Walking in the Moment

Clouds over Snake Lake

We all know, walking is a great form of exercise. When I go for walks, I try to vary the locations: the grounds of my apartment complex, city streets, beaches, parks, and nature centers. Wherever I walk, I want to be in the moment, enjoying my surroundings, using all my senses. I walk to benefit my soul, as well as my body.

One of my favorite places to walk is Snake Lake Nature Center. It’s a small oasis in the middle of a city, bordered by two busy arterials, and across the street from a high school. One end of the park extends under the overpass of a freeway spur. Trees filter out the noise of traffic and car exhaust. Despite its closeness to residential areas, a shopping center, a ballpark, and the school, few people walk at the Nature Center. That’s fine with me.

There are lots of trees in their natural state at Snake Lake

Trees breathe out oxygen that we breathe in. As I walk, I inhale the fresh air. After rain, the air smells of loamy earth and wet leaves. On a hot day, you can smell dry, dusty dirt.

White tree fungi. I think they’re pretty.

While walking I look all around and up and down. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have seen these white tree fungi growing high on a tree trunk.

Orange mushrooms among forest duff, which mulches new plants.

One time at Snake Lake, I met a couple walking in the opposite direction.

“Did you see the mushrooms?” I asked.

“What mushrooms?” the woman asked.

“Um, the bright orange ones, in the clearing, next to the path.”

The couple seemed indifferent as they walked past me. Oh, well. Their loss. I wouldn’t want to miss these things. Why do I care about tree fungi, mushrooms, and fallen leaves that to others seem like mere detritus? I don’t know. To me these things are beautiful. However small and insignificant they seem, they’re a part of the earth.

Some people take their exercise much more seriously than I. A jogger, with earbuds, plugged in pounds past me, looking only straight ahead. I want to yell, “Why do you constantly need music blasting into your head? Look around, listen, you don’t know what you’re missing!” But I’m shy, so I mind my own business and keep my mouth shut.

Other walkers may think I’m weird when I stop to look up at nothing in particular.

What is he missing? The whisper of wind among the leaves. Something rustling in the undergrowth. Frogs sounding off. Ducks telling each other jokes and quaking up with laughter. The sound of his own footsteps on the path. The chitter of birds in the tree, which stops, as soon as humans approach.

One time I saw a tuft of feathers on the path. “Aha!” I thought. “Someone’s dinner.” I looked up. Sure enough. A great horned owl was sitting on a branch, looking down at me. What a pity I hadn’t brought my camera along that time. I may never see a great horned owl again.

I admit it. I pet moss.

I stroke moss, leaves, bark, and fern fronds. I touch flower petals with one finger. Sometimes, when I walk on a beach, the tide presents me with a pretty rock, so I take it home.

Wild blackberries taste much better than cultivated ones.

There are blackberry bushes at Snake Lake and many of the other places where I walk. Naturally, I pick and eat them. Getting scratches is a small price to pay for the flavor of wild berries.

When I go home, my senses are gratified. My mind is filled with remembered beauty. I am at peace, with the world and myself.

A quote from Carl Sagan

“A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called “leaves”) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time–proof that humans can work magic.” – Carl Sagan, author, scientist.

Via books humans can travel through time and step into another person’s shoes, learn who they are, learn how much others are like you. Learn how they succeed and fail. Learn how they handle life challenges.
He left us too soon.

Open, Sesame…er, Library

“Open! Open! Open!” Unknown little girl waiting impatiently for the library to open. A queue of adults waiting patiently to go inside.

Libraries aren’t caves occupied by hoarding dragons or forty thieves, but they are full of treasures, which probably include the collection of stories, One Thousand and One Nights, which includes the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and their hidden loot.

One of the things I’ve missed most during the pandemic when we’ve cocooned at home to stay safe is going to the library. I’m stuck reading books I already own. I miss the allure of the new. I miss browsing the stacks. I miss the physical space of libraries, being surrounded by books, books, and more books.

I used to have an e-reader. I sold it. I can and do read on my computer. I prefer turning actual paper pages, the aroma, and the heft of a book. The texture of the paper. As it is, I already spend too much time on my computer. And I constantly come up with new reasons to go online, including writing this blog.

My wallet contains cards for three different library systems, city, county, and neighboring county. As an alumna, I also have access to my university library. I can’t remember the last time I visited any of them. The cards are cold and lonely. The city library system now offers curbside pickup for books selected online and reserved. I haven’t done so. It’s not the same.

Breaking a lifelong habit, even if I wanted to, isn’t easy. Libraries have been part of my life since grade school. When I was in kindergarten, my family and I lived within a couple of blocks of a city library branch. My father and I would walk there together. When we moved farther away, he would drive me there and we’d both browse. In those days there were two different library cards, a blue one for adults and a yellow one for children. My father always let me use his blue card, so I could check out books not available to kids.

In elementary school, I was a library girl performing the duties of a library aide, checking out books and shelving returned ones and new ones. In my senior year in high school, I was chairman of the library committee. I got to spend one period each day behind the counter, in the library office, or in the magazine room. As an adult, I’ve worked for both the city and county library systems and volunteered in the library of our art museum.

Is it any wonder I miss libraries? Waiting, waiting, waiting for those magical doors to open again so I can get to the treasures inside.

Pundits keep predicting the demise of libraries. Probably the same folks who keep predicting the demise of real books. But libraries and books, in the form of scrolls, have been around for more than two thousand years. Even though I’m no pundit, I expect they’ll be around for a couple thousand more years, even as new technology emerges. An implanted chip to which information can be downloaded directly into my brain? Glasses which let me read as I walk? No thanks!

Book sales! Another thing I miss about the library–Friends of the Library book sales. It’s not that I need more books…but who can resist a paperback novel for only thirty-five cents? Or a beautifully bound little copy of Stephen Crane’s, The Red Badge of Courage, printed in English in Germany or Washington Irving’s, Tales of the Alhambra, printed in English in Spain, with gorgeous engraved, period illustrations. Some books are so beautiful, I have to have them, whether I intend to read them or not.

 For one of the historical novels, I needed to research the Civil War. I could probably have made do with one volume, but it’s a good excuse to buy several, chasing after elusive little known facts, which I may not include in my novel, but which I enjoy knowing anyway.

I like learning things. I have book-greed. A home full of treasured volumes.

Collins Memorial Library at the University of Puget Sound. While an undergraduate, I spent a great deal of time on the top floor where English Lit. books are kept. The chiming of the carillon in the chapel reminded me when it was time to get to my next class. I still go there from time to time. It’s great. In normal time the library is open until one a.m. It’s the only late night, sometimes all-night, library in town.
The public library in Puyallup, Washington. The pleasant square in front is the site of the weekly farmers market. Before going to the market, I visit the Friends of the Library room. The magazines are free! Or at least they were, the last time I was there.

Invitation to Follow My Blog

Cheeky, huh?

You may ask, Why should I?

I reply, Why not? It’s free. And, as in the photo, you may find something fun, interesting, or informative if you follow the trail. A different point of view.

Focusing on just one or two interests has always been a challenge for me. I have too many of them. Reading. Writing, which includes blogging. Knitting. Photography. Art. Architecture. Baking. Cooking. My Latvian heritage. Life in the Great Northwest. The list is too long to include here. That’s why I decided to change the name of my blog. I don’t have that much to say about chocolate, except that I love it. I haven’t tried enough varieties or recipes to make recommendations. Books. I was an English major. I’ve been reading since I was a small kid, so I’ve read many, many books. I have plenty of opinions and prejudices, but I’d rather read books and write books than write about them. though I plan to do that from time to time, too. Life. It’s a broad topic. Overwhelming. A catch all. The new title is, too, but it seems less intimidating.

“Follow My Blog” is an invitation to explore. To see what’s down that path and around the bend. What might pop out of the underbrush of my mind. It seems friendlier.

I took this photo at a local nature center called Snake Lake. I took the picture of this woman because I liked her sweater. The photo suggests mystery.

What’s at Snake Lake? Snakes, of course. A pretty garter snake with blue racing stripes. A golden tree frog. Salamanders. Ducks. Herons. Turtles, which like to sun themselves on logs. Flowers and shrubs–daffodils, bluebells, ocean spray, yellow flag irises. Salal. Oregon grape. Snow berries. Mushrooms. And much more. Things and creatures I haven’t seen yet. No matter the season, it’s a fine place to walk. 

Come walk down the trail of imagination with me.

Autumn is here. The trees haven’t started changing colors yet, but soon will.
Snowberries
The trail leads to three bridges. This is the first one.
The Lake
After crossing the bridge, you come to stairs, which lead to a hillside trail
Nurse log. They’re not just litter. They’re left in place because they decay, they provide nutrition, water, and shade to seedlings, and protect them from pathogens. I think they also make beautiful subjects for photos.