I receive these gifts

This morning, I ran on the trails for the first time in a while and my heart soared. A Red-winged Blackbird sang its song as I chugged up the first hill, but from then on out it was a magpie-rich experience. They raucously called from trees and flew overhead. One perched on a bush next to the trail and I watched it as I ran closer, regretting that my approach would startle it away. The regal corvid remained there until I was nearly within arm’s reach before flying across the ravine.

Black-billed Magpie out my window.  September 1, 2019

Just up the trail and around the corner on the approach to what we call the Bunny Run (because, you know, bunnies frequently seen there), two more magpies perched on either side of the trail, silhouetted against the sky. That sight prompted me to open my arms wide and proclaim out loud, “I receive this. Thank you!” And as I did, another gift appeared.

Photo by Jim Kennedy (Metzger Farm Open Space)

A coyote about 50 feet away, loping through the brush behind one of the magpies. The dark-faced coyote* stopped to watch me. I stopped and watched it, speaking in a low voice. Reassuring it that I came in peace. Then it took off again and I resumed running. When I reached the top of the Bunny Run, I stopped to look back. The coyote had also stopped to watch me. I waved, shouting my thanks and good wishes, and resumed the run with a smile and a little more pep in my step.

Farther up the trail, I saw two people. As I got closer, I realized one was sitting. In a chair? And then I noticed a hawk circling overhead. I watched the hawk as I ran, wondering at the flash of white underneath the wings. And just as it hit me that it wasn’t a hawk, I heard the loud buzzing sound. That non-hawk was a drone. Ugh. No more bird sounds. No more solitude. No more smile on my face.

But after grumpily running past the people and their drone, I reminded myself of all I’d already been gifted. So I less-grumpily continued up to the turnaround point at the top of The Slog (because, you know, never-ending uphill) and did my stretching. Then I raced down toward the people who sent up an even larger and louder drone right as I passed, and focused on the joy of movement. The only thing that mattered was being out on the trails again. Moving. Alive.

Thank you, universe. I receive these gifts.

* my search for images of dark-faced coyotes was unsuccessful

Round and round we go

Despite today’s frigid temperatures, spring is around the corner, and I’m warming myself with memories of a hike in the open space last June. We’d gotten lots of snow last winter and so the flowers were magnificent.

Here’s a burst of color from a type of blooming thistle that’s probably invasive and somewhat annoying when it scratches my legs as I run past on the trails. But pretty, right?

June 24, 2021

I don’t have the time to identify these yellow wildflowers because, well, there are sh*t-tons of yellow wildflowers. But it’s a lovely little wheel, isn’t it?

Here’s another probably-invasive thistle which is also scratchy-scratchy when I run past, but right now reminds me of a burst of warm, pink sunshine.

Lastly, here’s a delicate specimen that, despite its straight-forward appearance, defies identification. White and yellow wildflowers definitely test my skills.

This latest snowfall is priming the ground for another glorious wildflower display and I look forward to exploring with my camera in a few months.

Wrinkles and torn wings

As much as I loathe this aging thing, I’m beginning to recognize that I am now a healthier person in terms of self-worth and knowing who I am and where I fit in the world. That’s been a good trade-off for the wrinkles. ~ Patty Duke

June 24, 2021

Life does have a way of leaving its mark upon the body. But hey, it’s good to know we can still fly, torn wings or not.

The best reward

All those who love Nature she loves in return, and will richly reward, not perhaps with the good things they are commonly called, but with the best things, of this world–not with money and titles, horses and carriages, but with bright and happy thoughts, contentment and peace of mind. ~ John Lubbock

Blue Flax in the open space.  June 24, 2021

Thankful Thursday: full heart edition

I got up this morning and went for a run on the trails.

Hayden Green Mountain Park.  June 24, 2021

While this photo was taken a week ago, I enjoyed the same view today (these three dragonflies may or may not have been present this time around as I tend to watch the trail more than the sky due to tripping hazards) and grinned pretty much throughout the entire run. My body felt sluggish, but my soul overfloweth with gratitude as I drank in the natural beauty.

*happy sigh*

Twofer Tuesday

Twofer Tuesday is doing double-duty today. In addition to the two blooms in this photo,

Hayden Green Mountain Park. June 24, 2021

my online research tells me this plant (Argemone polyanthemos) is a member of the poppy family and that one of its common names is “Thistle Poppy.” (Woot! Two plant species in one!)

Also? Every bit of this plant, including the seeds, is poisonous. So, be sure not to lean in too close when admiring the photo. 🙂

Mutualism

Hayden Green Mountain Park. June 24, 2021

Nature promotes mutualism. The flower nourishes the bee. The river waters quench the thirst of all living beings. And trees provide a welcoming home to so many birds and animals. There is a rhythm to this togetherness.  ~ Ram Nath Kovind

Hot on the trails

This morning we opted to take our daily walk on the trails and headed out when it was a mild 70 degrees. I didn’t bring water because I didn’t think we’d need it. And at the time Zippy took this photo with his phone, Emma was still handling the heat pretty well. (Telltale sign: tongue flopped forward rather than dangling to the side.)

Emma and a clump of Blanketflower in Hayden Green Mountain Park. June 22, 2021

But by the time we’d walked about 2.5 miles and stepped back on a neighborhood street, Emma was done. She collapsed in a full sploot on a patch of shaded pavement. She absolutely did not want to move and I thought I might have to carry her home. There was precedent for this behavior and I most definitely should’ve known better.

Fortunately, the three of us did make it home without having to take turns carrying each other and, once inside, I immediately set my water holster next to my trail shoes. A pointed reminder in case I somehow (again) forget her overheated sploot. I owe it to my sweet little doggo to keep her hydrated.

Twofer Tuesday: tuckered hikers edition

Emma and I just returned from a sunny and warm excursion in the open space. We hiked up the mountain as fast as we could and then ran down. Well, we did some running. My short-legged companion doesn’t like the heat and slowed to a walk multiple times. At one point, she even did her signature “goin’ on strike” move.  She stopped and dug in to pull the leash taut, then flopped on her belly with pink tongue hanging out.

I’d already offered her water from my cupped hand when we were at the top of the mountain, which she refused. So when she was on her belly, I tried another approach: pouring water in front of her. Instead of lapping it with her tongue, she ignored it. Silly dog, refusing libation when hot and thirsty. Well, I wasn’t willing to take no for an answer and pried her jaws open to pour water in her mouth.

Worked like a charm! Emma got up and ran almost the entire way back to the street. Such a good doggo.

(Note: Zippy took the photo with the camera still set for shooting the Brown Creeper in low light even though Emma and I were in bright, bright light. I salvaged the photo via a filter. Artsy, no?)

Good omen

Zippy accepted my invitation to run on the trails with me this afternoon. It turned out, lots of people had the same idea so we ran our regular route in reverse to avoid the hiking couple we saw as soon as we got on the trail. I’m so glad we did because as we ran along the ravine, we were gifted a wildlife sighting.

Photo by Jim Kennedy.  Metzger Farm Open Space, CO.  January 19, 2019.

Four coyotes on the opposite slope. Two loped off to our left and the others sat next to the trail where we planned to run. We debated turning around so as to not further stress the remaining two and then decided it was a stress for them either way. So on we went, and the coyotes melted into the brush at our uphill, huffing approach.

I’d thought my coyote-sighting days were behind me as I’ve mostly seen them early in the mornings and I’m no longer an early-in-the-morning runner. But this here Monday played against type and started the week with a wonderful surprise. Definitely a good omen.

Thankful Thursday: 5 items, yo!

Black-billed Magpie in open space. March 31, 2020.

This morning, for the second day in a row, I got up and ran on the trails.

Black-billed Magpies perched on yucca alongside the trail and flew ahead of me as I chugged along, bringing smiles and lifting my spirits.

I’m excited to regain the strength and endurance I’ll need for the many fights ahead on behalf of the people and planet.

Day by day, I’m inching closer to FINALLY understanding my protagonist in my new novel project. That’s the good news. The bad is there’s a very good chance the 4k words I’ve written thus far will end up in the trash and I’ll be back to 0 words. However, I’m feeling more solid and at peace with this newer understanding.

While knotty writing problems sometimes amp up my frustration, they also take my focus and provide a refuge from our current (and future) reality. Hooray for an inner creative life!

Highlight reel

Emma the doggo and I walked on the trails this morning. At one point, as she snuffled at the many odors in the vegetation, something caught my eye. I got a brief glimpse of big ears and two eyes of a creature peering at me from behind a bush farther up the trail. We remained motionless, staring at one another. As my brain tried to process what I was seeing, I blinked, and the animal was gone. I’m pretty sure it was a coyote, although much smaller than this one.

By g’pa bill – Coyote Dad, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22832337

Emma didn’t even notice the coyote, but as we advanced up the trail her sniffing became even more urgent. I searched the surrounding area: no sign of what I’d seen. I could almost believe I imagined the whole thing, but every time I close my eyes I picture the fur, the intense eyes, and those enormous ears.

Definitely the highlight of my day.

Thwarting my brain

I’ve had to revisit Dr. John Sarno’s mind-body connection lately due to ongoing vertigo. After three weeks of living at a tilt, I had an epiphany and realized it was my brain trying to distract me from the many emotions I’m experiencing during these difficult times. My brain thinks I’ll be better served if I’m focused on bogus sensations rather than doing the helpful things that help me manage my anger/anxiety/fear, helpful activities such as trail-running. Since the onset of this dizzy bullshit on June 9, I haven’t run on the trails. Because what’s scarier than rocks and roots sticking up on narrow , uneven trails, hoping to trip an already-tippy me?

I’ll tell you. A three-foot snake across the trail.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

How do I know? This morning I finally went out in the open space. (note: the vertigo has greatly subsided since I caught on to my brain, but things are still off.) I’d only run about 20 feet from the trail head when my right foot came down close to an enormous snake. I let loose with my customary profanity as I jumped left. The snake didn’t acknowledge my presence, but my heart still pounded as I watched it slither along. No rattling. I now think it was a bull snake, but I didn’t lean in to verify whether it had slit-like pupils (rattlesnake) as opposed to a bull snake’s circular pupils. I will say that I had a whole new pep in my step when I started running again. Adrenaline can be a beautiful thing.

During my three-mile run, I also saw rabbits on the part of the trail we call the “bunny run” and later on kicked up a flock of magpies. The Spotted Towhees were also out in force, singing their “sweet-sweet-teeeeaaaa” songs. It was wonderful being there again. My pace was slow but my spirits were high.

Take that, brain!

Good afternoon, moon

Moon as seen from open space. Afternoon of March 31, 2020.

The moon, by her comparative proximity, and the constantly varying appearances produced by her several phases, has always occupied a considerable share of the attention of the inhabitants of the earth.   ~ Jules Verne

Thankful Thursday

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and I felt an array of not-so-pleasant emotions. Rage was high on the list. I’m doing a little better today, in part because I’m focusing more on what keeps me going during hard times.

Open space. April 1, 2020

Today I’m grateful for the many ways nature soothes my soul.

Twofer Tuesday

This photo is from earlier this month during a foray into the open space with my blanket and camera. It was taken from quite a distance and, at the time, I thought I was looking at two magpies. It wasn’t until  I downloaded my photos that I realized it was one Black-billed Magpie and one American Robin.

Open space. April 1, 2020.

In the majority of the pictures of these two, the birds face the same direction, as if their heads swiveled in unison. Magpies get a bad rap for aggression, so it’s nice seeing this peaceful coexistence.

Sanctuary

This afternoon I packed notebook, binoculars, camera, blanket, and camp chair, and walked up the street and out into the open space. I’m still not feeling great so only “hiked” a short distance before settling in. I spent that time outdoors doing much and also very little.

I sat in the chair and watched birds through the binoculars. I rested on the blanket in the sun, welcoming the heat baking into my black shirt. I explored the immedate area with my camera, jotted in my notebook, and eavesdropped on hikers talking on the nearby trail. When my stomach growled, I fantasized about snacks. I photographed the moon in the blue sky. I rolled onto my back to watch this uncharacteristically mellow Dark-eyed Junco in the tree above me.

Those two hours outside were balm for my soul. I’m very grateful for the luxury and ease of walking up my street and out into the open. Next time, I’ll know to bring something to eat.

Thoughts on a Magpie Monday

I woke with anxiety (in large part exacerbated by the reality of the corporate, political, and media establishment rallying around the candidate who’s campaigning against Medicare for All during a pandemic) and knew I had to do something. Pull the covers over my head and remain in bed all day? Or get up and get moving?

I wisely chose movement and for the first time in weeks, went for a run. Well, a walk/run. For once, I was kind to myself and didn’t berate myself whenever I slowed to a walk. I went out on the trails in the open space and within minutes, I saw a bunny under a bush. I greeted it as I chugged on by and then a few minutes later, I spotted a talkative magpie perched on the water tank.

Black-billed Magpie in neighbor’s yard. August 29, 2019.

I’ve become accumstomed to being the only human out on the trails, but today I encountered a total of ten people and three dogs. I hope that if they also woke with anxiety, that their time in the open space soothed their souls. I know it did me a world of good.