Enjoyment

Enjoyment is not a goal, it is a feeling that accompanies important ongoing activity.

Paul Goodman

A couple years ago, I copied that quote from somewhere. It just rang a bell inside me for some reason. At the time, there was not much enjoyment in my life; I had lost my job due to an illness that isolated me from a real life. Enjoyment was a spattering of this or that here or there, it was certainly not ongoing.

These last few months, living in the woods, though I believe I understand better what the author meant by those words. And it has affected my desire to communicate in this forum.

It is not that there is nothing to write about; this is a new community with many lovely and interesting places and activities for sure. The sheer beauty of my surroundings is fodder for contemplation and expression.

Somehow though, the activity of communicating via the written word via computer has become less important as I simply enjoy the everyday miracles of my natural surroundings. Getting the computer out and sitting inside to work on it, just does not compare to walking in the sunshine and listening to birdsong.

Electronic communication is cumbersome, awkward and time consuming. You have to be “plugged in” if not literally, at least figuratively. Connecting to the outside world requires time and effort, and the reward is a connection that is often slow and sometimes non-existent.

Forgive me, if I prefer the immediate gratification of the sun in the trees, the wind in the leaves, the babble of the stream, and bird song punctuated by the occasional “gronk” of a bull frog echoing over the pond.

I tell myself I will save computer time for later when it is dark and I cannot do anything else, but then there is the moon glowing white or crimson, bright or hazy, and the stars, and perhaps a campfire flickering and glowing. By the time I come inside I am satiated with all the sights and sounds, and enjoyments of a full day.

I am tired, not the tired of hard work or a stressful day but that feeling of fulfillment of having spent a day well. Outdoors tired from fresh air and exercise which leads to a good night’s sleep. I have no patience for firing up the computer, connecting it to the phone, and adding an artificial glow to the end of my day.

Tomorrow, I say. And then tomorrow comes and I wake up to the sun shining through the trees, the birds singing, and the babble of the stream and rustle of the wind in the trees, and, well you know — enjoyment.Blue Bear paddling at Mirror LakeI have important ongoing activity to partake of here.

Maybe I will tell you about it one day — when it rains.

 

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Rain

It has been a rainy spring in Baraboo, Wisconsin, where my summer home (trailer) is located. Though a long, cold winter with little snow ushered in spring drought conditions, the rain, and rain, and more rain over the last few weeks has alleviated any trace of drought warnings, filling the aquifers to overflowing at times.

A rainy day in a trailer in the woods is much different than the same rainy conditions in a house in an urban area. In the woods you can almost see the trees slurping up the rain — the leaves turn greener as the dust of drier days is washed away. The branches seem to bend to the storm, then stand straighter and taller as their feet absorb the wetness around their roots. Puddles and rivers form revealing a more specific lay of the land than the grasses would otherwise let on.

Then there is the sound. The birds are quiet, all tucked into a place of safety, their song replaced by raindrops on the roof — sometimes a light patter, other times a pounding that would barely be heard in a house with its shingles and attic to deflect and muffle the cry of the raindrops as they splatter.

The stream goes from a tinkling babble to a rushing roar as the water rises and each drop tries to push past the others, over the rocks and through downed branches in their rush to bigger waters, along the way washing out banks and carrying lollygagging sticks, stones, and plants away, even sometimes running over rather than under the bridge in their haste.

Depending on the day, watching and listening to the rain can be soothing; an invitation to lie by the window and let the sights and sounds roll over you. Other times the rooftop dance is so deafening that you cannot “hear yourself think”; the constant pounding can irritate and annoy like the neighbors hip hop music blasting at full volume.

Thankfully showers may be plentiful, even an all day affair, but the storms come and go giving respite to jangled nerves and a chance for the stream, the trees, and wildlife to recover. Almost immediately, the birds are singing again.

As with many things, living in the woods enhances the senses. So as the Eddie Rabbit song says, “I love a rainy night day…You know it makes me feel good.”

 

Green

Living in natural surroundings,  I have become very aware of why the big 64 box of crayons is important. Everything around me is green, but not just one green. There is light green and dark green, pale green and bright green, spring green, yellow green, spruce, pine, and a whole forest of forest green. There are probably more greens that that but who can name them all?

Stream, Baraboo, WisconsinWherever you are, take a moment to sit back, relax and drink in the sights, sounds, and smells of green. Ahhhh, that’s better!

A Natural Rhythm

When you meander, you are not forced into an artificial schedule (work, school, meetings, appointments, sports practice, dance lessons, etc.) Life takes on a rhythm that is attune with you and your surroundings.

I find I naturally awaken to greet the sunrise, then I get some natural exercise, walking a beach or forest trail. Later in the day I will tend to work or projects, then I might head into town for a little culture or a citified lunch. I always try to end my day in natural surroundings, so I can do it all over again tomorrow.

I find this lifestyle to be very beneficial — I walk a lot and fill my soul with the beauty of the world around me. I stress less and thus eat less (a cooler of provisions lasts and lasts.) I thoroughly enjoy my days and fall into bed tired but content.

Who could ask for more right?

Well it turns out that living in the woods offers many of the same advantages. I wake naturally, no alarm clocks to disturb the sound of rustling leaves and bird song outside my window. My eyes open to a forest of green leaves and never ending sky. The stream babbles, sometimes tinkling a happy song, others a rain swollen rush. An early morning walk fills me with wonder. Stretching on the bridge over the stream eases any tension. A paddle plies and smooths tight muscles.

As the sun goes down, a campfire can take away the chill and mesmerizes– slowing, calming, readying the body and mind for deep, restful sleep.

Life is good.
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New Direction

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I woke up this morning to a view of trees– dark trunks smothered in green leaves. The sun is shining and the sky blue, dotted by fluffy white cumulus clouds. The quiet is broken only by bird song, and what I assume is a squirrel using my new home as a shortcut to the ground from the huge maple overhead. The river babbles a stone’s throw away. All is peaceful and calm as only living in nature can be.
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Before I left for Mexico last fall, I moved out of my underground apartment, so aggravating to my chemical sensitivities. What I did not sell or give away, I stuffed into my van, a 5×10 foot storage locker, and a 21-foot travel trailer that is my new summer home.
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Having not had the luxury of moving things in slowly, I faced a daunting task of sorting through the mess of boxes and bins and finding the things I needed, while simultaneously finding a place for everything and putting everything in its place, all in a minuscule space designed for temporary vacation living. It is like having an efficiency apartment on wheels, with the emphasis on “efficiency.”

My new home has a banquette table that could seat four if you are very close, a tiny kitchen (two burners, a single sink, an under the counter frig), a closet to hang clothing, pantry for food, toilet, shower, and bed. And of course an ever changing natural world right outside my door. What more does one need?

Blue Bear taking in the view, Wheeler's Campground, Baraboo, WisconsinIf I could only figure out how to make my phone into a wi-fi connection for my computer (like it is supposed to) I could post this and other posts without making a trip to town.

But one thing at a time. I still have a lot of unpacking to do.

Stay tuned for more of my new adventures.

Sunset, Wheeler's Campground, Baraboo, Wisconsin

Down on the Farm

As I have mentioned, life with my grandchildren is a whirlwind of activity. In addition to the Children’s Museum, library, trampoline and bouncy house places, parks, playgrounds, and the beach, there are butterfly parades at the local Audubon Society and trips to “the farm.”

Agricultural tourism is BIG in Maine. Every place, small or large, seems to have a special event, view, tour, or self-guided option. Thus we found ourselves at Pineland Farms, not once but twice in one week.

Pineland Farms, New Gloucester, MainePineland Farms, a large working farm in New Gloucester, Maine, a community nestled among the rolling hills a little outside Portland, offers the public a chance to discover, learn, and explore rural life.

Though the farm is open for self-guided tours any day, Friday mornings gives children and their parents (grandparents) an opportunity to collect eggs in the hen house, milk a cow, see a baby calf, or hoe the garden or sample its goodness (in season), all under the guidance and tutelage of the farm educators. Among other things, children are fascinated to learn where milk comes from (when they squeeze the teat) and having a big animal gently take hay from their outstretched hand.

The day we went a new born calf was a popular attraction.

Hours old calf, Pineland Farms, New Gloucester, MaineAfter tromping through the barns and around the farm, you’ll be hungry so visit The Market and cafe in the Welcome Center, where you can enjoy a farm fresh lunch or take home some farm fresh goodness (fresh baked bread, honey, local jams and jellies, maple syrup, cheese, etc.) many of which are made at or from ingredients grown on the farm. If open, you can visit the creamery and see how cheese is made.

Equestrian Center, Pineland Farms, New Gloucester, MaineOn the lovely, winding way back to Portland,the equestrian center is open for visitors to tour the stalls and see the horses or watch riders put their mounts through their paces. Wander across the street and and you’ll find a flock of sheep.

If you have any energy left over (or plan another trip), nature trails offer opportunities to watch for birds, fox and other forest creatures, or just enjoy the babbling brook, fields, ponds, and forests as you walk. Trails are open year round  for hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. Fish in the pond in warm weather or go ice skating or take a long run down the sledding hill (bring your sled) in winter.

We returned to the farm again on Saturday for the annual Sheep Shearing Festival where we watched sheep being sheared the old fashioned way, by hand, and using those new-fangled clippers. Australian shepherds herded a small flock all to the tune of whistles and prompts by their shepherd. For young and old alike, it was fascinating to watch the dogs in action.

In addition to the working farm demonstrations, there were crafters available to let help you experience carding wool and spinning it into yarn and making a sheep “doll” by using needles to felt the raw wool into the appropriate shape, then take it home with you. You could purchase hand woven wool socks, hats, scarves, and mittens (not unwelcome on this blustery spring day), hold and pet a rabbit, and for the little ones “shear” their own shaving cream sheep, along with other craft activities.

Once again, a farm fresh lunch at The Market and cafe was welcome before we all headed home exhausted, yet content from our day in the country fresh air.

More about Pineland Farms: The site of a former “School for the Mentally Incompetent,” the old administration building and dormitories offer a natural setting for conferences. And if you like, you can stay in one of several original farm houses on the property.

Shocking

Returning to the US after 5 months in Mexico, means adjusting to some significant changes.

First, the weather. It is c-c-c-c-cold – going from 85 degrees to a high in the 40s or 50s is a shock to the system. As my grandmother used to say, “You’ll get used to it.” That is true, but “hurry spring!!!!”

Second, though it is only temporary, the pitter patter of tiny feet and all that goes with them — the tumbles, the tears, the tantrums, the snotty noses, the sweet smiles, the sticky hugs, and, of course, the constant clatter. Shocking and sometimes a test of endurance. Being with my grandchildren (and their parents) however, is something I would not miss for the world.

Most of all though, I have to get used to the sticker shock. Twice now I have gone out to buy ingredients to make a single meal for four, only to reach the check out and be flabberghasted at the cost. In Mexico, I could buy a whole week’s worth of groceries for what doesn’t even fill a single bag here!!! I don’t think I will ever get used to that.

Blue Bear and tomatoes

Portland

Traveling to and from Mexico, I take advantage of having my bags already packed and visit my daughter and family. This year that meant a trip to Portland — Maine, not Oregon.

Portland is a beautiful, historic, sea faring city, “Down East” as the natives call it, which means it is in the southern part of the state on the East Coast of the US, yet still just about as far north as one can get without being in Canada.

Blue Bear, Casco Bay, Portland, MaineIf you have never visited the East Coast of the US, especially in these northern climes, it is a rugged landscape, and the people are a rugged lot. They have an independent streak and are passionate about the environment. Many of the original “organic” or “all natural” companies had their origins in Maine.

It is a land of outdoor beauty and adventures — rocky shorelines with views of sailboats and fishing trawlers; rolling hills covered in maple trees that give up their sweet nectar in the spring and go out in a blaze of color in the fall; snowy winters for skiing, skating, sledding, ice fishing, or sitting around a warm fire.

Portland itself is quaint as only towns with 200+ years of history can be. Everything is historic from the wharf along the Fore River that leads to the sea, to the fishing boats, the brick streets, and the grand Customs House. Stroll along the waterfront or wander around downtown and you will find quaint shops, filled with souvenirs, antiques, handmade pottery, clothing, but also the necessities. It’s a small town, boutique atmosphere. If you want a shopping mall though, you will not find one; you will have to drive 20 minutes to the next town.

Lobster toys, Portland, MaineThere is plenty to do in Portland. Visit the Children’s Museum with your favorite little ones; they never run out of things to experience. Head to the Railroad Museum and ride the train along Casco Bay. Go whale watching. Walk the historic wharf area and purchase the catch of the day right from the boat. Or indulge in killer dark chocolate sorbet from Gorgeous Gelato, one of many ice cream and gelato shops competing for your taste buds.

Speaking of taste buds, Portland is a foodie’s heaven. Though chain restaurants can be found, local restaurants offering delicacies from cultures around the world, creatively transform the tiny spaces of the historic buildings into a feast for the eyes and palate.

The arts are alive and well in Portland, with dance, theater, puppet shows, and groups centered around activities like swing dancing. The library is not just a quiet repository for books but a center of community activities with concerts and visiting performers.

I wish I had more time to spend in Portland, and I especially wish I could have been there during the summer when the whale boats are running, the water is warm, and the town is humming. Perhaps I will visit again and have a chance to explore more.

Stay tuned.