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“In response to” all kinds of stuff, some barefoot

July 26, 2017

This is where many of my barefoot adventures begin:


In the winter, all is muck and mire, but then the rainy season ends, allowing relentless mountain bike traffic to pulverize what briefly was mud to fabulous dust.

I respond with mixed feelings to the smooth trails.

Sure, fluffy dirt is fun to prance shoelessly through, but at the same time, I resent the ever-increasing busy-ness (and dangerous-ness) of “my” local trails.


Bike tracks everywhere . . . but there’s a hidden sign: the “letter K” that shows a roadrunner also shares this trail.

How about a positive response to something, Gramma Grumpy-pants?

Let’s see . . . how about a recent “response” poetry exercise that resulted in a poem I was pleased to see take shape?

Background: Although I’ve never “done improv,” I do appreciate the art form, and had the happy idea to steal a basic improv exercise and apply it to poetry.

“Yes, and” is the ultimate “response” game; it forces players to follow whatever comment is made (no matter how crazy) with “yes, and” + their own impromptu sentence, thus continuing the play of ideas.

Last month, I hunkered down with some other writers in aspen shade (Grand Canyon National Park/North Rim forest), distributed poetry books, and began our “yes, and” exercise by extending the invitation to “allow your book to fall open and let a poem choose you.”


Here’s the books we used for inspiration (by Kern County, CA, Poet Laureate  Don Thompson.)

Then we each chose a line from “our” poem, copied it at the top of a blank journal page, and followed the quote with the words, “Yes, and . . . .” followed by whatever images/ideas seemed to want to be a part of the party.

IMG_1860 (1)

Two pages of scribbles: in response to the last lines of Don Thompson’s poem “Drought.”


I am a big fan of Don Thompson’s work; he seems like a most kindred of spirits, another dusty path wanderer (his trails wind around the San Joaquin Valley where he has lived all his life), who pays close attention to his local places, plants, critters . . . and then composes simple-but-never-simplistic poems about what he notices.

[Confessional tangent: after my review of his book Everything Barren Will Be Blessed was published four years ago, Don began sending me a lovely Christmas present each year: limited-edition chapbooks of his work in thematic arrangements, with both old and new poems resonating off each other in compelling ways. And, even though I was raised by a mother who was high priestess of the Prompt-Thank-You-Note cult, I have not, to this day, ever acknowledged these most precious poetic gifts. Sigh. Can such a gross omission be atoned for via a blog post? One can hope . . . ]

Those pages of notes began to tug at me this week, so I dug out my North Rim journal and started copying into a computer document any words/phrases that seemed interesting. It’s a comfortable composing method that bypasses any chance for writer’s block: I’ve already written a bunch of schizz, now I can just play around and see how things want to fall into lines/stanzas (deleting/adding words is part of the fun).

The resulting poem will end this post, but first . . . more photos from  recent wandering:


You can bet I had an elevated-blood-pressure response to this 12-balloon mylar nightmare–perhaps it drifted over from the cemetery in the background? (Side note: running near a cemetery = highly recommended to help keep priorities straight. A few deep breaths; a prayer; some satisfying helium-releasing balloon-stabs with my trusty pocket knife = lower BP, stat.)


Robber’s Peak: a high point for my local wanderings . . . and another place that makes me think of “big picture” ideas, such as, “Wow! I can run up and down this hill again, after so many years of injuries. Guess I better not take my strong legs & lungs for granted.” *truth in blogging note: that ain’t me in the picture.


They seem odd/out of place, but there are four palo verde trees in brilliant bloom right now, just outside Irvine Park, far from the trees’ native desert habitat. A quick search uncovers two facts I did not know: it’s the state tree of Arizona, and it’s a habitat-destroying weed in parts of Australia.

Here’s the response poem . . . Happy (“yes, and”) Trails . . .

In response to

. . . their hooves pelting the road / more like rain than rain
(from “Drought” by Don Thompson)

Who has not mis-imagined
a sound? Tires crunching
down the gravel and you think:
finally, he’s home,
until the neighbor’s door slams?

Once a lovely cloying
perfume–Youth Dew–
caught me; I closed my eyes,
hoping for another hug,
but the cemetery
remained 2,000 miles
down the road.

Clouds on the boil
over faint mountains:
is it a thunderstorm
or the first roil of wildland inferno,
thousands of acres torched,
grandmother oak and her woodland
community scorched: woodrat, newt,
sister butterfly, lichen, oak
titmouse, mychorrhizae, acorn
woodpecker, all
our secret paths?

Who has not been tricked:
thirsty for rain,
desperate to wake
to the first hard drops
overhead, not the staccato
pop of gunshots,
desperate now
to go back
to dream time.

What are your (barefoot or not) options?

July 12, 2017

What are your options? (Googling this question brings up a gaggle of topics, from Arthritis treatment to costume ideas beginning with the letter “Z.” My favorite search result: “Securing Hadoop: What Are Your Options?“)).

(It made me unreasonably happy that a word like “Hadoop” exists and is somehow related to serious biz-ness.)

The idea of “options” has been on my mind since last week’s “movement”* class during which we spent 45 minutes exploring the options associated with . . . wait for it . . . rolling from side to front, side to back. (*Thus the ironic air quotes around the descriptor “movement.”)

So what made this a fabulous game-changer of a class session? The fact that we were challenging our brains to do something different, creative, novel: performing a “familiar” movement in slow, methodical — non-habitual — ways.

This is the beauty of Feldenkrais . . . it’s all about options, learning to do the “same old” stuff of life in novel ways, as movement/life coach Darcia Dexter reminds us most every week.

So it shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did, that I woke the next day, straightened my lower leg to help me roll over (just like we had done in class), and heard a phrase ring out in my crazy silent loud head: “We have options!”

Soon after that I stumbled upon the first chapter of Scott Berkun’s new book and was reminded that creativity (my current flavorite research topic) involves choosing weird options: “Being silly often leads to having fun, and having fun means you are more likely to try new things. How do you expect to be more creative if you’re not willing to try anything you haven’t done before? Not willing to try makes you a victim of the status quo, the greatest killer of potential since the dawn of humanity.” 

So the rest of the week, as I ran and pondered, everything jumped out as me as


When I hike and trail run, my options first of all revolve around my choice of footwear (or lack thereof).

However, during a volunteer stint last Saturday, I was confronted with trails not of my choosing, trails that had recently been weed-whacked to make them less impassable, a good intention but one that left weed stickers flung everywhere I stepped, transforming barefoot fun into OUCH!


What were my options? Continue in awkward pincushion pain, or slip on my Sockwas and enjoy the hills and heat and views.


. . . and the heat was made a bit more bearable by my nerd-u-listic hiking umbrella . . . 

To not be locked into my prideful mindset of “barefoot only” felt like a creative breakthrough. Can I please be done having to prove anything more to myself, and just be free to adapt to changing conditions without worrying what others might think of my barefoot street cred?

(Wise advice from a forgotten source: everyone’s too worried about their own shizz to give a shizz about your shizz.)

The next morning? That’s right: I had options.

Instead of going for a run on the same ol’ trails (which I LOVE and appreciate in all their seasonal beauty throughout the year, but the theme this week was options, dang it, and it was going to be another braid-wilting, heat-alert kind of day) . . . instead of driving 14 minutes to my nearest trailhead, I invested another 10 minutes behind the wheel and made it all the way to:


The Pacific Ocean, a terrible place to drive to on a weekday morning because of commuter traffic, and an even worse destination on a summer Sunday during a heat wave.

But I had options! How about leaving the house at 5:30 am, arriving just in time for a most non-habitual sunrise: (we’re usually socked in with fog at the coast)


With a 50-mile sandy race coming up (next year, but gotta start some time), I thought it might be wise to explore new training options, such as . . . deep sand plodding. Yikes.

Corona del Mar had plenty of sand, but the trash was bumming me out, as were all the childhood memories associated with the place (Where’s the old snack stand? Why is the beach so small? In what universe is it OK to leave so much trash behind after a day of beach fun?!)

Hmmm. Maybe I could ditch the complaining and come up with a creative solution (after picking up a few pieces of plastic and realizing it was too big of a job for a single memory-infested runner).

Options galore, just a few minutes up Pacific Coast Highway:


Lots more sand, both packed–near the water–and deeply loose–past the high tide mark.

I allowed myself the option of both walking and running, both down in/near the water, or up in the deep stuff . . . 

. . . . and visiting both the local piers allowed me to notice/compare small differences (a major part of the Feldenkrais neuromuscular learning experience). By 9am I was out of there, long before the strand became the usual impassable summer weekend patchwork of towels/umbrellas/chairs/happy-frying-trash-flinging folks. (Did I mention I’m not a fan of crowds?)

Other options I’ve been opting in on lately: running with eyes open and closed, allowing the SMELLS of the landscape to captivate me as much as the summer-blooming wildflowers (who because of their dry-ground-defiance deserve extra appreciation).


A brilliant flower whose common name is “pink” even though it’s red (has to do with the fringed flower edges). 





Deer weed, a nitrogen-fixing plant whose flowers change color after pollination, which is happening as we speak.


Beware the datura (well, don’t freak out; its flowers smell delicious, but just don’t ingest any part of this plant unless you are looking for A) a vision quest, followed by B) liver damage/death (or at least a very scary trip to the ER)


Vinegar weed: yeah, it smells like its name, and yeah, it was a useful medicinal plant for People who knew what they were doing.

More cuckoo-bananas option-stuff: last week I ran a trail “backwards.” (Nope; not that kind of backwards. Do I look like I’m crazy? I just ran the loop counterclockwise for a change . . . change which is difficult to climb out of when the ruts have grown deep over time.)

Then I put on my running shorts one leg at a time (don’t we all?!) but I did it out of order–left foot first. Ever brushed your teeth with your non-dominant hand? Yeah, that’s an option 🙂

Here’s a “weird”* one: I plunged into memorizing the words/chords to a new-to-me song: Weird Al’s Star Wars parody of “American Pie.” (As rusty as my guitar skills are, my grandsons seemed to really get into singing along via Skype; there’s an option I never had with my grandparents . . . )

(* love me my air-quote puns)

Just because you limit your options to someone else’s melody doesn’t mean you can’t still be wildly creative, right, Weird Al? 


(not my own photo)

While Weird Al has all the music that’s ever been made as his parody-option-field, Bob Dylan–there’s an old-school wild creator–gives us only two options in this song that I heard on a recent road trip and have been growling to myself ever since:


One more optional idea that popped into my head during a recent dish-washing/pondering session: the practice of non-habitual acts of kindness . . . doing very little things (making coffee for a spouse even though you don’t touch the stuff, not screening your mom’s phone call, waving someone else ahead of you in line at the grocery store, you get the drift) that don’t cost much except the ability to respond to a tiny situation in a way that might bring much-needed joy to someone else.

This rambling post still needs a segue to transition to the boat-load of photos I’ve taken these last few days; hmmm . . . I got nothin’ . . . but here’s hoping some mental clothespins will appear and help you connect them to the wispy theme-thread of this blog post: so many options).


Atypical morning clouds along the So Cal coast


Big feet, tiny surfers (in left background)

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The place where my love for barefoot rock-hopping began about 50 years ago when I would try to run all the way to the end of this rock jetty without stopping. I still remember the feeling of exhilaration, but do not remember so much gull-poop . . . 


The (in)famous “Wedge” from afar. 


As a child of the 1960s, I remember watching endless episodes of Gilligan’s Island. This is the harbor mouth from which the ill-fated group left for their “three-hour tour.”


Crabs always seem to invite semi-vulgar captions; not goin’ there. 

One way I aim to add novel options to my running: balancing on whatever I can find. Here’s a “whatever I could find” along the short stretch of blacktop that links trails above and below Villa Park Dam.

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And here is some training for the rock-scrambling portions of an upcoming race. Rock fun! Another activity imprinted upon me at an early age out at Joshua Tree. Our rock-hopping antics seem to have scared our parents so much they never took us camping there again . . . 

Happy Rocky, Sandy, Counter-clockwise, Barefoot Trails! We have options!

Fourth of July or Thanksgiving?

July 6, 2017
map of morro bay harbor

Along the Embarcadero, a lovely map of the Morro Bay/Sandspit/Morro Rock area shows us that “We are here.”

It might be sizzling hot around the rest of the Southwest, but Morro Bay (on California’s Central Coast) is dependably chilly all year . . . so Grammy Me and the grandkids had to bundle up to go exploring this past pre-July-4-holiday weekend.

morro bay hike

hiking with grammy

Shoes are always optional when hiking with Grammy . . .

sea otters morro bay

Sea otters! See the sea otters? Once thought to have been hunted to extinction, they now seem to be making a comeback along the California coast, a nearby volunteer/docent explained as she lent us her binoculars and filled us in on the local Morro Bay population . . . almost 50 of them now . . . the most in recent history.

Then the fog burned away just in time for the Barefoot Concerts on the Green show at Sea Pines Golf Resort. That’s right . . . this event is billed as “barefoot” . . . and people were! The Big Daddy Blues Band had lots of us dancing; you’ll find me dead center in the pale yellow top/white hat, groovin’ to the blues.

sea pines barefoot concert series dancers

So that was last weekend, pre-July 4: giving thanks for summer and seven barefoot grandkids to share adventures with.

colorful grandkids

But grandkids can wear a grammy out, so when we got home on July 3rd, I decided to relax the next day with a lovely 7:15 am 10k race through Orange Park Acres (an equestrian community just east of town where I spent some happy times as a young teen working with horses):

70s blond

Gotta love the 1970s . . . 

This time, I’d be on foot rather than horseback, but it was still fun to ramble up and down those old hilly streets and horse trails for just a bit over an hour . . . that’s right; my time of 1:04:44 put me in 89th place (out of 157 runners).

Dang: I’d have won a top three age group medal if I were in the 20-29/female age group. Instead, I was 10th out of 24 women age 50-59. (Looks like lots of us post-midlife-crisis ladies know how to really have a good time: go run.)

When I think back to October 2016, and my scary/excruciating lower-fibula stress fracture, I can only thank God that my bones seem to have recovered, and I was able to run smiling and pain free the whole blessed race.

It’s been a long (life-time, pretty much) journey of one running injury after another–especially the long-term left knee issues that first surfaced on May 15, 2004, at the Bishop High Sierra 20-mile race. I hope I never take the ability to run pain-free for granted. (And a shout-out to the amazing physio/movement practitioners who’ve helped me get to this point: Dr. Derrick Sueki of Knight Physical Therapy and Feldenkrais/movement coach Darcia Dexter.)

So there I was, Fourth of July 2017, not taking anything for granted, on a runner’s high all day, calling my kids to #racebrag about my (slow, but I did run negative splits for each of the 6.2 miles) time.

july 4 race

Here I am at the finish line (which was combined with 5k racers in red bibs). I think I smiled pretty much the entire race. (But, on a disappointing (?!) note, I was not able to maintain nose-breathing past the first mile or two; once my pace started picking up, it seemed important to open my mouth to breath. Scott Jurek . . . one of these days . . . )

And what was my favorite part of the course (which wound through an equestrian community on dirt bridle trails), she asked rhetorically?

The respite piles of soft fabulousness (otherwise known as horse poop).


I shot this image this morning, in another part of the East Orange hills, to illustrate this post (since I didn’t carry a camera for the race). 

There was a group of kids running the 10k race from some kind of running group; each time they approached a pile of horse crap, their (adult) leader would scream, “Hazard!”

This disturbed me not a little, so I finally had to speak up and remark to the several kids running along the wide trail near me, “Those aren’t hazards! They’re soft places to land your feet!”

As with most of my barefoot preachin’ and proselytizin’, I fear my words had little effect on changing anyone’s mind about how gruesome/awesome horse shit is.



But I wander on, shoeless and unafraid of any rocks, dust, mud, or critter crap decorating my path.

I can run again! Every day is Thanksgiving!

vp dam

Here I am this morning getting in some easy recovery miles behind the Villa Park Dam. It’s amazing how sore a grammy can get from pushing the pace during a measly 6.2 mile race. 

Since I’ve been averaging one race a year lately (2016: Monument Valley 50k; 2017: Fourth of July 10k) . . . tomorrow morning, I sign up for 2018’s challenge: my first 50-miler next February.

Happy (Grateful) Trails!

(NOTE: More gratitude to my daughter for taking most of the photos in this blog post. THANKS!)

Barefoot hiking, and just . . . hiking

June 23, 2017

It’s been hot, folks.

I just drove back from Grand Canyon country a few days ago; when the afternoon traffic slowed down on I-15 through Las Vegas (please note the speedometer: only 10 mph), I snuck a shot of my trusty little VW’s air temperature gauge: 120 F.


What’s a barefoot hiker to do?

Not this!

(The above link is to an article my daughter sent me about a lady who–somehow?!–“lost” her shoes while hiking in Death Valley recently and ended up in the hospital with third degree burns on the soles of her feet.)

During my three (count ’em: 3) recent hiking adventures in/near Grand Canyon, I capitulated to common sense and did a most repugnant-but-necessary thing: I wore $#!+ on the bottom of my feet so I wouldn’t end up on the Darwin Awards web page.

While this offends most every fiber of my barefoot being, I like to imagine that some wisdom is accompanying my transition to this new era during which Taco Bell counter workers in Page, AZ (WITHOUT EVEN ASKING FOR MY I.D.!) tell me, “With the Senior Discount, your order comes to $7.32.)

(And anyway, to add insult to injury, after I read the article about the Death Valley barefoot hiking genius, I decided to google the phrase “barefoot hiking” . . . I appear nowhere in the first several pages of results, leading me to believe that I have no street cred to damage, anyway.)

While the South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails at Grand Canyon are so well-groomed and well-traveled that they are most delightful to hike barefoot, when it’s chilly in the morning, a nice thin pair of wool socks, coupled with my faithful Merrells, makes for a warm, fashion-forward experience:


Here I am at the South Kaibab trailhead last month as our GCAFI group began its three-day mule-assisted geology-wonderfilled trip (offered by the Grand Canyon Association Field Institute; I served as assistant to the “rock star” geologist Brian Gootee on this trek). Fortunately, after about an hour it warmed up enough to remove the ridiculous wool long johns as well as the sandals.

Next May 2017 adventure: a couple of hikes near Lee’s Ferry followed by five days of meandering down the Paria River . . . another GCAFI adventure; this time I was assisting that extremely knowledgeable mountain-goat-in-flip-flops, Christa Sadler. Our first little Lee’s Ferry day hike: a precipitous jaunt up the historic Spencer Trail, during which we ascended 1500 feet in two miles over sinuous, slippery, hand-rail-lacking rocks ‘n stuff.

But the view from the top! (Navaho Mountain and the rock formations of southern Lake Powell)


For a little more grip, less slip, I went with my Sockwas (plus the requisite wooly socks). 

The next day, the real fun began: five days of sloshing down the Paria River until, 38 miles later, we would end up back at Lee’s Ferry.

What to wear, what to wear . . .


I started out the first day in an old pair of my husband’s New Balance zero-drop Minimus running shoes (with the insole removed for less padding). They were OK for sloshing through the ankle-high water, but when I put them on the next day: ouch. The back of my heels barked, “We want our sandals back!”

Never one to ignore my dogs . . .


. . . I spent the next four days in my lovely, featherweight, barely there Merrells (which of course, like all good things of the past, are obsolete and impossible to obtain any more).

When bits of grit from the pebbly stream bed got sucked up between my foot and the inner sole, I could usually solve the problem at walking speed by just swishing my foot against the current. Once or twice a day that did not dislodge the offending tiny chunk of Navajo sandstone, so I would have to pause and un-velcro and swish until all was smooth underfoot (under-sock?) again.

Last week I returned to Grand Canyon’s North Rim for my third-annual “Writing on the Edge” creative writing workshop (another wonderful GCAFI program, if I do say so myself). It was now HEAT ALERT time on the Colorado Plateau; trail surfaces, even at 8600+ feet in elevation, were enough to toast my tootsies during all our Kaibab Plateau forest wandering, so once again I strapped on my (deteriorating, but not degenerate) Merrells–with one difference: no socks this time. Other than some messy-looking dust-stripes at the end of the day, this worked good enough while I was busy being responsible and leading the day’s hiking fun.

Side note tangentially related to this barefoot-or-not blog post: I got to the North Rim a day early, without a camping reservation for my first night.

What to do?

Head for the NPS Backcountry Office and see what was available on a hike-in basis, of course. My first choice, Cape Final, was booked; not surprising since there is a total of one overnight site available at the end of that lovely two-mile trek through Kaibab Plateau forest. There was always Widforss Point, another stunner of a hike that undulates through the Ponderosa, aspen, fir, and spruce trees. But that was five miles one way, and I’d just driven 500, and thus was not eager to finish my hike in the dark.

“What about the Uncle Jim trail?” Ranger Steve asked.

“What? I can stay out at Uncle Jim Point?! Sign me up!” The Uncle Jim loop is five miles total, and I knew I could get out to the point just in time for sunset over Grand Canyon.

So I paid the minimal fee ($18 or so) for a permit, drove to the North Kaibab trailhead (which is also adjacent to the Uncle Jim/Ken Patrick trails’ start), stuffed the bare necessities for an overnight in my pack, and took off . . .

BAREFOOT all the way, baby. Ahhh . . .


No shoes, but I did bring a screen tent. Just because.


The morning view from Uncle Jim Point; note the plume of smoke from a fire burning in the Flagstaff area. 

Wildflowers light up the forest and canyon rim: on the left is heat-seeking cliffrose, on the right is a shade-loving species of Maianthemum. 


Not impressed by my friendly toe-overtures (toe-vertures?) is a well-camouflaged greater (mountain) short-horned lizard.


The lovely trails were full of deer prints (above) as well as a few actual deer (below).


When the workshop participants showed up, it was fun to lead them back through the the Uncle Jim trail for some delightful forest writing time.


Here’s our best “three wise monkeys” imitation:


One of the most surprising sights from Uncle Jim Point: this unsettling perspective (below) of the upper North Kaibab Trail. I love this trail, and I’ve hiked this two-mile segment above the Supai Tunnel many times, but when I looked at it from a distance, it felt . . . alien. It looked way too steep and switchback-y and difficult, while my body remembers it as challenging-but-fun: tree-lined, puffed with soft, colorful barefoot-friendly dust (pulverized by mule hooves during the daily tourist rides), stinky with mule-poop, inhabited by clouds of mule-poo-loving flies, the gateway drug for rim-to-rim addicts . . . it’s a whole different trail when you’re on it.


After the writing workshop, I headed for Lake Powell, where the damned Colorado River festers behind the concrete scab known as Glen Canyon Dam. (Hmm . . . it appears I have been irrevocably influenced by whiling away the miles listening to David Gessner’s book-on-tape: All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West. )


I spent a couple of days helping folks peel juniper logs for a traditional Navajo hogan, admiring the sunsets and sunrises from our work area just outside Page, AZ.

Then it was time to head home, wake up early, greet the sunrise from my local trails, enjoy some barefoot miles, and continue doing what I can to keep “my” trails balloon-free. (?! WTF: “the tassel was worth the hassle”?! I guess the folks who believe this have no problem buying 12 helium balloons and letting them fly off into the local wildlands . . . sheesh . . . )IMG_3005.JPG

OK. Deep breath. Smell the datura. Ahhh . . . .


Happy (loco) Trails . . . stay cool out there . . .


Retired from what, for what? (Insert barefoot plans here)

June 6, 2017
barefoot in the paria.jpg

Little me in a big place (Paria River, May 2017, photo by S. A.)

Oh the irony: As of May 31 I have officially retired from my 20 years of teaching writing “to focus on my writing” and here I sit, metaphorically tongue-tied (there’s too much chocolate hiding in a certain unmarked kitchen cupboard for me to be literally tongue-tied, although I suppose if my tongue were actually tied up in a good half-hitch or two I could still figure out how to melt my Trader Joe’s 72% Dark Chocolate and dribble it into the corner of my mouth via some straw-like contraption).

Reduced to chocolate rambling, already. It’s gonna be a looong retirement.

But anyhoo . . . the pressure of finishing my last university semester, clearing my office of 20 years’ worth of books on writing, books of writing, books I’ve written (that was the lightest box), rocks I’ve collected, snake-and-lizard skins shed nearby on campus, student-thank-you knick-knacks (as well as truly fabulous art objects as created by the stellar student Sofia) . . . window-replacing posters of native plants and wild places (Imnaha country; the view from Shoshone Point). My much-appreciated air purifier to filter some of the fluorescent dustiness. Twelve file drawers full of: necessary/vital/world-might-end-without-them records of meetings, committees, classes. (Said the paper-hoarder.)

It’s all gone.

No it’s not.

Some of it did find its way to Goodwill (books) or the paper-shredder (about eight file drawers).

But the rest is resting uncomfortably on my living room floor until such a time as I feel I can spare from:

1. Hanging out with my hubby and/or grandkids
2. Answering two weeks of neglected emails
3. Processing those two email-less weeks of May spent in Grand Canyon country (photos to follow)
4. Running wild again on my good ol’ familiar dusty/dangerous-to-toads/wildflower-bedecked trails of Irvine Park/Barham Ridge/Santiago Oaks (definitely more photos to follow)

All the weighty, insightful musings of April and May (those annual Easter thoughts of suffering/death/renewal; all the everything’s-a-metaphor ideas from my recent double backpacking trips with geologists; such mind-blowing common sense awakenings from my latest self-help book dabbling (that would be Mindset  ) . . . all that stuff has been stuffed into my daily handwritten journals which immediately become indecipherable due to, shall we say, writing-implement-manipulating deficiencies (the worst grades I received in elementary school? for Penmanship).

But there’s hope: I have Big Plans to find the perfect voice transcription software/app and miraculously transfer all this past year of scribbling into computer-generated text that I will then enjoy playing with/editing until it all falls into place as my Memoir of a Lifetime: How My Last Year of Teaching Somehow Illuminated My Entire Life And It All Became Really Clear And Then I Published It And Made Enough Money To Replace The Really Good Income My Job As Professor Of English Was Bringing In, Albeit With Much Accompanying Stress.

In the meantime, these pictures remind me of many good recent (and old) things; may they inspire others to get outside and live:


The above images are (just a few) from an amazing six-day, 38-mile backpacking adventure through Paria Canyon with Grand Canyon Association Field Institute’s (GCAFI)  extraordinary Christa Sadler leading the way for eight of us fortunate folks.


Here at Phantom Ranch/Boat Beach–in the depths of Grand Canyon–Brian Gootee explains geology with wonderful enthusiasm and clarity.

Before that, I spent four days in Grand Canyon, hiking and learning with GCAFI geologist extraordinaire Brian Gootee (see photo, above) and an eager group of beginning backpackers, one of whom had the technology and artistic ability to capture this image of double-condor-grace as we hiked along the South Kaibab Trail:

two condors at Grand Canyon.JPG


What was also awesome about this adventure: the aid of some athletic mules to carry our gear down to Phantom Ranch (and from the mule corrals it’s just a few hundred yards to the group site at Bright Angel Campground, where we spent some delicious time under the influence of green-violet swallows and stars and even a rainstorm and rainbow).

IMG_1524 (1).jpg

Then it was time to drive home, to dive back into life in Orange County: crowded freeways, beautiful-but-dangerous trails:


A smashed arroyo toad with incriminating mountain bike tracks nearby . . .

But it’s rare-mariposa-lily season on Barham Ridge: the Intermediate Mariposa Lily is listed as “endangered, rare, or threatened in California” — and it’s such a wonderment to come across these lovelies every year at the end of May/early June as they cling to life along Barham Ridge/Irvine Park trails that are continually being widened by So-Cal-intense mountain bike use.

On a happier note: I am determined to keep in mind that all these late-bloomers (it’s June, long past the famed “So Cal Superbloom of 2017”) are part of the metaphors-everywhere world that we are privileged to inhabit:




Datura wrightii at the bottom of Grand Canyon

So plants and experiences and memories link it all; here’s the place from which the first photo in this blog post was taken; it’s impossible to show the scale of this high shelf in a spring-adorned alcove along the Paria, but if you go back and look at my size from my compadres’ vantage point . . . it becomes apparent that we are tiny critters, indeed, and any plans for retirement grandeur need to keep this perspective in mind.


Happy Grand Canyon, Paria, and/or Local Trails! (Preferably barefoot)

Blue April

April 1, 2017


One of my favorite wildflowers is having a good bloom time right now: blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum). Neither blue-eyed nor a grass, this cheerful member of the iris family blooms from now until May, then dies back to its rhizome until the fall rains revive it. (First People uses? Of course: brief internet research shows it to be a traditional digestive system helper.)

It’s really difficult to capture its intense hue with a crummy little pocket camera that’s been dropped a few too many times, but . . . I still try:

Other blue news this weekend: IMG_1751

I made a rare trip to the beach this morning (traffic & crowd phobias, real and imagined, usually keep me away). Purpose: to conduct a nature writing workshop as part of the “Art in the Park” celebration at Crystal Cove State Park.

Stellar weather; lovely people; good times writing . . . 

April Again

Air that’s been un-cursed
during its journey across
the Pacific Motion
arrives deckside, messes
with my hair:
familiar old friend.
plant-paint spills
onto the slope below.
Farther down: dark
cut-out figures stand against
torn paper wave foam.
Sailboats: toys in my bathtub.
Beach umbrellas: cherry, lemon, grape
lollipops. Why do I not
play here every day?

It’s April 1! No fooling! Happy National Poetry Month, which often arrives with a (short-lived, but extremely sincere) commitment to write a poem a day. (The one above was a fun start,  inspired by today’s “noticing” exercises: Deer Ears, Cricket Skin, Wood Rat Nose, Hawk Eyes).


More on the blue water theme, only this time an ephemeral inland “puddle” — Santiago Creek backing up behind the Villa Park Dam since the winter rains. That’s an American Coot (above) reflecting on what it means to be mistaken for a duck by those-who-don’t-know.

This next photo has only the faintest hint of blue sky reflection, but who doesn’t love pollywogs? (And who doesn’t wonder,Where did they get that name?”)


Nothin’ But Blue Skies, From Now On (according to Mr. Willie Nelson . . . actually . . . according to Mr. Irving Berlin. (This is why the internet is dangerous: do I really need to spend time looking this stuff up?!) He wrote it  “in 1926 as a last-minute addition to the Rodgers and Hart musical Betsy. Although the show ran for 39 performances only, “Blue Skies” was an instant success, with audiences on opening night demanding 24 encores of the piece from star Belle Baker.[1] During the final repetition, Ms. Baker forgot her lyrics, prompting Berlin to sing them from his seat in the front row.[2]” )


This is the sneezy situation on many Orange County trails right now: they are tunnels of non-native, invasive black mustard (Brassica nigra) that folks-who–know have determined is quite the allergen. Irony alert: the oil pressed from black mustard seeds is a homeopathic remedy for . . . wait for it . . . hay fever.  The seeds of the plant are cultivated extensively in places such as India, where it is harvested and used in Indian cuisinefor example in curry, where it is known as rai.”

Bees also appreciate the electric yellow flowers, so running through a mustard tunnel is a multi-sensory experience of: racing heart rate due to anger at the ecosystem damage, choking on pungeant pollen, and grooving on bee-hum. (And since the flowers can be anywhere from ground level to eyeball-high, the potential for bee-collisions is . . . everywhere.)


I began this post without any sense of direction other than “it’s April 1” and “gee I love the color blue” and “I’ve got pictures from yesterday’s run and today’s workshop.”

Like these blue-(and green)-shirted equestrians, I wandered along and let the blue ideas/images lead me. Fun. Stuff. (And quite in sync with the theme of this blog: wandering and writing. Shoelessly, of course.)

One last memento: a lovely BLUE Crystal Cove mug to remember a lovely blue day.


Happy Blue Trails!

First Day of Spring: A Superbloom of Ideas (Some Barefoot)

March 20, 2017

Catalina mariposa lily (Calochortus catalinae)

On my mind: today’s vernal equinox, when daylight and dark are the same length of time. One idea bounced into another, bringing up the phrase “All things being equal” (caeteris paribus. . . which words were then was shown the door by my mildy concussed noggin (more on that later), as it’s a philosophical-rabbit-hole sort of phrase, and I’ve got neither the time nor mental acuity to enjoy that labyrinth this afternoon.

On my mind: it is the first day of spring, not fall, but falling and bruising are what’s been happening around here: 


I enjoyed a presentation last week on literary “defamiliarization” — when authors illuminate those times when even familiar places/people/things become unfamiliar . . . how we can be strangers in places/roles/relationships we “should” know very well . . . all of this harking back to last Tuesday when my own home became unfamiliar to me at approximately 5:32 a.m., and in the dark my head whacked itself again a bathroom wall/corner really really really hard. 

“Haste makes waste” is another cliche, applicable to my normal scurrying around in the morning packing snacks, lunch, water, laptop . . . trying to beat the freeway congestion by leaving the house by 5:45 am . . . hasting, and then:  wasting my forehead, with the resulting bump quickly filling with a boatload of blood, which gravity encouraged to decorate my eye orbit all week long, prompting all kinds of lame attempts at humor by friends, family, co-workers  (but even worse, stares-without-comment) as I went about my Busy. Day.

Busy. Too busy. “Sorry, I’m too busy.” It’s a contemporary affliction I am ashamed to admit I have given in to all too often. 

 Since my body and heart and soul realize that, they (all one of me) wanted to make sure Head got that memo. As I lay on the floor, palm pressed to my right eyebrow, waiting for the gush of blood which (whew) never came, I had what would have been a “come-to-Jesus” moment, if it weren’t for the fact that He already came to me a long time ago:

How can I slow down and Be (not stuck in the mud, but pausing there on purpose to luxuriate in its gooey reality).


So I’ve not been running, that being an activity not encouraged for mild concussants (I made that word up, and like it. It reminds me of how my mild concussion makes me want to cuss.)

Wandering through the local superbloom is what I’ve been doing, taking pictures, taking notes, inhaling the purple intoxicated air that hangs over the trail near lupines and thick-leafed yerba santa.


Ankle-deep Santiago Creek (how rare to have a creek flowing in Orange County! How delightful!) provides lots of space for reflection as well.


And this perfectly timed blog post on Feldenkrais and  balance and resilience by Sarah Kowalski made my day today. Here’s a bit:

Being able to rebound and rebalance oneself is an integral part of mental, emotional and physical well-being and is at the core of resilience. From an embodied perspective, balance is a physical experience of being able to stand up and move around without falling over. What most people don’t think about, however, is that balance is not being rigidly fixated to a certain position, but rather entails falling off center and recovering as quickly as possible. For example, even in a simple activity like walking, we throw ourselves off balance and fall down for a moment until we catch ourselves with the leg swinging forward. 

The Feldenkrais Method of Awareness Through Movement Lessons highlight the experience of falling off center and recovering. They bring awareness to the experience of balance as the absence of rigidity by constructing movement sequences in which students are called to catch oneself, steady and move on. Because of the type of awareness cultivated, students can also realize where they have mental and emotional rigidities that cause them to fixate in one place and fall down. When students can develop more optimal physical balance with detailed awareness of its sensations and components, it translates into more cognitive and emotional balance.

Moving along: It IS THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING! How I love the late light, the promise of long summer days . . . my favorite time of year when I was a child. And still is.

When I was a child?  My mom, being newly 90, is in the mood to get rid of stuff, so this weekend I got a pile of old photos that included by birth announcement:


I don’t know how the years snuck past, but now I’m a grandma of seven (as of last week):


Note the ironic sign: “please call; don’t fall.” If only it were that easy  . . . 

The older grandkids like to go crazy with photo-editing apps on my ipad; I like them, too, for the fun way they take the years (i.e. wrinkles) artfully away without having to resort to the plastic surgeon’s more-permanent-but-kinda-scary methods.  


How my grandkids see me, courtesy of the YouDoodle app.

OK. I guess that is kind of scary in its own way.

But it’s spring! In my heart, yard, and local wild hills!IMG_1481

Happy Muddy, Flowery, Springing Trails!