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Imminent Barefoot Presentations

November 11, 2018

While I’ve been trail-traveling with nothing on my feet for almost nine years, I still wear flimsy sandals to enter public places (especially ones with “the sign” in the window, so I don’t have to go through the public humiliation thing again).

toms place sign cropped


This week I have not one but TWO presentations (woo hoo!), and while I will most likely wear my sandals from the car to the venue, I can’t imagine committing a public act of literature or stand-up while my feet are trapped & unhappy (and, of course, I have both poetry and jokes about my barefootery/shenanagins). 

Happy Barefoot Presentation Trails!

Fire and Rain CUI flyer

860x1329 poster_GradShow_FALL_2018_Adults


Wandering and writing (barefoot or shod) at the North Rim of Grand Canyon in 2019

November 6, 2018

Writing along the North Kaibab Trail

Nov. 6, 2018: a big day for the country, a big-little day for me as registration opens for the 2019 season of Grand Canyon Conservancy Field Institute adventures, including my 5th annual writing workshop at the North Rim (shoe-people welcome too!).

I’ve been heading to the North Rim as often as possible since my three weeks there in June 2011 as National Park Service Artist-in-Residence; it’s such a privilege to share the beautiful forested trails, springs, views . . . and just plain solitude still available in our crazy, busy world–with the added bonus of sharing writing ideas and inspiration, all while camping together in the ponderosa pines, waiting for glimpses of this elusive creature:


The Kaibab squirrel can only be found on the Kaibab Plateau.


Writing at Cliff Spring is always an inspiring experience.


The Uncle Jim Trail is another place where solitude–and inspiration–are easy to come by.

DSC_3774ler Thea Gavin GCA class NR GRCA NP AZ (1024x673)

What’s become a tradition: the final afternoon’s “reading to the Canyon” . . . 

Is it time for a road trip in 2019? Let’s wander and write!

Check out the web site for more info:

Writing on the Edge screen shot

Happy (inspiring!) trails . . . all the way to the polls today!


Two years post-stress-fracture: something to celebrate! (barefoot, of course)

October 21, 2018

Almost to the day, two years ago, my lower right fibula went crackle during a run on my favorite local Barham Ridge trails:



Yesterday, this:

Thea Gavin 5k results


And, almost this:


Some how, some way, even though I some times lack good judgment, some thing deep inside told me this outfit was a crime against our avian friends/community, and I chose to #flamingo-NO in terms of running in this disturbing-in-so-many-ways costume. (It’s almost Halloween, but still . . . )

Words fail (not quite as much of a failure as the outfit, above) to begin to describe the euphoria of running & funning for 3.1 miles in the company of 1700 happy folks & families with NO PAIN.

Eat your (edibles) heart out, Canada–this was a high way better than all the legal cannabis you can stuff in a hockey arena.

SO: to recap eight years’ worth of this blog: for almost my entire adult life I struggled with chronic aches and pains, which I thought were from running, but which turned out to be mostly from running away from deeper issues. With the help of non-traditional physical therapy, Feldenkrais, and insightful books by Drs. Sarno, Levine & Phillips, and VanDerKolk (as well as writing, prayer–of course–and God’s grace, it goes without saying) I am now running more freely at age 59 (and winning my age group for the first time: #oldgrandmasrule) than in my entire previous life as a chronically wanna-run-but-can’t cranky person.

So. Yay. (And the osteoporoshizz beast seems to be slowing down at bone devouring, for which I am also grateful.)

This morning I celebrated with (how else) an easy run, back on my favorite nearby  OC Parks trails, which are fire-scorched but still beautiful in the almost-solitude of dawn:





Above: the view all the way to Catalina Island: “26 Miles Across the Sea.”

Below: some barefoot balancing fun last week at Montana de Oro State Park, a few hours up the coast . . .




Happy non-stress-fractured trails!

Water & Mud & More Barefoot Shenanigans

October 13, 2018



Morro Bay/Morro Rock in September with the long-retired founder of Welding Works.

A few months ago, we bought a cheap inflatable kayak; after just four outings (Rock Creek Lake, June Lake, Morro Bay, and Newport Back Bay), it feels like we’ve had way more than $80’s worth of fun.

Above: images from yesterday . . . my first time paddling Newport Beach’s Back Bay (with adventure friend Gina . . . who couldn’t help but make a reference to the infamous Gilligan’s Island theme song: would our “three-hour tour” leave us stranded on a remote island?) (1960s trivia: the images shown every episode during the theme song were shot at/on/around this Newport Beach harbor).


Life imitating art! “The weather started getting rough,” but our tiny ship was not tossed–there was just an awe-inspiring display of clouds, lightning, sunlight and raindrop plops.


(Before the storm hit: the low tide brought birds feeding and flocking and flying–this Great Blue Heron croak-barked like a frog-dog as it took off.)

The rain/lightning/thunder continued through the evening–such a needful thing here in our parched southland, but such a means of destruction when linked to hurricanes Maria, Florence, Michael . . . and on and on. On my run this morning, even in the midst of the pungent lovely smells of the damp dirt and native plants, in the midst of my joyful puddle-running, in the midst of happy-mud-squishies, I felt more than small twinges of maybe not-quite-survivor-guilt, but heaviness of spirit for all who have lost so much to wildfires, floods and other powerful forces of nature.

running away barefoot

So all that was on my mind as I trotted through the dazzling ephemeral trail puddles today.

puddle running barefoot

Depending on the soil composition, sometimes silty run-off (the hills have been scorched bare of native plants that would otherwise hold the soil) would collect into silky squishy mud-foot-spas along the trail—ahhh . . . geology!

While running and sniffing the perfumed air and enjoying the exfoliating muck, I was also pausing frequently to shoot video snippets to maybe turn into another short film in my “I like mud and barefoot running” series.

After my last accidentally-on-purpose splashdown video–filmed just to the west in a section of Santiago Creek that seemed extra horse-poopy–I had decided to NOT EVER DO THAT AGAIN. But. Right before I got back to the trailhead, there was a pristine-looking puddle–no manure floaters, clear enough to see uniformly rippled reddish mud down below–the car was pretty close–I’d brought a towel to sit on “just in case”–I’d keep my lips together this time so the nasty recycled-alfalfa organisms would stay out of my mouth–no one was around–

barefoot puddle faceplant

–no one but some deer, who cared so much less than this photo could ever show:


So. Splash happens. The puddle wasn’t as innocuous as I thought; it had a sizeable collection of rocks just below the thin silt layer, and I racked up both knees and my right big toe with scrapes and pains.

Oh yeah. I forgot. I have osteoporosis and probably shouldn’t be seeking out ways to fall on purpose. (Thanks for the reminder, daughter dear.)

hawk closeup

This Red-Tailed Hawk also seemed a little judgmental . . .

Happy wild muddy trails!



Eight Legs No Shoes

October 7, 2018


Wow! I (almost) ran over this fabulous tarantula a few days ago while running my usual 90-minute evening loop in the hills east of my hometown of Orange, CA where wildfire (well, not so wild: human ignited) scorched the hills almost exactly a year ago during days of flames that seemed almost as long as this sentence . . .

Anyway, local critters have been in short supply since then–not much rain last winter = not much vegetation to bring back the insects and all who feed on them (arachnids and on and on around the food web).

Can you blame me for squeaking in delight when I trotted around a bend . . .


. . . on this windy uphill and discovered:


This beauty–probably a male out mate-hunting (that’s what tarantulas do around here, this time of year); he seemed not at all concerned about my attempts to foot-selfie us together:

tarantula on foot

. . . unlike this darkling beetle, who looks absolutely puny in comparison . . .


. . . and who had no interest in spending quality time with my toes. Then I heard a crepuscular crashing in the crispy vegetation:


Altogether a critter-wonderful evening! Happy twilight trails!

And when you get home, a couple of tarantula-riffic videos by yours truly, this one from three days ago:

. . . and this one from eight years ago:

What passes for adventure these days

October 4, 2018


Cloud watching.

It’s a great hobby: super affordable, and no one else seems to be doing it in these last months of life-as-we-know-it (otherwise known as 2018), what with all the distractive pleasures of social media. Who cares if nephology didn’t make the list of “16 Hobbies That Will Improve Your Quality of Life”?  (Barefoot hiking wasn’t on their otherwise-interesting list either.)

News Alert: Last week I saw LENTICULAR clouds! What-what?!


The name comes from their “lens” shape, but I think a better name would be flying-saucer-clouds. Many cloudy years ago, in a general education geography course, the (seriously disengaged) professor told the class during our unit on meteorology that anyone who saw and photographed lenticular clouds would get an “A” for the whole semester.

That really sparked my nephological tendencies–yep, ever since then my life has been a non-stop quest for lenticulars. And other stuff too. But always: lenticulars . . . although it might be too late to impress that aloof professor.

Last week, though, I was so jazzed by the lenticular sighting from my lovely Barham Ridge trails that I needed to proselytize, so the the next mountain biker chugging up the hill got a full load of, “Do you want to see something cool? Those are lenticular clouds! Amazing, huh?”


And, proving once again that crazy can be contagious, he set down his bike and started taking his own pictures.

My work here is done.

Time for a poem (sparked by the overwhelming petrachlor during this morning’s 90-minute trail run: there was a brief downpour last night, and all the hillsides reeked of rain! Yum!)

What cannot be kept?

Damp red-dirt smells.
Raindrop footprints on sandstone.
Almost solitude–
almost mountain lion.
Heavy air after a thunderstorm.
The weight of quail mutter
and trail memories.
Pink cloud-boil.
My toe stubbed on

a stony nose, part
of a winking face
so smooth, so
pocket-perfect, but
what cannot be kept.
Pebbles need to find
their own way
to the sea.

So: to recap: recent adventures include no epic Grand Canyon treks miles below the rim into cliffy wonderlands, but lots of this: (building stuff only to watch it get smashed):

And this: (marveling at what drives our society to manufacture and sell toy recycling trucks and not sets of  little businessmen dolls with potbellies and bad backs and coffee breath sitting in front of their laptops in gray cubicles with an MBA hung on the wall).

And watching #15 watch his team: (“Put him in, coach” . . . every grandma’s prayer?)


I call it “grandkidding” and there are plenty of ways to play this as we burn way more gas than commuting to work ever did, just to hang out with the seven blessings I did not plan for when engaged in whatever stage of life people use to plan their future.


They are a fun & funny bunch & love my “YouDoodle” app.


Art happens.


Speaking of sunshine and rain . . . Fall = best time to plant California native plants.


Last week, whilst (there’s that favorite word again) digging a hole for this lovely one-gallon California fuchsia, I was pleasantly surprised (and what a lovely word pair that is) by a goodly amount (adverb much?) of bulblet-thingies of wild hyacinth (you’ll have to click for its misunderstood more-common name). A super-food for earlier People of this area, the corms taste like waxy water chestnuts . . . but instead of eating these, I planted them in other parts of the yard to spread the dichelostema-love.


Q: What is THE most important thing to do when planting California native plants in the fall, before rains have arrived?

A: Flood the planting hole first. Many times. Get LOTS of water into the soil way down deep. The roots will thank you by creating a healthy plant instead of a dead one.


A few pebbles for mulch helps shade the roots/keep the soil surface from drying, as well.

IMG_5671 So instead of the rat race shark race and a decent paycheck/health insurance/conference money/etc/who’s complaining, retirement brings other kinds of pleasure . . . like these newly installed bathroom fixtures:


And all I can do is say, “Thank you Jesus” and go for a run. Barefoot, of course.


Happy (cloud-filled) trails . . .

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!