Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I took these pictures of the outside of the house late this afternoon.
I look at the house now and still like it very much.
It still fits my lifestyle - enclosed area for Jamie - a covered car port to lock my bike - kayaks laying on blocks securely in the back yard.
But I find myself often wishing that it were located in Wyoming.
Or even some place further out of town and somewhere out in the country.
But better in Wyoming.
Thankfully this neighborhood is generally quiet, the lot is large and we have a privacy fence.
Not as much privacy as I would like but it will do the job.
There are two azalea bushes on the property, one in the front and one in the back yard.
I had forgotten that the bush in front flowers pink, and did not even realize that it was ready to bloom until I pulled out of the driveway this morning, looked towards the front of the house and saw unexpected flowers.
We need to plant some more of them because I like them.
They make me smile.
The light green door needs to be a different color.
The wooden shutters are old.  They were on the house when I bought it and they need to be changed out.
One of the columns by the front door is leaning slightly.  LC tells me that it was always like that but I don't remember it.  Or had never noticed it before.
I was always working and training so it would have been easy to miss.
My Mountain Boy offered to straighten the column for me, but I saw ivy growing around front porch posts the other day and wonder if the same would look good on this house and if it would hide the leaning post.
I suppose it would be simple enough to plant it, train it, see what it looks like.
When I called my oldest son the other day to find out where he wanted to meet for lunch he told me that he was mowing his lawn and pulling out plants in the front of the house so that he and his wife could plant new ones.
He is already more domestic than his mother ever was.
He still laughs remembering me leaving messages on the counter for him and Chris when they were in high school.
Find something in the cupboard for dinner.  I have gone for a run.  I love you guys.
Nowadays they both cook better than I do.
Not surprisingly.
Planting ivy is not something I would have given much thought to in my former life................
A beautiful pink flowering tree in my neighbors' yard...............
My very old silver leaf maple trees in the front yard.
Some of the branches are VERY long.
Some of the gnarly branches extend far out to the sides of the trunks, making the trees appear as if long arthritic fingers are reaching across the width and breath of the lawn.
There are few maple trees on this street and I don't know why the original owners more than 50 years ago decided to differ from their neighbors.
But they are beautiful and I love them, just as I love the trees in the back yard................
My concrete squirrel has traveled from Tennessee all the way to Alaska and then Wyoming, and then back to Tennessee over the past couple of years.
When I bought him years ago at a yard sale he was not chipped.
An injury incurred when an inattentive and rogue UPS delivery man accidentally knocked him off the front step the first winter I lived at the house...............
A random metal sculpture that I picked up at a yard sale not long after we moved back into the house last fall............
A couple of years before we went to Alaska LC and I were canoeing together on the lake at Woods Reservoir.
We pulled the boat onto the shore of a large island in the middle of the lake part way through our journey to eat lunch, and after we were done I wandered part of the island on foot, curious to explore.
We found this log on the shore a few hundred yards from where we pulled off the water.
It is very heavy, but we none-the-less dragged it back to the canoe, loaded it into the boat, loaded it into the truck and brought it home with us.
An angel used to sit on this log that we placed in the front yard. 
LC brought the angel to Alaska for me and it sat in the yard up there as well.
When we were packing to leave Alaska I grabbed the sweet little angel and unthinkingly threw her into the truck.  She broke into two pieces upon impact.
Exhausted and with raw emotions I looked at my angel laying in two pieces and almost cried.
It wasn't about the angel............
I love this guy.
Bought in Wyoming at a yard sale and now on the wall beside the front door.............
I bought this milk can probably 20 years ago at a yard sale in Ontario Canada.
It was rusty and I paid too much money for it, although it was not really a lot of money, and dragged it down to Tennessee when we moved to the United States.
A year or so after we moved here I went through my one very brief creative period, and painted the can in stars and stripes.
The stars are on top of the can underneath the turtle.
The stripes are all evenly spaced except for the one section in the picture.
Bad calculating on my part....................
Until I write about these things on the blog I do not realize just how eclectic, how far reaching my belongings are.
Canada, Wyoming, Alaska, Tennessee, some things from Australia.
They tell a story of someone's life.
The story of my life.
The moose was bought at a yard sale in Juneau Alaska a few months before LC and Jamie arrived, and found on the way home from an extraordinary whale watching cruise I had just completed that morning.
The bear and the moose are just beautiful and rustic signs.  Most people are not really welcome..............
There were times in Wyoming when LC and I looked at each other and commiserated about how much we missed the green of Tennessee, particularly when we spent too much time in the predominantly beige town of Cody.
We could find green out there in that very beautiful state - it was in the irrigated fields, the trees standing tall alongside the rivers and streams.
And we drove often out to the untamed, wild and extensive Shoshone National Forest.
It was all so incredibly beautiful.
But the sheer lushness of Tennessee is staggering.
Staggering on a large scale when we drive into the mountains and are encompassed in a world of endless trees.
Exciting when I run and bike at the base.
Sweet and lovely and welcoming in our own back yard.................
A bright red azalea bush in the back yard..............
In one corner of the yard is a large bush, and in the spring huge white flowers appear.
I am not certain of its official name but locally it is called a "snowball bush"
Large white and round balls of color and sweetness.
Many snowball bushes are already in full bloom in Tullahoma, but this one in the yard is only just beginning to flower...........
In the opposite corner of the yard is another snowball bush and when we left for Alaska it was alive and well.
I have no idea what happened to it while we were away but it will have to be replaced...................
LC and I jokingly call this concrete pad our "patio".
In its last life it was actually the concrete pad for our HVAC system.
I knew when I bought the house that the heat and air unit was getting old but hoped to buy myself at least a few years before having to replace it.
I bought two years before it died a horrible and noisy and painful death, thankfully right at the end of winter and not in the middle of winter, because it was another couple of months before I could afford to get it replaced.
When the HVAC was replaced it needed a different concrete pad, and since they were planning on breaking the existing pad into pieces and carting it away we asked them to set it in the back yard instead.
A place for the bar-b-que grill....................
These seeds are now flying everywhere, and beginning to pile up on all hard surfaces outside.
When my two grown men (who used to be my two young sons) were little they used to call them helicopters, because of the rotor-like twirling action of the seeds as they fall down to the ground.
It is an accurate description....................

Home is the place your heart resides
Home is the place that you decide
Home is the womb that holds the soul
Home is the place where one is whole

Home is the glow you hold in your eye
Home is the emotion that makes you cry
Home is safe and a place of peace
Home is where all strivings cease

Home is protective against the others
Home is full of sisters and brothers
Home is where you find your rest
Home is where you feel your best

Home is a memory that follows your being
Home is a dream for those agreeing
Home is the place where reserves fall
Home is the place you yearn to call

Home is where the family meets
Home is a place of restful retreats
Home is the place you know you’ll be heard
Home is the pace where nothing blurs

Home is all these wonderful things
Home is the place you develop wings
Home is the place that you’ll find one day
Home is the place where your heart will stay

Aisha Patterson

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Beautiful and Unexpected

I went for a long bike ride today out at the base, spending a few hours wandering in the sun and in woods that are changing rapidly.
For the past few months the predominantly hard woods of the base have been bleak and empty.
Nothing but brown trunks, brown branches, brown leaves completely covering the ground.
Often the woods would look lifeless and the skies would be grey.
As I looked around me on the trails during the winter I knew from years of experience that the bleakness would not last, but still........there were many times when I was aching for color.
I miss winters in Juneau.  Always filled with the dark green of endless mountains covered with pine trees.
And on the too-infrequent days when the sun was shining, the combination of blue sky, blue water, green trees and glistening white snow was always breathtakingly stunning.
A beauty without words.
A beauty that could make you cry.
Every single time I ride or run on the trails now I am keenly aware of just how much is changing, how quickly everything is changing, and how different the place looks every single time I go out there.
The world is waking up again in Tennessee.
The brown and grey is being changed out for blue and green.
The silence of winter is being replaced with noise.  More people on the trails although still much fewer than other mountain bike trails in the region.  Gratefully.  Thankfully.
More boats on the water.
As I pulled into the gravel parking lot that leads to the trails I noticed first that there were no more vehicles parked where the riders park.  I smiled inwardly.  Good.
There were two trucks with trailers parked where the horse riders park.
Two women were readying their horses and we smiled and waved politely to each other.
They headed down one trail head and I headed down another.
I felt confident that we would not run into each other out on the trails...............
I headed in and began riding single track.
Slowly, warming up, getting my head into the game, more interested in unhurriedly being outside and being physical than in making good time on the trails.
Five minutes in l I hit a fork in the trail.
The right one throws you into serious up and downs quickly.  The left one begins flat with tight switchbacks, is longer, with hills that begin later and are more gradual in the early part of the ride.
I took the left fork..................
One of the things that I greatly enjoy each spring at the base are the dogwoods.
Trees that will be filled with green very soon, but right now, in spring, they contain many white flowers.
They are beautiful and they are everywhere.
Not only in the woods at the base but throughout this region.
Winchester holds a festival every year in April called The Dogwood Festival.
It is one of the earliest festivals in the region and contains all of the usual suspects - rock bands and country bands, carnival rides, booths and games, lots and lots of greasy and sugar laden food.

A typical southern festival.
One of the things I did for a few years was take part in the festival century ride.
100 miles of country roads that spanned through a couple of counties, climbed laboriously up the back side of the mountain to the University of the South, took you fast and furiously back down the mountain and then weaved you through many small towns and more country roads back to Winchester.
Most of the riders who did the century ride were serious road riders and they all seemed to know each other well.
They had that same easy rapport with each other that I felt at the time when I went to races and trainings and caught up with others who did what I did.
These roadies all had fancy and light and shiny bikes with drop handlebars, fancy and expensive riding clothes, fancy and expensive helmets (many with little mirrors attached to them so riders could watch for oncoming traffic), hard shell and expensive road shoes.
I did not travel in those circles so knew very few of the many riders who lined up each year early in the morning.
I was never a serious road rider. 
Rather, I rode pavement to complement the technical riding I did on the trails. 
A chance to increase leg strength, work on cardio, get used to spending hours in the saddle.
I was an adventure racer and even though I had tried many times to talk local runners and riders into trying AR they all looked at me like I had two heads when I told them what was involved.
The first time I did the Dogwood Century Road Ride I wandered before the ride to the back of the pack with my 1990's Raleigh hybrid bike, my dirty mountain bike shoes, wearing clothes that I had received at races - a race shirt here, a pair of socks there, an old dusty pack.
I felt out of place but that was OK.
I rode alone, and it was early in April.
Cold, windy and with a sky threatening thunderstorms.
It rained, but the storms never materialized, and when I got back to Winchester was happy to have finished but disappointed with my time.
The next Saturday I followed the directional arrows that were painted on the roads and did the century ride again.
Totally alone this time there were no other riders and no sag stations located at regular intervals, providing encouraging words and food and drinks.
I left Winchester at 7am and spent all morning and part of the afternoon riding the same route I had ridden the previous week.
This time the sun came out and it was ungodly hot.
I ended up finishing the whole thing within minutes of my last ride, only this time I was completely trashed.
I had taken a fall in gravel part way through the ride when I took a turn too fast and spun out, so had road rash along my entire left side from hip to ankle.
I was horribly sunburned in one of those weird and ugly ways that only a bike rider can get while riding in the sun for many hours without sunscreen.
Bright red arms from the top of my bike gloves to the bottom of my short sleeved shirt - bright red legs from the bottom of my bike shorts to my knees - bright red face with raccoon eyes from wearing sunglasses.
People I worked with laughed at me when I walked into the building on the Monday after that weekend.
When I finally got back to Winchester I collapsed in an exhausted and overheated heap on a bench in front of the bike shop where I had parked my truck.
As I lay on the bench (and while using my pack as a pillow) I pulled off my shoes and my socks, stripped off my gloves, and dumped everything on the ground beside me.
I lay there drinking Gatorade and water and eating whatever I had left in my pack, until I finally had enough energy to stash everything back into and onto my truck for the drive home.
A long hot day................
As I slowly progressed along the trail I stopped occasionally, quickly snapping pictures of the trail in front and behind me.
These small white flowers were growing in and around a downed tree on the side of the trail................
And then growing in a flowering and complex vine, winding its' way in and around other small trees close by..............
After a few miles of relaxed riding I came to a trail intersection.
I had planned on continuing straight, picking up single track again for another 3/4 mile before hitting a rutted out horse trail.
As I hit the intersection I looked ahead of me and was surprised to see this sign blocking entrance to the trail.
The sign simply said that the trail was closed and call this number with questions.
In all the years I had been coming out to the base I had never seen such a sign, and was momentarily startled.
No explanation but OK.
Without giving it a whole lot of thought I turned left and headed down a jeep trail leading towards the power lines..............
The jeep trail that I was riding on went straight for about 1/2 mile and then circled around and towards the back end of the trail I had been riding.
If I had stayed on the single track this is where I would have ended up.
As I approached the trail entrance I fully expected to see another sign blocking entrance to the trail from this end as well.
There was no sign.
I stood looking at the trail entrance for a moment thinking "well, that makes no sense" because if I entered here I would eventually make my way back to the sign I had run into.
What was the point of blocking the entrance at one end but not at the other?
Flowers - flowering trees - flowering bushes - are everywhere................
One day last week I climbed a long and grinding and rutted out hill.
When I reached to top I looked down a trail to my right and unexpectedly saw beautiful green budding flowers growing as a vine around many fallen logs.
They were lovely and covered a large area, and when I saw them I climbed off my bike, layed it down in the middle of the dirt trail, and spent some time taking pictures of my unexpected find................
Today I did the same thing, and smiled when I saw them.
The budding green flowers had turned into something else.
A carpet of very sweet white flowers growing around the fallen logs and winding their way up and around nearby young trees.
Again, I climbed off my bike, layed it on the trail and walked over to inspect these new flowers more closely...............
For the entire duration of my ride to this point I had been greatly enamored with all of the growth I had seen.
Green beginning to appear through the bed of brown leaves covering the floor of the woods.
Flowering dogwood trees.  Flowering vines.  Unknown pink flowers.
But as I approached this thicket of tall pine trees I was stunned.
I had been to the base only a couple of days ago to run and did not remember seeing this.
And yet here it was.
A still new and still growing, but already very tall thicket of new ferns.
As I rode down the trail and closer to the pine trees the light was perfect, the blue sky was perfect, the reflection of the green ferns was perfect.
My pictures turned out.........nice.........but does not reflect what I saw..............
The most beautiful sight I saw on trail today...............
20 minutes later I approached yet one more jeep trail, looked up and was very surprised to see this equipment located at the end of the trail.
Another first.
I had never seen heavy machinery out this way.
I stopped, unclipped from my bike, straddled my bike sucking water through the hose of my water bladder, and then reached down to dig my camera out of the side pocket of my bike shorts.
A sign for a closed trail.  Heavy machinery.
I suspiciously watched them for a few moments and realized that they were cleaning out the huge wood pile that had been stacked stories high in the same place for..........ever....
How can mountain bike riders label a trail "Woodpile Road" if there is no wood pile?
Oh hell.
For a woman who has been through far too many changes in the past couple of years, THIS change was unsettling.................
The guys saw me as I approached, and stopped working while I rode by them and headed down the wide open dirt road.
One more unexpected surprise................ 
And then thankfully no more surprises for the remainder of my ride..................
These heavy purple flowers WERE a surprise to me the other day.
I was trail running at the time and coming in from the opposite direction.
As I pulled onto this trail I looked up and was suddenly completely surrounded by purple flowers.
Kicking myself for not bringing my camera with me I stood looking in amazement at these flowers, and then began walking, continuing to absorb the scene in front of me.
They were everywhere.
Stand alone bushes.
Bushes wrapped around trees.
Single and random purple blooms hanging from pine trees.
Wrapped and tangled up with other burgeoning bushes, wrapped and tangled and battling for beauty with the dogwood trees.
They smelled wonderful and I smiled as I walked, stunned at their presence, stunned that I did not remember these flowers from years past.
There was so many of them, and they were beautiful.................
As I came close to the end of my ride I heard the unexpected (but also familiar) BOOM of a sonic boom.
And then 15 seconds later heard the second one.
As I imagined my puppy quickly cowering to the safety of her "bunker under the desk" I looked up at the sky hoping to catch a glimpse of the supersonic.
Of course I did not see it.
Far too high and long gone.
So I snapped this picture of a much slower and much quieter plane instead..............
I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you're going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you................C. JoyBell C.