Wants versus Needs

Sometimes what we think we want isn’t really what we need. I was reminded of this a couple weeks ago when I made an actual effort to have some sort of social life. I thought that in order to be an interesting person and meet the right people, I had to break out of my usual routine of hanging with my daughters, work, school, walking Jazzmin and beading.

My social life efforts involved going online, finding a few events nearby and then attending them. The first one was a network event at a winery and while I did get some free swag, it really wasn’t my scene.

Vineyard entrance for networking event

Vineyard entrance for networking event

The second event was a symposium and I’d never gone to a symposium before so I was quite excited. The Symposium on Eastern Woodland Material Culture and Art at the new Seneca Art and Culture Center was quite interesting, but it was way more stimulation than I’m used to. Listening to speakers give their presentations for an entire day was very educational and a lot for my brain to process.

Slide from one of the symposium presenters

Slide from one of the symposium presenters

By the time I drove home Saturday evening, I was really looking forward to just sitting on my couch with my animals as I watched Netflix and beaded.

What I learned from my social life efforts was that I’m obviously capable of getting out and doing things, but that I’m also quite happy with my life as it is. I have everything I need with my girls, my family, my friends, my pets, my house and my career as a writer. When compared to my local social life endeavors, I actually have more fun when I go on my road trips to New England and see familiar faces or explore new areas. There’s just so much more out there that I enjoy doing! I have a road trip planned for November and I’m really looking forward to it and consider it a worthwhile social life endeavor.

So although I may not be the most interesting woman in the world because I don’t climb mountains on weekends, teach Salsa dancing at night, arm wrestle bears daily or fly around the world every month, I know that who I am is more than good enough for the people in my life who genuinely care about me. I also know that there’s so much more to me than most people realize because they only take the time to see and judge what’s on the surface and miss out on all the treasure beneath. I may not always have everything I want, but the universe ensures that I always have exactly what I need.

The abundance of turkeys

two turkeys crossing road

Usually when I ask to see a specific animal as a sign I ask for a hawk, heron, eagle, owl or butterfly. I can honestly say I’ve never asked to see a turkey, but I certainly take it as a sign when I see them. Lately I’ve been seeing quite a few turkeys and this tells me that the universe is trying to send me a message.

There’s a family of turkeys that lives on the farmer’s land behind my house and for the past month or more, I’ve seen them crossing the field almost every day. Sometimes there are two adult turkeys, sometimes there are four, and at last count, there were eight baby turkeys. I enjoy watching them move across the field and often find their feathers when I take Jazzmin on walks up the farmer’s access road.

Outside of the field behind my house, I’ve also been seeing turkeys on my trips to New England. During the July trip with my girls to New England a turkey flew across the road on the drive out in an area where they’d had to blast away rock to make room for the road. On our most recent trip, I saw two turkeys in the shoulder of the expressway just standing in the grass. Then later a male turkey crossed the road right in front of us when we were on our way back from lunch at Friendly’s in Amesbury. He came out of the tree shadows on a sunny day so I almost didn’t see him in time to stop, but when I did stop, he just gave me an unimpressed look and walked nonchalantly across the road.

This past Saturday evening I decided to take Jazzmin for a walk up the farmer’s road and we’d only walk about 50 feet up it when I started hearing rustling in the grass field on the other side of the trees. I stopped to listen and soon heard inquisitive clucking noises. Rising up on my tiptoes, I was just able to see a male turkey’s head looking at me over the slight rise at the edge of the road. Smiling I settled back onto the heels of my feet and decided to stand there and wait quietly for him to continue his journey.

As we stood there listening, I heard the rustling move a bit further down the tree line and within moments, a single male turkey emerged from the trees and crossed the farmer’s road. Two more adult turkeys followed and then the younger turkeys scampered quickly across the road, some of them taking flight because they were unsure if we were going to move toward them. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a turkey fly, but they’re not the most graceful creatures and I always admire their efforts to get airborne.

turkey1 turkey3 turkey4

I was smiling through the whole experience while Jazz whimpered a bit because she wanted to chase the big birds and I wouldn’t let her. Once the turkeys were gone, we turned back down the trail and continued our walk where we saw several butterflies, deer and a hawk. It was certainly one of the most interesting walks I’ve had in a while!

Turkeys are a symbol of abundance and the universe is going to great efforts to remind me of the abundance in my life with all the recent turkey sightings. I know I have many blessings and the universe wants me to remember them all even when I go through tough times. I have two amazing daughters, a great family, good friends, a loving loyal pup, three cats that make my life a daily adventure, my own home and a job as a writer, which is so much more than I ever imagined I’d have. Despite any challenges I face, I will continue to have a good heart, the best intentions, a strong spirit, a vibrant energy and the stubbornly tenacious willpower that’s gotten me this far and that will carry me into whatever the future holds.

The power to keep going

looking down farmers road

My day started at 5:45 a.m. as it usually does with my Pandora alarm playing whatever random song it came up with. These days, Pandora is far less random than it used to be and it tends to play one of the same five songs every morning, but it accomplishes the task of waking me up anyway.

Now that it’s spring, the birds usually start chirping at around 4:30 a.m. and it’s actually getting light by the time my alarm goes off, so eventually I’ll probably start climbing out of bed sooner. I hate wasting the nice weather days because they’re far less numerous than the miserable, cold winter days and I’m more of a morning person than a night owl so come summer, I’m often up long before the sun!

Once I got both girls up, fed and off to school, I ate my own breakfast and then settled at my desk to work. By lunchtime, I’d accomplished enough to make me feel like I deserved a break in the fresh air so after eating, I took Jazzmin on a walk up the farmer’s access road. He has an iron swing gate across it to keep unwanted vehicles out, but he knows me and I’ve seen him on his tractors along the road many times and he’s smiled and waved so he doesn’t seem to mind Jazz and I walking it.

The farmer keeps that access road mowed and maintained for his tractors and trucks and I was happy to discover today that it had dried out after the recent rain. Jazzmin loves that road because it’s full of deer, squirrels, chipmunks, birds and things that rustle in the brush that we never see. I love that road because it’s safe from cars (even when the farmer’s on it he doesn’t drive very fast) and I don’t have to worry about encountering other people’s less than well-behaved dogs on leash or (worse) off.

There still aren’t any leaves on the trees so the sun was quite warm without shade, but I’d dressed appropriately in walking shorts and a tank top so I was quite comfortable. The fields at the end of that access road appear to stretch forever and the views are breathtaking. I always feel like I’m in another world out there when really it’s not that far from my house.

Jazzmin and I explored the fields a bit and enjoyed the feeling of peacefulness among the blue sky, puffy clouds, and surrounding hills. The only sounds were birds, bugs, the wind and our footsteps and it’s where I go when I need to center myself and restore my spirit. When the weather warms up more, the fields will be full of dragonflies, monarchs and other butterflies and I’m looking forward to watching them.

pond in field

The small pond in one of the farmer’s fields

After our walk, I decided it was past time I tackle the yard work. I live on 1.4 acres and that might sound large or small depending on your perspective, but for a single, 5’5” chick, it’s a substantial amount of work keeping it up. By now I know what order to tackle projects in so I don’t get too tired to finish so I started by trimming the bushes in front of the house. I had them hacked down considerably last year, but I call them “demon” bushes because they grow really tall, really fast and they live to scratch me.

Once I’d accomplished that task with my scissor style clippers, I wondered if I had the power to keep going. I briefly considered calling it a day, but instead grabbed my wheelbarrow and started going around the yard picking up the seemingly endless assortment of fallen branches from my numerous trees. I don’t know how some of the trees are still standing with all the branches they lose every year! I filled the wheelbarrow four times with branches (I’ve learned from experience that overfilling it to make fewer trips doesn’t work because I leave a trail of branches I have to go back and clean up) and dumped them all in my burn pit in the back yard. The pile isn’t overly huge now, but it will be substantial by mid-summer when I decide to light it.

With all the sticks removed from the yard, I again considered stopping for the day and continuing another day but again I found the power to keep going. I then cut several grape vines out of my hedgerow trees in an attempt to stop their invasion. Grape vines give off a distinctive smell when they’re hacked and pulled and there are some types of wine that I can’t stand because they taste too “viney” to me. Maybe other people who have fought with vines know what I’m talking about or maybe I’m just nuts…

I couldn’t get all the vines down out of the trees because they were wrapped so tightly around them, but I certainly tried my hardest! Nothing like yard work to make me feel like I’m too light at 150 pounds! I think I could’ve hung from those vines for days without them ever giving way.

Exhausted from that task, I figured I’d gotten that far and definitely had the power to keep going so I decided it was time to plunk down on the mower and tackle the unruly grass. It’s still rather early in the season so the grass is really long in spots and still half dormant in others, but I knew if I waited too long, it would grow too tall and bog down the mower. Getting to my mower involved taking my large deck swing out of the shed, but I’ll save that tale for another day.

I’d hooked my mower up to the charger at the start of my yard work just in case the battery had gone dead (as if it seems to do every year). While it took some cranking to get the engine to turn fire up, eventually it did and I was able to run the mower without the charger for the rest of the afternoon.

Mowing my lawn took the usual 2.5 hours and went relatively smoothly, but it’s still a long process and my lawn hasn’t been rolled in years so it’s a bit bumpy. I was so very proud of myself when I was all done though! Just like I always am!

View of my mowed front yard from the road.

View of my mowed front yard from the road.

mowed back yard

View of half of my back yard from my deck.

Everything I accomplished today reminded me (for the zillionth time) that I’m stronger than I think and that I always have the power to keep going if I just believe in myself enough and refuse to quit. It’s up to me to be my own cheerleader so I can get things done on my own just like I have since I moved out of my ex’s house in April of 2011. I’m quite capable of handling my house solo and I will continue to do so with stubbornness, tenacity, and a splash of sass.

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.

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…

Fall’s Fuzzy Caterpillars

As this is my last post in my September streak of consecutive entries, I was thinking about writing a summation explaining what I’ve discovered about what brings traffic to my site. I might still write that post but not today. Today I want to write about a different kind of traffic, caterpillar traffic.

Fall is a time of cooler temperatures, colorful leaves and shortening days. Around where I live, it’s also the time when the fuzzy brown and orange caterpillars start crossing the road. They’re woolly bear caterpillars and they’re the larval form of the Isabella Tiger Moth. After looking at pictures of the caterpillars and the moths they turn into, I think the caterpillars are cuter.

When I was little, I loved looking for the caterpillars in the corn stalks my mom would tie around our front light post. The caterpillars loved munching on the dried husks and leaves of the corn stalks and without fail I’d find two or three there every day. One year I took a few inside and placed them in my dollhouse to watch them crawl around. I made them little beds in cardboard jewelry boxes and tucked them in at night. This lasted a few days until one day I went down into the basement where my dollhouse was and found that they’d all made fuzzy cocoons. I was rather sad my caterpillars were gone. I put their cocoons outside because I didn’t think my mom would be happy if big moths started flying around her house.

On my recent walks with Jazzmin, we’ve seen many woolly bear caterpillars crawling swiftly across the road. When I see them, I quickly scoop them up and carry them the rest of the way across the road. Not many cars are going to swerve to avoid running over a caterpillar and I love doing my part to help nature survive the perils brought by humans.

Just this morning I saved 12 caterpillars on our six-mile walk. Some of them curl up in little balls when I pick them up but others keep on crawling as if my hand is just an object in their path. I imagine if anyone looks out their house windows when I’m rescuing a caterpillar they wonder why I just randomly walked into the middle of the road and crouched down. I always make sure there aren’t any cars coming which isn’t difficult on the bumper-to-bumper-free country roads I live and walk on.

The wide open spaces that surround us on our walks.

The wide-open spaces that surround us on our walks.

Following our six-mile walk Jazz was suitably exhausted and proceeded to nap for the rest of the morning. I would’ve liked to join her but there’s always freelance writing to do. I was content to settle in to work knowing that I’d made a small difference in the world, even if the only ones who appreciate it are the woolly bear caterpillars.

Jazz resisting the urge to nap...

Jazz resisting the urge to nap…

Jazz lost the battle against the nap.

Jazz lost the battle against the nap.

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!