Page 24 of 366 One More with Gus

IMG_20160124_194829January ushered in winter’s cold wet blast along the East Coast this past weekend. A few flakes had flirted with us earlier in the week with little accumulation, followed by an icy plunge midweek that left motorists stranded for hours along the Washington Beltway. So with the forecast for an impending blizzard, preparations began in earnest to be in place and stay put for the duration.

As promised, flurries arrived by early Friday afternoon with little let-up until early Sunday. It was one for the record books with comparisons being made to storms in 2010, 1997 or 1978; personal accounts are as prolific as the snow, so there’s no need to repeat them here other than to graphically depict our evolving experience as viewed outside my window.

For my family, it was deja vu of so many January storms before, including a first we experienced in our new home before our eldest son’s arrival in January 1987 and we used the toboggan to tamp down a trail to ease the climb up our hill so we could more easily haul our groceries. Similar storms in 1995 and 2010 piled layer upon layer of snow until we wondered if we’d ever see green grass again.

sledding gus
Gus the Beagle knows that the more layers of snow, the better the sledding and workout. How much of a workout? Well, an hour of sledding and walking back uphill might work off one of Starbucks’ chocolate chunk cookies. Consider as well the estimate that “shoveling snow burns about 223 calories per 30 minutes of activity,” according to Harvard Medical School’s “Calories Burned…” chart while the Farmers’ Almanac reports “30 minutes of scraping ice from windshields or other surfaces can eat up over 100 calories.” Workout aside, the fun of simply being together as a family enjoying any of these activities is far and away the most satisfying part of a snowstorm for me.

Gus still enjoys romping through the winter, although as his health declines his ability to keep up is diminishing. Nonetheless, he was anxious to join us this one last storm as he supervised us on Sunday and Monday enjoying our share of sledding, shoveling and scrapping and giving us one more round of memories to recall for snowstorms to come.

“I love snow for the same reason I love Christmas: It brings people together while time stands still. Cozy couples lazily meandered the streets and children trudged sleds and chased snowballs. No one seemed to be in a rush to experience anything other than the glory of the day, with each other, whenever and however it happened.” ― Rachel Cohn, Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares

Page 9 of 366: Hike 3, Gus the Beagle’s Choice

Hike #3 of #52HikeChallenge: Cross Creek, January 9, 2016:
This page Gus the Beagle became part of my 52 Hike Challenge as I headed out in the lull of an early afternoon. We didn’t stray far on our adventure, just down the hill, past the creek and out into our haven before Gus was ready to backtrack. This adventure was intended to be whatever wanderings Gus wanted to enjoy. Stop at every mailbox? Absolutely. Sniff sticks, leaves or stumps? Sure. Explore the creek? Why not? I let Gus lead the way, and I was game to aimlessly roam along at his pace, wherever his nose might lead us. But, this page, Gus was content to stay close. We meandered, no destination in mind except to enjoy Gus’s company in this quiet space.

With us for 14-plus years, our Gus has always been ready for a rambunctious romp through our woods. He catapults out the door each morning to send squirrels scampering from the bird feeders, ever-positive that this page will be the one he finally snags his squirrel. When he gets a scent, he’s off, nose-down and unwavering in his pursuit, no matter how long or loud we call him. He’s no longer as hard-headed as those young days. Instead he’s just hard of hearing and ignores our calls to come in.

Sadly, we’ve learned that Gus has an aggressive cancer and with his pages numbered our goal is to have him enjoy each good page doing the things he enjoys most. He spends more time sleeping, typically his head on our foot or within close reach of a hand. His uphill gait has slowed but he’s still full of optimism as he launches out the front door and down the steps. It’s bittersweet knowing that our time together is measured but we make the most of our moments and his tail thumps happily as he catches treats and hugs.

And so, today this hike is Gus’s choice, no matter how long or far he chooses to meander.

Musings Hike #3
In this fast-paced space we occupy, let’s remember to create the space to roam aimlessly with no goal other than to cherish the gift of the present and with whom we share that moment. To see with fresh eyes. To listen without interrupting, and to hear without judging. To hug loved ones and tell them we love them. To sit with our dog and rub his head, and to feel his wet nose as he nuzzles our palm. Yes, to savor the warm friendship and unconditional love from Gus our Beagle.

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.” ― Milan Kundera

Gus the Beagle

#optoutside #exploreoutside #52hikechallenge #GustheBeagle

Page 2 of 366: Prequel to 52 Hikes, Hike 2 & Muses


Hike #2 with 52HikeChallenge: Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art, January 2, 2016

This page took me into Washington, DC to enjoy a trek through the National Gallery of Art. The intent was to celebrate a belated birthday while feeding my passion for photography as we appreciated the gallery’s recent exhibit of gifts celebrating photography.

As noted in the gallery’s news release:

Organized thematically, Recent Gifts brings together an exquisite group of photographs, ranging from innovative examples made in the earliest years of the medium’s history to key works by important post-war and contemporary artists that examine the ways in which photography continues to shape our experience of the modern world.  The exhibition celebrates the first acquisitions by the Gallery of work by the 19th-century photographers Joseph Vigier, 20th-century artists Lola Álvarez Bravo, Richard Avedon, Joe Deal, and Albert Renger-Patzsch, and contemporary photographers Paul Graham, Matthew Jensen, Simon Norfolk, and Leo Rubinfien, among others.

Of these, I particularly enjoyed Richard Avedon’s photographs from his famous The Family series created in 1976 for Rolling Stone,  of 69 individuals (one portrait included multiple people) reflecting the era’s political, media and corporate elite. My companions were nicely surprised by the number of individuals they correctly identified without referencing the exhibit’s accompanying cheat sheet.

Hike #2 Musing
Once we had toured the five rooms, our interests led us to explore other galleries upstairs and down. The map outlined children’s and director tours, and listed locations of various artists and styles. Off we hiked. As we stopped and studied early artists, it was absolutely amazing to gaze at massive canvases that reflected the most minute of details. Canvas notes would discuss briefly an artist’s muse, and I wondered about the role of creative inspiration. I hadn’t thought much about an artist’s muse before, and I wondered where do we each find our own inspiration? As we came to the Impressionists, Claude Monet’s Water Lillies was one work that particularly piqued my curiosity as I had encountered a similar view on a New York Finger Lakes tour (shown above): where does the bridge lead and what other beauties of nature await on either side? Here was my muse, I thought,  as I set to begin this 52 Hike Challenge. Perhaps I’ll find both the inspiration and the answers to what awaits on the other side once I complete this challenge to chronicle each walk and share the ensuing muse from it.

‘In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.’ John Muir

Page 3 of 366: Prelude For A #52HikeChallenge

20160103_124857Hike = long, vigorous walk on trails, footpaths or pre-charted paths in countryside or beautiful, natural environments.

Walk = shorter, urban walks.

Among wikipedia’s discussion for hiking is it being a form of walking, undertaken with the purpose of exploring and enjoying the scenery which usually occurs on trails in rural or wilderness areas. Etiquette for hiking includes enjoying the silence, talking quietly and being considerate of others you meet along the path.

Through a friend’s postings on her Instagram I’ve become intrigued with the #52HikeChallenge. Her postings have shared fabulous vistas from her ramblings along the Shenandoah, especially with her young son whose Buster Brown accounts of his adventures have now inspired me. If a 3-year-old can scramble over crags, explore streams, and discover nature’s beauty, then why not me? So, here I am, taking on my own 52 Hike challenge to explore more, see more, enjoy more, move more. Part of the discovery I anticipate during this leap year will be to stretch myself physically and mentally while personalizing this challenge for my preferences.

Walking flat paths is fairly easy for the majority of individuals, depending on the physical abilities or limitations. This past fall I shared an eight-week class with co-workers intent on getting out and walking more. Our basis was the Arthritis Foundation’s Walk with Ease program since we all had varying starting points. For myself it was a first step to intentionally add more steps in my day, exercising both mind and body. The intention was solid, the follow-through, not so much. Although the lunchtime hour had been scheduled on my calendar for the semester, to include time for the class and subsequent walks, off-site meetings and conflicts crept in, interfering with my ability to be on campus to hold to those commitments. I started strong, with the first week counting 11,324 steps and the first month, 88,706. The second month found me with 62,001 steps, then November hit as did pneumonia and my walking slowed to a crawl. I felt fortunate to complete 46,900 steps.

Now, inspired by my friend’s postings about her Shenandoah hikes with her family, I am determined to resume my walking, and this past week, with two intentional walks, I’m on my way. Co-mingling the words’ definitions and grammatical contexts, my walks/hikes may become verb or a noun; I won’t know until I get there, but as I wander, this space will hopefully capture my musings and inspire me to keep the faith and stay walking.

“You’ll never move forward until you take a step away from the past.” Colleen Ferrary

*Postscript: To track these related musings on This*Day*In, search the tag and category for #52HikeChallenge. The first two hikes can be found as prequels to this posting.

Page 364: #52HikeChallenge Prequel with Hike #1


Hike #1 of 52HikeChallenge: Fleetwood, North Carolina, December 30, 2015
Today we will be driving eight hours to return to Maryland, so making time for an early-morning hike is intentional. I’ve promised myself the past two mornings to get up and walk but steady rain drenched my intentions the first morning and sunshine’s inspiration on the second morning set me in the mood instead for meandering quaint towns dotting the Blue Ridge Parkway.

This page, dawn is dreary but dry, and with the looming drive ahead, a walk beckons. Aunt Judy’s mountain retreat in Ashe County, North Carolina hovers at 3,650 feet above sea level, so with a steep path ahead of me combined with anticipated slick undergrowth, her offer of a walking stick as I prepare to walk out the door is a welcome suggestion. After a moment’s consideration, I choose one coinciding with my height, fairly straight, and smooth and comfortable in my grasp. I am off.

The stick came into use quickly and frequently as I began the first decline from the house. The recent rains had left slippery wet leaves strewn across the path and I chose my steps carefully, the walking stick intentionally planted at my side each stride to confirm solid footing as I made my way down the first stretch. Two days earlier, rain-slick steps had sent me sprawling and I had little desire for any additional coloring to my already bruised derriere. At the slight plateau, a neighboring dog shrilled at me. I ignored him and continued to the next decline, less sharp than the one previous. And so it went, decline then straight-away till I determined I had walked far enough since I had to backtrack my steps, but this time uphill rather than down. The walking stick again came to my aid as I placed it ahead of me on the trail and drew myself beside it. Along my way, I halted to enjoy various fog-heavy views and nature’s gifts while catching my breath. Hike #1 complete, I slipped the walking stick back into its place, eager for our next adventures.

Hike #1: Musing
Why do we hesitate to accept assistance? My initial inclination to Aunt Judy’s offer of a walking stick was that I was neither old nor feeble enough to require such an aid. However, as any seasoned hiker can attest, walking sticks have much greater use than to simply provide aid to those with a halting gait. Carrying a stick while hiking provides a potential weapon should you encounter an animal or other danger. It can scare off an intruder on your path or become a club as needed. A walking stick is an additional leg, like a three-legged stool, to help you maintain balance when crossing streams or along steep declines. It can help lead you up steep inclines, or it can swipe clear spider webs and hold back dangling limbs as you stride by. You can use it to test streams and probe their depth before crossing, or to scratch path markings to help direct your return. Should you fall, it can help draw you back up or become a crutch. Perhaps this last use is the crux to hesitating an offer of assistance? Would a crutch make one feel weak? inadequate? clumsy? pitiful? If this use makes you pause at the offer of help, think on this: a crutch need not be permanent, but simply an aid only until we are sufficiently strong on our own. Do not fear help; let us instead be gracious in accepting it.

“Gracious acceptance is an art – an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about accepting things, which can be much harder than giving…. Accepting another person’s gift is allowing him to express his feelings for you.” ― Alexander McCall Smith

Page 312 Autumn George Winston-style

A bit of autumn, a taste of summer, a hammering rain storm, a soothing lullaby. No season is weary when it comes to George Winston. The listener enjoys every season and the versatility of this artist whether on the piano, the harmonica or the guitar. Our visit to the Birchmere this page was no exception. Stocking feet, plucking piano strings, moving easily from one instrument to another, this musician offered a unique blend of style. Folks love to listen to his take on the Kanon By Pachelbel, and just as desired are his Linus and Lucy renditions and his seasonal interludes. As we move into the season of gratitude, savor a moment of his Thanksgiving and #GiveThanks.

Page 280 Boundaries. Illusions?

Grounded in faith…
The sky’s the limit…
Voluminous clouds hover in between the boundaries of heaven and earth, as like a wall, yet but a vapor; nothing solid to hold weight, transparent to easily glide through, yet opaque, to block the light or make gloomy our days.

Are boundaries but an illusion, self-imposed, blurring our reality?