Flying with the Falcon

An Uphill Hike

*Photo taken from Red Diamond Trail at Horatio Colony Preserve.

On Sunday, I finally made it to the trail. On Monday, I was lucky to be alive. It’s been a heck of a week, and it’s only Wednesday. Let me begin with the good part: the trail. Sunday afternoon I got my dogs into the back seat of my car and drove West on Route 9 to the Horatio Colony Preserve. Just on the edge of Keene, NH, this nature preserve is accessed from Route 9 via Daniels Hill Road, where visitors can park in the few spaces available at the gated entrance. I walked the road into the grounds closest to where the original cabin of the founder of the preserve is located (and you can go inside), and then continued to the trailhead, where a register can be found with maps and general info. Using the map, I chose the Red Diamond Trail, which is a 1.5 mile loop, and then I chose the direction that looked like it went uphill (because I needed the work-out). Where I stood at the trailhead register, that took me to the left. The sun barely penetrated the floor of the woods here, so thick is the canopy…for now. Fall has begun to change the colors of the leaves, and a scattering of them already litters the ground. At the preserve, however, the evergreens grow thick around the Red Diamond Trail, and the woods are deeply shaded.

As the dogs and I walked the well-groomed trail, my usual response to being in the woods returned: a smile spread across my face. I could have skipped if not for the uphill grade being so steep. Despite a few roots in the trail, along with a few small rocks to hop over, the trail wound upward easily through the quiet trees for a good 25 minutes, counting a few short stops to catch my breath. Finally, the loop crested a hill and offered up a glimpse of the countryside below. The leaves glimmered with only the slightest color that day, mostly still in the golden phase of color change. Since then, the leaves are finally warming up to their more dramatic oranges and reds, some of which are already bright enough to appear lit from within. Whilst enjoying the view from the trail, a pair of hikers came around the bend from the other side of the loop, and they shared a little insight into what to expect from the portion I had yet to cover. I shared the same in return, and we went on our merry way. The remainder of the hike was virtually all downhill from the peak, and on this half of the loop I enjoyed the music of water flowing over a stony bed in the near distance. A few trees had fallen over the path, but stepping over them was easy enough.

In this particular nature preserve, studies were being done, and I was glad I had taken the time to write my name in the register so I saw the notice about leaving the areas untouched. All through the woods I saw little red flags marking areas of study, and it made me wonder what the flags marked. Once I saw wintergreen, with just a few small red berries peering out from beneath their dark, waxy leaves. The rest of the flags seemed placed mysteriously, but I was careful to walk around them. As I walked the Red Diamond Trail, I noticed a link with another trail I hope to wander next time I visit the preserve. We even got to cross a little bridge, one of my favorite things to discover on a trail. I have no idea why tiny bridges are so much fun, but they are. If you happen to pass through the Keene area and are looking for a moderate hike to walk in about an hour (or less if you don’t have to stop), this loop is a good work-out with a nice reward at the top. It isn’t as spectacular as hiking Monadnock, but it’s much more quiet, and certainly more secluded. Monadnock is fun, but it’s busy. Consider this hike a good prep for hiking bigger mountains, too.

When I got home from the delicious time in the woods, I was pleased to have made a plan to work on some art. I’ve been so busy and tired lately, my music and art have not been on the docket of things to do in a day. Michael and I have been so wrapped up in running silly errands to get our New Hampshire licenses, register vehicles, get settled after moving, and starting new jobs. There hasn’t been time for much else. Finally, I got myself back to work on the art for the poetry book I wanted to have finished before summer. As I said, things went sideways with work on our Olean house, and I had to focus most of my writing time on finishing the sequel to my first book, Violet. I am nearing the end of the writing now, but there is still editing and cover art to do. Nevertheless, I feel accomplished to have taken the time to just make something with my hands. Our current political climate, no matter how you vote or what you believe, is horribly stressful for all of us. So much ugliness seems to be snarling in the edges of all our lives now, with accusations flying like bats in a cave, and if you’re not finger-pointing, you’re probably throwing your hands in the air. It’s just too wacky to be real, and yet it somehow is. Thus, I answer the stress with making art. I put my head aside and just create. It feels good. And I need to do it more often. For those of you who don’t make art, I suggest adult coloring books, origami, making candles, or even just building something with Legos. When you create, it counteracts a lot of pent-up negative energy. Amanda Palmer, singer and songwriter, wrote a Twitter post about that very thing the same day I was actually making the art. Funny how that happens.

After my lovely Sunday, on Monday morning I got in my car to drive to work, and immediately I smelled gas fumes. Not good. I had no option other than to start driving, though, as I was home alone. Michael had yet to come home from work (he usually comes home long after I leave in the morning), and I had no other choice. Fortunately, I am no fool, so I drove slowly with the windows down for fresh air, keeping my eye on the gauges in case of anything running amok. As luck would have it, Michael actually passed me on my way down the hill where we live. I called him to let him know I could smell gas, and as I hopped onto the route I take to work, the gas gauge began to drop. In a few short miles, the car lost enough gas to go from half a tank to only a third. Michael agreed to turn around and meet me at a car shop on the way into town, and I continued to drive slowly while I watched the gas needle drop with every hill I climbed in the car. By the time I arrived at the garage, I had lost a total of a quarter tank of gas in probably about 15 miles. When I stopped, I immediately got out to the sound of liquid gushing, and when I looked under the car, gas was flooding out from under the hood.

I ran inside to get a mechanic to come take a look at the mess my car was making, tried to call work to let them know I would be late, and the mechanic told me before I left that I was lucky the car didn’t catch fire…or explode. I could have had a very serious accident if I hadn’t been driving slowly enough to avoid the thing from becoming a Wile E. Coyote moment. The stupid thing is still in the shop, as we aren’t sure it will pass inspection. I may need a new vehicle. Sigh. At least I’m alive, right? And since I’m still alive, I went to register to vote. Makes sense, right? Little things will change the world. Speaking of little, I love how the little towns in New Hampshire have these old town halls where you have to show up at odd hours to do your business. We had to find just the right window of opportunity to get to the DMV in Nelson in order to register our cars and to vote. Despite the inconvenience of the schedule, we had a much more pleasant experience at a DMV than I’ve ever had in my life. The woman working there peppered us with information, helpful local knowledge, and even coaxed my phone number out of me to volunteer on voting day in case she needed an extra hand. I do love New England.

My dears, I hope you are all taking extra good care of yourselves in this climate of change, no matter where you live. Here in the US, we are seeing massive shifts in politics, but it’s not new. It’s a pendulum swinging, like it always does, from one extreme to another. One day, I hope we can learn from history, but that will only happen if we bother to actually learn it. I think it will take a lot more work on equal rights around the globe if we actually want to achieve the greater good for all, rather than greater wealth for a few. It’s about time, don’t you think? In the meantime, go create something, have some fun with people you love, take a walk in the woods, go find a gorgeous vista and enjoy a sunset or sunrise, plan a trip to an apple farm and then bake pies, or learn how to knit a sweater for the upcoming colder weather. Whatever you do, make it a release, find reasons to laugh, and find joy. You only live once, and we never know how long this life will last. If today is your last day, will you be happy with how you spent it?

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