Following my bliss

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Altared Perceptions: September Homecoming 2013

Published September 15, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Homecoming once again after a meaningful Summer challenge: Going Off the Map and Facing Our Dragon!

Map 2 Looking at old-fashioned maps, one would often find a dragon icon that would represent uncharted, unexplored waters.  That big, ol’ scary dragon symbolized the unknown which, more often than not, we have a tendency to fear.

And that was our summer assignment: to face our dragons by going places we’d feared to go before.  We didn’t physically have to leave to “go” anywhere; it could be doing something we’d always thought “maybe one day” or “someday I’ll do that.”  It could be facing a part of ourselves that we feared to look at in the mirror.   With so many ways to interpret this assignment, it made it so accessible to nearly everyone. 

Anyone who has read this blog from its beginning knows that I have been working through major life changes over the past couple of years.  I first described myself as being on a twisting, winding path through the labyrinth of life.  I talked about the break-up of a long-term relationship and how my children grew up and moved on to their adult lives left me feeling a bit like I was in the desert, alone.  I even worked on discerning the difference between loneliness and solitude.  But all of that work toward being happy on my own was focused on the walls surrounding me at home.  How did I go home to an empty place every day and not feel lonely?  And I finally came to feel that home was my refuge, my safe harbor.  I’d faced that dragon and won.

However, finding comfort in my home surroundings came with a double-edged sword.  I got too comfortable being home alone, and I took to shying away from people altogether.  I had stopped socializing and preferred to curl up on the couch with either a book or the television…and of course, smoking and overeating.  I was self-medicating while I was home alone.  That was the “too much of a good thing” syndrome.  While it was great to love being home, it wasn’t so great to avoid people.

So I got involved with the Aerial Arts Challenge.  I had a contract that kept me on a schedule, which kept me getting out of the house.  I quit smoking, I changed my eating habits, and I got a whole lot healthier.  I also got more social, even if it was on a schedule.  I began to expand my comfort zone beyond my four walls.  Several dragons slain there!

Okay…so I was getting off the couch if I had somewhere to go with someone.  There was still one more dragon in that scenario that needed to be faced and conquered. 

I had to face the fear of going out and doing things by myself.  It was back to solitude (but not loneliness this time…) and being comfortable with spending time with ME.   I wanted to face the stigma of eating alone in a restaurant without having that nagging feeling that people were looking at me and pitying me.   I wanted to get in my car and just drive without even using a map to get somewhere new… to follow my own intuition and trusting that somehow I would get where I wanted to be.  And instead of calling it “Facing My Dragon,” I called my posts “Following My Bliss.”  I went to Maine, the Renaissance Faire, hiking, climbing, walking, 5k-ing, the Irish Festival, and all kinds of activities all by myself.  I learned to be my own company and to actually enjoy being with ME.  

So now I am comfortable in my sanctuary/home, I am comfortable going out with people, and if I cannot find someone to do something with, I am even comfortable going and doing whatever it was all by myself. 

So how did the Creative Soul Matters/Decor Team represent this on homecoming Sunday at church?Dragon 1

There’s the Dragon!  And there’s the compass rose that took us Off the Map.

I am pleased that the dragon is facing forward, and not off to the side.  It allows each of us to look him in the face and Dragon 2confront him. 

From this angle, his eyes look a bit scary, as if daring us to continue to stare him down.   The challenge was to keep moving toward our uncharted territory while keeping him in our sight. 

I am glad that this Chinese New Year’s Dragon was purchased for this decor.  For one thing, Homecoming Weekend is like a New Year for many UUs.  After a long summer of a limited schedule, it’s back in full swing with three services a week, complete with new monthly themes.  It’s a new year with new goals for the congregation.  For teachers like me, it’s also a new school year with new challenges and new opportunities.  So the New Year’s Dragon was a good choice to face the new year.

The rainbow colors is also significant as it represents the strides made in facing the injustice of prejudice against the Gay community that has been present in America and the world.  Standing up to this dragon is beginning to bring about the necessary change needed in this country and in society as a whole. 

This particular Dragon costume is designed for only one wearer (unlike the traditional Dragon suits that require a team to work together in wearing it!)  This reminds me of my dragon that I needed to face inside myself…it was a solo action to overcome my fears.

Map The compass rose simply shows the four cardinal directions…no specifics.   

For me, this was significant as I tried to go “Off the Map.”   The first time I actually went ahead and trusted myself to get where I wanted to go, I chose to rely on cardinal directions.

When I wanted to go to Maine, I told myself that I would get on the NYS Thruway and head east until I ran into an ocean.  Then I was going to turn left and head north until I found lighthouses and cheap lobster.  Those were my only driving directions.

Well, you can go back to visit my reflections on this trip because I made it!  I left my door at 7:00 AM and I was taking pictures of a lighthouse by 4!

I tried applying that philosophy to my summer traveling in general.  I know that if I drive west out of the Rochester area, I will eventually run into water.  It may be Lake Erie, the Niagara River, or even Niagara Falls, but I will hit water!   I know that if I drive due north, I will also run into more water…Lake Ontario!  Or if I am a bit further east in the state, going north will still lead to water as I come to the St. Lawrence Seaway.   And if I drive far enough south, I will hit the Gulf of Mexico!  So when I want to do road trips that have no specific address as a destination, just a general area, this is my way of going about it.  And I am no longer afraid to get in the car and go alone.

MumsNow look at the flowers.  To me, these mums remind me of fireworks.  The dragon is flying overhead, and the flowers are an explosion of color (they are even more open now).  However, some buds are more open than others…just like fireworks exploding. 

Fireworks are set off during the New Year as a celebration of light, but their noise also scares away any residual negativity from the previous year.  

I faced my fear of going out and exploring my world all alone.  I ate that inexpensive lobster dinner!  I found eight lighthouses!  I climbed that mountain!  I jumped in BOTH the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans!   I joined in at the Renaissance Faire as a participant, even though I was by myself! 

I am very pleased to have faced this dragon and to have completed my Summer Challenge.

Following My Bliss: Chimney Bluffs

Published August 12, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Again I woke up with a hankering for a hike!  It was a gorgeous day, so I decided that soaking up some sun along Lake Ontario was just the ticket!

But first I had to get there.

I’d taken my kids to the Bluffs a long time ago, and I basically remember how to get there.  I mean, it’s on the lake, so how can you miss it, right?  Well, one cannot just drive long the coast of Lake Ontario.  There are too many bays and inlets and not enough “straight” coastline roads.  The key is to know when to go north off route 104.

According to the internet (which I checked before leaving because I’d not been able to find the place the last two times I went out there), I was supposed to go along 104 E until I came to County Road 254, then turn left and go to the Lake.  That sounds easy, right?  Ha!  It would have been if there had been a SIGN that marked County Road 254!!  I was nearly at Oswego before I had to pull out the old GPS to have it tell me to backtrack for a good half hour!  And get this…the road is marked Route 414, not 254.  The GPS called it 254.  The internet called it 254.  The folks who made the signs call it 414.

That is a real 315-er.

But at least I finally made it! Bluffs 6

The sun was hot, so I decided to begin my trek along the coastline, and then make my way back along the top of the bluffs.

The water was much warmer than I expected.  The lake is usually pretty cold, even at this time of year.  It felt good to have the waves sloshing up over my feet as I walked along.

Bluffs 7

This was the view of the bluffs from where I entered the beach and began my hike.  They seem a long way off…it was about a mile to get to them.

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I saw a lot of interesting driftwood along the way.

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Some spots was just a little TOO much driftwood for my taste.  It made the going a little tougher.

Bluffs 10I am finally getting closer to the bluffs…

Let me tell you, I am going to have to bronze these $5.00 water shoes I bought this summer!  They have been on all my hikes, especially those involving creeks, lakes, and oceans!  I have two more big treks before I go back to work and they have to last.  I plan to hit Watkins Glen and San Diego in the next two weeks, so stay tuned!

Here are a few good shots of the bluffs from the beach:

Bluffs 4 Bluffs 3 Bluffs 2 Bluffs 1

The terrain certainly looks different from yesterday’s walk!

This is my attempt at being “artsy” before hauling myself up to the top of the bluffs to hike along the edge:

Bluffs 11I shot this through a fallen tree (complete with me laying on the rocks to get the bluffs through the “window”).  You can see the richness of the color of the rocks…all the reds and blues.

Bluffs 5And this was from along the top of the ridge.

I certainly have been enjoying Following My Bliss this summer…I wish it didn’t have to end in order to go back to work!  But I have had the opportunity to recharge my batteries (and it’s not like I haven’t been working in the summer…I just didn’t write about that…).  Along with continuing with my exercise routines, I have worked hard on my fitness.  I feel MUCH stronger than I have in…well, since I can’t remember!  No smoking, eating healthier, working out, and cardio via hiking!  All that with some gorgeous scenery and awesome memories that I DID IT!

Yippee!  😀

Following My Bliss: Barnes Creek Falls

Published August 11, 2013 by Susan Woodward

I woke up this morning with the decision to go for a waterfall hike already made up in my mind.   It wasn’t even like, “What shall I do today?”… it was already a given that I was going to seek a new waterfall somewhere!  So I picked up my phone and went to my All Trails Hiking App and decided to hit Barnes Creek Falls near Canandaigua Lake.

fallsWhen I first found the park, I wasn’t sure there’s even BE a waterfall based on the condition of the creek.  It was merely a trickle and didn’t seem to be enough water to have come from a waterfall of any sort.  I thought it was all dried up and would be nothing but a rock bed, and I nearly turned around to seek another place to hike.  Considering I’d driven nearly an hour to get there, I decided to keep moving forward and hope for the best.

I am so glad that I did!  Although it wasn’t a “raging” falls, there was enough water coming down to make it pretty and even refreshing to wade in the pool at the bottom.

What most caught my eye was the yellow rope that someone had attached to a tree to aid in climbing up the falls.  Hmmm….did I dare to try it?  In spite of what this picture looks like, it actually was a pretty steep ascent.  I worried a bit about my elbow (tendonitis which has not yet healed), but I figured that since I’d bothered to drive out there, I was going to try anyway.  There happened to be a family that had also followed the trickle to find the waterfall, so the Dad was there to dial 911 in the event I fell!  He agreed to keep his cell phone handy till I was either safely at the top or had safely returned to the pool.

I was surprised to find that climbing with the rope didn’t hurt my arm; that was a good sign to keep going.  Once I got past where the rope ended, I had to continue on the rock formations that kind of looked like steps…I whipped out my camera to snap a picture from where I was at the end of my rope (ha! ha!) to mark how high I’d climbed so far.  I kept falls 4going up the “steps,” but I didn’t realize how steep they were until my water shoes started slipping on the rocks while I was climbing.  I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to continue upwards (there was nothing to hold onto and I was leery about the lack of traction on my shoes).

That’s when I looked down.

Not a good move.

Looking downThat’s when I froze for a bit.  You can see from looking at the rocks how smooth they are, and even though I wasn’t going to fall from a height akin to Niagara Falls, those rocks could have done some serious damage if I wasn’t careful.

I just told myself that I’d managed to climb up there, so I could get down, too.  I had to find my footholds carefully because the more nervous I got, the slipperier the rocks seemed to become.   When I finally got back to the rope, I was so happy!  It made me feel secure, and I cannot believe how much I was able to lean out away from the rock wall when I was climbing using that rope.   I felt my aerial experiences helping me out at that time!!  🙂  Thanks, Will D’Ovidio!

falls 3

This was my view once I finally got back to the safety of the pool!

Canadaigua Lake

As I exited from the creek bed and began my ascent up the hills nearby, this was a view of Canandaigua Lake.   One of my goals is to visit the wineries throughout the Finger Lakes and do some sampling on a wine tour!  That is bliss for another day!

Lookout point

I continued along the upper trails above the creek and falls… this is one of the lookout posts.

It was a gorgeous day for a hike, and I am so glad that I woke up with that in mind!  🙂




Following My Bliss: Nature’s Bouquet

Published July 28, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Since my name, Susan, means “lily” in Hebrew, I tend to take pictures of lilies whenever I see them in gardens.  These are from my Nature Meditation at First Unitarian Church.  I simply wanted them to have their own page because they were so beautiful!

100_0690 100_0689 100_0687             100_0670 100_0668 100_0667 100_0659 100_0664 100_0665 100_0666 100_0661 100_0657

And those were just the lilies!  Here are some other gorgeous blooms:

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Ahhhh…Nature’s Bliss!

Following My Bliss: The Sterling Renaissance Faire

Published July 21, 2013 by Susan Woodward

final-website_01                                                     Let’s face it… I love this time period!  Not that I’d want to live there, but it sure is nice to romanticize about gallant knights, the code of chivalry, ladies in waiting, kings, queens, and eating without utensils.  Fun, fun, fun!

It was time for another road trip, and I took advantage of the fact that our blistering heat wave broke with the massive storm last night.  I decided to drive the hour and a half to Sterling, NY for the Renaissance Festival.  My mp3 was loaded with Blackmore’s Night, Loreena McKennitt, and Stone Row (there’s a plug for you, Nick Corallo!), and the music blared from my speakers all the way there…including during my drive thru at Tim Horton’s for coffee!  Once I had my fortification, I was ready for my day trip and some adventure! Huzzah!!

It seems that the rain we’d had in Rochester was slowly wending its way eastward…toward Sterling.  Let’s just say I had a soggy start to the day, and my hair paid the price.  Not that it hadn’t already suffered…I made the mistake of cutting it last week, and I am going through severe remorse.  Fortunately for me, the hair grows fairly quickly, so I should be in a better place in a few months.  Until then…Rocky the Squirrel it is!  :-/

The best part of the Renaissance Faire is that it is a place to leave your ego in the parking lot and join in the fun.  It especially helps when you attend these things by yourself and don’t know anyone…or better yet, no one knows you!  🙂

I didn’t take any pictures earlier in the day due to the rain.  I didn’t want to ruin my camera.  Somehow, though, those who allowed the rain to wash away the ego seemed to be having the most fun.  Those huddled under umbrellas were complaining about the waste of money to come that day.  Not to mention that the storm the previous night knocked out all the power, so some services (like the “modern” bathrooms) were limited.


It’s much more fun to play in the rain!  It took me a little while to let go of my shyness (I can hear some of you choking from here!), but once I got rolling, that was it.  I was in it for the day.

I had fully intended on renting a costume until I found out how much they cost to do so.  Sadly, the one I’d made got ruined, so I shall have to procure another before next summer so that I can return in style (with a better hairstyle to boot…).

After about an hour, the rain stopped…huzzah!  That’s when I went to see the DaVinci Brothers Show and got selected to be Julianna Potato in an Italian opera.   Yup…that was fun!

Faire 1I am…Julianna Potato…

Faire 11 With my “one true love” Phil Prosciutto (yes, it seems that Bob DaVinci chose a real pair of hams for this one!) Faire 3Working the Madonna look…

Faire 4My proud “Papa Potato”

Faire 5My knight on his shining…hog

Faire 6With our fair director, Bob DaVinci

Faire 8Ham…

Faire 9and cheese…

Faire 10and more ham.

Far too much fun!  But what could top these lovely pictures?  A video, you say?  Huzzah!

Of course, I had to make the usual Ren Faire rounds, including the Don Juan and Migel show Faire 17 Faire 16

and Shakespeare!  This year they performed an abridged version of The Tempest.

 Faire 18Prospero and Miranda

Faire 19Ferdinand and Ariel

Faire 23Prospero, Trinculo, Ariel, and Stephano

Faire 20Caliban

Other fun included get picked (huzzah!  Picked for two shows in one day!) for a hypnosis show!  Apparently, I had a great time…the best show I ever slept through!  Seriously, though, I can remember what we had to do even if I still felt compelled to do what was suggested…including drinking Happy Juice and getting happier and happier by the shot, singing Happy Birthday to the Queen while dancing, yelling at the guy sitting next to me for “pinching” me (he really didn’t but it sure felt like he did!), and then when I complained that the young man (who’d been told to laugh harder the more I yelled at him) was about my kids’ ages, the hypnotist suggested that I was a cougar and to flirt with him.  Again, too much fun!  🙂  No pics of that show, though!

And there was the food (they ran out of turkey legs by the time I wanted to spend the $8.50 to buy one…the Universe’s way of telling me that it was too expensive).   I did get salt potatoes and “balls of fire” (meatballs on a stick topped with Frank’s Hot Sauce) and washed it down with Redd’s Apple Ale (which I seriously need to find in some store near me).

Faire 14There were people in fun costumes (and they must have been dying during that heat blast last weekend!),

Faire 13funny costumes,

Faire 12and just downright cool costumes!  (My favorite was this Ent!)

Faire 25There were musical groups (this is Cantiga),

Faire 15and even a Hobbit hole!  At least that’s what it reminds me of!

I had a tarot reading as well (I was very disappointed that the Shaman group that had been there for years was no longer there.  I had been looking forward to getting my reading from them like I usually do).   It was very confirming for many things, including how I am learning to take care of myself.   Sometimes I still beat myself up for what I allowed to happen to my physical body over the years, and I have to stop doing that and realize that all comes in time.  This didn’t happen overnight, and perfect health cannot happen like that either…not that it will ever be “perfect”, but I want it to be perfect for me!

So I shall continue with my exercise (still going to the YMCA and swimming…something physical at least 4 times a week), eating better (still juicing 3-4 times a week as well as keeping the calories at bay and making healthy choices), and NOT SMOKING!!!  🙂   When I saw my doctor and complained that the pounds were not coming off as quickly as I’d like, she reminded me that I’d quit smoking six months ago and most people put on 20-30 pounds after quitting.  According to my chart, I weigh five pounds less than I did one year ago.  She said that, in her eyes, I’d lost between 25 and 35 pounds if you take into account that I didn’t gain after quitting.

That made me feel better!  All it took was some healthy perspective!  🙂


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