A love letter to the river, part 2

As my days here in California dwindle, I’m trying to savor the things and places I’ll miss most. Last week’s post offered up the first part of a love letter to the river here. This week’s focuses on a more specific love I have for the river: the birds it attracts.

A Great Heron keeps a watchful eye from its nest.

Double-crested Cormorants line up along a wire across the river. I love their turquoise eyes.

White-tailed Kites perched in their tree before going on a hunt.

Perhaps it is the birds I will miss most about the river. Unexpected varieties of birds have became daily companions. I’ve searched for them on morning walks and brought friends to see them in pouring rainstorms.

The little Anna’s Hummingbird that perches in the same tree top each morning. The pair of White-tailed Kites who have their own tree to defend from interloping hawks. Owls I can hear but never see in the dimmest early morning hours. The big birds that come in hunting salmon and trout: golden eagles, bald eagles, osprey. Then there are the herons, egrets, cormorants, mergansers, and other birds who are ever present. I’ve even come to appreciate the vultures.

Encountering these birds make up some of my favorite memories, and I will carry them with me in my heart when I go.

Do you have favorite birds you see where you live? Or when you travel?

A love letter to my hometown, part 4

Dear Raleigh,

I didn’t realize as a child how fortunate I was to grow up so close to Pullen Park. Maybe I took it for granted that all children get to enjoy such a place, but as an adult, I know Pullen Park is one of your greatest treasures.

When I visited yesterday, with a friend and her three young boys, much had changed. But so much of what makes this park wonderful remains the same after all these years.


A fancy gateway greets visitors to the park these days.

The humble walkway into the park with its little waterfall is long gone—replaced by a new, grander entry in a different area of the park. But some of the same rides and play spaces reassured me that you hadn’t lost the spirit of this place, only shined them up a bit. Continue reading

A love letter to my hometown, part 3

Dear Raleigh,

I took off from the airport Monday morning and was reminded of why your nickname is “the City of Oaks.” Green was everywhere. Trees are the finery in which you choose to clothe yourself.

Thank you for creating such a beautiful space for your citizens and guests to enjoy.

Trees line your streets:


A busy street made beautiful by trees blooming in spring


Trees provide shade along the parade route for the St. Patrick’s Day parade (which is another event I love you for hosting).

Trees give shelter and shade along your many running trails and in your beautiful parks:


At Umstead. I know, I know, it’s a state park, but it’s still attached to Raleigh. And it’s beautiful any time of year.


Some tree roots I pass by almost daily … thanks for creating so many trails and saving green spaces.


Fred Fletcher park, a lovely place to walk or sit and enjoy Raleigh’s natural beauty

Speaking of trees’ beauty, the art museum has fabulous grounds (and a running trail runs through it—the property, not the building).


Manmade art framing a beautiful tree


More art, beautiful fall trees

Trees live at the heart of my favorite place to visit in Raleigh: NC State’s JC Raulston Arboretum.

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So thank you, Raleigh, for the trees. I hope you’ll keep fighting the good fight with the state to turn the Dorothea Dix property into a city park. Your efforts make me love you even more.

One of your native daughters

PS – My new city is trying to win my heart, too. When I called to set up my utilities, they said I qualified for their tree program and could get up to 12 free shade trees. One whole dozen. So, Raleigh, you may need to step up your game and see if Duke Energy or one of the other utility companies would provide such a beautiful offer to your residents.

A love letter to my hometown, part 2

Dear Raleigh,

You host some great parties every year, and one of the biggest arrives tomorrow: the State Fair.

I have fond memories of the fair growing up, but somewhere between childhood and adulthood, I lost some of the thrill of joining the crowds there year after year. Last year, I couldn’t ignore your invitation to go to the fair for free during lunchtime. I made two trips in two days and had so much fun. I hope to fit in one last visit this year.

First, I’m not sure you as a city can take all the credit, but thanks for making this year’s fair feel a little safer for me (and many others) by continuing to ban guns. I would say to anyone who feels the need to carry a gun at the fair, well, if you feel that unsafe, maybe the fair just isn’t the place for you.

The fair is a place for fun, not fear, a place for games and rides and food and livestock and quilting competitions and giant pumpkins and pig races and walking until your feet hurt. Raleigh, I thank you for providing that all these years.

One of your native daughters

For those of you who can’t make it to the fair this year, here’s a virtual tour of some of my favorite (mostly quieter) spots at the fair.


You’ll notice I’m on the ground looking up, but I used to love to ride the ferris wheel.


You can’t have too many kinds of ferris wheels at the fair.

I love looking at the arts and crafts competitions. These quilts make me wish I was crafty. They’re beautiful:

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The Village of Yesteryear is probably my favorite place at the fair. This building is filled with craftsmen and craftswomen demonstrating traditional arts and crafts. Among my favorite stops last year were a wood carver and a candle maker.

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Tucked away in a far corner of the fairgrounds is a flower exhibit. Nurseries and other groups set up floral displays for competition and teaching. There’s always a bonsai display, and last year, gorgeous sunflowers stole the show (for me anyway).


Bonsai tree


Towering sunflowers

Ever since that one trip to the fair when I got violently ill afterward, I’ve steered clear of much of the food. But I can’t visit without getting a caramel apple. This one was perfect: granny smith apple coated in caramel and peanuts. Delish! I hope I can find this same vendor this year.


An annual treat

If you only had two hours at the fair, what would be on your must-see, must-do, must-eat lists?