Winter Sunset

 

Winter Sunset

It was a cold sunset at ten degrees near the end of a 4.5 mile workout. Wasn’t going to let the weather interrupt my daily practice. Christmas was white, The Long Night (GOT) is almost over. The New Year will be green and bright and the days are getting longer.

The last year and a half has been a long winter of the soul. The hardest part was early after the sudden plunge into winter a little over a year ago, recovering from repeated surgeries through the holiday season from before Christmas to the first day of spring. I had separated from the sociopathic con artist with Narcissistic Personality Disorder that wrecked my life and health. It was a lonely, stressful and difficult period, yet magical occurrences kept happening, letting me know I was on the right path despite some missteps and falls. After more than a year, there are many new stories to tell and adventures to attempt.

While I can see the spring sun off in the distance, winter snows are not finished yet. Like the weather here, the soul’s life can change from icy cold to pleasantly warm or the reverse  in a moment. The scattered bright glimpses of the future fuel the determination to wade through the snow with confidence. There will be snows of the season and of the soul well into spring, but the tide is turning. There is constant progress and wonderful opportunities ahead.

A recent, very bright spot was the arrival of an advance copy of my next book, Wild Winemaking, an early Christmas present from my editor. I will have more copies soon and the release date is February. Advance marketing is going very well. Things are getting busier all the time. There is a business trip to Hawaii, interviews, class to teach and book signings filling up the spring calendar. There will be rehearsals as Ringmaster of The Scintillating Fire Circus to prepare for upcoming shows. Every Thursday I play the blues. I’ve been privileged to play recently with some well known musicians that have extensive regional, national and international tours, albums and honors.

My half-time greenhouse production manager job will start up again this spring. Time on The Pondy, with my hands in the dirt, chickens forming a parade behind me, wildlife on the hill and in the air, 275 cases of wine in the cellar, the smell of growing food in the greenhouse, helping a good friend build his business and experiencing the weather every day is exhilarating yet peaceful at the same time. The time I spent filling the greenhouse and garden with plants was a very healing period during my medical and spiritual healing journeys.

I had increased my daily workout from three and a half by doing an extra loop, three instead of two. Shortly after starting this essay two weeks ago, I doubled the length of my old daily walk/jog, with four loops to around seven miles without missing a day through up and down weather until yesterday. While I may not have burned as many calories, I spent a little over an hour hiking up and down a river, scrambling down and up over a field of large boulders to balanced precariously on rocks at the river’s edge while casting to rising trout. Mid-January with mid-sixties temperatures was just too much to resist. I substituted fly fishing for my afternoon workout that day to exercise my soul as well as my body. I did have a couple strikes, although I didn’t hook either one. A water ouzel danced along the river edge. There were a few hardy souls out there fishing. One I stopped to watch invited me down to try his pool from the opposite bank. He pointed out dozens of trout, some rising and said he hadn’t been able to get a bite. I was just looking for a short interlude and tried … and lost … several flies while enticing those bites. Feeling satisfied with my meditational river experience, I left the fisherman to continue his efforts as I moved on to continue my busy day. Stopping at The Pondy on the way back, it was so warm that Matt was shirtless, spreading and tilling a large load of composted manure into the sandy part of the garden. I needed to restock the treasure chest from the wine cellar after last weekend’s festivities and wanted to check the greenhouse progress and the kiwi wine in primary fermentation.

After that warm temperature yesterday, today was twenty degrees cooler, cloudy and wet. It had stopped misting by the time I left for my walk but overnight and early morning in mid-January it had rained instead of snowing. The air felt heavy and damp. The next day the sun was shining, the sky bright blue, but it was at least ten degrees colder with a north wind. The number of people I see out there depends on the weather. When it is cold or cloudy, there are few besides dog walkers and the occasional hardy bicycler. On most days there is someone or a small group playing Frisbee golf in the park near the trail. In nice weather, there are groups lined up, waiting their turn.

Besides the physical exercise, there are always encounters that rejuvenate the soul, too. A couple days ago, a woman was walking a dark brown German shorthair puppy that looked just like Cassiopeia, my shorthair that lived for 19 years. I didn’t get closer than about fifty feet as they passed in front of me, but that puppy couldn’t take its eyes off me. As I turned the opposite direction, I kept watching and the puppy kept dragging behind looking at me for a long time. It stirred memories of my beloved Cassie. I often see and hear geese overhead, sometimes like today large flocks wheeling overhead, filling the air with well over 100 honking geese. A couple days ago, I was busy writing in my head when I was startled by five squirrels in a row that jerked upright and bolted for their trees in unison. In winter there are ravens, sometimes in a large raucous flock.

A week ago, at the Fly Fishing Show I upgraded my wardrobe with a uv protective hoody in a trout pattern on a mottled blue camo background that looked like water and a pair of flame colored tights to wear with top hat and tails in my role as Ringmaster of the Scintillating Fire Circus. Wearing that hoodie on my workout every day has me thinking about letting my inner hillbilly come out by wearing that more and the button-up sleeveless camo shirt that was designed by on old girlfriend fashion designer. This would be a change from the standard all black artist/author “uniform” that is my typical wear. Three times since I started wearing that hoodie I have received compliments about it including an attractive younger woman that engaged me in conversation. Of course I get compliments every time I wear my top hat with my all black wardrobe. Perhaps I just need to change it up some. Don’t want to become too predictable. It would certainly startle some of my friends who haven’t seen me dress like that for years.

I will continue to enjoy my daily walks, even on those cold winter days with the sun low on the horizon. The days are getting longer and brighter and I don’t want to miss any of it.

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Night Walks

 

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Most nights I go for a walk before bedtime, usually between midnight and 2am. In the summer when it is warm, my wife Cathy usually accompanies me. When it is cold, I walk by myself. Fort Collins has an extensive trail system and the Rendezvous Trail runs right by our home. It has a fairly wide open area along the trail with a creek that runs through it. Except when we are going through a drought, one can usually hear the babbling brook during the walk and depending on which route I take, I can cross it several times. It is a peaceful time to walk, seldom seeing anyone except occasionally on weekend nights during the summer.

Even here within the city I can see plenty of stars, sometimes meteors and planets. Often the moon lights my way, giving me a moon shadow. Sometimes I walk in the rain and during the winter there can be snow on the ground or falling. It is not as dark out when there is snow on the ground to reflect light from the night sky and streetlamps. It is especially bright when there is a near-full moon. Snow falling is always beautiful, quiet and peaceful as long as there is no wind blowing it into my face.

There are also wildlife encounters at night. Besides the natural area along the trail, when I reach the farthest point from home I am within a mile of several large lakes and the Cache la Poudre river. Often there are owls hooting, usually more than one calling back and forth. Sometimes I hear a pack of coyotes howling in the distance. Especially during winter, I hear Canadian geese honking every night, both from where they are spending the night on lakes and often flying overhead although they are seldom visible when flying at night. One memorable night I was walking with Cathy along the trail with the neighborhood townhouses on our right and the open area on our left. Suddenly a red fox came running out from between the townhouses, crossing our path and entering the open space carrying a rabbit in its jaws. That summer we often saw a red fox and the kits she was raising in the open space.

On rare occasions there is a little excitement. One night I was walking on the trail next to the townhouses when I came across a bicycle lying next to the path with a flashing headlight and nobody around. It was a dark night and off to the right, the ground drops off into a water retention hollow before rising up again and then dropping off into the creek. I didn’t see anyone but it was too dark to see if there might be someone injured down in the ditch. I jogged home, told my wife what I had seen and grabbed a flashlight to check the ditch. I couldn’t find anyone and continued walking down the trail. Near the spot where I turned around, there was another bike lying beside the trail. On the way back the bike with the flashing light was still there.

As I neared home, I could hear someone yelling. My neighbor and his girlfriend were in the driveway between his garage and mine. My wife had heard all the fuss and had come outside to see what was up. Someone had stolen three bicycles out of my neighbor’s garage and he was very angry. I told him what I had seen and all four of us took off down the trail. Sure enough, that was one of his bikes flashing next to the trail.  We continued down the path, searching both sides of the trail with my flashlight until we came to the second bike. We never found the third bike which he said was the most valuable one. Later that night he called the police and filed a report although that bike was never recovered.

A few weeks later, I was on my nightly walk when I reached a point where sometimes I turn around or have to cross a road and a bridge over the creek to continue along the trail. There was a police car parked on the bridge. Another patrol car pulled up and the officer got out. I decided to turn around and head back when the two officers, flashlights in hand started rapidly following me down the path. I stopped to wait and see what they wanted. One of the officers was the one who responded to my neighbor’s call about the bicycles and knew I often did late night walks.  Apparently, someone had called in a complaint, claiming they heard a loud noise that sounded like a gunshot. They asked if I had heard anything. I hadn’t and they turned around to go back to their patrol cars.

Most nights it is a quiet, peaceful walk that relaxes me just before bed. I especially enjoy the summer nights when I walk hand in hand with my wife. Those nights are also quiet and peaceful as we seldom talk, just enjoying the night air, beautiful sky and each others company.