Tag Archives: looking closely

On the Ground and in the Air

For most the year I walk on the beach in bare feet.  Calloused skin against the warm sand and cool water, alerting my senses from the bottom up.  My feet feel the changing contours of the reef, sometimes sinking deep into soft sand, conjuring quicksand, shifting my balance, reminding me to pay attention.  Other times I carefully pick my way across piles of stones, some smooth and rounded while others pick and poke at the soft skin of my arches, pulling my attention downward where I notice shells, seaweed, and bits of colored glass glinting in the sun. Walking barefoot on the beach grounds me, literally pulling me to the ground, my feet a conduit between the earth and the sky.

And the sky calls me to look upward.  Shadows catch my eye as birds fly overhead, wheeling and gliding, soaring and floating.  I’ve learned to recognize the calls of seagulls and terns…and more recently the voice of ospreys.  Today, with my feet firmly on the wet sand, ospreys played above me.  These magnificent birds are fast, large and graceful…and today a pair seemed to be engaged in an intricate dance.  Watching this performance in the sky, I noticed two more osprey on the periphery.

osprey in flight

In the last week I have seen six ospreys and a hawk (you can read about my earlier sightings here).  So why have these powerful birds of prey become so prominent in my life?  The more I read about osprey–both as a bird and as a spirit animal, I am starting to see some messages coming my way.  Here is a small sampling:

In this case the osprey symbolism is asking you if you are feeling a little out of your comfort zone. In other words, the changes in you and around you have been a bit overwhelming of late. Thus osprey meaning is here to let you know that you can put your head under the emotional water and still survive. Stop worrying about what other people think. Like the lizard, it’s only your ego that thinks they will notice anything in the first place.

Alternatively, osprey symbolism may be reminding you to appreciate other peoples boundaries. Also, in doing so, make sure your boundaries are clear enough so that others can respect you. This bird also connects you to all aspects of Solar Worship. Therefore it’s appearance in your life emphasizes the value and healing power of the sun.

The hawk is also a close relative of this bird of prey, and in this association, these two birds share the job of being a messenger. Thus, this raptor also warns you to stay alert because crucial information is pending.

So, as I stay grounded with my bare feet on the wet sand, I will also push forward, taking some risks and staying open and alert to new information.  And in the meantime, I am reveling in these new-found friends, enjoying their beauty and fierceness, their fidelity (they mate for life) and clear vision.  What messages have been coming your way lately?  And who is the messenger?

osprey in the clouds

Up Close

It takes time to get close, to people and to flowers.  You have to pay attention, using all your senses, in order to really see.  Sometimes the prickly spines are the first things you notice, and you move away.  But then you are likely to miss the beauty and the unique qualities only visible when you get up close…nose to nose.

Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time.
Georgia O’Keeffe

Whenever I get my macro lens out, I think of Georgia O’Keeffe and her flowers.  I love the way she captured the inner beauty of flowers rather than the view most people see.  My camera helps me do that.  You may notice that I have a tendency to photograph the same thing over and over again.  I notice it…a fascination that keeps bringing me back to a particular subject.  It was definitely like that with dandelions.  (When I searched my blog for dandelions, I came up with 6 posts!)

In the past few weeks it’s been prickly pear cactus that keeps catching my eye.  Prickly pears are common in these parts.  And mostly they are ordinary flat round green pads with sharp spines. Some people like to deface them by carving their initials in them, scarring the plant for a very long time.  And right now, they are in bloom, sporting beautiful yellow and pinkish blossoms and they’re beautiful!

prickly pear yellow blossom

So each time I see a prickly pear blooming, I find myself capturing a new photo.  I watched a bee dive headfirst into a bloom over the weekend…and seem to disappear deep inside.  I noticed yellow and pink blossoms on the same plant.

prickly pear and torrey

And then I got up close.  Using my macro I leaned in close and got to know this magnificent plant in new ways.

blossom with spines

Each angle revealing something new.

pink prickly pear blossom

I looked from the outside in,

outside looking inand from the inside out.

inside the cactus blossom

And even this dried up blossom, well past its prime, displays the hints of past glory in its dignified demise.

dying blossom

Getting up close to the prickly pear reminds me of my students in the springtime.  They are blooming too.  And I’ve had all year to get up close, beyond the spines, and get to know them and support them as learners and people.  And I wonder if nobody really sees them either…they are so small, as Georgia O’Keeffe points out.  And the abilities of children are often underestimated.  It takes time to get up close and really see each student as a complex, beautiful, unique individual who will bloom on her/his own timeline.  Luckily, I get that chance in my classroom, even without my camera!

A #Macro View of San Diego Natives

I’m lucky to live in a beautiful city–a place where I don’t even have to say the name of my state for people to know where I’m from.  Many people I meet have either visited or know someone (often a relative) who lives here.  But despite that familiarity, there are many misconceptions about San Diego.  So many people expect it to be tropical–like Hawaii or Tahiti–and are surprised when they come in contact with our pervasive marine layer, moderate temperatures (low 60’s in the winter to mid 70’s in the summer with occasional higher and lower temps), and low humidity (we average about 10 inches of rain annually).

San Diego skyline from the Coronado Bay Bridge

San Diego skyline from the Coronado Bay Bridge

Our beautiful skyline and beaches are often framed with tall swaying palms (not native) and colorful hibiscus flowers (also not native).  Many species of plants grow well here–especially when supported by providing extra water.  Today I vacationed in my own city, taking a trip to Chula Vista to visit the Living Coast Discovery Center (formerly the Chula Vista Nature Center). Located in the wetlands along the San Diego Bay, the center boasts a rich history.  Once the domain of the local Kumeyaay people, around the turn of the century this location became a kelp processing plant run by the Hercules Powder Company extracting potash and acetone from the kelp to make cordite–an explosive used for fuses during World War I.  After the war, abandoned buildings were taken over by the San Diego Oil Products Corporation and became the largest cottonseed warehouse in the United States.  Later it became farmland and after that a site of illegal dumping.  In 1980’s the city of Chula Vista helped develop the site into the Chula Vista Nature Center.

As you can see appreciation of our local habitats has not always been a given, even among the local population.  We love our beaches and our mild climate, but haven’t always taken the time to understand how to best care for or learn about them.  Today, with the help of my macro lens on my iPhone, I spent time looking closely at some of the native plants of San Diego.

The coastal sage scrub community, which grows around our wetlands near the coast, is filled with hearty, drought resistant plants.  In the summer many of them look dry and brown.  Some might even conclude that they are dead…but just wait until some rain falls…

I noticed today that some of the most beautiful blooms are tiny…often unnoticed unless you take the time to bend down and really look closely.  Here’s some of the beauties I uncovered today, all taken with my iPhone and macro lens with no filters applied.

I wish I knew the names of all of these plants.  I admire the resilience and adaptations of these hearty natives and know that I will continue to learn about them.  It’s so easy to overlook these plants and be mesmerized by the exotic beauty of other more colorful species.  I hope you’ll see what I saw when I took the time to look closely–that there is much to appreciate about these natives, you just have to come close and notice what is right in front of you!  (Yet another lesson for my classroom…look for the talents and expertise that are not immediately obvious, but there nevertheless!)