Summer Surprises


We’re back in our beloved Smokey Mountains and we brought our granddaughters and granddog with us. The kids are gone now, and I miss them terribly, but for the last 11 days we’ve had a marvelous time. There’s a lot to do here and the weather is glorious, so we took advantage of it. Here are a few of the fun things we experienced.

Izzy's first venture into the pond.  Do I really want to do this?
Izzy’s first venture into the pond. Do I really want to do this?

Last summer we restocked the pond with a couple dozen baby trout!  The ride from the trout farm to our place must have been unusually traumatic because they hid and refused to come out for feedings.  After a week we gave up, assuming they were all dead, or had been eaten by critters (we have bears, otters, and great blue herons here, and they all love trout), or slipped through the high water pipe and headed downstream.

But when our kids came back over spring break, the trout were not only there, but eager to eat!  By the time we got here last week we had several at least a foot long, several more around 8 inches, and even a few that looked only 4 or 5 inches long! Where were they last summer? Why do we have 3 different sizes of trout in our pond now? Can those little ones be new babies?  We’ve heard trout don’t breed in captivity.  What’s up? It’s a mystery.

Where'd they go?
Where’d they go?

Our girls love horses, so naturally we went horseback riding. There they are in front of me in their personally designed tie dyed t-shirts. That’s the tips of my horse’s ears at the bottom of the picture.

Heading off for a grand adventure!
Heading off for a grand adventure!

We actually did have a bit of a surprising adventure. One horse had a wardrobe mishap and ran off without his rider.  He was caught, but someone else rode him after that. Then a little girl couldn’t control her young horse who kept insisting on being first, to the consternation of the guide’s horse, so she and I traded horses.  The little girl finished the trip on my horse, the biggest and calmest horse in the herd, and I, a rather tall person, rode the smallest feistiest horse home!  I don’t think my knees will ever be the same!

The girls discovered a surprise:  a marble tic tac toe game embedded in a stump!  And Izzy discovered a stick!!!
The girls discovered a surprise: a marble tic tac toe game embedded in a stump! And Izzy discovered a stick!!!

Then there was the first hike on our property. It was sad and depressing to see the stumps of the beautiful old hemlocks that had to be cut down because of a deadly infestation of the wooly adelgid pest that’s destroying the Smokey Mountains’ grand old ladies. It’s devastated some parts of our property, but we’re making the best of it.

Our friend and neighbor, Algie, made us a gorgeous long table for the screened porch out of some of the timber, and he gave away truckloads of it to neighbors who depend on firewood to heat their cabins in the winter.  Tony, my brother-in-law, found a novel use for some of the stumps. Without our knowledge, he had a marble tic tac toe game embedded into a particularly large one and installed two smaller ones for seats! What a lovely surprise to stumble upon in the middle of the woods. Thanks, Tony!  You’re the best!

Izzy wanted to play too!
Izzy wanted to play too!

Last summer I talked to Herminio, our handy man who can do anything–and always with extraordinary beauty and skill–about forging a new hiking trail in a part of the property that’s been a dumping ground for dead trees because it’s too overgrown with thick rhododendron in some places and too wet in others to use. We came up with what looked like a good starting point off the main trail, but it looked terribly difficult and I pretty much gave up dreaming about it over the winter.

But when we took our first hike last week, I was thrilled to see beautiful log steps at the entry to the new trail. Soph, Izz and I hiked it and it’s perfect! Herminio used tree trunks to fortify steps and steep sides of the trail, and brought in flat rocks for stepping stones over the marshy areas! And it was just so cool and suddenly I was ten years old again, the little girl who loved trees and woods and was fascinated by natural sanctuaries where I felt the presence of God!

Izzy loves the new trail too.  Notice the rhododendron blossom in the upper right?
Izzy loves the new trail too. Notice the rhododendron blossom in the upper right?

This mud wallow was probably Izzy's favorite part of the hike! She is one happy dog!
This mud wallow was probably Izzy’s favorite part of the hike! She is one happy dog!

Seeing this sanctuary through the eyes of my granddaughters and Izzy has brought back wonderful memories of a childhood when being out in nature was an adventure, when walking down a sunny dirt road or through a shadowy forest, or playing in the sand by the ocean filled me with delight and wonder.

I lost that feeling for a long time.  Way too long.  But it’s back now. And I think I may know why. I’ve spent my adult life looking for the numinous and now I’m finding it in the most unlikely of places: myself. This has been the most amazing and delightful surprise of all!

Note: If you liked this post, you might enjoy  Re-Stocking and Moving On, written in the summer of 2012.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

Join 5,846 other subscribers


0 Responses

  1. I loved your post as it brought back my own childhood memories of living in the woods near Lake Washington. I was able to wander far and wide in the woods. Now, after years of living in the city, I live in a rural area and I too feel like I’m home!

    1. Isn’t the hold that woods have on our emotions and imagination amazing? When I learned that woods and forests have always been associated with the Great Mother archetype, I began to understand my attraction to them. I have always unknowingly longed for a deeper awareness of, and connection with the feminine foundations of my psyche, and woods, as outer symbols of inner archetypal realities, furnish me with that awareness and connection as little else in this patriarchal world does. Bodies of water do the same thing for me when I take the time to be with them in more than a surface way. Thank you for writing.

      1. I live by the bay and walk everyday along our town’s waterfront to view the wildlife, absorb sun rays, and appreciate the beauty of nature… along with talking to people and petting their dogs. I LOVE nature. It adds peace and happiness to my life. I’m also tall… 5’10” I can appreciate your situation on the horse.

        1. I’m 5’8″ but that horse was little more than a pony and the saddle was small. Worst of all, the stirrups were way too short. But the wooded setting was beautiful and my granddaughters were happy and it was well worth the discomfort!

  2. O this is lovely Jeanie thank you! What wonderful surprises along the way for all! I felt my heart lifting as I read this and I am definitely smiling! How wonderful it all sounds and is!

    1. Thank you, Susan. I’m sitting in a rocking chair on the porch as I write this. It’s a cool 70 degrees. Gentle breezes lift the delicate tips of hemlocks (we’ve treated the ones close to the house and so far they’re still alive), buckeye, cherry, willow, rhododendron, poplar, and locust. They’re all framed by the gently sloping mountain behind them. Birds are chirping, tweeting and cawing. Hummingbirds zoom in for a sip of nectar from the feeders. A tufted titmouse grabs a few seeds before darting back to the safety of the nearest tree. Butterflies flit by. Buck Creek furnishes background music. I’m sighing with pleasure; smiling too. ?

  3. Lovely. I’ll write more with news. Arrived in SMA to very chilly weather- what a delight after hot hot FL. Later, XXQ
    Sent from my iPad

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Posts