The Living Desert & other thoughts…

After a long week of heavy rain storms, Friday’s forecast showed that it would be in the 70’s in Palm Desert, Ca.  Trevor, Katie, and I were excited to see this news, as we had planned a Private Safari at The Living Desert for this day.  Trevor packed up my oxygen tanks and walker and we were off for our adventure at The Living Desert!

The Living Desert is a beautiful zoo in Palm Desert, CA.  The animals are all beautiful,  the enclosures were clean and the walking paths and trails were made to look regional the the animal territory we were visiting.  We chose to use the Private Safari Adventure, as it is fully done with a guide and the complete use of a shuttle.  I highly recommend this option.  Our guide was wonderful and we were able to gain “insider” information.  Of course, conservation and and extinction is a main topic of zoos and conservancies.  I am saddened at the amount of species that are currently on the Red List of declining/endangered/extinct animals.  More information can be found on iucnredlist.org.

I truly enjoyed getting out for the morning and hanging out with Trev and Katie.  We were able to see every animal and we were able to feed the giraffes!  Every animal there is beautiful and some were very funny to watch.  It seemed like the animals were happy to see a sunshine day!

Anyway, I woke up at 2:00 am and my brain started thinking about animal extinction and my own journey with cancer and hospice.  Honestly, I’m not sure where I’m going with these 2:00 am thoughts.  Comparing species extinction to my own passing seems trivial.  However, there is the issue of loss in both cases.

What will it be like on earth if the animals/creatures  continue to disappear? What will it be like if all the bees disappear?  Many people believe that it could start the end of the world.  Because bees are primary pollinators of fruits and vegetables, this could lead to a chain reaction of crops disappearing, which could lead to limited agriculture available, which could lead to limited dairy and meat supply.  It would also lead to the disappearance of my beloved honey.  The disappearance of bees would make the world a less sweet place to live.

What is it like when a loved one disappears to death?  It drastically changes the life of those left behind.  For my children, their world will be forever changed.  I believe that they will mourn.  I believe they will be strong.  I don’t think they will forget me on their big event days:  weddings, children, deciding where to settle, buying their first home, happy moments and sad moments.  They will probably think of me at the beach or when a storm passes.

The journey of life will always have it’s ups and downs.  From the big issues that face our world (extinction) to experiencing the joys found in this world.  We all have the opportunity to choose how we encounter life.  Will we embrace the opportunities put before us?  Will we become divisive with one another as we try find and implement correct solutions for the world?  My hope and longing is that people will exchange ideas and work together to make this world a better place.

As for my own remaining time, I will continue to embrace life!  My hope for my family and friends is that, they too will embrace life.  I hope they will stop and watch the bees for awhile!

 

 

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Leaping Leena the Lap Dog

Leena the Lap Dog joined our family several weeks ago.  I was wishing for a little dog to sit on my lap.  Bree had been thinking it might be a good idea for me to have a dog to take outside and keep me moving.  Leena had been living with Bree for several years, but Bree felt it was more important for Leena to hang out with us for awhile.  Having Leena here has been wonderful!

A little back story….Leena has been in our family for eleven years!  She was originally Trevor’s dog.  She was so tiny, that he would carry her under his shirt, and she would pop her head through the neck line of his shirt.  She would also hide in his shoes, so he had to be very careful when putting on his shoes.  Leena has always been one of the most patient and sweetest dogs that I’ve ever known.

Ok…back to current story!  Leena not only gives me comfort, but she also makes sure that every visitor gets a chance to have a Leena encounter.  She will sit on every visitor’s lap (if they want her).  Leena brings comfort and peace into a situation where visitors might feel uncomfortable.  When I take her on walks, she leads me with the walker.  One can see that she feels very important and in charge of our walks.  Thank you Bree for sharing Leena!  Dog therapy is amazing!

Health Updates:

The mass by my left rib has grown.  It feels like the mass is pushing against my rib, which is causing a squeezing of the other organs nearby.  I can really feel it when I’m walking, so I’ve slowed down and am using the walker when outside.

The mass on my neck is also growing.  This one makes talking difficult at times.  I will return calls when I can talk clearly.   Otherwise, texting works well for me.

I have definitely slowed down.  My energy level has been very low these past couple of weeks.  Showering is an example of how I have slowed down:  It takes at least an hour; maybe an hour and a half to shower.  On Monday and Thursdays a bath nurse comes out and washes my hair and body.  This was difficult for me to accept in the beginning.  Now, I am thankful for her help.  During the shower, I need to sit down on the shower chair because it is exhausting to stand for the whole shower.  When the shower is complete, I sit down for the drying.  Then there is the lotioning, the hair brushing, the hair drying…it all takes time because I need to stop and rest frequently during this process. It is a strange thing, but showers now wear me out and I usually end up taking a long nap after showers!

As I continue to slow down, I will be asking for more help.  There is a web-site that I will probably post next week.  It allows for people to sign up for times to help in various ways.  I promise, I won’t make anything difficult!

As much as I can, I still want to experience life to the fullest!  This Friday, Trevor and Katie are taking me to The Living Desert.  We will have a Private Safari and will experience The Living Desert with a private shuttle and driver!  I’m looking forward to feeding the giraffes!

Spiritually, I am doing well.   The Lord is always with me; I have never felt deserted by Him.  He brings me family & friends to help along this path.  I am thankful for each of you!  It feels like I am preparing for the ultimate Hiking Trip!  I know that this journey will be full of love and adventure.

If you are a person who enjoys Praise & Worship music,  check out this song:

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong United

This song is where I am at spiritually.  It is on the song list for the funeral!  I’m not sure it is “cool” to write that, but, yes, we have been working on that reality.  I count that as a part of the gift of time I’ve been given!  I love you all and I am thankful that you have joined in on my journey.

It is well with my soul!  Love, Cindylindy

December/January Adventures

As I begin to type, rain is pouring from the dark sky.  I can hear it popping up from our black-top parking area and I love the idea that all will be clean and fresh after the storm passes.  I’ve been in bed all day and it has been a day of memories raining through my brain.  Some of the memories are begging to be captured and written down.  Some of the memories are like thunder and lightning; they are here for the brief jolt and then the memory fades.

The adventures I want to share were big events for me.  Seeing Fleetwood Mac play has always been a dream of mine. I was able to see them in concert on December 8th with my life-long friend, Lori.  The concert was awesome and I could share so much about that experience.  The truth is, the experience was more about who I was with for the event!  We had an amazing time just talking and being together.  She is one of the few people who knows there was a husband #1 before husband #2.  At one point in our conversation, she asked, “I wonder whatever happened to good ol’ Bob?”  It  made me smile because she knows and remembers the young me and I remember the young Lori.

Staying in Newport the week before Christmas was the next big adventure.  This was our family Christmas time together.  We had a great room that had a harbor view.  Watching the boats in the bay was wonderful.  Experiencing the boat parade was on my wish-list and that made the stay perfect for me.  However, the trip was about who was there and sharing the experience together.  Important conversations came up during that time and emotions were shared.

Warner Bros Studio was the next big adventure.  Brianna gave me this trip as a Christmas present!  She made sure it would be an easy trip for me.   The tour is mostly done in a shuttle.  When there was walking, I had my walker.  I enjoyed seeing the sets, but again it was about sharing the adventure.  Bree and I have spent hours watching Friends and Gilmore Girls.  To see the sets with her, took us down memory-lane and gave us a gift of all the times we have solved world issues on the couch as we watched these shows!   We both have great ideas for saving the world!

As it continues to rain, both outside and the raining of memories in my head, I know the  importance of family and friends.  Being on the cancer/hospice journey without the help of family and friends would be extremely difficult.  I am so thankful to all of you.  I am moving at a slower pace and don’t always respond in a timely matter, but I am treasuring each of you and your outreaching to me.  I guess this a good place to give an update on my health:

I have slowed down and use a walker now. Using oxygen is a big part of my life now.   The mass at my rib is growing outward and I am really bloated everywhere.  There is a new mass on my throat and it is growing toward the rib.  Texting is easier than phone calls for me.  I am still in good spirit, and I am thankful for every moment and for every adventure.  Life is still filled with possibilities!!!

Alive with Wonder!

Hello All, I was a couch potato all weekend!  My right shoulder/arm was painful this weekend, so I decided to have a “do-nothing” weekend.  I even subscribed to a TV service (I haven’t had TV for awhile)!  Many friends called and/or texted this weekend.  I always enjoy hearing from family & friends.

Radiation begins today!  I’ve had radiation before (with the original scalp melanoma), so I go into this part of the journey with some experience.  Last time I had radiation, the “radiation fatigue” hit me pretty hard.  I’m hoping that since I’m on medical leave, it won’t be as difficult to manage.

The Meal Train meals start today too!  I am very thankful to the Kimberly parents for putting this together.  It is always fun to visit with the families bringing the meal and getting to try out new meals.  You all make this journey easier!  Thank you!

This morning I had an interesting dream right as I woke up:

I woke up with an image of a little girl (5 or 6) holding the hand of a parent.  Her hair was long, blonde, and parted on the side.  It was very straight.  She looked at peace and was gazing around- taking in all the wonders of life.  I think it was me!  My first thought was, “Alive with Wonder!”

Alive with Wonder is how I always hope to view this world.  I love watching the sky, cloud formations, and weather patterns.  I love being outdoors and watching the leaves and birds.  I love listening to the sweet song of the breeze tickling the leaves.  I love to sit or stand still and watch the creatures emerge from hiding.

Of course, I love going to the beach in the early morning hours.  I love watching the sunrise over the ocean, the sound of the waves and the birds, the breeze, picking up shells, watching dolphins & other sea creatures, and watching & talking with other early morning beach people.

I love sitting by mountain lakes and rivers.  Watching the birds soar high into the heavens always leaves me with a sense of wonder.  Watching the fish swim idly by can keep me entertained for hours!

I am thankful for all that I have experienced in this life.  This world is really a beautiful place to live and be.  Even when there is “foulness” in some area of life, hope and beauty can usually be found if we stay still and watch and listen.  I think I’ll address this on a future post!

Thank you for reading my thoughts and sharing my journey.  I could not do this without all the love and support each of you have shown me.

With love and Alive with Wonder, Cindy

#Alivewithwonder

Journey through cancer, again

I’ve been struggling over blog topics.  I want to write about everything! I want to write about hiking, beach trips, road trips, teaching and embracing life.   I wish life were neatly packaged and even thematic.  I would be able to write more easily about Living Life to its fullness.  However, we all know, this is not the case.  Life can be messy and complicated and shitty and beautiful all in one package deal.  The trick is to find the beauty in the thick of it all.  At times, that is incredibly difficult! At times, it is incredibly simple!   At times, it all merges together somehow…

2018 was supposed to be a year of new beginnings for me. My divorce is soon to be final, my house will be listed, and soon my debts will be clear. My adult children are doing well.  Freedom!  I was really looking forward to all these positive changes.  I was going to blog on a regular basis!   A white spot on my lung changed my perception.  Cancer.  Again.  Ugh.

Malignant Melanoma invaded my life in May of 2015.  On June 12, 2015 the growth was removed and staged at 2C.  Radiation followed in December/January and I was on the every three-month track for doctor follow-ups, PT Scans, blood work.  I consider my skin graft scar and the scar from the growth and radiation, badges of a battle.

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Fast forward to January 3, 2018.  I went in for a regular PT Scan and didn’t think this one would be any different from the previous scans.  On January 17 my oncologist spoke the dreaded words, “There is some reason for concern,” as he showed me the white spot on my left lung.  I knew there was a possibility of the melanoma spreading, but I had dismissed that thought.  In my mind, I was in the 12% of patients that did not deal with the melanoma popping up elsewhere!  Now I’m waiting for February 23, 2018 to arrive and have that white spot removed!!!

Now I have a blog topic!  I am still thankful for Life’s Possibilities.  I fully intend on living life to its fullest.  I would like to share my journey of living life while dealing with cancer.  2018 will still be a year of new beginnings for me.  A rather large hurdle has been thrown in the mix, but even in that, there will be joy to be found in the journey!

Hiking

Hiking and exploring the outdoors has always been a favorite activity of mine.  Recently, hiking has taken on a whole new dimension for me.  It is becoming an activity that is never far from my mind.  I’ve been researching hiking trails and I’m considering joining several hiking groups.  In short, it is becoming more than a casual hobby.  I’m even thinking about buying some “real” hiking equipment!

Beginning this new chapter of my life, is much like hiking.  I find it exciting and challenging.   When I find a new trail, there is the moment of wondering, “Should I really try this?  Will it be too difficult?”  That old enemy, Fear, whispers in my ear, “You don’t have what it takes.” Then my friend, Courage, wraps around me with encouragement and affirmation and says, “You won’t be sorry for trying this trail.  Go for it!”

Once on the trail, there are decisions to be made.  There are forks in the road, so to speak. Trails split and a choice needs to be made, “Which way?  Should I go up the steep trail, or should I take the easy path?”   Choosing the steep path usually leads to an amazing view and a sense of accomplishment.   There is a sense of pride for reaching the top, even when I’m gasping for breath!    However,  I’m learning that there is joy and peace when walking the easy path.  Sometimes we need the experience of pushing forward and upward.  Sometimes we need to just breathe and enjoy the journey.

Hiking has also taught me that there are times in life when we need to walk alone, there are times we need to walk with a friend, and there are times to walk with a group of people.  I find that there are times when I just want to get out and hike, but nobody is available to join in the adventure with me.  That was difficult in the beginning, but I’ve come to appreciate time alone.  I am able to just be.  I am able to still my thoughts and take in the beauty of our world.  Walking with a friend (usually my daughter) always brings new insights into a relationship.  It is opportunity to accomplish and explore with someone and build into a friendship.  I’ve solved many world problems while walking with a friend!  Group hiking is always exciting too.  With group hiking, I can hang back and enjoy the companionship of other people, without the worries that come with solo hiking.  I’ve made many new friends while hiking with groups.

I will be creating a page on this blog, dedicated to hiking and the trails I discover.  My hope is to encourage others to get out and explore the world!  To my personal friends, if ever you would like to hike with me, let me know!

Happy Trails!

The Wildlands Conservancy- Oak Glen, CA

The Search for Fall Continued

Last week, I continued the search for Fall at the Wildlands Conservancy in Oak Glen, CA.  There had been a chill in the air, so I was hopeful.  As I walked up the path, I did observe a few leaves turning, but it didn’t meet my expectation of Fall.  True, there was a soft breeze that whispered the songs of the trees, but there was no blazing glory of red and yellow leaves!

For the moment, I was the only person on the path.  The only sound was the song of the breeze.  The song captured my soul and I wanted to hear more.  I wanted to see more.  I wanted to know more.  So I sat and waited.  The song seemed to wrap around me and my mind quieted, while my senses awakened.

The beauty of nature magically unfolded all around me.  At first, all I could hear and feel was that soft song breeze.  Then I could hear the trickle of water in the stream.  Suddenly, there was a sharp,  “POP!”  My eyes turned to that direction, and a brightly colored bird was sitting on a branch.  He cocked his head, and looked at me.  He must have decided I was ok, because he chirped and then other birds magically appeared.  Some were on branches and others were hopping on the ground; all of them eating their breakfast. An echoey, “TAP, TAP, TAP” drew my attention to the tops of the trees.  Wood Peckers appeared  in my vision and I knew I had found what I was really seeking.

I was seeking Hope.  Fall is a time of transition.  It is a transition from the summer heat that makes me melt.  My energy seems to drain toward the end of summer, as if it is merged into the oven-like air of our area.  Fall is the sparkle between summer and winter.  It is the hope that is given to let us know that even during harsh seasons, there is still the magic and beauty of life to be embraced!  I know that, deep in my soul, but it needed to be pulled out and remembered.

So, as I sat and embraced the magic; the hope, I observed a dead leaf falling.  It let go of the security of it’s branch.  Fall.  Another layer was unwrapped and I became aware that I was also seeking the Letting Go that is such a part of Fall.  I could feel the hug of the Holy Spirit, as I was shown that there is still Magic and Hope even during the Letting Go.

I realized that my search for Fall was a search for the ok to really let go of a relationship, a person, a dream…  My expectation was that I’d be able to do that with the same blaze of  glory that I expected to find Fall.  Now I know that it is a thing that takes time.  Some leaves fall more quickly than others.  Some leaves hang on until the very end, when there is nothing left to hold onto it and the frost of winter demands the leaf let go.  I think that I have been that leaf.  It is time to embrace the Magic and the Hope of a life that I had not planned.  It is time to let go…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journeys of July

I had the best of intentions to blog during my recent journeys.  I even took my laptop! However, the laptop set idle while I enjoyed the moments that make up my life.

Fourth of July was spent with close friends and new friends.  I was invited to join them at their campsite at San Elijo California State Beach.  Excitedly, I threw my tent and camp gear in the trunk of my car, and headed down the highway!  The camp is located near San Diego, Ca so I knew the weather would be a welcome relief from the heat.

This was the first all-day outing where I knew I’d be exposed to the sun since the Melanoma diagnosis.  I was fully covered from my head to toes!  I know it looks pretty strange to see someone in jeans and running shoes on the beach, but I avoided any hint of a sunburn!  Sunblock kept my face and hands from too much exposure.  My friends kept me under the umbrella.  I enjoyed a day on the beach!  Some of my prior life has been reclaimed!  I can once again venture on the beach!

That night we watched the fireworks on the beach.  We were able to watch three different fire work shows from our vantage point.  They were all beautiful!  After the fireworks we headed back to our site.  I was tired so I was the first in my tent after the firework show.  The ground was hard, but I had packed several sleeping bags to sleep on.  My next camp gear purchase will be an air mattress with a battery operated pump!  I actually had an amazing night’s sleep and woke up fresh and ready to explore!  Slipping out of camp quietly, I was able to watch the sun rise from the beach.  I wish I could put into words the feeling of peace and resolve that washes over me in the early morning hours.  I’ll try to write a poem about that.

After two hours of being on the beach, I headed back to our site.  My friends were waking up.  They helped me pack up my gear (Thank you!) and I was back on the road; heading home!

Pacific Grove, California was my next travel destination!  I LOVE Pacific Grove and hope to move there some day!!!  It is the Southern tip of the Monterey Bay.  The area is surrounded by pine, cypress, and eucalyptus trees and a rocky coast line.  It is perfect for me.  I can hide from the sun and still enjoy the outdoors and coast!  Deer roam through the area and Monarch Butterflies migrate there in October.

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Sea Otters, Elephant Seals, Harbor Seals, and Dolphins were easily observed in the bay while I was there.  A pod of six dolphin were swimming  in the coves, very close to shore.  They were so close to shore that I could hear the sounds they were making.  One of the dolphins had a baby swimming close to her and on top of her.  I was wondering if that is why they were hanging out in the coves?  Two of the dolphins stayed on the perimeter and seemed to be on guard.  When a sea otter swam too close, the two guard dolphins chased him away!  There was another dolphin that stayed close to the mom.  Maybe she was going to have a baby?  Or maybe she was helping the new mom?  I overheard the locals say they had never seen this type of dolphin behavior before.  I stayed close to the local professional photographers because they were all talking about the unusual dolphin event.  They also reported that they had seen a Great White on the Northern side of the bay that morning!  There seemed to be a lot going on in the bay!

 

My stay in Pacific Grove was healing and gave me clarity on several decisions that I needed to make for my life!

A trip to Dad’s was the last of my July Journeys.  He had a medical procedure (he is fine!) while I was there, so I was there to help him and take care of the horses.  We took a trail ride the night before his procedure and I was able to ride a couple of more times after his procedure.  We ate out, we rode horses, and he shared some of his childhood stories with me; it was a good visit!

Lady and Drifter (aka Twilly)

July Journeys have been fun and an important part of reclaiming my life.  I am looking forward to a fairly quiet this week and catching up on my “regular” life.  However, if an opportunity to travel comes my way, I’ll hit the highway again!!!

Kern River Sierra Camping

It was scorching hot in the IE.  Bree and I were ready to get on the road and camp in the Kern River Sierra area.  Camping gear was stowed in her brand new car, the dogs were settled in the back seat, and we were ready to roll!  The plan was to meet my dad at his house in Lake Isabella and then proceed to our destination, Big Meadows horse camp, elevation 7500!  We were hopeful of escaping the valley heat.  We crossed the desert on Hwy 395, turned left on to Hwy 14 for about 2 miles, and then crossed through Walker Pass and down into the Lake Isabella area.

Wow!  We thought it had been hot in the IE.  It was even hotter at my dad’s place.  When we arrived there, we thought we had landed in an oven.  The dogs were thankful to stretch their legs at my dad’s, but it didn’t take them long to seek refuge in his house where it was much cooler!  Soon we had the horses loaded in the trailer and the dogs were back in the car.  Bree and I were to follow my dad to the camping area, so we were off again for another 2 hour drive along a very wash-board, twisty, narrow dirt road.   We should have rented and SUV or truck!   By the time we finally reached the camp, Bree and I had driven six hours.  Needless to say, we were very thankful to reach our camping area.

Big Meadow Kern Plateau horse camp is a very beautiful area.  It is located near the top of the Kern River Sierra area.  The Meadow looks like a huge, flat lake of tall grass.  Tall pine trees and majestic dome rocks surround the valley of the meadow.  I spent some time looking up the size of the meadow, but I wasn’t able to find that information.   I did find that the plateau area is over 950 sq. miles and the meadow fills a huge portion of that!  Suffice it to say, one cannot see the whole meadow at once!  Our camp had a large public horse pasture and two public horse corrals.  Unfortunately, the fence that usually surrounds the pasture was down.  Dad said that is because the group that takes care of this pasture, takes the fence down before the snows, so the fence doesn’t break.  The barbed wire was laying on the ground along the fence line.  We discussed hobbling the horses in the pasture, but we didn’t want the horses to get caught up in the downed barbed wire, so we settled them into one of the corrals.  Lady and TwillyBob seemed very happy in the corral.

The next order of business was to get water to the horses.  There is a water pump at the corral, but it wasn’t working.  The three of us carried buckets across the pasture to the spring of water.  It was short walk there, but seemed like a long walk back, uphill with a heavy bucket of water!  The meadow/pasture was very marshy.  The ground was still very wet from the melted snow.  There were some points that we sludged through deep mud and water.  There was also no avoiding the millions of tiny frogs that inhabited the meadow!  They were everywhere!  The dogs had fun chasing them at first.  They quickly realized there were too many frogs to worry about and ignored them.

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Spring full of frogs and water for the horses!

Setting up our tents was the next order of business.  I believe Dad was surprised that Bree and I could both set up our own tents.  We all pitched in and worked together and had the tents up in no time at all.   There was a tent for each of us, with one left over.  Laughing, we discussed whether we should set up the last tent for the dogs.  The idea was quickly dismissed, but we did joke around about it several times during the trip. Drea slept with me and Leena slept with Bree.  We pulled out the camp chairs and enjoyed the cooling breeze for a bit. We were the only ones at this camp, and Dad stated that we probably wouldn’t see anyone else because of the difficulty of traveling to the camp and because it is so remote.  Peacefulness reigned in this area and I wondered about the history. Dad said that the Native Americans who lived here were very peaceful.  They hosted other tribes from the north, south, and east during the summer months for trading.  He concluded the short history lesson by saying that people can still find obsidian rock and arrowheads in the area.

Stomachs started rumbling, so Dad put charcoal briquettes in the grill.  Bree and I grazed the horses while Dad grilled up corn on the cob, baked potatoes, and the best steak I’ve ever eaten!  I can feel my vegetarian friends cringe; sorry!  Y’all know that I don’t often eat meat, but when I do, it’s with my dad, camping!  The sun disappeared while we were eating.  After clean-up, we all headed to our tents for our first night in the wilderness.

Outside my tent, I pulled off my grimy boots.  Unzipping the tent, I inhaled the thin, clean air and knew that I would fall asleep just fine.  I’m always hopeful for a full night’s sleep.  Alas, I was jolted awake around midnight by the piercing howling of coyotes. “ yip, yip,   yip,yip,  HOWL, Scream,” echoed off the mountain walls and poured into the top vent of my tent.  It seemed like a tornado funnel of coyote voices pouring into my tent.  There must have been a pack of them and they certainly wanted to remind us that we were not the only creatures in this great Kern Plateau!

I knew that Drea must be afraid, so I reached over to reassure her with a pat.  She was sound asleep! I wondered how she could be sleeping through this?  Many thoughts drifted through my now alert brain.   “Was Bree scared?”  “Why was Drea asleep?”  “Will the horses be ok?” “Why does this feel spiritual?”  For some reason, I could not speak out and ask the others if they were ok.  As the howls died out, I fell back asleep.  The gift of sleep lasted until I heard the sharp crack of a stick being stepped on just outside our camp….

That sharp crack of the stick awoke all my senses.  Adrenaline was surging and my heart was racing.  I listened for any unusual sounds.  I didn’t hear anything.  I was about to drift back to sleep.  I heard the soft muffled sound of a foot step!  Was it a bear?  I didn’t think so.  It didn’t smell (bears stink) and the step seemed intentional.  I heard another soft step.  It seemed to be a creature of two feet.  Was someone going through our camp?   Reflecting back, I don’t know why I didn’t yell out, “Who goes there?”  I laid quietly in my tent, just listening.  I was ready to defend our camp, but this didn’t seem necessary.  The footsteps continued between my tent and the truck.  They stopped at the picnic table and I could hear some things being moved.  The footsteps continued and faded away from our camp.  I listened for the horses and they weren’t startled by anything.  Neither dog woke up.  Loud snoring emanated from the other two tents.  It appears that I was the only one who heard anything!

The next thing I knew, it was four in the morning and my dad was walking around my tent pretending to be a bear!  He and Bree were up already and had a wonderful camp fire started.  It smelled good and I could hear the crackling of twigs burning.  The coffee smelled delicious too.  However, I was not ready to wake up.  I begged for a few more minutes sleep and my wish was granted.  Usually, I am the first person up anywhere, so this was a bit out of character for me.  When I finally crawled out of my tent, my body reminded me that I wasn’t a camper in my twenties anymore.  It was difficult to stand up and put on my boots!  I would need to remember to put a camp chair by my tent for support!  Yikes!

I love cooking breakfast, so I volunteered to cook.  Dad agreed, but there was a hint of reluctance in his voice!  He hoovered over me while I started the camp stove (he seemed surprised that I knew how to do that), he was giving me advice, and was close by in case I needed help.  I managed to pull off sausage (sorry veggie friends) and pancakes.  Dad enjoyed the breakfast and seemed glad that I volunteered to cook the next morning’s breakfast!

As we were eating breakfast by the campfire, I asked Dad or Bree if they had heard the coyote concert?  They both replied, “No.”  I then asked if they had heard someone in our campsite?  Again, the answer was, “No!”  I shared with them how the crack of a stick woke me up and I described the footsteps.  I’m pretty sure they both thought I was hearing things and paranoid! Our conversation shifted to riding horses and we decided it was time to clean up the breakfast stuff.  As I was cleaning the coffee pot, I looked down on the edge of the picnic table and saw obsidian rock and an arrowhead!  I pointed it out to Dad and Bree and both seemed surprised!   I know neither one of them had left the camp, so I wondered if our mysterious visitor had left us a present?

As we were saddling up, I wondered if I would remember how to cinch up the saddle?  It turns out that I didn’t need to worry about that.  It all came back to me in an instant, and I had Lady ready to ride in no time.  Now we had a little dilemma; we had two horses and three riders.  Of course, Dad had it already planned out.  He would ride Twilly and Bree and I would take turns riding Lady.  I was first up!

Dad knows the area very well and our first ride was a quick warm-up on a beautiful trail through a strand of thick pine trees.  I was thankful that he remembered I need to stay out of the sun!  It was a fun trail with some natural obstacles to navigate.  In the “horse chapter” of my life, I used to participate in Western and English horse shows.  I loved to ride in the,”Trail Class.”  It is an event where you ride through obstacles such as:  gates, jumps, step-overs, backing-up through an obstacle, and the list continues!  As I was nearing the end of my “horse chapter”  trail classes became their own show. Equestrians would compete on natural trail courses set-up on trails. Anyway, this trail reminded me of those days!  I enjoyed the ride very much and I was washed in great memories!

As we returned to camp, we saw a big Chevy truck parked at our camp site!  Then we saw Bree talking to two men who looked like ranchers.  It turns out they were and my Dad knew them.  They were getting ready to bring up their cattle from Kern Valley to graze in the meadow.  They were very nice.  I’m always impressed how well Bree handles any social situation.  She has a natural grace and ability to start and carry conversations and she handled this situation very well.  Love you Bree!  After the ranchers left, she joked with her Gramps, “So much for not seeing anyone up here!”  He took the jibe well and laughed.

Bree was next up on Lady and she and my dad took off on an adventure of their own.  While they were gone, I hauled up more water from the spring for the horses and did some writing.  They were gone for quite awhile.  I heard them returning before I saw them.  I walked over to where they would be rounding the corner, and I was greeted with seeing Bree with an enormous smile.   She was in heaven!

The horses seemed ready for another ride, so I hoped back on Lady.  This time our adventure would take us on a path where I could see more of the meadow, majestic dome rocks, and a spring of water bubbling out of the mountain side!  Now, my dad had really talked up the water from this spring and he had been looking forward to drinking from this crystal clear water.  He quickly dismounted from Twilly and rushed to the spring.  When he stood up, he was clearly happy to have had that drink!  He asked if I wanted to try it.  I must have too much city-girl in me now.  I declined.  We headed back to our camp site.

By the time we reached camp, the horses were pretty sweaty and ready for a good drink of water.  We brushed them off and grazed them in the pasture for a bit.  We all realized that we were hungry too!  It was already one in the afternoon!  It didn’t seem like we had been horsing around that long, but our stomachs knew!  We went back to our site and had ham sandwiches and chips (yes, I know, more meat…!).

We sat under the shade happily munching our sandwiches.  None of us were talking; we were just content being in each other’s company.   The only sounds we heard were the horses swatting flies with their tails and one, lone fly buzzing around us.  It was very quiet until…we heard the ominous rumble of vehicles approaching our camp.   Bree remarked that it sounded like we might be seeing more people in our secluded neck of the woods!  Dad hung his head and sighed…

The rumble grew louder and a truck rounded the corner into our clearly marked, “Horse Camp.”  It slid to a stop and created a wall of dust that slowly blew our way.  A heavy set man in Bermuda shorts staggered out from the driver side, leaving the truck door open.  “Ding, ding, ding, ding,” complained the truck.  Another truck rolled into the camp and another and another.  Yikes!  The other drivers poured out of their vehicles and they were all  loudly conferring on where to set up their trailers.  They chose a spot near the corral where Lady and Twilly stood watching the scene unfold.

After much maneuvering, they had their trailers parked like a wagon-train circle.  “Maybe this won’t be so bad,” I thought.  And then…they let the children pour out of the vehicles.  Now, I love children, but young children need to be supervised in the wilderness.  These campers were allowing the pre-school looking children to run and scream outside of their camp circle.

The poor frogs were the first victims that captured the children’s attention.  One thin little boy immediately took a stick and starting bashing the frogs.  He kept yelling, “I can kill the frogs because I don’t like them.”  The adults didn’t seem to notice the frog bashing and this went on for a little while.  Finally, one of the women told the boy to, “Knock it off.”  With this activity being stopped, Thin Boy was next drawn to the horses.  He and a little girl ran toward the corral.  I decided it was time to walk over to the corral.

At first, the boy and the girl were just looking.  I was fine with that.  Then Thin Boy grabbed a stick.  I walked over to the kids and said, “Hi.”  I told the kids that the horses don’t mind being watched, but they need to be careful and quiet around the horses.  The boy looked at me, and then poked the stick into the corral.  Using my teacher voice, I told the kids they could get hurt; the horses are bigger than them.  The boy dropped the stick and they ran toward their camp, screaming that I had yelled at them.  “Oh, boy,” I thought.  Here comes the confrontation.  I waited by the corral but nobody came down.  Maybe I should have gone up and talked to them right away?

The campers disappeared for about two hours.  I don’t know if they were napping or hiking, but that was the last of the quiet for our camping adventure.  When they emerged it was like a full-force storm!  Talking loudly, the adults were drinking, building a camp fire, and fixing their dinner.  The two little ones scrambled back down toward the horses.  This time Bermuda Man walked down with them.  “Oh good.  Supervision!” I thought.  Nope.  Bermuda Man stopped at the forest sign that showed a map of the area.  The map blocked his view of  Thin Boy throwing rocks at the horses.  I walked over to Bermuda Man and said, “Hey, hi!”  He turned away from me and walked the other way!  With a louder voice I said, “Hi!” again.  This time he turned and looked right at me and replied that he didn’t know I was talking to him!  Um, there was no one else around for miles… Anyway, I told him the little boy had just thrown rocks at the horses.  His response?  “What boy?”  Surprised at his reply, I stated the only little boy near the horses.  He mumbled that he was reading the sign and didn’t see the boy! Yikes!  This is why some kids get lost in the wilderness… I explained to Bermuda Man that the horses weren’t used to children and the children need to stay away from them.  I also explained that 40-60 pound child was no match for at least 1200 pounds of horse.  In the middle of this, he simply stated that they had come up, “Looking for snow.”  I turned and walked away at that point.

Back at our site, Dad and Bree were watching the exchange between me and Bermuda Man.  As I was telling them about the conversation, their dogs wandered into our site.  This did not go over well with Drea and Leena!  Bermuda Man stood watching his dogs from a distance.  He finally yelled at some older kids to come and get the dogs.  I helped them round up their dogs.

We decided to graze the horses on the far side of the pasture for awhile.  We thought it might help to get some distance between the campers and the horses.  Twilly and Lady were enjoying the lush meadow grass.  Bree hopped on Lady and rode her around the meadow bareback.  All was going well until  the campers decided to explore the pasture with their dogs. They just couldn’t seem to stay away!  Their dogs ran straight toward us.  I picked up Drea and Leena.  With great difficulty, their older children rounded up their dogs and went back to their camp.  We put Lady and Twilly back in the corral and headed back to our site.  We talked about the situation while Dad cooked up some hamburgers.  It was decided that we would pack up our camp early in the morning and head back home.

After a quiet night’s sleep, I was the first to awake.  The sparkling stars and massive moon seemed to be watching over me.  My thoughts wandered to the events of this trip and I had a deep sense that all was well in my world!  I lit up the lantern, fired up the stove and made a percolator pot of coffee.  As it brewed, I walked over to the horses and fed them hay cubes.  Lady nickered to me that the camping trip had been wonderful, but she was ready to head home.  I patted her neck in agreement and walked back to make the best camping bacon ever!  We were all packed up and ready to head home before the other camping group woke up.  Even though they were disturbers of the peace, I couldn’t help but think that, “Hey, these people have gotten outdoors and away from electronics.”  That is a good thing.  I hope they enjoyed the camp and I pray they didn’t lose any of the little ones in the wilderness.

Reflections from this trip:

  1.  This was the first camping trip I’ve ventured since my early twenties.  It was a magical trip and I plan on more camping adventures.  Camping is a part of my journey to reclaim my life from a messy life, from cancer, and from my advancing age!
  2. The midnight footsteps mystery wasn’t solved.  Who left the obsidian rocks and arrowhead?
  3. Spending time with my daughter and dad in a camping setting was fun!  Oh the stories my dad can tell!  He inspires my desire of becoming a story teller.
  4. Being off the electronic grid was liberating.  I will be devoting  one day a week off the grid!

 

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