Echoes of my mind…

After spending a week writing and being in the presence of twenty-one amazing women in the Taos high desert I  am working my way back across the country through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee to North Carolina where I will hole up, like an outlaw, with my daughter for a few days.

Things I ponder on the road at 80 mph…

…why do I get melancholy leaving each town I’ve spent the night? Because I don’t get to explore more and I have to leave? Wait, I don’t HAVE to do any of this. I am choosing to move on to something else and see something new. Remember, Lori, this is all YOUR choice. I could have chosen to stay home!

…is it safe to meditate while driving? Practicing with my eyes open of course.

…how long has it been since I’ve seen another vehicle? 

…why are war memorials way out here in the boonies and not where the people are?

…a sign that says, “Prison: Don’t pick up hitchhikers in this area.” Are they advertising that they don’t have good security? Makes me want to drive a little faster and lock my doors so I don’t get highjacked by an escapee from the correctional facility.

…am I pretty, why does it matter…what’s the difference between pretty and beauty?

…gah, a roadrunner crossed in front of my wheels! He is familiarly distinct but looks nothing like the cartoon version.

…why did I have to do my brother’s laundry when I was ten (he was five years older) why didn’t he do his own damn laundry?

There is a dearth of interesting places to stay along the way so I default to freeway hotels. The only place really worth mentioning if you happen to be in Jackson, Tennessee is Cypress Grove Nature Park. It is peaceful place to wander on raised walkways over swampy groves, with a really beautiful sanctuary for injured, non-releasable  hawks, eagles and owls. I was alone with them on the trail in their beautiful large outdoor habitats and thought if I was injured and unable to be free this was a pretty good way to live. They had fresh, dead white mice waiting to be eaten and they were only separated from the sounds of the woods and fresh air by a bit of wire. The raptors and I had some nice, one-sided chats about being caged versus dead.

After a delightful catch up with my daughter Audrey I took the coastal route north toward home. I have always wanted to see the wild Chincoteague ponies after reading Misty of Chincoteague to my horse-crazy girls at bedtime, with them all cuddled up around me in their floor-length, home-sewn, flannel nightgowns. Marguerite Henry’s children’s book, published in 1947, became hugely popular and was made into a film about two young kids that buy one of the ponies with their hard earned savings and was inspired by a real pony named Misty. 

(Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge)

The true story of how the ponies landed on an island off the Virginia coast is the stuff of legend, involving the shipwreck of a Spanish Galleon in the 1700s. The locals believe it completely and others say the early settlers released the ponies on the island to graze. Each year on Assateague Island the ponies are herded together and then all of them swim across the narrowest part of of the channel to Chincoteague, even foals as young as two weeks old, where they are then checked by veterinarians, penned and culled. The foals are auctioned off and sold so that the herd stays at the required 150 animals and then they swim them back across the channel to their island home for another year. It’s a big tourist attraction in July where the small community swells to 30,000 people for a week of pony festivities while awaiting the six minute swim at low-tide. It must be quite the sight to see, all those bobbing horse heads in the water.

I took the advice of a niece of a friend and stayed in the old town of Chincoteague. It has a tiny little summer beach vibe and I was glad to be there off-season. I missed the famed huge mosquitos, black flies and the crowds of tourists. Yay. It was early evening as I dumped my luggage into the motel room and returned to the driver’s seat for a dip out to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge to get the lay of the land for my next day of exploration. On my way to the beach, I saw the wild, wind-swept ponies happily chomping swamp grass which whetted my own appetite for more the next day. 

I decided to do the Woodland Walk trail in the morning (recommended by two strangers) to see if I could get in closer proximity to the ponies. I have to inform you, that you really can’t. There are fences to keep the ponies away from people, or the people away from the ponies most likely. It was great to see about thirty of them in the distance but I wanted more. So I walked out to the beach and turned right in hopes of walking past all the fences to where I could get a little closer. After about a mile climbing over brush, stumps and through briars, I finally decided that, like Sleeping Beauty’s castle surrounded by thorns, the way was impassible without a machete. Disappointed and defeated I returned and was awarded a darling glimpse of three fawns just off the path on a spree, their mother/s no where to be seen. 

I then proceeded to another beach where the waves were high and I sank into the beauty of the surf, sand and sunshine. Never one to give up easily, I decided to do a bit of research on how to get closer to the wild ponies and found that going by water was the better way. So I booked a last minute seat on a sunset pontoon boat excursion and was rewarded with visions of a beautiful herd just off the beach. Bill, my skipper, was a native Chincoteaguean, one of a very few left that was born on the island many moons ago. He was full of tales of the ponies (knew all of their names) and showed us an eagle’s nest (HUGE) and a beautiful eagle perched three trees over. It was the magic sunset hour with a golden glow on all of the nature and lighthouse. 

I learned about Horseshoe crabs that live off these coastal shores and have blue blood. I had seen their upturned carcasses on the sandy beach and wondered what prehistoric turtle/crab/stingray things they were. It is amazing to me that there is always something new that I don’t know. I had never seen or heard of a horseshoe crab. Anyway, they are actually gathered for their blood, which is then extracted and used to detect contamination in vaccines. I read an article that says, “They are critical to the biomedical industry and the humane bleeding process achieves survival rates in excess of 80-90%.” ( They only kill 10-20% of them? Yikes! And in all my years, after all those blue-blood sacrifices, I had never even known they existed. 

I round out the night eating homemade ice cream at the Island Creamery and tucking myself into bed feeling satisfied with seeing at least 50 ponies, tiny scuttling crabs, fawns, and eagles in my one day excursion on Assateague Island. It finally feels like a vacation since I have two nights to stay in one place. If you are able, and not crunched for time, that’s the way to do it. At least two nights at one location so you can drive into a town and then have the next day to explore, before leaving the day after that to roam again and ponder the roadside echoes of your mind and maybe like me, get a bit melancholy.


Tiptoeing the backroads to Taos…

I am on my way to Taos, New Mexico from Massachusetts. I don’t have the time to stay more than one night at any given place but I also want to experience slices of life along the way. Freeway hotels, though convenient do not speak to me of neighborhoods, animals, and family, so I choose to drive off the thruways and find places to stay away from the conveniences of fast food and cookie cutter hotel rooms.

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White Mountains or bust…

This trip in the spring almost didn’t happen. I used Hotel Tonight to make an online reservation at a New Hampshire hotel and the morning I was to leave for my two days of bliss, packed suitcase by the door, I thought I better call the hotel and make sure they had my room reservation. You guessed it, they had no record of my name or room. My cat paced around the suitcase worried about my departure while I spent the next three hours rebooking, cancelling, waiting on hold to get to real people to tell me what the issue was. After all was said and done Hotel Tonight had cancelled my reservation because the hotel I booked would not honor their reservation for some reason. They did NOT email or inform me of this important information or in any way let me know this was happening, so I would have shown up after five hours of driving, only to be turned away. And now I had to find a new place to stay under pressure as the clock ticked my vacation away. Hotel Tonight refunded the charge of my non-existent reservation (5-8 days later mind you) and gave me a half-hearted apology. This was so unacceptable and such a rotten way to start a vacation, that I will never book with them again. So be warned, book direct and save yourself the hassle. 

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Midday mushrumps…

It was a memorable moment when I heard a room full of 4th graders giggle as they listened to Prospero from Shakespeare’s The Tempest address the elves that make “midnight mushrumps.” It does sound funny, mushrumps, or mushrooms to the uninitiated. In spite of the sound they are certainly one of those growths that are unusual and mystical to me. They conjure fairies, gnomes and sprites as well as pipe-smoking caterpillars.

Today I saw more mushrumps growing in the wild than I have in my entire life. I took a walk around Benedict Pond, my old friend that has inspired many of my blogs (On Benedict Pond). I don’t usually get to trip around the pond in summertime when I am at my busiest acting and teaching, so I have missed the mushroom extravaganza until now. Continue reading

The gnome and the porcupine…

I see the details. The small pebble, the tiny leaf, the surprise 1.5” gnome some magical person planted along the forest trail. I may not always see the big picture while I’m peering at minutiae, but that’s ok. There are plenty of wide-angle views out there. I have written about this before, but my life is charmed. Things happen to me that cause such heart stopping delight and I seem to get more than my share of these moments.

This week I sauntered upon two. The gnome and the porcupine… Continue reading

Saddle up, it’s going to be a wet, bumpy ride…

As “my” cabbages continue to grow in the woods, my eyes are drawn up to the trees. Maybe it’s because I am listening to The Lord of the Rings audio book and the endearing antics of hobbits in the forest of Fangorn. I’ve always loved trees but I am seeing new identities in the bark and stumps today, a whale, an infinity sign, and many, many images of the letter Y. Interesting to ponder the “Y” or WHY? Continue reading

Of cabbages and kings…


I continue on from my previous blog to watch the skunk cabbage transform in the Northeast. It completely changes and opens up it’s thick, protective rubbery skin to release beautiful green leaves. It’s not smelling like skunk yet, so I am awaiting that event with tempered enthusiasm. Continue reading

My own sculpture park…

Hello my friends. It has been over a year since I’ve posted a blog. WHAT? Yes, life got busy, I didn’t feel that I had anything new to say and I worked more and meandered a little less. But here we are in a new era of stay-at-home-for-my-own-good-and-the-rest-of-the-world. Being a director/teacher/actor makes me one of the horde that has been laid off until further notice. So now there is no excuse not to post and write. So we will call this the Meandering of the Mind series since “going out’ can really mean “going in” as John Muir says.

I went out for a solitary walk along a large pond. I marvel that there is always something new to discover. I have never seen the blooming of the skunk cabbage plant and I would not have guessed that they looked like this…


To see them bursting through the decaying leaves and swampy ground was better than any outdoor sculpture park I’ve seen. I am not a fan of modern, metal monstrosities in my woods, I like my trees and nature unadulterated and these growing skunk cabbages are the perfect illustration of why. You couldn’t ask for a better bit of sculpting to admire, with color, texture and medium perfectly suited to their surroundings. They are quite thick and sturdy right now, and remind me of the protea flowers that I first discovered in Hawaii with an almost woody strength. Continue reading

Beaching it…

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_86c3After a wonderful stop outside Minneapolis, Minnesota to visit family we are back on the road to get to Mackinac Island on Lake Huron. Just about an hour outside of Lake Ham, MN, we finally saw a bear! A darling black bear was crossing the road and after he got across, he turned to look at us and showed us his darling brown snout as if he was posing for a picture. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough to grab my phone. Continue reading