Today’s Walk: A Quiet Dawn

“I haven’t got any special religion this morning.  My God is the God of Walkers.” –   Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia

Sunday morning. The mist so thick I woke to the sound of water dripping from the edge of the roof outside my window. I went out to watch a “Super Moon” descend and the morning slowly claim the sky.

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I’ve been walking for well over a year now, not every day and not always as far as I would like, but it is now part of me. I look for that moment each day when I can get outside, get my feet moving, let the thoughts in my head go for a while. Walking has become as important to my writing as sitting in the chair.

Along the way, I usually find at least one thing that catches my eye or snags my attention and sometimes I just want to share it as I find it. No long essay. No attempt to make meaning other than what is right there. If the moment captured is not from the day I post, it means I have been casting back in my memory and photo records of my walks and unearthed a nugget I think you’ll like. I invite you to comment and share your own photos of “Todays Walk.” You can  post here or join me @EGMarro #todayswalk on Instagram, or on Twitter or Facebook.

Todays Walk: Birds of Sunset Cliffs

“Birds know themselves not to be at the center of anything, but at the margins of everything. The end of the map. We only live where someone’s horizon sweeps someone else’s. We are only noticed on the edge of things; but on the edge of things, we notice much.”

― Gregory MaguireOut of Oz

The birds of Sunset Cliffs live on the edge. For so long I walked along, barely registering them except to restrain my once young dog from chasing them over the rocks into the ocean.

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Now that I’m on my own, they have moved from the periphery of my vision to the center. I look for the pigeons clustering along ledges in the cliffs. I watch for the flash white as gulls arc against the morning sky or see how close they will allow me to come before they leap off the edge of the rocks and dive to the water below.

The cormorants clustered on their own, proprietary rock just off shore,  sent me to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to learn why they were lifting their wings like Dracula preparing to swoop. Turns out, their feathers do not shed water. They are simply hanging themselves out to dry.

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I’ve begun to notice that the gulls are the early risers although very few of them appear much before  six o’clock in the morning. The pigeons emerge later, usually by 7 at one of the parking areas where a man brings bread. By mid morning, on a sunny day, all are resting on the ground along the cliffs, occupying spots reserved apparently, through some kind of avian negotiation, for their own kind.

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The pelicans command attention and resist my efforts to capture them on film while in flight. Many times, I stop walking and look up as a squadron passes overhead, chins tucked, wings barely moving, communicating so closely with the wind and each other that the rest of us are irrelevant. At rest, they are the guardians of the pier.

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Once I started paying attention, I started to see the precariousness of their lives. I’ve seen three gulls with one leg. I’ve seen young pigeons lose crumbs of bread to bigger, fatter, more experienced birds. I’ve watched winter storms drench the cliffs, roil the waves, toss the littler ones around like confetti and I’ve seen day after winter day how the gulls and the pelicans stare at the white caps of a winter ocean waiting for it to calm enough to fish.

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But I’ve also seen this: a pigeon couple courting and then coupling in the middle of long afternoon of blue sky and sun, seizing the moment and then turning as one to face the ocean and the sky and whatever the future holds.

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Today’s Walk: Morning Dilemma

“…I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” 
― E.B. White

Yesterday, before the mists rolled in, I rose and took my walk early. I didn’t want to stop. But I did. These moments nourished me for for the rest of the day and into today, as I sit watching the rain drip outside the window. I’m sharing a few hoping they do the same for you.

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Today’s Walk: Morning Light

“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.”
― Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book

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These are from a walk I took Monday morning before I began to work or even think. A storm the night before was gone but left its mark. The sky and plants vibrated with light and color. A new garden of native plants to help preserve cliffs seemed to take hold. More cracks and fissures opened along the edges of the cliffs. The, gulls, cormorants and pelicans emerged from wherever they huddled for shelter and waited for the waters to subside so they could fish. The pigeons? They turned their backs on the ocean and looked for people bearing bread crumbs.

The day turned out to be a particularly good one.IMG_20160308_073123890_HDRIMG_20160308_065603626_HDR

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I’ve been walking for a year now, not every day and not always as far as I would like, but it is now part of me. I look for that moment each day when I can get outside, get my feet moving, let the thoughts in my head go for a while. Walking has become as important to my writing as sitting in the chair.

Along the way, I usually find at least one thing that catches my eye or snags my attention and sometimes I just want to share it as I find it. No long essay. No attempt to make meaning other than what is right there. If the moment captured is not from the day I post, it means I have been casting back in my memory and photo records of my walks and unearthed a nugget I think you’ll like. I invite you to comment and share your own photos of “Todays Walk.” You can post here or join me @EGMarro #todayswalk on Instagram, or on Twitter or Facebook.

Today’s Walk: Erosion

“The waves broke and spread their waters swiftly over the shore. One after another they massed themselves and fell; the spray tossed itself back with the energy of their fall. The waves were steeped deep-blue save for a pattern of diamond-pointed light on their backs which rippled as the backs of great horses ripple with muscles as they move. The waves fell; withdrew and fell again, like the thud of a great beast stamping.” ― Virginia Woolf, The Waves

It began with a crack. We all noticed it shortly after Christmas, a snake across the pavement where sunset lovers park to watch the waves. Not long after a fence appeared, warning cars and pedestrians to stay back. And then the cliffs separated altogether. The power of the storms combined with the drought took another chunk of the cliffs. Lately I notice even the calmest of waves move with a quiet, relentless power, the last white froth sinking like fingers into the rocks before receding, taking the smallest grains back with them. Each time. Again and again.

 I’ve been walking regularly for over a year now, not every day and not always as far as I would like, but it is now part of me. I look for that moment each day when I can get outside, get my feet moving, let the thoughts in my head go for a while. Walking has become as important to my writing as sitting in the chair.

Along the way, I usually find at least one thing that catches my eye or snags my attention and sometimes I just want to share it as I find it. No long essay. No attempt to make meaning other than what is right there. If the moment captured is not from the day I post, it means I have been casting back in my memory and photo records of my walks and unearthed a nugget I think you’ll like. I invite you to comment and share your own photos of “Todays Walk.” You can  post here or join me @EGMarro #todayswalk on Instagram, or on Twitter or Facebook.

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Today’s Walk: Market Day in Ocean Beach

“An ordinary simple street is the mirror of the whole world!” 
― Mehmet Murat ildan

Too many days, too few walks. Then came the chance to walk to the post office to mail a book to someone and there it was: the mirror of the world. Music. Color. The smells of empanadas, tamales, ribs, herbs, lavender cream. Tastes of honey, cheese, pastries. Sounds of laughter, sales pitches called out as the parade passes by with their shopping bags. I’d forgotten it was Wednesday when the weekly Farmer’s Market sets up on Newport Ave.

The ordinary is extraordinary in Ocean Beach.

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i’ve been walking regularly for over a year now, not every day and not always as far as I would like, but it is now part of me. I look for that moment each day when I can get outside, get my feet moving, let the thoughts in my head go for a while. Walking has become as important to my writing as sitting in the chair.

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Today’s Walk: A Silver Saturday


The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea. 

-Isak Dinesen

Today’s walk yielded evidence of the cliff’s impermanence. A crack ran the length of the parking lot’s edge below a ribbon of red caution tape. Yet the sea drew us all today for one reason or another, some joyful, some not. Surf advisories only drew surfers and people to watch them. One guest attended a wedding on the end of his leash.

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I’ve been walking regularly for over a year now, not every day and not always as far as I would like, but it is now part of me. I look for that moment each day when I can get outside, get my feet moving, let the thoughts in my head go for a while. Walking has become as important to my writing as sitting in the chair.

Along the way, I usually find at least one thing that catches my eye or snags my attention and sometimes I just want to share it as I find it. No long essay. No attempt to make meaning other than what is right there. If the moment captured is not from the day I post, it means I have been casting back in my memory and photo records of my walks and unearthed a nugget I think you’ll like. I invite you to comment and share your own photos of “Todays Walk.” You can  post here or join me @EGMarro #todayswalk on Instagram, or on Twitter or Facebook.

Today’s Walk: A Sunday Morning in January

“I haven’t got any special religion this morning.  My God is the God of Walkers.” –   Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia

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I’ve been walking for a year now, not every day and not always as far as I would like, but it is now part of me. I look for that moment each day when I can get outside, get my feet moving, let the thoughts in my head go for a while. Walking has become as important to my writing as sitting in the chair.

Along the way, I usually find at least one thing that catches my eye or snags my attention and sometimes I just want to share it as I find it. No long essay. No attempt to make meaning other than what is right there. If the moment captured is not from the day I post, it means I have been casting back in my memory and photo records of my walks and unearthed a nugget I think you’ll like. I invite you to comment and share your own photos of “Todays Walk.” You can  post here or join me @EGMarro #todayswalk on Instagram, or on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Walking With My Wedding Dress(es)

IMG_20151226_095421208December 26, 2015*

This morning I carried my two wedding dresses to the end of Ocean Beach Pier. I’d planned to drop them at the dry cleaner shop down the hill but when I found it closed, I decided to alter course and head away from the cliffs to town where there was another one.

That one was closed too. So I just swung them along in the plastic bag I’d stuffed them into and carried them with me. I carried them with me to the end of Narragansett where the ocean crashed against the boulders below, biding its time. Sooner or later it would prize them loose.

Then my wedding dresses and I sauntered towards the Ocean Beach pier where the morning walkers, fishermen, dogs and seabirds crowded the rails, looking over the edge for fish or back onto the pavement for scraps.

This is how my walks go. I start out with one thing in mind and something else entirely happens.

It’s the same with my plan to walk 15 miles a week in 2015 which would add up to roughly 800 miles in a twelve-month period. I thought that some of these miles would cover the California Coastal Trail.

By the time the year ends, I will have traveled only 420 miles give or take. I’ve traveled most of these within a five-mile radius of my house. The exceptions are exceptional: fifteen  miles in the calli of Venice, Italy, three more in the labyrinth of the complex at CERN outside Geneva, Switzerland, twelve among the fruit stands, orchards, farms and paths that line the river to my son’s home in Palisade,Colorado. You could say I’ve walked approximately 150 miles of the California Coastal Trail or you could, more accurately, say I’ve walked the same three- to seven mile stretch of it over and over again. I’ve walked to the library, the drug store, to church, to meet friends in Ocean Beach, Shelter Island, or Liberty Station. When I carry anything, it’s a few Kleenex (you can’t count on finding t.p. in a porta potty or public restroom), a camera or phone, my backpack with some shopping bags, maybe some library books.

I wore one of the dresses when I married my husband nearly fourteen years ago. The other is not, technically, a wedding dress. It was the runner-up, the one I would have worn if I hadn’t found the raspberry silk Nicole Miller on one final desperate day of shopping with my mother. The runner up is a rich, deep red with a neckline that makes me feel a little like Audrey Hepburn. That’s the one I want to wear on our anniversary although I have no idea why. It’s not as if we are going anywhere or doing anything. I don’t have shoes for it. I guess I just want to give it a chance to do what it was made to do before the dress and I go our separate ways. As for the original, well, I decided that cleaning it couldn’t hurt. We’ll see what happens after that.

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Here’s what happened when I stopped at the end of the pier to snap a photograph or two of a pelican. I placed my bundle on the back of a bench and began to click while the pelican eyed me with little interest. A gull, though, edged its way toward the bag with the dresses. I snatched it back up, tucked it under my arm, and kept moving. I wondered, though, what it would feel like to see the gull light on the bag, tear it open and then pick at the dresses or carry them aloft. I envisioned them in the water floating like lost autumn leaves before sinking into the depths.

We carry our pasts with us wherever we go but this is the first time I’ve carried tangible pieces of my past on a walk. The bag was light enough and I guess I’m not ready to let the contents go.

I don’t wear dresses much any more. For work I mix and match t-shirts and sweat pants. When I walk my most familiar routes, I wear sunscreen, baggy pants, smart wool socks, hiking boots and giant sunglasses. I look like the Maxine character featured on those Hallmark cards women give to each other when they reach a certain age. Which I guess means me.

No one is looking. No one is listening. Mostly, I am the one doing the looking and listening. I like it that way. For the most part, my walks have been solitary although the exceptions to this have also been exceptional and very welcome.

The writing that I thought would come from my walking hasn’t shown up on my blog. I sat down this afternoon to write something, anything. To try to capture the glimmers each walk produces, that are now part of me. They aren’t forming a complete, coherent narrative. The images are all in motion, like movies that replay. Trying to harness them now is like chasing fireflies with an empty mayonnaise jar. My journal shows a collection of phrases, ideas, observations and mile counts that swelled and dwindled through the course of the year according to my focus, health, whatever was going on with my writing, my family, the effort it takes to be fully present.

Sometimes I am just too overwhelmed with the possibilities that spring up with each step. The stories playing out in front of me. The ones forming in my head. The fragments of overheard conversations that make me want to turn and follow the speakers until I’ve got it all.

It’s not until I return to my desk that I realize how much my time spent traveling even a small distance by foot has shaped me and my writing. My body is aligned, energized. The muddle on the page I’d left has sorted itself out. Not every time and not perfectly but enough to make me want to stay with this.

As the first of the year approaches, I am ready with some intentions. I will keep walking. I will try to cover more of the CCT from the end of my street towards its end at the border with Mexico. I will walk at dawn, at least once. I will try to walk more miles than I walked last year but if I don’t I will be glad for the ones I have.

I will wear the runner-up wedding dress on our anniversary, even if all we do is go to In ’N Out. Maybe we’ll walk there.

*This turned out to be my last walk of the year. I didn’t know that, of course, when I wrote the essay. In keeping with not knowing how things are going to go, I was planning to run this earlier but various technical problems ensued which brought me to today. To new starts: wherever they may take us!

 

On the Ground

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

The phrase “on the ground” morphed into cliche eons ago. There are no signs, though, that it is fading from the language. Instead, more and more of our newscasters, policy makers, military leaders, and talking heads use it. When they do, they establish the vast distance between their insulated offices and those who are face to face with the consequences of disasters, war, and political decisions.

I am not a fan of this phrase.

However, if used literally — if used, say, to describe what I have found when I looked at the actual ground, I can feel the words perk up. The phrase “on the ground” straightens its shoulders and does the simple yet useful job it was always meant to do.

I found this orange on the ground as I trudged in unseasonable heat near my stepdaughter’s house. I was thirsty. I had looked longingly at the branches full of fruit hanging just out of reach over the walls that lined the sidewalk. I heard a muffled “whump” and looked back, then down. There it was.

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When my feet move along the surface of the ground, I can read the changes through the soles of my shoes. There is the give of a dirt path, the unyielding concrete of a sidewalk, the slippery squish of wet leaves, or the grit and sink of walking in sand.

Look down and the ground becomes a canvas that stretches out in all directions. Camellia blossoms die a beautiful death in one corner.

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A sunny sidewalk captures the shadow I make when I walk my dog and reminds me that I really must look insane in that hat.

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A walk in Balboa Park reveals a message scrawled in chalk that makes me wonder how it was answered. I’ll never know.

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And of course the ground is peppered with the scuff marks and foot steps of those who have traveled before me. Their prints are there along with the scratchings and droppings left by birds, lizards, rats, dogs, or other animals that share common ground with me.

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I think sometimes of people who lived here years before any of us did and relied upon the signs they found on the ground that led them to food or helped them to avoid danger. When I think about this, I feel the vast distance that still exists between me and all that lives beneath the soles of my well-shod feet. Walking on the ground still keeps me well above it. Perhaps I’m too quick to dismiss the news anchors, talking heads, and the others who operate far away from the consequences of all of the ways we humans mark our ground.