Growing Up…

…sometimes it takes a long time, some times it never ends. I have been on a continual quest to become an adult. It seems now that it has become a coming-of-old-age story.

I’ve been tidying-up around the bungalow and adding to my wonderings until it became a book. As writers often do, I wanted to put it all together, get it done, place it on a shelf. Here it is now, in e-book form. Hope you enjoy my story.

Walking with the Spring Bloom

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Central California hillside

Native Californians, like myself, grow up with a spring bloom every year. For most of the year, in fact, we can rely on blossoms of some sort. But wildflowers adore springtime, and that is when we go searching. Off into nature I trek, with my hubby in tow.

I had heard of an area east along Highway 58 that we could get to without a lengthy drive. Though I wanted to see the spring bloom, I wanted to spend my time walking among the luster of new flowers, not riding in a car.

Even the drive there was spectacular. We stopped along the way to do a small bit of exploring.

Eagle-eyed hubby spotted a golden eagle and then its nest. We waited close by, but neither our presence nor the noise of the crows in the next-door tree persuaded the eagle to reappear.

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Golden Eagle nest

We continued down the roadway. I’d not really thought out this day with detailed planning. ‘A spot east along Highway 58’ is truly as far as my itinerary got. I figured that somewhere along the way, the place would present itself, and we would find ourselves among the spring bloom.

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a short side-trip stroll

This is the landscape I grew up with. As a young girl in Sacramento, as a young woman near San Jose, and later in Bakersfield and Fresno, these rolling hills and oak trees were always with me. I want to say this landscape is the most beautiful on earth, but I think that’s my familiarity with the natural decor talking. Much of the year, these hills are dry and forlorn. Your skin will crack with exposure and your eyes will strain with glare from the sun. This territory is synonymous with my life, and I consider it wondrous.

As do so many others. East along Highway 58 in central California, we came across this sight:

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Our neighbors

With such a stampede of people, I guessed we had reached our destination. We parked, grabbed our hats and walked to discover the views. Of course, there were wildflowers. Common tidy tips, several varieties of lupine, fields of mustard and yarrow.

But there were also many, many people, like myself, who wanted to see the spring bloom before it faded. With packed lunches, multiple generations,  friends and families, they came. They carried babies, backpacks, cameras and umbrellas. Out in the middle of a land far from any sidewalk, there walked myself and a swarm of my neighbors.

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Spring Blooming with people

The views I wanted were there.

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You can almost smell the fresh

The views I hadn’t anticipated made me laugh. I’d thought to bring my hat and camera, but I hadn’t thought of picnic blankets, folding chairs and Frisbees for the dogs. I hadn’t thought to bring my dog, either. But others thought of all that and much more.

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More than I expected

What a complete surprise my wildflower walk became. Along a creek bed, me and my fellow county dwellers watched a torrent of polliwogs writhe in a springtime dance. We clamored up hillsides. We dodged cars.

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Love ’em

At the end of a walk in the middle of nowhere, with nearly half the population of my county, a fitting sign pulled my attention as we left.

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Very generous 🙂

There we were, hundreds of central Californians, on someone’s private property. I am going to believe in the generosity of the owners, because I couldn’t have avoided this. On our walk into the area, there had been too many people milling around to notice the sign. Thank you, residents of a place east on Highway 58.

 

Jo’s Monday walk

 

Walking, Weather or Not

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Rain or no rain?

Have you ever looked out the window and wondered if you should postpone taking a walk because of what you saw? Today, I was presented with two views out my window. One, sunny and brilliant, encouraged my feet. The other told me in complete certainty that I shouldn’t be stepping out the door. Then a rainbow spread over the sky, which against the dark clouds, made my confusion even more perplexing.

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Looking south
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Looking north

Of course, I went. And, of course, the weather went with me. Down to the beach, one side of the sky filled with brilliant sunshine and the other, a flip-side of dark threatening clouds. Threatening what, I wanted to ask myself? More rain would be a blessing, even after so much wet this winter. Sometimes threats are really just promises hiding in over-used expressions.

Still, this hope for rain didn’t make me wish for it right here and now. Would the rain wait until I finished my walk? Nature honestly doesn’t care about my dry feet, so I wasn’t sure at all. Even so, that didn’t make me turn around and head for safety.

But thinking that perhaps I should find a dry place to perch made me pause to admire the tenacity of the shore birds along the way. The night herons lined up diagonally along the wave line, facing the wind as the weather began changing from coolly invigorating to perhaps cold and rainy. They might change their behavior with the weather, but they don’t consider leaving as I do. Brave creatures, staying close to the tide and waiting out the drop in air temperature from 60 degrees F to 52. Living along this coast, where creatures (all of us) have discarded the notion of seasonal migration, is a funny reminder that we live in a bubble of weather bliss.

But there is still the threat of rain. Even when it is a temperate climate, getting wet is still getting wet, and something my socks don’t want to do. At one point in the walk, the sky literally split, with one side being blue and the other cloudy gray.img_8603

Had we had enough rain this season? Since we moved here, almost five years ago, my walks at home have been mostly dry drought walks. Tip-toeing through puddles this last month or two hasn’t yet gotten old. Not for me and my damp socks, nor for the glorious life springing up from a wet earth.

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blooms in late winter

Before the walk ended, that threat had come true. My glasses spotted-over with rain drops. I remembered how important hats were – having forgotten mine for the hundredth time. And I felt the dampness seeping into the sandals I am lucky enough to wear every day. Here I am, loving the rain in central California. More, please.img_8470-1

Join Restless Jo’s Monday Walks

 

Seal Walk

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We all live alongside so many wonderful creatures. In my little corner of this world, I can sometimes hear the bark of seals from my kitchen window. The sound reminds me that there are more important things to do than finish washing the dishes. The seals are calling me to come walk…

but they’re probably all just laying around, enjoying the soothing waters between each rise of the waves. Whether all together on a communal rock or on a solitary perch that lifts just one seal out of the water, it can seem as if all they do is relax. For hours and hours, you can be mesmerized by their inactivity.

But, I have seen herds of them flying through the water near whale-watching boats. Propelling themselves through the waves the way they do on the open sea makes me appreciate their need to recuperate when they come home to the rocks. Just thinking of their ocean frolic makes me yearn for a rest. So, if the seals are in sleep pose while I walk, it’s just their very own restorative yoga.

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The sounds the seals make is somehow compelling to human ears. Who can resist the arf-arf of seals clamoring for a better sleep position. They seem to amiably push aside one another in their effort of settling in for a snooze. Sometimes I wonder how these rugged rocks can be made comfortable, but look how many are settling in below. I leave it to the seals to pick the best spot for an afternoon’s nap.

img_5570 Certainly, I won’t argue that they have chosen well in picking this spot for home. The weather is usually calm, the scenery gorgeous.

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As long as the seals continue to call, I am happy to walk. Sunny day or overcast, they entertain in a way that is calming.

2017

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Out the bungalow’s door

May the walk you take every day in 2017 be your favorite walk.

 

Simple things are so often the very best. I wish you the best of simple things this new year. Many thanks for your companionship. Susan

 

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Happiness at home

Walking with Vultures

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very good vulture

When I was teaching, I would often ask students to classify nouns, adjectives and verbs. Thumbs up for a word that had a positive feel, thumbs down for the negative. Infrequently, there might pop up a word that was neutral, but – think about it – many words we use have a good/bad reputation. Vulture? Definitely negative.

But I keep encountering them in nature. They glide by me, sometimes far up in the sky, sometimes quite close, and I have decided that I can form my own opinion on their goodness. To me, they seem totally thumbs-up.

I look forward to walks with my vulture friends. Perhaps because I live where many creatures live (and die,) vultures entertain me each day on my afternoon walks. They have become my most reliable walking companions. I love to see the long spread of their wings as they hover over the sage. I had never known the effortless grace of their flight before my walks on the beach. They make me notice them with a persistent presence and a command of the salt-sprayed fog.

img_4968As I walk, they seem to play in the sky. And frolic on the land. Maybe they don’t see things that way, but as I have come to know these friends with feathers, I see their antics. Dipping and swaying with air currents I will never explore, they share with me their freedom. One came so close, I heard the push of a wing as the vulture coasted inches over a dune, just one more trick to make me wish I could be as playful in the air.

Beach weather can change fast, and even when the winds come up and blow the sand, I walk and the vultures glide. The spraying sand doesn’t seem to change their daily romp along the coastline. Nor mine.

They scavenge, but so do I. Maybe they pursue habits that many think of as grizzly, but can’t we just as easily thank them for keeping our trails and walkways clean? There’s a good side to picking at the bones of life, a sort of nature’s way to keep house.

Walking with nature can be surprising, but my walks with vultures have taught me lessons about what we must see and accept. I am grateful for their company, even when vultures are doing what comes naturally. My beachside walks have treated me with a new respect for the word Vulture. Thumbs all the way up.

 

 

Kiki’s Blog

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Home

My, my. You, my blogging friends, have been busy. I am just now beginning to sort through your wonderful posts, which have packed my reading list to over-flowing. Thank you for being such great and entertaining writers.

I am happily home for the moment, but my friend Kiki is out traveling. She just started a great blog that I would like to share with you.

Fun, adventure, laughter – what a great combination. Way to go, Kiki.

http://peekatkeek.wordpress.com/

Gone Writin’

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A manuscript I began last year is calling for me to complete it, and I find that blogging has to bow out when a book calls. But I am continuing to read your wonderful blogs, and want to thank you all for the goodness that your writing brings to my life.

Blog On – I’ll see you occasionally in your comment section 🙂

I wish you a peaceful season – Susan

Walking Helsinki, Finland

When I thought of Finland, prior to this trip, I imagined snow, cross-country skiing, dried fish and healthy living. That the citizens of this country are noted to be famously happy to live here was a notion I took with skepticism. It is a cold country for many months of the year. Cold, in my small (very small,) world view could not equate with happy.

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And then there was Helsinki. Maybe the people of Finland’s capital hide out for months in winter, but they were out with a vengeance while I visited, and I sensed it was not just for the sun. Bicycle riders, walkers, people making purchases at the outdoor markets, and more walkers still whizzed around me energized, it seemed, by the simple fact they lived here.

From the walking culture to the profusion of bicycles to the fresh food market, I felt healthy simply by being in Helsinki. So healthy that I allowed the decadent aroma from Ekberg Bakery call to me. With the obvious healthfulness of the city, certainly the bakeries would be worth a try. Rustic six-grain rye bread and an unpronounceable sweet tart let me prove that guess to be true.

There were impressive buildings in glorious squares. There were bustling city streets. And there was the public toilet I would like to nominate for best in the world. It was so clean that it gleams even in the photo. A feat of sanitation engineering, it cleans itself and tells you when it is safe to enter after the last user. To visitors, nothing says ‘welcome’ better than a fantastic public restroom.

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I hopped on the bus when I had walked so long I needed a rest, and saw the coastline of Helsinki in a series of parks.

Thank you, Helsinki for outdoing yourself on one summer day while I visited.

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Ever see a more pleasant tram?

Next up, St. Petersburg, Russia

Stop by Restless Jo’s Monday Walks for more…

Walking Tallinn, Estonia

img_3696Delightful, scenic. A day totally devoted to pleasant encounters, lovely strolls, and welcoming people. These are my impressions of Tallinn. Several residents along the way pointed us to the tall hill of the Historic Centre of town. They were like walking friendly maps and I didn’t mind at all being treated like a tourist. Especially because they were right – this is one tourist destination that visitors shouldn’t miss.

The stonework of the older structures and cobble of the streets are not glossy reproductions. They look time-worn and grizzled, used to the hard work of protecting centuries of people from uncertain times.

I walked up and down the hill, getting lost and then finding my way. I tracked up and down tiny walkways, in and out of the gathering spots and the tucked-away corners. Some of the cobbled stones were shiny and worn by footsteps over time, some – down the less-conspicuous roads – were rougher and unused to foot traffic.

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But the day was glorious with warmth and sun. So, I kept walking up and down, round and round this hillside of Estonian history.

At one point, I merged with a ceremonial walk around the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Out from the sanctuary burst a church-full of parishioners. Holy water, chants and songs accompanied the worshippers. They circumnavigated the entire church, then re-entered the sanctuary, following their Orthodox tradition.

What a wonderland I had walked into. Descending the Old Town Hill, I walked along the canal that separates the newer city from the old. Cars and buses raced by on my left, while on my right, medieval walls and centuries-old  buildings were framed in the sunlight. If I had a list of favorite walks, this would be one.

 

Stop by Restless Jo’s Monday Walks for more…