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!

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Walking Toward the Unknown

The beautiful feather I found on my walk

The beautiful feather I found on my walk

It was excessively humid yesterday. I took Jazzmin for a short walk in the morning and while it was cool, the air was far too thick with humidity to be comfortable. The air was even hotter and heavier by our evening walk and the moment I stepped out onto the road and felt the heat radiating off the pavement, I decided we’d walk up the farmer’s access road. I knew it wouldn’t be much cooler but the ground is more grass and dirt and the trees lining it provide shade.

Jazzmin is always very excited on the access road because she can smell the deer that frequently travel along it. There’s also no shortage of birds, chipmunks, squirrels and bunnies that like to make the occasional appearance. We made it along the straight part of the path without any major issues and I was quite ready to go home and shower the sweat off! I turned us back around and we started our return trip. I then heard an unfamiliar noise that made me stop.

The noise was coming from the long grove of trees that lay just beyond where the curve in the road starts. It sounded like a crow call but deeper and more ominous than I’d heard before, almost like a bark. Curious, I walked toward the noise wanting to know exactly what animal was making it and why. I suppose there are people who would turn and run from such a haunting sound but I’ve learned that walking toward the unknown can reveal amazing discoveries.

Getting closer to the origin of the noise meant walking off the access road and into the farmer’s recently mowed field. The ground was still a bit soggy from recent rain and all the humidity so Jazz and I had to navigate around a few puddles. Following the continuing noise, I charged on through the field and a few moments later a red-tailed hawk flew out of the trees and to a spot further down in the grove. I love hawks and feel they are a very positive sign and symbol, so whenever I see them I smile. I continued walking toward the small pond in that field and the hawk appeared again, this time flying across the field to a thicker forest of trees. A crow then emerged from the trees near us and followed the hawk across the field where it started making unhappy noises that were more familiar to me. The noise I’d heard was in fact a crow being rather upset that a hawk was near something important to it, a nest or some fallen prey perhaps.

Satisfied that I’d solved that mystery, I led Jazz back toward the road. As we walked along the tree line I saw some fallen branches and I approached them hoping maybe we’d find a deer antler. I didn’t find a deer antler but I did find a rather beautiful feather. I picked it up and was in awe of how it’s copper color reflected the light. I collect feathers and that feather was certainly the largest and nicest I’ve found yet. I didn’t want to put it into Jazz’s backpack and risk damaging it so I tucked it into the top of my ponytail where I knew it’d be safe. If I’d encountered anyone on that walk back they would have probably done a doubletake seeing a feather protruding from my hair.

Proud of my discoveries and my little treasure, I walked Jazzmin back home. Once in the house, I tucked the feather into a spot on my desk-side cork board and then happily showered to feel human again. After my shower I powered up my computer and began searching through images of bird feathers trying to figure out what I’d found. I ruled out red-tailed hawk and owl but among the random images I found an exact match. Clicking on the image I read that it was a wild turkey feather. Sure enough, when I went to the full website, there were more examples of turkey feathers and what I had found matched exactly. I was so happy I’d figured it out! It was fascinating to me that such a beautiful feather could come from creatures that look less than graceful when they attempt to fly.

Once again I learned something new by walking toward the unknown. Nature showed me that being brave brings unique gifts and that sometimes the most beautiful things can come from the most unexpected sources.

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.

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.

Branching Out

I bought a plum tree today. This is a rather big thing for me because I’ve never bought any kind of tree before, let alone a fruit tree. I probably should have started with something easier like a hardy pine tree but as my yard is already full of pine trees, that seemed silly. I wanted a pear tree but the store didn’t have any. I could have bought an apple or cherry tree but those seemed too ordinary to me. Then I saw the plum trees and they looked so sturdy and friendly that I just had to have one.

The plum tree I chose was about a foot taller than me and I wasn’t sure it would fit in my car but I figured I’d make it work somehow. So I folded down all the seats on the passenger side, laid down a blanket and carefully angled the tree down and into my Toyota Matrix. To my delight, the tree just fit! On the drive home my tree and I became a bit snuggly a couple times around curves but otherwise it stayed put and behaved.

The plum tree just fit!

The plum tree just fit!

Sitting in the front seat looking back

Sitting in the front seat looking back

The plum tree cozy in the passenger seat

The plum tree cozy in the passenger seat

I haven’t decided where I’m going to plant my plum tree yet. I thought about putting it in the front yard but then everyone and their brother driving by would have the pleasure of watching me struggle to dig a hole deep enough for it. I think the back yard is a better choice where only my neighbors can look out their windows and point and laugh. Digging the hole is going to be an interesting challenge since my ground can be rather hard. I’ve tried standing on the shovel before to make it go in further and it barely sinks an inch. I might be a little thing but my stubborn determination is gigantic so I’ll get that puppy planted one way or another!

When I got home I placed the plum tree in the back yard just to see how it would look and I rather like it back there. It’s final place hasn’t been decided yet because I’m going to do an experiment with my new bluebird feeder, but that’s a story for another day…

The plum tree in my back yard

The plum tree in my back yard

After dinner I decided to take Jazzmin on another walk to test the Dr. Scholl’s Active Series insoles I bought to put in my new Asics GEL-Kayano sneakers. I’ve been wearing Skechers Shapeups for the past three years and I’m so used to their rounded bottoms that flat bottom sneakers feel awkward to me. To test the insoles, I thought Jazz and I would take the short, hilly walk but as we came to the first sharp curve, my eyes were drawn to the path the local farmer uses to access the fields behind my house. There’s a gate up but no posted sign. I’ve been wanting to take Jazz hiking somewhere and this seemed like a perfect place to start! I steered Jazz off the road and onto the path that’s been well-traveled by trucks and tractors.

Looking up the access road

Looking up the access road

Jazzmin was quite excited by this change of course and had to work a bit harder to walk over the rockier terrain of the access road. My sneakers were not the proper footwear for this venture but having my hiking boots on would have meant I’d planned ahead. I rarely plan ahead, too many things fall apart when I do that. The view up the path was a beautiful canopy of green trees and underbrush and the only sounds to be heard were the songs of birds. We walked to the top of the hill and down the other side where the road opened up to so much open space and woods that I felt miniscule. Gazing out across the endless rolling green and expansive blue sky reminded me how small I really am on this big world.

The view where the road turned

The view where the road turned

Looking toward the continuing road

Looking toward the continuing road

Heavy rains washed out a section of the road

Heavy rains washed out a section of the road

We started to walk back and I realized we were being serenaded by a rather familiar bird song. I stopped and peered into the tree above us and saw the bright yellow plumage of a male goldfinch. He was perched there all by himself, no sign of a mate but he was happily singing away. I’d been smart enough to bring my camera in Jazzmin’s backpack this time (a smidge of planning ahead there) so I quickly got it out and zoomed in on the branches as much as I could. I snapped a couple photos as the goldfinch sang and then he promptly flew away.

The goldfinch way up in the tree

The goldfinch way up in the tree

A moment before he flew away.

A moment before he flew away.

I took the time to look around me more on the walk back and I discovered I’d overlooked a lot of interesting and beautiful things. I’ll speak more of that journey tomorrow. For today I am content that I branched out by buying a tree and exploring a new path. Every day really is an adventure, you just have to see its potential!