There is a reason that Benjamin Franklin stated that he though the Wild Turkey "was a much more respectable bird" than the bald eagle with respect for it being chosen as the symbol of America.
They are quite beautiful in so many ways - some of my favorite photography subjects are the wild turkeys that roam our neighborhood. Goodness knows we get plenty of opportunity to watch and digitally capture their activities where we live.
When we first moved into our little cabin in the woods four and a half years ago, we quickly discovered that the turkeys were hardly wildlife, but actually fellow residents. They spent quite a few nights on the roof of our house when we first moved in. We found them fascinating from the start, and watch for "Our Turkeys" on their route through our yard and around the neighborhood every day, so they are good friends these days, even if they can be maddeningly destructive to the plants we spend a lot of effort growing!
Despite their reputation for not being the brightest of birds, turkeys are actually quite intelligent and have a very complex social structure. They look out for one other, especially their young, and I once witnessed a group of turkeys mourning over a family member after she'd been struck by a car on Paradise Road near my house. The whole family stood vigil over her, despite cars on the road. I honked and waited for them to get out of the road, hoping they would stay safely out of traffic and out of the road. It was heartbreaking to see how hard it was for them to leave their friend.
I giddily look forward to seeing the chicks every spring, and it's really an honor to see the hens that we hang out with all year, raising their little ones, sharing their family moments with us. I imagine looking into the beautiful, doting eyes of a turkey mama watching over her poults is not very different than looking into the eyes of any mother, human or other wise. We've been privy to watch them napping in our yard, hens shielding the chicks with their wings, mamas teaching the young ones to fly when they're ready, then watching the young ones grow into teenagers and mature adults. We once had the opportunity to save a group of stranded babies after they got stuck in our planter box a couple of years ago. What an experience!
The antics of our Toms are fantastic comic relief, especially during breeding season. Even when you can't see them, you can hear their gobbling for hours on end as they fight for their places in the gaggle. We've observed them strut back and forth in front of a shiny car for hours, unsure whether they're practicing, aware that they're seeing themselves or if they're just merely confused, and thus offended by their own reflections. We've been witness to parading gobblers shaking and vibrating like feather-covered exotic dancers. The first time I saw a pair of Toms tussle, in a chest-butting, wings flapping, feathers flying display of manliness, I worriedly wondered if the would actually kill each other over a girl. I stood in the window wringing my hands as they circled the yard, grabbing each other by that wrinkly flap of skin over their beaks (appropriately called a snood) and pulling for all their worth. How they could squawk and hold on, I couldn't fathom, but I was pleasantly surprised that, as delicate as it the snood might appear, it didn't come off when pulled to what seemed like far beyond the limit during a hearty wrestling match. Every bird survived his battle, but I suppose there was some hierarchy established as a result. There were some sore snoods and weary wattles to follow, I'm sure. Ouch!
Our group of turkey friends has evolved since our first year here in so many ways. They no longer sleep on our roof at night, but go uphill and roost in the trees. We often time our evening walks with "Turkey Launch Time", when they all take to the trees, one at a time, by running downhill first, then leaping into the tree branches in the creek below. Although they are nearly impossible to tell apart, we do miss "Gimpy", "Consuela" the adopted peahen, and "Mr. Big Tom" (with only 3 tail feathers) from the first couple of years we lived in our little cabin. This year's group is bigger than ever, with 6 toms and almost 15 hens. And as grumpy as it makes me when they thrash the plants on my deck, I try not to scare "Miss Limpy" too much when shooing our friends away from the vegetable garden.
Our flock of feathered friends provides a steady stream of live entertainment, like our own custom Turkey Learning Channel. And I love those Birkey Turds.
I am thankful for a supportive, loving, and kind life partner/boyfriend/best friend. We've been through a lot in almost five years together, and I am grateful to have him by my side through storms, rainbows, and sunshine. Love you, Eric.
I am thankful for family, both my own loving and generous family and my wonderful Boyfriend's family. I miss them all and can't wait to see them again for a big hug! I love you! Thank you.
I am thankful for all my friends, both local and too far away. I am so grateful for the love I receive from all of you, and I'm so lucky to count some really amazing, wonderful people as dear friends. Thank you.
I am thankful for the fabulous, peaceful place in which we live. I am grateful for the beauty that surrounds us, whether it be breathtaking views, the wildlife that brings us so much joy, sun shining in my window, or the spider's masterpiece that is recreated every day over my kitchen sink. I am so blessed to learn and grow among supportive teachers and friends in art, yoga, tai chi, healing touch, horses, and well, LIFE.
Especially thankful this year for the gift of health and the freedom from cancer!
The last couple of weeks have been tough. Busy, busy, busy - like a hamster on a wheel. Going nowhere - really fast. Working all the time, feeling like I'll never catch up, and it was really getting me down. Last month I got this tremendously great news about my health, but I've been catching myself in the throes of negativity more often than I'd like to admit. I was certainly off-track of my normally positive outlook. How do you practice what you preach, Girlbert? The answer wasn't coming as quickly as I would have liked, so I wrote this little reminder for myself. Maybe it'll be helpful for some of you, too.
Here some of the tricks I use to stay on track in the practice of a happy, healthy life:
I meditate. Every day - even if it's just for a few minutes. I try to stop and focus on my breathing: Inhale...Exhale. So simple, and does wonders for my stress level!
I journal. I never know when I'll need to jot something down, so I keep a small notebook with me. I tell people that good or bad, it's better to get it out of your head and on paper than let it take over your mind. Then you can look at it on page and determine if it's worth more of your energy.
I stop what I'm doing when I'm hungry and make food for myself. I make a point to consciously feed my body healthy food.
I get outside and enjoy nature. I appreciate all of the earth's creatures and taking the time to admire them renews my sense of wonder and humility.
Find the humor and laugh! There's something funny in every situation (I promise!), and if you can do that, you'll get through anything.
I cry if I need to, then pick myself up and move on. But most importantly, don't bottle it up - let it OUT! It's okay to be angry/sad/whatever, as long as you address it and move on.
I make time for the things I love to do. It's important to have a hobby or creative outlet. I started taking a watercolor class through the Cancer Center this fall, and I'm having a blast learning how to paint! Learning something new is so good for your mind, and being an art student reminds me that we're all students in the lesson that is life! I've also recently begun to take more time for my horse and my horse friends and that's been good for my spirit and to reconnect with the horse girl inside me. Reminds me that I'm still a horse girl, just waiting to get back in the saddle.
I exercise. Okay, not every day, but I try to do something to get my blood pumping at least every other day. Then I yoga or do some pilates at home on days in between. I admit I'm not a big fan of exercising for exercising's sake, but I've seen the results of with vs. without: My blood counts (taken every week) are more stable, my mood is better, and I definitely have more energy with exercise. (Don't they have some research to prove that, somewhere, too?) Not to mention I look better with a little muscle on, and who doesn't like to look good? A shaman once told me, "if you look good, you feel good."
And I have to give credit to so many healers, friends (animals, too!), shamans, energy workers, family members, doctors, holistic practitioners, and some people I've never even met; for inspiring me to be better, learn more, and HEAL. So put yourself out there - you never know who you'll meet, what you'll learn, or what you'll get back. Know that your energy, love, and support will be returned, times ten!
Last week was rough. Beside it being a chemo week, I had the added bonus of an extra empty bank account, extra horse expenses, all of our computers being down for maintenance, a Boyfriend meltdown, more calls from creditors, and now a sick Boyfriend. Boo hoo, right?
So what to do when I felt well enough, but futz in my garden and yard? Good news is, I still know my way around a pitchfork and a wheelbarrow! I raked and moved leaves, turned compost and tended to my fledgling garden.
So Girlbert, how does your garden grow? Funny you should ask! I've harvested two, count 'em, two, tomatoes, but the little tomato plants hold the promise of more, with several green fruits to ripen, and more forthcoming, as evidenced by the many yellow flowers opening on the stems. Some of the lemon cucumbers are nearly ready to harvest, too. There's a baby bell pepper, and the very tiniest acorn squash trying to find a spot to settle down and grow. And my herbs seem to be flourishing in our recent heat wave - basil goes with everything!
But I have no idea what I'm doing, despite all the advice I've received (thank you, gardening friends!), books I've collected, and information I've gathered online. There are lots of spiderwebs, one split tomato and one with a wormhole, lots of dead leaves, and something ate my first (and highly anticipated!) cucumber already. Sometimes I think, "Will I ever enjoy the fruits of my labor? Will anything come of all of this hard work?"
Not that it's all bad. Those two tomatoes? Really. Yummy. And I love hanging outside, with the plants. And the trees. And the nature.
So I water my little plants when they seem thirsty. I carefully remove the spiderwebs, any wilted or half-eaten fruit, and brown leaves. And I admire them for their perserverance. I encourage them to do more.
This week I caught myself telling them, "Grow, little ones, grow! Bloom, little flowers, bloom! Grow tall and strong, reach for the sky! You have great things to do!"
"Watch a plant for 5 minutes, 15 minutes, half an hour, and you won't see any change. But come back the next day, and there's new growth. There's always something happening, even when you can't see it."
"Focus on the good, focus on the positive changes, not the setbacks."
"Remember how long you have been training yourself to do things the way you currently do them. It may take at least as long to untrain yourself; to train yourself to do it a different way. Change will take time. Be patient with yourself."
It's been almost a year since my shaman said those words to me. I repeat them to myself often. I write them down over and over in my journal. And I still struggle to remember...
I just recently lamented, "It's been a year, and nothing's changed!" Staring setbacks in the face seems to be my specialty these days.
But I bring this up now, because Spring has settled in and set up camp here in the mountains of Santa Barbara. All she has left to do is wait for Summer to arrive.
And so the next season of my journey has begun. I'm planting a garden: sowing seeds, digging in the earth, feelings running through me, just as dirt runs through my fingers.
Gardening has always been a grounding experience (I guess the metaphor's pretty obvious!) for me. But it's always been my own thing. I drive myself to the nursery, pick out the plants, seeds, soil. Bring them home in the back of my Explorer. Set everything up, dig up the soil, set the plants into their new homes, and care for them all summer.
But this year is different. This is the first vegetable garden for both of us, in the past I've always stuck to a flower and herb garden. Just something to do in my free time, and I've mentioned my ongoing interest in making things look pretty, right?
This is the first time I've ever tried to make a garden make sense financially. We're trying to actually save money constantly spent on fresh, organic vegetables, and I've never been very interested in crunching numbers. Leave it to the promise of a garden full of nature's bounty to bring out the "Mathlete" in me!
This is the first time I've ever had to plan a garden with someone else. Every decision must be mutual, because it's our time, our money, our effort. It's a big lesson in working together, which is hard work for both of us. And all of my patience seems lacking as eagerly await to get my hands dirty with a project, happy to put off the hard stuff for another day. Let's buy the vegetables and plant them! We'll figure it out as we go, right?
So it seems I have much to learn from the vegetable garden this year. I will continue my lessons in Letting Go and Accepting Help from Others, all while taking an advanced course in Compromise and the Science of Mutual Decision-Making. And I'm really digging into it. Sinking my fingers in, sifting through the lessons, sowing the seeds, anxious (but willing to be patient) to unearth the gifts that are sure to emerge from the combined efforts of myself and the universe.
As I stood at the kitchen sink this evening, on my own two feet, washing the dishes that I had just eaten dinner off of, not feeling nauseated or woozy or sick in any way, I thought, "Things are looking up!"
And BOOM! I had a post to write.
This week marks two years for Boyfriend and I. We had our first date two years ago this very week. Things were most certainly looking up for me then, just having moved to California from Colorado, I was looking forward to a fresh start. Just like we are now that I've gotten through chemo-radiation and my first five days of monthly chemo. We now know what to expect (chemo sucks for all five days, plus three or four after) and are looking forward to a little more fun in the year ahead. A fresh start.
The first date story:
I met a cute sailor on a wine tour on a previous trip to California. Now that I was here, I had invited him up to Los Alamos (from Somis, about 100 miles!) for lunch, and if he wanted to stay for dinner, I would love to cook him dinner, too.
Lunch was a bold statement about the way I like to eat – pasta sautéed with tuna, capers, garlic, and anchovies in olive oil. He was impressed at this brazen combination of flavors for our first meal. After lunch, he wanted to take me on a drive. It had snowed in the mountains the day before, and wouldn't it be fun to go check it out? I thought, a spring snow – how nice. Didn’t I move here all the way from Denver because I can’t stand the snow?
After a beautiful, winding drive up the mountain, we stopped and got out of the car to check out the view. We were standing at the top of a mountain overlooking the Santa Ynez Valley, arms wrapped around one another for warmth, and he explained that all of the green leaves in the trees are mistletoe, which is actually a parasite. Mistletoe live in the trees, getting all their nutrients from the other organism. I had no idea - a real botany lesson! So, it’s windy, we’re freezing (did I mention the snow?), and we get back in the car to drive down the mountain.
He's pointing out the mistletoe growing on the trees on the way down, and we drive under a bit of it growing over the road. He stops the car, and says, “Look up.” I’m thinking this is going to somehow further my education about mistletoe and associated plant life, so what do I do, but what I’m told. I look up out the sunroof, and there is indeed a clump of mistletoe hanging over the car. As I turn my head toward him to smile, my mouth runs into his. That certainly did further my education about mistletoe – not in a way I would have guessed, but it did, nonetheless.
Things are looking up, as long as you know where to look. Keep looking up!
I received this fantastic email from a friend, then passed it on to a handful of friends, one of whom posted it on her blog. Huh. There's a novel idea. Well, YAHOOIE for that, because I get to put some new content on my site without having to write much. Which is good because I'm on my monthly dose of chemo this week, and the writing's just not flowing...
They call this chemo-brain. It's like the process I have to go through to convice myself that taking a nap is better that just being a grouchy blob on the couch just to be upright for a few hours a day.
Anyway, this is a great story. Enjoy!
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all..
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."