Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Labyrinth

Today I walked a labyrinth to clear my head and heart. It's amazing what happens when we allow ourselves a few moments of silence. 



Rain threatened, but held off while I circled around, close to the center and then back out again. Along the way, I came across a few things in the path.


There may be obstacles in our way, but they give us the chance
to tap into our creativity and find ways around.



Sometimes we may feel as if we've lost a part of ourselves.

An egg reminded me of new possibilities.



And we are always filled with all we need.



In the end, we will come back to our center, and we are never alone.
The curves are just part of life's colorful journey...the lessons and the blessings for our growth.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wild Goose Chase

Some days, it feels like we're trying to chase down something elusive. But today, I was part of an actual wild goose chase.

When I arrived for my work shift at Ashland Nature Center this morning, I discovered that a wayward gosling had followed around one of our school groups on their morning hike. They tried to leave him down in the marsh, where he would be most likely to be found by his parents, but the little one stuck like glue to the group and finished the hike with them. He dined on the fresh plants surrounding the lodge while they ate their breakfast inside.

Gosling!

Since I was leading the next program down in the marsh, I took the gosling with us and hoped to leave him there. I asked the students to refrain from talking to or touching the goose, as he needed to stay wild.

There was no sign of any adult geese in the marsh or the creek, much to my disappointment. The gosling contentedly swam around, munching on duckweed while we explored the marsh. As we tried to sneak out of the area quietly, he came excitedly chasing after us, calling as loudly as he could, which amounted to a muted squeak. 

Truth be told, it's insanely cute to watch a gosling chase after you and try to catch up, wobbling to and fro on his webbed feet and flapping tiny wings that don't have flight feathers yet. But it was very concerning to me, as there were no signs of his parents and he was clearly content to hang out with us, which is not normal, nor good for him. He needs his parents to learn how to fly, eat, and all other manner of bird-being. While I am a mother and enjoy nursery rhymes, I am not a Mother Goose.

He followed us with earnest dedication for the rest of the program. While I showed some aquatic animals to the kids, the gosling roamed the area, tasting the various grasses. When we headed to the stream, he followed us across the parking lot and enjoyed a brief swim in the cool water. We made the long trek across the street and covered bridge to the pond, where I had to stop traffic longer than usual so he could cross the road safely. He followed along as if he were one of the kids. The students all looked out for him, but were cooperative in not touching or otherwise interacting with him as I had requested.

When we finished our program and headed back up the steps to the lodge where we had met the gosling, he followed us, tentatively working his way up the hill next to the steps. The kids headed inside for lunch, and the gosling found some more grasses to chow on outside the door. I was unsure what to do, as I had not seen geese in any areas where I had been, which were the areas at Ashland where they tend to hang out. I looked at him to see if he was going to follow me, and as soon as I started to head down the hill to the steps, he quickly came after me, squeaking as if to say, "wait up!"

He bounded down the first step with a thump, half trying to fly and looking slightly surprised. He decided that wasn't going to work, and skirted around the edges of the steps and onto the steep hillside, sliding a bit at a time and working his way through some thicker areas of foliage. It was a slow descent, but we finally made it down to the main building. Excited to see new plants, he began browsing the area. I started to go into the building when he came running after me. I held the door to see if he would enter, but he wasn't sure about that. So I closed the door, with me on the inside and the gosling on the outside.

That was not okay.

While he definitely didn't want to come inside, he surely did not want to be left outside alone. He started flapping his little wings, standing up as tall as he could, and I could see his open beak calling to me. I stepped back outside and sat on a bench to wait for my supervisor and colleague so we could decide what was best for this little guy. He went back to eating while we waited.

We called Tri-State Bird Rescue for some advice. They suggested we bring him in, as we had already made several attempts to return him to the marsh and there was no sign of his parents. My supervisor grabbed an animal carrier, and I ran inside to grab my car keys and wallet while my colleague stayed with the gosling. 

By the time I got back outside, the gosling was in the carrier. Apparently, the moment I went in the building, he stood right outside the door calling for me again. I sighed and headed to the car with the carrier in hand. 

Then all of a sudden we heard some adult geese honking. My colleague and I went up the hill in the direction of the goose call, hoping to reunite the little guy with his kin. We didn't find them, and decided to make one last loop around the marsh and Red Clay Creek just in case his parents had flown in. We walked all the way to the back of the property and across the street. No geese at all. At some point in our journey through tall grasses, I realized we were actually on a wild goose chase. The gosling chased me all morning, and now we were on an elusive search for his parents.

We weren't able to find them, so I drove the gosling to Tri-State Bird Rescue, having to stop myself from talking to him the whole way there. He squeaked quietly at me a few times, but spent most of the car ride preening his feathers. I took him inside and relayed our adventures. The receptionist said that it sounded like we had done everything we could and thanked me for bringing him in. 

I was saddened a bit that we couldn't find his parents, but he will get loving care there and maybe they have some other geese who can teach him all the birdly wisdom he'll need. (Tri-State is a great organization, and it costs a minimum of $50 to care for an abandoned or injured bird. If you feel moved to make a donation or would like to learn more about what they do, please visit their website).

As for me, this was the best wild goose chase I've ever been on. Thanks for spending the day with me little one, and may you grow into a beautiful, healthy bird and maybe work your way back to Ashland for a visit sometime. We'd love to see you!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Creating Dreams

Since it's Mother's Day, it seems appropriate to honor all facets of creation. Mothers bring life and love into this world in so many ways, and an idea popped into my head this evening that I'd like to share, as I think it could be a worthy project to manifest some good in this world.

I've been inspired to create a "Dream Garden" in a corner of my yard. I'm inviting others to add their dreams to this sacred space, and we'll tend it with love together.

Click the link below to my newsletter for more information...
Dream Garden Newsletter

Sweet Dreams!

Love & Light,
Sue

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Depths of Life

Life is a deep, deep pool. If we're only willing to skim the top for fear of having to occasionally skim the bottom, we'll miss all the glorious heart-filling stuff in between.

Sometimes we get to experience the various depths in a short span of time, where the clear and brilliant breath-taking moments are quickly followed by a time of uncertainty and fear, stranded in murky waters, where we feel choked and overwhelmed. 

This was my past weekend.

I volunteered at the last minute to chaperone my middle-school daughter's 4-day choir competition trip to Boston since another chaperone had to withdraw. I admit I was a little nervous, as the itinerary was ambitious, and to be in charge of someone else's children in a city where bombings had occurred the week before was a bit...intimidating. Despite my nervousness, I felt compelled to step up. So I jumped blindly into the pool, not knowing how deep it was going to be or if the waters were clear or turbulent. Sometimes ya just gotta jump.

I was rewarded with many golden moments on the journey, manifesting in snippets of student tenderness and responsibility as they genuinely cared for each other while we toured the city by Duck Boat and on foot all weekend. They joked and smiled, encouraged and kept after one another, checked back to make sure they were still with chaperones, and did a fine job of respectfully representing themselves, their families, and the school. Even on day three when we were all getting tired and punchy and miscommunications occurred, they soothed each other's tears and followed with "I'm sorry, I love you" and group hugs.

Our three choir groups cheered one another as they performed, and our Women's Choir gave what I can only describe as an exquisite performance, one that actually made me catch my breath. All the groups scored well, and the Women's Choir was told by one of the judges that they were the best choir he's heard in a long time and their last song almost brought him to tears. He came up to the stage specifically to tell them that, which is uncharacteristic.

The journey also had its darker moments. Horrendous traffic plagued us at almost every turn. I had to fight my own deep fatigue at the reduced sleep and less-than-ideal diet that accompanies trips like these. There were times when I would have been completely content to curl up in the sunshine and bask like a cat on Boston Commons or anywhere else with green grass and brown earth to support my weary head. This pace was not one I would have chosen, and I could see that even the kids would have appreciated just a little down time to hang out in their rooms together at the hotel or swim. Pockets of middle-school drama broke out at times, which required gentle handling to soothe raw nerves and hurt feelings.

Overall, our trip had been clear and fairly smooth, filled with meaningful connections to one another and our nation's ancestors, as history unfolded through vibrant tour guides. We shared ferocious belly laughter at the crazy antics of the Blue Man Group, made all the more funny by the chaperones being seated in the front two rows, plastered in some sort of banana-goo and coming home with the spit-ball art of a Blue Man. And our hearts soared with unending joy at the kids' amazing performances.

On Sunday, we loaded our two buses to head home after a few hours' stop at Six Flags New England, all blissfully exhausted and a bit sore from four days of pounding the pavement on tours and a competition. We celebrated the successful competition, discussed our favorite activities, and settled into our seats, eagerly anticipating our arrival at home. 

Within the first hour of our drive, our trip took a turn for the worse. Kids began suddenly vomiting on both buses and we had to pull off to clean up and get supplies to handle the situation, as more were becoming ill. Long story short, our stop was extended when one person had to go to the hospital. We wearily and worriedly got back on our way, with a daunting 4-hour ride still ahead of us. One other chaperone and I were also having some stomach issues. We handed everyone on the bus an empty bag to keep handy just in case they needed it, and by the end of the trip, many people did. Rumors ran rampant about possible food poisoning because of the rapidness with which the illness hit, but two kids had been sick on the trip earlier, so we don't know what caused it. It didn't really matter anyway. People were s-i-c-k.

The rest of the ride home was as bad as it sounds. New people would get sick, and the closest adults would fly into action, supporting the child and cleaning up as best we could. It was the longest ride of my life, and as I fought my own queasy stomach, I tried to sit still, meditate, and contain myself during the quiet times between sick kids. Part of me was wondering why this was happening to us and it was beginning to feel as if we were in a horror movie.

I'm normally a very positive person, but I was reaching my limit. My spirits dropped further when we stopped at a rest stop about 1 1/2 hours from home and one of the bus drivers got sick. I tipped my head heaven-ward, and said, "Dear God, that's enough. No more. We must get home. These kids are so sick. ENOUGH." I was almost in tears by this point.

And then I remembered that I chose to jump into this pool, be it clear or cloudy, and I knew in my heart that we had what we needed to get through this. I took a deep breath and changed my perspective. My sour mood legitimately matched my sour stomach, but it was not going to help and there was still work to be done and miles to go. Though life was extremely difficult at the moment and I was exhausted and feeling awful, I decided that I would not have traded my weekend, even if it had to end like this. We would survive this trip, if by sheer will alone. We were all in this together.

I switched up my thoughts to gratitude for my amazing and fearless chaperones-in-arms. No one hesitated to clean up vomit and comfort a kid, knowing they risked succumbing to this vicious illness themselves. I gave thanks for the gracious and kind assistance we received from the Kmart employees where we stopped to clean up. I felt immense relief that three of us were there to catch the child who fainted so they didn't hit their head on the concrete. I offered silent words of appreciation for the strangers who stopped and asked if we needed help, and for EMT's who were true angels and lovingly took our student and accompanying staff member to the local hospital for medical attention. Everyone worked together to get through this mess. And even though kids freaked out and moved away while someone vomited, they alerted the adults when their friends needed help and tried to comfort one another as best they could.

This trip offered the very depths of life...from touching and joyous experiences to horrendous illness. 

If I had to be at the deep and murky bottom at the end of last weekend, I am so grateful for the people who were down there with me, most of us strangers at the beginning of the trip. Before our descent, we had many sparkling moments of laughter, success, comradery, and kindness, and we held onto those moments like flashlights as we tried to see our way out of the darkness together.

As soon as I'm able to drink something stronger than water or Gatorade, I'll raise a glass to my fellow chaperones who I consider nothing less than heroic, the teachers, bus drivers, and even the students themselves who all made the best of the situation and took care of one another, no matter how badly they felt. To each warrior who carried on, despite the desperate need to rid bellies and bowels of that foul ailment, I salute each one of you for your courage.

We shared amazing sights and sounds, then survived the bleak deep together. We reached down within ourselves to gather the strength we didn't know we had and pushed through with compassion when things seemed the worst. This was an incredible growing experience for us all.

Someday we're going to look back and laugh at this adventure. But not quite yet - my stomach still kinda hurts. 

And in a few weeks when we've all recovered, I think we need an adult-only field trip. :D