Beauty Comes in Many Forms on the Cycling Path of Life

 

screen-shot-2017-06-29-at-11-47-13-am.pngIn another lifetime, long-ago college days to be exact, I was one of those cycling enthusiasts-logging 20-30 miles a day anywhere I could fit it into my college schedule. I have to admit I arrived late to more than a few classes while training with a college classmate for the upcoming Seagull Century-fun times! I had all the gear a poor college kid could afford: the all-important, padded cycling shorts, and trust me, they are important; cycling shirts with strategically placed pockets for all those bananas; and the snazziest helmet I could afford!

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Fast forward more years than I will say, and I still long for mild days when I can hop on my bike, getting, as my husband says, “absolutely frantic” when winter looms, threatening the end of my cycling season.  My purpose in cycling has changed drastically you might say, one of the beauties of getting older I guess.  These days it’s all about enjoying the fresh air, exercise, and more importantly the view along the way. Sometimes I do pack my camera to capture it, but mostly I just enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of nature and the serenity it brings.

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Marsh with WWII observation tower in the background and ocean beyond

I do also enjoy the fellow cyclers and walkers on the path, all ages and abilities are out enjoying the fresh air and nature views. From the casual cycler to the spandex-clad, outta-my-way racers going by, you see all types. The joggers take their place, too, along the path and are not in the least inclined to engage in any way as they log their miles. It’s all business with them and that’s ok, to each their own-I admire their stamina! I can’t help but wonder, however, in my very biased opinion, if they wouldn’t be happier on a bike:)

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Yesterday was one of those picture-perfect days.  When I saw the mild, perfectly-suited-for-cycling temperatures heading our way, I made plans with one of my dearest friends-a friendship that dates back to elementary school-and fellow nature enthusiast to ride some trails at one of our favorite spots.  This place ranks as one of the best because the paths are not only well-maintained, but very diverse in scenery. We rode wooded trails as well as marsh trails with views of the ocean in the distance, inhaling deeply the fragrance of pine and marsh scents simultaneously as we pedaled along. Ahhh, it doesn’t get much better.

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Beautiful wildflowers that grow in front of the marsh grass
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Marsh grass surrounding the brackish pond
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The pine trees adding their evergreen beauty

The above pictures show a bit of the diversity we enjoyed, but more beautiful than the scenery, had to be the kindness of strangers at the most opportune time! As we were riding along, basking in the perfect temperature and the peacefulness of it all, a loud pop like a gunshot went off.  In 25+ years of cycling, I’ve never had so much as a flat, but it didn’t take me more than a second to realize that loud pop was my tire, and I was probably in for a nice walk now instead of cycling.

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Lone seabird

I no sooner had gotten off my bike than a nice couple, who had recently retired in the area, stopped and were assessing my situation. In less than 10 minutes, the very kind and very able gentleman had pulled out one of his spare tubes and had me up and going again….long walk averted, whew!  What was also so wonderful was that almost every other cycler going by, and there were many, asked if any extra help was needed as well.

The kindness of strangers is indeed one of the most beautiful things in life.

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Diverse views along the trail

My takeaway from the day: if you want to find a little kindness in the world, coupled with beauty, look no further than your nearest cycling path!

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Happy Trails!

∼ Jen

In Memory of our Bearded Buddy, Randall

If anyone ever told me I could get attached to a reptile with a snake-looking tail, I would have laughed at them….then along came Randall.

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Awaiting his masters return from AZ

 My older son had always wanted a lizard, and when he was younger, my answer was always “no way.” That’s because they looked so cold and sneaky, and well, snake-like.  I had absolutely no idea how fun and lovable certain kinds of lizards could be.

 After we moved into our new house, we were out enjoying our local pet store, just for fun, and to my utter disbelief my husband pointed out this Bearded Dragon lizard to my son and suggested we buy it for his room!!  I gave him one of “those” looks, but it didn’t matter…an hour later we were driving home with a new member of the family.

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Enjoying a crawl up the fireplace

His sleeping quarters were in my son’s room, but that didn’t stop him from exploring the house! I really didn’t mind, I could see he was gentle and my son obviously loved him…and more importantly, he wasn’t prone to having “accidents” outside of his cage, whew!

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Not intimidated in the least by “Miss Kitea”

He did cause a little mischief on one of his early explorations when he somehow managed to crawl behind the kick-board in the kitchen and get stuck under the cabinets. Of course, this happened when we were due to meet up shortly with friends…but we couldn’t very well leave a dragon under the cabinets while we were away. My husband finally had to pull out the crowbar, ripping a piece of the kick-board to extract Randall, but the important thing was, Randall was safe and we would not have to keep our friends waiting.

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In the beginning I managed to pet Randall on the head, he liked that, but I was not too keen on the idea of holding him.  I just couldn’t get past that his skin looked so snakelike, especially his belly, and his tail, well, that looked just like a snake minus the head.

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With his special buddy
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On a guided house tour
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Enjoying his bath

I was slightly horrified when my son asked if I would be Randall’s caregiver while he took a senior trip to Arizona for a week, oh dear.  The training began.  I had to get used to holding Randall, not just tossing lettuce and crickets into the cage and checking his lights.

Well, it was wintertime, and for the week his master was gone, Randall and I became Hallmark-watching, fireside companions!

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I would hold him in the evenings against my fuzzy red robe, and he would “snuggle” in till the movie ended.  I would then, reluctantly (can you believe) go put him back in his cage for the night.  Yes, Randall and I were now buddies:)

Of course, I couldn’t be in charge of Randall for a week without giving his cage a little make-over….a woman’s touch so to say:

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Cage before make-over
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Randall suspiciously eyeing “decorated” pillar

We enjoyed Randall for close to four years. During those years, he endured many tail-chasing episodes from our cat, but never allowed himself to trust our dog, Princess.  If she entered the room, he would at times turn partly black, indicating anger or stress, and kept a wary eye on her till she finally left his presence.

We will always miss our little buddy, especially my son, but we have many fond, loving memories of the lizard who crawled into all of our hearts to stay.♥

Randall and Miss Kitea enjoying a “fireside chat.”

♥Jen

 

http://www.thebeardeddragon.org/

Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay

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First, I have to thank my younger son for sharing this picture of the dock and for taking a film class in a building with such a gorgeous view:) 

Usually when I visit one of the nearby beach towns this time of year, I’m either sitting on the beach or riding one of the cycling paths nearby. It’s rare that I have the opportunity to just sit on a dock and enjoy the bayside beauty and rarer still to find such a peaceful, quiet dock in the month of June. When my husband and I dropped our son off for his first film class, I wasted no time in grabbing my camera and settling in by the bay to capture some salty-air scenery.

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A lone gull flying over the marsh grasses

The Phragmites pictured above and below, while beautiful, can be very invasive, unfortunately, choking out other native grasses or taking over too much shoreline. It has many positive uses, though, besides being very scenic; it provides a wonderful habitat for several species of birds, it is used to make a musical instrument similar to the clarinet,  its stem and seeds atop the stem are edible, the reeds can be woven into baskets, or used in thatch roofs-these are just some of its many uses in various parts of the world.

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It apparently also makes wonderful nesting material, as this house sparrow proved…

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This black bird, I believe a Grackle, was also a fun little guy to watch as he went flitting through the reeds…

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Now, since I was on the dock of the bay, I did get a few underwater creatures, for instance, the famous Maryland Blue crab:

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A little hard to see through the bay water, but the pretty blue markings are still visible. A few were getting close to the crab trap (below), and I wished I could send a warning down to them to back away!! I must admit, though, I don’t feel so kindly towards them when they pinch my feet in the ocean!

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The last bay inhabitant I took a picture of is the horseshoe crab.  Sadly, I usually only see these washed up on the beaches, so it was nice to see them swimming around, making designs on the sandy bottom with their dragging tails.  I learned many interesting facts about them at the link above… from their blue blood being used in the medical field to their link to the survival of the long distance migratory bird, the red knot. For an interesting video of the horseshoe crab click here.

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While a fascinating creature, it does not make for the prettiest picture with the barnacles on its back, so I’ll end the post with another pretty topical view of the bay.

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Next stop, the beach.  See you there!

A little music for your listening pleasure, the inspiration for this post title, enjoy!

∼Jen

 

 

Mornings Memories…May

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Blue jay beside fading azalea bush

May and October are without a doubt my two favorite months of the year.  Of course, each month has its share of beauty, but this spring and fall month, in my opinion (and my hemisphere), outshine them all. So, while we are now in the first week of June (already!), looking back on some of my special morning sightings in May helps me hold on to that spectacular month just a little bit longer!

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American Goldfinch taking an early morning sip

I’m not a morning person, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, when we first married, my husband actually thought I must be ill because of how late I would sleep…no, I’m not divulging the hour!  I don’t sleep anywhere near that late now, but I am quite groggy for a while after rising and really don’t know what I’d do without my morning coffee.

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Mourning Doves getting a morning drink

These coffee times, as I sit and stare, and then stare some more, have proven to be some of the best times to observe much of the first stirrings of nature and the beauty of the sun’s early rays on foliage and flowers.  With my camera ever at my side, it’s rare that I ever get down a cup of coffee before it cools off, but I’m able to capture some special moments, so sometimes warm coffee will just have to do!

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Eastern gray squirrel enjoying fallen sunflower seeds

I never tire of seeing my beautiful cardinals…this was a rare picture of them together in the tree. I have only observed them together when at the feeder or ground-feeding.

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Spring is a very active time for the creek…ducks, eagles, geese, and even spawning fish keep the area very busy and very noisy if you add frogs to the mix!

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Mallard duck couple out for a morning swim

 

I had to chuckle to myself as I watched this male and female goose swim by.  Though not obvious in the picture, the assumed male is much ahead as the female followed slowly behind, seemingly taking in all of the delightful sights as she swam happily along, while hubby up ahead was clearly on a mission.

For whatever reason, all I could think about was how this was a great representation of what my husband and I look like when we go to the mall together!

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Finally able to get a decent picture of “cave frog,” one of our resident American bullfrogs

On the day our pond was emptied and cleaned in early May, I was able to see and count almost forty bullfrog tadpoles. I had never seen a bullfrog tadpole and was thrilled to have the opportunity to see them up close.  The pictures are a little blurry through the water, but back legs and even front stubs are visible.

 

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Koi, goldfish, tadpoles, and snails

Most of the sights I am able to photograph from my porch, but once the coffee kicks in, I sometimes go for a stroll to check out the latest blooms.

 

First blooming roses

I was never able to really grow azaleas out our old house due to lack of shade, here, they are abundant, and I eagerly look forward to their show every spring!

 

Columbines are another flower new to me at this home, a spring beauty for sure.

 

My Uncle Harry gave me my first Coral Bell plant, a favorite in my old garden for hummingbirds.  They transplanted nicely here and I also added a few more.  I have always admired their delicate beauty.

 

My favorite blooms, however, have to be the Bleeding hearts….these were the flowers, more than any other, that my boys liked to pick when young with their chubby little fingers to give to me.  They were as intrigued by their shape as I was and still am…I have more than one pressed from my sweet little boys from too many years ago, sigh. I tried to bring some from our old garden when we moved, but the transplant didn’t take. I quickly bought some at the local nursery and will always have a place for them in my garden.

 

Finally, a few last views of the creek and pond-one a real surprise that I just happened to notice crawling out of the pond as I glanced out the back window:

 

Yeah, he, or she was a shocker for sure!! We’re not certain who will now be sticking their hands in to clean the pond filter, but what an amazing sight! This is my first snapping turtle up close and personal…I was most thankful for a zoom lens!

I round out this beautiful month in pictures with my favorite pond inhabitant ever. He got in right under the wire, the last day of May, which also happens to be my birthday. I hadn’t seen him for at least a month, so I’m sure he and his lovely lady were just swimming by to give me a friendly birthday greeting!  They started my day off in a special way for sure!

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Male Wood Duck

                            I hope that you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane for May.  June is only four mornings old, and already is showing off its splendor, so I look forward to sharing some of my moments for this month and every month to come!

           Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…Psalm 143:8

 

∼ Jen

Harold’s Nemesis

Who is Harold? Well, if you haven’t yet met him,  you can be properly introduced to him here .  This post, however, will be devoted mostly to his archenemy, and no, it’s not my husband!

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Harold’s rival is a sweet, 91 year-old, blonde beauty, a social butterfly, champion paddle-boarder, creek swimmer, island-explorer (maybe blondes really do have more fun), and self-appointed greeter of all who happen to pass by while she’s out and about in the neighborhood.

She loves to take walks, then cool off in the creek on especially hot days-she has even been known to mud-bathe when the tide is out. She bears the title of royalty, though she’s quite down to earth…she is, none other than, Princess-our lovable, happy, Harold-hating shepherd.

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We got Princess from my sister, who very sweetly took on a male shepherd, his mate, and eleven puppies to find homes for.  We already had a dog, Noah, but he was getting up there in years. The kids were young, so I thought it was a good time to get a puppy they could grow up with and I would have as company when the “empty nest” years hit.

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“Creek Dog”

Princess was the runt of the bunch.  The original owners of the shepherd family said she had to be resuscitated after she was born, so I think she became a favorite, and it is they who gave her the name, Princess.  When we first brought her home as a pup, I remember her being afraid of the dark, and especially a full moon.  However, after her dad came to join us, which is another story, he became her idol and she soon braved-up facing the dark and the moon like a champ!

 I’ve loved many dogs over my life, each special in their own way, but never a dog with a sweeter disposition than our dear Princess.

So why her intense hatred of Harold? We really don’t know. Why he hates her, is quite obvious! He is a grouchy loner after all, but more than that, he loves to hunt in our “backyard.” He will occasionally stroll through on his way to his next hunting spot or stand just off-shore at low tide.

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Upon spotting him, Princess goes into an exceptionally venomous barking rant and runs down to give this foe a piece of her mind.  At this point, anything Harold had been eyeing for breakfast, lunch, or diner has just swum off, and off goes Harold as well, screaming angrily as he does.

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I’ve often thought it’s a really good thing we can’t understand Harold’s language!

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“Cover your ears, mom!”

Princess trots back, happily satisfied that she has once again laid down the law to Harold and, once again, is ruler of all she surveys.

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Job well-done…her father, Smokey, would be so proud:)

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Time for a rest, until the next Harold intrusion.

So now you know all about Princess, our faithful friend and Harold’s faithful nemesis!

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“When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.’”
—Rudyard Kipling (author, The Jungle Book)

….Oh, and by the way, yes, swum is a word 😉

∼ Jen