Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Hike in the Woods



I got an unexpected workout over the weekend when a friendly acquaintance I had chatted with on Facebook recently asked me if I wanted to go on a photo safari with her. She’s working on putting together a chapbook of her poetry and needed some illustrations and all I knew about our destinations was we’d be looking for trees, boats, boat houses, churches and a few other things that didn’t sound like they’d take us too far off mowed grass and asphalt. Our first stop, however, was at a near-by Nature Preserve that has as its goal to preserve 63 acres of a rare sphagnum bog and a mature oak-hickory forest and remnants of an oak barrens. I had no idea what an ‘oak barrens’ was until I got home and my friend Google directed me to the Michigan Natural Features Inventory where it was explained that an “oak barrens is a fire-dependent savanna type [forest] dominated by oaks, having between 5 and 60% canopy, with or without a shrub layer.”

We were naïve hikers. We had no idea where or how far the trail went---it could have gone to the Upper Peninsula and we’d still be on it. We only knew the posted rules of “don’t dos” at the trail’s beginning. We didn’t take our water bottles or cell phones and no one in the world---including Ms. Poetry’s husband---knew where we were going so getting lost was not an option in this place where we didn’t see another living creature save for one squirrel. Seriously, how can anyone get lost when six inch blue dots mark a tree every 500 (?) feet, up and down and around the hilly terrain? I wasn’t too worried; I was wearing my 5-Star Emergency Responder that tracks me by GPS so I knew we could get connected to the state police, if necessary. I did start worrying about that possibly, though, when the trail dead-ended at a place where we had to make a decision between going right or left, not knowing which trail will take us back around to the car and which one would take us to the bog we didn’t even know existed until the next day.

It was near that point on our hike when I had to pee but I didn’t have a Kleenex on me and if I had it wouldn’t have been fun packing out a used Kleenex without a plastic bag to put it in. That list of posted rules was quite specific about leaving paper goods behind and I have a healthy respect of the Gods of Rules. So I decided to take a change that my brain was getting a faulty signal from my bladder---happens sometimes---and I kept my pants pulled up. As it turned out, it was a good decision even though it was well over a half hour before we found our way out of the woods. At one point the trail seemed to disappear entirely but at the same time we could see glimpses of the backs of the cottages along the lake. We made a decision to traipse through what looked like poison ivy to me but Ms. Poetry said wasn’t and we headed for the road we knew would be along the front of the cottages. Soon after, we found a friendly man to point us in the direction of where our car was parked at the trail’s entrance and from the humorous tone in his voice, I’m quite sure we weren’t the first ones to chance cutting through private property to freedom---Castle Doctrine and all.

Hunger, thirst and a bathroom call brought us to a tavern out in the boondocks where Ms. Poetry used to go with colleagues when she taught school in the area. She warned me that it’s a dive but I’ve been in far worse. It’s the kind of place where locals hang out to play pool, watch a football game and get an order of frog legs or broasted bass. The woman’s restroom was labeled an eye-rolling “Her-Pees.” When we arrived there was a line of motorcycles out front and when we left they were still there.

We didn’t lack for conversation while waiting for the slow service and as usual for my area of the world, she brought up the topic of religion. On the spot I decided, I’m not hiding from this woman! I straight out told Ms. Poetry that I don’t go to church which I haven’t uttering out loud since my late twenties. I gave her the CliffsNotes version of how I came to be churchless in the City of Churches ending with, “I believe there are many paths to God” to which she replied something like, “I would strongly disagree with that.” Okay, I thought, she seems be open-minded on Facebook so maybe she just wants to discuss theology. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but my voice got a tad icy when I answered that we’d have to agree to disagree on that point and just like that we went on to another topic as if the exchange never happen. Daring to be vulnerable, who knew I could do that so late in life?

All and all I had a good time on a beautiful day, even though neither one of us thought we’d be spending so much time hiking in the woods. And even though it was totally out of character for me to hike without being Boy Scout prepared with a fanny pack of supplies. At least I wasn’t wearing glorified flip-flops like Ms. Poetry was! I wouldn’t want to be her if she gets poison ivy. Flip-flops or not, the outing was a hike in the direction of turning acquaintances into possible friends. ©


Photo Note: The controlled burns in oak barrens are done to reduce invasive species and stimulate the germination of native fauna. We saw signs of burning everywhere and we thought it was from vandalism or a lightening strike. This burning, I learned the next day, took place last spring in the preserve where we hiked.

29 comments:

  1. HER-PEES, (chuckle) I've been in places like that. Was probably a pretty safe place for you to, um, go.
    I used to love a good walk in the woods. I hope your friend got a bunch of wonderful shots.

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    1. She got one in particular of a tree with a dozen or more woodpecker holes in it that was quite beautiful and she took a lot of shots of plants and fungus.

      I haven't been in a woods for ages. I used to get poison ivy every year about this time just from its pollen in the wind so I'm sweating that. Got a tiny spot going right now.

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  2. If you need to pee in the woods, a leaf is always a good substitute for a tissue (as long as you avoid the poison ivy which mercifully we don't have here in the Northern NYS woods!)
    Man, that religion thing is difficult. I think that sometimes people hold on to practices from when they were young and they become more important because they become cultural symbols and identifiers in a world where people need to grasp onto a heritage or identity. Sometimes. And sometimes they become removed from religion and it is more to do with a community to belong to.

    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I should have thought of the leaf, it never occurred to me! The lack of a shrubbery to hide behind was another factor. I knew that woods was different/almost strange in that regard but I didn't know why until I got home to research it.

      I didn't know northern NYS doesn't have poison ivy! We're having a bumper crop of it this year, got lots of it in my yard and my landscape guy says everyone is fighting to kill it.

      I think you are right about religion giving some people a sense of community and identity. The four people I admire most in my world (of personal friends/family) are church goers and with three of them the topic of religion has never come up even though we've spent decades as friends/family. Yet, with others I meet its always in the conversations from early on.

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  3. Love that you got outdoors last weekend. When I traveled in West Africa, I learned that drip-drying was perfectly acceptable. Since there weren't any public restrooms of any sort, and nothing resembling a "gas station" outside of Monrovia, I followed the practice of many women there: an ankle-length cotton skirt and no undies. Since plenty of people squat on their haunches when waiting for whatever, it was easy enough to squat, then get up and go. A girl does what a girl has to do.

    Controlled burns are interesting. Around here, prairie burns often are preceded by mowing, a year in advance. Grasses burn better than wildflowers, shrubs, and such, so they mow down what's there, let the grass come back, and then burn. I've got a nice series of photos showing the growth-after-burn process. This year, I'm hoping to get a fuller series, from scorched earth onward.

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    1. When my husband and I were together I often preferred finding a place outside as opposed to searching out a gas station which in some places can be disgusting. I can see how skirts and no undies would work great for that.

      You're such a great photographer, I will look forward to your 'controlled burn' blog. It's interesting how man has learned to help mother nature along...like with these burns and the fish hatchery I went to earlier this summer.

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  4. When my husband and I retired from Fl to NC, one of the first things we were asked is what church do you go to. Both of us were not church goers and I was raised in a non religious household and none of my friends were either. I don't remember religion being such a big issue as it is today nor such harsh division in beliefs and attitudes. After my husband's death I returned to Fl and have found it it no different than NC now. I definately feel in the minority. And yes leaves in the woods I've used many a time.

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    1. We've become such a divisive country in recent years on so many fronts. Not good!

      I still can't believe the leaves never occurred to me. LOL I'm sure when I was younger and played in the woods all summer I've done that, too.

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  5. This was a great adventure and good for you for standing your ground. Hope it is just a beginning.

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    1. I was proud of myself. I figured if this friendship has a chance to grow I had to be honest in the 'church' conversation. Ms. Poetry is in my Red Hat Chapter so I will see her again this week when I'll be able to 'read' the winds of change if any.

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  6. I am very proud of you for holding your own about religion. See, you can do it. Like Hillary and her scars from battling Republicans I have scars to show for my religion battles. I absolutely refuse to be run in a hole by some pious religious person. I can size them up pretty quickly. Some are innocent in bringing up the subject, mean no harm, & can easily move on to other topics. After all religion is invasive & quickly invades communities, families, and social occasions, with no thought that every person is not just like them. I honestly think some people have never encountered a non believer unchurched person. They're quickly thrown for a loop upon meeting such a person. I try to give them a pass & hope they land safely with their feet back on the ground, and that it was a teachable moment that will inspire them to do some personal soul searching. The others, super pious, fundamentalist types usually walk away from me thinking 'oh, I thought that was a kitty, but it was a tiger.'

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    1. Linda the Tiger. That's fits. LOL Now that I broke the ice on admitting I'm not a church goer it will be easier next time. After I read your comment about throwing others for a loop I remembered that a year or so before my husband died I did say to one of my husband's nieces: "we are not Christians" and she flat out thought I was joking. She couldn't wrap her brain around her favorite uncle and aunt being non believers. It's an interesting world out there!

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  7. IF the other person brings it up, I always comment that I am not a church goer or member of any organized religion. One member of our F-Troop has her doctorate in theology, runs a website Sacred Life and her whole other life is religious. But not with me! We enjoy computers, dining, driving (although she gets carsick even when she drives), books, etc. Enjoy what we like together, don't do the other stuff! Somehow it is working!!

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    1. That's really cool. I don't know why everyone can't have that kind of respect of our diverse views in this country.

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  8. For some reason this is on Ebay, but I know they sell them at lots of places -- just no real life photo to go with the ads. LOL http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/152200959687?lpid=82&chn=ps&ul_noapp=true

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    1. LOL You may not like hiking with your family and friends but at least you must have heard them talking a time or two. LOL

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  9. Oh my, this sounds like something I would enjoy (well, without the discussion of religion), but with your feet, I would imagine a long hike wouldn't be your first choice of recreation. I must lack imagination, but I'm still trying to figure out what the male equivalent of "Her-Pees" would be. -Jean

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    1. I had on really good shoes but by the end I was limping. I spent the evening wrapped in ice and taking Aleve. The terrain was so uneven and that's much harder on my feet than walking on pavement. I can do two miles on pavement. It was fun, though. My friend knew the names of all the plants we were seeing and took lots of photos.

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  10. Somehow, I'd got the impression that the friend was also a widow (more open to new friendships). Its certainly easier for two single people to get together.

    Be interesting to know how the lady meets up with you again. My guess is that, from the description of your interaction, she's mature enough to not regard this difference in religious views as a deal breaker, and continue to socialise, regardless.

    Libby

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    1. Her husband was out of state otherwise I think he would have gone with her, I think. They are warm and close from my impression. I am guessing you're right about the difference in religious views not being a deal breaker.

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    2. P.S. but intellectually I'm not sure I can keep up. She is one smart woman!

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  11. In regards to "her-Pees"--I've been in worse and always said to my bursting bladder, "any port in a storm." I find it so strange that every woman you meet asks about your religious preference. I've known people for years and have no idea if they do or do not attend religious functions. What difference does it make?

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    1. Regional differences, I'm guessing, explains the topic coming up here and not where you live. Or maybe the topic comes up more than you think, but it doesn't stick in your mind like it does mine because the topic doesn't make you uncomfortable.

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  12. Hmm, it sounds like you hit a nerve - she's not ready to be vulnerable talking about the variability of faith. Proud of you for speaking out your non-partisan faith ( or non-faith), though. Too bad she wasn't empathetic to your perspective, which is obviously just as valuable as hers. I hope she didn't outright sneer at you, though your response to her picked up on some version of this.

    I am so NOT attracted to sneerers, even if 'we'd agree to disagree'! I'd always wonder where the next sneer land-mine is. Don't know if I'm astute to bag a deeper relationship with this sort of person, or if I'm unforgiving and sneering right back.
    Do you see yourself inviting her out again?

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    1. I disagree with your first paragraph assessment. I think she just read my body language and knew that I was not going to talk in depth about the topic of faith. I think that was being empathetic on her part. Besides, acceptance is a two way street. If I want to be accepted, so must I be. She a very nice person---caring about a lot of social injustice issues---and I doubt she'd know how to "sneer" at anyone. It was not a church lady/heathen moment. LOL I thought it went well, the 'church conversation.' I opened up and I felt good about that.

      I've thought about your last sentence and if something comes along that I think we'd both like---a movie, author lecturer, writing workshop, etc.---I will try being the one to extend an invitation.

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    2. Ah! I misinterpreted. Mixing my own issues with yours. LOL... I read your 'being a tad icy' to her as defensiveness on your part, caused by her challenging your point of view once you'd opened up. Now I'm thinking she was sensitive to go no further, after picking up on your signal that you had said all you were going to say about the matter.

      I was just listening to Brene Brown's audiobook about empathy and shame. "I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough" " I get from her that empathy is not only registering what the other is feeling, but also temporarily stepping out of one's own perspective and into another's, so the other feels seen, heard, and accepted.

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    3. I've been reading your blogs long enough to know that's exactly what you did in your reply...mixing your issues up with mine. But then maybe I didn't choose the right words when I wrote that paragraph. You won't believe how many times I rewrote it! "icy" was in and out several times. LOL

      Isn't Brene Brown insightful and she's got a great way of explaining things so it's easy to understand.

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  13. That bathroom sign is a hoot. I would not like getting lost in the woods, but you survived so it's an adventure. I'm not crazy about the religion topic either. If someone starts talking about it when I first meet them, I figure it's pretty important to them, especially when they start exploring my beliefs.

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  14. I wish I'd asked about the men's bathroom sign. If it was He-Pees it doesn't have quite the same ring to it, doesn't it. LOL

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