Egg and Extra

Lots happening along the Green Ribbon trail in Flourtown/Fort Washington, PA, today.

I left home early today and parked the car at the day use area along Mill Road. Headed down the trail and for a change, at the fork I went left instead of right, toward Stenton Avenue. I’m not sure why but I almost always go to the right fork first. Why I mention this fact will become clear, I assure you.

It had rained hard all day yesterday and things were still very wet today. I was skipping from puddle to puddle when I hit this dry stretch.

What is that in the middle of it? I got closer. Look! A robin’s egg, and guess what – no robin in it now, which means a new little bird somewhere in a nest nearby.

I felt sure it had been there since at least yesterday, since it had a little puddle inside it. And look, I match.

Well, I continued along my way, coming up to the last little bit before the trail ends at the gate at Stenton Avenue – the trail parallels the road here.

At this spot I heard a discreet beep of a car horn – not enough to startle me but enough to make me look. Guess who – my husband, driving by on his way to work. He pulled into the little area to say hello. He told me he had seen my car at the lot on the other side of the park – I’d left before him this morning –  and he knew I was in here somewhere, never thinking I’d up and appear. And I thought, what a good thing I went to the left rather than the right at the fork this time. What a nice surprise for us both.

So he turned around and went off on his way.

I did the same.

Later on, I came on this area where water is trapped when the creek overruns the banks. I was very taken by the reflections in the still water. Then I had the idea of throwing a stick in the water to stir things up. The trees became wiggly strands waving away at me. Now this amused me and I can’t say why.

I took a picture of this tree on April 19 and here it is on April 26. There is a lighter green hue to the groundcover now and it is taller.

Green Ribbon Tree 8 4-19-17 small

April 19

April 24

Here’s a warning – this nice-looking light green ground-covering plant is not nice. It has a Velcro-like stickiness to it and where it touches your skin, it will itch and burn, leaving no mark, just that maddening pain.

It grows all over this flood plain. My husband calls it “seven-minute itch weed” but I am here to tell you it can be with you more like seven hours, if you are dumb enough to run along a trail, bare-legged, brushing your legs past it at every step. Don’t do this. Wear long pants.

Finally, I ran up the hill to the bird stand and then back down the access road. Here are two birds that have got baby birds under their care – I heard the chirping. These two let me get quite near. I thought they were chickadees but I am not sure – they had a blue cast to their feathers? I am hoping my bird-expert friend Diane can tell me.

Well, I went on my way from here – the remainder of this very nice walk was uneventful but refreshing, in a light misty rain, and with lots to think about.

Walk Around the Park

The other day I was telling my friend John N. about a great walk in the Fort Washington State Park. He’s done the roads there, but not ventured out into the wilds. I told him I’d take him around the loop to show him the route. Later I started to think – how long will it be before we can get together to do this? In the meantime, John is missing a really nice walk.

I was at the park on April 17 and I decided to photo the route. I think it will be enough guidance for John to try on his own if he wants.

Background – this circuit is about 2 miles. It’s part of the cross-country course run by several local high schools in their meets. I became familiar with it running charity cross-country 5K events in the park. Now I go there and do it on my own – sometimes running and sometimes, like today, walking it. The route is composed of a big loop (the one I am showing today) plus a smaller half loop covering much of the same ground and including the dreaded Power Line Hill. We’re not going up that hill today but I will point it out.

The weather was off-and-on rain showers and quite mild the day I took these pictures. OK, John, here goes!

1. Park in the lot next to the bird watching stand and the bathrooms.

2. Go over to the bird stand and start down the hill, aiming for the two benches down there at the bottom.

3. Head down the trail.

4. You’ll come to this fork. Go to the right. And as a note, if you went left, you’d end up on the Green Ribbon trail by the creek. Nice to know this as it’s a good way into that part of the park. And notice the rail line – here’s a good view of it.

5. Now just go along the path. It’s easy to see. It parallels the freight rail line on the left.

6. Keep your eyes open and look to the right when you see the power poles. This is the Power Line Hill. In an actual 5K race this hill comes along about 70% of the way through (the race start is in a different location than where I started). Believe me, this is a killer hill. Looks pretty easy? Remember, it ends way off up there in that open area.

7. Keep on going along the path, until you come up to this bird house on a pole.

8. You veer off to the right – the path is still clearly visible.

9. Look, beach volleyball on the right.

10. Keep going along the line of brush until you see this signpost.

11. Don’t be startled if a train comes along while you’re in this section. I’d say about half the time one passes while I am here.

12. Follow the arrow on the sign and veer right, keeping pretty close to the brush. You’ll see birdhouses all over the park, by the way. And the baby trees have plastic sleeves around their trunks so that the deer can’t eat them.

13. At this point your aim is to get over to the park road that is in front of you (past the pink trees – hard to see in this picture). You can angle over or you can go straight to the pavement.

14. Once on the pavement, you head to the left.

15. When you reach the intersection, you’ll turn right. I always like to do a loop around the little island first…

16. Walk down this road a short distance, until you see the signpost on the left.

17. Now we are at my favorite part of the loop. Pick up this little trail going into the woods.

18. Follow the trail up the hill. If I am running, it takes me about two minutes or so to get to the more level section.

19. At the fork, go right. If you go left, you will end up on the upper park road and you’ll eventually end up at the same finishing point, but – the dirt trail is just more fun.

20. This section of trail skirts the brush on the right, with the overnight campsites on the left. You will see several groups of picnic tables and so on. And at times, the trail gets a bit vague. Just stay along the edge of the vegetation.

21. When you see this bench and the power pole, it’s time to get on the paved road.

22. But wait – I will show you where the Power Line Hill exits – look to your right and down the line of poles.

You say, So what? OK. I’ll walk a little way down it.

And I turn around and look back up. I have seen people crawling at this stage of things, in a 5K race.

23. Back on the route. It’s all easy from here. Go down the hill on the paved road and pass around the gate.

24. Come out to the main road. Does this look familiar? You have finished the loop!

Well, I hope that this travelogue was useful and I especially hope that John will be able to follow it, because I think he’ll enjoy the walk. I know I’ve enjoyed reliving it!

Secret Ambition Handwriting Update – April 2, 2017

I’m working toward realizing a secret ambition: to have better handwriting. Read about the plan here to get some background…

I’ve been working on my penmanship for two weeks now. I’ve finished the exercises in the workbook – now I know all the print and cursive letters. It’s up to me to practice the new skills. I spend some time sitting at the table, writing, using good posture and so on. And I also have been putting in time while watching TV with exercises of my own devising. I have a pad of paper, a pen, and I watch (or mostly listen) to the TV show while jotting down bits of dialogue. I end up with pages that look like this:

You can actually read this text, even though it doesn’t make any sense.

I lose some in perfect letter formation but it fits my routine, and I’m ending up with a lot of interesting pages of surreal conversation. Could be some poetry inspiration there, I think…? Seriously, I figure I will be using my handwriting in all sorts of situations, not just ones where I can get set up in the proper writing mode. And, I just can’t sit and watch TV…

 

*************************************************************

I’ve gotten myself some fountain pens as a treat, and I’ve learned a few things.

1. I bought these two very nice pens, Pilot Metropolitans, they are, and well-recommended. They cost about $15 each and can use an ink cartridge or an ink  converter, which comes with each pen. The latter means I can use bottled inks.

I have one with a fine nib and the other one is a medium nib. I liked the way these pens wrote very much – the ink flow is reliable and not a blob or missed section of lettering. In the end, though, these pens don’t totally suit me. I find them top-heavy, even writing with the cap off, and the thicker shape is hard for me to grip. I also learned that Japanese-made pens feature smaller nibs (for instance, a medium in this pen is like a fine in other brands). The small nibs made for scratchy, less flowing writing, I thought.

But, I liked drawing with these pens a lot and I think they can be very good for when I might need small precise lettering.

2.
I then tried these other two pens. The first, the Platinum Preppy, costs $3, uses cartridges (you can also buy a converter), and comes in a lot of colors. I tried a medium nib. Loved it. The pen glides over the paper very easily. Plus, it’s light, and it is weighted more like the ballpoints I am used to, toward the tip. Easier for my hands to manage.

3.
I also bought a Lamy Safari, medium nib, plus its converter (separate) – the pen also uses cartridges. It cost about $35 altogether. Loved this pen, too. It zipped across the paper, no scratching, no skipping. A very soft feel, if I can describe it.

The Preppy is the clear one and the Lamy Safari is the black one.

 

4. Ink. Each pen came with a cartridge of ink, and I could use that, and replace it when I ran out with another cartridge. But…those inks in bottles! Now, I have learned that I could buy a lot of inks. So many colors!

But changing inks is not that easy – you need to clean your pen if you want to switch from black to blue, for instance. I contented myself for now with one bottle of black ink.

 

This is where the converter comes in. There are different types, and you have to make sure your converter matches your pen. And they do not always come with the pen – it’s a separate purchase. None of this is difficult, including using the converter instead of a cartridge. It is money-saving in the long run, and you get to have these beautiful bottles around, too. I have noticed that many inks come in lovely containers, which is not the point of improving penmanship, but is a nice little side benefit, right?

OK, I’m continuing to learn and practice. I have to say that I love doing this handwriting thing.  Who would have thought I would say that?

More later!

Secret Ambition Handwriting Update – March 25, 2017

I’m working toward realizing a secret ambition: to have better handwriting. Read about the plan here to get some background…

All right, a week has passed, and I’ve been working away in my handwriting workbook. I have progressed through the print alphabet and learned cursive letters; now I’m working on letter combinations and practicing writing sentences and paragraphs full of…words!

For this endeavor, my idea was to come up with handwriting that was legible and attractive-looking. I was tired of people asking me to decipher the very notes I was hoping to convey information through – meaning that I had to read to them what I had written. Could have just said it and saved time – right? I knew legibility would really mean something to me.

I also wanted my handwriting to portray the person I try to be, communications-wise and in life – organized, ordered, and in control of her thoughts.

I think I am making progress. My revised handwriting meets these goals so far. Looking very school-girlish and uncertain at times, yes – but I am a student again, so I welcome that. Let me show you a couple of samples.

Learning this new skill, I’ve realized some things I hadn’t expected. Here are a couple that strike me right now:

1. As I have been practicing, I’ve focused on each letter of the alphabet, how it’s shaped, how the sequence of curves and lines goes, in a way I never have done before. When I learned to write as a child, I was trying to learn what the alphabet meant as well as to write, and my attention was divided. Now, I pay attention to what I am doing with the benefit of just one focus. I KNOW these letters now and I am interested in taking the effort to make each one look well.

2. I have spent 50 years scrawling out words and letters and it never occurred to me to pay attention to the act of writing, just what I wanted to say. I sped along as fast as I could. Now I have to write slowly, thinking hard about each stroke. It is relaxing and satisfying to do this.

3. Each word is a challenge – the letters arrive in their order and I have to figure out how to manage them. There is more than one way to write each word. I am thinking hard about that as I write. Total focus.

OK, that brings you up to date. Maybe more later on. Thanks for reading.

A Good Omen And Things Starting Off Sunny

I got a text from a friend. Driving through Glenside, PA, our town, he went past our florist. Your name is the name-of-the-day at Penny’s, he told me.

I knew exactly he meant. So I hopped in the car and drove right over there.

And there it was.

I went right inside and announced myself. My name is Claudia, I said, and that’s all I had to say. I was escorted into the flower refrigerator and left to choose. I took my time – so much to look at,  and also, I love that cooled flower air smell, why not indulge?

I made my choice and stepped back out into the sunshine.

I brought my rose home and put it into a vase. And now I feel the first day of spring is mine! Thank you, David, for alerting me; Penny’s Flowers, for choosing my name; and first day of spring, for …being the first day of spring!

My Secret Ambition

Time passes. And sometimes little dreams get lost in the shuffle of everyday living. For me, I’m going to reveal something I’ve felt for the last 50 years: I wish I had better handwriting.

Yes. That’s it. My secret ambition is to have nice handwriting.

I’ve always struggled with neatness, uniformity, and envy (of others’ ability to write a nice-looking set of words). In the 3rd grade (approximately 1967) I worked hard to learn cursive writing and ended up with C’s. This mark got me into trouble at home, and it bothered me, because I was working as hard as I could.

Well, decades passed and my handwriting has now come to look like this:

Notes I took about my husband’s care in preparation for his surgery after his accident, January, 2017.

Many times I have written out a check, scribbled a note, filled out a form – and thought how scrawly and awkward my words looked. I also had trouble writing something others could reliably read.

Not only did I want to write a nicer hand in everyday life – I also wanted to be able to handwrite the text for artist books I make and to put handwritten words into other artwork I do. Right now I type out words and glue them in, each time feeling it’s a second-best solution.

It hit me that I could do something about it. Plenty of people want better handwriting, I thought, and maybe the internet could help me out. After some research, I settled on the Getty-Dubay method, the brainchild of two teachers. I bought their book, Write Now. I printed out paper with the correct line spacing. I got a fountain pen to reward myself for taking on this challenge and to use when I had nicer letters for it to write.

I now can write, in printing, the lower-case letters.

I have just started. And I am quite excited. You know, this dream is not a big one, but a small one can be powerful nevertheless. I love the idea of being a person with nice handwriting.

I will keep you up to date!

noticed it

noticed it

noticed it

couldn’t reach it.

couldn't reach it.

couldn’t reach it

The oracle, speaking. The artist trading card, just the messenger…???

stood out sharp

stood out sharp

stood out sharp

ATC advice courtesy of the whims of chance and the random actions of the universe – or via Claudia McGill selections from her cut out word collection. You decide.

Getting the Hurt Leg Fixed, Chapter Eight

The hurt leg is on the mend. My husband went back to work this past Monday. It’s the first time he’s been in an office since December – the accident occurred on Christmas, you may remember.

There have been some changes – partly as a result of the injury, he decided to move to an office in the suburb rather than returning to the city office. It’s nice – not far from home, and I like the new schedule.

He is still walking with the brace. Now it’s time for him to begin to regain strength and endurance. Both legs have lost a lot of muscle. There are still months of rehab ahead. But things are progressing!

I am adjusting to the new situation. Once again, feeling a little disoriented. Yesterday, I came home to a nice surprise – my husband had sent me flowers. You may find it amusing that I did not learn this in the traditional way – opening the door to the delivery man.

No, coming home from the gym, I swerved around the truck parked in front of my house, wondering why it had to be parked so close to my driveway. Then as I was getting out, the delivery man appeared at my shoulder, startling me. But he just wanted to let me know he had dropped off the flowers.

Such nice flowers, too, and I was so touched that I cried.

I set them in the dining room. Suitable site for admiration of the blooms, I thought. Then, I started thinking about – the stems. They are very visible in the container. I liked the look of them.

I was reminded of synchronized swimmers – I’m a big fan of the sport. As a former competitive swimmer I know what it takes to move in the water. I am impressed by the athletic ability it takes to do what they do – perform while putting out a whole lot of energy and effort under the water.

The stems of the flowers are the same way, I thought – they support the good looks above the water line in the vase, quietly keeping the blooms alive and holding the flower heads high.

Think about it.

Hurt Leg Chapters from the past:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

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