Birds and Blooms and Winding Roads

April 20, 2018

At least once a year, Catching Happiness turns briefly into a travel blog. Travel makes me happy and I always return refreshed and inspired, though also, in some cases, tired.

For the past three years, I’ve been meeting my teacher friend Kerri during her spring break. We’ve meandered in Florida and the Southwest, and this year was supposed to be my turn to visit her in Seattle. However, my dad has been recovering from a serious bout of flu and bronchitis that put him in the ICU, so I decided that if I went west, I needed to see him. We adjusted our plans so that I could have a quick visit with both my parents before we set out on the road.

Even though I was born and raised in California, with one exception, I don’t recall visiting the areas we traveled through. And certainly not during springtime since previous trips took place mostly during summer breaks or other school and work holidays. All I can say Is, wow, California, you look good in spring.

I couldn’t get enough of the rocky coastline, pounding surf, birds, wildflowers, mysterious winding roads, giant redwoods…but I get ahead of myself. I won’t bore (or torture) you with the entire road trip, but I’ll share highlights of our explorations.

After we left my mom’s, we started our road trip in Redding with a stop at one of my favorite places, the Sundial Bridge and McConnell Botanical Gardens.

One small section of the mosaic fountain area

After that, we drove to Eureka, stopping to take photos at every opportunity. Kerri’s a serious photographer, so while she searched for the perfect shot or set up her tripod, I snapped my own photos or soaked up the difference in climate and geography. Eastern redbuds bloomed all over, a pretty splash of pink in the landscape.

We asked the man at the front desk of the hotel where to watch the sunset, and he said Patrick’s Point:

Good choice.

Sunset at Patrick's Point
Next morning, we had planned to hike to the Punta Gorda Lighthouse, but after a two-hour drive on steep, twisty, and extremely potholed roads, we opted not to take our small rental car through the running water crossing the road.

On the return drive, we dawdled even more than usual, photographing the fog, the flowers, the rolling hillsides, the zebras (why?), and anything else that captured our fancy. We explored tide pools on the beach, collected a pocketful of shells and rocks, photographed a friendly-looking seal. Good thing we missed our hike, because part of the sole of one of my hiking boots came off while we were on the beach.


Hello, there

An interesting road sign:

Say what, now?!
I’m still sorting through the more-than-700 photos I took, as well as sorting through the experiences, interesting facts, and memories we made. Next week, we’ll visit the Avenue of the Giants, the Medocino Coast Botanical Gardens and more. I hope you’ll come back to explore with me!


Choosing Where to Look

April 13, 2018

Photo by Rana Sawalha on Unsplash

“I have found that I cannot force myself to feel aware or happy or interested or satisfied, no matter how hard I try. However, I can choose to allow myself to enter these states by relaxing and by consciously directing my attention in certain ways.

“You cannot make yourself see or think things that are positive; but you can choose where to look and what to think about. You can choose where to direct your attention. In this sense you can determine the interior quality of your life.”
—Tristine Rainer, The New Diary


Prophets of Spring

April 06, 2018

Pterzian at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons

Introduction by Ted Kooser: I can identify most of the birds that live in my part of Nebraska, but I can't tell one warbler from the next. But Kevin Cole, in his new book, Late Summer Plums, from Scurfpea Publishing, has identified a warbler for us. The archives of this column, at, has another of Cole's poems, about watching a deer cross the Missouri. Kevin Cole lives in South Dakota.

Audubon Warblers

The Audubon warblers keep the time of their coming,
Arriving on stillness of a storm,
Their breast and backs as dark as low bruised banks of cloud,
Rumps and throats as yellow as blooms of buckwheat.

They throng this evening in the newly-leaved
Tender-tipped canopies nervously weaving
Through the catkins like frantic prophets
Bearing some divine prophecy of the coming spring.

I wait, hoping for nothing too grave:
News of ruinous lands, of cutting and swarming locusts,
Of withering vines and empty granaries,
Of fasting, weeping, and rending of garments.

No, I wait for lighter fare:
Perhaps a promise that the green heron will nest
On the west end of the slough and that the ironweed
And wood lily will once again together bloom.

This would be an ample prophecy for another year—
This and a promise to keep the time of their coming.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 by Kevin L. Cole, “Audubon Warblers,” from Late Summer Plums, (Scurfpea Publishing, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Kevin L. Cole and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2017 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


In Motion

March 30, 2018

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

“Your life has a natural motion. Surrendering reveals how flowing this life could be.”
—Kelly Martin, When Everyone Shines But You: Saying Goodbye to ‘I’m Not Good Enough’


Spring Break

March 26, 2018

Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash

Looking back on my posts so far this year, I see that I’ve mentioned refilling the well of inspiration several times—but I’ve yet to actually do anything about it. My brain has scattered itself in the winds of spring, and I’m having a tough time concentrating on anything. I even forgot to send March’s Happy Little Thoughts newsletter yesterday, not realizing it was the last Sunday of the month! I promise it will be in your mailbox by the end of today. (If you don’t already receive HLT, you can subscribe by clicking here.)

So I’m granting myself a spring break. For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be taking a break from blogging, except for the Friday posts of quotes or poems. I hope to come back with fresh inspiration, and maybe even an epiphany or two.

P.S. There may be a road trip involved—stay tuned!

Look for my travel writing here