Biological gifts on the run

I heard a podcast yesterday featuring Rhonda Hampton, race director for the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run. In it, she spoke of her love of trail running and the “biological gifts” she encounters along the trails. (To go straight to that section of her interview, fast forward to 47:15.)

Her comment made me think of my own daily wildlife count when I’m out running or walking with the dog. This week alone, my wildlife count or list of biological gifts includes a coyote, two deer, at least a dozen turkeys, countless songbirds, a hawk, and, just this morning, a pair of American White Pelicans.

American White Pelicans in a place I’ve never seen them (along with what I guess to be Double-crested Cormorants). One pelican is hiding behind the other.

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A hard time of year to stay inside

Fall here is beautiful in its own way, not in a familiar North Carolina way, but in a way that catches my breath nonetheless.

The salmon are beginning their run, and happy fisher people (mostly fishermen) are daily swarming the river, giddy with the prospect of catching a big fish. A happy man popped up from the riverbank just this morning, a large, pink fish swinging from his side.

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Why do you think they fish all together instead of spreading out?

Rain came back in a big way, too, over the weekend. More than two inches over four days. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Continue reading

The first four California seasons

“Have you noticed we all say ‘Y’all’ now that you’re here?” One of my critique group members asked me this after saying the word herself. I’m not sure, but I think every member of the group had just said, “Y’all” in our wrapping-up conversation. It’s true. I’ve rubbed off on them, as they have on me.

I’ve been pondering this and other changes today. You see, one year ago today, I was on a plane, my dog in the cargo hold, flying across the country where my husband waited for us to begin a new adventure. And what an adventure it has been so far.

I sat at a cafe this morning—sipping an artful latte—and read a journal entry I wrote after my first week here.

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What had already grabbed my heart by the end of that first week was one of my great loves here: the river and the beauty and life that surround it. I thought I’d share with you some favorite moments (and photos) from my first four seasons here.

Winter
Along with the river, the mild weather of this region and oranges growing in my own yard are some favorites of winter here.

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The riverbank is greener in winter because it’s the rainy season. This photo is from before my dog met a skunk. I can tell from the darker brown of her coat, pre-peroxide baths.

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Just one of the delicious oranges from our yard

Spring
Although some flowers bloom through winter here, spring really is beautiful, ushering in abundant blooms and drawing wildlife out of hiding. The trees leafing out means more shade, too, a welcome presence along running trails.

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The earliest blooms of spring

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An Anna’s Hummingbird visits purple flowers near the river.

Summer
There’s no way to sugar coat summer here: it is ridiculously hot. But the mornings are cooler (compared to what this Southern girl is used to) and dry. I didn’t enjoy trying to finish runs by 6:30 each morning, but I definitely embraced the lower humidity.

Dragonflies darted happily around the yard and posed patiently for photo ops. A baby owl grew up in a nesting box attached to our house. I’m hoping for a repeat of all of this next summer.

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Fall
Fall is my favorite season anywhere, and so it’s no wonder that this fall brought many happy moments. Clouds returned in September, followed by a handful of rainy days. The Sierra peaks in the distance have slowly turned white with snow. Trees transformed into vibrant colors, and at least one osprey followed the salmon run up the river. Fall here offers much to celebrate, and with the cooler weather, it’s easier to embrace being outside no matter the time of day.

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Leaves aflame (not with fire but with fall color)

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King of the river?

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One of countless salmon swimming upstream

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The Sierra peaks are even more snow-covered than this now. A promise of drought relief?

All the year round
I’m grateful for so many people and things that have remained steadfast the whole year. For my husband who has patiently weathered my homesick moments and encouraged my attempts at establishing roots here. For family and friends far away who’ve made the effort to keep in touch. For new friends who have embraced me into their lives (and into their language, too). All y’all are wonderful! 😉

I’m grateful for the great running and races here. For coffee shops and wineries and San Francisco not too close but not too far either. For Yosemite within driving distance. And, oh, the stars. How could I forget the stars? It’s darker here than anywhere I’ve ever lived. Just the other night, I noticed some stars in Orion I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

Perhaps the greatest takeaway for me this year—a reminder I see weekly as I drive along a certain tree-lined, windy road—is that no matter where I live, this is truth:

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This message resonated with many of you, too. In my tree signs series, a majority of you chose this sign as your favorite.

As we head toward Christmas and a new year, I hope you’ll pause for a moment in all the busyness and ask yourself what you have loved about each of the last four seasons. What stands out to you? I invite you to share a few of your joys and delights from the year in the comments below.

Seasons and surprises

Ever have one of those weeks where lunch, if it happens at all, happens at 4:30 in the afternoon standing over some work you have to get done? That’s the kind of week I’m having. The busyness is all for great reasons, and I can’t complain.

However, it means I don’t have a lot of time to sit down and write this week. Still, I want to share a few seasonal happenings for which I am deeply grateful, and one seasonal surprise I’d just as soon do without. I hope you don’t mind a post mostly of pictures.

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Rain-soaked maple with leaves turning for fall

We’ve been blessed with good rains the last two Sundays and Mondays, the promise of a much-needed rainy season here. I never thought I’d get so excited about rain. Of course, I don’t always appreciate God’s sense of humor with the timing of answering my pestering prayers for rain. This past weekend, rain started to fall four and a half minutes into a half marathon I was running. Two hours of cold, wet running: fun and not fun at the same time.

I wasn’t sure if fall would be all that pretty here given the drought, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’m grateful to the previous owners of our home for planting several trees in the yard that are turning beautiful autumn shades.

I’m also grateful to whichever neighbor included this lovely mum as part of my secret “boo’d” gift for Halloween. I’m still trying to figure out the best sunny spot to plant it, hoping it will come back year after year.

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Mums and pumpkins glisten in the rain.

The rains have brought huge puddles to my running trails, and dodging them makes for a fun challenge. The dog is less picky. She runs straight through the puddles. She loves the rain, too, mostly because she likes getting toweled off when we get home.

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This puddle stuck around all last week and got refilled with the new rain earlier this week.

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A bit of fall red amid all the green trees. I like its reflection in the river.

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More puddles and fog rolling in, a battle between the wet ground and the rising sun

Now for the unpleasant surprise. No one told me there would be two (!) yellow pollen seasons here. This is how the front porch has looked for the last couple of weeks.

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There ought to be a warning that California has two yellow pollen seasons!

My supply of allergy medicine is dwindling. Guess this is a sign of happy trees, though, and so I will try not to gripe so much. It’s a nuisance more than anything, and it makes me even more grateful for the rain.

What seasonal happenings are you enjoying most these days? What surprises would you prefer hadn’t come your way? I hope the joyful bits outweigh the unpleasant ones for 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?