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!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

It's All About the Little Things

Several weeks ago, I was traveling from Ohio back to Indiana.  It was a stunningly beautiful January day when I left Kent, Ohio.  It was one of those "sky is clear blue with tiny strands of white clouds hanging like lace curtains" days.  Exquisite travel day.  It was one of those days when if I had been hiking, I would have noticed details like bugs on leaves, tiny pine cones in the grass, how the sun forms rainbows on leaf dew.  I am sure you've had days like that. 

But I was driving.  Home.  I instead I turned my thoughts inward to family, friends, love and beauty and the timelessness of enjoying NOW.  The winter sun, absent or clouded in winter in NE Ohio shone brightly and warmed the interior of the car, it felt just like summer and oh how good this felt at this moment to have that warmth on my fingers clutching the wheel and on my face.  Soaking up the much need Vitamin D.  Welcoming that light in that moment, opened my heart.

As I was driving, I noticed small birds flying and ugly trash blowing across the road...the contrast of beauty and ugliness, reminders that living in the moment means accepting what we judge as good or bad and dealing with it without judgement because it is just THERE in that moment and like trash blowing across the road or birds flying across one's line of sight it will be gone in the next moment.  For me this brings freedom; freedom to not be burdened by little birds that fly into your life or trash that blows through.

At the end of the day, I was greeted by the most beautiful sunset I've seen in a long time. It capped off a day where I was thankful for the tiniest thing.  The colors of that sunset blended into the most spectacular colors, pinks, purples, dusty blues and yellows.  It filled my warm heart with such gratefulness.  I felt as if Mother Nature had painted that for me so that I'd remember for a long time that if you let things build up inside, if you spend your moments dwelling on the what ifs and what wills of life you miss the what is right there in front of yous. 

 And it is in these moments, the right now moments where inspiration and gratitude reside.  I love looking at the big picture but also that day was reminded of all the little pieces that build up to make that big picture.  If you walk too fast with your eyes all the way into the future, you miss the building blocks upon which that big picture rests.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Polar Vortex?!

Beautiful winter sunset in NE Ohio
While we were sitting inside worrying about the Polar Vortex and how that would impact our lives as we know it....I was wondering if I should venture outside to take pictures.  Would my camera freeze, would the lens fog up, would my fingers drop off like icicles falling from a roof?   I love the stark beauty encountered during freezes and snowy weather.  I've had wonderful opportunities to take pictures in the snow over the last six plus years living in Northeast Ohio.  It is part of its charm, the snowy winters. 

Ohio didn't get much snow but it was really cold
Truly it was too cold to venture into the outdoors.  Even my hardcore hiking friends were hunkered down in hotel rooms.   I bet the TV ratings for viewership skyrocketed.   My heart went out to friends and family far away who were suddenly without heat.  Others it turned out had feet of snow where my car normally is parked.  So, its all good and we've gotten through it.  On with normal activities.

Finding beauty in winter bushes
What I most love about winter photography is that one's focus shifts.  Yes, of course, there are fantastic vistas to be seen, sun shadowed mountains glittering with snow, the fog of frost floating around their sunlit crowns.  But I tend to look down.  I look to the minutia, the small things.  Tracks in the snow, buds hanging alone off dormant branches, color highlighted against the monotony of black and white.  I look for shadows, for clouds in the sky, some cool stuff has been found in melting pockets of snow within tree's roots.  Its all about finding life in frozen places.  

Looking into the 'heart' of winter
This has caused me to think about how life reflects nature.  How I often find the most inspiration amongst the frozen places of my heart.  When looking down into the depths in the melting places, that is where the color and creativity comes from.  For when the light of inspiration and acceptance shines on those places of pain and regret illuminating one's true self that is when the heart and soul warms.  I've found that when the integration of dark and light occurs within me and I am able to love and accept it ALL...well amazing results occur.

Indiana plains waiting for the spring
Consider this, that it is both the dark and the light, the shadow and the bright, the ying and yang of me that makes me who I am.  The path I've walked brought me through those experiences for a reason.  How can I reject then, who I've become?  Just like spring without winter, life without death, sun without clouds...I accept all that has gone forth in my life. 

Winter grasses where small animals slumber in silence 
Many of us who are outside people or gardeners know that this quiet time of nature's slumber is a time when we must remain vigilant.  We clean the gear, we clean the garden tools, we begin to plan for what is to come.   So, too, in the winter, I make the preparations inside to move into the new.  Another new year and so in reminding myself of these things I prepare for greater journeys. 

Trail in Snow, Tallmadge Meadows Metropark