It’s here. I smell it . . .

Kentucky and Belle Meade 183My favorite part of fall isn’t the changing leaves, the cooler weather, or that thing called Turkey Day. Don’t get me wrong. Those are all wonderful things to look forward to, but my senses veer towards a little something different.

Just call me Ms. Olfactory because it’s the smells of fall that get me a smiling.

Wet leaves

Rain on a crisp day

A pumpkin pie spice candle

Turkey sizzling on the grill

Damp soil

A casserole in the slow cooker

My husband, Dale, and I experienced nature’s version of fall this morning as we road 13 miles on our mountain bikes through a hidden valley of massive palm trees, California Oaks, and a trickling stream. The dank smell reminded me of hiking in New Zealand during their fall last year where everything was glowing green and wet from weeks of rain.

Kentucky and Belle Meade 151Then there was the 40 some degree temperature that engulfed us. It was as though it rose from the moist soil like a ghost seeking a human to haunt. It tickled our noses, leaving them cold to the touch.

The ride was lovely, unexpected, perfect.

The best way to start our holiday week during which we’ll embrace a host of fall scents and experiences that will leave us craving more.

What makes the fall and this holiday week memorable for you?

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Visalia, California – uh, where’s that?

“Life is not an easy matter… You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea which raises you above personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of perfidy and baseness.”  Leon Trotsky

The Sequoia mountains taunting us with their beauty

An overheating car was not on our agenda when Dale and I entered Sequoia National Park for an eighteen mile backpacking trip.  Admittedly, the temperature was 102 degrees at the park entrance when our poor Jetta’s temperature reached the red “turn me off now” zone, but the car was only six-years-old and I’d just had a coolant leak repaired.  And so we found ourselves sitting alongside the curvy mountain road with the hood up on five occasions.  Each time we fooled ourselves into thinking that once it cooled off to a healthy temperature it wouldn’t overheat again.

Candice feeling ill again

Humankind pulled through when four cars pulled over to see if we needed assistance.  Two of them suggested that we turn around since we still had more than 2,000 feet to climb to the central part of the park.  We stubbornly chose to disregard the first man’s suggestion, but heeded the second when we had already been in the park for over an hour but had only gone a few miles.

Dejected, we turned Candice (the Jetta) around and drove the hour back to the closest town with our tails between our legs.  That was when we had to decide how to respond to our unfortunate situation.  Part of us wanted to whine, moan, and groan about having driven seven hours and taken a day off of work just to be thwarted by a mechanical problem.  Woe is us for being stranded in the hot central valley town of Visalia when the cool, wooded mountains beckoned us.

We chose instead to make the most of the situation.  We thanked God for allowing us to drive out of the park rather than being towed the forty-five miles back to town, and for the kindness of the people who had offered assistance.  While settling in for a cold craft beer later that night in Visalia, a number of people who learned about our situation offered condolences and suggestions on what to do during our unexpected evening in their town.  We praised the Lord for their realness and compassion.

Sam at Good Guys

The next morning we took Candice to Sam at Good Guys.  Once again kindness and service permeated our visit.  He went out of his way to locate a fuse to repair the problem.  Unfortunately, the part did not work.  Feeling our pain, Sam significantly discounted the price for the diagnosis and offered suggestions on how to make it the final six hours home without overheating.

When we arrived back in San Diego without incident, we thanked God for watching over us, providing for us, and for the goodness of the people of Visalia.  What could have been a frustrating and disappointing experience instead turned into an opportunity to view the beauty of people in a place where we hadn’t expected to stop, much less spend the night.

When have your thwarted plans turned into a positive experience?

Lost but Not Forgotten

An unanticipated function of a reusable grocery bag

At 7:00 last night Grenoble wheezed his last breath as I stroked his bony spine and soothed him with gentle words. After suffering from kidney disease, severe arthritis, and a litany of other health problems for the past sixteen months, his beaten body could take no more.  Life was drained from the shell of his former self before I could drive him to an urgent care to be put to rest.  Experiencing his last moments with him was both perfect and traumatic; he didn’t have to pass away alone, but the image of it will forever be seared into my mind.

Having been my constant companion since October 1998, my second year of law school, he shared a great many ups and downs with me.  He was a consistent comic relief throughout law school, my legal career, my transition into teaching, and two major moves across the country.  Grenoble never failed to make me giggle when I needed a positive shift to my day.  As a tribute to him, I thought it only fitting to share a few precious Grenoble moments and pictures.

  • He got “lost” in my apartment a few times when he was an itty bitty kitten – one time he was stuck in the coils of the refrigerator, another he was trapped inside the back of my sleeper sofa.
  • Grenoble, who I recently took to calling Little Man, didn’t use to be so little – a few years ago he weighed more than twice his final weight.  He ate so much I had to get a cat feeder to portion feed him and his Common Law wife, Mykonos.  Whoever designed the feeder clearly had never had a ravenously hungry male cat, because no matter what I did, Grenoble could get extra food out of it.

    Grenoble's recent man cave

  • He wasn’t one to talk until I introduced him to Mykonos.  Having been a stray on a farm with a lot of dogs, she chose to bark rather than meow most of the time.  Soon Grenoble adopted the same habit.
  • Finally, sleeping in bags or boxes or on newspapers or shoes, was a favorite past time for my beloved feline.  Whenever I couldn’t find him, I’d search in anything I thought he might be able to squeeze into.

Have you or someone you know recently had a pet pass away?  Share a little about him/her.

Below are the links to two stories I’ve posted about Grenoble and his wife, Mykonos – such sweet, fun memories.  I’ll continue to share tales of their twelve year companionship with you over the next few months.

Nine Lives Aren’t Enough When You’re In Love

I Don’t Remember That Being in the Job Description

Shortly before he passed away

Blinded by Life

San Diego is a beautiful county, this I know.  But I often don’t take the time to look at my surroundings when I’m driving to work, teaching, running errands, etc.  Yesterday I forced myself to look up from the road when I was heading home.  My eyes were greeted by an amazing view:  storm clouds hovering over the surrounding rocky hills.  This may not sound very exciting to you, but San Diego usually only gets storms from December to April.  The rest of the year is, yes, you got it, sunny and warm.  A storm anytime is an exciting thing for this former Iowa girl.  I can only imagine what views and wonders I would see should I force myself to notice my surroundings more often.

Take some time today to view the wonders of what is right in front of you.  What do you see?

Escondido through my awakened eyes