A Beautiful Lesson in the Art of Giving and Receiving

Today I went for a walk, little did I know that I would be taught a most valuable lesson about giving and receiving, from a 4 year old girl.

About 1/2 way through my walk I crossed paths with two women and 5 little girls who were enjoying the sights along the canal. I couldn’t help but notice the little blonde girl walking toward me and how proudly she held four goose feathers in her hands.

She looked up at me and stretched out her hands, “would you like one of my beautiful feathers?”

“Of course I would, thank you so much for such a wonderful gift.”

Her entire body, not just her face, lit up with the pleasure she felt in giving me this very precious gift.

As I walked away, goose feather in hand, I wasn’t sure quite what to do. It was clear that to her, this was not a dirty goose feather, it was magical and beautiful. Tossing it aside wasn’t an option. I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing her face if we crossed paths again and I had tossed aside her gift.

The perfect solution came to me and I tucked the feather into my pony tail.

I thought about the nature of giving and receiving. It’s become clear to me that being a good receiver is equally important as being a generous giver. This tiny girl’s face lit up the world with joy when I accepted her gift, I can’t help but think that her light would have dimmed if her gift had been rejected or ignored.

On the final stretch of my walk I encountered the group again. Tiny brown eyes looked up at me asking, “do you still have the feather I gave you?”

I pointed to my pony tail and turned around on the path, “what do you think?”

“I think it’s beautiful,” she said.

“I do too.”

She held out the three remaining feathers, “would you like one more?”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Oh yes, you need two.”

“Shall I put this one in my pony tail also?”

Tiny hands clapped and she said “yes.”

I tucked the second goose feather into my hair and turned so she could see it.

“Oh my, you look like you have two beautiful birds on your head.”

Words can’t describe the warmth that filled my heart or the smile that spread over my face and hers.


Artist’s note: The feature image represents my interpretation of the day. Out of context I doubt it has much meaning, but I like to think that my little friend would find it beautiful.


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. 🙂

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

Has it really been a month?

baby geese along the towpath

I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I have written here.   I knew starting my own business was going to be hard work, but I didn’t quite comprehend how consuming it would be.

I’ve had some funny experiences that someday I will have to write about.  Everything from my computer crashing an hour before my students arrived to the dogs barking hysterically in the final minutes of a webinar I was recording.  It’s been a crazy learning experience and for the most part it’s also been a lot of fun.

I’ve been very fortunate and have accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time and the future looks promising. I’ve realized it’s time that I put some balance back into my life – all of the hard work I did last year discovering that I am an artist and how important it is to have balance needs to come back into play.

To that end, the first thing I have done is put exercise back in my life.  It’s been great to get out on my bike and travel along the towpath.  I’ve also been making it a point to try and rekindle my creativity and ‘artsy’ nature.  I’m still struggling with what to draw.  After finishing all of the abstract ink pieces on handmade paper, nothing has really inspired me.  Maybe it’s time to consider taking another class, although that will have to wait until fall for a variety of reasons.

My camera is back in action and I’ve captured some great shots along the towpath.  As much as I can’t stand geese, I have to admit these little ones are cute.  They were so kind as to line up in a little row for me so I could take a picture.

baby geese along the towpath

Yesterday they were learning to swim.  I felt much safer taking pictures of them swimming than on the ground; somehow the hissing from the grown ups wasn’t quite as scary coming from further away.

baby geese learning to swim in the Delaware Canal

There are many people who live along the canal that have canoes. I took pictures of every canoe along a six mile stretch of the towpath.  Perhaps that’s an idea for another blog post.

silver canoe along the towpath


I never get tired of the breathtaking, brilliance of spring.  The pinks seem to be extra pink this year.

brilliant pink spring blooms

It’s only when you pause for a moment and actually take things in that you realize that there must be a million different shades of green.

Spring Framing the Delaware Canal


It feels good to be back to exercising and taking pictures again.  I think it’s time to get back to making the time to do some personal writing as well.

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. 🙂


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.


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


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


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


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.


butterfly on a pretty weed

My kids find it embarrassing when I stop to take pictures of things like a pile of shoes on someone else’s porch, a muscle car in a parking lot, or of a stranger’s garden. I think the word they use if they catch me taking pictures of a person is “creepy.”

In my defense, I only take pictures of random strangers from a distance and I don’t post them on Facebook. I like having them as a source of inspiration for writing and as a visual reminder of the many characters in life.

I thought twice about taking my camera along on my late afternoon walk. It was overcast and muggy and the day didn’t have the lighting I had in mind. I love taking pictures around sunset. I think there’s something romantic and nostalgic about that time of day. Of course pictures taken at sunrise may also share those qualities but it’s highly unlikely that I will ever discover whether or not that’s the case. The only reason you’ll find me up before sunrise is because that was the flight time with the very best price.

I stopped in front of the favorite garden along my route. There are flowers from spring until fall and I’m drawn to the bursts of color and the combination of plants and flowers that are both whimsical and wild.

Lost in thought, I focused in and snapped one picture after another in an attempt to capture the contrast of the oranges, yellows, pinks, and purples against the small sea of waving green.

“Excuse me,” called a voice from the porch.


My kids worst fear has come true, I’d been busted. As a rule follower at heart, my face grew hot and my pulse quickened.

I swallowed hard, “Hi there, I was ummm…just ummm…you have a beautiful garden. I especially love the day lilies.”

I opted out of trying to explain why I was taking pictures and attempted to distract her with a compliment and called out the one and only flower that I knew the name of.


“I noticed you taking pictures and I just wanted to tell you that you are welcome to wander anywhere in the yard for as long as you like.”

Really? She wasn’t mad?

“Wow thanks! By the way, I’m Beth.”

She waved from the porch, “Nice to meet you Beth, I’m Bonnie.”

Bonnie joined me in the yard after she finished her late afternoon snack. She gave me a personal tour which included an introduction to the frogs in her pond, I’ve nicknamed them Fred and Fernando. There was a third frog, but he wasn’t showing the camera his best side.

fred the frog
Fred the frog
fernando the frog
Fernando the frog

Bonnie shared a passionate overview of how her gardens have transitioned over the past twenty three years. I had never given a second thought to how many things could impact the art of bringing flowers to life.

I told her my tale of woe and how my second attempt at gardening hadn’t gone nearly as well as the first thanks to the deer and the heat. She listened with an understanding smile and invited me to stop by in the fall to collect as many perennials as I wanted.

I think we made each others day.

I wandered along the towpath taking pictures of butterflies and what I consider to be pretty weeds. I thought and I walked and I realized, flowers and butterflies are beautiful even on a cloudy day.

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No Shirt, No Leash, No Excuse

I fear large dogs and geese; it’s a toss-up to say which one causes me more angst when I come across them while biking or running on the towpath.  Not one to miss an opportunity to enjoy nice weather, especially in January, I took my bike for a spin along the canal.  Much to my chagrin, there were more than a few geese along the way and even worse, there were more dogs off than on a leash. 

I’m not sure which boggles my mind more, the fact that people believe that the rules don’t apply to them or that they think they can stop their dog from pursuing a canine love interest, charging a cyclist, nipping at the heels of a runner, or biting a small child.  In my opinion, pets are kind of like babies, no one thinks they are nearly as cute or lovable as you do your own and they are as unpredictable as toddlers.  

I think the next time someone says to me “Don’t be scared, I know he won’t bite you,” my response will be “I never thought my daughter would hurl a shoe and hit the JCPenny shoe guy in the head either, but she did.” (For the record she was two not twenty when the incident occurred). 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like animals or children; I’m the unsuspecting owner of two miniature dachshunds and the proud mother of three young adults who used to be toddlers.  I’m just a firm believer in leashes for dogs and time outs for kids. 

Unfortunately I think the only people that will agree with my sentiments are those of us who are scared of dogs because we’ve been bitten or know someone who’s been bitten and most likely by a dog who’s “never done that before.” 

Fellow dog owners for the safety of your pet and the people on the towpath, in the park, and in the neighborhood, please play by the rules.  They are in place for a good reason.

I Love a Parade

One of my favorite childhood memories is the Fourth of July parade in Berthold, North Dakota, my dad’s home town.  I  remember the thrill of waiting for the parade to begin and the anticipation of scooping up Tootsie Rolls and butterscotch candies as they bounced onto the street at my feet almost like it was yesterday.

Yesterday I went to a parade for the first time in more than ten years.  I haven’t gone to a parade since my kids have gotten ‘too old’ for me to take them.  It strikes me though, maybe parades are like a good animated children’s movie and you shouldn’t miss out on them just because you don’t have a small child to disguise the fact that you’re the one who really wants to see Happy Feet Two.

For the past four years I’ve driven under the banner that spans Main Street from the week before Thanksgiving to the first Saturday in December. And every year I thought to myself “I should go to The Olde Fashion Christmas Parade.”  This year I didn’t just think it, I did it.

At 2:45 pm I hopped on my bike, braved the chilly temps, enjoyed the sunny blue sky, and pedaled my way down the towpath into town.  I felt a small thrill of anticipation run through me as I emerged from the towpath and walked my bike toward the corner of East Afton and Main.  While I’m a bit too old to scoop candy out of the street I still couldn’t wait to hear the marching band, wave to the beauty queen perched in her convertible, and plug my ears at the sounds of sirens and gunfire. I parked my bike and scoped out a good spot to take pictures and watch the activity around me.

I had to laugh as I watched one little girl in particular.  She was completely unable to contain her excitement and in spite of her parents and grandparents best efforts she escaped into the street more times than I can count.  She peered one way and then the other, her blue eyes as wide as saucers, clapping and squealing “I think I hear the drums.  I think they’re coming!”  It was only thirty minutes, but it felt like three hours as we waited for the parade to begin and with each passing moment my feet got colder and her enthusiasm grew rather than diminished and she passed the time by twirling and dancing her way to a better viewing spot.

Parade volunteers passed out goody bags with crayons and a coloring book. The souvenir vendor wheeled his cart of inflated candy canes and super heroes up and down the street and grunted, “Parade Souvenirs! Get ‘em here!”  Kids were everywhere: playing tag, eating giant pretzels, and riding on mom or dad’s shoulders.  There was a mixture of approaches to keeping kids from going too far into the street from doing nothing, to holding on to a hood like a leash, and everyone’s favorite the group of siblings being bossed around by big sis (the latter was by far the most effective). 

Finally the blinking lights of the police car leading the parade were in sight.  The adults around me chatted idly while the children hung onto their hats, threw scarves up in the air and bounced up and down.  The parade had begun and the rat a tat tat of the drum got louder and louder.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the carolers dressed in Dickens’ like garb and I smiled and tapped my foot as the band marched by.  I laughed at Scooby Doo and Dora, was delighted when George Washington waved at me from his boat, and stood in awe as the majestic horses passed by.  But most of all, I relished the air of excitement and the feeling of community.

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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’s the time of year I discovered the canal and realized that it was a ‘towpath’ with a history and purpose, and not a ‘toepath,’ 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’m not certain they ‘smell fear,’ 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’m instantly covered in goose bumps.

I’ve received a lot of guidance on how to ‘face my fear’ and ‘overcome my obstacles’ 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’m pretty sure the guy who passed along that ‘advice’ just wanted to see if I’d 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