Skip to content

The Season of Autumn, or, How To Fall Happily Into Retirement (Barefoot or Not)

September 22, 2018



behrs metalmark on buckwheat

It’s fall!

Such a lovely time of year here is Southern California: the riotous spring colors have faded, but there’s still plenty of life if you know where to look. 

(Caution: Metaphor alert. My life in retirement = autumn season. Cue Captain Obvious.)

captain obvious meme

I recently had a fun hike with another retired teacher, poet-naturalist-land-steward-unaware-plogger extraordinaire, Chuck. We took a leisurely stroll through the James Dilley Preserve (part of the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park), where for many years he has been working hard at invasive weed removal and citizen science such as weekly butterfly counts. And he writes about it, too: lovely descriptive poems of our local wildlands that often digress into compelling memories. (Here’s one of his latest, published in the newsletter of our Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society–see page three.)

20.0Chuck under oak.jpg

Chuck, writing.

Chuck’s a decade or so ahead of me on the retirement curve, and a great mentor for this stage of life–he is an excellent example of how important (and fulfilling) it can be to pursue a passion (the flora and fauna of our local wildlands) by continually learning about stuff both via book-knowledge and field work. His schedule of frequent weed removal and plant propagation gives him many opportunities to keep active as well as pass on his knowledge to the next generation . . . all of which he told me he is grateful for (a key attitude to life whether retired or not) as we walked and talked on our 1.9-mile, three-hour (so much to notice! why hurry?) hike along the Mariposa and Canyon Trails.

local pollinators on twiggy wreath

Some fabulous native insects on Stephanomeria (twiggy wreath)

Even though most chaparral and coastal sage scrub plants are dormant this time of year (after all, it hasn’t rained for six months), Chuck was able to point out pretty much each plant that did sport flowers, so matter how tiny or uncolorful those blossoms were, such as the ones this dragonfly is enjoying in the photo below.

dragonfly in september

These drab flowers are so unremarkable I’ve already forgotten their name.

He was also darned good at predicting which pollinators would be active on each different shrub, perennial, or annual bloomer.

How was he able to do this? By following his own advice: in Chuck’s ideal world, each person would choose a local “nature place”–and proximity is key, so it’s easy to visit frequently–and make it their own by learning about what grows/lives there and also (another key idea) spending time volunteering there to help preserve it.

While not everyone can get certified as a volunteer habitat restorationist as Chuck has, he also proved how easy it is to “love” a place simply by bringing a bag along on hikes and just. Picking. Up. Trash.

When I told Chuck this was actually a “Swedish fitness craze” called plogging, he was his usual delighted self at the opportunity to learn a new word–even if it was for something he was already doing.

I guess I’ve also been plogging unawares for years . . .

And, for years, I’ve also been taking photos of my favorite wild places (see pretty much every one of my last 284 blog posts) to create memorable images of not only the trail trash, but the beauty of the plants/rocks/critters I come across.

To do that I carry a pocket-sized camera, which has major limitations when it comes to zooming and close-ups and pretty much everything. But it’s pocket sized. And NOT a smart phone. (Did I mention I live smart-phone-free existence? Why, that’s almost as crazy as hiking and running barefoot! Where’s Captain Obvious when you need him for a good quote?!)

Anyway, here’s some stuff that caught my attention this past week:


datura with lots of purple

More-purple-than-usual datura! (Georgia O’Keefe-able, yes?)

layers of cobble

Geology! Where would we be without rocks and dirt? (Floating around in the ocean?)

western fence lizard on rock

A quick critter who doesn’t pose long (hello/goodbye Western fence lizard)

prickly pear yellow blossom

Prickly pear bloom

tunas on prickly pear

Prickly pear fruit (tunas)


skipper on goldenbush

Skipper on goldenbush

robber fly on tarweed

Robber fly on tarweed

coastal cholla cactus shadow on bare feet

Cholla shadow on toes

lichen on branch

Delightful lichen on bark

trap door spider door

Trapdoor spider home (Do Not Disturb) on vertical dried mud

barefootprint design

Fluffy dust on trail (but still longing for mud)

Let it rain!

moonrise ove santa ana mountains

Full moon on the way

Whether I’m hiking around with friends like Chuck, or running up and down the ridges solo, I am grateful for our local wildlands, people like Chuck who take care of them, and these retirement years to spend more time appreciating all the drab and vivid things of life.

Share the fun–fall in love with a local place, wherever you are.


Captain Obvious sez, “She’s literally falling down here.”

Happy (local!) trails!


5 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian permalink
    September 23, 2018 6:15 am

    Most excellent post Thea! Love it! And the geoplug too. Maybe there is such a thing as geolugging?

    • September 23, 2018 6:57 am

      Ha! Thanks, Brian: “This geoplug’s for you.” A great new word/concept . . . everyone needs to get outside and geoplug!

  2. Ron Vanderhoff permalink
    September 22, 2018 9:23 pm

    Compliments everywhere. Chuck is such an inspiration; he doesn’t just talk-the-talk, he lives it, and walks it. And your writing Thea is so fun and easy. You paint a picture with your words. Ahhhhh….

  3. September 22, 2018 6:11 pm

    awesome job stating the obvious, because it’s not so obvious. just got dragged along on an 8 mile hike at a brisk power walk 4 mph — couldn’t see a thing — finally told them to go on ahead without me!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: