A green escape from the cares of the world

There are days I want to turn off the television, the radio, social media. Days I want to escape from the horrors of our world. Days I want to let nature enfold me and bring a sense of peace back to my soul.

If you’re visiting this blog today, maybe you’re feeling that way, too? Want to come on a virtual journey with me?

When my husband and I were in Oregon for the Olympic trials, we spent one of the competition’s off days visiting the McKenzie River in the Cascades. The drive was beautiful, and at one point, I couldn’t see anything but a sliver of road surrounded all around by tall evergreens. It was a sight for sore eyes missing the green of home.

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Trees, trees everywhere (a view from where we parked the car and got out to venture around)

Our surroundings turned magical once we got out of the car. Continue reading

The owls and the interloper

Our owls came back to nest this year, and my husband and I have enjoyed seeing the increased activity around the owl box in the past few weeks. The parent owls showed themselves more during the daytime this year and even did a few too many fly-bys of my head when I was outside in the evenings.

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Mamma or daddy owl (a western screech-owl) on high alert. Its markings are beautiful.

Others nearby haven’t been as thrilled with the owls nesting in our bird box. Somewhere close to the box is a hummingbird nest, along with the nest of another sort of bird—perhaps a black phoebe (I’m not sure about the identification of that one). There are other tiny birds in the area, too, and I wonder if they have a nest somewhere in those trees, too.

As the mother owl left the nest more frequently, the other birds flitted around the trees by the box, pitching a frenzied “Go away!” fit. 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.

O, Yosemite!

We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us. (John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra)

Let the mountains bring peace to the people. – Psalm 72:3

Have you ever been somewhere and not wanted to leave? Somewhere that filled you with boundless energy and measureless peace at the same time? Yosemite is such a place for me.

My husband and I made a trip there last week, our second time ever visiting Yosemite and our first since moving here. Our goal is to visit Yosemite in all four seasons. The weather was kind to us, and we didn’t have to put chains on our tires. We spent time hiking and running and strolling. Sometimes, we stood still, awed by the splendor rising up to surround us.

If you long for nature’s grandeur, come to Yosemite. If you need a reminder of your smallness, come to Yosemite. If you need to be rejuvenated in body and mind, come to Yosemite.

You may not be able to drop everything right this minute and make your way there, and so I’m sharing some favorite photographs with you. Will you carve out a little space at the end of this busy day and sit with these views? I hope they fill you with peace and renewed energy in equal portion.

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This bobcat was the very definition of nonchalance, paying us no mind as it went about its business. (Apologies for not being able to get a front-end picture)

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On the way to Mirror Lake

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Half Dome on an overcast morning

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A thin winter coat of snow

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Mirror Lake

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Half Dome with the skies clearing

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Words fail me: Yosemite falls with rainbow and snow

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Fog through the trees

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Another quiet moment

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Ubiquitous (and well-versed in the music of a snack bag opening)

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Saying goodbye in the valley

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Sun and snow at play

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Impossible not to stop and look back

Have you ever been to Yosemite? What was your favorite part of your visit? If you’ve never been, did any of the photographs inspire you to start planning a trip?

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.