30 Day Walking Challenge

Inspired by my recent trips, during which I toured towns and villages primarily on foot, and the nature walk I took yesterday, I have set a challenge for myself. It is called, appropriately, the 30 Day Walking Challenge.

My intention is to walk every day for the next 30 days. Fourteen months ago, I did a 28 day cleanse, in which I ate only fruits and vegetables. At the end of those four weeks I saw such improvements in my health and well being, that I chose to embrace a plant based lifestyle as a result.

My desire is to experience this challenge in an open, committed and yet playful way, and see what the resulting changes are. I am curious to see what impact a daily walk has on my life.

Because creative play is so important to me, as is cultivating new experiences, I’ve added elements of both to this challenge. The rules of this game are simple.

• Walk every day, preferably outdoors. Fall is actually an ideal time to begin a walking challenge, with its cooler temps. Rain or sunshine, cool or warm, I intend to walk outside and dress for the weather. In the case of thunderstorms or torrential rain, I can walk at the mall or find another indoor location.

• Walk in a new location every day. This is the new experiences part, the fun part. I can get easily bored, and boredom can kill exercise for me, no matter how beneficial it is. Changing the location for my walk daily keeps me challenged mentally as well as physically.

Nature is a great place to walk, and there are many walking paths through woods and along rivers in my area. I’m excited to visit some of these hiking trails for the first time. And, one of the things I love about travel is exploring new cities and villages on foot. I intend to do the same in my own community and the surrounding areas. There are places in Joplin that I have not explored, and I live, conveniently, in an area where four states converge. There are endless towns to explore within two hours of me.

Today, on Day 2 of my 30 Day Walking Challenge, I explored the Joplin High School Campus on foot. I drive by this impressive new complex, built after the 2011 Joplin tornado, and live just two blocks from it. And yet, I have never walked the grounds.

I peeked inside the on site greenhouse…

…and appreciated the colorful tennis courts…

…and paused for a few minutes to watch a high school soccer match.

The campus is large, and beautiful, with nature areas alongside manicured lawns, buildings and sports fields. Because there is an abundance of underground springs and water in this area, there are carefully designed ravines to carry off excess water and ponds for collection. In the middle of the city, in the middle of this school campus, there are wild places for flowers and ornamental grasses to grow.

I enjoyed my walk around the high school campus. As I walked home, through neighborhoods that are new since 2011 and still under construction, I mulled over possibilities for future walks.

I intend to take solitary treks. And walk with others as well, family members and friends, companions on journeys of exploration, self discoveries and good health. I’m excited to walk with each of my children, along with their spouses and children and pets, in their neighborhoods. I’ll travel to Columbia to walk with my grandson Dayan. I can walk to my sister’s house, to the library and in downtown Joplin. My mom and I can link arms and take a stroll in her neighborhood, and when I visit my other sister next month in Broken Arrow, for the family Halloween party, we can traipse through her subdivision, in costume or not!

I know from past experiences that when I play such an expansive game, the Divine plays along with me, opening doors and bringing opportunities I could not have imagined. I’m in a state of high anticipation. Join me on my journeys, literally if you want to extend an invitation to walk. Greg has already invited me to walk a golf course with him, while he plays. His desire to walk more has been part of the inspiration for my own walking challenge.

Where will my walks lead me? And how will my body, heart and soul respond to these daily excursions? I’m excited to find out.

The Dance of Sun and Moon

Like many other people today, I paused during my work day to experience the nature event of the year, the Solar Eclipse. I didn’t purchase solar shades, so I had to get creative to witness the moon’s trek across the face of the sun.

Primarily, I wanted to sit in my backyard garden during the eclipse and experience the energy along with the event. I am grateful for a job that allows me such flexibility.

Since we didn’t have proper viewing glasses, Greg made viewing cards by punching a pin sized hole in an index card. By aligning with the sun overhead, and holding a second white card below the one with the tiny hole in it, we could safely watch the shadow of the moon encroach on the sun. We did such an activity with our kids when they were young.

Although I could not accurately capture the way the light shifted in the garden, as my phone’s camera seemed to adjust for the lighting, I could see it and feel it.

The overhead sun changed from bright, glaring brightness to a softer light, similar to sunset. The temperature dropped about 8 degrees, bringing a welcomed coolness that was very noticeable. The birds stopped singing and crickets began tuning up in the garden.

I marveled that all over the US, people were looking up. Perspectives changed, opinions quieted down, debates ceased for a time, as people gathered in parks and yards and open fields to gaze upward in wonder at nature’s show. I loved the feeling of unity and shared camaraderie, witnesses all of us, of this beautiful display in the sky.

And I could feel the energy, radiating from the sun and the moon as they passed each other. I am sensitive to energy and drawn especially to moon energy. For me, sitting in the garden, there was an increase in energy leading up to the eclipse and during the dance of Sun and Moon. As the moon slipped by, there was a gentle ebbing of energy, like a big sigh, slowly exhaled.

I turned my phone camera upward, and caught amazing photos of the sun’s brilliance and a sky full of streaks and swirls of energy. I practiced sun gazing, which is simply closing my eyes and lifting my face to the sun. I loved the wash of sun and moon energy over my face and body.

It was a magical couple of hours in the garden. The eclipse reminded me of the deep mysteries that surround me, if I have the eyes to see and my senses on alert. It reminded me of the importance of pausing to experience such wonders. And it reminded me that humanity needs to keep looking up.

This last photo is my favorite from the day. I took a selfie with Sun and Moon as they danced. I am bathed in radiant energy and interesting colors and shapes fill the sky behind me. The eclipse was a spiritual experience for me, a very moving one.

I entered a house cast deeply in shadows as the event concluded outside, and enjoyed a short nap before returning to work. What a glorious solar eclipse.

Love a Tree Day

Today is Love a Tree Day. I was drawn to this unique holiday for several reasons and I couldn’t have conjured up a better day for being outside and loving on a tree than this gorgeous spring day. The sunshine was plentiful and a strong breeze from the east cooled my skin while bringing incredible swirling energy to tease me. 

Love a Tree Day
Love a Tree Day is always celebrated on May 16. The purpose is to encourage people to get outside and show love and appreciation for trees and the benefits they provide. Trees give off oxygen. They provide shade, protection, beauty, fruit, and warmth. The huge maple tree that recently came down near my backyard has even provided wonderful, natural planters and simple garden stands for containers. 

Love a Tree Day
I do love trees. I am drawn to forests and a variety of individual trees and tree motifs. Walking among trees grounds and centers me. I have journals featuring trees on the covers, tree artwork, and jewelry with trees on it. I am surprised that the tree has not yet been a symbol for me during one of my themed years. I trust it will be, at the perfect time. 

Love a Tree Day
It was easy to find a tree to love on this afternoon. My favorite tree is the Redbud. In the spring brilliant red violet blooms adorn the branches of this compact tree. The leaves are heart shaped. And the tree maintains a lovely silhouette throughout its life. 

After watering containers and planting a couple of herbs in the garden, I sat in the swing beneath the Redbud Tree in my front yard. The sweet eastern breeze whipped my hair around and kissed my neck and cheeks, making me smile. The Redbud shaded me, its leafy boughs swaying in the wind. 

Love a Tree DayLooking upward into Redbud

It was so peaceful, sitting beneath Redbud’s green canopy. This tree survived the 2011 tornado that struck my Joplin neighborhood. Tragically, its companion on the other side of the yard did not. A six year old Redbud is growing taller each season where Old Redbud once stood. The tree sheltering me sustained damage, enduring twisted branches that have split. I am grateful each spring when the clusters of “red buds” appear, signifying life. 

Love a Tree Day
The teasing breeze…with its  high energy…raised my vibrational frequency and my awareness. An idea came to me, whispered in my ear by the tree. I looked at Redbud speculatively. Oh, I couldn’t, could I? I shouldn’t. Or should I?

I became a tree climber at the age of four. Okay I actually climbed everything, and I was especially fond of trees. I am at heart a loner. When I craved solitude as a child, I scampered up a tree…the higher the better. The neighborhood kids rarely followed me up a tree. I would sit cradled by bark covered arms, hidden by leaves, and daydream, think and reflect. 

Redbud’s invitation to me this afternoon was to climb. 

It has been many, many years since I climbed a tree. I turned the invitation over in my mind. Should I? The idea appealed to me strongly. However, I have a trip coming up next week. I didn’t want to risk an injury. I am healthy and fit. But I am no longer a child. 

How sad if on this day of showing love to my favorite tree, I refused its invitation to play. I climbed. 

Love a Tree Day
I loved being in that tree! How exhilarating. How mindful I was that a year ago, I wouldn’t have attempted such a feat, couldn’t have done so, physically. My inner child whooped with joy. My middle aged self smiled…and could have stayed, sheltered by Redbud, for hours. 

I am grateful for the invitation and that I accepted it. Seated on a branch, I sent waves of love to Redbud. The scars it bears are testaments of strength, endurance, and perseverance. They are beautiful. I hugged a rough branch and offered thanks. 

My grandchildren enjoy climbing this tree. I sent them the pic above, via my son and daughter-in-law’s phones. The kids responded with an Awwww and then asked their mom Why? 

Megan’s response? ‘Cause she can! 

That’s right! I can. And I did. I was invited. That’s all it took. 

Love a Tree Day

Soaking Up the Sunshine

This time of year, I have to grab time in the sunshine when I can. With two days of chilly, overcast weather behind me and the threat of thunderstorms ahead through the weekend, today’s warm temps and abundant sunshine was a special gift. 

Soaking Up the Sunshine

Most of my spring vignettes are completed indoors. I still have a vintage suitcase and a small tabletop awaiting my creative touch. 

Soaking Up the Sunshine
The dining room table features vintage Easter pieces handpainted by Greg’s mom and rustic country accents. 

Soaking Up the Sunshine
Even small spaces, like this little antique chair seat, gets a vignette. 

I wanted to enjoy this day of sunshine, sandwiched between days of rain. The front porch transformation was completed. 

Soaking Up the Sunshine
Soaking Up the Sunshine
As I finished the reset, I decided to heed the advice printed on my colorful front porch sign: RELAX. Relaxing in the mild sunshine, in my newly awakening backyard garden, with a cup of hot tea, sounded like bliss to me. 

Soaking Up the Sunshine
Fresh thyme is already available in my herb garden. I picked a sprig of this aromatic herb and steeped a cup, creating a fragrant, healthy tea. Thyme is a powerful antiviral herb, destroying a host of illness causing viruses, including flu. It is so easy to grow in the garden and returns year after year. 

Soaking Up the Sunshine

I use a mesh strainer in a porcelain mug to brew fresh herbs. See link below to order one for yourself. Steep thyme, covered, in hot water for 15-20 minutes. Sweeten with raw local honey if desired. I drink mine plain. 

Soaking Up the Sunshine
This was the bright spot in my day, literally…sitting in the sunshine in my backyard, a cup of thyme tea and book two in the Harry Potter series nearby. My cat Rilynn checked out my tea and settled at my feet. 

Soaking Up the Sunshine
Soaking Up the Sunshine
Peace and contentment surrounded me as surely as the sunshine did, warming my heart and soul. I saw my first butterfly of the season this afternoon and birds called to me as they soared overhead. I deeply appreciate the restorative properties of nature and no where more so than here, in my own backyard garden. 

There is a saying, from an author unknown, “Sometimes inspiration comes from a single ray of sunshine.” I understood that today. Soaking up the sunshine, I felt inspired in many ways. Ideas seemed to flow within those bright beams of light, and open to receive them, they took root in my fertile imagination. 

Those last two vignettes came together in my mind, inspired by a perfect spring day, carried to me on beams of sunlight. 

Soaking Up the Sunshine
Order your own brewing mug here:

I am an Amazon Affiliate and may earn a commission on purchases, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for considering making a purchase of this product, or any other items, through my Amazon link! 

Hello Spring…Goodbye Maple Tree

I deeply appreciated the opportunity to spend the first day of spring outdoors. With summer-like temperatures and clear blue skies, it was the perfect day to work in the yard and soak in the sun. I stayed open to receiving the gifts that the day offered. Trimming back plants, clearing away last winter’s dead vegetation, intentions for a late afternoon outdoor tea with tender lemon balm just sprouting in the garden…I knew one of these experiences would become the focus of this evening’s blog post. 

And then an unexpected event shifted the day. It would be insignificant to many people, but it wasn’t to me. Greg had a man stop by to look at the huge old maple tree in the backyard. In two hours Brian the tree guy was back, in his bucket truck, chainsaws ready. Maple tree was coming down. 

Hello Spring...Goodbye Maple Tree
This tree has had a long life, and it has a story. At least 30 years ago it began as a volunteer seedling, snuggled against the fence on the north side of my backyard. Technically on the neighbor’s side of the fence, no one could ever determine exactly whose property it was growing on, and the tiny tree was left alone. 

Seemingly overnight, that little maple became a massive tree. Whatever thoughts there might have been about cutting it down, it was now too late. 

I didn’t mind. My children didn’t mind. They climbed the tree and sat on its leafy boughs. Their sandbox rested in its shade, as did a swingset. My younger daughter Adriel especially loved the maple tree. She would climb the fence and scamper up with her best friend Tresha, each of them claiming the tree for her own. 

Hello Spring...Goodbye Maple Tree
Due to its tremendous size, and branches that overhung the house, the maple tree became a concern over the years. During a winter ice storm nine years ago, I lay awake all night, listening to the sharp crack of tree branches breaking all over my neighborhood. The weight of accumulated ice shattered limbs and pulled trees down. Not my maple tree though. I knew if one of the heavy branches fell, it could easily go through the roof, causing great damage. But it withstood the weight, the branches drooping low but never breaking. 

When the EF5 tornado churned through Joplin in 2011, my house was in the storm’s path. Again, the maple tree could have destroyed my house, or the neighbor’s, if its branches had become projectiles or if the tornado had pried it from the ground. Most of the trees in my neighborhood were destroyed that day and I lost a redbud in the front yard. 

Once more, this steadfast tree withstood the forces of nature. This time, however, maple tree was hurt. The roots gripped the earth, and held,  but assaulted by winds that exceeded 200 MPH, the tree twisted, the grand truck spiraling, splitting bark and fracturing branches. 

Hello Spring...Goodbye Maple Tree
Hello Spring...Goodbye Maple Tree
Greg had the tree trimmed back after the storm. I wasn’t sure if it would survive, in its new corkscrew condition. New growth appeared eventually, small branches stretching out toward the roof of the house again. Yet, the tree was scarred, and great patches of rough bark fell off, exposing wounds that never quite seemed to heal. The big old tree became a greater and greater risk, especially during the spring storm season, threatening my house and the neighbor’s house. 

I understood maple tree needed to come down. I was sad about it, nonetheless. 

Hello Spring...Goodbye Maple Tree

Brian was efficient as he took the maple tree down in sections. He worked carefully, explaining what he was doing as the chainsaw bit into the tree.  I was surprised to see that much of the tree was hollow inside. Brian was right. The tree was dying. 

I watched the process as a witness. Living, this tree had offered a place to hide and play. It sheltered birds and squirrels, covered us with its shade, stayed strong in the most challenging of circumstances. Now as maple tree fell, I silently honored its life and felt gratitude for its many gifts. 

Hello Spring...Goodbye Maple Tree
In the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, there is a sentient tree creature named Groot. He is noble and wise, and he sacrifices himself to save his companions. He is not entirely lost however. Groot reappears as a tiny sprig, an offshoot of the original being. 

I thought about Groot as maple tree lay scattered in pieces on the ground. Who is to say whether this tree sacrificed itself, twisting fiercely as it clung to the ground, rather than crashing through the house where Greg and I crouched in a tiny closet? That was a noble act. 

The severed branches held bunches of bright green seeds. As the seeds dry mid-spring, they break free of the parent tree and spiral like miniature helicopters to the ground. Maple tree’s life is gone on this first day of spring….a season of rebirth and new growth. However, the promise of life trembled there on the tips of its branches. 

I gathered seeds, collecting them in a mason jar. I’ll spread the seeds out and allow them to dry thoroughly and then return them to the jar. I don’t have room in my yard for another massive tree. But my children may want a baby maple, to create fresh stories and their own memories with. I’ll keep some of the seeds as a reminder of my maple tree and its beautiful story, which lives on. 

Hello Spring...Goodbye Maple Tree

Journey 251: Magical Moments

I have a morning ritual that I enjoy, which is to move through the house, room by room, and open the wooden blinds. I love the way the sunlight filters in, and how the outdoors becomes part of my indoors. 

 

As I opened the blinds today I was greeted by flashes of lightning, with accompanying thunder, and a steady downpour of rain. No matter. I welcomed in the watery grey light and the stormy weather, which has a beauty and energy all its own. 

I opened the blinds in my creative space, which has six windows in it overlooking the gardens in the backyard and along the south side of the house. I was captivated by the sight of the garden as rain pelted the plants. I have a chair right there, in front of that window, and I raised the blinds so I had an unimpeded view. 
 

The scene was so beautiful. I hurried off to make my bed and do a few work related items on my to do list, with the promise that I would reward myself then by settling into that chair, to watch the storm roll through. 

I didn’t even get the bed made when I stopped, feeling such a strong pull to return to the chair and the window. There was that notion of rewarding myself again, the idea that I needed to do “this” before I could allow myself to enjoy “that”. There was nothing urgent that needed doing in that moment. Nature was calling, with flirtatious flashes of light and playful rumbles and booms. 

  

I am so grateful that I heeded that nudge, accepted that invitation. Moments after I sat, enchanted by the view, the sun broke free from the clouds in the east. It shone brilliantly for a few minutes, as rain continued to fall and lightning flickered. A rainbow appeared to the west, arcing gracefully over the backyard garden. 

It was so magical, that moment. And I almost missed it. Had I checked off those things before allowing myself to enjoy the view from my window, the rainbow would have faded away already, as the clouds overtook the sun again. I am learning. Learning to listen to my intuition and obey those nudges. What simple pleasures await when I do. A short time later, I came across the perfect quote that captured the morning. Life is magical. I do believe. 
  
  

Day 112: Springfield Botanical Gardens

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Today was a gorgeous spring day. After sales meeting this morning, and taking care of a contract, it felt like the perfect day to be outdoors. I had heard there was a Redbud Tree Garden and a Japanese Garden in Springfield, MO. For my first today, Greg and I drove to that nearby city to check out the gardens. It was only after I was underway that I remembered today was Earth Day! What an ideal way to appreciate the beauty of my world.

The botanical gardens were easy to find. I appreciated that Greg googled the location before we left Joplin. My first surprise was how large and varied the gardens are! There are 114 acres of gardens and grounds that include the Botanical Center, a Butterfly House, a Farmstead, a small lake surrounded by a walking trail, and many different types of gardens to stroll through. We started in the Center to pick up a map and info about the grounds and then headed to the Japanese Garden. As my backyard is being transformed, I want a meditation garden in one corner, with strong Japanese influences. I was excited to see this garden so I could get ideas. Sadly, that was my next surprise…the Japanese Gardens are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays! We peeked over the fence. It looks like a lovely, serene place to stroll and reflect. I will definitely go back to check out this space.

There were so many other gardens to explore that I was not disappointed about the locked gate at the entrance to the Japanese Garden. We strolled instead through the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden. This space includes a perennial border, themed herb beds, and a kitchen garden. The winding pathways made of mulch inspired me to create similar paths in my own garden.

Next we walked along a trail that meandered past the Redbud Garden, which was established in 2011, and the Dr. Bill Roston Native Butterfly House. The Butterfly House opens in May. I have always wanted to go into such a place! I will be visiting this enclosed structure, where a variety of native butterflies move through their life cycles before being released in September. The path then wound through individual gardens housing lilies, irises, roses, peonies, and wildflowers. The plants are just pushing up through the ground. It will be interesting to return several times this year to see how the gardens change with the seasons. I am especially intrigued by the ornamental grasses garden, as I want to include a variety of grasses in my backyard sanctuary.

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The path joined the walking trail that surrounds the lake. We found a bench near the water to rest on and watched the Canadian Geese float by. The water was like glass, disturbed only by the passing geese. It was such a peaceful and beautiful spot to be still in and enjoy nature. There are many other gardens to explore that we saved for another visit. I want to check out the White Garden, the Hosta Garden and the English and Summer Gardens. A new sensory garden is being developed that sounds promising as well, and of course, I can’t wait to stroll through the Japanese Garden which covers 7.5 acres.

This was a delightful first and gave me wonderful ideas for smaller scale projects for my own garden. As we were leaving, we met Frank, a volunteer at the Center, who chatted with us and shared his amazing gardening website. Meeting and connecting with new people has been an unexpected and wonderful perk that has accompanied many of my firsts. I assured Frank, and promised myself, that I would return soon. And I will!

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Day 99: Walk the Frisco Greenway Trail

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Today was a gorgeous spring day. I didn’t have a scheduled first, but I knew I wanted to be outside! I had an idea in mind and was mulling it over. Then Greg invited me for a walk on the Frisco Greenway Trail in Joplin. Walking the trail AND riding my bike on it are both on my list of new experiences and today was perfect for a walk.

The Frisco Greenway Trail, called The Frisco by most people, is a “rails to trails” project in the Joplin – Webb City area.  This trail runs along a portion of the former St. Louis/San Francisco railway (the Frisco) which played an important role in the development of Joplin and Webb City. The railway was abandoned in 1990 and the rails and ties removed. What’s left is a solid raised  bed, topped with gravel, that is perfect for walking, running or biking. I drive by one of the trail heads frequently and I’ve always wanted to walk or bike the trail. This year, I will do both!

From northern Joplin, to southern Webb City, the trail winds through scenic woodlands, stretching 4 miles from start to finish. There are trail heads at either end and one midway, located off of Zora and St. Louis Avenues. It is from this trail head that we began our trek, back toward Joplin.

What a beautiful walk. Other people were out enjoying a stroll, run or bike ride today. Everyone was courteous and intent on what they were doing. I love being in nature. And I was surprised that we quickly moved away from residential areas. Only trees and creeks stretched out on either side as we walked. The sun was warm, the breeze refreshing and the trees just beginning to show hints of  green. Birds sang and called out from the tree tops. I couldn’t tell we were any where near a city.

Smaller side trails disappeared into the woods and looked inviting to explore. On another day I’ll do that. Benches were conveniently placed along the trail. I shared one for a few  minutes with a young man. Other than a polite hello, there was no need to speak. We were quietly companionable, him enjoying a book, me enjoying the surrounding trees and the cooling breeze.

We didn’t walk more than a mile or a mile and a half out and then the same distance back to the car, however it was so good to be outside, so good to feel the sun on my face. I was very content with that distance and my legs will thank me later. Each time I walk the trail, I’ll go further! And very soon, I’ll dust off the bicycle that’s been in the garage for years and bike the trail and journey down some of the side trails. It’s time to dust off the explorer in me too.

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