Mountain Snow

We left the blizzard at the beach and headed for lesser snow in the mountains. We went from about a foot of snow to about six inches of snow. Once we got out of the city limits the roads were in fairly good condition. I thought I’d post a few pictures of Dirt Man and my excursion through the woods. Wylie, the Abominable Snow Dog, couldn’t roam with us as she had already done much romping on her own and had an ice cut between her paw pads . It wasn’t a bad cut, but we didn’t want to make her injury worse.

We saw animal prints in the snow all through the woods. I am guessing these are squirrel prints since they are heading straight up the tree. We saw deer and bear prints as well. We also saw a lot of turkey scratchings. We actually came upon a gang of turkeys.

There also was much virgin territory.  Much of the snow was soft, but there was a crunch between layers of snow as we walked. I’m not sure how much snow was on the ground before this last snow fall. We started our walk heading up the mountain. We hadn’t gone far when I began to curse myself for suggesting it. It didn’t take much to get me winded. I suppose when I am not out exerting myself weekly my body goes into a slack mode! Once we had gotten off the snow packed road and in snow where we could get more traction on level ground, it was much easier to walk.

We came across a lot of hunting stands, most of which are just flat bases in the trees. I suppose this one is a “deluxe” since it is enclosed with widnows and a door, and two ladders, no less.

Even the dried weeds take on a stark beauty in contrast of the snow.

An azure sky peaked through the naked tree tops.

We followed an old railroad bed (used to haul lumber in the mid to late 20’s) for a ways. There was a set of large bear prints on the left and a set of small ones running on the right side. I am guessing it was a mama bear and cub. The prints followed the bed for quite a while. Instead of following it the entire way to the road we wanted to take, we decided to cut through a mountain ridge. We skied down the mountain…without skis! I only fell twice and caught myself with my hand both times. It was a matter of walking sideways, digging our feet into the leaves, sticks, and rocks beneath the snow. We sort of slid from tree to tree until we reached the bottom. At one point, Dirt Man was almost taken out by a squirrel whizzing by. It was a hilarious sight watching that squirrels barely touch the ground at top speed as he skied past us down the mountain.When we got to the bottom there were two sets of barbed wire, one old and rusty and one new,  at the edge of the bank. Dirt Man held up the barbed wire so I could go under it. At that point I had lost my footing and slid right beneath it, sliding on my butt down the bank, hitting my rear on a rock in the process and landing on my feet on the road below the bank! It was alomost like sleigh riding…without the sleigh!

After that, we took the highway back and cut through a nature trail. This was the “bridge” we crossed to get to the trail. No, I did not fall off. It actually is wider than it looks.

Parts of the creek were frozen over. I think this was the first time I’ve ever been in cold air and snow for that long without feeling cold. This year I was prepared (clothing wise) for the cold temperatures. Dirt Man had bought me fleece lined jeans for Christmas and I had purchased fleece layers this year. I can defintely agree that comfort is all in layering the proper clothing.

A Beach Blizzard To Make Even Dairy Queen Jealous!

Our intentions had been to be snowed in at the mountains today. That is not to be, at least not today. We are snowed in at the beach. They ended up getting about four inches of snow in the mountains, and we have at least six inches here. It is steadily snowly big thick flakes. It is calling for this to continue for about twenty-two more hours with accumulation amounting to about twelve inches. As much as I wanted to be snowed in with our family in the mountains, it is equally nice being snowed in with my family here at the beach! Yes, it even snows at the beach, rarely that it amounts to anything though!

Wylie is the Abominable SnowDog! She loves the snow! She will run through it, roll in it, and then just lay there eating it. She is living up to her name. In case you don’t know Dirt Man originally wanted to name her Yeti because of her huge feet. I didn’t think it was very nice for a cute puppy, so we did a transalation search which wielded Wylie in Tibetan.

We’ve gotten at least three more inches of snow since I took these photographs. I didn’t venture far, only in the back yard.  I would have built a snowman, but Wylie was more into playing chase.

Wylie is lying on the picnic table eating snow.

No birds today! Even the squirrels have taken refuge…but they ate all of the birdseed first!

The tree branches look so pretty laden with snow.

No one will be waterbiking today! Anyone have a snow mobile?!

Another shot of the trees in my backyard.

These are what all four of Wylie’s feet look like after a romp in the snow. Ah, the joys of owning a doodle! The snow forms into balls on her hair. We clipped the hair between her paw pads this year because last year she got balls of snow between her pads. This worked out well. The snow balls pull right off. I run a comb through to get out any snow clumps close to her skin, and Wylie sits nicely while I do this…she actually eats what I pull out!

Christmas Blessings

Santa doesn’t come to our house anymore. Christmas still comes, but in much simpler ways.

I no longer have excited children wake me up at three am wanting to go downstairs to see if Santa came. (We have a dog who wakes us up at seven to go outside!)

No one rushes to see what was left under the tree. (The dog noses her stocking to get out her stuffed toys and the grown children sleep in!)

No one checks for evidence of reindeer hoof prints outside anymore. (The dog creates her own paw prints outside!)

No one leaves milk and cookies. (The dog wishes someone had left out milk and cookies!)

I am now told one’s simple wants or needs. I am not given a long extravagant list. They don’t ask for much and are easy to please. (The dog is even happy with a pat and a treat!)

I am able to look past the Christmas magic and delight in things I’d always taken for granted. I delight in the kindness shown to one another, shared laughter, hugs, (dog licks!) and a meal together. (The dog is delighted to be included in the family activities, especially if any food is accidentally dropped!)

Though Christmas is less rushed and exciting, the warmth is still here. (Especially if the dog happens to be lying across your lap!)

This Christmas I am thankful for God who has blessed me with a wonderful life and His special gift. I am thankful for my family and friends. Yes, and the dog…we can’t forget Wylie! I am thankful that I have a home to shield me from the elements, clothes on my back, and food to eat. And I am thankful for all of those material things that make life easier. But mostly, I am thankful for love…for without it, life would not be worth it. I am truly blessed Christmas and everyday, and I am thankful.

Living A Life Of Grace

When I was young I interpreted grace as elegance. I thought of it as an outward elegance of the way in which one carried herself. I visualized grace as Jacqueline Kennedy or Grace Kelly. I thought it was physical beauty in fluid movement. Then as I became older I saw it more as kindness, and also as a blessing. I’ve come to know grace as an internal goodness that is both an elegance of it’s own and a blessing.

I have been fortunate enough in my lifetime to have known more than one person whom I have considered to be the epitome of grace. Today we laid one of them to rest. He was a refined, soft-spoken, and kind man. He was a selfless man. I took a look at his life today at how he quietly touched lives. He did the things he did out of love. He did not want or expect anything in return. I am honored to have known him as both a friend and neighbor.

This was a man of grace. This is the kind of person I can only wish to be.

“Amazing Grace” is a hymn sang at many funerals. It always moves me. Today, I looked at it a bit differently. We each have the ability to exemplify grace every single day. It’s a choice. It’s an internal attitude. We also have the opportunity to edify others daily. This also is a choice. Both are blessings in fluid movement.

I want to share with you both the lyrics and song.

 

Amazing Grace

John Newton (1725-1807)

http://www.constitution.org/col/amazing_grace.htm

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Getting Through The Thick Of It

Truth is the torch that gleams through the fog without dispelling it. -Claude Adrien Helvetius
 

There are times we seem to exist in a fog of mental clarity. The stresses of life cloud our visibility. Sometimes we are so bogged down by the past, that our current reality ceases to exist. We might be so focused on memories that we neglect to see what is right in front of us. We seclude ourselves to the point that only memories can touch us. We become lost in a haze. Sometimes we need to reject the redundant so that we may see the essential.

Other times we live in a fog of indecision or uncertainty. We feel restless and our lives have no direction. It is as if we are caught in the midst of contradiction. Sometimes, being uncomfortable moves us to action. Sometimes it determines us to regain our power and confidence. Sometimes, we just need to give the fog time to lift and we find that the answers were within us all along.

We can search so deeply for truth that we are swallowed by our own doubt. We grasp for meaning within the confusion. Life loses its color, and we live in shades of gray. Sometimes, it is at that point of internal discomfort that the light of truth filters into our being. The power of truth illuminates the fog that surrounds us. Sometimes, we only need truth to see clearly.

And there are times that we don’t find answers or truth. Nor do we find directions or instructions. We can either grasp our way in the fog or refocus our energies in other things. When we reach through the thickness to those we love and expect to support us, their advice is really of no consequence. Sometimes, it is simply enough for them to listen, acknowledge, and love us back. Sometimes, we  need to remember that we travel in circles, and as we let the mist settle into our skin, we will find ourselves again.

A Segment Of Sometimes Series

The Dawn Of Another Day

This song always moves me to tears, whether it is the secular version or the hymn. I knew it as a pop song long before I ever knew it as a hymn. I remember the awe I felt the first time I sang this in church. It immediately became one of my favorites. There is something very powerful when a group of people join together to give praise in the form of music.

This song might evoke gratitude from you. It might lead you to praise who or what it is that you think responsible for your existence. It might remind you of what your faith is to you. It might fill you with wonder and awe at all of the complexity and beauty of life.

When I think of the break of morning, I think of a new day, another chance for whatever I dream. I think of opportunity arising with the sun each morning. It’s been the same scenario since the dawn of time. We get chance after chance. Every day is a new beginning. We can take any part of our lives and start over.

With the sunrise, I am given the prospect of clemency. I am given a clean slate. Some mornings I reach out and grab it with both hands. Most often, I seem to procrastinate. I dawdle. I think of things I’d like to attempt. I dream of things I‘d like to achieve. But I don’t move myself to action. I don’t make concrete plans. I don’t set goals. I don’t push myself to attain the impossible. It’s hard enough for me to just take a step outside the box. And yet hope comes in every sunrise. A hope of possibility. The gift of another day of life. I praise the grace of fresh opportunity I am offered each day. Though I am thankful. I cling to my old ways like dew or frost to the morning grass. By the time, I’ve convinced myself to go forward to take a chance at some far away dream, the sun goes down and the dream dies with the advent of the moon. I deny, sigh, and rely to get by. After all, I am at peace. I am happy.

I ask myself why I should be selfish and want for more. Do I really want anything to change? I have never liked change. I take comfort in the familiar. And then again, I wonder if I lack faith to venture into the world. Do I have confidence in my talents? Can I not rely on my own instincts? Do I not trust in what is greater than me? Or have I just become complacent is this world?

I guess it comes down that these things I think I want to do aren’t really dreams or real desires. If they were, I’d reach for them, even through clouds of fear. These are more like daydreams. I am a person who likes to dawdle in many things, but I never seem to settle my spirit on perfecting the art of just one. Maybe there are too many options under the sun, and I don’t want to miss playing around with them all.

When I sip on my morning coffee, the sun has already risen over the trees and is brightly shining through the windows of my life. I listen to the squirrels scampering over the roof of my house, and I can hear the birds serenading the morning with song. This is the dew of my day: I can take a towel and wipe it off or I can bask in the sunshine while the moisture of life seeps into my soul. As I look out my window this morning, I see that the trees are still and only a small patch of blue is peeking through the clouds. I realize that if I want my sky today I am going to have to reach out and grab it with both hands, and if I need the wind to lift me high enough, I will need to create my own. And yet though it sounds impossible, I know as positively as the sun will brighten my day that I do have faith in all that resides around me and within me.

Tomorrow, the day will break as usual, will I sing with the birds? Will you?

Northwest River Park In Autumn

The weekend after we got back from our trip out West, we continued our weekend journeys into the natural areas around us. We wanted to continue hiking (and biking) on the weekends. We want to work on our strength, stamina, and endurance skills. And after being at such a high elevation, we felt the need for grounding ourselves here in Virginia. We were coming down from a somewhat spiritual adventure, and we needed to touch base with the sacred here at home. We headed back out to Northwest River Park, hoping that we weren’t too late to witness the lovely Autumn colors.

This is a bizarre fungus on a tree, unlike any growth we’ve seen before. While it has a mushroom consistency, it is very hairylike.

We were not at all disappointed in the abundance of scarlet, gold,orange, and green. The forest floor was covered in fallen leaves…so much that we couldn’t find the trails at first. We didn’t bring our trail map. Once we found one trail, we were able to see the markers on the trees, and you could tell most of the trails by the clear cuts. We could hear the woodpeckers above the rustling of the dead leaves as we trudged through.

Wylie was delighted to be free for a bit. She ran and played and met lots of new human friends.

Then, Wylie met Rosie and Tucker, her very first equestrian acquaintances ever. The horses were unfazed by Wylie. However, Wylie was petrified of them!

The fall folliage beautifully reflected in the water and sunlight.

I felt like we had only walked a short bit. When we arrived home after the ride from the park, I felt kind of stiff which surprised me since I didn’t think we’d gone far. Dirt Man informed me we’d actually hiked six miles. I guess I really am getting used to this. Things here on the East Coast are not quite as magnificently sized or geologically challenged as we witnessed out West, but it sure is good to be home. Home soothes my soul.

As We Journey Through Time

It is seldom that life is an even playing field. We generally have peaks and valleys to cross, rivers to swim, and mountains to climb to get exactly where we want to be. Of course, life is what we make it. We all have different priorities and different roads to travel to our destinations. Sometimes, it helps to stop and take in the view along the way to be appreciative of our current circumstances.

We usually come upon curves on the road of life. Sometimes, there is even a swamp holding us from reaching the place we want to be. Almost always, there is a bridge of some sort to help us cross over to our promised land.

And then there are times we feel like we are zig-zagging through life. Not really going up nor down, just trudging in and out. We feel like we’re getting nowhere fast. If we look hard enough there might be some flowers along the way. There might be a lesson tucked beneath a rock. Sometimes, we are totally unaware of why we feel stagnant, and only on looking back can we see the wisdom in the trail.

Sometimes, there is an easy well built set of stairs for us to climb to get where we are going. Maybe it was meticulous  planning on our part or maybe someone came before us and laid it out ahead of time. Maybe we are following the steps of those taken before us.

Often the pursuit of whatever we are looking for is a steep and treacherous climb. We may feel overwhelmed or even defeated, but it’s important to just keep trying. Sometimes, it not as far away or as difficult to achieve as we anticipated it to be.

When the goal is in sight, hope returns. Our strength soars. Sometimes, a little hope is all we need to reenergize ourselves to complete the task before us.

When we reach the intended point, we feel a sense of freedom. Sometimes, we find that having the faith to go the distance was really what the journey was all about anyway. Sometimes, truth stands alone, but there is no greater peace than having traveled long enough to find a place to settle down with happiness.

A Segment of Sometimes Series

Hoping That Old Smokey Is Not Burning Out On Me

Plop. Scrape. Crunch. Ping. Ping. Ping. Silence.

Hmmm. What the heck is my car trying to say to me? My car and I obviously do not speak the same language. In my language that would translate to my hip/back hurts like crazy, so I’m going to rest my weary bones…thus the sudden silence upon sitting. I am not a car doctor (mechanic), nor am I an informed operator. My extent of auto intellect rests in the ability to drive from one short distance to another. Shoot, my car contains parts I don’t even know how to pronounce, therefore I am at a loss.

I take a left turn on my street two doors from my house, and it makes all this racket. I must mention it is dark, and Dirt Man is not yet home. I go inside for a flashlight to peer beneath the car. Hmmm….there’s a pipe hanging out? Exhaust pipe? Is it supposed to be hanging that low? Did it scrape the asphalt? Was that the noise I heard?

Since I’m not sure, I decide to walk back to where I heard the sound and make sure something did not fall out from beneath my car into the road. I also want to rule out hitting anything like a small animal or running over something that could have damaged those important pieces that I don’t know the names of that live under my car.

Thankfully, I do not see any blood, guts, or otherwise evidence that I have run over any forms of life, nor do I see any tree limbs, rocks, or other debris. I do not detect any objects lying in the road or off to the sides that could have fallen from my car.

Dirt Man comes home and checks out my car. All looks fine. I ask about the “thing” hanging from the rear. Ok, it is the exhaust and it’s right where it’s supposed to be.

A few days later we take the car out in the daylight. No noise. What? So, it only likes yelling at me? Dirt Man pulls it into the neighborhood school parking lot, and we proceed to go on a nauseating “stop, go, lunge, brake, to the left as quickly as we can, and sharp right circle, and over and over” amusement park ride. Car: Small crunch. Ping. Ping. Keeps on going. Me: Trying not to throw up. Dirt Man: “Sounds like it might be in the brakes.” We go back onto the roadway. Ping. Ping. Ping. (Sounds like something is flapping.) Silence. No more noise for the rest of the day. The rain starts coming down, so therefore, Dirt Man will not be out trying to work on the “Old Smokey Oyster” as I named it last year. (It took time to find the perfect name!)

I continue on with my errands for the rest of the day. Smokey starts, stops, and does all I command of him. Silently. He is not speaking to me. I wonder if he is going to catch me off guard in some forsaken place and leave me stranded. I guess there’s no reason to be concerned since I probably will not go more than two miles from my house. Seriously, I seldom ever put more than ten miles a week on my car…usually it’s more like five.

I always find it interesting how much a car tells about a person’s personality and priorities. While I find the new models of the Outback to be seductive and alluring, it is not a necessary expense. If I worked outside my home, I’d consider the investment of a new car. I find the Old Smokey Oyster to be dependable (even though it is currently back talking me!) and fits perfectly with my needs. I like simple dependency with the capability of accomplishing small adventures(AWD). I love my Suby. I am not a flashy sports car kind of gal, nor am I a soccer mom van woman, or a big truck driving mama. I like the versatility of a car that is roomy enough to take the dog or haul hiking equipment. And though I always said I hated leather seats, now that I have them and a “bun warmer” built into them, I don’t ever want to go back to cloth or cold seats.

Smokey is getting old, but I’m not ready to say goodbye. After all, he is a member of the family. And not that I particularly like for him to make unforeseen utterances, I wish he’d let us know what his problem is before I take off and get caught in the cold or snow. Can you give a girl a break, Smokey? And not the “Plop. Scrape. Crunch. Ping. Ping. Ping.” kind of break!

Are You On Sale?

Only when we give joyfully, without hesitation or thought of gain, can we truly know what love means. -Leo Buscaglia
 
We all come with a price tag. Whether we want to admit it or not. It occurs in politics, policies of organizations, churches, schools, corporations, families, and relationships. It comes in the form of bartering, bargaining, tit for tats, and you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. We compromise. We settle. We give, and we take. It’s a vicious cycle.
 
This time of year is considered a season of giving. Are you a selfish giver or a selfless giver? Do you give in order to receive or do you give from the goodness of your heart, not expecting anything in return?
 
So, what is your cost? Does it have to be monetary amount or are you willing to give yourself in time and talents? Will you sacrifice to help others? I mean will you forego that Starbucks latte and treat someone cold and hungry to a meal? Or must there be something in it for you?Giving feels good, not only to the receiver but to the giver. It feels so much better than receiving. Doesn’t it make  your heart feel good to know you’ve helped someone in need? A smile or sentiment of appreciation, or if the gift is anonymous, just knowing you’ve helped someone should lift your spirits. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a much needed and unexpected gift when times were hard, you know exactly how much your donation means.
 
 “Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.” -Blaise Pascal
Being kind to others cost you absolutely nothing at all. Not everyone has money to offer or material gifts to pass on, but everyone can lift others with a smile or gentle words. Manners go a long way. When I shop this time of year, I generally encounter two types of people. There are the rude ones who push others around with angry words and gestures, and there are the ones with smiles on their faces and pleasant greetings. You better believe the type I encounter definitely sets the mood that I’ll wear home. If you open a door for someone or let them go first, generally you’ll get a smile in return. Kindness is contagious! I often see people fighting over parking places. Personally, I don’t get into that kind of ruckus. I purposely park a bit farther back because I know I can use the exercise, and I’ve never found anyone fighting over those spaces!
  

“No vision and you perish; No Ideal, and you’re lost; Your heart must ever cherish Some faith at any cost. Some hope, some dream to cling to, Some rainbow in the sky, Some melody to sing to, Some service that is high.” – Harriet Du Autermont

I could not post about giving to others without telling you what my friend (the mother of my Godchildren), her husband, and their children, ages 4 and 2, are doing for the twenty-five days of Christmas. Every single day, they are giving of themselves, or making, buying, and delivery goods to the people in need in their community. I have to add that they have just moved to this town, and they have pushed themselves to get out in their community and make a difference. They started their first day off with the mom donating blood by her son’s request to his school’s blood drive. The children have twice bought and delivered dinner for a kind homeless man. They have bought hats, gloves, and food for a winter drive at school. They purchased and decorated small Christmas trees and delivered them to a nursing home. They delivered stockings of toothpaste, brushes, and hats to the Salvation Army. These are just a few of the things they have done. They have plans for each day, and sometimes (like dinner for the homeless man, or money being dropped into the kettle) little extras occur. I am so proud of my friends for teaching their children the love and joy of giving to others without question.

While I can’t claim to have done all these things myself this year,  I must say I am truly inspired to do more than I have. I used to do these types of things with my children when they were younger. We loved making Christmas boxes at church to send to children overseas. We did the Angel Tree gifts, and the senior gifts at the nursing homes. I admit I have not done any of those things this year or donated my time or services to any organizations. However, I usually do still make monetary donations. This year, I have an elderly friend that I want to make sure is not lonely or left out this season. And I plan to bake and deliver my usual array of goodies. Not much on the big scale of things, but I know it will bring a smile to some faces, and a certain friend’s heart will be warmed knowing she is loved and remembered this Christmas. 
 
Are you wearing a price tag this season or are you on special for the holidays?
 

 

Christmas Elves delivering trees to a nursing home.