Tag Archives: Park

Things I Forgot to Tell You

I forgot to tell you that the other day on our morning walk, we saw two turtles digging holes to lay their eggs. In fact, they may have been actively laying when we saw them. They were only about 20 feet away from each other, and both tensed but didn’t move when they saw us. One was over the hole that has been used (by the same turtle?) for the past 5+ years. Later, we saw an empty nest, it’s edges littered with shells. I chose to believe those babies hatched and are swimming around deep in Wood Duck pond, rather than breakfast in a raccoon or fox’s belly.

The robin who spent all those weeks throwing herself against the bathroom windows of my neighbor and I’s houses is a mama. She finally built a nest on the light over my neighbor’s back porch, but still spends a few hours a week throwing herself at the window. There are at least three babies, and they look really close to being ready to leave the nest.

Also seen on our morning walks this week:

  • two sets of baby geese (one already colored like the adults, only miniature, and the others still with baby fuzz),
  • two herons being chased by smaller birds who repeatedly dive bombed them,
  • a white tailed deer,
  • a kid sized inflatable pool and float toy both fully inflated and abandoned in a grassy field,
  • a probably rabid skunk by the Little Dog Park (Eric and the boys saw this on their walk, but it’s worth mentioning),
  • a letter to the Department of Labor and Employment, Division of Employment and Training, Benefit Payment Control that had clearly dropped out of someone’s pocket or backpack, so I brought it home and mailed it,
  • an abandoned homework and grade report for a 7th grader that’s apparently failing,
  • new graffiti on the Soft Gold Park bathrooms (970 B.P.L., Brown Pride),
  • a wild rose growing and blooming in the middle of the Little Dog Park,
  • and a river so black and full of soot, it smelled burnt.

Instructions for Living a Life

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
~Mary Oliver

This morning, walking the dogs with Eric, I saw: a huge tree that’s been dead for a long time finally fell down (and it was big enough that it certainly went “boom” when it did), a dead beaver carcass, two white tailed deer, one whose tail wasn’t quite working so it might be hurt, one massive turtle still looking for a spot to lay her eggs walking like a tiny dinosaur through the grass by the creek between Wood Duck Pond and the McMurray Ponds (same exact date we saw her last year, so May 31st is now officially Turtle Day), two mini Herons, one of which looked more like a Penguin as he stood on a log fishing (turns out they are actually called a Black Crowned Night Heron), one large Blue Heron in flight over the river that later was heard squawking and flying in the other direction, and finally, a bicycle parade.

I paid attention and was astonished, and I wanted to tell you about it.

Black Crowned Night Heron

I received gifts: access to workshops with amazing women at the World Domination Summit in July (yoga with Marianne Elliott, Writing with Susannah Conway, Book Content Mapping with Cynthia Morris, and Identifying Superpowers with Andrea Scher…holy wow, such amazing women that I so adore, my head/heart might explode), my Kickstarter reward from Danielle Ate the Sandwich arrived, along with her new album, which is every bit as good as I knew it would be, and I found a heart-shaped rock on our walk.

I paid attention and was astonished, and I wanted to tell you about it.

I gave gifts: some were shared words of wisdom and kindness, others were scholarships for Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project Practitioner level, and finally there was my heART exchange project, which I finally finished and mailed to Australia today. I plan to write a post about the process (I didn’t just make something, I learned stuff) once my swap partner receives it.

I paid attention and was astonished, and I wanted to tell you about it.

heART exchange project sneak peek

Tribe: it’s Tribe week in my Unravelling ecourse with Susannah Conway, so I’ve been thinking a lot about that, how we can be a tribe of one even. I spent a little bit of time being a tribe of one, writing and eating lunch while waiting for a friend to arrive so we could be a tribe of two and have a long talk about perfection, art, boundaries, dogs and trust. Then, I spent part of the afternoon having another long talk with another good friend, drinking mango lemonade and eating a blue flower cookie as big as my head. I have amazing women in my life, in my tribe.

I paid attention and was astonished, and I wanted to tell you about it.

Yay Turkey, Split Pea Soup, Root Beer, and a notebook at Red Table.

I’ve had moments of being wholehearted, with myself and others in my tribe. These two quotes from Anne Lamott remind me how wonderful and difficult that is: “The love and good and the wild and the peace and creation that are you will reveal themselves, but it is harder when they have to catch up to you in roadrunner mode” and “We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.” I am reminded to slow down, stop doing so much and be.

I paid attention and was astonished, and I wanted to tell you about it.

Three Truths and One Wish

I have to admit, dear reader, that on some Tuesdays the Three Truths and One Wish post is so hard to write. The wishing part is pretty easy, but the truth?…some Tuesdays I feel like I don’t know anything for sure, nothing for certain. And today’s list, which I struggled to write, seems a little like a repeat, a reworking, a mere echo or shadow of last week’s post, which was one of my favorites. So, in this case, I am going to simply consider that this is the best I can do for now, and surrender to it.

1. There is bad in the world. I thought about this as I walked the dogs this morning, made a list of all the bad things we’ve witnessed at that place where we walk together: gang graffiti on the bathrooms (both inside and out), trash by the ballfields after a weekend of games, a homeless kid sleeping in one of the play structures, dog poop and used gum and broken glass left on the ground for someone to step in, people in cars in the parking lots doing things you shouldn’t do in public, an empty playground on a Saturday morning, people talking on their cellphones and ignoring their kids or dogs or both, a fire that burned a section of trees, a natural area that was “rehabilitated” (which meant grinding under the wild irises and wild asparagus), people not giving you room to pass on a narrow trail, people who are crazy and/or addicted and/or homeless and/or lonely.

2. There is good in the world. Also at the park where we take our morning walks: two hawks circling overhead, a heron fishing along the edge of the river, fox and beaver babies, four baby raccoons playing in a tree, people pulling over where the trail is narrow to give you room to pass, people who whisper “good dog” to mine as we pass them, a wishing tree, the two evergreen trees along the trail that someone decorates for Christmas every year, a busy playground full of kids, park service crew members cleaning up trash and painting over graffiti, wild flowers, a turtle who is probably older than me digging a hole in the same spot by the river where she does every year to lay her eggs, owls, people who smile and say “good morning.”

3. You choose your response, control your reaction to reality. Whether you deem something good or bad, it’s up to you how to relate to it. Both good and bad are always part of the story, but you can choose what to focus on, where to place your attention, what to see and what to share. And, I am not trying to make a judgement about which is better, telling you to focus only on what’s good, because that would be a lie. What I mean is that what you perceive, engage, communicate, and share is always up to you.

My own two feet

One wish: That no matter what your external environment, no matter what the details or facts might be, that you can let go of your attachment or judgement or resistance and simply be with things as they are.

There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life. ~Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World.

Walking by myself, a particular kind of music

Yesterday, my irises bloomed for the first time. They are white. I expected pale purple, but I’m happy they are white instead. One of my yoga teachers gave them to me last year, and couldn’t remember what they would be because she has so many different colors and wasn’t sure which ones she’d dug up to give me. They bloomed yesterday, but I didn’t notice until this morning.

I woke up today still tired, even though I’d slept in a few extra hours. I wasn’t ready to get up yet, but words demanding to be written were insisting–something about these last few years being about misery, mystery, magic, and medicine. And another thing about love unbound by form, grief feeling like your heart is a round plastic orb dropped into a pinball machine, which the Universe feeds with quarters, playing game after game, you and your heart getting smashed and slammed wildly in a pattern that isn’t any kind of pattern at all, that is random, chaos, in a game that you, your heart, as the ball, can never win.

While I was writing, I wanted music, but had turned off the radio in the kitchen because that felt like noise. I considered turning on my computer, but wasn’t yet ready for that. I opened the window over my desk to let in the cool fresh air, and there was my music. A particular kind of music: songbirds singing, dogs barking, pigeons cooing, crows cawing, the robin throwing itself against the window (yes, he’s still at it), and squirrels arguing.

I finished reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail the other day, and this morning a friend shared a link to A Hiker’s Guide to Healing about another woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail on her own, hoping for healing. And I’ve also been reading The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron, and Julia is a big believer in walking, specifically writers taking long walks alone. So this morning, home alone while Eric and the dogs were away hiking, I decided to take a walk by myself.

This is a bigger deal than it might sound. I don’t ever walk alone. I mean, yes, I often move from point A to point B because I need to get somewhere on campus or in Old Town, and I walk, but not the kind of walking I do with Eric and the dogs, the meandering and moving around that is purely for the pleasure of it. Why don’t I? In part, because I’m hardly ever alone, and if a walk is to be had, there are two dogs happy to go with. But underneath that is: I am afraid to go alone.

I don’t generally feel safe by myself, and less so in “public.” It’s not that my neighborhood or the local park are particularly dangerous, although some bad things have happened here and there, but rather the world feels unsafe to me, and specifically to me as a woman. I am always looking over my shoulder, making sure my keys and cellphone are accessible, looking for the fastest exit, keeping an eye out for anyone acting suspiciously, replaying in my mind stories I’ve heard of the terrible things that can happen, that are possible.

Maybe I shouldn’t be admitting this, but part of my experience of being a female in this culture is a feeling of constant vulnerability. If someone is bigger than me, or armed, they could do anything to me they wanted, could overpower me and it wouldn’t matter what I wanted, I couldn’t stop them if they intended to do me harm. That’s just reality, and it makes me jumpy, anxious, worried. Maybe this is why I fantasize and have dreams about being a master fighter, able to kick anyone’s ass, even if they are significantly bigger and armed. Seriously, if I could have a superpower other than gentleness, it would be the ability to fight anyone and win.

But this morning, I walked out my front door, alone. I left a note for Eric about where I’d be, what route I took, and had my cellphone in my back pocket. At first, it felt a little creepy, even though I was walking through my own neighborhood, where I know almost everyone, at least by sight, and the only people out that early were a few women gardening. I walked by my friend’s old house, mourning again that what used to be her yard is now split in to two lots with two huge new houses. That spot used to be so peaceful, so spacious.

At the edge of that lot is a drainage ditch, and this morning it was full and running. It reminds me of the creek in the field behind the house I grew up in. There was a single tree growing next to it, and I used to walk over there with my journal or a book, and put my bare feet in the cold water. Even as a girl, being alone in nature with the quiet and silence of unspoken words was medicine to me. I didn’t feel so afraid then, yes I was afraid of the dark and of my dad when he was angry and the creepy guy that drove a van and lived around the corner with his mom and of not being perfect or getting in trouble or stung by a bee or drowning in deep water, but not in the town where I lived, not in “public,” not of strangers (there weren’t any), not in the way I am now. There were only 835 people total in Sublimity, and I knew them all, and didn’t, at that time, think a single one of them would ever try to hurt me. I felt safe.

On my walk this morning, once I reached The Farm, I started to relax. This place is known to me. I’ve walked this route hundreds, maybe thousands of times before. I know these cows, these trees, this river, this trail, this ground, and this place. The playground was empty, such a nice Saturday morning and the playground was empty. That’s always seemed so strange to me.

I pass other women, out in groups, with their dogs, or alone. I wonder if they ever feel scared, if they ever think about things like I do. Maybe I’m especially weak or fearful, highly sensitive, maybe I worry too much, am overly anxious, high strung. Maybe it’s just me.

I had just taken this picture, the super green swamp, had turned off my camera and was slipping it back in to my pocket when there was a ruckus behind me. I turned to see a fox run out of the brush, and a few seconds later a black, younger, biggish dog came crashing after it, chasing it through the field on the other side. I tried to get a picture of the fox, but it was running so fast, I only caught a glimpse of it. They have babies right now, and for the hundredth time, I silently cussed people for not keeping their dogs on a leash, or at least under control.

This end of the river was really low, and the smell of wet earth and moss reminded me of the ocean, as it always does.

Later, there’s a moth the size of my thumbnail that stays still long enough for me to be able to get it’s picture, which might just be one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken.

On my favorite part of the whole trail, I realize that walking alone here hasn’t been such a big deal after all. Nothing scary or unfortunate happened. I wasn’t harassed, kidnapped, mugged, or anything else bad. I made it home safe, before Eric even knew I’d been gone.

So this walk alone was okay, although I am happier with the dogs and I found myself wanting to explain to people where they were, why I would be there alone, as if they cared. It’s probably just me who wonders “where’s your dog?” when I see someone out alone. When Eric and the boys made it home half an hour later, I told them about the fox chase and how low the one end of the river was, and they told me about the snow and moose they saw.

And yet, not even eight hours later, and my heart is that plastic orb, loose, unprotected, and being slammed around the machine again. The feeling of safety doesn’t last, because even if I feel protected and secure, there are those I love that I can’t control or keep safe. They make their own decisions, driven by their own confusion, and generate their own suffering which then ripples out to those of us keeping our hearts open, loving them, standing too close.

We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. ~Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times

Small Stones

Love?

I’m brushing my teeth and Sam is pressing his head into my leg, one eye buried and the other looking at me in the mirror. I imagine that attention and longing as love for me, but my rational mind knows it probably isn’t.

What it probably is:

“Mom’s brushing her teeth, that means getting ready, that means a walk–I love walking”

or

“Mom’s brushing her teeth, that means brushing my teeth–I love the way the toothpaste tastes, like chicken” *drool*

Either way, I love the feeling of his head pushing against my leg, the weight and tangibility of that gesture, and the longing in that one eye, looking at me while I look back. It doesn’t have to mean love for him for it to mean that for me, to be love for me.

Heron

At first light, in the still dark of dawn, a heron flies overhead like some kind of prehistoric bat. It lands high in a cottonwood. I feel like I am walking in a dream, it’s so strange to see a heron perched so high, its form black against the dark blue sky.

picture by rhys asplundh

Signs of Spring at Lee Martinez Park

Grass greening up, trees budding out, sprinklers back on. Porta Potties gone, doors to bathrooms unlocked and water turned back on.

A warm wind and four tennis balls in the dog park, two laps around.The lightening flash of the backside of a White Tailed Deer excites Dexter, makes him pull at his leash. As soon as we are past it, he slows, stops and checks behind us, hoping to see it again.

People we’ve never seen out on bikes or running with their dogs.

A woodpecker flies into the metal dome covering the lights by the basketball courts and taps a message that echos out.

Confusion

The noise I first think is my neighbor moving her trash can to the curb is actually the robin back on the fence, flying against my window for the fourth morning in a row.

I wonder again if it’s one of the babies we “raised” last year. Has he found his way back? Will he find love?

one of last year's babies, having just learned to fly

Small Stone: Big Moon

This morning was one of those walks when I wished I had my camera. Not so much to capture the view or be able to share it, but to have proof that I wasn’t just dreaming it. The magic of it was such that it was hard to believe it was real.

The full moon was at first covered by a fog of clouds, blurry and golden, hovering over a black, leafless tree.

Then, it rose above the fog, bright white and clear, lighting up the clouds below, illuminating 14 shades of white, blue, and gray.

Later, it disappeared completely behind a bank of thick clouds, with only the faintest glow marking it in the still dark sky.

Then the dawn and clouds hid it entirely, turning the snow a light blue.

At McMurry Ponds, I breathe in how lucky I am to live here. And by here, I don’t just mean Northern Colorado, or even Fort Collins, but this specific spot northwest of the center of town. Walking around the back pond, to the north is the edge of Creekside Garden Center with it’s forest of young trees and barn with peeling white paint where the foxes like to nap, to the south on the other side of the pond is the Poudre River where last week we saw a Blue Heron fly the length of it with a beaver and three ducks swimming below, behind us the sun is rising, turning the treeline orange, and in front to the west, there’s an old white farmhouse with three large Blue Spruce in the yard and the moon sits high above them, with the Foothills, Horsetooth Rock and the Reservoir behind and below it. This is where I live.

Back at the beginning of the trail and the end of our walk, the pale moon sits against a bright blue sky. Goodnight moon, good morning beautiful day.

Small Stones: Morning

I wake up this morning in the middle of a dream. In it, there is a squirrel on campus that will watch you if you run in circles, get dizzy and stumble around. I see students torment it, try to stop them but they won’t. They think it’s funny. So to save the squirrel, I take it home with me. It follows me around the house like a dog. I am trying to decide what to feed it when I wake up.

I get up and my first thought is “this is what tired looks like” and I silently promise myself I can take a nap after I walk the dogs, if I still feel this slow, sleepy, and sluggish. I feed the dogs, make my coffee, grab a banana and granola bar and go into my studio to write. Dexter follows me, his Little D hanging from his mouth.

Sam comes in later to tell me it’s time to share our banana. Usually he’s asleep in the big bed and comes running when I snap the top, but the last two days, he’s come to tell me it’s time. Dexter comes too. I don’t think he really likes banana all that much, he’ll only eat a tiny piece at a time, but he doesn’t want Sam to have anything he doesn’t get.

Getting ready to leave, Eric and I do what we do every work week, every work day, and coordinate our schedules: “when are you leaving for work?” and “when will you be home?” Two people caring for two dogs, their two meals and two walks.

Arriving at the park before dawn to walk, we see Forrest Gump running his square around the parking lot. He has longer hair, wears a trucker cap, and runs like he’s made out of rubberbands. He has odd routes around the park, never just running the trails but methodically adding on strange angles and circles. Sometimes he runs with his partner, Jenny, who has a long golden braid and is taller than him.

Forrest and Jenny aren’t their real names. We give nicknames to the people we see at the park. Some of them are: Husky Man, Walking Dude, Friendly Fire, George, Fancy Pants, Suki, Old Man Colorado, Liiiiiisssssaaaaa!!!, The Kevorkians, Big Black Dexter, Old Black Dog, and The Nemesis.

Then two runners, one with a headlamp and one with a blinking red light strapped to a sleeve, running and talking on the trail. I hear a metallic tinkle, am not sure if it’s keys or tags, and since I haven’t seen these two before, I don’t know if they have a dog with them, and if they do, I assume it’s off-lead, so we wait. Sam barks and whines, upset by them for some reason, two floating, talking lights in the dark.

Crossing the wooden bridge over the river, to our left, sounds of a fight–hissing and growling, no animal I recognize. The dogs stop, strain at their leashes, wanting to investigate. I move them quickly away from the crazy, wild, mean. I tell them that’s what you do in a situation like this, move fast in the other direction, checking to make sure you aren’t being followed. Sometimes the dogs don’t know what’s best for them, need my help. On this morning’s walk, I save them from this fighting wild, pull a Goat Head thorn out of Dexter’s paw, and keep them from tussling with two sets of off-lead dogs.

First it’s George, a dude who runs with his Saint Bernard and Great Dane, both off-lead. He likes to think he has control over them, but if our history serves as evidence, he doesn’t. George is actually the Saint Bernard’s name. We saw them the first time when he was just a puppy, and there were three dogs, but we call the whole group George. As soon as I see them (and he sees me, but makes no real effort to keep his dogs with him and away from us, just keeps running), we wait and then take a different trail, higher up. I know this park so well, I can almost always reroute when necessary.

From there we can see the beaver swimming in the pond next to its den. Sam starts to pull and jump, barking and whining and yodeling at the beaver, but today I have a better hold on him.

We get to my favorite part of the trail, the stretch along the river between the ponds and Obi’s Bridge, and see Friendly Fire heading towards us, so we turn and go the other way, through the back parking lot. He has two huge, gorgeous Huskies, one that he walks off-lead. He’s another one that thinks he has control of his dogs, but doesn’t. Sometimes, when they get away from him and he thinks no one else is around, you can hear him yell and growl at them. If Willow, the one he walks off-lead, gets away from him, runs towards us, he’ll always say “it’s okay, he’s friendly” and I always have to remind him “mine aren’t.”

Why is it that people with “friendly” dogs don’t think it’s a problem when their dog rushes us? If a complete stranger ran up to me, started touching and hugging and smelling and licking me without introduction or invitation, I’d be mad too. Sometimes friendliness, when unwarranted, when forced upon us, is a kind of aggression–like when some person I don’t know, who doesn’t know me or what I am dealing with, demands that I “smile” or “cheer up.”

Now the sun is all the way up, and as is always the case in Winter, the temperature drops a few degrees. We are supposed to get 3-6 inches of snow later in the day, and I can see it in the gray, heavy, cloudy, cold morning sky.

Good morning, beautiful day. And good morning, you beautiful people.