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All posts for the month August, 2014

Summer Challenge: Point Breeze

Published August 31, 2014 by Susan Woodward

Being AloneSometimes I just like to get into my Hyundai, pick a direction, and see where I end up. Since I had already gone east when I went to the cabin, explored portions of the south in Canandaigua, and due west with all the time I have had the opportunity to spend with my family in the Buffalo area, my car decided to go to the northwest along the Ontario shoreline. I thought I might end up in Lewiston, but instead my car found its way to Point Breeze.

I do like lighthouses, so I was glad to find that Point Breeze had a lighthouse museum, and it was open to the public. Not only that, but I had the opportunity to climb up to the top to look out!

Point Breeze 1

Point Breeze 2

Point Breeze 3

Point Breeze 4

Point Breeze 7

Point Breeze 5

Point Breeze 6Because there were plexiglass windows at the top of the lighthouse, you can actually see me reflected in the picture! I am glad I was smiling because I was having a terrific time.

 

Bringing Walden Home: Building My Heart’s Home in Nature

Published August 31, 2014 by Susan Woodward

Cone Flowers 1In keeping with my Walden Experiment this summer, I took pictures of the beauty of Nature everywhere I went. These next few were in a friend’s garden, and we spent a good portion of the afternoon making pickles (something I had not done in over 15 years).

Garden 1Bees were flitting from flower to flower, and I tried to zoom in on them.

Garden 2

Garden 3

Garden 4Flowers are beautiful gifts of the Earth, and I just love the array of colors.

Walden Pond Park LancasterSo as I am heading to the Lancaster Arts and Music Festival, I happen to come along this sign, so of course, I had to stop in for a peek. It was on Walden Avenue, but seeing the sign made me want to check it out.

Walden Pond Park, LancasterIt was mostly wide open sports fields, but there was a pond. I looked for hiking trails and came up empty, so I continued on my way to the Arts and Music Festival.

PetuniasThese petunias and the following Rose of Sharon were all taken during the Lancaster Arts Festival.

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon 2

Rose of Sharon 1

Rose of Sharon Awakening

I also took some water pictures while in Lancaster. It was a blistering hot day (for this summer in Western New York, anyway), and I found some cool relief by going down to the creek.

Creek in Lancaster 1 Creek in Lancaster 3 Creek in Lancasterv2

I have mentioned before that the song of moving water soothes my soul, and as a slightly cool breeze alleviated the ferocity of the sun, and creek melodiously serenaded me while I rested.

The movement of the water fascinated me, and I watched it move from what seemed to be a still pool through a narrow opening. As the water moved into the opening, I noticed the patterns in the current as it moved over the rocks. One rock just beyond the opening acted like a dividing surface, akin to a fork in a road. The water split in its path, creating a criss-cross pattern on the surface. My camera does not do justice to the movement of the water, but as I watched, it reminded me of the various paths we face in life, and how our forward movement is dictated by the choices we make along our path.

No matter which way the water moved around the rock, each “leg” of the current did its own little swirling dance before reconvening in the next pool beyond. Although unseen, the current still rides under the water, still moving it forward. And that is what I see in my life. I go off on my own path, then reconnect with others, all the while feeling the effects of my choices within me.

The summer draws to a close, and I begin to plan my new school year, hoping to take with me the tranquility of Nature as my soul attempted to Build It’s Own Damn House of Tranquility.

Summer Challenge: Canandaigua and Ganondagan

Published August 20, 2014 by Susan Woodward

I have to admit that I delayed writing about this hike, and as I go on, you shall see why. However, I am going to share the beauty of the day as well as the lessons I took with me in the aftermath.

First of all, I had spent the earlier part of the day in the Canandaigua Lake region making pickles at a friend’s house. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, so as I was meandering my way home the long way (I tend to avoid the thruway in favor of scenic explorations), I stopped by the lakeshore and then at the Ganandagan Historic site.

There is so much beauty in Upstate/Western New York with the shores of two Great Lakes, the Finger Lakes, and the numerous waterfalls (not to mention Niagara Falls) that I am grateful to have so many choices when I want to take my camera for a ride or a hike!

Canandaigua 2

Canandaigua 3

Canandaigua 4

Canandaigua 5I love the texture of these trees as the draping branches dance on the wind.

Canandaigua 1Looking up, I saw large pine cones. The scent was wonderful.

While making pickles with friends earlier in the day, one of the ladies mentioned the Ganondagan Native American Historic Site, and I promised myself that I would get there one of these days soon. It seems that I was to get there sooner than expected because when I saw signs directing me to the area, my car took on a mind of its own and followed. Good Hyundai!

If you click on the following picture, you can learn more about this historic place in the Finger Lake region.

Ganondagan 1

The beginning of the path seemed so inviting, like a type of portal to another realm. It has been said that fey folk inhabit the forests of Ganondagan, and I was hoping to witness some truth to the legend.

Ganondagan 3 Ganondagan 2

Does this not look like a place where woodland sprites would roam? It so happened that there was going to be a Quest For the Knotties, the sprites believed to inhabit the knots of the trees, that coming Saturday. As it turns out, I was not able to make it on that day, so I decided to have my own little Knottie Quest.

Ganondagan 6

Ganondagan 5

Ganondagan 4

These places look spritely to me! I stepped off the path a few times in order to seek out these Knottie homes, but something I’d only hoped for and not actually expected happened when I returned to the path. Click on the following picture:

Ganondagan 7I happened to look off to my right when I was walking and noticed a single yellow leaf appearing to dangle in mid-air. I watched it dance in the breeze for a minute before going up to it and running my hand over it several times, thinking that it might be attached to a spider web or something.

And it kept dancing.

I shared the video (and it’s not great quality because it was on my phone) with friends, and so many tried to convince me that it was just attached to something and not a supernatural phenomenon. I am not buying that because I checked. No web strings. Nothing. Just a dancing leaf.

Others thought that it was just being carried by the breeze. Okay…but if you look at the video, there are many dried leaves on the ground, so why is only ONE moving like this?

I am certain that this was a visit from a woodland sprite. And based on the events that took place once I exited the woods (remember I said that there was some lesson that I took from this particular experience?), I believe that I was detained to watch for a reason.

When I finally did tear myself away and return to my car, I discovered that someone had smashed the driver’s side window in order to pop the trunk and steal my purse. Given that I was only in the woods a total of 40:51 (see the MapMyWalk link below…thank God I had my phone with me!), it is possible that the purse was stolen during the time that I was spent in fascination with the fey folk.

What if I had happened to return in the middle of the robbery? These folks were bold enough to do it in broad daylight in a place where there were multiple cars. But what if I had come across them face-to-face? Would I have been injured?

I am thankful that I did not have to find out. Because I had my phone, I was able to call 911 immediately, followed by a call to my bank to cancel my debit card. The stuff in my purse was all replaceable (except for the cash), and GEICO was able to help me set up an appointment to have my car fixed first thing in the morning. It made me appreciate that things are replaceable, but I am not.

I am thankful that the spirits of the woods detained me so that I remained safe, and now wiser for the experience.

I hiked with MapMyWalk! Distance: 1.16mi, time: 40:51, pace: 35:09min/mi, speed: 1.71mi/h.
http://mapmywalk.com/workout/694029543

Mourning a Great Teacher: Robin Williams

Published August 12, 2014 by Susan Woodward

Rest in Peace, Robin Williams. Your portrayal of John Keating was an inspiration to me in my own classroom.

Diane Ravitch's blog

We have become accustomed in recent years to seeing films in which teachers are shown as lazy, greedy slugs. This fits nicely with the corporate reform narrative that seeks to strip all honor, dignity, and rights from teachers. Teachers don’t deserve those mean-spirited caricatures, nor the treatment they receive from legislatures.

Remembering Robin Williams’ portrayal of English teacher John Keating in “The Dead Poets’ Society” takes us back to another era, a time when the teacher might be seen as a source of wisdom and inspiration, a rebel and a non-conformist. Here is the trailer. Robin Williams represented the teacher as the best that one could hope to be: not just a man who taught language and literature but a man who changed lives.

My favorite scene in the movie occurs when Mr. Keating invites the class to read the introduction to the poetry anthology. The introduction describes a…

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Summer Challenge: Selkirk Shores State Park

Published August 8, 2014 by Susan Woodward

When I began to tell people about how much I was looking forward to getting away in a little cabin in the woods all by myself, a lot of people kept asking about whether or not I would be lonely all alone. Or they expressed concerns for my safety.

I really am okay with being on my own. It’s how I recharge my batteries.

Selkirk Shores State Park 3And so today I plugged into Selkirk Shores.

“Yet I experienced sometimes that the most sweet and tender, the most innocent and encouraging society may be found in any natural object, even for the poor misanthrope and most melancholy man. There can be no very black melancholy to him who lives in the midst of nature and has his senses still” (Thoreau, “Solitude”, Walden).

In spite of the weather reports claiming that we were going to be in for thunderstorms, the sky was filled with puffy clouds, and the sun beamed down on the waters of Lake Ontario. I hiked along the ridge high above the lake and listened to the waves rolling up against the shore.

While Thoreau’s energy seems to come to him from the Earth…as in the woods and the stillness of the pond…mine comes from moving water. His close relationship with the land allowed him to recognize where he was even in pitch dark.

“It is darker in the woods, even in common nights, than most suppose. I frequently had to look up at the opening between the trees above the path in order to learn my route, and, where there was no cart-path, to feel with my feet the faint track which I had worn, or steer my the known relation of particular trees which I felt with my hands, passing between two pines for instance, not more than eighteen inches apart, in the midst of the woods, invariably, in the darkest night” (Thoreau, “The Village”, Walden).

That is how in tune he was with the Earth, and he found that he was most revived there. Even his rejuvenation in Walden Pond is from much stiller water than what rejuvenates me. I like to seek out creeks,waterfalls, and large lake shores that give the illusion of being at the ocean. Having been brought up among the vast Great Lakes, it is easy to imagine that one is at the ocean, albeit without the salt. The sound of moving water sings to my soul a song more pleasant than any created by a musical instrument. Thoreau’s most treasured songs came to him from the winds in the trees and from the birds and animals in his woods.

I love those songs, too, but it is water that not only soothes, but energizes me.

Selkirk Shores State Park 4

Water Wars

I sat down to watch what seemed to me to be the front lines of an epic battle between the Water Warriors of the Creek and those of the Lake. Where the creek emptied into the lake, the rolling waves seemed to come in to push the creek water back from its invasion. The effect created quite a swirling of forces, battling to claim their place. The clashing of the two stirred up the sand and mud from the bottom, giving the waters an almost reddish hue like the blood spilled on a battlefield. The lake, of course, had the upper hand with its sheer size of reinforcements, and the winds blowing in off it brought in the stronger militia; however, the creek held its own against the mighty lake in the ongoing struggle.

I must admit, it was fun to watch.

I tore myself away from the water and turned toward the inland trails. Once I finally found the beginning of the trails, I was pleased to find that they were adequately marked so that I would not get lost. Then again, I had a Great Lake on one side, smaller Salmon Lake on another, a creek on the third, and then a road on the fourth. I really wasn’t in any danger of getting lost, but I liked the certainty of a marked trail. Sorry, Thoreau!

Selkirk Shores State Park 6 Selkirk Shores State Park 1 Kissing Trees A slice of love

Once again, I was grateful for Deep Woods Off! I do not know how Thoreau managed with the bugs…he’s a stronger person than I am!

All bugs aside, it was a gorgeous walk. And despite the campground seeming to be almost full to capacity, very few ventured onto the trails. I only ran into one couple (several times) as they jogged the trails. Other than that, it was as if I was the only person for miles and miles. Squirrels skittered along the branches overhead, causing a slight shower of acorns at one point. Smiling, I brought home one of those raindrops to remind me of how happy I felt to simply be present at that moment.

A new trail was being cut by the parks department, and a logger must have come across a heart-shaped tree trunk because he left a slice of that trunk propped up against another tree. Seeing it made my own heart swell, as if it was a message from the Woodland Gods that I am loved.   🙂  I even came across two trees that appeared to be kissing!

This is the link that outlines my hike. I did a lot of stopping and starting the app as I paused to take pictures, rest, or simply sit and admire the scenery. However, it is useful to me to record which trails I have hiked.

I hiked with MapMyWalk! Distance: 3.95mi, time: 01:31:30, pace: 23:09min/mi, speed: 2.59mi/h.
http://mapmywalk.com/workout/674403985

The rains did come that day, but not until I was pulling my car alongside my cabin once again. Not the thunder and lightning that had been expected, but a gentle steady rain that also sang to my soul. I spent the evening with a quiet meal and a lovely Harry Dresden novel (I did bring something other than Walden with me…). I’d refreshed myself with the scents of peppermint and lavender in my shower, and luxuriated in the tingle it left on my skin as I read.

It was lovely.

 

Summer Challenge: Sterling Nature Center

Published August 6, 2014 by Susan Woodward

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live and could not spare any more time for that one” (Thoreau, “Conclusion”, Walden).

On my fifth day, it was time to pack up and leave the little cabin in the woods.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”

         (Robert Frost, from “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”)

I knew that I had responsibilities awaiting me at home and that as much as I was loving my mini Walden Experiment, it was also time for me to return. At least I did not leave with a heavy heart because a line I’d heard somewhere kept running through my mind: “Do not cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” And so I am smiling.

I took the long way home meandering along Lake Ontario (well, as best as the roads and shoreline would allow… the shore has SO many inlets to it that keeping the lake in view on my right was impossible), and I made one last stop to take a little hike before I had to get home and prepare for an appointment that evening.

For many years, I have driven to Sterling, NY to go to the Renaissance Festival. Every time I drove there, I’d noticed the signs for Sterling Nature Center, but I had never stopped by. Today I did.

Sterling Nature CenterI am sooo glad I stopped! The wooded path took me directly to the lake shore so that she could sing to me a “so long” song till we would meet again.

Sterling ShorelineWhile strolling along the beach, I was surprised at the bluffs that appeared around a bend. At first I thought I must be at Chimney Bluffs, and I had to do a mental calculation of how far along the 104 I had driven for that to be true. Turns out that these are different bluffs, but just as magnificent.

Lakeshore Sterling Nature CenterI sat down to rest and to just listen to the shore-song, all the while thinking about how much I loved the sound and feeling of the breeze. Breathing deeply, I looked out on the water that was dotted here and there with sailboats, and looked up to watch the gulls circle lazily back and forth, almost in rhythm with the boats. I was again filled with gratitude at being able to just be here at this moment. I really did have to pull myself away because I knew that I had “promises to keep.”

heart stoneAs I stood up from the large rock I’d been perched upon, I happened to look down at the rocks that were immediately next to me…and I saw it. It was my final gift for this sojourn- a heart shaped rock that had been worn and shaped by the lake herself.

Refusal to Let GoJust before I turned away from the shore to take the path through the woods to return to my car, I noticed the trunk of an old tree still clinging to the edge of the lake. That is how I felt about my heart; even though the rest of me had to leave this place, my heart belongs to the song of moving water. Whether it is a creek, a waterfall, or the lapping waves of the oceans and lake shores into which I have been privileged enough to dip my toes, that call of the water sings to my soul.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours” (Thoreau, “Conclusion,” Walden).

I hiked with MapMyWalk! Distance: 1.28mi, time: 45:45, pace: 35:41min/mi, speed: 1.68mi/h.
http://mapmywalk.com/workout/678847473

Summer Challenge: South Colwell Pond and Black Dune Wetlands

Published August 5, 2014 by Susan Woodward

“What do we want most to dwell near to? Not to many men surely, the depot, the post office, the bar-room, the meeting-house, the schoolhouse, the grocery, Beacon Hill, or the Five Points, where men most congregate, but to the perennial source of our life, whence in all our experience we have found that to issue, as the willow stands near the water, and sends out its roots in that direction” (Thoreau, “Solitude”, Walden).

After being serenaded by the melodious waves on the shores of Mexico Point, I decided to seek out what other songs the lake might wish to sing to me. I peeked at my map of the area and found a large inlet up near the Jefferson County line and decided to explore.

I meandered for a bit on the pretty drive along Route 3, turning in here and there to see what I could see. It wasn’t till I got to the Black Dune Wetlands along South Colwell Pond that I decided to get out and explore. I found a trail in the woods and could not believe how lush the color was.

Green CarpetEverywhere I looked seemed to be carpeted with soft green leaves.

Fern GullyThe further I walked into the woods, the more dense the carpet became. The short green foliage morphed into a shag carpet of ferns. I tried to be so quiet as I walked because I felt like an intruder. Even so, I accidentally spooked a family of deer out of their resting place. All I saw was a flash of brown movement followed by four white flags disappearing into the distance.

I continued for a bit until the ground became to wet to continue walking comfortably in the woods. No wonder everything seemed so lush…the plants had plenty of water to keep them going!

As I exited the wooded area, it seemed that Mother Nature felt that the wetlands were in need of more watering. The rains came down, and so I headed back to the shelter of my cabin to spend the remainder of the day with my books.

“A single gentle rain  makes the grass many shades greener. So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should be blessed if we live in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us” (Thoreau, “Spring”, Walden).

Instead of waves singing to me that afternoon, it was the patter song of raindrops dancing on the roof. Quite often when I was reading, I paused to lay the book on my chest just to listen to the rhythm of the rain. My heart swelled with gratitude as I simply closed my eyes, listened, and reveled in the present moment. For those moments, I was not bombarded with the sensory overload that is so common to us in this modern world of ring tones, buzzes, dings, vibrations, and the need to be available to the entire world 24/7. While some criticized me for keeping my phone on and actually using it in the evenings to upload pictures, the act of deciding which pictures I wanted to share and tagging their location helped solidify the experiences in my memory. How quickly, in our sensory overloaded lives, do our memories lose their retention as one experience melds into the next…rush, rush, rush turns the brain to mush, mush, mush. I didn’t want to take the chance of having these wonderful relaxing experiences fade away as soon as I left the woods and went home to prepare to return to work. The electronic gizmo will help with retaining this sense of relaxation as I can visit and re-visit what I have photographed and what I have written.

I can return to the woods in my mind…

I hiked with MapMyWalk! Distance: 0.63mi, time: 18:16, pace: 28:59min/mi, speed: 2.07mi/h.
http://mapmywalk.com/workout/677215469

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