I Climbed a Mountain… and Found Some Birds

Okay, not really. But I did get in a good challenging hike straight up the side of a mountain. The almost-last section of trail was a couple hundred feet across what I think was once a glacial moraine. It’s basically a long (wide) line of large rocks and small boulders running across and sort-of-down the mountain.

I’ve gone up that trail before but always stopped at the edge of the rocks. Yesterday I said ‘fuck it’ and just kept going. Shortly after the edge of the rocks the trail I was on ended at the Appalachian Trail.

Gotta admit, I looked at the A.T. and was tempted to just keep going. Didn’t matter which way, I just wanted more trail and more time on the trail.

But I told Michael I’d be hiking in the local nature center. It’s basic trail safety: you tell someone where you are going to be, because accidents happen and cell phones don’t always work on the trails. So I turned my back on A.T. and headed back down the mountain.

Maybe next time.

Birds!

First Encounters

Along the driveway to the nature center, I saw a bunch of blue-and-white (with the blue shading to black in places) birds sitting on a fence. And a couple of yellow birds with black wings flying away. So before I hit the trail I stopped in at the center (open for once — I usually go late in the day after it’s closed) to see if anyone know what birds those were.

I mentioned to the volunteer that I had been thinking of picking up bird watching again. I walked out with the names of three new birds (while she was showing me some tree swallows to confirm that’s what I saw on the drive up, a red-winged blackbird flew by) a check list of birds that folks had reported seeing at the nature center and surrounding trails, and a guide to which birds are likely to be found where.

Bird Watching On the Trail

Walking through the scrub of the lower-trail to the trail I wanted was frustrating. I heard birds everywhere squawking their heads off. But I couldn’t see them. Or if I could it was just a quick flash. Once I got on my trail and into the forest-proper, I mostly forgot about the birds and focused on the hike.

I paused a few times to look for particularly loud or near-sounding birds, which also let me pace myself a bit. (Which I needed. While I felt fine pretty much the entire hike, when I was almost back to the scrub I noticed my blood pressure was spiking. I don’t have high blood pressure, so this was unusual and a concern. On the up side, I clearly got my cardio for the day.) Most of the time I didn’t see anything, and I never saw any of the noisemakers I was looking for.

But one time when I looked up at just the right moment, I saw a scarlet tanager (male) fly by.

(It’s possible the yellow-and-black bird I saw driving up was another scarlet tanager (female), but given that the area was scrub and wetlands I’m betting on American Goldfinch.)

There was a bench I knew of on the short loop trail through the scrub, so I got off my trail again I looked for it and sat down. Resting gave my blood pressure a chance to come down as my heart got a break, and gave me a chance to look through the guide in more detail than the quick glance I gave it before hitting the trail.

Awesome Ending

My last, and best, surprise came at the very end of the scrub trail. A tiny bird, small enough to fit in Kidling’s hand, was ‘hiding’ in a small evergreen shrub. ‘Hiding’ because I could easily see right through the shrub at any point it’s limbs were so loose.

The bird hopped from branch to branch, dipping it’s tail every now and again. I slowed, taking a step every couple of seconds and tried to stay quiet as I did so.

I’m pretty sure it knew I was there, but it must have felt safe in the shrub because it stayed there, letting me get a good long look at it. It was brown on the back and wings, yellow on the stomach. It had what looked like white lines around it’s eyes, but in the shadow of the shrub might have been yellow. On it’s head, a red cap. It was the red cap that kept me looking so long. I wasn’t quite sure I was seeing it. But eventually it tilted it’s head in just the right way that I saw the cap clearly.

As I passed the shrub it was hiding it, still at a slow pace, it flew away.

Mixed up Identity

The volunteer at the nature center told me it was an ovenbird and was really excited about it. I forgot how much fun it was connect with other people who are excited about nature and talking about birds and trees, and that weird-melted looking bit on the one rock, what could have caused that anyway?

I got home and immediately started looking up the birds I saw, confirming my identification.

It wasn’t an ovenbird. It was a palm warbler. Apparently they are pretty rare in the area. Ovenbirds are the usual warblers with a redcap around here, which explains the volunteers mistake. But ovenbirds have a white belly and no eye flash. This one must have been migrating a bit late (apparently they usually migrate in early spring, which is the only time we usually see them here.)

I’m not sure I’m right in my identification. But everything I’m seeing is that red cap, yellow belly, eye flash, tail bob in scrub means palm warbler. And the ONLY other warbler with a red cap is the ovenbird.

So that was a pretty cool end to the hike.

Personal Win

I woke this morning without any of the stiffness or soreness I half expected after climbing over all those rocks. I’ve always known it’s my legs that are in the best shape for my body, but that still surprised me a bit. Might make that trail a weekly run for the cardio, and see what other birds I can find while I’m at it.

Remembering Myself

One important thing I realized from this hike, is that in becoming the Old ‘Woman’ I’m not just trying to do new things or strengthen the things I already do. I’m reclaiming things I had lost. I grew up bird watching through my grandmother’s windows, with her huge, old, falling apart Guide to North American birds usually open the page on chickadees and sparrows. I spent most of my teen years tromping through woods whether doing a proper hike or just rambling through a local patch of forest.

These are things that were always part of me, and I lost track of with the stress, time-loss, and struggles of adulting-while-poor.

I’m going to enjoy reclaiming them.

Some Useful Adulting Lists

Like many millennial, growing up and moving out on my own meant confronting the fact that my parents hadn’t taught me most of what I needed to know to be a functional adult. Which, of course, is why ‘adulting’ became such a thing for many of us. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day that I confronted my mother about why the hell she expected me to be able to keep an apartment clean when she never taught me to clean anything.

Apparently, she expected me to graduate college and magically get a job that paid enough to higher a cleaning service.

Even before the Recession this was ridiculous.

Anyway, now that my household is in a stable living situation and the worst of health problems are under control, I figured it was time to get a handle on some adulting stuff that had been on my mind for a while. Like having a proper first aid kit for when the kids bang themselves up or the right tools for various household projects (and learning how to use them).

So I put together, using a variety of sources, a few lists. And I’m sharing them here for other folks who aren’t quite sure what they need for a basic kitchen set up or what a good cleaning schedule is.

Household kits check list

Ideal cleaning schedule

Progress Counts: Adulting Version

While there are places you can buy a fully stocked first aid kit or emergency preparedness kit, I’m not saying anyone should do that. And if, like me, keeping the dishes clean is a constant challenge, you shouldn’t immediately try to clean the whole place in schedule every time.

I call it Ideal cleaning schedule for a reason.

Personally, each month that we have the money, I try to grab three more things off of the kit checklists. (I just realized I forgot to put a clean copy together for this post, so if you download the list you’ll see what I’ve got checked off and what I’m still waiting on.)

As far as cleaning, right now I’m working on getting a regular routine for daily and weekly cleaning stuff. Once I have that down, I’ll start integrating monthly and yearly stuffage.

And of course, if you are in a survival situation, maybe don’t open the lists at all. Maybe, as I did, file them and forget them for a while. They’ll be there when you are in a better place.

My Families

Since I’m going to be talking about my family a lot more than previously, it’s probably time I actually lay out who-all is in my family.

I know family life is always complicated, but mine is a bit more complicated than most, having two families-of-origin and a sprawling overlap of chosen family/polyamorous network.

My families of origin probably won’t be showing up that often, if only because (due to various kinds of distance) they just aren’t an active part of my life these days. Which is a sad.

Family of Origin 1

My birth family, including father, mother (recent deceased), 5 siblings, an aunt, a grandfather, a sister-in-law, and a sort-of uncle (my mother’s brother-of-choice) who I tend to forget exists half the time. (Sorry!)

Family of Origin 2

My adoptive family, including father (deceased), mother, brother, assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins, and apparently soon a sister-in-law.

Chosen Family/Polyam Network

Several of these folks will be coming up regularly. Especially in relation to generational household and old ‘woman’, but also sometimes also the farm. Often enough and enough detail that I went around and asked a bunch of them if they were okay being talked about and what name I should use for them.

  1. Michael — nesting partner, father of two of my children, my BDSM submissive & pet (24/7). She/her. Fursona is a demon.
  2. Michon — cuilmate, mother of two of my children, co-dom to Michael, head of family. Ze/hir. Fursona is a dragon.
  3. Dilip Numitor Amalia Chetana Waller — father of two of my children, Michon’s live-in co-parent, still figuring out where he fits in our weirdness. He/him. Told me to come up with a pseudonym for him, so I used my favorite random name generator. Now he’s stuck with it.
  4. C — girlfriend, LDR. She/her. Fursona is a cat.
  5. Ericka — Michael’s girlfriend & BDSM submissive, my friend. She/her. Fursona is probably a cat.
  6. B — sister-of-choice, auntie to two of my kids, mother to a kid of her own. She/her

Other folks who will also get mention from time to time:

  • The five kids Tween, Kid 1, Kid 2, Kidling, and Kidlet. For those who have been following the blog a while, none of these were part of the custody battle I was involved in several years ago. Tween is B’s kid. The others are mine by birth or by choice.
  • Michael’s brother-by-choice (J)
  • J’s mom, whose become mom-by-choice to me and Michael (MB)
  • Ericka’s Nana

When I Grow Up I Want to Be HER

I mentioned having an identity goal a few weeks ago. This is it.

For as long as I can remember, I have an image in my head. This image is a mix of real people I have known over the years, characters who struck a chord in me, a few philosophical discussions, and, yes, some stereotypes.

I refer to her as the ‘old woman,’ partly because the majority of the people (real and fictional) who went into making her are/were women. Partly because for most of my life I thought I was a woman.

She is who I want to be when I ‘grow up.’

I don’t think I can encompass an idea I’ve built up over a lifetime in a single blog post, but I can try to hit the highlights.

The Old Woman

The first thing that would strike most people about her is her self assurance. She wears her grey hairs as the badge of life and experience they are. She knows who and what she is and is comfortable with that knowledge.

Her home is a sanctuary she has built, both for herself and others. It rings with music, is frequently filled with the smells of fresh baking, has cozy nooks for someone who needs some space to curl up with one of the many books (bookcases in every room). Outside are flower and herb and vegetable gardens ringing the house.

Her favorite thing is to have her home filled with the sounds of family and friends, but she can be content in herself when everyone is out or gone home. She isn’t very active in the local community, being content to save most physical interaction for family and friends. But she has wide-ranging correspondence with people from all over the world. And without ever leaving her locality she is able to open her young family member’s eyes to some of the true scope of the world around them.

She is one of the center-poles of her family. Organizing family events, ensuring that everyone is up-to-date on the latest changes, and folks who need help are connected with folks who can help. ONE of the center poles because she encouraged and helped others take on these roles also. She knows that if she is the only one the family will lose coherence when she needs to step down from this role.

And Me

After putting a great deal of thought into it, I do think this is someone I can become, or come close to. There is nothing in this characterization that conflicts with who I am. Not like if I, say, wanted to become a world-renowned speaker or a local community leader *shudder*. It embraces things which have always been core to me–family, connecting with and learning from people, taking care of folks I love, music, being a home-body, not liking in-person socializing. But it also challenges me to grow, not into something different, but into a more capable, confident, comfortable version of who I am now.

And since I generally like who I am now, but want to be MORE than I am now, I think that’s a good thing.

Future posts related to this goal will be varied, I’m not sure yet what topics beyond self-care and baking will come up. Just gonna see how it goes, I guess.