Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November Musing - Part 3

There comes a time when autumn asks,
"What have you been doing all summer?"

Going out on a limb, and then meeting ourselves coming and going...
In August, my dear husband once again called my attention to something he knew I'd want to see. I quickly spied it clinging tightly to the rough wood of a standing planter box. Hidden among the clutter of old pieces of wood and blue tarp, it might easily have been overlooked if not for its brilliant green color.  Carefully observing, studying, and photographing it, I then made an attempt to grab it for a closer look. This little green tree frog depended on heightened awareness for its very survival, so when its supposed camouflage failed, it quickly switched to Plan B: speed and cover. It took me a few minutes of searching and grabbing, but finally I held it in my hand.

We were trying to settle in to what passes as a normal summer for us -maintaining our sizable yard and enjoying a number of local camping trips. But the reality is that this was not a normal summer for us. May had seen us offering some measure of long distance support for the move and settling-in of our brother-in-law near to his youngest daughter. June saw us helping to pack and move my older sister to our area from out-of-state. 

 And in between, we'd lived with many weeks of a major overhauling of a large slab of concrete near the back of our house. This served as a floor for both a double carport and a patio area, but it was very old, cracked, chipped, and beyond repair. After seeking expert advice, there was nothing to do but have that whole, huge slab removed and replaced with something better.
This brought major disruption, noise, and mess. So much for our normally quiet home...
Was it worth it? Absolutely!
To better photograph it, I set the little tree frog on a small plant near the ground, thinking I could sit down and focus right in on it.
Apparently, the frog had other ideas as it made a flying leap to a nearby red huckleberry bush and began climbing.
Several times I caught it and again placed it back on the short plant, but each time it leaped to the bush and continued its upward trek.
Finally, I just tried to photograph it wherever it was perched.
"Real action is in silent moments."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I had my usual volunteer activities, some of which require more time and energy in the summer.  
As a volunteer beach naturalist, many hours are spent on our local beaches interacting with both children and adults who visit and would like to learn more about sea life.
As a member of the steering committee for a local nature park being developed in our area, I help with some stewardship work as well as many of the educational events we have there. The hours do add up...
"A bee is never as busy as it seems;
it's just that it can't buzz any slower."
Kin Hubbard

One thing we did not fully expect was the time involved with our church's new building project. My husband became the self-appointed "official" photographer and made at least one trip a day to the site to capture every stage of the building process.

This took nearly a year and was full of all sorts of ups and downs.

When the building was complete, we had a huge amount of landscaping to do and guess who was on that committee?

Most of what we did was required by the county, so it was not just for looks or our own satisfaction, although the results turned out well.


We're glad it's all done!
We did manage to go camping, as planned. Although we live in a rural area, we are not far from two major cities and the surrounding areas teem with population. Because of this and (we surmise)  the current economic conditions, to get a desired camp site with the needed or wanted hookups one really needs to make a reservation months in advance. We had reserved all of our camping sites back in January and, fortunately, we did not need to cancel any.

For us - even with planning and packing - getting away to the relative peace and quiet of a campground is well worth the effort. It really is getting back to the basics of simple living - relaxing, enjoying the great outdoors, cooking, eating, and sleeping.

 We spend little time inside, choosing to sit outside in camp chairs or taking a drive or hike to see the surrounding countryside.
We revel in the variety of life on this planet and never cease to be amazed at how well each is adapted to its particular niche.
 We breath it all in and find ourselves refreshed and revitalized again and again.
"The point is that when I see a sunset or a waterfall or something, for a split second it's so great, because for a little bit I'm out of my brain, and it's got nothing to do with me. I'm not trying to figure it out, you know what I mean? And I wonder if I can somehow find a way to maintain that mind stillness." - Chris Evans.

 The tree frog continued to climb and leap - from one slender branch to the next. It seemed very odd to me that it would choose this spindly bush over the sturdy plant below until it dawned on me - this was a TREE frog. It simply chose the path it was best equipped to deal with.
When I find myself overwhelmed with the myriad facets of life - the worries, frustrations, burdens, pain, grief, busyness, and constant changes, I always seek some measure of solitude.
While digging weeds, I can work out the solution to a problem.
While walking the beach, I can contemplate ultimate change.
While standing among trees, I can recognize my true size and importance.
When my mind is a-swirl and my body racing, instinctively I know what I need - solitude and silence.
Through these, the ultimate power of life and love and all that is speaks volumes and brings me back to who I am.

"When you lose touch with inner stillness,
you lose touch with yourself.
When you lose touch with yourself,
you lose yourself in the world.
Your innermost sense of self, of who you are,
is inseparable from stillness.
This is the I Am that is deeper than name and form."
~Eckhart Tolle
Be still, and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November Musing - Part 2

There comes a time when autumn asks, 
"What have you been doing all summer?"

The best laid plans of mice and men...
In early June, while I was out working in the yard, my husband came to me with "I found something you might want to see..." By the outside corner of his workshop he had been moving and rearranging some spare lumber. "We need to be careful, but behind these boards I found a small bat - there seems to be only one." My husband knows me well - I did, indeed, want to see this. Only once before had I ever seen a wild bat live and up close. (To read about that time, please click here: A Flap in the Night)

 Carefully we removed the boards, one at a time, until we spotted a small, lumpy, oddly-shaped dark creature neatly tucked into a small space near the ground and between the boards. Taking a stick, I gently nudged it from behind until it wriggled out to where we could get a closer look. I thought it might take off, but then it was bright daylight and that pretty much goes against a bat's nature. Probably this was the day roost of the Little Brown bat and it planned to settle in there until sunset when it would take off to feed.
 Photo courtesy of BatGuys
We obviously roused it early; it wouldn't flee, but then it also wouldn't give up its space easily. Opening its little mouth widely, it divulged a set of tiny, needle-sharp teeth.

Having expressed its discontent, it turned its head away and froze, undoubtedly hoping this was all just a bad dream. We carefully covered it with boards and left it alone.
"But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren't alone]
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley, [
often go awry
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promised joy."
From Robert Burns' poem To a Mouse, 1786

Several times in recent years my older sister had mentioned that she might consider moving closer to family at some point: "After all, in five years I'll be ninety..." Having lived most of her life in Montana, with parents gone and sisters living in other states, she was facing up to some tough decisions. She'd always been independent - single with no children - so had to take care of herself. She'd lived in her current town for 60 some years and, although she was fairly active and had many friends, knew the time was approaching when she might need some help. Friends are wonderful, but there's usually nothing quite like family.

Last December, while she was here for Christmas, we visited a couple of independent/assisted living facilities. One seemed just right for her - small and very friendly. Best of all, it was located in our little community and just ten or fifteen minutes from our house. She flew home telling us she'd "think about it." Evidently, that didn't take long, as we soon received a phone call telling us she'd decided to move here. We were very happy with her decision.

Over the next six months, she methodically and single-handedly (for the most part) plotted her course and set about accomplishing some extreme down-sizing and preparing for a major move. She was merciless in her mission! She had it all planned - would go through her belongings, make decisions on what to keep, line up others to do her garage sale, contact her realtor, have the condo appraised, and do whatever needed doing to get it ready to sell. She figured she could accomplish all that and put the place up for sale around the first of June. Whether it sold or not, we'd drive over and move her in the late summer, by September at the latest.

In early June, I received a fretful phone call. The condo had sold within the first week and she had three weeks to vacate. "It's OK" I reassured her. "Line up your garage sale and we'll see where things stand after that." Wrong - the people who ran garage sales needed more notice, but they did visit her and gave her a rough estimate of what her furniture pieces were worth. Operating like the true trooper she is, she invited friends in to pick and choose items to buy, lined up other friends to help prepare for a garage sale, checked into places to take the things that didn't sell, and advertised her very own sale, which turned out to be fairly successful. But there were still many decisions to be made and many things to do.... her weekly phone calls became daily ones. After one particularly stressful call, my husband looked me in the eye and said "You need to go and help - NOW!"

It wasn't that I didn't want to. It's just that this sister, who is fifteen years older than me, has always handled her own life and told me what she was going to do. I've always been her "baby sister" and never felt that there was much I could do for her. But now it was obvious that she needed my help, even though she might not ask for it. I flew to her as soon as I could.

Arriving at her place, I found her physically exhausted and frailer than I'd remembered. Obviously, the last few weeks had taken a toll. I set about packing up all of her belongings that she knew she was going to take. That part, although time-consuming and challenging at times, was not terribly difficult. But there were still a number of decisions to be made, most of which only she could make and she was running out of steam to do so. Gently, I tried to move her along on these, but often heard "I can't make that decision today - I'll look at it tomorrow..." Sometimes we exchanged angry words and there were tears. This was not the sister I knew, but I gradually tried different methods to get her to budge and, in some cases, just quickly told her what the answer had to be. She began then to tell me "I just want to wake up and have this all over with." Believe me, I felt the same...

There were numerous errands to change banks, sign papers, and pick up empty boxes. Little by little, the physical part of her move progressed. But then there was the emotional part. In the course of the first week that I was there, we had three different farewell social events to attend. These were each rich, heart-warming occasions that showed just how deep my sister's connections were and how much she was admired and loved. To me, somewhat the outsider with the "need-to-get-done" checklist, they took valuable time away from all we yet had to accomplish before moving day. But I also knew how necessary this part of the process was for all involved, so I put on my best smile and my company manners and made the best of it. My sister reveled in each celebration and became more exhausted.

The day after we discovered the Little Brown bat, I tried to find it again. Carefully removing the boards, I checked out every tiny nook and cranny but found no sign of it. Having been disturbed, poked, and prodded, it must have decided that this was no longer a safe place to remain. I'm sure it was agitated that it needed to move and I hope it found another more suitable day roost where it could sleep in peace and comfort. May it eventually congregate with others of its kind and lead a long, fulfilling bat life...

My husband drove in the following week and began figuring out the space needed for what size of moving trailer we'd rent. That week, as the preceding one, quickly evaporated and we glimpsed the end in sight. My sister, who suffers from severe osteoporosis, developed back pain which she surmised to be another hairline fracture. She ate like a sparrow and just wanted to sleep. I stopped asking for decisions to be made and just packed, figuring we'd deal with it later. The last two days passed in a haze - the trailer got loaded, lots of folks dropped in for final goodbyes, to pick up items they'd purchased or been given, to drop off goodies. With the condo now empty, I scrubbed and vacuumed until I was exhausted. Finally, we hit the road.

The trip home was thankfully uneventful. My husband took the lead with the truck and loaded trailer; we followed behind with me driving my sister's car. Although my husband and I take many road trips and trade off driving, it had been many years since I'd put in a full day's drive myself. I knew I was capable and just hoped it would go well, but I needn't have worried. My sister slept much those two days on the road and never once asked to drive. I think it was a case of just doing what needed to be done - for each of us.

Since the move, we have all settled into our own routines. My sister is still independent, but has help where she lives if she needs it and knows she can call on us any time. She is slowly adjusting to the new community, climate, and lifestyle. While allowing each other space, we do call and see each other more often. She has rested up, regained her appetite, and enjoys her new home; old friends call often. I love her dearly and she so amazes me! I hope that if and when I'm her age, I'll have the courage and determination to make whatever decisions are needed, to uproot myself and move on to wherever I need to be. I hope I'll have someone to stand by my decisions and help me do what I must...

"To decide is to walk facing forward
 with nary a crick in your neck
from looking back at the crossroads."
Betsy CaƱas Garmon 
To be continued here:

November Musing - Part 3