Friday, August 31, 2007

Lingering at Hall Road Bridge

My husband, Dan, and I completed a 13 mile kayak day-trip on the Thunder Bay River in northern Michigan, exiting at the Hall Road Bridge. Earlier we had spotted a bicycle at the take-out next to the bridge, and while Dan rode the bike back to the car I had some time to linger.

I walked out to the center of the bridge on Hall Road, a little-used dirt road surrounded by state forest. I don't know what got into me, but it sure looked like it would be fun to jump off the bridge into the fast current which winnowed through the narrow culvert under the bridge. I decided the 12 foot jump would be foolish, not knowing if there were rocks below the current and no one to help if needed. Damn, if I didn't hear that nagging old voice, "Get serious Cheryl, you don't have the courage anyway."
I stepped back from the edge and noticed far down the road a group of 5 people walking abreast. It was a slow, lazy, summer stroll and as they finally got close enough I could see 5 teenage girls with towels wrapped around their waists. Well, at least I will be able to go swimming safely in the company of others, I assured myself. But instead, these rough-talking, spit-chucking girls walked to the center of the bridge where they made themselves comfortable resting on the guard rail. After a few minutes of lively and loud banter, 3 of them took off their towels and without much hesitation jumped into the river. They must have seen the glee on my face because they asked me if I would like to do it. "M a y b e......" , I coward. "You can get between us. We will hold your hand and jump together," the girl who spat the most figured. Not wanting to give up all control, I suggested that I just stand at the jump-off point and try it alone. So I was alone, on the edge. Two girls were below in the water to catch me, two girls were at the top to coach me, and one girl had my camera to get a shot. It looked more scary now that I was actually prepping myself for a jump. I hee-hawed around, until the girl who spat the most shouted, "Come on! You only live once!" I don't know why that remark from some young person who didn't even know me pissed me off, but it made me decide that I wasn't going to go to bed that night and feel disappointed that I didn't jump. So I sent myself off the edge, not a forceful leap but a step into a youthful burst of fun. It seemed like I would never hit the water. They caught me, pulling me from the center of the current, cheered, and gave me hugs. Then they led me by the hand through the slick culvert and fast current under the bridge to the other side where we played in the current. They were so sweet, protective and fun, their natural selves, I'm sure.
Still there were two girls who hadn't jumped yet, the two who spat the least. They wanted to do it and held hands at the jump-off point. For ten minutes they approached the edge, looked over it, backed up, chanted one-two-three, and went nowhere. Getting tired of this routine and shivering in the water below as one of the catchers, I finally hollered, "Come on! You only live once. You're not going to wait until you are 57 to do this, are you?" That did it. They jumped...and they yelled much louder than I did! Group hug.
By the time my husband got back, I was all by myself again. I asked him how the bike ride was. He said he enjoyed a beautiful, quiet ride through the forest. I didn't doubt it. He asked me what I did while I waited for him. I told him I jumped off the bridge with a bunch of new girlfriends. He didn't doubt it. He must know something about girls!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Love is in the Air

This was not the easiest heart to catch from a floating inner tube with a pocket digital camera. It was easier catching my husband 35 years ago. Today, we celebrate our 35th anniversary and we are still enjoying blue skies!

So, what are these contortionist doing making hearts in the blue sky? It is a mating pair of damselflies. They can fly around like this too. Wouldn't that be fun....add a little spice to a relationship?

Do you know the difference between a damselfly and a dragonfly? They both are aquatic insects, with most of the 407 species in North America laying eggs and passing the larval stage in the water. The adults are often brightly colored, which is uncommon among aquatic insects. The adults can catch and eat their prey while flying around, and happily their most common food source are mosquitoes, black flies, and other biting flies.
The larvae look entirely different than the adults, kind of like a caterpillar to a butterfly. I haven't taken any photos of the larvae, even though I often find them in the water gardens. The illustration of the larvae is from A Guide to Commom Freshwater Invertebrates of North America by J. Reese Voshell.
The easiest way to tell the difference between a dragonfly and a damselfly is to notice how they rest. The damselfly holds its wings together extended above the body and the dragonfly outstretches its wings from the side of the body. In flight, the damselfly is delicate and a more feeble flier. The dragonfly is bulkier and flies more boldly. They are both beautiful and will not hurt you.
This summer, while you visit a lake, pond, river, or water garden, be prepared if one of these beneficial insects lands on you, even consider keeping a magnifying glass close by. Hold still, look at its huge eyes with 10,000 facets, observe its lacy wings, and admire its colors. Maybe it will even turn it's head 360 degrees. Bet that's a lot further than any human has ever turned its head for you, even with love in the air!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Water Lily Time

I got into a few water gardens this week to take care of the plants, fix a waterfall, clean a filter, and adjust a fountain. The water is warm and it is very pleasant work, though some of it was challenging problem solving.

I would like to share with you some photos I shot while I was in the water garden at the Toledo Botanical Garden. These photos were taken a couple of weeks ago, but there are still many water lilies blooming. These are the hardy northern, as opposed to tropical, variety which bloom during the afternoon. I hope you will make time to visit the Toledo Botanical Garden. It has 60 acres of display gardens and plant collections, including perennial, aquatic, shade, daylily, cottage, vegetable, hosta, rose, English, and more. Much is in full bloom now. It is open daily, 8 am to 8 pm, and is free. For more information, check

Consider a garden stroll next time you want to get a little exercise. The quiet and beauty will nourish you, besides taking in all that good air for your lungs. Oh, if you do go to the Toledo Botanical Garden, be sure to see my baby.....the water garden next to the gazebo in the shaded woodland garden.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Done for Another Year

I'm done. I completed the Sylvania olympic length triathlon yesterday, the only one I do every year. I always feel relieved, lighter (literally), and healthier for it. The draw-back to this mid-August triathlon is the realization that there won't be many more days of simplified clothing, bare feet, and outdoor swimming. But I feel good!
I'm happy with my time (3:08:23) and with my recovery. I came in fourth in my age group and received a medal. I am thankful that I completed the event in the heat without complications, and I wasn't ashamed to walk when I felt too overheated to run. It was exciting to be with 900 athletes from 32 states, some of the athletes being world class. You can view the results at
So after a day of rest, it is time to scrub off the body markings, hang the medal, and get back to work. More so, I want to feel the still-warm earth under my bare feet without thinking about running, to swim the still-warm waters with all the joy and grace of a relaxed frame, and to reap the benefits of a stronger mind and body on whatever roads I cross.
It is so nice to be done, but not finished!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Amy says, "It's a Celebration"

Tomorrow is the triathlon. I always feel nervous before this event even though it is my eighth time. The weather is suppose to be in the upper 80's to mid-90's and humid. That makes it tougher for me since I have a problem dissipating heat. The 1 mile swim will be fine, the 26 mile bicycle can be tolerable with the air cooling the skin, but the run......I have decided to take an umbrella and walk the 6 miles if I have to.
I remember three years ago standing on the beach with hundreds of other athletes donning swim caps and goggles preparing for the start. Many were jumping and shaking, trying to stay warm in the 7:30 am coolness and release some nervous tension. I noticed one woman who appeared to be relaxed, with a smile gracing her pretty, 30-something face. It made sense to me that I should hang next to her and catch her vibes, like some kind of athletic strategy. I had seen her at some of the training swims and knew her name was Amy. Wanting to know her secret, I inquired, "Amy, don't you get nervous before these events?" She turned to me with a bigger smile and total confidence. "No," she replied. "This is the day I look forward to. This is a culmination of all the hard training I've done and now I can see what I can do. It's a celebration!"
Those few words have helped me get through some hard training runs and bike rides, but I intentionally pull them to the front of my mind when I'm nervously anticipating the start, when I am hitting the brick in transition from the bike to the run, and especially on the run when I am most tired and wanting to quit. Then I hear Amy coming up behind me on the run. I know it is Amy even before I see her. It is a springy, higher pitched sound I hear, different than the heavy thud of a running shoe. Amy has one leg and a substitute prosthesis for the other. You may find that inspiring, but you really should see her joyful bounce and hear her cheerful reminder when she passes me by, "It's a celebration Cheryl!" That's the pull I need. Thanks, Amy.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Kayaks and Fear's been working out pretty well this summer. I've had two girlfriends visit me up-north on two different occasions, both who said they would never get in a kayak.

Eve, 56, came from London where she has lived for 30 years. She had some kind of mishap in a boat when she was young and she thought she was going to drown. She was yellin' scared about going in the kayak when I suggested it.

Mary Jo, 57, the best stay-at-home mom of five lovely, now-grown children, has never had an interest in the outdoors and hates bugs, birds, and anything else that moves in the natural world (we ask ourselves how we could be friends for 38 years). It is amazing that she agreed to come to my house up-north in the "wild" and more, to try out the kayak.

Look at these women! City Girl and Super Mom both got out there......and each went kayaking again by themselves, with no prompting. They became very relaxed on the water. Watch 'em, soon they'll have their feet up like me in my blue roller. Mary Jo even got brave
enough to sit outside in the "wild" to watch the sun set. Bravo, Ladies!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

He Made Me Do It

It seems so much has to be squished into our short summer season. Having returned recently from a vacation up-north, I was busy with work, home, and training. My husband Dan, who spends alot of time looking at maps and reading about places when he isn't working, was bugging me again to take another little trip. He really had to work on me this time, but I finally relented and in less than 2 days we were off to the UP (upper peninsula of Michigan). We loaded our kayaks, camp gear, and food, then drove and ferried over to Drummond Island in northern Lake Huron and did a kayak 6-day mini-adventure. I have some photos to show you, but Dan isn't going to let me tell you exactly where we went because he caught alot of big fish that he released and hopes to catch again. I caught a lot of time with a very quiet natural world, pursuing otter, beaver, deer, butterflies, fossils, snakes, frogs, and flowers with my little pocket digital camera. I would love to tell you exactly where we were, but the best I can do is show you photos and wish you the kind of fortune I have.....someone to make you get out there. Out is In!

Cheryl kayaking on Lake Huron
Dan kayak-sailing with a deer on shore
Where in the world is this campsite?
Cheryl warming up after a swim
Dan in a hurry to release the small-mouth bass
Playing with 3 otter
Monarch butterfly