Tag Archives: walking

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.

osprey in flight

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?

osprey in the clouds

#whyiwrite: October 20, 2018

I should probably title this post, All the Reasons I Don’t Write, instead of using the National Day on Writing hashtag #whyiwrite.  But instead of enumerating a list of excuses, I will use this occasion as an opportunity to write.

I’ve established a regular walking practice.  I’ve learned to carry my walking shoes (and my flip flops) with me in my car, leaving me ready for unexpected opportunities–and no excuses for not walking because I don’t have the right shoes.  My camera is also a motivator for my walking–I love to take those daily photos and walking gets me to interesting locations where I find the fodder for my photography habit.

My writing practice fares better when I have an external expectation keeping me on track.  I wrote and posted daily during the month of April when my students and I took on a 30-day poetry challenge.  And I posted weekly photography challenges for years when the iAnthology was my audience.  So now, I know I need to create some reasons for establishing a regular writing practice–one that takes me beyond the more work-related writing that always happens–you know, the lesson plans, the emails, the proposals and reports.

So I will begin today with some thoughts about birds.  If you’ve visited here before, you have probably noticed my obsessions with egrets, including the post I wrote about the egret being my spirit animal.  But yesterday and today, it was a different kind of bird that was called to my attention.

Birds of prey are difficult to photograph–and even to get a close look at without a camera.  They tend to soar high above our heads, their sharp eyes on the lookout for prey.  Yesterday I spied a hawk perched on a sign along the beach-side cliff.  It sat, overseeing the beach and was not at all bothered by me approaching from below to photograph.  Somehow it seemed appropriate that the sign it was perched on said, “Pack Your Trash!”  While I’m not entirely sure, I’m thinking it’s either a red tailed hawk or a red shouldered hawk.  I thought at first it might have been an osprey–I’ve seen them before in this area, but this was clearly a hawk of some sort.


And today, not far from this same spot along the cliffside, I noticed a man looking intently high up on the cliff.  When I looked up, he drew my attention to the large bird of prey sitting on some bare branches above us.  I knew immediately that it was an osprey (I had done a bit of research when I got home yesterday).  He pointed out the fish beneath the bird, which he had been watching for a bit.  I stood under the branch, trying to capture a photo of this beautiful bird.  Other people came by, commenting on the beauty of this elegant sea eagle.

osprey lunch

I found myself thinking about this coincidence of spotting two birds of prey on my walks on two consecutive days.  When I watch egrets, I think of their patience, their calm and regal manner as they stand knee-deep in the ocean water.  They seem solitary–in great contrast to the seagulls and smaller shore birds that ofter hang out in groups, running with the tide.  When I think of birds of prey, I think of fierceness and independence.  They seem to take control of their environment, taking the long view of the resources below.  They are brutal and efficient, moving sharply as they take their prey, gripping firmly with sharp talons and sharper beaks.

Do I have something to learn from birds of prey right now?  Is this a call to be more decisive, to be more fierce and determined?  I know these beautiful birds have me thinking…and writing.

I know that I write to think, to better understand myself and the world around me.  I write to reflect and to express, to slow down and pay attention.  On this National Day on Writing I renew my commitment to daily writing…and to more frequent posting here.  How will you celebrate the National Day on Writing?  Why do you write?

Afternoon Walk: Day 24

I’m a pretty faithful beach walker, often logging miles several days a week out on the shore.  Today, I decided to take an urban walk, exploring a path not far from home.  The first half mile was a pretty steep climb–my device registered it as 19 floors!  I crossed a bridge and headed off a dirt pathway were I had views of the city below.

On my return trip I got the downhill portion of the walk and felt my heart in my throat when I nearly stepped on a snake!  But it did inspire today’s poem.

skinny snake

Skinny Snake


Late afternoon

as the sun heads west

is the perfect time

for a walk.


The birds chatted


with squirrels and lizards,

the whitewashed fence

a perfect porch.


Drought-stricken trees

strick a pose against

the baby blue April sky.


My feet carried me

across the miles

the dirt, the gravel, the leaves

back to the asphalt

where I crossed paths

with skinny snake,

also walking.


We froze

in our tracks

scared still

by the sight of the other

until the breeze whispered

and we parted ways.


Douillard 2018

bird on a fence

dead tree

And a few poems about poetry written by my students.  It’s such fun to watch their poetry skills grow over the course of the month!

Poetry is Many Things


Poetry is a magical treasure of words

in many different forms

hidden away in a jungle
where the birds sing their songs of inspiration

warming the spark in you that makes
you look at the poems in the clear diamonds on leaves.



I love when a line in a poem catches me by surprise…

Poetry Is

Poetry is ideas floating onto a blank piece of paper

and rivers of words rush onto a page.

Powerful words stick out

like a Ferris wheel at the crowded fair.

Onomatopoeia brings poems to life

and similes crash like waves in the ocean.

After all the commotion

a poem is born.


And when you can feel emotion…

Poetry Is

Poetry is like the last rays of sun on a sunset

it leaves with beauty and sadness at the same time

poetry is like a song that sings forever

and when you forget

it will always whisper back.


And one more…

Poetry is…

Poetry flows in my mind like the ocean

Softy and gentle like a breeze

Fragrant like a rose

paints a picture in my mind

When I hear poetry it sounds like nature

When I start a poem it tastes ripe and fresh

Poetry is a feeling in your heart


Enjoy your walk through some poetry today!





Weekly Photo Challenge: Ugly

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so they say. I would argue that if you look closely and with openness, there is beauty to be found all around us. I enjoy bringing cut flowers into my home, brightening up our living space with a bit of nature’s beauty. But these beauties don’t last long, their petals begin to dry and droop, reminding me of the finiteness of life. But I am also reminded that what some call ugly can also be beautiful. I spent some time trying to capture the beauty in the wilting sunflowers in a vase on my dining room table. With the afternoon sun shining on them, I couldn’t help but pay attention to the deep colors and dry curly edges.  There is something beautiful about this ugly.


Beach walks are spectacular this time of year.  It’s still cool and the crowds are small.  I noticed this balloon at the water’s edge from a distance, and upon closer look, I could tell it was once a baseball balloon, likely for a child’s party.  There’s nothing beautiful about plastics in our ocean, but there is beauty to be found in this #litterati photo documenting this trash (which I picked up and disposed of properly).


Recess duty gives me the opportunity to watch students playing on the playground and to observe my surroundings.  Not long ago white roses were in bloom on these bushes that are near the play structure.  But on Thursday, I noticed the blooms were gone, but the empty stems remained.  Ugly at first glance, but interesting when you get a bit closer.


These strange little spiky balls hang from trees not far from the house.  I think the tree is a type of maple and I assume these balls are seed pods.  I often find them on the ground, so it was fun to look up and see them hanging from the tree.


Our higher than normal rainfall this winter resulted in a spectacular wildflower bloom.  But now that the rain is gone and the weather is warming, they are starting to dry out and lose that springtime beauty.  A walk near the train tracks had me shooting the dying blooms with the Self Realization Fellowship (we call it and the neighboring beach, Swamis) in the background.


A long weekend watching our twin grandsons is a pure treat!  (Who can resist the sweet faces and activities of 15 month old boys!?!)  It also offers opportunities for new sights!  This old house is visible from a walking trail not far from modern suburban homes…it seems so out of place here!  I would expect to find it in a much more rural area.


And they grow their weeds large here!  I started to notice dandelion puffballs about the size of my fist!  I couldn’t get close enough for a great photo of the ball, but I think you can get an idea of the size from the remaining husk.


So, this is your week to take a look at ugly and figure out what makes it interesting (or beautiful) to you.  You might find your inspiration in nature, in your home, or out and about in your community.  Maybe it will inspire some action (as in the #litterati example), or at the least raise your awareness about what is around you.

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #ugly for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Head out with your camera…and snap those bits of ugly.  What interesting photos will you find to share with us?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lines

As I fly through the air, heading back home, I imagine all of those Southwest Airlines lines crisscrossing the US map. I know I am on one of the routes, detouring south into Texas, before landing me at home in a few hours.

With lines on my mind, my array of photos taken while in Washington, DC also revealed lines. It’s impossible to miss the razor sharp edges of the Washington Monument rising into the deep blue sky. The iconic lines remind me that this is a place filled with history—both proud and shameful—and the seat of our nation’s government.


It was exciting to be walking the floors of the Senate and the House of Representatives on Thursday amidst the scurry and hustle of the impending health care vote. We found ourselves greeted graciously by most of our local representatives’ aides, interested to hear about the work we do at our writing project to support local teachers and kids. Stairs and hallways curve and extend, a maze of lines leading (hopefully) to legislation that improves lives.


The Capitol building, finally without its parallel lines of scaffolding, represents the government at work—and that we, as constituents, must exercise our democratic rights and let those who represent us know what we need and want from our government.


When I travel, I find it hard not to cram every spare minute with outings. So after a long day on the hill, we headed out to the tidal basin in search of cherry blossoms. The day was cool and crisp, but sunny. Perfect for our long walk. I admire the resilience of these delicate buds. The snow and cold slowed them down last week—and there was evidence of some damage here and there, but for the most part, the trees were dressed in their best pinks and whites. The lines of the branches create an interesting view of the columns of the Jefferson Monument right across the basin.


The long walk back brought us through the Mall and the busloads of kids from all over heading to museums in their matching sweatshirts. Lines of silver sent us on a detour into a sculpture garden where those lines led to a silver tree reaching crooked branches into the sky.


And had us contemplate this pyramid like piece that seems flat on one side, but on the other side the shadows created lines of light and dark giving the structure texture and dimension.


A break between meetings the next day sent us scurrying in search of the organic lines of a giant blue chicken. Lucky for us, the National Gallery of Art is an easy walk from the hotel where we stayed…and we spied the chicken from the street. It almost feels criminal to spend only a short time in a huge museum…but the chicken was enough for me. Why does someone sculpt a giant blue chicken? Maybe in the words of my friend’s refrigerator magnet,

“I look forward to the day when a chicken can cross the road without having her motives questioned.”

e3bcca14-be4a-4cb9-844e-4dded5b32ec2A quick trip to the gift shop led us to sparkling lights beckoning to the other National Gallery of Art building. We had no time for visiting, but we did ride the straight lines of the moving sidewalk as I took photos of the lines of lights twinkling all around.


So, where have lines led you this week? A children’s book in the museum reminded me that lines are straight and curved, thick and thin, parallel and intersecting… (I might need to buy this one for my grandsons!) It also had me thinking about all the different ways I might consider lines, from those carefully planned in architecture to those organic lines that bend with the wind and curve toward the sun.

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #lines for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Uncover the lines in your life this week, what will you find?

Over My Shoulder

It’s there, a constant, even when I can’t see it, hanging out over my shoulder.  It follows me around as it changes form, exerts its influences on the tides, and even becomes invisible.

As our students learn more about the solar system and space, I realize how little I really know about these things myself.  Of course I know the names of the planets and some basic information about them.  I know that the sun is our star and that our solar system is heliocentric.  I know that scientists continually update their own understandings about space and its celestial inhabitants…that Pluto has been demoted and a new solar system was recently discovered.

But honestly, it’s the moon that fascinated me.  I love that it appears large and low, orange like a pumpkin at some times of the year.  I’m fascinated by that Cheshire cat smile that greets me on a dark, clear night. And I can’t resist those slender crescents that seem to wink into view in the warm, short nights of summer.  I constantly wonder at its presence during the day…and today was one such day.

I looked up during my walk this afternoon, the sky was particularly blue as the sun shone brightly.  This is really the first warm day we’ve had in a while.  Tucked under the large palm, there it sat…not as bright as in the dark of night, but noticeable all the same.


I’ve struggled to photograph the moon effectively at night, but during the day, I’ve had a bit more luck.  But that doesn’t mean I will stop trying to take a portrait of this friend of mine.  I like knowing the moon is right over my shoulder, a constant companion I can depend on, even when I can’t see it and even when I can’t photograph it.  It’s there, and that’s enough.




We do it every day in lots of ways.  In the line at the grocery store or as the barista prepares that perfect latte.  In the dentist’s office or in that line of cars on the metered freeway onramp.  For the ladies room during that oh-so-short recess break or that important phone call you were expecting half an hour ago.  Waiting…

As I walked the beach the other day I noticed a bunch of surfers out on their boards on the waves…waiting.  Or were they?  Does it only count as waiting if it feels like time is slipping away?  That you could be doing something more important or more productive (or more fun)?  As I’ve watched surfers over the years, I notice that surfing involves spending quite a bit of time sitting on the board, watching the waves develop, visiting with other surfers, perhaps even enjoying the sun (or rain or fog or even cold) in the time between actually paddling into a wave and standing up.  Do surfers see that time as waiting?


When I know I am going to wait, I come prepared.  I carry my book or some work I need to get done, I pull out my phone, flip through social media, news, photos.  If it’s a long wait–like an airplane ride, I bring an assortment of activities and hope for access to a movie or TV shows to help pass the time.  The worst waiting for me is the kind of waiting when you can’t do anything but wait–like sitting in rush hour traffic.  My only options then are to listen to the radio or maybe squeeze in a phone call (hands free, of course!).  But sometimes, waiting leaves you with only you to spend time with.  Time for thinking and reflection…alone with your own thoughts.

So maybe waiting is about your frame of mind.  When it is part of an activity you enjoy–like surfing, waiting isn’t waiting, it’s just what you do.  So what about those lines at the grocery store? Can we make them more enjoyable, time spent in thought, perusing tabloid papers, visiting with the stranger in line in front or behind you?  Maybe we need names for the different kinds of waiting–like the names for snow in those really cold places–to express the nuanced differences between them.  I’ll be thinking about that as I sit in traffic tomorrow…