Tag Archives: photo essay

Something Fishy: SOLC 2019 Day 27

Just when we thought the week couldn’t get any fishier, it did!  You already know about the angle fish and the wire fish…today was all about real fish.

Wednesdays are our science lab day and our science teacher always goes to great lengths to make things relevant and hands-on for the kids.  I knew that she’d gone to a grunion run last weekend…and the grunion were running.  If you’re not from coastal southern California, you may not know about grunion.  They are small silver fish, about the length of a dollar bill…and they’re pretty special.  They are the only fish who come onshore to lay their eggs in the sand and they are found only along our coast from northern Baja to southern Santa Barbara.  They spawn from March to June, riding high tides onto the shore to lay their eggs.  A couple weeks later, at the next high tide, the eggs are washed back into the ocean, requiring the wave motion to hatch.

I remember grunion runs from my own teenaged days.  Since grunion only surf onto the beach late at night, it was the perfect opportunity for groups of preteens to head to the beach, hanging out in the moonlight, trying not to scare off the grunion.  (I don’t know who talked the adult drivers into that duty!)  If you’re under 16 you don’t need a fishing license to pick up the fish…not that I can ever remember wanting to pick them up!  Lucky for us, our science teacher was able to collect some grunion (and eggs) on her grunion run last weekend for our students to study.

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Students were able to touch the fish (yeah, they were dead), measure them to determine their age, and gently squeeze them to determine whether they were female (if reddish eggs came out) or male (if a milky liquid came out).

As you can see, they were eager to handle them, some with gloves and some with their bare hands.

We also took the opportunity to present our science teacher with a gift of fish from us. Each student contributed one of their wire fish (Calder inspired) to our collective fish mobile.  The best part was that each student figured out their own fish’s balancing point, tied a piece of fishing line to that point, and then small groups hung their fish together.  We tied each string of fish from a piece of drift wood that I found on one of my beach walks. The result was stunning!  I’m including a photo–although it doesn’t begin to do it justice!

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Next week students will string their own individual fish mobiles…and continue their study of grunion.  If we’re lucky, we will be able to get some of those grunion eggs to hatch…right in front of our eyes!

Sky View: SOLC 2019 Day 23

I couldn’t take my eyes off the sky.  Our usual monochromatic blue or gray skies were replaced by deep blue textured with white.  My first view this morning was as we headed off to run errands.  We have this quirky spiky tree near the driveway that I am obsessed with photographing.  It always makes an interesting backdrop to photos of the sky.  This morning I noticed the tree was beginning to get leaves (again–this tree gets terribly confused with year-round spurts of spring and summer weather) as I looked up into sun infused clouds, with the neighbor’s palm tree in the background.

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Later, after the errands and some shopping at the outlet mall, my husband offered to stop along the coast in San Clemente so I could get out and take some photos.  My eyes were drawn to the contrails playing with the clouds against the brilliant blue of the springtime sky.

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The coastline is always beautiful, and today was no different.  It was high tide when we stopped and I picked my way down close enough for photos–but trying to avoid another oops like I experienced yesterday!  The sky appeared to have stripes…and you can’t really see it in this photo, but the sea had dozens of sailboats in the distance.  I like the way the white of crashing waves echo the white of the contrails and clouds in the sky.

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Even the traffic couldn’t ruin the day.  Accidents and heavy weekend traffic made a 30 mile trip take more than 90 minutes, something that is unfortunately all too typical. (I suppose it is a price we pay for living near the coast.)  Our too-often-brown hillsides were wearing their springtime best and bursting with lush and vibrant green and so many yellow flowers…you can almost feel the softness with your eyes!

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Although I missed the photo opportunity as we left Costco and headed back home, my eyes took in yet another playful interweaving of contrails and clouds.  I looked up and noticed an enormous hashtag in the sky.  #skyview

Oops! SOLC 2019 Day 22

Ah!  The briny air filled my lungs as the gentle spring sunshine warmed my back.  There is nothing better than a walk on the beach at the end of the work day.

I wondered at the beach goers in bathing suits more than waist deep in the still cold Pacific ocean.  (Even in summer, 72 degrees is warm water–refreshing when temps are in the 80s.  Today’s water temperature of 60 degrees is hardly balmy.)  Low 60s do not constitute bathing suit weather in my opinion.  I was thinking about how San Diego is really not a spring break destination.  We’re often mistaken for a tropical location, with warm weather year round.  In reality, we are a temperate climate.  It’s seldom too hot here, and we don’t even know snow unless you drive high into the local mountains.  But March is predictably sweatshirt weather–and I almost always wear shoes on the beach at this time of year because of all the rocks.

I digress.  I walked quickly, trying to have this clear-my-head walk count as some kind of exercise in a week that left too little time to move my body.  I found myself on the uncomfortable slope of rocks thrown high by the surf as I climbed to avoid the waterline, slipping and sliding on the uneven piles.

I’m never bored along the coast, there is always something to see.  Today I watched surfers, dressed in their black wetsuits, as they headed out into the glistening sea.  There is seldom a day without surfers around here, even when the weather and waves are less than ideal.

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Looking up I noticed a modern day pterodactyl, our native pelican, gliding on the currents.

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At my turn around point, I got bold, walking further out away from the rocks.  Walking on the sand just felt so much better than slip sliding on the rocks.  I knew I was taking a calculated risk–walking in my jeans and relatively new tennies so close to the water.  I know all about rogue waves and watched as I was walking.  About halfway back to my car, I could see it coming.  Just as I reached the point of no return, I saw the wave rushing toward me.  I spied a rock jutting up higher than the sand and jumped on it.  Seconds later I felt the cool salty water rush over my feet, my ankles, wicking up my pant legs.  With nowhere to go, I stood, waiting for the water to recede.

My walk the rest of the way was of the squelchy variety as my wet socks and wet shoes squished with each step.  I was less careful at that point.  I was already wet, so I took the easier, if wetter, pathways on my way back to the car.  I had to laugh at myself, maybe I should have just taken my shoes off and walked barefoot for the entire walk.  If I were more like those bathing suit wearing beach goers, I wouldn’t be squelching my way back to my car!

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But neither wet pant legs or squishy shoes could take away my pleasure and delight in my beach walk.  There is something healing and rejuvenating about a walk on the beach!

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Now back home, my shoes have been rinsed, the insoles removed and are sitting on the spare bathroom counter drying.  I wonder how long til they’re dry enough to wear on my next beach walk?

 

 

Team Bird: SOLC 2019 Day 15

Today’s walk had me watching pelicans.  And as I observed their precision maneuvers, I started to think about how birds compare to sports and their athletes.  Pelicans are like synchronized swimmers, matching their moves and depending on the precise movements of each to create the desired formations as a group.  I sometimes see one peel off, slowing down or heading off in a different direction, but most of the time they are working the V, adjusting position and speed to ensure that the entire group gets where it is going with speed and efficiency.

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Seagulls are more like that pick up game of basketball or soccer.  They have shared interests, but there is always plenty of squabbling and trash talk.  There are definitely leaders and followers and lots of jockeying for position (and food).  Seagulls seem to laugh a lot (at least in my mind), they love to play in the wind currents and hang out together on the beach.

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Osprey are those elite individual athletes–the Mikaela Shiffrins or Serena Williams of the bird world.  They are strong and independent and ferociously focused on their goals.  Osprey are beauty in motion, each muscle toned, each movement made with grace that makes the nearly impossible seem easy.

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Egrets are steady, patient and observant.  They wait for the perfect opportunity, a lot like the utility players in football or basketball.  They have that grace of movement, but they don’t draw your attention until you look away from the shining stars of the game.  But when you do look…oh la la, they are poetry in motion!

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Sandpipers are team players all the way.  They move together, eat together, and watch out for each other.  Like a finely honed World Cup soccer team, they seem to read each others’ minds, moving separately almost like one.

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I’m always encouraging my students to be a team, reminding them that we need to support each other and create a space where we all can learn.  But after watching the birds, I’m wondering if I need to refine my language.  What kind of team do I want them to be?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

California Poppies: SOLC 2019 Day 11

The golden poppy is California’s state flower.  We often see this cheery orange flower growing along the side of the freeway, in roadside medians, and in the landscaping of public buildings.  It’s both delicate and hearty.

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As a California native, I’ve seen these poppies my whole life, but I’ve never seen them like I did over the weekend.  Drought has become a way of life in southern California where I live.  Our average rainfall is only 10 inches per year, so those years when the rainfall falls well below (I know we’ve had recent years with only 5 inches–for the entire year!) are devastating for plants and animals (and humans too)!  This year we are already well above average for rainfall, and the season doesn’t end for a few more months.  That means our landscape is greener than usual…and flowers are everywhere!

On our way home from Saturday’s adventures (you can read more about those here and here), we decided we would stop by to get a glimpse of some poppy fields at the peak of their blossom.  As we headed back from the desert, we swung through a part of Riverside county called Lake Elsinore.  Even before we got to our destination, we could see hillsides in full bloom!

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We weren’t the only people who wanted to see these beauties, traffic snarled as we got close.  We saw the highway patrol ticketing cars that folks had parked on the shoulder of the freeway to try to circumvent the traffic to photograph poppies!

Our patience paid off with the opportunity for some close up views of these massive fields of poppies.  Unfortunately, we were late in the day as the sun was dipping below the clouds and the temperatures were dropping, so many blossoms were beginning to wrap up tight for the night.

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In spite of the challenges, I enjoyed my poppy experience.  I’ve been noticing more poppies in my own community as well.  I passed several small patched of poppies along the roadside on my way home from work today.  And I’ve seen many people I know posting pictures of poppies…from Lake Elsinore and many other hillsides around the state!  They are beautiful…and a cheery indicator of a wet winter and spring’s arrival.

Saturday Adventures Continued: SOLC 2019 Day 10

Our Saturday adventures didn’t stop with the Super Bloom.  As we hiked back toward our car, still admiring the seemingly never ending beauty of the desert in full color, we started a bit of a “what if” conversation.  We knew we were done hiking for the day…but it was still before noon, why not continue exploring?

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We’d seen signs for the Salton Sea as we drove towards Borrego Springs.  What if we just went further and explored the Salton Sea?  We checked out the distance on Google maps…it seemed a reasonable option, so we plugged it in, pushed start, and headed east.

We drove through more patches of the desert in full bloom, watching carefully for those drivers and folks with cameras who pull off the road suddenly, flipping car doors open without remembering that they are stopped on the side of highway.  We continued to drive, the view changing until it seemed we had found landscapes that time had forgotten.  Sparse vegetation, windswept columns and deep valleys reminiscent of the Grand Canyon surrounded us, I almost expected to see a giant dinosaur pop its head up and look me in the eye.  As we continued on, we found the hideaways of weekend RVers and their myriad dune buggies racing up and down self-made roadways.  Unexpectedly, the landscape changed again.  Were we seeing a mirage?  The blue on the horizon looked like we were seeing the ocean in front of us.  The Salton Sea is called an accidental lake, though apparently at one time it was a naturally occurring fresh water lake.  It is located directly over the San Andreas fault and is known as one of the largest and saltiest inland bodies of water.  (I cannot even begin to do justice to its history in this post, so if you’re interested, I encourage you to do some research–it’s super interesting!)

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As we got closer, we realized that our navigation led us to the community of Salton Sea City.  We drove as close to the shoreline as we could and got close enough to take it its immensity.  We wanted to get closer–close enough to walk along the shoreline.  We tried Google again, this time trying the search word “beach.”  We had a couple of choices–one closer than the other.  We headed toward the closest one…Salton Sea Beach.  As we drove, we were hoping for beach access.  We were surprised when we drove into a small community and the navigation told us we had arrived.  Driving around a bit, we followed a road toward a shoreline where we found “No Trespassing” signs.  We realized we had not driven to the beach, we had driven to the community named Salton Sea Beach!  Frustration was building–surely somewhere there was access to the shoreline of the Salton Sea!  Consulting Google once again, we chose that other option and headed off toward the Salton Sea State Recreation Area.  Luckily, it took us mostly in the direction we would eventually head to return home.  But we were surprised when the exit looped us back in the direction we started from and were even more surprised when we realized we were on the opposite shore of the Salton Sea!

But we finally got that beach access we were looking for.  A short walk gave us a view of black necked stilts along with some familiar gulls.  Apparently the Salton Sea has become a migratory flyway for many birds–one that is in danger.  California’s water wars are most evident when it comes to the Salton Sea…the topic for yet another blog post.

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My photos of this sea are not spectacular–the light was all wrong, the birds too far away. But the experience was worth the frustration and the strange driving routes through unfamiliar desert areas…definitely a Saturday adventure!