Today is Earth Day, and Shyla and I gave thanks for the incredible mountains and forest around us.
We looked up at the trees in wonder, thinking about how many seasons they've seen in their long lives. They were born before either of us, and most of them will outlive us by many years. We are specks in the life of Mother Earth.
We also thought about our impact on the world around us. We love frolicking in the forest...
... but we do our best to leave the forest as we found it and not to scare the wildlife. After all, it is the time of year when baby animals are most abundant in our forest. This is from almost exactly 3 years ago.
Wide eyed, we started our morning a little later than usual. It was a rough weekend health-wise, and I wasn't quite at my normal energy level this morning. That seems like it's never true of Shyla - she is always ready to move at warp speed.
She was a happy girl as I took a few photos in the forest before we headed up higher. But the sun was so bright, she needed shades! Unfortunately, she hates Doggles.
Then a couple of things happened that put Shyla into a wary mood. One was an encounter with a not-so-nice dog. It was my fault for not getting out early this morning. It happened just after she relaxed on her favorite boulder. The dog put Shyla on the ground, yelping in fear, but there was no physical harm done. However, she was less carefree for the rest of our ride.
A while later, up higher in our forest, she caught a scent that fascinated her and made her very wary.
When she caught the scent, we were on our way to check a trail camera. Before knowing what the trail camera memory card held, I took the photo above of Shyla about 30 yards from it. Guess what we found on that camera?
You guessed it - a portrait of a mountain lion, taken just hours earlier. There was a whole series of him, over a couple of days, which I'll share in the future. He's a handsome dude, isn't he? I'm almost certain he's a male because he scraped the ground multiple times in front of the camera.
After I glanced at the photos taken by that trail camera, we headed for home! I thought it seemed prudent not to hang out next to a spot where a lion has been multiple times recently. I must admit, however, that the mountain lion photos made me smile!
I am ready to move onto a new season. This winter has been difficult, to put it mildly. I dream that Spring will bring new health to me, and life will return to a semblance of normal.
Except when they yank on my "bad shoulder", the Duo has helped me keep moving through shoulder surgery recovery and the clusters of migraines that have ensued.
Evenings tend to be when I feel the worst, and the fact that I need to take the Duo for a "hike" helps me as much as it helps them. I may not want to go on the hike before we start - but I'm usually happier when we're on the trails than I am languishing in the house.
I honestly had absolutely no idea that shoulder surgery would lead to such a struggle to recover. I thought that it would be easy, especially compared to the far more extensive surgeries I've endured in the past. Instead, it's led to a long dance between the darkness and the light - between pain and healing - that is not over yet.
I think that the light is starting to win, although my shoulder still hurts and the migraines still hit me regularly. Despite those downers, I feel optimistic when I see the Pasqueflowers open up and turn their faces to the warm sunshine - because it means that change is on the way.
Today, the flowers were closed again because it's been a cloudy and stormy day.
Stormy days seem to be my nemeses. They cause my shoulder to swell, my head to hurt, and my normal spine pain to escalate. Ah, thank goodness for the happiness of a dog, no matter what the weather!
The way the Labraduo has helped me through this winter of trials and tribulations must be a version of the "Power of the Paw". In this case, their indomitable spirits have helped me stay strong.
I've noticed that our dogs have been obsessed with scents recently.
They are always turning their noses in exactly the same direction - the direction where I know the bears like to spend their time.
As a photographer, I've been settling for profiles of the dogs, as they cannot be deterred from the scents.
Today, Shyla and I were near the top of a ridge, and I know that there's a bear den and bear trees just over the ridge. She did this almost the entire time, with her nose pointed toward the bear area.
So, I made a special trip to a trail camera where I get the most black bear photos, and voila!!!!
This is a young bear, who I've seen in the past. His "mane" that sticks straight up along his spine is my identifying mark. This year, as you can see the above photo, he has another identifying mark. He has quite a wound on his right hip and butt. It looks almost healed so I'm guessing that it happened last year. He seemed to be moving fine. I captured photos of him here, and then about 2 miles away a fairly short time later.
He marked this tree!
I made a video of this bear at the two sites where I got photos of him. It's a rapid-fire compilation of still photos, taken 2 per second. You can watch it here or at Youtube.
I find bears to be the most fascinating animals in our forest. When I see the first one of the year, I know it's truly spring. All of a sudden, the forest feels more alive to me. I know that bears are hard at work - raising cubs, finding mates, and foraging for food.
At the end of today's bike ride, Shyla looked like the definition of happiness, reflecting my sky high mood!
Life sometimes feels like a dance between the darkness and the rays of sunshine as we struggle to find our way among the difficult hurdles we encounter. I feel like that dance defines my life. I try to cope with the hurdles and come away from each difficult situation stronger than I was before. There is something to be learned, some wisdom to be gained, and some insight to be captured in almost every tough situation.
I find that the struggle between dark and light draws me into photography. I love trying to capture the rays of sunshine in the midst of a dark forest. Yesterday, Shyla fell asleep in a warm sun puddle while I photographed her in the forest.
It's easiest, in terms of telling the stories of our lives, to focus on only the rays of sunshine - the happiness. Yet, we all have struggles of one kind or another.
As you know, Shyla struggles with fears - mainly of interacting with unknown dogs, some people, and the bustle of town. Recently, she's made big strides with one of those struggles.
There's another young female dog who runs with her human on our trails. The other young female dog tends to greet canines with an emphatic signal that she considers herself to be the boss. It is often a growl, an air snap, or a pounce - but it never goes beyond a ritualistic sort of behavior. Confident dogs, like R, simply ignore her greeting behavior. In contrast, fearful dogs, like Shyla, can be terrified by it.
Something has shifted in Shyla's relationship with that dog recently, partly because the other dog has recently dialed down how she greets Shyla. In the next photo, Shyla has just spotted the dog coming up the hill toward us. Her reaction was to wag!!! Look at her tail - it's in mid-wag.
In recent encounters, the other dog has done something very funny when she arrives just ahead of her human. She runs in between me and Shyla, and she sits, appearing to "pose" for a photo. So, I obliged the other day. She's a pretty dog, and I'm so glad that she and Shyla are getting more comfortable with each other. Her owners are friends of ours, and it's fun if our dogs get along!
That's an example, in non-literal terms, of the struggle between darkness and light that goes on all the time in our lives. Shyla adores running in the forest but she's had to find the courage to face the few scary situations that we encounter out there. The light, Shyla's confidence, is winning in this case.
But I think it's worth remembering and acknowledging that life isn't always a picnic. We don't have to paint our lives like Hallmark cards.
But I do love the glow that emanates when the light and the darkness meet.
Some of you jokingly said yesterday, "Maybe this will be your last snow". I chuckled. The next storm is forecasted for late Wednesday and then there's yet another storm in the long term forecast. Thank goodness that Spring snow is alright with us!
Like most spring snows, it melted down by about half yesterday even though the temperature barely broke freezing. There's no more lightweight powder for Shyla to frolic in this morning but I still have wonderful memories of yesterday.
The snow was bottomless in some places yesterday, leaving Shyla floundering.
Unfortunately for R, he cannot play or run in deep snow yet due to his elbow surgery. The orthopedists say that deep snow is one of the toughest challenges for a dog with a bad joint. So, he ran on plowed surfaces with the Runner in the morning.
During our hike yesterday morning, it was 20°F with fresh snow but birds still sat atop the pine trees and sang their Springtime songs.
Bird songs followed us everywhere as we wandered the snowy but sunny hills, making me smile.
By evening, the snow had melted enough that R could hike on the trails. He threw back his head and sang with joy!
As the Duo and I finished our evening hike, we saw the full moon rise, a glorious sight, especially knowing the Eclipse was coming later that night.
I live at 8200' in the Front Range of Colorado. I love exploring nature
in the mountains while riding my mountain bike and romping with my
Labradors. Photography is another passion, including both "normal" photography and trail camera photography of wildlife.