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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.

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.

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

Pomegranates

Pomegranates

OK, I do not have a photo of a Persimmon from the Farmer’s Market in the Little Italy neighborhood of San Diego.  I am really sorry about that.  Because today I tasted my very first Persimmon.  And liked it very much.  Wikipedia explains that is known as the “fruit of the gods”.

After Christopher’s girlfriend arrived from one of those LA suburbs, we traveled downtown Sandy Eggo  (that’s what my friend Margo calls this fair city) and cruised the Farmer’s Market.  I have never seen such exotic fruits,vegetables, pesto, olives, fish…anything in the world one might imagine.  Our markets in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula look very tame and ordinary compared with this.

Anyone ever heard of Turkish eggplants? 

Yep, Turkish eggplants

Yep, Turkish eggplants

I am still in shock at the rapid uploading-speed of these photos.  You reach for a sip of your pumpkin pie spiced latte.  Just one sip.  And the photo is uploaded before you finish sipping.  Where am I?  Does such a place exist in the Internet world that embraces such a possibility?  I may never want to go home.  You can do the dishes in the time it takes to upload a photo at times. (OK, a slight exaggeration…)

Little girl in pink with flowers

Little girl in pink with flowers

A man with a trumpet played Christmas carols for us as we wandered among the booths.  There were free samples at almost every booth!  Oh did we sample.  The kids even bought a few specialty items, including pesto and hummus which we munched with pita bread for lunch. 

The kids up ahead

The kids up ahead

They have everything in San Diego.  I kid you not.  Even…doggie playgroups???  Really???

Too bad we didn't have a dog.

Too bad we didn't have a dog.

After a stop back at the apartment for lunch we drove up to La Jolla and walked along the ocean.  I wanted to see the seals.  Chris’ girlfriend said the seals were not too exciting.  They just lay there.  Didn’t move.  Not too entertaining. 

“I still want to see the seals,” I assured her.  “We must have seals for the blog!”

The Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean

We walked along the hard-packed sand above the beach.  This is not like ordinary sand.  It feels hard, like concrete.  I have never seen sand like this before.  Hundreds of people walked along above the ocean, looking down.  Dozens played in the surf.  Some lay on blankets on the ground, sunning.  A beautiful 65 degree day for visiting the beach. 

Family by ocean

Family by ocean

Finally we saw them.  High excitement!  The seals.  There they were…or were they?  Were they seals or motionless rock-like lumps on the horizon?  We approached them from the causeway which provided tourist-like views above their heads.  Yep, sure enough.  The seals of La Jolla.

Seals!!

Seals!!

And more seals sun-bathing atop large rocks.  We waited eagerly for them to move.  There!  One stretched.  One curled up a bit.  One scratched his friend’s back.  (Yes, I swear this happened.  And I have at least one witness.)  We ooohhed and aaahhhed as one seal dove into the water and swam around.

Seals on rock

Seals on rock

It was very exciting.  But then we had to go home and nap.  You know how it is on vacation.  You taste persimmons and watch seals and nap.  This is the LIFE!

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?

Frosted brussels sprout leaf

Frosted brussels sprout leaf

My blog tonight is about Two Things.

#1:  Preparations for my next trip. To visit the firstborn son out in San Diego.

#2:  Frost.

Which one shall we discuss first?

REALLY Frosted Brussels.

REALLY Frosted Brussels.

When talking with my son a few hours ago he said, “I can’t believe how much my friends from the  Midwest are complaining about the weather!”

The poor lad has been settled in the southern reaches of California for the past two or three years, so he’s already forgotten our Midwestern suffering when Summer departs and autumn settles in with her icy grip.  He’s living in a place that basically lingers at 70 degrees, year round.  Can we imagine that?  No, we can not.

Frosted lawn

Frosted lawn

However, I am happy to announce, I will finally get to visit his un-frosted home next month!  For the cost of an airplane ticket of $354, the blog will now travel to sunny San Diego in mid November to visit the first born son.  (Yes, yes, I know some of you are shaking your heads muttering “Didn’t she just get back from a trip?  Didn’t she just go to Georgia?  How can she afford that? Is she rich or something?”)  The answer is, sadly, No.  But happily, her dream is to travel at least five to six times a year to visit beloved family members spread across the U.S. of A.  And, happily, this dream has been realized this year.  Thanks to two part-time jobs which allow flexibility.  And she hasn’t been out to visit dear Christopher yet.  It’s more than Time.

Very limpid squash just before their ultimate demise

Very limpid squash just before their ultimate demise

Christopher began to share his plans for our Outdoor Adventures in San Diego.  We would start with Balboa Park and go here and there, and here and there, and here and there.  My legs suddenly started aching and I hadn’t even left the living room.  “Umm,” I ventured softly, “You know I’m not in as good of shape as you are…”

Meaning, Mama can’t run a mile.  And if we walk five miles, she might immediately require a Nap.

“Well!” he replied cheerfully, “You have a month to get in shape!”

Squash harvest

Squash harvest

So today’s Outdoor Activity involved some snappy walking up the road in the rain.  Quick, quick, quick!  Run a little, will ya?  Let’s get those muscles moving!  San Diego here we come!  Move a bit more quickly, can you?  Don’t mind the drizzling rain and cold! 

See, here’s the thing about going outdoors every day for 365 days.  (Lean closer now; I’m confessing something.)  You don’t necessarily get in shape. Burn calories or anything.  Especially if you have a camera and like to dally slowly looking for close-up intimate photos.  You can’t necessarily walk for ten miles without huffing and puffing.

It's possible to survive frost.  Ask the black-eyed Susans.

It's possible to survive frost. Ask the black-eyed Susans.

The muscles may get a little workout from hauling squash vines out of the garden.  Or pulling up frosted tomato vines.  But not much.

I have tried to imagine living on a land that doesn’t frost, a place where snow refuses to fall.  A climate which remains tepid year-round.  A landscape of desert and Pacific surf.  It’s so different from our place in the woods where seasons shift like clock-work turning from frigid to warm to frost to snow.  There’s always something new here, something different.  I love the changes; the dance of it all!

But don’t get me wrong.  Just because you love a place doesn’t mean you don’t want to visit OTHER places.  Especially places where family live, less than $400 away.

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