Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thurs, Dec 29, 2011: Lessons of a Turtle

One of my gifts from my sister this Christmas is a small book called "Lessons of a Turtle" by a woman named Sandy Gingras (who may or may not be related to us?).  It's one of those little life wisdom books, and it really resonates with me right now.

I want to turn the images from several of the pages into decorations, to surround myself with someone else's wise words because I feel like I don't have many wise things to say at the moment.  This message is particularly powerful for me right now:
The turtle is another archetypical symbol for my zodiac sign (cancer), and I have fun imagining myself as the little turtle in the book.

Sometimes, I have the odd feeling that I am still the child I was many years ago in the body of a woman I don't remember becoming.  I feel particularly lost and scared right now.  I certainly don't have all the answers, but I know I have gained at least some wisdom from my experiences through the years.  That wisdom is failing me now, but I know that it will come back to me when I'm ready for it.

Now, it's time to stick my neck out.  I'm ready to move forward.

Weds, Dec 28, 2011: Colebrook Reservoir

This was the only day of my trip when I didn't have anything planned.  It's really strange to have unplanned days here, though that used to be the normal rhythm of my life in New England. 

Colebrook Reservoir out on Route 8 always calls to me, so I paid it a visit despite skies that threatened snow.
The snow mixed in the distance with foggy clouds nestled between the hills around me.
This is so New England to me: moss and ice dripping from slate gray rocks.
I love having time alone to lose myself in the land out here, and the opportunities are so seldom that I cherish them when they present themselves to me.  Honestly, my heart is warmed by all of the people out here who still want to share their time with me, so I don't mind that I have little time to spend with the land. :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Weds, Dec 28, 2011: Looking Back Through Notes...

I am going to be experiencing some pretty massive life changes when I return to Colorado, I think.  I'm in a phase right now where I'm taking stock of my life as it is right now, and for whatever reason decided that going through my pages on social networking sites is part of that.  I found a "note" that I wrote almost 3 years ago that still resonates with me and wanted to share it here.

Me from 3 years ago: I love you. :)

25 Things

by Kristine Gingras on Monday, January 19, 2009 at 10:14pm
Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

Ok, here goes:

1. Behind the house where I grew up was an old dump. I used to love digging through the leaves and uncovering bottles, cans, doll heads... ok, the doll head was pretty creepy... and used to wonder about the history of the object - who used it, was it loved, and how did it end up in my back yard?

2. I was that kid who couldn't keep her hands out of her desk.

3. I love to read, and I love keeping books that move me so that I have easy access to their lessons when needed. One of my favorite dreams as a kid was to have a multi-story tower library with stained glass windows and an observatory up top (who am I kidding, that's still my dream...).

4. I usually tell myself that I like my career choice because it affords me free summers in which to travel. Lately I recognize that all I want to do is travel....

5. I tend to be pretty shy and don't let many people see below my exterior.

6. Jack of all trades, master of none. It's frustrating to have just enough natural talent for something to see the massive difference between myself and someone who is gifted at that thing. I could mention my complete lack of discipline here, but why go there? ....

7. Right now, I want a bike more than any other material possession.

8. I lived in a tent for 6 months... twice. :) Once you experience that, it's really hard to come back to the "real world".

9. My grossest moment happened while camping... I put on my Tevas one morning, failing to notice the multitude of slugs who nested inside of them during the night....

10. I love rocks, especially ones that I find beautiful or that feel good to hold.

11. I miss the ocean more than I ever imagined was possible.

12. Growing up, I was always a little envious of my sister for being the "cool" one.

13. I love all 4 seasons but don't like being cold.

14. I admire people who live "outside the box" in order to follow their hearts.

15. I was once almost trampled by a herd of deer in the woods.

16. My sister was the unfortunate victim of most of the schemes and inventions I cooked up as a child, though this wasn't my intent. I do have to say though that swinging on grapevines kicked butt, and she never got hurt from doing that!

17. I love creating things, manifesting pieces of my insides into the physical world.

18. I have worked as a dish washer, a sales clerk in an apple orchard, a college librarian, filer/mailer/collator extraordinaire, a sales clerk in a bead store, a self-employed maker of jewelry, a sales and catering assistant, a movie theater robot, a sales clerk in a lawn and garden store, an insurance company robot, a tutor for low-income students, a school psychology practicum student, a school psychology internship student, an ice cream scooper, a school psychologist....

19. I have always liked green and blue, but lately I find myself drawn to orange and purple (and wonder what that means about me).

20. Both houses that I lived in growing up had the address "26"

21. Sometimes I wonder where along the way I lost my intelligence....

22. Holding a tiny zebra finch baby made me lose my breath and cry in the same moment.

23. I think it would be the coolest thing in the world if I could be a writer.

24. I love things that hang down from the ceiling - mobiles, icicles, lamps, tree branches, whatever. And by ceiling I mean the upper level of whatever space you are occupying, be it a room, cave, tree, etc.

25. I would love to live in a tree house or house that somehow incorporates trees.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tues, Dec 27, 2011: Wandering in the Berkshires

My father and I headed out to Western Massachusetts today with the intention to hike among some old growth trees (older than 150 years) located in a remote little park in the Berkshires.  It ended up being pretty cold and overcast, and I was enjoying the car ride much more than the idea of hiking, so wasn't too disappointed when we discovered that the park was closed due to some massive road damage and flooding that occurred during the hurricane this fall.

We decided to reschedule for this summer, when my dog could join us too!

I requested a drive down into North Adams, MA and Route 7.  Luckily, my father likes driving too and was up for a road trip.

The Berkshires are so different from the mountains in Colorado... old and softened by the relentless wear of weather and time.  The power of water to shape rocks will always be amazing to me.
There is this CRAZY "hairpin turn" as Route 2 descends into North Adams, with a beautiful view of the valley and Mt. Greylock (the highest peak in Mass, located at the left side of this picture).
North Adams is such a cute town.  The downtown area is beautiful and pretty well maintained.
We continued winding through the hills and countryside, into the wind and rain storm that was slowly sweeping across the state from west to east.

The sound of raindrops on a windshield is a symphony that I haven't been able to listen to for a long time. 
Turkeys in someone's front yard:
The rain accompanied me through the rest of the day, and lulled me to sleep that night.  Maybe I'm strange, but I like overcast days and days where the world is so gloomy it asks you to shine brighter inside of yourself.  Home feels warmer and more comfortable, whether "home" means the actual house or the inside of one's soul.

Mon, Dec 26, 2011: Little Old Factory Towns, How I Miss You...

It's kind of strange hanging out with my family when I come back to Connecticut, because we always seem to feel like we need to find something to do or somewhere to travel.  I guess if we didn't, we would probably just sit around for a few hours staring at each other.  Not sure that sounds like as much fun as a good day trip. :)

My sister and I adventured up to Northampton, Massachusetts yesterday so I could get my fill of old factory towns while I'm out here. 
I love Northampton and it's always fun to revisit somewhere I used to live.  (I think I lived there in 2002?  Wow... it seems like it was just yesterday but it's almost been 10 years).
I think my whole family loves this old building, and I'm not sure any of us has ever figured out what it used to be, or what it is now.  I think it might be offices...?
I love churches in New England.  They are the closest things to castles that we have out here.
Main Street in Northampton!  One of my favorite things about the town is that people actually stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk.  It's a pretty amazing feeling to be a helpless pedestrian facing off against a car and actually win, without a fight.
Random doorway.
We walked to the Arboretum at Smith College, only to find out it was closed until after New Year's due to the school break.  I was disappointed that my sister couldn't see the greenhouses, but the grounds were still beautiful and she was just as enchanted by the weeping elm tree as I am.
The greenhouses, closed for business.
This little black cat followed us from a bit up the road, then circled around to the pond and met us there.  He reminded me of Severus, and I thought to myself for the 1,000th time how much I miss my animals!
The greenhouses, full of beautiful life that we couldn't see.
There was a willow near the pond, adorned with ovals of luminous fuzzy silver in the late afternoon winter light.
I love that there are places in the world that feel as good as Northampton feels to me.  And that's only one definition of "home".  Imagine how blissful it must feel when multiple definitions of "home" intersect!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fri, Dec 23, 2011: Mystic Seaport

My parents and I tossed around a few ideas of places to go this week while I'm out here, and we settled on visiting Mystic Seaport first.
The seaport is actually not as old as I imagined it would be, and experienced its biggest growth during the second half of the 1800's.  It was neat visiting this little town right on the port.  We went into many of the buildings and learned about what life was like back then, and even though it sounded a lot more difficult and less convenient in many ways, I think some parts of it sound preferable. 
There was a cold, brisk ocean breeze that twirled my hair in its fingers, and brought with it the smell of the sea.
We entered one massive, long building that was the place where ropes were made.  The ropes were actually twisted to the entire length of the building.  At the end, we were able to see the coiled piles of ropes resting on themselves like spiraled serpents. 
There were several ships in the port, and we were able to board one of them. 
I love ships.  I love the sound of the ocean lapping up against the vessel, and the vertigo that comes every time I look up one of the tall, sturdy masts and see it gently swaying against a background of clouds and sky.

We headed into downtown Mystic next, and my father pointed out the drawbridge over the Mystic River.  Here is the bridge keeper's house:
Could you guess that I would love to live there? :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fri, Dec 23, 201: There Is So Much I Don't Understand

Being at my parents' house, the house where I lived since I was 2 years old, always makes me feel pretty reflective on my life. It's one of the few places that I consistently cycle back to, and I'm often asking myself how I have grown or how my life has changed since the last time I was here.

B and I are going through some hard times right now, and have been for a while. Here, I look around at my parents, my sister and her husband, and even random couples walking around... and all I can think is, "what am I doing wrong?"

Which lead me to the realization that there is so much I don't understand. This is not the first time I have realized this, and I'm sure it won't be the last. I'm glad that there are so many things for me to learn, because learning is what makes life interesting. I'm just not sure how other people seem to be so good at things that elude me.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thurs, Dec 22, 2011: Across the Country in 8 Hours

I traveled back to Connecticut via airplane this year. I usually prefer driving, especially since it enables me to bring my dog along, but this year I'm pretty grateful that I let somebody else deal with the 8" of snow that were dumped on the Denver area overnight!

Miraculously, the plane had an on time departure this morning. I was shocked!

I had a layover in Pittsburgh, where it was raining a steady, slow-paced rain that turned the ground into a shimmering mirror across which brilliant reflections of lights streaked and danced. I just sat there as the plane got ready to take off and probably had my mouth hanging open as I rediscovered this forgotten beauty in the universe. How could I forget the multiplicative properties of the rain on light? The lights of the runways and homes and the headlights of cars, and even the Christmas lights decorating homes... they all reflected off the wet, mirrored ground and diffused into the air and across the earth to illuminate one of the darkest nights of the year. I feel like this solstice, I have been noticing lights more than I ever have before, and the sight of them touches me and gives me hope.

I now sit in my childhood bedroom, the place that has watched so many of my memories and listened to all of the secrets that I whispered to its walls. I think this room knows me better than anybody, and I still feel welcome here. When I visited my friends in Ottawa this summer, they told me that I seemed to feel like I wasn't welcome. They were right, and feeling welcome has always been a struggle for me. I think I'm getting a little better at this though, and it does feel pretty excellent to feel welcomed... even if it's just by my old bedroom. :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Weds, Dec 21, 2011: Happy Winter Solstice!

I wish everyone a beautiful and uplifting holiday. :)

Winter Solstice is one of my favorite times of the year. It's a day of death and rebirth, and feels like the true "new year" to me. From this point forward, the darkness will be driven steadily back, a few minutes a day, by a resilient sun who never really left us.

I like to think that, at any point in time, any one of us can "rebirth" ourselves by intentionally overcoming old habits or ways of thinking or being that no longer serve us. It's always easier to engage in this type of thinking when we are reminded to, rather than constantly reminding ourselves, and for a lot of people I think that reminder is New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. For me, that day is the Winter Solstice. I look at the time of year between now and the Summer Solstice as a time of reflection and, in the spring, of triumphant growth and blossoming and the ripe promise of potential held within all of us. (The period between Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice, for me, is a time of the manifestation of that potential, as well as appreciating all that we have brought into our lives that helps us to be healthy and happy).

Life has been strange lately, and I often feel like I am floating somewhere outside of my body just watching my life unfold before me as if it's a strange performance. I told a friend that I've been trying not to think about my life much lately, for fear of over-thinking things. His response? "You know, I have a word for people like that: drones."

Ugh... is that what I have become? I felt a good amount of disgust with myself.

Then I remembered that one of my wishes for myself is that I treat myself kindly, with acceptance and patience, and am working to diminish the ugly judgment that "disgust" places on me.

Paulo Coehlo, author of The Alchemist and many other works, recently posted this on his blog. ( He attributes the text to W. Timothy Gallway, and states that he found it in a newspaper.

“When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.”
‘We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed.

“When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped, nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear.
‘We stand in wonder at the process taking place, and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development.

“The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential.
‘It seems to be constantly in the process of change: Yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.

“A flower is not better when it blooms than when it is merely a bud; at each stage it is the same thing — a flower in the process of expressing its potential.”

This continues to resonate with me, and I am working to remind myself that at all times, I am a soul in the process of expressing my potential.

At this time of the year, I often remind myself that after the darkness comes the light, and the light always returns eventually. I think I have more difficulty understanding that the light is always and has always been there, and sometimes I get so tangled up in myself that I miss the opportunity to revel in its warmth and beauty. This season, I am working to remind myself, with kindness and patience and acceptance of where I am, that the sun is always shining down on me, that happiness is already blossoming in my heart, and that a feeling of connectedness is just waiting for me to become aware that it's always been there.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sat, Dec 10, 2011: Botanic Gardens Lights

Coloradans do some pretty neat stuff in the winter. :) Both the zoo and the botanic gardens decorate with lights and offer tours through the place at night. B and I decided to head to the botanic gardens light show, as I have visited there less recently. It was freezing cold, but so worth it! (If you ever go, wear at least 2 pairs of warm socks!).

There was a thin covering of snow still lingering on the ground, and the lights washed over it in bright watercolors.
B purchased a pair of "glasses" which claimed to make the lights look even more amazing. I didn't believe it was possible so I passed on them. He put them on and noticed that they made the lights blurry... then noticed that they created stars around every light!
They were so cool! We passed them back and forth for the rest of the tour.
These trees just look so festive to me. :)
I loved the look of this feathery grass, all delicately lit up by ambient little lights. The wall of a canal-like water feature was decorated with these snowflakes.
This hillside was the strangest, most randomly fun decoration in the entire park. (Well, it tied with the green laser grid that we came across later on our walk!)
I love, love, love this grass.
I think the sight of these apartments is so strange from the middle of this botanic oasis in the city... but decorated and all lit up, they seemed to blend in much more than during the day. :)
There were little balls of light adorning the pines at one point during the walk.
The watery area was beautiful, and I loved the gently dancing reflections of light.
There were signs warning people not to walk on the Monet Pond... though we noticed footprints trekking across the ice!

I'm not one for big, commercial holiday events, but there is something magical about lights around the time of the winter solstice. They are like a beacon reminding us that, despite this being the darkest time of the year, the light will always return again.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tues, Dec 6, 2011: Revisiting Collegiate Peaks Panoramas

As you know, I don't usually dig through old pictures...
...I came across these photos again while working on Christmas gifts for my family and friends, and couldn't pass up the opportunity to give them the treatment they deserve.

Actually, I still don't think my skills are good enough to treat them the way they deserve. But they are a heck of a lot better than they were 3 years ago when I took these photos.

The original post for this trip can be found here. This is the vastness that I wished to share with you back then.
This remains one of my favorite sunset experiences of all time. :) I'm grateful to have improved enough to do them greater justice!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sun, Nov 13, 2011: Prairie Day - North Sterling Reservoir and Chalk Bluffs

(There has been a lot going on in my personal life these past few weeks. I don't think I realized how long it had been since I visited my own blog until just a few days ago, when it occurred to me that my prairie pictures were still sitting in my Photos folder, waiting to be edited. The prairie in November is one of my favorite places in the world, I think, and I feel sad for allowing these pictures to remain static for so long. I think they forgive me though, and looking at them now brings back that windy, beautiful day spent traveling across the flat grasslands.)

My inspiration carried me away to North Sterling Reservoir in northeastern Colorado, by way of multiple back roads that shot straight as arrows across the vast flat countryside that makes up about half of Colorado.

These railroad bridges were a pretty common sight, and I loved their randomness, bridging two pieces of flat land within a flat landscape.
Infinite telephone poles, one of my favorite sights in the prairie. :)
I passed this beautiful little home in the middle of a slightly hilly area, and was captured by the beauty of the landscape. Only when I focused on the house with my lens did I realize that it was in a complete state of disrepair, with missing windows like gaped teeth along its facade.
As I drove farther North, a cold wind blew harder against my car, whipping the trees and grasses into a furious dance.
I love seeing the patchwork patterns of the prairie at ground level. There is something amazing about coming to the threshold of a new color of land, and realizing that is what we see when we fly over the midwest.
Hay rolls... another of my prairie favorites.
North Sterling Reservoir was beautiful, abandoned, and cold.
The light brought glory to the earth. That's really the only word I could use to describe it: glory. The clouds traced bold patterns across the sky as the light was shattered by the wind, breaking into a million sparkling shards that twinkled brilliantly as they rose and fell on currents of air.
I love the remains of vibrant summer plants. For some reason, they just say "November" to me.
Especially the remains of sunflowers... still so beautiful, somehow reminiscent of swirling fractals and brilliant silky petals.
I realized as I approached the reservoir that I have been here before, or very close to here, when I visited the Pawnee National Grasslands! I recognized these beautiful white cliffs off in the distance with massive white windmills perched atop their crowns. I hopped into my car and drove toward them, hoping to find some route into their heart.

Crossroads: County Routes 33 and 56. I love the prairie. LOVE it. I feel this land in my heart, like I'm plugged into the earth.
The Chalk Bluffs, from a distance. I still craved a closer view.
I love the look of this carefully combed field, with grass growing nestled in the furrows.
Again, the light: glory.
I headed up to County Route 70, as it looked like it crossed right over the bluffs based on my map. CR 70, you did not disappoint.
One of my favorite things about the prairie is all of the amazing secrets the land holds, if one simply takes the time and effort to find them. I think it takes a lot of patience, determination, and a good dose of intuition, but in the end it's always well worth the effort.
This is the strangest thing I saw on my trip: some metal circle with bullet holes in it? What is it?
The prairie makes me feel brave and strong, it reinforces my independence and fills me with hope and beauty. I love that even during the barren times of the year, the prairie is still so ripe with the promise of life. It can never be contained. Hibernation feels like a choice there, where the land is strong enough to bide her time, waiting for the day when she is watered by the rain and warmed by the sun and ready to ripen once again.