On the Rocks



Life can get rocky. It did for me recently and the mood would not lift, so I went to the creek. It gurgled where it fell between rocks on its way to the reservoir, and I complained that it wasn’t making much noise. I needed the racket of a real waterfall. Scum formed on the surface where water pooled, and it had an odor. I told the creek it stunk. It matched my mood.

Interesting, I felt guided to sit on the man-made bench rather than on my usual rock formations. ‘Going to the creek’ is synonymous with sitting on the rocks. But, I followed the guidance, and from the perch could look down on the creek bed for a distance upstream and downstream.

Bored with the little gurgles and still in my own stew, the urge to a hike a trail got me up and moving. The bare winter woods was particularly uninteresting, as my experience was tainted by attitude.  The trail brought me back across the creek. I spent a few minutes on the bench again and the stink wafted in the air again.

I decided that coming to the creek just wasn’t going to help me this time. Rounding a bend in the trail I stopped in my tracks as a skunk waddled nonchalantly up the sandy edge of the creek and disappeared into a hole under overhanging tree roots. “Huh! It’s a skunk!”

Ha! It was you, not the scum causing that odor! I laughed and was glad I had not sat on the rocks in the creek.

Is my negative attitude stinking up the woods like you? Thanks for letting me know what’s it like to be around someone with a bad mood. Are you telling me that I can be nonchalant like you? No one messes with you. If they do, they’ll regret it.

Nonchalant. Like a child. Innocent. Carefree. Even if life stinks for the moment, I can be nonchalant, knowing I am protected.

After watching the skunk disappear from sight, I walked up the trail toward the parking lot. With every few steps, I noticed in the ground looking back at me, heart-shaped rocks. One rock after another peppered on my trail. I felt the love again. The Earth holds and heals me. It is good to go to nature to reconnect.


PS   The first time I saw heart-shaped rocks in the Earth was on 911. After my family members made it safely home, we drove to our local park, which was a special place to us, to soothe our nerves and find our balance. As we descended the trail and walked along the creek, I noticed underfoot heart-shaped stones, thus beginning my habit of looking underfoot for what is helpful to regaining equilibrium.




Hiking the Appalachian Trail–AAH!


November 12 – Animal Totems

3.6 miles Hawksbill Gap to Skyland

As we drove into Shenandoah Park, the outside temperature dropped a few degrees to 38. Skies were crystal clear. My son was my hiking partner for the day. First wildlife sighting was a hawk circling over Skyline Drive. Quite beautiful—hello, Hawk! Second wildlife sighting was a deer bounding across the road a few cars ahead of us. She made it safely to the other side. Hello, Deer! Once parked at Hawksbill Gap, out of the car and hiking boots on, I chose to wear gloves and a headband around the ears and a winter jacket over a lightweight fleece. Note to journal: all good choices.

Few leaves remained on trees along this section of the AT. As in previous hikes, the leaves lay as a blanket across the rocky trail, forcing us to concentrate on footing most of the way. We hummed along and stopped to enjoy our first icicle of the season hanging from a rock formation.

About halfway through the hike, where the trail had nice little ups and downs through wooded areas with massive rock formations, my son stopped walking and said, “Bear.” I must have been far away in my own world, because I was caught off guard.

“A bear? Where?”

“Over there. A mother and her cub. A mother by herself is not a problem. But with her cub …”

I saw them. They looked to be running and playing, bouncing around. Then she stood still. She looked at us. She looked away. She looked at us and looked away.

“Let’s back up the trail a little,” my son said.

That was good thinking. Okay.

“Do you have your whistle, Mom?”

“Ah, yes, right here.” It has been hanging from the top strap of my backpack for the last two months, but this was the first time I needed it.

“Should I blow it?”


I blew it and rested and blew it and rested. The bear continued to watch us. Two other hikers stopped with us. They were equally captivated and happy to take cover under the whistle. I noted that the trail ahead curved away from the bear family. A peaceful feeling came over me, when I realized another animal totem was showing itself. I talked out loud to her and told her she was safe. I felt safe. We walked on and she disappeared with her cub over a ridge behind where they had played.

We walked on thinking that was pretty cool and after another half-mile stopped in our tracks again as a wild turkey crossed the trail, fleeing from our footsteps. Another totem! Ah! So much wildlife in one day—more than I have seen since we left Colorado three years ago. What a great thrill to be so close to W-I-L-D-L-I-F-E!


Mother Bear and Cub



Trailside Landscape

Undulating Ridges and Valley View