Mountains and Lakes

Like the ground hog who pokes his head out at the beginning of February to see when spring is coming, I opened my front door to determine the safety and enjoyment of walking in my neighborhood. Some people, like my snow angel, Ron, had cleared their front sidewalks. Some had left the snow there to harden into impassable slabs of ice. When Dan took us for a walk around the neighborhood on Thursday, it was a test of Dora’s memory of what to do about these dangerous mini ice rinks. Having a “4-wheel drive,” they were no problem for her, so she just kept on charging ahead in her excited state, while I slid around, trying not to do the splits or land on a body part. Dan was right behind me with a hand extended to catch me, which I needed once or twice.

Clearly, Dora needed a refresher in ice mobility. Back in 2014, when she was a brand new certified Seeing Eye dog, she was very impressive with her ability to spot ice ahead and would slow down for me. But over the years of having not so much snow, she’s become a little rusty in that skill. So we practiced, and yesterday, we ventured out on our own.

Most of the sidewalks were clear of snow, since we had had a couple of days of warmer temps, but now and then, Dora had to remember how to negotiate the places where the home owners had neglected their front walks, and over this brutally cold month, the ice had remained, especially in the shady spots, not that we ever had that much sun.

She did very well, having paid attention to her refresher, but twice, it might have been comical to watch me in action.

Snowplows typically dump their loads on the edges of the crosswalks as they make their turns. When we try to cross a street, Dora tries to search for a path through the mountains of snow. After a few seconds of her frustration, I just drop the harness and step over the mound and encourage her to follow by leaping over it. Yesterday, when I attempted this feat, I discovered that the mound was wider than I expected and almost did the splits. But it’s a good thing I’m fairly agile. A few blocks later, as we turned a corner, Dora took me into the grass instead of keeping me on the sidewalk. After I questioned her for not staying on the sidewalk, I found out that the sidewalk was completely impassable. A line of overgrown bushes has prevented any sun from melting that ice for several yards, so I just grabbed the bushes as I walked along until the bushes came to an end.

Today, we had a different kind of adventure. After a “melt-down,” the sidewalks were clear of snow, but the low places were filled with deep puddles. With water over my ankles, I was glad it was relatively warm and that my shoes were washable. Always an adventure. Stay tuned for the next one.

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

For the Love of Snow

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved snow. I loved to make snow men and snow women. I loved sledding, until the day I slammed head first into a stone wall and had to have stitches. When I learned to cross country ski, I was in Heaven, gliding over the rolling terrain at Ski for Light, but I never learned to love skiing downhill. I loved ice skating, both on a smooth-as-glass rink and on a wrinkly pond. I loved making snowballs to throw for my dog, only to have them crumble in her mouth. I loved walking in frozen air, when snowflakes were just beginning to appear. All you have to do is take your dog out early in the morning before dawn, and you witness the beauty of a winter’s gift. There is nothing so beautiful as walking on freshly fallen snow, when your steps are silent, and your whole neighborhood has been blanketed with the tranquility that creates the feeling of family.

The other day, someone remarked on how beautiful the snow was and that it was too bad that I couldn’t enjoy it. What was she talking about? There are so many more ways of enjoying snow than looking at it. Snow is God’s way of giving us something in winter to be happy about.

That last paragraph came from the memories I have stored up to cheer me in this grey and gloomy time. The truth is that it seems to me that a pandemic is enough without adding a huge snow and ice storm to lock me inside. Today, taking my dog out early in the morning is not a joy to celebrate the beautiful snow but a challenge to keep from falling on my face as I negotiate the clumps of ice to her favorite spot to empty. In fact, she doesn’t get to go to her favorite spot, because I’m not about to trudge through 8 inches of snow and ice to the end of the yard. I took my daughter’s advice and commanded that “right here,” a few feet from the back patio is just fine. And amazingly enough, she complies. I usually have someone shovel a patch of snow, so she can have a place where she doesn’t have to dip her bottom into the snow, but it came too fast this year.

I’m itching to get out and walk, but unfortunately, not everybody shovels the sidewalk in front of their houses, like my next door neighbor does. He even shovels mine. I call him my snow angel, because as soon as the snow stops, I hear him out there shoveling my driveway and sidewalks. Every older person should be so lucky. I used to enjoy shoveling my own snow until my back issues put a stop to it. It’s going up to 24 today. Maybe I should get out there and try to make a snowman for old time’s sake. But a better idea is to take a walk with my friend Dan, so that’s just what I did, and it was wonderful.

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Hiding in a Tree

M n D in a treeJanuary 6, 2021 was one of the worst days in our nation’s history, but I was blissfully unaware of all the ugliness that was happening at the Capitol, as Dan and I walked through the peacefulness of Pickerington Ponds Metro Park in a different part of the world. As people shouted their protests and worked themselves up into destructive craziness, we smiled at the joy that my Seeing Eye dog Dora showed in her constantly wagging tail. Once again, this was one happy dog as she gayly trotted down the trail, stopping now and then to investigate some delicious smell. Meanwhile, Dan pointed out some wonders of nature, like the couple of swans that put on a show for us, flying from one point to another on the pond.

But the special effect for me was the hollow tree that Dan spotted and encouraged me to step inside. What a weird feeling to be standing completely inside the trunk of a tree. Here’s a picture, or you would never believe it.

The sky was a flat slate of grey, and we encountered many puddles and swampy patches in the trail. But several other people thought it was a good day to go for a walk too. We all came home with muddy paws or boots, but our day was a winner compared to what Congress had to face. Please keep our world in

your thoughts and prayers. Let hollow trees, cloudy skies and beautiful swans calm our troubled hearts.

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Toasting the End

Listening to the gurgle of most of a bottle of Margarita Mix as I poured it down the drain might have caused extreme remorse for those who love a cocktail before dinner. But for me, it meant a wave of sadness, not because of the waste of a perfectly good adult beverage. It was the realization that my plans for having it on hand for unexpected company were just a pipe dream. There would be no company, expected or not. From the moment I heard that Covid 19 had invaded the world, I made the decision to keep myself and my friends and family as safe as possible. If that meant self-isolation, then that’s the way life would be for the duration.

Although I am totally blind, I don’t mind living alone. As an only child, I spent many hours entertaining myself, alone. I had friends in the neighborhood and at school, but if they were not available to play from time to time, I found plenty of ways to occupy myself in the afternoons until my working parents returned.

As a pre-teen, I spent my share of hours on the phone and in front of The Mickey Mouse Club, alone. As a teen, I studied dance with the fervor of a prima ballerina and would spend hours in our basement studio, practicing for a dream career in dance, alone. In college, I loved living in a dorm, because it was like having sisters. At the same time, I was thankful to have a single room. Being able to shut my door against the noise gave me not only peace, but it also gave me the privacy I needed. The clatter of my braille writer would not bother anybody, and I could use my tape recordings to help me study, alone.

Later, as a wife and mother of a son and daughter, I felt fulfilled with my busy household. Yet, after each child left for independence, and my husband and I dissolved our marriage, I found myself alone again, but not unhappy.

Then enter the pandemic. Self-imposed isolation came naturally. Previously, except for an occasional lunch out, a meeting, doctors’ appointments, or church, my days had been spent alone, with only the company of my guide dog. Life as a single blind woman who lives alone prepared me well for social distancing. Now my days are filled with correspondence via email, listening to talking books, meetings via Zoom, and cleaning out closets. I am blessed to have a friend who takes us to a park once a week to hike through woods, to break the monotony of solitude and just walking around the neighborhood. Even keeping our distance and wearing masks, having a flesh and blood person to be with, rather than a voice on a screen, is a real treat.

I pray that someday soon, I’ll buy another bottle of something fun, and we’ll celebrate by ripping off our masks and enjoying it together.

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Final Walk in the Park, Glacier Ridge, 19 of 19

We did it! Miraculously, the weather warmed up for another mild autumn day, perfect for a walk in a park. A lot of other people had the same idea, as we encountered more walkers and cyclists today than on any other park in our quest to do all 19 Metro Parks in the central Ohio area. It seemed to be a relatively new park, judging by the youth of the trees and the condition of the paved pathways. Bird houses had been constructed near the paths, but they were not the same as the ones built for Purple Martins as in other parks. The sounds of birds and small animals were missing, as it’s the time of year for either hunkering down or flying south.

The most troublesome animals were those riding atop bicycles as they whizzed past without a word of warning. Clearly, these are not the same species I’m used to riding with who call out “On your left,” as they pass another cyclist or walker on a trail.

As usual, we stopped to read the signs about the park and the benches that memorialized a loved one.

The only significant landmark was a wind turbine that at times was stock still and other times whirling around. I foolishly asked Dan to take a picture of each position, but he said it would come out looking the same in both frames. Here’s what the internet said.

“The Wind and Solar Learning Center features a 7.5 kw wind turbine and two 1.2 kw photovoltaic solar displays that are connected to generate power to a public restroom and shelter area. The center also features an interactive learning area for park visitors whom are interested in wind and solar energy.” BTW, that grammatical error was not mine.

We must have been in a different part of the park , because the visitors center was not in our view. Still, it was a lovely way to end our journey through the Metro Park system, and we did over 3.6 miles. This is not, however, the end of our walks with Dan, as he has graciously agreed to take us out on the warmer days for walks that are truly a treat for Dora as well as for me.

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Slate Run, 18 of 19 and a 5K for K9 Friends of the Shelter

Slate Run Park, 18 of 19

Dan and I had signed up to walk in the Friends of the Shelter event, as we had for the past 2 years. You might recall Kevin Bacon, the pig who walked with his person, whom we met in 2018. But this year, we could walk anywhere we wanted and still get the T-shirt and still benefit the injured and sick dogs in the shelter. We each paid our $35, and I bought a few raffle tickets.

Slate Run was next on our agenda, as the Kokomo and Bobolink Trails were fairly flat and grassy. Dan’s knee has still not healed, and I guess my back never will, but for now, we’re avoiding steep hills and gravel, not only for us, but also for Dora.

Our hike was the most peaceful of all so far, featuring wet lands, grasslands, and meadows, and Dan’s car was the only one in the parking lot and remained that way until we were back. It felt like we were walking through our own land, checking on the plants and birds. I guess the Purple Martins like this location, because we saw many bird condos. I wanted to check one out, but the grasses were too thick and tall to get to them, but Dan took a picture. I wondered if they were all inside, huddled against the ensuing rain. The sky was overcast, but the rain didn’t appear until after we got out of the CVS, where I had been shot, first in one arm and then the other, one for flu, and one for shingles. (BTW, have you done that yet?)

One of the most unusual features of this park was a little front porch, out in the middle of the meadow, with wicker chairs set up in a semi circle, as if for a show. And there was no house attached to the porch. It looked like a nice place to look out over the meadow and enjoy the show of the wildlife. As with many of the parks, we enjoyed walking on a board walk, if for nothing else, a change under foot. This park had a little pond too, but it definitely needed some way to aerate, as it was covered with algae.

We were out there for over 2 hours, but we somehow put in 3.4 miles. We stop a lot to take a picture, read the signs, and pause for a drink of water. Sometimes, we don’t need water, but when Dan spots a park bench, or I ask him to keep a look out for one, we take advantage of a brief rest for my back, and Dora rarely turns down a few laps out of her water bowl. In many parks, Dan also read the “dedication in memory” signs on the benches, and for a moment or two, we think about what a thoughtful way to remember a loved one it is.

One more to go to complete our mission, and then we’ll either have to find a new fitness goal or we’ll try some of the trails we missed this time around.

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

A Live Concert on my Lap

I’ve written before about the little pleasant surprises that you would never expect from a pandemic. I won’t name them all again that I’ve noticed, but here’s one that came out of the blue for me. I read about it in a column by Michael Grossberg in The Columbus Dispatch.

Saturday night, I listened to the live streaming of a musical produced by the bright and talented vocalists at Otterbein University. I always love going to their musicals , most of which I had heard of or seen before. But “The Theory of Relativity” didn’t sound like a musical to me. Still, I was ready to give it a try, simply because it would be so easy.

I did not have to find someone to go with or to drive me there. I didn’t have to sit alone in an audience full of couples and friends enjoying the show together. I could call the box office and talk to a real person instead of having to deal with a complicated website. And the ticket was inexpensive.

I had participated in many Zoom meetings and webinars, so I was puzzled why the young woman on the phone, Elizabeth, suggested I log on as early as 7:00, even though the show didn’t start until 8:00. She explained that some people have trouble logging on, so I should feel to call her any time after 7:00, because she would be there. Well, I wasn’t going to log in that early, because I might need to do something on my computer during that hour, but I did start the process at about 7:30. I clicked on the link, but I wasn’t sure if I had to do something else, like enter the password, because my screen reader didn’t read anything to me. At 8:00, and the show hadn’t started, I called Elizabeth , and she said the show had indeed started, but she would send me another link and talk me through logging in. With her patient help and my little bit of experience, I suddenly heard music, and I was not only relieved but thrilled. I was getting to hear the clever lyrics and talented voices I had been anticipating all day. It was like I was right there in the theater, only without the thunderous applause and cheering at the end of each song. But I was comfortable in my nightgown and robe, with my dog by my side on the couch, and a cocktail in my hand. What a way to enjoy a live production by my favorite theater company.

Immediately afterward, because Elizabeth had said she would be available all evening, I sent her a note saying how much I appreciated her help and how much I enjoyed the show. I know I missed a lot without audio description, but the next step is to figure out how they can do that. Until they do, I have a very non technical solution. They could just send the link to a trained describer, who could call me on the phone, and whenever she needed to describe an action, a costume, or the set, she could tell me. So the next time they have a show, and I hear about it in time, I’ll tell them about my brilliant and simple idea. I didn’t mind not having audio description this time, but from now on, it should be quite doable.

If you love musicals as much as I do, I hope you’ll take advantage of this easy way to enjoy a show. Just think. No sold-out messages and no parking hassles. No long walks from the car, and no body tall in front of you, unless it’s your dog in your lap.

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Clearcreek, 17 of 19 parks

The drive from my house took almost an hour, but many features of this hidden jewel in the Hocking Hills area rewarded us for the journey. With Dan’s bum knee that had put him on crutches for a while and my chronic back pain, we chose a trail that was perfectly flat, and you thought the Hocking Hills meant only hilly. Me too, but the Clear Creek Meadows Trail ran very close to a stream.

We might have been early Native Americans trail-blazing in search of food or a home, as we followed the river. But we were not alone in our quest for the perfect place to settle.

Because this day blessed us with blue skies, a playful sun that peeked through the painted leaves of fall, and the soothing sound of gentle waters trickling over the rocks , we encountered several other hikers on the trail. Dan likes to stop and admire the many varieties of asters, phlox, and sun flowers, so he had purchased an app that would help him identify plants and even insects. All he had to do was snap a picture, and the internet identified the flower. We never ceased to be intrigued with this marvelous new toy. That’s how I happened to show off my knowledge of the names of the flowers we passed along the way. It even identified the name of the moss on the tree, as shown in the photo of me touching the moss.

We often stopped, just to listen to the complete silence or to enjoy the music of the waters as they hurried along the shallow river bed. Dan took a picture of the creek as it made a left turn with Dora and me in the foreground. I could have said it was a picture of Dora and me with the creek in the background, but it really featured the creek. Another photo might have captured the meadow which was the top of the trail like a deflated balloon. Here’s where the quietude surrounded us, and where not another sole interrupted this peace. But even when we were back on the Creekside trail, the dogs on leashes and their people were polite and cheerful.

Although this trail had the most foot traffic of all the ones we’ve done so far, this was our favorite of the 17 parks we’ve done, Most of the others had at least one distinctive treasure, but the most awesome feature of this park greeted us as we entered and bid us farewell as we left. A gigantic bolder hovered above the road, ready to come crashing down any minute, so we held our breaths as we drove under it.

It was a poem of a day—one that healed my soul.

I want to end with what Dan felt about today’s adventure. “Mary, I so enjoyed our outing today! It is such a privilege to witness the relationship you share with Dora. The service she provides you and the love and affection you give to her. Such a wonderful partnership that warms my heart. The environment was glorious today. A great way to ease back into walking.” Ease? We did almost 3.5 miles.

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Scioto Grove Metro Park, 16 of 19

M crouching nest to D sittingScioto Grove Metro Park

After traveling south of Columbus for some distance, we finally turned onto a deeply rutted dirt and gravel road to the entrance of the park. Our first impression could be described in one word, rustic. The parking lot was nothing more than a clearing of dirt with not another single car parked there. Later, we learned that we must have gone to the “back door” because there were none of the amenities mentioned on the internet, such as picnic tables and shelter house. The thought of having the whole park completely to ourselves was appealing to me and absolutely a joy to Dora. Dan, the cautious one, was slightly less joyful, thinking of leaving his car out in the middle of nowhere. No ranger, no maps, no brochures, made him a little uneasy until he saw another car pull in. Funny though, the car seemed to glide in without a sound. We walked away on the dirt path for just long enough for the driver to mysteriously disappear. Dan walked back and took a picture of the license plate, just in case we would need it later. It was a little disconcerting, but that was really the end of the excitement. Sorry, but I had to add that to get your attention so you wouldn’t think this was just another account of a beautiful walk in the woods.

Dora’s excitement started by jumping out of the car, and nobody, namely me, put a harness or a leash on her. I wore the leash on my shoulder, just in case we were wrong about not meeting another soul on the trail. She immediately took the lead but often looked back to make sure we were following. My heart was touched when we first started out, and then Dan went back to take that picture, and Dora ran back to follow him. But she suddenly stopped and looked back at me as if to say, “Wait. We can’t go anywhere without Mary.” She loped back up the trail to where I was waiting and got a happy greeting from me. Then, she’d turn around and start back for Dan and would remember that I was still not coming too and would run back to me. She got a little extra exercise running back and forth before we set off for real along the trail.

Much of the trail was flanked by zillions of yellow flowers Dan determined were Black eyed Susans. I had never seen one up close and personal before, and I was surprised that they were so tall. A side path led toward the river, but we stopped at what looked like a campsite. A fire pit and a square of dirt surrounded by logs for sitting or some other purpose were intriguing, but we turned back to the main trail. From time to time, Dan could glimpse the river. A man was walking on the other side with a back pack on, and he was wearing boots and wading in the water. Could that be our mysterious neighbor in the so called parking lot?

The trail followed the contour of the river and then formed a loop before it turned back toward the trail head. Now the trail was bordered by zillions of Golden Rod. We stopped here for our one and only photo op. I had to hold onto Dora’s collar, not to keep her from running off but to keep her from running over to Dan, who was also kneeling to get the right angle for the picture.

The loop was not long enough to tire any of us, so we walked part of the loop again. It truly felt like walking on an old path in the country, not a metro park, but the peace and quiet was such a blessing that we walked a total of 4.5 miles. The only disturbance was a convention of thousands of grasshoppers on one stretch, especially when they jumped on my legs and one landed on my arm. As you might guess, I am not a fan of insects. But Dora and I are a big fan of parks, and we can hardly wait to visit the next one. 3 more to go.

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Pickerington Ponds, 15 of 19 Metro Parks

Pickerington Ponds Metro Park, 15 of 19

If you want a walk in the park where you will only see 1 or 2 other people the whole morning, this is the place for you. We saw one man walking from a different parking lot from where we parked and 2 women sitting and talking quietly on a bench near a stream. Other than that, we had the place to ourselves. And for that reason, I took the harness and leash off Dora, so she could enjoy her freedom. If she had been a puppy, I would have worried that she would run into the weeds and give a bunch of ticks a nice ride and a free breakfast, but she loved just walking along with us. But when we did see another person, I quickly snapped on the leash, and that seemed to be her cue to pull as hard as if she were in harness. I guess she equates the leash with work, even though I left the harness perched on my shoulder. Once the wonderful smells of another person had passed, the leash came off, and she was back to relaxed mode. It’s just like Dan and me. Whenever we saw a person walking toward us, Dan would say, “Mask up,” and we’d pull up our masks. Then when they had passed, he’d say, “Mask down,” and we’d be in relaxed mode again.

Dan commented many times on the yellow flowers that appeared to be everywhere, and on looking them up on the internet, he surmised they were Goldenrod. Here’s a picture of just one.

As usual, I paid no attention to the direction we walked or the trail names, so I’ll have to quote Dan when he said, “It seems from the map that we took Killdear and Yellowlegs for 3.59 miles.”

Here’s a description of the park that was posted on one of the trails. “Pickerington Ponds is a premier spot for birdwatching, with more than 260 species seen. The combination of seasonal ponds and rich wetland vegetation, with bordering woodlands, serve as a magnet for migrating waterfowl, shore birds and land birds. Deer, beaver, fox and other wildlife can be seen near the ponds and adjoining woods and fields of this 1,608 acre park.”

One of the most memorable features of this park for me was hearing for the first time the warning noise coming from a squirrel. I couldn’t identify it, nor could Dan, and he couldn’t see it as we stood on a bridge, listening intently. He made a recording of it, and I shared it with my birder friend Donna who knew at once what it was. This would be a wonderful place to come in the spring, when the birds are having a party, trying to impress the lady birds. It would also be fun if they allowed cross country skiing, because the paths were wide and only very gently rolling in a couple of spots. Otherwise, it was flat and not full of sharp turns.

It was also easy to walk on, as it was all small gravel, dirt, and grass.

Dan took a picture of Dora and me in front of a historic bridge and another of us with the pond beyond the fence behind us. It was a leisurely morning, despite our respectable distance walked. Only 4 more parks to go.

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir

And

Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland

www.seeingitmyway.com