Early Morning Spirits

walking, San Francisco, San Francisco BayI’m walking the same paths that I did when Henry sniffed along with me. Days after he died, when I began walking alone, I realized how much of a fixture we had become those early morning walks. Half a dozen other early ramblers inquired, “where’s Henry?” or “where’s that bright-eyed, busy-tailed dog of yours?”


Now it’s almost five months later, and I still walk our same route. This morning, one of Henry’s biggest fans stops me on the path, the San Francisco Bay by our side, a tiny otter face peeking out in the foggy mist. Continue reading

It’s Just Your Imagination!

imagination, writing, thinkingFlash!

Scientists are trying to understand the creative brain.

Hmmm, some people in my family have been trying to understand my brain for decades. My dad used to shake his head at me and intone, “It’s just your imagination, Pammy.”

He never knew how angry that statement made me. What did he mean, JUST my imagination? Did that mean it didn’t count?

But now, wonderfully, neuroscientists and psychologists are claiming that “imagination is the cornerstone of creativity.”

Unfortunately, back when I was growing up in the “olden” days, creativity wasn’t so highly touted. But now a neuroscientist and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute of the University of Southern California says, “having original ideas is a process, not a place (within the brain).”

The implication is that it takes a lot of brain to pull off imagination and creativity.dragons, imagination, creativity, writing

So my capability to see tiny, dragon-like lizards on top of maple trees that suddenly glow purple, is not “just” my imagination.

It’s genius!

Researchers are now determining that imagination is only possible with the use of (1) memory (yes, it’s good news that you remember the smell of your 7th grade science teacher’s hair spray) and (2) emotions.

Carousel, Shirley Jones, Gordon McRae, imagination, emotion

Falling in love, in “Carousel.”

Here’s one of my good (emotional) memories: my brother sneaks down to the basement where I’m watching an old movie on TV – “Carousel” with Shirley Jones, in which the love of her life is killed. Little brother taunts me because I’m sobbing at the end, but my dad defends me, saying, “The world would be a better place if all people had the imagination to feel other people’s pain and joy.”

Which brings me to another point researchers are discovering. Some people are inherently more creative and imaginative than others.

I always knew that. Now, perhaps others will view creativity and imagination as immensely special and as a talent to strive for, not ignore.

In fact, a Harvard University researcher noted: “the brain is a creativity machine. You just need to know how to manipulate your software to make it work.”

whale, imagination


Yes, that’s what I do at 5:30 a.m. when I gently wake up, neurons firing, the vivid dream world slowly fading away as I locate Geminia and Frederica, my two soul soothers/imaginators who sit invisibly within my eardrums.

“Did you notice the large whale swimming in the Bay this morning?” Geminia whispers as I begin my early morning walk.

seal, sealife, imagination, San Francisco BayI see a hiccup of a splash in the middle of the bay, and then a seal slaps up, barking an explanation: “That’s Hector. He gets lost all the time. He’s supposed to be in Hawaii by now!”

Ah, Pammy, there’s your imagination again….

Worth the Wait

pride of medeira, san francisco bay, walk, dog, friendship  We walk together, in harmony, almost as if we’re holding hands, but we’re not. However, he looks at me often, his deep brown eyes saying so much without his mouth releasing a word. Could anyone ask for a better companion? For a better friend?

But of course, there’s so much more to the relationship than that.

As we walk, he looks over his territory with pride. His name, I tease him, should be Heathcliff or Darcy. He just moves on, pointing at the Pride of horse, nature, walking, friendship, dogsMadeira in the meadow, strutting over to say hello to the horses in the pasture, urging me to run instead of walk along the paved path around the nearby farm. I sigh, then allow my thigh muscles to tighten as I follow him.

His gait is so strong and sure-footed. I run like a girl, he runs like a …. Well, he doesn’t seem to mind and, in fact, even though he can run hundreds of yards in front of me, he stops and looks behind his shoulder to make sure I’m coming along. I think that’s what endears me the most to him. He could make it on his own. He could be perfectly happy and free without me, yet he chooses to slow down, to wait, to watch me with a gleam in his eye, so I can catch up.

dog, golden, eyes, friendshipIt’s that look in his eye that makes me feel so valued, so necessary in his life. As he stands there, still and strong, waiting for me, there is sure certainty in his expression that I am worth the wait.

I reach him, and he opens his mouth with a big wide grin. Somehow, I know I have passed a test. I stroke him, and he dashes on ahead again, ears bent back, eyes slanted from the breeze, mouth turned up into such joy my heart leaps, and I run faster.

Suddenly, I am ahead of him. He stops as quickly as he began, tail wagging, nose tilted down into the ripe lime green grass. I call, he ignores me. The smell must be from nirvana, like chocolate to a woman, diesel oil to a man. I call him, his tail wags faster, but he still focuses on the meadow grass.

I stand still. He’s worth the wait.

dog, golden retriever, friendship, woman and dog

A (wo)man’s best friend.

Cell Phone Abuse and Miracles

My early morning walking view, with eyes straight ahead.

My early morning walking view, with eyes straight ahead.

Many of you know that I delight in the early morning joy of walking my heart out, and my lungs and my muscles. This week, during my normal 7 a.m. routine of walking the S.F. bay area shoreline with my four-legged companion, Henry, I note that I see more top-sided humans than I used to (compared to, say, a few years ago).

walking with cell phone, texting

Top-sided human, eyes down to cell phone.

Remember when, back in the day, people strolled the neighborhood – sidewalks or nearby hills – and nodded to one another as they passed, maybe even calling out a cheery, “good morning,” or “so good to see you out and about, Mr. Brown!” Well, no more niceties now during the Age of Cell Phone Abuse. Nearly everyone has their heads turned down to their cell phone, to… what? Peruse the latest e-mail from a friend? Read their newspaper, check out the gossip on Facebook, twitter a quote to a stranger?    But look what they’re missing right in front of their noses, if they’d only pull their noses, and eyes, front and center. In the early morning mist, pelicans cavort like babies in a bouncy house, racing back and forth, diving deep down and then soaring upward, to savor the school of visiting herring. 

dog, golden retriever, walking along San Francisco Bay

Henry, chuckling.

A woman with her two little bichons passes me and my big monster of a dog (to a bichon, an 11-year-old golden is a big bad scary beast). The white furry animals bark like seals in heat (and yes, I know that sound, since in the spring I hear the randy seals by the bay shore rocks, barking away).

The embarrassed woman gets out her big guns, a spray bottle, and I hear the swish swish of water aimed at her doggies as Henry and I leap by. I swear Henry’s head twirls toward them, chuckling at their humbling discipline.

And then there’s the man sitting in his car at the depot museum parking lot, reading his newspaper, which is propped up over his steering wheel.  I notice him almost every morning, and make up a story. His wife kicked him out, again, and he’s getting his early morning coffee and front page read before he goes back home and asks for forgiveness, again. When my imaginings are more creative, he’s a C.I.A. agent who knows that soon a spy for the ‘other side’ will be passing secrets at any minute, here, in front of the bay and the pelicans and the seals, threatening world peace unless he’s stopped.

railroad museum, SF Bay, walking, miracles, trains

Railroad Depot Museum, at dawn.

But sometimes I just listen to my footsteps on the concrete path, tapping in exercise mode; Henry’s paws on grass, muted and happy;  the hundred pelican wings swishing in harmony, ethereal and magical; tiny dogs barking in the background and a woman’s soft voice chastising, “quiet now, quiet.” Swish Swish.

Can you hear those sounds, while your head is down, perusing your cell phone?

Does a tree make noise when it falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it?

What magic do we miss, when our eyes aren’t front and center of the everyday wonder occurring right in front of us every second?

I ponder these thoughts as I peer through the small museum’s windows, windows that overlook the bay and the creatures who live in and around it. To my surprise, I spy a tiny Santa’s elf, playing with the big toy trains that are tooting around and around the platform.

I snap a quick picture – will it turn out, or is he a figment of my imagination – and continue on my magical walk.

Cell phone in pocket, eyes straight ahead.

magic, Christmas, Santa's elf

Santa’s elf!

The Fear of Walking

Golden Gate Bridge, pelicans, walkingWalking scares me, yet I practice it every day.

Of course, the actual motion of moving one foot in front of the other, swinging arms, smiling at the dog by my side, feeling the cool San Francisco fog on my face and appreciating the rising rosy sun isn’t scary.

But my walking thoughts are.

What, for instance, would it be like to trade places with the pelican swaying above me right now, showing off its ability to use the power of the wind while eying me with beady distain? If I were he, and he were me, I’d ignore such a useless two-footed creature, stuck in slow motion on a hard surface at limited eye level with the grace of a tree stump.

I’d soar above the blue gray water to search for the tell-tale scaly flash and YES, point my long sharp beak straight down to smash past the wave, pelican, walkling, soul, Golden Gate Bridgegrabbing my meal in one sharp swallow.

Instead, I swallow my disappointment that, in my human form, only dry toast with some sticky peanut butter awaits my slow-footed return to home.

I wonder, if only I tried harder, I could learn the secret of how to release my lighter, brighter soul, the “it” inside of my tree stump of a body, and zoom up and away, exploring the underside of the Golden Gate Bridge, past the Farallon Islands, cross the endless miles of melodic monotonous ocean waters, mingling with the other endless souls released from bunioned toes and stalky legs.

Zap…NO! I don’t want to be released yet from these mortal coils, I scream silently, holding on to my soul like a woman holding down her hat on a too windy day. I’ll stick with the crackling knees and blistered heels, the chapped red knuckles and running nose, the stress of too little time for a deadline-heavy day, and the pang of missing family who live on the wrong coast. I want to continue enjoying the glory of the left coast with sunsets and fog horns and handheld hikes with husband along the soul-drenched waters of life.

dog, walking, San Francisco Bay, soulThe dog tugs and suddenly my thoughts are leashed to the day ahead, the bread to toast, the office desk to manage, the bills to pay, groceries to buy, phones to answer, news to digest, rugs to vacuum, and words to write.

Until tomorrow morning – and another scary walk.

What about you? How scary are YOUR walks?