A Walk in the Park

I can tend to be a creature of habit when it comes to certain aspects of my life, especially if it’s an activity that involves the possibility of getting lost. Try as I might to change it, the fact is that I’m what you would call directionally challenged.

My adventures in getting lost include ending up in the wrong state (more than once), taking the wrong train home and arriving at social events way beyond fashionably late even when I start out thinking I know where I’m going. As it turns out, GPS systems aren’t infallible. ūüôā

My fear of getting lost isn’t limited to cars, trains and planes – it also influences where I walk,¬†I stick to the towpath and¬†taking¬†the same route through a nearby¬†neighborhood both there and back home. It would¬†be impossible to get lost on the towpath, it runs parallel to the Delaware river for 60 miles and the only decision I have to make is whether I want to¬†turn right or left out of the neighborhood and onto the trail.

The route might always be the same, but it’s never boring. There’s always something interesting and beautiful along the way and it’s one of my favorite places to think.

blue heron against a back drop of wild flowers

The area I live in is full of places to walk, run or bike – one of the local favorites is Tyler State Park. It’s 1,700 hilly acres interconnected with curving trails for pedestrians, bicycles and horses. The gravel trails through the woods are¬†my youngest son’s favorite place to go for a run, not so much mine.

The first winter we lived here, I learned about a local running club that hosts a winter race series in Tyler Park. Looking back, I’m not sure what I was thinking, but at the time it seemed like it could be a good way to meet people and make friends. The people in the club were super nice and also wicked fast.

At the time I could keep up a 12 minute pace (on a good day and a flat course); the average pace of the runners in the group was 9 minutes or less per mile (every day and on a hilly course).¬†It was all I could do to go fast enough to keep the last runner in sight so I wouldn’t take a wrong turn and end up lost in the middle of the park, especially on a long run. Thankfully they always had one or more volunteers stationed at the danger spots and I always found my way back to the boathouse.

Last Sunday I finally took Christian up on his offer to take me on a guided walking tour of his favorite spots in Tyler Park. We snagged the last open parking spot, laced up our shoes, grabbed a couple of giant bubble wands out of the trunk and headed into the park.

First stop, the Algae Slide. Apparently it’s the favorite spot for selfies among high school aged girls and young couples.

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From there we headed off of the paved trails, across a wooden bridge and into the woods, needless to say it was not a route I’d have taken on my own. ūüôā

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Unfortunately the bridge that connects the business of the park with the solitude of nature is covered in graffiti and littered with drug paraphernalia. It’s such a shame that people don’t show respect for the world around them.

For the next hour or so, my 19 year old son and I hiked up and down the trail,

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stopped to enjoy little glimpses of nature like this tiny little toad,

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blew big bubbles in the clearings with our bubble wands

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and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings.

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Even though Christian was my guide, I have to admit that I sighed a little breath of relief when we emerged back out of the woods into a more familiar spot.

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It was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Yellow – Fall’s Hidden Treasure

Fall is my second favorite season, summer will always be my first. What can I say? I love the warmth of the sun. I do have to admit that the cooler temperatures of fall make long walks and bike rides along the towpath even more enjoyable.

This year the reds and oranges have been especially vibrant, and for the first time ever I noticed the beauty in the color yellow as well.

I also discovered that sometimes the leaves that have fallen to the ground are as beautiful as the leaves still clinging to the branch. This blanket of gold and subtle accents of green covering the grass took my breath away.

hidden beauty inspiration

I have no doubt that the drivers of the cars passing me wondered why I was taking pictures of the ground, but I couldn’t help myself. I saw more than fallen leaves, I saw the hidden beauty.

The image inspired me to draw.

hidden beauty

I decided to call¬†it “Hidden Beauty.”

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

field of clovers blending into the trees and bridge

The month of May has been unseasonably chilly this year and it’s adversely affected my exercise mojo. The towpath, my bike, and my camera have been calling my name for a while now and yesterday I finally answered.

Although it’s been a while since I’ve taken any pictures along the towpath, I almost didn’t take my camera along. It was windy and a little more cloudy than sunny, not the best combination for taking photos. Less than two miles into my ride I stopped in my tracks at the sight of a young male deer facing me on the edge of the towpath.

He stood his ground instead of running int to the woods when he saw me. The crunching sound of wheels on the towpath alerted me to a passing cyclist so I zoomed and clicked as quickly as possible, hoping to capture at least one good shot before the deer scurried into the woods.

Surprisingly the deer didn’t budge even when the man who passed me dropped his bike with a thud¬†and fished his smartphone out of his pocket.¬†I tip-toed toward the deer and managed to get fairly close.

My unexpected photo opportunity turned out to be a treat.¬†The young deer not only posed for us, he put on a show.¬†He bowed and bobbed his head and even changed his position allowing us to take pictures from more than one angle. If deer could take “selfies” this guy would surely have a bunch.

deer along the towpath

He ended the show by taking a mini-bow just before slipping away into the woods.

deer running into the woods

This time of year the geese own the towpath. Geese are very protective parents and it can be pretty scary to ride through an area occupied by one of the many families. They hiss and screech¬†as you walk or ride by them and I’ve heard rumors¬†that wearing a bike helmet while riding along the canal protects your head from more than just a fall.

Goose attacks could be urban legend, but I’m not going to take any chances. It’s hard to believe that these creatures are so cute when they’re little and so mean when they grow up.

baby geese in the clover

This dock caught my eye for some reason. It seems that winter took a bit of a toll on it as well. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something very touching to me about it.

Weathered Dock

I spent a good amount of time trying to catch a bumble bee as it was buzzing from flower to flower with no luck. Imagine my delight when I was sorting through my pictures and discovered an unexpected surprise, I caught that busy bee going in for the landing without realizing it.

bee coming in for a landing

Many of the trees that were uprooted and bridged the canal after the long winter have been cleaned up and moved to the side of the path.

fallen trees along the canal

I think there should be geese crossing signs along the towpath. All I can say is I’m glad I don’t live this close to the canal.

geese crossing the road

It was a wonderful day for families to walk hand-in-hand,

family walking hand-in-hand for couples to paddle down the canal in a canoe,

couple in a canoe

and for young boys to turn the fallen trees into a jungle gym.

boys playing on fallen trees

I wonder if their parents knew what they were up to. ūüôā

My favorite blue heron was resting on a rock in a place I’d never seen it before. The picture turned out to be sort of a “Where’s Waldo” kind of shot, but since I laid down on my stomach across the dirt path and got busted by the couple in the canoe while doing so, it’s a “must share.”

blue heron resting on a rock

Fortunately I spotted him (I think it’s a him) further down the canal and managed to capture one of him standing tall and proud

blue heron in the canal

and another against a backdrop of yellow wildflowers and wavy green leaves.

blue heron against a back drop of wild flowers

It was a beautiful day for both exercise and creativity. Thank goodness I brought my camera along or I would have missed an amazing opportunity to share the awesome sights along the canal.

I can’t believe I was lucky enough to capture pictures of a deer, a bumble bee, more than a few geese, and the blue heron all on the same day. The only animal that was too fast for me was a turtle. It turns out they can cross the path and dive into the canal a whole lot faster than people give them credit for.

Oh well, even if I didn’t catch him it caused me to stop and notice the unique beauty of the yellow water lilies that add life to the water.

yellow water lilies

Thank you for joining me on my adventure along the Delaware Canal.

field of clovers blending into the trees and bridge

Spring has Finally Sprung

It’s been one of the coldest and gloomiest springs that I can remember. I was still wearing my winter jacket during the first week of April. ¬†I just couldn’t seem to warm up enough to go outside without bundling up.

Yesterday was the first day that I didn’t hear the roar of my furnace followed by the clickty clacks along the baseboard as the heat kicked in to take the chill out of the air.

To celebrate the nice weather I grabbed my camera and walked along the towpath. It was interesting to observe how different things look this spring as compared to last spring.

I bumped into Bonnie, the tender of my favorite neighborhood garden. ¬†She once again caught me taking pictures of her flowers and invited me into her garden to take more. ūüôā

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This daffodil reminded me of a miniature sun.

this makes me smile

And I loved the contrast of colors, deep purple and pops of bright yellow against an emerald backdrop.

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Last year at this time the daffodils lined the towpath in full bloom and the green was brilliant and bright.

daffodils





This year there were very few daffodils and it was as though spring was trying to fight her way out of winter’s grasp.

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The natural grass looked like it was still late fall, I couldn’t see even a hint of green.

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I always love the whimsical, almost mysterious, hints of red that introduce spring along the branches of this tree.

whimsical gateway to romance

It felt wonderful to be outside and to become reacquainted with the towpath, my camera, and spring.

Superbowl V – A Championship Year

Five years ago today, I boarded a plane in Omaha, Nebraska and landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was a bittersweet day and one that set in motion a series of changes in my life that I never could have foreseen.

“Did you land safely?” he asked.

“Yep, I’m about to head north to Bensalem and I’ll check into the hotel,”

The conversation paused while the wave of applause and cheers subsided.

“Wow, sounds like it’s quite a party.¬† I can’t believe I’m missing it,” I said.

“I know first time in almost twenty years, hopefully you can find somewhere to watch the game and enjoy it.¬† Good luck on the new job tomorrow, give me a call and let me know how it goes. I’d better get back to the game and guests,” he replied.

The first day at my new job included introductions to my new staff, a tour of my new apartment (which looked nothing like the pictures online), and an outburst of tears when I discovered the fact that I’d improperly packed senior pictures and they were covered with scratches.

Five years later I’m writing this from my new office, which is located at the top of my stairs.

15_linkedin and a whole new world

The pups are in their place, sleeping soundly at my feet while I type away – the clicks on the keyboard are a constant sound in the house.

19_my assitants romeo and annie

It would be easy for me to look at the past five years and say that moving was a bad idea.  A near foreclosure, major changes in family status, and the helplessness I felt when we first moved as I watched my youngest son experience severe growing pains in a completely unfamiliar environment top the list.

There were times when I felt like moving boxes was a bigger challenge than moving mountains.

ceiling to floor boxes
ceiling to floor boxes

But somehow the space magically transformed into a little slice of paradise.

finishing touches

There were days I questioned myself as a parent and doubted my choices. I’ve come to learn that we all do.¬† The smiling faces of my beautiful children is a constant source of joy and realization that what’s important is the communication about the choices, not the decisions themselves.

NYC in the rainy cold at Christmas

At the age of fifty, I learned to laugh out loud, with joy, and without embarrassment.  I began to understand that life is meant to be celebrated.

the gangs all here

I discovered the gift of writing and that the color of my soul is the sun.

perfect reflection of clouds at sunset on Big Sand Lake, MN

I now know that there’s more than one way to experience a visit to the zoo.

butterfly

And a walk through the neighborhood can reveal unexpected treasures.

fred the frog
fred the frog

I’ve learned that it’s never too late to learn something new and that we all have the capacity to amaze ourselves.

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I know how to “batten down the hatches” and draw strength from candles in the storm.

candle in the storm - ink drawing on handmade paper

When I started this blog a year or so ago the title “It’s a Whole New World,” was the biggest understatement of the century.

Each of the past five years has had it’s ups and downs and in one way or another they’ve been a winning season, but this past year has definitely been a championship year.¬† I have a feeling, the upcoming season is going to be even better.

The Good Samaritan of the Day

There are truly lots of great people who are willing to help out a stranger.¬† I should know, I’m usually the one who needs to be rescued.¬† I’ve had strangers help me change a flat tire at 1 am, jump start my rental car, and walk the final mile of a 1/2 marathon with me – just to name a few.

The path along the canal was busy today.  I love riding my bike and people watching as well as nature watching.  The water levels are high due to the recent storms and the canal looks like a miniature river of bright green and strangely pretty foam.  I think the technical term for it is algae.

I rode out of my driveway knowing I would have just enough time to finish my normal route and then shower before my chiropractor appointment – no more, no less. I could lie and say it’s because I’m an expert at time management; but the truth is that I got lost in what I was working on and decided to risk that nothing would go wrong.

Other than the fact that I only have one working gear setting and my bike desperately needs a tune up the ride was uneventful.  That was, until I spotted a young couple wrestling with a kayak.

When I say wrestling, I mean wrestling.  All ninety pounds of her attempted to pull the waterlogged kayak up the bank while her companion tried to push it out of the water.

I didn’t give it a second thought and I stopped, “Do you need some help?”

“Ummm…yeah…I think we do…” she replied.

Together we maneuvered the vessel further up the embankment.

“Can we try and dump some of the water now?¬† I think it would make it easier to pull it the rest of the way,” I said.

She tugged, “I don’t know if that will work.”

“Let’s try it,” I said.

We flipped the boat on the count of three.¬† As I expected –¬† water drained, the kayak became lighter, and we were able to pull it to shore.¬† During the process we exchanged first names and tidbits about Nebraska and Minnesota.

I waited to make sure they both made it back in the water with no further problems and waved goodbye.

Norah returned the wave as her kayak slipped under the bridge, “Thank you!¬† You are the good Samaritan of the day.”

I was late for my appointment, but my chiropractor and I agree it was worth the delay. Everything about it makes me smile.

Do Geese Smell Fear?

Fall is my favorite time to ride my bike or go for a run along the towpath. It may be because it‚Äôs the time of year I discovered the canal and realized that it was a ‚Äėtowpath‚Äô with a history and purpose, and not a ‚Äėtoepath,‚Äô which in my imagination was a narrow and treacherous place to run beside the river.

I could say it’s the cooler temperatures, or the explosion of gold, red, and orange along the trail, but reality is that from October to March the path is goose free and that makes me happy.

Before I go on, I should share that I have an extreme fear of birds.  It doesn’t matter how big or how small they are, I’m certain that they are out to get me.  I won’t set foot into the aviary at the zoo, let alone sit in the waiting room at the train station if a swallow has somehow found its way into the building.

I’m not sure where the fear originated, it might have stemmed from watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds at an impressionable age. Or it maybe it was being dive bombed by birds of an unremembered species while the mowing the lawn as a teenager; of course, I’m not 100% certain whether either memory is real or imagined.

At any rate, the geese on the towpath present quite a problem for me. I‚Äôm not certain they ‚Äėsmell fear,‚Äô but I am convinced that they, not so secretly, enjoy knowing that whenever I get within three feet of them the hair on the back of my neck rises, I break into a cold sweat and I‚Äôm instantly covered in goose bumps.

I‚Äôve received a lot of guidance on how to ‚Äėface my fear‚Äô and ‚Äėovercome my obstacles‚Äô as it relates to the taunting flock of feathers that guard the towpath from spring¬†until fall.¬† The advice ranges from hissing¬†and clapping at them¬†to instructions to raise my arms above my head, make my hands look like claws, and growl really loud while hopping on the path.¬† I‚Äôm pretty sure the guy who passed along that ‚Äėadvice‚Äô¬†just wanted to see if I‚Äôd actually do it.

I have to admit I was tempted.

thoughts on the ‘lake of a million memories’

When I started my ‘Guide to Writing Descriptive Settings’ class in late May, I was certain that I wouldn’t tackle writing about Big Sand Lake,¬†I was¬†positive¬†it was too big to capture into words.

I didn’t think I could¬†describe how thrilling it is to cut like a diamond through glass on one ski behind a speeding boat, or the beauty of the sunsets on a leisurely pontoon ride.¬† I had no idea how to explain¬†the way¬†laughter echoes¬†across the water, or the¬†summers of swimmer’s itch, familiar and quirky ‘haunts’, or the memorable bike rides along the Heartland Trail.

Through the course of the 6 weeks of class, I decided it would be fitting for the final assignment. The objective of the assignment was to create a mental map and use sensory descriptions to bring a few places along the way to life through words.

The challenge was that I wanted to capture the essence of a million places and as many memories. I had no idea how I was going to write about something so big and so personal.

With¬†48 hours left until the classroom closed, I¬†went for a run.¬†I still hadn’t written a word.

As often happens, I had a breakthrough while running along the towpath.  In the heat and solitude of the morning, memories filled my heart, the canal blurred behind tears, and scenes from life on Big Sand rolled through my mind.

In the end, this wasn’t just an assignment; it¬†became an emotive¬†connection of my present, past, and future, and an experience¬†in¬†what it means to ‘write from the heart’.

Big Sand - The Lake of a Million Memories

Chicka Boom, Chicka Brush

I left for my run without my¬†ipod.¬†When I realized it I was annoyed, but given the fact¬†that it took me nearly 1/2 a mile to¬†notice it, I’d have to¬†admit it wasn’t a tragedy after all.

I’d spent most of the day feeling anxious and blue.¬† My mind filled with thoughts of all I can’t do.

Chicka¬†boom, chicka¬†boom…a strange and unfamiliar sound interrupted my silent soliloquy.¬† No wait, not chicka¬†boom…chicka¬†brush, chicka¬†brush, like two shakes of a maraca followed by swish, the single beat¬†of a brush on a¬†drum.

The rhythmic sound grew closer and passed me.  Chicka, the two beat sound as his prosthetic bounced against the fine gravel,  then brush as his foot completed his stride.

Chicka brush, chicka brush…

We exchanged a silent wave and I watched him run into the sun.

Inspiration and perspective come at unexpected times and in unpredictable forms.

The next time I think “I can’t” or “it’s too hard,” I’ll do my best to remember chicka boom, chicka brush: the sound of yes I can.