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Flying away

I can’t believe this is the last night.

The last night to sit here at this computer and tell you stories about the day’s outdoor adventures. 

How quickly a year passes!

One minute you’re dancing around a bonfire mouthing the words “I’m going to go outside every day for 365 days and write a blog every day about what happens!” and the next minute you’re sitting weepy-eyed at your computer thinking back on the entire year.

I don’t even know how to adequately wrap it up into a nice little package.  How to end it.  How to thank all of you readers enough.  I don’t even know how I’m going to get up tomorrow and not have one to three hours of outdoor commitment and blogging.  It’s going to be a new doorway, a new chapter in life.  And it’s hard…because this chapter has been so precious.

Immature bald eagle on our road yesterday

A friend asked: What did you learn this year?  How has your outdoor commitment changed you?

This is a hard question to answer.  I will try my best to answer it here.

I learned that succeeding in a commitment involves something stronger than one’s thoughts and feelings.  Our thoughts and feelings are like weather.  One minute we want to do something; the next minute we don’t.  If we want to succeed in a commitment, we must follow something deeper and stronger than our surface thoughts and emotions.  In my case, I challenged myself  to go outside everyday.  Since that wasn’t the easiest or more natural path (although during the warm months I already probably went outside as much or more than most people) I linked it to something I loved–blogging.  When you want to change a behavior, connect it to something you love.  It will help you. Also, for me, publically announcing this intent proved paramount.  There was no way I could go back on my commitment after all you folks knew about it!

Little waterfall near the Eagle Pond

I learned how to see better this year through the lens of the camera.  To capture the miracles of nature, to see deeper, to view wider vistas.  The camera has become a second eye, always sweeping the landscape, always searching for new and interesting sights.  Before this year, I belittled the camera.  (Oh, shame, Kathy!) Belittled folks who would spend hours hidden behind the camera lens instead of experiencing the world directly.  (Beware what you scorn!  You, too, may be soon be in the same position.)  I am wondering what this next week will bring.  Will I drop the camera, forget about it, return to pre-photography days?  Or will it stay a second eye, a second skin, another way of viewing the world?

The Huron Bay through leaves

The two biggest challenges proved:  1)  going outside and staying outside when I didn’t want to be outside and 2) relaxing enough to be confident that there would be something to write about each evening.   My husband writes a weekly column for the local newspaper.  He struggles to come up with enough inspiration to write something every week; he said he can’t imagine how one could write something every day for a year.  It WAS challenging.  But, funny thing, something always presented itself.  Something always came forth.  So often I would empty my mind and sit at the computer and simply watch something larger than myself writing the story.  Even on the one day when nothing came to mind (and no photographs presented themselves) a story came forth about not having anything to write.  It was amazing!

Underwater green in December!

The most amazing thing, to me, has been the support and love of friends and family.  (Darn, crying again…)  You readers have enriched my life so very much.  I can’t even begin to thank you enough for stopping by, for commenting, for sending emails, for cheerleading.  For the family members with whom we have deepened our love and connection, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I have also made friends across the world, special friends who send Christmas cards and books and emails and other gifts.  You don’t know how much your simple presence and accompaniment has meant.  YOU are all so special and unique and wonderful….thank you from my whole being.

Single dried wildflower over icy bay

Here’s a quick story (see!  I’m having trouble finishing today’s blog) to illustrate something that I’ve learned this year.  Today I walked through deep snow down to the bay.  On the way back, two choices presented themselves. Either I walk the “easy” way along the established path…or wade down to a little creek, jump across, and view the back of the pond.

Most of me wanted to just continue on the easy path, but it looked like there were new and interesting places to explore on the other side of the creek.  So I slid down the snowy hill and leapt across the creek. 

That is my wish for all of you:  when faced with the easy paths, choose to jump across more creeks.  Choose to try something a little difficult, to venture off the beaten path, to risk getting your feet wet.  You can do it.  And your rewards will be…more than you ever suspected. 

If  I decide to start another blog, I will link it on this WordPress page. Blessings to all of you as we approach the Winter Solstice tomorrow.  May you feel inspired to listen to the Earth’s teachings.  Thank you again for everything you have contributed to the outdoor commitment.  One person doesn’t make a commitment alone–we are all enriched by the support of our family and friends.

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Day 364 of the outdoor commitment.

Question to various relatives:  which blogs did you like best?  

Various relatives:  Oh no!  Which ones…?  We don’t know.  Ummm, let us think.  We’ll get back to you. 

Tonight’s entry involves reporting to you all the answers thus far received.  We’ll start with my husband, Barry.  He voted for every single “action” blog.  He liked the outdoor adventures where we did things together, where we explored Baraga County and the surrounding area (he loved Duluth back in July!)  This commitment has really been precious because we spent so much time together in the Great Outdoors, visiting places we have ignored in the past 20-30 years since we became so “busy” with everyday life. 

His votes:  The Slate Quarry blog (also known as The blog has had a big day today), Backwoods Adventure to the “Million Dollar railroad” and all the fishing adventures including Hey I caught a fish!  (Please click on any of the links to view the old posts.) 

Yep, caught a fish.

 Christopher, our son, voted for the crazed robin blogs, the ones where they pecked incessantly at our windows for months, including Crazed robin and stalking the first wildflower and The danger of philandering husbands.  He also liked This blog is going to the dogs where those neighborhood dogs hounded in on my walk.  And, finally, his sociologist side really enjoyed Horizon Envy, written in late November. 

The robin that made US crazy!

 Kiah, our daughter, liked the very first Solstice blog (because she was there when we lit the bonfire and stated our yearly intentions!)  She also voted for all the travel blogs, which included trips to New York City (see 5/19-5/22 including Opening the door, going down 15 floors in the elevator, saying goodbye to the doorman and walking outside, Fort Myers Beach, Florida, Duluth, my hometown of Yale, Georgia and San Diego.  Did I remember them all?  Another favorite of hers:  What is nature anyway?  (I liked that, too.) 

Sad Panda in Manhattan (didn't we love this Sad Panda, Kiah?)

 My parents didn’t want to list any particular blogs but my mom wrote this:  ” My favorite blogs were all of them that had you with family members across the nation and the related pictures.  A snapshot (pun) look back at your blogs in general is a kaleidoscope of exceptionally beautiful pictures which run through my mind all the time!” 

My mother-in-law liked the Duluth series (7/12 – 7/14 including “We go Duluth” and Duluth: Take Two.  You may not want to swim there quite yet) She also really liked the Pow Wow blogs If you listen to the Pow Wow drums you will never be the same and Farewell Pow Wow.  Until next year.  She (and Kiah) also voted for the more recent one about the Santas and Snowmen:  Dear Kids, The Santas and Snowmen opened the door and walked outside! 

Beautiful little girls in pink at the Pow Wow

And now, you might be wondering which blogs I liked.  Oh, that is a dangerous question.  A very dangerous question indeed.  How can a mother choose one child over another?  How can we choose one blog over another?  Each was special in its own way.  Some caused laughter, some caused tears.  Some proved easy to write; others hard.  They were all so unique. 

Nonetheless, because this blog has forced me to review many of the 365 days…I will offer you a FEW of my favorite ones.  (All you other blogs, please do not pout.  I love you, too.)  

OK, here’s my secret.  I have a special fondness for the philosophical/spiritual blogs.  The ones that perhaps questioned a little deeper.  The ones which prodded below the surface a little bit. Such as Asking nature for advice and What is beautiful and what is not?  However, having stated that, the one that made me laugh for days and days was:  Let the Vegetables Speak!  I laughed so hard about that one that Barry thought I was perhaps a little loco… 

And then there was the blog  Three gunshots at dawn which stirred my heart with its simplicity, making me want to write simple blogs from that day forward. (Which probably didn’t happen again.) And then there was Skin which seemed to elicit a visceral sense of connection with tree bark. But I think my all-time favorite may have been the sweat lodge blog:  Sweat lodge memories: fire, rock, lodge, medicine. 

The skin of white birch

Upon uploading this photo, I was amazed to discover the silhouette of a woman in this stone...

Phew!  This was a LOT of work looking for these old blogs, copying, pasting, hyperlinking.  I really could keep adding more and more.  But now I’m all weepy-eyed and nostalgic and already missing this most incredible year.  And it’s not over until tomorrow… Sniff…

Out the door they come! Looks like they're headed down the porch...

Dear Kids,  I broke the news to the Santas and the Snowmen today.  Told them–ever so gently–that you would not be coming home for Christmas this year.

You would never believe what happened next!  They jumped off their tic-tac-toe red and white Christmas board and marched toward the front door.  Every last one of them.  We stood shocked in disbelief!  What were the Santas and the Snowmen going to do? 

And they're trudging through the snow!

We know, don’t we, that these particular Santas and Snowmen have a history of unpredictability.  They are always doing something wild and crazy.  Ever since I won them in that Christmas raffle at Aura a few years back, they have been keeping us on our toes!  Odd things happen all the time, don’t they?

Remember the time when they all looked like they were going to commit suicide jumping off the table in the living room.  A few of them lay helter-skelter on the carpeted floor beneath their kamikaze jumping place.  Remember how we laughed?  How we laughed until we almost cried?  (Silly Santas and Snowmen!  What kind of holiday spirit was that?)

Then remember how every year the darn fellows appeared somewhere else?  One year they climbed near the ceiling and sat way up high near the plants.  Haven’t they been discovered in the bathtub, in the refrigerator, and a half-dozen other crazy places?  Maybe they’ve even been outside before.

But I wasn’t expecting their behavior this afternoon.  They simply all stood up and silently marched outside.

The reindeer are missing you guys already.

Down the porch steps they marched in single file.  Out into the snow.  Toward the cars!  Were they deserting us forever?  Just because you both aren’t coming home for Christmas?  The very first Christmas when BOTH of you won’t be with us?

Stocking hanging outside in spruce tree

I tried to get the leader to talk.  He was a Santa.  “Where are you going?” I begged, “Please come back!”  But on they marched.  “Next year maybe they’ll be home for Christmas!”  I hollered after them.  They refused to look back.

Off they go!

Perhaps they are walking to Manhattan and San Diego.  Perhaps they have booked airline tickets.  It’s hard to say what these Santas and Snowmen will do.  I just wanted you to be the first to know that you’re obviously going to be very much missed this year, you kids.

Even the Santas and Snowmen think so.

Trees and sky

Several times this year I wondered what would happen with the outdoor commitment if I got sick.  Here was the rough plan:  Barry would pull out the reclining lawn chair and I would snuggle on it for at least a half hour beneath dozens of blankets.  Or in Grandma’s 1970’s snowmobile suit if it was winter. 

Today I didn’t feel well.  Don’t worry.  It’s not a serious sickness.  You don’t need to hear all the details, but it involved intestinal disfortitude followed by chills followed by a headache which still exists twelve hours later.  Of course, the headache may be caused by caffeine withdrawal.  Because of the intestinal challenges, I am not drinking coffee or black tea…and that almost always results in a headache.

I lay on the couch almost all day,mostly napping and staring into space, except for a work-related trip into town.  Finally the Outdoor Adventure could be postponed no longer.  Barry was at work, so the reclining lawn chair was not a possibility without a lot of fuss. So I put on Grandma’s snowmobile suit and boots, hat, scarf and mittens and carried a small cushion out under the spruce tree (where I camped last winter.  Click here and here  if you want to read about that excitement.)

And then I looked at the sky.

Beautiful sky

It felt a little chilly.  It also felt invigorating in a good sort of way.  I closed my eyes and listened to the chickadees with the whhhhirrrr of their wings and the sounds of them cracking open the sunflower seeds with their beaks.  Little bits of sunflower shells fell on me.  The neighbor’s dog or rooster kept hollering.  (It’s quite pathetic when one cannot determine the difference between a dog and a rooster.  But sometimes you can’t…even when you ARE feeling well.)

For the last five minutes of the outdoor time, I sneaked inside, grabbed the phone and returned to lie on the front porch. Called my mama.  It’s always good to talk with your mother when you’re feeling a little under-the-weather.  You remember the times when she gently tended to you as a child.  (And probably also said, “And you can’t go outside until you’re feeling better!”)

Red strawberry plant...kinda makes you think about Christmas

I have Christmas shopping plans for this weekend.  Maybe not for the Official Shopping Day, Black Friday.  But at least for Saturday.  I’m headed for Marquette (before or after a delightful luncheon with special twins in the Ishpeming/Negaunee area).  But there are a few key Christmas items which must be found.  I will join the throng of shoppers and…shop.

But I decided to first discuss the matter with the Forest on my walk today.  Just to see what the Forest thinks of our Christmas Shopping plans.  And specifically Black Friday.

Me:  Hi Forest!  How are you today?

Forest:  (silence)

Me:  I know you’re not into talking too much in words.  But I have a question for you.  What do you think about all of us humans shopping like crazy this weekend?  What do you think of Christmas?  What do you think of exchanging gifts?  What do you think of all the money we spend?

Teeny tiny little spruce tree (8 inches high?)

Forest:  silence

Me:  You’re not going to say too much are you?  Please?  Just a few words?  Even if the words don’t really explain too much.  Just try. What do you think of Black Friday?

Forest:  Look at my red strawberry leaf.  Look at my little spruce tree.  Look at my goldenrod balls.  What do they tell you?

Me:  Umm, I think…they are telling me…keep it simple.  Don’t make it so complicated.  Don’t shop just to spend money.  Really think about what we’re buying.  Try to buy gifts that express our hearts.  Is that it?

Goldenrod balls

Forest:  give from your heart.  It’s not about the money.  It’s about the small things.  Spending time with family and friends.  Sharing food, drink, beauty, gifts.  Don’t try to buy love or feelings or presence.  Give simply, from your heart, no matter how much money you spend.

Me:  But Forest, maybe we shouldn’t spend ANY money at all.  I know that would screw up the economy and everything, but maybe we should just forgo money and not give at all.  Then we wouldn’t be taking anything from You.  We wouldn’t be cutting down your trees, taking your minerals, using your resources.  Don’t you agree?  We shouldn’t spend at all?

Stick in the mud

Forest:  Don’t be a stick in the mud.  I keep telling you.  It’s not a matter of money.  It’s a matter of your heart.  It’s a matter of looking deeply to see:  What is your real intent?  When you look closely at your real intent, you’ll give simply when simple is required and lavish when lavishly is required.  Don’t just give the way you’ve always given before.  Look into your heart and intentions and then you’ll know what you’re suppose to buy.

Me:  Oh.  OK.  But that’s still hard.  Especially when you’re in the stores and everything looks so good and interesting and entertaining.

Forest:  Don’t just give or buy to satisfy the voice inside you that wants more, more, more. That doesn’t help any of us.

There are a million rocks in the lake. Give stones as gifts.

Me:  So when I go to Marquette this weekend…I am suppose to buy Christmas presents that mean something.  That share the love that I feel for family in friends.  Maybe I should give them some pretty Lake Superior stones for Christmas?  Do you think they would like that?

Forest:  silence

Me:  I wonder what everyone would say if they just got one stone for Christmas.  Hmmmm. Maybe better visit a few stores, just in case…

Dawn at Golden Hill Park, San Diego

The hardest part of an outdoor commitment (besides going outside when it’s too cold, too rainy, too miserable…)  is when you really have no time to go outdoors.

Such as the days you spend in airports and airplanes.

On these days you must make an extra effort to fit in your outdoor adventure before 7 a.m. or after 10 p.m.  You have to Plan.

This morning Chris and I were out of his apartment by 6:20 a.m. and headed for Golden Hill.  He planned to pick up his friend Chrissie at  7 a.m., drop me at the airport, and then proceed to campus for classes. 

I said, “OK, we’ll do the outdoor adventure at 6:30 a.m., ok?”

He raised his eyebrows, but he’s a good son.

He complied.  We took a nice walk through the early dawn of San Diego.

Sun shines on the tall skyscrapers of the city

We walked in silence.  The early morning air felt chill.  But in San Diego “chill” does not mean the same thing as it does in Upper Michigan.  In the U.P. we would be bundled in winter clothes, hats and mittens.  In San Diego we wore a light coat or long sleeve shirt. 

We said our goodbyes.  Goodbye, Christopher.  Goodbye, Mom.  When will we see each other again?  Perhaps next summer?  Thank you for coming.  Thank you for having me.  I love you.  I love you, too.

Downtown bridge in the distance

After about 20 minutes he headed back to the car.  I slowly walked around the park.  It would be a long day.  Little did I know then but our flight would be momentarily delayed because both clocks in the cockpit refused to work.  Luckily, a maintenance guy fixed them and we took off before impatience set in.  Later on the flight the captain announced,  “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a delicate situation.”  My heart stopped.  Here we go, I thought.  Delicate situation.  Are we ever truly prepared for “delicate” situations?  But then his voice continued, “All four lavatories are not flushing well.  Please do not put paper toweling down the toilets.”

Ahhh!  That kind of “delicate” situation.  We can live with that one…

Interplay of light and flowers

Just before we drove to the airport, a flock of birds settled on the overhead wire.  They were all lined up to go.  So were we.

“Goodbye!”  we said,  “Until we meet again…”

Birds, prepare your engines. Time to fly skyward.

Isn't she beautiful?

Coming to you live from the University of California at San Diego.  We’re in Dr. Seuss country.  Therefore, you shall hear much Dr. Seuss wisdom before you leave this blog.

What, you ask, does Dr. Seuss have to do with the UCSD?  I shall tell you.  Here is the official scoop:  UC San Diego’s Geisel Library is named in honor of the famed author who died in La Jolla in 1991, and his widow, Audrey Geisel. UC San Diego received Geisel’s collection of drawings, notebooks and other memorabilia following his death, and four years later Audrey Geisel made a substantial donation to support the university’s libraries. In 2007, Geisel made a $1 million gift to UCSD Libraries to establish San Diego’s first named university librarianship.

Here is the famed Geisel Library:

Oh the places you'll go!

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!”

Oh, the places we have gone on this trip!  It has been such a lovely few days visiting Christopher here in his San Diego home.  To think of the places he has gone since he left our little house in the big woods.  Could we have imagined that both of our kids would have become bi-coastal?  One on the West Coast and the other on the East Coast? When the last thing I can remember we were reading “I meant what I said and I said what I meant!”  while strange cat-like creatures jumped around talking in jumbled rhyming sentences.

The Cat in the Hat stands over Dr. Seuss

Most of the outdoor adventure today happened walking between coffee shops and restaurants.  Still, I think we have put in about four miles and the sun has not yet set.  We’re sitting outside on campus right now and I’ve had so much coffee YOU can feel it, can’t you? 

How would you like to walk to class among eucalyptus trees?

My son informed me that some students here at UCSD worship the Sun God.  I said, “Oh really?”  He said, “You’ll see.”  We rounded the corner.  Sure enough, there was the Sun God. We did not see any worshipers nearby.  We did see a couple students sunning on blankets.  Perhaps they were devotees.

The Sun God

“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

We had one terrible incident this morning.  Very awful.  Do you want to hear?

Yesterday we bought a persimmon at the Farmer’s Market.  (You remember how much I loved them the first day?)  We admired it this morning and Chris cut it up into beautiful slices.  We would perhaps bring our slices to the coffee shop and savor them between our bites of bagel with cream cheese and lovely espresso.

But first, we decided to sample one.  Just a bite before we left the apartment. 

Innocent-looking persimmon

We sampled. 

We looked at one another in horror.  Our faces screwed into frenetic disgust.   “Arghghghghh!!!” we gurgled and I ran for the bathroom sink with a glass of water.  Sip, spit!  Sip, spit!  Anything to get that horrible taste out of my mouth.  Chris was having his own troubles in the kitchen.  We were beside ourselves attempting to deal with that horrible horrible taste.  Finally, about three minutes later we could function halfway normally.

He later looked it up on the computer and discovered the following facts:  It’s important you know there are two kinds of persimmons: the Fuyu, the kind you can eat right away, and the Hachiya, the kind you can’t. If you bite into an unripe Hachiya persimmon, it is if you just drank six cups of extra strength tea. This astringent flavor is due to the high level of tannin in the fruit, and there is a good chance that you would never try a persimmon again because it tastes so bitter. This would be a shame because ripe persimmons have an exceptional flavor and provide us with important nutrients such as beta-carotene, Vitamin C and potassium.

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

and…

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

Face of El Cabrillo

Face of El Cabrillo

I’ve named the above rock.  Meet “El Cabrillo”.  El Cabrillo, meet the blog readers. 

El Cabrillo lives in the Tidal Pools at the Cabrillo National Monument Park in San Diego.  He was staring up at the walkers traversing on the backs of his brothers and sisters along the pools.

I spotted him immediately.  Forget looking for anemones and crabs and seaweed.  There was a face in the rocks!  We could return home perfectly satisfied.

Chris and his girlfriend

Chris and his girlfriend

Oh what a lovely day!  I spent the night at a motel in Little Italy.  Up at 5 a.m. once again (forced myself to lie abed until the late morning hour of 6) and then explored the streets.  Ate a breakfast Panini and coffee along India Street before sitting in a courtyard to write 2,000 words of the novel along with the most delicious coffee in the Universe.  Well, good coffee anyway.

We attended another farmer’s market and then picnicked near Balboa Park under eucalyptus trees.  I wondered why there wasn’t any grass beneath our feet.  The kids explained that planted grass needs watering; therefore, many places remain grass-free. 

Later in the day we ventured to the Cabrillo National Monument park.  It was so cool.  I loved it.  First we viewed the skyline of San Diego and the hundreds of white sails on the ocean.  I won’t show you this view because the little Sony Cybershot refuses to do justice to wider views, to skylines.  So forget the sweeping panoramic views of the magnificent ocean.  You can look at closeups instead.

Seaweed in the tidal pools

Seaweed in the tidal pools

I kept gushing, “Oh this is wonderful!  Oh, isn’t this great?” as we explored the tidal pools.  Chris said, “I am a little underwhelmed, Mom.”  But later after we viewed the crabs and fish and anemones he changed his mind, I think.  He may not have been overwhelmed like his mama, but he was impressed.  And so was his girlfriend. 

Curved tidal pool

Curved tidal pool

You wouldn’t believe how slippery the rocks were.  I mean they were slippery.  You had to pray you wouldn’t fall into the underwater world of those sea creatures.  Some of us less agile folks had to crawl along the rocks, placing the feet very carefully.  You wanted hands to help you jump over pools and seaweed-covered slime.  You thought to yourself, “How old am I anyway?  At what age should you stop clamouring over slippery rocks?”

Christopher and his mama

Christopher and his mama

Some nice volunteers gave us advice about the creatures in the tide pools.  They showed me a little green worm, a magnificent find!  They shared the names of the amazing sea-beings.  I would have called the following sea creature an “urchin” but the kind lady explained that it was an anemone.   Isn’t it cool?

Anemone

Anemone

Another exciting thing happened.  A woman gave me a new name.  She was attempting to coral her three children into a cave for a photograph.  “Grace, Grace, come on in the picture!”  she kept saying.  And then she turned to me, who was standing three feet from her and gasped. “Oh no, I thought you were Grace!  I am so sorry.”  “It’s OK,”  I said, and we both looked at Grace who was crawling on some nearby slippery rocks.  “Guess you have a new name now,” the woman told me, “Your name is Grace.”

OK, I’ll take it.  My new name is Grace.

A bird who doesn't feel well

A bird who doesn't feel well

Grace (the real Grace) and her sisters approached a nearby black bird who refused to move.  They finally stood about a foot from the bird before the park volunteers urged them away,  “The bird isn’t feeling well today; please leave him alone,” the volunteer kindly explained to the sisters. 

When we got in the car, Christopher noted, “You talk to a LOT of people.”  Yes.  It’s true.  I am fascinated by people.

Hope you enjoyed the tour of the tidal pools.

Love, Grace

My little boy all grown up

My little boy all grown up

And exhausted.  Live in San Diego, but really really tired.  I was dreading writing this blog.  Truly.  Thinking “oh why oh why do I have to write a blog after we’ve walked for miles and miles and all I want to do is sleep even though it’s not even 4:30 in the afternoon…”

But I just uploaded the first photo and the Internet went zip-zip-zip and uploaded it in five seconds flat.  I am not kidding you.  It took five seconds to upload a photo.  At home it takes years to upload one photo.  OK, maybe three minutes.  But here in the Modern City of San Diego we have the luxury of fast photo uploading.  I am so happy that it woke me up.  Will probably even make it until dinner now.  🙂

OK, enough giddiness.  I am HERE!  With my oldest son Christopher who is 27 years old and in a sociology grad program.  He’s been here two years.  I thought it was three years, but he set me straight.  He’s starting his third year of his doctoral program.  We’re having a great time so far. 

First thing this morning we walked a couple miles to a coffee shop in University Heights.  There are marvelous palm trees everywhere.  Temps in the 60’s.  Mountains in the distance.  The Pacific Ocean to the west.  How cool is that?

Heed the sign

Heed the sign

It’s possible to upload photos so quickly I don’t even need to babble.  I could just upload dozens of photos for you to see.  (Except you slow-loading DSL folks would probably kill me, so will try to limit the photos to a respectable number.)

Imagine living surrounded by such beautiful flowers

Imagine living surrounded by such beautiful flowers

After our morning bagel with cream cheese and coffee we toured Balboa Park.  As some of you might know, Balboa Park is this huge park in the midst of San Diego.  Chris lives on the northern side of it.  We first toured the Cactus Park.  He thought that an admirable first Outdoor Adventure.  I had to agree.

Cactus and Sky

Cactus and Sky

I could show you sixteen different kinds of cactus.  Chris pointed out that everyone he brings to the Cactus Park photographs different cactus.  I wonder what that reveals about our personalities. 

After our cactus adventure we continued to tour Balboa Park.  We visited the Botanical Gardens and walked past many museums.  I liked the following quirky fountain:

Spitting water

Spitting water

Oh heaven knows what we did next.  We toured so many places.  Eventually we visited campus and then Black’s Beach.  The vista was amazing!  Hard-packed sand and cliffs and blue sky and the frothing ocean.  There were steps that lead all the way down to the waterfront.  But I think Chris took pity on me.  He said we would save that walk for another day.

Black bird soars over Black's Beach

Black bird soars over Black's Beach

Look very closely down at the beach.  See any interesting sights?  Chris says this is a Nudist’s Beach.  Isn’t that interesting?  Perhaps I will have some more interesting photos on another day.  NOT!!!!  (I’m not that courageous, yet!)

So we’re back at the apartment now and we’re soon headed down to the city for dinner.  He’s not making me walk all the way down there, good lad.  He knows his poor mama wouldn’t be able to make it home without assistance.  So we’re driving.  Here is a view of San Diego proper:

San Diego

San Diego

Hope this all made sense.  Jumbled tired jet-lag people should not write blogs.  They shouldn’t. 

See you all tomorrow!

All you non-hunters get out of the woods now!

All you non-hunters get out of the woods now!

Every year come November 15th, I’m outa the woods.  Goodbye forest!  You won’t catch me wandering lazily through the poplar and maple trees, shooting with my trusty camera.  No.  Not even with a bright orange vest and hunting garb and orange cap could you convince me to hike in these beloved forests. 

I’m outa here.

Although, it seems, at least a few thousand extra visitors do fearlessly enter our north woods, ready to bag their seasonal deer. That’s not counting the local guys and gals who have been excitedly planning and plotting and checking their guns and preparing their bait piles for the last few weeks.  They are all dreaming of venison stew.

Everywhere you go signs appear:  Deer apples.  $2.00 a bag.  $5.00 a bag.  $7.00 a bag. (Makes one wonder if the sizes of the apple bags are all different. One sign, I noticed this weekend, showed a picture of actual bag with the words “Actual Size” penned beside it.  Just to avoid confusion, I suppose.)

Our little house in the big woods--from the back, through the woods

Our little house in the big woods--from the back, through the woods

Nope, I’ve been properly scared over the years.  Stories of people getting shot by stray bullets.  (Not that it’s ever happened to innocent hikers…I don’t know.)  Dire warnings by loving grandmother-type neighbors, “You stay out of those woods now, Kathy!”  Sounds of gunshots at dawn:  bang, bang, bang!!!

Usually this is the time of year I say Goodbye Outdoors.  Forget you.  I am staying in my nice warm cozy house and hibernating until spring, thank you.  You can’t make me go outdoors.  Just try.

Although some years I stay inside for the first week of deer hunting season and somewhere around Thanksgiving emerge and start cautiously traipsing up and down the road.  There aren’t a lot of hunters in our rather populated woods, after all.  Most of the out-of-towners who don’t know any better than to shoot indiscriminately on private property have left to return home to turkey dinners downstate or in Illinois.  Then it’s safe.  Or so I think.

The bark face knows.  It really knows.  Everything.

The bark face knows. It really knows. Everything.

Today I wandered in the woods, “Goodbye trees.  Goodbye birch-bark face, aren’t you precious?  Goodbye pine cones.  Goodbye old fort that the kids built.  Au revoir.  Enjoy your time with the hunters.  Show them some of your beauty, eh?  Let them see your magnificence.”  And then I saw IT.  Litter.  Right there on the forest floor, behind our house.  How dare someone litter back here?  What were they thinking?

How disgusting!  Litter in the wood!

How disgusting! Litter in the wood!

And then, with utter clarity, I realized that We were the Litterers.  This was our missing grill cover!  It had flown off in a whipping wind sometime earlier in the summer and we could not find it again.  So we traveled to Marquette and brought a brand new cover, to better prevent rust and exposure to the elements.

And here was the original cover!  A few sprays of hose water and surely it would be ready to do its duty once again.  When the new one flies off on a windy day, that is.  We’ll keep this one handy somewhere.  What a lucky find!

An ancient bridge across the ravine stream

An ancient bridge across the ravine stream

What a lovely afternoon it has been.  Temperatures in the 50’s.  No sounds of bullets, yet.  The forest floor littered with leaves. 

I paused beside the old bridge which once led across the ravine.  Our son nailed it together, all those years ago, back when he was still a youth building forts all over the woods.  I looked at the bridge and smiled.

Because I am really OUTA HERE!  I am going to San Diego tomorrow to visit this beloved son!  Have not once visited him on his turf since he moved to southern California three years ago.

Would you guys like to come too?  Let’s leave the woods together.  Meet you tomorrow (or the next day) in San Diego, OK?

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