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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Powerful pairs

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The trees are starting to green up.

Spring is a time when creatures start pairing off. This was very evident on our afternoon walk when just a few steps down the road I saw a pair of large dragonflies flying through the air.

As we continued on our walk I saw all sorts of animals paired off including birds, squirrels, bunnies and deer. It reminded me a bit of a Disney movie except that not all the pairs were friendly. Some bird pairs were two males flying at each other in the air, locked in a battle to see who would pair off with the available female. Eventually they get it all figured out and start working on nests, but until then it’s rather dramatic.

Since I’m not part of a pair, I decided to take a pair of walks today to honor the pairings of spring. I took a nice long walk with Jazzmin in the afternoon during a break from work and once I finished the day’s work this evening, we went on a second, shorter walk. Jazzmin was extremely happy to get two walks in one day and while it’s not possible every day, today was just too beautiful to pass up!

The Wonder of a Walk

country house

Lovely blue sky above my house today!

Today’s weather was a lovely preview of summer complete with temperatures in the mid 70’s, sunshine, and a steady breeze. Once I finished my morning work, I saddled Jazzmin in her dog backpack and we headed out on a mile-long walk. I haven’t walked that far in quite some time and it was definitely the furthest I’ve walked since I got bronchitis.

I’m happy to say that I’ve mostly recovered from the bronchitis. I can tell because not only did I not need a nap yesterday, but I couldn’t fall asleep last night and woke up in the middle of the night. When I’m healthy, I rarely sleep through the night and considering all the “extra” sleep I’ve had the past few weeks, I imagine I’ll be wired for a while.

The walk with Jazzmin was beautiful and very energizing, even though I’m still not quite up to my usual speed. I enjoyed listening to and seeing the birds and I even had a fly-by from a hawk at one point.

If you look carefully, you'll see the hawk sitting in the branches of a tree.

If you look carefully, you’ll see the hawk sitting in the branches of a tree.

The grass is greening up and one yard had a spread of colorful crocuses popping up. The sun was nice enough to stay behind the clouds for our walk and we were still plenty warm enough in the mid-morning temperatures.

Colorful crocuses in a yard down the road.

Colorful crocuses in a yard down the road.

Temperatures won’t be this warm again for a while, but they’re still predicted to be more spring-like and I’ll happily take that!

The small stream I like to sit beside.

The small stream I like to sit beside.

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!

Finding the beauty

ice covered tree against winter sky

I don’t think I’ll ever say I love winter weather as an adult, but I’m working on not hating winter. I loved winter as a child when I would put on my snowsuit to go outside and play in the snow with my brothers. Once I started driving in snowy winter weather and experienced the panic of getting stuck in a snowbank and sliding backward down a hill, my love for winter vanished.

Although it got a late start (thankfully) this winter has been especially unpleasant with the unending snow and ridiculously frigid temperatures. During the day, I work at my desk with a blanket over my legs and a space heater by my feet to stay warm because my house leaks like a sieve. I hung insulated curtains by my desk and even installed an outlet insulator on the nearest plug, but I still feel a breeze across the top half of my bundled-up body as I work.

The sun has been in very short supply recently so when it made an appearance this morning, I was thrilled! I watched it rise over the hills, I took pictures, and I tried to memorize what it looked like. Unfortunately, it disappeared a few hours later and the dull winter sky returned.

As I worked, I silently urged the sun to return and magically enough, it did! By noon the sun was in full shine amid a blue sky and I knew I couldn’t pass up such a beautiful opportunity for a walk, especially since it’s supposed to get back down below zero tomorrow. I saddled Jazzmin in her backpack, put on my shape-up boots, zipped up my coat, and led my pup out the door and into the 30 degree winter weather.

snowy field upstate NY

Knowing we wouldn’t be able to walk again for a while, I took us on the winding hilly road that’s more fun to walk than drive in the winter weather. Jazz was very well behaved and the scenery was cold but lovely. Yesterday a snowy fog lingered all day so today all of the trees were coated with a shimmering layer of ice that reflected the sunlight. As we walked, the ice and snow began to melt off the trees and at one point we were standing beneath a tree that was creating a gentle, mini snowfall.

ice covered tree against blue sky

During the walk, I felt my mind and spirit restored and I thanked the universe for the gift of warm sunshine. Finding the beauty in winter weather isn’t always easy for me, but after today I know it’s not impossible.

An inspirational beginning

winter rainbow

There are two rainbow pieces in the sky, one on either side of the sun. My phone camera didn’t do it justice.

I went to bed around 9 p.m. last night and while I was awake briefly around midnight, I didn’t turn the TV on to watch the ball drop. The New Year began without me needing to watch a countdown and I was happier warm and asleep than awake and staring at a TV screen.

I lingered in bed this morning until the sun started peeking through my curtains and Jazzmin’s pathetic eyes finally convinced me to get up and take her outside. The kittens were content to cover me with their furry bodies and try to keep me in bed, but I slid out from underneath their sleeping bag warmth and began my day.

There were some freelance projects in need of my attention so I completed them by the afternoon. The WeatherBug app on my phone told me it was 18 out with a wind chill that made it feel like six and I didn’t envision Jazzmin and I walking in that. Even so, I decided I’d at least take her out with me to get the mail and once outside, I realized it wasn’t quite as frigid as it had been in the morning.

While I successfully posted a blog post every single day in December of 2014, I was unable to stick to my vow of walking Jazzmin every day. I couldn’t walk her while I was sick and getting back out in the cold lost its appeal after that. Regardless, I realized I really needed to start 2015 off right with some sort of walk, so I saddled up Jazz with her backpack and booties and dressed myself in warm clothing.

Despite the wind whipping about, the sun was out and somehow that helped combat the chilly temperatures. I decided we’d take the walk up an adjacent road to a certain black mailbox because it was a bit longer distance than we’d gone on since I recovered from being sick.

As we walked down the first little hill, a hawk alighted from the branches and flew across the road a ways in front of us. That’s always a good sign and told me that walking had been the right decision. We were making our way up the next hill when I just happened to glance to the right and see a raptor flying over the trees. I paused to watch him and figure out what exactly he was (I wasn’t sure if it was a hawk of bald eagle after the bald eagle appeared in my field) and as I watched, I saw a second raptor flying near the first. The way the sun was catching their wings and the distance between us made it difficult for me to determine if they were hawks or eagles and I believe I expressed my confusion aloud.

Much to my amazement, the two raptors immediately started soaring closer to me, as if they’d heard me wonder what kind they were. As one drew close enough, I realized he was indeed a red-tailed hawk and I watched with wide eyes as he flew right above me and then across the road. His companion called to him from a bit further back and while she never came as close to me as the first, she came close enough to show me that she was a red-tailed hawk too. I was so astounded by their behavior that I never thought to get my phone out and try to take a picture. My phone’s camera wouldn’t have done them justice anyway and I think it was far more important that I enjoyed the moment.

Elated by the experience, I continued the last bit to the mailbox and then turned Jazz back around toward home. As I turned to look toward the sun, I received yet another surprise as I saw a small piece of rainbow in the bright halo around the sun. I then saw a second piece of rainbow in the sky on the other side of the sun and I’m certain that my joyful smile was bright enough to match that of the sunlight. I’ve seen a full circular rainbow around the sun before on cold winter days and I’ve also seen the little rainbow pieces as I saw today. Any type of rainbow is a positive sign and omen and considering that I’d noticed them right after the hawks, I felt doubly blessed!

There was a happy lightness in my step as we walked back toward home and Jazzmin was quite pleased to have gotten out for some exercise. I was a few strides from my driveway when I saw another hawk fly through the trees in the distance and my spirit lifted further at the sight of my fourth hawk on such a short walk. The powers that be were determined to start this year by reminding me that I’m never alone and to inspire me as I continue the ever-predictable and wonderful journey of life.

Getting back out there

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The lovely blue sky today


The weather lately has been decidedly un-winterlike with temperatures in the 40’s and no sign of snow. As much as I would’ve liked a white Christmas, I can’t control the weather so instead, I made the most of it.

When I was sick, I didn’t walk Jazzmin at all and I’m trying to make up for that now. We aren’t going on walks as long as they were before I got sick, but we’ll get our stride back eventually. Jazz is just glad to get back out there and put pawpads to pavement.

As the weather isn’t bitterly cold, I can pause during the walks to enjoy the scenery and listen to the birds. I love my walks the most when I can linger and appreciate the world around me. Jazz might be happier walking for eternity, but I’m not a dog, I’m a human who likes to truly experience being out in nature.