Archives for category: Oregon Trails

The sun rises later these days than it did back in June. The Autumnal Equinox is tomorrow. It’s quite early and I am at a local trailhead adjacent to a meadow, not far from home. I am waiting for the sunrise, drinking coffee, yawning, and wishing I had slept in. I’ve got my camera ready for my morning walk.

My morning camera walks serve a purpose; they get me out of the house with my camera for a bit of fun, exercise, and “me time”, and they also give my partner a shot at some deep sleep. (When I am asleep I sometimes snore, and when I am awake I am often a bit clumsy and noisy at least until I am fully awake). This approach works for us, but tends to be a seasonal solution. Already I have begun to resist waking up so early, where in past weeks I struggled to sleep during these early hours. The later sunrise is the culprit.

…The early hours betwixt day and night are a good time for meditation and reflection.

An orange glow begins as a thread on the horizon, becoming a sort of messy smudge as minutes pass. Still not enough light for my lens, and the trail alongside the park and meadow, which passes through a vineyard, is still quite dark. I wait. I yawn. I tried to snatch a few minutes of nap time for myself, but the mornings are now also too chilly and I don’t even doze off for a moment – I just yawn. lol

Waiting for the sunrise.

…I think about work and routines and future mornings and finish my coffee. I develop a cramp in my right foot and shift in my seat until I can easily massage it until the cramp eases. The western sky takes on hints of ultramarine and dark lavender. The eastern horizon becomes more peach and tangerine, with swaths of gray-blue clouds sweeping across the sky. This is not wasted time; I love watching the sun rise.

The dawn of a new day.

The sun is up. The coffee is gone. I’ve gotten a good walk in and snapped some pictures. My Traveling Partner sends me a message; he is awake. The day begins in earnest. I have no idea what today will bring… looks like it’s time to get started and find out. 😁

Queen Elizabeth passed away today. Good long run. An impressive legacy. She didn’t quite make it to 100 years. Seems like more people may be able to in the future, though, and perhaps longer if medical science continues to progress… how amazing would that be?

Juan and Marisa, in love on the beach in 2022… where will they be in 2083? Will their love last? What will they do with their lives? Will they be remembered?

I “went coastal” yesterday, to give my Traveling Partner (breathing)room to work on a complicated project without the unintended distractions of me just being around in the background. I don’t grudge him that time and space, and I genuinely enjoy getting away for a few solitary hours with camera in hand, walking new trails, seeing things from another perspective, and breathing the sea air. It reminds me of my Granny, and the many visits together to the seashore, or along the marshy estuaries of the Chesapeake Bay. I miss her greatly, and most of all when I am “at the shore”. Any shore. That was “us” – long car drives filled with conversation, and sunny hours “at the shore”. Fuck I do miss that woman. Often. I think maybe she would be proud of how far I have come.

I feel for the loved ones of Queen Elizabeth. They didn’t just lose a monarch – they lost their mother, grandmother, great-grandmother… they lost someone truly dear to them. That is painful stuff.

Traffic on the way home.

Yesterday afternoon I returned home, but my partner wasn’t finished with the work he was doing, and my excited-just-got-that-job-offer energy was definitely a distraction. After some testy unsatisfying exchanges that were well-intended and heartfelt, but painful, I suggested that I return to the coast today, and he was totally down for that. So… I did. Later, he indicated (text messaging for the win!) that he would need more time, really. So… I got a room on the coast for the night and went back to walking the beaches, stalking the birds with my camera, and feeling the sea breezes muss my hair. Frankly, I left the house this morning prepared for the potential usefulness in making a night of it, and I made a point to tuck the needed medications into my gear, and made a point of having alllll the batteries and devices charged up, and even took my laptop along with me (figuring that might be handy on an overnight). I even remembered spare socks and underwear. 😀 I didn’t go as far as packing an overnight bag, though now I wonder why. LOL

Oh… Yes, I got an excellent job offer from a company I’m eager to work for, on a team that looks like a great fit for me. I’m excited about it. It’s just not really the most important thing today. Honestly, neither is the death of a distant monarch (however badass she was, and omg she totally was a major badass). Today is breezy, relaxed, and sunny, and I am enjoying everything about that. Doing so while also being 100% certain I am not distracting my partner while he is working? Extra good. It’s enough. More than enough. It’s quite choice, and I am enjoying the day.

Where will I be in 2083? In my grave? Forgotten? Still alive, and so old that no one around me remembers that I was once a badass? My legacy forgotten? Alive and lively, loved and cared-for, with the kind of vast historical perspective that results in day-time news shows wanting to interview me about what I personally witnessed of history? Will my Traveling Partner and I continue to travel life’s journey together through all those decades ahead? Will we be little old people slowly walking the neighborhood holding hands and talking softly, laughing loudly? The future is not written, and this journey has no map…

The journey is the destination.

My thoughts come and go like the gulls beyond the balcony rail. They appear, they pass by, leaving only the recollection of a moment. I breathe, exhale, and relax. It’s a lovely moment for contemplation.

One of the things my partner and I were discussing last night was my anxiety. For sure my PTSD and my chronic anxiety issues are pretty well-managed compared to where I was 10 years ago…but… I still struggle more than I’d like to, and it affects my quality of life – and his. I guess it’s worth doing something about that. I feel a bit stalled and struggle with the learned helplessness that inevitably results from dealing with a chronic condition for a long time. I already know, though, that there are steps to take and things to do. It’s time to step through those, and try some things differently. It was one productive outcome of our conversation; a sense of focus and purpose, and an idea of direction. That’s not nothing – it’s a place to start.

It’s a good time to begin again.

I woke early-ish, pulled on my clothes still only half awake, and grabbed my camera gear. I heard my Traveling Partner call out to me as I neared the door (“he’s awake?”) and turned back for a “see you in a little while” and a kiss. The sun hadn’t yet risen as I reached the highway heading out of town to the nearby nature preserve (great bird-watching, and well-maintained trails). Lovely morning for it, I thought to myself.

Sunrise over a misty morning along the marsh-side trail.

It’s a Sunday, and I’m thinking I’ll get out into the garden this morning. After I finish my coffee. After I upload all these photos. After I finish feeling more like relaxing than I feel like getting shit done. lol

It was a good morning for pictures of birds.

I enjoyed the drive. There was almost no traffic at all so early on a Sunday morning. I enjoyed the misty dawn and the pale pinks and peaches of the sunrise as it developed into a new day. I enjoyed the walk down the trail alongside the marsh. I enjoyed the moments, sitting quietly, watching for the next interesting picture to unfold in front of my camera lens.

I wasn’t alone on the trail. I wasn’t even the only person on the trail with a camera.

The last several times I’ve come to this location for my camera walk in the morning, I find myself parked next to the same other person. Another woman enjoying her morning walk, camera ready for action, a portable seat or cushion with her (I have a compact folding stool, myself). We greet each other as friends, at this point, and sometimes share a portion of the walk, even stopping for similar shots along our path. We talk of other locations we favor, and share experiences (“Did you see the pelicans?”, “I got a great shot of the swallows yesterday!”). We make jokes now about the morning not seeming complete if we don’t see the other person’s car in the parking lot. She has a much fancier camera and lens than I do. I mentioned how awesome it would be to have that kind of “reach”… she smiles and admits it is pretty nice, then comments that she often regrets the choice; it’s very heavy, and sometimes the weight limits how far she will walk. I admit that I enjoy the lightweight gear I’ve got so much that I don’t have any immediate plan to get a larger lens. We agree that the gear has less to do with the quality of our images than our limited skill – and our good fortune on timing and location. At some point, if we’re walking together as we were this morning, our paths will take us different directions. That’s the way of things, isn’t it? We are each having our own experience, walking our own paths, and any momentary companionship, however genial, is quite temporary. 🙂

I smile and sip my coffee. Does it taste better because I went for quite a long walk beforehand? I for sure appreciate the warmth of the mug in my hand after the chilly morning on the marsh.

Pelican. Also, swallow. This is what “luck” looks like in a photograph.

I finally see a pelican, after a couple visits to this location. People on the trail had been mentioning them for the last couple times I’ve been here, but I haven’t seen them. Probably didn’t walk far enough in the correct direction…? This morning, I see one solitary pelican. I watch for awhile, take numerous pictures, and while I was doing that, I was got seriously lucky; the pelican flared out its wings, and shook itself out in the early morning light. Amusingly, I also captured a swallow in flight in the same shot. I’ve been trying to take pictures of swallows there over the marsh for weeks without luck; they’re very fast, and swoopy. Hard to get a good picture. This time, I got several good pictures of swallows – but I didn’t know it until I got home. They just happened to be in several pictures I took of other things. LOL That’s so often the way of it, is it not? I think there’s something to be learned here.

Where does this path lead?

As the morning began to warm, more visitors appear on the trail. I turn back toward the parking lot, thinking thoughts of home, of love, and of a good cup of coffee. I think about perspective, and of a future not yet determined. I fill my lungs with the scent of meadow flowers, realizing how very much I enjoy the fragrance of wild carrot (“Queen Anne’s Lace”) and yarrow, mingling with meadow grasses and late summer wildflowers.

What a pleasant morning. I think about the garden as I sip my coffee. Seeds are selected. Crops that are finished have been cleared out, their left over leaves and stems chopped up and mulched into the bed. Crops that just didn’t do as well as I’d hoped and seem unlikely to produce a harvest this year (looking your way, melons) will be cleared away, too. Then I’ll add compost and bring the bed level up again (it compressed quite a bit after I initially filled the raised bed my partner built for me), and plant new crops for autumn harvest and for wintering over. I have a lot to learn about gardening. LOL

I sip my coffee and grin at myself at ever thinking I had any idea about “how to garden”. I’ve been gardening in my half-assed way for some 50 years… since I was a kid. My parents had a substantial garden, and I labored in it weekends and summers (mostly weeding and bitching about weeding). I had a small plot of my own that I rather foolishly planted in Jerusalem artichokes, which thrived to an unimaginable degree – cool enough and the flowers were pretty, but no one in the family actually enjoyed them as a food. So… kinda silly and as it turned out, a waste of garden space. Very low maintenance. I learned nothing much from the endeavor besides this one important lesson; grow what you will use and enjoy. That’s not nothing, but hardly worth the mammoth effort involved in keeping those ‘chokes cut back season after season. lol

I have since had small garden beds, container gardens, and patio gardens… all rather fortunately focused mostly on roses and a few herbs. Occasionally I’d grow some veggies, and get something wonderful for my efforts (supremely tasty cherry tomatoes one year, another year a bumper crop of amazing Swiss chard), but I’ve tended to be both lazy and disorganized, and prone to letting shit fall behind when the heat is worst and the garden most in need of my attention day-to-day. No excuses, and I’m not looking to rationalize my results, I’m just saying; I am not my idea of a “great gardener”.

Now I’ve got this home that is mine, and this raised bed out front that my partner built for me, surrounded by flower beds. I’ll only get the results I work for, and that’s one of life’s immutable truths, isn’t it? My partner has set me up for success, though, with a raised bed that is comfortable to work in, close to water, within constant view, and I do adore it. 😀 I find myself ready to admit I’m not a very good gardener and work toward being a better one. That’s a nice place to find myself. It’s a good place to stand, considering options and looking ahead.

It’s time to begin again.

This morning I’m all smiles. I had a lovely day with my Traveling Partner, yesterday. It finished well. Life feels balanced, and I am contented. Sure, sure, still looking for a job, so there’s that, but I don’t see that it has any requirement to be a massive continuous buzzkill every minute of every day… or… any minutes. Ever. I know “this too will pass” – doesn’t matter whether it’s a good mood, a bad mood, a wonderful moment, a tragedy; moments are moments. Transient. Finite. Limited. Very little in a single human life is so dire that despair is truly warranted (that’s one of the things that makes despair so terrible and terrifying – it feels like “everything”, and it’s very “sticky”). I enjoy the smile on my face, take a sip of this glass of water, and listen to a video that makes me smile with such tremendous delight it’s hard to move on to the next one. No, I’m not linking it; delight is not “universal”, and what tickles me so profoundly may be disturbing or offensive or puzzling for someone else. No point. Hit up Google or YouTube, find your groove. 😉

Different day, different meadow.

I went to the nearby nature reserve this morning to get shots of birds. I got there just at daybreak; first car into the park. Choice. The summer-scented air was fragrant with meadow flowers and a hint of marsh. The morning was very quiet and quite overcast. I grabbed my gear and walked down the path to a spot I know is a good one for taking pictures of birds. No birds. It was rather as if the wildlife decided to sleep in on this quiet gray morning. I walked on. Snapped some pictures of flowers, the skyline, reflections on the water. Kept walking. Eventually my Traveling Partner pinged me.

My last trip was more “productive”, if I choose to define it that way – there were more birds.
I got a lot of chances to improve on my skills at taking pictures of birds that day.

There’s no expectation that I’ll cut my camera time short when my partner wakes, although I do try to “stay gone” long enough for him to sleep in, should he choose to and find himself able. Still… not much going on in the nature park, so I turned back and walked back to the parking lot. I passed a lot of other visitors with cameras. By the time I was within view of the parking lot, the path down to the meadow looked like a fucking camera convention. Individuals and groups, each taking some favored spot, waiting, watching, hoping for a great shot of… something. (Anything – other than each other.) lol I see a lot of really fancy gear as I pass other visitors. I could easily be overcome with dissatisfaction and “gear envy”…but it’s not my way. Like, I mean, explicitly not my choice to be thusly overcome; I get some great shots with my modest gear. I enjoy it as it is. It’s often so much more about location, timing, and willingness to walk on, or sit quietly awhile, and less to do with the gear, generally. 🙂 A lot of life is like that. Even mindfulness practices – anyone can (people often do) spend a ton of money on coaches, consultants, therapists, or “specialists” to learn to sit quietly, breathe, and relax. (It’s even possible to take an expensive destination retreat at an actual monastery, should you have the desire and the resources. It’s not necessary to do so, though, at all.) It’s not even a certainty that spending that kind of money on breathing exercises and mindfulness practices will “pave the trail” for you more skillfully than taking it upon yourself to read a book and begin practicing practices. It’s more about the verbs than the dollars.

…I’m one of those people, by the way. No kidding. I was at the edge and still spiraling down, and I felt wholly defeated. I spent a notable amount of my limited resources on therapy. Doing so saved my life. Looking back, I can see how easily I could have made that journey, perhaps, without spending that money…only… I didn’t, because I wasn’t able to. I did not know what I did not know. I needed that help. So I did the needful and took steps to get the help I needed. Did my therapist do more than point me in the direction of reading different books, or helping me practice other practices? Oh, for sure. Real therapy. I needed a lot of help making that healing journey (that is still in progress), and part of that process was gaining a better understanding of my actual legit issues. Still… it is possible to make a healing journey without a map. It isn’t about the money.

I prepared my reading list so that someone who maybe can’t at all afford the expense of therapy in their here-and-now could still benefit from the foundations of the journey I’m taking myself. I write this blog for that same reason – and also because I often find that I “fail to take my own good advice” because I’ve lost perspective over time. This blog is something of a repository of my notes about this journey, and my changing perspective over time – a reminder that it can be done, because I’ve done it, just in case I find myself doubting. (I’m very human.)

What a lovely morning this is, so far. It may last the day. It may not. So much of that is up to me. I’ve got choices to make. Practices to practice. Verbs to put into motion. It’s time to begin again.

Good steps to begin a journey:

  1. Do something differently. (Follow-up)
  2. What about self-care?
  3. Maybe just don’t be in your own way?

I came home from my camping trip a day early. No particular reason, aside from knowing my Traveling Partner was missing me, and the day looked rainy when I woke this morning, and honestly? I felt “done”. It was a great camping trip, filled with self-reflection, meditation, coffee-drinking (it was terrible), sleeping on the ground (with very comfortable mats, and it was deeply restful, if not continuous), birdsong, breezes, and aggravatingly long walks to well-cared for vault toilets. So… it was a good camping trip that met many needs, with few complaints (I’d have to really dig deep, and I don’t care to make that effort just now).

I got to the site on Sunday, earlier than I’d planned – and damn am I grateful that I made that change! The peak heat of the day hit 96 degrees, even out there in the trees, and there was no breeze to cool off with that day. The air was still and stifling hot. My gear felt heavy. So heavy. I broke it down into smaller loads and slowed down; 4 trips down the trail and back to get my gear into camp. By the end of that first day, I was exhausted. I was also fine. I made a point to drink ample water, and brought a good supply of my own on the chance that the water in the park might for any reason be limited, inaccessible to me, or not potable for some reason. I also stocked the big cooler with proper electrolyte beverages (in this case, Pedialyte). I was glad I did. That first day could have turned out poorly without good hydration – and a plan to stay well-hydrated in spite of the heat.

Time well-spent.

The days rolled by gently, and the weather cooled off for the rest of my time out among the trees. That first night several large-ish groups and several obvious families lugged their gear down into the camp site, got set up, got frustrated with the heat, packed up all their shit and headed back out before the sun ever even set. By morning, there were only three sites occupied (out of 21), and I may as well have been alone. The solitude was drenching and thoroughly delightful. I wiled away quite a few lovely hours just listening to the wind blow, the chatter of nearby chipmunks, and the buzzing of insect life all around me. I let everything else just… go. Once, during the night, on one evening or another, my anxiety began to flare up for no obvious reason. My brain chased after it, like a cat after a dangled string. I got up from my resting place, restlessly, and wandered out into the darkness. I spotted the fat golden moon – some “super moon” or another. It was lovely and large, looming over the night, peeking through the hemlocks and maples. My anxiety fled – it could not compete with that fat round moon. LOL

Lovely quiet days. Lovely quiet nights. I read a book my Traveling Partner gave me (Richard Feynman’s “Six Easy Pieces”). I drank dreadful instant coffee, smiling so hard my face hurt. I relaxed. Thoroughly. I slept well and deeply. I even managed to enjoy my stay without becoming a feast for the mosquitoes – only just found a couple bites this afternoon, on my shoulder in a spot I obviously missed with the Deet. LOL There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

I glance at my email. Messages from friends and former colleagues, things that can wait for tomorrow. Soon enough to begin again.