Duck Day at the Park

I don’t have much to say today, but the other day I had a lovely stroll through the park, admiring three separate duck families.

I had brought my trusty point-and-shoot with me, in hopes of encountering them, and I wasn’t disappointed. I figured I’d share my photos here.

The first family I saw was splashing around in a puddle left behind by the previous day’s rain. I don’t know why they chose to wash off in a puddle, when the river is right there, but I’m no duck behaviorist.

The ducks are quite used to people at the park, so it’s easy to get up close to them if you move slowly and speak softly.

IMG_9545Duck family number 2 was taking a nap under the watchful eye of Mama, between the sidewalk and the riverbank. All the duck mothers in the park are very alert and careful of their babies.

These two duck families have been around since the spring, so the youngsters are getting to be nearly full-sized. They all look like the mother at this point. I don’t know when the males, if there are any, will begin to show their mallard markings.

About halfway down the park, I spotted the third duck family crossing the river toward me. These babies were born quite a bit later than the first ducklings, so they are still small.

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At least one of the other duck families has sadly lost a member or two, but this group has been four plus Mom for as long as I’ve seen them out and about.

They popped up out of the water and plodded up the weedy bank to get to the shorter grass, where they waddled along the walkway on the far side of the fence. Mom let them lead the way once they were on land.

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The park is beautiful at all times, but when the animals are wandering around, it makes the experience quite a bit more enjoyable. Being able to get so close to the ducks, knowing that the mothers are trusting you, is pretty special.

After I turned around and headed toward the entrance to the park, I passed duck families 2 and 3 again, still doing their thing. Continuing on, I saw that it had become nap time for duck family number 1, after their puddle bath. They were huddled up so sweet–I had to stop and take more pictures.

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Mama Duck watched me carefully as I crept closer, but showed no alarm, so I crouched down with my camera and inched closer yet.

The frontmost duckling opened an eye to size up the situation, and decided he was okay with me, so I held my camera out toward him and used the macro setting to get a nice closeup of his adorable face.

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By then, there were quite a few little ducky eyes peering at me, so I figured it was time to let them relax again. I backed away, said my goodbyes, and walked back into town on my way home.

I hope you enjoyed the duck pictures!

Remember, summer is short, so get yourselves out to your local parks as often as you can. Take some nature walks, go out onto a boat, do whatever it takes to get you outdoors, and keep your eyes open. You never know what you might see.


these feet were made for…

 

Walking. It’s my favorite way to get from one place to another. Living close to the center of town has been really valuable to my walking habits, as there are quite a few places I can get to on foot within fifteen minutes. If I’m going somewhere that’s a mile or less away from my house, it’s my policy to walk there.

I make exceptions for instances when I’ll need to be carrying something really unwieldy, but I have many times carried boxes of birthday gifts from my house to the post office, which is perhaps three quarters of a mile.

I just really enjoy walking. I can’t understand my neighbors, who I’ve never seen walk anywhere, and one of whom I once caught driving to breakfast at a restaurant that is literally one block from our houses. I was walking (as usual), and he pulled up alongside me on our road and asked me if I needed a ride, which I declined, then as I rounded the corner, I saw him pull into the parking lot of the restaurant, which I walked past.

When I returned home about an hour later, his car was back in his driveway. I found that very silly. It was perfectly fine weather out, too.

I tried to walk regularly throughout the winter, but our snowfall was really impressive, and the sidewalks quickly became and remained impassable.

It was pretty snowy.

It was pretty snowy.

The roads got narrower and narrower from the plows pushing everything up onto the edges, and there was no accessing the park that I typically go to along the river.

As a result, I rarely went outside, got more and more depressed, and gained weight.

As the weather has improved, I’ve been increasing my time spent walking. I don’t have a job, so I can go whenever the mood strikes me.

The fresh air, exercise, and sun exposure have been hugely helpful for my mood. There’s also a sense of accomplishment in setting a goal and reaching it.

 

For most of the spring, my walk consisted of the journey to the park, doing the length of the park alongside the river, and going home. During the winter, I didn’t always have the energy to walk the full length of the park before turning around and heading back.

The paved walkway through the park is approximately half a mile, and if I take the long way to the park from my house, that’s about three quarters of a mile, so a full trip is about two and a half miles. That’s pretty respectable, but I wanted to do more, to increase my time in the outdoors, and to burn more calories.

So, I added a second length of the park and back, extending my walk by a mile. If I’m going quickly, I can complete the three and a half miles in about an hour.

There are quite a few people who I see regularly on my walks, but there is one woman in particular who will stop and chat with me briefly before continuing on. I don’t know her name, but I have even seen her out shopping. We talk about the weather, the trees, the birds, what a nice park it is, and so on.

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It is a lovely park.

One day, she let it slip that she tries to get in six miles every day.

Six miles! This woman is easily in her late seventies.

I thought, if she can walk six miles in a day, every day, I can sure step up my game.

Shortly after she dropped that bombshell, I added another lap of the park to my walk, and practically limped home, with blisters on my heels and the balls of my feet. I didn’t walk the next day. That was only four and a half miles, and barely that! I was wearing different shoes than I usually walk in, so I know that was part of the problem, but still. That was a lot of walking.

When I resumed walking in another day or so, I did a 2.5 mile walk to give myself a break, and then went back to the two-park-laps journey of 3.5. I do that most days, now, but I’m always a little tired when I get back.

My usual walking kicks - Merrell canvas Jungle Gloves, New Balance Minimus Zero, which I use for running as well, and my years-old Teva sandals, the weapon of choice for hot days

My usual walking kicks – Merrell canvas Jungle Gloves, New Balance Minimus Zero, which I use for running as well, and my years-old Teva sandals, the weapon of choice for hot days

I don’t know if my friend is doing all six of her miles in one go, or if she breaks it up, but I am impressed. It’s become a personal challenge to figure out a way to get those six miles in. I can’t let that nice little old lady out-walk me!

I’ve developed quite an impressive set of sandal tan lines on my feet from all this walking, and it’s not even July yet. I know as the weather heats up, I’ll have to start going earlier in the day, but the sun will still be strong, so I expect the French half of my heritage to really show itself this summer as a contrast to my usual Anglo pallor.

I’ve got a lot of time before the snow starts to fall, time to ratchet up the mileage and increase my stamina. I just hope I don’t fall and break a leg or something.


Hard Lessons and Truths

It has been over six months since I last wrote anything–that is, anything other than a grocery list or a few jotted notes about a book I’m reading. I haven’t written any actual book reviews (except apparently one back in March). I haven’t worked on my revisions for the completed first draft of one of my novels. I’ve been stuck in the doldrums.

I’ve thought long and hard about how to talk about this. I’m sitting here now with a cup of my favorite (decaf) tea, listening to Iron and Wine, and sniffing a calming essential oil blend. I’m still shaky and nervous.

The last post I published was a controversial one. I worked hard on it, wrote what was in my heart, and sent it out into the world with good intentions. Part of my New Year’s resolution was to talk about things that I felt strongly about, to not back down from a hard conversation, and so I chose to write about my veganism.

I suppose I should have seen it coming, but it still caught me by surprise when it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Usually, my family is very enthusiastic about promoting and encouraging my writing, but this time, there was nothing. You could have heard a pin drop.

I know the topic is a tricky one, and that my family members don’t fully understand where I’m coming from on the issue, but that’s something I was trying to remedy.

I understand that what I wrote was an unpopular opinion, a way of thinking that is often seen as extreme. I wasn’t expecting to change hearts and minds, but I was hoping to explain myself. Maybe it came across as inflammatory. I can see how that could have been the case.

In the past, my blog links have been retweeted and shared on Facebook, and I got a few comments. I expected the response to the last post to be a little different, but I expected something. Some sort of commentary, even negative or neutral–the kind of noncommittal language people use when they want to be polite but they disagree with you–would have been welcome. Instead, I got crickets chirping.

The surprise and pain of being ignored in that way silenced me. I felt shunned. I suddenly had nothing else to say. I ruminated on it quite a bit, but chose not to address it directly, not knowing how. It impacted me, though.

What became clear was that many people’s support of my writing was conditional, dependent on content.

I say that not to be cruel, to lay a guilt trip on anyone, or to attempt to garner pity, but to be a realist. I had already suspected that might be the case, so writing something that was definitely left of center, perhaps polemical, was a good litmus test (not that I had intended my post to serve as such).

It got into my head. If something like a vegan lifestyle could be so alienating, how would people react to my novels, some of which have non-marital sex, drug use, and non-heterosexual main characters?

How do you push on with your writing when you know there are people you care about who won’t want to read it, who will be offended, who will put your book down and not talk to you about it?

I don’t care if they don’t tell their friends about it, don’t mind if they don’t leave me five-star ratings on Amazon and Goodreads, but I don’t want them to pretend they never even heard of it.

If I’m writing things that are true to what’s in my head and heart, I’m going to cross some lines that other folks would rather I not cross. I may create some rifts. I had to wonder: is the act of writing worth all that?

* * *

For the past year, I’ve been in a vulnerable place, and that has led to me taking this a little harder than I might otherwise have.

I’ve been struggling to come to terms with my bipolar diagnosis from April of 2014, and have been on a very personal journey of medication, lifestyle changes, and therapy to manage my symptoms.

I won’t be going into much detail about that here, because it is, as I said, very personal, and there are some things I like to keep private.

Still, I will say that one or two medications I was prescribed seemed to help somewhat, but they took away my spark. I lost interest in everything. My creativity disappeared. I forgot what it was like to get excited, to feel optimistic, to be passionate about anything. This had a huge impact on my writing.

So, when I finally gathered up some energy and put it all into a blog post about something so close to my heart, something I still felt strongly about, even with all the emotionally dampening effects of the pharmaceuticals in my system, it was quite a blow to have absolutely no response.

I understand, though, and I’m not angry. I’m no longer upset, though there are some lingering hurt feelings.

I simply need to come to terms with the fact that not everyone is going to be comfortable with everything I write. I need to not let that stop me from creating.

I’m on another journey now, one back to the self that was hibernating for a while, the self that has things to say, the courage to say them, and the energy to keep doing it day after day. I’m trying to find her again, trying to nurture her back to health, because I have more work to do, more words to write.

I’m sorry if anything I write is hurtful to anyone. That’s never my intention. I don’t mean to offend, either, but it’s bound to happen.

It’s important to me to share things anyway, to write what I feel and what I think. Hopefully, sometimes it touches someone else out there in a meaningful way. That would be an added bonus, but for me the main thing is to be open and honest.

Honesty is a difficult policy, and it thins out the herd of people around you, but ultimately, I find it to be the ideal approach for me, due to its longterm effects.

When I think about which writers I enjoy and admire, it’s those who are unflinchingly honest, who talk about the hard subjects and don’t shy away from a polarizing viewpoint if it’s the way they truly feel.

That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m reaching and grasping, trying to find my voice again. It might take a while, but this is a good first step.

Thanks for reading.


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