Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Forest In Your Back Yard

 Some of you may be lucky enough to have woods in your backyard. By that I mean uncultivated by man, with only trails cut into the underbrush. My own children wanted me to follow them into the woods behind our house but I had laundry to do and lunch to fix. Now my grandchildren are coaxing me into the thickets and I am getting an education. Did you know that there are two kinds of Huckelberries, one red and one purple, and that their leaves are entirely different?

Berrying is what keeps the eyes of my Grands sharp, as they look up and down every bush. A full, heavy, overhang of huckleberries is pure delight and stops our caravan instantly. With Papa along, the top branches are emptied as fast as the lower ones.
  "How do you know that this is a thimbleberry?" I asked Shea.
   He stood still for a moment in the dusty, graveled road and looked around him.
   "The leaves look like grape leaves and have five points, and there is a bush, and over there as well."

 I was impressed at his observations and curious if he was aware that he was classifying nature around him.
   "What is the difference between the leaves on the red and purple huckleberries?" I asked.

 "The leaves on the red are soft and thin while the purple ones are thick."
   This knowledge of berries seemed to give my grandson a feeling of power. I could see by his upright posture and his sure step that he was at home here in the woods. On this family walk we were looking for a trail that might connect to Fisher Pond. Our confidence waned as each opening in the brush stopped. We looked back from where we had come. The woods we entered were just off the kid's driveway and we had followed a trail which looked to head in the direction of Agren Park.

As we emerged from the woods back on the baseball field we came across an amazing sight. A seat, just child's size, was made by a thick branch, which had grown sideways and made a half circle. The circled wood was worn smooth, reddish brown like mahogany, and showed signs that hundreds of children had been cradled there over the years.
"King of the Forest!" the boys shouted in unison

 "And Queen as well," insisted Maggie.
 Nature had captured us again by this oddity. It reminded me of the bicycle which had been left propped against a tree and over time had been engulfed by it. There it was, twenty feet up in the air, with one wheel on each side of the trunk. How many years did it take to engulf the bicycle? And how old was the child now, who had left it there?

In our discovery of the regal throne, the quest to find a connection to Fisher Pond was dismissed. That was for another day, another walk, when we again would leave the bustle of our homes to enter the natural world.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Happy Birthday Colin!

  I can't believe you are ten years old. When I first met you you were six and you liked beating me in the games I played with you.
 We had a pretty intelligent phone conversation last month when you were visiting Germany. And, how cool was that to fly with your brother and sister to a foreign country and stay 6 weeks? You have a pretty awesome family, but do you sometimes feel lost in the middle of this crew of 9?
  I heard you got a motorized scooter for your birthday, whew! I can visualize you zooming along the road at 10 miles per hour.
So, keep reading and learning, and by the way, who is that cute girl next to you on the merry-go-round?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Time to Be Creative

   I live a fairly structured life and I look forward to one more week of free time, before piano lessons, seminary classes, and Swingset Music and Movement start. I have a song to finish writing, some stories to edit, and some art materials to play with.
    The stories I wrote about walking with grandchildren in the woods are getting some attention by an adult piano student. Piano lessons for writing instruction make my Thursdays very stimulating. Lesley is teaching me about  words; how they have rhythm, and how they can sparkle.She is very enthusiastic and supportive. With her encouragement I am feeling more patient in the rewriting process and I love finding words that create the exact picture I have in my head.
My Writing Coach 
 Perhaps you would enjoy an edited post. A Walk in the Woods, revised and renewed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Party Hardy

  My husband and I are not party fans. You will not find us at many. However this weekend made up for the ones we missed. I have a father of a piano student who was throwing a bash at our local park.
He brought his equipment, which consisted of computer, speakers, strobe lights, and dry ice, and he became the best techno disc-jockey ever. I had some Grands visiting from the mainland and so we called the cousins to come dance with us. It took awhile for people to dance but my son, the music man, was the first to grab his daughter and make for the stage.

Then my Amazing Grace petitioned me to go with her. What, me dance to techno music on a stage? What we will do for grandchildren is unspeakable.

Soon, all the Grands were dancing, as well as their aunt, the Knitting Queen.

 Then there was the party the next day. This was a child-centered affair again.
There was a clown who entertained with magic,

                a chance to go fishing for prizes, the prizes were so plentiful they were in a shopping bag, 
and swimming for as long as they liked. They liked!!

How can I top this weekend? My Grands are going to get the impression that we like parties.........

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Joy of Swimming

   We are so that we can have joy and I really feel that when I am in the swimming pool. Today was cloudless as I went back and forth doing my swimming yoga. Note that yoga means binding together the mind and body and that happens when I swim .I love feeling my body separate the water and move almost effortlessly. I have gone 2 times a week for 6 weeks now. I am surprised that I did that much and give all the credit to the Knitting Queen, who is a great companion, although today it was me that made her go.
    I watched my Grands swim this weekend. They adore the water and can play endlessly. Amazing Grace felt so confident in her life-jacket. I had to finally insist it was time to go.
  I am sorry that I let body image get in the way of enjoying exercise.I am grateful for the chance to let joy win over worry about what others think.
                          JOY 12
                          PRIDE 0

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fisher Pond

  I can not believe I have lived in this town for twenty years and not ever visited Fisher Pond. I have seen a little of it driving by on Bank Road and I have heard stories of ice-skating there, but I was never induced to stop and check it out. Now I have been there twice this week.

The first visit was with all five Grands on my husband's last vacation day. We found the trail entrance which Bianca described in her book. I was impressed with the evenness and width of the trail. That makes a difference when you are walking with a toddler.This was our fourth family walk in two weeks so the kids were primed and excited to explore.
    Miss M. was immediately enthralled with all the sweet pea flowers she saw. She wanted to gather a few to take home to her mother.

Huckleberries were plentiful and Papa gathered them by the handful and passed them out. There were a few places where we had to stop to do some imaginative play. Unbeknowst to me I had along a few pirates.
Nothing prepared me for the beauty of the pond when we came to the overlook. At first it looked just like an open meadow, but as we looked closer we saw water and then realized the plants were on the water shifting and waving in the sunlight.

The mood became quiet as we sat by the water with the sun warming our faces. Nature has a way of claiming the stage when it puts on such a gorgeous play of colors and textures.

The only thing that pushed us back on the trail was a very industrious toddler who was ready to set off again.

I went back again with my good friend, who has lived here even longer than I.

   I knew I had to share this with her and others who need to appreciate this beautiful resource gifted to our town and maintained by the Land Trust.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Surrender To Sleep

    Many of us have sleep issues and wish we could just fall asleep easily at night. Drifting into unconsciousness is a huge surrender.

The evening hangs beneath the moon                                                 
A silver thread on darkened dune
With closing eyes and resting head
I know that sleep is coming soon

Upon my pillow, safe in bed
A thousand pictures fill my head
I cannot sleep my minds a flight
And yet my limbs seem made of lead

If there are noises in the night
A frighting shadow, flickering light
Then I surrender unto sleep

Where clouds of dreams give second sight

By Charles Anthony Silvestri

            One of the greatest joys of being a mother was to lay down beside my babies and watch them surrender to sleep. My babies would look at me as if I had betrayed them. How could I insist that they stop their explorations and just float into stillness. I would sing, soothing songs to convince them that all was right and that I would be joining them on this little venture. Some days I did.
    Now, through a tender mercy, I have beloved babies again. They are not mine but sort of mine. Little gifts given without merit, but with immense gratitude. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Deep In The Hundred Acre Wood

   Some years ago the Dilworth trails were just around the corner from where my son and family lived. As I remember it, I took the first walk into this wooded paradise and called it the "Hundred Acre Wood".

 "Deep in the hundred acre wood, where Christopher Robin plays, you'll find an enchanted neighborhood, of Christopher's childhood days."                                            

   I was reading "Winnie the Pooh" by A.A. Milne to my Grandkids, aged 4 and 1. Not the Disney version, but the original, with very few pictures. My granddaughter, ten years old now, found little openings in the forest where she thought the characters lived. We found an old broken off tree for Owl, and tiny opening in the thicket for Piglet, and a sheltered bush for Pooh's house. So this family walk has always been called Christopher Robin's forest.
  Things have changed drastically from year to year. The logging area has grown back, the damage from the windstorm is hardly noticeable, and new trees are 10 feet high. The kind property owner is still mowing the trails and it is so fun to go looking for old landmarks.
  Today we enjoyed the arches across the trail made from blackberry wines.
 They were like entrances to someone's private garden. We were on the lookout for a favorite fallen tree stump where we remembered sitting and eating a little something. You must bring a little something to sustain you during your "expotition".

 Once we left the open mowed trail the trees got denser and the path went down toward a deep ravine. We heard water rushing but the trail ended with a steep drop off. The trees rose up from the ravine floor and surged into the sky. I can't even guess how tall they were.

There were berries there and will be many more in a few weeks. The salmon berry is my favorite of the wild variety. I love the orange color and the delicate taste.

 There was color on the forest floor as we saw a little snake slither through the grass and a slug slide slowly between blades of green.

If you take your imagination along on your family walk you may find your adventure heightened and the memories enhanced.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Along the Westside Highway

      This walk was not outlined in the book, it evolved out of a desire to introduce my Grandkids to their new neighborhood. My husband and I packed up the baby in the stroller and with the other four set off up the Cove Road hill. I thought we would walk up to Columbia Lane and take the U shaped road back to Cove. I always wonder at the unique school bus shelters around town. This one was cozy and inviting as our two lovely summer days had given way to a cloudy, drizzly day.
                                                                As the road turned around two paths opened, one going back to Cove Rd and the other, well I was not sure exactly where that led. My husband seemed to know that it led to the Westside Highway but I felt turned around and reluctantly set down the hill with the stroller. The walk put us on well traveled roads so we kept watch for cars. The Westside highway offered some interesting observations. The first one being the little stream running along the east side of the road. It made a lovely sound as it tumbled over rocks. My grandson noticed the huge plants that suddenly appeared because of the marshes created by the water. They were so different from what we had been looking at. A shed was built along the road and right in the middle was a hole with a cascading stream of water.
  "Why is that water coming out of that house?"
   I could not explain but ventured a guess that this structure must have been built to channel water off the hillside.
   "Grandma, there is a pipe with running water coming out of the bushes!"
                                                            These questions made me aware of how much I did not know about water, run off, water sheds, and generally about how our town manages the water we receive in the form of rainfall. Nature was alive with the task of benefitting from our most prized resource.
 I finally recognized the road back up to my son's new home. I was getting tired. On the west side of the street a huge Maple tree caught our attention. It was covered with thick veins which, upon close inspection, were ivy branches. These vines were old and seemed to grow into the tree with the newer vines way up above. How long, I wondered had this tree hosted the ivy?
                                                                       Decades I am sure.
  "There is our driveway", the children shouted. They started to run when just a minute ago they were dragging. How can they call up that sudden burst of energy?
  "Youth may have energy, but we own the wisdom to keep going slow and steady." Wise words from a kind Grandfather who is spending his vacation with his favorite companions.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Walk Around Christensen Pond

  My husband and I were supposed to go on a road trip this week.. We were going to drive 800 miles in two days. Instead we jumped in the car and drove 4 miles to enter a small hole in the trees just off the road. The reasons for not going had to do with car trouble and lack of faith that the car would get there. It did make it the five miles to the woods.

This is hike No.2 around Christensen Pond. I am using a book just out which describes some family walks around my town. Hike No.1, was through the middle of the Burton Peninsula. This was a short one, perfect for my young Grandkids, .7 miles long. The trail wound around a little pond. 

The farther into the woods we went the more quiet every thing became. I could hear the bees and flies and the sounds were settling instead of jarring. The closer we came to the pond the more birds we heard.

 The pond itself was abruptly visible. The water shimmered with early morning sunlight. It was a mirror to the trees and sky above.
There are so many woodsy areas around my town that I have been desensitized to the beauty of the woods. I found myself intent to see the uniqueness of this particular place. On the last walk the children focused on berries. They were less plentiful here.
There were many more berries on the east side of the pond. 

Thimble berries and wild blackberries have a very different flavor. Thimble berries have a drier, woodsy taste. The most purple ones are the ripest.
I was interested in some yellow lichen growing on a stump. it had the appearance of little flowers.

This trail had a little bridge to cross. I will tell my Grandkids to look for it along the way.

This little adventure was the perfect bridge from the disappointment of one plan lost and another option opening up. I will miss the opportunity to visit with family but I look forward to having adventures close to home.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Last Zoo Trip

   Oh no, my zoo membership is expiring. Did I use it as much as I thought? No, but I have used it three times this summer.Our first trip was in June followed a few days later by another adventure with the second group. I finally talked S. into going. He has been resistant due to feeling sick last year and hating the experience. Hurray, the zoo trip was great for him.
 He eagerly took a camel ride, all by himself.
The camel was quite a show-off. 
Getting on and off was just a step onto the platform.
Having a membership affords the family a closer relationship to the zoo. We rarely go through all of the exhibits and this allows more time to observe and wait for something to happen. 
I enjoyed watching the polar bears.They are so massive and the windows allow for a close up view.
This bear was pushing around barrels with his head.
Two tigers in the background and two brothers in front. We had a chance to see two snow leopard cubs napping in a pile.
My wish was for this last grandson to come with me and he had a good time.