Tag Archives: walking

#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…


Weekly Photo Challenge: Natural

One of the things I love most about heading out into the world with my camera is the power it has to help me pay attention to the beauty and the details around me.  It’s been wet around here this week–rainy again. As I pulled into a parking place at the university this week, I noticed the leaf debris on the ground as a result of all that rain and was drawn to the natural beauty of the eucalyptus leaves.  It was a welcome relief after the hassle of trying to find a parking place!


As the storm moved out, the moon became visible winking above the clouds.  I stopped on my way home to find a place high enough to look above the buildings and houses to capture the moon in all its natural brilliance.  I was particularly drawn the blues and greens in this shot looking east.


The moon reminded me that I was also likely to find some low tides–and I was rewarded as I headed to the beach for an afternoon walk.  But, while the weather report promised a warming trend, the beach areas were shrouded in fog.  (We could watch it wafting in around ten in the morning from the classroom!)  But there is something peaceful about walking wrapped in clouds, visibility limited, breathing in the benefits of the damp natural air.  It’s like walking in a black and white film, with everything in shades of gray.


And even as I walked, I could feel the sun penetrating the thick blanket of fog, creating a natural shine reflecting on the water.  The low tide reveals so many interesting rock formations–the beach is new each time I walk!


As I walked again after work yesterday (such a great way to end the work week!), I noticed this sea plant tossed up onto the rocks.  Up close the fog doesn’t wash the colors away–you can see the bright red of the plant against the multi-colored sea rocks…a natural still life!


I’ve been seeing a great white egret over the last couple of weeks.  Yesterday, I spied a distinctive white bird in a different part of my walk.  I stepped carefully across the natural carpet of algae to get close.  I noticed that this white bird was different.  Instead of a yellow beak–this one was black…and its feet were bright yellow!  A little research led me to its name–a snowy egret!  It let me get quite close and snap some shots before it flew off to another part of the beach.


So, head out with your camera and let what’s natural guide your lens.  Of course, you get to decide on the definition and parameters of natural for yourself!

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 #natural for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

What will you find when you focus your lens on the natural?  I look forward to seeing what you find.




It’s so easy to break a good habit, even after it has been well established. When I started this blog, I wrote daily for months on end.  Of course, I did it because I knew if I stopped (and I was afraid to stop for even one day), I would have a hard time getting back on track.

I guess I was right.

This week, my friend and colleague Kevin posted a prompt on the NWP iAnthology, inviting some short-form writing in the form of Haiku, 3 line poems, for the purpose of healing the spirit.  #haikuforhealing is a hashtag where people are sharing these poems meant to raise spirits.  I noticed Kevin writing them in December, making posters of them with inspirational images as their backdrop.  I enjoyed them…and thought about writing some of my own.

So when the prompt came up on Saturday, I decided to try my hand at it. I started with a photo I had taken and posted on Instagram.  I imported it into Canva and added my words. My first #haikuforhealing was born.


On Sunday my schedule didn’t allow for a long photo-taking walk. Instead, I snapped a shot of the moon through the trees in the Trader Joe’s parking lot.  I messed with it a bit in prisma, amping up the color. Hmmm…a Haiku about the moon?  I could do that.


It rained quite a bit on Monday, but it had stopped by the time I left work. Knowing rain was in the forecast later in the week, I decided to take a walk on the beach on the way home.  The clouds were sitting low, hugging the horizon, as the sun tried its best to peek through.  Inspiration for another #haikuforhealing?  Why not?


Should I go for four days in a row?  One of the things I love about living near the coast is the proximity to the trains. I hear them as I walk on the beach, I hear them as I teach, and they frequently hold me up at intersections as the guards lower, the lights flash, and the train barrels past.Today I was walking toward my car when the rail guards dropped, giving me just enough time to snap a few shots…and think about a Haiku…


I don’t know if I have re-established a habit of daily writing, but I am four days into daily #haikuforhealing writing.  I’m enjoying it.  I like creating the poster with my photograph and words…and sharing it on Twitter (@kd062) makes me feel accountable (at least to myself).

Join in the healing, let Haiku shift your perspective and help you find inspiration, beauty, meaning…  And if you have other ideas to keep the daily writing fresh and doable, I’d love to hear about them!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Down to the Ground

This week’s challenge intersects with #digiwrimo, popping up with leadership from #clmooc-ers, encouraging some collaborative digital play.  Last year we created a collaborative photo album called Our Eyes on the Skywhich turned out to be a world tour through skies.  To switch it up this year, the theme is Down to the Ground and we’re hoping to create another around the world tour!

With the ground theme in mind, I have also had my eyes to the ground. The tide has been low this week–right after school, so I have had walking opportunities before heading home.  With the tide way out, nature’s textures become evident, rippling the sand as the water pools around it.


Walking at low tide means that rocks and shells are revealed…and my favorite, tiny pieces of tumbled glass.  I have found many treasures this week by keeping my eyes to the ground.  Here’s my haul from Wednesday.


Even though dogs are not allowed on the beach, at this time of year it’s not unusual to see a dog or two.  (I guess the rules are less stringent in the off season)  I noticed these paw prints as I walked the other day.


I love the light as the sun is setting, and yesterday was no exception.  I caught this golden glow with a solitary seagull silhouetted as the sun sunk into the sea.  I love the sense of stillness and solitude that comes with walks on the beach–especially in the off season in the early evening. It is really the perfect antidote to everyday stresses.


Today as I walked, I noticed the seagulls gathered, basking in the warmth of the setting sun.  As people walked near, they began to fly–high enough to feel safe, but not high at all.  They simply skimmed the ground, flying less than a foot from the surface of the sand. I always love when I can catch the wings in a perfect flying formation (and the shadow is a bonus!).


And believe it or not, I don’t spend my life at the beach.  I spend most of every day in my classroom surrounded by children.  In preparation for a field trip next week, we headed to our school library to practice taking inspiration from our surroundings…and the words we found on book spines.  I found this student sprawled on the ground, focused on writing, inspired by her surroundings!  I can’t wait to head off to the Children’s Museum to see how play and art will inspire our students’ writing!


My grandsons (can you believe they are 9 months old already?) will arrive at my house right after Christmas…I can’t wait!  In preparation (and because the car can’t hold all the equipment the twins will need), baby things are arriving.  Phil and Jack (our cats) moved right into this huge box that held a couple of pack and plays.


So, this is your week to get down the ground and explore those things that are low and close to the earth (or the floor).  You are welcome to share in the usual ways…and feel free to add your image to our collaborative photo album (you can find the link above).

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 #downtotheground for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.


So look down…and all around.  What will you find when your eyes are down to the ground?


I’ve been out walking this week.  Not in exotic locales or even for exercise (although I know I should), but just to walk.  And as I walk on the well worn paths, places where my bare feet already know the way and the waves toss rocks until they are smooth and round, my thoughts wander and the muscles in my shoulders relax.

There is something indefinable that happens when my feet move, my arms swing, the wind brushes my hair away from my face, and the sun warms my shoulders. This movement–not aimed at getting me from one place to another or to raise my heart rate–engages my body and lets my brain disconnect from the worries and demands of everyday life. I start to notice details of the world around me, details that I miss when I’m focused on getting there for a meeting or staying here to complete this paperwork.

Today I noticed all the children on the beach who are attending camps: volleyball camps, surf camps, and the local staple–junior lifeguards. I found myself thinking about the job opportunities for young people that are available because of those camps as I watched young adults (or almost adults) mentoring younger children.  I also wondered about the kids who don’t have access to these camps and who may not see this public beach as their place. What does summer look like for kids whose parents can’t afford camps like these or who don’t have the luxury of dropping their kids off at 9 and picking them up at noon?


And I thought about privilege as I looked up at the sea cliffs above this magnificent beach where I walk.  Perched at the top are multimillion dollar homes with expanses of windows facing the sea. If you look closely, you’ll notice the stairs criss-crossing the cliff face.  Exclusive access to the public beach below.  I am grateful that the beach is public, regardless of who lives on the cliff above.


There were lots of seabirds today.  The seagulls are regulars, they hang out at the beach all the time. (I’ve written about them a lot, see this post.) Feeling a shadow overhead, I looked up to see graceful pelicans flying in formation.  My husband calls them bombardiers, they remind him of our military aircraft in precision flight.  These birds are huge, but in flight they are agile and delicate. At one point I looked up and caught sight of a white and gray bird overhead.  It took me a moment to realize that this bird was not a seagull.  It was an osprey–also known as a sea eagle, with a whole fish in its talons, racing through the sky.  I was riveted watching this elegant bird of prey, feeling fortunate that I had the opportunity to see it in action.  I didn’t snap a photo, but I did enjoy the moment.  And there are my friends–the sandpipers.  I love their curved bills and high pitched whistles. They’re a bit shy and wary, making me appreciate them even more.


I walked for miles.  And like this post, my thoughts meandered, pausing on a bird, on a child squealing with delight, on a surfer shredding through the break of the wave. The cool water contrasted with the warmth of the sun on my cheeks just like my observations of the seabirds contrasted with my awareness of issues of privilege and access present on this beach that I love. And even though I don’t have any ready answers, I left the beach with a clear head and sandy feet, refreshed and renewed ready to tackle whatever life throws my way.

I wonder what tomorrow’s walk will bring?