Saturday, January 11, 2020

Tracks

I love going out with my dog, Rosie, after a new snow has fallen.  I see with my eyes what she "sees" with her nose as she puts it into some animal's tracks and follows it for short distances: the tiny quotation marks with a thin line drawn between them of the weasel, the tight stitching tracks of the grouse, the parenthesis cleft of the deer or the much larger, but similar clomp of the moose.  There is a beautiful coyote who travels our trails with h/her tracks looking so much like Rosie's even with the hind foot drag.  And the smaller, single file padding of the gray or red fox as they follow the staccato dots of the field mouse that disappear into a single hole. 

I'm drawn to the outdoors and to witnessing all that these woods, fields and mountains have to offer up to me. 

As I came back down the mountain side this morning I got thinking about how I am now an orphan; there is no parent to me in this world any longer.  I guess, at my age, this isn't uncommon and more and more of us 'boomers' are facing elderly parents and their eventual death.  

Both my parents nurtured in me my love of all things outdoors.  My mom, raised as a Maine farm girl,  was completely comfortable with cutting the heads off a chicken.  She once validated that they do run around without their head if you don't hold them tight enough while you bring the axe down.  This same woman was terrified of the little meadow vole.   She literally would scream at the sight of one or shiver at the mention of them in my house, stating, "OH!  I hate mice!"

She instilled in me my need to remain independent and not be taken in as just a girl by some boy.  She always encouraged that I go 'double dutch', slipping a $20.00 bill into my pocket when going off on a date in high school.  Somehow it was understood that if I paid my own way I wouldn't "owe" that young man anything.  This teaching served me well as I grew from girl to woman.

My  mother always expected me to be able to do the same jobs my brother did: shovel snow, haul brush, cut down a tree, bury the compost, mow the lawn.  Mom was in her 80's when we finally convinced her it wasn't safe to use her chainsaw when no one was around.  And so I grew, knowing that I was strong and capable of following my own path and carrying my own load.  I have never cut the head off a chicken though ... and to this day I'm not sure I've got that in me!

My dad was a poet and gentle man who was compassionate and caring of others.  He took a career where his poetry could be spoken every Sunday from the pulpit.  His need to care for others could be used in his counseling for those grieving a loss or in the kind discussions of marriage with a young couple.  My dad was far more spiritual than religious. He taught me that God could be felt in all of nature; including the small, fragrant Mayflower or the exotic Lady Slippers.  These treasures needed to be hunted down in the deeper woods.  We were taught to never pick these precious beauties, but rather to worship them in those deep, sacred woods.




The months of the school year were spent in a small town in the foothills of the western mountains of Maine where my dad's church was.  There I learned to paddle and maneuver a canoe, to snowshoe, to downhill ski and to somehow get through twelve years of schooling.  Summers were spent on the coast where my mother had grown up on that farm and where my grandfather (my mom's dad) built a small cape for the newlyweds on a piece of farm land owned by family.  It was this spot with the smell of drying seaweed and the sound of surf surging that I always felt was my 'home'.  It was here that my parents spent the rest of their days after dad's retirement and where my mother stayed after my dad's untimely death.  It was here, in this little cape, where my mother decided, at 97, she was tired, she had lived a good life and it was time to join her ancestors.  And it was here that I spent the few weeks needed to aid and care for her in this process.  Full circle as the mother cares for the child, I cared for my mom .... the natural cycles of birth and death.

It was in these fields that led down to the rock ledges and the sandy beach that dad would take us out at night to stare into the night sky and listen to the call of the Whip-o-will.  Lying on our backs he pointed out the constellations and taught me how to follow the curve of the big dipper's handle to find one of the largest stars in our solar system, Arcturus.  "Arch to Arcturus" he would say, sweeping his arm across the the dipper's handle and landing on another bright speck.  He would talk of infinity, light years and eternity ... concepts as big as that glittering sky that were impossible to grasp and yet opened the mind to what endless and possibility meant. 


My parents encouraged me to go outside and allowed me to run wild in the summers, barefoot and free down by the sea.  They instilled me a respect for myself and also for the natural world around me and all the living organisms that share it.

Today,  I went out into my own spot of earth, living again in the western Maine mountains, and learned of some of the other beings that share this land with me. 

With the greatest respect I send up a thank you to my parents, who taught me how to be in love with it all.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

January 3, 2019


 January 3 is here.  Jim would be 68 years old.  Amazing.

It's been a very long time since I've written here, on my blog.  What has brought me here today is the birthday anniversary and this note I found this past fall from my good friend Mick Cochran.

Back when Jim was in Hospice there were a lot of people who couldn't get in to see Jim; everyone aware that this was the end of his fight.  He was in a morphine coma for most of his time in Hospice, but I was (and still am) a firm believer that hearing is the very last thing to go.  So I put a notice up, on this blog, that if anyone was unable to get to Hospice to say goodbye to Jim they could send me a note and I would read it to him.

The notes, the cards, the poems started to come in.  And I read every single one to Jim.

I saved many of them, in a box that was stashed away in my closet at the house in Falmouth.  When packing up that house to make the move to the mountains I found the box.  I was feeling pretty emotional at that time so couldn't open this box knowing what was in it .... so I brought it to Farmington and stashed it away in the basement in our house here.  This past Fall we began the long needed cleaning out process of so many boxes stashed away.  I found this box, again.  I opened it this time and found this note from Mick.

I skimmed it quickly.  And then I clutched it and took it to the couch where I read it slowly.  And then I dissolved into tears.

Dave found me there.  He sat down and asked what was wrong?  I handed him this note and watched as he read it and his tears begin to flow too.  He came over and put his arms around me and just held me.  When I could talk again I said to him:

These tears are for gratitude.  Gratitude for this man who chose me for 34 years.  This man who so many loved, who is everything here that Mick has summed up in a few, wonderful phrases.  He was an amazing  person.  But what has me sobbing is the fact that somehow I have been blessed ... or graced ... or what I don't even know!  But I find myself with another amazing partner to finish out my days with here on earth.  I don't know .. I truly don't understand .. why I am so blessed!  But I am so very grateful for your love, Dave Lovejoy.

My good friend who was in acupuncture school with me and who I continue to see every September along with 7 other women who graduated in the same class told me, after meeting Dave, "Mary, you have got amazing 'Man-Qi'!"

Maybe this is what it is?  Maybe I just have good "Man-QI".  I sure as heck don't know why I am so blooming lucky to be so graced with two wonderful human beings who want to walk with me, love me, partner with me through this life.

But ... I take it.  I look to the top of my mountain and watch the clouds unfurl and tumble around it.  And I just say, 'thank you'.  Thank you for all of this.  I am so very grateful for the presence of all the amazing people in my life.

Here is Mick's note:

Loving you all back,
Mary

Friday, February 24, 2017

Mr. Brewster

All my running buddies are injured, including Rosie.  This morning I headed out for my longest run in over 7 years ... 6 miles.  One girlfriend had planned to do this with me but she had to go see her doctor for an ankle injury.  Another friend, who actually has inspired this new surge in running for me again, has a possible stress fracture in her foot.  And Rosie has a torn toe nail that has her limping and looking forlorn.

So, I headed out this morning into the sunshine and temperatures pushing near 40F degrees all by myself, but with a gorgeous morning for a run.  

Taking to the ski-mobile trails here I plotted my course as I ran.  I am in training for a half marathon to be held in the small, northern Maine town of  Millinocket next December.  Yes, next December .. like a good girl scout, I believe in being prepared!  But mostly I have fallen off my endurance athletic endeavors and have needed the motivation to get out there again.  With the encouragement of my friend, Beth, I signed up for this half-marathon and  have hit the trails ... running. 

Beth and MW, both amazing women with a lot of miles and marathons under their belts, have been more than kind in their patience and willingness to run with me at my Clydesdale pace.  And the chatting that goes along with these runs makes it so much easier to log another mile or two on without much thought to it.  Thus, today, as I struck out on my own I wasn't sure I would get this job done without more distractions than my own thoughts.

But, running is a solo sport and within the first mile or more I found my rhythm and my thoughts started to wonder:  I began to think of my high school track running days and with this came the memory of Mr. Brewster.

Mr. Brewster was a handsome older man with white hair and a spreading middle. He was my biology teacher my sophomore year.  A very quiet, mild-mannered individual he always seemed to struggle with discipline of his class, and far too many of my classmates took advantage of this as I remember.  But I liked him and I loved Biology.

I ran the 880 in track.  I wish I knew then what I know now about running distance and the training for such distance.  But I was built for endurance and not a sprinter so I got signed on for the longest event available to girls who ran track.  I hated it.  But I would show up for practice and run around and around that track trying to get the 'love of the game' in me.  Our track coach was also the gym teacher.  She was young and newly hired, probably not much older than we were at that time and she had a lot more focus on the sprinters and the hurdle runners.  After all, to run the 880 all you had to do was, well, run!

Mr. Brewster use to walk to school every day, regardless of the weather, covering at least a mile or more in one direction.  During track season he would stop by the track setting his briefcase down beside him in the grass and watch the practice for a few minutes.  Then, picking his briefcase back up, he would turn to walk home.  One day, as he watched, I got a horrible pain in my side half way around the track.  I had to stop running and just walk, bent over and gripping my side.  As I came around to the side by the school he motioned me over.
"Got a stitch?"
"Yeah.  It will go away eventually."
"You might try belly breathing.  It's just gas trapped under your ribs.  So breath and let your belly really expand as big as possible to give that gas some room to move."  And with that he picked up his briefcase and headed for home.

He continued to stop by the track practice every day and I began to go over and speak with him.  One day he told me I might try speeding up a little bit.  "Don't go too fast or too soon.  Just try speeding up your last circle around, a tiny bit, and on that last half before the finish line see if you have enough juice left to just go a tiny bit faster".  And he headed for home.

Another time he said, "as you speed up, try pumping your arms a little more, see if they don't help propel you forward and help with that last push of your sprint". 

Or he would say, "Mary, don't forget to drink some water, it's hot out here today".

I would listen to him and experiment with his suggestions.  At one point my real coach came over and spoke with me saying, "Mr. Brewster seems to be giving you some pointers."  I was a little embarrassed so answered her with a roll of my eyes and a "yeah, well, it entertains him I think".
 She smiled and said, "You know, he was a track star all 4 years of college at Colby.  Broke a lot of records with distance running, some still hold. He's a good coach.  You'd do well to listen to him!"

When I pulled my lower jaw off the track asphalt she laughed and moved on.

I never became a very good runner, never did much for the track team with my 880 times, but I was pretty proud of the fact that Mr. Brewster saw something in me that worth nurturing and helping along.  Today, as I stopped while running up, yet another long hard hill, I had a stitch in my side. I stopped and breathed by expanding my belly into a big "Buddha belly".  I pulled out my water bottle and I lifted it to the tops of the great pine trees I rested under with a toast to Mr. Brewster.   I tucked my bottle away into my runners pack and,  pumping my arms, I ran up that damn hill with that stitch no longer bothering me.

I was able to run 6.71 miles today and cut two full minutes off my most recent min/mile running times!

I give full credit of this to Mr. Brewster, my running partner today.

Loving you all back,
Mary

I'm enclosing an article from Downeast Magazine about this marathon in Millinocket;  an old mill town that was created by the papermill and was a thriving area while that mill was running.  But, like a lot of Maine towns, the mills have shut down and the towns have become ghost towns.  Millinocket is the gateway to Baxter State Park and our majestic and loved Mt. Katadhin.  The people of this town are proud, but their town economy is suffering.  This full and half marathon was created by Gary Allen - "The Marathon Man" -  to help pump money back into this town.  Thus, only a good cause like this could get me attempting to run 13+ miles again ... next December!

http://downeast.com/marathon-man/


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Come Winter

There is a dusting of snow on the mountain that overlooks our homestead this morning.  The air is not just the crisp, clean spirit of a fall morning, but the crackling, breath taking cold slap that is more common to a winter morning.  Come winter these temperatures will be more accepted, but today I'm not quite use to it.

Yesterday, in the early morning, I headed out to climb Varnum Mountain with my dog Rosie.  The minute we stepped off the deck her hackles were up and her nose to the ground. The erratic circles of the invisible trail she followed spoke to me of our resident skunk that has sprayed her two times now.  But as we got down onto the trail I could see the deep, blanket of leaves disturbed ahead of me.  Rosie, still with her hackles up and nose to the ground was also aware of the disturbance; more of a straight line vs. circles and definitely something big enough to leave a trail in the leaves.  Moose?  Deer?  Coyote?  The tracks weren't clear enough to tell; they left only a faint memory of what went before us.

But come winter I will be able to see very clearly the tracks in the snow that Rosie "sees" with her nose.

Today I am thinking about an entire community in the small town of Orono who are grieving the loss of one of their members.  A man who traveled to Antarctica and the Arctic studying climate change, glaciers and ice.  A man who was an amazing scientist, teacher, friend, father and husband.  A man whose death has rocked the entire world.  A man whose image I see at our camp fire deep in the north woods on Spencer Lake with the rain falling, the wet wood smoking, the fire sputtering and Gordan's head thrown back laughing.  All who knew him speak of the laughter and fun-loving spirit of a very devoted and intelligent scientist.    A man who spent much of his time on ice and in winter.  A man who leaves a crevasse as huge as the one he fell into in the hearts of those who knew him. 

Come winter we will all need to close the circle around her and build up the fires to warm that empty space.

Come winter Dave and I will explore these woods on snowshoes, identify the tracks of the others who share the land with us,  watch the snow fall over the mountain and hold all our loved ones close.  For I have learned first hand that there are no guarantees in life, that all that we hold most precious can be whisked away in a single moment; no tracks left behind for us to follow them.  Only the memories of what once was.

Loving you all back,
Mary


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"A Sense of Wonder"

Prior to becoming an acupuncturist I use to be an environmental educator in another life.  And after that life I became a high school science teacher.  Regardless of the grade or the "classroom" I always tried to teach a sense of wonder to those young minds that were opening to the world I was showing them.  The world of insects and plants, trees and birds, lichens, moss and single cells.  Rachel Carson had instilled in me the importance of "not knowing"; the importance of simply seeing something and feeling awed by it.  The importance of a sense of wonder.

"It is not half so important to know as to feel"
Rachel Carson

I still nurture this in myself.  I am awed whenever I hear the Loons talking on the pond with that wailing, octave jumping song that echoes across the valley, calling to a mate.  Hearing that song always stops me in my tracks, as I stand silent and listening and feeling as it stirs the wild child in me.  Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Mayflowers and bright green moss has me taking a moment on the trail to look closer and to simply notice and feel the joy in their being there.  Rejoice in their ... being.

Last week Dave came and gently woke me from a deep sleep.  I glanced at the clock, it was 1:30a.m.
"What?"
He took my hand and said, "come outside, you have to see this."

I pulled a warmer shirt over my pj's, stumbled to the living room and slipped my feet into a pair of boots that sit by the sliding door that opens to our deck.  As I stepped outside I literally gasped.  The air, the fields, the lawn, the trees, and the entire sky was filled with thousands of twinkling lights; winking, blinking, tiny yellow beams of light.

Fireflies!

I felt like I had walked back into my childhood on Scarborough beach where on those hot August nights someone would suggest a swim in the surf.  On those very special nights, running into the waves there might be an explosion of tiny, white lights!  Sparklers, shimmering and twinkling as they dripped down our hair, disappearing back into the water.  Fireworks bursting beneath my fingertips as I twirled in place, trailing my spread fingers behind me through the water to ignite the phosphorescence; an arch of brilliant light beneath my fingers. Diving into the water I was a Mermaid with a glittering trail before and behind me.  The foam of every wave illuminated with bright, white, tiny lights.

In that very early morning standing on our deck Dave and I just held each other in awe as the night sparkled all around us with the mating "calls" of the Firefly. There was joy in being part of this amazing, extravagant display, feeling so lucky that I was there to witness it. Thirty minutes later a thunderstorm hit and all those tiny lights went out.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
Rachel Carson

Loving you all back,
Mary



Monday, March 14, 2016

Trusting and the Blossoming of Spring

I saw crows carrying nesting material yesterday.  I stood and watched them to see if I could tell where they were headed with it.  One squawk from a crow overhead, who was standing guard, had these two nest builders immediately fly in opposite directions of each other and the direction they were initially taking.  Nest building is, after all, top secret.

I continued to stand and just look up, something I learned to do when Jim was sick.  To take that few minutes of quiet time and look up.  Yesterday I saw that the Marsh Maples have buds now, bright red and swelling with the sap that has ascended up to them.  The first tree to flower in spring, offering the much needed nectar to the emerging honey bees.  The birches are not far behind, their tops are turning yellow, soon to flower as well.

Our streams are swollen and flowing free from the encasement of ice.  This happens so fast, just a few days of temperatures above freezing and suddenly there are mini-waterfalls at every bend and twist of the flow.  What was a muted gurgling of flowing water under ice is now a roar as these small streams flood over their banks and create rooster tails with the volume of water hitting the rocks and trees within the path.

The birds are singing, so I'm told.  My hearing is so impaired I can no longer hear the song birds, only the more raucous Corvids or the "cuk, cuk" of the Pileated Woodpecker defending his territory. So much activity up above with the eternal preparations needed for the reproducing and continuation of the species.  Soon the spring Peepers will begin their chirping.  I know Dave will tell me when he hears them and I will stand, silent and straining as I try to hear one of my all time favorite songs.  But, only the memory of what this sound was will flow over me since the peeping is a high pitch, a range that I have lost.

I'm watching for the return of the Woodcocks to these fields,  having promised my nieces that I will take my grandnieces and nephew "woodcocking" when the time comes.  A truly fun spring ritual to be done at the crepuscular evening hour when the male Woodcock does his comical flight and dance routine in hopes of attracting a female to mate, but instead gets giggling first graders who hide in the bushes with me.

Spring has arrived in the mountains.  Folks up here have a harder time of letting go of winter; letting go of their cold weather activities. But the snow is melting and there is now more bare ground than there is snow cover.  We are entering mud season with over-saturated land that nurtures the tiny bulbs of the crocus and daffodil that have yet to emerge.

As the transition of winter to spring blossoms all around me I find myself facing new professional challenges.  It's fitting that the big changes in ones life should begin to unfold at the change of this season.  As the winter lets go of it's icy grip on this land and the buds swell and the promise of flowers hang from above, I have the budding of, yet another, new path to take.  Transitions can be difficult, but they can be exciting too.  Just as we trust that the Woodcocks and other species will return with the sun I am reminded to trust in the Universal energy as well.  To trust that there is a path laid before me, like the unseen migratory track that birds follow, my path appears unseen but I trust it is there all the same.  Trusting that this new endeavor will blossom into the perfect fit for me.  Spring is about emerging from the dark and the rebirth of all that is  ....

.... and thus, this timing is perfect for me.

Loving you all back,
Mary 


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Lights

I took an early morning walk this morning with Rosie.  Now that we live in Temple one, or both, of us will walk every morning with this sweet little dog we have.  This morning I went alone and savored the time before my busy work day. 

I walk along one of the two streams that confluence on this property we are stewards of.  The path twists and turns with the tinkling and gurgling of the stream flowing strong over jagged rocks and downed trees.  It's incredibly beautiful.  Today one of Joni Mitchell's songs, Electricity, came to me with this line being most appropriate:


I'm learning,
It's peaceful
With a good dog and some trees
Out of touch with the break down of the century

This space, this land, these trees nestled into the valley of three mountains makes it very easy to get out of touch with the break down of the current century.  On the full moon last month I found myself wide awake at 3:30 a.m. I slipped from the warm bed and put the coffee on.  The moon was so brilliant that I didn't need to put on a single light, and the world outside my big windows was shimmering in the blue-white light of that moon.  I got my coffee, stoked the stove and sat down in front of the window.  From there I watched that moon make it's way across the very top of the mountains ridge.  For an hour I watched the moon move until it slipped down into the notch of the two mountains and disappeared from my sight.  The light continued to glow, illuminating the few wispy clouds that nestled there.  There was still so much blue-white light it looked like a large city was pulsing on the other side of that ridge.

Recently I woke as the first light of dawn was seeping into the valley and across the lake that I can see from my bedroom windows.  The lake looked like molten silver as it reflected this early, gray light.  But the first rays of the sun always hit the top of the mountains, glowing rose and fuschia up there before the sun climbs higher and spreads into the fields below.  The last of the Oak leaves still clinging to the branches shimmer with a copper glow on some mornings ... and I walk to the windows and breathe in this light and I forget about the break down of this century.

I worry there is much that is broken lately; in our politics, in the candidates who are asking for my vote in order to lead this country down a path I fear.  A path  that I see paved with greed, dishonesty and intolerance of others. I'm told this will be the break down of one of our political parties and this will lead to a resurgence of something better.

I listen.  And I watch this months waxing moon.  I walk into the woods and along the stream allowing the noise of the world to wash away with the babble of the water beside me.  I slow down, and quiet my mind and seek the peace that is within me.  I'm learning ... with a good dog and some trees ... how to stay out of touch with the break down of the century.

This Christmas I ask that you may find your own peace from within.  That you might stop and look up to notice the moon that grows towards full for the birth of the Christian God on the 25th. That you might find a wooded path, or one tree, to sit under and take a moment to simply be; to take a moment and get out of touch.

My wish this Christmas is that more people will begin to learn that this holiday is a Christian holiday that celebrates LOVE, and that each and every religion honored by all the other humans on this planet also worship a God and have celebrations that are about LOVE.  My wish for the coming 2016 is that LOVE trumps the anger and the hate that we are seeing far too much of.  

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.  So I go to find my inner peace and ask that we
all just walk the same walk...

 ... with a good dog and some trees.


Loving you all back,

Mary