Tag Archives: walking

Ducks

There were a lot of them.  Gathered in a group, moving with purpose.  Where did they come from and where are they going?  

Seagulls are usual.  They congregate, squawking and arguing over who gets the bag of cheetos stolen from the blanket.  Shorebirds with their long thin beaks poke the wet sand in search of snacks.  Whimbrels and godwits are shy, scattering as I creep near.  I’m always on the lookout for egrets, tall and elegant with bright yellow feet.  Sometimes they feed in pairs or triads, but mostly seem to lead a solitary life.  

When the little girl approached the group, I expected them to take flight.  Rise into the sky in unison.  But they didn’t.  As I got closer, I saw they were traveling together, one after the other like school kids heading from the classroom to somewhere.  They were unperturbed when I came close with my camera from behind.  And not concerned when I ran ahead and took my photos from the front of the line, in fact, the lead duck nearly walked right into me!

I’m still wondering about that sord of mallards (if they had taken flight they would have been called a flock).  In all my walks on the beach over the years, this is my first sighting of mallards on a pilgrimage.  Where did they come from?  Where were they going?

Like the Back of my Hand: NPM #25

I know the path

like the back of my hand

worn, familiar

yet infinite

Gray traces objects

in pencil

shaded in silver

smudged with dampness

Sunset brings out

the silhouettes matted

against every hue of orange

details darkened

by end-of-day light

Sunshine draws in marker

bright, brilliant, bold

contrasts

spinning on the color wheel

One foot in front of the othe

tracing the veins

the wrinkles

each knuckle and nail

as I walk

this familiar

and new-each-day

path

®Douillard

Underfoot and Overhead: SOLC #26

What is under your feet and over your head today? A much needed walk took me to the beach, where after a rainy yesterday the sun shone brightly this afternoon.

I tied on my ratty sneakers, the ones with hole in the toe, knowing that I’m always at risk for a salt water foot bath, or the sneak attack of some sand covered blob of tar on the beach.

In my usual fashion, I start out walking quickly trying not to let all the sights and sounds and smells distract me as I attempt to earn my exercise minutes, and then slow down letting the environment speak to me as I pull my camera to my eye.

This jelly was nearly invisible, an almost clear glob of gelatinous organic matter. I sometimes see bits and pieces of jellies, but seldom a fully formed (and quite large) creature like this one. I’m not sure what kind of jelly this is–maybe a moon jelly? I’m happy to not have stepped on it, even though it is no longer alive.

A beautiful spring day also meant a healthy breeze blowing. I’ve been noticing more and more people playing on the beach, throwing balls, building castles, and flying kites. This one was really soaring, getting lots of loft and lift into the bright blue sky.

What did you find underfoot and overhead in your place today?

Walking and Wondering: SOLC #19

I’ve walked a lot of laps around the neighborhood. Worn a pathway through the gate, along the sidewalk, turning east and then back to the west. Passing house after house after house. I’ve watched the seasons change: buds become flowers and then fall away as spring becomes summer. The days shorten and leaves drop as summer becomes autumn. I change my walking time as dark pervades and autumn becomes winter. And a year later I’m watching those trees and bushes and groundcovers begin to bud and bloom once again.

I’ve logged mile after mile. But instead of seeing the same scenes days after day, I see new sights each time I head out. Don’t get me wrong–this pathway has become tedious, boring even. I’d much rather be somewhere else, exploring new vistas, hanging out with different people, seeing places I haven’t see before. But for now, this remains my scene.

This week I noticed that a neighbor has a structure that peeks out above their hedge. Maybe the structure had always been there–but this week I noticed that it is adorned with license plates. Utah, Hawaii, Massachusetts, California, Montana… Is this a license plate collection? A record of places lived? Cars owned? A lot bid on and won from an online auction? And what is the structure? A pergola? A shed? A chicken coop?

I don’t have the answers, but the wondering makes these somewhat boring walks a bit more interesting.

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!

Water Works: NPM20 Day 10

Will it ever stop raining? We have gone from impending drought here in Southern California to several inches over our rainfall average for the year. Today alone we may have gotten more rain than we often get in months!

The downside of the nonstop rain is that feeling of being cooped up in the house. We’ve had no real breaks in the rain today…so I finally decided I would walk, rain or not. I got into my raincoat, grabbed my (mostly neglected) umbrella and headed out. The skies opened up about halfway through my walk. I pulled up my hood and popped the umbrella and forged forward. The walk was just what I need…

So today I offer a water poem.

Water Works

In this place

where skies

are desert dry

and sapphire blue

water pours

rushing down streets

pooling on lawns

snails skate

down sidewalks

worms

rise up

birds duck and cover

and I walk

soaking up

sky tears

breathing in

water-saturated

air

fully submerged

in today’s

water works

®Douillard

SOLC Day 16: Appreciating Unexpected Gifts

In this upside down world where nothing feels normal, a walk on the beach feels like a treat. Hearing that others in our state are getting directions to “shelter in place” makes me feel like my open air walks may be a thing of the past very soon. I worry about going stir-crazy with no outlet for exploring the natural world!

I did get my beach walk in today…an extra long one since rain is expected later tonight. But my real treat came later…in the most unexpected way.

If you’ve followed my blog or Instagram (@kd0602) you might know that I’m pretty obsessed with egrets and herons. I’ve written about them here and here and here. Now that both my husband and I are working from home, every invitation to go outside the house is a welcome one. So when he asked if I wanted to walk down the street to check the mail, I jumped at the chance. We headed out–the skies were gray and the wind was kicking up in advance of the storm forecasted for tonight–walking down the hill on the sidewalk in the neighborhood. And we saw it…that distinctive shape, pure white, landing on the deck of a neighbor’s house. A great egret. Perched on the deck wall, we had a perfect view from afar.

I never see egrets in my neighborhood, but like on the beach, I crept closer feeling lucky my phone was in my pocket and not in the house. When photographing birds I know to take many shots, increasing my odds of a good photo. As it took flight, I continued to press the shutter…

and then follow it as it landed across the street near the park and our mailboxes. Unlike the snowy egrets I see on my beach walks, the great egret does not have bright yellow feet. But it does have a yellow beak where the snowy’s beak is black.

It seems a bit strange to have an egret visitor in the neighborhood today, but what an unexpected gift it was! I love getting close enough to see the texture of the feathers, especially as they were ruffled by the wind. On days and weeks like these, I’m learning to appreciate the little things…like a neighborhood visit by an egret.

SOLC Day 15: Light and Shadow

Gloomy weather makes this global crisis feel like a blanket of darkness, weighing heavily on our shoulders as we attempt to find some kind of normalcy with schools closed, work re-directed, and social distancing the new norm. I’m trying to keep a daily outdoor walk a regular feature of my day…so headed out this morning when the tide was low to walk on the beach.

The beach was a study in light and shadow today with dark clouds towering above the crashing waves. Slivers of sunlight transformed the wet sand into a mirror, reflecting images of the cliffs onto the shore.

As I walked today I remembered a tower of rocks I noticed yesterday–one that was knocked over (unintentionally) by a clumsy preteen just as I headed over to photograph it. My husband and I decided to recreate our own version of it today, balancing smaller rocks on a large rock pillar.

Finding the just right rocks was a challenge–one we were willing to undertake. He carefully stacked one atop another, checking for balance, noticing the flat spots, the round spots…looking for stability. I tried to talk him into standing one with a heart shape up on end…but it wasn’t happening today. We left it in the stack though and built on it with a few smaller pebbles.

As we left our tower of rocks, the sun peeked out, illuminating the water. Brilliant layers of turquoise were framed by the white froth of the waves below and the dark of the clouds above.

Light and shadow…and a bit of balance, somehow the beach is always a metaphor for life and its challenges. Fresh air, exercise, and my camera–the trifecta that keep me positive and ready for whatever curveballs life throws.

SOLC Day 12: A Break in the Rain

I’m fighting some kind of upper respiratory infection and the laryngitis that always seems to come with it. Luckily, I was able to work from home today (obviously not a teaching day for me!) and not even have to deal with commuting on a rare rainy day in southern California.

So I laid low, kept quiet, and got quite a bit of work done as the rain pattered its soothing rhythm on the roof tiles.

So when the light changed in my house this afternoon and I realized the sky had brightened and there was a break in the rain, I checked the weather app and then headed out to the beach for a much needed walk.

Sometimes I feel like I am solar powered, energized by blue skies and sunshine and depleted by days that are pervasively gray. I could feel my energy levels rise as I headed from the parking lot down to the shore. It felt so good to get outside in the fresh air. In spite of the rain, it wasn’t cold out…the conditions were perfect for a walk.

I love that the beach always surprises me. There were people like me, in jackets and tennies walking along the shore. There were those in jackets and bare feet, walking in the water or throwing rocks into the surf. There were the teenagers in bikinis, seemingly not experiencing the chill of water in the 50’s and air temps in the 60’s. And always, always, there are the surfers. Most wear wetsuits year round…and nothing ever seems to keep them out of the water.

And today’s treat was the cormorant. I’m always on the lookout for seabirds–seagulls are usual, but it’s tough to see seabirds close enough to photograph. I saw from a distance that there was a bird sitting on the tide pool outcropping. I had my camera ready and crept as close as I could without drenching my shoes or scaring the bird. I click and click, watching as the bird gets ready to launch. And I catch that shot…just at lift off!

Sometimes a break in the rain is just what you need.

SOLC: Headlong into the Storm

I’m not sure why I need an “official” challenge to keep up the daily writing, but whatever the reason…here is day one of my entry in the Slice of Life Challenge.  Thanks to those at Two Writing Teachers for offering this annual event.

After a week of above average temperatures, the weather suddenly turned yesterday afternoon.  The wind picked up, the clouds gathered, and meteorologists are predicting winter storms.  That actually means we have a chance of rain here by the coast and there are forecasts for snow in our local mountains!  And as much as I love the summer-like mild temps and the fact that I have been venturing into open-toed shoes in the last week, we really need the rain and snow!  Drought is unfortunately too common here–and drought means the likelihood of a fierce fire season.  And that is terrifying!

I’ve been trying to walk everyday, for both my physical and mental health.  My camera is my motivation…and the beach is my favorite location.  I wasn’t sure I would squeeze my walk in today–my husband isn’t too keen in walking in the wind–and I had resigned myself to a lazy Sunday catching up on some work that got neglected during an overly busy work week last week.  I didn’t even pick up my camera today.  But as we headed out to run a couple of errands and to grab a quick lunch, conversation turned to the possibility of a walk–and I wasn’t saying no!  My camera was at home–but my phone was in my pocket.

I love the moods of the beach.  The sky and surf, the birds and wind, the sand and rocks create an ever-changing kaleidoscope of views and conditions.  I pulled my hood up against the wind and set off down the beach.  The seagulls were swirling and squawking above me as the salty wind rushed against my face and sunglasses.  The waves chased me…teasing as the tide moved the shoreline away from the cliffs with an occasional push higher, threatening to drench my shoes.  The sun played hide-and-seek, dancing with the clouds, swinging out now and then to brighten the day.  I couldn’t resist a little game of chase with the ever-present seagulls…grabbing my phone to capture a photo or two of them in motion.

Can I maintain both a daily walk and a daily slice of writing through the entire month of March?  I’m going to try!

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