Fall Flowering Forsythia 002

Monday, Cherry and I had planned to hike the Menunkatuck Trail, but we were forced to postpone until next week. Now, here it is, Wednesday, and I’m still struggling to adjust to the change.

It would have been a lovely day for a hike. Sunny and balmy for this time of year. Perhaps it’s the unseasonable weather that has me flummoxed. Southern fronts keep coming, making it warmer outside than inside my house.

Mind you, I am thrilled to be warm and not shovel. It’s the longest Indian Summer I remember and it helps me pretend that a long, cold, lonely winter is not on its way. So, why am I out of joint?

I go for a walk and am startled by the sight of flowering forsythia along my neighbor’s hedge. Have they been lulled by the warmth into considering it spring? What will happen when we get the (inevitable) cold snap?

Or are they taking advantage of a window of opportunity? Ah, a chance, a special opening in the grays of November and dark of December to celebrate, to stretch and grow. To catch up with the last few remaining tasks that didn’t get done in September and get a jump-start on Spring.

Now that feels exciting, motivating, enthralling, inspiring. Forsythia flowers: let’s tidy up our loose ends for 2012 and get a head start on 2013. I’m with you.

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It was in the forties when Cherry and I met and rode tandem to park my car on North Madison Road and then park at the Route 80 lot. The sun was strong, the air crisp, and a tint of color marked the maples. By nine o’clock, we were on the trail, with 2.2 miles ahead.

With its clear markings, we had no difficulty hiking this section known as the Timberlands. We continued a conversation that had begun in the car about relationships and whether to pursue them. “I tend to fall in love with people, all kinds of people, men and women,” Cherry explained. “I just love them. And I am attracted to what certain men do.” I told her I understood what she meant. She went on to clarify that it didn’t mean they would be appropriate partners. In fact, she wasn’t certain she wanted a partner. She was feeling so connected to her home community and didn’t want to lose that.

About an hour after starting, we found ourselves along the shore of Upper Guilford Lakes. The multiple shades of green and juxtaposition of water, sky, and vegetation was breath taking. We decided to sit on the bank and enjoy the view for a few minutes. I shared some of my recent experiences including time with some mutual friends at the Durham Fair, music at Pipes in the Valley in Hartford, the Last Green Festival in Brooklyn, and cold leads and hot starts with relationships.

A short distance away, we came to the Lake’s feeder stream, merrily gurgling along, cascading over rocks under a canopy of green. We were mesmerized by the sounds and scene. Cherry gushed over the view (anyone who knows Cherry understands what I mean) and again we paused to enjoy before continuing along.

Along the way, we noticed attractive cairns marking trail junctions, some of which resembled small fairy houses. We were nearing the end when I spotted a garter snake sunning on the trail. Cherry, afraid, hung back, while I shooed it safely into the brush and stood between it and the trail, so Cherry could pass.

The last section passed through forested wetlands with short boardwalk sections that again engaged the senses. “This is the loveliest hike we’ve done so far,” Cherry said.

And I had to agree with her.

Cherry and I got off to a crisp start this morning, with temps in the sixties when we met at Perk on Main in Durham. We drove in tandem down to Route 80 and had planned to put a car at the southern end of today’s hike on Cindy Lane, but I missed the turn. Instead, we left Cherry’s car at the parking lot on Route 80 and drove together to Cindy Lane. “Do you have your keys?” I joked as Cherry left her car.

Yes, she did and we continued through the Guilford Lakes area down Maupas Road. The scenery was lovely, trees fully green and rich looking. Meanwhile, Cherry had already started telling me about her new beau and their first few dates. I was particularly intrigued with the duck eggs he left on her step earlier in the week. “Hard to match that,” I laughed.

Our maps were a bit spotty, so we double-checked with a woman walking her dogs and she shared that the Nut Plains Woods entrance on Cindy Lane was hard to spot and parking was on the road. Very glad she mentioned that, as it was almost impossible to spot the trailhead.

At 9:00AM, we entered Nut Plains Woods and turned right. I wondered out loud if we would be able to find the blue trail along the white blazed Guilford Land Trust parcel. We continued along for about fifteen minutes and, voila, there it was! I did a little happy dance and felt confident we would easily find Cherry’s car 4.7 miles ahead.

By then, we were talking about Cherry’s potential retirement and focus on her future. It wasn’t long before I’d started telling her about my recent dates and my hopes for their progress. The trail was lovely, fairly level, through deeply shaded paths. In a few sections, we crossed planks over what would be wet areas in the spring but were bone-dry after this dry summer.

We crossed Willow Road and continued along, sharing our plans for the coming weekend. Cherry described her efforts to balance her need for alone time with this blossoming relationship. We noted that, being older, sometimes it’s a challenge to fit new things into our lives.

Suddenly, Cherry stopped. “I left my keys in your car down on Cindy Lane.” Ooops. Out came the map and we decided to continue to North Madison Road and walk back along the roads. That way, we would have covered the southern part of this section of the trail and could easily park on North Madison and head north to Route 80 on our next outing. And also we could spot where the trail crossed North Madison, so we could find it next time.

Before long, we were on North Madison and walking back to my car. By then, the sun was higher and it was warmer and definitely sunnier along the roads. Our conversation drifted to my ecotherapy work and recent progress with that. By the time we reached my car and drove back to Route 80 where Cherry was parked, she had given me some new ideas and leads on potential directions. We ended our trip after two hours and covered an additional 1.5 miles of the Menunkatuck Trail. Cherry was apologetic about our switch in plans due to forgetting her keys. I assured her suggestions wouldn’t have happened if we had stayed on our original plan and that was worth plenty. We look forward to returning next month for our missing section.

On Friday, August 24 at 7pm the local access channel 15 will broadcast an interview with ecotherapist Beth lapin. If you’ve wanted to know what it’s all about, take a listen to the 30 minute production.

In addition, Beth will be offering a labyrinth walk at 7pm on Friday, August 31 (Haddam, CT)  and a four-week session on ecotherapy at Middlesex Community College (Middletown, CT) starting mid-September. See details on the NEWS & EVENTS page of this site.

Eagle Scout project

Cherry and I continued our exploration of the Menunkatuck Trail, by starting at the parking lot on Route 80 and hiking north to where we had left my car near Race Hill Road. The entrance was well designed and inviting, although I steered Cherry away from the information board that showed this trail, the Mattabasett and the rest of the blue trails connecting northerly through various states to Canada. “Oh, don’t look at that,” I joked. “Don’t want you to get any ideas. But this trail, when it’s completed will go south to Long Island Sound.”

“I’d like that,” Cherry gave back to me, with a grin.

Today’s section was only 1.8 miles, with an additional half-mile to the car at Race Hill Road, and we covered it easily and quickly. Turns were well marked and the walk was quite pleasant. So was our conversation. Cherry and I talked initially about the challenge of ending a relationship when it wasn’t working. Whether a romantic situation or a work connection, we both tended to stay longer than necessary, at least in hindsight. Cherry thought it was because we were hopeful—optimistically looking for positive change. I wondered if it was our efforts to be gentle and develop a graceful exit.

This stretch of the trail was almost completely in Cockaponset State Forest, our confusing friend from previous weeks. But this was obvious, mostly level, and enjoyable. We crossed a lovely constructed bridge, although there was little water in the stream below. Cherry talked about ending a potential relationship that never really quite got off the ground and I shared that our writing group, that I’d been in for three years, had hit a bump and I was taking a break. I also shared frustration with my ecotherapy certification efforts with two different venues, some other avenues that were opening, and an experience with a tree whisperer.

Before we could finish our topics, we were back at the car. Later, over refreshments, we explored concepts that would support a tree whisperer’s connection with trees. All interesting material and we parted, ready to meet again for the next section of trail and our lives.

I make my way to my tree shelter and stand amidst the low-hanging branches. I lean my head against one of them and close my eyes. I hear birds, a car, more birds. I feel the wind as it moves over my skin. I sense the water between my toes, as I’ve worn flipflops, which is cooler than the rest of me.

Little raspberry seeds, from berries I picked on my way to this place, are wedged between my teeth and I pry them loose with my tongue and gently crunch them to release their tangy tart sweetness.

The wind shifts and I catch an odor that makes me wonder if I am near the final resting place of my nineteen-year old cat who went missing two weeks ago. I feel something land on my hand and my eyes open. I swat away the mosquito.

I see greens of many shades surrounding me. I see tick foil seeds almost ready to stick to anything that passes by, with their bristly small hairs. I see one bright red leaf on the ground.

I am aware that I can chose my feelings about the mosquito, the smell of death, the cool, smooth bark of the tree branch I lean on. It is clear to me that it’s not objective but more subjective. I am the one to bring my response to these sensory experiences. They themselves are neutral. My interest in a plant or feeling is inherently based on what I bring to the situation. If I fear cats, I will feel fear when I see one, regardless of its intentions.

Speaking of which, I am now typing with my black cat lying here on my desk with me. As soon as I touch him, he begins to purr loudly. In and out with each breath, the sound  changes. It connects us, his rhythmic purring. Why do cats purr? Why do we enjoy it? Ah, but many don’t enjoy it. It reminds them of allergies, experiences of getting scratched or bitten. It is only my positive association with cats and their rumbles echoing through my body that brings the pleasure.

On the night before your birthday, you should sleep out under the raspberries.

~Anastasia

 Fireflies. Bullfrogs. Occasional glimpses of stars in the cloudy sky. Dark pine silhouetted across an open sky. Two cars, a few dogs, mostly quiet. Quiet. Quiet.

Awakened during the night only by logistical issues. Where is the pillow? I’ve edged off the therma-rest. Where’s my extra blanket? My head is cold.

And then they start. Robins. Blue jays.

My first image: pine silhouette, open sky, and the thinnest, most stunning sliver of the moon hanging with a few wispy scattered clouds that almost immediately hide its glory.

Happy birthday to me from Mother Earth.