Trilliums for Beth J

Dear Beth,

We have a tradition since you moved away. Every spring, I post pictures for you of the trilliums that bloom in my woods. I have the white ones and one very large red that you really like. They appear every year at the far corner of my property by the beaver pond. I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep my promise this year. You see, I broke my ankle in the Golan Heights in Israel near the Lebanon and Syria borders. No, I was not chased by spies or knocked over by a stray missile. I slipped on a rock and my rear end landed on my foot. I see my doctor on May 26 but he gave me instructions not to walk on uneven ground until then. I was afraid I would have to break my promise to you. But I’m stubborn and I don’t give up. The woods is all around me. There had to be trilliums closer.

I went up to my storage room and found my Vasque hiking boots that I had purchased at the Eastern Mountain Store in Lake Placid about 25 years ago. I reasoned that they would give my ankle support. The boots renewed memories of a long ago chapter in my life. They are leather, waterproof and had been carefully fitted to prevent “toe jam” (hiking term for toes sliding to the front of the boot on steep declines). I conquered eight of the Adirondack High Peaks in those boots and got my picture in The ADK 49’s Newsletter by being a member of the first all woman volunteer trail maintenance group.

For this adventure, I washed the laces and gave the leather a new coat of polish. I sprayed myself down with Deep Woods Off and put my camera and phone (I’m at that age where back up is important) in my fanny pack and hiked into my woods.

I was on a treasure hunt, a special mission to find something that was prized by you and me. I focused like I never focus before. I passed some of my beautiful rocks, they are granite, huge, and ancient.

I wondered if this is where my fox lived.

I took note of the dead tree sculptures.

Captivated, I was startled by what I incorrectly thought to be an owl in a tree branch rather close to my head.

I walked up to the big outcropping that my kids had so long ago named “dancing rock”.

I marvelled at the stand of hemlocks where the deer bedded during the winter and ate from the low hanging branches.

I paid my respects to a special tree. I used to bring my second class to my woods for a field trip and a nature scavenger hunt. In its youth, the tree had taught my students a vivid lesson with it roots clutched around a rock, a sure sign of perseverance and hope.

Beth, I decided to be a true explorer and go to some the parts of my woods I had never gone to before. My eyes scanned the ground searching for green or any color that contrasted with the dead brown leaves. I was rewarded but no trilliums.

I found patches of green that I stubbornly tried to wish into trilliums but I had done my research and they they didn’t have the right characteristics.

The word trillium contains the prefix “tri” that means three, three petals and three leaves. One of my Canadian nature books told the story of James Burns Spencer who after WWI wanted to make the trillium the flower of Canada since it symbolized purity, The Holy Trinity, and Great Britain which consisted of three parts, England, Scotland, and Ireland. He failed but in 1937 because of the efforts of some high school students the plant became the flower of the province of Ontario, Canada.

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I also learn that they appear in the time between thawing and the leafing out of deciduous trees. They are sensitive to temperature and grow in the woods because it is warmer there than in open fields. They like the the north side of sheltered areas. Away from the wind they rely on insects to pollinate them. The white trilliums attract insects to their beautiful flat landing strip flower petals. All trilliums have seeds. Ants love the nutritious green handles on the seeds and drop the rest. Birds also engage in spread with their droppings. It takes seven years for a seed to finally mature into plant with a flower. That’s why it is important to protect them by not picking them.

The red trilliums are a little different. They really like acid soil and they have a horrible smell. In fact, in some circles over the centuries they have been called “Stinking Benjamins”. They are pollinated by carrion insects, scavengers that feed on rotting remains.

Armed with these facts, I knew I wouldn’t find trilliums in the hemlocks and that also I need to look for sheltered places on the north side of things.

I spotted something green.

Beth, you can’t image how excited I was. Could it be?

Yes! I moved around carefully!

I even found a “Stinking Benjamin”!

In, fact, I found a few! And as they bloom, Beth, you will have your pictures!

Returning to my backyard, I knew my ankle was fine and I was elated. What an great experience. I guess I was still in a heightened state of awareness when I noticed something white and shiney at the base of small a tree.

I pulled at it and it came out of its place in the earth into my hand. It was a piece of quartz. And Beth, please excuse my poet’s soul, to me it seems to have the shape of a heart.

I have it next to me as I write this letter to you. It will be symbol of the beautiful day I had looking for flowers for a dear friend. To me, it will always represents my love of the woods and the gratitude I have for living in this part of the world. It expresses the bond I have with those in my community who live here, too. People who even when they move away like you have, Beth, still have The North Country in their hearts. Thank you so much, my friend.

Love, Joyce

Copyright@2020 The Autonomous Traveler All rights reserved.

Circles

I have felt fractured, broken the last few days. I was fine getting through almost five weeks of “social distancing”. I was doing my part and felt proud of myself. And then things shifted as people without masks in close proximity were protesting the Covid-19 stay-at-home policy. I felt violated and wondered if all my time alone had been wasted. And I couldn’t help feeling that as a society we were surely screwed.

In these long weeks, I’ve been listening and reading and thinking. For some reason I’ve been fascinated by circles. Excess time gives a human being a lot of opportunities to notice. This one was sent yesterday by a friend.

This one appeared in an ad on Facebook.

Votes for Women Puzzle

Here is a grouping from my bathroom.

Maybe I’m jealous of circles because they are so perfect and, as a human being, I will never ever be that. Maybe I’m drawn to them because are complete in themselves. They can be symbols that provide rich understanding for hurried minds and prompt shorthand for the unconscious.

Nicolaus Copernicus Biography: Facts and Discoveries | Space
Copernican Earth Map

The Great Seal of the US Royalty Free Vector Image
The seal of the US
What's the Peace Sign and Should I Wear It? – Jewelry Guide
Peace Symbol

Did Stonehenge Hold Up a Giant Stage? | Smart News | Smithsonian ...
Stonehenge
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Rose Window in a Church
What Does yin-yang Mean? | Pop Culture by Dictionary.com
Yin/Yang
Time

Circles appear in the natural world.

Cross section of a tree - Tree Growth and Structure

Image result for ripples in water

I think I’ve always admired the symmetry of neat circles. I’ve always been a global thinker because random ideas and loose ends have always confused me. Like a annoying little kid, I have always needed to know the “why” behind things. This has influenced my traveling style. I love to understand the interplay of a situation, the geography, history, art, politics, economics, etc. of the places I visit and how it all fits together.

Examples of Contextual, Integrated Learning and How it Benefits ...

A long time ago, I found a wholeness in the writings of author, Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun who wrote about her quest to understand all religions. She came to the conclusion that they all share a common doctrine, The Golden Rule.

Scaffolding International World Religion Day (University) -

These weeks in isolation have given me the time to reconnect with the hundreds of books I have collected over my many years. They are mostly nonfiction, my treasure troves of unsolved mysteries and elusive information. I came across a book on Carl Jung, an early 20th century psychologist, who coined the phrase , “collective consciousness”. He believed that we not only inherit genetic physical characteristics from our ancestors but also unconscientious patterns.

What would Carl Jung think of this moment in history? His theory of collective consciousness has become a reality as all of us face Covid-19 and the possible collapse of economic systems. We as a total world population now have one focus, one consciousness.

Yesterday one of our nation’s leader was asked what the new normal would look like. He answered by saying we need to change our vocabulary. He stated that normal as we knew it is gone, it is time to reimage what kind of society and future we now want to create and how each one of us can become a better reimaged version of ourselves.

This leader inspired me. There has been a rebirth of the old me. I’m cooking and baking once again. And I’ve started planting a garden. I have plans to really work on my backyard and up my daily exercise. Soon I will go up to my art room and paint again. I love to be alone but I’ve come to realize the priceless value of my wonderful friends. I will make more connections when this is over. In this time of slow paced quiet, I’m finding parts of myself again.

Carl Jung also wrote about “individuation”, the process of becoming one’s true self. He painted mandalas which is a practice found in many cultures over the centuries. Jung believed that they were symbols of wholeness in self. He also saw their creation as a peaceful meditation.

I have been doing them, printing them off the internet. I love them because no matter what colors or patterns I choose, they are all beautiful when I complete them.

Over these weeks, I’ve been doing the mandalas by starting in the center and working outward. Some people recommend working from the outside and moving inward. That’s what’s nice about mandalas, circles, and life, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about never giving up and striving to create something new.

Finding Strength in Our Roots

I’m lazy, a blue ribbon procrastinator. I should be writing everyday, I have the time. My writing process is strange. I get an idea, I feel its voice inside me, first hesitant and weak. Its like the old fashion coffee stove top coffee percolator my mom gave me years ago. It is a treasured object because it reminds me of her and an earlier time before Kuerigs and Starbucks cappuccinos. I take it camping for my favorite thing to do; build a campfire, have coffee and read. There is a process, put in the water to the mark that is just a faint discoloration in the metal, measure in the ground coffee into the metal basket, and finally place on the lid with its tiny glass globe. I then put it on the gas stove and wait. The water heats, travels up a tube to the coffee waiting for it in the basket. They mingle and play and soon the pale spirit of their union shows itself in the glass top. The coffee jumps as it get darker and darker, stronger and strong. Soon I smell its lovely aroma. It has evolved, it has become something wonderful and I smile.

That’s my writing process. I start unconfident, wondering if my ideas are stupid and how many people will make fun of them. But then things happen, little things that build on other things and they make chains like the green and red loops on a Christmas tree. I move toward my computer and I find I have to write, I have no choice, the need to release the words is too strong.

This post started weeks ago when I met up with my friend, Tammy. I had not seen her since she retired. Tammy who loves The Adirondacks, beautiful prose, art ,and deep thoughts. Tammy who is a fierce Mama Bear who fights for underdogs and scapegoats. She was the last friend I saw before my “social distancing.” There was an intensity in our chat as we sat in the all white newness of the little coffee shop half way between our two houses. Things were shared that we never shared before. With a pandemic slowly inching toward our backyards, there seemed to be a strong need to listen, really listen. I remember things once mentioned and not acknowledged at the school we both taught at. She had said something about relatives from Russia but I only nodded and rushed on. As I finally heard her story I was fascinated. She allowed me to borrow her faded green folder with an old fashioned spring clasp, a collection of newspaper clippings and a careful recording of her family tree and history.

Tammy’s great grandfather, Frank Leon Ronas was born in Minsk in 1878. He fled Russia by way of England and eventually made it to America where he worked in a Pennsylvania coal mine at age eleven. He headed north to Canada but settled in Northern New York, a place known for its soft cheese making and dairy farms. Frank worked on the farm of Eber Steik in Philadelphia, New York while going to school to perfect his English and assimilate into American culture. He quit school after the eighth grade to work full time on the John McNeil farm. He fell in love with Mary Etta Holkins who lived across the road. The couple married and bought their own farm. Later they inherited the Holkins farm.

The Holkins Road that I know so well , the beginning of all my journeys and the path that always welcomes me home, now has an added significance. It holds lessons of character and perseverance and a chapter in a love story. And today, in my fifth week of “social distancing” I find great comfort and feel the incredible but real strength of people who came before me.

My grandparents came to America from Poland in the early 1900’s. The men did the jobs that no one else would take in the chemical factories along the Niagara River. The women cleaned rich people’s houses.

A long time ago at my school where I taught someone asked me why I said I was Polish-American and told me I shouldn’t do it. Her comment was hurtful but I forgave her because she will never understand. Her maiden and married names are Anglo Saxon Protestant. She will never be able to image the richness of my heritage and the bravery of immigrants who left everything familiar to go out into the unknown with only faith and resilience. Facing struggles and overcoming obstacles, they created paths and inspiration for future generations.

So, right before my “social distancing”, I met Tammy at the little coffee shop with the white walls and she told me a story. Because of her, I’m hopeful. I know our ancestors are with us and they will help us get through the coming months.

Thank you so much, Tam, and I’m so sorry it took me so long to listen.

A Nearby Journey, One Country Road

Road horses

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”   Marcel Proust

Every  weekday morning before I retired, I drove to school down the same country road. You won’t find my route in any guidebooks. It is just an ordinary rural asphalt passage through Northern New York State. But to me, it is very special.  It is the beginning of all my journeys.  It is the path that always welcomes me home.

Road red sunset
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Over the years, I have come to appreciate the things I see on this road as much as I have been thrilled by the sights I have witnessed in Paris or The Rocky Mountains or any place I have traveled.

Road my tree
Road shad
Road Barn
Road winter
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I have learned to observe and appreciate.  This practice has brought me great joy.

Road rock
Road Dew

These pictures  were all taken four miles from my home during various times of year. I invite all my readers to look and really see the interesting things just down the road. Take time to stop. You may discovery some pretty extraordinary things.