Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Moving meditation

I know I don't usually post two days in a row, but yesterday's post was so very blah, and I remembered my camera this morning when I went for my walk, so I thought I'd try to do a better job.

Now that I don't have to be at work by a particular time (the grading is always there, waiting patiently, or lurking menacingly, depending on how I'm feeling at any given moment), I can take Tilly for a walk every morning, instead of just on my non-class mornings. A real walk, on a trail, instead of one around my neighborhood. Neighborhood walks are very nice, and I love seeing what people are up to, what they've changed and left the same in their yards, but I realized several years ago that one of the things that is a guaranteed to lift my mood is to get my feet on dirt. If I can get my feet on dirt with a dog in tow, I can get almost anything into perspective.

There's something about watching a dog on a walk, off-leash, out where they can run, that takes me out of myself. A walk without a dog is good, but it never feels quite the same as one with a dog. Watching my dogs functions for me very much the same way that breathing serves to pull my mind back into the moment when meditating, or doing yoga. Dogs generally aren't worried about what comes next, or about what just happened; they are focused on the ever-present now, and when my chattering monkey brain threatens to become overwhelming, when I find myself running conversations over and over in my head, or fretting about something I didn't do or something I need to do, watching my dogs joyfully paying attention to each new thing as it comes along is infectious. And there was a lot to see on the trail this morning.
The green grass is starting to show under the fall's dead brown; we had a little more rain this weekend, and everything is trying to grow while it can.
I think I mentioned the lovely red berries all over the place?
It felt almost like December; when I started walking, it was even cool enough to see my breath. Tilly was happy as a clam. I kept trying to get a picture of her happy face when she ran towards me (doing her best impression of a cannonball), but she moved too fast.
She looks like a fox, doesn't she? Maybe it's the tail.
The open space where I've been walking more lately has a lovely riparian habitat in it, and a small lake where the creek was dammed some time ago.
There are herons and coots and ducks and pelicans there, and tules grow along the edges. Someone cut a bunch of them back recently, and they're lying in piles on the dam. I mention this because when tules are retted, they produce a lovely soft fiber that Native Californians used for lots of things (even diapering babies), and I have wondered lately whether the fiber could be spun (it wasn't, traditionally). Hmmm...
And finally, on the way home, I took the picture I'd wanted to share with you. This makes me inordinately gleeful every year when it blooms.
It's a poinsettia tree. A tree. Maybe ten feet tall. And every year, right about now, it bursts into huge, exuberant poinsettia blooms. Until I moved here, I always thought of poinsettias as these little potted things that last about a month before dying. Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.

In knitting news, I finished the hat I was knitting for my brother-in-law, and after consultation with Rick, we've decided that I'm going to give him the set (hat and mittens) for his birthday in early January (he wants a camping lantern for Christmas), so I'll finish the second mitten later. This means that I've cast on to knit a pair of mitts for my niece for Christmas, which, with luck, won't take too long. Then I can make the call on the scarf for SIL versus shawl for aunt decision. My general theory is that as long as I can make a reasonable start on the shawl, I don't mind giving it to my aunt on Christmas day as a not-quite-finished promissary note, so my goal is to be working on it about a week before Christmas; this means that if I can finish the mitts quickly enough, I might be able to finish the scarf before starting the shawl. We'll see. Meanwhile, I'm off to grade...


Willow said...

I understand your amazement with the poinsettia. I am surprised every year when I see the huge bushes because my experience was anemic foot tall potted poinsettias until I saw my first real bush behind the first apt The Professor and I lived in.

The beach serves the same function for me that the mountain trail does for you. I think I need to get to the beach immediately.

Looking forward to seeing your other knitting FOs.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking us on a walk with you. Wow. Beautiful out there.

the boogeyman's wife said...

i swear i think better (and clearer) when i'm moving, and best if there's wild trees around.

interesting speculation on the tules....i've grown flax before (for the flower eye-candy) and wondered idly about retting them too. who knew poinsettas could grow into trees? i always feel vaguely sorry for the potted ones in the store. they never look quite happy with their lot.

Anonymous said...

Tillie does look like a fox. A happy fox.

Ooooh! Confirming Jan babies everywhere that their birthday presents were Christmas presents.:)

EGunn said...

A good walk can fix almost any mood, can't it? And the flexible schedule is really the biggest perq of academia, so definitely enjoy it while you can!

I've never seen a poinsettia tree before, but I have a similar awe for the rosemary and fuschia bushes in WA, so I understand how fun it can be to see something "in the wild."

And, you know you're a fiber nut when cut grasses start looking like an opportunity. Retting isn't all that hard, right? =D

Good luck with that grading!

Stell said...

ret it, go on ret it, grab a bucket and soak away ... dare you. Then you will need a hackle, and other stuff that looks dangerous and has a cool name.
I never thought about from whence poinsettia came, never imagined they were other than a potted thing at christmas time, althoug logic tells me they must have had a role in the world before becoming a potted christmas decoration, but then you go and find a blooming huge tree ... and I realise that I'm not as curious about the world as I ought to be.

Nana Sadie said...

A Poinsettia TREE? Who knew?
Surely not me....
Tilly is such fun! Gleeful puppy.

Anonymous said...

The walks outside off concrete are necessary.

Poinsettias - I've seen them as trees in central Mexico, and called pascuas (which would be easters, which I find endlessly amusing - because they're so strongly associated with Xmas here). (I'm easily amused, especially by weird bilingual-ish oddities) Tall trees.

Alwen said...

I miss being able to free-walk my dogs. But it's not worth getting them hit by cars. I need to get out there and re-establish our path in the snow.

We don't have tules here, just cattails, but I have a stand of dogbane, and I confess I made cord out of it. It's amazing stuff. Even when it dries up it stays strong and doesn't get brittle.

A real poinsettia tree! I knew they grew wild from my Hort. courses, but I've only ever seen them potted. And these days, airbrushed pink and blue and sprayed with glitter!

Bea said...

I like your way of putting things in perspective. Sadly Abby is not an off leash dog. She'd probably find her way to the parking lot and in a fit of happiness walk right in front of a car thinking she could make friends. Gus on the other hand...Everyday around the neighborhood is an off leash day. Tilly is so cute! I love the tail flying/dog flying picture.

I love the poinsetta tree.

You know as soon as that grading is done you'll have more knitting time :)

Anonymous said...

Your walk looks amazing. I am envious. It's turned into a giant snow/ice sheet here, so I've hardly been out for a few weeks now and I miss it. Plus it's been cold (20s aren't too bad, but the lows are in the teens or below when it's dark, which is whenever I'm home). However, this weekend it might get up to the high 30s, maybe even the 40s, so I'm going to get some sun then . . .

As for knitting, my family is getting half finished projects and that's the way it's going to be. I wish it weren't, but I've decided not to try to kill myself this year.

Plus, dating cuts into my knitting time a lot. I can't be mad, but it is a reality I hadn't considered when planning Christmas knitting.

Take care.

Jane said...

What beautiful surroundings in which to go walking. I can imagine how beautiful the poinsettia must be

Anonymous said...

So glad to get to see the berries and the poinsettia, and Tilly's adorable face.

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

I have those red berry trees growing wild all around me. I cut bunches and put them in vases around the house - they look very festive!

I've always thought that poinsettias growing wild look a little like something from a Dr. Seuss story.

Lynne said...

Thanks for the walking tour - it was intersting seeing where you live [in the South I assume]?

Poinsettia shrubs flower here in July but hardly anyone grows them in suburbia - they're way too big. I was given a potted one for Christmas - I wonder how long it will last, especially in the heat and humidity of summer.