Slow Run

It’s summer here in our place. Well, not quite officially, as the summer solstice is not until June 21 which marks the official start of summer in the northern hemisphere. Yet the mercury is rising, as our high temperature for the past few days and the coming week will be in the 90’s to even reaching 100 º F.

But this morning, it was a comfortable 74 º F, so I went out for a run. It is also about this time of year that I should start preparing for the half marathon, if I should decide to join again this coming fall.

As I was approaching the small pond in my running route, I have to stop and let the family of geese get off the road before I could pass. The mother goose was already hissing at me as I was approaching them. They can be very territorial you know. But that’s fine, I can share the road with them, and I have no plans on swimming in their pond.


When I came to the wooded areas, I also saw a deer. But it bounded quickly away before I could take out my phone out of my pocket to take a photo. It might be sneering at me that I am too slow.

Same thing happened when I came to an area where a couple of wild rabbits were on the side of the road foraging for food. They also scurried away at the sound of my slow feet, before I can get near them. They may also laughing at me for being slow.

I admit, I am getting slower. Maybe my age is catching up on me. I have no match for the swiftness of the deer and the hare. They seem to dash so effortlessly and yet so gracefully. While me, I push for every step of my way to get to a pace that runners would even consider “running.”

Maybe all of us can relate in one way or another, and in different endeavors, that we feel we are no match to the “competition” we are going against. Whether it be in sports, or in school, or in our work, and in life in general.

Then as I was fighting my way uphill, I saw this guy.


Yes, that is a snapping turtle. And I was “quick” enough to take a photo of him.

They are called snapping turtles not because they snap their fingers as they go, rather they have the ability to snap, as in bite an attacker. That’s why I kept my distance.

The pond, or any body of water that I know in this area, was hundreds of meters away. I don’t know how long it would take him to get there, if that was where he was heading. But I’m sure his slow pace does not stop him from continuing, for that’s who he is.

It gave me a good insight for the day.  Life they say could be like a race. But it is not always for the swift, but to those who kept on running.

 

Purple Crown and Thorns

(I know Prince’s untimely death has hugged the news in the past several weeks and many people wrote articles with “purple” theme, but this post has nothing to do with Prince.)

There are things in this world that are unwanted.

When I went out for my morning run today, I came near a pond and a large mother goose was standing at the middle of the road. Nearby is her family. The protective mother goose stared and hissed at me. I was an unwanted guest.

I went slowly and timidly, as far as I can on the other side of the road, so not to agitate the goose further. After I passed them, they quietly slipped into the water and swam away.

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Not long thereafter, another bird, an aggressive red-winged blackbird hovered wildly above me. It made repeated dives on my head while chirping loudly. I think she has a nest nearby, and she’s telling me to go away. Definitely I was unwelcome there.

I probably would do that too, if an intruder whose intention I am not sure, would go near my family.

But there are other things that are unwanted and unwelcome, which we try to get rid of. Like weeds and thistles from our lawn and garden.

Back to this morning run, after my confrontation with the goose and the blackbird, I went out to the lonely gravel road to continue on my run, where I have not been for a while. There I noticed this purple thistle at the side of the road.

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I did not know that this weed, can grow this tall, as the moment we see it in our garden, we pull them out immediately. I did not know as well that it can produce beautiful purple flowers. Thorny yet exquisite.

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thorny crowns

This weed is known as the milk thistle (scientific name: Sylibum marianum). It was named such due to the milky sap that the plant produce when cut. It is native to the Mediterranean, but is now found throughout the world.

It is not just in the manicured lawns and gardens that it is unwanted. Even in prairies and pasture land where cattle roam and graze, farmers try to eradicate them, as they are considered noxious weed. The reason is it can be toxic to cattle, sheep and other livestocks, if they eat them.

So most of the time, this purple weed is left to grow only on the side of lonesome roads, or in wild, forsaken places. An outcast, if you will.

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But I will argue that despite being unwanted by most of the world, it survives. Defiantly existing to show its beauty for anyone who would stop and appreciate. It has spiny-edged leaves, prickly stems, thorny crowns, yet colorful blooms.

My little research also tells me that this thistle even though it is toxic to cattle and other ruminants, it is perfectly edible and safe to humans, provided we don’t eat the thorns. There’s even studies to suggest that it has medicinal property, like treatment for liver diseases, and also been looked at to treat cancer.

An unwanted and lowly prickly thistle. Yet there’s beauty and purpose for its existence. Just like many other things in our lives.

I know you have an annoying classmate or officemate that you wish would migrate to the moon. Or you have unwanted daily tasks that you wish you don’t have to deal with. Or you experience thorn-on-the-side everyday challenges that you hope to live without. And the list of “unwanted” things go on and on.

Yet they exist for a reason. We just have to look a little closer.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

 

Rest Stop

Thanksgiving time is hands down the busiest time of travel here in the United States.

It is estimated that there will be about 24 million people scuffling through the airports during the Thanksgiving season. If you think that is an impressive number already, that is only a very small portion of all travelers, as 90% will be traveling by car. And more than 50% of these road warriors will travel more than 100 miles.

If you are driving for long distances, you must be thankful for rest stops along the way, where you can pull over and stretch your legs, or take a toilet break, or even catch a few winks before you continue on the long road ahead. We have done long drives before and we appreciate the value of a rest area.

Iowa, where I reside now, is smack in the middle of America, and the house where I live is just 2 miles from I-80, which is a major road artery that connects the east and west of America. Interspersed along I-80 are some of the biggest and nicest rest areas you can find.

Though some friends of ours, who travelled from California to Toronto, or Michigan to California, or even shorter drive from Indiana to Colorado, and were passing through I-80, have stopped over our home for a break and a visit. Of course we did not charge them for bed and breakfast.

Yesterday morning, I learned that our place was some other form of rest stop as well. For the birds.

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I was out on my Sunday morning run, and as I approach a pond, I heard a ruckus. Lots of trumpeting and flapping. When I looked up there were flocks of geese circling above me.

They were taxiing for a landing.

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I realized that this season, with the winter approaching, is also a busy time of travel for the migratory birds, as they fly to warmer places. These birds travel from few hundred miles to several thousand miles depending on the species. Some will fly a few thousand miles non-stop until they reach their destination. While some will have some rest stop along the way.

Obviously these flocks of geese were stopping over in our place. Maybe it was for a quick bite and bathroom break. Maybe it was to cool their wings. Or maybe it was for a relaxing swim in the pond. Whatever it is, I believe it was due to our excellent accommodation. And we don’t charge them!

Below is a short video clip of this rest stop.

If only turkeys can travel and migrate too during this season. They would be flying (or running) away to some safer place. That is away from our dinner table. Yet the only rest stop they will end up this Thanksgiving is inside our belly. Aren’t you thankful you’re not a turkey?

In any case, wherever you are traveling to this holiday season, or wherever your final destination in your journey in this life, may you have a safe trip.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(*photos and video taken with an iPhone)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes / Flock of Birds

(Here’s my entry to this week’s WordPress photo challenge.)

Recently, here in the northern hemisphere where I live, I have been seeing flocks of geese in their majestic V-formation in our skies.  And they are flying north. That just mean one thing – spring is coming!

However this morning, as I looked in the sky, I saw a different flock of birds.

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They seem to be in a somewhat V-formation as well. But why are they not heading north? Does it mean spring and summer will skip us this year?

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No. Because they are not a flock of geese, and they are not even birds at all! They are steel birds!

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They are a flock of stunt planes, and they are probably practicing for an upcoming air show. That means spring (and summer) is not far behind indeed.

(*photo taken with an iPhone)

Life Interrupted

It was a beautiful, clear, crisp November morning. The sun has made its way up in the low horizon. I was scurrying my way to work and just pulled out of my driveway. My car clock said only eight more minutes till eight o’clock, which is the time that my first patient in our clinic was scheduled to be seen that day. But nothing to worry. I would make it on time. Even though my office is 8 miles away from my home, it only take me 10 minutes or less to drive there, as there was no real traffic to talk about.

I was speeding down the lonely but scenic, winding country road from my home to the interstate highway when a deer out of the woods bolted into the road in front of my car to cross to the other side. I had to slam on my brakes hard so not to hit the deer. By the way, this is the stretch of the road that I see a lot of roadkill. Good thing there was no car behind me, nor in-coming vehicle on the other lane, otherwise it could have caused an accident.

But what followed the jumpy deer was six (yes, six!) more anxiously looking deer that dashed across the road a few feet in front of my car. They must be traveling in herds. I had to come to a complete stop to let them all cross to the other side. Now I would be late. Darn deer!

We don’t like being interrupted. Whether it is somebody rudely butting in when we’re speaking, or someone disturbing us when we are quietly meditating, or somebody ruining our set schedule or plans, or deer jumping in front of our way, hindering us.

But was it me that was interrupted by the deer, or was I the one who interrupted the deer’s peaceful existence. By the way, it is mating season for them and they are constantly on the move. (November has the highest incidence for deer-related vehicular accidents, and Iowa is rank #2 among states in the US with the highest car insurance claims relating with deer collisions). Or maybe those deer are running away from someone, as they looked scared, for it is also the peak of hunting season.

As I continued my drive to work, after being unceremoniously stopped by deer, I saw a flock of geese in flight, maybe 10 or more of them, in their beautiful V-formation. Perhaps they were flying south for the winter, as the air had really gone cold here in our area. The harsh winter is coming, so they are fleeing to a much warmer place. But they will be coming back here in spring. That is the cycle of life.

geese in V-formation

As I marvel their majestic flight, the geese suddenly broke out of their orderly V-formation. There was chaotic flapping and confusion that followed. Then I saw one of the geese spiraled downward to the ground.

It took me a moment to realized what I had witnessed. I surmised that a hunter somewhere nearby, perhaps hiding in the fields, had shot the goose and hit it. I am not a hunter, and have no desire to be one, and so my heart goes out to that poor bird who was taken down abruptly out of its flight of passage.

I want to slow down and find out further what happened to the flock of geese, but I was approaching the interstate highway, and besides I was already running late. My view of being interrupted have completely changed in the past few minutes. I cannot shake the sight of that hapless bird plummeting down to its death. Talk about life being interrupted ….. permanently. And I complain just because I was delayed for a few seconds?

I was in deep thought when I was again interrupted when a big semi truck pulled close behind and overtook me on the interstate highway. I then became aware that I was driving slower than the speed limit. That has never happened before.

(*photo from here)