Finding Home

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Fresh air and a change of scenery was calling out to us. I was longing to look to the sky and see a hawk or an eagle overhead, while my dad just wanted to be outside. There had been far too much “together” time in the confined spaces of my house, and although it was rather blustery outside and the cold air felt like it might snow, me and my dad loaded up in his truck – a loud, white dodge diesel pick-up that he has named “Bob” – and headed down the road. Dad turned right as we left the neighborhood, so I knew we were not going to town. He was heading out to the countryside to enjoy the sight of farmland and small, rolling hills. We had no destination in mind. For several minutes, there was nothing but the sound of Bob’s loud engine as we drove away from the house. Eventually, we found ourselves bouncing along on a dirt road.

As we rambled down the dirt road, the scenery was changing, and I loved it. I felt myself relaxing as we drove along, something that was much needed. I had just survived the holiday season, something that has been challenging since the passing of my husband. Although it was winter, you could tell we were driving through farmland. We were surrounded by fields planted for winter wheat and a few fields with the remnants of sunflowers. Although they were dark, slumped over, and starting to crumble, a far cry from their bright yellow glory months before, they still held an allure that kept me looking at them.  I really liked the area. Something about it felt like home to me. I had spotted a few Harris Hawks overhead, flying free, their sharp, watchful eyes on the lookout for prey below.

I finally broke the silence with my dad. “You know, there are a few nice-looking horse properties for sale out this way.” I had casually started looking on the internet at new places to live and had been doing so for a few weeks. With my husband gone, I simply couldn’t afford the house we were living in, and it was too large and difficult for me to maintain by myself. I also wanted something with more acreage for the horses and far fewer neighbors. And the house was filled with my husband. Endless memories of him, our marriage, and everything we had shared. It was also a painful reminder of everything I had lost. Not that memories shouldn’t be present in a home, but having a memory around every corner and in every room was proving difficult to handle emotionally and it wasn’t helping me move forward. There were also some very traumatizing memories related to his passing and his funeral service in the house that I wanted – and needed – to stop reliving.

Dad responded to my comment with, “Get some addresses and we’ll do a drive by on a few.” I took out my phone and did as he instructed. A few minutes later, we were driving by a place that had potential, but something about it didn’t feel right. We drove on to another place a few miles away. A nice place, but the barn area looked run-down and the fencing was dreadful. I could envision my horses running through the fencing and being loose on the prairie there. Nothing like trying to run after a champion thoroughbred sprinter in a wide-open space. No! Running along behind has never been my thing. Not my future home. Moments later, we were driving on to the next one. It was a new build. The house looked wonderful from the outside, but there were neighbors close by and no fencing. The place across the street had pigeons sitting on the fence posts and the yard looked like it should be on an episode of the tv show “Hoarders.” Dad vetoed it immediately.

We continued down the road. As we were driving along, a large bird with a wide, dark brown wing span swooped directly in front of the truck then veered off to the right. Another bird swooped in behind it, and the pair flew together, just ahead of the truck. “Dad, look at the eagles!” I exclaimed. It was a pair of big, beautiful bald eagles, and they looked magnificent. They flew alongside the road, gliding through the air in front of us as if they were guiding us to our destination. We watched them in awe as we drove along, marveling at their size and beauty. The pair eventually flew upward and landed on a power pole. Below the power pole was a real estate sign for a property that was for sale.

Eagles have tremendous significance for me. If you read one of my first blog posts, you know that the Bald Eagle was my unicorn, the elusive creature that cannot be captured. For the longest time, it was the one bird that was too elusive for me to photograph. I could never take a decent picture, and it was a source of amusement for me and my late husband. He teased me endlessly about my quest to take a good photograph of a Bald Eagle. I took out my cell phone and snapped a picture. Although it was starting to snow lightly, the picture turned out perfectly. I couldn’t believe it. I finally captured a Bald Eagle – and it was with my cell phone! I looked to the sky and told my husband thank you. I cannot explain what I felt at that moment, but I knew my husband was with me.

My thoughts were interrupted by my dad. “Let’s check out this place for sale.” He turned the truck onto a small dirt road directly in front of the power pole the eagles had landed on, and we headed towards the place for sale. We had to drive about a quarter of a mile to get to the house. I couldn’t stop thinking about the eagles and how they had guided us. I knew in that moment my husband was with us, and I couldn’t help but feel he was behind the steering wheel of this journey, especially when the eagles followed us to the house and circled overhead as we drove around.

As we pulled up to the house, my heart sped up. It was perfect! It was a quaint, lovely ranch house with columns on the porch and a beautiful wood front door. It fit the picture I had always had in my mind of a perfect “ranch” house. The place was lovely. It even had a wheat field! There was plenty of space for the horses. I would have to build the appropriate fencing, but I could see me and my herd living there. I loved it, and I had not even seen the inside of the house yet.

We called the numbers of the real estate agent on the sign and left messages. Since we couldn’t get a hold of the agent to see the house, we decided to go grab a much-needed late lunch. We had been driving for hours at this point, and we were both ready to eat. We weren’t far from the town of Hudson and one of our favorite restaurants, so we headed that direction. The eagles were still there as we drove away, circling overhead as if to guard and watch over the property. We also noticed a herd of mule deer in one of the nearby wheat fields. This area was definitely feeling like home!

Not long after we ordered lunch, I received a call. It was from a real estate agent who works for the agent that had the house listed. The listing agent was out of town, so this agent was filling in for her. We made plans to meet the agent and see the house in 2 hours. Another showing was scheduled right before ours, so we had to wait. I was nervous because a snow storm was moving in and I hate being out and about on snowy roads, but my desire to see the house far outweighed my desire to be off the roads and out of the snow. The eagles were calling me.

After our late lunch, we slowly headed towards the property. As we drove there, we observed the herd of deer not far from where we had left them. The Bald Eagles greeted us again near the power pole, flying next to the truck, almost as though they were welcoming us and guiding us back in. We stopped at the corner near the power pole and waited a few minutes, as we could see the other people still had not finished their showing. The eagles swooped and flew around, surveying one of the wheat fields for prey. I was struck by their raw power and incredible beauty as they flew in the lightly falling snow. Darkness was setting in.

At last, we saw a vehicle leaving the property and my phone rang. It was the real estate agent telling us we could head to the house for the showing. As we pulled in the driveway of the house, I could hardly contain my excitement. The house was even better than I had remembered.

Walking up to the beautiful front door, I couldn’t help but think I was home. As the door opened and I walked in, I knew instantly I was in my future home. It was perfect!  The living room, dining area, and kitchen had a warm, inviting, open feel and it suited me. Everything about the house was exactly what I wanted. I couldn’t have designed it better myself. I made an offer that night and the rest is history. It is my home.

One of the Bald Eagles I have been blessed to see and photograph in my yard

In addition to the beautiful home, I was struck by the women I met there that night. The owner of the property was present, and as it turned out, she was also at a crossroads in her life where she had to make changes and move forward somehow. Selling the place was part of moving on for her, although it was very hard for her to do. Hopefully she has been able to move forward in a positive light and find the happiness she deserves.

The real estate agent, Tabatha, became one of my very best friends. In conversation that night, I poured out my heart to her about the tragic crash that had taken my husband’s life and my need to move forward in a different environment and start anew. Tabatha told me about the passing of her sister years before, also at the hands of an impaired driver. We had an immediate bond, and to this day, I am blessed to call her a best friend and confidant. It is amazing how alike we are and how much we have in common. I am so grateful I have her and her family in my life now. I cannot help but think that my husband and the eagles guided me to a friendship I know I will have for the rest of my life.

When I stop to think about that day, I find it amazing that a simple drive changed my life. It led me to new friends, a new version of home, and a new path in life. When I see eagles now, I think of my husband and wonder what he is trying to show me or where he is trying to guide me. I often see the Bald Eagles in my yard or flying overhead, and I am thankful to them for showing me that I am, indeed, being watched over from above. And as with most eagles, they have proven challenging to photograph, although I have gotten lucky a few times.

Most of all, I am grateful to my late husband and the Bald Eagles for showing me the way home.

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Remembering to Breathe

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While many people were eating chocolates and enjoying the smell of flowers, I had an important Valentine’s date here at the ranch with my beautiful horses and my veterinarian and friend, Nancy.

I am blessed to have a wonderful veterinarian that I have known for several years now. I am always amazed at her knowledge and insight, and quite frankly, she has the patience of a saint because any other veterinarian would have fired me as a client years ago.

I didn’t grow up with horses. Having them isn’t second nature to me, like it is for other “horse” people. I was 38 years old when I bought my first horse, a thoroughbred mare that I bought at the race track and retired because she had no interest in running anymore. I had always wanted a horse, and I was determined to have one.  

That was ten years ago; I am still learning about horses, and I can honestly say that I learn something about these amazing creatures every day. And God bless Nancy for her patience and kindness with me over the years. She has endured my tears, panic attacks over nothing, and late evening phone calls with ridiculous questions and, of course, more panic.

On Monday afternoon, I had to call Nancy and ask her to check on Baby Note. I noticed she was rather lethargic and walking around her paddock with her head down. The little spitfire that had been bucking and playing only hours before didn’t seem quite right. When I called Nancy, she had just saddled her own horse and was getting ready to ride. She told me she would unsaddle immediately and head my direction.

As I got Baby Note and her mother, Note This, into their stall, I noticed that Baby Note had a runny nose. With the crazy fluctuations in temperature we have been having, I confess that I was worried something like this might happen.

Nancy arrived shortly thereafter, and it took some doing to get Baby Note’s temperature. Not that I blame her. Being held in place and having a thermometer placed in my rear-end isn’t my idea of a good time either! After a rather eventful examination of Baby Note, my worries were confirmed. She had a rather high temperature and would need antibiotics for several days, the administration of which was challenging each time.

Fast forward to today, and I am pleased to report that Baby Note is doing well. Nancy looked in on her yesterday and she had her last dose of antibiotics. Today, she is bucking and playing and even jumped over her mother while Note This was trying to rest in the paddock. Baby Note is back to her independent self, exploring the paddock and playing with an energy most of us could only wish to possess.


As for my Valentine’s Day date with Nancy and the horses, Nancy inadvertently reminded me of something very important – to breathe. Yes, I said breathe. Nancy observed that another mare, Snow Bunny, is showing signs of getting close to giving birth. While these signs had not been lost on me, for whatever reason, having Nancy voice them out loud made me panic. And I mean panic! I must have looked terrified because Nancy hugged me and said everything would be fine. Once I calmed down and remembered to breathe again, we talked about Snow Bunny’s care in the days ahead and I felt better because we had talked out a plan. And while we cannot control everything, it is nice to have a plan in place and know that I am doing everything I can for her. Just remember to breathe.

As I cleaned up the paddock last night, I had the feeling of being watched. I looked to the sky just in time to see a big hawk land on the roof of the barn. It tucked its large brown wings at its sides and watched my every movement as I finished my task. I could feel its eyes on me, ever watchful. I felt protected in that moment, mindful of the knowledge that I am being watched from above; everything happens in its own time, and worrying about things serves no purpose. The hawk also served as a reminder for me to be ever watchful with the horses, especially Snow Bunny. She will be “watched like a hawk.”

Sandy 

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Pigeons

Generally, I love birds and find them fascinating. While it is true that I can spend hours searching for and watching hawks or eagles, there is one bird I am not so fond of. The Pigeon. In fact, most horse owners will tell you they hate these birds. Believe me when I tell you that there is nothing worse than having Pigeons try to set up shop in your barn or outbuildings.

Pigeon Pic

Why do I hate Pigeons? Because Pigeons fly in, shit every where, make a huge mess while trying to nest in your space, and are extremely complicated to eradicate. Once they are in, they are nearly impossible to get rid of and cause a type of frustration that is beyond measure. Pigeons, like some people, can be a real bitch. And just as with people, it is against the law in most states to kill them.

Unfortunately, we all have “Pigeons” in our lives. They come to us in many forms daily: the annoying co-worker, the “contribute nothing, complain about everything” in-laws, the guy that has the rest of his life to be in front of you on a two-lane road that you can never get around, and the uninspired restaurant employee that makes dining out miserable instead of a pleasure. This list could go on for days. We all know who these people are. “Pigeons” show up daily in many forms because like the birds themselves, they tend to multiply with ease and rapid speed.

A few weeks before my husband passed away, several pigeons had started to nest in the barn. This was a direct result of the absence of our barn cat, Sheldon. Don’t worry, this is not a tale of how tragedy struck our barn cat. It is actually a tale of how “local barn cat makes good” and becomes a house cat. In other words, Sheldon wandered off one day, charmed a neighbor lady, and moved in with her. He upgraded his status from barn cat to house cat, and good for him. He was able to live out his final years living the dream life he always wanted. His departure, on the other hand, created a problem for my barn because his absence allowed a small flock of Pigeons to move in, and move in they did, lock, stock, and barrel, as the old saying goes.

One morning, less than a month after my husband passed away, I was trying to clean the barn through my tears. The funeral was long over and only a handful of people were still around. I was suffering from a form of PTSD and my grief was at an all time high that day. I was also being hassled by “Pigeons” disguised as my husband’s loved ones, and I had reached a breaking point. I was spending time in the barn to clear my head and to try to find a moment of peace. It was not meant to be. I was sweeping the barn floor when I heard and felt the “whoosh!” of wings over my head and immediately felt something wet on my arm. It was a Pigeon airstrike, and I had been hit!

I looked up and Pigeons were everywhere. I felt as though I was being swarmed in a vicious bird attack. My instinct took over and I started swinging the broom wildly in the air, screaming at the pigeons to get out. Feathers and pigeon shit filled the air in the chaos. I was angry now, and I just wanted the Pigeons out. All of them! Finally, after several frantic moments of swinging the broom wildly and yelling like a mad woman, the broom left my hand and flew out the door, hitting the ground with a loud thud. The Pigeons had finally flown outside. Tears streamed down my face and I started to sob. The Pigeons had to leave. All of them. Permanently. But how does one get rid of Pigeons?

It was in this moment that I knew I needed to talk to someone and seek counseling from an unbiased source. Friends had been encouraging me to go to counseling, but I was too absorbed in my grief to see the value in it. As it turned out, counseling was the best decision I ever made. Initially, I didn’t feel it was helping because I would leave some sessions and cry uncontrollably in my car. I would feel completely spent by the end of the session, and I didn’t see the value in that. Not at first, anyway. However, I stuck with it, because I honestly didn’t know of any other way to get rid of the “Pigeons,” and I needed answers. Something had to give.

It took nearly two years of grief counseling for me to come to some very important realizations. The first one is something that sounds simplistic when I see it written out or say it out loud, yet it was something I didn’t grasp because I had allowed the “Pigeons” of my life to rent entirely too much space, “nesting” in my mind for far too long. Here’s the earth-shattering revelation – I am not responsible for the dysfunctional behavior of other people. I do not own the behavior of other people, and I should not ever hold myself accountable for the actions of others. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? However, when the dysfunctional behavior comes from people you once loved, respected, and considered loved ones, it is hard to comprehend and accept.

To take it a step further, I also learned that it is human nature to question yourself and think that perhaps you did something wrong to deserve being treated that way. No. Odds are, you did nothing wrong and it’s their issue, not yours. In my case, the dysfunction had always been there, my husband and I had just found a way to put a bandage on it and live with it. Unfortunately, the bandage was ripped off with a vengeance when my husband died, and there was simply no adhesive left to put it back in place.

Finally, allow yourself to move on and remove yourself from a situation that has become toxic. It’s okay to let go of people that are going to do nothing but crap in your barn. There are times that the healthiest thing you can do for yourself is move forward in a manner that is best for you and leave the “Pigeons” behind. Let them crap elsewhere! Perhaps the “Pigeons” will acknowledge their behavior was wrong and take responsibility for the mess they created and clean up their shit. And perhaps not. That may well be wishful thinking! If they can never see or acknowledge that what they did was wrong, remember that it falls on them, not you. You don’t own their behavior, nor are you responsible for their actions. Not your nest, not your “Pigeons.”

Circumstances and life events can change people, and unfortunately, those changes may not always be positive. Death can bring out the very best in people, and it can bring out the very worst. I saw both sides of this very clearly when I lost my husband. Right now, the goal of my journey is to move forward in a positive light. The “Pigeons” are gone from the recesses of my mind and my life, and hopefully it stays that way. It feels good to let go.

As for the barn itself, spikes were placed in the rafters to prevent the Pigeons from being able to nest there. I placed large plastic owls in the rafters and completely closed the barn as often as possible, so as not to allow the Pigeons back inside. I also moved.

Sandy

P.S. The stress and anxiety caused by grief can be overwhelming to the point that you may feel as though you are having a heart attack. An anxiety attack is nothing to take lightly. I suffered from anxiety attacks endlessly the first year after my husband passed away. Trying to find a way to calm down, relax, and manage your anxiety is important. There are a lot of tips and tricks for alleviating anxiety and stress. I found the following blog excerpt from Greg Thurston to have some valuable insight. http://bbbblog19.7minutem.hop.clickbank.net?type=blog3&tid=TRACKINGID

‘Notes’ of Gratitude

Greetings from Colorado!

I wanted to take a moment and express my appreciation for the positive response to my blog “Paddock Surprise.” It is truly appreciated and it warms my heart that so many people enjoyed the story.

Several people have emailed me to ask how Note This and her filly are doing. It is my privilege to tell you that they are doing fantastic! Baby Note is a classic “busy body,” curious and exploring everything. She is also turning out to be a bit of a character. Note This is an exceptionally patient mom with a very watchful eye.

The weather has posed the most challenges. It has been rather cold here, with temperatures exceeding ten below zero at night. Since Baby Note was ten days early, she is rather petite. She is so petite that I cannot find a foal blanket that fits her! So, I have done my best to provide a warm indoor environment at night with a lot of bedding and extra food for Mama Note so that they can both be as warm and comfortable as possible until this cold snap passes. During the day, they are out in the paddock, where Baby Note plays endlessly. She is a bundle of energy and already looks like a future champion.

I will do my best to include future blogs that provide updates on these two amazing horses.

Again, thank you all so much for your interest and positive support. On behalf of myself and Mama and Baby Note, we are grateful.

Sandy

Baby Note

Paddock Surprise

Monday. The very mention of the word makes most people cringe. For many people, Monday symbolizes the beginning of the work week, the start of endless doldrums and toiling away at a job that we would love to quit. It is often a depressing, mundane day.

Monday, January 21, turned out to be anything but mundane or boring. It is a day I will always remember and cherish because it will forever serve as a reminder of how amazing life can be and how quickly things can change in a positive way. It will also serve as yet another reminder of how little control one actually has and how things happen in their own time.

Anyone that knows me is well aware of the fact that I love horses. I have a few. Err…several. More than I probably should have. However, they bring me tremendous joy and they are quite possibly the only reason I am still alive after the loss of my husband. There were days after the passing of my husband that I struggled to get out of bed because my depression was so great. I was overwhelmed with grief, and the fact that the rest of the world was continuing on as though nothing had happened wasn’t lost on me. In fact, it made me angry. But I was forced to pull on my boots and put my anger and self-pity aside because several 1200-pound reasons counted on me – my horses. I can honestly say that my horses were the only thing that brought any sense of joy or peace for me at that time. And they still do!

I am blessed to own many beautiful thoroughbred horses and one quarter horse, the later being my trusted riding pony, Annie, who happens to be a favorite among my friends. The thoroughbreds are a collection of mares and geldings, all beautiful souls that are each special in their own way. Hey, they make me put my boots on and enjoy the outdoors every day, even when it’s 20 degrees below zero. Who wouldn’t love an animal that requires this of you? Horses truly are therapeutic beings.

Last September, my best friend was in Oklahoma City at the Heritage horse sale. She spotted a big, lovely black mare with a white heart on her forehead named “Note This.” My friend called me and was insistent that I needed this mare. Something about this mare was calling out to my friend, and since her instinct with horses is impeccable, I told her to go for it. Note This happened to be pregnant to a stallion with an amazing pedigree, and quite frankly, Note This has nice bloodlines herself. I honestly figured she was a horse we wouldn’t be able to afford, so I told her to go for it, thinking we likely wouldn’t be able to buy her. However, I failed to consider that Note This was the last horse to go through the auction ring. Since most buyers are broke at the end of a sale, no one bid on her. My best friend spoke with the gentleman that had placed her in the sale, and within 24 hours, Note This was standing in my barn.

As I stated before, Note This is a big, beautiful mare. I immediately fell in love with her, and my gratitude for my friend and her insistence on buying this mare is beyond measure. Upon reviewing Note’s paperwork, I noticed that the date she was bred to the stallion coincided with a very important date to me – my late husband’s birthday. It gave me chills when I saw it, and it brings tears to my eyes whenever I think about it. I like to think of my husband in the great beyond, helping me out behind the scenes, because that is something he would do.

Note This settled in to her new life in Colorado and as the months progressed, her body became larger and larger. Her belly started to drop around the first part of January, and I knew it wouldn’t be long until her due date of February 1st arrived and a new addition to the barn would be on the ground and running.

In preparation for the momentous event, I had placed Note This, along with another pregnant mare, Snow Bunny, in an area by themselves. They shared a small paddock during the day but were each enjoying their own large stall at night whenever the weather was bad. The weather had been unusually nice for Colorado in January, so the night of January 20th, I had left the stall doors open and allowed Note This and Snow Bunny access to their little paddock throughout the night. This also happened to be the night of the “Super Blood Wolf Moon.”

As the sun rose the morning of January 21, I looked outside and could see both mares in their paddock. Everything was quiet in the barn area. It looked as though the horses still had hay and nothing was amiss, so I decided to make coffee and watch the morning news. Around 8:30 or so, I looked outside and noticed both Snow Bunny and Note This were laying down in their paddock, soaking up the morning sun. I decided the world wouldn’t end if I continued to enjoy my coffee and watch a cooking segment that was coming up on tv. I should also mention that I have been very blessed this winter to have two good friends of mine staying at my ranch – Mike and Jen – a kind, young couple that are both very good with horses, and quite frankly, very good with me.

I was getting ready to put my boots on and head to the barn when my phone went off, so I stopped to answer a text message. I was writing my reply when my back door flew open and Jen stormed in. “Sandy! There’s a baby! Note had her baby! We have to get to the barn!”

I was stunned, and I am quite certain I had a stupid, dumbfounded look on my face. “What?!” I replied. I looked out the window and sure enough, I could see the white blaze of a very tiny face in the paddock. I couldn’t believe it! How in the hell did I miss that this was happening? I ran to get my coat and fumbled with my boots momentarily. My mind was going a million miles an hour.

As Jen and I were running to the barn, Mike came along, carrying hay for one of their horses that was spending time in the barn. “What’s the big hurry?” he asked. Jen replied that Note This had her baby and he also started to move towards the barn in a higher gear.

When I arrived at the paddock, Baby Note was trying to stand on very wobbly legs and take those first uncertain steps. The baby was lovely, but oh so tiny and petite! Baby Note could best be described as a dark bay with a big, unusually shaped white blaze that seemed to dominate her tiny face. Note This was very protective of her baby, and she was busy trying to keep not only Snow Bunny away from her foal, but some other horses that had gathered along the fence to see what the commotion was.

A flurry of activity ensued. Mike and Jen grabbed a rope and halter and somehow managed to catch an elusive Snow Bunny and get her in a stall. I was frantically trying to clean the floor of the remaining stall, because naturally, both mares had decided that was the ideal place to poop throughout the night. It was important to get a clean, dry area for mom and baby, so I frantically cleaned. While I was busy cleaning, Mike was trying to assist Baby Note with standing up on those long, wobbly legs. Jen put a halter on Note This, and mom and baby were slowly moved into the barn where they could be safe in a clean, quiet stall, free from the prying noses of other horses. Jen held Note This while Mike helped Baby Note nurse on her mother. “It’s a filly,” Mike proclaimed with a big smile. He had his hands full, as Baby Note wiggled and wobbled as she nursed, not quite sure of how to behave in her new world. Three proud parents were born in that moment, and we all continue to make a fuss over Baby Note.

I called my vet and told her of our morning excitement. Before she set out for my ranch to examine Mom and Baby Note, she expressed the importance of leaving Note This and her baby alone for a bit so they could have some much-needed bonding time. So, the three proud parents vacated the barn for a bit. We were all in awe of what had just transpired. Note This had given no signs that she was THAT close to giving birth, and yet, we had a baby! I was struck by the fact that life can begin just as quickly as it can end. A new life was in our midst; things would not be the same at the ranch. Life can truly be unexpected and crazy sometimes.

Note close up 1 MG_20190123_091232

As I walked away from the barn toward my house, I looked to the sky to say thank you to my husband and the heavens above. It was then I noticed a hawk soaring in the sky directly overhead, its dark brown wings shining in the sun. New life in the barn and life in the form of wings above. The world is truly beautiful in its own time.

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My Unicorn, the Bald Eagle

Eagles are fascinating, powerful creatures that fly through my imagination and grasp the hands of time for me. When I see an eagle, its as though everything around me comes to a standstill except for the presence of the majestic bird I am blessed to be seeing.

As an amateur photographer, I spent years pursuing bald eagles, struggling to catch a glimpse let alone a decent photograph. It is a well-known fact that I have the world’s largest collection of blurry eagle photographs known to man. This is rather pathetic when you consider the fact that I live within ten miles of one of the largest bald eagle nesting grounds within the state of Colorado.

The fact that I could never capture a decent photograph of an eagle was not lost on my late husband. He used to laugh at my antics and adventures to photograph the ever-elusive eagle. One incident will forever stand out in my mind.

It was a particularly blustery day in Brighton, Colorado. I happened to have a day off from work in the middle of the week, and I was determined to make the most of it. I laced up my hiking boots, grabbed my coat and camera, and headed to Barr Lake in pursuit of the elusive bald eagle. I was determined that this would be the day my quest for an eagle picture would end.

Barr Lake is a small lake situated not far off Interstate 76. There is an 8.8-mile trail that circles the lake, and there are some nice spots along the way that are ideal for bird watching. And, Barr Lake is known as one of the largest eagle nesting grounds in Colorado.

My hike around the lake began in a rather non-descript manner. I noticed a few sparrows and pigeons as I set out and nothing more for what seemed like a rather long time. Not exactly the bird watching adventure I had been hoping for. Finally, a small gaggle of Canadian Geese came across my path, and eventually, a Northern Flicker Woodpecker. Things were looking up! My hopes soared as I looked to the sky and could see an eagle soaring in the distance. It was too far away to photograph, but there was no mistaking its magnificent wing span as it soared high above.

I continued walking. My feet were starting to twinge with a bit of pain. Unfortunately, my hiking boots were relatively new, and my feet were starting to feel it. “Carry on!” I told myself. I was so determined to photograph an eagle that pain be damned! This pursuit was ending today.

After walking for endless miles, or at least what felt like it, I arrived at the area where eagles could be seen and photographed. Allegedly. I had arrived at the area where a pair of bald eagles are known to nest, but naturally, the nest was empty and camping out there for 2 hours produced no results.

My quest to photograph an eagle was, in fact, a rather miserable experience in the end. The weather gradually deteriorated; the cold wind whipped my face. Dirt found its way into my contact lenses, and my feet were beyond painful. I had blisters above my big toe on both feet as well as my heels, and the bottom of both feet were screaming in agony. Defeated, I finally made my way back to my car and put my camera back in its case. I placed my camera behind the driver’s seat and headed home, blasting the heater as I drove.

As I pulled into my drive way, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There, perched on a fence post in my yard, was the most spectacular bald eagle I had ever seen! At that moment, a string of expletives was going through my mind, many of which I cannot write down here. Let’s suffice it to say that my frustration and disbelief was at an all time high. Nothing like marching around an eagle nesting area to no avail, only to have one show up in your own yard!

By the time I got out of my car, got my camera out of its case and attached the action lens, the eagle was in the air, flying away at rapid speed. My hands were shaking, and I was fumbling with my camera. This was it! My opportunity to get the picture I had been longing for all day! I zoomed in on the magnificent bird as much as I could. I was snapping pictures furiously, praying to get a decent shot. It was not meant to be. I managed to capture another series of “blurry eagle at a distance” pictures.

After this incident, my husband declared the Bald Eagle to be my unicorn, the mythical creature that could never be captured. And my husband loved to joke about it! He never failed to remind me of my quest for eagles and some of the funny adventures that ensued as part of this pursuit.

When I see an eagle, I always think of my husband and often find myself saying hello. My husband is much like an eagle to me now; elusive but ever present. Like an eagle, he is soaring free, released from the binds, ties, pressures, and struggles of every day life that we all endure daily. He may not be here physically, but he is definitely present.

Sandy

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Birds, Boots, and Brews

Greetings Fellow Horse & Bird Lovers!

Welcome to Birds, Boots, and Brew. This blog will be devoted to my love of horses & wild birds, my journey to heal, and the adventures life takes me on along the way. I should probably preface this blog with a disclaimer; this is not a scientific blog devoted to birds. I am not a member of the Audubon society, nor am I a “bird nerd” that travels across country, competing in competitions to document who can spot the most birds. I am far from any of these things. While I enjoy chronicling local birds, I am a horse owner and enthusiast, amateur photographer, and occasionally, a wannabe connoisseur of the local Colorado beer scene. I also enjoy a really good cup of coffee!

In June of 2016, my husband of 22 years was killed in a car accident. Grief is a strange journey, full of unexpected twists and turns. One minute you are fine, the next minute you are climbing the walls and can’t get out of your own head. In addition to your own heartbreak, there are the people around you who are also grappling with their own form of grief, some handling it well, while others lose their mind and try everything imaginable to take advantage of you and make your life a living hell. I’ve endured every aspect of the grief spectrum in one form or another in the last two and a half years, and quite frankly, dealing with this loss is still a daily struggle. Every day is a process.

So, what, pray tell, does all of this have to do with birds, you ask? I tell you this because birds have become part of my healing method, and it is through the following and photographing of birds that I have found a sense of peace and a realization that the universe is far more immense than I ever could have imagined. The many birds I am blessed to photograph have also brought a sense of purpose. When having a particularly tough day, I often find myself lacing up a pair of hiking boots and setting off on foot with camera in hand, enjoying the sights around me. Few things are more rejuvenating for the body and mind than enjoying nature, even if it is only for a few minutes at a time. The worries and sorrow of the world truly melt away in these moments, and I do believe that taking this time for myself has saved my sanity more than once.

Birds have always been on my radar, particularly hawks and eagles, from the time I was a child. We lived in a remote area, surrounded by beautiful mountains and amazing wildlife. I distinctly remember being in the truck with my dad one morning, driving into town, when I noticed a huge bird sitting regally on a fence post. I remember looking into the face of that dark, majestic bird and being struck by its sharp eyes and powerful looking beak. I turned to my dad and asked, “What kind of big bird is that?” My dad replied with, “I didn’t notice. Wasn’t paying attention.” I found myself in the school library the following Monday, looking at books about birds, trying to identify the beautiful bird I had been so fortunate to witness. It was a Golden Eagle. Fast forward thirty plus years and here I am, attempting my first blog about birds and life.

Thank you for joining me on the journey of birds, boots, and brews. Cheers to the beginning!

Sandy