For my daughters and grandchildren

I’m here.

I’ve shown up.

This is my second time at a small writing group gathering to learn more about writing ones “Life Story” for their children and grandchildren.

What am I thinking?

What am I doing here?

I’m not a writer.

Who am I kidding?

What is driving me to try this? 

I don’t know!

Maybe I can start small, just a short essay, or another blog post.

If I practice, and practice, and practice, and put in my 10,000 hours, could I really become a writer?  I don’t even have a burning desire to write. But I enjoy recording the stories of my simple life observations.

There’s only one way to find out if I can write and that is to start, and then to stick with it.

My parents were actually told to not expect much from me by my high school English teacher, Mr. Bruce Robertson.  He even cautioned that they shouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t make it to college. More on that another time.

So, the next questions are what to write about? What do I love? 

Nature and solitude.

So I’ll start small and close to home.

My quarter acre retreat.

Morning often finds me taking 10 minutes, with my first cup of coffee, outside, observing my garden. 

You see, I’m a “dolphin”.

Oh, that’s my chronotype. Dolphins are rare. Let me transition here before I barely get started.

The dolphin chronotype describe me to a T. Dolphins have a hard time waking up. Stick with me here, we’ll get back out in the garden in a minute. 

The author of the book The Power of When, Dr. Michael Breus, writes about our chronotypes and recommends that dolphins get exposure to bright light to wake up. If you don’t know your chronotype, I recommend reading the book. You’ll learn more about how you are driven by your innate circadian rhythms. Anyway, this is why I’m in my garden observing nature at its finest.

It is an early fall morning. Not too early, but not mid-morning either.  The sun is rising but still low in the sky and the shadows are long as the morning rays strike my California fuchsia from a low eastern angle backlighting the reddish-orange tubular flowers making them appear iridescent. 

The critters that share my suburban community are already up and busy.

A single hummingbird visits the early sunlit red flowers. But only one hummer at a time. These tiny colorful birds are territorial and don’t like sharing.  Within a short period of time, another swoops in on the one feeding. A high-speed chase ensues. In a flash of color and wings, the two birds are gone. 

A few native bees and honey bees are already visiting the same bush. A honey bee lands on the throat of a flower with open anthers and a sticky stigma. It proceeds to climb, wiggle and pull itself into the flower. It disappears into the tube. If you look now, you’d never know there is a full-size honey bee down the tube. I wait for it. The flower begins to jiggle. I tiny bee butt starts to appear. First the black and white stripes, then two long bent golden legs. Finally, a fuzzy body, more legs, and a fuzzy head slide down the stamens. The bee takes flight to its next receptive flower, seeking its reward of a tiny bit of sweet nectar. Payment will be made in full as the bee leaves a bit of pollen behind to fertilize the flowers eggs deep within the bloom.

In the oak behind me, I hear the repetitive rhythmic call of a chick-a-dee. It is echoed by another off in the distance. The crescendo of birds near and far builds like a tuning orchestra. 

Simultaneously, I hear a rather loud and shrill scrapping sound. I had heard this exact same sound the other day.  When I investigated the source of the grinding and scraping, I found a squirrel sitting on the fence, with a 5-inch section of dry cow bone, like the kind one might buy for their dog. It appeared to be sharpening its teeth on the bone and with each gnawing, this odd bone rattling, tooth grinding sound emanated forth. I startled the squirrel that day and the bone fell into my yard.  How in the world did this small critter get this bone up onto the fence? The grinding commenced again this morning as I took another bite of my frittata.

A moment later, a familiar chase sound begins. I turn to look upward to see two common oak tree visitors. With their bushy tails flickering and tiny paws and toenails grabbing at the oak bark, another friendly backyard critter chase begins. The second critter chase of my morning.  The sound of the squirrels fast moving claws on the bark is almost like the tinkling of gently falling glass shards as the two playfully chase each other. The chase ends as fast as it started with a leap into the neighbor’s palm tree. A quick flutter of fronds, then nothing, just the gently barely perceptible cool morning breeze. 

The warmth of the new dawn on this fall morning begins to evaporate the minuscule amount of morning dew visible on solid surfaces. The dew is only slightly perceptible on the plants with tiny hairs. Native plants survive the long summer dryness in this Mediterranean climate of central California by having tiny leaf surface hairs which are capable of capturing the slightest amount of moisture from the air.

My chickens scratch the ground, rustling through recently fallen oak leaves. These first autumn leaves of the season drift downward to become food for the overwintering soil decomposers. 

There is a clanking sound as a tumbling acorn bounces off a solid surface on it’s way to the ground. The magic of that morning sun which heats up and expands a layer of cells in the stem of the acorn just enough for it to separate from its attachment point on the thin twig.

No signs yet of the blue belly or alligator lizards. Later in the day the butterflies and dragonflies will come to visit. The native chaparral sages will release their fresh scent as the day warms. 

I will remain blissfully ignorant of the billions of soil microbes, bacteria, fungi, and earthworms busy below my feet.

And then, my peaceful morning is interrupted by the squealing and grinding noise of a circular saw cutting a 2×4. My neighbor’s contractor has arrived. Pulled back to the reality of my day, it is time to start tackling the never-ending to-do list. The rising sun has done its job in so many ways. I’m feeling awake and ready to take on the day.

What a blessing to be able to start my day in nature. Eating my breakfast frittata and drinking my morning cup of coffee.

To my daughters and grandchildren: never stop pausing long enough to notice and love nature.

Comments and suggestions welcomed as I begin, continue and travel into and along this storytelling adventure

Allergies and oak pollen

If you have seasonal allergies to oak pollen, I would suggest you avoid central California, my yard or stay inside. I know this happens every spring but the coating of pollen seems extra thick this year.

Just a mere week or so ago we had rain and freezing temperatures. Then the temperature shot up to the 80’s the last few days and in the photos below you can see what coats my backyard bricks, tables and chairs. What’s even scarier is I cleaned the yard yesterday and wiped the tables down.

My pet hens are very happy to gobble up the pollen which is highly nutritious and will help color their yolks an even deeper orange.

2017 Year Of Prisma iPhonography

In 2017 I discovered the Prisma App for iPhonography.  People love the images I’ve created and so do I.  I decided my year of photos in review this year would be 12 images edited with the Prisma App. Enjoy.

My year of iPhonography – 2016.

I was surprised to realize one doesn’t need to travel far to find objects or scenes of interest and intrigue. I picked 12 of my favorite images from 2016. Surprisingly, half of my favorites were taken within yards of my house, others from just a few miles away.

How did I pick these twelve shots? I quickly went through my images and labeled ones that were favorites. I then selected ones that created an emotion, feeling or memory for me.  Not just another record shot. I then sorted the 80+ images into sets: black and white, food, landscapes, macro’s, people, animals, insects, artistry shots and such. I then narrowed it down to one or two from each category.

I’m certainly learning what interests me and along the way I’m surprised that my passion in photography turned out to NOT be just macro’s of flowers. It will be interesting to see what 2017 brings as I acquired my new iPhone and DXO camera attachment towards the 2nd half of 2016. I’m just beginning to learn the new phone and camera features. I hope 2017 allows me the time to take more photos and to explore new ways to see life.

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Make Believe Fireflies
Shot with DxO ONE
First Shot
Shot with DxO ONE Image provided to yosemite conservancy limited one time social media use. 9/19/2016 saved Large 820x1200
The Classic Shot
Shot with DxO ONE
Lornful
Shot with DxO ONE
Fireside Light
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Curl
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Toy Life
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Wings Of Glass
Moonlight On The Mountain
Moonlight On The Mountain
Shot with DxO ONE
Evening Layers
Shot with DxO ONE
Forbidden Offerings
{"macroEnabled":false,"qualityMode":3,"deviceTilt":-0.1343905478715897,"customExposureMode":1,"extendedExposure":false,"whiteBalanceProgram":0,"focusMode":1}
One Last Look

Play

The importance of play is being lost. At our fundamental core we seem to know that children need to play but more and more we are cramming parent/teacher driven structured lessons onto our youngest children all day long. We have forgotten that children learn through unstructured free play, not just parent or coach driven activities. What’s even sadder is that adults have forgotten the importance of play in their adult lives.  We all need play.

As an Early Childhood Educator, through years of observation, it became obvious to me that a vast amount of learning occurs through play and repetition at the earliest of ages.  There have been numerous studies and scientific papers detailing the early cognitive development in infants and young children in support of the need and power of free play. The role of a good ECE teacher is to mediate, guide and support play. This is done by providing guidance, direction and materials to facilitate play, taking play to new levels of discovery, to guide and nurture social and emotional development.

I could get into a long posting about the detriments of technology, social media and television but that isn’t what I’m thinking about today.  I’m thinking about what is often closest to my heart, the need for all people, no matter what age, to spend time in nature, time at play. (Bonus link if you make it to the end of this post). Combine the two and you have the perfect formula to guide our spirits to a place of balance.

Give me a group of children in a structured classroom setting and after a short period of time I bet I’d be able to identify which children have had nature in their lives and been allowed to play freely.  They will be calmer, more observant, kinder, more compassionate with other students and more respectful of both objects and others.

Heck, if you see an upset, angry, anxious, emotional, frustrated or stressed adult,  recognize that they are probably dealing with more issues then anyone should possibly be handling.  Get them into nature, out to play and watch the stress start to leave their body and mind as they relearn to “let go” and to reassess the issues they are dealing with in their lives and to reconnect to what is truly important for our time on this earth.

By losing play and time in nature not only do I think we are seeing the effects in the increases of behavior issues in young children, but I believe behaviorists and researchers have successfully documented this occurrence.

In adults we are seeing increased levels of anxiety and depression.  It is just as important for adults to play. To spend time in nature. To step away from technology and the 24×7 connection.  We can’t forget to let go and just be present in the moment. If you are interested in learning more about the importance of play for adults and what constitutes adult play, search the topic at TEDxTalks (https://www.ted.com/watch/tedx-talks)

It is so magical to witness the innocents of a child discovering and exploring on their own. There is no better way to learn then to see them self teach through experience.  In my last post, Parenting Philosophy, I shared a favorite quote from  The Training of the Human Plant by Luther Burbank.  It’s worth reading again.

Children and adults that have learned through play and continue to play are more creative, better problem solvers and happier.

Many years ago I attended a training seminar for ECE teachers.  One of the sections I attended was lead by Diane Gordon a local bay area advocate for children and adults in nature.(http://www.childrennatureandyou.org)

She left us with this recommendation on what to teach a child to prepare them for formal schooling.

What to Teach a Child by Diane Gordon <— click for link to original

When I was a young kindergarten teacher, prospective parents would ask me what they could do to prepare their children for kindergarten, expecting I would give them a list of reading and math exercises. As I look back now, I can see that my responses were vague and far from satisfactory. Now, these many years later, I would say something like this:

They will need to know their colors – the blue of the sky, the green of the grass, the colors of the rainbow. And numbers. Count with them: the squirrels in the park, the petals on a flower, how many acorns can be held in one hand. In two hands.

Share with them the wonder and the beauty of the world around them – the sliver of the moon that grows night by night until it is full and round. The snail that travels with his house on his back, and leaves a silvery trail wherever he goes. Or the spider who spins beautiful, intricate patterns overnight.

Encourage them to be creative and different. Walk in the mud together with bare feet. Howl at the moon like wolves. Wriggle or slide through the grass like worms or snails.

Teach them tenderness as they gently stroke a kitten, or pick up a worm after the rain, and replace it carefully in the soil. Encourage their sense of responsibility as you plant seeds together and tend them regularly.

Teach them to read – to read the weather and tell if it will be windy or rainy today. Or to read the world around them – the changing colors of the leaves, the many kinds of seeds, the many colors of flowers.

Introduce them to the magic of stories, both listening to them and telling them. Let their imagination soar. Do this, and I can teach them to read!

If you’ve made it this far, here is a bonus video of the authors adult daughter and husband in a state of bliss, laughter, free spirit, joy and happiness which all equals PLAY and being BALANCED.

Click link to view my 10 second Youtube video of pure laughter and joy: Adult’s at play

Followed by a photo showing a time of peace, tranquility, observation, reflection,  nature, yet another form of adult play and balance.  There are many ways to play, many forms of play and for each individual, play will look very, very different. It’s not play if it feels like work.

What does play look like for you?

It’s not all about “the almighty dollar!”

I’d like to think that I have the “tendency’s” of a minimalist. I follow Joshua Becker’s blog and I think this post really sums up some important points. Why Self-Worth Is Infinitely More Valuable that Net-Worth