Posted in Blogfest Entries, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, SkyWatch Friday

Sunrise Walk in Stillwater: Skywatch Friday

So, a month or so ago, I got a new phone (well, actually, a reconditioned Samsung Galaxy S5, which is plenty new enough for me). Not only does it take gorgeous pictures, but it has a very comprehensive fitness tracking sytem with programs to try – and so, rather spontaneously, I decided I was going to do the Baby Steps to 5K program.

Which is how I ended up on our quiet rural road with my fifteen-year-old son, catching up a workout missed somewhere in waves of rain, watching the sun come up and do lovely things to a sky decorated with fluffy clouds…

So, how about you?
Like what you see here?

Enjoy watching the sky?
Why not join Skywatch Friday?

It’s easy as a passing cloud. Just click here to see the rules, and sign up with your own Skywatch post. Or just browse for more lovely views of the #BigBlueRoom to get you in a more leisurely frame of mind for the weekend.

And may each new sunrise bring you more wonder than the one before!

Posted in Blog Hops and Fests, Nature and Outdoors, Occasional Features, photography, SkyWatch Friday

Things Are Looking Up at Home: Skywatch Friday for May 19, 2017

Not finished skywatching? You can find more Skywatch Friday posts here – it’s your portal to skies around the world! In the meantime, here’s one more from my springtime yard. Keep on looking up!

Posted in #weekendcoffeeshare, Nature and Outdoors, Occasional Features, SkyWatch Friday, Unschooling, Weekly Features

It’s a Skywatch Friday #weekendcoffeeshare!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you to come on in. It’s cold outside, and due to get colder, but it’s warm and cozy and snug in here. No fire yet – our lean season meant we didn’t order firewood ahead, and my Accomplice’s aging shoulders mean he’s not up to splitting and cutting the way he used to. Besides, although I’ve been making a concerted effort to clean the house, those efforts haven’t yet made it to the living room, which I don’t use that much, and where the wood stove often becomes an off-season place to park All The Things caught in a sort of small-house-busy-family limbo.

Leaf on the windshield...
Leaf on the windshield…

Anyway, my study’s pretty comfy these days, and so is the family room. I’ll let you decide where we sit while I chatter and pour, OK?

The path to the Mansion, overlooking Albany and the Hudson River.
The path to the Mansion, overlooking Albany and the Hudson River.

Now that you’re settled, I’d like to offer you one of these devil’s food cake doughnuts to go with your beverage – and, oh, did you notice that I’ve decluttered and cleaned the beverage area since last week?! You can find chai, hot cocoa, or many varieties of tea in the basket – and, yes, now that you mention it, it is a bit funny that I have so many kinds of tea when I tend to be overwhelmingly a coffee kind of soul…

It’s my nod to the people I love who love tea, and my own occasional desire for a cuppa.

The view from here....
The view from here….

So, I see you’ve noticed the pictures, and the blog title. So, I might as well explain. You see, I love the sky. Watching clouds, and taking pictures of the sky, is something of a passion for me. I’m often found wishing I could paint what I see, but I don’t seem to have any native skill at that art, so I tend to use my camera and editing programs to achieve something similar.

A view of sky  and Schuyler Mansion...and scaffolding, as restoration work continues.
A view of sky  and Schuyler Mansion…and scaffolding, as restoration work continues.

A few weeks back, at the peak of leaf season in upstate New York, my daughter and I went to tour the Schuyler Mansion as part of our Hamiltonian explorations (we are very fortunate to live, if I may paraphrase, in the state where it happened). Alexander and Eliza were married at the mansion in 1780, and, although I’m a native to this area, I’d never been there.

Foliage against a gray sky....
Foliage against a gray sky….

It was a rainy day, and the colors of the leaves were vibrant in contrast with brick and stone and gray skies. The elegant mansion from a bygone century was a gracious contrast to the modern urban sprawl that’s grown up around it. My daughter, bright and alive, somehow fit in this place…

Sky seen through autumnal trees.
Sky seen through autumnal trees.

There’s something magical about exploring history with a child. Granted, at twelve, she’s not as young or wide-eyed about things as she once was, but she is still relatively new in the world, and full of life and potential. She’s a reminder that everyone was young once, a child once. She gives me a different perspective on things – she loved wandering the grounds and chasing after a neighborhood cat who’s made them part of his turf. She enjoyed wandering around the large upstairs hall, but not so much the actual tour, where we were roped off from most of the historic space, and things followed a set format. She would probably have enjoyed it even less if we’d taken the standard, Schuyler-family oriented tour rather than the one specially oriented to Alexander Hamilton’s connection to the place and the family he married into.

I sky in  this one...but this star shines brightly on a gray day, anyway! Lise, at 12, getting historical. =D
I know….no sky in  this one…but this star shines brightly on a gray day, anyway! Lise, at 12, getting historical. =D

She and I will be going back, at the beginning of next month, for Twelfth Night festivities. It’ll be a different experience, to be there in the winter, to explore a holiday we’re not so familiar with, and to see how it was celebrated when our nation was new. It’s being held the day before she turns twelve-and-a-half, at the cusp of the point where she begins to leave childhood behind, and move closer to adolescence.

This post is a joint #weekendcoffeeshare / Skywatch Friday venture. Click on the links for more coffee breaks and/or great sky posts!  

Did you enjoy this little trip into the skies over the Schuyler Mansion? Please drop your comments in the box below – it’s kind of like having coffee with each other for real. =)

And now, I’ll wrap up with my very favorite sky picture from that trip…taken through the sunroof of our car when we returned to where we’d parked it beneath the maple trees.


Magical editing; magical leaf; muted sky...
Magical editing; magical leaf; muted sky…
Posted in #weekendcoffeeshare, Occasional Features, Our Unfettered Life, Parenting, SoCS, Unschooling

A Different Perspective on Busy-Ness: #weekendcoffeeshare and #SoCS

If we were having coffee, I’d apologize for being rather tired – it’s been a busy time in the life of my family, and also a time of transition. So maybe you won’t mind that I’m a bit distracted and saggy, and that I’m not even sure there’s coffee to be had – I will go check during the next commercial break in this The Big Bang Theory rerun. If you’re watching me when I get up, you might see that I’m a little stiff.

My kids and I spent several hours this afternoon and evening touring the Saratoga Battlefield – another chapter in our Hamilton research, not to mention a wonderful way to enjoy the first Saturday of autumn, with a hint of coolness in the air, glorious clouds, and colors just starting to touch the leaves. We spent a little time in the visitor’s center, where we’ve been before: We looked at some Revolutionary War-era artifacts and commentary, watched the 20 minute movie on the Battles of Saratoga, which has the distinction of being the Turning Point of the American Revolution. Based on the American success in these two battles, the French committed to helping, which, four years later, led to ultimate victory at Yorktown.

By the way, my Accomplice had set up the coffeepot, so I pressed brew, and, in a few minutes, we will have fresh coffee.

Now, back to today’s happy-busy:

Lise and I poked around the gift shop after we all walked a little way down the Wilkinson Trail. It was cool to see how many of the books they’re selling there we already own. =)

And then we all got into the car, and I loaded the audio tour mobile app on my phone, and away we went for a nine-mile, ten stop excursion into history. At most locations, we listened to the narrative in the parking area, then hiked out on a variety of paths and trails to locations significant to the battles.

We explored Neilson Farm, where a family of ten lived in a house not really substantially larger than our living room – even if you include the loft!

We toured American and British redoubts, points of interest, and quite a lot of cannon. We also explored the terrain of our own hometown – Bemis Heights, where the American army was encamped, is where my grandparents lived, and my father grew up. As a little girl, I would often play with the cannon and musket balls he kept in a drawer beneath his work bench. It never occurred to anyone then that they were lead, and maybe children shouldn’t be touching them, and it never occurred to me that everyone didn’t have a battlefield almost literally in their backyard.

Our family plan is to relocate to Oregon, so the kids will be a whole continent away from what is all three of our hometown. So, as much as the history, the physical exertion, and the time outdoors, we were connecting with a heritage we all share. More than that, I worked for the Youth Conservation Corps in the Battlefield the summer I was 16-17; not that much older than my just-15 son. When we got to the (in)famous Boot Monument that gives nameless tribute to Benedict Arnold, we discussed whether the black paint on the wrought-iron fence surrounding it is still the coat I helped to put on it, back then. I thought not (it’s been three decades, now), but Jeremiah pointed out that the paint does indeed appear to have some solid age on it. So, maybe…

But even all that wasn’t the real treat of those hours. All other things aside, it was a chance to connect, and build memories with my kids that will hopefully last them throughout their lives. They’re 12 and 15 – the years of active parenting are winding down, and these big kids who sprang up from my babies are an ongoing revelation. I love these long, leisurely times of connection and conversation with them, where I get to watch them interacting with each other and see where they are in their growth.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that, right now, this minute, they’re on their way to becoming the adults they will soon be. They’re busy with that. Sometimes, the ways they’re busy with it don’t include me – which makes sense. They won’t have the same need for me when they’re older. They don’t have the same need for me now they did when they were younger.

Right now is all we have, ever, any of us.

I’m glad I spent those hours busily learning who my kids are, right now.

Well, here we are at the end of the post, but the fresh coffee’s ready. Shall we just sit and sip, while you tell me a little about what’s going on with you?

This post is a joint venture for #weekendcoffeeshare and Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Clicking on the buttons below will take you straight on to each of the blog hops, where you can find more posts, and the details of the challenges.

Posted in Blogfest Entries, First Friday Photo, Life Writing, Parenting, Unschooling, Writing in Freedom

Decorated With a Found Feather: First Friday Photo

Hi there! You’re a bit surprised to see me pop up with a Friday post, right? I mean, I haven’t done a regular, non-challenge Friday post for….well, I’m not interested in looking up the last time, but it’s been a while.

Today, though, I’m trying something new, in part to support my lifelong friend Eden Mabee as she relaunches a feature that’s been away for a while, and also to play a bit and share a little…

You can read Eden’s introduction to First Friday Photo here. 

Decorated With Found Treasure. Photo of Annalise S. Burton by Shan Jeniah Burton., February 2015. Editing with PicMonkey. Click Image to enter Flickr stream.

I took this picture of my daughter, Annalise, age 10.5, on February 23 (the Flickr tag says the 22nd, but don’t believe it – it’s lying. I know it was the 23rd, because we went to the Oregon Coast on the Monday after my Accomplice’s birthday on the 20th, and that was the preceding Friday…).

We were on vacation in my Accomplice’s neck of the continental woods, from our home in mine (upstate New York). For anyone not in the Northeast corner of North America last winter….it was a rough one. What an amazing thing, to be somewhere beautiful and green, when we had left feet – no, I am not exaggerating! – of snow in our own yard.

One of the things we wanted to show the kids were the sand dunes along the Pacific Coast. So, after getting up extra early and stopping at our very favorite coffee kiosk, we drove out to our favorite coastal town from our pre-child days – Florence, Oregon. We’d wanted to have breakfast at The Blue Hen Cafe, but it’s been closed. One of the waitresses there now had her own place, though – The Little Brown Hen, and we had a lovely meal there, where everyone had just what they wanted.

And then it was time to drive out to the South Jetty, and make our way out to the ocean via trails over the dunes….

Just a little way up the trail, we found all that remained of a seagull – some dessicated bones, and feathers. Annalise fell in love with the feathers, and, after studying the remains, decorated herself with a flight feather before continuing on up the trail…

Annalise, as she was….with feather and best friend, Sheet. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.

Our kids are homeschooled, so we don’t have year after year of school portraits. Truth is, I tend to like this type of picture better, anyway…she just turned and posed for me, not as one kid among many, with props and a schedule that were predetermined, and maybe had little or nothing to do with her or her life. She posed because she wanted to, and as she pleased…because she likes being, as she puts it, ‘blog famous’.

What we have here is Annalise, at not quite 11, being Annalise as she spends her last few minutes before the glory and wonder of the Pacific was hers to explore…

And a captured image, stolen from time, of a “medium girl” (her term), on vacation, on a Monday when she might have been sitting in a classroom, but wasn’t…

Instead, she was here….

The Pacific Coast, South Jetty Beach, Florence, Oregon, February 23, 2015. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.


Where’s the coolest place you’ve been lately? Where would you like to go? Have any favorite location-specific photos?

Why not share an image? Click the little linky guy and add yours today!

Posted in Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging From A-Z 2015, Challenges and Contests, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Travel

Zzzzzzzz….: #atozchallenge, Day 30

So, can you believe that this is it?!

We’ve traveled our way through the alphabet, on a grand loop of adventure – I’ll admit that I’m more than a little surprised at some of the places this trip has taken me – into my memories, into new ideas and connections, into new stories and goals…

This foray into a time that so easily gets swept away in a fog of the everyday life I live today – a life filled with home and husband and children and pets and and and – has been a time of renewal and re-energizing for me…

At the same time, as I write this last post from the guest bedroom of my dear friend who lives only one state and a 5 hour drive away, I’m tired. Ready to pause in pulling forth the pearls from our traveling years and examining them…ready to move on to other projects, and absorb what this month and this project has brought me.

But before I do that – one more time, for an even 26.

I mentioned way back during S that I had a couple of funny stories about sleeping under the stars. I promised I’d get back to these for my Z post – and now it’s time to deliver on that promise.

I enjoy an Arizonan desert campfire with Gus the Wonder-Truck, fall 2000. Photo by James B. Burton.

Both of these stories happened in Arizona, or maybe the far southern edge of the Utah desert, and both happened at night.

We traveled one weekend to the town of Wickenburg, and then, on the way home, stopped in the former mining boom town of Crown King, which is isolated on the top of a mountain. When night approached, we found one of those many fire rings scattered throughout the west, and made camp there.

We were bedded down and asleep when we were awakened by a sudden noise that didn’t fit. In wild places, people tend to react more instinctively, and we were sitting up with flashlights aimed into the scrub brush around us in a matter of seconds, preparing to defend ourselves against whatever threat presented itself.

The threat turned out to be real – a javelina  – a small but potentially aggressive little tusked beast. This one was alone, and staring right at us!

We shone lights in its eyes, and made “Move along; nothing to see here” noises. Thankfully, the nocturnal visitor left without any altercation (of course, from the javelina’s point of view, we were likely the unwanted guests!).

Crown King General Store, Crown King, Arizona…1997. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.

But the funniest sleeping under the stars story – the one I still giggle about nearly 18 years later – happened before we were even married, on the night before our visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We’d ridden the motorcycle a good part of the day, and found a place in the nearby desert to sleep for a few hours, until it was light enough to explore.

We were laying there, side by side, when all of a sudden, my Accomplice (who, by the way, looks more than a little like Henry VIII, and is built like a linebacker) jerked away from me and made a sound that can only be described as girlish.

“There’s a tarantula on me! There’s a tarantula on me!”

This is a Texan tarantula, not an Arizona one – but still…you get the idea, right? Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.

My response? Laughter!

He subsided, and stared at me angrily. “Why would you laugh when I said there was a tarantula?”

I was laughing so hard at this point that I couldn’t explain in words. I tried another tactic –

There really is a tarantula on me!”

Finally, I was able to explain – no tarantula, just a feisty fiancee who thought a flirty tickle in the ribs might lead in other directions than arachnophobic ones (especially since it was rather cold and dark for tarantulas to be out and about). I don’t think I truly understood how much my Accomplice dislikes spiders, or how differently our minds work, until then…but I still laugh at how that innocent little tickle became a dangerous threat, and how he must have felt when I laughed at his terrifying predicament!

This post is part of the #atozchallenge. For more zany or not-so-zany “Z” posts, click the banner.

And there we have it…an entire journey through scattered, geographically far flung bits and pieces of my wandering life…yes, we’ve slept outside in many places, including beside lava tubes, amongst Joshua trees, on mountains…in tents, and under the stars, in a bed my Accomplice made for us, and at friends’ and families’ homes, in hotels and motels, and in the bed of old Gus…and now, from a bed 230 miles from the one my Accomplice is in, I bid you all good night, to the tune of one of my all time favorite lullabies!

Posted in Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging From A-Z 2015, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Parenting, Travel, Writing in Freedom

Yellowstone and the Shape of Our Lives: #atozchallenge, Day 29

Has your life, or that of your family, been shaped by specific places?

As we near the end of the alphabet, I look back and see a long list of places and events that have sculpted not only my life, but also that of my family – even before our children were born, the lives my Accomplice and I lived as a couple built the foundation and structure of the life we live as a family…

In a very real sense, traveling has given us that family.

We were living at the Rocky Mountain Campground in Montana, just outside the famed North Gate of Yellowstone National Park, in 2000, a little over three years into married life, when we knew we were ready to seriously consider expanding our family beyond the array of furry companions we harbored (at the time, three cats and one large shaggy dog). We were both working in Mammoth Hot Springs, where my Accomplice oversaw training and operations of the nine Employee Dining Rooms throughout the park, and where I was a waitress at the restaurant, often with trainees of my own.
Roosevelt Arch , Gardiner, Montana. Photo by Jim Peaco, courtesy of YellowstoneNPS, via Flickr. Creative Commons license.

All of my early appointments to deal with prenatal health and preparation were at the medical facilities there.

It was while visiting my family in New York, two days before we returned to Yellowstone, that we learned that we were going to have a baby.

Part of our agreement for working the winter season was that my Accomplice would return to his position to work the summer season, as well – and our baby was due August 13 – which meant that we’d become parents in close proximity to Yellowstone.

It was nearly an 80 mile (126 kilometer) to our midwife’s, through Craig’s Pass. In June, our appointment was canceled because there was a blizzard, and the pass was, well, impassable.
Uh, yeah. No midwife today. Craig’s Pass and the Continental Divide, snowbound. Photo by Jim Peaco, courtesy YellowstoneNPS, via Flickr. Creative Commons license.

It was a hot, dry summer, and we lived at 6000 feet above sea level. I was so uncomfortable, and, because we hoped for a homebirth, nervous that the baby wouldn’t wait till 36 weeks to be born – the legal point for midwife attended homebirth in Montana. There was no cause for the worry – my due date came and went, as I sweated and lugged my increasingly massive belly around with me, everywhere I went. I jokingly told my Accomplice that the weather would break the day we had the baby.

Throughout the pregnancy, we took pictures of my growing middle by Kepler Cascades.

Pregnant by Kepler Cascades, summer 2001.

Finally, we tried to naturally induce the baby – this was done at a cabin that welcomed homebirths, where there was live music, someone building a straw bale house, and a wildfire just a couple of mountains away. Our baby – stubborn, even before birth. Our child wouldn’t be coaxed out until good and ready, thanks all the same!

Finally, on September 2, Jeremiah finally made his appearance – by C-section, at a hospital. The best laid plans…

We brought him home on the 5th. He crossed his first state line that day, too, on his first day in a car, when we took him five miles up the mountain into Wyoming to meet the folks at his Daddy’s office, who had been eagerly awaiting his long-delayed arrival. It was so hot that day, we had him in just a diaper, once we got home. By the next morning, he was in fleece from head to toe- I had been right about the weather changing!

He toured Yellowstone’s Grand Loop at the ripe age of two weeks, because we had friends throughout the park to introduce him to, and because we knew that would be our last season. He nursed in the restaurants at Mammoth Hot Springs, the posh Lake Yellowstone Hotel, and our former home, the Old Faithful Inn.
Detail of the Theodore Roosevelt quote, Rooosevelt Arch, North Entrance, Gardiner, Montana. Photo by Jim Peaco, courtesy of YellowstoneNPS via Flickr.


We arrived at Yellowstone as newlyweds – and left as new parents. There will always be a special warmth in my heart for the place that saw us through that transition, and, even though our Montana boy, now 13.5 and taller than me, with an emerging man’s voice, hasn’t been there since he was five weeks old, he will always, in my mind, be tied to the place that was his first home. And someday, hopefully within the next couple of years, we will offer him the chance to reunite with the place of his birth.

This post is part of the #atozchallenge. For more Y yarns, click the banner.

Yellowstone embraced us during our transition to parenthood. Is there a place that did the same for you? Are you still there? If not, have you been back? Would you like to?