Tag Archives: noticing

A Noticing Day: SOLC 2019 Day 30

With reports cards written and parent conferences ahead of me, today was low-key. Sandwiched between errands, lunch out, and a chiropractic appointment, we fit in a noticing walk on the beach.

Today is part of a warming trend in our parts, sunny and clear, breezy with temperatures in the low 70s.  Beach goers were out in full force, taking advantage of a beautiful spring weekend.  (This has definitely been an in like a lion, out like a lamb March!)

Some days at the beach I have no idea what I’ll take a photo of.  I have tons of beach photos from all seasons, so I’m always alert to something new or unusual in some way.  We walked a different beach today, one further north than my usual Moonlight Beach, just because it was on our way from one errand to another.  As I walked my eyes were drawn to the maze of stairways from multimillion dollar homes on the cliffs zigzagging their way down the steep bluffs.  I took several shots, trying to capture that effect in my photo. (There are more–I was wishing to get an even wider view through my lens!)


As I pressed the shutter, my husband called out to me.  “Do you see that?  Right there on the ladder…see the osprey?”  I didn’t at first (even though I had just photographed that very ladder!), my husband had to direct my gaze to see the bird in the distance.  We carefully moved closer, picking our way across the stones in our bare feet.  We photographed and watched, mesmerized by this majestic bird of prey.  After a few minutes of close observation, we walked back closer to the water’s edge.  As we took a last look over our shoulder, we saw it flying away in the other direction.  I am so glad my husband saw what I hadn’t noticed!


We continued our walk, and I found my eyes alternating between watching the brilliant cobalt blue sky where sea birds soared and searching the sand and rocks for sea glass. Looking up, I saw a variety of gulls and terns, ravens, and even an egret in flight.  And always a favorite, pelican squadrons made their runs up and down the coast.


As we headed back the car I couldn’t resist a close look at the wildflowers growing along the beach path.  I noticed the bees busily buried in the centers of these native yellow beauties.


While I ended up spending the majority of my day out and about, it was a day for relaxing and noticing rather than hurrying and worrying.  I watched and wondered, taking time to breathe deeply and enjoy time out with my love on this perfect spring day.  I can feel my energy levels charging–just what I’ll need for the week of parent conferences that are just around the corner!

With My Head in the Clouds: SOLC 2019 Day 18

Some days I find myself with my head in the clouds, my mind floating on thoughts of projects to be done, problems to solve, reflections on what happened before.  Like a helium balloon, I float on the air currents, directed by my inner monologue.  When my head is in the clouds I risk missing what is right in front of me.

Like most Mondays, today was a day for laying groundwork for the rest of the week.  The hours pass like minutes, the minutes like seconds and time rushes through my fingers like a waterfall…not stopping to pool at my feet as it disappears, just out of reach.  I get into the hurry up mode, chasing time ideals set in my plan book.  I get impatient with my students, wanting more from them as I feel the pinch of time.  Trying to find the perfect ratio of time to learning.

When the bell rang ending our afternoon recess, I headed out the classroom door to pick up my students from the playground.  My head was already running through all we would accomplish while still leaving time to clean up, pack up, and gather before dispersing at the dismissal bell.  Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a lizard, sitting on the sidewalk, soaking up the energy and warmth of this amazing almost-spring day.  I almost rushed by–feeling the tug of time.  But instead, I stopped.  I watched and noticed.  I crept closer, wondering if I would capture an image of this grounded creature.  I snapped from afar, then crept closer.  The lizard seemed to keep an eye on me, unwilling to relinquish the warmth coming up from the sidewalk and down from the sun.


That lizard reminded me to take a breath and appreciate the moment.  And also to remember to appreciate all those moments that students need…to tell the seemingly unrelated story in the middle of my lesson, to ask question after question–and then the same question again, to need directions…again…and my patience and encouragement, even when I feel like my own well has been emptied.  I need to spread my toes and grip the ground, feel the earth beneath me grounding me, giving energy and reminding me to use those roots to connect and grow and to support my students as they connect and grow too.

I guess I have another ratio to work out…the ratio of head in the clouds to feet on the ground!



Tiny Snails and Butterflies: SOLC 2019 Day 12

Kids have a way of seeing the smallest of details in the world.  While they often miss some big picture items, they never miss the puncture mark in the shared eraser, the cloud shaped like a volcano erupting, or the perfect rock that most of us would never give a second look.

We had another unexpected rainy morning today, pushing me back upstairs to change from my suede booties to my cowboy boots before heading out the door for work.  By the time I was out on the blacktop for before school recess duty, the rain had stopped, but the ground was still wet and shiny.  The time change has kids straggling in later than usual, giving me plenty of time for mental meanderings as I watched the few early kids play on the blacktop.


After recess duty, I spent a few minutes back in the classroom chatting with a few of my third graders, listening to their stories of the previous evening.  When the bell rang, we headed out together to pick up the other students where we line up on the blacktop.  We barely made it out the door when one my students noticed an incredibly tiny snail on the sidewalk in front of our classroom.  Smaller than the fingernail on my pinkie, this snail was a perfect miniature model of those pesky snails often found in the garden. We all knelt low, noticing its perfect features, spiral shell, and gooey slime on the wet sidewalk. After taking a few photos, one of the students offered to carefully “save” it and move it from the sidewalk where it risked getting stepped on by the many students who would walk that hallway to a safer location on the nearby dirt.  Carefully picking it up by holding the shell, the snail was relocated without incident.


Later in the day, the sun shone brightly and most students had shed their jackets to bask in the warmth of the almost spring sun.  During lunch the kids had noticed that our school seemed to be in the flight path of a butterfly migration.  Monarchs are familiar friends to our schoolyard where milkweed grows tall, so the kids thought the smaller butterflies they were seeing were baby monarchs.  We walked out to the pollinator garden to see if we could get a closer look, but butterflies flittered by in twos or threes, staying above our heads rather than alighting on any plants.  I’m pretty sure these were actually painted ladies…the same butterflies I had just seen in profusion in the desert over the weekend.


It always surprises me that these same students who never miss a tiny snail or the beauty of butterflies migrating overhead don’t seem to notice that they are standing on a classmate’s jacket with muddy shoes or that they just jumped in front of ten other children patiently waiting for supplies for a project.

They are perfectly self-centered and exquisitely altruistic, obnoxious and incredibly kind, thoughtful and infuriatingly rude…all rolled into one.  Tiny snails and butterflies remind me to look closely and find those sometimes hidden endearing qualities rather than focusing on what so often is the most obvious to notice in the classroom.  And I’m lucky, those same confounding small humans are also the reason I find myself paying attention to the smallest of details, appreciating the world through the eyes of children.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nature’s Art

There is so much beauty around when you take the time to look closely. Sometimes I find that I need to stop, kneel down, and really lean in to find what I might have missed with a quick glance.  On the beach the other day I noticed the brilliant blue of sea creatures–I had seen these before, they wash up on the shore from time to time.  As I bent down to photograph them, I noticed the ladybug and the sea grass creating a sort of found still life…an interesting piece of living art.  (I did a bit of research and found that these creatures are called velella, they are propelled only by wind and waves so can’t get themselves back in the water once they are washed on the shore.)

img_6439A look up and the moon caught my attention above the cliffs. I love the browns of the eroded hillside framed by the greens and purples of the plants growing, all against the brilliant blue sky…with just the tiny hint of the moon just above the shoulder of the cliff.img_6417

I was surprised and delighted to find these stacks of stones all lined up. Someone had taken time to find some balance in the smoothed rocks, creating stack after stack along the ledge.  High tide made the beach narrow, pushing me up toward the cliff line…where I couldn’t miss this whimsical sight.


And sometimes nature’s art is in the framing.  This seagull looks like it is “on duty,” a feathered lifeguard keeping an eye on all who are enjoying the beach!


And I don’t have to go to the beach to enjoy nature’s art.  I noticed these same purple blooms that I had seen in my neighborhood on our school campus earlier this week.  We had invited our students to take a photo to use as an element of their Mother’s Day project.  I found myself looking with an eye to light and shadow, as well as working to capture the delicate brilliance of the bloom in the foreground.


This lily-like flower also caught my eye.  The oranges and yellows seem to be highlighted by the diffuse light peeking through the shadows–yet another example of nature’s art.


And in my neighborhood yesterday afternoon, on a walk to the park with my 14 month old grandson, I spied the brilliant red of this fuzzy guy.  A closer look brought the contrasting green and yellow bloom into focus. My friend called this plant kangaroo paws–such an oddly beautiful plant.


So, take a look around…  Where do you find nature’s art?  I love that my camera reminds me to look at the usual in new and different ways–so be sure to look closely and consider light and shadow, framing, nature’s arrangement…and more.

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #naturesart for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

What is nature offering up this week?  Take a look around and share your view of nature’s art with us!


I’ve been out walking this week.  Not in exotic locales or even for exercise (although I know I should), but just to walk.  And as I walk on the well worn paths, places where my bare feet already know the way and the waves toss rocks until they are smooth and round, my thoughts wander and the muscles in my shoulders relax.

There is something indefinable that happens when my feet move, my arms swing, the wind brushes my hair away from my face, and the sun warms my shoulders. This movement–not aimed at getting me from one place to another or to raise my heart rate–engages my body and lets my brain disconnect from the worries and demands of everyday life. I start to notice details of the world around me, details that I miss when I’m focused on getting there for a meeting or staying here to complete this paperwork.

Today I noticed all the children on the beach who are attending camps: volleyball camps, surf camps, and the local staple–junior lifeguards. I found myself thinking about the job opportunities for young people that are available because of those camps as I watched young adults (or almost adults) mentoring younger children.  I also wondered about the kids who don’t have access to these camps and who may not see this public beach as their place. What does summer look like for kids whose parents can’t afford camps like these or who don’t have the luxury of dropping their kids off at 9 and picking them up at noon?


And I thought about privilege as I looked up at the sea cliffs above this magnificent beach where I walk.  Perched at the top are multimillion dollar homes with expanses of windows facing the sea. If you look closely, you’ll notice the stairs criss-crossing the cliff face.  Exclusive access to the public beach below.  I am grateful that the beach is public, regardless of who lives on the cliff above.


There were lots of seabirds today.  The seagulls are regulars, they hang out at the beach all the time. (I’ve written about them a lot, see this post.) Feeling a shadow overhead, I looked up to see graceful pelicans flying in formation.  My husband calls them bombardiers, they remind him of our military aircraft in precision flight.  These birds are huge, but in flight they are agile and delicate. At one point I looked up and caught sight of a white and gray bird overhead.  It took me a moment to realize that this bird was not a seagull.  It was an osprey–also known as a sea eagle, with a whole fish in its talons, racing through the sky.  I was riveted watching this elegant bird of prey, feeling fortunate that I had the opportunity to see it in action.  I didn’t snap a photo, but I did enjoy the moment.  And there are my friends–the sandpipers.  I love their curved bills and high pitched whistles. They’re a bit shy and wary, making me appreciate them even more.


I walked for miles.  And like this post, my thoughts meandered, pausing on a bird, on a child squealing with delight, on a surfer shredding through the break of the wave. The cool water contrasted with the warmth of the sun on my cheeks just like my observations of the seabirds contrasted with my awareness of issues of privilege and access present on this beach that I love. And even though I don’t have any ready answers, I left the beach with a clear head and sandy feet, refreshed and renewed ready to tackle whatever life throws my way.

I wonder what tomorrow’s walk will bring?



Weekly Photo Challenge: Here

Exotic photo shoots just don’t happen very often for me.  Most of the time I take pictures here…right where I am.  And most days the only camera at my fingertips is my phone, so I take it out and look for something interesting or just ordinary and snap away.

On Monday when I stopped to check the mail on my way home from work, the magnolia blossoms caught my eye.  In particular, I was drawn to this one that seemed to be unraveling–well past the prime of the bloom.  I pulled out my camera and captured this.


Light traffic on Tuesday meant that I arrived for an appointment with plenty of time to spare.  So I headed to the beach nearby to take in a breath of two of salty air.  Right here I found a secret pathway down to the beach.  I love the way the ocean peeks through.


But right here I also found an abandoned mylar balloon.  These things are simply too common on our beaches.  I picked this one up and placed it in the trash.


This week has been beyond busy with too many meetings, too much to do, and Open House!  (I love Open House–the perfect celebration of learning, but it definitely involves a push to get ready and to help students be ready too!)  With a few minutes to spare before I needed to get back to school for Open House last night, I stopped by the beach (you might notice a theme here).  I didn’t have enough time for a walk…but I did have enough time to stack up some rocks and watch the waves roll in.  Sometimes balance means taking available minutes here and there to let my mind wander and refresh my perspective.


My students got some of those minutes today.  Our third graders had won extra PE by averaging the greatest number of laps at our school jog-a-thon, so here they are enjoying the parachute with our PE teacher.


And right here, outside the classroom door, the monarchs are back!  The butterflies we saw last week obviously laid some eggs and now the caterpillars are munching away on the milkweed. This is a favorite place for students to stop and study the caterpillars in action.  No chrysalis yet…


So, what’s happening in your here this week?  Where’s your go-to “here” for a mental break, for a moment of relaxation, to enjoy the moment?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #here for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

So here you go…find here with your camera and give us a glimpse!  I can’t wait to see what you find.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Alive!

Some weeks I take pictures of buildings and places…but a look at this week’s collection of photos suggests…alive!

I love the way that springtime is all about new growth and flowering.  And while our persistent drought is far from over, about average rainfall this year means that things are blooming.  I spied this beauty peeking through the chain link fence at school.


With no kids or grandkids–or even my mom–home for Mother’s Day, my husband and I decided to visit the Birch Aquarium.  I had been a number of times with students on field trips, but my husband insisted he had never been!  It’s a small aquarium, but it is alive with interesting sea life. These jellies are so much fun to watch as they pulse through the water.


And I am always amazed at the size of this sea bass!  I love this kelp forest tank, it is such an accessible view of the intricacies of the kelp forest ecosystem that sits right off our coast.


I had a more eventful than usual walk on the beach last weekend.  In addition to spying some sandpipers in action in the low tide, I managed to step on a bee…ouch!  (It was alive when I stepped…dead after it stung me!)


I was greeted Monday morning by this fellow…just hanging out on my car door!  (Anyone know what kind of insect it is?)…and yes, it was definitely alive!  I love how it is also a selfie of sorts as I found myself reflected in the paint of my car.


I love the days when I get a chance to walk around campus when I’m at UCSD.  I was noticing the rows of eucalyptus trees.  I remember these trees from my years as an undergrad.  I wonder who decided to plant these trees on campus?


And today’s adventures took me out and about in Burbank with my son and grandson.  This yellow butterfly caught my eye…and I tried my best to catch it with my camera.


So, with so much life all around, what will you chose to represent alive this week?  You might choose plants or animals…or people engaged in something that makes you feel particularly alive.  Can something inanimate be alive?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #alive for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

What is alive in your life this week?  I can’t wait to see what you find!