Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Just Another Day in the Park

"Take a walk with Mother Nature.
It will nurture your mind, body and soul."
Anthony Douglas Williams

Merry ME Adventure Girl

While I haven't been writing as I thought I would, I have kept up (mostly) with my daily walks. I've gone out bundled up against the Florida cold (nothing like Bostonian cold, but still chilly) with a hoodie and gloves. In the last few days, it's been warm enough to shed even a lightweight jacket.  Walking around the neighborhood has gotten boring, so I tried something different today.

Sweetie and I went to the Jacksonville Arboretum. I'll be honest, until recently I didn't even know Jacksonville had an arboretum. I read last night about a few nearby places with nice trail walks. Woodsy places where you can walk with a child or dog and imagine you are no longer in the city. The Arboretum was #1 on the list so I decided to go with it. My intention was to get up early (who am I kidding?) and hit the trail. When Sweetie called around 3, I was still in my pajamas. (Not working turns me into a veritable slug.)

The only tree I recognized
After some bickering about insignificant things like the pool pump, we headed out. I was sure I knew right where to go, until I missed the turn and had to drive in a big circle to find the place, with Sweetie acting as navigator. My idea of a peaceful walk was quickly turning into more of an ordeal that I had bargained for.  I kind of expected to find the arboretum full of people, so the empty parking lot surprised me. Why I thought it would be crowded on a Tuesday afternoon, I don't know. I asked the only other person I saw if she knew where she was going. Okay, so it was kind of a dumb question and deserved the quizzical look she gave me. But she was very nice, pointed out the gigantic information sign right in front of Sweetie, where the trail maps were kept. I asked about which trail to take. Sweetie asked about snakes. Snakes? Who's idea was it to take a nature walk?

This turtle was on a mission, did not want to stop for a photo op.
Lake Ray was more of what I'd call a pond.
After looking at the map, I decided to strike out on my own. I've heard tell there is some Daniel Boone DNA in my blood, how hard can it be to walk a mile circle around and through some trees? I tossed Sweetie the car keys promising to see him in a little bit. He was going to stay near the entrance taking pictures.

Here's what I didn't know. That DNA I talked about, it's kind of watered down. When you get inside a stand of trees, even when they have little markers telling you what kind of trees they are, everything begins to look alike. I cursed myself for forgetting to bring a large trash bag and a whistle. That's all I remember from when my kids were little and we taught them if they were ever lost in the woods to "hug a tree."

The Florida version of Stonehenge. Perhaps put in place by alien beings or  Timucuan Indians*
I had also miscalculated my idea of a brisk walk. One cannot walk at her normal quick pace when it's necessary to keep her eyes on the trail to a) keep her bearings, b) not trip on tree roots and c) be ever watchful for snakes. It began to make sense to me why the woman I saw walking off in the opposite direction from me was wearing jeans.  My bear ankles would be just right for an angry rattler to sink his fangs into.

Ancient Timucuan fertility symbols left at the edge of Lake Ray where virgins were tossed to appease the Gods.
I had taken the lake road. When I got to a clearing there was an older gent who pointed out that I could take the upper ravine road and it would lead me back to where we were standing and then I could follow the road I was on back to the parking lot. I considered following him, he looked like he knew his way around and was too old to be a serial killer who hung out in arboretums waiting for unsuspecting victims like me to come along.  Instead I took the Upper Ravine road.
This path wandered up, down, around and through trees and vegetation. If I looked between tree branches I could see a ravine (what's the difference in a ravine and a creek?). In a few places, I could hear water trickling over a rock or limb. Strangely, I heard no birds. I saw a dragonfly and one yellow butterfly flitted overhead. Other than that it was me and Mother Nature.

I tried to clear my mind to get the full benefit of the outdoor experience. I tried to let go of a rising fear that I was going to get so lost nobody would find me. I weighed the consequences of going forward or turning around and trying to retrace my steps. I wondered if I tried to call 911 for help if there would be  cell phone reception. I said a silent prayer of thanks for the good sense to carry a bottle of water. All the while I put one foot in front of the other and kept moving.  At last, like Ponce de Leon landing on the wooded shores of St. Augustine, I spied a clearing. Not exactly the parking lot I had hoped to see, but close enough that I knew I'd survived my sojourn in the woods.

Sweetie was nowhere to be seen when I got back to the starting point. Oh dear, I thought to myself. As much as I love the man, I decided it would be prudent to stay put and wait for him. No point in both of us being lost, right? A few minutes later the women I'd seen at the beginning of the hour came strolling down the path. Beads of sweat dampened her forehead. She'd obviously gone farther and faster than I had. She pointed out that Sweetie was right around the corner.

As we walked to the car, Sweetie commented that the sound of traffic and sirens didn't add much to the ambiance of the nature setting. Of course, he is right. But I kind of liked hearing that civilization wasn't as far away as I feared it might be.

The next trip will be somewhere near Ft. Caroline. I'll be more prepared.
Merry ME

*The Timucuan (according to the local news lady this is pronounced ti-MOO-quan, rather than tim-a-quan) were an American Indian people who lived in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia. The Timucuan may have been the first American natives to see the landing of Ponce de Leon near St. Augustine in 1513. (Wikipedia)

Monday, March 2, 2015


"It always seems impossible until it's done."
Nelson Mandela

I have three drafts started and waiting for completion.
I got sidetracked by a 750 piece jigsaw puzzle.
It took me a week, but I finished last night at 3am.

When I opened the box and saw all the pieces I seriously questioned my sanity.
I thought the pieces were going to be bigger.
750 one inch pieces all dumped on a table can be a rather daunting project.

When I was a kid mom used to do puzzles. She also knitted elaborate patterned sweaters and crocheted blankets that would make anyone but the stout of heart shy away.  Maybe there is a connection with being a mother and not being afraid of large, seemingly insurmountable, tasks. Like when your toddler throws up all over his/her bed and there you are in the middle of the night, comforting said child, bathing said child, stripping said child's bed of soggy and stinky linens, remaking the bed and lugging all the dirty sheets and blankets to the laundry. Nothing says lovin' like washing blankies in the wee hours of the morning.

The first thing I do when starting a puzzle, large or small, is turn each piece face up. Then I begin the search for edge pieces. One by one, they appear. One piece by one piece the outline takes shape. Some people say it's cheating to use the picture on the box as a guide. I say what has cheating got to do with it?  I keep it close at hand.

A sense of calm comes over me as the picture begins to take shape when I work on a puzzle. The nervousness of the start settles down to a comfortable rhythm. Because the puzzle is left on the dining room table it is readily accessible. I can stop for a few minutes as I walk through the room, or sit  hunched over the pieces for hours after dinner. Leaving it in the open invites others to try their luck. It also makes a tempting target for a certain black cat. For some reason he did not bother this puzzle. He must have known there'd be no sound as the pieces fell onto the carpeted floor.  Boy Cat prefers loud crashes, like a dish breaking into a dozen pieces when scooted off the edge of a kitchen counter onto the tiled floor.

I found that puzzling is a but like quilting. You start out with a bunch of pieces, and stitch them together until you have a finished quilt. Sometimes the pieces fit nicely into place.  Other times you have to rip out all the stitches you just sewed to get the edges to line up right. Once in the groove, you can let your mind wander as your fingers do the work. Creative work is often about turning off your brain and letting the process happen.

That's where I found myself last night from 10 pm to 3am. To quote an old yellow pages ad, I let my fingers do the walking. I'm pretty sure I tried the same piece in the same place about 20 times. Yet gradually I knew I was entering the home stretch. To continue the quilting metaphor, I was at the sewing on the binding stage. Putting in the last piece is a moment of sweet success. Unlike a quilt, I can't wrap myself up in the warmth of my work. I can, however, pat myself on the back acknowledge a job well done.

"Not all of the puzzle pieces of life seem to fit together at first. 
But, in time, you'll find they did so perfectly." 
Doe Zantamata

Maybe now I can get back to writing. It's a possibility but don't hold your breath. Like quilting, puzzling can become addictive. I hear the siren's call from the toy section at WalMart calling me.
Merry ME