Remembering CS Lewis in Belfast

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CS Lewis’ Childhood Home

Growing up in Belfast is one of the things I’ve always found interesting in CS Lewis’ biography. His childhood was well before the Troubles and his family was obviously well off. Perhaps his fascination with myths and fairy tales was influenced by growing up in Northern Ireland. When he converted to Christianity he became an Anglican–not a Presbyterian as many Northern Ireland protestants or Catholic as it carries the political weight of the Irish question.

At the same time I just really enjoy all of his writing and have loved reading everything by him or about him. In a quick trip through Northern Ireland I didn’t have as much time as I hoped to indulge. I read about the CS Lewis Trail and I made a note in my journal. My timeline got squeezed and I did not make it. So I was delighted when we finished dinner with friends and Belfastian Peter offered to give us a tour of the Habitat for Humanity houses we helped build and I had the presence of mind to remember that he lived close to CS Lewis’ childhood home. It was our first stop!

The CS Lewis Trail is another reason to return to Belfast, as if I needed one!

 

Pacific Grove in Winter

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Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove, CA is popular with families and others year round.

I received the Monterey Bay Aquarium e-newsletter announcing the Member’s Night and made a hotel reservation right away. I figured that on a random Saturday night in January it would be quiet. While it is less busy than this last weekend with the AT&T golf tournament in Pebble Beach, it was still lively.

Traffic on Saturday was congested at various points between Sacramento and Monterey. I reached Monterey in time for a late lunch at Gianni’s Pizza in New Monterey. I checked into my hotel (not worth mentioning) and walked to the Pacific Grove coastal walk for some fresh air. It was beautiful at Lover’s Point.

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Beach 1: the family beach

The first Lover’s Point beach is the most protected and perfect for families with young children. The water is c-c-c-old but there is plenty of sand. This beach is also closest to a snack bar and coffee shop.

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Beach 2: Good for body paddling out to the surf.

The second beach at Lover’s Point provides access to the surf if you are interested in paddling out or surfing. The first two beaches have stairways to make access easier.

The third beach didn’t reveal itself until I walked a bit further along the beach walkway and looked back. It is a sliver of sand between the rock face and the waves. It is a beach for teenagers and others who like daring each other to dash in the surf.

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Pacific Grove is a wintering site for a diminishing Monarch population.

Lover’s Point is the perfect destination for a family walk and picnic or a bike ride. There is some parking on the street and is a good stopping point if you are driving around the peninsula on the coast road. Or it can be a rest stop if you are walking from Asilomar to the Aquarium.

I decided one night is not enough to warrant .a 3.5-4.5 hour drive one way.  A sign of my age, sigh. When I was a teenager I would drive that much to spend the day at the beach. Then with children I needed at least an overnight. Now I want more than one night to recover and to justify the carbon footprint! One thing for sure, Pacific Grove is worth the effort even in the dead of winter.

Finding Momo in Sacramento

IMG_6861I wondered: Is Momo going to appear with his person Andrew Knapp in Folsom or on Folsom Boulevard? Luckily there are only two Incredible Pets stores in the Sacramento Area with one being ON Folsom Boulevard. Who is Momo? Oh I can’t wait to share. He is a very clever Border Collie who hides very effectively in the most wonderful locations. His person snaps photos and creates books where you can “find” him. Think “Where’s Waldo” with an adorable black and white dog.

I am a fan. I preordered this book to add to my collection of three books plus a board book for children. My grandson and I enjoy finding Momo.

IMG_6863I was pretty excited to be one of the last people to see Momo and his person photographer/author Andrew Knapp at Incredible Pets. Andrew signed my book and posed with Momo for photos. It was a very satisfying encounter. If you want to find Momo yourself there are a few stops left on the Little Left Coast Book Tour.

February 12 at 7 pm at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA

February 16 at 2 pm at Hicklebees in San Jose, CA

February 19 at 7 pm at Healthy Spot in Canoga Park, CA

February 23 at 3 pm at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, CA

Find Momo at one of these events and follow @AndrewKnapp on Instagram.

Learning to Look, Afresh

IMG_6685Taking a walk with my 2 year old grandson always results in looking at the familiar landscapes with fresh eyes or seeing things I never noticed before. My neighborhood library is in an elegant home donated by Ella McClatchy. It is on the ironically named “Poverty Hill” surrounded by mansions. (And in a flood prone community it is a more desirable place to build.)

One morning my grandson and I explored the library upstairs and down before venturing into the neighborhood. Cal loves to run and I can stay apace through quick strides and distraction. “Look at this, Cal.” is one of my favorite tricks to give me time to catch up. This is how we discovered there are six lions living near the library.

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Can you find the “Mickey Mouse” on this snake? Sacramento Zoo 

“Part of normal human development is learning to notice less than we are able to. The world is awash in details of color, form, sound–but to function, we have to ignore some of it. The world still holds these details. Children sense the world at different granularity, attending to parts of the visual world we gloss over, to sounds we have dismissed as irrelevant. What is indiscernible to us is plain to them.” Alexandra Horowitz, On Looking (p. 26)

IMG_6472Travel can also refresh our ability to see. First, we notice so much more of everything wherever we go because it is unfamiliar. And then we see our own familiar home with fresh eyes and appreciation when we return.

9781683691068One of the other ways we can train ourselves to see more of the rich detail in our lives is through “Eye Spy” type games. Cal and I love Momo books. Momo the border collie hides and his person Andrew Knapp snaps a photo. There is a series of books for all ages and one children’s board book for hardier viewing.  The latest book is Finding Momo Across Europe and it is delightful!

Prepping for a Very Harry Potter Vacation

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Hogwarts at Universal Studios, Hollywood, CA

I am going to England in March to visit UK Sarah and we are going to spend the first 2 days geeking out over Harry Potter. We will see both parts of The Cursed Child at the theater and then the next day visit Warner Bros.’ The Making of Harry Potter.

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Fans enjoying Hogsmeade at Universal Studios.

In preparation I am re-reading all 7 books by JK Rowling. I will probably watch all the films again too. My close reading of the Harry Potter series is so much more enjoyable and meaningful because as I read a chapter I am pausing to listen to the podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. The co-hosts Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile created a unique format. Each episode has a theme, such as friendship, commitment, fear or other values/ emotions. They begin with a short story from one of them that illustrates the theme. Then they compete in a friendly competition of recapping the chapter in 30 seconds. This is followed by a discussion of the chapter through the lens of the theme. They then apply a spiritual practice, such as lectio divina, to part of the text, finally they each give a blessing to one of the characters. Often there is also an interview with a guest rabbi or professor. Or they play a short message from a listener. I am LOVING the whole experience.

Vanessa and Casper met at Harvard Divinity School. Vanessa is up front about her Jewish background and nonbeliever status. Casper is a little more enigmatic. He has a lovely British accent and can share his boarding school experience. They are both very empathetic, mature people with a strong moral compass. It all adds up to a fascinating podcast.

By the way, just to be on the safe side, I am flying back to California before the deadline for hard Brexit.

 

Celebrating Penguin Awareness with Dr. Michelle LaRue

 

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Estimating populations of penguins is a challenge given the ice even in summer. Can you tell the difference between Adelie and Emperor penguins? Photo from https://emperorpenguinchange.blogspot.com/

Dr. Michelle LaRue is an ecologist and science communicator who specializes in using Geographic Information Systems, satellite imaging and other tools to count penguin, seal and mountain lion populations. I follow @drmichellelarue on Twitter—I especially enjoy her #Cougarornot game. She recently moved from the University of Minnesota to the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, NZ. This new adventure includes research opportunities in Antarctica.

The USA and New Zealand have a history of collaboration in Antarctica. The McMurdo research station is just down the road from the Kiwi Scott base, and both are supported from Christchurch. Dr. LaRue agreed to answer questions about this new opportunity.

Q: You’ve done research in Antarctica whilst maintaining your University home base at University of Minnesota. What prompted the move to New Zealand?

A: A faculty position with Gateway Antarctica at the University of Canterbury! Here I will continue my research on the ecology of Southern Ocean predators and look forward to building a lab in the next few years.

Q: From your new position, what do you hope you’ll be able to contribute to our understanding of penguins and the endangered polar habitats?

A: My goal is to effectively fill in the pieces of the puzzle that are missing – we’ve got several baseline population estimates now for Adélie and emperor penguins and we’re doing the same for Weddell seals and crabeater seals. Once those pieces are filled in, we get to start asking: why? Why are these populations in certain spots and not others? How do these species interact with each other across space and time? How might climate change impact their populations and habitats? To ask these questions we first need to know how many animals there are and where they live, so that’s my focus at the moment.

Q: Have you experienced an earthquake yet in Christchurch? And what is your favorite discovery about living in New Zealand?

A: For the first time, I felt a 3.2 earthquake back in December, though I will say the people around me didn’t even notice! I think my favorite discovery or realization is just how unbelievably beautiful it is – I mean this is something I knew before but now that I live here it’s remarkable to me how much diversity there is in the landscape in just a short distance. It’s an incredibly beautiful place to be an outdoor enthusiast!

Recall that it is currently summer in Antarctica, so she was in the field this past November. You can follow her team’s current research at https://emperorpenguinchange.blogspot.com/. Dr. LaRue also has links to a number of her video presentations and written papers on her website.

Dr. LaRue works on teams gauging the status of Adélie and Emperor penguin populations in Antarctica. There are things we can do to reduce human impacts on penguins and their habitat. First, more efficient fishing vessels are harvesting the krill that makes up the food supply of penguins and whales. It is important that we stop using krill oil (I didn’t realize this was a thing; however, a quick Google search and apparently lots of people are taking it as supplements). Second, the ice is shrinking in both polar regions due to rising ocean temperatures from rising CO2. We can all reduce our use of fossil fuels by riding a bike, walking, or carpooling.

Quirky & Fun Irish Stuff

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I know, I know. It implies they don’t charge fees for withdrawing cash, although your bank will charge you. Still I posit that this is misleading. I didn’t get any extra cash that wasn’t fully represented on my bank statement!
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Before we left for Ireland my Auntie J shared an article about the popularity of Krispy Kreme donuts in Dublin. I couldn’t quite figure it out. The drive-thru Krispy Kreme was causing such a disturbance to the neighborhood that they shut down for a time. Then when I was at the Christmas Fair at Belfast City Hall and I saw these treats. OMG! So much sugar.
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Retail is suffering in California and stores are not making as much of an effort with Christmas displays. So it was delightful to see these fun window displays in Dublin. Plus it is Harry Potter!
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It is a penguin! Naturally this little figurine caught my eye at the Guinness Storehouse.
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I have so many questions. I just missed it, damn. Are they telling stories with yarn? Or are the stories about yarn?