Romance in raspberries

Lovely sweet berries buried in the prickers.

Lovely sweet berries buried in the prickers.

Almost every evening for the past several weeks I go out and pick black raspberries from my hedgerow. It’s the best black raspberry crop I’ve ever seen as the mix of rainy monsoon and hot, humid weather agrees with the delectable little fruit. I have a gallon size freezer bag almost full with berries now and I add at least a half quart every time I go picking.

As I pick the berries, my mind wanders and I think about how picking berries resembles navigating the unpredictable path of romance. There are raspberries at the very edge of the hedgerow that are easy to pick and involve no danger of being scratched. But some of the best raspberries are hidden beneath leaves or buried back among the prickers. Someone who doesn’t want to make the effort will leave the best berries among the prickers, not wanting to risk getting hurt or tangled up in the stems. But someone who sees the potential of those sweet berries will brave anything to get them whether it be prickers, mosquitoes, deer flies, unseen holes in the ground, spiders, beetles or bees. When they’re really lucky and persistent, they even find rare berries of a different color.

Finding golden raspberries is a nice treasure.

Finding golden raspberries is a nice treasure.

I pick all the viable berries I see. I end up scratched, bitten and usually sweaty. I’ve even been rained on a few times. I’m not afraid of making the extra effort and I’m a smidge stubborn and quite tenacious. Not everyone is like me though. It seems nowadays more people are willing to settle for the easy to reach berries, the “he/she isn’t really what I want but they’re there and they like me so they’ll do.” It seems difficult to find the ones that are willing to see past all the overgrown bushes and brave the prickers for the better berries, the “he/she has a tough exterior, has been through some rough stuff and is going to take some effort but to me they’re worth it!”

I know it’s a bit peculiar that I think of all this while I’m picking black raspberries but I do and I imagine that other writers understand. Writers and those with the creativity bug see the world differently than others. We see beyond what’s in front of our eyes, we see inside it, we explore its potential in unique ways and we seek to reveal new dimensions of imagination to the world. I see my wild, daydreaming, hopelessly optimistic and endlessly romantic mind as a great blessing and I’ll never stop expanding upon its abilities.

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A beautiful Mother’s Day

My daughters and our pup Jazzmin

My daughters and our pup Jazzmin

It was an absolutely beautiful day today! The sun was shining, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it was in the mid 70’s and there weren’t tornadic winds messing things about. Truly one of the nicest Mother’s Day that I can remember!

I started my day sleeping in a bit and then hanging with my daughters inside and outside just enjoying the lovely day. Mama Nature sent three male rose-breasted grosbeaks to my feeders this morning which was quite surprising! I’ve only ever seen one before but today three came off and on and they all hung together eating without any sort of squabbling. I imagine their mates were home seating on eggs and I do hope the males were kind enough to pack a doggy bag of seeds for the special ladies in their lives.

My three male rose-breasted grosbeaks

My three male rose-breasted grosbeaks

My daughters made me wonderful gifts for Mother’s Day! Jordan drew me a picture of sparrows and gave me a box of chocolates and Jaycie had made me a bouquet of paper flowers and an adorable card. I always love their tokens of affection but truly my daughters themselves are the greatest gifts I’ve ever received and just having them in my life makes me complete.

After breakfast, I donned the fringed seed bead earrings I completed yesterday and started on a smaller version as a gift for my mother. I had the window open as I worked and the birds serenaded me with their happy songs and chirps as they frolicked in the bird oasis garden nearby. I had my mom’s earring finished by the time the girls and I headed to her house this afternoon.

Fringe earrings I made for myself

Fringe earrings I made for myself

Fringe earrings I made for my mom

Fringe earrings I made for my mom

I indulged in one of my favorite past times, a bath, at my mom’s and we went out and brought back chicken for dinner so none of us had to cook. It was nice just being together and relaxing and I was blissfully happy all day long. My mom, myself and my daughters all posed for a picture out on her sun porch and out of at least 10 pictures, we got a few good ones. We even did a picture with my oldest brother in it so we have visual evidence that we were all together on this special day.

Three generations!

Three generations!

Posing with Uncle Tim

Posing with Uncle Tim

Once the girls and I returned home, I asked them to pose by one of my lilac bushes in the back yard. The lilacs are just starting to bloom and smell fragrantly sweet and I felt my biggest bush would be the perfect background. I also thought it would be good to get Jazzmin in the picture since I’m her mama too. The best picture is at the top of this post and the one at the end of this post shows how hard it is to get a dog to look at the camera when you’re not holding a treat of some kind. Overall it was a blessed day and I loved every moment!

Jazzmin was much more interested in the field than the camera...

Jazzmin was much more interested in the field than the camera…

Don’t Go Halfway…

I didn’t want to break my blogging streak but I’ve had a rather busy, tiring day so I’ve copied and pasted in a blog post I wrote on my Corbin Creations blog last summer. I walked the big hill tonight so the post is relevant and the message in it is something I need to remind myself about more often. Enjoy!

***

Don’t Go Halfway, Take the Whole Dang Hill! 7/12/2012

I’ve been slacking and haven’t taken Jazzmin on a good walk in a while. It’s been too warm or too buggy…or some other stupid excuse. Well it was cooler last night and the nastiest of the biting flies have died out for the summer so off we went! As usual, Jazz was raring to go, but as I’m teaching her not to pull, we stopped five times before we even made it to the end of my road. The local bunnies were testing her obedience by munching happily away in the shoulder of the road and while Jazz wanted to chase the adorable little fluffy things, I kept her under control and made her sit until they hopped off out of sight.  That distraction dealt with, we resumed our stride.

The air was a little thick but there was a nice breeze to help cool the sweat and I decided I’d take Jazz halfway up the biggest hill on our walk route. The sun had nearly set and neither of us was at our aerobic peak anymore so it seemed like a reasonable plan. We got halfway up without any trouble and I paused just a moment before deciding we were going to conquer the whole hill. Halfway had been easy enough and we weren’t overly winded and continuing the uphill climb didn’t seem daunting at all. After all, we’d done it many times before…

I quickly remembered that the hill gets much steeper after the halfway point as my calves and thighs burned and Jazz’s tongue began to drag on the ground. She certainly wasn’t pulling anymore and we were both panting but we kept going at our strong pace and sure enough we made it up! The view of the surrounding countryside is amazing from the top of that hill and it’s like stepping into a whole new world. I was very proud of myself and my breath soon returned.

No one was there cheering me on or pushing me to go all the way up and Jazz would have been fine turning around, but I’m just not someone who can go halfway. Even if it seems crazy and risky, I go all the way and I’m constantly testing my own limits and discovering my own strength. In order to be a source of strength for those I love, I have to first be strong myself. I have to have faith that somehow things will be okay. As I told my best friend last night, there are more dimensions to faith than there are stars in the sky.

My friend has told me that with Jazz I need to be the leader, he says it’s up to me to show her the way. Have confidence, he says. Great words of advice for much more than training my pup! I admit that my confidence can waver on occasion and it really never should because I know in my heart that I am an amazing woman and that I can handle, and have handled, anything life throws at me. Life lessons are rarely easy and they hurt, but I know that when I keep going and push through the pain, all the suffering will be healed by the bright, beautiful light that forever shines through the darkness.

Jukebox Jazzmin and the Snake Saver!

View of the moon during one of our walks

View of the moon during one of our walks

Even with a pup as energetic as my Jazzmin, it can be difficult to find the motivation to go out and walk when it’s 80+ degrees out. When it was a bit cooler last week I had no trouble at all taking Jazz for two walks a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon or evening. In the heat and humidity, my enthusiasm wains. Jazz is really good at giving me the puppy dog eyes to guilt me into walking but considering she does that even after I’ve taken her on two nice, long walks, the power of those pathetic brown eyes diminishes.

It’s then up to me to find some other good motivation to get my rear in gear. That’s where music comes in. Before I adopted Jazz, I’d always listen to music on my walks with one earbud in. I stopped doing that though because even one earbud made it hard to hear traffic over hills. Last week I discovered the perfect solution: turn Jazzmin into a jukebox! No I didn’t equip her with tweeters and subwoofers (haha, doggy humor there) or use duct tape to strap a boombox on her back. Instead, I tucked my phone into the top section of her backpack and played my music through its little speaker. It works amazingly well and gives Jazz and I a great, upbeat tempo to walk to!

Jazzmin with my phone tucked into her backpack

Jazzmin with my phone tucked into her backpack

My favorite genres of music lately are Reggaeton and Latin pop. I imagine my country neighbors find it peculiar hearing Spanish singers blasting from the back of my dog, but oh well. On our walk last night, we turned a corner just as a car pulled up to the intersection. I had my back to the intersection but I heard the car pull away strangely slowly so I turned around to find the young male teenage driver staring at us out his open window as he drove down the road. He really wasn’t looking where he was going so he was obviously highly curious. I rolled my eyes in amusement and turned back around to continue our walk. My country neighborhood just isn’t equipped to deal with unique ladies like Jazz and I.

Jazz and I also did a bit of animal rescue last night on our walk. Apparently it’s the time of year for snakes to cross the road as I’d found the remains of one on our previous walk. I like snakes, especially the one living near my shed that I’ve named Jammy. The dead snake I’d seen in the road was a smaller version of Jammy so seeing that had made me sad. Thankfully last night I was given a chance to save another snake from the same fate. This little guy was almost to the middle of the road so I stepped up slowly to him and coached him across the road. I’m sure he was scared of me but I’d much rather scare him across the road than have him end up under the tires of a car. I even manged to catch our rescue on video! Don’t watch it if you’re not fond of snakes because it’ll probably make you twitch.

As you can see, our walk adventures are never-ending! We walk the same roads but there’s always something new to see. I truly enjoy having the time to savor it all now and despite her attempts to convince others how neglected she is, I know Jazzmin is loving the extra walks!

Morning Walks

Right before my 5am alarm went off this morning, I was dreaming that I was walking on the beach. The sky was overcast but the water was warm and I was in it up to my knees. The feel of the churning waves rolling over my skin was divine and I could smell the salty air. I love the ocean and walking on the beach is something that brings me peace and contentment. It’s also something I don’t get to do enough but I’m working on fixing that. When I live closer to the ocean I will walk in the shallow waves as often as I can, morning, noon and night if possible. I’ll revel in the feel of the wet sand squishing beneath my toes and underfoot and collect whatever shells wash upon shore. That dream this morning is something I am determined to make a reality.

Sunrise at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, 2009

Sunrise at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, 2009

 

The lovely rolling waves in the morning.

The lovely rolling waves in the morning.

 

A seagull all tucked up on the beach

A seagull all tucked up on the beach.

Right now my reality is living in the country though so I’m making the best of that. Sunday morning Jazzmin and I headed out to the farmer’s access road for our walk. There was a light breeze but it was already becoming humid. As we neared the gate across the road, I heard church bells in the distance which must have been announcing the start of service. It was lovely how that sound carried across the hills and valleys of where I live and I felt at peace.

The morning view out over the fields.

The morning view across the field.

I’d been smart enough to wear my hiking boots this time and I’d placed the Dr. Scholl’s active series insoles inside them. Those insoles really do work by the way and I recommend them to anyone suffering from shin splints, foot pain or back aches during or after their walk. The walk down that road was uneventful with only the red-winged blackbirds and some chickadees serenading us. As we neared the end of the straight part of the road I saw a squirrel perched atop a large boulder. Jazz didn’t see it and it quickly ran away but she smelled it as soon as we reached that boulder and had to investigate.

Large boulder minus squirrel.

Large boulder minus squirrel.

 

Jazz looking across the boulder.

Jazz looking across the boulder.

 

Jazz searching for the squirrel

Jazz searching for the squirrel.

I stood on the part of the road that opens out onto four different fields and took several pictures of the wash out and brush clearing. For some reason that section reminded me of a desolate post-war wasteland despite the un-endings songs of the birds and the butterflies flying by.

Washed out earth.

Washed out earth.

 

Cleared out brush and trees.

Cleared out brush and trees.

I took a panoramic video of the area as Jazz sniffed around and then I decided to head back. Barely five minutes after we started walking back, the church bells sounded again marking the end of service.

Morning view of the hills and valleys.

Morning view of the hills and valleys.

 

Some lovely purple flowers I saw on the way back.

Some lovely purple flowers I saw on the way back.

I felt very calm and at ease as we walked back toward home. Starting my day like that out among nature and the songs of birds brought me serenity. That access road isn’t a true nature trail or even that secluded, but to me it felt like I was in another world. Perhaps it’s just my overactive imagination that causes that or maybe it’s my learned ability to appreciate all the nuances of life. Whatever the reason, I look forward to further morning walks in the country and anticipate deeper contentment when I stroll among the ocean waves.

Listening Walks

There are no sidewalks where I live and the roads I walk on have a lot of blind hills. I have to be listening constantly for oncoming cars. On windy nights like tonight it’s an extra challenge because the wind coming over the hills sounds just like a car. Jazz and I stop and step into the shoulder, wait a few moments and if the wind dies down and there’s no further sound, we’re safe to continue.

Jazz and I cast long shadows!

Jazz and I cast long shadows!

My listening ability comes in very handy on my walks with Jazzmin and not just for avoiding cars. I’m always listening for the sounds of deer crashing through the woods or squirrels scampering among the leaves. This gives me warning before they run out in front of us and I can make sure I have Jazz in control. There are quite often times when she walks blissfully by unaware that 10 feet off the road there’s deer staring at her or a squirrel sitting up in a tree. I’m not about to call her attention to them.

Mostly what I listen for and to are the songs of the birds. Take a walk with me and I’ll tell you what song belongs to what bird. There are still a few songs I don’t recognize but tonight I heard an Eastern towhee, tons of robins, cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees and blackbirds. I learned three new bird songs today. This morning I heard and saw a mockingbird and this evening I heard and saw a Baltimore oriole and some other mysterious bird I still haven’t identified.

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

mysterious songbird

Mysterious songbird upper left of tree

I apologize for the low quality pictures of the oriole and the mystery bird but the camera on my phone only zooms in so far and the birds wouldn’t obediently come closer. It was the perfect night for a walk and the breeze helped keep us cool and keep the bugs away. Jazz is always happy to be out walking and having so many beautiful things to see and hear makes it my favorite kind of exercise.

I’m a listener by nature; a listener and observer. I was a shy kid and still am somewhat shy in person until you get to know me. So rather than participate, I listened and watched. You can learn a lot by keeping your lips zipped and your ears open. I know I did. The side effect of this is that when I’m with my friends and family, I’ve observed so much, am so eager to share it and have been quiet for so long that I talk really fast. I suppose in that respect I resemble the song birds because I have a lot to say, though I do so in a far less musical way.