Mist on a lovely mountain

And a suicide named chocorua

Not a native love story at all.

And many come to climb her to the top.

Crystal clear lake

In the glassy surface of the water

Her reflection

And her mountain range.

She is the mountain

And he is the name

Sad story of loss and revenge and despair

Yet she is peaceful somehow, Chocorua.

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one more hike

Icy breeze tunnels through the woods and down the snow sprinkled blue trail, to whip at the part of her face not covered by a ski cap and a hoodie. Maureen wonders how long before she can get frost bite on her nose.

It is a sunny, incredibly freezing, and clear early morning. Maureen can feel and move ten toes ensconced in two pairs of socks and hiking boots. Those boots have walked at least 100 miles of trails.  Her fingers are tightly tucked into black and white ski gloves.  Maureen is grateful once again for wonderfully designed cold weather gear. She thinks of the trekking poles Rachel gave her as a good bye gift and of cross country trails and skis.

Maureen’s furry hiking companions are joyfully running everywhere on the trail and in the nearby woods. She sees a small herd of white tailed deer emerge from the bushes, before the canines do, and distraction in the form of Zukes treats does the trick. The white “flags” raised high in alarm and warning, run off in another direction. ‘Human’! ‘Canines’! Eight or ten wide eyed, long eared deer get away.

Maureen and the dogs are looking for a survival shelter on this cold February morning.  Or rather the human is looking; the canines are just happy to “be dogs”. They’re glad Maureen finally decided they were overdue for a hike.

In December Aunt Maureen, Uncle Charlie and a seven year old “super kid” built the shelter using downed tree branches and other deadfall. They noted the coordinates on the map. Noted “handrails”; drainage on one side and wide open trail marked gas line on the other. And the lake visible to the south.

This morning she took one false turn into the woods where ‘we are too close to the blue trail’.  The woods look the same everywhere. Many bare trees. Lots of dead branches. Millions of dead leaves and everything dusted in just a little bit of white and dappled in sunshine. Walked away from the misleading drainage… checked the terrain and headed to “our” drainage and the survival shelter is right where they left it six weeks ago.  Yes. It would be!

This is a good bye of sorts. Or maybe just “see you later”. To elevations and drainages and trails and landmarks that gave her navigation skills. Map and compass were her tools and GPS was backup as Maureen zig zagged back and forth and all over these acres of woodland.

She and her dogs walked these trails through all  manner of rain and shine. Snow, ice, wind, even a thunder storm. Some glorious hikes under canopies of green alternated with oranges, reds and yellows and finally bare tree limbs. Sunshine, gray thick clouds, fog, humidity and bugs that barely stayed away from the obligatory “off” sprays.

It was where she recuperated from a flu that brought Maureen to her knees one relatively warm January.  She sat on a bench at the lake in the winter sunshine for hours while the dogs ran on the sandy beach and chased each other into the water.

It was where she took her hiking stick and “rehabbed” a recovering sprained knee one hot and muggy August. Moving slowly at first and finally able to walk a quarter of a mile in half an hour.

It was where she went to rest from surgery one September. Abdominal binder in place and every bootfall a calculated event. She invited a slower walking friend to come along on that “walk”.

This August, she was face to face with the remains of Hurricane Irene everywhere in those woods. Green leaves and fresh broken trees and branches lay across and in between trails.  She stumbled onto a geocache in a storm damaged tree trunk as she walked over logs and downed trees off the green trail. Geocache. There’s a thought.

Studied for ACLS one May sitting on a log off the red trail.  Had subjects hide in those woods for her training search dog to find. Even took her broken aspirations for the same SAR dog to those trails to grieve a genetic disorder called EIC in dogs.

Adieu. How does one say thank you for being my grounding and sanity for years of confining city living? Who is Maureen? And Charlie?

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like a raisin in the sun

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?  (Langston Hughs)

The sound of one shot ricocheted against the rocky side of the mountain and then across the dry creekbed to the other side. Back and forth it sprayed the landscape with the furious energy that had been her dream… unrealized.

They didn’t find Maria till the spring. By then she’d been dead almost six months. No one really missed her. No one had put out a missing person alert; no one who mattered anyway.

In a ramshackle dwelling two alleyways down lived a mentally retarded 15 year old and her drunk grandmother. Every morning the girl would walk up to Maria’s house and knock on the door. Every evening she would walk around the yard and pull weeds out of the flower beds. Then she would sit on the stone bench, look at the kitchen window and wonder when Maria would come back and why she had forgotten about her.

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Tanner strikes again

Our power was out. Wind gusts up to 55 mph probably to blame. A tree uprooted in someone’s yard had fallen across the road behind our house. The soggy ground let go of its roots, or perhaps the tree was dead. Don’t know if that caused the power to go out or not.

Yes, of course I have a picture on my cell phone of the downed tree and blocked road. Not so many years ago my then two year old grandson asked me to take a picture of him with my phone and I was amazed that he knew a telephone could do that. Just a few years later my amazement seems a little absurd. But being fifty one is a little absurd. Strike that. A lot absurd.

So I was in my bed reading by flashlight. A book that I had retrieved from where it had fallen between the wall and the bed.  At any given time there are magazines, journals, books or textbooks on the bed, under the bed, near the bed under and over pillows. Reading in bed trumps TV any day… or night. And Tanner the dog was on the bed near me. Grooming. And grooming. And grooming.

I petted him, nudged him, talked to him. Anything to make him stop. Finally I had enough. Annoyed I put the book down, got out of bed and went downstairs. I knew he would follow. Distraction accomplished. But I realized the poor dog probably had cabin fever and promised to take both of my dogs to the park in the morning.

5 am. Layered in warm clothes, hat and hood over my head, thick gloves on my freezing cold hands and jacket zippered up to my nose, I headed out into the just breaking dawn. It was 30 degrees, the frozen grass crunched under my boots and an icy breeze blew, but Tanner was thrilled. Kody, 6 year old labrador retriever, would be perfectly content to spend the whole winter on the sofa. But Tanner has cabin fever, so Kody gets to run in the field, too.  Try and keep up with Tanner.

They ran and ran and ran. And when they stopped I pulled out the frisbees. More running and chasing. Success! No more dog cabin fever.

Piled us all back into the car and drove home, and it was time to get ready for work.  Struggling with a complicated work issue I was just forming the verbage for the letter I had to send out later that day. Then I heard my daughter’s groggy whining voice from her bed.

“He just licked and licked and licked me and wouldn’t stop”.

She had come in late last night, to stay and visit for a few days.  There were evidence muddy prints on the bed beside her pillow.

“Next time latch the door shut or Tanner will let you know in the best way he knows how, just how happy he is to see you! Lick and lick and lick you and he just won’t stop”….

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night land nav

Compass and topo map.  boots on my feet. pack on my back. water and some carbs and fading land features. and then the sun goes down. land features are what I feel under my boots. and the sound of running water,  or a sliver of something that looks like a hill in the light of the lamp on my cap, another in my hand. spare light in my pocket. charged cell phone in the other.

those scurrying rummaging sounds in the leaves, those yellow, glowing eyes I see. then I don’t. how big is the creature they belong to? does it mind my being here? does it want me gone? the trees all look the same. they’re big. that drainage over there; was going north to south just a minute ago.  who turned it? in the dark? turn the map. there it is.

found it! the point I was looking for. matches up with the map. matches up with the compass in my hand. matches up with the GPS in the pocket of my pack.  I forget the dark and the cold and the fallen branches that try to trip me. and do once or twice. and the many pairs of eyes looking at me from the shadows. take a long drink. look all around. inhale deeply of the sharp cold air. Success!! Love it.  in the woods. in the dark.

turn my direction of travel back to my truck.

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who said it has to hurt to grow

every time there’s pain or discomfort? there’s opportunity for growth? how insane! who in the world made that up? who says it has to hurt to grow? why can’t growth happen from a song or thought provoking bunch of written words,  or a mountain so high and a forest so grand it brings tears to the eyes? or a moonlit cornfield and wisps of clouds floating across a deep blue black sky and the dogs running before you and you can see your breath because it is so cold so you walk a little faster and it is glorious. that didn’t hurt. that left richness in your soul that wasn’t there before. that’s growth. why would it have to hurt?

so all the martyrs, ‘why the bitterness’?  growth does not have to hurt. it needs to stretch. not the same thing. it needs to butt up against imaginary limits and push them out. until they move. then they become the new limits to butt up against. bring on the upward and the onward. hallelujah.

healthy layers of tissue are stronger than scars and a lot better looking. pile on the experiences that take your breath away with their beauty.  the run that sends endorphins rushing through every cell of your body. or the swim that has you focused on breathing and moving limbs through the water.  stroke after stroke after stroke. turn around and do it again. and again.

and bring on the growth from a  job well done. despite the boss and the  rules and regulations, despite “KITA”  the common whip. but just because the mind and heart want to.  tackle that project that seems so hard till you break it down. to manageable pieces and you get it done. and the satisfaction is  enough to make you want to do it all over again. growth. motivation.

that’s the growth i want. today. and all my tomorrows.

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can two fly over the cuckoo’s nest? hanging onto shreds

It was  a full twelve hours before sunshine once again broke through.  fitful evening. restless night. acute distress at dawn. demons of worry that became monsters of doom. crushing chest pain and a truck size headache. somatization of stress that goes on and on and on. living in a vise every day.

swallowed his pride, it tasted awful. ate crow, he gags when he thinks of it.  at once trapped and struggling to remain true. to a spirit that loves to run and laugh. to a spirit that would have him gladly work hard; brutally hard.  and play out loud with wild abandon.

he toes the line.  remains in his cell because he feels he must. pays attention to detail because he is honest. denies the guilt and anxiety. pushes back against the anger that wells up.  swats away the tears that come anyway. big boys don’t cry. hangs onto any shreds of hope his brain can still conjure up.

and all along could it perhaps be his mother’s voice from over the cuckoo’s nest trying to make itself heard?

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