Where have I been in 2014?
What have I crossed off my bucket list this year? Well let’s see. This was a year of many firsts and a return to some of the hobbies of decades past. This year was one of many lessons learned – the good, the bad and the ugly.
I have been coast to coast I have seen wild horses, elk, rocky mountain sheep, sea otters, sea lions, whales, dolphins, the redwoods, the mountains, the desert, coyotes, tumbleweed and tornadoes. I have stood under a waterfall in Rifle and visited the bustling ski town of Aspen.
I have been awed and frightened all at the same time. I have had beauty and wilderness take my breath away. I have cried tears of joy and happiness. Then there were times I felt like a stranger in the mountains and I longed for home. The mountains and canyons arouse emotions in me that I have never felt. Driving through Nevada on highway 50 I felt alone on earth. There were no signs of life anywhere – that is until just outside Eureka we were pulled over for speeding.
I have been to New Orleans and New Mexico. I have cried with passion on the Durango train ride through the mountains to Silverton. I have cried with fear on the Million Dollar Highway. I have squealed with delight white water rafting the Colorado River. I laughed with glee as I fished the Gold Medal waters of The Frying Pan River. That was one huge item on my bucket list. I have cried with terror over looking down at the dark deep abyss that is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I have been 4 feet from Rocky Mountain sheep and wild Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park. I found myself at the Four Corners and witnessed what a desert is. I have seen herds of cattle out in the freezing cold with icicles on their coat. I have seen the same animals trying to find shelter in the sweltering merciless sun of the west. I have seen wild horses lying down as if dead in the heat of the New Mexico sun. I have trekked the Mesa Verde and cried the entire way and shivered with fear even though it was hot – so hot I could barely breathe. I have looked out over my balcony at Fairview Lodge in Mesa Verde watching wild horses and herds of elk wander looking for food. That scene took my breath away. There is nothing like the wide-open spaces to remind you of glory of the natural world. I have strolled the streets of New Orleans with two drinks in hand and a smile a mile wide on my face.
I have learned what letting go and going with the flow means and that just doesn’t apply to hurricanes and fishbowls!
I have seen alligators covered in orange clay resting by the canal in Savannah Georgia. I crossed bayous and felt eerie and I wondered what evil lurked in those wet seemingly endless swamps. I returned to Florida after a decade to see tame sand hill cranes. This was after three trips to Kearney, Nebraska. “The sand hill crane capital of the world”. We missed them all three times, waiting patiently by the Platte River. Last Spring we could hear the swoops of cranes in the sky and drove around for hours trying to see them in the corn fields- no luck.
I rediscovered my affinity for water and one of the greatest thrills was white water rafting. This year I discovered just how much fun winter can be- if you have snowshoes and a snow blower and a man to do the job. I learned how
lucky I am to have so many windows and so many birds to watch. I have learned not to bother with my fruit trees because the deer strip all the fruit a day before they are perfect to pick. I have learned how incredible goats are and witnessed a mother give birth in Avalanche Colorado. I have learned to find out when places are open so not to arrive when they are closed like Maytag Blue Cheese factory in Newton Ohio.
I have driven over the wretched roads of Michigan and seen the dead bodies of deer littering the roads. I saw deer quartered out naked and strapped to the back of a truck. The hunter had a huge smile on his face. I have been in Colorado during hunting season and I saw more orange and camouflage than I ever wanted to.
I have learned to pack properly for road trips. I have seen more road kill than I had ever wanted to. I have been in Hot Springs in Glenwood Colorado and wondered why I didn’t have one. I have met all sorts of characters. I have embraced the truck stop. I have decided that the U.S. needs more Tim Horton’s. I am sure Canada needs more rest stops like the United States have. I have discovered that there is a real difference in American and Canadian Culture, lifestyle and outlook. It is not only about the guns. However you really do think twice before getting involved in road rage. We don’t define ourselves or judge others by our politics and bumper stickers. One word – Republican or Democrat and you are categorized. I realized that the price of liquor in Canada is outrageous. I learned that religion plays a role in retail and that Chick A Fila makes a much better chicken sandwich than Whole Foods. I even forgive them for being closed on Sunday. I admit that Hobby Lobby is a great store despite their politics. Why do I have to care?
I have eaten all across the states and written well over one hundred reviews. I have learned that you can find interesting food choices all across the country. Delicious was found at a wee truck Taqueria in Glenwood Springs. I discovered that Coloma Michigan has a fabulous fruit belt. I learned that Billboards do lie-but they can also lead you somewhere wonderful.
In Washington I learned that a truck stop could make fantastic pizza. I have learned in Georgia that you can buy boiled peanuts- yuck!!! You can buy ridiculously expensive $5.00 popcorn in Nebraska, home of the Huskers. I discovered Maytag blue cheese at a gas station. One of my aims was to locate the best BBQ and I tried and tried. I decided that it is very hard to find good bbq in the U.S.even in the states that are renowned for it.
I have learned what delicious BBQ can be in the strangest of spots. I have tasted Maine lobster that made me weep with pleasure. I devoured that delicious crustacean for six straight meals, and if you do the math I ate lobster for breakfast. A Californian artichoke food truck made the best lemon dill sauce that I have ever tasted on the most delicious artichokes that have ever crossed my lips. At Wegmans in Delaware I discovered how incredible a crab cake could be. I also learned how expensive seafood is in the US and I was startled to see people able to pay for this pleasure. I discovered the joy of Happy Hour. FYI they won’t let you order more than 2 drinks at a time.
I saw first hand animals that are free range and I have also witnessed and smelled the stockyards. I have seen prisons – behemoths dotting the landscape and signs warning us not to pick up hitchhikers in the vicinity of the jails. I have seen thundering tornado clouds chasing us.
I have been driving at night and in fog and have been terrified of wildlife running in front of the car- which they did. I have learned that Colorado seems to
have the most road signs warning and then terrifying me:Avalanches, Falling Rock, El, Bear, Sheep and Moose Wild life crossing, Open Range for cattle, Landslides, Floods, “Truckers don’t be fooled”, run away truck lanes. Never mind the mountain passes and switch backs. One sign never fails to make me smile ’Scenic View next exit” Are you kidding me? We are in Colorado after all. I realized how much land there is with nothing able to live on it. Not even animals or green grasses.
I have learned that joy and fear are handmaidens. I have done things I never would have dreamed of and would never do again. My most terrifying moments were in the car on mountain switchbacks and the hike at Mesa Verde. I asked myself who would build homes in the middle of mountains and what about their poor kids that may not like heights? Perhaps that solves the reason the Anasazi abandoned the cliff dwellings.
I see what empty stores and malls do to the spirit of the land of the free. I have spoken with people who work for peanuts. I have learned
that Best Western has no universal standards. This year I fell in love with trucks and truck stops. I have seen the Worlds Largest Truck Stop in Iowa. I felt as if I had landed in Vegas. I walked into a gas station in Nevada and it had a mini casino- and yes it was packed.
One of the best investments I made was to buy a year Park Pass to Ontario Provincial parks and to Rocky Mountain National Park. I began to connect with a whole new group of people- outdoors men and women. I learned tricks from observing their campsites and equipment.
I discovered the beauty of Northern Ontario. I went camping of the first time in decades and drank antifreeze from the camper sink. I was lucky to avoid a food violation ticket at Killarney Provincial Park. Too much open food and a bear at the campsite wanted to come to dinner.I witnessed the Group of Seven inspiration first hand. The clear water, the rock, the huge skies and the people who enjoy the outdoors were inspirational. I woke up and saw campers in winter clothes in August. I had a raccoon crash my campfire. I learned it is best to cook before it gets dark. Organization took on far more meaning to me. In Killarney I discovered a viable fishing fleet bringing in its proud catch and dozens of people were lined up waiting. -it was a thrill. I saw a cougar cross the highway a hundred miles from home. I discovered that Sudbury has a wicked LCBO.
I have stood on cross-country skis’ with my daughter and kayaked through the roughest water on Georgian Bay. I discovered that I prefer calm waters.I went blueberry picking at a local farm with my children on the hottest day of the year. I attended a family reunion and went tubing. Yes my back was sore but I loved it so much I did it twice. I have learned to eat enormous meals at noon time when in Lake Skootamata. I have watched as a suckling pig was roasted on a home made spit. I learned what having an extended family means. It matters.
I have heard the loons call and miss the coyotes that have vanished from my farm.
This Fall, unlike last year I rescued most of my fish from the pond and had to leave a dozen behind. I have kept fish on and off over the years
and I now remember how happy I was to get rid of that enormous and smelly job of cleaning the tank. I also am re-living what it feels like to have 3 dozen fish recognize me and beg for food every time I enter the room. I have to avoid eye contact
I fed an aging crow all summer until one day he never came back. I saw my first albino raccoon and had flying squirrels feeding on my seed left out on the porch after nightfall. I nurtured a premature red squirrel I dubbed “powder squeak”. That squirrel taught me what perseverance means. I heard the great horned owls call on a winter moon. I rescued seven orphaned baby skunks.Yes they can and do spray. I saw a just born lost fawn call for its mother just as a Tornado touched down. I have learned that it always snows and rains more on my farm near Georgian Bay. I have learned what farmers have known for generations, you are at the mercy of the weather.
My family discovered the joy of playing cards and the down side of competing. You have to start “fresh” in the morning. As I sit here in my bathrobe decorated with food items on January 8th, 2015 experiencing that delicious joy of just relaxing. I have discovered what companionship and love means. I have learned what it is like to have real friends. I attended a funeral service and sang the songs I was taught as a child and I wept with loss. I felt the beauty of the power of people coming together thorough music. I have missed that. I picked up my trombone to surprise my children and that I did.
Maybe I learned that the farmer down the road grows better tomatoes than I do. Well, in fact Dubeau farms in Perkinsfield does do just that – I saw how gorgeous Roma tomatoes could be and accepted the fact that mine paled in comparison.
This is the year that I almost saw my dreams come true – of building a cooking studio and then the contractor defrauded me of
25,000 dollars. This year I learned no good deed goes unpunished. In my heart I know some do. I was trying to give a local contractor some business. He stole my money and that dream of mine. This year one of my dreams did come true- I appeared as a Chef on Television. This year I taught my son’s girlfriend how to decorate cookies and make turtles.
This year I was in and out of Princess Margaret Hospital having procedures and follow up tests. This week I learned what a clear MRI means.
I have learned you are never too old to make a snow angel.
I have learned how nice it feels to be back in my own bed with 12 covers!
This year re- affirmed how precious life is.