The Perils of Country Rush Hour

When I say “country rush hour” I’m not talking about having to wait for chickens and ducks to cross the road. I’m talking about walking the hilly country roads where I live between the hours of 4pm and 6pm. Blind hills, no posted speed limits and sweeping curves all traveled by people in their pickup trucks, SUVs and cars. It isn’t a constant flow of traffic by any means, perhaps a couple cars within a span of 5 minutes. Jazzmin and I walk in the road as much as possible but when a car is coming we move over into the rocky ditch as best we can.

The blind hills are the scariest areas to walk and I’m always listening for cars and walking as far over in the ditch as possible. Drivers don’t expect to see a woman and her dog walking on these roads and as they’re going 55 mph and over, there’s not much time for them to react. So I’m always attentive and prepared for what might be coming speeding over the next hill.

Tonight’s rush hour walk was almost surreal in how unusual it was. The farmers are all cutting their hay in the fields surrounding me so Jazz and I encountered a baler and forklift tooling down the road. Then as we were walking by a field already stacked with bales, a huge flatbed tractor-trailer slowed down to pull over and retrieve the stack we were near. There wasn’t much shoulder between us and the truck but we hustled quickly out of his way.

We continued up the slight hill and just as we neared the crest, a tree in the distance went crashing down and disappeared from the horizon. That’s when the sound of a chainsaw reached my ears and I realized someone was doing a bit of “lawn maintenance.” We reached the yard of trees just as another one was cut down and the rush of noise it created hitting the ground startled Jazz. The trees appeared to be cottonwoods so I understood somewhat why they were removing them.

The tall tress cut down by chainsaws

The tall tress cut down by chainsaws

Descending that small hill we came upon a recently repaired area of the road. They’ve been working on bridge maintenance recently and they’d obviously just repaired the under-road tunnel one of the area streams flows through.

Recently repaired bridge.

Recently repaired bridge.

Beyond the repaired bridge and noise of the chainsaws, I heard the caws of crows in the sky and looked up to find them circling for some reason. Perhaps they were disturbed by the chainsaws or some other predator in the woods but their calls were eerie and sped us faster toward the next hill. The next hill happened to be what I call “The Big Hill” because it’s the steepest one we climb. There’s an old schoolhouse set upon it with a graveyard way back in the trees and walking up it always tires Jazzmin and I out. Once we reach the top the view of the surrounding hills is quite lovely and it’s as if we’ve ascended to another world.

The picture doesn't properly show the steepness of The Big Hill

The picture doesn’t properly show the steepness of The Big Hill

We walked the flat road at the top of the hill for a bit before turning around and heading home. Walking down that hill is much easier than up and I love looking across the hills, trees and farmland surrounding us. There was brief respite from the cars at that point and I was able to enjoy the songs of the blackbirds, sparrows and robins in the trees. On our way back I stopped to peer down over the cliff and into the gully that’s home to another section of the stream. It’s so green and lush now that the water is no longer visible and it looked like a jungle among farmland.

The stream gully.

The stream gully.

There’s really no such thing as “quiet evening walk” where I live, even as remote as it is. There’s always something to see, some peril to avoid and undeniable exercise to be had. Jazzmin was suitably tired when we got home and remained that way for a good half hour before appearing eager to walk again. I don’t share her endless energy so she’ll have to wait until tomorrow when the road is new to us once more.

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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

Enjoying the Journey

When I set out on my walk last night with Jazzmin down that access road I’d never traveled before, I didn’t know where it led. But I went anyway. I don’t know if that’s brave or stupid or both, but it’s part of what makes me the person I am. I don’t shy away from the unknown anymore, I explore it until it’s known and understood by me. Life is full of endless journeys and even when you think you know the destination, you really don’t.

During the return walk on the farmer’s access road, I opened my eyes to more of what was around me. I discovered a plethora of mayapples blooming beneath the numerous trees and I saw several flowering bushes that were unfamiliar to me.

A single may apple blossom

A single may apple blossom

The whole hill was covered with blooming may apples!

The whole hill was covered with blooming may apples!

Most of these bushes had white flowers but this one had pink flowers.

Most of these bushes had white flowers but this one had pink flowers.

There are several areas along the road where the view through the trees is breathtaking in its expanse. As I crested the hill once more and walked down it toward home I could just make out my house in the distance. It helped put things in perspective as to where exactly I was.

My house is that yellow speck in the distance.

My house is that yellow speck in the distance.

My yellow house and my white Matrix.

My yellow house and my white Matrix.

It was an amazingly nice night and quite peaceful since no one was mowing their lawns or weed whacking or leaf blowing. The birds were happily flying among the trees and I was relaxed because I knew we wouldn’t encounter any dogs on this road. Jazzmin enjoyed sniffing all the new scents and there were tons of deer track imprints in dry dirt that had recently been mud.

Jazzmin taking in all the new scents.

Jazzmin taking in all the new scents.

The walk helped reinforce to me that it’s like that saying, life is more about the journey than the destination. I do have a destination in mind for my life, in many respects I know exactly what I want. I have however learned that what I want has a way of transforming into something unexpected. I’m working hard toward achieving my goals and dreams but I know better than to focus solely on the destination without taking in every step of the journey. I am hopeful that I have many new and interesting journeys ahead and I am confident that no matter the destination, I will never take one moment of this life for granted.

amazing view

The view through an opening in the trees.