Skies of flies

Why in the skies
Are there so many deer flies?
Swarming about and biting
Turning strolls into bug fighting.
Swirling about the head
Making walks a thing of dread.
Buzzing, nipping, landing
Trying to be the last one standing.
They ensure that no walk is fun
And wow do they make us run!

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Walk it off

 

Today's view on what I call the "short hilly walk"

Today’s view on what I call the “short hilly walk”

Some days are harder than others for me and there’s no real logical explanation for it. For example, today is a beautiful day with sunshine and temperatures in the high 50’s, which is an amazing blessing for November in Upstate NY! I do recognize what a wonderful day it is and I’m grateful for it, but my heart was troubled this morning. Maybe it’s the cycle of the moon, maybe it’s some planetary alignment, maybe I’m picking up on a family member or friend’s emotions, maybe my unrequited love stings more than usual, or maybe I’m just missing my father because that overwhelms me at unexpected moments. Whatever the reason or reasons, there’s nothing logical about it, but I’ve never been a very logical being. My feelings and thoughts get all tangled up sometimes and I feel like I’m trapped in a briar patch and that’s exactly when I know I need to walk it off.

I mean literally walk it off. I suit Jazz up in her backpack, snap on her collar and leash, lace up my sneaks and hit the road. That’s what I did today before lunch because I couldn’t stand the confusion anymore. I admit, it’s easier to continue to sit on my butt and mope, but that sure as heck never makes me feel better! So I force my butt up and out and within moments of walking with Jazzmin, I begin to find inner peace again. Somehow the world makes more sense when I’m out in the fresh air, my feet striding over the pavement, Jazz panting beside me, and the universe embracing me.

I kept a brisk pace today but I didn’t walk the entire time. I paused several times to just stand and observe the world around me. The majority of trees that still have their leaves are oak and I listened as the wind stirred the trees’ dried leaves upon their branches, trying to yank them free. But oak trees are stubborn things and they hold onto those leaves as long as they can, sometimes all winter. I can relate to that oak tree stubbornness and their refusal to let go of their leaves even when every other tree has. Why should they do what every other tree does? I’ve never been one to follow the crowd either.

The oak trees hanging onto their leaves.

The oak trees hanging onto their leaves.

Pausing to feel the wind upon my face and allow it to caress my hair, helps me feel renewed and less entangled in thorny briars. The warmth of the sun eases the pain in my heart and the unexpected sight of a butterfly in November brings an immediate smile to my face. Life is so much more manageable and understandable when I get out, walk, and let all those lovely endorphins do their job. Any type of exercise helps improve my mood, but the ability to be out in nature always touches me deeper and smooths over the rough spots that trouble my day. Somehow or other I always manage to rally, pick myself back up, and walk it off.

I love how the sun looks like a spot of light in a shadowed vortex in this unedited picture.

I love how the sun looks like a spot of light in a shadowed vortex in this unedited picture.

But the edited picture shows that it really wasn't as dark as it seemed.

But the edited picture shows that it really wasn’t as dark as it seemed. It’s all about banishing the shadows…

Trailblazer Jordan and The Path of Destiny!

ganondagan sign

The Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, NY covers a decent piece of land complete with a longhouse, visitors, center, fields of crops and nature trails. After the girls and I walked through the longhouse during the Native American Dance & Music Festival, we came out the other side to find a canopy set up with chairs and tables. At one of the those tables they were selling ice cold bottles of water and I thought that was a strange location for that.

girls by longhouse2

Girls walking toward the longhouse.

girls by longhouse

Standing by longhouse entrance.

longhouse2

Inside the longhouse.

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We walked away from the longhouse toward more of the educational plaques around the property and Jordan pointed out that there was the beginning of a hiking trail nearby. She said “let’s go on the trail!” and I said sure. I figured it was a trail that looped back around at some point and came out at a different location near the longhouse. So off we went!

Sign explaining the trail.

Sign explaining the trail.

The trail was quite lovey and well-shaded with tall trees. Some parts of it were a bit too steep for Jaycie to navigate alone so I held her hand whenever she needed help.

girls on trail1 girls on trail

We’d been walking for 10-15 minutes when I began to doubt my assumption that the trail looped back around. We just kept heading further and further out. All the groups of people ahead of us gave up and turned back but we kept on, certain that the trail had to end back at Ganondagon. I really should have known better because I have a horrible sense of direction and propensity for becoming lost.

Girls reading one of the signs explaining the nearby plants.

Girls reading one of the signs explaining the nearby plants.

Jaycie and I continued to follow Jordan as she blazed the trail ahead. I had to periodically ask her to stop as Jaycie couldn’t go that fast. We kept coming across wooden plank paths over muddier parts of the trail where I’d go first and Jaycie would follow, holding both my hands as I stretched them behind me for her to use as balance aids. By 25 minutes in, I was getting a little grumbly at Jordan for leading us on this adventure and Jaycie was tired and hot.

Jordan leading the way on the trail.

Jordan leading the way on the trail.

 

After 40 minutes of walking with no sign of the civilization, I finally pulled out my phone and opened up my maps program to see where we were. I was rather dismayed to see that we were a fair distance from the Ganondagon site and continuing to head further away. I now doubted the path ever looped around so Jaycie and I took a seat on a log bench while Jordan went a little further while remaining in sight. She didn’t find anything that looked like an ending so after a brief rest, we headed back the way we had come.

On our way back across the wooden planks.

On our way back across the wooden planks.

By this point we were all hot, tired and sweaty as the temperature and humidity had risen even among the shady trees. I asked Jordan to help her sister on the way back so I could lead the way and make sure we were going the right way with my GPS. We eventually found ourselves back at the trail we’d first started on and I suddenly understood the reason for that table selling ice cold water bottles. I bought one for each of us and we gulped them down as we walked back into the longhouse to enjoy the shade and breeze inside it.

Jordan grumbled a bit about the fact that Jaycie and I will never let her live that little adventure down but in reality, it was good for all of us. We got some exercise, learned about native plants and trees and had ample quality time together. I hadn’t planned on going hiking and getting that disheveled and sweaty but you only get one go round in this life so it’s best to stuff it with as many experiences as possible. Jordan was just leading us exactly where we were supposed to go, on the path of destiny!

Hawk in the sky beyond the longhouse before we headed off. A sign I was heading the right way ;)

Hawk in the sky beyond the longhouse before we headed off. A sign I was heading the right way 😉

Fences, flowers, furry pups and feathered friends

Fruit tree blossoms down the road from my house

Fruit tree blossoms down the road from my house

It was another beautiful day today that felt more like summer than spring. I happily enjoyed it because 80  and humid is infinitely better than -25 and three feet of snow!

Morning thunderstorms cleared out rather quickly and have only recently started up again now that it’s dark. I don’t mind thunderstorms at night except when I have the girls. I don’t blame them for being scared when lightning flashes and thunder shakes the house. I think they’ve finally settled though so I’ll continue my rambling.

I took Jazzmin for a short walk in the early afternoon and the heat off the pavement was intense enough to make her pant by the first turn. Even on that short walk though we saw an abundance of spring beauty and I took some pictures with my phone camera. Only after returning home and looking at them did I realize that most of them included a fence of some kind. To be expected since I live in the country near several farms but certainly not intentional. Regardless, they turned out surprisingly lovely for my little camera phone.

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Upon returning home, Jazz was hot, tired and happy. She laid on the floor panting while looking eager to go back out walking once she caught her breath. Once again proof that the pup wants to walk 24/7 in any kind of weather!

Jazzmin panting a smile after our walk.

Jazzmin panting a smile after our walk.

This evening I was blessed with the return of my resident hummingbird. I was watching the birds in my wild bird oasis and in the hummingbird zipped looking for his feeder! I hadn’t put it out yet so I quickly remedied that by hanging it where the unoccupied barrel bird house had been hanging. He returned later as I watched the storms roll in and he seems to know where his feeder is now. Always nice when he returns because it means the buzzing little birdies think it’s a safe bet that warmth will stick around. I certainly hope they’re right!

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.

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

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.