While we didn’t verbally acknowledge it, this day, my friend Ramona’s birthday, was a perfect celebration of the Summer Solstice.
Ox Eye Daisy
While the sky was threatening and the air very humid, I was grateful that the weather held and we made our way back to our cars. It was magical to see a lovely bride and her wedding party making their way to the river’s edge and I’m glad that they had only the mosquitoes to contend with, but no lightening.
I met Ramona in 1971. With a friendship as dear as this, I learned about how much fun life could be! Ramona had a boyfriend. I learned about and anticipated life experiences through the sharing of her experiences. We walked for miles and miles together and while we did, Ramona would recount many adventures and amazed, I would rattle off my stories to her. Ramona was one of the dearest and truest people in my life during those years.
She and I would dance in her bedroom. I always compared her to Janis Joplin. She called me Sky and I called her Sunshine. She strung mismatched printed handkerchiefs on strands of trim and from this, created clothing. She would dance with her arms completely free and open, spinning in circles to Black Sabbath. We would laugh and talk as we wandered Lakeside in the dark. We had no need of alcohol because we were both always so ‘high’ on life. I felt free through her…her experience of music…her freedom to dance…her story.
She wore bangles and beads and her copper hair hung well past her bum, as her mother’s always did. Ramona sang like a bird. I whistled, because I rarely knew the words. We made pancakes whenever I slept over and her Mom hugged and loved me. The last time I visited Mona in Manistee, Michigan, I treasured the fact that she made us pancakes…just like old times.
On January 11th, Ramona retired from her role with the forestry service. Through all of her years and various locations, Ramona always kept in touch with me. I have compiled a full memory book of her wanderings and achievements and treasure her cards and letters, holding them always dear to my heart. I am so proud of you, Ramona, and know that we’ll be connecting to do some traveling. Congratulations, dear friend!
The following autobiographical information was shared by Ramona as a part of her retirement invitation. I only regret that I couldn’t be by her side as she celebrated such a milestone.
Friends, Forest Service family, volunteers and project partners; I am retiring on January 12, 2013. After 34 years, and 5 months of employment with the Federal Government (on the Beaverhead, Clearwater, Flathead, Los Padres, Lolo, Nicolet and Huron Manistee National Forests and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Temuco, Southern Chile.) New adventures are calling. Here are a few career highlights, besides meeting and working with you:
® Wildfire and emergency assignments, especially as an Information Officer- for Hurricane Katrina in San Antonio, the Chicken Fire in Alaska and The Wesley Fire Complex on the Payette NF this fall…
® Details with Wilderness; to The Aldo Leopold Center in Missoula, and Training for Line Officers at Ninemile Station, to Guatemala with The Sister Forest Program and to the White Mountain NF -to enter trails data after Hurricane Irene
® Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness data collection, and kayaking recreation patrols on the Pine and Manistee rivers
® Working with and training volunteers and interns, from clubs and universities, and sharing information and ideas
® Monitoring Recreation Special Use Events and working with the event organizers, photographing participants
® Our partnership with “Explore the Shores” for improving Universal access to Manistee County river access sites
® Speaking to outdoor, school and youth groups, and representing the Forest Service at conventions and meetings
® Brainstorming with colleagues at Forest Service trainings, such as The Eastern and Southern Region University and at Clemson University as part of the 3-week intensive Outdoor Recreation Planner Course
® Organizing, planning for and conducting National Visitor Use Monitoring surveys with our forest visitors
® Leading trail hikes for The Forest Festival in Manistee and coordinating National Trails Day Events, as well as
® My Peace Corps assignment with the Ministry of Education in Chile, designing 5th grade environmental education curriculum, making a National Park slide program for schools and organizing youth conservation summer camps
Scents of pine, crunchy leaves, crystal snow, nose-hair freeze, I’ll still walk the forest trails, but without badges or uniforms regales.
Glistening shores, swift flash of fish, turtle’s splash, water’s itch, paddling onward fast and slow, I’ll be there too, don’tcha know.
Singing sand, fossil stones, bits of glass, pockets full, but a chorus of friends harmonize too, “come couch surf please; we’ve places new to travel and explore with you”.
Memories newly made or old, you’ll be with me too- minus blanket hogs or snores.
Reading, beading, polishing stones…, resale shop treasure hunts, volunteering, learning to teach English to non-native speakers, or even how to do computer Webpage Design, pottery creations, water color painting, writing and music listening too; oh my… “There is so much to do”!
Re-invention, re-tirement, waking with the sun, looking forward not back, perhaps I’ll even relax.
Alright…it just might be that I won’t have the chance to give my sweet child a birthday hug today! However, I WAS able to hook up with her auntie…picked up a drive-through McDonald’s ‘seniors’ coffee (my FIRST seniors ANYTHING and a big purchase at 82 cents a cup…joking) and then headed for the ridge for a romp in the wind! An awesome time sharing a few memories and so much gratitude!
The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. Gustave Flaubert
Because I am retired, it is easy to relish a day and to get in touch with everything inside that is natural. For the first while, there was an invasive sense of guilt that would pour over me. I worked hard for my entire life and so for awhile it seemed completely unnatural to NOT feel anxiety. I’m glad that has changed.
I wrote two pieces of poetry this morning. I’m writing a series of works based on my mother’s journey with alzheimer’s disease. I often thought this summer, “What if Mom could consciously describe ‘inside her head’ what her observations are of this experience.” I’m trying to give my mother a large voice, in my poems. I’m thinking it’s a tad arrogant to do this because it supposes things that ‘are’ OR ‘aren’t’ OR ‘are likely not’ OR ‘are invented’ from my own observations as daughter-writer, not from the authentic experience of being ‘inside’ my mother’s head. Long-story-short, today I wrote two poems. This was over coffee, after bird-watching and before dog-walking.
And then, I headed for the hills. It has been a spectacular autumn! Perhaps, we had two afternoons of rain and the rest of the days have been filled with sunshine and golden leaves. What a restful and meaningful season for me! The leaves, just the past two days have turned from golden to brown and now they crunch underfoot. Tomorrow, the weatherman reports that we will move into a cold spell. Autumn changes. The hoses are stored in the shed now and the water turned off to the outside. The bikes, tuned up in anticipation of spring, are stored away.
Max and Walking For Miles
This is what I love about living here. I was thinking about the landscape that most speaks to my heart and this is it. I can not help but think of my grandfather, John Moors, when I am in a space like this…with the smell of autumn and a bright dappled sky.
Blue and Gold
When we returned home, I got into reading a book, inscribed “To Jacqueline, All my best, Chris Czajkowski”. It is titled Diary of a Wilderness Dweller. What an exceptional thing this diary is! I went on to visit the Nuk Tessli photo blog, with interest in one day making this a wilderness hiking trip for myself. In the past, I would not have enjoyed this opportunity to dream and relax with a book on a Wednesday afternoon. Oh, I feel such gratitude!
A Year of Possibility
This year is a year of possibility and wonder! Now, out I retire to the studio where I will coat the refurbished chair with varathane so that I can move onto the dresser. I’d like the furniture to be finished before the snow flies and out of the studio so that I can attack the next cribbed panel.
Sometimes we aren’t very gentle with ourselves. We think we need to be ‘busy’ to define ourselves. I use this term loosely because these days I realize I don’t know what ‘busy’ means, not really. I used to think ‘busy’ was about being wound up and productive, creating something huge and important for the world. (I dragged my children around, metaphorically-speaking, as well, making them ‘busy’ too!) Now I really wished that I had been less ‘busy’ and more in the moment, present. If I had stopped more often I would have noticed just how much I was being blessed along the way. It’s our choice to create heaven. We might knock at the door and find that it is opened to us. We might seek and because we did, find. Today, I did that.