survival

When I was younger my father was about 4 steps ahead. Of everything. He talked about ‘cholesterol’ before I ever heard a doctor say the word.

He saw the importance of balancing a healthy diet, exercise and rest before there were personal trainers.

So when Dad started talking about bomb shelters I didn’t  panic but I didn’t ignore him, either.

He and my mother were looking at different places to think about retiring. Sadly, Mom passed away when she was too young, and Dad never really retired. He bought a small business after he left his corporate career and ran it until he died.

Anyway, one weekend he was really excited, he’d found an old grist mill in a (then) very obscure town in the mountains. The walls were 3-foot-thick concrete, and there was a natural spring there. I honestly believed he was going to move us all there— this place with no windows —until Mom talked him out of it.

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Pretty sure if I had to figure out how to survive on my own, in nature, I’d have a hard time. I know a bit about edibles— herbs and wildflowers, but I doubt that I know enough not to starve. I know nothing about mushrooms and wouldn’t eat one someone picked in the wild no matter how much they assured me they knew what it was.

I live in a hurricane-prone area. Since moving here there have been 4-category 1-3 storms in 5 years. So I have a generator, freeze-dried foods, many solar- and battery-powered items. As yet I have not had to use many of these. If something -or someone- were to cause me to strike out on my own I’d last maybe 3 days. My 2 rescue dogs would probably do better.

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I have known outward bound people. They take small groups of kids out at summer camp and ‘rough it’. I have been to summer camps but either this was not an option or my mother felt giving me safer experiences like horseback riding, learning to sail or working with clay made more sense for me.

So I am really hoping I don’t actually have to deal with any hyper-extreme circumstance or situation. At my age my sense of adventure may include sky-diving, body surfing and mule rides into the Grand Canyon, but that’s about the extent of it.

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So even though this picture, taken by my son, is from more than 10 years ago, they say riding a horse is like riding a bike. You never forget.

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minutia

My mother was organized, well-ordered and no frills. She could not be bothered with frivolity or trivia. When she planned something or ordered something by mail she expected it. And whatever it was generally complied.

Not so for me.

During this virus panic I have not changed much of my routine. Pretty much a homebody, I basically pattern my schedule around rescue dogs Lily and Lulu. I have a volunteer schedule that has been canceled so it’s just the dogs.

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We have our walkies, mealtimes and cookies. Since they are nearing their golden years I add supplements to their diet to keep them limber. None of which is available here, I have to order them.

64190CFC-C768-4A38-89D0-0539CFDEFC2FI never knew snake plant had a flower

Two orders I placed since March have gone missing. I can only attribute the losses to this pandemic crisis because in over 20 years of placing orders with Amazon.com I have never lost a single one. So today I am waiting. UPS is holding Lily and Lulu’s hyaluronic acid supplement hostage. It was scheduled for delivery yesterday. Now today. They even gave me a little map to track it. An hour ago the truck was one street away from me, in my neighborhood. Now it’s across town. I don’t get it. I should have walked over to where it was when it was so close. Who knows now when it will get here?

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They still have enough supply here for a week or so but seriously? Why doesn’t the guy just bring us our supplement? It’s like waiting for a pot of water to boil. If it were for me I wouldn’t care but I am the only thing standing between my dogs and justice. I am their provider, defender. When someone makes a joke about little terrier-mix Lulu’s (slight) weight problem I take umbrage.

It’s those small things that you have to watch out for. Little fires. Put them out, quickly.

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This may stem partly from an ‘encounter’ I had with a couple of neighbors a week ago. The upshot was, kind of like the Sesame Street song, “One of These Things Is Not Like the Others, One of These Things Doesn’t Belong”. So I was the ‘thing’, they said, in not so few words.

Cruel.

True, I’m not like many other people. None of us is. But I am realizing I live in something a friend of mine once described as a Stepford wives neighborhood and am politically incorrect besides.

Oh well. It’s true, I don’t have a husband, grandchildren or enjoy travel, shopping or gossip. So no, on those counts I am different. But I have a feeling it’s maybe a bit more than that.

I can’t be bothered with what others think of me.

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But I really do want to know when this supplement will be delivered. Not why it isn’t. Just when. Even if it seems such a little thing.

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birdies

My brother plays golf. He and our mom hit the links every chance since he could walk. I never caught the bug so was not as close to Mom as my brother because she lived to play.

My birdies are the kind with feathers.

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Last spring I put a bluebird box. The backyard is not very big, so a lot of interest in the box but no residents. Rescue dogs Lily, Lulu and I spend a lot of time outside. I garden, terrier mix Lulu checks the perimeter, husky mix Lily suns herself or eats small lizards.

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This year we have a family. Barely audible baby cheeps are coming from the box. Conveniently there is a feeder of mealworms a mere few feet away. Lily and Lulu aren’t remotely interested in birds. Good thing. My dad had a setter bird dog that once ate a baby mockingbird. For the rest of her life she was kami-kazied every time she left the back porch.

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These beautiful creatures should have a lot to worry about— wind, rain, mites, ants, snakes, protecting their babies, food. But they don’t. They live in most areas where they are found year-round. And each year they find a home and raise their families. Their only brooding is with family-raising.

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And they sing. They sing with all their heart. It’s a pure, chaotic little song that has a random tune.

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If they aren’t happy someone should tell them they make others happy.

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refocus

In summer rescue dogs Lily and Lulu’s walkies are before sunrise and after sunset with quick outings through the day in the backyard. Has to be this way because the heat gets to them. To me, too

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So this morning, because of some lovely late cold fronts was very cool as we ventured out around six, still in the dark.

Summer walkies are an adventure. More bunnies and toads. Never is husky-mix Lily more focused than when a reptile crosses her path. When a toad stops the required hopping Lily does not lose interest. She will gently tap it with her paw until it starts to hop around again. This morning she actually tapped it with her nose.

She knows better.

Toads have a protective toxin they coat their bodies with. This causes a dog to froth at the mouth. Which Lily did. She is tenacious. She kept at the toad so I stepped in and moved it to a shrub and we walked on, Lily spitting and shaking her head.

As we turned the corner toward home both Lily and Lulu went on high alert— a rabbit jumped in the road. It waited till they were just at attack position before it bounced away.

Still, the excitement made their obligatory morning naps reminiscent of the chase in their dreams.

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So many times this week my emotions got tossed like waves in a storm, listening to armchair commentators critiquing the virus. Who to blame, wrong information, who said what, what should be done, and shouldn’t be done, until I was angry in my own head.

So I refocus. This experience is no surprise to God. Neither are requirements that are levied on our communities. So I look to Him. I ask for peace. I pray for people who need prayer. I find things to be grateful for.

So many things.

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aMusings

I began this blog around 6 or 7 years ago. Back then I idyllically imagined I would use this as a platform for epiphany, revelation or eloquent personal disclosure. Funny maybe, having some depth, but hoping to not become a forum for aging, malady or complaining (whining).

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Maybe leave a trail of insight or hope, or just encouraging words.

There are bumps in everybody’s road. Forks on the pathways. Brick walls. Cliffs. Mountains. Brambles. Woods. Wild animals. Hurdles. Chasms. Insurmountables and unfathomables.

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And then there’s root canals.

I have never liked dental appointments. So moving to a new place too far from a dentist I had come to trust I had to start over again. For someone with serious trust issues in general it isn’t easy. They tell me what needs work. I make an appointment and soon after I cancel it. I am an adult, this is silly.

So when the dentist said he had to send me to an endodontist my brain shut down. I made the appointment and did not cancel it. I went to the appointment. Exactly one hour later, the lower left half of my face in paralysis  they had finished. The most painful part was paying for it.

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The day after an arctic freeze arrived after torrential rains. Thankful rescue dogs Lily and Lulu woke me early to go out or I’d have missed the 5 minutes of snow flurries. The rest of the day was icy cold with brutally cutting winds making walkies a near impossibility.

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But beyond conquering dental fears, bitter cold, I think the hardest thing I faced this week was a cryptic phone call from my son. I have mentioned in posts that his girlfriend does not care for me (it’s the only conclusion I came to based on monosyllabic responses, or no response at all). This incrementally alters the relationship with my son each time I encounter them. They have been together about 10 years, living together for 7. I realize it is expected that children grow up, leave home and begin lives of their own. This exclusion though was hard to accept at first. It does not get easier, but I get better at dealing with it. I cannot say whether this arrangement he lives with is right or wrong, but I am sorry I am not a part of it. To say it’s worse than having a root canal, well, it’s an analogy I did not think I’d ever make.

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finding gifts

Not long ago a friend recommended  Ann Voskamp’s little book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully, Right Where You Are. This was a popular book a few years ago yet I’d not heard of it  A horrific tragedy that the author witnessed as a child prompted her to write the book and its premise is living fully, in the moment.

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Easy to forget or ignore, with busy schedules, air conditioner failures, medical problems, commitments of all kinds. It came to mind this week when Lily’s vet called to reschedule her surgery as a result of a staff schedule issue.

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Frustrated at first, I expressed my concern for Lily, now dealing with this knee for 6 weeks. As I spoke into the residual silence I realized my comments would make no difference. Had the surgeon a sooner opening I am certain she would have scheduled Lily for it. Was I being punished for moving from veterinarian to veterinarian, in search of one who would be open and truthful with me about my dogs? Maybe, but unlikely. Veterinarians’ primary concern is for the patient, not their person, I hope.

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The extra 4 days has given me opportunity to research the type of surgery she will have, and I read aloud to Lily the prognosis for success (very good) and the recovery and how she and I will deal with it.

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In the meantime the air conditioning unit has been busy filling up its overflow drain pan. The first time, mentioned in a previous post actually shut off the unit itself which was how I discovered the problem. Four repair calls and a new shop-vac later it is still filling the pan. The drain has been cleared (twice), the crawlspace pipe has been elevated, the unit has been examined totally and discovered to be problem-free. Clearly something still needs to be looked at.

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So today, as I did a few days ago, I vacuumed up 12 containers of water. The gift here? I accidentally face-timed a friend and learned how to turn the function off so it wouldn’t keep happening. I noticed the tiny attic had space to put some boxes I want to save. I went up and down those attic stairs 12 times so got in exercise steps which matters now that it is too hot to walk the dogs and Lily can’t walk anyway. Lulu won’t walk if Lily doesn’t go. And sweat! No idea how to measure the amount pouring off but I understand it’s cleansing.

IMG_0011.JPGRescue dog Lily patiently waiting for her new surgery day

My son called to let me know he’s visiting a college friend nearby and will drive up to visit me for a couple of days. Even though Lily will be in recovery and we can’t do much of anything we’ll hunker down with some tacos and old movies and have a fun time.

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So I’ve got lists going for things to do to prep for Lily’s big day, things to do while she is at the hospital and stuff to prepare for my son’s visit.

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Busy week coming up.

IMG_0016.JPGRescue dog Lulu not worried at all

 

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calm

There seems to be an increase in doomsday predictions. Naysayers. This is terrible! Focusing on something no one knows anything about except that it will happen loses sight of what’s important.

The here and now.

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No one knows the future. When people get all in a twist about something nobody knows will happen they make chaos.

Stop it.

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Being grounded takes a lot of effort for me. I am easily distracted. But doomsday people have never held any interest for me. Staying focused on what’s important matters. But the end of the world? Why stir everybody up over something no one knows?

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Maybe this is why I love flowers so much. And trees. They just are. Day after day, season after season, year after year. They are what they were created to be. Some become diseased and die. So do we. Some grow old. Very, very old. So do we. We have seasons. We change. But nature doesn’t freak out over an ice storm. It endures it. Or a hurricane. Their leaves are blown off, they may get drowned but if they live they put out more leaves.

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We replace siding, or shingles, or whole roofs, or whole houses. But mostly we face whatever disaster or trouble we get. We have to. Jumping the gun, skipping to the end when the end isn’t here yet, when we don’t even know when the end is, doesn’t make any sense.

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So I have to take the end is near people lightly. The end I don’t take lightly, but I have no idea when that will happen. So I need to keep on keeping on and trust God. He knows.

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That is all that matters. It’s His business, mine is to trust Him.

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tested

Sometimes things just go another direction than expected.

So rescue dog Lulu. She was not dealing well with her dental procedure recovery, spitting pills out, not eating or drinking. Her vet said to call him to let him know on Monday the following week (this week) how she was.

That’s the day the tree broke.

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The three of us (rescue dogs Lily, Lulu and I) were out in the yard, I was digging around planting things. I heard a large cracking sound behind me and turned to see the top third of a large river birch tree slowly falling toward us. I scooted Lily and Lulu to the other end of the yard and watched it fall in slow motion. This tree is about 15 feet from the screen porch corner of our house and about 12 feet of tree was coming down. I don’t know how to calculate the physics of height and distance but it was going to hit something.

And suddenly it stopped. I ran to the other side of the tree to see what happened and noticed a rotted place in a fork where the break was. The part that fell was now precariously resting on a smaller trunk. So I started calling tree removal companies. Two mailboxes were full, I spoke to one company I normally call and they could not get here until Thursday. I left multiple message at 2 others and got the last company I called. Long story short, the reason they were available was they are unlicensed, uninsured and not bonded, though they said they were. The guy who gave the astronomically high estimate told me. I said no thanks, bye, can’t afford it, they came down a fraction, nope, still no.

So I took the dogs for a walk. I saw a truck turn into our subdivision with that tree company’s name. I was talking to a friend and told her. She told me to go home immediately, before they started sawing on the tree.

“But I already said no,” I replied and she told me it did not matter. They were likely to start anyway for the money (naive me). So I turned and dragged the dogs home. Tree guy called just as I turned onto my street and I wondered what part of No was confusing for him. So they stood around chatting for about 20 minutes as I scrambled to lock my backyard gate, took down their license plate number and  waited for them to leave.

My friend drives up, takes one look at Lulu and tells me to get to the 24-hour emergency vet, now. I said I’d never been to an emergency vet before. She yelled, “NOW.” So we went. This is Monday evening.

IMG_0994.JPGthe local Arboretum, a lovely 7-acre garden near the emergency vet office

The following day I tried my regular tree people again and they came and looked at it. They could see, windy as it’s been this should be taken care of so they came the next morning and took the tree down. Affordably.

So Lulu. I won’t go into all the painful (especially for Lulu) details, but she still would not eat, even my visits with her availed nothing. She was groggy from iv pain meds, she was mercifully being rehydrated with fluids and now on antibiotics. But a small lump had developed on her throat, so we had to have a cat scan. This was inconclusive, though thankfully it ruled out a likely tumor. The area was drained and sent off for cytology and culture. The cytology came back inflamed but not infected and we are still waiting for the culture to tell what, if any, bacteria it has so a proper course of antibiotics can be given.

The hard part was this: Leaving her everytime I visited. So after the cat scan Wednesday I said I would like to take Lulu home at the weekend until the culture results came back and a decision could be made as to what comes next. Surgery is still on the table.

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After much discussion her emergency vet agreed I could come and get her Saturday. Each morning up to now I had usually heard around 10 or 11 a.m.from the ICU tech an update on Lulu. By 10:30 this morning I had still heard nothing so I decided to go over there. On my way I had second thoughts and detoured to the Arboretum, wander around the lovely flower beds and among the trees and wait. If I had not heard by noon I would go to the hospital.

I sat on a bench in front of this whirly-gig sculpture and watched each side madly twirl in opposite directions. I suddenly laughed realizing that this was what my life had been this week. There was a methodical, rhythmic routine to the care Lulu had been receiving. My anxiety over her condition was like these two sides spinning against each other at the whims of every breeze or wind that came along. My thoughts had run wild escalating to the worst imaginable possibilities. I watched it spin for a good while. It was as though God was showing me how ridiculous my worry had been.

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After a while I got up and wandered through the rest of the gardens. This heron was comforting. Here is a graceful bird rising above earthly cares. I realized I had become mired in murky musings of my own making and had to stop bathing in it. My focus was all wrong. It was on things over which I have no control, not the One Who is in control.

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I began to truly feel the heavy weight I had created through the week disappear. I had realized, rightly, that Lulu, a quiet and shy little dog was in an environment that was by its very nature noisy and likely hadn’t gotten much if any real rest. So I was gratified in this strong urgency in bringing her home at least in that aspect. I noticed it was now around 11:30 and still no call….

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I slowly walked through the rest of the garden and sat on a bench near the exit. After a bit I saw it was almost noon so I headed to my car.

I arrived at the clinic and was surprised but thankful to see the waiting area nearly empty. I settled up Lulu’s bill, received her medications, spoke to her doctor about her follow-up appointment and brought her home. So far we have gone through one round of each of her medicines, I have held a warm compress to her throat and she has eaten a little. She is drinking water which, to see her do this when before she could not made me want to alert the media. But we still have a ways to go because we have the remaining test result and a decision to make about what this is and what to do about it. And there is her extreme dislike for the liquid medicines and hatred for me after I give them which fortunately is short-lived. Dogs are truly loving and forgiving creatures.

But, for now, Lulu is home.

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panic to peace

I live in relative solitude. Lily and Lulu, the occasional friendly neighbor to stop and make small talk. My family all live several states away, so my life is pretty quiet. Occasionally stirred by a frenetic morning.

So the routine usually is the same. Very little deviation from it. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu receive the first attention– they go outside, then get their breakfast, dental treats. Pretty simple unless my morning is strange.

I couldn’t get the order right today. Confusion doesn’t exactly ensue but I’m thrown off balance. Then the server disconnected except that every wireless device still showed they were online, only they weren’t. So the dogs and I went for our walk. Unlike most mornings when we go to the electric company’s property for something different

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we walked to an adjacent subdivision where the fanatic dog lives. He comes snarling down his backyard fence then hurls himself up to the top rail of the fence but never jumps high enough to get completely over, thankfully. Not sure what might happen if he did and I’d rather not know.

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We did spot this beautiful red-tailed hawk on our way out and he permitted me to take a picture.

So we got home and I called AT&T. First you go through their sales hurdle, no thank you, I do not want to upgrade. I’d just like for what I have to work. Then the service tech. They go through every test, pingback and process to determine what’s wrong. Then they have you unplug everything, wait 10 seconds, then plug back in and wait till it all reconnects. That worked. I’m writing that down so I can try it first if there’s a next time.

While I am on the phone my doorbell rings. It’s the neighbor who’s lost his wife before last fall’s hurricane wanting to borrow a step-ladder. He is building a house near one of his daughters and his ladder’s over there. So I go to get the ladder and find he’s gone into my garage and helped himself to another ladder.

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I like to think I would respectfully ask if I could do something like that before doing it, but that’s just me. So after I hung up the phone I got the step-ladder and took it to his garage where he and his daughters are working and see them with my ladder. All I could think to say was , “I want that back when you’re finished!” They all casually nodded and kept working at whatever they were doing.

<<Neither a borrower nor a lender be.>>

This kept clanging around in my head until I was in a frenzied panic over a stupid ladder, absolutely sure it would disappear, eaten by the contents of their in-process moving. I have a tiny yard and most of my gardening is confined to plants in pots which I think can be very pretty, so I busied myself with potting up some planters.

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I tend to go to extremes about stuff, forgetting important truisms like “Love people, use things, don’t use people and love things.” So I keep busy.

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It helps take my mind off whatever I am fretting over but not usually for very long. So I wandered around the yard to take in what the warm spring temperatures were coaxing out

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More violets. While most gardeners I know think these are a horrible, invasive weed, if my whole yard was covered in these plants I’d be happy. Even when they stop blooming their lovely green broad-leafed leaves stay low to the ground and shine in the sun.

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A brown turkey fig that has started to leaf. It will not bear any fruit yet because it’s still too young but it is one of three and I hope someday to be able to pot up some preserves.

After all of this busy-ness one of my neighbor’s daughters returned the ladder. We chatted a bit about what this is like, the work of sorting through the tangible remnants of a loved one’s life.

And I am glad, however small, I could help.

 

 

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forest bathing

or…. nice, long walk in the woods

This is a thing. Who knew? Asian countries have been doing this for years. It calms and soothes. Gives peace and balance to your mind. Some walk leisurely through, others find a spot to stop, absorb the fulness of the forest.

My mother discovered summer camps were an easy way to get us out from underfoot as children. I learned my favorite aspect of this childhood torture was the hikes they took us on and so I have loved the outdoors. I guess our counselors thought this was a great way to push us past the point of exhaustion so we’d sleep (wrong). I loved those walks.

When my dad moved our family from the south to New Jersey in a corporate transfer he and my mom found a house in a rural area (now Johnson & Johnson headquarters) with five wooded acres and a rambling stony brook. In hot summers I’d find a spot under the leafy shade, watch fish swim in the cool, clear water of the stream.

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But forest bathing. I never connected why I was so drawn to walks in the woods. There is something safe about being dwarfed by tall trees, leafy or stark. The theory is the leaves in summer emit moisture with their shade enhancing the cooling effect. For me I am happiest to be in a place where life exists mostly in and of itself. The toxic carbon dioxide humans exhale trees and plants thrive on. In exchange they return the favor with a clean supply of oxygen. Well, clean I suppose is relative to where you live. It seems a privilege to hear the private songs of birds, watch squirrels scramble for acorns. Something transportive yet so simple.

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Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu and I drive in early morning and arrive before dawn so we see and hear the waking of the day. Seems such a small thing, but pure in its moment-to-moment changing. We can barely see, then gradually colors appear. The green grasses and pines, the browns and greys of dormancy, the few bright-colored leaves that have not yet fallen. And in its stillness like a conductor raising his baton, the orchestra poised to begin yet another beautiful symphony.

And we get to be a part of this.

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