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Watery Thoughts

I walk the beach feeling the water-laden air kiss my cheeks as the breeze lifts my hair straight up, making me taller by inches.  Water, clear as it pours from my water bottle, takes on every shade of blue as I look out to the sea on this sunny day. What is it about the qualities of water that allow us to see so many colors when we look out at the ocean?  Water both absorbs and scatters light, swallowing the red, orange, yellow, and green wavelengths, leaving the shorter blues and violets for us to see as blue’s variations.

Water, also known by its formula H2O, is a miracle of chemistry.  The magnetic-like attraction of hydrogen and oxygen pulls the atoms together to create this unparalleled life-giving substance.  Water is a magical shape-shifter.  When it heats up, it becomes a gas we call steam, rising nearly invisible into the air.  When it cools down, it becomes hard and cold and incredibly strong.  We call it ice and as it warms and melts, it becomes liquid water once again.  Water evaporates, condenses, and precipitates in a constant state of movement through the water cycle, creating our weather, refreshing our reservoirs, blanketing mountains with snow, watering crops, cooling the surface of our planet.  Earth’s surface is 70% covered by water.  Scientists are constantly seeking evidence of water on other planets as a gauge for the possibility of life as we know it.

We not only depend on water, we are made of water.  Human bodies are 60% water.  Water quenches our thirst, cleans our bodies, refreshes us on a hot summer’s day, runs through our veins, flushes through our organs.  We crave water, fear water.  It lulls us to sleep and shouts for our attention.  

My memories are saturated with water.  

The birth of my first child came with the unexpected gush of a river of meconium-stained amniotic fluid, right after my husband told me, “Let’s not have the baby tonight–I’m exhausted.”  That flow of water set in motion the activity, the worry, the joy, and the endless nature of parenting with the arrival of the most perfect baby boy–unrivaled until his brother joined us a couple of years later.  And with that flow and the baby that accompanied it came more attention to bodily waters.  Suddenly liquid intake and output became something to measure and worry about.  Is he getting enough milk?  Peeing enough back out?  I found myself swimming through waves of information seeking that perfect watery balance.

We hear all the time that we should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.  It seems that everyone carries large bottles of water around with them.  Is it too late to drink once you feel thirsty?  Can you drink too much water?  I’ve heard the stories of people dying simply by drinking too much water.  Water intoxication, also known as hyponatremia, happens during major sporting events, fueled by the fear that dehydrating would be worse.  Water is both necessary for life and can take life away–and sometimes make it unpleasant, even when you are trying to have fun.  It’s not always about drinking water, sometimes it’s the movement of water that is the culprit.

The rhythmic motion pounded, creating that endless swirl like a washing machine, constant steady movement against my forehead, from the inside out, as I tried to push against it.  Then it migrated to the pit of my stomach before bouncing back, heading toward my throat.  Maybe I’ll feel better in the water I thought as I adjusted my goggles and snorkel.  Geoff was watching the boys as they dipped into the ocean in search of brightly colored reef fish, and trying not to watch and worry about me.  Somehow the motion of the water was an exact match to the stomach churning rhythm of the boat, today was not going to be my day for snorkeling fun.  Why is it that even as I love being on the water and in the water, that it can cause me so much distress?  

But distress is not my constant companion in watery experiences.  There’s an exhilaration and playfulness that splashes over some of these watery memories.  “This boat is nearly impossible to flip.”  Did Dad mean it as a dare as he generously allowed my sister and I and our partners to sail out into the bay,–without him?  A light wind and a sunny summer’s day enticed us to believe, inexperienced as we were, that, of course, we could sail this little sailboat without mishap.  Luckily, we were all swimmers and our young men were strong enough to pull the boat upright after some ineffective sailing techniques tested the limits of the flippability of that boat. 

And tinier, much more usual moments can also bring so much joy.  I am drawn to the beach, mesmerized by the funky smell–fishy and salty and wet, the whoosh and roar of waves as they hit the shore–echoes of the push and pull of blood through my heart, and the ever changing landscape–sculpted and shifted by tidal changes.  Some days I spy the bubble man with his magic wand.  He lifts his arms to the sea breeze and bubbles–a magic potion of soap and water–stretch and dance, reflecting all the colors of the rainbow.  I stand transfixed, my camera at the ready, watching children–magnetized by the spectacle–running and jumping, chasing these orbs until they pop.

I wake in the night feeling water seeping from my still closed eyes, dreams and nightmares locked in an embrace, a tortured dance of real-life and deep subconsciousness.  The cancer slowly erodes his strength and independence, taking away so much of what he loves about life.  The smallest joys–walking around the neighborhood to see what is going on in the community, morning coffee at the local coffee shop to spin lies with the other old men–are no longer possible.  There is not enough breath, not enough blood to take those extra steps, to carry on an extended conversation.  He’s alive, but is he living?  My tears spill over, dampening my pillow, offering relief, if only for a moment.  I know the dam will burst at some point, but like him, I hold it back as a show of my strength and independence.  Like father, like daughter.

***

Nature’s mirror, water reflects its surroundings.  Some days you can walk on clouds, watch egrets admire their image, and see details of the landscape you missed while looking straight on.  Other days are gray and flat, colors muted by the lack of sun.  When the clouds are low it’s like being submerged in a small damp box, trapped inside with only your own watery thoughts to splash through.  Moist thoughts stick, working their way from my head to my heart.  Sometimes they gather and rise, churning, lifted by invisible forces, a storm waiting to unleash.  At their best they shine, gathering the light, refracting into rainbows of colorful ideas ready to be unleashed in the world.  Water is life, water takes life, and like fish, we swim in it, through it, beyond it, drinking in its lessons, flooded with memories…of water, our lifeblood.

3 Haiku: NPM #5

Faced with a long drive back home, we decided to detour and find some mini adventures on our way. It makes for a long day…but was filled with small surprises that provided the perfect fodder for some Haiku.

Wildflowers

Transitory sprites

conjuring springtime dreamscapes

also known as weeds

®Douillard

Wetland Walk

Basking in the sun

pulling me to look closely

turtle or a rock?

®Douillard

Geese

The gaggle gathers

lunch counter or wetland spa?

pause in reflection

®Douillard

Lines: SOLC #28

Exploring with my camera is a way to clear my head, to relax, and to pay attention to the world. But I have to admit, the monotony of a lockdown year has taken its toll. I’ve had to work to find new ways to look at the things I have seen over and over again.

For a change of pace, today we headed up the coast to a seaside town about 30 miles north of here. We did a bit of shopping and then, of course, headed out to the beach to walk and take photos.

I know, I know…I take beach photos regularly. But a different place offers a different vantage. Today I found myself focused on lines. We parked near the train station and right away my eye was drawn to the parallel levels of lines…the train tracks, the fence line, and the horizon line of the ocean behind. (And the blues were magnificent today!)

As I stepped up closer to the fence to peer over at the ocean, a series of horizontal lines came into view.

We had intended to walk the seaside trail parallel to the shore, but on the east side of the train tracks. Unless the tide is low, there isn’t much beach to walk on this beach. We started off–but the summer-like weather brought out the crowds–and the trail was feeling pretty uncomfortable with a combination of runners and walkers, dogs on leashes, and bikes (both electric and pedal-powered) whizzing past. At the first staircase access to the beach, we headed to the sand, realized the tide was low and getting lower, so decided that the shoreline was out best walking choice. There were still people, but they were much more spread out–in the water and laying in the sun–giving us a wide, unencumbered walking space.

As we passed the pier, I could hear aircraft. Helicopters are pretty usual. We have military bases nearby, coast guard copters, and of course people out to see the sights from above. But when I looked up I noticed a small plane cruising by…right over the pier. More lines.

Every time I visit a pier I feel compelled to take a few shots from beneath. There is something about the view of the ocean through the elaborate under structure that fascinates. Each pier is a bit different–some have a specific “door” to look through. This one does not, but it does have lots and lots of different lines to look at.

Even the pigeons managed to get in on the line action today. They were hanging out not far from the fishing people on the pier. Just waiting.

So is there anything significant about all these lines? This would be the time for the pithy conclusion to give meaning to a series of photos featuring lines. Instead, I appreciate a day slightly different from the ones that preceded it. And a perspective that took my eye in some different directions. Hope you also enjoy these lines, in all their insignificance.

A Treasure Hunt: SOLC #23

I like to think of each day a treasure hunt. I look for those hidden gems–sometimes only unseeable because of my own shortsightedness.

On those days when everything seems unbearably humdrum, monotonous, with sameness coloring my every thought, I have to stretch myself to find something, anything at all, that I can classify as treasure.

I was finding myself in the humdrum doldrums on a recent walk at the beach. Impossible, you say! The beach couldn’t possibly be boring or mundane. Except when my brain fills with negative thoughts…all the I want-tos that just can’t happen…yet.

Time for a treasure hunt.

Winter tides bring lots of rock onto the shore. And sometimes, when the light is right and I look at just the right angle, I’ll notice the glint of buried treasure. Sea glass comes in a variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and degrees of ocean sanding. It’s always such a treat to come across a piece during a walk along the shore.

Sometimes the treasure is all about just how you look at something. There’s a place along the beach that we call “the corner.” The cliff juts out a bit, making it tricky to get around when the tide is high. But when you look at that corner, the cliff itself, just right, a face appears. Another treasure. Judge for yourself.

You never know when you’ll come across the remains of someone’s work of art. It might be a stack of stones: a beach cairn. It might be an image raked into the sand. And sometimes it’s a sand castle. This treasure caught my eye because of its creative use of algae. Even in its tumbledown ruin, you can see the brilliance of the design…and the cloudy light also brings a certain feeling of low-key ambiance that whispers treasure in my ear.

Reliving this treasure hunt brightens my day. Remember that treasure is in the eye of the beholder–that the littlest of bright spots can make all the difference in the way you feel at the end of the day. Make time for a little treasure hunt. I’d love to see what treasures you find!

Popover Memories: SOLC #21

If you’ve read this blog over the years, you know a couple of things about me and food.

Today, my husband decided, would be the perfect morning for popovers. Unlike biscuits, popovers are not a food I grew up eating. In fact, I first had popovers a few years ago: at Acadia National Park in Maine.

I listened to the mixer whirl as Geoff prepared the ingredients to pour into the special popover pan that we purchased upon returning from our Maine exploration. It’s one of those pans that is specially made for just this purpose–so most of the time, the pan is buried in a lower drawer that we don’t frequently access.

While they baked in the oven we had a quick conversation with our 5-year-old twin grandsons, who love to see what grandpa is up to in the kitchen. After saying goodbye to their special friends (those special much-loved items that are always close by when they are at home), I heard the timer ring. When the oven opened, a warm eggy smell filled the air, mixing with the smell of coffee freshly brewed.

And as I bit into one of these tasty treats, smothered in butter and jam, my mind revisited that moment when I was introduced to this comforting snack on a cool summer day not far from Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park.

We had walked and walked, following a hiking trail that circled the pond.

My camera ever in hand, I couldn’t resist take photos of all the mushrooms. There were so many varieties and they were such bright colors! (So different from mushroom life here in Southern California!)

And we ended our adventure in a National Park restaurant–known for its popovers. So when in popover territory–and after hiking all day–try some popovers.

Today’s popover breakfast took me back to that wonderful Maine exploration. What a wonderful way to take a mini-vacation through my memories (and some photos) in the midst of this mind-numbing pandemic. I look forward to my next trip to Maine and some more popovers…sooner rather than later!

Fog: SOLC #20

I walked into a cloud, experiencing it now from the inside out. Water drops too small to see kiss my cheeks as they swirl and dance all around me. My vision is soft-edged, everything ahead of me in vignette. Cocooned in light as the sun’s rays, wrapped in cotton balls, bounce and reflect. The world feels close and small in the cloud. I can’t see too far ahead or too far behind, I’m forced into the here and now, noticing what is right here.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the cloud lifts and opens wide, like a deep breathe and the blue appears. The world expands and the view shifts. I walk out of the fog.

Snowy Adventure: SOLC #14

I had a snow day today. Of course I know that most of you will be scratching your head and thinking, what is she talking about? It’s Sunday! But then you will need to know that, in fact, I have never had a snow day. Not once have I experienced one of those days that so many of you describe. No school, no work, just a snowy day for tucking in to read by the fire or to spend outdoors playing in the snow. (You may also notice some romanticizing that goes along with never having lived where it snows!)

I’m lucky enough to live in a place where within a two hour drive you can go to the beach, to the desert, or to the mountains. So this morning as we debated how to spend a wide-open Sunday, my husband suggested our local mountains. With rain last week on the coast, our mountains got some snow. We wondered if the snow was still on the ground, so we checked out the mountain webcam just to see what to expect. It looked like there was still some patches of snow at the highest elevations, so we dressed for snow, laced up our hiking boots, and headed east.

As we passed the 4000 ft mark, we started to notice small bits of snow on the side of the road. We zigzagged up the winding mountain switchbacks, at times feeling like we were right in the middle of the clouds. At about 5000 ft, the skies opened up to all the shades of blue along with bright sunshine…and snow! We started to find cars pulled off to the sides of the already narrowed roads and saw kids on plastic sleds and boogie boards slipping and sliding on available open roadside patches of snow.

When we got to the Palomar Observatory we found the parking lots closed and fences bolted. But not far from there, we found our own side-of-the-road space to pull into. We pulled on hats and jackets and headed out to explore. We stomped through some snow drifts, hoping to find some marked trails to hike. Instead, we found still fresh snow perfect for snowman building. So…we built (in a minimalist sort of way).

I love to explore through the lens of my camera. I snapped pictures of pine cones, of snow tucked in the nooks of trees, of rounded mounds on tree stumps softened by the sun. (I had abandoned my jacket by then–it was a gorgeous, warm snowy day!)

And we even found some places with stunning long range vistas of the valley below.

When we headed back down the mountain to the west, we decided to make a stop at the beach for a walk to get those exercise minutes logged on our watches since the hiking trails on the mountains just weren’t accessible to us snow novices. It was a mountains to the sea kind of snowy day adventure. And the perfect way to spend a wide-open, spring-ahead Sunday.

Flotsam and Jetsam: SOLC #7

The sea was moody today. Thick clouds kept the sun at bay and also kept people at home. That’s a good thing for me–there’s nothing better than an empty beach for walking and exploring.

I love the way the beach is ever changing. Some days the shore is smooth and sandy. Lately piles of smooth beach stones have been pushed up into my walking zone. Low tides, like today, expose stretches of reef, some pieces algae-covered in reds and greens. I’m always on the look out for interesting finds on the beach. Unfortunately, we often find trash on our walks. Pieces of plastic and styrofoam, leftovers of foil wrapped burritos, and all too often straws of all shapes and sizes.

Today I noticed a glow stick on the reef. I know that fisherman often use these as part of their fishing routine, although I’m not sure exactly the purpose. I stopped to capture a photo and then we picked it up to throw away. (Lucky for our local environment, my husband always carries a trash bag when we walk on the beach.)

Next up was the shoe. Just one. Alone. It hadn’t been in the sea long enough to become a home for sea creatures, but it was soaked all the way through with sand inside. I wonder who lost this shoe and when they noticed it was missing. Does this child still have the other shoe tossed in the back of the closet?

Then I noticed the long white structure. Was it trash? No, seems like a bone. A closer examination made me believe that it is the remain of a pelican beak, long and thin and about the right size, washed up onto the shore. This piece we did not pick up–seems best to let it decompose and return to its native environment.

As I was documenting these finds with my camera, I was thinking about that term: flotsam and jetsam. Is one type of debris flotsam and another type jetsam? I turned to Google to check out the definitions. I learned that in maritime lingo, flotsam is wreckage of cargo that remains afloat after a ship has sunk and that jetsam is cargo or equipment thrown overboard from a ship in distress. I also learned that the phrase flotsam and jetsam has come to mean useless or discarded items. So I’m categorizing the glow stick and the shoe as flotsam and jetsam. The beak bone, just ordinary bird remains.

But what about this?

It seems that Shamus and Marisol decided to create some art on these beach boulders. It makes me wonder, did they bring paint to the beach with the idea that they would use beach rocks as a canvas? Was it made with water-based paint that will dissolve into the sea during the next high tide? Did they make it for their own enjoyment or for others to see? Or is it a call for help? (Notice the S.O.S.) Temporary art is common on the beach, there are sand artists who rake intricate designs into the sandy shore. There are rock tower builders, carefully balancing stone after stone after stone. And of course, the sand castle builders who create turrets and moats on castles adorned by seaweed and shells. All pieces meant to last only until the next tide sweeps it away.

I always leave the beach with questions and something to think about. And I always learn something. Regardless of its mood, the sea and the beach is never dull.

Warnings: SOLC #6

Every day on the beach is a good day. And today was no different. Sunny and mild, light breeze, mid-60s–a perfect March day in Southern California. Where I live, it’s important to pay attention to the tides if you want to walk any distance. High tides=no beach for walking. So when my time and tide times don’t match, we often head south to walk near Torrey Pines State Reserve.

There were lots of people out on the beach today, not unusual for a sunny weekend day. And warnings were abundant–although they seemed to have little impact on beach goers.

I noticed the shark sighting sign early on.

Shark warnings have become pretty commonplace. When I pointed it out to my husband, he told me about the drone images this week of a great white hanging out off the coast. (Check the link for the news story) Yikes! But there were still surfers out–I watched this group climbing up the cliff after their surfing session.

Had they not noticed the shark warnings? What about the danger signs about the unstable cliffs? Just last week there was a pretty major cliff failure not too far down the beach.

Even the train seemed to know about the warnings. I watched it creep slowly along the cliffline, gingerly traversing precariously close to the edge, perhaps trying to avoid any more cliff damage.

But still, there were people walking just feet from the bottom of the cliff and others sunbathing too close for my comfort. Do they not know that the cliffs fall regularly and give no advance notice? Are the warnings for others? Not for them?

It seemed today that at every turn there was a new warning. Most warnings seem to be for public safety. Watch out, stay away, be careful. Some are designed to keep people from doing silly, dangerous things like climbing through a drainage tunnel. And still others to make clear where dogs are allowed and where they are not allowed. This may be another public safety issue–we do have some beaches that allow dogs. This beach has a stretch that allows dogs and then when you get to the state reserve, dogs are no longer allowed.

But I have to say, in spite of all the warnings, it was still a perfect day for a beach walk. And no one was harmed during the photography of all the warning signs!

Light Show

Some of our beaches reopened this week–much to my delight.  I’m back to walking the shoreline as often as possible (when the tide allows walking room that fits my work schedule).  On Monday morning I noticed the mucky, murky waves…and remembered that we are in the midst of a red tide.  A red tide is an algae bloom and all that muck is red algae.

img_6793

During the day, the red tide is not particularly appealing…but at night, it’s spectacular!  Last night we headed the beach after sunset, in the dusky light before darkness comes.  We were surprised at the number of people at the beach–it had been a gloomy day and there was plenty of cloud cover.  But then, people were not there for the sun…they were there for the light!

As we parked we noticed lots and lots of surfers heading to the beach.  People kept their distances, but one glance at the waves told the story of why they were at the beach as darkness was settling over the sea.  As waves crashed, the water glowed brilliant blue!

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We watched surfers soaring through the electric blue of the waves, waders and swimmers trying to catch up to the light.  Walkers and gawkers in their coronavirus masks kept their distances and tried to capture this bioluminescent phenomenon with their cameras.

I’m always reminded that I need to work on my night photography technique when I get these spectacular photo ops after the sun sets.  But I keep trying anyway.  Even if the photos don’t begin to capture nature’s beauty, they do give a glimpse into the wonders of bioluminescence.  And it was a wonderful break from staying at home in my neighborhood!

wavy

What a light show!