A Race to Texas

(Photo credit: Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve Staff)


Given these times,

It’s fun to think that just last fall

A flash of orange discovery was the frozen flesh of a monarch.

I rushed to save her.

Nailpolish, they said.

My stomach turned.

Instead, respite from the cooler temps and sugar water squeezed into cotton and sprinkled on leaves.

In a small container, locked in the den, safe from resident felines.

At last, little one, a week of warmth to guide you home.

Spring has sprung and the journey north to Texas has begun.

Will you be among the millions?

Will you be one to fly?

Hiking with Strangers and Throwing Rocks


Last weekend, I had the opportunity to lead a hike through one of the Columbus Metro Parks. It was a balmy 60 degrees and the scent of spring things infiltrated the woods that our group entered just before dusk. Some of the forty-some people came alone, some came or met up with friends, and they all came to be outside in the woods under the warm, winter sky. One hiker remarked that she came from another part of town and didn’t recognize any of the other hikers. “It hits you how big this town is when you go somewhere and you don’t know a soul”. Her voice revealed a sense of adventure when she said it, the same sense when you travel a road you’ve never been on before, not certain where it will take you.

Another hiker came quite a bit further, from a town about 45 minutes away. Her friends had bailed on her at the last minute, but she persisted in the drive solo and arrived without them. The freshness of a recent divorce carried some boldness with it as she talked about leaving the town she had lived in for the past 22 years. “Once my youngest graduates, I’m not sure where I’ll go. Maybe someplace other than Ohio.” The words hung in the warm whip of air that lingered in the ravine we were crossing.

The front cover of the Columbus Metro Parks Spring program guide has an image of a toddler holding a rock and I can’t look at it without anticipating the throw that is sure to come next. Because that’s what little kids do if we let them – they throw rocks. Testing their strength, testing their impact, getting to know how nature and the cause and effect of the world works. These are things you can’t learn from a video game or in a classroom.

After the hike, we shared some marshmallows around the campfire and gazed up at the stars. Got to know one another a bit. One guy offered up free hot dogs to share. No one took him up on his offer. I don’t think we had reached that level of comfort with one another yet.

We were still just throwing rocks, watching where they would land.

Great Legs

Tuscawarus Crystal SpringsGreat legs Scioto

Marbled into maps

White tail, coyote, beaver, and heron

A place where the river pulls away from the road

The wheels hush it away

We pull over on this silent night

Rippling like stars in another sky

Random Sinuosity

IMG_1947Each leaf that fell in the stream landed as a stroke of color from a paint brush lands on canvas, covering the brownish muddied water with random red, orange and brown hues, while we spoke in hushed tones, outside the circle of students that were there to learn about the river.

“Do you know which kids can’t have their photos taken today?” I asked him. Some parents don’t want their kids photos on social media, so I needed to be careful not to have them in the group photos showing students gathered around the educator on the river. He checked with the other chaperone in the group and they both agreed – there weren’t any kids in this group that fell into that category.

“In fact, I’m sure most of our kids’ parents would want their kids’ photos on the internet. They don’t think about the danger.” I nodded and smiled. “Thanks, makes my job easier.” I explained that I was there training and would be taking photos, too. The students were from an inner city Catholic school. Some of them had never been to a river, or a park.

“Perfect way to end the week, as I prepare to celebrate my 64th birthday.”

“It’s my birthday today!” I exclaimed.

“You a Libra?”

“Right on the edge.”

“Ah, yes, almost a Virgo, huh? Good…I’m a Libra too. Birthday’s next Monday.”

A pause and then, “I almost didn’t make it past 3 months”, he said quietly, looking away.

“That right?” I moved in closer. My interest gave him the confidence he needed to look at me once again.

“Yep, I was adopted from my grandmother, who was taking care of me, but couldn’t anymore.”

He paused for a second, but then kept going.

“My mom was an unwed teenager and sh-she couldn’t do it. My grandmother went and got me before I died. I wasn’t doing well, wasn’t eating. But she couldn’t care for me either. Friends of hers found out what was going on and they came. They came and got me. I was 3 months old.”


He kept going, a bit more earnestly, figuring he had told me the worst of it.

“When I was 7, the woman I knew as my mom, who had adopted me and raised me – she died. My daddy re-married when I was 8 and I got a new mom. She was a mom to me the rest of my life. Never thought of her as a step-mom, she was just ‘mom’. She passed away in 2005. I was still serving in the military at the time in Alaska”

I looked at the colored leaves hitting the water and noticed some of them fluttering down on the banks, not quite making it in the water.

I looked at him and said quietly, “When I was 3 months old, I was adopted, too.”

Sinuosity is a measurement used to define the degree to which a river or stream meanders or bends. Forty-seven years of meandering led me to stand ankle deep in the cool waters of the Olentangy, face-to-face with a former military man who counsels high school students about where they plan to spend their meandering days. The sense of being caught in an inexplicable world of similar circumstance caught us both off guard, like it does when you see an old friend on a street corner far away from your hometown.

We lingered for a moment before we followed the students back for the session’s close, letting the magic of this random encounter settle for a moment or two. Fall was in the air. A gust of wind raced through an opening in the woods and blew those leaves off the bank right into that river.


Last Snow

by snow 2backyard snow








Two weeks ago a friend predicted it. He said he knew. Last snow! This is it. Ohio is now ready for spring. Chidings on Facebook ridiculed his smug assertion, but we all secretly hoped he was right. We were ready for it, restless for it. Like a kid who anxiously waits for the last day of school, I awoke each morning for the past two weeks hoping to feel the warmth of spring so I could free my toes from the jail sentence of winter boots they had endured for the last 5 months. I looked forward to sleeping with my old style crank windows turned out, breathing in the cool dewy morning air and and having the peter-peter-peter-peter of the tufted titmouse pull me from my slumber. But still, it lingers.

I looked out my window a few moments ago and saw white stuff floating to the ground. It is a gentle snow, a quiet snow, with some big flakes mixed in with smaller ones. The kind of snow you wish for on a January evening with food warming in a crockpot, allowing you to revel in the spirit of hygge, as they do in Denmark. But it’s not January. It’s March. It’s day four of spring for us in the Northern Hemisphere. I planted peas in the ground not more than 24 hours ago. My hygge has been spent one hundred times over. I am ready for spring.

But still.

When I was 6, we moved from the only house I had ever known. After all the boxes were packed and loaded in the moving truck, after all the furniture was gone, except the big pieces the movers were coming for, I walked slowly through each room. “Goodbye, bedroom”, I cheerfully shouted in my parent’s room. Next the kitchen, then bathroom, dining room, and family room, I committed each room to memory and said my farewells. When you are young you don’t think such a thing is silly. But by the time I got to my bedroom, I can’t say my voice held a cheery tone. I was worried I would forget the rooms, what they looked like, what they smelled like and what had happened in each one. I said an earnest goodbye to my room, my favorite room, then paused, waiting for the room to return my farewells, but only heard the flat sting of my voice bounce off its bare walls. What makes one melancholy at such a young age? As my father pulled out of the driveway for the last time, I made a promise to the house that I would return. And I fully believed the house took solace in knowing that I would.

It’s been years since I’ve driven past that house, although my father still lives just a couple miles away. I grew out of believing that houses would miss me like I missed them and I never returned. The neighborhood was Silver Meadows, a name that was a memoriam to what was once there and a reflection of the shiny future that each family who moved in must have hoped for in the early 1970s. “Oh you mean Silver Ghettos?” a mean boy said during recess when I told him where I once lived, years later. My memories of backyard barbeques, new white sidewalks, and bouncing in my parent’s huge bed were tarnished forever. My heart wanted the house to be well, to not know that people mocked it with cruel language.

The mind wants closure. It wants an opportunity to say goodbye. If you knew you were about to do something, something that you loved, for the last time, what would you do differently? Looking back at my rituals of youth, I often wish I had a crystal ball so I could be aware that I was embarking on a beloved activity for the last time. On Friday and Saturday nights we would go dancing at clubs – the names still so vivid – Mean Mister Mustard’s, Red Zone, Mecca, Hot Peppers, Alrosa Villa, Millenium – with standard regularity every weekend for years. The frequency, like ocean waves after a storm, decreases gradually, and then, after several years, you suddenly can’t remember the last time you went. You think of going and then catch yourself, realizing how silly it would be for someone your age to go to such a club. Without noticing it, that phase of your life has ended, never to return. Oh sure, you might go one night if you get a wild hair, but the authenticity is gone forever. You are there as a poser, a fake, an outsider to a world you no longer belong to.

I recently caught the tail-end of an NPR Fresh Air interview with Maurice Sendak, the children’s author and atheist. Near the end of the interview, he talks about his fear of isolation, as many friends have recently passed away and the fact that he still does not believe in an afterlife. “As I’m aging, I find that I am in love with the world”. ..It is a blessing to find the time, to read the books, to listen to the music….There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.” Maurice died a few short months after this interview.

So tonight, in the spirit of love that Maurice had for this world, I will say goodbye to winter, because I am ready to say goodbye, as so many of us are – until next season. The seasons, like the languages of many Native Americans, don’t know a word for goodbye, but only “See you later.” The promise of each season is a return. Tonight, I will take one last nighttime walk surrounded in whiteness and illuminated by the sliver of a moon that will guide me through the last snow. And I will listen for winter’s farewell.


Spring Thaw


For three days last week, my neighborhood was transformed into a ghost’s playground that the fog brought in, along with the spring that. The fog settled in, but everything else became unsettled. The distant train whistle that is so comforting to me at night began sounding more like a steam engine’s whistle from days gone by. Visitors began arriving on horse and buggy. Clip-clop, clip-clop, the hooves slowed down just around the corner, but when I came around the bushes, the voices of the visitors suddenly stopped. A trip from downtown Columbus would have been a day’s trip back then. Perhaps they had come to help on a family farm that an aunt and uncle still owned. Perhaps they wondered what farm I was from, and why I was walking a dog on a leash out in the country. After three days, I felt like a ghost myself, wondering if I somehow missed spring and was sentenced to the eternal dampness of melting snow in this ghost yard that I used to be my neighborhood.

Finally, on Wednesday, the fog lifted and took its ghosts with it. Slowly, slowly, things became clearer and the sun appeared. Where the snow had been just a few days ago, items that had been left behind before winter appeared, like ghosts themselves, whispering the song of spring. A maroon glove in the driveway that had fallen from a purse waits to be reunited with its owner. A blue hat left on a stone wall as someone rested while walking their dog on a full moon night reappears.


As I began writing this post, there are a just a few piles of dirty snow left, mostly found in parking lots, looking ragged and limp like an unwanted doll that’s been abandoned by a child, forgotten in the toy box, barely recognizable. I try not to acknowledge these ugly reminders of the cold, wishing them gone so we can put the 2015 winter to bed and get on with spring.


Same Stream, Different Day

Same stream, different day.

photo 1

flowing stream


the way

it goes

in a





I took another walk in the woods this week, on a morning when my thermostat read 3. I wore the wrong coat so I had to curtail my walk. I have a coat reserved for wood splitting and cutting and although it’s very warm, it doesn’t have a hood and I find I need one from time to time on these windy mornings when I’m enjoying the winter in all its brutal glory. I had been wearing it while gathering wood that morning and then forgot to switch before I left. The morning I took the photo on the left of the snowy creek it was especially sunny. So sunny, that when my camera phone stopped working, I thought for a second that the sun’s glare had blocked the images. But it had really stopped working because of the cold. It stopped working a couple of times this summer too, because of the heat. Smart phones.

The timing of the camera not working took me by surprise because I had just taken a photo of the deer tracks that I was crossing along the trail. The deer tracks were plentiful, and so were the coyote and rabbit tracks, but there were no human tracks except for the ones I was making.

photo 2


A moment after I took this photo, a red-tailed hawk screeched just a few feet above and swooped over me. I felt like he was scolding me for taking photos of the tracks. Perhaps the deer that made them did not survive the night; the trail is not far from a major highway. Or perhaps the hawk himself was not of this world and that’s why my camera stopped working when I held it up to take a photo of his magnificent wing span.

This photo was taken at the beginning of my 1.5 mile walk. When I turned around to view the impressions of my boots in the snow, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had created a masterpiece on a blank canvass, or if I had ruined one that was already complete.