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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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.

Flourishing Trees

I walked along the greenway with my dog, both of us banished from the house in the middle of the afternoon so strangers could walk through and decide if this would become their new home. I tried to make myself at home with my thoughts, as we crunched leaves underfoot, the dog and I.

I picked up one of the biggest leaves I’ve seen this season—a perfect fall blend of red, yellow and green—and looked up to find the towering tree that shed it. Through the canopy of smaller trees, I spied it, the old giant. I decided to take its leaf home and see if, along the way, I could find its tiniest counterparts. It became a game, and my dog relished the extra stops (more nose-to-the-ground time).

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Fall leaves … giant and small

I’ve finally found the tree that sheds a different sort of huge leaf into my yard every year. It eluded me all these years, shedding its leaves before the shorter, smaller trees shed theirs and therefore making it impossible for me to know which tree dropped the large, brown leaves. The tree lives in a neighbor’s yard and freely shares its leaves with us all.

Frost said, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” and this tree is one of those somethings, caring not one whit for fences or boundary lines or yards that have been freshly raked.

You may not think of trees shedding their leaves this time of year as flourishing trees, but that’s exactly what they are. They’ve learned that to survive the cold and dark of winter, they cannot fight nature. So they shed what they don’t need for a season.

One by one, with a gentle letting go, they drop away burdens they no longer need to hold, should no longer cling to if they want to flourish in the year ahead.

Ah, to be as wise as these trees—beautiful and trusting—as they let go of what is no longer their own. As they prepare for winter, they are also preparing for the coming spring.

Dear God: Please help me be more like these flourishing trees in their season of change. Amen.

I fling up this prayer in hopes of laying down some worries and fears of the season ahead for me … so that after the winter, I will be flourishing, too.

Is there something you’re holding on to that you could let slip gently away? A concern or burden that is no longer yours to carry? Will you let these things drop away from you like so many fall leaves?

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An especially flourishing tree that has covered my recently clean driveway with a golden leaf pile

Drop me a line in the comments below to let me know if you’re able to let go of any worries troubling you. And drop by next week, when I hope to share an exciting announcement about a different sort of flourishing tree.

 

Falling leaves and felling trees

As you probably know by now (especially if you saw yesterday’s post), I’m excited about the start of Autumn. So, let me wish you a very happy season! (And for those of you reading from the other side of the equator, happy spring!)

I love this time of year when cooler weather returns. Where I live, cooler weather has come along with cold, steady rain. I won’t complain, but after a few dreary days in a row, I’m looking forward to a clear weekend that includes sunshine without the heat of summer tagging along.

Falling leaves
The only leaves that have fallen so far dried in the late summer heat. Most leaves are still green, although I’ve noticed a few with just a hint of red to them. Giddiness! That tinge of red makes me giddy.

What makes me a little less giddy is the knowledge of the coming onslaught of falling leaves. We have lots of trees in our yard, and while I wouldn’t trade them for anything, that means lots of raking soon. And with our house on the market, my husband and I will have to tackle that chore more often to keep the yard looking tidy and inviting. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a yard without so many trees and therefore so many leaves to clear in the fall.

Felling trees
I’m grateful that our home’s builder decided to leave so many trees in our yard. So many developers in our area clear out beautiful old growth trees to make construction easier. It strikes me as a lack of imagination or vision to clear everything away.

Near my neighborhood, a developer has just begun clearing land. Whether the final result will be new homes or offices, I don’t know. What I do know is that the usual peace has been drowned with constant machinery chewing up a forest of trees.

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Where there were trees …

Now there is mud and debris where once so many trees grew, an ugly scar where there was once so much natural beauty. I’m sad to see them all go, and I feel bad for the neighbors whose houses back up to this property, especially those who didn’t realize this development was coming soon to their backyard.

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Small tree protection areas such as this one make me cringe.

I’m relieved to see a few spindly trees with the orange protection fence around them. Even those may not survive, given the small area protected and the heavy machinery that can damage the trees’ roots growing outside of the protected zone, but at least there’s some attempt to save a few of the trees.

Maybe the developer plans to plant new trees once the buildings are done, and maybe someday this space can be beautiful again. It may be years, though, before this space experiences a beautiful Autumn again.

Without trees, could Fall be as beautiful? I don’t think so. A pumpkin spice latte and a burgundy scarf are fun, but nothing can trump (for me anyway) nature’s color palette this time of year.

Aside from the trees and the aforementioned latte and scarf, I love the crisp feel of the air, the clear sky, football, happier morning runs, the pumpkin patches and kids searching for the perfect jack-o-lantern pumpkin, pie, apples, Halloween, …

So what do you love most about Autumn? I know it’s not everyone’s favorite season, but there must be something for everyone to love about this time of year. So let’s hear it. What makes you giddy about this new season?


P.S. I learned something new today and wanted to be sure to share it with you. Google keeps an archive of its doodles. So if you missed one (like yesterday’s) that everyone at the office was talking about, you can browse through them to your heart’s content. The archive also provides a great way to see what the rest of the world is celebrating.

Delicious fall

Fall starts here in the States on Saturday, and I can’t wait! I had a brief conversation with a friend of a friend this past weekend, and he was bemoaning the end of summer. He’s a teacher, and so that might explain part of it, but he’s cold-natured, too, and so that’s another reason he prefers summer to fall. He couldn’t quite understand why I was so giddy about the upcoming season of crunching leaves, pumpkins, hot cider, sweater-and-jeans weather and the smell of evening fires.

Now I know not all of you reading this are heading into autumn (I’m thinking of my Aussie and Kiwi friends particularly who are bidding winter goodbye), but I expect there are beautiful changes in nature poised to happen wherever you live.

This week, the comic strip Mutts is paying tribute to the joys of autumn. I especially love the quote from yesterday’s strip: “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” (Albert Camus)

Every leaf a flower

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