Always Running…

Frosen in Time Photography is BACK!!

After years of marriage, moving, and mayhem, I’m back in full force and am officially expanding beyond still footage.

That’s right, from here on out it’s Frosen in Time Photography & Videography!

Despite the radio silence here on the blog I’ve been SUPER busy with life!  In 2016 I officially became a “Mrs” and my beloved travel companion, Chloe, and I moved everything out to Germany where we now call home with my new husband, Dan.  Since then we’ve been thoroughly exploring as many European countries we can reach in our trusty “Hotel RAV” and occasionally beyond with the help of airlines.  As of today: March 11th, we’ve been to at least 23 European countries and have plans for many more before we leave this continent and journey on our next adventure.

I’ve been incredibly busy and in all the best ways!

But now I’m playing catch up!

It’s so easy to run from adventure to adventure, always seeking the view over the next mountain ridge or tree line.  Around the next bend in the river or fork in the road.  My biggest flaw, however, has been not learning to slow down and sit down behind this computer so I can actually share these adventures with everyone back home and everyone who supports Frosen in Time!

I have plenty of new horizons to explore, including a Northern Italy road trip that starts in about a week, a meandering journey through the Transylvanian countryside, a summer full of authentic German medieval festivals with a Knight, Viking archers, and an extremely talented blacksmith, as well as a trip to Rome, Slovenia, Slovakia, and many many more.

In the meantime, however, I’ll be looking back and sharing everything I’ve been up to over the past years.  Some of the trips in the lineup include Carnival in Venice, dogsledding and aurora chasing in Norway, the warm tropical beaches of Okinawa, Japan, and ringing in the new year in Budapest, Hungary.  It’s just the tip of the iceberg with much more to come and I am truly grateful for all the support I continue to receive from you all, whether I’ve known you for years or have befriended you in travels, I am happy to have met and gotten to know you all!

Not only will I continue to share photography from my travels, but I’ll also be building my new Youtube Channel following our adventures!

So stay tuned and don’t forget to subscribe, like, and share to follow along as I capture my adventures through ink and light!

 

 

Frosen in Time Photography & Videography – Youtube Channel

Frosen in Time Facebook Page

Frosen in Time Patreon Page – Donate as little as $1/month for goodies such as behind the scenes shenanigans, post cards from my travels, and influencing what you see next or even where I go next!  Any little bit helps!

 

 

 

 

An Unforgettable Beginning to the Rest of Our Lives

After 10 years of chasing each other around the globe and random adventures of chaos and mischief, Dan Armold and I are ready to begin our journey together….with even more random adventures, chaos and mischief, and so many “diversions ahead”!

This past Monday, July 15th 2015, he dragged me out of bed long before the sun was even considering to rise, and drove me down to the beautiful Lancaster County countryside.  A tiny sliver of Autumn moon was leading our way through the misty morning and the drive was absolutely beautiful.  After an hour of enjoying the drive to Amish Country, he parked the car in an empty field and said “alright, we’re here!”  I stared around, so utterly confused, until the trailer with the United States Hot Air Balloon Team pulled in.

They drove us to a small airfield where “Yellow Bird”, our own private hot air balloon, was being prepared for our ascent over the gorgeous rolling hills of Pennsylvania.  We rose in the cool morning air to 7,000 feet as the sun scattered rays of golden light all around us.  It was at that point that, with trembling hands, Dan pulled a small box from his pocket, opened it…and then fumbled the ring and almost dropped it!  We were about to have the most difficult geocache ever: a small ring in a wide field of 12 foot corn rows.  Instead, he caught the ring and we all breathed again.

The ring is Palladium, hand carved by a jeweler in Germany, and designed on a scrap piece of paper by my wonderful fiance.  The design is a compass, with two sapphire stones shining in star burst at due North.

After about an hour of drifting above Pennsylvania’s country side, we, once again, found ourselves creating a little chaos and mischief.  A local Amish family was gathered out front of their farm, waving to us as we neared the surface.  “Can we land in your field?” Kyle, our pilot, shouted down and after excited invitations, the family’s children and their dog, Tootsie, chased us to our landing zone among the fields of corn and alfalfa.  The kids were all too eager to help us collapse the massive balloon into a little bag that seemed far too small to hold such an amazing contraption!

When we returned to the airfield, Kyle and the Chase crew led us in a traditional toast of “The Balloonists Blessing”

The winds have welcomed you with softness
The sun has blessed you with its warm hands
You have flown so high and so well
That God has joined you in your laughter
and set you gently back into the loving arms of mother earth.

It was such an amazing experience and only the first of many more unforgettable memories we will create together.  I am so fortunate to have found such a wonderful, geeky, adventurous, romantic, and loving man to spend the rest of my life with.

July 13th 2015
Dan Armold
&
Rose Witmer

Willkommen in Deutschland!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

Misty Dusk Lg

It’s been a week now since stepping foot on Deutschland’s mossy wooded paths and beginning my two month explorations of its ancient lands and the culture of its people. So far my days have mostly consisted of settling in to my new, temporary home, running errands, and feeling a mixed desperation and eagerness to do as much research on potential adventures while not wanting to burn daylight doing so. Unfortunately, these last few months have not allowed time to prepare for this trip before my arrival and I find myself wishing for some rainy days to play catch up.

 

The first night, my relationship with Jetlag was the strongest. It had me lying awake in bed, pretending I was sleeping, while listening to the sounds around me.

Then the moon rose.

 

Midnight Stroll in Weilerbach lg

 

Its midnight light lit up a path leading me outside into its silver world. I walked the night streets of Weilerbach, passing quaint traditional German style homes until I found a path leading back behind the line of houses to a small duck pond. I stepped in slow, careful steps, listening to the hushed sounds of sleeping ducks. The moon glittered over the still surface in puddles between a blanket of lily pads. I followed the trail around the duck pond and sat at the water’s edge, enjoying the quiet sounds of the slumbering nocturnal chorus around me.

I knew it couldn’t last. Eventually, I would have to break my bond with Jetlag to keep it from its needy visits during the daylight hours. With a deep breath of fresh, midnight air, I began to follow the silver path back to my bed.

But from that night on it was the moon and her silver glow that accompanied me to sleep.

Willkommen in Weilerbach Lg

In the morning, I took a different path and explored the waking streets of the same, small town. I was amazed to find that most homes have very meticulous, beautiful gardens. Roses climb the walls of many homes while fruit trees produce fresh pears and apples. Plots are neatly maintained for a variety of vegetables and herbs and the owners can be found digging in the dirt and watering their plants daily, sometimes more often.

There was one thing, however, that proudly climbed arches and walls in almost every home.

Grapes.

Grapes lg

September is the time of wine. And the Germans were ready. Rows upon rows of vines laden with these plump, sweet fruits cover the slopes and fields of Germany and it seemed many locals were ready with their own home grown variety for their own version of moonshine.

 

There are many cultural differences between the “New World” culture and the much older world of Europe. However, despite this, there’s a sort of comfort that welcomes me to these rolling hills and cozy villages. I’ve still only caught a glimpse into the German culture and am eager to continue exploring.

A Plague of Doubts

Tags

, , , , ,

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,

and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.

-H.P. Lovecraft

As the late March sleet and snow tap dances on my patio my thoughts turn once again to my future.  Not a big surprise though, considering the future is blind to me and yet I push on anyway.

A little over a month ago there came a day beginning like so many others before, where the threat of change seemed to suddenly leap down on me, teeth bared and claws protracted.

It was the change I have been so desperate for and yet when faced with the sudden realism of it rushing at me much faster than I felt ready for, my reaction surprised and confused me.

It didn’t seem to make sense.  The weeks leading up to that moment I had been tearing at the walls of monotony and screaming at the mundane daily drone that is my present life.  Yet when the massive double doors locking me away from my future began to creak open, when the thin stream of light spilled through the crack in the gateway, I found myself backing away, my eyes darting around frantically, stress quickening my heart and sending me scrambling.

“No, I’m not ready. This is too fast. I thought I would have more time. I need more time.

I’m not ready!”

 

What?

Really?

No one, no matter how eager and desperate they may be, is ever truly ready for change.  But as Lemony Snicket cautioned through one of his characters, “If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.”

Some days I just want to throw a bag in the trunk, roll the windows down and hit the road, leaving this mundane existence behind.

Other days I’m grateful to be restricted from change by my lingering contract with the military.

It’s easy to fall into the rhythm of “sleepwalking” through a comfortable life, whether its what we really want or not.  Most are perfectly happy with their lives.

There are a number of priorities that weigh differently for each person.  For some, its the security of knowing there will always be a paycheck and food on the table.  For those people they have the life they want to live, no matter where they fall within society, and it is the steady paycheck that guarantees that lifestyle.  Some don’t necessarily need six figure paychecks to live a happy life.  Others reach for the American dream and strive toward a lifelong goal of the “white picket fence” and comfortable living.  They fight through life to earn those six figures, and are able to breathe their successes in deep and enjoy the many small pleasures they worked for.  For others, they may not be as concerned with the security of a steady job, or the high income, but need to feel the accomplishment of climbing the ladder to the next rung.  It is what fills their lives and tells them they are pushing themselves to their full potential.

Everyone follows a blend of all the various priorities (and, of course, not all are mentioned here).  In our culture, job security and salary are commonly among the top with other priorities competing for rankings below. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I do not believe this is right or wrong.  It just is.  Everyone views and experiences life in their own way.  Everyone has their own expectations, and are free to follow what is most important to them.

Despite the shared views within our culture, there are some, however, who shift the list of priorities differently.  For these, the job security and salary, although important, are not what drives them. For them, it is a different kind of challenge that drives them.

I can’t speak for the world, but I can speak for myself.  I have been very grateful to the military for the job security and steady paycheck offered in exchange for my service.  And although I’m terrified of the life outside of this “golden cage”, now that the seed of this idea, this dream, has been planted, there’s no turning back.

The uncertainty that veils my future is thrilling and frightening all at once.

Yet there is so much left undone.

Will I have enough money saved up for those long stretches of time where there is no income for the constant bills?

What if I can’t find a temporary job that helps me continue toward my ultimate goal of becoming a roaming photojournalist and travel writer?  What if I am able to somehow find a job overseas that pays enough to cover my bills and expenses, but impedes me on my path toward my goals?  What if I fall into the same mundane life I lead now?

Do I even know what I’m doing?  Is this just a foolish dream?  Unrealistic in its naivety?

            ….Does it matter?

Because in the end, no matter how many thoughts of uncertainly plague my mind, I have already made my decision.  I will continue to do what I can to prepare for the path speckled in shadow and murky depths, but lit with the thrill of the unknown.

 

            The road less traveled.

 

Echoes of the Asylum

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Image

“All is silent in the hall of the dead.

All is forgotten in the stone halls of the dead.

Behold the stairways which stand in darkness;

Behold the rooms of ruin.

These are the halls of the dead where spiders spin

And the great circuits fall quiet, one by one.”

-Stephen King, The Dark Tower: The Waste Lands

Dark, bloated rain clouds hung low in the sky, threatening to gouge open the underbelly of the storm on the barren branches overhead.  Our boots squished into soft mud from the morning rain as we navigated through the woods to our destination.  The rain had stopped for the time being, but the beasts drifting overhead foreshadowed more to come.

When we broke through the line of trees we both stopped short. Warm mists billowed out with each breath.  In the silence of winter the steady rhythm of blood in our ears held the roar of violent rapids.  The world was silent around us.

Below us in a scattered maze of broken streets and overgrown weeds lay the dilapidated ruins of a children’s mental asylum.  The first buildings were raised in 1926 and continued to expand until it was abandoned in 1991.

Image

This mental hospital was reserved for children with major developmental issues that could not stay in public schools and did not have the money for private schools.  Instead, they were sent out of the cities to a center hidden out of sight of any of the major roads.  Even today, the expanse of 250 acres is known to few, which is why much of the equipment abandoned over 20 years ago still remains.

Without a word, we started down the embankment and followed the cracked and buckled roads winding through the center.

Stepping within the concrete walls of the building there was an immediate sense of foreboding as I imagined these same slabs of concrete housing innumerable children of varying ages and illnesses.  The slate grey walls built a fortress encasing playgrounds and toys, nurseries and classrooms.

Skeletons of rusting metal beds lay in a jumbled mess throughout the building.  I tried not to imagine these metal carcasses once being the place where children nestled into blankets and drifted to dreams.  Even more, I tried not to think of the same children lying in the dark, fearing the monster lurking within the shadows as distant screams echoed through empty halls.

Image

Tracing the ceilings of each room were stickers of smiling faces charred and blackened from the ashes of fires long forgotten.  Murals splashed fading color of crude cartoon characters staring down from the height of the walls somehow adding to the eerie feel of the schoolrooms and nurseries.  Cubbies with the scrawling print of children’s names stood at a tired attention against the walls of several rooms.

Time seemed distant and vague as we wandered the halls of the children’s mental asylum.  Eventually we stepped back out into the pale light of late morning and the gusting wind of the oncoming storm.

A small building rested in a valley between two other buildings.  The brightly colored stained glass identified it immediately.  Although it had long since been stripped of its religious icons, the rainbow of colors casting light over the line of empty pews gave it a lingering warmth after the chill of the asylum.  Sheet music littered the ground.  An old piano sat silent and dusty in the darkness of a back room.

No one sung hymns.  These walls had long since heard their last prayer.

Image

We both stopped when we came in view of what must have been the Administrative building.  The door slanted on rusted hinges, casting shadows within its gaping maw.  Broken glass framed sightless windows lining the faded brick walls of the three-story building.  Curtains fluttered in the wind.  Nothing else moved but what our eyes might have imagined.  Standing under its leering gaze, its energy left us with a feeling of pitiful defenselessness against the echoes of madness within its crumbling walls.

Our boots thudded heavily on the steps leading up to the main entrance.  Passing through the doorway was like walking through an invisible wall of time.  The air was thick and heavy.  The building seemed to sigh with the passing of wind through its halls.  All around us doors creaked open and closed with the howling wind.  Even as we stood in the darkened, rust colored hallways we could hear the walls deteriorating floors above us adding to the thick layer of dust and debris that littered the halls.

Image

The hallways themselves spanned down toward bright white light spilling in from twin doors at the end of the hall.  They both stood open and inviting, almost beckoning us to walk the length of the old halls and see what secrets they had hidden within.

Many of the rooms were empty but for a single chair sitting in slanted sunlight.  I imagined sitting in those rotting cushions from another time and staring out of the shattered frames hanging loosely at odd angles to the swaying trees and birds beyond.  Shadows of vines crawled over what was left of the windows, their blind fingers searching for new territory to claim.  Tattered curtains fluttered on the wind adding an element to the already disturbing vibe of the place.

On the first floor we found a few rooms full of medical records, glass vials, and other equipment and supplies.  Further down the hall I found a couple of rooms still set up and ready for their next dental patient.  Old chairs leaned back beneath spotlights and trays of what once held the torture weapons of dentists.  I can barely stand modern day dentists to begin with.  It’s disturbing to imagine how underpaid practitioners working on insane children’s teeth would be.

Image

In another room a large, ashen colored x-ray machine took up the expanse of space.  With little effort we were able to slide the machine down and along its tracks.  Sitting on a nearby desk was a small drawer full of records of x-rays done on the children over the years.  One child, I noticed, had 13 x-rays in a single year.  Of course, there were no explanations of the cause of injuries, only the record of an x-ray being performed.  I had to stop myself from imagining the normal daily life of the children of the asylum and the treatment they had received within those concrete walls.

We had searched the entire building but for one floor: the basement.

Our steps were quiet in the softness of the thick layer of dust beneath our feet.  Down at the bottom of the stairs stretched a long, dark hall with a single bed and dirtied bed sheet hanging limply from its surface.

I knew it was mud.  My imagination had already painted it red.

I followed the shadowed hall down and looked at the muddy sheet.  Around the corner lie what I had already guessed would be down there: the morgue.  Two metal beds were partially slid out of the narrow cells within.  Another dirtied sheet was bundled and hung from one of the empty beds.  Scattered on the floor were more records of the deceased through the years of Forest Haven’s life.  None went into detail, but merely held simple and vague records of those who had occupied the beds.

Image

Turning away we followed our footsteps back up the stairs and out into the open air once again.  Suddenly the ominous threat of rain didn’t seem so sinister.  I breathed in deep and long, enjoying the fresh air and the wind against my face.  The afternoon glow of sunset painted the asylum in gold.

We had spent hours exploring only a couple of buildings.  There were still many more memories to hear from the rest of the buildings that stretched within the woods’ edge.

Someone once told me that the only way to truly kill a person is to forget about them.  Even after someone dies, their memory lives within those who knew them.  After all those who knew them personally pass away, they are still remembered by the graves that mark their lives.  It is only once all that marks their life falls into decay and ruin that they are truly lost.  The children who walked the halls so many years ago have been forgotten, yet evidence still survives within the walls of the old asylum.

No photograph can capture the true essence of this place.

No words can truly describe the pulse of memories echoing through the halls.

Image

Under the Light of a New Moon ~ Welcoming in 2014

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Happy New Year!

 

2013 is but a memory past as I sit in the dark under a new moon in the young hour of 2014. 

 

This past year may not have been the best, but with all of these struggles came a new found strength that has made me into a better person to take on whatever this next year may have in store. 

 

I will not dwell on the misery of the past, but rather turn my back on it with lessons learned fresh in my mind and face the future with eager determination. 

 

The time to come will not be easy as I make the preparations to forge my own path. 

 

Tightening my grip on a worn and chipped machete, I step toward the tangle of jungle vines and take the first swing. 

 

I’m ready to take the road less traveled. 

The Breath Before Winter

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I tried to ignore the presence of those staring eyes and alert ears boring into me as I typed on my computer.

She did this every day.  She didn’t bark.  She didn’t whine.  She didn’t scratch at the door or pace.

No.  She just stared.

When she wanted something she would find me, sit, and stare.  In true Japanese horror movie fashion I wouldn’t always hear her approach over the carpet.  I would be submerged in whatever work I was focused on and suddenly realize there were a pair of dark, brown eyes watching me.

I could try to ignore them, but somehow that patient silence made it worse than any obnoxious bugging could have been.  I could yell at an annoying dog.  But a polite, patient one?  No, I knew what she wanted.

It began with a “W”.

The whirlwind of her tail fluffed through the air when I stood and began bundling up for our daily ritual.  As soon as the door opened a black streak tore past me.  I was much less enthusiastic as I stepped out into the cold, cowering within the warmth of my beloved cheap robe and old moccasins.  I could feel the stinging bite of the air try to gnaw through my layers as I pulled them close and followed the familiar path.

Browning grass fainted into the cold dirt leaving only memories of lush summer fields beneath the cooling shade of welcoming trees.  Instead, these same trees hung tired in a lifeless mess of dead limbs and bare branches.  Heavy clouds hung low overhead, their oppressive weight masking the morning light in a solid cast of dull grey.

All around me, the world felt dead.  There was no movement.  No cars.  No people.  Not even a stray squirrel rushing from cold branches to hidden stashes of nuts.  For a moment, I felt like the only living being walking through a world of corpses.

I heard a thunder of paws as Chloe, grin stretched over her face, tail held high, came barreling past me.  She did not seem to share my feelings as she darted from tree to bush, her nose tracing the ground as she hunted the scents of those who had passed before her.  With a small smile and a sigh I continued to follow our path as my mind wandered to items in my fridge that could pass for breakfast.

We walked about a mile before I decided my stomach could take no further delay.  As we retraced our steps, the world seemed to darken around us.  The shifting grey light somehow faded to deep shadows.  I dimly wondered if this was what the world might look like before passing out.  Somehow, even the dominating light of the sun was not strong enough to penetrate the pregnant clouds that threatened above.  A new deafening silence surrounded us.  It felt as if the world was holding its last breath before winter.

I pulled my robe tighter and quickened my pace, eager to be home.

A sudden flit of color caught my eye.  The vibrant red of a cardinal splashed his color within the tangled brown of barren underbrush and vines.  Unfazed by the darkness, he broke the still air with a lilting chirp of his song.  I heard an answer to his call followed by the rustling of wings.  Another cardinal, more subtle in her beauty, swayed with the movement of a curving branch of vines.  The two lovers sang to each other in defiance to the darkness and silence that surrounded them.

I looked up and felt something icy brush past my skin.  Another fluff of tiny white landed on my cheek, its ice melting against the warmth of my skin.

The first snowfall.

The puffs of snow fell hesitantly at first, individually striking out from their strange world in the clouds down to the dead earth below.  Alone, they vanished in the dying brown.  But soon the air was filled with a static silence, drawing in close as they filled the empty air with their soft beauty.  What was once barren and dead came to life as the gentle cascade of snow hushed down around me.  Winter seemed to take a deep, icy breath before breathing magic into the dull dead tangle of trees around me.

A joy filled me and my spirits soared with the twirling of white.  I felt as if I could have danced in the swirling snow as memories of digging out igloos in mountains of plowed snow and chasing growing globes of white through the front yard with plots to build the perfect snowman returned.

I felt that same presence beside me and looked down at my furry companion through billowing white puffs of breath.  Chloe, hailing from the tropical island of Okinawa where snow is but a rumor and the cold of winter comes at a blistering 50 degrees, sat at my feet, those deep brown eyes begging me to make it stop.  It seemed she wasn’t enjoying the strange new precipitation as much as I was.  She cast quick glances around her, keeping close to my stride, her tail lowered behind her.

As I stepped beneath the overhang of our apartments stomping my moccasins and brushing snow off of my rope, she cast an impatient glance back to me and then returned to her determined stare down with the door.  I think if she had any psychokinetic abilities I would be in serious trouble.  As soon as the door was unlocked and opened she darted inside, stopped by some books and the couch, and shook off as if she had been caught in a heavy downpour.

I couldn’t help but laugh at my poor tropical princess as I opened the blinds up to the world of white outside.  I stood at the sliding glass door, a mug of steaming hot cocoa warming my hands, watching the world transform into a snow globe as I hid within the warm cave of my home.

I know for many it has been a long time since we haven’t looked at snow and cursed it, wondering how many inches we’ll be shoveling, but think back to your fonder memories.

What are some of your favorite memories that come with snow?

Thanks for reading and feel free to share some stories below!

Image

The Year of the Spider Part II

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

But first, a short interlude:

With the dawning of December it’s finally beginning to feel like winter up here on the East Coast of America.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with friends, family, and delicious food.  Every December sunset draws the year closer its final page while edging us closer to the next chapter.

It’s hard to believe 2013 is almost through and yet from what I hear many are eager to see it as only a memory and hope the New Year will bring brighter and happier memories than what they have experienced this past year.

Admittedly, I find myself also looking toward the end of December wondering if January will bring better times than all of the experiences that have gathered against me in 2013.  As much as I would love to sit back and watch a New Year bring good fortune, I know that the only way to really create good memories is by getting up and doing just that.  Throughout all of the bad and all of the struggles, one of the things I am most thankful for is the freedom to follow these wild dreams I chase and the love and support I receive from friends, family, and even strangers I meet along the way.

I am grateful for your continued support and hope that in the years to come I can share my adventures, both good and bad, and give you a glimpse into the places and people I meet along my path toward my dreams.

Now, on with the show!

The Year of the Spider ~ Part II

Image

I thought back over the ride and breathed in a deep breath of accomplishment.  Despite my terrible first impression of Spider, we had successfully gotten past our struggles and learned to move together as a team.  I still had the rest of the week to improve and I was happy that things were finally going in the right direction.

As we neared the ranch, my attention shifted from the beauty around me to the change of behavior in Spider.  Once again, his ears stood at attention flicking all around him.  He looked left and right and seemed on edge.  When a squirrel’s machine gun chatter broke out directly beside us he jumped forward, surprising me.  I used my newly learned style of control to calm him down and slow him to a steady walk.  He whinnied loudly, staring up at the horses ahead while his ears flicked all around him.  I couldn’t help but pity him and tried to coax him as we wandered alongside the wooden fences of the ranch’s outer limits.

After a while, Jim turned Fly off the old logging road we had been following and back onto the small dirt paths that meandered throughout the mountains of their ranch home.

Jim and Fly led the way.

Dad and his horse Boo followed.

Spider stopped.

For some unknown reason he would not go.

Once again, using everything I had practiced so hard to keep him under control, I encouraged him to follow Boo up the path.  He didn’t care anymore.  He didn’t even seem to realize Boo was in front of him.

He turned toward another path, then stopped again.

He completely ignored all of my carefully practiced commands.

I took a deep breath controlling my frustration and focusing on the proper techniques I had learned.  I urged him to follow the path Jim and my Dad had taken and he fought against me become more frantic.  As he grew more anxious I reined him in to a halt, trying to take control back into my own hands.  When he settled I tried to guide him forward and back on the path only to be met with stronger resistance.  The more I tried to command him to follow the path the more nervous he seemed.  I kept my balance and form as he trotted a nervous dance between the two paths leading back to the ranch.

Then he bucked and kicked.

I kept my saddle, a little surprised and shocked but was able to rein him in to a halt again.  My dad was still ahead of us when I called out in a carefully calm voice “Dad, he tried to throw me.”  My dad eased Boo back, watching me as I tried to once again to encourage him to turn onto the path leading back to the ranch.  He finally started moving forward and my Dad and Boo turned to continue down the path.

Then he stopped, rearing up and kicking.

I kept my seat but suddenly I was very scared.

I could feel all 1500 pounds of his fear and my trust in him began to falter.  When he reared up again, I gripped the saddle horn on instinct and tried to move with him.  I felt him buck and kick more violently this time, determined to rid himself of his rider.  I held on as well as I could, but by the third or fourth time I knew there was no way I would win a fight with a terrified Spider.

I remember calling out to my Dad as I flew from the seat, my eyes focusing on a splintered stump rushing toward my face.  You can’t control yourself in free fall, I thought dimly as it zoomed toward me.  When I landed I stared at the fine detail of the splintered bark and kept very still as I listened to frantic hooves beat around me.  In my mind I saw the worst as he exacted revenge on the dictator who commanded his every movement.

Instead, I looked up at Spider’s hooves beat the ground in a fury at a full gallop toward home, empty saddle on his back, tail streaming out behind him.

“Are you alright?”  I heard my dad’s concern as I sat up, assessing myself for injuries.

“I’m fine,” I assured him.  “I’m just shaken up.”  Don’t cry.  Don’t cry.  Whatever you do, don’t cry.

 I carefully climbed up from my place in the dirt, checking my balance and body.  No injuries.  Had I really been that lucky?

“Where’s your horse?”  I couldn’t help but smile as Jim rode back with Fly.  My Dad swung down from Boo and offered me the saddle.

Gotta get back in the saddle. 

Those words had never rung as true as they did now.

I pulled myself up onto the back of a sleepy Boo and admired the view from his height.  He stood calm and patient, half asleep in the warm afternoon sun.

We all looked toward the approaching pickup truck.  They’re coming for me.  The girl who couldn’t control her horse.  The girl who couldn’t keep her saddle.  The girl who-

Stop it, I demanded of myself, halting the abusive spiral of negative thoughts.

I couldn’t get in the pickup.  It would be the ultimate admission of defeat in failure.  Or at least, in my mind.  The best I could do to redeem what little pride I had from utter embarrassment was to get back on a horse and ride it in to the ranch.

Yet when they tried to convince me to slide off of Boo and ride back in the pickup my throat closed up, leaving me in defenseless silence.

In the end, it was my Dad who saved me, laughing about age and old knees as he climbed into the passenger seat.  I hadn’t realized I had been holding my breath until it all came out in a rush.

I leaned down and patted Boo fondly. With a gentle pressure in the thighs, I gave the command and Boo stepped forward, plodding his way back the final stretch.

I sighed, grateful for the ease of control yet frustrated that it had been met with such stubbornness from Spider.  I rode in tall (mostly due to Boo’s height) and laughed and joked, assuring everyone that it was just my nerves that were shaken.  That, and my pride, of course.

What I didn’t mention to them was the dull ache that I began to feel in my right arm as I sat atop Boo.  I had switched the reins to my left hand, finding it painful to grip them and as I climbed down I was startled to find that I couldn’t bend it without a sudden jolt of pain.

Later, I pulled my Dad and Grandpa aside and explained the injury.  At the time, it didn’t seem to be much more than a really bad sprain with maybe some torn tissue.  I could move my fingers without any issue and the arm wasn’t misshapen nor was there bruising.

 Image

The next day I watched as Dad trotted in circles with Boo as he practiced the new riding style with tips from the owner.  I watched as my Grandpa saddled up his horse, Casper, and they rode out of the ranch.  I stood in their wake wondering what to do with myself.

In the end, I spent some time stretching in the sauna and icing my elbow afterwards.  The sauna was nice, but what I really wanted was to jump back up in the saddle and go for another ride, or at least drag the boat back out on the lake and relax as I stared up at lazy clouds floating above me.

More than anything, I struggled with being angry with myself.  The day started with a capsized canoe and ended in the dirt with my horse riding off without me.  I knew both incidences were completely outside of my control, and I logically understood that there was no justifiable reason to be angry with myself or feel embarrassed, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.  Sometimes you just can’t silence the voice that whispers cruel lies in the back of your mind.

In the end, I tried to focus on the positive.

I thought of how grateful I was that my Dad had raised me to think with my head and not let panic control my actions or fear control my future.

Even after being tossed into freezing waters I thought through panic and found the best way out of the situation.

Even after being thrown from a frightened 1,500 pound animal I still climbed back into the saddle and rode back.

Life throws us into all kinds of difficult situations, testing our will and our character.  I refuse to allow fear or failure defeat me.  I refuse to let it control my life.

At least, that’s the plan.

The Year of the Spider ~ Part I

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

七転び八起き

~Japanese Proverb (Fall down seven times, stand up eight)

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

~Confucius

Sometimes we find ourselves drifting through the beauty of life and suddenly are tossed from our secure world into the freezing depths of disaster and despair.

How do we react?

Sometimes we stride through life beaming of our small victories and are suddenly thrown from the saddle and into the dirt.

How do we pick ourselves back up?

It isn’t the fall that drowns us.

It isn’t the fall that keeps us down.

It’s how we react to these failures that make us who we are and determine whether we will succumb to our fears and failures or keep pulling ourselves back up out of the water and dust ourselves off.

Well, first I got a hot shower and some breakfast.

Then I saddled up Spider and went for a ride.

Little did I know that my determination to stand up eight times would be tested so relentlessly.

So who is this proctor of my life lessons?

Image

Meet Spider.

Spider is a horse with attitude.

A bad attitude.

He’s a bully.

He kicks at other horses if they get to close to him.  He shoves you away when you try to rope him or even brush him.  While all of the other horses stand patient for their dinner, he digs at the ground and tosses his head.  When the food finally comes, he kicks over the bucket, then stares at you waiting for you to pick it back up again just so he can knock it over once more.

He’s an ass.

My first impression of him didn’t improve after a day of riding in the back of the line to make sure he didn’t kick the others horses in the head while we rode.  Everyone chatted and laughed at conversations I couldn’t hear.  Spider trotted when he wished, walked when he wished, stopped when he wished.

As a rider, I had a lot to learn and work with.

Normally the challenge would have been exciting but I don’t like bullies.

At the end of the day while everyone swooned over the growing bond between rider and horse, Spider and I glared at each other.

The riding style of the ranch was different than what I had learned and what I was used to.  I also hadn’t ridden in a while and was rusty.

But this boy was testing not only my riding skills, but my patience and my temper.

After a conversation with the owner, she convinced me to persevere.  To keep working and convince him that I was the rider and I was in charge.

I thought about it, realizing just how strong of a negative attitude I had towards Spider and decided to clear all impressions and emotions towards him and try to start clean for the next morning.

After a cool morning walk and delicious breakfast, I walked out to meet Spider, rope in hand.

He stared at me warily.  I tried to block all negative emotions he may sense from me as I approached.

Despite the disrespectful head tossing and shoving I got him saddled up and had a bright outlook for the day.

We would get through this.

My skills were tested when, bringing up the rear, I was asked to close a series of gates behind everyone.  It involved a lot of tight turns and controlled movement between horse and rider.  I focused on giving him commands through learned movements he recognized and understood from his trainers.

In the end, we did great.

I was so proud of both myself and him that I knew the day would be nothing but fantastic.  We would get through this and in the end it would be a great accomplishment.  Finally, Spider and I had an understanding.

Or so I thought.

While catching up with the others I decided to further test my skills by giving him the command to trot and practice control of speed.

Meanwhile, Spider decided he was going to test the will power of his rider.

He stopped.

He didn’t want to go.

Taking a deep breath, I attempted all of the techniques I had learned until he started forward again.

Then he stopped.

I gave him the command through leg pressure to walk and he listened.

Then he stopped.

As I successfully convinced him to start forward again I watched his ears stand forward as his eyes darted all around us.  He let out a loud, echoing whinny.  I could feel his body tremble beneath me with each cry that echoed back to us through the pines.

He was scared.

Sudden pity tore through me.  Sure, he was a bully and an ass, but in the end he was just a scared herd animal wanting to catch up with his mates.

When he heard Fly whinny back, he picked up his walk and I guided him down the path to the others.

Jim led my dad and I through woods of pine and aspen.  We rode in silence, enjoying the pure, untainted spirit of nature.  There was no distant hum of passing airplanes, no hush of steady highway traffic.  Birds whistled and sang to each other while machine gun squirrels burst out in semi-automatic enthusiasm to the passing visitors.

Image

Photograph by: Joseph Witmer

Jim raised a hand to catch our attention, then signaled toward a few cattle wandering among the brush.  He motioned my dad down the hill and myself following to the left of himself and Fly, his horse.  We pushed the cattle toward their home ranch and for a moment, I imagined I was a cowboy of the old West.  I maneuvered Spider through weeds and brush and picked up signals from both him and the cattle to encourage them to go where we needed them.  I thought back to old John Wayne movies my dad and I had watched growing up (in fact, it was a John Wayne movie that put the idea of a cattle drive in my head in the first place) and daydreamed roaming through the stunted brush of desert with ropes and saddle bags rigged to my horse as I drove the cattle in the day and slept under the stars at night.  I wondered what it would be like to live that kind of a life, pushing cattle through the British Canadian mountains each season.  I looked at Jim riding comfortably atop Fly.  He was probably one of the few true cowboys left in this world that seemed to relentlessly rush toward modernization and progression.

Eventually we broke off from the cattle, leaving them to continue their way home, and followed a path cut through a field of low growing pines and back into the fiery woods of aspen.  The path shifted in grade making us lean forward in our saddles as our horses climbed the mountain.  Through the dark green ahead I began to see glimpses of deep blue sky.

The summit.

Jim dismounted and we followed, tying our horses high on a strong tree and walking out to the edge of the cliffs to look over the world below.

Image

I caught my breath at the beauty stretched out on a canvas before me.

Far below us were rolling waves of deep forest pine with vibrant splashes of yellow aspen sweeping between pockets of crystal lakes reflecting the sky above.

Nestled within the blanket of Autumn was the red roof of the cabin resting peacefully by “Tripod Lake” where I had taken my unexpected icy dip only hours before.

From where we stood, the wind brushing my hair off my shoulders, the sun sparkling our eyes, the ranch seemed to be in another world.

Had we really started all the way down there?

My eyes followed the flow of the forest until they blended into an ocean lapping the Northernmost tip of the Canadian Rockies.

We were staring at the Gateway to the Rockies.

I tried to imagine what this same scene would look like under the pure white of fresh snow or under the silver glow of the moon.  I imagined the bronze light coloring the Canadian mountains in slanted rays of morning light or the deep pink and red of sunset against the coming of velvet night.

I thought back to my first night walking outside and listening to the calls of coyote.  In the wild land of the untouched Canadian Rockies, it was too dangerous to take flight animals out among the nocturnal creatures that played once the sun went down.  I was content to witness such amazing wonders that nature gave us and imagine what more she could paint with her pallet of wind, sun, storms, and moon.

With a sigh, we turned away from the amazing vantage point Jim had showed us and returned to our horses.  The ride back down was peaceful.  Jim tracked a coyote’s tracks and kept an eye out for moose.

Keep an eye out for Part II of “The Year of the Spider”!

BONUS ROUND: 10 Tricks to Cleaning a Disastrously Messy Home

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s another weeknight.  You’re home from work and exhausted.  You collapse on the couch surrounded by mounds of clothing and toppling piles of papers and books.  Just the thought of mustering up enough motivation to clean the disaster zone you used to recognize as home threatens to send you into a coma.

You throw together a dinner.  The dishes can wait.  You’re too tired.  Besides, it was a rough day at work and you deserve to just relax.

You shuffle through you DVDs looking for something to preoccupy your mind for a couple of hours.  No, not that one.  No.  No.

Yes, this is the movie.

You toss the other rejects back in a pile and pop in your movie.

It’s a nice, relaxing, mindless night.

In your next morning’s zombie state you stumble over the mountain range of clothing to be washed.  You step over the same pile of unsorted papers you’ve been promising to clean up tomorrow for the last week and start the coffee machine with a loud yawn.

It isn’t until you return home from another hard day at work that you stand in the doorway and stare at what must have been the aftermath of a tiny tornado.  How had you let it get this bad?

Maybe it started as a whirlwind rush through the house as you prepare for a family vacation or rush off to a class or meeting and didn’t have time to clean up in the wake.  When we are faced with constant stress we feel it building within, breaking us down, leaving us exhausted in the face of the world and sometimes wanting nothing more than to hide in a fictional (and sometimes non-fiction) plot of someone else’s world. Meanwhile, our environment begins to mirror those feelings within which in turn reflects back toward our inner feelings.  Both the environment and emotions reflect and amplify one another until the cycle is born.

Once caught in the cycle it can be difficult to break from it.  But instead of dwelling on how messy everything is and thus reinforcing those negative feelings, why don’t we try to find a way to break the cycle?

As admitted in my last blog, I’ve been caught in this cycle once or twice and have had to resort to little tricks to tear myself from the whirlwind of stressed laziness.

Everyone is different, so not all of these tips or tricks may work for you. You’ll find your own motivators and may be able to adapt these to your own personality.  What’s important is the outcome and the way it makes you feel!

Getting in the Mood

1-Kansas is not just for hunting demons…

Put on some upbeat music that’ll get you dancing with the vacuum cleaner.  This will get you pumped up and ready to tackle anything.  Even a house that has begun resembling a garage or storage unit will be no match for your favorite beats and dance moves!

2-Let There Be Light!

This is just a little trick, but when I clean I like a lot of light.  Dark rooms darken moods.  The mess looks worse and insurmountable.  Try turning on all of the lights or if the architectures didn’t believe in electricity, open all of the windows and let in natural light.  This not only makes the daunting task a little easier to handle, but it lightens our mood as well.  When our mood lightens it becomes much easier to want to change our dark and dingy environment into something cleaner and happier.

3-Fresh Scents for a Fresh Home

This ties in to the last idea.  Even if your home doesn’t have a funky smell, burning candles or incense, spraying Febreze®, or even making home made room scents like these found here (http://www.theyummylife.com/Natural_Room_Scents) are a great way to start your home on the path to cleanliness!  If you don’t have any of these, throw open those windows and let some fresh air in!  Assuming, of course, it isn’t snowing outside or raining sideways.

Order of Attack

4-What jumps out and attacks?

One of the most frustrating things is feeling as if you’ve been cleaning and cleaning while the house doesn’t seem to look any different.  One of my ways of tackling this is to walk outside, then turn around and come back in.  What’s the first thing that jumps out at you?  What stands out the most?  Is it the ironing board sitting in the middle of the room?  Put it away!  Throw in the largest load of laundry.  Poof!  Gone!  Try it from different angles and different entrances.  You’ll be surprised how quickly one task can change the progress of cleanliness!

5-Mini-lists

No time to dedicate a night to cleaning?  No problem!  I recently started making mini lists on my morning alarm clocks. When my alarm goes off in the morning I look at the list and try to check off as many things as I can before I leave for work.  It may be as simple as: throw dishes in dishwasher and start running it.  That may not seem like a lot, but when you come home to an empty sink and clean dishes it’ll feel great!

6-Follow the Trail

ADD?  No problem!  This little trick will allow you to embrace your ADD while still being productive.  Try doing things as you move around the house.  For example, when I get ready in the mornings as I brush my teeth or do my hair I may put away little things sitting out on the bathroom counter or take my used towel and throw it in the dirty laundry basket.  On my way to the kitchen to grab a banana I might grab that cup left over from last night and put it in the sink.  Again, this doesn’t seem like much, but such a simple task can suddenly make the entire bathroom look clean.

7-One by One by One

If you have an entire house to clean with multiple rooms fighting for the messiest winner, the thought of attempting a cleaning marathon may send you running to the couch with some microwavable popcorn instead.  Don’t focus on the entire house.   Instead, focus on one room or one task at a time.  Start with something easy that will give you a sense of accomplishment to rocket you through the rest.

8-The Alphabet Game

It’s just simple (and a little silly) as it sounds.  Pick any letter in the alphabet and begin there.  Then organize, put away, or clean everything beginning with that letter.  When you can’t find anything else beginning with that letter, move to the next one and so forth until the mess becomes more manageable and you’re left with a clean home.

Motivators

9-Set Small Rewards

If you are in need of extra motivation (other than a clean home) try allowing yourself small rewards for finishing off chunks of cleaning.  I don’t mean, “Hey!  I put that cup in the sink!  Yeah!  I’m going to celebrate by watching this Star Trek Marathon!”  Instead, try setting smaller rewards for larger goals.  For example, after doing all of the laundry (and that includes folding it or hanging it to put it away nicely) allow yourself to take a break with a walk outside or reading a chapter of a book.  Alright, alright, you can watch the Tribble episode.

Team Spirit

10-Cleaning Party!

For this one you’ll either need friends who are willing to join you in cleaning or plenty of blackmail to bribe them into the task.  Sometimes great music, bright sunlight, and fresh scents to tackle the disaster zone is still too much for one person alone, especially if the environment really is a reflection of what we’re feeling within.  Get a good friend or friends to come over and help you out.  Order a few pizzas (your treat) and drinks and use cleaning as an activity while you hang out.

Just with anything else in life, trying to tackle a huge, foreboding task will only cause more stress.  Instead, break it down into manageable chunks.  Make a list and enjoy striking down each item as you accomplish it.  Get the blood pumping and body moving and pounce on the disaster zone until you can walk through the house without stepping over or around anything.  It’s about creating that motivation so we can push through to the end.  Then, once we have that newly cleaned environment to call home we can feel it reflect those positive feelings within and face the next day with a brighter outlook.

What tips or tricks do you use to motivate yourself toward a cleaner home?