Tag Archives: postaday

Watch Them Soar

I can watch them for hours as they coast on the air currents high above my head. They seem to play with each other…follow the leader, tag, red rover red rover won’t you come over… Some arrange themselves in perfect formation, vees of aerodynamic perfection performing intricate maneuvers in mid flight. Others fly solo, seemingly free from the attachments of family or community.

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Birds are hard to photograph.  Maybe that’s the draw for me.  They don’t sit still and the slightest movement sends them to the sky.  They seem spare and compact, unlimited by the constraints of time and space.

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.”

Robert Lynd

Birds require patience and silence.  I have to sharpen my senses, still my heart, and settle into the landscape to have a chance to watch them in action.  And when I pay close attention I learn a lot about the unique qualities of the birds I am watching–and maybe something about myself too.

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Watching birds is a lot like teaching.  The most important part of my work is getting to know my students.  I have to recognize the subtleties of their behavior, knowing when to let them grapple productively and when to step in and offer support–a place to perch until their wings are ready for the next flight.  I have to remember to be still and let the learning come rather than force my pace. Patience and silence are important here too.

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Like students, birds often seek cover, blending in with their surroundings rather than risk standing out in the open, exposed and vulnerable.  But when the space is safe enough and if you listen carefully, you’ll hear their song.  And with time you recognize those voices, even when you don’t see them.

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When the light is right for a mirror-perfect reflection, I realize that I love birds in the wild but resist the idea of caging these creatures. Yeah, they’re easier to get close to and photograph in a cage–but something essential is missing.

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But mostly, birds and students give me hope.

In the words of Emily Dickenson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

Watching birds reminds me to expand my self-imposed limits and to give my dreams flight–to take to the metaphorical skies and soar.  And that’s what I want for my students too.  Their lives are awash in possibility. I hope that my small breath under their wings helps lift them to pursue their interests and passions.

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So they can soar.

A Love Story

Last Tuesday morning I fell in love.  Head over heels, irrevocably, intensely, impossibly, and wonderfully in love.  I expected it…and yet, the depth and utter wonder was unexpected and emotional.

I felt my heart expand when I laid eyes on him.  I looked closely and realized I knew him, maybe I’ve always known him. It was truly love at first sight.

How could this tiny being have so much power over me? And all of the those feelings were magnified this weekend when I met him in person.

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I am a grandma and I want to shout from the rooftops!  My baby boy now has a baby boy of his own…a tiny little boy who takes me back in time to when his father was a baby. But…it’s also so different. I get the delight of cuddling that sweet baby, smelling that incredible newborn baby smell, but I also get to hand him back to his capable mom and dad when he needs to be fed and I get to sleep when he is fussy in the middle of the night. I get to be helpful (I hope) and supportive, but the big decisions are not mine.  I can worry–but he has parents to worry for him too.

It was hard to say goodbye and go home last night, leaving that beautiful boy and his amazing parents to their new lives together as we returned home to our everyday lives. But everything has changed too, enriched by a new life and new possibility.  The world is just a bit better with that little guy in it and my world has expanded–just like my heart, and I have new things to think about, learn about, and plan for.  (And yes, the next trip to see him is already planned!)

And this is just the beginning…I will be a grandma again in the next week or so when my other son also becomes a dad.  There’s plenty of room in my heart and in my world–and I am sure that I will be falling in love again and again.  I am a grandma, it’s an incredible state of mind!

 

Erosion: Reading Nature’s Text

One of my favorite things about hiking is spending time outdoors, up close to nature’s beauty.  Today  I found myself pretty close to home, at a place I have been a number of times before.  We’d been thinking about venturing further out, but were having trouble finding the information we needed for the unfamiliar hike we wanted to try–so we decided to save that for another day and decided to head to Torrey Pines Reserve instead.

Apparently our idea wasn’t an original one…there were tons of people there!  After waiting in a line of cars to enter the park and making our way up the hillside to park, we headed out onto the trails.  I noticed right away the deep trenches in the trails, a visible impact of the heavy rains over a week ago.

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It was clear that the rangers had employed sandbags and other tools to limit the damage, but nature is strong and water’s power is amazing.  I noticed erosion around me, thinking about the differences in this place over the years I have visited.  The landscape is constantly changing, pieces of the cliff are undermined by the wind and water and drop off to the beach below. Pathways move and are moved–directing the public away from danger and protecting sensitive ground and plants.

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In spite of human intervention, the edge of the cliffs keep changing, moving east away from the sea.  As we continued our hike toward the ocean, I noticed all the ways people have worked to shore up and protect access to the beach.  Steps replaced the scary ledges I remember traversing on a field trip years ago.

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Deep grooves become pathways up and over the cliffs, creating access to other less crowded stretches of beach.

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This natural process of erosion creates new landscapes, new spaces to explore and to adapt. It’s a reminder that change is not a choice, it is a natural consequence of our interactions with the natural environment, with people and places, and with ideas. The rains and the wind and placement of our feet forge landscapes that didn’t exist before–some subtle and barely noticeable and some dramatic and barely recognizable.

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And as much as we resist change and warn about its dangers, it will come. So maybe nature’s reminder is to pay attention, appreciate each moment, and adapt to the changes…maybe even anticipate the changes, allowing us to work with them rather than against them. Read the environment, nature’s text, the alphabet of rock and soil, as a way to understand both the story of the past and the one that will be written by those to come.

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Change is constant, change is natural…so look for opportunities to notice change, to adapt to the changing landscape, and even to sculpt your vision for tomorrow. What will your story be?

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The Trick of the Treat

For the first 20+ years of our married life we celebrated my husband’s Halloween birthday either by taking our sons out trick-or-treating or answering the door to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood (or both).  For the last decade or so, we’ve carefully avoided trick-or-treaters by planning dinner out and have learned to linger over our food and enjoy the mostly empty restaurants on Halloween evening.

This year, it seems we have been celebrating all month.  We headed off to Disneyland earlier in October (see here), spent last weekend in Alabama with his family, and yesterday set off for an adventure on Catalina Island (about 26 miles offshore from southern CA).  To make this treat less of a trick, this year Halloween fell on a Saturday.  We’d talked about exploring Catalina for a while now…and when we learned that the boat ride over is free on your birthday, it seemed like the perfect solution to our Halloween/birthday celebration dilemma–we turned the trick into a treat!

We headed out from Long Beach and were accompanied by playful dolphins as we neared Avalon.  They jumped and dove, surfing the wake of the boat.  I wasn’t able to take any decent photos, but the view was majestic…and unforgettable!  We arrived in the Avalon harbor to a beautiful, warm and sunny day making the blues brilliant and the whites crisp as you can see in this unedited photo.

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After breakfast we climbed into a military hummer for a tour of the interior of the island.  We maneuvered over rocky, dusty, steep unpaved roads as we explored the history and the topography of the island.  We learned about the native plants and animals, the conservation efforts, and how they are dealing with the drought.  And the views were breathtaking!

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You can see San Clemente Island in the distance, almost seeming to float on the sea.  The sky was so clear we could see for miles!  We also took in the prickly pear as well as other native plants, and learned about the Catalina fox and the bald eagle–both which faced near extinction on the island and are now recovering.  We also learned about the only non-native animal on the island, the buffalo, brought originally by a Hollywood movie maker at the turn of the century and then encouraged by the Wrigley’s who owned the island.  In its native beauty, the island is spectacular, now mostly owned by a conservancy that protects and maintains its natural state.

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Hot and sweaty from our time in the back country (it was an 85 degree day!), we treated ourselves to some ice cream and spent some time exploring the city of Avalon.  The iconic building is the casino, but it isn’t a gambling hall, it is the home of a movie theater, a small museum, and we hear…a magnificent dance floor.  We hoped to go inside, but alas, it closed quite early on a Saturday.  We did explore the outside.

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We spent some time watching the divers who enter and exit the water from behind the building.  While I was watching them, I noticed a couple in what seemed to be brilliantly colored wetsuits (most wetsuits are black).  As they swam up, I noticed that the Hulk and Aquaman (I think) were emerging from the sea…and was ready to snap a few shots as they headed for dry land. They were definitely diving in the Halloween spirit!

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Further exploration led us to discover the local radio station, this small green building.  We also talked to a woman who has resided on the island for 45 years and was eager to close her shop and accompany her grandchildren to the Halloween parade.

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As we got ready to head back to Long Beach, we came across a friendly pelican who was more than willing to pose for photos.  I took a number of shots and managed to snap this one as the pelican took flight.

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As the sun began to set, we said good bye to Avalon and headed back to the mainland.

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This adventure was quite a treat and a fun way to celebrate Geoff’s birthday.  By the time we returned home, the trick-or-treaters were back home sorting their haul and we enjoyed a spectacular Halloween filled with wonder and play.  Now the big question…how do we top this for next year?

Is a Happy Place Always Happy?

Every so often we take a walk down memory lane and head 70 miles north to visit the happiest place  on earth…that’s right, Disneyland.  As someone who grew up in southern California, I have been going to Disneyland since I was a small child and my father’s military status got us in at reduced costs.  (My father never went after his first visit, but my mother took us regularly–especially when relatives visited from out of state.)  And yes, I even spent my honeymoon in the Magic Kingdom.

My husband loves to visit Disneyland during the fall when the park is decked out in all its Halloween finery…after all, his birthday is on Halloween.  So since we had a weekend off, we headed to Disneyland on Saturday–in spite of the predictions of record high temperatures–to enjoy the park, rides some rides, watch some parades, and view some fireworks.  We started early and stayed late…all in the name of fun!

Disneyland is constantly changing–and some things never change, like the French Quarter in New Orleans Square where we headed after our first few rides (and lines) for a cool mint julep and Micky-shaped beignets.

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But like an evil twin or a twisted pair, this happy place also has an ugly underside.  There are long lines–in spite of fast passes and a handy app that tells you the wait time for each ride, rides that break down just as you get to the front of the line (Space Mountain and the Matterhorn!), rides that pause for no apparent reason (we heard it was to accommodate handicapped visitors), expensive food and drink, and the grumpiness that comes from a long day in the hot sun, in long lines, with unexpected frustrations.

But maybe the lesson is to temper your happy place with a dose of patience.  Waiting in line allows time for chatting with strangers.  There is also ample time for people watching.  There are opportunities to observe every possible parenting style–from the threats and bribes and incessant cajoling to the offering of limited choices and clear expectations.  And then there are the various clothing choices–the families in matching T-shirts (some with clever numbers and nicknames), every variety of Disney character shirt from every decade, and some indescribable get-ups from scanty to absurd.  (And who knew that Dooney and Burke made a Star Wars leather satchel?)

I did find my patience tested–and it required effort on my part to stay even-tempered and polite.  But those qualities were also rewarded.  Somehow, along the crowded Main Street, we found ourselves in perfect position to watch the daytime parade.

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Drummers set the rhythm as we all sang along to M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E.  Then there were the chimney sweeps dancing to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins,

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swirling skirts,

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and Peter Pan up close and expressive!

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And sometimes standing in a ride line resulted in a picture perfect shot of the Matterhorn in the sunlight,

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or a free choice fast pass as compensation for the ride breaking and us waiting out the minor repair until it became major.

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And even though we were tired, it was fun to watch the night light up with dancers attired in neon that swirled and twirled–creating such fun photos,

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and capped with a display of spectacular fireworks, projections on buildings…and even snowfall on an evening that was still 86 degrees at 10pm in mid-October!

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I had fun and I was exhausted.  There were spectacular sights and episodes of commercialism and overindulgence that made me cringe.  I revisited the past and peeked into the future, and still wonder how this place will accommodate more visitors when it is already crowded beyond belief!

I enjoyed my Disneyland trip on Saturday…but I won’t need to return for a while.

So, can one place be a twisted pair?  And is your happy place always happy?

Beach Hues: Monochromatic

The beach offers me endless inspiration, stimulating my senses with the light, the life, the variety…and the sameness.

The ocean and the shoreline is an endless variety of blues, whites, and grays.  Some days the colors are vibrant and fully saturated, other days, they are muted–layering hues of a single color in subtle textures like this image of a seagull taking flight toward the wave rolling in.

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Sometimes the sky is reflected in the wetness of the ground.  Clouds to walk in, waves to walk in…echoes of each other.

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And look up and see the clouds like waves, a backdrop for a tiny airplane, perhaps a biplane, awash in blue and white.

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It is the monochromatics of the beach that help me see texture, that force me to look closely to notice the daily changes and the endless variety of the cliffs, the waves, the sky, the shoreline…

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Light and angle–twin photography tools–teach me about seeing and finding the beauty in the extraordinary sameness of the beach.

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