3 posts categorized "Nature"

March 30, 2012

Picking Up the Pieces

Winter escapes to oceanfront destinations now are memories, and spring breaks are coming to a close, too. This year, like all loyal beach walkers, I couldn't leave footprints in the sand unless I was searching for shells. But on the second or third outing I found myself asking, what's this shell quest really about? 

My home hardly needs another glass vessel filled with the skeltons of marine animals. So must I keep my eyes affixed to the sand to have something to "do" because I can't slow down enough to just enjoy the walk, the feel of sun on my skin, a breeze blowing through my hair or sand scrunching under our toes? And why do I get excited when I think I've spotted the most incredibly whole shell, only to feel disappointed when my probing reveals not a glorious masterpiece of Mother Nature but another broken shard? Why do I always keep an eye out for that one flawless shell? What's wrong with being a piece of perfection?

So on day three I started picking up interesting pieces whose colors, shapes and textures I could ponder. I wondered where they'd come from, knowing that before they'd arrived with a recent wave they'd been home to an ocean creature, weathered some strong currents, been tossed about and pounded nearly to oblivion. As I examined each piece I wondered about its story and wished it could tell me its age, wax on about its finest times, and reveal how it came to be in pieces.

We've all been tossed and challenged and lost something along the way. And I doubt the perfect shell and I would be compatible. How many perfect people do you have among your friends, family and co-workers? It's the pieces that have the best stories, don't you think?

July 25, 2011

I'm a Hosta

I've long assumed that I was drawn to these shade-loving, easy-to-care-for herbaceous perennials because our yard is filled with trees. And some variety of hardy hosta will grow wherever grass won't. But today I'm thinking hostas and I have a deeper connection.

Last Monday I had a 30-minute session with Madhu Maron, who helps people get unstuck. Our introduction came via email a couple of years ago when a mutual friend suggested that Madhu, who coaches people in reinventing themselves, check out the Schoffner blog. We've corresponded about business ownership, I helped with a bio for her professional musician husband, and we've been following each other on Facebook. A recent email exchange on a day when I was over-the-top crazed with commitments left Madhu picturing me as a high-energy Tasmania Devil in full-throttle behavior. She simply wrote, "Let's set up a time to talk, and you can't be sitting at your desk when we do."

We connected a week ago as I sat in front of our house beside a flower bed that gets enough sunlight to contain both hostas and other colorful, flowering plants. Madhu asked me about my surroundings, so we talked about the hosta beside me. Before I knew it, her gently probing questions helped me focus on a lot of things about my multi-tasking self. Primarily, I've been forgetting to bring my heart along in all the things I tackle each day. I've been blessed with loving so many things about my life (family, friends, clients, writing tasks, volunteer interests, leadership commitments, etc.). The abundance each provides daily needs to be celebrated and savored. But that doesn't happen when one forgets to pause in the present to be thankful.

After that session with Madhu, the week was indeed one in which I stayed in the moment and worked to put self-care and appreciation into everything I did. Whether during the activities of the day or in the middle of the night, when I felt angst I pictured the heart-shaped leaf of that hosta and calmly massaged my hands (hey, that's self care) as a thank you for all the typing, gardening and other tasks I ask of them each day.

Madhu doesn't see many hostas in the Bronx. I sent her the photo above and she saw a whole lot more than I'd been seeing. She wrote: "I notice how dynamic this plant is. It's low to the ground yet reaches up high. The display of green in its leaves is grounding and of the Earth, while the flowers are airy, light and of the sky. Hostas seem to be good multi-taskers, provided they get the shade they need. Sounds like a great metaphor for you, Pam."

It's not just the heat that's making me step into the shade right now. Thanks, Madhu. 


October 23, 2010

Polar Bearology 101: Ready for the Ice

Leave it to the Schoffners to miss a week of great fall weather and head to the tundra at Hudson Bay for a little time with polar bears and, alas, even snow! Friends Jim and Joyce Shaffer joined us for the trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba, then on to Churchill, Canada's only arctic seaport and the polar bear capital of the world. It happens to be south of Stockholm and Helsinki, but it's as far north as the four of us had ever been.

For six weeks a year polar bears gather near the water and we were at the beginning of that special time. The bears are waiting for the bay to freeze so that they can venture out for some tasty ring seals. A polar bear eats 65 to 75 of these little guys a year. The 900 bears estimated to be in west Hudson Bay haven't eaten since the ice melted in late June, so they're hungry and conserving their energy. Which means these solitary creatures sleep; they sleep a lot. The pregnant ones are headed to dens and will give birth between November and January. Females have to double their weigh for a successful pregnancy, because they'll go so long without food while nursing their cubs, frequently twins or even triplets. Multiple cubs can be fathered by different papa bears, but that's bearology 202.

We spent hours each day on Polar Rovers exploring via old military roads (all of which were partially under water). Drivers stayed on these undulating trails to avoid damaging the tundra's terrain as well as coming in contact with munitions that might be lurking somewhere. Our huge vehicles were eight feet off the ground, and the more curious four-legged furry friends would approach and stand on their back legs to check us out.

But the best bear was Buddy, who hung out around the five-car Tundra Lodge where we stayed. Each year they position the lodge on the bay, right in the path of the bears. So Buddy would come for a sniff when we stood out on the elevated grate that connects the train-like cars or threw open the windows and called to him when he was in view. His antics were grand: rolling and scratching, then seating himself in a somewhat spineless position, or putting his chin and shoulders to the ground and looking like a vacuum cleaner with back legs as he careened around in the snow. I won't ever forget his rendition of the happy baby yoga pose.

Hope the ice doesn't freeze too soon. More groups coming in for this Natural Habitat adventure need to see that...before it's too late.