Hi. I’m Maery, a writer in the Twin Cities. Although I no longer have the body for extreme adventures, I love to bicycle, go horse trail riding and take hikes with my dogs.  

One thing you should know before you join me on my quest -- I don’t have a map. And I’ve been known to wander off course and stop to listen to birds and look for agates. I also have a few issues with fear and anxiety. In other words, I’m not a good role model or adventure guide. But in this time of uncertainty and polarization, I'm not sure anyone has a reliable map. We'll just figure it out as we go.

dog walk in a field


dog walk in a field

“Healthy comforts soothe you and open a way back to your self; shadow comforts reinforce the idea you suck, can’t be trusted, and you’d better double down on the shoulds.” ~ Jennifer Louden

In an email newsletter I received from Jennifer Louden this week, she wrote about taking a weekend “Desire Retreat” to discover what she really wanted in her life. It didn’t actually go all that well for her. Thus the quote from her newsletter above.

The shadow comforts, as Louden names them, can be things like watching the an entire season of “Sleepy Hollow” in one evening, eating a pint of Java Chip ice cream while watching “Sleepy Hollow,” or surfing the internet during the time you intended to write a story. In other words, whatever guilty pleasure you run to when stressed that leaves you screaming, “What have I done?!” afterwards. (You can read more of what Jennifer Louden says about shadow comforts here.) 

A writing routine I’d been doing pretty well with crashed and burned last week. For a couple weeks, I’d been hiding out in a library near work during my lunch hour to pound out or edit a few pages of my book. It wasn’t much, but enough to get me back into the story, with a clear direction of what I would work on during the weekend.

horse standing by jump

But then it got incredibly hot and humid in Minnesota. Along with the heat, there came a bumper crop of flies that was hard on the horses. Luke ended up with his right eye closed and tears running down his face from a blocked tear duct. I went to the barn daily to spray cool water on him and clean off the face mask I’d put on to keep the flies and dust away from his eyes. Because I left early to run to the barn, I worked through my lunch hour.

But Monday, the heat wave broke and Luke’s eye looked back to normal So I should have returned to my previous writing routine. But like all new habits I’m trying to build, if the effort is interrupted by something, it seems like it’s twice as hard to renew my efforts.  Something at work always seems to break around lunchtime and I think, “I’ll just quick fix it and then go to the library.” But then the fix takes too long, and it gets to be too late to go out.

So then I think, “I worked through lunch, so I’ll leave early.” But then the phone always seems to ring at 3:00 and suddenly I’m working until 4:30 or 5:00, glancing anxiously at the clock as the minutes tick by. I could still run home and write, but I don’t. I’m too frustrated and angry about all the lost time and I end up running for the comfort of that Java Chip ice cream.

Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis

Guthrie Theatre

I have a note I’ve written to myself that reminds me that every repetitive action I take is creating a habit. The note says something like, “Maery, why the hell are you building a habit that makes you crabby, unhappy, and angry with yourself? Why aren’t you practicing the habit you keep promising yourself that you’ll practice?!”

Boundaries, good boundaries… How often have we heard that one?

“There shalt be NO working through lunch. Thou shalt deal with problems when you return from your break. And when it is time to leave work, there shalt be NO ‘one more thing’ before I go.”


Okay, you heard it here. Let’s see how well I stick to the plan next week.

Mill City Museum Minneapolis

Teardown after Mill City Farmer’s Market closed

Mill City Museum boardwalk

Mill City Museum boardwalk


“If you are filled with anxiety, fear, depression and disturbance, there is no space for the Spirit…You have to risk letting go of the things that do not work for you in order to gain the things that will.” ~ John Roger, “The Tao of Spirit”

So many books that I read make it sound so simple — “Just let go.”


It’s like letting go of a leach attached to your leg and expecting it to slither away.

Someone might say that faith in God and prayer are the answer. Another person might say meditation and yoga are key. I prefer to throw all of them into my “Go To” self care recipe topped off with a bit of wine and chocolate.

Some days I think, “Wow Maery, you are really depressed.”

Other days, I think I am just disillusioned and exhausted.

Many days, I think I’m just old.

Disturbance: the interruption of a settled and peaceful condition; the breakdown of law-abiding behavior; the feeling that comes from life simply not going as planned.

I look happy, don’t I? And that’s the confusing thing. For the most part, I am. Or I should say I am when I’m outside doing the stuff in these photos or sitting on the sofa with a good book and a couple dogs cuddled beside me.


But I’m just as likely to break out in tears off camera because of a difficulty at work, a sad song on the radio, because I feel cutoff from friends and family, or simply because I haven’t been able to sleep and that’s putting me on an emotional rollercoaster.

I’ve heard that happiness is a decision. Each day is a gift and everything depends on how you greet each day: with dread or with delight.

No matter how wonderful I think such a way of facing life is and how much I admire such people, try as I might, I can’t seem to incorporate this view of life into my own brain. At least, not by force of will or by doing things like writing down three things I’m grateful  for at the end of the day. I’m grateful for a lot, but that doesn’t seem to mean that I’m happy.


This summer, I wanted some quiet time to think and to do the things that are most important to me without distraction. I wanted to find what I needed to do and what I needed to stop doing.

I wanted to stop running from here to there and then turn to run back again. But my mood hasn’t miraculously lifted as a result. And THE PURPOSE for my life hasn’t magically appeared at the door and thrown its arms around me in welcome.

It doesn’t help that I’m geared to be anxious. “Just let go,” they say. And I say, “I do,” about a hundred times a day, every day.

But what I know about this way of feeling is that it can’t be changed by trying to change my attitude. Because the ‘disturbance’ is telling me I need to change my path and that means action, not thought. Action, especially action you know you should take but you don’t want to, makes you feel anxious.

floating in pond


It’s strange to look onto yourself, watching your body turn against you. I pull out my usual bag of tricks to try to level my chemistry back out again. Usually that means getting busier so I don’t have time to think too much. I thought I’d try something different and slow down instead. That hasn’t exactly worked but I don’t think getting busier would have worked either.

It feels like my body is caught in a loop that is etching its way in like a stream cutting a groove into rock. I need to break the pattern as it will only get harder the longer this lasts. At least I can be logical about it. I’m still frustrated and worried, but with a dollop of calm that comes from a belief that I can figure this out. I always do. And I hold on to that faith like a lucky penny.

Plus I’m giving St. John’s Wort and a cup of Kava tea before bedtime a try. I’ve even cut back to only one cup of caffeinated coffee in the morning. These things seem to be helping, along with listening to mellow music and being silly and finding those laughable moments (having dogs helps).

horseback riding

There are a lot of photos here as a sampling of what I’ve been up to while I’ve been taking a blogging break. It’s been a great summer really, thus making it even more difficult to explain where I’m at. If you suffer anxiety, I don’t have to explain.

I do think things are leveling out for me. I have a plan and I’m working it.

I do miss having a record in photos and words as time marches on. It is a good way to relive and treasure the goodness of life so I hope I’ll be back to blogging more regularly again, even if it’s only for myself. I have a lot going on that may take priority, so we’ll see.

Maery’s Summer

FYI – If you hover your mouse over the photos, additional comments appear about the photo.

Camping Trip to Beaver Creek Valley. I loved seeing the trout swimming in the creek and watching Java enjoy laying down in the water to cool off. Did not so much enjoy the narrow, slick trails up the hills that I thought I was going to plummet to my death from. A warning about the trail conditions would have been nice. Even the dogs were losing their footing. Thankfully I had walking sticks to help keep me upright but since my hands were occupied, that meant attaching Java’s leash to my waist. Coming downhill, I put her behind me so she had to stick to my slow pace. We did a lot of work on commands like “Woah!” and “Easy!”

dog camping dog camping dog camping

dog walk

Rides on Luke. The heat and humidity of this summer hasn’t been great for horses or riding. Not to mention the storm that flipped the run-in. Most of the time we’ve been riding inside where the riding arena insulation keeps it cool and dry.

run-in shed horseback riding

horseback riding

Bike ride to Stillwater. We rode on the Gateway State Trail for the first time and loved it. Gorgeous views and a well maintained trail. The trail ends at Stillwater, a place I love to visit for the restaurants, view of the river, and to watch the old lift bridge go up and down for the boats.

bicycle in Stillwater Stillwater Liftbridge Stillwater Gateway State Trail bicyclistWalk with the dogs in the park. The bridge to King’s Island and trail across it is complete. It’s a mixed blessing – it will be nice for road bikes and to connect up trail systems but the increased traffic could be rough on the wildlife and it’s taken away the rugged fun of off road riding. Although I think it will continue to be a challenging ride in the winter.

dog dog walk

Backyard Garden, Pond, & Clothesline. There’s been quite a change from early summer (first two photos) to now (the rest). I seem to have a jungle going. I love the new clothesline Steve built with it’s Morning Glories and wind chimes on one end and a ledge to put the clothes basket on the other. Thank you Carola for giving us the inspiration for this on your blog! I have a lot of tomatoes, kale, and lettuce growing right now. Thankfully the zucchini and cucumbers are winding down. Still waiting for the squash and hot peppers to ripen. And spending time sitting on the patio reading and listening to the waterfall in the backyard pond.

Garden in May 2015 Clothesline in April

Tomato Plants Clothesline Salad table Tomatoes Grape Tomatoes

garden harvest


Backyard pond

bicycle on bridge over lake

Luke’s New Home

horse grazing

Last Friday I moved Luke out of his familiar home of the past five years to a new stable. Luke hasn’t been on a trailer for two years and I haven’t hauled a horse for three years so it felt like the first time again.

I decided I was going to approach the loading as if it was routine and it turned out that it was. Luke walked right on, stuck his head out the window, where Steve was waiting to clip his halter, and started munching on hay. Obviously taking things more in stride than I was.

The drive was without incident, except for a heavy rain that started up and the road spray the semis were throwing at us.

Unloading and getting Luke settled in also went well. When I left the barn, Luke was still in a stall, while the barn manager and owners waited for the rain to stop before putting him into a pasture.

When I went back the next day, I was told that Luke quickly established that he wasn’t going to take crap from anyone. He and the other three horses he’s out with were soon acting like they’d been in the same pasture together for years.

horses grazing horses walking in pasture

There was a schooling show that Saturday so I got to watch a few people warm up and ride their tests.

dressage horse and rider dressage schooling show warmup

The mares were putting on their own show. Note the one quarter horse who stands and watches… 🙂

mares running mares running mares running mares running mares running

When I went back to ride Luke on Tuesday, he didn’t run away from me (as I thought he might with so much area to run away into). He called for his newly found friends for a few minutes but then quieted down. We rode both inside and outside, where he gawked at new things and didn’t know what to make of all the  horses pastured around the outdoor arena, but we had a good ride.

The Bike Touring Initiation

packing up bikes at Carver Park

I didn’t get back to ride Luke until Tuesday because Sunday Steve and I did our first mini-bike tour —  riding 56 miles to Carver Park reserve where we camped overnight. We rode back home on Monday. It was quite the learning experience, which is what the brief trip was intended for, I just didn’t know how big the learning curve would be.

The unfortunate reality is that you end up bringing almost as much gear if you are only camping one night as you would if camping a whole week. We had our two-person tent, sleeping bags and pads, freeze dried meals, propane, lightweight single-burner stove and cookware, rain gear, pack towel, headlamps, and clothing and shoes to change into at the campsite.

Oh, and we had compact chairs to sit in around the campfire. One could say those were unnecessary, but I can tell you that they were a very welcome comfort to settle into after riding all day. So much better than sitting on the cold metal picnic table bench.

bicycle path through woods

It got down to a damp feeling 49 degrees Sunday night so there was much layering of clothing that was put on and then taken off as Monday heated up. I think I started out Monday riding with bike shorts, tights, sweatpants, t-shirt, base-layer, fleece shirt and windbreaker. I ended up only wearing bike shorts, t-shirt, and arm warmers.

Our total round trip ended up being 103 miles. The extra miles on Sunday were due to construction we ran into in two spots and VERY badly marked bike path detours. Most of our riding was on regional or state bike trails through the woods, with a few jaunts on county roads and through neighborhoods. Most of the trail was paved, with a few stretches of crushed limestone. It was a beautiful ride with a combination of thick trees, wild flowers, meadows, and wetlands where we saw deer, herons, hawks, and wild turkeys with their babies.

bicycle path through tunnel

Google maps told us the ride would take about four hours… try seven. I guess they didn’t add in the bathroom, food, water, photography, look at maps and try to figure out where the hell you are and which direction you should go, and the plain old “rest and stretch” stops.

The weight on the rear of my bike was around thirty-three pounds and there was maybe five pounds in my handlebar bag. Steve carried about seven pounds more on his bike. This was actually a light load compared to what I’ve seen people post that they carry on their bikes. Of course, most of those people are not in their very late fifties.

bicycle bridge through marsh

We knew the weight would make a difference in how the bikes felt but I didn’t realize how much difference until I tried to standup and pedal to power up a hill and felt my bike’s back end shimmying back and forth — I quickly sat back down.

Even small inclines seemed to require gear changes as the weight pulled at the bike, especially towards the end of the ride, when we were more tired. A few hills I got off and pushed and pulled my bike, which may have been more work than riding, but I needed to give my knees a break.

Neither Steve or I have actual “touring bikes.” My bike is a hybrid, all aluminum bike and Steve’s is an aluminum road bike with a carbide fork. My wheels have more spokes than Steve’s do, which I’ve read is a good thing for touring. I plan to ask more experienced people to see if there’s anything we can do to make our bikes more suitable for carrying a load. Neither of our bikes are built to have racks put on the front, although there are racks out there for bikes with front suspension, like mine.

What might help even more than changes to our bikes is more long distance rides on weekends to build up those leg muscles!

So would I do it again? Definitely!

bicycle on bridge over lake

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