Snowshoe at the Plotter Kill–An Interlude

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Waterfalls in the gorge at the Plotter Kill Preserve, Rotterdam, NY

Before high winds in the afternoon–and between bitter temperatures the day before and after–we raced out. It had been three years since I’d wrestled on my snowshoes and gotten to trod on piles of snow.

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Along the Red Path above the creek, under the dark trees and before more snow fell in the afternoon.

Only deer and squirrels had gone before us.

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January hemlocks hang over the Plotter Kill (Creek), a tributary of the Mohawk River.

What a gift, what a gift.

 

Feeling Your Senses in Photos, Part 1: Seed Heads

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A sparkle blast of sun on seeds–just what we need in the gray winter days.

 

That’s a brave thing, to start with “Part 1,” especially after not posting for two weeks due to a nasty head cold and some computer issues (neither of which is quite resolved, but getting there).

I like the idea of mixing senses: to take vision and see what we can “feel.” Can your fingers sense the softness of seeds, the velvet or raspy texture of dried leaves–just through looking at pictures?  Can you hear the light crunch as you press them between your fingers and smell the late fall moulder in them? What memories come up when you do that?

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Dried and curled in head of Queen Anne’s Lace (wild carrot), Vischer Ferry Preserve

Happy New Year, and thanks for your patience. Over the week, ignore any judgment you’ve heard on the winter weather and step outdoors. Take in what your senses gift you. What did you find? (Feel free to click on the Leave A Reply button and share.)

Solstice Sun

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Frost sparkling over a creek, Scotia, NY

Just some simple images today, light in the darkness. To meditate in the midst of what for many folks is frenzy and for others, sadness.

Allow the magnificence of nature to be your sanctuary; let it creep into your soul quietly and sweetly, and inhabit your senses.

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December sunset over grasses, Saratoga Spa State Park

 

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Sunset over the fields, Glenville NY

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Solstice sunset over farmer’s field cornstalks and the hedgerow.

Enjoy the glow, and the light increasing!

Snowflake Cookies, Snow and Ice and Stars

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Last week’s snowflakes on star shaped buds of ruby red stag-horn sumac

The photo post is late this week because I was up on Monday night until 10:30 pm making holiday cookies.  Actually it was only part one of three, of cookie making sessions. 

My friend Jenny and I have finally realized—after several years of exhaustion—that we can’t do the baking and decorating all in one crazy marathon that goes late into the night and morning. I don’t do well past 7 or 8 pm most nights! Tuesday morning I was self-compassionate (see last week’s photo thoughts) and knew I had to sleep in instead of post.

So until we finish sessions two and three, here are some photos of last year’s Modern Art sugar and gingerbread cookies. The icing is colored with natural dyes and therefore are more pastel than bright, more pink than the red of the sumac or holly berry.

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Snowflake in cookie form

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Stars in blue

Here’s one of my favorite ice photos recently, of frozen bubbles rising from a scarlet or red oak leaf. I can really feel the submersion, the weight of ice above, yet the air lifting like tiny beams of starlight from its surface. The leaf rests on the frozen water below, as well. 

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Suspended in frozen water and surrounded by visible air

Can you think of a time you felt support where you didn’t expect it? Sweetness or rest when you needed it or actively chose it? Beauty in a moment that popped right out in front of you? Especially when you were tempted into frantic movement? (None of that going on currently, no, no.)

Blessings and fruitful meditation to you, as we head toward more cookie baking and self-care, and into this weekend’s winter solstice.

 

December Ahimsa (Self-Compassion)

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Almost-winter sun sinking behind the trees at Saratoga Spa State Park.

I woke way before dawn today, hips aching from a wondrous snow walk the other day. 

Breathe in. Breathe out. Move.

A few days ago I had tromped along under the tall pines at Saratoga Spa State Park. The crunch of our steps muffled by hats and jacket hoods, I thought about snow and holiday lights, about ice and clouded days and the sun that came out just in time for a 4:30 sunset. Also about the color we so desire in winter—winter which has not officially arrived yet, just two feet of early December snow. The two feet of snow we were stomping through and sliding in and laughing over, as we searched our way back to the warming hut.

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Snow on a paper wasp nest, high in the trees at Saratoga Spa State Park.

I woke way before dawn today to practice yoga, to pay attention to my body that so often in the day job gets ignored, put aside, pushed to physical limits with repetitive keyboarding and staying too still.  I wanted to move with eyes closed, minimizing outside stimulation. I wanted to listen to the craving for movement and beauty. I wanted to hear the tiny voice that guides me day to day, when I listen. 

The yoga concept of ahimsa–a nonviolence that includes self-compassion, gentleness with self–is part of what drew me to Kripalu yoga years ago. I want to live ahimsa with simple concepts:  Breathe in. Breathe out. Move. Stretch. Feel. No self-judgment or chiding voice. Breathe in. Breathe out.

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Sun, trees, snow, shadows: simple joy for me.

Today I will continue self-compassion into the dawn, into the daylight and through this misty foggy forty-degree Tuesday, looking out the office windows at the far view, standing at my work station and taking breaks for my body’s sake, through the dusk and commute and into the dark of night, when holiday lights sparkle.

Move. Stretch. Feel. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Feel.

Gentle self-compassion.

Using What You Have: Snowstorm Soup

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The crystal patterns of yesterday’s snow: long shards that were light, but broken and folded in on themselves, made great snowballs.

 

When Governor Cuomo decided to give me (and many others) a snow day yesterday, I was delighted. 

As flakes sprinkled and flew outside, I dug through the fridge. Lighter and healthier breakfasts are calling me lately, and being at home I could make a fresh hot soup. I was out of miso paste. However, never one to waste, the day before I had taken the bones and skin of a natural roasted chicken and made a golden savory broth.

I took a few tablespoons and used that to steam frozen cauliflower. Cooked cabbage left from a different meal a few days before came next. The previous night’s dinner yielded some vegetables for tiny specks of color in a so far white yellow dish. Plop! In went the green and yellow beans and carrots sliced tiny.

Chickadees bobbled back and forth to the bird feeder. Snow movers scraped and pushed piles of snow. What else goes in here? I asked. 

Digging past makings for new meals, I found a container of onion chutney with sweet red pepper from a wondrous take-out meal (Shalimar in Delmar). That added some spice, fresh cumin seed, and a gorgeous reddish color.  It needed something salty yet, pops of flavor. Back to the freezer, and tucked in a bag, a thin sausage grilled in the end-of-September sun at Wiawaka’s Cancer Survivor Day where I had volunteered. Diced small, I mixed that in.

Perfection! A huge bowl of filling vegetables and warmth for my mouth. Colors to match the cardinals and sparrows and finches pecking for sunflower seed.

Out the window, more flakes danced past each other in cascades and wind blown veils. Later would come a walk outdoors:  giggles and digging out a car, snowballs thrown at cattails, and small neighborhood children glorying in the view from atop ten foot snow mounds, while parents shoveled and snapped photos. 

For now I had created something out of what I already had, richness from examining what had already been given me.

 

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Tasty warm soup, hurray!

What is in your hands right now that is wonderful, useful, delightful?

Look Up

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Winter tree shape on white birch bark, Five Rivers, November 2019

 

Sometimes when I walk through the woods, I look up from my feet and visions pop out.

A lone leaf wiggles frenetically in the wind. Sunlight breaks through the gloom to light up one small yellow oxalis flower. A red eft wriggles on rock, or a snake slides under dry oak leaves, or a tiny brown toad hops-hops-hops in the path ahead.

 

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I looked back and there it was–a bird’s nest lit by autumn sun. Five Rivers, November 2019

I say to myself–treasure these gifts, these moments. Pay attention.

Even in my office, captured by computer screen and phone rings and beeps, I look up and stretch my neck. Light from the window on the other side of the room captures me. Above trees, I see a horizon. I am reminded again: I don’t have to spend hours in meditation every day; I can take these moments over the day and their richness will feed me.

I just have to look up.

 

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?