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.

slate steam

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!

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The thing about adventures…

Overcast skies but still a lovely view of Salem, MA.

Overcast skies but still a lovely view of Salem, MA.

The thing about adventures is…that they’re very tiring! Yet somehow, they’re also invigorating, freeing, energizing, and amazing! I have tons to say about my adventures in Salem, Massachusetts today, but I’m too exhausted to put it into words tonight. For now, let me just say this: never be afraid to chase your dreams, no matter how unattainable they may seem. Working toward dreams isn’t always easy but I promise you that the effort is worth it.

One of the things I’ve found true repeatedly is that you have to take the first step toward your dreams or you’ll never accomplish them. It doesn’t matter how small that step is, as long as it’s a step forward, it’s a step closer to achieving your goals and dreams. The thing about dreams is…once you’ve achieved them, they transform, evolve, and light the way for new dreams you hadn’t imagined until you reached that part of your ongoing adventure.

Not my usual New England visit

Grand Entry at UMAss Amherst Annual Pow-wow, 4/19/2014

Grand Entry at UMAss Amherst Annual Pow-wow, 4/19/2014

During my last trip to New England I attended a pow-wow for the first time in my life. It was held at UMass Amherst on a beautiful Saturday and the experience changed me forever. If you’ve never attended a pow-wow, I believe you’re missing out on something very important to the past, present and future of this planet we call home.

I found the experience so meaningful that I decided I needed to bring my daughters to a pow-wow. I was therefore happy to discover when I looked at the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) website that the Spring Planting Moon Pow-Wow is taking place May 24th-25th. As that’s Memorial Day weekend and I have the girls for the holiday, I immediately made plans for the three of us to drive up to New England over the long weekend. If you’re in the area this weekend, I urge you to attend!

My usual trips to New England run from Wednesday to Sunday and involve me driving around solo on various adventures, wandering Amesbury and going wherever the wind blows. This will be the first time it’s just us three girls on a road trip and I’m sure it will be a fun and interesting challenge! Jaycie has been talking excitedly about it ever since I told her and I’m sure Jordan is eager as well. We’ll make the most of our time in New England and undoubtedly have stories to tell for the rest of time.

My next New England trip will follow the usual routine and take place end of June or early July. As long as the weather is nice, I get out to Massachusetts and New Hampshire as often as I can because that is where I feel most at home and welcome. It’s going to be a great summer!

Walking Toward the Unknown

The beautiful feather I found on my walk

The beautiful feather I found on my walk

It was excessively humid yesterday. I took Jazzmin for a short walk in the morning and while it was cool, the air was far too thick with humidity to be comfortable. The air was even hotter and heavier by our evening walk and the moment I stepped out onto the road and felt the heat radiating off the pavement, I decided we’d walk up the farmer’s access road. I knew it wouldn’t be much cooler but the ground is more grass and dirt and the trees lining it provide shade.

Jazzmin is always very excited on the access road because she can smell the deer that frequently travel along it. There’s also no shortage of birds, chipmunks, squirrels and bunnies that like to make the occasional appearance. We made it along the straight part of the path without any major issues and I was quite ready to go home and shower the sweat off! I turned us back around and we started our return trip. I then heard an unfamiliar noise that made me stop.

The noise was coming from the long grove of trees that lay just beyond where the curve in the road starts. It sounded like a crow call but deeper and more ominous than I’d heard before, almost like a bark. Curious, I walked toward the noise wanting to know exactly what animal was making it and why. I suppose there are people who would turn and run from such a haunting sound but I’ve learned that walking toward the unknown can reveal amazing discoveries.

Getting closer to the origin of the noise meant walking off the access road and into the farmer’s recently mowed field. The ground was still a bit soggy from recent rain and all the humidity so Jazz and I had to navigate around a few puddles. Following the continuing noise, I charged on through the field and a few moments later a red-tailed hawk flew out of the trees and to a spot further down in the grove. I love hawks and feel they are a very positive sign and symbol, so whenever I see them I smile. I continued walking toward the small pond in that field and the hawk appeared again, this time flying across the field to a thicker forest of trees. A crow then emerged from the trees near us and followed the hawk across the field where it started making unhappy noises that were more familiar to me. The noise I’d heard was in fact a crow being rather upset that a hawk was near something important to it, a nest or some fallen prey perhaps.

Satisfied that I’d solved that mystery, I led Jazz back toward the road. As we walked along the tree line I saw some fallen branches and I approached them hoping maybe we’d find a deer antler. I didn’t find a deer antler but I did find a rather beautiful feather. I picked it up and was in awe of how it’s copper color reflected the light. I collect feathers and that feather was certainly the largest and nicest I’ve found yet. I didn’t want to put it into Jazz’s backpack and risk damaging it so I tucked it into the top of my ponytail where I knew it’d be safe. If I’d encountered anyone on that walk back they would have probably done a doubletake seeing a feather protruding from my hair.

Proud of my discoveries and my little treasure, I walked Jazzmin back home. Once in the house, I tucked the feather into a spot on my desk-side cork board and then happily showered to feel human again. After my shower I powered up my computer and began searching through images of bird feathers trying to figure out what I’d found. I ruled out red-tailed hawk and owl but among the random images I found an exact match. Clicking on the image I read that it was a wild turkey feather. Sure enough, when I went to the full website, there were more examples of turkey feathers and what I had found matched exactly. I was so happy I’d figured it out! It was fascinating to me that such a beautiful feather could come from creatures that look less than graceful when they attempt to fly.

Once again I learned something new by walking toward the unknown. Nature showed me that being brave brings unique gifts and that sometimes the most beautiful things can come from the most unexpected sources.

Seeking the Extraordinary

Sara – “Maybe it’s like what you said. We should both just go our separate ways and then we’ll do just fine.”

Hitch – “What if fine isn’t good enough? What if I want extraordinary?”

Sara – “No such thing.”

I needed something to inspire my blog this morning. I was watching the end of the movie “Hitch” starring Will Smith and those lines were exactly the inspiration boost I needed. I say often that life isn’t like a romantic comedy or a fairy tale. Things don’t wrap up all neatly in the end with romantic lines and gestures that make girls go “awwww!” In real life there can be many of those “awwww!” moments but they’re not the end of the story, they’re just part of it.

The word “fine” is used far too often to describe how someone is feeling. I think when most women are asked by their mate how they are and they respond “fine” they mean anything but. Fine is the short answer, a pathetic attempt to sum up emotions ranging anywhere from anger to sadness and everything in between. When a woman says “I’m fine” what she usually wants is for the partner in her life to delve a little deeper and see through that excuse for a word.

When I’m talking to my best friend and we both says we’re “fine” we know we’re lying to each other. Even if we’re only communicating via text. Women, especially close friends, are intuitive and can read each other. Plus most of us know “fine” is a mask. Chances are that if a man says he’s “fine” he really means that he’s just fine and life is going swimmingly. Even if a man isn’t fine, he might not admit it for fear of showing weakness and all that. I’m not a man so I don’t know how the male mind works. I’m also not a relationship expert or a psychologist so everything I’m saying is just from observations I’ve made in my life.

Fine is how I would describe my life right now but extraordinary is how I want it to be. I know how lucky I am to have a loving family, two beautiful daughters, great friends, a lovable dog, my own home and car…and so on. That doesn’t mean I’m content with “fine.” I don’t feel that I’m being greedy by wanting more. I think working toward more is what makes life worthwhile.

You see, I am extraordinarily in love. “Ah ha!” you say. “I knew it!” Only it’s not what you think. I am in love…with a place, a state in fact. Its name is Massachusetts. I imagine people reading this and who follow me on social media wonder about my obsession with a state I wasn’t born in. Perhaps I seem like an interloper because I’m from Upstate New York. Personally I think it speaks to the amazing opportunities and beauty of Massachusetts that it can capture the heart of someone after just one visit. I’ve been to Massachusetts four times now and every visit has been different. All of my visits have been unique adventures and created unforgettable memories. So do not dismiss me and my love so quickly.

Home really is wherever you make it and you should seek to make it and your whole life extraordinary. Never settle for less than you deserve but don’t be discontent with what you have. It’s about finding balance without falling into a rut. Not an easy thing, trust me. I’ve tripped into many ruts and holes that I’ve had to climb out of. But I do always climb out, brush the dirt off my knees and am “fine.” I then square my shoulders and remember that fine isn’t good enough and that I want extraordinary!

Adventures in Motherhood

When I first started seriously working on becoming the pack leader to my dog Jazzmin, I had a mantra I’d say in my mind to build my confidence. It started like this: “I am my father’s daughter, I am the single mother of two girls…” and beyond that it would get a little fuzzy because those are the two things that bring me the most feelings of strength. I have inherited much of my father’s spirit and it helps me through some tough times. I love being a mother and it’s what makes me feel the most complete in this unpredictable life.

I quit my job as a legal secretary a couple weeks before Jordan was born and I didn’t return to work until Jaycie was 3 1/2 because I needed the income to help me get out on my own. Those eight years home with my girls were some of the best times of my life. I’m good at raising babies and I’m happy I have two daughters.  I used to think I’d have more children but I am now content with just my girls because I know how truly blessed I am.

The hardest part of getting divorced for me was knowing I wouldn’t have my girls all the time anymore. They are a huge part of my life and being with them brings me fulfillment. After two years of the 50/50 custody schedule I’ve learned to be okay on my own and to rediscover my personal identity beyond being a mother. But I will always be a mother first.

When I have my daughters, I go to sleep to the sound of them snoring and when I wake up I peek in on them to find them sprawled out on their beds happily sleeping away. The house is far too quiet without them which is one of the reasons I adopted Jazzmin. I adore listening to them play with My Little Ponies and other toys together. They create such interesting little dramas and I know how great it is that 10 year old Jordan is still willing to play with 6 year old Jaycie. Jordan helps me make cookies and Jaycie helps eat them. Yes, my days with them are certainly full and rewarding.

My daughters are always teaching me new things about life and opening my eyes to different perspectives. This past Sunday evening I took them for a walk on the access road I’d been walking with Jazzmin. I left Jazzmin home so I could focus on being with my daughters without being distracted by her trying to chase squirrels and the like. Jordan enjoyed the walk but Jaycie was nervous that a tractor was going to come down the road. The only thing we saw on the road were some robins and a couple bunnies but Jaycie was never quite at ease.

My girls walking the path.

My girls walking the path.

A bunny pretending to be a statue.

A bunny pretending to be a statue.

Walking with my daughters reminded me that while I am at home and find peace among the quiet of nature, they’re not at that stage in their lives yet. I completely understand. I remember being dragged out on walks or to historic places like Washington D.C. and Gettysburg, PA as a child and being utterly bored and miserable. Were I to go to those places now I’m sure I’d find it all very fascinating and I’d no doubt wander off into the less-explored places. The girls wanted to be home playing on their swing set or with their toys, they weren’t exactly excited to be walking on a secluded farmer’s road with their bird-loving mother.

I am someone who is used to the wide open spaces of the country but who longs for more civilization like what I experienced during my visits to areas in and around Boston, Massachusetts. I’m taking my daughters to Boston this summer and while they’re excited about the trip, I know they’ll view the city in a different way than I do. While I’ll be fascinated with the history, they’ll want to ride boats and explore the aquarium. I’d be content lingering at Long Wharf for hours gazing out at the ocean, but the girls will want to find somewhere more interesting to play like Christopher Columbus Park. I look forward to seeing Boston through their eyes, making countless new memories and taking more pictures than I’ll know what to do with. It will be another chapter in the adventures of motherhood and one none of us will ever forget.

Me at Long Wharf, Boston. November, 2012

Me at Long Wharf, Boston. November, 2012