Happy Little Nature Rampage

From the Sanctuary:

Nature rampage lately…so healing to the psyche! First to Southwest Florida to explore with friends. My first day there they introduced me to their resident tree frog who peeked at me from their balcony bromeliad. Adorable beyond words! In the five days that followed we walked the beach, visited a nature park and drove to the Everglades, a destination that had been on my bucket list since I was five and read a story about it in Kindergarten. I wasn’t disappointed as we saw plenty of alligators and manatees. I ate fresh shrimp and tried Conch for the first time sitting at a picnic table by the water in one of the restaurants near the old City Hall. A teaser trip, I’ll be back.

Another highlight was our usual fishing outing which takes us from Bonita Springs out onto the Gulf of Mexico through narrow passages by small mangrove islands and inlets. My friend is an expert navigator and patient fisherman, baiting the hooks and freeing lines of those of us who aren’t the greatest at casting.  I catch nothing but the wind in my hair and sun on my face, but that is enough. The trip includes the pleasant surprise of a school of dolphins feeding near the shore. We slow up to drift between them and marvel as they surface close enough to us so we can hear the sound of the air escaping their blowholes. Magical.   I’m quiet on the way back, letting my thoughts drift peacefully and as pleasantly as the water, glad to be sharing this time in my Florida Happy Place with happy friends.

I returned to New York on a Thursday at midnight, due at Allegany Nature Pilgrimage on Friday afternoon.   Different wardrobe packed, I hop in the car headed for a weekend of scenic bliss and a prescription of workshops that include searching for spiders (led by a delightful nine-year-old bug enthusiast), butterfly catching, instruction at a beaver lodge and lesson on rattlesnakes (not nearly as dangerous as I suspected).   I was reunited with a retired friend from my UB Engineering days and had a relaxing night fireside with cabin neighbor family, a couple and their grown son.  We enjoyed our pleasant banter that included the perfect cheater microwave recipe for S’Mores in a pinch when you’re in the mood and there’s no fire to be found. Had reports of a pesky raccoon badgering (pun intended) campers for food, but he didn’t stop by my place.

The following weekend I spent Saturday and Sunday on day-long hikes with my Earth Spirit Educational Services family for the final sessions of a four-part series on herbalism field studies. By the end, I was much more adept at recognizing plants in different settings of Western New York forests, fields, creeks and ponds.   In all, we identified more than 100 plants, including a blooming Tulip tree, majestically looking like those flowering beauties in Florida. The ground looks different now, not just a place to walk upon, but a world to enjoy the endless gifts that Mother Nature provides in all of her purposeful greenery. As is the case with all Earth Spirit events, this one came with sentiments of true nature appreciation. When our educator introduced us to poison ivy he pointed out that although it has a bad reputation, all nature does what it needs in order to survive.   The more educated we become, the less fearful we will be. That was definitely true of my recent spider and rattlesnake lessons.  Reflecting, I also thought about people I have needed to forgive during my life, and I smiled in the moment thinking of them with love and a new understanding.   Perhaps that is true of humans as well…we behave in whatever ways we need in order to survive.

As I write this I am grateful to be back at my own sanctuary enjoying the bunnies chasing each other, great blue herons by the creek, sounds of the birds and the spotted fawn who appeared with Mom a couple of weeks ago sporting brand new wobbly legs. And I am happy.

From the Sanctuary

Solo road trip along the lake, Cleveland bound. This journey begins with my being on the receiving end of a random act of kindness when I reached the toll taker arm outstretched, money in hand. She told me to keep my change and proceed on through because someone had “taken care of me.” I continued on in joy; vintage CD’s in tow. These include Queen’s A Night at the Opera, which allows me to perform my personal rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody belted out word for fabulous word with unquenchable manic enthusiasm. This, by the way, is as intuitive as Mooing when passing a field of cows. It’s a rare moment of pure unadulterated satisfactory expression.

My purpose for this adventure is to meet with a likeminded professor at Case Western University who not only understands, but preaches the power of positivity. A historic Gothic hotel is my stay of choice, where I arrive early afternoon and spend several hours writing uninterrupted. Nice. In the evening I turn the television on (I don’t have one at home, so this is an act of bravery) and surf around, landing on a National Geographic interview of the Dali Lama. His words and message send me to a peaceful meditative place before I settle into slumber.

Too cheap to spend the fourteen dollars for the hotel breakfast buffet the next morning, I head to Case Western three hours before my appointment. The campus is much different than the University at Buffalo I’m accustomed to, nicely interspersed with the local community and featuring as many modern buildings as old ones, adding a lot of character to the locale. The nature is different as well. There are groves of fascinating trees with pretty-colored peeling bark that I can only identify as River Birch. I also encounter several red squirrels and a skunk safely observed from afar.

After I wander for a bit, I ask a student on a street corner where the best place to get a cup of coffee is. His friendly response doesn’t disappoint. When I arrive at The Coffee House, I find the perfect spot to my personal liking. No franchise here, instead a quaint local shop in a restored old house, clean with antique furniture and run by a local owner (in our short “small world” chat, we discover that his wife grew up ten miles from me). And they have Jamaica Me Crazy flavor! I hang out there and write some more before taking a long walk, exploring buildings and engaging in people watching.

At noon, I am warmly received by both the Organizational Behavior Department and the professor. As part of their MS in Organizational Development and Change program, he teaches a course and concept called Appreciative Inquiry, a process that focuses on an organization’s and its employees’ strengths to be built upon rather than problems to be solved. This is done through a series of inquiries and storytelling to invoke positive emotional responses. After taking the course online, I know the material and his intense wisdom and insights will add significant value to the work I will be doing in my program coaching young adults diagnosed with mental illnesses to thrive.

Dining over the best college food I’ve ever tasted, we talk about topics that aren’t often strung together… joy, neuroscience, compassion, Alzheimer studies, coaching, how words create worlds and the importance of listening. I show him the draft of what I am working to accomplish and he gives me more contact names and offers to review it and send feedback as I move toward implementation. My serving heart is working its way into a plan, and I am grateful for the encouragement and support.

Spirits elevate after our meeting; I head out into the sunshine to enjoy the waterfront and a stop at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame where I read about the history of Bohemian Rhapsody. I don’t sing it there, at least out loud. My visit provides a fun jaunt through music history and memorabilia and my favorite display cases exhibit the first handwritten drafted lyrics of some of the most famous songs ever written. Words create worlds.

My evening ride home is more passive, with instrumental synthesizer music accompanying my smile, the dimming sunset and some contemplative thoughts.  Reflecting back to seven months ago when I received word that my job would not be renewed, I thought, “When one door closes…”  And then I said out loud, “Let us keep inspiring one another.”

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings and Inflatable Penguins of Joy

 

 

 

I have to write in the language of beauty and love, nature, life. Some call this fluff, I define it as the wonderful things that happen every day. I don’t know much about the scientific perspective of nature. I’m not a botanical expert by any means and I have a difficult time identifying flora and fauna, especially by their Latin names but I am able to describe to you the awe I experience when strolling beneath a canopy in a forest or walking through a grove of palm trees or down the shores of my favorite beach as the shells wash between and beneath my toes. I can tell you about the excitement of a toad as he becomes startled and jumps out of a leaf pile, and I sense the feeling of the creek bed as the stream of water runs along it. I believe all of these things are here for us to notice.

I’m not adept at Search Engine Optimization or keywording to lift my content to the top of a Google list, but I can tell you what it feels like to witness the smile of a child as he receives a gift from a loved one or two people in love as they gaze into each other’s eyes or smile in connection. There is so much love here on this planet, so much kindness, so much giving, yet there is so little time and so many barriers in the way. Somehow I am drawn to point it out and write about it, love it, live it.

Today on the commute home I took a moment at a red light to notice my surroundings. The falling snow was shimmering in the glow of the streetlights with the black sky as a backdrop. That, coupled with the house displays brightened the night. Some were intricate and precise while others consisted of a single strand of lights randomly tossed over a small tree and an ornament propped up on a porch light; possibly a lame attempt by a teenager to appease his nagging mother. I am intrigued by the row of inflatables on one front lawn with a penguin situated behind a drum set in the middle. He waddles back and forth swinging his green vinyl sticks. He is silly and amuses me. It makes me happy that so many people still take the time and make the effort to decorate.

And so flows the humor of life, wrapped up between all the beauty. Like beauty, humor is found daily, also worthy of the writing. It is offered everywhere and a gift to all willing to receive it. It is easy to miss, overshadowed by the distraction of screens. But they are all there, nature, beauty, love, kindness, humor, waiting to be noticed by onlookers like me and you, and enjoyed. Have fun.

 

Sharing my calendar today: Kisses and hugs forgive and love

A little meditative humor for the holidays: take a deep breath and stay in the “present” moment

Peace and Joy everyone!