Tag Archives: walking

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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Change in View: #writeout

I walked out of school with the sun shining brightly on my shoulders.  I peeled my lightweight jacket off before getting into the car to head down the hill toward the beach for my after school walk.

In the less than two miles from school to the beach, the sun dimmed, shuttered by a thick veil of fog.  Palm trees became shadowy pillars as I steered toward the beach parking lot. As I walked down the long steep ramp to the sandy beach, it was like walking into another world. Colors were swallowed by the damp blanket, the view disappeared,  I could see only 20 or 30 yards in front of me.

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My mind filled with stories, the stuff of Halloween and horror movies.  What was around the corner? What evil might that shadowy figure in front of me bring? What about the sea itself, was the tide actually as low as I expected?

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Luckily, my feet know this beach.  They followed the path worn by my frequent walks, recognizing the curve of the beach, the squish of the sand under my soles.  Familiar birds whistled hello, giant kelp caressed my toes and a huge piece of bull kelp appeared from the shadows.

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As I neared the end of my walk, a crowd of children appeared from the mist.  And with them, the bubble man, the pied piper of the beach, casting a spell with his magic wand.  The thick mist didn’t dampen their spirits, instead the dampness of the air helped them catch bubbles–holding them in their hands and allowing them to slip into the bubble tunnels the bubble man created.

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Stories continue to swirl, wrapping me in their damp, shadowy chapters.  My imagination is already hard at work, making connections, creating movies in my mind.  I can only hope they don’t become the stuff of nightmares as I drift off to sleep.

 

 

 

What Would You Hold?

During our first Make Cycle of the  SDAWP Invitational Summer Institute, we are each answering the question, “What would you hold?”  The make requires that we represent the answer to that questions with a photo of something precious held in our hands.

After too much thought and second guessing, here is my photo.

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I’m sure that a photo of me holding my camera isn’t surprising to many of you.  But I want to press beyond the camera as a tool to make pretty pictures.  It isn’t the camera itself that is precious.  In fact, sometimes it isn’t even my camera that I use for photography…sometimes my phone works just as well (or even better).  But the camera represents a practice that I value.  Taking photos encourages me to slow down, to pay attention, to notice the value and beauty in the ordinary…and it gets me writing.

I try to get out with my camera every day: walking, breathing deeply, letting my thoughts roam.  With my feet moving and under the influence of fresh air, I can let my worries float away and use my senses to tune into the world outside of my head.  I seldom take photos of people, instead I try to capture moments that capture my attention.  (The exception would be the many photos I take of my grandsons–none of which I post on social media to protect their privacy.)  I often find that the photos I take become metaphors to express ideas I am thinking about.

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With my camera I get low, checking out the vantage from the bug’s perspective.  I find myself thinking about times when teaching and mothering and living feels like pushing the world up a very steep hill.  Images of mythology fill my head and the strains and stresses of the day unkink, letting those tight muscles that run across my shoulders begin to relax.

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Out on the playground with my students I get to bring my passions to my students.  Photography also helps my students look in new ways, and like it does for me, that looking generates ideas and language for writing.  This photo was an example of looking for natural frames for photos–a composition technique I wanted my students to explore.

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With camera in hand, I learn…and sometimes I mourn.  Regular walks on the beach bring the realities of environmental damage front and center.  I see the daily human impact, the excesses of our disposable lifestyle, and get up close and personal with death and destruction. I am forced to pay attention to the lessons nature is teaching and encouraged to learn more as I walk with the rhythms of the tides and the seasons, appreciating the beauty and noticing the destruction.

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And I see the power of small children making a difference.  Little efforts, like teaching students to compost their leftovers from lunch will help them make the world a better place. (My students thought this photo was gross–but when I explained what it represented to me, they found it more interesting.)

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My camera also lets me celebrate life’s pleasures and express my gratitude.  My husband is an amazing cook and nurturer.  Some days result in food that doubles as works of art!

Mostly, though my camera helps me make space in my life.  Space for observation, space for an exploration of the senses, space for listening and learning, and space for making and creativity.  It gets me outside and keeps me moving.  It helps me connect with others–in person and online.  It reminds me to play, to take action, and to appreciate all that life has to offer.

 

A Rainy Day Walk: SOLC 2019 Day 6

 

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After the school day ended

and my flock of third graders scurried out the door

taking flight

to this activity and that

I alight on my usual perch

and descend

to the beach

for my rainy day walk

Raindrops and salty sea mist

run rivers down my face

as I breathe in and out

matching inhales with strides

dodging (sometimes unsuccessfully)

pools of sea water

Further down the beach

I find another flock

and they squawk welcome

then like my third graders

scurry and stretch their wings

flying into a rainy afternoon

©Kim Douillard

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In Search of Light: SOLC Day 3

I heard the warning on the morning news show, yesterday’s rains caused urban runoff and increased bacteria count in our ocean waters.  Stay out of the water.  We still headed off to the beach for a low tide walk…in our tennies.

The clouds were heavier than I expected with no rain in today’s forecast–and much darker too.  We actually felt misty drizzle as we first got into the car.  But the beach was beautiful: low tides, gentle breezes, and yes, some people in the water!  Beach people are interesting and they come in all forms.  There are walkers and beach combers like Geoff, scanning the shore for bits of glass and interesting marine tidbits and picking up the many plastics that litter the beach.  There are surfers who seem to never heed warnings about the water.  And there are swimmers and waders, teenaged football throwers, the guy with the metal detector, the fishers knee deep in the waves as they cast.  But for me, my eyes search the beach for that perfect picture.

Gray skies make photo taking more challenging.  Colors fade away, making things look flat.  I’m no expert with camera settings, so I depend on my own framing and the serendipity of light and shadow to create interesting images.  I try to pay attention to changes in light…and always find myself drawn to shore birds.

As I wandered down the beach,  I spied a whimbrel (I think) out for a snack.  I crept close, snapping photos as I went.  But I also took a few long shots, noticing a break in the clouds and the white of the foamy wave tops creating a bright spot as a backdrop for the bird. Experts might call my photo overexposed, but there is something I like about this burst of light and the tiny bird visible in the expanse of the wide open beach.

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Gray skies and high bacteria count didn’t keep me home and it certainly didn’t keep this little guy out of the water!  I got to stretch my legs and my camera skills to snap at least a few photos that were interesting.  And I got to enjoy the beach along with all the other beach people today.

On the Ground and in the Air

For most the year I walk on the beach in bare feet.  Calloused skin against the warm sand and cool water, alerting my senses from the bottom up.  My feet feel the changing contours of the reef, sometimes sinking deep into soft sand, conjuring quicksand, shifting my balance, reminding me to pay attention.  Other times I carefully pick my way across piles of stones, some smooth and rounded while others pick and poke at the soft skin of my arches, pulling my attention downward where I notice shells, seaweed, and bits of colored glass glinting in the sun. Walking barefoot on the beach grounds me, literally pulling me to the ground, my feet a conduit between the earth and the sky.

And the sky calls me to look upward.  Shadows catch my eye as birds fly overhead, wheeling and gliding, soaring and floating.  I’ve learned to recognize the calls of seagulls and terns…and more recently the voice of ospreys.  Today, with my feet firmly on the wet sand, ospreys played above me.  These magnificent birds are fast, large and graceful…and today a pair seemed to be engaged in an intricate dance.  Watching this performance in the sky, I noticed two more osprey on the periphery.

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In the last week I have seen six ospreys and a hawk (you can read about my earlier sightings here).  So why have these powerful birds of prey become so prominent in my life?  The more I read about osprey–both as a bird and as a spirit animal, I am starting to see some messages coming my way.  Here is a small sampling:

In this case the osprey symbolism is asking you if you are feeling a little out of your comfort zone. In other words, the changes in you and around you have been a bit overwhelming of late. Thus osprey meaning is here to let you know that you can put your head under the emotional water and still survive. Stop worrying about what other people think. Like the lizard, it’s only your ego that thinks they will notice anything in the first place.

Alternatively, osprey symbolism may be reminding you to appreciate other peoples boundaries. Also, in doing so, make sure your boundaries are clear enough so that others can respect you. This bird also connects you to all aspects of Solar Worship. Therefore it’s appearance in your life emphasizes the value and healing power of the sun.

The hawk is also a close relative of this bird of prey, and in this association, these two birds share the job of being a messenger. Thus, this raptor also warns you to stay alert because crucial information is pending.

So, as I stay grounded with my bare feet on the wet sand, I will also push forward, taking some risks and staying open and alert to new information.  And in the meantime, I am reveling in these new-found friends, enjoying their beauty and fierceness, their fidelity (they mate for life) and clear vision.  What messages have been coming your way lately?  And who is the messenger?

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