Not just ours…

We watched it.

Mesmerized by it’s glow. It’s charm.

Its seemingly languid way.

Of slipping away.

Until it was gone.

Kind of like it was teasing us with a childlike chant…

“now you see me, now you don’t”

The afterglow was proof enough that truly we hadn’t just imagined it.

It really had been there.

But.

If we had blinked, we would have missed it.

We watched it slip behind the horizon, slip off the edge of our today.

A new thought washed over me.

We think of the setting sun as ours, the closing of but just one of our many days.

I, for the first time, realized…

that final slip, that closing…

…is not just ours.

It is now the beginning of something altogether new.

For someone else.

It is not just ours

sig4

Those Rocks. That Tree.

As time passes, and life happens to and around us,  we are not necessarily the same people year after year.

And, it seems, to me, that we shouldn’t be.  Without compromising who we are at the core; we learn and grow. As a rock erodes into a pebble and eventually into sand over time, we have the potential to change in seemingly invisible ways every day. Our minds can change. Lord knows our bodies change. Relationships come and go and add rich layers of memory and story and sometimes hurts and forgiveness.

Our kids, the people we are raising, leave us changed daily.  Responding to the struggle(s) of the day, whether it’s the 7th grade math, freshman year jitters, college goodbyes, first heart breaks, puberty, or the teething and diapers – it all becomes part of our core. Like cooking from a recipe made so many times we feel it more than we can explain it. It just is. We just are.

My son is on the early cusp of puberty, my father has dementia. I am still a mother and a daughter but what that means and requires of me is changing as they change. Some days it looks no different than the day before, and then suddenly it’s obvious we are all different.

That said, among all that we juggle – the balls we manage to catch, and the ones we simply know are hovering in the balance, seemingly invisible but so very present – comfort can be found when we return to a place that does not change. A place that is somehow a constant for us, a landmark in both the metaphorical and concrete kind of ways.  A place that somehow soothes our soul, beckons us to memories that we can smell and feel from visits gone by, but it’s as if it were yesterday each time we return.

When you recognize a tree in the forest like an old friend, and know the one rock on which to sit by the lake.  They are unchanged and exactly where you saw them last.

That.

A place where the soul settles and rests.

And exhales.

We should all have that kind of place.

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.  – John Ruskin

A place where we are sure of who we are, excited about possibilities we perhaps can’t even fathom (but like those balls hovering in the balance, we know they are there…) and revel in all that has been.  From good to difficult and everything that lies between. A place where –  no matter the season,  no matter the weather  – gives us just exactly the moments we need. No matter in what direction the winds may blow, to have and find comfort in a place that we are so very lucky to know.

And I’ve been lucky enough to learn that when someone you adore adores the same place as you – well, that’s one sweet exhale.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ps…thanks to Lori for the Ruskin quote!
sig4

Playtime Perspective

This is my busiest time of the year at work; year-end events, culminating projects, reports, graduation ceremony and most of the time my head feels it’s going to bust a nerve.  Each year this cycle repeats itself; I find myself closing my eyes and hoping that when I open them, that it’s June 1.

Last night, I decided to play a little after work; mix it up a little for myself and grabbed my camera and went out to the backyard. This time of year, there is a passion-flower vine that is blooming and I love these beautiful blooms – so unique and strange.

I snapped on to my camera a creative lens set I had purchased a few years ago and had forgotten about. I was just playing, trying to learn how to use it the way it’s intended and overall it was a frustrating experience. I just couldn’t get the images to turn out the way I thought they were supposed to. What saw in my mind didn’t happen. What I was seeing in the viewfinder isn’t what I saw in the resulting image.

I didn’t like not knowing how to capture the image I wanted to get and yet I kept snapping, taking photos of the flowers, my sprinkler head, wine corks and a piece of metal – just to see what might happen.  Testing this, trying that. Determined. But having fun.  I have a lot to learn with this creative lens thing-a-ma-jig, but what I realized – yet again – is that sometimes we just need to get out of our comfort zone, let things unfold as they will and be open to seeing things in new ways.  And that learning through play is always a good idea!

You could say I am developing a passion for getting perspective!  🙂

perspective1perspective2

sig4

Where the Cool Birds Hang Out

During what we know as the darkest days of winter, one of my close friends took me out one early December morning to see the geese.  This might seem a bit unusual but the back story is that years ago I fell in love with Canadian geese after reading James Michener’s “Chesapeake’ while living not far from the eastern region of the Chesapeake Bay.  I was mesmerized by how Michener’s geese became prominent characters in his epic generation-spanning story.

My friend is a professional photographer with a specialty in avian photography. You should see this man’s work.  He knows where all the cool birds hang out; and I doubt there is a bird he hasn’t met. He knows of my affinity for these beautiful creatures and their V-formations and for the last few years has been inviting me out to see them while they make our area their winter home. It finally worked out with our lives and schedules.

I will be honest; I was hoping, expecting really, to see them in the hundreds of thousands. I wanted that immediate, dramatic visual impact. The wow of what that would be like. The images I could capture. As it turned out, the geese had chosen a location other than the spots we picked; we weren’t invited to their morning party.  We certainly saw some geese, just not hundreds of thousands

winter2

There they are, my geese. Beautiful in any amount.

I had my camera with me of course. We talked, I snapped. We walked, I snapped; my shutter punctuating the easy, comfortable conversation between my friend and I. We are like family to each other; he much like another older brother. I asked him a deeply personal question at one point in one of our many meandering conversations and as soon as I asked, I offered him an out, letting him know I understood the depth of what I was asking and that I understood if he didn’t want to respond. His reply to me was to proceed with answering my question.

I kept taking photos, sure that in the early morning, dreary overcast light, and no geese to speak of, that my attempts to capture anything were futile, but far be it from me to lay off the shutter when that camera is in my hand. I had to move on in my day when we got back; I put my camera away, changed and resumed my busy day. The holidays were upon us and combined with life, work, shopping, wrapping, baking and the kiddo, I totally forgot about my images from that morning.  I think too, that I somehow, at some level, assumed I would be disappointed when I went back to look at them; kind of the one eye shut with a sideways grimace, thinking to myself:  “That’s all I got? Bummer.

I just went back to my photos from that morning a few days ago, and while smiling at the memory of the time shared; seeing the images after weeks had gone by, I also remembered something important.

We can tend to set ourselves up with our expectations.

We go into a situation or moment with our minds made up of what it is supposed to be, or look like, or turn out like.  We often forget to just let ourselves see the moment for what it really is. Just because it looks different than we expected, is it less than? Is it not as good?

Perhaps it’s in some way so much better than we expected. Or maybe even better for us in ways we just simply cannot see yet? I don’t know the answers to these questions, I just know they are important questions we can ask ourselves in these moments. That disappointment can cloud our ability to see what is, when we are more focused on what is not.

I don’t think it is a matter of placing value on the outcome: good, better, or worse.  I am thinking that it is more about somehow finding a way of allowing ourselves to see things as they are. 

In reviewing my images, I noticed a few things I didn’t expect, didn’t think was there…

…I could see that the dreary, cold, overcast morning lent itself to a beautiful palette – a dramatic monochromatic background.

…I remembered that in the fallow season of winter, when all signs of life feel dormant; there is something to behold in the stark contrasts of the landscape. That something is happening even when we don’t see the obvious signs. Life is preparing for, well, life.

…I could see that the absence of geese in large amounts, reminds me that sometimes there is beauty in flying solo. 

winter collage

Flying solo

I realized, with a new perspective, that if we are open to the possibilities, that sometimes we learn that what we didn’t expect to find – can be just as beautiful as what we had in mind – in just a very different kind of way.

In looking back at this morning, seeing through my images from a day that finally came to fruition, spending time with my good friend, safe in his trusted presence, I understand in a new way how sometimes we need to not only be open to what is right in front of us, but also be willing to step away for a time, and then come back to look at things with new eyes.

It’s more than possible that when we find what we didn’t expect, it can be just as beautiful as what we had in mind. That what is beyond our mind is limitless.

C’mon, take a walk with me…click on the images below to hang out with all the cool birds….

What might this day reveal to each of us?

signature2

Seal the Deal

On the last leg of the road trip, I took the long way home, the one with the prettiest of views…

We decided to drive up the coast of California and it was a stunningly beautiful coastal day; a mix of just the right amount of fog to punctuate the otherwise hardly detectable difference between the ocean blue and blue skies.  For awhile, we cruised behind a zippy red sports car and we tried to keep up, imagining that we were them!  But, before too long, we lost them, as  we made the first of many stops along the way to take in the view.  What we found at this stop was the perfect beginning to the ending of a wonderful vacation.

It truly ‘sealed’ the deal for us.

seals1

Elephant Seals

seals2

This guy is 5,000 pounds, and 16 feet long!

Along California’s central coast is a population of Elephant Seals. Turns out, we passed by during the quiet time of the year; hundreds of the seals were lounging about on the beach, but come January through May?  The ‘rookery’ as it is called, will be home to thousands of these guys and gals.

seals7

Plenty of space!

Elephant Seals spend eight to ten months a year in the open ocean, diving 1000 to 5000 feet deep for periods of fifteen minutes to two hours, surfacing for maybe 3-5 minutes before plunging to the depths again.  They migrate thousands of miles, twice a year, to their land based rookery for birthing, breeding, molting and rest.  The rookery we saw is along Highway  1,  seven miles north of San Simeon and is home to about 17,000 animals.

When you think of hanging out on the beach, wouldn’t you think of snacks, roasting hot dogs, enjoying a beer?  Right?  Well, not the 5,000 lb elephant seals. They go on a diet while on land, and when on the beach, they do not eat.

seals6

They fling sand on their backs to keep cool.

The adult animals come on to the beach in the winter for the birthing and breeding season with adult males arriving in late November or early December when they contest for a dominant position on the beach. Winners in that contest are referred to as alpha males or beach masters.  Funny, some things are so similar across different species…

Another interesting similarity? The peak of mating is around Valentine’s Day.  And then, the females leave.

The Elephant seals form harems, in which the dominant, or alpha, male is surrounded by a group of females.  Mother Nature’s Bachelor show? On the periphery of the harem, the beta bulls wait in hopes of an opportunity to mate.  They assist the alpha bull in keeping away the less dominant males. Fights between males can be bloody affairs in which the combatants rear up and slam their bodies against each other, slashing with their large canine teeth.  However, not all confrontations end in battle.  Rearing up on their hindquarters, throwing back their heads, showing off the size of their noses and bellowing threats is enough to intimidate most challengers.

seals3

So, which one is the alpha male?  Will he get the girl?

The rookery is a very noisy place during the breeding season as males bellow threat vocalizations, pups squawk to be fed, and females squabble with each other over prime location and pups.  Kind of just like families, right?  Gargles, grunts, snorts, belches, bleats, whimpers, squeaks, squeals, and the male trumpeting combine to create the elephant seal symphony of sound.

seals4

One of the young pups. Oh, so much to learn….

Siblings

Siblings

seals8

Solitary?

What is an elephant seal? A deep-sea diver, a long distance traveler, an animal that fasts for long periods of time, elephant seals are extraordinary. They come together on land to give birth, mate, and molt but at sea they are solitary. Tremendous demands are placed on their bodies.

Yep, sealed the deal for us!

signature2

Double Dog Dare

Summer is officially over, and tomorrow commences a new season. But, before summer packs its tank tops, shortens our days and flip flops out the door to let fall rush in, I bring you one last bastion of summer.  A follow through on a dare from my friend Paula at Stuff I Tell My Sister.  It was a double dog dare that we turned into a double triple – three of us, three times.

If you are like the 17 yr old I asked to take our pictures in Round One of this dare, a teen who ever so subtly rolled her eyes when I asked her to snap the shots, as if to imply that ‘duh, old lady, yes, of course I know‘, then you will know what planking is. But if not, she did indulge me and snapped away while we adjusted knee caps, ribs and other ‘parts’ on the uneven surfaces of gorgeous, but oh so unforgiving, granite boulders so that I could make good on this dare and bring you proof of having carried out the planking promise I made to Paula.

TRIAL RUN

First up was a test run with the junior member of our planking team – (there are different ideas of proper form in planking, and we opted with the one you see here) –  and you will see a slight faltering in his form – hands and feet should not be touching the surface, but his face is correctly nose to the grindstone, so he gets points for that.  He did move on to the first round of the finals and served as mentor to our other planking amateur.

–ROUND ONE–

Judges rank of the plank:  so so. Those hands should not be waving, we need to see some superman action here.

And, you know what they say, the family who planks together,
stays together. :).

Family wins ROUND ONE

The planking mama and kiddo, surveying the land for our next opportunity to strike a pose.

–ROUND TWO–

You can see we each competed in our own category:
kiddo’s involved a bit more of a handicap with that granite ledge.
My older, ahem, wiser body couldn’t wouldn’t quite ‘adapt’ to those contours.

Kiddo wins ROUND TWO

–FINAL ROUND–

The Final Round went to extremes, planking on the edge of the earth.

My planking partner has some training sessions he missed, and so…
Planking Mama wins the FINAL ROUND.

Paula and I will be representing blogland in the upcoming international planking championships and we are recruiting members of the team. Applications are now being accepted.

🙂

Outnumbered

So, yesterday I had made a ‘committment’ to spend my Sunday drinking and browsing, but as it turned out, I was outnumbered and outvoted by the men in my house. Which doesn’t take much, as I am the token female in our family. The cat doesn’t count.

But, if I couldn’t spend the day in my pjs curled up with a cup of coffee and the world wide web, at least I could spend the day in my second choice favorites: shorts and a tank top and instead of the couch, here

The boys would have none of this lounging bit, so off we went for a day hike up in one of my favorite place, Desolation Wilderness.  I find it ironic how something known as desolation somehow lifts my soul no matter how many times I traverse it’s stark, surface-of-the-moon like terrain.

It was this guy’s first foray into the wilderness, and he held his own and set his sights on vistas far and wide.

We made our contributions to the ‘community rock garden’

and despite the fact that I was out voted on the pajama day, I managed to wrangle a lizard like nap in the sun

And when I am a middle-aged woman, I shall, I will,  (I do now – thanks to the clearance rack at the REI on the way up the hill)  wear purple hiking shoes; for in my middle age, I somehow forgot to bring my hiking shoes, for our day of hiking. Tally one for ol’ Twinkle Toes!

And at the end of the day,

I’d say it was more than a fair trade; the wildnerness in place of the couch, and purple shoes instead of pajamas, to spend the day in one of my favorite place.

There’s always tomorrow!