The Game Tracker, Part 1

In the beginning, I was the girl in the background, ease-dropping on the “guy conversations”, wanting to know more.

Oh, but I wasn’t invited into those dialogues. Instead my curiosity was met with sarcasm. I endured smirks and taunting’s, like “What?  You want to shoot Bambi? Awwwwe, you wouldn’t shoot Bambi, would you?”

Once I finally expressed interest to a more temperate boyfriend, I became the girl wearing mismatched, oversized men’s camo clothing.  Clunking along through the woods with my size 7 feet in a men’s 11 Sorels.

From there, I trailed behind several boyfriends, trying to do exactly as told; walk quietly, no sudden movements, sit still, stay down wind. Oh, how cute I was.  Oh, how patronizing things were sometimes.  I was “darlin” and “sweetie” and “hon” a lot.  I would be told “horror stories” about field dressing and blood trails, challenging my sensibilities.

Then I built my own bow.

I was given a hodgepodge assortment of 5 arrows.

I practiced daily.

I became a really good shot.

In 6 years and 4 boyfriends, I spent many days in the field, but had yet to bag my first deer. It was in those early years that I discovered a few important things, like; not all guys were good hunters, and watching a guy take a 250 yard “Hail Mary” shot across an open field while screaming out obscenities might not be the thing to emulate, and what it took to unwrap and eat a snickers bar without getting caught. It was in those early years that I discovered my paralyzing, unconquerable fear of heights, and my intuitive comfort level being alone in the woods.

I discovered hunting was my calling.

Shortly after those 6 years of trials, tribulations and “ah ha” moments I landed the dream job that would shape the rest of my life: selling ads for a leading hunting magazine. The floodgates of knowledge and opportunity opened up for this girl in a matter of weeks, as I met virtually every major manufacturer and personality in the hunting industry over the winter.

I found a new circle.

And it wasn’t at all like the one I started out with.

The first “real” hunting attire I was given was more exciting than getting a diamond ring. A complete TreBark camo outfit—still the most cherished articles of clothing I own.  And although I was proud as punch to show off my self-built “compound bow in a kit”, Olympic Champion Ann Clark had other plans for me.  Suddenly I was the proud owner of a Hoyt Specta bow, which I still have today.  Then, Jim Dougherty presented me with a dozen (yes, a whole dozen!)  matched arrows. Clearly, my new colleagues were determined to have me “dressed for success”.  Soon I was to find out why….

That next fall I was invited to be part of the Inaugural All Woman Bowhunt, hosted by Bob Eastman, President of Gametracker Company. An elite group of a dozen women from the outdoors industry banding together for a week of media blazed deer hunting on Bobs private property; the “Tens Or Better Ranch”.  The group included amazing women like Ann Clark, Ann Hoyt, Jeanne Dunn, Kay Richey, Marilyn Nicholas, Kathy Beutler, Jan Bobsine, and my dear friend Loral I Delaney.  I confided to Loral I that I felt out of my league. I could barely contain my excitement to be surrounded by such fabulous women in a hunting camp.

Talk about going from rags to riches–surely I was dreaming! Was this all just a Cinderella fairy tale? I packed up my fancy TreBark outfit, a few other mismatched items, my new bow and arrows, and by then I had acquired a dozen Rocky Mountain Broadheads from Barrie Archery….

And I was on a plane to Michigan with Loral I.

Bob Eastman’s “people” picked us up and brought us to his home. Stepping into his house was like walking into a wildlife museum.  Dozens of stunning exotic mounts were displayed throughout the main floor.  Animals he had harvested from all corners of the earth were there.  It was truly breath taking.  I was in awe of Bob Eastman before I even met him.

And then we were introduced.

He was bursting with energy; a complex, articulate, innovative, creative man with a serious passion for the outdoors. I watched him bounce back and forth from playful banter with his guests to stepping aside with his staff to talk business.  He approached me squarely, enthusiastically, and addressed me by name.  He never once called me ‘darling, sweetie or hon’.  He pulled me aside and asked me questions about my work, and told me about his company.  He talked hunting with me on purpose, as an equal.  He was genuinely excited that I was a part of the group.  He made me feel welcome, but more importantly, he made me feel worthy, when, admittedly I was wondering why, with all the women to choose from, I was invited to be a part of this group?

1stLadiesGroupBob Eastman became my first outdoors idol.

One of the criteria for Bobs hunting event was agreeing to use his String Tracker product. Like most hunting accessories, I’d never heard of them until stepping into my new career, and I had much to learn. I was becoming a sponge for devouring information.  He spoke about the String Tracker with such conviction that by the end of the week, I was ready to go out and convert every bowhunter in the country.

By the end of the week, I was the only participant to arrow a deer. And it was my first deer, ever! And it was harvested using the String Tracker.  Cameras snapped image after image of Bob and I, Loral I and I, and just me.  The inaugural event wasn’t even over, but Bob was already talking about setting up the next one.

He made me feel accomplished. I was showered with lavish gifts including a hand painted wildlife scene from Chuck Denault. I was celebrated at dinner the last evening of our event, and my confidence as a bowhunter simply rose off the charts. That confidence has stayed with me for years and years.  And through the years of working in the hunting industry, Bob always treated me like a good friend and colleague.  He bragged about my first deer to everyone he came in contact with, even years later. 1stDeerWithBob

I am blessed to know Bob Eastman and have shared our passion for the outdoors in business, and hunting camp. His supportive, confidence boosting nature has made a lasting impression on my heart, and in my life.

 

You can read about all sorts of ideas, opinions and feelings from the heart and soul of an outdoorswoman… there are lots of topics covered in my blog category, “Girl Outdoors”, and “Words from the Wild”. Please feel free to share with others who may find meaning and value in my personal perspective, and PR Brady AdVentures.

Hunger, Hunt Harvest

Fall has arrived. What a beautiful time of the year. What does fall represent to you?  Do you find special meaning in it?  Or is it simply the end of summer? The coming of winter?

Hunger1Fall is my favorite season. I wait with great anticipation for September to arrive every year.  As the days get shorter and the evening air starts to get that cool crispness, I start to get restless, and feel bursts of energy and adrenaline rushing through my veins.  I can’t wait to get to a wild place–celebrate the Kaleidoscope of brilliant colors splashed across the landscape. The perfect, magical collision of greens, yellows, reds, oranges and browns seem to shout out “this is what nature is made of!”   An amazing fanfare “goodbye for now” to the migrating birds, hibernating bear, and the scores of the summers young adult animals that will soon be facing their first winter.

Most people I am close to don’t share my excitement. They feel quite the opposite, for many reasons.  Apparently one reason is because I tend to disappear come fall time.

Well, um, of course—-after all, it’s hunting season, right?

And although it’s not been pressed by anyone, I am sure there is a dumbfounded struggle for some to understand why, oh why, why, why, do I choose to go out and trudge through the woods, fields, prairies and swamps, in search of wild animals like pheasant, turkey, deer, and more? Why am I so devoted to getting out there, long before the sun is up to long after sundown, day after day, after day…..after day……

How can I be gone for weeks upon weeks all alone, foregoing all else, choosing a solitary life away from civilization, focused on eat-sleep-hunt until the seasons close?

Gee, I don’t know. I just know I have to do it.

For me, it’s not at all about just getting out there and killing something. It’s a passionate lifeline to the outdoors.  A simple walk down a logging trail can unfold into hours of humble awareness and appreciation, reveling in feelings of peace, security, resilience, and forgiveness.   Standing alone in a forest—are we really alone?  Every fiber in my body zings with aliveness, super charged senses.  I am dialed into the animal tracks in the dirt, the breaking of a branch, the aroma of earth and dry rotted wood.   Aware of the snap of a raccoon branch, versus the snap of a deer branch.   Aware of the incredible blending of grouse feathers against a cluster of stumps.  Aware of the most delicate crunching of leaves just 10 yards to my left, for the last 10 minutes, and when I stop, it stops….the exhilaration is indescribable.  No, I am not alone.

Sure, I suppose whatever it is could be hunting me as well. That’s part of what makes it all so enticing.  I accept natures challenge.  The rules of the game, the consequences for playing.  There is no other place on this earth where I feel more like I belong.

Time becomes irrelevant in wild places. “Things” become irrelevant.  Opinions, issues and ideas, all become irrelevant.  Surroundings and choices become beautifully simple.  Spending a day alone with nature can be an earth shattering, deafening-loud experience, with the crashing of waves to shore, the clinking of leafs falling to the ground, the cries of the birds, howling of the coyotes,  scores of buzzing insects, wind ripping through the woods and the thunderous crack and thud of a falling tree.  The landscape surrounding me is what’s relevant.  Nothing more.

And if I am so fortunate as to be presented a shot, it is with grace and gratitude that I take it. We are both doing our best in this wild environment.  My quarry is trying to survive.  I am too.  If in fact we are at this point where everything is exactly as it should be to execute a perfect shot, then it was meant to be, for both of us.  While my heart aches for the loss of a beautiful precious life, I also rejoice in knowing I am sustaining my own life. My opportunity to take game may present itself in one day, after several days, weeks, months, or not at all. But either way, I’ve connected at the core to the very heart of nature.

There is no describing the feeling of self-sufficiency, whether it’s harvesting a crop of beans, a hillside of wild blueberries, a pheasant or a big game animal. I take humble pride in knowing I can provide for myself.  The planning, the endurance and execution of the hunt, not to mention the enormous amount of work afterwards, the physical strength to bring that game home and then prepare it…well I wouldn’t trade that world for anything.

On a purely rational level, I can’t explain it. But I can tell you that 24-7, 365, there is a hunger inside me, an all-powerful, all demanding hunger to immerse myself into an authentic realm of being one with nature.  It’s been there as long as I can remember.  Most of the year, it can be nurtured with virtually anything outdoors, not just hunting. It could mean fishing, gardening, hiking,biking, canoeing, or simply sitting on a log and breathing in the wild around me.  But come fall time, that hunger rules my very soul.

To suggest I not go, or not go as often, would be like saying “just don’t breathe air for the next few months.”

I’ve met many women frustrated with their husbands each fall because they take off for a week during rifle season in November.   Or they book a hunt with “the buddies” out west for 10 days.  Or, they grab the dog and take to a field every chance they get….

I can’t comment much about that. You see, there was a time in my life where I was just like those women.  It tore me up inside when the man I loved took off to the woods without me.  When he didn’t want me with, over and over.   Leaving me to take care of the house while he did the very thing I live and breathe for.

Yes, I can relate to that feeling of being left.

Well, that doesn’t happen anymore. For years, it’s been just me–and my dogs.  Sure, it would be awesome to haveHunger2 a great guy to share the outdoors with.  Sure, but until that day happens, I’m living my life as I was meant to, walking those serene trails with or without that guy.

Connecting with nature is a critical component to making me who I am. I understand it’s not just a hobby—it’s a way of life—the very core of my life.  It feeds me, physically, mentally and emotionally.  Those who truly know me, know and respect that although I will disappear for weeks on end, eventually I’ll be back.

First and foremost, I am a passionate outdoors woman. I will always live to fulfill my hunger to hunt and harvest.

 

You can read about all sorts of ideas, opinions and feelings from the heart and soul of an outdoorswoman… there are lots of topics covered in my blog category, “Girl Outdoors”. Please feel free to share with others who may find meaning and value in my personal perspective, and PR Brady AdVentures.

 

Big Black Bird

The Crow Pose.

As I hunker down on all fours, place my hands on the ground in front of me, shifting all of my weight forward, trying to hoist my knees up onto my elbows,  and balance all of my body weight on my hands my mind begins to wander. How in the world this Yoga pose ever got its name is beyond me.

“Even if you only raise one foot from the ground, it’s okay. This is your time on the mat.  Listen to your body.”

Right.  My body is telling me this is not how a crow stands.  Ever.

But I continue to try, as futile as it seems.  Try is the key operative word here.  I teeter and fall over, focus, reset, and try all over again, and again.  My intention is to eventually be able to achieve this pose, although at times I’m not sure why it’s so important for me to do it.

Perhaps it has to do with accepting and embracing the challenge.

Life is full of challenges, and not just for us mere mortals.  Life is challenging for all beings on this planet.  At the top of the food chain, we humans claim to have a leg up advantage with our keen intellect that separates us from all other forms of life. But there are other species out there that also seem to have it all figured out.

Take the Crow, for example.

As I lay peacefully slumbering in a quaint little lakeside cabin in the great north woods, the sky slowly begins its transition from night to first glimpses of mornings light.  All is peaceful.  All is at rest.  All is…..

“CAWWW!   CAWWWWW!  CAWWWW!”

And so it begins.

I am haunted, and downright taunted, by crows at the crack of dawn. They are relentless. They do not give up.  They have accepted and embrace the challenge.

“What challenge?”  You ask.

Well, the challenge of getting me up and out the door to feed them peanuts.  Yes, you heard me, they want their peanuts.

I am highly irritated.  ARGHHHH this wouldn’t be happening if they hadn’t been trained to expect daily peanut feedings whenever humans are present.  I had no hand in this, mind you.  I don’t believe in interfering with the circle of life by feeding wild animals. But to those big black birds, we humans all look the same.  They don’t care that I’m not their normal food giver.  They know I’m in here, and they want their breakfast now!  They continue to caw, and caw and caw, with no breaks.  Mother crow has several babies to feed, and those are some big babies.  She has things all figured out.  She knows I am the human that can pull the lid off of that big metal can and fetch peanuts for her family. Resistance is futile.

“CAWWWW!  CAWWW! CAWWWWWWW!”   She flits from tree to tree, trying to peer into the cabin as I roll over and bury my headBlackBird2 under the pillow.  Her kids perch in branches on the hillside, close to their “feeding area” eagerly awaiting a signal.

“CAWWWWWWWWWW!” Dad chimes in from a distance as if to ask “did you get her ass out of bed yet?  Where’s breakfast?”

I’m not doing it.  I’m just NOT!  And I try to shut out the incessant cawing of the big black birds.  But now, they have wrecked any hope of me falling back to sleep.  Round one goes to the black birds.

Eventually, I do roll out of bed— to take care of my own family’s needs, and head to the outhouse.

“CAWWW!  CAWWWWWW!”  Mama Crow hollers to me from the trees.  I look up to see big black blobs dotting the mighty oaks along the property line.

No!  I am not allowing this to happen!  I ignore her cries, all the way to the outhouse and back, and through most of the morning. This does not make her happy.  They finally fly off, filling the sky with black feathers.  Ha, round two goes to me!

I do a little work, a little housekeeping, and a little relaxing.  After taking the girls for a walk and bringing Buddy up to the Gazebo it’s time to pull out the lawn chair for some tanning time.  Ahhh, I’m horizontal.

“CAWWW!  CAWWWWWWWWWW!”  She is back again with the entire family of 6, and let me tell you, the natives are getting restless.  They are dropping down from the trees to the ground, just 20 yards away from the lawn chair, picking at the ground and empty hulls and giving me dirty looks.  She struts over to the magical metal can on the side of the cabin and eyes it up and down.

“Caw! Cawww!” the kids begin to chime.  She is staring me down with her beady black eyes.  She opens her wings toward me like a scene out of ‘Dominion’ or something, then she gently rises up to the cabin rooftop, looking down on the peanut can.

“CAWWWW!  CAWWW! CAWWWWWWW!”  She demands again.  She is relentless.  She will not give up.  She has accepted and embraces the challenge.

Oh yeah, I am one tough human.   I am just waiting for her to start trying to wing check me on the lawn chair.  She would have a pretty good fly at me from the corner of the rooftop.  I glance over to the babies.  Those are some big black baby birds.  I look over to her again.  Suddenly, I feel sorry for her. Dang. She’s really got her ‘wings’ full with that brood.

She cocks her head sideways at me…..“CAWW.”

“Ohhh….FFFFFFFFFFFINE!”  I reluctantly get up and storm over to the peanut can, grabbing two fists full of them. Then I turn to their “feeding area” and sprinkle them across the ground.Blackbird4

I barely escape to my lawn chair before the frenzy begins.  The 6 big black birds cover the hillside, mom dropping down, grabbing a peanut and pecking it open.  The kids all standing there with their heads tipped back, cawing like mad for a food drop.  That poor mother crow about wore herself out running from baby to baby trying to feed them all.  Aren’t they big enough to feed themselves? Dad stayed back, grabbing for an outer edge peanut, then would hop off out of sight to enjoy it in peace.  How typical.

I had placed the last few peanuts on the black iron patio chairs facing the lake.  One of the babies hopped up on a chair.  Mother crow quickly scolded the baby to get down.  When he wouldn’t, she glanced over to me.  As I witnessed the dynamics of this family of big black birds, I developed a new appreciation for the Crow Pose.

BlackBird3Oh yes, my dear, if you are going to demand something from me, I want something from you.  By the end of October, you will be taking peanuts from my hand on that chair.  I will focus, and set up a plan, and try.   Remember, I am the human that can pull the lid off of that big metal can and fetch your peanuts.  My intention is to eventually be able to achieve this connection with you, although I’m not sure why it’s so important for me to do it.

Perhaps it has to do with accepting and embracing the challenge.

Resistance is futile.

She hops up on the chair and pecks open the peanut, glancing nervously at me.

I accept and embrace the challenge.  So begins the taming of a big black bird.

 

What’s the latest challenge you’ve taken on?  I’d love to hear about it!    Feel free to check out more posts under Girl Outdoors, and share with others! 

To Build A Fence

This past spring a whole jumble of good and bad things occurred just as I returned home from my winter adventure season.  I tried to push through the spring.  I tried to show gratitude for the good stuff.  I tried to understand the bad stuff.  I tried to come up with other plans.  I ran out of tears, tolerance, and ideas.

One of many things that have been difficult to find time for has been to erect a better structure to define my back yard. My current fence is slowly falling apart.  It is failing to serve its purpose.   It has become a priority of late.  Functionality.  Safety.  Privacy.  Esthetics.  All good reasons to build a fence and yes, I can check all those boxes as reasons in my case.  And now it’s time.  It cannot wait another day.

Unfortunately I am unable to afford to do as much as I’d like to.  I can’t afford to build a brand new structure right to my actual property line, therefore I’m sacrificing the use of some of my own property until finances allow.   But I am going to do what I can for now.  Something good enough to bring me resolve about what has made this effort such a priority.

To build a fence with raw materials and no directions is a challenging act of mental ability, dexterity, determination and physical strength.  I’m finding that at this time, to build a fence translates into recognizing that right now, I’m feeling a little fragile.  Or a lot.

To build a fence means erecting a structure that will provide some much needed seclusion.fence1

To build a fence means emotional protection, blocking out the bad vibes and negative energy, guarding  me and my family from what’s lurking on the other side.

To build a fence means defining my sacred space.  My terms.  My parameters.  My wooden line in the sand.

To build a fence means rekindling my confidence by tackling something bigger than normal.

To build a fence means accepting help.  Help from people who care about me and my well-being, no matter how raw and tired and ornery I’ve become.

To build a fence means feeling gratitude for having more than one person’s perspective of what can be, or how it could be.

fence3To build a fence means team work on something to be proud of together, no matter how self-reliant and closed off I have allowed myself to get the last few months.

To build a fence means facing and overcoming obstacles, whether they be weed infestations, or tree trunks gnarled into metal, ominous weather, or letting go the pain of a lost relationship.

To build a fence means feeling power, satisfaction and inner peace through a hard days work.

To build a fence means creating something beautiful, functional, and sturdy enough to carry me through a difficult time.fence2

To build a fence means tearing down old and rebuilding new can be a bright, exciting positive experience.

To build a fence means resurrecting an environment where flora and fauna can once again flourish.

To build a fence means taking pride in knowing I have accomplished something important, and have done it well.

fence4

To build a fence means being thankful.  Thankful for even being able to build a fence.

What have you built lately?

 

 

One With The Bow

Archery.  A practice I’ve enjoyed well over 25 years; as a competitor, a hunter, and just for the sheer fun of being around people who enjoy aiming at a target and hitting it.  Anyone can shoot the bow.  Anyone, whether you’re 5, or 95 years old.  YOU can shoot a bow.  There is no age limit for the stick and string.  No arduous strength requirements, except for those we unnecessarily place on ourselves.

Simply pick up the bow.  Place the arrow.  Draw the arrow back, aim, and let go.  A series of steps that can become…dare I say….addictive?

It’s time to prepare for this year’s hunting season.  Time to make sure my gear is tuned, and most importantly, that I am in tune with my bow.

Being a confident archer requires knowing as much as you possibly can about your instrument.  I know my bow, and body well.  Years of conditioning, years of shooting 120 arrows a day, 5 days a week and tournaments on the weekends.  Picturing bulls-eyes on the ceiling in bed at night.  Thinking perfect shot placement.  Shooting with my eyes closed at an empty bale at 7 yards.  To shoot well, is to have perfect form.  Become one with the bow.

I can close my eyes, feel the bow in my hand and be aware if it is resting too high, too low, or fitting just right to my small hands grip.  When I go through my mental checklist, I open myself to be conscious of how I’m standing.  Are my feet slightly apart, at the correct angle to the target?  Hips over the feet, weight slightly forward, standing tall, shoulders down.  Holding the bow straight out from my body like a capital T, I feel for the correct posture and stance.  There it is.   Elbow out, slightly bent, loose grip on the handle.  Nock the arrow onto the string, gently placing it onto the arrow rest.  One finger above, two below the arrow on the string, fingers locked into positioned as though they are curled extensions of my hand and arm.  My arm, an extension of my back.  My back, the source of my power.   Deep breath in, exhale and squeeze the shoulders together– drawing the bow back.  I am at full draw.

With my eyes closed, I methodically recall the specifics of where things are when I am at full draw, and go through the checklist of where they should be.  Where the string touches my skin at full draw.  How my peep aligns to my eye.  Are my fingers wrapped around or clinging to, the string?  Is my bow hand relaxed?  I calmly breathe, noticing nothing but where things are at full draw.  Elbow slightly bent, shoulders squeezed together, I should be able to hold this position for a very long time.  It could take a while for the deer to step into perfect shot placement range.  I open my eyes.  I can see a perfect sight picture from the peep, to the sight pin, to the target.   I am an extension of the bow.  There is nothing more but the arrow, and the destination.  Pin is on the target.  Holding steady on target until it’s time to release the string.  Feels comfortable.  Feels balanced.  Feels right.  Wholeness.   Emptiness.  Nothingness.

Release the string.

Into the center of the target!

I was no different than anyone else when I first shot a bow.  I fought with every shot, trying to put arrows in the center of the target.  Archery frustrated me.  Sometimes I hated it, especially if other people saw me shoot poorly.  The harder I tried to make things happen, the less they did.  It wasn’t until I completely changed my approach, closed my eyes, and listened to very wise coaches that things finally changed.

Archery is all about meditation, actually.  Archery can provide a zen-like state of mind if you let it.  If you allow the practice to work its magic, everything around you will disappear as you shoot the bow.  Repetition, doing everything exactly the same, every single time, becomes so much more than a learned habit.  It becomes a natural part of you, found and reinforced in meditation.  All that will remain is your breathing, the arrow and the destination.  There have been many days I couldn’t wait to get to the indoor range so I could relax from a busy workday.  Escaping into archery, practicing perfect form tunes out the people, the chatter, the activity, and brings me to the center of my breath, much like Yoga.

Not bad for the first day of practice!

Not bad for the first day of practice!

And now as I prepare for Septembers season opener, I realize how much I’ve missed this feeling.  It has been some time since I last drew my bow.  Am I able to bend at the hips to take an uphill or downhill shot without altering my form? What if I have many more layers of clothing on—how will that change my shot?   I will set up many shooting scenarios in the next few weeks, to awaken and remind me of everything I have engrained into my form.  Nothing will be left to chance.  It’s all there, waiting to come back.  As I draw the arrow across the rest, I feel that confidence.  I feel that peaceful confidence, I’m melting into the bow, becoming the bow. I am an extension of the bow.  Picturing the perfect shot placement.  The arrow and the destination.  The target.  The bulls-eye.  The fall harvest.  Tenderloin venison steak.

My self-imposed  rule as a bowhunter is to be more than 100% ready physically, technically, and emotionally to step into the field and harvest my quarry.  My rule as a conservationist is to do my due diligence, hunt and dispatch my game legally, quickly and ethically.  My rule as a spiritual person is to always be thankful for what has been presented to me and my family, never taking life for granted, or more than what I need.

SONY DSCArchery as it relates to hunting brings me to an astounding realness in the wild. The combination of my abilities as an archer and my abilities as a hunter, manifests an experience well beyond the expectation of fair chase.  Tuning into the softest step crunching the leaves, tuning out any thoughts of work or friends or expectations at home.   Noticing the circling crows above and the flattened grass trail to the swamp.  Finding that funnel where the bucks run through, flanked by a scrape and rub line.  The feeling of being watched, the surprise of a rogue squirrel.   I cannot imagine not being able to spend time in the woods filling this insatiable drive to be as one with the earth, and, one with the bow.

 

 

Milk and Honey

It started the moment I saw the sign for Itasca State Park.  Memories came rushing back.  Sweet, happy memories of the time Dad and I pulled our little camper up to Itasca State Park for a week of fishing, playing on the beach, exploring the big forest, and tippy toeing across the trickling Headwaters of the great Mississippi River.  I was about 12 then.  Haircut from hell.  Long gangly legs.  Putting worms on hooks.  Picking gooseberries on the trails.  Swatting the bears away from camp with the broom.  Evolving into a hard core outdoorsperson at Dads side.   He would take me on our small Alumina Craft boat at night, Muskie fishing.  We would troll for Northern and Walleye during the day.  We would sit on the shore and cast for Sunfish.  Make pancakes on the Coleman Stove.  Oh, I was such a Daddy’s Girl.

Still am.  Always will be.

Dad was the kindest, most gentle, supportive, hardworking and funny man to ever live.  Everyone loved him.  His simple, calm, unassuming nature was infectious.   He was a man of integrity and honor.  He was a giving, caring, God fearing, blue collar, Union, working man who gave his all to provide for my mom and I.  He was my biggest role model.  Although he has been gone for 19 years, right now, I cannot stop thinking about my father.  It’s all fresh in my mind lately.  An awakening of melancholy emotions and thoughts.  I am consumed.

Dad, I miss you so much!

Dads parents

Dads parents

He never wanted to talk about his past, especially his time in the service.  He didn’t like to talk about the war.  But he did talk about his early days as a boy, in Ukraine, in “The Land of Milk and Honey”.  He had a dozen or so brothers and sisters.  His parents were farmers, and their family lived a simple, peasant farming life.  They worked hard in their fields.  But the soil was rich and they could grow almost anything!  Wheat, corn, potatoes, beets. There were cows, pigs and goats and it was a beautiful, lush countryside.

Dad and some of the family

Dad and some of the family

It was a peaceful, happy existence.  But then, in 1932 came the most volatile, terrible time for Ukrainians. They became controlled and murdered by the thousands, oppressed and starved by Soviet rule.  Many tried to flee the country.  While not many of his siblings were willing to leave, some were, including him.  Dad, with a heavy heart, escaped at age16 or so, and came to the United States,  enlisted, and fought in two wars.

He wouldn’t talk about those days, so I had to learn about it from others.  The most devastating piece of historical literature I’d ever been given as a young girl was a thin red paperback written in 1953, called The Golgotha of Ukraine.  The land rich with farming, “The Land of Milk and Honey”, became littered with malnourished bodies of Ukrainian peasants who were forced to turn over their crops to the “government”, eventually going hungry, starving, and dying of starvation.  Some of the people even became cannibalistic.  And the outcry during and after the horrific famine slaughter was; “why didn’t the USA step in and help?”

I pulled out my little red book today, and paged through the eyewitness accounts of Soviet reality, wondering how in the world it could have happened.

Excerpt from page 5:

“This was a time when Litvinov (1930’s Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs) succeeded in persuading our American government that it was possible to do business with Stalin.  Our press in those days one recalls, was full of glowing anticipations on how many billions of dollars of profits America could make in trading with Russia.  Naturally these anticipations were based on empty promises being made by the Soviets in order to gain American recognition of the Soviet Union.

This was the time too, when such a well-known  American newspaperman as Walter Duranty of the New York Times reported from Moscow, upon his return from a trip through famine-ravaged Ukraine, that he saw no cases of starvation in Ukraine, ‘only some cases of malnutrition’!

Page 45

Page 45

Excerpt from page 6:

“The fault for this deplorable situation lies squarely on the shoulders of those liberal “liberals” of those “experts” who then had considerable influence on public opinion concerning “Russia”. Even today, some of them still consider themselves as “experts” and do everything in their power to prevent the American people from knowing the truth about the Soviet Russian reality, about the traditional Russian Imperialism clad currently in Soviet garb.”  Dr. Luke Myshuha.

But that was all many, many years and generations ago.  Most people today probably don’t even recall anything about what happened overseas in the beautiful Land of Milk and Honey in the 30’s. At least we seem to have a much clearer picture of Russia’s “culture and capabilities” today.

Let’s hope.

Yet, now, here Ukraine is again, in another violent upheaval.  I wonder if Dad knows?  Does he hover over his nieces and nephews–my cousins—trying to protect them in spirit?

Suddenly, despite not having connections with my overseas family, I am scared.  Scared for them.   Wondering how this could be happening.   I am so sorry Dad, that more conflict and chaos has been dropped across the Land of Milk and Honey.  Thank God that you are not here to see it happening– the worry and concern would surely be the thing to take your life.  Thank God that you didn’t wake up one day when I was a kid and say to mom and me; “hey, I miss my family, let’s go live in Ukraine!”  Oh, thank God that didn’t ever happen!

If I stop and allow myself to think about it, lord my head spins, unable to rationalize any of the violence and separatism.  I won’t even begin to say I understand what is going on over there, or stand behind any of it, or wish to become a part of it, because I don’t.  But I do have to wonder if any of the people of Ukraine ever saw this little red book I’ve got in my hands.

Excerpt from page 7:

“Perhaps this brochure will be of aid to Americans of Ukrainian birth or descent in their endeavors to make their fellow Americans and the American Government itself truly realize the menace of Russian Imperialism, in whatever garb it may appear, not only to Ukraine and other Soviet Russian enslaved nations, but to the free world and America as well.”  Dr. Luke Myshuha.

Well, what about the people actually living in Ukraine?  Do any of them remember how things were back in the 30’s, under Soviet rule?  The shallow ditches and wooden carts, heaping full of bodies?  I am guessing not.  Otherwise, how could this dividing of an otherwise peaceful people even happen?  With the oppression, censorship and simple freedoms that whole part of the world has been deprived of so many years, their perspective must be skewed and far from accurate.  They learn a very different history than what we do in the United States.

Truthfully, it is also frightening to realize how far removed our own Countries’ thinking has strayed of late.  Perhaps we are not that far away from our own undoing.

I am so grateful for my dad, and the many brave men and women over the course of my life and even before, that

Dad in the United States Army.

Dad in the United States Army.

have stood and fought to protect our freedoms as Americans, as well as assisted in protecting and securing liberty for others.   Perhaps that experience is what shaped him into being the compassionate and caring father I cherished.

My heart breaks, knowing I could still have family in Ukraine.

My heart breaks, realizing I may no longer have family Ukraine.

My heart breaks, missing my dad.

Tomorrow would have been your birthday.  Happy 95th Birthday, Dad.  I know you are walking the fields of a far better Land of Milk and Honey.

Tree In The Breeze

“Spread your toes wide.  Feel your left foot become weightless, as it rises up to rest on your inner thigh.  Hands held to heart center.  Now breathe……focus your breath on one tiny spot, as you grow your branches tall, taller, reaching to the sky, you are the tree…..breathe….. “

My Practice has become an addiction.  Somehow, I cannot go without Yoga.  It’s just stretching, right?  Oh, so wrong!  Yoga is far more than stretching.  It is a celebration of, or an affirmation of, respect for self.  My time on the mat.  Yoga is time that I have consciously chosen to dedicate to my own wellbeing.  Time that all else takes a back seat to.  I empty my mind, and breathe.  Aches and pains go away.  Irritating issues and people go away.  It all disappears in one, mindful hour of Yoga Practice.

Who’da thunk?

After several months of daily group Yoga hours, I am able to confidently continue my Practice solo, at home, or virtually anywhere.  Now that I am spending time up north on the lake, a new favorite place to practice is on the dock at sunrise. YogaRise1

Oh, what a quasi-cosmic-religious-spiritual experience!

Typically, sunrise is a hauntingly calm time on the water.  The lake is almost like glass as the pink and orange horizontal sliver of light slowly evolves into a band, and rises into a hot yellow globe. Above me lingers a beautiful crescent moon, shining bright against the morning sky. To dedicate time to, and witness this glorious beginning of a new day practicing Yoga, somehow fills my being with a sense of empowerment, wholeness and revitalized appreciation of life.

“We’re here now. In the moment. On the dock.”

It is a peaceful, wondrous morning, with Coyote Oldman’s Thunderchord playing in the background, and traveling softly across the lake.  There is a light intermittent breeze, just enough to enhance the refreshed feeling throughout several Sun Salutations.  An ever so gentle breeze, barely moving the waters.  “Halfway lift, exhale and fold, hands on the mat, and downward… facing… dog.”

Warrior Two stance; a position of strength and power.  I celebrate the morning like a warrior, ready to deal with whatever comes my way.  I have dedicated this practice to my dog, wishing him strength and peace as he deals with cancer.  I, too, find peace and strength, on the mat.  “Windmill arms to the ground, high to low plank, little cobra, and downward….facing….dog.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Step to the top of the mat, slowly rise, and position for Tree pose.”

I feel my left foot become weightless, as it rises up to rest on my inner thigh.  Hands held to heart center, I breathe……focus my breath on one tiny spot as I grow my branches tall, taller, reaching to the sky, I am the tree…..I am the willow tree…..breathe…..in the moment….we are here now…..

The gust of wind blasted the dock hard, quick and without warning.

Whoaaaaaa, tipping… tipping… trying to hold balance, pull it together as the dock sways hard, and I am tipping…….tipping over, lost balance, tripping over….ooooooooooooooooover and

SPLASH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I fall sideways into the lake.  This tree has crashed.

Cool waters shock me into a new present moment, as I am flailing, thrashing, trying to determine which way is up.  Calm down, relax, you know how to swim.  This is nothing.  I focus on the fact that I am not breathing, and that’s ok, and exhale all of the air from my chest, feeling my body begin to sink, feet first.

My knee bumps something hard.

I realize I am in waist high water.  I stand and look down.

Namaste, fishes.

 

 

Beyond Special

It’s been a tough couple of months. It’s been a time of unexpected, tough day to day choices, struggling with problems, priorities, business, even my residence. But mostly, it’s been tough to see my hunting partner slowly declining, becoming weaker and weaker, trying so hard to cope with unfixable damn Osteo Sarcoma. BeyondSpecial4 It breaks my heart, watching him all day every day, knowing there is nothing I can do to stop it.  It certainly doesn’t help that everything in our house is up or down a flight of stairs.  It absolutely pains me to see him limp around.  I just can’t bear it.  But like a champ, he gimps on up those stairs.  Or down.  And then he sleeps.  Life seems to be all about just trying to get through a day with minimal strain on my poor boy.

Thank the Gods for the many friends that are here for me.  How comforting to know I matter to them on good days, and bad days. How wonderful to share good times and laughter, hard times and tears, always feel cared about. They are so thoughtful, and I so appreciate their genuine touching exchanges with Buddy. I am so lucky to have the caring friends I do.  And he is one spoiled dog…which is as it should be.

Just when I thought my circle couldn’t possibly be more abundent, I was given the most amazing gift for my birthday ever.

Actually, the amazing gift appeared just after the last traumatizing event in my life:  March of 2013, when I received the news about Mike Strandlunds unexpected death in the Philippines.  As I sat in a frenzy of panic attack grief at the end of the driveway of the home he and I shared for 10 years, a hard, sharp pain in the heart suddenly struck me and the next thing I knew, I was in the driveway of a most cherished friend I’d been estranged from for many years.

I promise it’s true what they say that true friendship, true bonds last forever no matter what.  No judging, no questions, no “WTF”…that girl took me into her arms and comforted me in my horrific sobbing grief as though we’d never been apart.

BeyondSpecial1Now, here I am, over a year later, simply overwhelmed by her incredible act of generosity on my birthday.  Buddy, the girls and I will be spending much of the remainder of the summer “on the lake”.   She and I just pulled my Toy Hauler up to her lake property.  It still seems to be to be somewhat of a dream.BeyondSpecial2

It’s been a hard day of work, weed whipping, analyzing, backing, and leveling. And of course, what would an adventure be without something going wrong with my Toy Hauler?  So yes—I will have to tow it to Bemidji Monday to see why the fridge doesn’t work after just 16 months.

But it’s been a great birthday.  We made some dinner, enjoyed a few adult beverages, BeyondSpecial3took Buddy for a very short walk, and now I am sitting here, cradling my good boy, looking out at the big waters of Leech Lake, so grateful for this special opportunity.  He lifts his head high, smelling the woods, the water, the grouse, then lays back down falling into deep, dog dream sleep. What a grand, glamorous way for our outdoors family to spend the remainder of his time together.  What an appropriate place to grieve for him after he is gone.

Throughout life, people pass through our worlds, touching us in different ways.  Some connect and stay, some simply pause, play for a while, and go.  There are people who, despite being present, actually were never there.  And then, once in a great while, if a person’s lucky, they may be graced with some who are beyond special.

Clearly I have been graced.  The depth and strength of unconditional love and friendship is astounding to experience.  Once again, the recipient of heartfelt selfless giving beyond my wildest dreams, realizing and reinforcing, how much I have to be thankful for in this life.

 

 

Something To Say

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far away (well it seems like it now, anyway) I crossed one of my many “rules of relationships” lines back then, and became “more than friends” with a business acquaintance I had known for years.  We sailed through the 3 month “honeymoon phase” like champions.  Toothbrushes were involved.  His kids were involved.  We clicked like magic.  We were quite the perfectly happy tribe.  Then on the first day of the 4th month—he was gone.

Abandoned.  Angry.  Perplexed.  Confused. Used.  Betrayed.  Violated.  Disregarded…and… DUMPED are just a few of the descriptive words I would choose to articulate how I felt that day.  And the next day.  And the next….

There was no phone call.  No “last talk”.  No “thanks for the memories” or “things have changed.”  No nothing.  Just gone.  Of course, I couldn’t let things go without doing something, and this was all I could think of to do at the time, way back??????????????????????????????? when.

 

Dear ??????

Although it seems you can coast through life without bringing closure to situations and circumstances, I can’t, and I have something to say……

I think it is terrible of you to not at least offer an explanation to me of what changed for you, and why you’ve up and left.  It devastates me to learn that you apparently feel so little for me that you are willing to throw everything away, including any chance of remaining friends.

What changed? I have no idea what has happened between us.  I sure would like to know.  Was everything you said to me a complete lie?  Was our entire relationship all just some game for you?  Was I a complete fool to believe in you?  I thought we had something real; something special.  Silly me.

How could you say all those things you said, worked so hard to convince me how you felt, and then betray it all, my faith and trust in you and my feelings for you this way?  How dare you take advantage of me like that!  Why ??? Why?  Are you ever going to come forward and tell me?  Or just take the easy immature way out and not ever communicate the truth?  How could you do this?  Why? And why did you pick ME?

I don’t understand.  I want to understand.  You have not been fair.  As angry and hurt as I am, I cannot bring myself to hate you.  I simply feel sorry for you.  I feel so sorry for you.  I hope you someday figure out what it is you are looking for.  And, I’d really appreciate you at least giving me a clue what went wrong.

Wherever life leads you next,  ?????   , please try to learn this one simple phrase…

Respect for Self

Respect for Others

Responsibility for All Actions

 

Some People

They pick. They push. They meddle. They demand. They expect. They complain. They badger. They argue. They judge. They obsess.

They aren’t happy with anything around them. They pounce on the slightest opportunity to cause others angst.  They act on the most petty, inconsequential circumstance to call out a grievance with their co-worker or neighbor, or complete stranger.  They look for ways to stir the pot.  They look for reasons to draw a line in the sand.  They are not interested in working and playing well together with others.  No, not at all. They have determined their mission in life is to be the festering wound that will never heal.  The agitation that never goes away.  They pride themselves on being malevolent.

Why?

Have you ever encountered someone like this?  What was it like? How did it make you feel?  How did you deal with the situation?  I’ve heard many stories. Crazy, senseless struggles between co-workers, neighbors, and even family members.  Each tale leaving me with deeper appreciation that it hasn’t ever happened to me.

Recently I was at an outdoor community function on a less than perfect day.  Because the rains refused to hold off, the volunteers quickly moved the “free doughnut” table up under the handicap canopy walkway to keep everything from getting soaked the last hour of the event.  Within moments, a wheel chair visitor approached the walkway to also get out of the rain.  A woman behind her began bellowing “you can’t have those things there—there are ordinances—you need to clear that path!”, as the woman on wheels effortlessly rolled past it all.  And after she was gone, that bellowing woman was still complaining about ordinances and that doughnut table.

Why be the one to be that way?

Another woman shared her story about a negative work mate ‘across the cubes’.  Luckily their jobs required very little communication, most of their work was done on computers.  She had no problem keeping up with her responsibilities, and was a good employee.  But her co-worker was always picking at her for something; the style of her shoes, when she left to use the restroom, where she hung her coat…anything she could find to complain about. She began reporting her for taking phone calls—something that had no bearing on either of their abilities to do their jobs. This co-worker couldn’t hear any of the conversations, but knew calls were being taken.  Turns out, the woman’s family was going through a very difficult time for a few weeks, requiring her to take some important calls–she was trying to be discreet.  But bringing the situation to their superior’s attention almost cost the woman her job, even though her performance was not suffering, simply because a complaint was made and they had to follow policy.

Why, why, why be that way?

A story from a man who was given a rescue dog to keep him company after barely surviving a DogSigntraumatic accident—now wheelchair bound for life. He started taking the pooch to a nearby fenced in ball park when no one would be around, just to be able to let his furry friend run and fetch a ball more than 5 feet away for a few minutes.  The dog was thrilled with this new game!  He was extremely obedient and well behaved—always retrieving the ball and bringing it right back to the man.  The dog never once did his business in that park, either. A resident whose home faced that park watched the man and the dog for several days. Then one day, the man was met by local Police at the park, and told they received a complaint. He couldn’t let his dog run free again or he would be fined.  Days later, a sign went up stating no dogs allowed in the park.

Why in the world take away that man and that dogs simple 10 minutes of daily joy? Really? Why be the one?

Then there’s the story of the family of five.  Both parents laid off within 6 months of each other, barely scraping by to make ends meet.  He had an opportunity for a new and better job, but would need transportation. They got a deal on a second vehicle but it needed work.  Their other car was equipped for their special needs child, and was the wife’s main transportation. The husband could do the work, but needed money for parts, which was taking time to earn. She just started a part time job. Their neighbors half ways down the block didn’t like the looks of that family or the vehicles in the driveway, so they reported them over and over for the 2nd car being parked there, how it was parked, being loud, questioning if it was licensed, and on and on. The money they were forced to spend on several fines could have been spent on getting those car parts, not to mention getting food for their 3 kids.  It only took one complainer to keep them set back, and make their life hell for months.

Seriously, what causes a person to be that way?  Why be the one?

Sure there are rules.  Sure there are ordinances.  Sure there is a need to maintain a certain level of control over ‘the masses’ to keep the sanity of our workplaces and world in check.  But come on, people, pick and choose those battles!  There are also a million and one reasons to turn the other way, find some levity, mind your own business, and show some community and grace.  Why be the one to hide in the shadows and drop that negativity bomb?

Why be the one?

Imagine the energy it must take to muster up enough effort to be the thorn in the world’s side.  Wow.  Now there’s something to be proud of.  Not!  What ever happened to “live and let live”?  What happened to co-workers getting along, helping your neighbor instead of filing complaints, and random acts of kindness? You never know what the other guy is going through.  What you do or don’t do, could be the one pivotal action that makes or breaks his/her entire day—or world for that matter.  How selfish to not consider or respect that. How insensitive, how petty.

Ahhh, but I’ll bet their response would go something like “yeah, well what about me and how I feel about it?”  Oh get over yourself.

Perhaps there is such a gaping hole of emptiness in some peoples’ lives that they just don’t know how to heal it, and are lashing out at the rest of the world.  Perhaps they are so full of themselves that they feel entitled—or that everyone should live like them.  Or maybe they truly never learned what it means to be kind or compassionate.  Maybe they themselves have been so badly hurt that this is their way of screaming out for attention…or, or….or?  Speculation is about as good as hind sight, and in this case, a sure energy waster.  One thing that is true regardless is: being that way is a choice. What a sad choice.

Thank goodness these malevolent people seem to be the exception, and not the rule, or so we hope.

Although right this minute, and for the first time in my life I do find myself being put to the test of enduring a case of “some people”. I swear to God I will never become one of those ornery haters that feels the need to be so downright nasty. Unfortunately, I am just as vulnerable to reacting in a ‘fight or flight’ mode as anyone, but no matter how hard I may be pushed, I will not succumb, nor will I ever condone that behavior.  At least that’s my aspiration at the moment.

In fact, I challenge all of those “some people” out there to accomplish one simple thing:

I dare them to let it go and not be the one.