Overflowing Adventures – Driving, Riding, and Walking

Long Wharf compass rose

Casting my shadow over Boston.

My recent trip to New England was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. With so much to do and so much going on in the places I visit, I try to fill my time as much as possible with interesting things. I live a relatively quiet life in Upstate New York most of the time, so filling my road trips to overflowing is always something I enjoy.

I was blessed with beautiful weather driving out to my hotel in Seabrook, New Hampshire on Wednesday. It was cool at my house in New York when I left, but by the time I reached my hotel, it was 90 degrees and humid. It’s not unusual for that to be the case and I was happy just to arrive after a full day of driving. Following a small issue where the first room at the hotel hadn’t been cleaned yet, I was given a nice, clean, recently updated room that was bigger and far more comfortable.

I stayed at the Seabrook Inn and the staff were very friendly and accommodating, especially since I kept somehow rendering the key card to my room useless. I’ve stayed at the Seabrook Inn before and I’ll be staying there again as needed on future trips. They have a nice continental breakfast, they’re in a somewhat secluded location, but still right near plazas filled with everything I need. I spent Wednesday night unwinding a bit from the drive, doing some homework, catching up with friends, and grabbing what I needed from the nearby Wal-Mart.

Thursday I headed into Boston early by catching the commuter rail from Newburyport Station in Massachusetts. Although the train is a bit more expensive than me driving to the nearest T station and taking the subway into Boston, after so much driving, I enjoy just sitting on a train for an hour to get where I want to go. The train started out mostly empty, but by the time we arrived in Boston, I was squished against the window as the seats around me filled up. I still didn’t mind though because while all those people were commuting to work, I was just heading into Boston to enjoy myself.

Once the train arrived at North Station in Boston, everyone rushed off while I took my time. I didn’t want to get in the way of people who had somewhere urgent to be.

North Station Boston

People heading into North Station ahead of me.

I walked leisurely through North Station amid the crowds and patiently waited in line at Dunkin Donuts for some iced coffee to help me wake up since it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. yet. Iced coffee in hand, I navigated out of the North Station and walked to a little park like area with an overlook of the bridge coming into Boston. Traffic coming in was thicker than traffic going out and I snapped a photo because I like that vantage point.

Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge

Traffic coming into Boston on the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge

I then began my walking journey through Boston as it was a cool, breezy morning and I didn’t feel the need to use the T just yet. I walked through Quincy Market and grabbed a breakfast burrito to eat in the upstairs seating area of the building. There was only one other person sitting up there and she left shortly after I started eating. I enjoy being in Quincy Market that early before it gets so crowded with people you can barely move. At that time in the morning, restaurants and stores are still receiving their early morning deliveries, people are sipping coffee, and the full bustle of Boston hasn’t started yet.

Quincy Hall, Boston, MA

Looking out the windows on the upper level of Quincy Market

Once I finished my breakfast, I headed toward Long Wharf, one of my favorite spots to visit when I venture into Boston. The sunshine and breeze made for a lovely visit and I watched the whale boats and ferries fill with people heading out on the first trips of the day. From Long Wharf, I wandered south along the harbor trail and saw new areas I hadn’t explored yet.

Long Wharf Boston ferry

Ferry coming into Long Wharf.

Long Wharf compass rose

Looking toward Boston at Long Wharf

I discovered some very nice looking apartments/houses/condominiums/town homes, whatever they call them there, along the waterfront and wondered what it would be like to wake up every morning with such a gorgeous view of the harbor. Of course they also had to deal with the constant noise of planes taking off from Logan Airport (although not too loud at that distance) and the boat traffic sounds, but I imagine it’s a minor inconvenience. While I can understand the appeal of living in such a location, I know how much I like having a yard, space of my own, and not having to share walls with people. Certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility of me having a weekend place in the city someday when I’m a famous author though. 😉

Boston harbor condos

Homes with a beautiful view of Boston Harbor.

 

Arch at Rowes Wharf, Boston

Arch at Rowes Wharf, Boston

Boston skyline

Boston skyline view from the end of Rowes Wharf.

I ended up walking all the way down to South Station in Boston without even realizing how far I’d gone. It was just such a beautiful day for a stroll along the harbor! I stopped into South Station and grabbed a muffin for a snack before heading to the nearest T station to make my way to the library. For me, no visit to Boston is complete without a visit to the Boston Library to sit at one of the long tables with their green lamps and convenient plugs to charge my phone. Plus, it’s a nice opportunity to enjoy the quiet and rest my feet for a while.

Bates Hall in Boston Public Library

Bates Hall in Boston Public Library

Once my phone had a better charge and I’d written down some of what had happened that day in the small notebook I always carry in my messenger bag, I headed to the Copley T Station and took the T back north in search of a restaurant I’d visited before. I really liked what I’d gotten there, but I was dismayed upon arriving to discover that they’d changed their menu completely. It was getting close to the time I wanted to get back on the train to return to Newburyport, so I decided to forego lunch until later and get back to North Station.

After getting briefly lost trying to find North Station (getting lost is sort of my thing), I found my way there just in time to board the train back to Newburyport. The train was a bit crowded when we started out, but more and more people got off with each stop and I was able to stretch out a bit and just enjoy the ride. I was very hungry by that point, but had a plan for lunch when I got back to the station, so I knew I’d be okay. Overall, I was very happy with my visit to Boston and suitably tired.

I wasn’t able to make a solo trip into Boston last May when I made this annual road trip, so I was glad to have accomplished it this most recent trip. There was more I’d wanted to see, but I just didn’t have the energy and I know I’ll be able to see it next time. Some people might get tired of Boston after a while living, working, or visiting there, but I don’t see that ever happening for me. It will always have a place in my heart and call me to it for new and interesting adventures.

The Trip That Almost Didn’t Happen

massachusetts-welcome-sign

One of the welcome signs for Massachusetts.

Every May for the past few years, I’ve headed out to Massachusetts on Memorial Day weekend so I can volunteer at and attend the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow at the Marshfield Fairgrounds in Marshfield, MA. I love helping out and dancing at the pow-wows and I arrive in New England a few days before the pow-wow to embark on other adventures, such as spending a day in Boston or heading to the beach to enjoy the sights, sounds, and scent of the ocean.

However, with the various problems I’ve had these past few months such as major plumbing repairs and needing a new transmission and clutch in my Matrix, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make my annual Memorial Day trip. Thankfully, through something almost akin to divine intervention, I am actually able to make the trip. Today is finally the day I head out to New England where so many people, places, and events happen that lift my spirit and I’m so excited!

My last road trip to Massachusetts was last August with my girls and we’ll be doing our annual summer vacation out there again this August, but my solo trips are always a different adventure than family trips. These solo trips have been one of the many things that have helped me better understand who I am as I expand my horizons and bravely adventure alone. My first ever trip out to Massachusetts and into Boston in November of 2011 was one of my most memorable experiences and was the start of my New England adventures.

The weather for my trip as predicted now is supposed to be beautiful. There’s a chance of rain on the weekend during the pow-wow, but I’ve danced in the rain before and I can certainly do so again. If you’re in the area of Marshfield, MA, I urge you to come to the pow-wow because it’s always an amazing, educational, and memorable experience. It got a semi introvert like me out dancing in front of people, so it’s obviously capable of great things! You can find information about the pow-wow on the MCNAA website or the MCNAA Facebook event page. If you have the time, we can always use more volunteers too!

As I head out to New England this morning, I’ll probably pinch myself at least once to make sure I’m not dreaming. Even though I’ve made so many of these road trips they’ve become almost second nature, they will never become old to me. Every trip out brings new and unexpected adventures and I revel in every moment of it! After the past few months, I feel like I definitely need and deserve a bit of fun and I’m certain I’ll have much more than a bit!

A Highly Successful Vacation Redo!

My girls standing at Pickering Wharf in Salem, MA

I can honestly say that this most recent vacation with my girls was the best one we’ve had so far. We crammed a lot into it while still finding time to relax and best of all, we had fun! Having spent last year’s vacation in hospitals, Jaycie was eager to do things on this vacation and every day she enthusiastically asked, “What are we doing tomorrow?” She wanted every day filled with something and for a girl who admits that she’s lazy and is proud of that fact, it was an amazing thing to experience!

While the drive out was filled with the usual traffic on 495 the last hour or so, we all had a good time. The girls watched movies on my laptop and I listened to my music up front. We stopped plenty of times for leg stretches and snacks and I didn’t worry about being stuck in traffic because we were in no rush.

We arrived at the Best Western Merrimack Valley in Haverhill, MA a little after 5 p.m. and I was immediately impressed by the cleanliness of the facility and the friendliness of the staff. Our room was on the third floor and I was pleasantly surprised to find that we had our own private balcony with a sliding glass door leading out to it. Being on the top floor, the room had high, upward slanting ceilings and was very spacious. We had two queen beds and they were very comfortable with clean bedding. The room felt very homey and welcoming and I knew we’d be happy there.

Shortly after unpacking the car, the girls and I headed down the road to the 99 Restaurant. We don’t have 99’s where we live in New York, so it’s a treat going to one in New England. Although the restaurant was a little busy for a Wednesday night, we had a great waitress and got our food relatively quickly. The food was delicious and the girls devoured their food, while I took half of mine back to the hotel to eat later. It was a great first evening on our vacation.

The next morning, we headed into Newburyport for the Newburyport Whale Watch. This was what Jaycie had been most excited about and her excitement continued for the entire cruise. She loves boats and being out on the ocean and she was smiling, animated, and happy the entire time. We saw a large pod of dolphins, a sunfish called a mola mola, a couple minke whales, and a humpback whale. At one point, Jaycie was walking back and forth through the lower level of the boat checking one side and the other for whales as the narrator of the tour suggested. She’s spent most of the summer relaxing on the couch or outside swinging so watching her be so animated was almost like seeing a different child. Jordan enjoyed herself too, but was a bit more reserved in a typical 15-year-old fashion. She’d go up on the upper levels of the boat or sit inside reading the book she brought along.

We ate lunch on the boat and weren’t quite ready for dinner yet so we headed into Amesbury, MA to Friendly’s for some ice cream. Ice cream after several hours in the sun on a boat was just what we needed and we decided to just have dinner back at the hotel after picking up some groceries.

On Friday, we headed into Salem, MA because the girls had never been there. I’ve visited twice before, once in October and once in the summer, so I knew my way around pretty well. We walked the streets a bit and I took the girls to the Salem Witch Memorial and around the graveyard a little. We then ate lunch in Red’s Sandwich Shop, which was delicious! Jordan and I brought over half of our lunches with us and they were worth carrying around Salem for a bit before we returned to the car. We visited the Peabody Essex Museum just for the gift shop and to enjoy the air conditioning and then decided it was time to head back to the hotel. We ended up back at the hotel most evenings by 5 p.m. and that was fine with all of us because we were tired.

Saturday, we headed into Boston via the Oak Grove T Station and we got in shortly before lunch. Comic Con Boston was going on so we headed toward the Convention Center just to people watch. On the way there we stopped at South Station for lunch in the food court area because we could all get what we wanted and it was nice and air conditioned! We eventually reached where Comic Con was happening and sat down outside to watch people coming and going. It was fun seeing all the people dressed in costumes and trying to guess what some of them were. Jaycie didn’t quite understand why Jordan and I were so excited seeing people in costumes, but she was a trooper and made the walk for us.

After that we headed back to South Station and then took the necessary subway lines back to where we’d parked the car at Oak Grove. It was a good day to be in Boston because there had been some clouds and a nice breeze, but we were all hot and tired nonetheless. I showered once we got back to the hotel to wash the T humidity off of me and we just relaxed for the evening again.

I’d determined Sunday would be our day of not doing anything and that’s indeed what it turned out to be. We hung out at the hotel for most of the day then drove to a nearby town in New Hampshire to get Popeye’s and Long John Silver’s for dinner. We don’t have either of those chains near us so again, it was a treat for us. I got my beloved hush puppies from Long John’s while the girls got chicken and biscuits and we all ate happily back at the hotel.

Monday, we headed up to Portsmouth, NH for a bit and then drove the short ways up to Nubble Lighthouse in Maine. There’s not enough parking at the lighthouse for the endless stream of cars coming in so we ended up parking at the ice cream place up the road and walking down to the lighthouse area for a bit. We then walked back up the hill and enjoyed ridiculous large “kiddie” size ice cream dishes as a reward for our exercise.

The highlight of Tuesday was heading to Hampton Beach State Park in New Hampshire in the afternoon. The girls had a ball walking and splashing in the waves and as they both said that was their favorite part of the trip, we’ll be spending more time at the beach next summer. Actually, when I asked Jaycie what her favorite part of the day was at the end of the day she’d always say getting whatever toy I happened to buy her. When I asked Jordan what her favorite part was, she’d say not being in a hospital. So having both girls agree that the beach was the best part was quite impressive.

Although the hotel was nice, clean, conveniently located, and had a lovely indoor pool that Jaycie enjoyed, we all three agreed that next year we’re going to rent a cottage on Plum Island, MA again. It’s just nice staying in a home where I can make dinner and we can just hang out and enjoy our surroundings. I’m going to try and reserve the cottage I stayed in our first week long vacation in New England because it was on Plum Island sound and I loved watching the various birds fly overhead every morning and see the tide come in and out from the sound. As I have a whole year to save up for next summer’s trip, I know I won’t have to type my fingers off the last couple months before the trip and I won’t feel quite so pressured. Next summer sounds like a long way away considering this summer isn’t over yet, but I know it will be here sooner than we expect!

The Great New England Vacation Redo!

Humpback whale tail. Image by Newburyport Whale Watch

Humpback whale tail. Image by Newburyport Whale Watch

Every summer I take my girls on vacation to New England. This year marks our fifth year of this annual tradition. Although we’ve visited the areas of eastern Massachusetts and southeastern New Hampshire many times, there’s always something new to see and we always have interesting adventures.

Unfortunately, last year’s “adventures” were a bit more than I bargained for as Jaycie had a bout of appendicitis that had her spending almost the entire New England vacation in the hospital. She received the best care in the two hospitals she stayed in and she doesn’t remember much of the ordeal thankfully, but her older sister and I still remember. Jaycie had her appendix removed last fall and has been healthy and happy ever since, much to my relief and delight. She’s feeling perfectly fine this year as we prepare for our trip and we’re all looking forward to making new memories. 

There’s one particular memory I wish to erase from last year.  During the ultrasound in the hospital that was very painful and uncomfortable for Jaycie, she told the nurse that we were going on a whale watch later in the week. The nurse and I both knew that wasn’t going to happen and that moment broke a little crack in my heart because she wouldn’t be able to do the thing she so wanted to do. None of us really got to do what we’d wanted or planned and it was difficult for us, but I know that all that really matters is that Jaycie was properly cared for and eventually recovered.

To help undo the unpleasantness of last year’s trip, one of the first things we’re doing is going on the Newburyport Whale Watch. Jaycie loves boats so she’ll be happy even if we don’t see any whales. Being out on that boat will replace a bad memory with a good one and I’m sure everything that happens on vacation will continue to erase last year’s memories.

We’re staying in an area of Massachusetts I’ve never stayed in before but it’s close to a T station and a short drive to the coastal areas I’m familiar with. Although we were in Boston last year while Jaycie was in Boston Children’s Hospital, our visit there obviously wasn’t the fun time we’d hoped for. So our return to Boston this year will be infinitely better. We’ll make it into Salem, MA this time and wherever else we feel like venturing. 

It means so much to me as a mother to spend a full week with my daughters and I know this year’s trip will be another amazing vacation for the triumphant trio!

Another Whirlwind Tour of New England

 

Massachusetts hills by JulieAnn Corbin

Tomorrow morning I head to New England once again and I’m so looking forward to it! Last time I visited was at the end of March/beginning of April and I had the misfortune of driving through an unexpected snowstorm on the way home. As it’s now May and very summer-like, I do hope that won’t be happening again!

As usual, I’ll be cramming a lot into my visits and it’s all of my own choice. My days in Upstate New York are relatively predictable, but I don’t consider that a bad thing as I’m quite happy and never bored. However, driving out to southern New Hampshire/northern Massachusetts offers me new, interesting adventures not possible where I live. I’ll be spending a day in Boston, hopefully visiting Newburyport and Amesbury, helping set up for the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow in Marshfield, MA and attending the event on Saturday. I love visiting with my friends from the MCNAA, helping out however I can and dancing in the circle. I’m sure I’ll have a wonderful time!

One thing that surprises most people about my road trips is that I actually enjoy the drive out. The drive home always feels a bit longer, but on the drive out, I love watching the scenery change as I move east across New York State and enter the tall hills/mountains of western Massachusetts. I always know I’m getting closer to MA when the hills grow taller and the road becomes more winding. There are some who don’t do well in thruway/interstate traffic, but I’ve become accustomed to it and I set my cruise at a safe, reasonable speed.

So tomorrow morning after my girls get on the bus and head to school and I’ve dropped Jazzmin at the doggy hotel, I’ll be stopping at Dunkin Donuts to grab my usual large coffee and breakfast sandwich before hitting the thruway east. Look out, New England, here comes another whirlwind tour by yours truly! 😉

 

Adventures of The Triumphant Trio!

girls by stream by JulieAnn Corbin

It was another beautiful, spring day yesterday and by the time I picked up my girls, I’d already taken my usual two walks. Even so, there’s never enough time spent outside on such wonderful days so after dinner, the girls and I headed out on a walk.

The girls and I walked down my road and turned onto the next where a small stream and then larger stream run under the road. We stopped at the small stream and I watched as the girls tossed in some rocks and then we continued on to what I call the guardrail stream. I call the stream that because road crews spent several weeks last summer replacing the pipe that went under the road so the stream could pass through. That job required ripping out the entire road and bringing in tons of new fill and the end result is quite impressive. When the job was complete, they finally put up guardrails to help prevent cars from driving off into the ravine, hence the name guardrail stream.

When they redid that section of road and put the new plastic pipe in to replace the rusted metal one, they made a wide path down to the stream with the constant traffic of big machinery. It used to be a rather steep climb down both sides to the stream below but now the western side has a more gradual slope that’s easier to walk down. The area around where I live contains a lot of slate and shale rock and the path is comprised almost entirely of infinite crumbling pieces of shale.

My oldest daughter Jordan and I have no trouble walking down the path, but Jaycie is a bit less certain due to her developmental delays that affect her strength and coordination. I gave her the option of staying up at the top of the trail, but she said she wanted to go down, so we held hands and walked down together. By the time we reached the bottom, Jordan was already standing in the rocks in the middle of the stream and darting about from rock to rock like a forest frog. She’s just like me in that respect, brave and daring, even though she insists she’s a “scaredy cat.”

We spent quite a while down by the stream enjoying the beauty of the ravine. None of the trees have leaves yet, but the pine trees provided some shade and a bit of green amid the brown and gray. It’s also too early for there to be many bugs out, which is a rather nice feature when playing by water. That ravine is another example of how when you venture off the beaten path (in this case off the pave road) you can discover a whole new world you didn’t know existed. Down in that ravine, the road seemed miles away and it was as if we were in a mystical gully full of adventure.

stream and shadows by JulieAnn Corbin

Eventually, we decided to head back as the mosquitoes had noticed our presence and the sun was going down. Jordan walked up the trail ahead of us and I took Jaycie’s hand once more to help her along. As we walked up, she kept saying, “I can do this” to reassure herself despite the unsure footing provided by the shale path. Hearing her believe in herself like that and coach herself along made me smile with pride because she too, is a lot like me. Jaycie has never let her developmental delays dampen her sunny disposition and even though she may tire more easily than other kids her age, she always bounces back.

Both my girls possess various aspects of me, which anyone who meets us will quickly figure out, but they are their own unique and amazing young women that will achieve more than I’ve ever dreamed. Together, the three of us make a triumphant trio, there’s no path we can’t navigate, and no hill we can’t conquer.

Another New England Adventure Awaits!

 

Wampanoag post at Plymoth Museum

Informational sign at Plymouth Museum

As I don’t have my daughters for the upcoming school break, I’ll be heading to New England Wednesday morning on another adventure! It will most likely by my last trip out that way until next year so I plan on make the most of it.

My plans include attending The National Day of Mourning in Plymouth, MA, heading into Boston for a day and attending the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Annual Inter-Tribal Potluck Social. While I’ve visited Boston several times, this will be my first time attending the two Native American events. I’m eager to partake in these new experiences and further expand my knowledge and understanding. I urge anyone in the area to attend one or both events as everyone is welcome.

It was only a few months ago that I uncovered my own Native American ancestry and I’m constantly working on learning more about the culture that was kept secret in my family for generations. To that end and to acknowledge what this time of year means to Native Americans, I started reading The Mourning Road to Thanksgiving by Larry Spotted Crow Mann last week. I saw Larry Spotted Crow Mann at the very first pow wow I attended at UMAss Amherst in Spring of 2014 and I found him to be a very engaging storyteller. Although I’m only a few chapters into the book, I’m finding it very educational and interesting and I feel it’s something that everyone should read to help learn the truth about this time of year.

I am a solo traveler and to some, the idea of being alone in a hotel room during this time of year might not appeal, but as my days will be quite full of new and exciting experiences, I’m sure I’ll happily collapse into bed every night I’m there. I’ve been making these road trips out to New England since November of 2011 and while I didn’t know during the first trip that it would become a regular thing for me, I’m very happy that it has and I look forward to every single one with the same excitement of my very first trip!

 

 

Wants versus Needs

Sometimes what we think we want isn’t really what we need. I was reminded of this a couple weeks ago when I made an actual effort to have some sort of social life. I thought that in order to be an interesting person and meet the right people, I had to break out of my usual routine of hanging with my daughters, work, school, walking Jazzmin and beading.

My social life efforts involved going online, finding a few events nearby and then attending them. The first one was a network event at a winery and while I did get some free swag, it really wasn’t my scene.

Vineyard entrance for networking event

Vineyard entrance for networking event

The second event was a symposium and I’d never gone to a symposium before so I was quite excited. The Symposium on Eastern Woodland Material Culture and Art at the new Seneca Art and Culture Center was quite interesting, but it was way more stimulation than I’m used to. Listening to speakers give their presentations for an entire day was very educational and a lot for my brain to process.

Slide from one of the symposium presenters

Slide from one of the symposium presenters

By the time I drove home Saturday evening, I was really looking forward to just sitting on my couch with my animals as I watched Netflix and beaded.

What I learned from my social life efforts was that I’m obviously capable of getting out and doing things, but that I’m also quite happy with my life as it is. I have everything I need with my girls, my family, my friends, my pets, my house and my career as a writer. When compared to my local social life endeavors, I actually have more fun when I go on my road trips to New England and see familiar faces or explore new areas. There’s just so much more out there that I enjoy doing! I have a road trip planned for November and I’m really looking forward to it and consider it a worthwhile social life endeavor.

So although I may not be the most interesting woman in the world because I don’t climb mountains on weekends, teach Salsa dancing at night, arm wrestle bears daily or fly around the world every month, I know that who I am is more than good enough for the people in my life who genuinely care about me. I also know that there’s so much more to me than most people realize because they only take the time to see and judge what’s on the surface and miss out on all the treasure beneath. I may not always have everything I want, but the universe ensures that I always have exactly what I need.

In Love with Autumn

Autumn is my favorite season because I love all of the colorful, changing leaves. Every day is a new painting by nature as more trees change and the skies range from a chilly blue to a cloud-filled gray. This autumn has been one of the best I can remember in years with an abundance of warm weather that delayed the turning leaves until a more proper time in late September/early October. Past Octobers have been cold, rainy or even snowy and that’s put a damper on my enjoyment of the season.

To fully savor the season, I’ve been taking pictures almost every day on my walks with Jazzmin. I don’t want to forget the beauty that exists now once everything is cold and covered with snow in a few months (universe willing, not sooner!) Anyone who follows me on Instagram receives an almost daily treat of an autumn picture in the hills of Upstate NY, but for those who don’t follow me there, I decided to post some of the best pictures here. Enjoy!

Our favorite place to walk: the farmer's access road.

Our favorite place to walk: the farmer’s access road behind my house.

autumn5

Jazzmin Sundance: My faithful companion on all my walks.

monarch in fall

Found this monarch on a chilly day and tucked him safely away off the path.

autumn3

My shadow amid fall colors.

My shadow amid fall colors.

autumn6 autumn1

slate upstate ny

Jazzmin and I explored the recently rebuilt bridge where their digging revealed just how much slate is in our area.

Some very pretty color variations in the slate.

Some very pretty color variations in the slate.

eastern red spotted newt

Juvenile Eastern red spotted newt (eft) I helped cross the road recently.

autumn9 autumn7

Darling Daisy and the Dark and Stormy Night!

cat in desk chair

Daisy napping in my desk chair after her adventure.

It was cool and rainy this past Saturday night when I let my oldest cat Owl out for her usual hunting in darkness. Unfortunately, and much to my dismay, my youngest cat Daisy ran out the door at the same time and disappeared under the deck before I could stop her. Not only was it dark and rainy, there were fireworks going off somewhere down the hills. Apparently that didn’t scare Daisy into coming back inside though.

Owl is an indoor and outdoor cat but Daisy is supposed to be strictly indoors. Several months ago, the girls took Daisy outside on a leash a few times and she discovered a love for the outdoors that she acted on last Saturday night. I soon found myself outside in my pajamas in the rain with the house flood light on and a flashlight trying to chase down a little cat that had no interest in coming back inside. I’m sure if any neighbors saw me out there, they were quite amused.

After several minutes of me trying unsuccessfully to coax her to me or back in the house, Daisy took off behind the house and I was forced to give up and come back inside. I left Owl out and told her to retrieve her sister. It seemed unlikely she’d fulfill my request since she’s not fond of either of the rugrats, but it didn’t hurt to try. I went to bed praying to every deity I could think of that Daisy came back inside the house the next day and fell asleep with her unconcerned litter mate Angel snuggling next to me. Feel the sisterly love!

As soon as it was light the next morning, I went and opened my deck door and the first thing I saw was Owl coming up the steps proudly carrying a red squirrel. I was annoyed because that’s not what I asked her to bring me and wondered if that’s what she considered her sister. The next thing I saw was Daisy coming toward the front door from the side of the deck and I was so relieved! I opened the door slowly and called her name sweetly and she came running in with her tail all poofed up and wide eyes. Thankfully, she’s something of a pig so her hunger had overpowered her need for adventure and she ran straight to the food bowl.

By this time, Owl had disappeared back under the deck with the red squirrel. I don’t know how she even caught one of those! They’re like lightning fast and she’s 9 years old! She’s always been a good hunter and I did name her after a nocturnal bird of prey so I guess I was just asking for it.

I swear sometimes that if these things didn’t actually happen to me I wouldn’t think they’re true, but they do so I know they are. I’m hoping there aren’t any further adventures like Darling Daisy and the Dark and Stormy Night, but one never knows in my life…

Seeing beyond a broken road

broken road with dog

Sometimes when it looks like the road you’re on has suddenly ended it just means you have to look for another way forward. That was the case tonight when I took Jazzmin for a walk and we decided to venture down the “Road Closed” section around the corner from my house. A few days ago, the road was “closed” but still in one piece, but tonight the road was more than closed, it was missing a huge section.

That section on that road has suffered erosion problems since last year’s heavy rains and this year’s heavy rains haven’t helped the situation. Their initial “solution” was to put up signs that read “No Shoulder” along with some cautionary orange cones that warned drivers not to stray into the nonexistent shoulder and off the cliff. It’s not a very high cliff, but it’s high enough that anyone who drove over it wouldn’t end up in great shape.

The road crews are finally addressing the issue by digging up the entire road and placing newer, plastic pipes to guide the stream where it’s supposed to go. Once the pipes are in place they’ll fill the road back in and I’m hoping they’ll also add a guardrail as a more effective means of keeping cars and people from wandering over the steep drop-off. Time will tell.

When Jazzmin and I came to that gaping hole in the road, my first thought wasn’t to turn back. Any normal, reasonable person would have turned around and headed out on a different route, but I was curious to see if there was a path down into the ravine and back up. That road is the one we take on our long walks up the big hill and I didn’t like the idea of not being able to go that route. Have I mentioned that I’m stubborn?

From our vantage point on the broken road, I saw that the huge digger they’ve been using to clear the earth made a large, visible path down into the ravine so I thought I’d try it out. Yesterday’s rain made the ground very soft and muddy but Jazzmin and I made out way onto the slate area where an impromptu stream had bubbled up after the disruption of land around it. Walking in the slate stream was much more solid than the deep, wet dirt and we managed to make it to the main stream with only a few instances of sinking deeper than expected.

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The slate stream/path

Jazzmin is the kind of dog who will go anywhere with me because she trusts me and my guidance. I don’t know if that’s always the wisest thing, but I certainly appreciate the loyalty and commitment! She happily stepped into the stream and sniffed at the numerous deer tracks as I paused to take a few pictures with my phone. I figured since I’d taken pictures from the top, I should take them from the bottom too.

Looking up at the broken road.

Looking up at the broken road.

Looking toward the big digger.

Looking toward the big digger.

The lone tree they left standing where there used to be a mini forest.

The lone tree they left standing where there used to be a mini forest.

Looking up the other side of the ravine, I realized that there was little chance we could make it to the other side of the broken road and that even if we did, I didn’t want to slide back down that steep area on the way home. So Jazz and I stepped and sunk our way back up the makeshift path and arrived back on the road with wet, muddy paws and sneakers. Jazz wasn’t bothered by any of it and was eager to continue the walk, but I decided it would be wiser if we went home and hosed ourselves off.

The slate stream/path heading back up.

The slate stream/path heading back up.

It wasn’t a very long walk, but it was exactly what I needed to do tonight. Reaching the “end” of that road and realizing that it didn’t really end, that it had just been temporarily redirected reminded me that things aren’t always what they seem. Some people may only see a broken, impassable road, but I saw a challenging new path and decided to explore it. I didn’t have anyone there telling me I could or couldn’t do it, I was in charge of my own destiny and it felt divine!

Squirrel!

dog in the snow with booties

This assignment for Intro to Creative Writing was one of my favorites to write. We had to write a short story and though I struggled for a while picking a subject, once I figured it out, it flowed smoothly. Here’s a little glimpse of what it feels like to be Jazzmin…

***

Squirrel!

Sitting quietly and patiently as instructed, I stare eagerly at the front door as my mama puts on her boots to go outside. The snow outside is up to my yellow-furred belly in spots, but I don’t mind because that just makes it more fun to frolic in. I’m wearing my blue and black weighted backpack because I like to have a job and because Mama says it slows me down a little.

Sometimes Mama puts rubber booties on me to keep my feet warm, but she says it’s above freezing this morning and I’ll be okay without them. That makes me very happy because I hate those booties! Whenever she puts them on, I try to stand on one leg rather than put my booted feet down. Unfortunately, standing on one leg is impossible for me because I have four legs and I need to have at least two down to keep from falling over.

Once she’s all dressed in her boots, gloves, and winter coat, Mama reaches for the front doorknob and I stand up, my tail wagging happily behind me. We’re almost out! She turns to me with stern brown eyes and I remain standing still waiting for her command. “Come, Jazzmin,” she says in the authoritative tone that reminds me to move calmly instead of leaping toward the door. I do as she commands and walk slowly to the door, though I have no control over the arched yellow tail still wagging happily behind me.

Mama pulls the main front door open and I press my nose up to the closed storm door beyond it. I’m sure I can suck in the outdoors through my snout if I just try hard enough! I hear Mama’s low chuckle and then the storm door is open and I’m ready to take off on today’s adventure! Mama’s quick tug on my leash stops me though and I remember that she’s the pack leader and she goes first.

Once Mama steps through the open storm door and onto the snowy deck, she says “come” again and I’m eagerly at her side with my short ears perked straight up and my deep, brown eyes trying to absorb everything on the deck, in the yard, and into the trees beyond. We don’t go on as many walks in the winter as we do in the warmer weather so every time Mama puts my backpack on I get very happy and excited.

We move down the steps from the deck side by side and it feels like it’s been months since I was outside walking! There are so many smells I’d almost forgotten existed and so much to see even though it’s all blanketed in snow. The snow crunches beneath my paw pads as we walk down the driveway and then I catch the sight of movement. Is it snow falling from a tree? A bird? A car driving by? Oh no, it’s something much better! It’s a squirrel! Hang on, Mama!

Counting Hawks

red tailed hawk in flight

Ever since my father died in 2009, I’ve paid close attention to the sky. I think of him and miss him every time I see the moon because it was special to both of us. Sometimes when I see it in the sky I say, “Hey, Dad” and smile because I know he’s listening.

I also look to the sky for something else: hawks. For me, hawks are a sign that my father, my ancestors, and the universe are watching over me, guiding me, and helping me on my path. I often ask to see a hawk sitting or flying as an answer to a specific question or problem I’m having and quite often, I see the hawk in response. Sometimes I see hawks when I’m feeling especially down and just the sight of their powerful, regal, feathered form is enough to reassure me that the universe hasn’t abandoned me.

While I’ve paid closer attention to seeing hawks and purposely started looking for them over the past few years, it wasn’t until last spring that I decided to start counting how many I see a day. I tend to see more when I’m out driving, but there are days when they fly right over my front yard at the exact moment I look out the window and to me, that’s never coincidence. In the summer when I’m working at my desk, I have the window next to me open and I quite often hear a hawk cry in the sky and I then go dashing out onto my deck. When I look up, I quickly see the hawk (sometimes there’s more than one) and I thank them for making themselves known to me.

In my years of hawk spotting, I’ve learned to tell the difference between hawks, crows, and turkey vultures. They each have a unique shape, size and style of flying. While many people seem to mistake turkey vultures for eagles due to their size, I know by now that most clusters of broad-winged, soaring birds in this region are turkey vultures. It’s amazing what one can learn just by looking up into the sky every day.

I see the highest number of hawks when I’m driving out to New England on my road trips. I’m sure that has to do with it being an almost 7-hour drive over 420 miles, much of it through heavily treed and hilly terrain. Last summer, the most hawks I saw was around 20 during the drive out with my girls in August for our vacation on Plum Island. Seeing 20 hawks felt pretty impressive to me and I figured that was probably the highest number I’d ever see. My most recent trip to New England proved me wrong.

As I headed out last Wednesday morning to drop Jazzmin at the boarders before getting on the thruway, I didn’t see any hawks until I realized I’d forgotten my ticket to the MCNAA Anniversary Dinner and turned around to return home. Shortly after I turned onto my unexpected detour home, I saw a hawk sitting in a tree and I knew that for whatever reason, I was meant to go back home. Later on in that same return trip home I drove by an open field and saw three hawks circling together above it. I’m certain that my unexpected delay happened for a reason and that it was protecting me from something that would’ve happened if I’d remembered the ticket and not had to double back.

Once I had the ticket, I headed back out, dropped Jazzmin off, grabbed my usual Dunkin Donuts coffee and breakfast sandwich, and got onto the thruway heading east. Shortly after I merged into traffic, a great blue heron flew lazily above me and I took that as a good omen that I was heading out at just the right time. Within a half hour of driving, I saw my first hawk and the counting continued.

I drive past Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge on my trip and while I usually see geese, ducks, and perhaps a heron, I’ve never seen anything that I couldn’t see just by looking out my back window at home. As I neared the refuge, I saw a bird with a large wing span fly over the overpass, through the trees and into the refuge area and I thought at first that it was a heron. Driving closer, I realized it didn’t have the long neck of a heron and I could tell by the way that it was flying that it wasn’t a turkey vulture either. Much to my thrilled amazement, I realized by its wing span and shape that it was an eagle of some type, either a golden eagle or a juvenile bald eagle because they look very similar (bald eagles don’t get their full adult plumage including white heads until around 5 years old). It flew majestically over the thruway as I passed under it and I felt truly blessed to have seen it!

With my spirits newly lifted, I continued my hawk counting and by the time I reached my hotel in New Hampshire, the final number was astounding. I’d seen 61 hawks that drive! They’d been sitting on poles, in tree branches, and soaring through the sky throughout the drive, sometimes in groups of up to three hawks. It was a lovely, mostly sunny day so I’m sure it was great for hunting but in all my trips out there since I started counting, I’d never seen so many! I took that number as an extremely positive sign and seeing the eagle was an added bonus!

I continued to count daily hawks while visiting New England and there was only one day when I didn’t see any hawks. It was an especially dreary, snowy day so I don’t blame the hawks for seeking shelter out of sight. I counted hawks on my drive home and I’m sure I missed some while I was navigating Monday morning traffic, but I counted 15 by the time I was almost at the exit for Canandaigua.

When I neared the exit I said aloud “If I see one more hawk that will make it 16, the reverse of the 61 I saw on the way out.” As I entered the exit and began to loop around, I spotted a red-tailed hawk flying up from the ground and just as I neared, he flew up and landed atop one of the directional signs pointing around the bend. If I needed proof that the universe was always listening to me, I received it quite vividly in that moment! I was so grateful and pleased that I smiled, laughed, and thanked the universe for my unfailingly faithful feathered guides and guardians.

A glimpse of a busy day

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My day in Boston was full of new adventures and fun but it only left me with enough energy to post some of the better photos I took with my phone. It will have to do until I get home and have the time and energy to write all about it.

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On the road again

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To say it’s been a challenging past couple of weeks is an understatement and I certainly think I deserve a break! Thankfully, I headed off on a road trip to New England this morning and my adventures always restore and re-energize my spirit.

While the weather was overcast for most of the drive through New York, there were a few breaks in the clouds and I even saw the sun a couple times!

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Alas, shortly after I crossed into Massachusetts the clouds thickened and I soon drove into rain. I didn’t encounter any overly heavy downpours but the periodic gusts of wind were enough to blow my little Matrix around.

Despite the weather, I still enjoyed the drive and was quite happy to see that the trees in Massachusetts and New Hampshire have more substantial foliage than the nearly bare trees back in New York.

When I finally reached my exit in Seabrook, NH, I made my usual trip to Market Basket for a few little necessities like milk and snacks. Then it was off to the hotel to check in, unpack, and take a nice hot shower. I relaxed for the rest of the evening by watching television and I discovered there are some funny new shows I’ve never managed to sit down long enough to watch until now. It felt kind of weird not doing freelance work or college work tonight but I know I need the break and will benefit from it.

For some reason, driving through rough weather makes road trips feel like they take days even when they really didn’t take much longer than usual, and I’m already starting to doze off. While the forecast for the next couple days doesn’t look great, I know I’ll still manage to keep myself busy and have fun!