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

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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

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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.

 

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Walking Botanical Gardens

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I’m taking a break from the Nordic cruise, which we took in the early spring. Here’s what the Central Coast of California is looking like lately.

I’d passed by the San Luis Obispo County Botanical Garden in El Chorro Regional Park several times a week for the past 4 and 1/2 years. The hillsides this time of year are dry and golden, the oak trees giving plenty of shade. It was past time to take a walk in the garden, to try to identify those pesky volunteer plants that survive my gardener’s neglect. It was a quick 6 mile drive inland from the coast. Off came the sweatshirt, on went the sun hat.

Entering through a cheerful purple bridge over a dry creek bed, the buzz of the bees and the stone steps pulled me into the garden. Even in this late season, after the driest year I remember, there were flowers that lingered.

Plants were labeled, so I began my study, searching out species I’d seen but couldn’t name and verifying names I thought I knew. These botanical gardens are so helpful – I love their handy identification tags and descriptions. I walked around clucking with surprise at names I would never have guessed (propeller plant?) and humming with agreement at the more familiar (so many types of aloe!)

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California Fuchsia
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PomPom
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Strawberry Bush

All the species are adapted to the dry California climate. Like these:IMG_6276

And some blossoming plants served a higher purpose, helping a special little creature steal the show…

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almost camouflaged

…and keep stealing the show…

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again and again.

One of my favorites, an aloe plant, surprised me. This one was huge and stood up from the ground, showing me a new variation on my old favorite.

 

On the way out from the garden, I came across the peskiest plant in my yard, one that keeps finding new places to sprout. Now, instead of inventing bad names, I know what to call it.IMG_6319

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Next up: more of the Nordic cruise

Walking Stockholm, Sweden

IMG_4196Stockholm was one of those ports on this cruise where we docked a good distance from the city. There was a small town near our tether, and usually small towns please me greatly. But this day, I took my walk in Sweden’s capital city.

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All sorts of transport

Not only was the city in the midst of Eurovision fever, but it was commemorating World War II with military marching bands, flags, crowds and camouflaged gun boats.  Whatever my stereotyped idea about Stockholm, a songfest and a military parade with all the fixings awaited.

IMG_4125Crowds gathered as we reached the city center, then dispersed rapidly at the end of the festivities. It was impressive that battalion after battalion after marching band gathered at the palace, along with all the resulting onlookers, then seemed to dissolve into the city’s hustle-bustle like any normal day.

I enjoyed the narrow streets, the aging buildings and the festive feeling of Gamla Stan, the old town.

The central city park was packed with people enjoying the outdoor cafes. The Kungstradgarden Park is essentially a long strip of grass and garden at the end of which is a fabulous shopping arena.

Though it was hot during my visit, Copenhagen has months of cold weather, and has planned accordingly. An indoor shopping center, NK Stockholm, just off the park will astound any traveler and would offer warmth and comfort in winter. At least four stories of shops run one into the other, like a never-ending combined Target-Costco-Trader Joe’s (for those of you from the USA). I ran out of shopping tolerance long before I’d explored all the offerings. I could have easily gotten lost inside. If I ever had to spend a winter in Stockholm, NK Stockholm is where you would find me.

IMG_4159Exploring the downtown area’s water passages and walking streets filled my afternoon. Taking a 45-minute bus ride back to the ship turned out to be a good idea. It’s the perfect amount of time for a nap.

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Next up: a little break from the Baltics as we get caught up with the botanical scene in California’s Central Coast

 

 

Stop by Restless Jo’s Monday Walks for more…