Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for July, 2014

Hometown Path through Fresh Eyes

With many travel tales and trails still untold, a run along a hometown towpath reminded me of how much I enjoy my local trails. On my first run in Wildwood since my return,  the fowl and flowers seemed as exotic as anything I experienced abroad.

The time I had planned  to run a 4-miler  was reallocated as I stopped for photos every couple hundred yards.  Movement and beauty bid me walk and watch. The 4-miler became a 2-miler.

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Color and form camouflage the gray heron as it hunts for food amongst the swamp waters. Armed only with my iPhone, the several photographers with long lenses, camouflaged themselves in the greenery at the edge of the path, are surely getting better results.

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The swamp lily is looking lovely in summer yellow.

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Lacking the protective coloring of the heron, this spunky great egret stared at the camera then ducked its head to troll the grasses after two of its buddies took flight. I wasn’t fast enough to catch their impressive in-flight wingspan.

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The honeysuckle dominates the wild grape, both reaching for light on this shaded path.

Give nature an opportunity and it will thrive.

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A heavily truck-trafficked street is mere yards away with an industrial park on the opposite side. The Wendy’s billboard is seen reflected on the swamp’s surface.

It’s good to be back on a familiar and favorite path – for now.

Traveling my way and looking for a nature run, walk or bike ride? Find the towpath and other trails on this link to localeikki.

Next week, its back to trails and tales along the Baltic.

 

Tracking Amber on the Baltic

IMG_0187During a month of hiking, running, walking and sailing through Baltic ports, amber was a constant. These beautiful remnants of fossilized tree sap come in shades of yellow, brown, red and black and regardless of size have a depth of beauty.

Though most of amber is now mined commercially there are many amber collectors, people who live or work near the sea, who use a process that dates at least to the 1600’s, still collecting amber by wading into the water to visually locate and capture amber by net.

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Our Lithuanian amber guide Igor helps me suit up for the hunt. Will this count toward my upper-body cross-training? Photo Credit: Catherine Kerber

We left Klaipėda, Lithuania to ferry across the lagoon to the Curonian Spit, a 98-kilometer sand dune with territory belonging to both Lithuania and Russia. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. There, we had an opportunity to hike across the dunes and learn the Baltic netting method.

Amber floats in salt water and frequently can be found imbedded in seewed.

Amber floats in salt water and frequently can be found imbedded in seaweed.

There are some days in the Baltic Sea that are prime for harvesting amber. Alas, it was not my day and the net captured little. I did come away with my own unpolished chunk, gifted by Igor.

unpolished  Baltic amber

unpolished Baltic amber

 

We visited amber museums in Poland, Lithuania, and Denmark and museums exist in virtually every port on the Baltic. There is even an amber room in Catherine’s Palace near Saint Petersburg. The Nazis were impressed enough that they left town with the amber panels from the room, never to return.  In the last few decades, Russian artists recreated the panels and restored the room to its former glory.

Of the many amber museums throughout the Baltic, my favorite is the Gdansk Museum in Poland. It is housed next door to the Torture Museum in a section of what was the walled area of the city and the former prison dating back to the 1400’s. My shipboard friend Autumn and I were held hostage ourselves as a group of school children ushered in front of us, pinning us in a small alcove.

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14th century Fore Gate, location of Gdansk Amber Museum

A note of warning: For this visit, it helps to have some mountain goat in your soul. Access to the museum will require negotiation of tight dark stairs, but all is worth it to see the beautiful amber creations. In addition to detailed information on the development of amber over millions of years, its reputation for healing powers and information about the amber trade over the last couple hundred years, add the works of local contemporary artisans and amber craftsmen on display.

I’m not convinced of its healing or health powers, but I do find myself wearing my unpolished amber nugget when I run. I’d love to here about your experience with amber. And, does anyone run with a stone or charm for luck, for its healing power, or as a talisman when you run, hike, bike?

 

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Restless on Independence Day

This July 4th post doesn’t have any fireworks, not even an explosive topic.IMG_1047 I’ve simply been musing about the need to move about, to travel, to explore. Is it just me, or do I share this with most Americans?

We seem to be restless people. Since many of us are descendents of folks who picked up their worldly belongings and headed across an ocean or a landmass, it’s no surprise that the travel bug can create that restless itch in us. It may have begun with a need for freedom, a route out of poverty or a place to belong, but the restlessness persists. It may continue with the simple need to keep moving, whether through travel vacations that temporarily satisfy the bug, or through permanent relocations.

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Hiking with my brother through South Dakota meadow.

Does our work life demand travel or do we invent other reasons? Currently, other than friends and family connections there is no need for me to travel. That said, I can always find a rationale to keep moving and poke my curious nose into the corners of this country and beyond. I may be traveling to visit relatives, but I can usually  find a way to explore something new along the way or at destination.

I may travel to run races, but will always bank in several days to explore a path, a city, a state, or country new to me. There are perfectly fine races of almost every distance within a 20-mile radius of my home.

Finishing a Canadian 10K

Finishing a Canadian 10K

Yet, I travel across the country and beyond to races from a 5K to a mara- thon. I’m placing the blame for this restlessness that drives the spirit squarely on my brave and adventurous ancestors. Along with blaming them, I thank them for it.

I expect many Americans8580479-u-s-american-flag-in-front-of-a-blue-sky are traveling this week to be with friends and family and to share with their children the many wonders of the road.

Safe travels to all and a Happy 4th.