More November favorites

I hope for those of you working on NaNoWriMo that it’s going well for you. I’ve fought some distractions (see photos three and four below), but I’m making progress and enjoying—for the most part anyway—what I’m accomplishing. I have more than 20,000 words now, here at the start of the second half of November.

I was wondering out loud with someone yesterday, “Where did November go? How is Thanksgiving already next week” I realize as I write this post, my November has gone into my novel, a September almost 90 years ago. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Where has your November gone?


Otters at the river, so fun to watch and so hard to capture from a distance.

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Tis the season for salmon

My husband and I have kept ourselves busy the last few days decorating for Christmas. Tis the season after all.

It’s also the most magical time of the year down at the river. As I ran this morning, I realized that I have fallen in love with the river, and this time of year has become my favorite river season for two reasons: cooler weather and the salmon run.


Salmon splash in shallow parts of the river as they make their way upstream.


The end point for the salmon, at the gates of the hatchery

A fish hatchery upriver raises Chinook salmon from the eggs they collect (a process that is not at all for the faint of heart of heart to watch). Visitors to the hatchery can watch the salmon climb the ladder (also troubling to watch, as some of the salmon throw themselves again and again at gates that often close to prevent overcrowding in the holding tanks).


A fish makes it up a “rung” of the ladder.


The ladder draws crowds daily, salmon climbing and people watching.

I prefer a spot lower down the river, one where I stop daily at the river’s edge to watch the splashing of the salmon, trying to decide if this day holds more salmon than the day before.

There’s inherent heartbreak to the salmon run. They swim up river to spawn and then die. The last few days, I’ve noticed more and more dead salmon in the river and along its banks (Warning: photo of dead salmon below). That also means the vulture count is growing.


I count at least sixteen in this picture.


The vultures provide a necessary service, but … I don’t enjoy this part.

The river teems with birds at all times of the year, but this heron (a year-round resident) seems especially perturbed by the vultures landing so close to him.


Puffing up with indignation


Establishing the pecking order? Or claiming personal space?

As the sun emerged from clouds the other morning, the vultures stretched their wings to warm in the sun’s heat. As ugly as vultures are, I found them beautiful in their own way this day.


Ugly and beautiful?

The vultures’ presence is vital, or the river would become unbearable for the stench and debris. It’s hard to watch, but I remind myself that this is the salmon’s goal in life and is a cycle they must undertake to keep their species going.

The hatchery offers hope on this front. For a quarter, you can buy fish food to feed these babies:


A holding pond filled with baby chinooks

Have you ever seen the salmon run? If not, come visit California in the fall. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be spellbound by this spectacular cycle of nature.

Settling in and a New Year’s wish

Happy New Year’s Eve!

It feels good to be back here with you after a four-week break to move across the country and start getting settled in to an unfamiliar new home.

I hope you’re enjoying some rest during the holiday season, though I know tonight may bring revelry and exuberance as we usher in 2015.

As I settle in to my new home and get accustomed to unfamiliar surroundings, I’ve been struck with how fortunate I am to live where I do, near a beautiful protected park along the river. From the first morning’s walk with my husband and dog, I was captivated with the surprising beauty and peace of the place.

I was surprised one morning to see this tree filled with vultures. I tried to look alive as I ran under the tree.


How many vultures can you spot in this tree?

This isn’t even a very big tree. I was amazed at the numbers gathered there and was briefly unsettled, until I remembered my husband telling me about the salmon spawning here during his visits in November.

The vultures didn’t care one little iota about me. They were here for their Christmas dinner, and given the smell of rotting salmon coming off the river, I was glad for their presence. They still have work to do, and I find myself happily looking for them and counting them each morning. Today was breezy, and several circled the river riding the wind. They looked almost graceful in their enjoyment of the ride.

While I would never have thought vultures would teach me something about a new calendar, these birds have. Not everything can stay the same, nor should I want it to.

Not everything can stay the same, nor should I want it to.

Just as I don’t want salmon carcasses left to decompose along my running route, I don’t want to cling to the old things that are no longer meant for me. I need to let go, and I need to embrace the sometimes ungainly, unlovely helpers I encounter along the way.

While I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, there are things I have to let go of to embrace the year ahead. Can you relate?

My wish for you (and me) is this:

May we let go of what must be left in 2014. May we embrace the coming year. May we encounter gentle paths along the way. And yet, when we encounter the inevitable rocky paths, may we embrace those, too, knowing that they help us stay sharp, they help us develop compassion for others’ rocky paths, and they challenge us to become a stronger, better self than we would be if all our paths were calm. Most of all, may we flourish.

GentlePath2014_FT RockyPath2014_FT

I’ll leave you with a scene I’m blessed enough to see every day. The dog is settling in well, and we both enjoy stopping here in the mornings to watch the river teem with birds. I couldn’t ask for a better way to greet each morning, and I wish you many moments of calm and serene beauty as you start your year.


My dog and I run the trails and stop by the river each morning, becoming more “local” every day. 


All the best to you in 2015!

PS—Thanks to some crazy VAT law the EU passed, the price for my ebook will go up tomorrow. So buy it today before the price increase! (I think it’s a steal at $3.99.)