Tag Archives: Nature

Dogs, Cat, Book 1

Dogs, Cat, Book

Greetings from Boulder! After a couple of weeks housesitting outside of Taos, New Mexico, we are back housesitting in Colorado until next year. Haha! Can you believe 2024 is a little over a month away?! Seriously, though, we’re here through December.

There’s been a lot of new animals in my life these past several weeks.

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Friends, say hello to:

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Tobi, a sneaky German short-haired pointer with the snuggly heart of a little dog, and who nearly always has his emotional support stuffed animal with him.

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Gus, the ring-leader of the New Mexico pack, who zooms with style and gusto when we’re out on our walks.

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And Puddles, who may have some fluff for brains, but also wins over hearts with just one look.

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I’ve posted multiple times on this blog about my love for walking dogs (especially Annie and Dodger) in the woods. It turns out I also love walking dogs in the high desert of New Mexico. Few things in life have brought me as much joy as walking with Tobi, Gus, Puddles, and Heath on a one-mile stretch of dirt road that leads to a national forest. We walked together every day, and every day I felt connected to something greater than myself. Dogs really are magical that way.

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Although I was sad to leave our housesit in New Mexico behind, I wasn’t sad to leave New Mexico. It’s a beautiful state, and I saw shooting stars in light-pollution-free skies. But, it’s not a place I want to live.

Which brings us to Boulder ….

Friends, I would love to stay here for the foreseeable future! I’ve applied for so many jobs back in Connecticut, none of which have panned out, that I’m forced to conclude it’s not yet time for us to return there. Of course, I could get a job offer tomorrow and then we may be packing our bags and humming a different tune come January. Until that happens, Boulder is the place I (we) want to be. I have honestly never seen Heath happier anyplace than here.

Unfortunately, Boulder is absurdly expensive and has limited options for housing. We’re using this time housesitting to investigate whether we can realistically stay. For me, that means applying for jobs in the area. Monday I’m going to visit a few places in person to network and see if I can make some connections. I’ll also continue applying for remote jobs. So if you know anyone who needs a talented research psychologist with excellent communication and community engagement skills, feel free to send my information their way.

In the meantime, I’m savoring my time in Boulder. The house we’re staying in is at the base of the Flat Iron Mountains. We got a couple of inches of snow over the last few days and I’m filled with wonder and awe every time I look at them. To make my heart completely buoyant, I’m also walking one of the sweetest, lovey-dovey-est dogs I’ve ever known.

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Everyone, meet Foster:

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Foster is half couch potato/half love bug who enjoys walks as much as I do. I love taking him outside for our daily sojourns and we’ve become good friends.

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Foster also has a cat brother named, Joey.

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Joey is aloof most of the time until he absolutely wants your attention. Which, he then lets you know. He’s a champion mouser and very vocal about his trophies so I’m learning to deal with some circle of life stuff that I’d rather pretend doesn’t exist.

While in Boulder, I’m also sorting out what it means to be a self-published author. Yes, that’s right – I took the plunge and decided to self-publish an illustrated book about dogs (BIG surprise there) and the ridiculous ways we describe them.

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If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know it’s my dream to be a traditionally published author. I’ve been working at it for seven years now and I reached the point where I wanted to see something published with my name on it.

So, I took this book of silly dog poetry I wrote nearly six years ago about doggolingo (the internet language invented to better describe our dogs), purchased some photos from Shutterstock, and hired a book designer that I connected with through Facebook. I’m thrilled with how the finished project turned out.

What’s not so thrilling is that the self-publishing landscape is not easy to figure out. For example, I don’t know why my book is available through the Barnes and Noble website (you can buy a copy HERE), but not Amazon. Lest I let perfection be the enemy of good, I’m simply embracing my I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing  ways and leaning into the discomfort.

At the very least, it’s a good (albeit expensive) learning experience.

Thank you to everyone who’s been reading this blog throughout the years. I’m grateful that you’ve been with me on this journey. Now, onward and upward. I’m excited to see what happens next.

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Vote for My Happy Place! 16

Vote for My Happy Place!

One of my happy places is being in the woods, especially if I’m with a dog.

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Barbour Woods, Fall 2021

There’s a sense of freedom and hope surrounded by all the beauty where I can’t help but feel comfortable and connected to something greater than myself.

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Barbour Woods, December 2021

For most of our time in Norfolk, the Barbour Woods was my go-to spot for being in the woods. I started walking Dodger there in 2017 and then in 2020 added Annie (and occasionally Fergus) to my walks.

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Barbour Woods, June 2020

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Barbour Woods, Winter 2023

The Barbour Woods has 10 different trails, all with their own woodland charms. For example, the Old Carriage Trail has the Kilarney Bridge, the Swamp Trail has vernal pools, and the Beechwood Loop Trail has a view of Haystack Mountain.

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Barbour Woods, October 2022

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Barbour Woods, October 2021

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Barbour Woods, Spring 2022

There are few places in this world where I’m happier than the Barbour Woods.

So it gives me great pleasure to announce that the Barbour Woods is a finalist in the 3rd Annual Readers’ Choice Awards from Rural Intelligence for Best Hiking Trail.

If you don’t mind sharing your name, email address, zip code, and gender with Rural Intelligence, you can vote for the Barbour Woods every day through November 13 by clicking here.

Yes, you can vote every day in each of the categories. No, you don’t have to vote for any other category if you don’t want to.

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I’ve had a lot of professional and personal disappointments these past few months, so I’m throwing myself into campaigning for the Barbour Woods to win. As a board member of the Norfolk Land Trust and Co-chair of their outreach committee, I have access to our social media accounts. I’m posting daily reminders to vote on our Instagram Stories. It’s fun because it gives me an excuse to go through my photos and find my favorites of being in the woods.

I know it’s not much, but when there are so many things out of my control right now, it feels good to have a plan: post every day on social media and remind people to vote.

So please vote for the Barbour Woods!

Even if you’ve never been on a trail there, you can take my word for it that these woods are AWESOME.

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Happy Holidays! 26

Happy Holidays!

If you celebrate Hanukkah, Happy Hanukkah!

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If you celebrate winter solstice, Warm Winter Wishes to you!

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If you celebrate Christmas, a Merry Christmas to you!

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If you celebrate something else (or nothing at all), may love be the greatest gift you receive.

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See you next year!

No Mow May! 31

No Mow May!

May is almost over! I’m bummed because I’m participating* in No Mow May and I’ve enjoyed not mowing the lawn this month.

If you’ve never heard of No Mow May, feel free to read this article I wrote for Norfolk Now about it. The gist is that not mowing your lawn provides spring pollinators abundant sources for food and habitat. It’s one of the easiest conservation actions a person with a yard can take!

Not only has it been awesome not having to mow the lawn, I love how wild and free the yard looks.

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It makes me want to run barefoot through the wildflowers and dandelions. Of course I won’t because TICKS and SNAKES. But still. There is beauty here that I’m happy to appreciate from the gravel driveway.

Also something to appreciate from the gravel driveway — this little snake who was sunning themself when I came home the other day.

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I have come a long way to be able to coexist with snakes. They’ll never be my favorite animal, and I certainly didn’t want to disturb this little one. I fully recognize that I am about 100 times the size of them, and I feel confident this snake is scared of me. At the same time, I also didn’t fancy stepping over them.

Because what if I do and the snake springs forward to wrap around my exposed ankle?

You never know!

Thankfully, all I had to do was take some baby steps and they slithered away under the porch.

I will try not to think of them working themselves into the basement! Laugh, if you will, but it has happened more than once at this house.

On a more positive note, in some cultures seeing a snake is a sign of good luck. Let’s see what good fortune is going to come my way….

 

* With the approval of the homeowners! If you are a housesitter like I am, please do NOT do No Mow May without the homeowners’ approval.

A Much Needed Walk in the Rain 36

A Much Needed Walk in the Rain

Yesterday I did something I’ve never done before — I attended the Connecticut Cactus and Succulent Society Annual Show and Sale. It’s the society’s 37th year of running the show/sale — who knew?

Apparently many, many people. When my friend and I made plans to attend, we decided leaving at 8:55am would give us plenty of time to get Bristol before the doors opened at 10:00am. The Society promised a free plant to the first 50 families each day and we felt confident we would be one of the first in line.

We arrived shortly after 10am to a parking lot jam-packed with cars. A line of people spilled out the doors of the Bristol Senior Center. People exited the doors with plants already in their hands or clustered in a box.

Turns out we had NO IDEA what we were getting into. I expected maybe 10 people would be there and maybe a few tables with plants.

WRONG.

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Wall-to-wall plants and so many people that I ended up trapped in a corner at one point and couldn’t get out for over three minutes. Thank goodness almost everyone was wearing a mask! I haven’t been in a crowd like that since before the pandemic. Add that to my high levels of introversion and I was ready to go 1.5 hours later.

Thankfully, I had Annie waiting for me when I got back to Norfolk since I’m taking care of her for the week. We played multiple rounds of fetch.

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Taken from earlier in the week; yesterday was too soggy to take a photo.

I learned the secret to fetch with Annie is to always have 2 or more balls ready to throw. I also learned that when Annie gets tired of running, she trots towards the woods with her ball and buries it in the leaves only to dig it up and bury again.

After about two hours of playing (and resting), I left Annie home while I went to the Norfolk Library to attend a Celebration of Ukrainian Song and Dance. It was again a large crowd and the dance company had 14 dancers total. All the dances were lively with clapping, stomping, twirling, and jumping.

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I enjoyed myself; however, by the end of the hour I again felt all my energy had drained. Thank goodness (also again) that I had Annie waiting for me at home. The rain had finally stopped and we headed out for a walk.

The Barbour Woods served as the perfect antidote to the crowds, noise, and overwhelm from earlier in the day. I didn’t even mind when a gentle rain fell from the sky. On the contrary, I lifted my head to the tree tops and let the drops splash my face. I felt refreshed and renewed.

When the rain stopped a few minutes later I whispered, “Come back.”

The rain didn’t come back, but Annie and I kept walking. Quietness surrounded me, except for the sloshing of my boots through the mud and leaves. With every step I took, I became more at ease until finally a sense of peace and joy had replaced the overwhelm from earlier.

Being with Annie in the woods was exactly what I needed it to be.

If you remember from earlier this year, I had a walk with Annie on a very cold winter’s day that I pronounced “the most invigorating thing I’ve done this year.” I was going to use that walk as benchmark for all other notable events this year. That walk still remains my most invigorating moment, followed by the walks I took in the aftermath of the ice storm. This walk also makes the list for the way it rejuvenated my spirit after such a draining day.

Thank goodness for walks. And woods. And dogs.

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Annie wouldn’t cooperate for a photo on our rejuvenating walk.

 

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A New Achievement

In October 2021, the Norfolk Land Trust put out a call to local photographers asking them to contribute to a January and February 2022 exhibit of their trails. Now, I am not a photographer; however, I do take a lot of photos.

A lot of my photos are of Annie in the Barbour Woods, which happens to be a Norfolk Land Trust Trail. Sometimes, I even take photos of the Barbour Woods without Annie in them. She’s very fast and quite curious so she’ll zoom ahead to get in some good sniffs or bury her ball to dig it up.

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Meanwhile, I walk to catch up with her and marvel at the natural splendor around me.

The most marvelous of those places (in my opinion) is the Swamp Trail. During the spring and fall, vernal pools pop up and the beauty of the trail takes on a fantastical quality. I have probably taken close to 1000 photos of the Swamp Trail in the last 2-3 years. One of them was bound to be good.

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So I offered my photo for the exhibit.

Imagine my delight when my photo sold for $75.00!

To know that someone saw my photo and saw value in it is validating in surprising ways. I love those woods and I love being there with Annie. And I just happened to be lucky enough to be there at the right time with my smartphone to capture the way the light danced between the trees and water. I remember that day and how I felt awe and wonder at the way the woods looked. The moment felt like magic; like a wonderful gift that Annie, the woods, and I will share forever.

I took that photo and somebody saw something in it enough to pay $75.00. Yeah, that feels good.

Here’s the best part: I know the person who bought the photo. Norfolk has an abundance of good people, and this person and their spouse are two of them. I consider both my friends.

When my friend handed me an envelope today with the check, I shook my head. I wanted them to have the photo just because. My gift to them because when we eventually move, I will miss them dearly and I will miss their in-person friendship. It makes me so happy to know that photo has a home with them.

That feeling is worth way more than $75.00!

I also contributed a photo of Annie and Dodger running on the Carriage Trail.

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Because of course I did. Raise your hand if you’re not surprised.

A Different Kind of Tired 48

A Different Kind of Tired

I have re-discovered a new form of exhaustion! The good news is that this re-discovery means I’m sleeping well enough to notice. The bad news is that, well, I’m exhausted. I’m calling it bone-weary tired because it’s not just mental. This tiredness has seeped into my infrastructure. It comes with the territory of being a housesitter.

After fifteen consecutive months in the same housesit (phooey to you, covid), the owners finally made it home from being abroad. Fifteen months is a long time to housesit, and the effort and diligence of packing up, moving out, and making sure the house was ready to welcome their family home took several days of nonstop work. Up early. Late to bed. Oh, and also work at the library in the meantime.

Did I mention the ice storm? Yes, because there was also an ice storm that hit Norfolk on Friday, February 4. The storm itself was nothing special. Except a few tree limbs hung so low in the driveway that for three days, I couldn’t drive it.

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Packing your car is not easy when you have to walk approximately an eighth of a mile one way on solid ice. Nevertheless, I did it. It helped to have the best form of motivation — mother nature in all her icy glory!

In the days following the ice storm, Norfolk turned into a sparkling ice palace thanks to the thick coating of ice everywhere and the brilliant blue skies and sunshine. I’ve never been so happy being so exhausted.

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As I walked up and down the driveway over and over, I marveled at the wonder around me.

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I also had my buddy Fergus as a companion, but I’m not sure he appreciated the splendor as much as I did. He likes to run, sniff, and be as cute as possible.

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So even though I’m bone-weary tired, I got to spend a lot of time outside enjoying myself. I also chuckled to myself more than once to be careful what you wish for. As you may recall, in my last blog post I was craving functional fitness. I certainly got it this past week, and then some.

I’m also keeping track this year of invigorating experiences since I had one early on. The standings so far:

Most Invigorating: My walk with Annie dog in the woods on January 11

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Runner Up: Packing up my car after an ice storm, February 5-6.

Starting on Thursday, I have five days of vacation. They cannot get here soon enough. My bones and brain need it. And the best part — I’ll be with my buddy Fergus the entire time.

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Life Is Good 59

Life Is Good

I can always tell when my sleep is better — the number of simple joys I experience throughout my day increase exponentially.

Lately, I’ve been delighted by:

all the animal tracks in the snow;

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the way the snow accents the wreath I made;

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the light streaming through the trees in the Barbour Woods;

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shoveling snow;

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Okay, I know this one is a little weird. But lately my body and mind have been craving functional forms of fitness and shoveling snow will give me that fix every single time.

I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying walking Annie through the snow-covered woods for the same reason. It’s such a great, blood-pumping, muscle-engaging workout to walk through the ankle-deep snow.

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And last, but not least, these mashed potatoes:

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I made a low fodmap vegetable stock recipe the other day. You throw a bunch of vegetables like leeks, the green parts of scallions, carrots, parsnips, parsley, and potatoes in a big pot with water and let it simmer for an hour. Then the recipe says to strain the liquid and discard the vegetables. Heath questioned the part about discarding the vegetables. I told him, “that’s what the recipe says.”

Yet, when the time came to actually discard them I looked at the wonderfully soft potatoes and thought, surely I should mash these instead of throw them out. Which is exactly what I did. And, oh, my, potatoes! They are the most delicious mashed potatoes I’ve ever eaten, a sentiment also shared by Heath.

So that’s where I am these days. My sleep is improved enough that I find mashed potatoes marvelous. Life is good.

A New Challenge in 2022! 67

A New Challenge in 2022!

This winter has been nothing short of wonky for Norfolk. December ended with warmer temperatures than usual, a lot of rain, and barely a dusting of snow. January also started off the same way. The second week of January changed everything – a few inches of snow and some chilly temperatures!

Just how chilly? On Tuesday, January 11th the temperature was -8°F with the wind chill. That day also happened to be one of my scheduled walks with Annie. I asked Annie’s mom how long she thought Annie could be out in the cold. Annie’s mom said she was more worried about me.

Pish posh! I replied (though not quite in those words). I believe that because my formative years were spent on an ice-skating rink, my blood carries a small percentage of ice in it.

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I was not at all worried about myself being in the chilly temperatures, especially when I wear the proper attire.

In the case of Tuesday’s temperatures, appropriate wear meant hat, gator, gloves, hand warmers, fleece-lined pants, LL Bean socks, Xero winter boots, and my Columbia Omni Heat coat that is filthy dirty but I remain steadfastly committed to because I only paid 75 cents for it while volunteering in Churchill, Manitoba.

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Annie and I set off with determination to complete our full loop of the Swamp Trail in the Barbour Woods. With blue skies that stretched for miles and a glorious sun for company, I felt confident we could do it.

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And I was right!

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By the end of our walk, my brain was awash in all the feel-good neurotransmitters – serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. When I returned Annie home, I reported that our walk was “the most invigorating thing I’ve done all year.”

Since the year was only 11 days old, I’m not sure I impressed anyone.

But I did come up with the idea that this walk with Annie will be the benchmark for my experiences in 2022. Anything notable that happens, I will compare it to how I felt on that cold winter’s day with Annie in the woods. By the end of 2022, I’ll have a list of my best moments.

Anyone want to guess how many will involve dogs?

Annual Fall Farm Fun

Fall is moving by quickly in Norfolk. Although maybe that’s not entirely accurate, because we’re still having warm, sunny days. What we’re also having in between are some really wet, rainy days. Thanks to those days, the bright orange, red, and yellow leaves lasted what felt like a nanosecond this year. At least I got to spend some time with my favorite farm animals, as I typically do every fall.

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I feel incredibly grateful to have a friend who lets me soak up the restorative power of being around animals in nature. It’s a tonic for life that everyone should be able to access. I wish it were enough to get me safely across the sea of narcolepsy symptoms that continue to ebb and flow in my life. It’s not, but this time with Hammy, Frankie, and Sheldon, does help me stay afloat a little easier.

Hopefully by the next time I write on this blog, I’ll have started a new/old narcolepsy treatment. It worked wonders for several years and then it didn’t so I stopped taking it. I’m hoping my body will have reset enough that it will work wonders again. Wish me luck!