Adelaide’s Journal – Chapter 1

She was first known as Puncture Dog. Found in a ditch by Animal Control in Nelson County, VA, the tiny tri-colored stray was dehydrated, emaciated, covered in ticks, and infested with parasites.  Taken directly to the Lovingston Veterinarian Hospital,  she was hooked up to fluids and three people picked ticks off her for 20 minutes.  They cleaned the maggots from the wounds on her back and on both back legs, gave her antibiotics, dewormer, and a flea/tick treatment.  Tests for Lyme and Ehrlichia were positive.  No one knew for certain what happened to her; maybe she’d been attacked by a bear or coyote.

Varied paperwork showed her age estimates at 2, 3, or 4 years of age. Whatever year she was actually born, it appears that Puncture Dog may never have any known history prior to June 26, 2017 at 1:15pm. Intake history also reveals that on her BCS (Body Condition Score), a range of 1-5, with 5 being good health, Puncture Dog was scored as 1. She was much closer to death than life.

After three days of hospitalization, Dr. Ligon discharged Puncture Dog to Animal Control, who was required to keep her for a week from the day she was discovered to give her owner time to find her. But no one came forward for the sweet little stray, so Animal Control released her to the Nelson County Humane Society, a giant treasure of a small no-kill shelter, also known as Almost Home and The Little Shelter that Can. There, Puncture Dog was tenderly and lovingly greeted and cared for by deeply devoted staff. Fonda Bell also re-named Puncture Dog; she became Adelaide.

Two days after Adelaide entered Almost Home, I woke to find an email from Flower Vankan, who, with her husband Ed, are adoption counselors at Almost Home. Several weeks earlier, Flower had helped me re-home my cherished Beau, a long-legged, three-year-old Beagle-Whippet that I’d adopted the previous year. Beau had become too strong for me to handle when he saw deer, abundant on my quiet wooded country acreage. The day he jumped his fence because a deer was on the other side, I knew I could no longer keep him safe from the risk of being hit by a car or truck if he were chasing a deer. I called Almost Home and connected with Flower, who arranged Beau’s transition to his new owner Liz. In a moment I will never forget, the moment Liz and Beau met at the Crozet dog park, he ran to greet her and the oxygen filled with love at first sight. Theirs is a relationship that I feel reverential about. I have been writing that story in Beau’s Journal.

***

Flower’s email, said:

Good morning Mary Jo.  I hope you are doing well.  I know Beau is thriving! 

 I heard through the grapevine that you might be interested in getting a smaller, more manageable, less energetic dog someday.  You might not be ready yet, but when you are I’d love to help you.  That being the case, I want to tell you about this very sweet little dog our shelter took custody of 2 days ago.  She is a little bit shy but EVERYONE just loves her.  Please read about her below.  I will be at the shelter today and tomorrow from 11:00 am until 2:30 pm and I would love to introduce her to you IF you’d like to meet her.  Of course, there will be NO obligation on your part to adopt her…but I think a calm, loving home like yours (where she would never be hurt again) would be perfect for her.  AND…she might be your little cup of tea too.  

Thinking of you with love in my heart.  (You sure turned Beau into a wonderful doggie!)  Flower

Along with some of the information in the opening paragraph, Flower wrote: Adelaide is so skinny that her little head is bony.  She is missing some hair due to tick infestation and poor nutrition.  Her hair is sure to grow back and be very soft, once good nutrition kicks in.  She stayed at Lovingston Vet for three nights, receiving their TLC the entire time and by the time she left, she was wagging her tail and eating hungrily. 

Adelaide is tiny (about 14 pounds) but of course needs to gain a few pounds.  After she gains some weight and strength, she will be spayed (probably a week from now).  Even though her body isn’t feeling its best right now, her little spirit is beginning to feel happy.  And oh how we love being part of her happiness and healing process.

Once she is spayed, she will need to be kept calm for a week while she heals from it.  Anyone who has ever had a “little” Beagle knows how special they are.  They make wonderful house pets! 

***

I forwarded Flower’s email to my daughter, Polly: Want to visit Adelaide with me today or tomorrow?  Then I wrote to Flower and Fonda with an important question: Is Adelaide okay with cats? I have 7 year old Button, whom I found abandoned at age five days, who sees himself as an only child. He’s not nice to other cats, which is why I adopted Beau after my 21-year-old cat, Hilary, died. Beau and Button did just fine together. .

If Adelaide is okay with a cat, definitely, I will be down to meet her. 

***

Flower tested Adelaide with the shelter’s cats and reported she had no reaction to them, even when two of them reached out a paw to touch her.

Polly and I planned to visit Adelaide the following morning.

 

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Posted in Animal friends, Compassion, Courage, Gifts, Grace, Health, Kindness, Nurturance | 6 Comments

Leaving Las Vegas

I’m flying home to Virginia at an altitude of 10,000 feet and climbing. As my eyes drink in the sight of the gorgeous desert mountain below, I feel I want never to forget what I am seeing. I silently whisper, Good bye, Las Vegas. I don’t think I’ll ever be back, now that Norma is gone. I let profound sadness briefly embrace me as I think of her life, of her love of the outdoor world, rich knowledge of geology, and much more. And then I accept, with regret as always, that there’s a time to say hello and a time to say good-bye.

I think of the Glioblastoma Support Group Norma had joined two years earlier. I’d felt so privileged to go with her. There was Todd, who’d founded the group after his own diagnosis, Norma, Betty, and several others with whom I’d become deeply connected. They became each other’s lifelines: sharing their experiences, what treatment had helped, what hadn’t, and what experimental treatment they were trying out for the brain cancer for which there presently remains no cure. They are all gone now, two years later, despite their valiant efforts and courage. Every one of them, gone. I think of each dear face, each story, each supporting family member by their sides and I am so thankful I knew them all. Good bye, dear ones.

I’ve just spent the past week with Norma’s sister, Linda, at Norma’s desert home in Las Vegas’ outskirts, where the amazing lights of the Vegas strip were in view yet far enough away to not impede the rich solitude of her home, overlooked by beautiful Lonesome Mountain. There she had created a unique landscape on her property that reflected her love of the natural world and the unusual plants and rocks it offered as gifts.IMG_20170501_164841098

The night I arrived, I stepped outside alone into the dark night onto the pool patio. The desert breeze blew sturdily and I found myself centered in a rush of wind that caused Norma’s huge lavender plants and grasses and flowers to bend, to reach out and touch me. Surround me. Reminding me that while she traveled the world, home was here. As I stood, open to anything else the night would bring, these words silently arrive: I am still here… This place will always be part of me… Remember me….

I think back to two years when I stayed with Norma for several weeks after her initial surgery. Chemo. Radiation. Her glioblastoma support group. Losing her hair. Falling down. Working to regain the use of her right arm again and strengthen her legs. Loss of appetite. Losing weight. Struggling to create food that appealed to her compromised body. Our shared time was often intense, yet we had some moments of deep, rich conversation.

One night shortly after I’d arrived, I asked, “Norma, what’s on your bucket list that I can help you do while I’m here?”

She didn’t hesitate. “I want to finish my book.” She paused, looked into the distance, then said, as she swung her arm in an arc to encompass the world inside her home, “I’ll be at peace with letting go of this life.” My first thought was that I couldn’t accept her feeling of being okay about letting go, until I took time later to think deeply about Norma’s present life. This woman who had climbed and studied mountain ranges all over the world could now not leave home without a wheelchair. There was no cure for glioblastoma. If she elected repeated surgeries, her risk was very high that her brain and cognitive skills would become impaired. In fact, I came to see IMG_20170501_165016803that glioblastoma would steal her life twice: first, by removing her completely from the life she’d loved so passionately, and later it would take the life breath from her body.

“Sure, let’s get started with the book,” I said. “What can I do?”

Following each morning’s ablutions, we sat at the dining room table at the computer and worked until lunch. After lunch we resumed until she took an hour nap. I saw how her energy increased by having set this goal. I also mourned how difficult it was for her to find, gather, and organize the material she needed on her Mac. Already she had sustained brain impairment. Later, when the cancer stepped out of remission and began to creep around her brain again—the best brain in the family, in my opinion—her oncologist pressed for a second surgery. Norma debated at length and then declined surgery so as not to risk further cognitive harm. Her primary reason for living was her book.

We worked as much as we could, with painfully slowness, each day until I returned home, not wanting to be utterly depleted and feeling I’d lost my life as I became her caretaker, yet it was my truth. We talked by phone then, not often enough, but doing our best. Sometimes she was sharp and talked as she always had, with wit and intelligence, while other times I could not understand her.

Our most memorable conversation for me was one when I asked a question I’d been wondering about. “Norma, do you remember what you told me about wanting to complete your book, and then you’d be at peace with dying?”

“No,” she replied, a puzzled tone in her voice. Perhaps confusion or unhappiness because she could not remember or something else I couldn’t identify.

The conversation passed into memory. Until I talked with her sister, Linda, a few days after Norma died. After I expressed my condolences, I said, “Linda, I have to ask. Did Norma get the book finished?”

“The final draft arrived the day before she died, but she was in a coma then so she didn’t get to see it. But, yes, it’s done.”

I will never forget Linda’s words. Each time I think of them, I’m profoundly reminded of how powerful are our intentions. Powerful enough for a woman with a horrific brain cancer to achieve her heart’s desire.

IMG_20170501_172855244 (2)Norma wished her ashes to be spread in four of her favorite locations: among her favorite plants, trees, and places at her home, moments I shared as Linda caringly performed as I tenderly witnessed; high on a Nevada mountain, which her local hiking friends will do; on another mountain on a different continent, which other hiking friends will carry out; and on the small dairy farm in Cherry Valley, NY, where she and Linda grew up, which Linda will do. I’d like to go with her, if I can.

So, the sandy desert mountains are behind me now, probably forever. In my heart, though, I know Norma is at peace and I am, as well.

Posted in Aging, Family, Glioblastoma, Grace, Health, Mother Nature, Mystery | 5 Comments

A Mindful Meditation of our Women’s Life-Writing Circle

We gather in our quiet, secluded space at the recently constructed, variegated-beige stone Crozet Library, bringing the life-story we have written in preparation at home. We greet each other warmly as each woman arrives, and ask how things have been since we last gathered. “We missed you last time,” or “How is your arthritis/pneumonia/or other recent ailment healing?” or “Here’s the book I promised to bring you last time,” are some recent observations I’ve heard. When we have caught up with everyone’s well-being, we transition to preparation to share our stories, written from thematic prompts given at our previous gathering two weeks earlier.

I feel a change within myself then—a melting away of all the information that flows like a river through my mind nearly all day, every day—sort of like turning off a news broadcast that leaves blessed silence in its place. A woman volunteers to read her story to begin our shared two hour gathering. I take a deep breath and exhale any stray interior distraction that might be lingering and prepare to fully listen to her words. She speaks her first sentence and everything else evaporates except her voice and what I hear in the words of this story of her life. She reads through it all and when finished we spontaneously affirm whatever the story has stirred within us. “I’ve been in that place, too,” or “What a powerful story you’ve written,” or “My favorite part of the story was when you said, ‘this’ or ‘that.’”

I listen closely to my heart’s response to the story and then share those thoughts with the writer, as does each of our seven members. When I look around the circle at each woman, I see we are as diverse as apples on a tree. After we’ve read and heard and discussed all our stories, we plan our topic for the next gathering. When we leave this place, we go home to different communities, different churches, and varied lifestyles; we have different ethnic backgrounds and hold dissimilar political ideals; we live alone or with family members or with pets. Although we seem at first to be so different, each time we share stories from our lives—and share laughter, sadness or tears, or other emotions–comfort or celebration–we form a richer bond. We discover we are not so different, after all.

Recently, we each shared “The Story I Don’t Want to Write.” When we met two weeks afterward, we agreed that was the moment in time when we opened a clearer, deeper bond with each other. We had known from previous gatherings that when we shared difficult stories, we were in a space filled with trust, respect, and confidentiality.

I pondered our time together that afternoon while driving home, those stories that had been heard and responded to with such honor, support, and compassion. Some women had also shared their own connecting threads with a particular story. And I wondered—avid, life-long mystery reader that I am—what was that silent, deeper layer that circled between us? After all, women have been sharing their stories for centuries.

When the answer came to my heart, I knew it was absolutely right.

Our time together was not only nurturing, it was sacred.

 

Posted in Community, Grace, Gratitude, Mystery, Womens' Writing Circles | 4 Comments

April the second

I wake slowly into this Sunday morning and lay still, thinking of earlier years on April the second.

This is the day my former in-laws married nearly a century ago. I think of all the ways their union interfaced with my life when I met and married their son four decades ago.

The sweet cat snuggled at my hip shifts position and I’m reminded that this is the day I have designated as his birthday, when, in 2009, I discovered him abandoned in my backyard, his eyes not yet open.

I think of my son, Keith, who left this world on this day in 1973. Time has softened that loss over the decades and it pleases me that I can smile today and see his happy, impish face on a summer afternoon beneath sunshine in the park. I fill with deep gratitude for the time we shared together.IMG_20170401_160313866

I think of yesterday, outside with my camera, delighting in the beauty of the multitude of bright purple violets sprinkled all over these acres. One flower alone  possesses such beauty that it is all I need for deep thankfulness to wash through my limbs, yet I’ve been given a multitude.

I rise, filled with some of the rich history of this day. The cat nuzzles me lovingly as I put food in his dish and the dog rises from the couch, stretches, and yawns with a little squeak. I wish these sweet souls a good morning and click on the dog’s leash. We slide the door open and step out into a bright sunny day, where a singular bird fills my psyche with her rich beautiful song as does the magenta glow of the red bud tree unfolding into a new season yet again. I greet this morning filled with the rich history of other days from my April the second book, and wonder what this April the second will bring. My heart is open.

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Posted in Bovina Stories, Family, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Living Mindfully, Mother Nature, Mystery, Peacefulness, Simplicity | 6 Comments

Simple, Delicious Hard Red Wheat Berry Bread

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If you love homemade bread, in particular a dense and chewy, richly-flavored, whole-grain loaf, here’s a recipe I’ve been using lately that’s amazingly easy to make and, oh, so delicious to eat.

Almost No-Work Whole Grain Bread

3 cups whole wheat flour (or, as recipe calls for, use 2 cups whole wheat flour plus a combination of 1 cup other whole grain flours like buckwheat, rye, or cornmeal)                1/2 teaspoon instant yeast                                                                                                                      2 teaspoons salt                                                                                                                                         2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil                                                                                                        1 cup cooked hard red wheat berries (or, as recipe calls for, up to 1 cup chopped nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or proofed whole grains)

1. Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 ½ cups water and stir until blended; the dough should be wet and sticky but not liquid; add more water if it seems dry. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for at least 12 and up to 24 hours. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.

2. Add some of the oil to grease the loaf pan and/or line pan with parchment paper. If you are adding nuts or anything else, fold them into the dough now with your hands or a rubber spatula. Transfer the dough to the loaf pan, using a rubber spatula gently to settle it in evenly. Brush the top with the remaining oil and sprinkle with cornmeal if you like. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, an hour or two, depending on your kitchen’s warmth. When it’s almost ready, heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

3. Bake the bread until deep golden and hollow-sounding when tapped, about 45 minutes. (An instant read thermometer should register 200 degrees F when inserted into the center of the loaf.) Immediately turn out of the pan onto a rack and let cool before slicing.

~ Recipe adapted from “Food Matters. A Guide to Conscious Eating,” Mark Bittman, p 156

Have a slice toasted with your morning eggs or make French toast; use for your favorite sandwich, grilled or non-grilled with lettuce and all the fixings; delicious as stuffing for poultry, also. And if you like this bread, you’ll find many other ways to use it! Enjoy!

Posted in Health, In the Kitchen, Living Mindfully, Nurturance, Simplicity | 2 Comments

About Tribes

tribe-book-cover

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.
It’s time for that to end.
~ Sebastian Junger

The title was what drew me—a woman who didn’t find her tribe until well into her fifth decade—to Sebastian Junger’s recent book, a thoughtful, richly-researched blend of anthropology, history, and psychology. He dedicated Tribe. On Homecoming and Belonging to his brothers who returned from war, as do so many, with PTSD.

Junger was raised in a safe, affluent Connecticut community where life was predictable, where residents lived far from the highway behind high hedges, and where neighbors rarely knew each other. The few problems that arose were solved by police, fire department, or town maintenance crews. The sheer predictability of life in an American suburb left me hoping—somewhat irresponsibly—for a hurricane or a tornado or something that would require us to all band together to survive. Something that would make us feel like a tribe. What I wanted wasn’t destruction and mayhem but the opposite: solidarity.

Yet he lived during a time in a place where danger rarely happened and he wondered: how, in the human experience, do you become an adult in a society that doesn’t ask for sacrifice? How do you become a man in a world that doesn’t require courage?

Following his 1986 college graduation, Junger ached to be involved with something, anything that could cause people to band together in a common cause. He decided he’d place himself into a situation where he had little to no control and set out to hitchhike across the Dakotas, Wyoming, and Minnesota. His backpack held quality camping gear and a week’s worth of food on the morning Junger was walking in Gillette, Wyoming and noticed a man wearing worn, greasy clothing approaching him.

“Where are you headed?” the man asked.

“California,” Junger said.

“How much food do you got?” the wild haired man asked.”

Junger felt wary and pondered how to reply. The man clearly didn’t have much and, while Junger was willing to share what he had, he didn’t want to be robbed, which appeared quite likely.

Junger minimized his larder and said, “Just a little cheese.”

“You can’t get to California with just a little cheese,” the man said. Their conversation continued and, in time, the man revealed he lived in a conked-out car and walked three miles each morning to a coal mine seeking fill-in work. This particular day they didn’t need him and he was walking back home.

“So, I don’t need these,” he said and gave Junger the bologna sandwich, apple, and chips from his lunchbox, food most likely prepared in a church kitchen.
He added, ”I saw you from town and … wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Junger thanked him and watched the man for several seconds as he walked back toward Gillette.

I thought about that man the rest of my trip, Junger wrote. In fact, Junger thought about him all his life. The man had been generous, yes, but more than that, he’d taken responsibility for me. He’d spotted me from town and walked half a mile out a highway to make sure I was okay. Junger reflected that family has to take us in, as Frost penned, but tribe might be defined as the people you feel compelled to share the last of your food with. For reasons I’ll never know, the man in Gillette decided to treat me like a member of his tribe.

This concise 136 page book shows how rare and precious tribes are in our present society. In showing us how their absence has affected us, Junger explores the ironic truths that for many: war feels better than peace, hardship can be a blessing, and catastrophic events can be recalled more caringly than spectacular events, such as a wedding. Each part of this book completely fascinated me, particularly the exploration of early Native American culture so rich in tribal practices. I highly recommend Tribe.

***

Sebastian Junger is the New York Times bestselling author of War, The Perfect Storm, Fire, and A Death in Bellmont. Together with Tim Hetherington, he directed the documentary Restrepo, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and was nominated for an Oscar in 2011. He is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and has been awarded a National Magazine Award and an SAIS Novartis Prize for journalism. He lives in New York City.

Posted in A Wonderful Book, Book Reviews, Community, Compassion, Courage, Family, Friendship, Grace, Mystery | 2 Comments

Little Punkins

Although I’ve been making quilt squares in my spare time during the past year, on the winter evenings when dark arrives early, my perennial urge to knit returns once again. This inner prompting reminds me of the Catskill Mountain days in late winter so many years ago when I’d step outside one morning to find the night’s cool air had warmed and turned humid and my bones felt an ancient wisdom: maple syrup season had returned; time to tap the abundant maple trees for the watery sap that, when boiled down, turned into pure, heavenly maple syrup.

And so it is has become with knitting. This year the nudge arrived after Christmas when, coincidentally I found a delightful little book in my library titled itty-bitty hats by Susan B. Anderson. I took the book to lunch with my writing friend, Rita, one day and showed her the precious hats. She had just welcomed her first grandchild, Jake, and I wanted to make him a hat. Rita chose the “little pumpkin” hat.

One of the little hats below is for Jake and the other for a child in West Virginia I’ll never know. I’ll send the second hat along with several others I’ll make before spring to an impoverished area in West Virginia through a church mission project started several years ago by my friend, Carol, when she learned of a great need for warm winter coats, hats, and mittens by the children. Although Carol passed away more than a year ago, her church continues her wonderful project, now named “Carol’s Coats.”

On these dark evenings as I knit, ordinary time transforms to sacred as I mindfully thread prayers and love into the hats and feel deep gratitude: for Rita’s new grandson, for Carol’s kind heart and devotion to the project that lives on after her, and for the little ones who will wear the hats in West Virginia. I pray each child will be warm and happy and safe in our world. img_20170121_130458744

 

Posted in Community, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Living Mindfully, Peacefulness, Poverty, Simplicity | 3 Comments

Lint and Light

Connie Spittler is a member, as I am also privileged to be, in a dynamic Work in Progress writing group. Recently she shared this story with us and I was so moved by it, I asked her permission to repost it here. Connie’s bio follows her unforgettable story.

***

Years ago, I met a man who noticed lint. After Reinhold Marxhausen watched his wife clean the clothes dryer screen, he began to collect this peculiar stuff. He did not see throwaway material, but rather, texture, color and invention. A Professor of Art at Concordia College in Seward, NE, he layered the multi-colored fibers under glass, forming abstractions that echoed landscape. I bought one, as a reminder to look more closely at my immediate world.

The philosophy of lint, I called it, a way of noticing beauty in the simplest of things, which was Marxhausen’s intention all along. Value the commonplace, he meant. See the abstract cracks in the asphalt. Appreciate the symmetry of dead branches and the last soap bubble in the tub. Watch the pattern of light and shadow playing on the wall.
It was this way of thinking that made my husband and I notice the passage of light in the kitchen, as I cooked supper in the afternoon. The sun journeyed through the paned window, rays casting lingering patterns on old lace cloth or red paisley runner. We watch arms of the sun catch swirls in green glass plates that belonged to my husband’s mother or wash over the oriental designs of chipped blue and white china. Fading brilliance turns the copper bowl of yellow coyote gourds from the nearby wash into a renaissance still life. The effect of sunshine on our table remains remarkable. Transitory. Free.

It took a while, but eventually we noticed the spear of light that began to move through the kitchen to the next room. The more we watched the daily shift of sun, the more intrigued we became. Months later, we discovered that twice a year this piercing light traveled through the kitchen, the next room and down the long hall leading to the bedrooms, coming to rest on the linen closet door. With hints of Stonehenge on Equinox, we reveled in time’s transitions marked in the heart of our house by an intense, narrow beam. Was it planned? Over thirty years ago, did the builder envision this phenomenon before or during construction? Unlikely, but we wondered if other occupants had seen the seasonal ray that split the late afternoon air, seeking the depths of a dark and narrow hallway? We’ll never know. But we see it. The sun in its cycle announces either that summer will soon be over or spring is on the way in celebration of the art of noticing, my philosophy of lint.

I think of the people in the world with no dryer, relying on the sun and wind to do the job. Even without lint, noticing sun and shadow is universal. If you were in my kitchen, I’d empty the dryer screen and offer you its soft treasure. The other option, of course, is for you to have your own festival of lint. Or simply celebrate the light and shadow that falls upon us all, traveling around the world. Cheers.

***

     Connie Spittler’s essays, short stories and poetry appear in over 20 anthologies, journals and magazines. She wrote and produced The Wise Women Videos, featuring multi-cultural interviews on philosophy, the environment, and aging. The series was selected for Harvard University’s The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America.

Her latest book, The Erotica Book for Nice Ladies, is an award winning fiction that involves an ancient stolen book of herbal cures. While it may sound like an erotic book, it is not; rather the author uses quotes from classic authors like Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Jane Austen, etc. A review of this delightful and unusual cozy mystery is here at Story Circle Book Reviews.

Posted in Grace, Living Mindfully, Mystery, Simplicity | 2 Comments

A Sliver of Light

Following this debilitating post-election week, I found myself aching for solitude and solace.

The autumn day is sunny and bright, with few white clouds slowly drifting across the pale blue sky. Below, sun rays brighten the dwindling yellow, orange, and browning leaves that remain on the trees. The slight breeze is tender, inviting me into the day to share what I know are exquisite delights that I cannot feel.

A bicycle rack has been strapped to my car much of the summer. My bike rolls easily through the basement door onto the grassy driveway to the car. A squeeze on each tire reveals a firmness that will not need extra air today. Good. I’m anxious to be on my way.

One hand firmly grasping the bar beneath the handlebars and the other beneath the seat, with my knees bent, I straighten my legs and elevate the bike to the rack. It’s heavy and sometimes I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to be independent with this particular task. It’s an important question for a woman in her seventh decade who lives alone and cherishes that solitude. And loves biking.

Soon, the Trek is securely in place, the helmet, gloves, and water bottle tucked in the front seat, and my car starts out on the twenty-five mile journey to Piney River. In all of Albemarle and Nelson Counties, Piney River is my favorite place to ride. It is off highway and thus safe from traffic on the narrow windy country roads in my area. The drive is pleasant as I pass by some of my favorite landmarks along the way—the antique shop; the yard with a front garden filled with brilliant red canna lilies; a favorite café, Basic Necessities.

Half an hour later, I reach the sharp turn that unveils the Piney River trailhead entrance on the left side of the road. I park, unload my bike and accessories for a ride, and soon  pedal over the concrete path onto the soft grassy path alongside the gently flowing river. In another lifetime, this path was the railroad track for the former Virginia Blue Ridge Railway that closed in 1981.

piney-river-entrance

As I leave the busy road behind and enter onto the six-mile hiking, biking, and horseback trail, I am quickly embraced by silence broken only by the gentle trickling of the river, occasional lovely birdsongs, and the whisper of my tires circling over dying fallen rust-colored leaves. My body relaxes and I become more aware of the sensations I always experience in this place that is sacred to me. As I pedal on, I savor the feel of bright sunshine warming my body, the muscles in my legs pushing the pedals of the serenity of the pastoral scenes everywhere I look as I travel on. A mile iint0 the ride, I pedal over a wooden bridge where the river then moves to my left.piney-river

I notice something dark on the trail ahead and, as I approach, see a black snake curled like a garden hose basking in the day’s heavenly warmth. We notice each other without alarm.

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A few miles later my tires thump across another wooden bridge beneath which the river crosses to my right side now. Then I break out into  country, with a fifty-or-so-acre meadow on the river side and multiple trees on the other bank. Several former and at least one active farm border the trail now and in the next meadow several black cows dot the green pasture grass.

When I cross the third bridge, I remember the summer day a small pink pair of flip flops lay on the bridge edge. I looked around for the little person who wore them but no one was in the area. Ever Miss Marple seeking clues, I parked the bike and looked under the bridge where silence greeted me. I sent a thought of safety to the child and envisioned her playing happily along the trail, barefooted.

I ride next beneath a huge bridge supporting a large, noisy major highway above me and quickly pedal on until I return to the serene, sweet solitude ahead. In a little while, I’ve reached the end of the trail, apparently privately owned land behind the fence that stops me. Paused, grateful for this place and the feel of my body filled with increasingly pleasure, I sip some water, then turn around and begin to ride back. The occasional hikers and bikers I pass acknowledge my presence with a smile or a nod, silently conveying their gratefulness for their moments here with Mother Nature, as I am.

In awhile, I stop near a middle-aged couple who are sharing their granola bars with an orange tabby who approached them as they rested by at the river. We talk briefly about the beauty of the day, the sparkling loveliness of the river, and friendliness of the cat, then say good-bye. These contacts buoy the silent shadows of concern for the people of our country.

When, about an hour after starting out, I return to the trailhead entrance, I’m tired. On my best days, after resting briefly, I again ride the full trail round trip, tallying up 25 miles for the day. Other days, I ride until my body signals it’s time stop—like today, a low energy day. Reluctantly, I walk my bike out to the parking lot, remove my helmet and gloves, and prepare to leave for home. I don’t want to leave… my heart aches to remain here…. Yet as I drive back into the world, I slowly realize that today’s respite into the sacred refuge that is Piney River has ever-so-gently reminded me again that our world is embraced by a greater power than we. I gratefully open to that flicker of light slicing into the darkness that pervaded my soul three days ago.

Posted in Change, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Mother Nature, Mystery, Peacefulness, Simplicity | 12 Comments

Those Ten Pounds – Three Months Later

Remember those ten pounds I talked about three months ago that transformed into my wake-up call? The pounds that caused my A1C (a 3-6 month average of blood sugar levels) to elevate high enough that my doctor put me on diabetic medication. I was horrified, since I’d been controlling my Type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise for the past twenty years.

That day I decreased my portions and increased my walking to roughly 10,000 steps a day, about 4 miles for me. My beagle-wippet, Beau, loved all our walks together! Me, too.

Three months later, I requested another A1C test, after losing fifteen pounds. My doctor called the day after to tell me my A1C was the lowest she’s ever seen for me. Discontinue the glucophage, she said, and keep working on lifestyle. I was, of course, thrilled.

Am I bragging? Not at all.

So, then, why do I write this post? Simply, once again, I’m stunningly reminded that we are sometimes graced with the ability to improve our health simply with our choices. How awesome is that?

the-final-glucophage

The final glucophage tablet is on the placemat. I no longer need the medication.

 

Posted in Change, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Health | 8 Comments