey Mountain NP to hike.  Luckily, we stayed with some good friends, making this trip an outstanding time.

View of Gatlinburg
I was lucky enough to travel to GA with a 2013 AT Thru hiker so stopping to hike was a given.  After, spending a few days visiting with another hiking friend in Athens, we headed to Gatlinburg, TN to stay with good friends.

Juney Whank Falls
Trying to decide where to hike in GSMNP was challenging., there are just too many great choices. We, finally, decided to stop at Deep Creek and bag 3 waterfalls located very close together.  The weather started off marginally gloomy but turned sunny.  The late fall sun fell on us making the running creek sparkly with watery diamonds.  The leaves were scarlet, ochre, green, brown, gold…a panoply of colors, shades & hues highlighted by the sun made for awe inspiring scenery.

View from Overlook on Newfound Gap Road
On the way to our overnight accommodations, we stopped at several overlooks,bypassing the over crowded  Newfound Gap.   By this time, we were very tired.  Clouds piled up in the valleys, filling them with fog and muting the autumn colors.  The clouds hung with the possibility of snow and the west wind spoke to me of winter as it hit me in the face.  Looking out over the ridges to the southwest there was no sunset to be seen but the eerie light made for a spectacular view.

Baskin Creek Falls Trail
The following day we decided to hike a little traveled trail to another falls.  This trail rolled over 4 sun-filled miles. Traveling through the woods, I saw only 2 people on trail as I walked to the falls and back. The delightful golden orb shone above warming the leaves underneath my feet.  The subtle smell of fall leaves crunching underfoot drifted up reminding me of days long past.  It was hard to refuse the urge to gather large piles of them and bury myself in their earthiness.  This was such a special time of contemplation and peace, I’ve not had for many years.

Baskin Creek Falls
The falls were splendid and I paused there with 4 others to have a snack, feeling the good feeling that conquering a challenging climb down can bring.  I rock-hopped across the creek to sit on a large granite boulder engaging 2 guys in the only on trail conversation of the day.

Bear Scat - Source of Possible Noises
Despite being alone in the woods, I was far from alone.  Down the in the valley, bushes rustled and the noises followed me up the trail.  I smelled various smells as I walked, I wondered if I’d finally see a bear on trail having not seen a bear all summer while in Montana.. But I did not, I only saw a squirrel and exchanged a few whistled tunes with some Chickadees.

Me -  Enjoying a Beautiful Fall DA
What a wonderful time was given like a gift to me, it seemed from the universe.  This transition time between the moves was a great way to create some space between 2 vastly different worlds.   Montana  was like summer camp, a time of dreams come true.   Indiana is, however, like a time for being responsible.  It is home and I am happy to be with family.  The universe has so graciously provided me with all that I’ve asked for.  A place to live between both my girls, a job which pays enough for me to pay bills & be generous (tis wondrous).  It has been a bounteous time for which I am grateful.  So many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Indian Creek Falls

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Early Winter or Going Home 1

Snowy Skies over Glacier National Park - September 26, 2013
*due to driving home & work schedule prior to leaving this is an untimely post, sorry.
As summer fades away one would hope to have an interim period of time where fall is in evidence.  Glacier Park never fails to amaze.  Tomorrow, Wednesday, September 25, 2013, it is supposed to snow at 5000 ft and above...not just a little dusting..they are predicting 6 to 10 inches.  That means that most of the Going to the Sun Road north of Avalanche Creek will be snowed upon.  Awesome!

Just Beginning of Fall Colors at Lake MacDonald - September 26, 2013
But wait a minute, are we really ready for snow?  I know I am not.  I have to get home and if it is snowing now in Glacier what does that say about North Dakota, the snow state of the US.  When I think of North Dakota, I think of snow gates, 90 mph winds and people getting stranded on highways and their cars covered in snow. This is not what I want to deal with on a 2.5 day drive to Indiana.  * 3 days after I arrived home a huge blizzard leaving 48 inches of snow hit South Dakota!

Marias Pass in the Snow on September 30, 2013
However, as I prepare to leave Glacier the snow does indeed start falling.  First snow, happened on my birthday, September 18, 2013.  Following this, it just kept snowing. When I finally did pull out of Essex, MT on my way home the skies were gray, cloudy and my favorite fog was drifting up and down through the valleys covering the tops of my favorite peaks.  Snow was falling like powdered sugar being sprinkled on top of the mountains.  It was fantastically beautiful, a word I've found I've used over and over this summer to describe Glacier...fantastic. 

First Rainbow I saw on September 22, 2013
As my car wove around and through the mountains headed east on Route 2, a road I've come to know like the back of my hand, tears fell from my eyes as they viewed my Glacier for possibly the last time, for sure the last time this year.  It was hard coming home, yet the mountains had in the last weeks given me clues to the upcoming happiness that I'd experience by sending me rainbow after rainbow after rainbow.  I'd not seen another rainbow all summer until mid-September.  Possibly, Glacier was smiling at me and sending me off with its blessing and a reminder that there really is no place like home.

Crazy Clouds Over Glacier
The sun went down over the park as I exited Browning, MT.  Looking back at the mountains they were encircled by a giant, white mass of boiling clouds akin to what you see in the scene in the movie, Ghostbusters.  It was a spectacular sight.

Sunset Over Browning, MT September 29, 2013
But in front of me was clear sky.  As I moved farther and farther away from Glacier, the sun set in a clearing sky, highlighting the still remaining bank of clouds with a beautiful golden light.  I spent the night in Havre, MT and awoke to another partly cloudy day.  I drove through a BIG rainstorm near the border of North Dakota. 

Playing Tumbleweed Dodge Ball
During this portion of my trip, I played a new game called, Tumbleweed Dodge Ball. Winds upwards of 50 mph rocked my car and the torrential rains made visibility very poor.  It, also, set ALL the tumbleweeds living on the sides of the road into motion.  As they danced and twirled and rolled down the highway next to me, gusts of wind pushed one, two or three across the road suddenly, causing me to have to swerve around them. Some were SO large that they would have gotten caught in the undercarriage of my car proving quite irksome to future progress, I feared!  This spectacle kept me giggling because it was such a funny sight.  Who knew that tumbleweeds could cavort?

Rainbow Over Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The rain stopped at the North Dakota border and there over the Theodore Roosevelt National Parka arched a HUGE rainbow!  A final good-bye or a welcome hello from the east.  A sign which encouraged me to continue to think positively about the future that awaited me in Indiana.  

Good Bye For Now, Montana -view of Siyah Mountain
So, good-bye for now, Montana.  You have left an indelible mark upon my soul.  I truly felt at home among your mountains and plains.  Stay safe, Glacier and may you remain ever there for us to love and admire.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Saying Good-by to Summer

Clements Mountain 9/14/2013
A bittersweet smile crossed my face as I stood looking at my favorite view of Clement's Mountain.  For whatever reason, I have loved this mountain from the first moment I saw it in early June.  Its regal continence stirred within my soul a wild longing...where it came from exactly, I do not know.  But this once, glacier clad mountain continues to speak to my wild heart and I acknowledge it with a kiss blown into the wind and few tears.

The side of Clements Mountain 8/2013
I came up here last Saturday thinking it would be my last time up before I move on to other adventures. I came to say goodbye, to ask it to watch over the wildness contained in this beautiful park.  To ask the Guardians who stand tall up there on the peak to keep safe the secrets I have only begun to hear and listen to.  But I was wrong.  I did come another day...yesterday and was able to enjoy the wildness of that mountain in all its glory. 

The meadow below Logan Pass looking up
It was snowing on Logan Pass on September 18, 2013.   Not a lot, not dangerously, the snow melted on the pavement as we rode up the Going to the Sun Road in the Red Jammer Bus, so I felt unafraid but wonderfully, wildly alive.  The small, wet flakes flew in a straight line with the wind into my hand.  Yet they clung 1000 feet up on the tall mountain sides which towered above me.  I was not driving so I could enjoy the cold, wetness as it hit my hands, my face.  I had them both stuck out of the Red Bus windows. 

The view out the back window of the bus
Luckily I was in the back of the bus...no one else cared. I shared the back seat with a stranger, someone I'd just met a few hours before.  The delightful surprise was that we both had our windows rolled down.  I glanced over and he was as enthralled with the weather and drive as I was.  Both of us,  like kids, were hanging out the windows and were enjoying the icy wind and fog-shrouded view of the steep mountains and valley.  I laughed to myself because everyone else was bundled in blankets.

Snow on the Gardne Wall
How great was it that a kindred soul rode in that backseat with me!  I got to enjoy the unusual beauty of the high mountains on such a day with someone who "got it".  That was an extra treat on this, my birthday.  So, the good-bye today was not just to my lovely, wonderful, wild mountains but to my 50's.  Yup it was my 60th birthday. The decade contained great discovery, adventure, health/un-health, happiness/sadness, personal and spiritual growth.  

I remember my 50th birthday, clearly.  I celebrated by backpacking alone out to my favorite spot in the Deem Wilderness, skinny dipping in Lake Monroe with the bridge in full view a few miles away down the lake.  I stood on that day, 10 years ago, upright in the shallow water and waved at the cars as they traveled home unaware of the naked aging yet still fit, beautiful body in the distance!  What will this next decade hold? I do not know. 

Looking back at Logan - Hawk weathering the storm

I am very excited though, if today is an indication of things to come.  How many get to celebrate on top of a 6500 ft peak in a small snow storm?  It was a fine way to say hello to new adventures and to remind me that summer lasts only for a time so live accordingly.

Fields of August Flowers at Logan Pass
The flowers bloom wildly & boldly but for a short time.  Fall comes and they grow golden with the coolness of autumn nights and sometimes the snow touches them early and they pass sooner than they expect to. Thus there is the need to live boldly and show one's true beauty and color as opportunity allows!  But some do survive to stand amidst the snow, brazenly resilient and colorful to the end.

I capture me while taking photo of friends

That will be my new expectation...to stand brazenly and colorfully and to live each day with the remembrance of September's cloudless blue skies.  I will enjoy the sun and walk up the mountain slope as far as I can for as long as I can stand upright to put one foot in front of another.  And then its going to be me and the walker clomping along.  I vow to never take things for granted but to enjoy and be amazed by the surprises around each turn in the road.  

Our shadows dance on top of Red Rock Falls in Many Glacier

So to put it in words we've all heard before and I paraphrase, I want to ...."slide into home base holding a beer glass in one hand and a chocolate bar in the other, beat up, hair askew, reading glasses slightly ajar, Leki poles bent, backpack torn and Keen sandals muddy, Yelling...WHOOO HOOOO! I did it up right!"

Sunset - Doing it up Right!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Beautiful Summer

I walked the other day on a lovely trail...not too steep but just a little, not too down but just a little...it was just right.  It led me along the river that runs by the Inn.  Its babblings spoke of summer sun and pine scent and peace.  The river carried this news further down and further down into the town where hopefully it spoke its peace, dissipating it into the general population.

It is high summer here in the Montana mountains and with summer comes a plethora of beauty.  So much beauty, often, I find it overwhelming my senses to the point that I cannot blog, write, photograph it...the creation is unable to be documented with sufficient human acts to do it justice..so I do not; I just look and remember. But on this particular day, I found that beauty had turned to bounty.  Lining the trail was the beginning of the summer abundance...you got it....berries!!!

 If you have never tasted an alpine strawberry, well then you have never tasted a real strawberry.  They are tiny about the size of the end of my little finger.  They are hard to find, about 1 in every 5 plants has this tiny treat hanging under its leaves.  However, it is packed with the flavor of 10 of those strawberry taffy bars, only better!  Hungrily, I ravaged the tiny plants up the 1.25 mile trail.  The rewards were few but each time I found one I wanted to cry, "Eureka" for the discover meant just the briefest of moments of  exquisite flavor. 

Oh, I guess I also forgot to mention that the first of the Huckleberries were also ripening.  Small, blueberry like berries but different, they tasted more like a blueberry with a pinch of sourness which blended in my mouth to create a need for more.  So, as my hiking partner and I edged our way up the mountain we feasted upon nature's bounty and I tried to remember that the animals who we share this beautiful mountain with also needed this bounty for their survival.

 And there is the rub for me, trying to remember that it is NOT all abut Moi.  In fact, in this place, it most definitely is very little about me.  This is not my home, although it is.  The food that grows in great abundance here is balanced each year so that the true residents of this mountainside can survive.  If I decide that alllll this is really mine and I can take it all, who actually loses?  Not me, for I can go to the grocery and buy really all I will ever need ten times over, only thing I'll lose is the fleeting sensation of pleasure I receive from tasting the berries of the mountains.  This taste reminds me that at some point in time "I" knew about how to take care of myself in the wilderness.  Somewhere back in time, in my wild brain, I knew that this abundance helped "me" through the winter too and I vied with the wildlife for it.  But now, I don't need it so what is my right to it?  

It was with these thoughts rolling about in my head that I hiked up and up not to far, not too long but just enough to view the river flowing happily below, to smell the pine scent, to think about my wild self and to feel the breeze on my face.  All of these sensations helped me to get back to the ancient me, that still small voice on the inside that said, "Eat the berries, but not too much, leave some for those who will come behind you whether it be bear or human.  You do not need it all for nature is abundant and takes care of her own. There will be more for you when you need it, as you need it."  And so, as I reached down to find another tiny, red treasure, I thanked her for her provision and bounty, knowing that she will take care of those who love her.   

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Life...Its all about the Details

Looking west towards the restaurant
I sat in my usual seat, on a normal day, in a restaurant a mile down the road from where I work in Montana.  A mile being a close place to visit considering that the grocery is 30+ miles away.  We all have gotten to be friends, the waitress knows me as Vera and when I eat there it feels comfortable and familiar.  That's Montana for you...it really does feel like home.  But familiarity has nothing to do with the wonder that eating here brings.  I sit in this seat, my favorite chair at my favorite table because the hummingbirds are 4 feet away on the other side of a window.  Watching these guys flit about, bobbing and weaving, literally, dancing in the air is a joy I've never experienced before ...being so close to these aerial acrobats makes me feel incredibly connected to nature.

Female Rufous Hummingbird - not taken by me
The Rufous Hummingbird is all of about 3 inches long and according to Cornell is "one of the feistiest of all the Hummingbirds".  Its 3,900 mile trip from Canada to Mexico is a feat incomprehensible to me.  How is it such a small bird can make that journey twice in a year?  Beating its wings uses so much energy, its metabolism so high, that if it did not go into a state of almost suspended animation when it sleeps, it would die.  Lowering its heartbeat to almost nothing, it manages to survive each night.  Living on such a thin edge between survival and death to us would be so stressful, yet for the Rufous Hummingbird, nay all Hummingbirds, it is normal. 

There is a bee in there somewhere
I ponder the lessons this little bird brings to me as I watch it compete with a large black bee or wasp.  They are both after the nectar in the feeder; the bee staying underneath the feeder lapping up the sugar that has leaked from the feeder while the Hummingbird laps directly out of the feeder.  Both are seeking the same source of nourishment but from different spaces and are not really in each others way.  However, they feel threatened at certain times by each others presence enough to chase each other around for what seems like no reason to me and burning vital resources. Useless waste of energy, I think to myself.  What is amazing to me is that the Hummingbird is intimidated by this bee.  I guess the bird fears the sting also.   

Life living on the edge of a gravel pull off
So, the wisdom of the Hummingbird to me, is this: 

1) Life is short yet full of movement and flights of fancy
2) When you need to rest then do it completely, shut down and relax
3) Things that are smaller than you can be intimidating but if you dodge and weave enough or even distract it, you and others can get what you need
4) Sharing is good but sometimes you need to just stand your ground 
5)  Beauty comes even in the smallest of packages
6) Size doesn't matter when it comes to being strong.  What does matter is your attitude, your ability to endure, knowing where your resources are, waiting/resting at the right times and persevering, all are the keys to being strong and surviving the long haul
7) Refuel often and then remember where you found it because you'll need to revisit it again while on this journey
8) Shine like the sun, show off sometimes and fly with quick wings; remember you are beautiful
9) You're going to lose some friends along the way but you have to keep flying even through the disappointment and pain
10) Live like there is no tomorrow because life is short and full of danger; enjoy the moment 

Sometimes you don't make it

 Nature has so many lessons to teach us if we just stop and think about it.  Surrounded by the beauty of the natural world, I find that often I just take a picture to record the moment, instead of stopping to ponder my part in the whole.  I do not remember that I am a participant in the turning of the circle, thinking I can stand apart from it all.  The greatest moments of clarity, I've found, come when I find my true place amongst all the other animals.

Disclaimer:  Of course, I did not have my camera with, so I'll use a picture given to me by an amazing photographer of a Rufous Hummingbird.  This was one of our Hummingbirds at the Izaak earlier this summer.  The rest of the photos are mine, just a few of the amazing things I've seen this summer.