Leaf, Rock, Water

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Scarlet oak leaves in the Vlomankill, Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, November 2019

There is something about an autumn leaf caught on a rock in moving water.

Something about the way sunlight hits the tumble of dry and wet with a red-orange glow; the way brown water softly flows around the stone and wobbles the leaf back and forth; how the leaf in turn stirs the water as it rests.

 

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Under the bridge leading into the Great Sacandaga Lake, Northville NY.

Who moves whom? In the water under this bridge, the rock creates ripples—but there are also underwater leaves to the left, almost out of the frame, that ripple the water on its way toward that rock-and-leaf. 

There is something in a leaf captured on its way to somewhere else.

Like it’s catching its breath at a temporary stopping place, or making a choice to step out of the moving water and observe. 

There is something, something to be noted.

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Beaver Tree Trail on a fine November Saturday, Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, Delmar NY.

(I am certain there are leaves on rocks here along the Beaver Tree Trail.  We just can’t see them past the clouds and blue sky over and under the bridge.)

What rocks do you rest on, on your way to someplace else? How do you catch your breath and take in the late fall sun? How does it feel to be out of the rushing water?

Unfocusing and Perspective

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Million Dollar Beach and mountains surrounding Lake George Village, NY, October 2019.

I need some perspective. Every day.

Standing at my dining table and frantically sorting papers, I came across an article about focused and unfocused attention.  I sat down to read it. Research shows that our minds need a break from focused work, attention to computers and phones and TVs and written words, lists and chores and even our day to day rituals. 

We need to be unfocused. 

Which could be an accusation—Don’t be so unfocused! As if stopping for a pause will cause irreparable harm to our entire lives, entering some sort of Universal Permanent Record as a black mark against us.

Instead, I was so happy to hear what I really already knew—we are fed by daydream time, walks without talking, letting thoughts drift like fall leaves on a creek.

Why are we so anxious? Yes, there are damned good reasons for deep concern in our world, but we also get fixated on actions and doing, and so spiral around and around and around without relief. I have been reminded:  Let go, for at least a little while, regularly.

Every day.

****

I look at this photo of Lake George Village from a Prospect Mountain overlook, and first I see the fall hues, rolling on curvy mountainside. The colors are distributed unevenly—evergreens at the top and bottom, bunches of golden clumped in the center, rust and orange here and there. With a deep breath, I see these are all individual, multi-story trees that usually tower over me. A couple of bright red trees glow down at the bottom, which leads my eye to Million Dollar Beach and its building and parking lot. 

—And the bathhouse and roofs of houses there, and tiny cars and all of a sudden I realize how big what I am looking at is, how small I am. 

Spying from up high, I remember summer sand time, snow on the bike path down to Queensbury, walking on Lake George one January when it was frozen hard, and then somehow appreciation for all the experiences and people I’ve had there. Like the raptors and crows, my thoughts glide and wheel smoothly in the air over Lake George. I feel happily unfocused and with shifted perspective, able to move back into my (yes busy) life with more ease.

As snow falls over us today here in the Capital Region, how can you let go, unfocus, for at least a little while, and refresh yourself?

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Looking up into the sky instead of at my feet. John Boyd Thacher Park (North), October 2019.

Prospect Mountain view

 

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Late October view from the top of Prospect Mountain, Lake George, NY.

I can see it is going to be difficult to hold to one (or two or three) photos each week. There’s so damned much beauty out there. Especially when so many worries pull—about health, work, friends, state of the world–we need multiple doses of the medicine of nature.

 

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View of Lake George from the second overlook.

The other weekend: Prospect Mountain in Lake George, just past fall color peak. Every stage of autumn, like every step on a path or into a river, is different and wondrous. The sun still glows on golden trees. Now the rust and orange and smoke start to predominate.

We take in three pull-overs with views. At one, a leather-clad motorcyclist speaks with tears in his eyes, of family sick with cancer. We nod and share enthusiasm about the gumdrops of trees coating the mountainside: colors of spearmint and lemon and berry.  Good wishes all around, each of us leaves bolstered, encouraged, somehow better.

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Late afternoon sun lights up trees on the way, Prospect Mountain, Lake George NY.

The road spirals up and up in angled late day sun. At the top, tourists stand precariously on ledges to snap selfies with Lake George Village behind them. We tromp in the 45 degree chill and breathe in the oxygen-rich Adirondack air. We sigh and sigh, and feel connected to things bigger than ourselves.

How do you care for yourself when life weighs heavy? What outside place in nature feeds you?

 

October milkweed

 

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Mid-October milkweed seeds, Vischer Ferry Preserve

Milkweed calls out the poet in me. 

Against the backdrop of gray grasses and tan marsh reeds, the popped open pods pull my eye.  Silver-white seeds twist and spill out; drops of morning dew spangle like holiday lights. 

These particular seeds remind me of a teenager hanging her hair upside down, to brush it full. There’s a sense of movement into the future, a sense of letting go into the unknown and yet beautifully seasonal, as summer gives in to autumn.

(This is for Beth and family, who have been particularly enthusiastic about photos of milkweed, with those memories of childhood fields of wildflowers.)

What do milkweed seeds call to, in you?

 

A New Beginning: Diane’s Photo of the Week

 

New England asters ready to unfurl in the fall (Vischer Ferry Preserve, Rexford, NY, Oct 2019).

A little explanation–

Yes, it has been quite a while. Yes, with a few posts here and there. No, not what I had envisioned or desired when I began this writing endeavor.

But life changes.

The transition to day job has not been instant or even short, and certainly not easy. Balance, balance, balance, I say to myself each morning, sometimes with gritted teeth but more and more with an ease that surprises me. Each day I discover something lovely.

Last week I took a promotion to a new position and a new department. At my former job, in lieu of writing essays and posting online here, I determined to do the small things that I was capable of. I brought in one of my photos each week and posted it on the outside of my cube.

It’s what I could handle.

My workmates came by to witness, comment, enjoy, question, compare, express memories about their own nature places and photos, and even give preferences about which photos they needed to see that week—bright colors or flowers in winter, cooling water or ice images in August, signs of seasonal change, details and broader vistas. The previous week’s photo stayed up, and acted as a comparison, a talking-point.  At one point I had three photos up at once–the needs had grown! The photos became a Monday or Tuesday morning joy for many, a way of connecting that grew and expanded over the days until the next Diane’s Photo Of The Week was pinned up.

As I took in the departing hugs and best wishes, I was invited (ok, ordered, thank you Kelly!) to continue this tradition online. Here I begin Diane’s Photo of the Week, five work days after the move out of my old cube and yes, I know, on a Wednesday (chalk it up to technical difficulties).

You can subscribe by email or RSS feed to get a bit of what I shared for almost two and a half years with my dear Guidance & Counseling office family. You could also just drop by this virtual outside-of-my-cube, whenever you get up from your desk and need a break. Feel free to leave a comment and join the conversation.

Thanks for wandering by.

Things to notice about the photo

Take a look at the velvety and furry texture of the the outside layer of greenish bracts on the foreground flowers. Bracts (also called phyllaries in some sources) protect the petals of the aster until they open and then form part of the underneath support. (The tightly curled purple petals trying to burst out make me smile. I understand that desire to grow.)

Actually, there are two kinds of petals on an aster.  The interior orange ones you can only see in the blurred background flowers here are called disk florets since once the flower opens they form a flat disk in the center. The purple ones that are uncurling are the ray florets–yes, those ones doing a modern dance wave and gesture as they “wake up” in the fall.

What does this photo make you think of or remember?  Is there something you are feeling ready to wake up to this autumn?

 

A dark and lovely night: Forest Therapy talk at American Cancer Society’s Hope Club, Latham, NY

** I am working on new essays and photos for my long patient followers on this blog, and have some poetry coming out in a collection this summer–more information to follow–but here is what I have been spending my energy on, in addition to the day job (two months in, already!).

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Dewdrops on wild strawberry: John Boyd Thacher (North) State Park, Voorheesville NY.

On the night of my introductory talk this early June, rain gushed out of the sky, pooled in the streets, and alternated dark and light, heavy and sprinkling. A small group gathered around the cozy kitchen table at Hope Club in Latham, New York, and shared our deep experiences of nature, along with what science tells us about the healing effects of the natural world.

Because of the cooler temperature and the storms, we stayed indoors and sank our senses into photos of nature. Over pizza and salad, we talked about how being in or even thinking about the outdoors moved us–from thoughts of illness or anxiety to the “blessings of blooms and butterflies,” as one participant put it.

The scary and rushed sensation of getting to the building through rush hour traffic and bad weather faded; somehow, we became more ourselves.

It was decided, unanimously, I’d return to Hope Club to do an actual walk-experience, and this will happen in their beautiful garden on Thursday, July 20, 2017, from 6 to 8 pm.  Again, the evening is free, some food will be provided, but please pre-register with Hope Club, (518) 220-6960, or through the Contact Us tab on this blog.

*Programs with Hope Club are open to ANYONE whose life has been touched by cancer, not just patients or family members.

By the way, this little essay-announcement is cross-posted on my business blog, Of The Essence Holistic Wellness .

July 20 FTG Experience, Hope Club (updated)

Baby (Snapping Turtle) Steps

 

Look at its determined eye. At John Boyd Thacher Park (North), 2016

This newborn snapping turtle, along with its siblings, had come out of the nest in the gravel not a minute before we walked up on it, on the yellow Perimeter path at Thacher North. Coated in wet clay from under ground, it scrambled quickly for the nearby pond. Though only an inch and a half long, this baby was already fully itself, and on its way.

That’s me.

Right now I feel messy, roiling in the gunky mud of fears and expectations about the unknown. Half-baked, incomplete. But I will trust it’s about perspective: I am a baby snapping turtle, destined for size and strength I cannot imagine from my sticky clay birthing place, called to a future of sun-warmed water.

***

For the last eleven months I have been working half time.

In May of last year, a week or two before I leapt in to that job, I finished my initial Forest Therapy Guide training. On duty at the local library, I learned to scan and shelve materials, while at home I concentrated on the six month certification process, and graduated in November.

Back then I was pretty worried about taking those twenty hours a week for paid work away from my well established practices, and then the addition of the Guide training. Was I crazy? For almost seven years, I had had a much freer schedule, during which I became a serious writer of memoir and nature essays and a serious photographer. I also worked as a personal chef, accompanied a friend who was dying, trained as a yoga teacher, and created workshops for writers and artists.

Yes, I was pretty worried eleven months ago, but those who know me well were right. It all turned out fine—and in fact, excellently. Not only in my job, but in figuring out balance, even if it wasn’t the fully realized balance I so desired. Questions popped up, and I answered them as they came.

How to write? Request a work schedule primarily noon to 8 pm and then do the vital observations and editing while most of the world sleeps, between 4:30 and 8 am.

How to continue and increase my nature connection? Walk alone before dawn. Make walks and photo sessions with my hiking partner a happy requirement. Walk with friends sometimes at dinner break (mid-afternoon), and observe the seasonal changes in my city.

How to manage the inevitable exhaustion? Alternate those days of dinner walks with dinner nap days! Cry as I needed to, which turned out to be a lot.

Nesting eagle pair, Peebles Island State Park, glimpsed on a sunset self-care walk with a good friend.

***

The past eleven months, I haven’t posted any blog essays.

But I remind myself I am closing in on completion of the final draft of my first book-length manuscript.* I have written poetry for two small collections and for myself. Two of my photographs were chosen for the Thacher Nature Art Show this March, even though unfortunately I was too sick to attend the opening, see the exhibition, or even publicize it. This summer, I plan to be offering forest therapy walks in at least one place. And finally, I kept my promise to myself and posted this essay today.

I’ve been persevering, with self-compassion. Yes, alternating with panic and frustration and fallow periods, but those freak-outs allow me to come back, repeatedly, to self-compassion.

April’s first Oxalis (shamrock flower) with its fuzzy stems, searching out sun at Thacher North.

***
Now, next week—tomorrow! I begin a full time job with the state of New York.

I am feeling those same anxieties as when I started my half-time job last June: about performance, self care, managing my tendency to perfectionism, creating a new balance with forty hours a week gone, plus a commute by car now.

This challenge has been taking up quite a bit of time and energy, as at first I delved into the test taking within Civil Service, then interviews and decision making—while I maintained that half-time job.

This is not a place I ever intended or planned to be, taking an office day job in my mid-50s. I’ve loved my decades of creating a personalized daily and weekly schedule with its many layers of paid and unpaid work. I loved to be a parent, then a homeschooling parent, to run a massage therapy business and before that a tutoring business, manage a household and house and rehab of said house, cook nutritious local food tailored to multiple dietary requirements. And as part of the fabric of my life, to organize and work for social justice and community.

But in those early years, I also left no space for myself as writer and naturalist—didn’t even know I WAS either one—or for myself as a physical being who needed much more regular exercise and connection with the outdoors, along with moving meditation.

I took care of many people but not enough of myself.

When I started my half-time job I was very afraid of returning to that place of self disregard. Again, I acknowledge than in almost eleven months, I’ve done pretty well.
I also had some unexpected surprises.

I fell in love with my community again, through people I met as they came for books, DVDs, and music. I fell in love with my historic and struggling town again, through those walks before dawn. At the library I got to glory in organization and creation of order, in the quiet and in the chaos of deliveries from other libraries. I experienced kind, patient, and interesting co-workers.

A wide variety of humanity walked through the heavy wooden doors of our building and gasped at the Tiffany window behind the circulation desk. They also fought with their children, suffered daily frustrations without some of the skills I’ve been lucky enough to develop, showed me patience and compassion, and thrilled with their first library cards.

I handled a lot of books but didn’t read many at first. Then I took out piles of them, like raiding the candy store. Now I’ve settled into 20 to 30 books out at a time, and gotten to enjoy popular items along with dusty volumes pulled from the stacks. After a couple years of illness and depletion and a very sad inability to read long-form writing, I can stick with a whole book and read it over time or in an afternoon.

I hope to still work some hours at the library, because of these gifts I have found.

Post-March blizzard, curls of heaped snow compete with the curlicues and angles of the library’s 1897 architecture.

***

Now I’m going into this full time day job. I was fretting, anxious, anticipating the worst, as I pursued the actual getting of the job. I was also able to observe, feel, analyze what spoke to me, what didn’t, and know I had a choice—not something I’d really felt before.

I hate that I’ve been so wrapped up in learning these balances I haven’t been able to do the essay writing, finish all books I’ve been writing, sort and enjoy my photos.

I try to listen to those around me, those who love me, who again say I will be fine. I return to leaving behind perfectionism and fear of Armageddon brought on by my own mistakes. The details of learning how to follow all my goals will be familiar AND unexpected. I will attempt not to anticipate all the problems or things I might dislike, and be open to the surprises.

In the muck to come, I will remember my turtle-ness and my snapping-ness. My completeness and my newness. I will remember that I’m just starting on this part of the journey, and that I am well on my way.

I will hike and take photos and guide walks. I will do yoga and meditation. I will do my personal writing and my creative writing. I will travel, close in and far away. I will cherish my friends and beloveds and attend to my own wisdom.

The pond awaits.

And the sky above….

*I am presently editing the first book of essays, poems, and photos that Carole Fults and I are co-authoring, gathered from years spent together at Partridge Run Wildlife Management Area, in Berne, NY. More news soon!

Doing this book editing, I realize—I have been through all this before. For example, my blog post entitled “January Thaw.” Guess what! I have been stuck in my writing when my attention just had to go elsewhere, my creative energies spread into a job search, a business build, a health crisis. I forget. Then I return to myself, and remember. Thanks to my readers, for waiting and for encouraging me in the remembering.