The skunk under the bridge

The skunk under the bridge

The following is a guest post by Rob Fletcher, originally written for his blog At Your Best. It is about our experience rescuing a stranded skunk, and I couldn’t have written anything more perfect about this beautiful and poignant moment.   I’ve also included a video of some of the skunks I have been caring for at the wildlife rehabilitation facility that I volunteer at. Please enjoy. 

Another 90 degree summer day, another work day done, another evening summer swim in the books. I left the water at the base of the bridge of the Millers River and started up the bank when a movement behind me caught my eye. I turned and saw an adolescent skunk huddled on the concrete ledge about four feet off the ground. It peered at me for a moment then tucked its head back into its body, flattening itself against the wall and shaking lightly. A list of swear words had been spray painted sometime earlier in the summer above where it lay – a neat juxtaposition of the priorities of importance of animal and human realm.

I called Laura. Laura volunteers at a wildlife rehabilitation place locally and is studying to get her license – she’d know what to do, how to help. Then I sat on the bank looking at the skunk while waiting for Laura to arrive. It was beautiful. A white crown and broad white striping on its young back. It was quiet down there, just sitting and being near this scared, stressed, uncomplaining little animal. Something settled in me that moment.

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Young skunks having a meal at a wildlife rehabilitation facility. See below for video footage!

Laura arrived with a pet carrier, a broom, a blanket and a can of cat food. It took a while, cat food in carrier, open door, blanket over the carrier to create a safe, dark cave, and Laura quietly, calmly, patiently sweeping near the skunk until it finally backed into the cage. Laura carried it upstream and found a quiet spot in the woods near the water’s edge. She opened the carrier door but the skunk didn’t want to leave. She had to tilt it until it finally came out. As soon as it realized where it was it shuffled into the underbrush, vanishing to the human eye back into nature.

Laura thought that it may have been stuck up there a while. Skunks can climb a little bit , and it probably scrambled up to escape something attacking it. But the smooth surface of the concrete, surrounded almost entirely by water, probably made it too difficult to climb down. It was probably hungry and dehydrated, and definitely very stressed. I was proud of Laura – her first successful rescue mission.

I had had a good day of work previously – lots got accomplished. But nothing felt like the skunk experience. The work had me at one level, then the skunk helped me sink way down. Its quiet vulnerability released an internal wall and I felt such a deep tenderness. And to help, to be of use, felt so powerful. I could see why Laura is attracted to this kind of work.

And I was reminded again of the deep power of purpose – of aligning our actions with helping something beyond ourselves. Seeing vulnerability makes it easier to do. It unlocks that tenderness we’re all capable of. How can we be of use? How can we notice vulnerability around us? How can we let down our guards to show our vulnerability? Vulnerability is the cornerstone of trust, of connection. There is some part of each person we meet today that is huddled into itself, scared and shaking. After all, we are all animals.

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Going backwards into Summer

Going backwards into Summer

Summer is here! I went for a paddle on Laurel Lake in Erving with a neighbor this evening, which was a great way to ring in this vibrant season.

As I started paddling, I found myself veering off in a weird and unexpected direction, unable to control myself.  It took me a few seconds before I realized that I was on my paddle board backwards.  I laughed and said, “Well, that basically sums up the way my day has been.  What a metaphor for life!”  It was funny because it was true. I really did feel like I was going backwards today, and most certainly did NOT feel in control.

I love these little moments of wisdom in life, and it’s especially great when they make you laugh.  Let’s face it.  We all have days like this – heading in an unexpected direction, or feeling fear or frustration when we seem to be going backwards instead of forwards.  Hey, it happens.  But, eventually, we straighten ourselves out and move ahead through the calm, clear waters.

Being out on the lake was so peaceful and serene.  The mountain laurel is in bloom all along the shore line, and it looks like little while and pink candies dotting the dark green foliage.   A loon was swimming at one end of the lake, and watching it dive under the water inspired me to do the same.  The water was so sweet and cool, like liquid velvet gliding across my skin.

I’m excited for summer.  Even if I find myself veering unexpectedly, out of control, or going backwards, I know I can always depend on the gentle magic of nature to set me straight.

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Pink and white candy blooms of mountain laurel

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Yours truly on Laurel Lake

Admitting Defeat

Admitting Defeat

I’m sitting overlooking South Pond at Savoy State Forest.  I came for a two-night getaway at one of their CCC-built cabins, but I decided to pack up a day early and head home.  The weather is crappy, I’m not feeling well, and if I’m being totally honest with myself, I’d rather just be home. So, I guess I’m admitting defeat.

I’m disappointed that my trip wasn’t the rejuvenating, nature-filled mini-retreat I had imagined. Instead, it feels difficult and like I’m struggling against things.

Frankly, I’m tired of struggling against things.  I’m tired of being tired, and I feel burdened with a chronically ill body that experiences constant fatigue and pain.

But, what if, rather than feeling like pain and fatigue was a burden, I could see it as a blessing?  What if, rather than admitting defeat, I opened my heart to honor my truth?  And maybe sometimes that truth is being balls-out pissed that I feel shitty.  I’d rather just be honest with myself than struggle through the motions.

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Bog Pond, Savoy State Forest

It’s a constant learning, and if I’m open to it, it can be a blessing.  For instance, I now have a better understanding of how to say no, to push toxic people and situations out of my life, to protect my time and energy, and to detach myself from other people’s drama.

So, my trip didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, but maybe I got exactly what I needed.

There is a calm in the steady rainfall and in the misty white shroud clinging to the hills.  The wind is blowing across the water, and it doesn’t resist; it simply flows.  The hemlock boughs are heavy with rain drops, and there is a gentle patter and rustle of wind and water through the oaks.

I saw a few newts and frogs hanging out as the pond lapped lazily at the shore. They didn’t seem to be bothered by the inclement weather one bit.  They just continued to do their respective newt and frog thing.

There is always struggle and suffering in nature.  But there is also balance and harmony.  Ecologically speaking, we know what happens when that balance gets disturbed. Often times, we continue to disturb it anyway.  But in disregarding Nature’s Truth, we create a situation that’s unsustainable.

I am a living being, and I am not exempt from this truth. At times, I will struggle and suffer, and if I choose to disregard my own balance, there will be consequences.  So today I choose to listen to my own truth.  And as I listen to the softly falling rain and head home to rest in my own bed, I hear the song of Divine Harmony.

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Rainy day waterfall

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Tannery Falls, Savoy State Forest

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A beaver pond in Savoy State Forest

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Fungus Flowers!

Summer Solstice

I’m finally relaxing after a long, draining day – and wouldn’t you know?  It’s absolutely beautiful out!  Actually, perfect is the word that comes to mind.  The temperature is just right.  A refreshing breeze dances through the treetops.  The sky is heavenly-blue with just the slightest wisp of white lazily drifting by.  The chipmunks are bolding claiming their territory, seemingly popping out of every nook and cranny.  I’ve just picked a bountiful load of peas and strawberries from the garden.  And flowers are bursting into bloom everywhere.

The mountain laurel alone is something to celebrate.  The hillside is positively glowing with the sweet blossoms like delightful pink-white candies.  I feel like a kid in a candy store just looking at it!

I admit, I am sad to see spring go.  After all, it is my favorite season.  But as we enter this sacred season of exuberance and abundance, I offer my heart in gratitude.  Let this soak in.  Let me savor every moment.

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Mountain laurel blossoms that look sweet enough to eat!

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Garden beauties

Old Cape Cod

Old Cape Cod

Here we are in the final days of summer, and I’ve been doing my best to eek out every last blissful moment out on Cape Cod.

Every time I come here, I am amazed that such a national treasure exists in such close proximity to my home (just under 3 hours from my house to the “Outer Cape”). And this is really the perfect time to go: while the weather is still warm, but after the crowds are gone. It’s just right for taking in the long, rolling waves, the endless ivory beaches, the tangy brine of the marshes, and the soft sweep of the dunes.

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Lecount Hollow Beach

Today has been the ideal beach day – sunny, but not overly hot, with a cool breeze.  The water is icy cold, but I brought my wetsuit, so that makes it much more tolerable.  I just went in for a long dip, bobbing on the surface of the water like a seal in my slick, black neoprene suit.

I’m at Lecount Hollow Beach in Wellfleet.  It’s impossible for me to come to this beach without reminiscing about “the best summer ever”, which in my book, was back in 2003 when I had a summer internship doing field work at Cape Cod National Seashore.  I mainly worked collecting data on salt marsh vegetation.  My field partner and I became fast friends as we bonded over countless hours out in the grasses and tidal channels.  Sometimes we would laugh ourselves silly when we would get our waders stuck in the mud, or making up ridiculous songs or games when things got too monotonous.  Evenings were spent playing volleyball in the sand, swimming in kettle ponds, or having bonfires on the beach with the other staff.  It was a blast, and really the only job I’ve had that I absolutely loved.  Looking back, I can see that it had as much to do with the sense of camaraderie we shared, as much as the work and environment itself.

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Twilight on a kettle pond

 

Saying that makes me sad that I’ve never found another job that has given me such joy or satisfaction, but that’s not to say that my life is any less wonderful.  In many ways, I feel like that summer set the stage for some of the greatest adventures of my life.  And I have a hunch that there are many more to come.

I can’t help but notice how much the beach has changed over the years due to erosion.  Chunks of the dunes have been whittled away by the wind and water, and houses at the edge of cliffs are perched even more precariously than before.

There is an urge to fight nature and to stop the clock.  I can see it in this landscape, and I can feel it in myself as the days press ahead from summer to fall, as the years press ahead from early adulthood toward (dare I say?) middle age.

Alas, things change. We change. Life goes on.  That’s just nature’s way.

I’ve been staying with a friend and over breakfast I laughed about my old-fashioned ways and said, “I’m old at heart.”  He replied, “Yes, but you’re fun at heart.”  I like that.

Maybe it doesn’t matter how young or old you are, or whether or not you have your dream job. It’s okay for things to change, because really, there’s no other way.  Perhaps what’s really important is that the essence of who we are continues to shine, just as the sun will continue to rise and shine on this ever-changing landscape.

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Savoring Summer

It’s Sunday night and I’m sitting out on the deck under the stars, clinging to the final remnants of the weekend. Likewise, my weekend was spent fervently trying to savor the last few days and weeks of summer.  Oh, how I wish it didn’t have to end! That goes for both the weekend and the summer.

But even though I have to go back to work tomorrow, tomatoes are still ripening on the vine, and the garden is bursting with color.  Sweet corn is still piled high on the farm stands, and the sunflowers are tilting their cheerful faces toward the golden late summer sun.

My weekend was the epitome of Summertime, the very apex of this blissful and abundant season.  To kick things off, I took Friday afternoon off and drove the scenic Mohawk Trail to Mt. Greylock, the tallest mountain in Massachusetts.

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View from Mt. Greylock

Driving on the Mohawk Trail gives a person the chance to observe classic New England at its finest.  The road is adorned with old farmhouses and fields ripe with corn, small cemeteries with weathered stones, motels and souvenir shops seemingly untouched by the advances of the last 50 years, and the gleam of the Deerfield River as it winds through the rolling hill towns.

I had never been to Mt. Greylock before.  I have no good excuse for this, and now that I’ve been there,  I can hardly wait to go back.  Although I didn’t have time to do extensive exploring, my friend Allison and I met at the summit for a picnic dinner and hiked to Money Brook Falls.

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Money Brook Falls

It was pitch dark by the time I got home, and the stars had come alive in the night sky. The Milky Way stretched directly overhead, and I laid out in the yard star gazing, for the sheer fact that I couldn’t tear myself away from something so beautiful.

As for the rest of my weekend, it was filled with evening swims, a paddle on Laurel Lake, a small town country fair, watermelon and ice cream, naps in the hammock, going to the drive-in, and listening to the sounds of the crickets and coyotes under the stars.

Summer is not over yet, my friends.  So let’s be sure to savor it while we can!

Night Swimming

It’s nighttime and the perfect evening for sitting out on my deck and writing by the flicker of candlelight.

I’m feeling rather nostalgic, as I’m apt to feel on certain summer nights when the dampness of the grass clings to the air and the choir of crickets rises up singing the familiar song of so many summers past.

I just came back from a swim a short while ago.  The water was so still and soft, brushing quietly past the red pillars of cardinal flowers and the fuzzy pink umbrellas of Joe Pye weed.

I thought longingly of some of my friends from high school who I used to go night swimming with.  I can’t remember exactly who prompted it, but suddenly 3 or 4 of us would hop in the car and drive over to the abandoned railroad trestle that traverses the reservoir.  We’d hike down a little path, climb down to the landing, and jump off (frequently sans clothes).

I remember swimming way out, for what seemed like an eternity in the silky, black water, basking in the opal moonlight, singing and hollering under the concrete arch of the bridge, and reveling in the magic of the night.

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Sometimes our nighttime jaunts took us to the lake at Franklin D Roosevelt Park, which was also within walking distance of my house.  I can still see the stars so clearly above the silhouette of the trees, and I’ll never forget the enormous bright red shooting star I saw with a tail that seemed a mile long.

When we weren’t swimming, sometimes we would take night hikes up Turkey Mountain to go camping.  It wasn’t about partying or drinking or getting stoned.  It was about soaking up life’s adventures.  It was about being with friends.  It was about seeing and experiencing the intense beauty of nature, and loving it so much that it ached.

I miss those times and those friends dearly. I wish mightily that I still had friends who would show up at my house and coax me out for a nighttime adventure.  Can those times really be over?

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Goofing around at the high school track at age 17

It seems that we’ve all grown up and become busy with our responsibilities to our families, jobs, homes, and loved ones.  Then why do I find myself still feeling like that same girl with the same longing for adventure and the same sense of wonder at nature’s beauty?  How is it that I can still stand at the water’s edge and be so in awe of the reflection of life all around me?  And will I ever be able to share that with friends in the same way again?

When I was at my 20-year high school reunion last year, a few of us cut out early and drove down to our spot by the reservoir.  Our little path is now much wider and paved for usage by walker and bikers,  and there is a parking lot where before there used to just be a patch of weeds.  The path goes all the way across the bridge, where before there used to be just rail road ties.  But just for a moment, that same magic was there, because really, it never actually left.

I know things aren’t the same.  But I also know that my sense of wonder will always be a part of me. And I hope beyond hope that many more adventures lie ahead – with plenty to be shared!