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
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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…

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…

Walking Oslo, Norway

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Some of you may remember that I, a girl born and raised in California, spent a year in Ukraine. It is a lovely country with wonderful people, but it is cold in winter, and winter is very long. It’s the kind of cold that Californians like me simply do not understand and seldom can tolerate. I certainly had my fill of cold after one year and was quite happy to go home.  And now, I visit Oslo.

It is often cold in Oslo, and was during our visit. One thing that surprised me about this city was the abundance of nude statues. I’d heard of the very famous ones in The Vigeland Park.

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Circle of friends
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The Monolith

But others were in evidence all around the city. Every time I saw a nude statue, I thought, “Burrr. Someone put a coat on them. A scarf. Mittens. A cap with ear flaps.”

There is something about cold climates that make me very one-minded. I was glad to see the many sights of Oslo. The downtown square is beautiful and the walk to the park is invigorating. There are nice places to shop. I bought fleece-lined slippers.

There are many lovely neighborhoods,

and walking streets to enjoy, as long as you have the proper outer wear.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that as happy as I was to be in Oslo, I was just a bit happier when we left.

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This is me in Oslo. Do you see the ear muffs? I wore triple layers everywhere. The hood went right back over my head after the photo. Next up, St. Petersburg.

The passage to Oslo, Norway

img_3414So, all I did on this part of the journey was walk around the ship.

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But what a beautiful walk it was.

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Many ships were tagging along, as ours was following others ahead. A popular route into Oslo, no doubt.

I spent hours on the deck, as the ship slowly passed the sheltered bays and the isolated towns.

Buildings along the seaway varied from quite old to colorful to ultra-modern.

Some towns were accessible only by water craft. Others were linked to Oslo by a long winding highway. On a busy trip with a packed itinerary, it was pleasant to just sit and watch the peacefulness pass by.

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Next up, Oslo Norway. Put your coat on now.