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My Workout

Published October 5, 2014 by Susan Woodward

I haven’t done a race since the half marathon in June…but today I  hiked a 5k
with MapMyWalk! Distance: 3.30mi, time: 56:04, pace: 17:00min/mi, speed: 3.53mi/h.


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.

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.

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