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Tree Secrets

Two boys,  sitting in a tree,  smiles on their faces and feeling like the only two people in a crowded park. A sunny day,  full of hope and promise.   A celebration is happening on the ground but up in that tree memories are being made.

I know that's true because when I saw that tree it brought back so many memories for me of days gone by.   We had the most wonderful trees when we were growing up,  perfect for daydreaming, story telling, plans that we hoped would turn into adventures and reading.   The hours would float away like white puffy clouds,  just moving along at a lazy speed while we were up in that tree.   Secrets,  they were also being shared, a bit at a time.

Some days the tree was to be shared with a friend.   Never a problem.   Whoever got there first was always happy to have the company of a friend.   That's when the adventures would form in our minds, with the hopes of maybe,  just maybe carrying them out.   Secrets were big with friends also.  After sharing a secret or telling of a difficult time at home we always climbed down feeling better,  knowing that we were not alone and tha the tree would keep our thoughts safe and private.   My favorite times though were when I was alone.  

There is nothing more magical and wonderful than to take your book and climb up that tree and find the perfect limb for leaning back on and reading away a summer afternoon.  If your lucky no one will know where you are and come looking for you.   It is a process though,  the branch has to be low enough so that you don't need help getting to it and it has to have a wide enough limb for a comfortable sit.   You need to be able to tilt your head back so that every once in awhile you can look away from your book and look up...look up at the leaves and the sky and sun and feel the warm that they  offer.   The important part is to get a good limb on a tree with lots of leaves,  you can sometimes even look down at the people passing by and they don't know your even there.   It's like a secret for just you and it makes you feel powerful,  like you put one over on them.

I grew up in the city, on a major road going from one town to the next.   The problem was we had more cement sidewalks than trees.  I loved the city streets.  They brought there own kind of entertainment but that's for another day.   In the 60's though we were more fortunate than today's city kids.   We had hugh parks all over and we had the Salem Willows,  all of which had very lovely maple, chestnut,  weeping willows and oak trees.   Some of us (not me) even had a good tree in our yard.   Also,  there were trees planted right in there with that cement.  You needed to get one of those on a side street though and that's where you could do some good people watching.   Back then I could hop up in a tree without any worry about breaking a limb (mine) or falling out of my tree.   I miss those days.

When I saw those boys in the tree I was once again reminded of the charm of childhood.   I could tell from the smiles on their faces that they to loved the adventure and excitement of being up there on their own.  They felt a contectedness to each other and to that tree and I hope that someday those trees will still be there for a another group of children to build dreams in.  

I'm going to keep my eyes open  for a good tree for Liam.   We now live in a rural area and we are surrounded by trees.   Perhaps I'll look for one with a really good limb and tell Liam of my tree adventures so he'll think about having a few of his own.   In the meantime,  I'll keep my tree dreams alive knowing that my love of nature might just have started somewhere in one of those big city willow trees, reading a book and keeping secrets,  knowing that all was safe,  wrapped up in those branches.


In The Bulb There is a Flower

Sunday Morning.  Me and mine head off for church. A time to quiet the mind and hopefully get inspired for my week ahead.   I love going to church,  I love my church.  It is old and small and simple.   When I'm there in the building I feel a connection to a great power.   This Sunday though,  my connection was to the tree outside the window.   I sit on the right side of the church,  third row back.  I have a clear shot of that beautiful tree that sits very close to the sidewalk.  Today it caught my eye with it's tiny pink buds.  The light was just right at 10:15 to wander through it's branches.   Today that tree and those branches were speaking directly to me.

The message was a simple one.   Beauty is outside this building.  Beauty is in this tree.  The tree that tells me that we are in the Spring season.  The season of re-newal.   Each year,  for a short time, we are reminded that life and birth go on.  That there is a flower in that bulb and that we should slow down,  breathe that scent in. The hymn that began playing was amazing.  It spoke to me just as the tree did.  I knew that today Mikes' sermon would once again be wonderful,  as it always is,  but I knew today I was taking home the image of that tree and the words of that song.   They told me of God's beauty in the simplest of ways.

I knew as I sat there that I was so blessed.   All I have to do each day is look at my family.   My husband,  my kids and now my grandson.  The smiles on their faces tells me all I need to know about goodness and love. Beauty lives in them and I am grateful.  The tree with it's buds,  the sky, the moon, each star at night,  all tell of an infinite beauty provided for us by a Higher Power.  All we need to do is stop every once in awhile and enjoy it,  giving thanks for such a display of greatness.   I sat in church today with a full heart,  knowing that I can see beauty whenever I choose.   I can take my camera for a walk any day and slow down enough to see what is right there in front of me to enjoy.   I knew that as I left that building yesterday that "it was a good sermon of sight and sound".   I knew also that I had found my subject for Day 29 of Beyond Layers.  

As you travel through this season of re-newal and hope take a few minutes each day and step outside to find the beauty for yourself.   You won't have to go very far,  I think it's right outside your door.


In The Bulb There is a Flower


In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
Natalie Steele 






Courage sits on my desk in the shape of a good size rock and on a piece of paper under glass.   The rock is heavy and so were my burdens at one time.  The paper is my freedom.  It tells me that Courage is doing something even when you are afraid. "I have a theory about courage.  I don't think it's a moment of bravery when you have a rush of adrenaline.  Courage is something level, a kind of force that sustains you.  And that's what it takes to face difficult things,  to make it through life successfully."

Day 28,  Beyond Layers.   Write about the Bravest Moment of your Life.  Now that is a challenge because from where I was to where I am today there were many brave moments,  and in each of those moments courage got me through.   Most of you know my history,  my background so I'll tell you what I think was one of my bravest moments.  Not only was it a Brave choice but it took a lot of courage but at the end of my adventure I knew I had made a Giant leap to healing and faith.  Faith in myself.

I knew way back in 1976 that I was in big trouble.   I tried not to look at it hoping it would fade into the background.   Instead it grew and grew like James and the Giant Peach until one day it just busted wide open and there I was,  lying in my pool of fear.   For three and a half years,  unless it was absolutely necessarily I did not leave my house.  It seems my Peach had a name and  she was called Agoraphobia.   It really isn't necessary to go into the details of why she decided to pay me a visit or why she decided to stay so long but lets just say...she wore out her welcome.   

I could not go out anywhere.  No church,  no movies, no travel and no shopping.   No concentration so no reading,  no television and no peace.   I was able to take care of my son but not like I would have liked to.   I was frozen in my fear.   It took many years, lots of really hard and brave work to get myself somewhat better.  it was done in baby steps.  The way most fears are conjured. Baby step by baby step I made it.   When I say I made it,  what I mean is that I could finally get outside,  go to the store  and some times I could go to church. I had to sit in the back and by the isle.   Better than my couch though.  The fluff was leaving my head a bit at a time and I felt hope slipping in..not completely but it was knocking on my door, telling Agoraphobia to take a hike and she was getting ready to pack her bags.

In 2000 I picked up a camera for the first time.   I had taken photo's before but never seriously but in 2000, when my brother was dying I found the camera to be my friend.  We went into the woods together and the healing  started.   I felt comfortable there amongst the tree's and the forest smells.  The sounds of the birds and the quiet filled my aching head.  Peace even in the face of death.   That's how it began.  From there it was a steady progress to kick my demons to side of the road one courageous step at a time.   Getting stronger each day,  week,  month and year.

One day as I was reading a photography magazine I came across a photo tour that I knew I would love. It was a photography tour to the back country of Yellowstone National Park on horseback. What a dream that would be.  I loved horses and I now loved the country and of course my camera had become my best friend.  I showed it to my husband and right away he responded "let's go.  Let's do it."  I don't think  I can was my response.  I don't think I could be away from my family, my hospital,  my life lines.  I don't think I could do it without panic attacks and I don't think that is a good place for flipping out when the price of a helicopter out is $7,000. 00.  And who knows if you can even get a signal on a cell phone out in the back country.   I would dream about that trip though and I really wanted it.  After all the ad said it was for beginner photographers and beginner riders..So I took every once of courage I owned and we signed up.

Panic set in as soon as the payment left my mail-box.   Courage stick with me now.   Don't let me down.  We packed,  we flew.  Oh My God I'm in a plane...somewhere in space.   We got there and we saddled up.  Scared beyond scared and then we set off.   Fifteen minutes into the trip,  my horse tripped,  and I was done.  I wanted out.  No way to get out..we were in and that was it.   Courage you get back here right now.  Hoof by hoof deeper into the back country I went with my camera gear, eight horses and riders, eight mules carrying food for a week and our tents.  No phone, no lights, no bathrooms, no heat,  no control.   Bears though, where were the bears.  I knew for two nights that they would come and eat me.  They never showed up.

Then one night under those stars, surrounded by a quiet that was only interrupted by the sound of the bells on the mules,  I knew that this was one of the bravest things I had ever done.   It was beyond my comprehension when I left home what I was in for.   Sleeping in a tiny teepee with a cool whip container for my toilet,  soaking my butt in the stream after 8 hours on a horse because it was like raw meat,  pain, physical pain, in my legs,  feet and back from holding on.  I had dodged tree's when the horse got to close.  I learned how to use a hole in the ground.  We brushed our teeth moving around so that the bears would not get our scent.  And no shower for a week because if you could see how that was done you would rather stay dirty. What I learned about myself and the people that I was with was worth every inconvenience that I suffered.

I learned that I liked being up at 5a.m with my photography teacher studying the bugs and the flowers and shooting  macro.  When the others would get up we had breakfast over an open campfire.  After a long day on the trail,  shooting waterfalls and rainbows and sunsets, there was also a wonderful dinner cooked in the night air by a great couple of Yellowstone guides.   I learned to trust and love my horse Hawk to get me up and down canyons.  I was so scared I could have used my cool whip container on a few of those long and careful trips straight down.   I really learned what a meadow was,  not what I dreamed it was.   Grass and color and flowers for as far as the eye could see and some it so high it touched your thigh.  I learned how to filter water for drinking.  I even learned how to cross rivers with water up to my knees, protecting my camera gear and holding Hawk with one hand.   Most importantly that night,  in the field of dreams,  I learned to trust myself.   I learned that I could do whatever I set my mind on.  It would not always be easy but I would not surrender to fear.   Courage and bravery would travel with me wherever I went after that trip.   For someone who had spent years never leaving the house and years before that afraid of most everything,  the freedom was palpable.   

I will leave this page of Bravery with a little story from that trip that tipped the scale for me.   Two Yellowstone Field guides,  one male,  one female.  Both delightful.   My first real cowgirl.   Her and I became really good friends during that trip.  I would watch everything she did.  How strong she was,  how brave she was.   She handled the food, the mules,  broke down tents and went ahead as we moved to new locations and set up for us when we came in from the field.   I was feeling a lot of stress one day knowing that I had to go down of the canyon that we had come up on.   I was really scared and didn't sleep all night.  The next day as we travel, she was leading 8 mules, fully packed,  down the canyon behind us.  The trail was really tight and so those of us on horseback had to edge up the hill into the brush so that she could pass with the team.   Effortlessly she went by and I was in awe of her bravery and courage with those animals.   That night,  after dinner, we were sitting by the fire having coffee and I told her that I thought she was the bravest woman that I had ever know.  So self-assured and moving along like she was going to a party and dragging those mules as if they were her guests...She looked at me and Cheryl,  you have that wrong,  you are the brave one here.   I was stunned.   You see,  she said,  I am in my element and you are so out of your box that on the first day I predicted that you wouldn't make it the week.   You showed up in all your jewelry,  with your camera gear and country ways and I knew you were clue less as to how this week would go. Never once have you complained or refused to do your part.   You were scared on the first day but you pushed through it.   I have never seen another woman come here and take on this task like you have.   Your the brave one.   Who knew.   I sat there and cried and I remember those words today each time I feel stressed or think i can't do it.   

That trip was life changing for many reasons and while I couldn't wait for that week to be over for the pain of it,  when it finally ended I was so sad to leave.   I knew as sure as I know my name that I will never do anything that brave again and I am thankful for every moment that I was there.   

I have since been on many photo tours,  rode many horses and now I have found another Cowgirl who has the same soul as my first Cowgirl friend. I can honestly say that was a wake up call for how much we can learn and change if we open ourselves up to possibilities that life will bring our way.  There are days when I still have some anxious moments.  They are few and far between.   When they feel like letting me know that they are still there if I would like to visit with them,  I slam the door in their face and go outside for a walk in my Wonderful World.    Here's to Cowgirls, me included, with spunk.

"You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories.just change their height and hair color. No one ever once has recognized him or herself in my fiction. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better."  Anne Lamott

"Whatever you're struggling with is a reminder for you to find true purpose in your lifetime." - Deepak Chopra


My Five Photo Dreams

1. To conquer Photoshop

2. To do a Coffee Table photo book of my photo's and quotes.

3  To share my love of photography with the elderly.

4. To teach my Grandchildren the love of nature by taking them to parks and teaching them how to do photography.

5.  To continue to learn and read and write and to always attach a photo to enhance the vision.







It is finally spring in my neck of the woods and it always feels like renewal to me. Actually it is renewal in many, many ways.  Sometimes the renewal takes me by surprise and I think of years past and love one's missed. Perhaps that is because at this time of year one of my "passed down",  generational chores is to take care of the flowers at the graves of member of my family.  According to my Mother's rules of flowers on the grave,  they have to be in by Memorial Day.   I am remembering that.

Have you ever had a day where you were just out there,  having a good time and enjoy all the moments of that day.  You are aware of your surroundings and the people that you are with.   It feels good to sit and chat, catch up after a long winter of not being together.   The day passes in a warm fuzzy feeling sort of way.   You get to reconnect and to catch up on the happenings that you have missed out on.  I have those days once in awhile.   The thing that makes them unique is that while I am in the moment with them I am not aware of how important this one special day is...that always comes later.

For me yesterday was like that.   Perhaps it was the spring time feel in the air.  The fact that we were able to be outside in the sunshine and fresh air sharing the new growth in my Sister-in Law's garden.   Perhaps it was once again just being in the country with her and her Grandson and me with mine.   A gift we don't often get to give each other.  More importantly perhaps it was that on that long ride home,  and even into the evening I was reminded of how much she has meant to me over these many years.   How easy we still are with each other and perhaps it was that I was remembering times spent together in the past.

My Sister-in-Law was married to my brother for many years.  Her and I became friends.   She has an easy attitude and a love of nature and kids.   She feels strongly about family as do I.   We share a bond of "family" and I was so aware yesterday of how grateful I was for her.   My brother died in 2000 and along with losing him there were times when I wondered if she and my niece and nephew might move on also.   I suppose that would not be so unusual, perhaps even normal, under the circumstances and the distance of our lives.

Yesterday as we had lunch and the boys played I watched them.   One my great nephew at 3 years old,  one my grandson at 2 years old.   They are cousins somewhere in there but I'm not really good at the "3 times" removed.  They were just doing there own thing as little boys do.   Learning to share and to connect in their own little boy ways.    I thought how my brother would have loved this.   He would have enjoyed them so much but he never got that chance.   He lives on though in them and because of my connection and love for my sister-in-law and her's for my family,  my brother is not really gone.   Not in the sense that is so permanent that connections and his family are gone also.

It occured to me yesterday that all of us are always connected if we make it an important part of our lives. I am grateful for all the times we have shared driving to each other's  houses,  getting our children together since 2000.   I have watched my neice and nephew grow,  get married and now have their own children.   My children have grown and we now have Liam.   The connection is strong.   The family is intact even as we all move forward into our own future.  

Those boys are the truth of family and connections.   My sister-in-law and I are still family,  even if she is married to another now.   Connections do not dissolve because one of us has to leave.   Connections are what we make them.   I am forever grateful for my connections to my New Hampshire family because in the end they are my connection to my brother.

Because of two of the sweetest and "sharing" cousins those connections will continue to move into the future. And those of us who remain will connect them to the past by bringing them together whenever possible and weaving stories of Grandpa's and Nana's and Gram's who have moved on.

And yes, we have already planned another date to get together.   Next time it will be here in my area as her and I travel the cemetary to place those Red geraiums of the graves of loved ones.  I am sure she got the same instructions as I did.   It will be before Memorial Day...I promise Mom.


Beyond Me

It is beyond me why it is so difficult to take a self-portrait.  It shouldn't be that hard.   Set up the tri-pod, camera on top, self timer on and me in my favorite pose.  What favorite pose and do I really want people to see me?  I'm suppose to be behind the camera,  not in front of it.

The task this week for Beyond Layers was to try to do a "selfie".   Well here I am a week late posting this project. Believe me when I tell you it was a project and honestly I was a bit surprised by how challenging it was from many views.  Since I have promised myself not to miss any lessons, I  knew that I should get on with it.   First though,  I had to think about it.   How much did I want to reveal about myself.   Did I really want to show my face?  Do I want "flickr" and the internet to really "see " me.   Would I be judged in some way for my imperfections?  Who knew it would be so risky.  Who knew it would be so hard to get that camera to focus where I wanted it.

This weekend we were in Maine and I decided this would be the place to take that damn photo.   I love Maine. I am most alive in the quiet, grounded peace that dwells there on my tiny strip of woodland.   Maine also brings new life to me each time I visit.   I have more of a sense of myself in those woods.  My tiny little house provides me great comfort and ease as it wraps me in it's warm and loving walls.   Maine is good for thinking and dreaming and also for saying "what the hell"  give it go.

As I was thinking of this project I was also thinking of why I didn't want to put myself "out there".   God knows I have been working on myself for the past 35 years.   Getting healthy, getting over past loses and no so good times.   I know I have come a long way towards being who I am meant to be,  who I want to be.   I am,  for the most part,  the person that I would love to spend a day with.   It has been a long road and at times a very difficult road but one foot in front of the other places me right here right now and it feels good.  So why do I hesitate to say "Here I am.  Take a good look at me.   I'm secure and wonderful.   NOT.

What I am though is confident in my world,  loving to all who need a helping hand,  gentle to my furry friends, and a Mom and Grandmother that spills over with pride in her children.   I am the perfect wife for my husband because he loves me and my craziness.   He also knows the whole me...and we embrace each other most days. I don't mean to give the impression that my life is without flaws because trust me,  we have flaws but the goodness and love always wins at the end of the day.   That is where my girlfriends come in. On days when I need a lift or a laugh one of them shows up.  So many and so unique,  each of them taking the part of me that works for them.   Sweet friends for so many years.  Having said all that what I like most about me is my humor and my way of looking at the world.  Humor has always got me through and there is nothing better than a riproaring laugh.

So in that awareness I still  found myself reluctant to take self-portraits.   It is deep-rooted.  I have a sense,  at least for myself,  that even as we repair our minds and bodies,  when we come from a place of deep wounds,  it is difficult to put yourself "out there" even after many years of healing.   To see oneself is probably more difficult for me than the viewer.   I see myself and wonder "how will I be judged"...again.    I really do believe for many of us we bring our vulnerabilities along with us on our journey of life.   Most of the time they remain in check, hidden. We have learned to deal with them.   But a "selfie", and there they are roaring their ugly head again.

My project must go on though,  a promise to myself.  Over the years I have found that each difficult task has always made me stronger.   I tell my kids all the time,  nothing worthwhile ever comes the challenge was on.

What do I rely on humor.   I am remembering a Christmas gift left on my kitchen counter in Maine when we got there a few days after the holidays.  It was from the young man that takes care of the house in the winter when we are not there so often.   I remember walking in the door and laughing out loud at not only his knowledge of me but by the fact that he dared to leave it and in the leaving knowing that I would love it.   So although, we all have many faces that we present to the world,  this is the one I choose for this project. I did do another one,  but that's for another day and another story.

It really is Beyond Me why it took me so long to do this task.  It is done and now you know part of who I am and what I look like. Who knows maybe I'll reveal more of me in the future.   


"We are not meant to be perfect.  We are meant to be whole."  Jane Fonda