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Cheese!

DeerInBackyardGroup photo! Everyone heads up, eyes open, your best smile.

Deer! We have a love/hate relationship. Last year the deer chewed all the new growth from my lovely white lace-cap hydrangea, resulting in ‘zero’ blooms in the summer. In August they neatly snipped every petal from the New Guinea inpatiens in my hanging pots. I suppose their deer brains were thinking something like, “What a nice lady…to hang those colorful, yummy goodies right there at eye level for us.”

We all know how deer enjoy a good hosta. A few weeks ago, I think they were trying to eat my Christmas lights.

AND they transport ticks.

I spray a deer repellant. It’s a vile concoction of chemicals that makes our yard smell like one big lion or tiger urinal. I learned from unpleasant experience to choose a day when the air is still, to close the windows, and to plan on showering afterwards. The spray is somewhat effective. But I’m definitely not outside spraying deer repellant in January.

Gotta admit, though, deer are pretty animals. Even if they are pests. Those eyes…what can I say?

They seem the embodiment of gentle, naïve, frisky, unspoiled nature. The deer who come by here don’t even seem jittery at the sight of people anymore. They probably decided humans are okay and don’t pose a threat. I think they trust me. Which only makes it harder to chase them away.

Sometimes I see the moms nursing their young patiently as they graze. Other times they take turns gently grooming each other. In the summer, they rest in the shade, lying on the May apple plants that cover the ground. I guess the greens make a cool and comfortable daybed to take a break from the heat. And while they’re resting, they nibble on nearby vegetation.

A relaxed life, it seems.

And they look so sweet-tempered. 

deerclose-up3

REALLY. LOOK AT THOSE EYES.

[Sigh]

Excuse me while I take some more pictures. 

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Finally

finally
a relaxed, ample breath of air
deep and lingering
a long awaited sigh
like the toddler told to be still
sitting, fidgeting,
finally
allowed to run free

a tender ache
pending for way too long
not the ache of a pinch,
or a cut, or a scrape
but the ache of a cramp
deep and pressing
and persistent

the ache that’s been wedged
and trapped
like the besieged pillow
under a sleepless head
poked, smothered, folded
squeezed, squashed, molded
finally
liberated by slumbering limbs

the heavy tug
of a struggling soul
weighed down
from trying too hard
for too long
heavy and bloated
its swollen eyes
slow to surrender
finally
freeing its tears

then the release
a
soft, hushed cry
escapes
not the cry of a scream
or a wail
but the cry of a quiet,
inner whimper
a
low,
echoing moan

finally a warming caress
of emotion
not the warmth of frenzy,
not the caress of passion
but the slow, soothing stroke
of a mother’s caress,
wiping sweat from the head
of her sick
and suffering child

an overdue moment
of dogged regret
and smoldering sorrow

a moment to touch it
to feel it, allow it, admit it

a moment to cry for it

and then cry some more

and finally
the time t
o place it back down
to leave it where we found it 

or

let it go.

Walking in the Sand

Digging around bird posts on WordPress today, I came across a blog called ‘Patterns from Nature’. It featured a photo of ‘Bird Prints in the Snow’, which struck me as the seasonal reverse shot of a picture I took at the beach last summer. Something in the confluence of nature, and texture, and animals, and patterns, in both photos, delivers an inviting dose of soothing for me.

I remember the day I took my photo during a walk along the shore, and while my currently cold feet would appreciate the comfort of a warmer pair of socks, if I close my eyes, I can almost feel the warmth and soft graininess of the sand under my toes. Well, I can close my eyes and pretend!

When I started my blog last fall, I originally considered using this beachy bird print photo in the header for my momentary reverie. Until I had to admit to myself the graphic represented nothing of a reverie.

So on this cold January evening, as we expect another snowfall overnight, a little bit of summer, a little bit of birdiness, and a warm sigh….

sand

Thanks to ‘Patterns from Nature’ for the inspiration.

Leap Across a Chasm

The 4th of July came and went. It was hardly blanket weather, but I pushed my head back into my chair and pulled the throw over my shoulders and up over my neck. ‘Escape’ felt like the perfect mantra.

I needed to regroup. And yet I needed to NOT think. Maybe sit by the window and read a mindless book. Or cover my ears with headphones. Let the loud music have its way with my brainwaves so I could ignore the noisy insecurities. Steady my equilibrium. Find my footing.

But checking email seemed safe enough. Open, read, reply, delete. Certainly I was up to that.

PCTCarowack! I sat up in my chair. The subject line told me this would be fun reading. Carowack was the blog title for my niece, who was off hiking northward on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The PCT runs 2,659 miles (4,279 kilometers) from the US’s southern border with Mexico to the northern border with Canada.

HappyFeatIn April 2015 my niece, who was 23 at the time, began her PCT adventures as Happy Feet, the hiking name she’d chosen. Her intention was to walk the entire length of the trail that spring and summer. She planned to hike alone, with what she could carry on her back, and complete the hike before the end of summer.

She planned stops along the way to replenish supplies, and she pre-arranged mail pick-ups with more supplies too. Her planning and prep was extensive, and she had some earlier wilderness experiences, but never for more than two consecutive nights. As someone who won’t wander to the back part of my wooded backyard after dark…after all, we have fox and raccoon…I consider this a bold and courageous venture.

We received regular email updates as she hiked that spring and summer…through the desert…over the mountain…through the snow and ice…until August. Then she decided to leave the trail at mile 1500, mostly because the daily hiking was taking its toll on her body. These were her words on August 18, 2015, in her last post from the PCT that year and the accompanying photo:

PutAForkInITPCT“People ask me all the time why I decided to do the trail, and I have never had a good answer for that question. All I know is that some voice deep inside me said that I needed to be there, on that trail this summer. That same voice was what told me it was time to go home. When that voice speaks, it’s hard to ignore. So I’m home now, starting my next exciting adventure. Put a pin in it, PCT. We’ll meet again one day.”

I took her for her word, and  assumed one day she’d finish her hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Between August 2015 and June 2017, my niece was busy with life. She worked at more jobs than I can remember and she applied to grad school. She secured a teaching position at a great school and planned to start her studies and employment there in September 2017. I wasn’t surprised, though, that she scheduled her life around a return to the PCT before starting grad school.

In June 2017 she got back on the PCT near Mt. Shasta, in northern CA, where she’d left off in 2015. She headed toward the Canadian border, planning to hike the 1,200 remaining miles in two months.

Now it was July 7, and I was opening an update she wrote a few weeks after returning to the trail. The email talked about the differences she felt as she compared her 2015 hike to her return in 2017. This is how she closed the update.

LeapingChasms“There are other, more subtle differences that I have noticed too, still falling under the umbrella of all the things I learned from my first trek. The one I am most proud of is my unshakable faith that things will work out for the best, the way they are meant to…..This ability to have faith in the powers that be is one of the most valuable life lessons I could possibly have gleaned from the trail. It allows my life to be fluid and open, given to chance encounters and wonderful surprises…Now, my faith helps me let go of something beautiful to go find the next beautiful thing, like leaping across a chasm to see the view on the other side. I know it will be beautiful no matter what. I just have to be brave enough to go there.”

What moved me about those words? Was it because I’m so proud of my niece and impressed with what she did. To be so brave, and so skilled, and so enlightened at such a young age. Or was it because I needed to hear those words? They move me even now as I read them again.

JumpingForJoyThe power of words. Sometimes the words we need to hear come from deep inside us, like the voice my niece heard in 2015. And sometimes the words we need to hear come from someone else. They ping some part of our psyche, and tell us to wake up and listen.

I knew it was time to get up, find my footing on the road I’m here to travel, and leap across a chasm.


All photos are Carowack, not me. (I can only dream.) They are on this post courtesy of and property of Carowack. All Rights Reserved.

My niece reached the Canadian border on September 6, 2017, ten days before her first day at grad school. Her blog is a fantastic read, with plenty of adventure, challenges and exhilaration. And unbelievable photos. You can read her blog at:   http://carowack.blogspot.com/


The rewards for having the guts to leap across a chasm? Carowack’s post from the day she made the 3,000 foot climb to Mt. Whitney. To watch the sun rise from the top of the tallest peak in the lower 48 states.

“I’ve been dreaming of this moment for so many months, envisioning myself walking up this path into the sunlight. The tallest peak in the contiguous states. 14,500 feet. I had to walk almost 800 miles to get here. When I finally make it, when I’m standing there, higher than any other person in the contiguous states, I can hardly believe it. I’m the strongest I’ve ever been in my life, physically, mentally, emotionally. I feel so full of life at this moment. The sun lights up my eyes but doesn’t blind me. The cold wind whips around me but doesn’t chill me. I stay for a short while, take it all in. After a while, I start back down the mountain. I still have a long way to go from here.”

Summit of Mt. Whitney

Summit of Mt. Whitney.  All Rights Reserved.

 

Missed Moment

handphpone2The hopeful smile invites tenderness.
A warm inflection,
Some recognition.
The untouched invitation.
Settling for isolation.

Inattentive togetherness.
The liaison distracted
With machines
And tapping.

Scrolling and tapping.
Skimming and tapping.
Clicking and tapping.

The neglected heart
Surrenders its claim
On connection and passion.

To perfect smiles.
Perfect kisses.
Perfect children.
Perfect lives.
Performed for ‘friends’.

The frustrated sigh.
The squandered gaze.
The wasted chance.
The missed moment.

A Bad Dream: The Dark Fog of Reverie

I strain to keep my steps steady, my mind focused. The silent wordless message shouts out its clear simple warning, “this…is…not…good.” Subtle changes in rhythms…my heart, my breathing. Vague alerts reaching out to my consciousness….signaling stress, fear, caution.

I look to my left, to my right, but keep walking. Every step is a thud now. Regret…because I should have been more careful. HE looks for me at moments like this, vulnerable moments. But I see nothing out there, other than my dread. And the adult, the deliberate voice inside me, speaks to reassure, to issue commands:  relax, focus, walk.

Turning the corner now. A quick greeting to a neighbor I pass. Already I notice my tone, my reluctance to stop and engage. Friendly banter is too diverting. Fear has already seized control of my mood. And I question if I am ready for what is to come.

My feet are heavy now, like my mood. But I keep stepping. Faster steps, but deliberate steps. Someone else, a friend, stops to speak. I pause and listen, following her greetings and words.

dreamAt that distracted moment, HE strikes. Lunges for my ankle. Through the fabric of my pants, the nerves in my skin detect the palpable pressure of his probing fingers tugging at my leg. And extending around my calf to get a better hold.

This is the moment to scream out for help. My friend…where is she now? The sidewalk, the street, all my surroundings are still there, but they are a peripheral blur. My eyes feel weird. Bulging like a hobbit eyeballing ‘the ring’. A cone-shaped tunnel vision, with the merciless grabbing hand at the end of the tunnel. Stress hormones fail to function as designed, and my senses and reactions stall. My mind slow to engage. My mouth slow to move. My words weak and slurred, instead of loud and urgent.

Numbness. Numbness of mind. Numbness of body. I order my mind to respond but it has forgotten how to operate, and thoughts bob sluggishly around as if they have been drugged and restrained. I feel immobilized…unable to will my hands and my legs to move, to fight. Too confused even to detect the change in gravity, the downward motion of my physical body. Noticing only the disturbing perception of thoughts…scrambling and bouncing…ineffectively…around the nooks and crannies of my brain…trying to react.

HE takes a good hold of my ankle and yanks forcefully to complete his take-down. And I fall hard on my face. Sometimes HE’s satisfied with a few seconds of triumph, his peculiar perversity content knowing HE has brought me to the ground. But this time HE holds me there for a whole minute, for two. Sneering, chuckling and holding. HE holds his grip on my leg, and fear holds its grip on my thoughts. Like slow-motion fenders moving in a car crash, fearful thoughts move slowly around my brain. Fearful thoughts…strange and surreal.

….Surreal like the drugged buzz of sliding out from anesthesia after surgery….surreal like the emotional trauma following very bad news….surreal like the unreal reality of living through an earthquake. The first moments…when senses detect shaking, the house pitching and pulling, nails screeching, tugging against beams. Receptors process the sensations almost immediately, but there is a second or two before cognition can happen. Before brain cells interpret and compile the reality of an earthquake, a scary reality that is at least based in reality. But during that brief horrid interim at the beginning, those one or two seconds before comprehension, the primal lobes of our brain react and send out urgent warnings. Warnings of incoming other-worldly events. Events that are not part of the repertoire of reality in our human existence.

That’s how it feels now as I wait for him to let go. Numbing, immobilizing, other-worldly terror. I try again to command my body to fight, but unlike the initial fleeting moments of surreal at the start of an earthquake, this numbing surreal doesn’t move on to cognition…the surreal continues until HE decides to let go.

At the moment HE chooses, his fingers release my leg. HE slides away, leaving almost as quickly as HE arrived. But not before HE turns back to stare into my eyes and leave the parting gift of a final mocking gaze. Then HE turns again and leaves me lying there.

Confused, speechless, embarrassed.

I look around to see if others witnessed my fall, my humiliation. I pretend they haven’t, but I know they have.

Clawing my way up from the ground, I start to walk. Slowly at first. One embarrassed, struggling step follows another, and another. And then I disappear into nothingness. As dreams go, I arrive nowhere.

The next morning, lying on my side in bed, I pull the warm blanket up higher, clutching it to my cheek. And then I remember my dream. I reach down to touch my lower leg, almost afraid it will feel tender or bruised. And I shudder.