“My Hero” by Billy Collins

It’s startling how Billy Collins pierces through the verbosity of prose to the core of an emotion. Since I discovered “The Lanyard,” poems like “Old Man Eating Alone in a Chinese Restaurant” and his new work “Cheerios” and “To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High School Girl” from Aimless Love have found their way into my scrapbook. “My Hero,” below, made me smile with its twist on perspective.

baby gopher tortoise

Just as the hare is zipping across the finish line,
the tortoise has stopped once again
by the roadside,
this time to stick out his neck
and nibble a bit of sweet grass,
unlike the previous time
when he was distracted
by a bee humming in the heart of a wildflower.

(photo via The Nature Conservancy)

Amsterdam: Biking to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel

This afternoon I regaled a coworker with stories behind my slew of Amsterdam photos, which made me realize I’ve neglected to post one of the best parts of my trip on the blog! So here it is: a bike ride from Amsterdam to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, a village south of the city.

The weather had been a little erratic, but the last day brought sunshine and clouds with a little haze—just the weather I’d been waiting for. So, starting out from my Airbnb digs near the Jordaan, I gingerly skirted along Nassaukade, sweating at the stoplights, hoping I was in the right lane before pedaling madly after bicyclists who looked like they actually knew what they were doing. Stopped by a MacBike for an Amstel-Windmill Bicycle Tour map (security blanket!) before heading to the Amsteldijk bikeway, which follows the river the entire way. Once on the city outskirts, I began to breathe a little easier. (I’m still a country girl at heart.)

amstel pond near river windmill

This scenery inspired Rembrandt, who would head to this same countryside on weekends to work on his landscapes. Along the river, next to a windmill, there’s a statue of the master down on one knee, his sketchbook propped up on the other.

amstel riverscape horizontal

I’ve come to realize that the older I get, the more of a luxury time becomes. On this particular day I had nowhere to be, so I could ride as slowly as I liked and stop whenever I wanted. Bliss.

amstel river bike path

The river’s bike path is flat as flat, and on this day there was hardly another soul on the road. After reaching and then tooling around Ouderkerk for a bit, I biked up the other side of the river before turning around to go back the way I came—about 13 km./8 mi. each way.

amstel river rower windmill

I paused midpath to snap this shot of river reeds framing a single sculler rowing past the windmill where Rembrandt’s statue is. Makes me wish I could experience the feel of being on that water.

junky amsterdam bike

My trusty, rusty steed. It’s the kind of junky Old Reliable that I understand Amsterdammers keep, to get them around town and not get stolen. Still, who’s taking chances?

bike locks

The Dutch don’t mess around with their locks. There was an industrial-strength chain-link one to secure the bike to any immovable object, plus a second key-operated clamp over the rear tire.

amstel river bench

On my way home, I nearly blew right past these solitary benches, then decided to stop for a breather and just read and write for a bit. The breeze rustled through the grasses and occasionally boats would motor by, their owners sunning on lawn chairs set up on the deck. A few ducky friends paddled over, bobbing in the boats’ wake, expecting to be fed.

50 Summer Activities We’re Nostalgic For

Come summer I still think of my San Joaquin Valley hometown and the slap-slap of rotor sprinklers watering the front lawn; the clean, cold taste of valley water fresh from the hose (William Saroyan–style); the loamy scent emanating from almond orchards being irrigated at night; the mellow sounds of crickets and frogs seemingly lethargic from the heat. Escaping to the coolness and old-book-smell of the library for the weekly stock-up of summer-vacation reads. Hearing a distant train whistle punctuate an otherwise silent night studded with stars.


Summer is finally here, and although we are excited (unlike some people), the season just doesn’t feel like it used to. Gone are the times when we could unabashedly run through the fountain at the local town center. Flying down the Slip ‘n Slide guilt- and injury-free without the context or liquid courage provided by alcohol? Not an option. However, we can be nostalgic for those times. So here is a long list of just about all the summer activities we wish we could be doing right now instead of being cooped up in the office. Join us on our trip and receive what Don Draper would call, “…the pain from an old wound. A twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.”

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Happy summer solstice!

In the Northern Hemisphere, sunlight lingers the longest today, enveloping you in a balm that’s deliciously warm. (In my mind at least.) How would you like to wade through the eddies of a lazy river?

I’ve always loved the way the water swirls and flows in O’Keeffe’s Chama River image, contrasted with the shades of red rock surrounding Abiquiu.

Chama River, Ghost Ranch, 1937 by O'KeeffeGeorgia O’Keeffe, Chama River, Ghost Ranch, 1937.

Chama River via TripadvisorThe inspiration, or a literal rendering.

(bottom photo via TripAdvisor user Chante_m, June 2009)

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has to be one of my favorite places on Earth, particularly come feeding time in the Open Sea exhibit when the tuna FOOM! up like rockets for the food. The story of this vagabond octopus staying hidden for a year in another exhibit, snacking on crabs in the meantime, tickled me when the story first broke this past June.


A baby red octopus is small enough to sleep on your fingernail. Which explains how one managed to sneak into the Monterey Bay Aquarium on a rock or sponge and stow away there for nearly a year, secretly snacking on the aquarium’s crabs, before being found.

The sneaky critter was the size of a fist when it was finally discovered, having climbed out of the Shale Reef exhibit where it was hiding out and crawled into plain sight on the aquarium floor. According to senior aquarist Barbara Utter, it put on all that bulk by eating the legitimate residents: “We’d noticed that there weren’t as many crabs coming out at feeding time in that exhibit. Now we realize that’s where they’d all been going — into the octopus’s [POWERFUL CHOMPING BEAK]!” [It has been pointed out that the word “tummy” in the original quote is kind of goofy, so…

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The fourth shot left me breathless. I would so love to be traversing that path!…just dawdling, taking my time to take in the colors, nowhere to be but where I am.

Eric E Photo

Fall came early this year with leaves starting to change at the end of August!  The colors are nearing peak right now as the aspens turn from green to yellow and catch up with all the vine maples that are exploding in red.  Yes, it is a good time to be in Park City:)

Sorry, there’s nothing exotic in this post, just a few photos from some hikes that I do a few times a week.   I hope you get out this fall and enjoy every minute of it before the color fades.   EE
*Thank you to all for looking and I’m glad I am able to share this with so many people!! EE

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I think my secret place was always books, especially childhood favorites that felt familiar and yet also opened me up to the possibilities of learning about other worlds (the Anne of Green Gables series, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn). But it was also the almond orchards behind my parents’ house, where I’d wander on balmy afternoons and pretend I was hunting in a jungle. After I moved away to college, it became the coast, where I’d watch and listen to the waves crashing against rock or lapping the sand.

It also became the front stoop of my parents’ house, where upon homecoming I’d gingerly sit down past midnight after the rest of the house had gone to sleep, just to be alone and look up at the stars. Their distance put my world in perspective but also reminded me of the continuity of the ages, and gave me such a feeling of wholeness and peace. I remember it being so quiet except for the faint chirping of crickets and a distant train whistle occasionally punctuating the silence.

Flandrum Hill

Whether you’re six or sixty, if you don’t already have a secret place where you can be uninterrupted by yourself, perhaps it’s time you found one.  Either in nature or near it, such a place offers you the opportunity to escape from the world for a few minutes and just… enjoy the view.

Your secret window on the natural world allows you to be refreshed and restored with a minimum investment of time.  You needn’t engage with anything except your imagination.

Your secret place need not be large or spacious.  You only need room enough to hunker down for a short while to take a moment from the demands of the world.  A woodland setting is ideal, but  less remote places offer good possibilities too:  a spot beneath a special tree or the quiet corner of a deck, balcony, rooftop or beach.

Even a secluded park bench or stone can…

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