Did you know that lionfish are delicious to eat?
Neither did I - but apparently the taste is similar to snapper or grouper. Here are some recipes to get you started. No lionfish surprise on the list, but plenty of other tasty-sounding ideas. Ever been to a lionfish derby? This is a one-day event to collect - and remove - as many lionfish as possible.
You might not even know what a lionfish is, let alone why the strategy of collect, remove, and consume. Lionfish are invasive. Of Indo-Pacific origins, they are the first non-native marine fish to become established in the Atlantic, and are a significant threat to marine ecosystems, according to the company Waterlust. And Waterlust’s Invasive Lionfish Leggings are the reason I am now in the lionfish-know.
When I was visiting Captiva recently with my family, we had a milestone day of adventure (read about it here) with Captain Jenni of Flipside Charters. I noticed that Captain Jenni had on super cool leggings in which she could hop in and out of the water - swim leggings. I checked out the link on her website for Waterlust, the company that makes the leggings, and a whole new world opened up for me. Partly because Waterlust is a force for positive in our world, and partly because I purchased my first pair of leggings, and they are the best leggings I’ve ever worn.
These leggings are amazing. Though I have not yet hit the water in them (they are swim leggings after all), I did live in them for the entire first weekend after picking them up from the PO. You can lounge, run, walk, hike, cook, do yoga, teach Essentrics and pretty much anything else your day entails - these leggings are up to the task.
The material is thick enough to be structurally sound (flattering), but flexible enough that you can move fluidly. 10% of the profits from the purchase of lionfish items support Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF - same place you can learn about the lionfish derbies.) These donations support their programs for research, early detection and ongoing plans for lionfish mitigation.
You can view all the great-looking gear Waterlust offers (sunsuits, shorts, tanks, etc.) on their website. Different fabric designs highlight the different causes to which that particular item donates the 10%.
Here are a few other reasons this company is doing it right:
I’m excited to know about and support Waterlust and their quality products that benefit and educate. It is fitting that I learned about them from Captain Jenni, a Master Naturalist, whose work is educating people like my family and I, bringing awareness to conservation efforts for the plant and animal life on land and in water.
Dark slate water and soft silver clouds tinged in varied hues of greens and blues greet us as we step onto the dock. My mom, dad, daughter and I are headed out for a day of discovery with Captain Jenni of Flipside Eco Charters. Leaving from the marina on Captiva Island, Florida, we’ll explore Pine Island Sound. The sound lies between Pine Island and the barrier islands of Sanibel, Captiva, North Captiva and Cayo Costa. These barrier islands separate the sound from the Gulf of Mexico.
My dad had been dreaming up this idea for months, a foray into the open blue with his favorite three-generation gals. It is a bonus to have our captain be another strong, capable woman.
Captain Jenni welcomes us aboard with a warm smile and twinkling eyes. Popping our shoes into a waiting bucket, we settle in comfortably at the bow, and tend to our first order of business: manatee spotting. Rumor had it a mother and daughter manatee were hanging around the docks, but unfortunately we don’t see them. We do learn from Captain Jenni, however, that manatees can weigh between 800 and 1200 pounds, and their closest relative is the elephant.
Motoring up the sound, we learn about mangroves which make up many of the little islands in this area. The mangrove seed can survive for two years. When it finds the perfect spot in the oyster beds, it puts down roots. As the mangrove grows upward, the roots grow downward towards the water, and the oysters cluster on the dangling roots at water level like giant charcoal-brown grapes. Together the mangroves and oyster beds form islands that provide vital habitat and shelter. The oysters are also efficient water filters - cleansing as much as 80% of the water in this area.
The boat slows, and Captain Jenni noses us gently onto a sandbar, right in the middle of the sound! We jump out, mucking about carefully in the ankle-deep water and discover anemones, starfish, and tiny sea urchins. Captain Jenni points out little tubes poking up from the sandy floor. These are the siphons of the clams hidden below; the siphons are the way bivalves take in and expel the water.
The sun gleams in a cerulean sky as we step foot onto Cayo Costa (“Key by the Coast”) for some shelling and wandering. The tip of the island is home to a grove of dead trees which form interesting sculptures. Charlotte finds a sea urchin that has suckered large shells all around its body as camouflage - the urchin looks like it is covered in radar dishes. She also finds some sea sponges and explains to my parents and I how they work. Captain Jenni has gathered and created a lovely tableau for us when we return to the boat: a shiny orange rock that is actually a calcified tube worm mass, a seashell medley including tulips, jingles, and a shark’s eye, and a lovely sea oat branch.
By now we are all hungry. Cabbage Key is the place for lunch out here - only accessible by boat. The key gets its name from the Cabbage Palm. The palm is named for its edible heart (you guessed it, it tastes like cabbage) that can be eaten raw or cooked. This delectable dish is known as swamp cabbage.
Sadly, the restaurant is fresh out of swamp cabbage, so we make do with a mouth-watering meal of grilled tripletail fish on a bed of yellow rice and black beans. We scrape our plates clean. This restaurant in the “Old House” focuses on reduce/reuse/recycle whenever possible, as all waste needs to be removed from Cabbage Key by boat. The main room is covered - walls and ceiling - with dollar bills that patrons brand with a marker and tape up with masking tape. The bills are taped in layers to each other, and some are taped in chains that hang down to snag the hair of anyone walking beneath. The restaurant donates over $10,000 to charity annually - all from taped-up dollar bills that fall.
This custom of taping the dollar to the wall of the bar originated with the fisherfolk. When they stopped in at the bar after a long day at sea and a good catch, they’d tape up the bill for the inevitable time when their catch would not be so good. That way they could still buy a beer on the lousy days.
After lunch we head to Useppa Island, home to the Pink Promenade, which was originally made of shells and pink sand in 1903. This path wanders through lush tropical flora including orchid trees with fragrant magenta-and-white blooms, a show-stopping century-old banyan tree, and strangler figs, to name just a few. We also encounter gopher tortoises, large and small. They tend to be on the move, and like to eat hibiscus flowers. Well, most of them. One tortoise turns its nose up at my hibiscus and tromps the flower into the dirt in its rush to get on with its day. These tortoises dig large burrows that serve as habitat for at least 300 other species, including gopher frogs, indigo snakes, and burrowing owls.
On the way back to our starting point at Captiva, we motor by the historic fish houses of Captiva Rocks - colorful square and rectangular buildings sitting on pilings in the middle of the sound. Also known as ice houses, they were built starting in the late 1800’s as ice storage, and to provide living quarters for fishermen and their families. These iconic structures have been the subject of some controversy - in the 1980’s the state started burning the houses as they were deemed to be interfering with travel on the sound. Some were saved by placing them on the National Register of Historic Places. These resilient fish houses withstood Hurricane Ian in September 2022.
There are several brown pelicans awaiting us as we pull up to the dock at the marina. Our hair is wind-tossed and briny, our skin warm from the sunshine, our grins tired and happy. My senses feel saturated in contentment.
A couple of the pelicans swim close enough that we can see the downy yellow fuzz on their heads, like the last wisps of hair adorning an otherwise bald pate. They are expecting food, and getting none they simply fix us with their side-eye stares, ready to dart and grab if we produce some hors d'oeuvres after all. I wonder if their observant gazes pick up on what an inspiring and extraordinary adventure we’d just had. Probably not. For them, it is just another day.
Colorado is known for its many sunny days. According to a Google search, Colorado boasts 300 sunshiny days to Florida’s 230, even though Florida nabbed the Sunshine State title.
Especially noticeable after a cloudy day (or hour), the way we feel after some time in the sun speaks for itself. Usually we feel energized, our outlook is brighter, and we’re in a pretty good mood. Read on to learn more about the sun’s benefits.
Not just about the D
When our skin is exposed to direct sunlight our body sets about producing vitamin D. Supplementation with vitamin D has become a common strategy in recent decades, with concern about too much sun exposure causing skin cancer.
But sunlight does more than just help us produce vitamin D. For example, sunshine helps set our circadian rhythms, regulating serotonin and melatonin levels, so that we sleep better at night. Interestingly, sunlight that enters our eyes affects areas in the retina which trigger the release of serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone. Some people experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) with the shorter winter days (less chance for the sunlight to help create serotonin), and light therapy can help. Healthline article on the Benefits of Sunlight.
Sun exposure may have other important health benefits. In this Karger Journal Review, authors found a correlation between increased sun exposure and decreased blood pressure and cardiovascular mortality, independent of vitamin D.
Sunlight can even lessen pain! This Medical News Today article explains that UVB rays cause the skin to produce beta-endorphins. Here are a few of the beta-endorphin benefits: reduce pain and depression, help wounds heal, increase alertness, and improve mood.
Moderation in all things
Lest we get the bright idea to run around outside all day without protection, the article also gives a suggested time limit of 15 minutes in the sunshine before coating yourself with sunscreen.
Originally published August 11, 2022
“No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”
Carol Dweck, Author of Mindset, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University
My daughter was in the third grade when her stellar math teacher recommended Carol Dweck’s book Mindset to me. It was the first time I was introduced to the concept of growth mindset and fixed mindset. A growth mindset takes on life’s challenges with the approach of applying effort in order to improve or develop new skills. With a growth mindset, a failure is an opportunity to learn and do better next time, an inevitable step along the way to mastering new skills. A fixed mindset tends to stick to an all-or-nothing approach - the attitude that they were born good or bad at something. (“I never was any good at math.”) Fixed mindsets address challenges with blame on something outside of themselves, and failure is to be avoided rather than accepted as a part of the learning process.
Dweck’s book addresses how mindset plays out in many areas of life: athletics, business, parenting, and education. Two athletic examples she uses that nicely illustrate her concept are John McEnroe (fixed mindset) and Michael Jordan (growth mindset).
McEnroe, though a talented tennis player, is well-remembered for his temper tantrums on-court. He blamed everything around him for any mistakes or failures, rather than take accountability to learn and do better.
Michael Jordan speaks for himself: “I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Michael Jordan made a choice to learn from his mistakes. He was willing to work and work again to become better - to become a champion.
Much of the research Dweck discusses in her talk (also linked below under Learn More) focuses on children and education. She describes the concept of “not yet,” which focuses on the ability to continually learn and develop skills. “Not yet” leaves the door of possibility open; more than that it gives power to the learner to continue to move forward and improve rather than being defined at one point in time, by one success or failure. One compelling result she shares of using growth mindset in schools: a Stanford professor went back to her Native American reservation in Washington and within 12-18 months of utilizing growth mindset, the kindergartners and first-graders were at the top of the district in reading and reading-readiness. This district included affluent Seattle kids. As Dweck puts it, “the reservation kids outdid the Microsoft kids.”
And, just as we can develop our brain (new neural pathways) at any age, we can choose a growth mindset at any age. In other words, you are never too old to learn a new skill. Although new neural pathways may be easier to develop with a young brain, they can certainly, with practice, be developed in older brains. Here are some ideas for encouraging your growth mindset (from this helpful article, also linked below under Learn More):
Check out Carol Dweck’s talk about Developing a Growth Mindset
Informative and actionable article about Developing a Growth Mindset As An Older Adult
Originally published Sept 15 2022
The evening is warm for winter - 35’ Fahrenheit. Fish Creek is to my right, and its burble is soothing in the dusk. The packed trail is easy to follow, and the soft snow to either side holds the tell-tale tracks of today’s frolicking dogs.
The steady but not too-long climb to the ridge is welcome, it feels good to move briskly. I can tell it’s been a few weeks by the way my lungs are working. Partway up, a thick, low-hanging bough reaches across the trail as if to bar the way. Stepping to the side I post-hole and that seems a good time to turn on my headlamp, though I keep it at the dimmest setting.
Cresting the ridge would be obvious even with my eyes closed - the trail levels out and the breeze picks up to a light wind. The wind fills my ears and does a quick sweep, effectively clearing out my head. It also brings a scent, a tinge of pine but more an earthy smell of my surroundings, which is strange because the landscape is covered in snow. It feels both comforting and exhilarating.
The stars show in the midnight blue overhead, reminding me of the first time I ever slept under them. One night on a fourth-grade field trip to Death Valley, a couple friends and I moved out of our tent and lay staring into the sky, a sky that became more star-filled the longer we gazed. It was my first experience of the unfathomability of our universe. More than awe, it was the beauty that stood out to me, and the way that beauty seemed to multiply as more and more stars made themselves known.
Heading back down I wonder who might be looking at me from the trees and shrubs. Mountain lion? Fox? I’ve seen evidence of elk on other trails, but they don’t seem to have much interest in this one. It is full dark and some cloud cover has moved in. The wind is intermittent, and rattles the leaf corpses, dead for months, still clinging to skeletal branches.
At the creek I take in the sound of the water once more. Such a luxury to hear flowing water under all that snow in the middle of winter. This water that flows every day, at all hours, year-round.
I am reluctant to end my time here though I’m approaching the trailhead parking. It is time to head home. I’m lucky that I can come here again. I am lucky that though I’m leaving this place, I can still smell, faintly, the earth-scented wind, and hear, just barely, the gentle flow of the creek, and see, in my mind’s eye, the blue-white stars in the sky.
Haven the German Shepherd and Ruby the Red-Eared Slider are friends. You might think a dog and an aquatic turtle wouldn’t have much in common, but you’d be wrong. These two are fiercely independent, have a penchant for treats, and demonstrate the kind of single-minded perseverance that I want to have when I grow up.
In her younger day, Haven competed with the large male shepherds in her world and often won. When she first came to our home at two years old, she didn’t know how to swim. We’d take her and our big guy to a reservoir to swim after a bright orange retriever dummy - a hard plastic tubular object that floated. Within several days, Haven learned to swim fast enough to reach the dummy nose to nose with her buddy. If he got his mouth around the dummy first, she’d slam his head into the water with her dainty paw until he gave it up. She’d then grab it and swim it in. All of this was accompanied by Haven’s resounding Xena: Warrior Princess war cries.
Ruby’s brand of perseverance takes the form of scaling rocks and sprint work in the summertime grass. She has some mysterious attraction to the hot scratchy asphalt of the driveway, and will ignore the cool green grass she’s going through to get there. When she approaches the driveway, I pick her up and set her down in the grass a good distance away. She heads off again, at a faster pace. We do this over and over. Eventually she’ll look over her shoulder/shell, see me coming, and will literally run away from me. That girl can move. Who knew turtles could sprint?
Haven has very definitive ideas about our walks, and every week that passes in this, her old age of 14 years, she becomes more adamant about which direction she will and will not go. I’ve found that verbal coaxing does not work - literally falling as it does on deaf ears. Treats, however, do work, and bribing in this way has convinced her to let me occasionally navigate our strolls. She will also decide that it is time to sit down and she’ll look at me patiently, expectantly, until I pull out a cookie. She has me well-trained.
When I take Ruby out of her tank for her dryland training, she turtle-marches over to where I’m standing and looks up at me, demanding that I return her to her tank immediately if not sooner, and “don’t forget the treat.” Ruby will spend an inordinate amount of time trying for the slice of cucumber on her basking area. Now, she normally can climb up on her basking rock just fine. But when she sees the cucumber she has a panic-attack and frantically climbs in all the wrong places in her desperation to get that cucumber NOW. She’ll get partway up and then do a spectacular backflip into the water - over and over again. Notice the pattern here?
Haven has not ever seen Ruby, as Ruby came on the scene after Haven lost her sight. But Haven can smell her. And Ruby can see Haven from the security of her tank. I’m guessing that in the way animals have, they are aware of one another and have probably picked up on their mutual feistiness.
Here’s why I think they are friends: Haven will lay down near the tank, and rest her head against the glass, right where Ruby’s little head is. If that’s not friendship, I don’t know what is.
Back in ‘99 I received my 1000-hour Massage Certification from the Boulder College of Massage Therapy (BCMT), and several years later earned my Sports and Orthopedic Massage Certification. In the late 90s BCMT was ranked top five in the nation, a great school with excellent instructors. One instructor in particular stands out: Elaine.
The first thing I noticed about Elaine were her hands. She was not a tall or large woman. But her hands were so thick with muscle it looked like she had on a pair of baseball catcher’s mitts. When Elaine walked into the room, you knew you were going to laugh, and you knew you were going to learn. A lot. She hailed from New York City, and was of Puerto Rican heritage. She had dark curly hair cut short, lovely olive skin, and definitely could have been (maybe had been) a stand-up comedian. She was a classy version of Gilda Radner’s Roseanne Roseannadanna.
Elaine had some nifty tips. If you accidentally caused a client pain during the session, apologize immediately, and erase the mistake by rubbing that painful area with your hand. Brilliant, because when you rub an area that hurts you take advantage of the pain gate theory, wherein touch signals to the brain beat out the pain signals at the “gate”. She would walk around and feel our nails - each and every finger - to be sure no sharp edges were digging into our clients. She taught us to look at shoes - “just sittin’ over there looking at you while you’re working on those feet” to pick up on specific areas of the foot and lower leg that needed attention.
From Elaine I learned about massage not just as a practice, but as a philosophy. I learned things that influenced me 25 years ago, and continue to guide me now. Some of the most impactful:
You can create healing with strong hands.Strong and flexible hands support good work and longevity in this profession. I often visualize Elaine’s strong paws as I work, creating bloodflow, space, allowing for and creating change in the body.
A sense of humor gets you through.
Elaine’s wit allowed for learning to be fun in the massage room and the classroom, and is a reminder to me even in the most difficult of circumstances. Levity is healing.
Focus on the possibilities rather than the limitations.
Seeing a client for what can be (strength, pain reduction, mobility, relaxation) rather than stopping short at current limitations like scoliosis, Parkinson’s, sports injuries, surgical recovery, etc., opens up the possibility of change, of healing. When we did our own case studies for Sports and Ortho, the evidence, the results, were right there. Just because you don’t completely reverse or cure a condition doesn’t mean you haven’t allowed for transformation.
Sadly, Elaine passed away 11 or 12 years ago. We lost a great person when she went. It helps a little to know that her legacy lives on in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of massage therapists and clients too. I am confident all those whose lives she touched still hear her voice, and feel her guidance, just as I do.
It is January in the mountains and it is bitter-cold and snowy. There are hardy people out there in shorts - I saw one just the other day. I was inside my car and had way more on than he had, running down the road in shorts and a t-shirt. I was born in Baltimore, but I was raised in Southern California, and not a smidge of cold-hardiness survived my upbringing in that subtropical climate.
One year when I was home from college, my parents and I hatched a plan to spend Christmas in the snowy mountains of Idyllwild, in the San Jacinto Mountains of California. Though my parents suggested packing a warm jacket and some good boots, I stuck with my own 80’s style: a leather bomber jacket and some slick-soled fashion boots.
We arrived Christmas morning, excited to stay in the picturesque little cabin nestled in the pines. The cabin was definitely quaint. It also had some endearing features: spaces between floorboards so you could look straight down to see the arctic tundra, a hot-water heater the size of a pint-jar, and frigid temps which allowed the ice in your glass to remain unmelted for days. Busy threading popcorn and cranberries to adorn the little Christmas tree we’d brought, it was easy to ignore fingers numb with the chill. Come to think of it, the numb fingers were convenient for the occasional needle-stick. When the freeze seeped into our bones, though, it was time to head out to get some wood for the stone-cold fireplace.
It seemed there’d been a run on the firewood at the one grocery store in town. We managed to snag the last sorry bundle and tucked it in the car like a treasure. My parents then got the bright idea to go for a hike. We’d get in some exercise, warm up, enjoy the scent of pine trees in the crisp mountain air, and the crunch of fresh snow underfoot. Well, that did sound pretty nice.
My parents hopped out of the car at the trailhead, looking parent-like in their bulky coats and sturdy hiking boots. They also looked warm. I began to feel a teensy bit underdressed. They and their appropriate clothing choices skipped off down the trail while I lagged behind. I could feel hypothermia setting in, although I didn’t know what that was. I couldn’t skip, run or even walk down the trail as I, in my cute elf boots, was having traction issues. I didn’t know what traction was either.
So, here I was, in somewhat of a crisis: my fantasy of traipsing down the forest path, snowflakes gently falling through the evergreens, was not matching up with the current reality. I was cold, getting colder, and stuck in one spot on the trail, unable to move forward. I felt quite sorry for myself. My parents were way up ahead on the other side of a little meadow. They seemed to be having a marvelous time jaunting around in the snow.
Suddenly, in the midst of my pity-party, there was an explosion of raw, glacial cold on my exposed throat. It slid roughly down my chest like shards of winter glass, and lodged in the front of my bra. My mouth opened in a silent scream of shock and pain. What had just happened?
Across the meadow my parents stood like statues, dead-silent, staring, also in open-mouthed surprise. It seemed that my dad, having a little fun, had lobbed a gigantic snowball in my direction, never dreaming of the fatal precision of his aim. They weren’t sure what to do - cheer for that amazing pitch or comfort their daughter in the midst of a grand mal meltdown. So they did a little of both, in between giggles they unsuccessfully tried to suppress. Honestly, the odds of that bulls-eye was a snowball’s chance in Hell.
I’m happy to report that, 36 years later, I have forgiven my dad. Warmth wins out over style every time when it comes to my current clothing choices. Our Christmas at the cabin is a great story, remembered in front of the warm fire. And that was one hell of a snowball toss.
Ever notice that when you are having a bad day, or are so overly irritated with your significant other, co-worker, sibling, best friend, etc., a laugh can change the entire day and/or situation? You feel better in your body, the crankiness dissipates, you reconnect with that person, and you feel human again.
Laughter does that. It bonds us, benefitting relationships and our own sense of well-being. It has a host of physical benefits: burns calories, reduces stress, releases endorphins, increases immune system function, and supports our heart health. Having laughter in our lives benefits our mental and emotional health by reducing anxiety, increasing relaxation, and supporting resilience. Wow. If this were a prescription drug we’d be in line now.
In this article about the benefits of laughter, there is a great list of ideas about how to bring more laughter into your life. Spending time with funny people, doing something silly, and sharing a joke or funny story are some of the suggestions.
Here’s something to get you started: a video of a juggler explaining the benefits of laughter - funny and silly! Maybe taking up juggling might be one of your new hobbies!
I’m lucky to have grown up with some silliness in my own family. Don’t get my mom and dad started with my daughter about the Snallygaster. My Grandmother Martha used to tell slightly smutty jokes with such cool elegance she would have had the queen giggling into her teacup. And my Grandmother Bootsie, with her incredible resilience and a twinkle in her eye, offered me this wisdom gleaned from her lifetime of physical challenges: “Well, you can laugh or you can cry. So you may as well laugh.”
(Originally published July 14, 2022)
The night before Winter Solstice, Charlotte and I took part in one of Yampatika’s
winter programs, Citizen Science After Dark, an outing in partnership with the US Forest Service, for the boreal owl survey on the ski mountain. As we arrived to join the group, we spied a fox investigating the base area, sleek body trotting gracefully between mounds of snow. It was the perfect start to our evening.
Our group of eight didn’t need snowshoes or headlamps: the plan was to stay on packed runs and the Waxing Gibbous moon was bright enough to help light the way. I thought it strange that we were warned to be on the lookout for snow groomers, snowmobiles, and possibly skiers, but that warning was right on the money.
Within the first quarter mile we’d already encountered two snow groomers and a snowmobile. One of the snow groomers had a super long arm on the side facing us. As it reached us the arm lifted, sailing over our heads, and as soon as it passed the last person the arm lowered back down. It felt like we’d received a group blessing from a gigantic mechanical octopus.
We reached our first stop. The protocol was to first listen quietly. If we heard nothing, then several different recorded owl calls were played, one at a time, in each cardinal direction. After each call we listened again. The USFS gathers data on wind, temperature, time, and phase of the moon, as well as any owl calls (real ones) detected. This data is important in understanding the impact of various factors including the ski area itself on owl populations and habits. Typically the owls nest in February and so are more vocal at that time as they defend their nesting territory.
Playing owl calls is not something you or I should do on our own, because unless we’ve had training, we could cause problems. We also learned that pictures of owls flying at the camera posted on social media are often achieved by baiting the owl (eg., dangling a mouse just below the camera). This baiting results in a significant mortality rate for owls.
The quiet of listening for owls was in significant contrast to the amount of noise at the ski area. Groomers grooming, snow movers working down at the base with their incessant back-up beeping, and even the engine braking of trucks way out on the highway traveled up the mountain. Wild Blue gondola was lit up like a stadium, and equipment lights shone here and there all over the mountain.
We didn’t hear any owls at our first stop. We then decided to head off-piste and we post-holed our un-snowshoed feet into winter wonderland. The snow was deep amongst the trees - easily up to my knees. This made for more demanding work than strolling up the ski run, but way more rewarding.
It felt like we’d entered another world - in some ways the world of the owl. Under the trees the lights were out of sight, but we could see the moon. There was a sense of hush here, and I was aware of the cool air on my face. Our leaders pointed out tracks in the snow: weasel, mouse, and snowshoe hare. I wondered if owls spied those tracks when they hunt. I had never seen snowshoe hare tracks before - they appeared as two large oval (snowshoe) back feet with heels together and toes turned out, and two little feet in front. The presence of snowshoe hare is integral to the health of an ecosystem; many animals feed on the hare including Great Horned Owls and the Canada Lynx which is endangered in the state of Colorado.
So often when I am out hiking or snowshoeing, I don’t think about the things I can’t see or hear at the moment. Slowing down and observing on this night resulted in the amazing experience of seeing the tracks - to be reminded of the presence of a whole world living and breathing, the hunters and the hunted, on the mountain.
We didn’t have much luck with hearing real owls until the last stop - when most of the group heard a faint call. It felt like we’d been given a little treasure.
Part way across a ski run on our way down, we paused to regroup along one side of the run. All of us were dressed in dark clothing, standing individually, no headlamps, and silent. Suddenly a skier came around the bend, and we gave him quite the start. He was most likely a liftie enjoying his peaceful ski commute at the end of a long day, and he did not expect to see us. He called a hello, then said “Children of the Corn!” as he went by, shaking his head.
All in all it was a terrific evening. We learned a lot, had some fun, got some exercise, and even heard an owl.
Jacqueline Denny, ACC, CHPC, LMT