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

57 Days Until the Next Chapter Begins

Graduation Caps in the Air

In some ways I think it’s a bigger milestone for parents than it is for kids when they graduate from High School, especially when it’s your youngest child. On June 19th we celebrated Christian’s graduation in Yardely, PA with family and friends.

For whatever reason, the tradition for Pennsbury High School is to hold graduation on a Wednesday evening which makes it a little tricky when it comes to inviting guests and making party plans. My guess is that we were one of few, if not the only family who had guests coming in from Nebraska and Missouri.

My parents arrived the Sunday before graduation and immediately started helping me prepare. They spoiled me rotten while they were here. I didn’t cook a  single meal outside of my famous enchiladas for the night of graduation.

Monday they tore into my outside porch and cleaned it from top to bottom. My dad had to improvise work clothes (which was a tad bit entertaining) and my mom even ironed the freshly washed window coverings.

Tuesday my mom made several trips to grocery store in between the torrential rainstorms while I prepared the enchiladas. She spent the rest of the afternoon preparing food for the party. I still can’t figure out how she managed to fit everything into the fridge and when the time came we still managed to squeeze in a few more bottles of wine.

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I scheduled myself to teach a workshop the morning of graduation, but for some reason it seemed like a good idea at the time. I was wired by the time I got home, too much caffeine, not enough food, a late co-presenter, and technical difficulties did not make a good combination.

Thankfully the jitters passed and I was able to decorate the house and iron the graduation gown. Ironing a graduation gown is truly a labor of love. Why do they have to get so wrinkled and be made of a fabric that seems to hold onto those wrinkles like none other?

We posed for pictures in front of the house and then Christian’s girlfriend took him to school. The plan was for her to come back to the house and we would all drive over together.

Family Picture on Graduation day

It’s about a ten minute drive and they left the house around 4:30, which in theory should have been plenty of time for her to drop Christian off and get back to the house by 5:00.

4:56 pm
Christian: Traffic is crazy. We’re not even at school yet

Me: Ok – just have Katie meet us there

Christian: You need to leave soon

Me: We’re leaving now, we’ll be there as soon as we can

5:15 pm
Me: This is insane. Are you there yet?

Christian: I know. I’m still in the car outside school

My stomach was turning and panic was rising because we were still a few miles from school and the ceremony was scheduled to start at 5:45 sharp. It could have been worse, at least he wasn’t the poor kid who abandoned his car and whose robe was flying behind him while he ran along the sidewalk.

5:32 pm
Christian: We’re lining up now. I have to put away my phone

We were still over a mile away from school and the minutes were ticking away much faster than the lines of cars inching their way toward the school from competing directions.

5:45 came and went while we were made our way through the parking lot.  Three phone calls later we found Katie, Christian’s girlfriend, and made it to the football stadium just as they started calling out last names starting with the letter “B.”

I didn’t get to see him walk, but we did hear them announce, “Christian Paul Browning,” so I didn’t miss it completely. Phew! Normally having a last name that starts with the second letter of the alphabet is a good thing, not so much on graduation day.

When I saw the concession stand was open and they were selling everything from hot dogs to pretzels I thought we might be there until midnight, especially since the line of kids waiting their turn wrapped around the entire track and overflowed outside of the stadium.

Students lining up for Graduation

I’m not 100% certain, but I think Christian was in fourth or fifth row of black robes.It was quite a different experience than Jeff and Katie’s High School graduation where we knew all of the kids by name.

Pennsbury High School Graduation

It took nearly an hour to announce all of the names and my concern that we’d be there until midnight seemed more than legitimate.

Pennsbury High School 2013 Graduation

As it turned out, we were home by 8:00 pm. The enchiladas were in the oven, the food was all set up (thanks to my wonderful family and friends), and by 8:30 the rooms were filled with laughter and celebration.

It was strange to celebrate the occasion without the big kids, but it didn’t make sense for them to use up vacation time to fly in for an event that lasted a few hours. After nearly missing graduation completely, I was really glad that they came out over Memorial day weekend instead.

In 57 days Christian will be starting his life as a college student and I’ll experience my first day as an empty nester.

Here’s to the “Next Chapter,” and new adventures!

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.

The Loss of Art in Education

I’m a “one thing leads to another” kind of person, which can be interesting when it comes to explaining my train of thought sometimes.  It might be hard to explain how an online class through a community college called Romance Writing Secrets would lead to drawing, making handmade paper, and not last or least to a workshop on making books.  There is a connection, but it would take a book to describe it – so instead I’ll stick to my most recent adventure.

Last Saturday I roped my friend Christine into taking a workshop at the Janney house through the Artists of Yardley.  My friend and instructor Kathy and her fellow artist Mindy offered an all day workshop that was split into two parts; the art of making paper and of making books.

I arrived 5 minutes late, but with coffee from WaWa in hand – an important tradeoff.  I have to admit it was fun to show some of my paper and the drawings I’ve done.  It’s such a thrill for me when people say “wow, I really like that.”  I don’t think I’ll ever get over it, I hope I never do.

Because I’ve had the opportunity to make quite a bit of paper lately, I asked if I could spend the day with Mindy making books.  As always, the atmosphere in the studio was conducive to learning, laughing, and creating.  We learned how to make two styles of book, accordion and flag.  The accordion is easier to describe; paper folded in a “mountain, valley, mountain” pattern ready for pictures or drawings and secured between two covers.  The flag book is much like a pop-up book and I think the possibilities are endless (once I wrap my head around how to approach creating the finishing touches).

Mindy is an amazing teacher and it’s easy to understand why she and Kathy are friends.  The dynamics of the morning and afternoon sessions were as different as night and day and Mindy never missed a beat.  I watched in amazement as she adapted her style to the needs and pace of the students.

I usually try and describe the process at least in a general sense, but  book making has a lot more steps and detail than what I’ve been doing lately and I’m sure I wouldn’t do it justice.  I was a little intimidated by the need for measuring and precision, but Mindy put me at ease and I was pretty sure she would find a way to fix almost any mistake I might make.

What I think is interesting is how everything I’m attracted to has to do with paper.  Writing, photography, and drawing are all done on paper.  Somehow everything I’m learning is weaving its way together.  It’s really quite fascinating when I take a step back and connect the dots.

I have no idea how I’ll put this all together. What I do know is it will be a lot of fun to figure it out.  The books I made last weekend are wonderful experiments. There are supplies on the way to create pieces that match my style and taste.

The entire process has made me stop and think.

The thought that keeps popping up in my brain is how we are depriving today’s youth.  Our education system is focused on activities that require the ability to memorize and calculate, not on the ability to perceive and create.  How can one exist without the other?

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Busted

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.

Shoot!

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.

daylilies

“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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A Tale of Two Stations

A little over a year ago I took a step out of my comfort zone and attended my first writer’s group meeting. I drove into Philly in a state of panic, nearly backed out, and ended up having a great experience. My next trip involved a lesson in how to use my smart phone for directions and I learned about the advantages of paying attention to cross streets and setting the navigation on walking not driving.

The adventure in getting lost in the city led to some great pictures and a desire to try taking the train instead of my car. My work husband explained that there was a train station so close to the location of the meeting that it would be impossible, even for me, to get lost.

Over the next several months I mastered the round trip by checking and re-checking the train schedule and coordinates no less than a dozen times for both legs of the trip. Yesterday I decided to abandon my routine of paranoid planning and second guessing in favor of the feeling of confidence based on the fact that my last several trips into the city had been so routine they bordered on boring.

I caught the 11 am train out of Yardley and without hesitation replied, “Market Street East, round trip” when asked my destination. I listened to Cold Play and smiled as I wrote in my journal and patted myself on the back for figuring out the train schedule and my new found confidence. I was even more delighted to write about giving an accurate answer regarding which train station was closest to the Walnut Street theatre along with a recommendation of a restaurant for lunch.

We stopped at the Suburban Street station and I began to have doubts, but put them aside and stayed on the train. I told myself I was in the right place and if not, I couldn’t possibly be far off. The tunnel under the convention center was my first clue that something had gone wrong. I took a deep breath, used Google maps on my iPad to get my bearings, and tried to ignore the fact that I was walking in a sauna. Twenty minutes later I saw the sign for Shops at Liberty place and for the Suburban Street Station.

I duly noted the lesson and after walking back to Market East when the meeting was over I’m sure that I won’t ever forget which station I want again. I checked the boards and made my way to the platform with seven minutes to spare.

I sat back and congratulated myself for figuring things out without having a meltdown, slipped my return trip ticket into the slot on the back of the seat, and looked out the window.

I saw gravel and graffiti instead of trees, “Oh crap, this doesn’t look familiar…” I thought. I don’t think I said it out loud but I can’t be entirely certain.

I tried to rationalize, “The train only goes north and south…how lost can I be? The woman collecting tickets didn’t say anything…so I must be on the right train…”

She called off the names of one unfamiliar stop after another and nothing outside of my window looked right.

I have Septa bookmarked as a favorite and for the first time I noticed that there is a Trenton Line and a West Trenton Line. It didn’t take me long to figure out where I had gone wrong and I was headed toward Trenton through Bristol and Levittown not Langhorne and Yardley.

I ran through some options in my mind. I could take the train back to Philly and start over, I could walk fifteen miles in my flip flops, figure out a cab, and last but not least I could cry. Then it dawned on me, Heather lives in Bristol and Donna lives in Levittown.

I sent a text to each of them, “Hi are you home by chance?”

While I waited and hoped for my phone to vibrate I started the search for cab companies in Levittown.

Hooray!

A reply from Heather, “hey! yes but about to be picked up to go to Sam’s w/m’dad. what’s up?”

“I took the Trenton line instead of west Trenton and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to get to the Yardley station. I was hoping if I got off at Bristol you might be able to give me a ride.”

“ooh! where are you now?” she asked.

I tried to remember the name of the last stop, “Trying to catch the name of the next stop, I’m getting close I think.”

She responded instantly, “sure—I’ll tell dad I’ll meet him there. no worries! what’s your arrival time?”

“I think it’s the next stop.”

She texted, “It goes Bristol, croydon, eddington, cornwells heights…”

“We’re at Croydon now,” I texted back.

“Ok on my way!”

A few minutes later she rescued me from the heat and the wrong station. I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to see her. In addition to getting a ride to Yardley, we had a chance to catch up a little and she brought me some new reading material.

In some ways things haven’t changed much during the last year, I obviously haven’t lost my knack for getting lost and turning it into a story. I may still get lost, but there’s a huge difference in how I handle it. I laugh instead of cry and I reach out to friends instead of panic.

Two wrong stations in one day might just be a record for me, although I’m not sure it tops winding up in the wrong state.

Pre Prom…Yes Virginia, There is Such a Thing – Part Deux

After seeing the floats in the staging area I couldn’t wait to see them en route to the prom topped off with the finishing touches, the young men and women of the class of 2012.   The parade started at 5:00 pm and as a part of the video crew, Christian needed to be there at 4:45.  Based on the size of the crowd at the Pre Prom tour I wanted to get there early.

“Did you get my text?” I asked.

Christian responded, “Four is way too early, it only takes ten minutes to get there. I think we should leave at 4:30.”

I reached up to straighten his tie, “Let’s compromise on 4:15.  There were a ton of people there earlier and I want to be able to get a parking spot and a good seat.  One lady told me that she and her husband put their chairs out before 9:00 am this morning and they are in the second row.”

At 4:25 pm I pulled into one of the last spots available in the parking lot.

Temporary bleachers, soccer mom chairs, and people were packed under the trees along the side of the parking lot facing the school entrance.  The walkway under the “Noodle” (the wavy awning that stretches from the door to the sidewalk) had been transformed with a red carpet and was guarded by life size super hero cutouts.

Every inch of sidewalk between the school and the caution tape was covered with a variety of outdoor folding chairs. The road between the campuses was lined with people.  I found myself wishing that I had been smart enough to bring a chair or even better that I knew the people under the bright blue pop up canopy. The chair carrier bag I borrowed from one of the girls next to me didn’t offer much of a cushion between me and the parking lot but at least I was able to sit and keep my skirt from getting dirty.

Students pulling wagons weaved their way through the crowd shouting, “Pretzels! One dollar!  Water!  Two bottles for a dollar!”

At 5:00 on the dot the string of cars and floats were ready to go and the gentleman coordinating traffic motioned the first vehicle to proceed. I snapped pictures like crazy trying to capture each and every moment of color and creativity from the convertible decorated with balloons to the fire trucks and floats.

There were police cars and pace cars, golf carts and semis.  The cars vehicles pulling the floats and transporting the seniors were so shiny and clean that you could see the reflections of the crowd as though we were looking at a fun house mirror.  Everyone was into it, many of the floats had ‘live’ props ranging from Willie Wonka and the Oompa Loompas to Tinkerbell casting candy out to the children along the way.  Although if I had to judge enjoyment based on the pouty lips of the small princess on one of the Where the Wild Things Are float, not everyone thought it was a fun idea.

Some of my favorites included the tractor (that reminded me of my Grandparents farm) pulling a space ship from which we got short glimpse of the Prom goers when one of them would open the door for a breath of fresh air.  The Toy Story Float took five frames to capture, I laughed out loud at the “Joker” driving the Batman and Robin truck.  I fell in love with the horse-drawn carriage and my heart melted as Jasmine kissed her prince.

One group of kids got the dance started early with a DJ in the back of the truck and dance moves happening on the float.  There were many smiles and happy waves and only a few bored beauties along the way.

I cheered and clapped when confetti and bubbles were released and danced through the air.  One of the funniest things might have been when the entire crowd, including me, gasped and then laughed when we realized that the sun disappeared because of the blimp and not a UFO.

The drivers of the wooden framed car, modern SUV’s, limos, and boats stopped in front of the noodle and the ladies and gentleman of the night descended from their floats and walked along the Red Carpet under the Noodle to enjoy the prom and a very special night in their life.

Next year expect a report from ‘behind the scenes.’

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.