Thursday, December 27, 2012

Goodbye Finish Line Readers!

Toddler tracks. Yes, I tracked down the elusive 2-year old :)
Dear Finish Line Readers,

This blog is over 4 years old, and for this author, it has long passed the phase of fruition. It is done. It was created because 4 years ago, I sought motivation by chronicling my running adventures. I no longer need or seek that kind of motivation. Later, it evolved and became motivational forms of all sorts, from weight-loss to wellness, to family adventures. It has, now, become little h's baby book, as one of my blogger friends put it. More than that, it has become a way for me to keep in touch with friends and family around the World, as we are never in the same place at once. 

While I do not wish to sever that small spark of connection with anyone, especially not the very network of writers who have provided such amazing insight and inspiration into my ever-changing life path, I do seek a new adventure in 2013. You are most welcome to join me there, though I am not sure yet of where exactly it will be :)

I will keep you updated. 

Many Blessings, and thank you for following The Finish Line. 

Love, Becca

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry First Day of Winter!

It is the official first day of winter, and in preparing for celebration, we were blessed with a few inches of beautiful snow, here in NE Kansas! While it is predicted to be another very dry winter in this neck of the woods, we will eat snow icecream, search for interesting tracks in untraveled forest, and shovel our driveway with the rest of them, even if just for one day. 
image source
This year, we will not be traveling over the Christmas holiday, and we will not be moving. We will in fact, be staying right here in our cozy home. This is the 3rd Christmas I have ever spent away from my family (my parents and siblings), and I will miss the comforts, traditions, and the quality conversation to be had with my talkative clan. Originally, we were going to have just moved to Northern VA at this time; then, we were going to be in San Diego. Next, we were going to be driving to San Diego just after Christmas, and now, we are doing none of the above.

What are we doing, you ask?

Well, friends, we are learning how to be a Navy family. We are learning how to be better parents, better spouses, and better friends. We are learning to let go of everything we never thought possible and to say hello to that which possibly makes us everything. 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Robert Frost (1923)

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

But, I digress. 

I often do, you know :) 

In addition to a blanket of snow, we have been receiving the most wonderful, homemade gifts of the season! I have the quite the collection of crafty, clever, and creative friends and family. I am constantly in awe of their handiwork and blessed by the fruits of their labor 

A gift from a very talented friend who works in fonts and letters. We actually have a few of her pieces in our home, but this was her Christmas board, and it now sits on the trim above our front door.
...the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts...
-Matthew 2, KJV

In a small white box, we were presented this beautiful idea for making the house smell good (and adding some much-needed moisture to the air!). Oranges, lemons, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and bay leaves to simmer on our stove.
You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.
-A. A. Milne

Gift from home. Mom sent a bounty of yummies: carrot cake jelly, pumpkin butter, monkey butter (walnut and banana jelly), canned, wild-caught salmon, which my Dad caught, fig preserves, and delicious chocolate! I don't care who you are, receiving homemade gifts from your parents during times of slightly higher-than-normal anxiety when you are literally blazing the pathway as you walk it, is a blessing of great magnitude to the heart and soul. I don't know that my Mom even knew I needed this. These jars light up my pantry like jewels and hugs, every time I open the door.
I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
-Charles Dickens

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Outdoor Exploration and Ruckus-Causing

 I have been doing a lot of treadmill running lately (thanks to an amazing husband for an early Christmas present!). While it took some getting used to, in many ways, it has freed up more "real time" in my day to do other things that I love, such as general outdoor exploration and ruckus-causing; toddler hiking; birdwatching and crunchy-leaf-identifying.

The organisms within this particular patch of oak woodland along the Missouri River have seen much of us this winter. Their acquaintance is much easier made without the accompanying ticks, snakes, 6'-tall stinging nettle, and 108 degree weather of previous seasons. 

Winter here is a wonderland, indeed! I feel so lucky to get to spend another one here.

Another beautiful winter berry - Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Indian currant/coralberry). This one is definitely more purple-pink than the possumhaw. It is a lower-growing shrub with berries in clusters (Caprifoliaceae/honeysuckle family). 

Whenever I see beautiful fungal colonies, I think of my friend, Emily. Haha! A true explorer and wanderer (and photographer, unlike me!), I have yet to meet another woman like her in this life. We met in my second post-college internship, many years ago. She was the outspoken one who kept raising her hand at this conference we attended, and she was very real. Em was the first person I had ever met for a true appreciation of shelf fungus. I am pretty sure I have never seen anyone get that excited...about shelf fungus. 

Where are the other women like that around here? 

My bean. My rock-gatherer and stick pointer-outer :) He has, by the way, been going through this phase (hope it's a phase) where he is very conscious of the dark. I hesitate to say "afraid of the dark", but we have reached the nightlight stage. 

Also, he now says, "pied pecken" (pileated woodpecker).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Heart, for a Moment

Winter hike in an oak riparian forest. 2012.
My husband recently returned after being gone for a couple of weeks - The "practice run" as I referred to it, for the big one. We celebrated one another in our favorite way, a family hike. We laughed and explored and played. But inside, we are grieving for the inexplicable loss that our Nation has suffered in this past week. Not a day has gone by where I have not cried. 

Initially, I could not shake the image of all of the parents waiting together on a big, frosty football field, to find out if their babies would be coming home that day. Next, it was the image of the families who had to return to bare the loss of a house that would never be the same. And now, it is the image of that first day back - That first moment where these parents whose kids came home, have to send them back to school. And the worst one, the one that swells up in my throat and causes my breath to stop, is the image of the teachers who have to go back and put on a brave, poised, and happy face for their little ones. Their words will be clung to, and their every action watched and emulated. 

And then, I get to thinking that really, all of our words are being clung to right now, in the counsel of our friendships and in the familiarity of the journalists and media we follow. When an entire Nation is grieving like this, we are all feeling raw and we are all acting to protect our vulnerability. Now is a good time to remind ourselves that we need to be brave and to act with compassion and love toward one another, not anger. Please, not anger. Not now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Toddler in Winter

My botany apprentice and fellow explorer, little h, during a cold, winter morning "hike" along the Missouri River bottomlands in NE Kansas. He's just discovered the largest stick ever in this photo.
Here is what little h found this morning (you can tell he's found something because he shouts it from the rooftops...and if he doubts whether or not you heard him, he'll come grab your hand and lead you to the discovery, or he'll put the discovery really close to your eye so that you can be sure to see it correctly): "tall gass" (tall grass), "cunchy heafs" (crunchy leaves), "rock", "tees" (trees), "bugs", "wet", "sticks", "balls" (berries). I was quite proud of his inventory, and I told him so. Every time I tell him I am proud of him, he smiles wide and says, "powd" :) I don't know if he knows what it means, but he obviously gets the spirit of the word. 

On this day, it is 18 degrees F. The sun is shining brightly and is actually very warm in our heavy coats. There is little to no moisture in the air, and no horses or dogs cross our paths. Alas, it is time to turn around and head back.

I think this is Ilex decidua (Possumhaw holly)...isn't it beautiful?!
I say, "back, this way, please!" and point to the car. At that, a full-on toddler tantrum ensues. Blood curdling screams at the top of his lungs. Goodbye, wild things. Goodbye, quiet. I turn around and start walking. He is rolling in the pathway. Then, in about 5 seconds, it is over. I walk over and pick him up and wipe away his tears. He knows he has to go ("have to?"). And his heart-breaking tears turn into big hugs. As he puts his head to my head (I think that's his new way of saying he's sorry, and it is really adorable), I say, in my soft mom voice, "I know you don't want to go, but you have to mind Momma, all the time, even when you don't want to." And for now, he is okay with this. And I am 99% certain that all of this was really just because he needed a snack.

Appropriately enough, I just read this poem in a book of recommended poetry for toddlers. In it, Lilian Moore accurately compares the willpower of the entire ocean to that of a toddler, and I love it so much I want to frame it :)


I made a sand castle.
In rolled the sea.
            "All sand castles
            belong to me—
            to me,"
said the sea.

I dug sand tunnels.
In flowed the sea.
            "All sand tunnels
            belong to me—
            to me,"
said the sea.

I saw my sand pail floating free.
I ran and snatched it from the sea.
            "My sand pail
            belongs to me—
            to ME!"
~Lilian Moore, from I Feel the Same Way (New York: Atheneum, 1967).