Blooming

April’s Artist’s Dates & Walks were overshadowed by my preoccupation with reading deprivation. By the end of the month I was so thrown off that I believe that I really got back in touch with part of my younger Michelle. I felt a sense of renewal for physical vitality. I wanted to feel pretty again-to feel young again. I wondered if this is what a midlife crisis feels like. In the end, I felt grateful to have the opportunity to go on a trip to Florida with my husband. The calling sun becomes quite the temptation after a long northwest winter/spring.

Being a Facebook page owner has put me in touch with some great people. One afternoon (a couple of months ago) Laurel from Illuminating Souls offered free “angel readings.” I had never done these before, so it intrigued & brought me to tears to read the different page owners’ readings that day. It was such a sweet experience to feel that each person’s reading was so special and unique to them. Each reading also captured their best self–their potential. I decided this month, for my first Artist’s Date, to have a private reading. With little information about me, she was right on with my feelings and aligned with the direction that I have been drawn towards. She helped me to see that I have been leery of femininity, yet comfortable with the masculine. She recommended a couple of books for me to read including Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes which have turned out to be just what I’ve been needing (I can’t even begin to say how difficult it was for me to hold off picking them up until the new month). Laurel also taped the reading, so I was able to listen to it again later. In the end, I had two pages of notes and great new information for my journey ahead.

Two dates were spent with self-care activities like shopping, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, & a mani/pedi time. I am learning more and more that my artist needs to be pampered and to feel well and nurtured.

I went back near the mountain for my final date. The town that you go through to go up to Mt. St. Helens is Woodland. This little town has more going on than what one would expect. My favorite time of year there is spring because they have both the Tulip Festival and the Lilac Gardens in full bloom. I learned about these events back when I completed the Artist’s Way my first time in 2008 and have been attending whenever possible ever since. Woodland still has the small town feel, yet understands the value of hospitality.

My first stop was to the Tulip Festival. It was a little crowded for my style, but I went with it and took pictures with other people in them as well as the flowers. I enjoyed watching many ladies tromping through the flowers with their umbrellas up protecting them from the drizzle. I smiled to see many with cameras and many others with arms full of tulips.

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Before heading home, I took a walk around the old town area, and I found Old Town Grill, a “new to me” restaurant to try out. My first impression of the place was that it was too dark inside. Most of the patrons were sitting on the other side of the establishment (in the bar) watching sports, and it definitely had the old bar feel to it (the kind that the lights are kept dim because the decor hasn’t been updated since the early 80s).  I’ve learned long ago not to judge a restaurant by its appearance, but in this instance it put me off because when I went to read the history trivia on the other side of the menu, there was a dingy build-up that was hard to ignore. Hand washing before eating helped restore my interest in eating.

The friendly waitress was also the bar tender which kept her occupied for a while before she could take my order; however, I didn’t mind having a little extra time to explore the historic pictures lining the walls of the restaurant of the trees, loggers, and settlers of the area. I felt an immediate connection with the past and got my next lead to go to the museum a couple of blocks away.

My sandwich was pretty good, but the fries were delicious. The grilled sandwich had freshly baked turkey breast, but a processed type of cheese melted over it that I did not particularly like. I would eat there again, but would probably try their club instead because so much of their food had a home made feel to it.

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Next, I headed over to the museum. I found pictures of logs that were basically the size of the log trucks that carried them. I wondered where this old growth timber had come from. The ladies that staffed this small, two room museum were pretty knowledgable and very attentive. I learned that farming & the dairies were an important part of early Woodland. Going away, I felt that I got a good idea of its history and people.

A couple weeks later, I came back to Hulda Klager’s Lilac Garden the last weekend of their season. I did bring my daughter along (I know, it did not technically count as an official Artist’s Date, but I still wanted to include it) which turned out to be a good move since I fell in love with yet another lilac variety.

Gentle remembrances of the beauty of the bloom manifested all month long. The cycles of life may be arguably at their prettiest during the spring season. A longing of earlier times in life may surprise us, but shouldn’t be avoided because so many lessons may be felt.

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Connection-Nature’s Message

Week 7: Artist’s Walk-Lacamas Lake Park 

Recently, I have been feeling the urge to get out to places that I haven’t been to for a while or not at all. I have come to realize that a big part of the walk for me is the scenery. I want to feed my inner artist plenty of images and recapture the connection that I feel in nature with the trees, vegetation, and the wildlife.

I remembered that Lacamas Lake had some pretty great walking trails and thought that I should check them out again. As I pulled up to the park, several cars were in the lot and other walkers were also heading up the trail even though it had just finished a steady rain not 15 minutes before. I had time to get my camera ready and stop by the visitor’s reader board before heading out on the main trail. I find these boards answer quite a few of my questions about the location and even go into their history as well. In this case the reader board touched on the watershed system and why it was needed (it was made clear that their were many sources of pollution in addition to the mills). Another section talked about the Native American settlement when the European Americans arrived. The town had been named after the camas lily which was a staple for the Native American’s diet and still grows in the area.

As I walked up the trail, the first large manmade structure that I came to was a fish screen that had been placed there to keep the fish in the lake and not in the mills down stream. The next structure was a dam that had been constructed to aid the local mill operations. The contrast of the natural and manmade environment felt entirely contradictory in my mind, but somehow it was working. Sort of. I didn’t hear the chirping of birds or the rustling around of wildlife, but at time on the walk the roaring of the water crashing out of the dam was soothing and its power enticed me nearer. I went up the lower falls trail to get a better look from another angle. In the end, I got lots of pictures and had many thoughts and ideas, so I would say the walk was productive.

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Week 8: Artist’s Walk- Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Birding Trail

The next idea for a walk that came to me was closer to home. I had heard so many people rave over the bird watching spots in Ridgefield’s Wildlife Refuge. The place that people swear by is a drive through area, but I wanted a spot to get out and walk through. I asked my good friend who lives there and she told me about the walking trail. She offered me a water and granola bar and said that I should think about turning on my phone’s GPS since I like going out alone on my walks. I am so comfortable in my local woods that I don’t consider them to be unsafe. Only after I got home did I see the list of animals living in the refuge  which included hundreds of birds and also a few carnivores (even the dangerous mountain lion).

My walk, however was peaceful. I have come to realize that I feel a deep connection with the chirping and calls of birds.

Like the park of the week before, there was another area for people’s information.  This too was a Native American settlement that the Lewis and Clark Expedition encountered that consisted of 14 houses that a village of people were living in. They harvested wapato tubers that still grows in the wetlands.

Unlike the last park, few walkers were out and about. The day was overcast, but not cold or rainy. It seemed as I got there most of the walkers were leaving. I walked up the trail and the first structure that I came to was the Cathlapotle Plankhouse that had been a replica of the houses that were found during the early expedition.

The wetlands were filled with what looked like ducks and other water foul. I didn’t bring my binoculars or my high-powered camera lens. Both mistakes that I kicked myself for. I could see blue jays in the trees and other common birds.  I wondered what else I was missing as I walked up the trail. The trees were what captured my attention first. They were big deciduous trees with branches sprawling  widely, even some close to touching the ground. Trees that hadn’t been pruned by man, but had been left to their natural course. Some trees grew in one direction. This commonly happens with a persistent wind.

At one point the paved trail ended and became a real dirt trail. I followed it until I got a feeling to turn around, to go no further. Perhaps it was because I hadn’t passed another person in a good thirty minutes. Whatever the reason, I turned around and as I headed back up toward the beginning of the trail I saw a huge blue heron flying over the body of water. I wished that I could capture it with my camera, and tried. As it landed, it walked gingerly along the water bank. I did the same keeping pace with it. I wasn’t sure if its caution was courtesy of me or if it was looking quietly for food. Whatever its reason, I didn’t want to disturb its activity so I was still for a long time just observing. My need for connection had been satisfied. This was a place that I would come again and hopefully frequently.

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Slowing Things Down

Week 4: The Artist’s Walk

The desire to get back to nature surfaced again and again over the week. I found it interesting how many times the thought to plan my walk came to my mind throughout the week and especially during my Morning Pages. I felt like it was a time that I did pamper my artist with high quality air and greenery.

I also notice that my artist is feeling rather shy when out and about these days, so I decided to pick a more secluded location where I would be less inhibited. I consider this a perk of living near the country. There are times when the quiet is so important.

I chose to go to Battle Ground Lake for my walk. As I walked down to the lake I noticed that it took my eyes several moments to begin to come into focus with the details around me. A handful of fisherman were along the dock and shore line. There was a stillness. It crossed my mind that these guys have the idea. They are out there with the stillness of the lake. Every noise that the animals make echoes and is amplified. I looked out on the lake and notice birds lined up on floating logs. I regret not bringing my high powered lens to get a shot. I only realize that these were ducks after the one at the end of the line stirs and flies off and lands in the water with a splash.

I decide that I want to go around the lake’s lower trail in order to get in a nice brisk walk. I remember that it is only a mile around and think that it should be no problem to complete before the sun gets low in the sky. As I begin around the trail a small animal in the bushes scurries away. I am just as started by its noise as it was by mine. I get a chance to go right down to the water and a fish scares and splashes away from the bank’s shallow water in a hurry. During this time of year when the park is mostly forgotten, the wildlife must also have that feeling of being safe and alone.

I get almost a third of the way around the lake before the trail is covered with water and I must turn around. It is then when my eyes really come into focus and I begin to see all of the interesting things around me. Steam was rising from a floating log in the water, ferns were growing out from the most unusual places, a tree trunk which could pass in a Dr. Seuss landscape. The old lesson that the artist’s eye is an eye of detail once again manifested itself to me. I could hear many sounds of the little critters all around.

One must slow down, really slow down if one expects to see the beauty that is missed by many. It was on this date all alone that I was able to relax enough to really let go of an agenda of having to go, go, go.

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