October beauties

Where did October go? I blinked, and it’s already almost gone.

Fall is putting on a beautiful display here, and the rains have returned. The salmon are back, and the vultures along with them. Where there were one or two vultures flying around at the river a couple of weeks ago, now a dozen or so try to fit into the same tree at one time. Not beautiful. But important.

The trees have turned showy with the shorter days and cooling temperatures.

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Pumpkins dot front porches, and children run past in partial costumes, preparing for Monday’s trick-or-treating.

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Summer hasn’t quite loosened its grip, though. Recent rains and my deadheading efforts a month ago have resulted in one final crop of rose blooms. I wish you could smell the perfect fragrance of this rose:

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The last few buds promise to welcome November, but they’ll be gone long before December arrives.

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Whether summer pinks or autumn oranges, October has its share of beauties.

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I hope you’re able to get outside and enjoy what’s left of the month. We have more rain in the forecast here, a blessing for sure, but also one that keeps my camera and me indoors more than I’d like. (I’m fortunate, at least, to have a dog who doesn’t mind trooping around in the rain. She’s a lot tougher than the camera.)

It’s good to know that November will bring its own kind of beauty when it arrives. I look forward to sharing some of it here with you in the coming weeks.

A counting of blessings

It’s Thanksgiving Eve, and I find myself counting blessings today. How about you? I’m grateful for family, health, friends near and far (and old and new), my faithful blog readers, and so many more blessings.

I wanted to share with you a few pictures of the things/places/creatures that fill me with gratitude.

This has been a year of transition, but I’m grateful for the place I live. My husband and I landed in a friendly neighborhood, and we get to run on trails by a river that teems with beauty just about every single morning. (The mornings that include rattlesnakes are a bit less lovely than the rest.)

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The river in autumn

The river brings with it some amazing animals (look for more on the ongoing salmon run in a future post). Bird watching is spectacular here. And I’m grateful for our next-door neighbor in Raleigh who sent us off on our journey to the left coast with the Sibley Guide to Birds. I miss sitting on her screened-in porch watching birds with her but look forward to a time she and other birding friends will visit. I imagine our walks by the river with anticipation. Will we see kites, hawks, gulls, mergansers, vultures, hummingbirds, egrets, or all of these and more?

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A Brewer’s Blackbird glistens in the sun.

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An osprey’s feast of fresh-caught trout. May your plate be full of your favorite catches tomorrow.

I’m grateful for a full refrigerator and having completed the grocery shopping. I’m grateful to the Whole Foods several towns away for vegan pecan pie. (I mostly say pee-kan. Do you say pi-kahn?) I’m grateful to have seen the most beautiful tree in a Target parking lot of all places, making my Thanksgiving errands that much better a couple of days ago.

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A stunning autumn sight

This autumn has been stunning, and it only took a few rainy days to make that happen. Has fall been fabulous where you are? My dad emailed the other day to say that Raleigh’s fall trees were the most beautiful he remembers in his four+ decades of living there. I asked for photos (he’s an amazing photographer), but so far, no pictures. That’s okay. I’m enjoying the show here, and I’m glad he’s enjoying the show there.

I’m grateful for views of the Sierras that show snow-capped mountains again, a promise and hope of El Niño bringing much-needed precipitation this winter. We’re already behind for the rainy season, but the presence of snow brings me joy anyway.

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How about you? What fills you with gratitude? For a little Thanksgiving fun, if you have time over the next few days, I’d love to know:

  • Your favorite Thanksgiving dessert (vegan pumpkin for me).
  • Your favorite tree in fall (just about anything bright yellow, orange or red, but maples if I have to pick just one).
  • Your favorite bird (these days, it’s a toss up between the osprey you see above or owls in general).
  • Your favorite running spot or your favorite place outdoors (too hard to pick just one, but I love a well-shaded running trail that ends up near water of some kind).

Safe travels to you all this holiday, whether you’re going over the river and through the woods, or just out for a walk around the block. Happy Thanksgiving (to my American friends)! And happy Thursday to the rest of you.

A running gift

Saturday brought an early start, a drive through the dark of pre-dawn hours with a zillion stars lighting the sky. The sun began to rise, and along with it, the fog:

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A photo from the moving car

Our destination was a small Virginia town built along the banks of a winding river. We were there so my husband could run a race and so I—training for my first half marathon of this illness- and injury-plagued year—could do a long run.

Shortly after we arrived at the start area of the race, the sun and fog began a dance. The trees and the river played spectator and stage to the dance. I immediately regretted bringing only my cell phone for a camera.

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As I alternated between taking pictures and fumbling to put gloves back on (it was in the mid-30s, and I had not brought the right gloves for my “smart” phone), a thought struck me. The autumn combination of fog, sunlight, trees and water is probably my favorite of nature’s glorious offerings.

And if it weren’t for running, I’d have missed this beautiful morning.

If you had told me two decades ago that, one day, I’d rise early enough on a Saturday during vacation that only the stars would be up, I would have laughed at you. I have never been a morning person, and the idea of routinely giving up the one day a week I could sleep in would have never crossed my mind before I took up running.

Yet here I am, more than ten years into a life of running, and Saturdays have become synonymous with race day or a day to run long, especially on vacation. Not every Saturday, mind you. Just more than I ever would have guessed in my pre-running days. You know what? I’m glad for that change.

Running is a gift that gives all runners something we might not otherwise have. For me, those gifts include stunning vistas, an excuse to get outside regardless of the weather, an improved sense of direction, greater wanderlust, better health, and, yes, more time with the obsessive runner in my house. (Don’t worry. He readily admits his obsession.)

This morning, I ran with my dog who spent our vacation lazing at doggy camp. She didn’t drag as she sometimes does. She was full of energy, and so was I. At one point, she bounded along next to me, changing gears to match my increasing pace. She looked up at me, her ears streaming behind her, and her gaze said, “This is what I’ve been missing. Running along together like this is bliss.” I’d be lying if I said all running days are blissful. But sometimes, as with today and Saturday, running is bliss.

So while I may not always (or ever) greet the Saturday alarm with enthusiasm, I am grateful for the time and ability to run. Especially on the crisp fall mornings when the sun and fog dance along the water and among the trees.


What makes you feel more alive and get you out of bed in the early dark of Saturday mornings? For you runners out there, what is the greatest gift running has given you?

Autumn’s beautiful signs

As I walked the dog last night, I heard a strange sound in the sky, a mix between a purr and a chirp. I looked up to see a flock of birds flying in three loose V formations. I decided to count, and the dog cooperated. She had a bit of a wait.

120 birds.

They headed south and merged into one V formation, too high, or perhaps too small, for me to tell what kind they were. Long necks, but not Canada geese with their awkward clanking. These birds’ purring chirps provided a soothing melody to accompany the clouds and a few turning leaves.

I continued the walk and, too late, thought, “Camera.” I found the flock one more time—broken apart, drifting up into the sky like bits of ash breaking apart. I would have missed the moment had I dashed in for the camera.

Change is here. The light is shifting. Fall is in its early stages, and there’s a promise in the skies.

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The sky yesterday evening. Clouds are starting to return, and with them, the promise of rain.

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I love the golden light of fall.

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A fine harvest and one yellow leaf

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A welcome sight and a contrast to the brown leaves of summer’s drought

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The giddiness of rain-soaked red leaves.

I know my friends back east are sick of rain, and I can understand why. There’s talk of record-breaking consecutive days of rain. And the usual jokes about Noah’s ark. And now, to add insult, an approaching hurricane.

But I hope those drenched, east coast friends will forgive my giddiness here in the west, as clouds move in, as rain falls today, lightly for now but with a promise of more to come.

What promises of fall (inside or out) are you embracing these days?

Fall favorites

My favorite season begins today.

I’m not sure what a typical autumn looks like here in California, but with the extreme drought, I am sure this is no typical year. I long for the crisp days and bright colors of leaves turning on the trees. To be honest, though, I’m really praying for rain and trees that can survive after this long, hot summer.

A friend back east posted a picture on Facebook yesterday of one of my favorite trees just beginning to turn. I don’t just mean favorite kind of tree. This tree is one of my favorite individual trees. When I saw my friend’s status update, I felt joy and a pang of homesickness at the same time.

I photograph this tree every fall, and each year, I’m grateful it has stood another year. To me, this tree is grace, strength, beauty, endurance.

I photographed it last fall on a quiet, foggy morning:

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I may not get to visit it this year before the leaves are all gone, but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the photos friends post of it as it transforms into its most glorious orange color.

Do you have a favorite tree in fall? What other signs of fall do you enjoy? Pumpkins? Hot chocolate? Sweaters? Chilly nights? Football? Would you share them below?

Whatever brings you joy this season, let me wish you a happy fall full of those things.

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