Following Your Path

Heather trying to life a boulder and sharing Following Your Path

Creating Paths Through Everyday Obstacles

My arms and hands have been almost too tired to write lately! My tiredness is not related to the photo above! With restarting my healthcare and wellness practice after time away due to accident recovery, writing is an important task for me to do. So, here I go:

My arms have been so tired because I have been using a Pickaxe prolifically to break up very hard ground.  With still building physical capacity, I came up with a strategy to not overdo it.  I count to ten then pause. Ten swings and ten thuds of the Pickaxe. If I am feeling incredibly ambitious, I might count to 15. Once I counted to 20—never again as I lost count at about 16 and then jumped to 20 to placate my Pick-Axing ego.  

Heather doing volunteer trail work
Here I am doing some volunteer trail work–pickaxes abound here!

A Pickaxe is a serious tool. You don’t use a Pickaxe unless there is a Pickaxe reason. Why? Well…you can cut your toes off, hit yourself in your head, hit someone else in the head, or swing it into a shed (I did that). It also has a purpose: breaking something up where you just can’t use a shovel or there isn’t another person standing around or a small earth mover parked nearby. Sometimes you wear a hard hat, too. (I discovered I’m enamored with tiny construction vehicles and have amassed quite a collection of photos.)

Perhaps you are wondering, WHY am I using a pickaxe?

I had this incredible idea to repurpose medium, large, and very large river rocks that covered our entire yard front, side, and back.  You read right. Our entire yard. There existed not just one layer of rocks, but several layers. 

One of the many mistakes I made in my life was the first time I accidentally walked on the rocks barefoot in the afternoon New Mexico sun. It was also one of the mistakes that I learned from! I realized the four dogs that lived with us would be walking over these rocks without the option of flip-flops, boots, or shoes. (or an Ice Hose--I just invented that now.)    

Heather on a Bobcat moving rocks
What I really need to move rocks!

I knew my job. All of these rocks baking in the sun sitting on top of the dirt were NOT good for the earth at all. No way. In fact, someone put black plastic under the rocks. (a common practice; but I protest.). So, the earth was dying under all of that repression. 

Since then, we have been moving rocks. We have given them away by the truckload.  We made piles and piles of rocks.  In fact, you may even read this and think–“oh my–that was you who gave me some river rocks years ago!”

After removing most of the rocks,
we were able to start bringing back the earth to good health, reinvigorating the soil.  
Finally, planting herbs, flowers, trees, bushes, and fruit trees..

a pile of river rocks in Heather's yard
Piles and piles of river rocks moved and moved

Where I will interject that several giant dogs we rescued basically dug up and ate. I knew I was in trouble or rather our plants were in trouble when I looked outside and saw Loki with his mouth AROUND a small fig tree trunk just gnawing away. Loki was a 180 lb fluffy Landseer dog.

A few weeks later, I watched Ellie “enjoy” our yard.   Ellie is a young Great Dane bloodhound mix with the nose of a bloodhound and body size of a Great Dane and a personality of an old-time dictator—give her some space when she is cranky. I have rescued 9 dogs so far and Ellie has one of the most interesting dog personalities ever…  

Heather resting on a pile of rocks on a Thru-hike sharing Following Your Path
Now, this is a pile of rocks! And great to rest upon…no spiders here!

As I was saying, I watched Ellie sniff around on the ground near several tall Echinacea flowers/plants, then dig for a second, put her nose into the hole, and pull. The Echinacea flower went down into the earth and up out the hole just like you see in a cartoon.   At the same moment, I was both fascinated, wanted to laugh and yell with frustration maybe even weep a bit. So, right now, except for fruit trees, other trees, and a few bushes, we are back to where we began—earth.

Three giant dogs for blog post Following Your Path
The small tree eating, root digging, Echinacea flower kidnapping culprits!

But, back to rocks.  I built garden walls with these river rocks that I was very enamored with.  Many many short garden walls with nice crevices between the rocks. What happened? They became housing for Black Widow spiders. so. many. of. them. All over the place!

a Saint Bernard next to rock piles that house spiders
River rock spider hotels and St. Bernards

I invited them in.  
But, now it was their time to go

Black Widow spider sharing for Following Your Path
A Black Widow on the porch of its river rock housing.

Now, let it be known that I do have a wee fear of spiders. I have stared down so many black widows and they look fierce. After this, I run in the other direction. My brain knows that Black Widows are not Attack-Spiders. In order to even get bitten, I would need to stick my hand in their spider-nesty-webby spots for quite some time or sit on one. They are only chasing me around my yard, flying off their webs into my face or capturing me and pulling me into the under house lair in my imagination.

Even knowing that I still jump around and get all sorts of gear when I approach one that needs to go. I actually have a spider stick; a bamboo pole that I use to twirl up spider webs and tap the area to encourage them to move their homes. Yes, I am a spider softie.  

I have even requested assistance in relocating large Orb Weaver spiders.  (Once, into my neighbor’s yard. Whew, it felt good to come clean on that!) So now that you know all about spiders, back to rocks…

Orb Weaver spider
The relocated Orb Weaver that somehow I named Walter

Finally, the day came when I needed to dismantle what was here and begin anew.

the rock walls and spider homes needed to go. A new home would be found. So, I came up with the idea to repurpose what was left of the rock walls into river rock paths. Two paths to be exact that wound the way through my yard.

Wow! I thought—so awesome. So great for the feet. Walking on rocks and paths that are not smooth and level. Just so you know, our bodies and feet are made to walk on unlevel and other surfaces that work with our balance and mobility. 

So, I got started.

I figured this rock path, it would not take me long… I’d gather rocks. Put them in a path. Done. Well, that is not how it works for paths.  They need to get settled into the earth. This is where the Pickaxe finally comes into play. I needed to dig out the path about 6 or more inches deep and however long or wide the path is. Then, place sand in the bottom of the path bed after which I place the rocks. Then, fill crevices with a bit of sand followed by tiny tiny little stones that wedge into place and keep it all from shifting all over

This turned into quite a project. I decide to think the thought: There is no other place I’d rather be and get back to work. Hmmm…

This project takes me quite a while. It is super hard physical work and I must pause a lot, I like creating the path, fitting the rocks together, and appreciating their differences. 

I am someone who likes creating.

Art is not just in a studio, or painting or drawing—it can be anything and anywhere. It is up to us to decide what feels creative, artistic, and beautiful. To me that day, it was rocks and dirt. (View my Artwork here)

a giant pile of boulders seen a Thru-hike in Colorado for Following Your Path
A rock pile that I would leave in place! (photo taken while on my most recent thru-hike)

This much-too-long-rock-path is taking me a lot of time. In tandem, I am also addressing a healthcare issue that I have had several times since my accident recovery and as an outcome due to how unwell I had been. So, I have felt strongly unwell lately and overdid it a few times in my zeal to complete this path! This is another story…

Know that I understand what it is like to not feel well while trying to move through your days, and live your life. 

So for me, creating that rock path mattered.  I found that I loved bringing the river rocks back together in a path even though wasn’t in the river where they came from. Maybe I reunited some long-lost friends!

As I was bringing them together, I imagined the rocks saying hi to each other, and “I missed you, buddy—how have you been?” But in very slow rock speak.  I thanked them for staying in my yard and wonder about all of their stories. (As you can tell, I spent a lot of time with these rocks- this path took me a loooonnnggg time!)

Rocks and stones hold so much.

So many stories. Such ancient roots. They move so slowly. I love meeting new rocks. That could sound strange, but I do. I have trekked through higher mountain excursions and routes where the rocks or boulders look like they have been dropped from the sky into gulches and ravines and are larger than big cars or trucks. 

marmot resting on a boulder at 11,000 feet
Yes, Rocks and Stones do hold so much. Even this marmot that I met at 11,000 ft.

When passing through,
I wonder what the rocks think as I speed by,
brushing them slightly or maybe not even noticing them.  

One time, on a longer excursion I just decided to stay put and hang out with the rocks one day—it was amazing. I just sat there for the longest time and noticed how incredible the giant rocks were. Then eventually, I meandered on my way.

Which… I need to do now as I do have a few more feet of river rock path to create, somehow! 

beginning of rock path
The start of the river rock path that I created!

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