family caregiving, Self-care

Trails and Worry and Self-care

There used to be a trail that took off from the back barn door, skirted the small barnyard where our pinto horse, Scout, hung out when we didn’t want her in the field, and connected with the main trail to the reservoir and the grid of trails that crisscrossed the side of the hill. Many years ago, my parents let that trail grow over to keep hypothetical trespassers from approaching the property unseen. I suspect it was my mother’s neuroses that was the instigating factor. And maybe there was a trespasser, once. I don’t know.

My next door friend and I hacked out the trail when we were in elementary school, so we could meet up where it joined the trail from her house. Someday I am going to rebuild it. I have visions of…well, let’s just say I have visions. The other day I bushwhacked my way over fallen limbs and around vine maple via a combination of deer trails and natural clearing and satisfyingly got to the main trail. It can be done! I have so many projects.

One of those projects is to remove the brush I dragged up to the edge of the side yard from my clearing efforts below the house last summer, along with several large branches that fell this winter. Emma and Wynne are bringing friends this weekend to do that project and help me finish the garden fence. Then Mama informed me we will not burn (she had a dozen reasons ranging from burning the hill down and the house with it to needing a permit) and the fallen limbs do not need to be chainsawed and removed. In fact, the brush that lines the trail can stay there, too, she said.

The generous man who mows for us offered to leave his trailer for us to load and he will take the brush to his property and burn it. And after I missed the window of opportunity to get the chainsaw serviced, out of the blue Mama gave me a five minute cautionary lecture about watching our footing when we use the chainsaw on the fallen limbs. I don’t know how she got from A to B. I have given up lecturing her back on the extent of my intelligence as a full-grown person. No, I haven’t given up; I will do it until the end of her days—or mine, whichever comes first. But I have given up expecting it to make a difference. I know she does it because she’s my mother, and because I’m a girl.

She might be impressed by my garden fence, but she hasn’t said so. Nor has she said anything negative about the enterprise—other than concern that the fence will keep out the sun. I guess that is the only thing she can come up with to worry about. She has made her way to tacit approval of the idea of a garden and that will have to do. I’ll keep an ear out for her bragging about me to other people.


❧ ❧ ❧

I took my first hike of the season this week—one I aborted last fall due to misty rain. The Duckabush River Trail #803 was a perfect first hike: beautiful day, easy trail, wildflowers, and relentless green.

DSCN0486As I took off up the gentle grade, I heard the steady thrumming of a grouse and spotted a single pair of lilliputian orchids, lady’s slipper perhaps. Then a shrill whistle split the air: a marmot or some sort of bird? Or someone’s bear whistle. The trail guide said you might see bear, and that there were marmots and I decided to go with that. Still, I gave my own orange whistle gently swaying at my chest from its cord fastened to my pack a reassuring squeeze.


After about a mile the trail dropped 200 feet to river elevation, though I could only hear the river thundering in the distance as it tumbled over boulders. Then two miles of level trail, trillium, and verdant green until the blue-green river sparkling in the sun roared into view.


I didn’t want to climb the Hump, but I still had time before I had to turn back, so I started up the switchbacks, hoping to get to a vista before too long. On the way were glorious fawn lilies and hanging gardens of thick-moss covered boulders dripping water. I did get to a vista, but it took second seat to the flora.


I wasn’t sure I wanted to go when I got up that morning. I felt a little afraid for some reason. I’m concerned that Mama’s chronic worry about so many things is rubbing off on me. I have to fight it all the time. There is so much to cripple creativity, adventure, and invention these days; so much to worry about. And while Mama finds it all, it is not my natural tendency.

Being a family caregiver is emotionally, if not physically in my case, exhausting work. Without good self-care, it can be health-threatening work. My nearly complete garden fence—designed and built almost entirely by me—and a day in the Olympic Peninsula wilderness have reassured me of who I am. I can stay on the trail for a few more days.


(Watch for more photos of my hike on this week’s Flora and Fauna Friday:

4 thoughts on “Trails and Worry and Self-care”

  1. Your description of Seminary Hill brought back such memories! What fun hikes we had there. Hadn’t thought of Scout in years! I am glad you are taking time for hikes and other such refreshments.


  2. Loved the pictures, the philosophizing, and the beauty of nature you share so freely as you weave your stories from past through the present. Thank you, Gretchen.


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