A WALK IN THE WOODS: A SYMBOLIC JOURNEY WITH PICTURES – Marilyn Armstrong

There used to be a game we played. Not so much a game as a mental imaging exercise. I originally heard it in the 1960s when I was in college. I was told it wasn’t psychology, but rather drew on symbolism, images out of mythology and folklore. And, of course, our subconscious.

If you feel inclined, come along with me. The meanings, to the degree I understand them, are at the bottom of the page after the photo gallery. I’m pretty sure if you Google this, you’ll find other versions.

1. Imagine you are going to take a walk in the woods. What kind of day is it (sunny, cloudy, raining, warm, cold, summer, winter, autumn, spring)? It can be anything, whatever you see.

2. There is a path ahead of you. Describe the path (open and clear, full of rocks and other hazards, overgrown, etc.).

3. What is the woods like? Pine? Oak? Lots of shrubs? Does the sun filter through the trees??

4. As you walk along the path, you see a structure. What is it? It can be any kind of structure — house, shed, ruin, church, modern — anything. Describe it, please. Does anybody live there? Are they home? Do you go inside? How do you feel about the place?

5. Now it’s time to leave the house. You are back on the path and you come to a body of water. What kind of water (stream, river, ocean, lake, puddle, creek, swamp, etc.). You need to get to the other side. How do you cross the water? (Let your imagination roam free!)

6. Having crossed the water, you rejoin the path. As you stroll or stride along the path, you look down and see a cup. What does it look like? Do you pick it up? Keep it or not?

7. Further down the path, you spy a bear. What is the bear doing? What do you do about the bear?

8. You have passed the bear and you have walked a distance until you come to a wall. What does the wall look like? Can you see over it? Do you know (or can you see) what is on the other side of the wall?

What it means? This is what I learned. If you know another interpretation, you are welcome to tell me about it. I’ve been trying to find out the source of the “walk” for a very long time. Most of my adult life, actually.

1. The walk is life and the day is how you see life — dark or bright, shadowy or sunny. All that you see is part of your vision of life. Whether or not there are obstacles in the path or the path is clear are also parts of it. The nature of the woods is also descriptive of how you see life.

Little house and big maple tree

2. The structure is your childhood. Many people see a storybook house, gingerbread or the woodsman’s cottage out of Hansel and Gretel. Some people find it terrifying. Some people go inside and don’t want to leave.

3. The body of water indicates how you feel about the challenges in your life. The body of water can be just a puddle you step across or an ocean that requires you conjure up an ocean liner to cross. It can be deep and dark, scary or someplace lovely into which you want to wade or swim. How difficult (or easy) it is to cross the water talks about how you feel about overcoming obstacles you {did, are, will} face.

4. The bear equals responsibility. Some people run, others freeze. Some people make friends with the bear and it accompanies them for the rest of the walk. It’s all in your imagination and there are no limits.

5. The wall is death. The most common things to see on the other side are a beautiful mansion (heaven?) … more forest (reincarnation or just a continuation?) … the ocean … One guy saw a burning forest (ouch). What you see is what you see and it may not be what you expect.

I have done this several times at different ages and stages of my life. My answers were different each time, reflecting my current self and shows development. What little I know of this and its origins makes me suspect it was created during the 1800s.

I hope you enjoyed your stroll.

IT’S NATIONAL SQUIRREL DAY! – Marilyn Armstrong

That’s right. It’s National Squirrel Day, a special day designed to honor the furry and honorable squirrels of our world.

And here are some pictures to prove it!

SQUIRREL APPRECIATION DAY

On January 21st, Squirrel Appreciation Day recognizes a critter some consider a pest and others see as just fascinating. The creator, Christy Hargrove, is a wildlife rehabilitator in North Carolina and is affiliated with the Western North Carolina Nature Center.  According to Christy, “Celebration of the event itself is up to the individual or group — anything from putting out extra food for the squirrels to learning something new about the species.”

According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System of North America (ITIS), there are over 200 species of squirrels.  Some of the oldest squirrels categorized on the list are the nocturnal arrow flying squirrel (validated in 1766) and the Black Giant (validated in 1778).  Of all these species, they fall into three types.

Three Types of Squirrels

Ground squirrels, such as the thirteen-lined ground squirrel, the rock squirrel, California ground squirrel, and many others blanket the prairies and deserts of North America. Often causing damage, they often earn the name of pest, and they are labeled rodents. Predators enjoy them as a tasty morsel, too. As a result, they work together to protect themselves. Their only protection is to flee!

Tree squirrels make their homes in the trees. However, they also find their nesting materials and food on the ground and above. Making their homes in cities and the countryside in nations all around the globe, these familiar backyard and park residents help themselves to your birdfeeders or snag your snack right from your hands if they have become practiced enough!

The third type of squirrel leaps farther than the others with flaps of skin between the legs. Flying squirrels glide greater distances giving the impression they can fly. When they jump from tree to tree or building to building, they spread their legs wide and float on the breeze escaping predators or perhaps other snarky tree squirrels with a nut to pick with them.

OBSERVING #SquirrelAppreciationDay

Learn more about these fascinating creatures. Tell us your favorite squirrel story or share a picture of your squirrel visitors.

  • Set up a squirrel feeder and watch them as they feed. Can you identify what kind they are?
  • Go to a park and watch the squirrels as they travel from tree to tree. How many are there?
  • Squirrel watching is similar to bird watching and nearly as fascinating. Study their behavior and note their differences.
  • Watch a squirrel documentary to learn more.

Use #SquirrelAppreciationDay to post on social media.

SMILING FACES, SOUR CHERRIES – Marilyn Armstrong

Bad days are like sour cherries. Even in a great batch of fruit, you hit some duds. As you munch, you’re going to get some berries that are overripe, sour, or bitter. You bite into them, make a face, and put them aside. You don’t eat them because they don’t taste good.

Life is like this. Day follows day. Some days suck.

The past couple of years have been difficult. Too many bad days, too many days of feeling helplessly enraged by events far beyond my control. Too much anger in me and in the air and all around. Too many prices going up while our incomes never change.

I suppose I could have smiled on through, but I didn’t want to, any more than I felt like eating sour cherries. I had a right to be angry and saw no reason to pretend otherwise.

Was I wrong?

I don’t think so. People who care about us will cut us some slack. Leave us emotional space to get over what’s bothering us and what’s more, they should. You’d do it for them, wouldn’t you?

The whole “stay positive” thing is out of control. If the proponents of permanent smiles are to be taken seriously, no one will ever frown again. No tears, no sadness, no anger. Ever. There will be one acceptable emotion. Happiness. We will all wear a Happy Face. Happy, happy, happy. No matter what. Has anyone read or seen The Stepford Wives?

Original 1960 George of the Jungle cartoon

So, what’s your problem? Losing your home to foreclosure? Got cancer? Heart Disease? No job? No prospects? Don’t be mad or sad. You’ll be fine. No matter what those doctors are saying, no matter that you don’t have a place to live. Or a life. Or a future.

According to the proponents of Happy Face, no problem is so big it can’t be overcome with a positive attitude and a bright smile. I’m betting most of the people who believe in Happy Face have never confronted an intractable problem. One day, their fake smiles will catch up with them. They will crash and burn. The corners of their mouths will turn down and their faces will shatter on impact.

I’m not suggesting we all walk around sneering, sulking, and grumpy, but we need to be allowed to express what we feel. Otherwise, life becomes a total fake.

WINTER GOLDFINCHES IN THE LIGHT OF RECENT SNOW – Marilyn Armstrong

WINTERING WITH THE GOLDFINCHES

Snow was supposedly on the way, but our forecasts have more like guesswork than science lately. I no longer trust them. But I do trust our birds. They always know when snow is coming. The day before, they had barely bothered to show up at the feeders. Today, there was a flock of Goldfinches and at least one of every bird we normally see.

Two little Goldfinches sitting on a feeder …
Two (of many) Goldfinches on their feeder

Today, again, we also had lots of birds. Whenever they did something interesting, I had my camera pointed in the other direction. Talk about Murphy’s Law!

Goldfinches all over the big feeder, too.
Close up!

This is a classic. Point your camera left and all the action is to the right. Take a picture and half a second later, they are airborne and I missed it again. Moreover, the best shots will always be exactly when my battery goes flat.