I am lucky to live where I do. Oakland has endless spots where I can simply take a turn and be transported from pavement to dirt. The sound of birds chirping may be accompanied by the drone of a leaf blower but as my feet carry me further into the hills their song becomes a cappella. The namesake giants of Redwood Regional and winding trails of Joaquin Miller are second homes; a curve or bend in a trail is as familiar as a corner of my hallway. The wildland parks and trails of the Oakland Hills are sought after spots for many to escape urban daily life. However, there are times when I feel like my escape does not deliver the solitude I need. Trails such as Stream and Sequoia-Bayview can become nature’s version of a highway. Three weeks ago, in a quest for quiet on a particularly difficult day, I turned to the lesser traveled Leona Canyon Regional Open Space Preserve to be alone with my thoughts.
Walks & Hikes
I have always loved the rain. I love the sound and smell of it; sometimes I even like the feel of it. I watch my kids stand completely unfazed by their drenched clothes and dripping hoods as they stretch their red, cold hands out to feel the droplets hit their palms. The winter season of 2016-2017 has brought endless downpours to Oakland and beyond. To say our ground is saturated is an understatement. Water has been endlessly streaming through our neighborhood days after the skies have cleared. The green blanket of weeds in our yard is nearing knee height; my husband often sighs at the work ahead. While temporary creeks seem to exist along every curb with a downward slope, I started to think about the vast watershed that cuts through our city. I crossed my fingers that a series of dry days might remove the slickness from the mud and I hit the trails of Joaquin Miller Park in search of the sound and smell that I love.
2017 has begun. The beginning of a new year is often full of conflicting emotion. The post-holiday letdown meets the anticipation of a fresh start. For some, myself included, the year may have milestones that mean a clock is ticking and time feels quick as it slips by. It’s a year that brings a new administration that leaves many unsure of what the future may hold for our country. How to navigate into a new year is something I grapple with. Some years I put thought into it; during others, January 1st is just another day. The transition into this year has felt awkward and bumpy. Unsettling weather, sickness, children shifting through change and growth, and all sorts of other twists and turns to navigate have thrown me a bit off balance as I pin my new calendar on the wall. Ironic when you consider my last post of 2016 reflected on the struggle to find it. I think we all know that the slate really isn’t wiped clean when the clock strikes midnight; the baggage we carried doesn’t mysteriously disappear. Yet perhaps we can re-think the way we carry it.
As 2016 comes to a close, life has thrown curve balls that took away the time and energy I typically dedicate to this little corner of the internet on Oakland Momma; it has left me feeling disappointed. I hate to overuse the phrase life balance; I know it is the perpetual goal we all seek as we watch the term fly across pages and screens. As you may know, sometimes I find solace in the definition of a word; in this case I turned to how balance is defined as a verb. To keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall. I feel like I fall everyday; many times. So is balance best looked at over a long period of time? Such as a whole year? Perhaps so in my case. Balancing marriage, parenting, family, household, and blogging in 2016 led to times when one of those fell on a daily basis. On some days I felt as though I was picking up the pieces of each and every one of them. On others I felt as though I was safely balanced in the middle, nary a scratch on me. I hold on to the memories of those days. One of those days was captured by an old friend along the paths of Lake Temescal as we gathered to take a family photo for the upcoming holidays. It was a day that I think of often because the look captured between my two children warms my heart; it takes away the wobble and steadies my balance.
Yesterday was the day to honor what we are grateful and thankful for. Today is a day when you may be thankful for elastic waistbands. As I have spent the past few weeks trying to make sense of the changes our country has voted for I have never felt more grateful for the wonderful bubble we live in here in the Bay Area. On the East Bay hills within that bubble are beautiful forests that offer respite and fresh air; space to breath. The smell of a cool, damp forest floor in late fall is glorious. The added benefit of a few calories burned is perfect to calm the guilt of those two pieces of pie; the one last night and the one you will enjoy this evening. So pack a turkey and cranberry sandwich, drive up the hill to the Skyline Gate of Redwood Regional Park and enjoy time alone, or with family and friends. Tis the season to appreciate how lucky we are to call Oakland home.
There are two causes to celebrate on this Friday morning. Just about one year ago on October 19th, 2015, I wrote my first post as Oakland Momma. I introduced myself, and shared my early morning trip into the fog of Mountain View Cemetery. Since then, my blog has grown, changed, taught both myself and others, and it has shown me that of all things I can write about, what I love most is to share stories about Oakland. The second cause to celebrate; in three days I turn forty. While for some it may be a number that has come and gone, and for others it seems to be in the distant future, for me it is the present. While it seems like a big number, a number I sometimes see looking back at me in the mirror, I am eager to take a giant step forward into the next decade and can’t help but wonder what it will bring. Time truly does goes by fast. On the one hand, daily life can be exhausting and days can creep by; yet on the other, when it comes time to put the Christmas tree up again each year I am blown away by its speed.
As I thought about the appropriate way to celebrate these two milestones the decision came easily; a necklace. It’s the necklace that graces the top of this page in lovely artwork created for me by a friend; the necklace that curls around the jewel of our city. Just as forty years of life and 367 days of blogging have brought ups and down, the necklace of lights has also been put up, to then come down, to only be put up once again. It not only graces our shores, but it has traveled across the Pacific to grace the streets of a Chinese village that once sat without light. It’s a story of a city fighting for a piece of its history to shine once again, and I am happy to share it here.
I have had birds on the brain recently. Just last week I was woken in the middle of the night by an owl right outside my window. It’s methodic and deep hoot was so loud I sat up in my drowsy state and wondered if it was in the house. This late-night wakening coupled with my son’s recent fascination with his North American Birds Encyclopedia has caused fowl to be on my mind. If you are like me, you may not give birds a second glance, or thought. I hear them, see them, dodge their droppings, and shoo them away when they come looking for my kid’s crumbs. Since I have been more curious about them in recent days, I have started to pay a bit more attention to them; their warbles and songs, their colors and beaks. I have known for quite some time that Lake Merritt is home to a bird sanctuary of sorts. In fact, its shores are home to the first wildlife refuge in the United States. This past weekend my family and I made two trips lakeside. The first was to enjoy an evening along the shore to burn off the energy that came from some very blue ice cream. The other was to attend the 1st Oakland Nature Festival, a wonderful event hosted by the Rotary Nature Center where I was inspired to learn more about our feathered friends.
When I have time to myself, one of the things I often prioritize is exercise. Over the past year and a half I have tried to incorporate it into my life in efforts to lead a healthier lifestyle. I think I walk a fine line between priority and obsession. Sometimes the desire to burn calories competes with the need to slow down my mind and take care of the most important muscle in my body. This inner battle caused Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve to move down the list of places to visit in recent months; the 1.7 mile loop known as Huckleberry Path didn’t seem challenging enough. The word “path” almost seems to denote leisure, as opposed to “trail” which feels more conducive to a stint of cardio. It took a bit of convincing but I eventually told myself that time in nature IS part of the healthy lifestyle I have worked to adopt. It doesn’t need to be a 5-mile hike; deep breaths of fresh air, fun with my camera, and a leisurely walk down into the forest and back up again were the perfect respite at end of the week.