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Unintended lessons from Grandma

It was the most ridiculous thing our elementary school ears had ever heard. Every Fourth of July without fail our grandmother would sigh and say “Well, summer’s over.”

Summer’s over? What is she talking about? Gram we’ve only been out of school for two weeks. There is PLENTY of summer left. You’re crazy.

Now that I’m older with life experience and hopefully some hard-won wisdom from those life experiences … nope. Still don’t understand why she declared an end to summer on July 4. But I’ve been thinking a lot about her lately along with my grandfather and maybe that’s a product of summer. I spent a lot of time with my extended family growing up, but when I picture my grandparents, I see them on their vast porch — a cement block that ran the length of the side of their house. I swear they spent the entire summer on that porch, keeping tabs on the goings and comings of the neighborhood, listening to baseball games on the radio, reading the paper. They didn’t¬†do much and yet I think they got every drop out of those days that they possibly could.

Happy Birthday Gram. #missyou

A photo of my grandmother, young and active.

For a long time, I had wished my grandmother took better care of her health so that she could be the active, vibrant woman who starred in the many stories she loved to tell. I still see her as a cautionary tale, which sounds terribly negative and condescending but actually comes from a place of love and respect. The sadness I felt at watching her deteriorate inspired me to take issues of my own health more seriously so that I could find the things I loved and live them fully.

Now, when I sit on my own front porch in the mornings, listening to the wind off the lake and early songs of the birds, I think about my grandparents and their summertime and see that living fully looks a lot of different ways. Even in my own life. Sometimes it’s big — like a marathon. Sometimes it’s moderate — like hiking the Niagara Gorge. Sometimes it’s simple — like sitting outside and getting lost in a book on a beautiful summer day.

There’s a reason why thoughts of my grandparents have been so strong for me lately and I’m not entirely sure why. So instead of overthinking (my personal speciality) I’m going to embrace every day this summer. I consciously started that on Wednesday with a hike at the Niagara Gorge.

While I’ve been remiss at blogging my Hike 52 project, I have continued to be outside on a trail (by land or by water) once a week. This week brought me to a new trail at a favorite spot. I started at the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, took the trail down to No. 3 — the American Falls Gorge Trail. I had never done this trail before. Marked as both “moderate” and “challenging” (depending upon where you are looking) the unfamiliar trail was rocky and root-filled and being alone put me slightly¬†outside my comfort zone. Which, I knew, was a good thing. The 1-mile path ended at the overlook at the base of the Schoellkopf Power Station. I returned back on the trail and continued on to the Great Gorge Railway Trail which was wide and easy with amazing views. A new(ish) staircase was open which I explored, taking me from the Gorge Railway Trail up to a parking lot next to the Whirlpool Bridge. Ideas for how to connect a hike from Devil’s Hole to the Falls started to spring to mind. But that was for another day.

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Daisies on the water.

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Stairs from the top of Whirlpool to the Gorge Railway Trail.

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A view of the Whirlpool Bridge from the trail.

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The Falls in the distance.