Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Favorite Books of 2017

Happy 2018!

I hope your year is off to a great start. I've been more excited about this new year than recent ones. Something about a fresh start and goals and ideas and some more free time this month has been great to look forward to. I've loved having a reading goal the last several years and I didn't meet it (or closely follow it!) in 2017. I started several books that I hope to finish this year, but I also felt myself consuming plenty of news and not diving into books. My to-read list continued to grow though and I hope to read more this year. Below, I included the books I enjoyed most in 2017. Some were read, some were listened to. I've written brief descriptions but would recommend all of them. I hope you find one (or more!) you enjoy too.

Days Without End: I first heard of this book when I glanced at the Man Booker prize longlist in the late summer (studying English literature briefly in the U.K. tends to help with my to-read list as former English-students and I keep in touch on what we're reading and prizes like these tend to add some books to our lists) I'd loved Sebastian Barry's A Long Long Way and On Canaan's Side. I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as those, but it was still a beautifully written novel taking place during the Indian American wars and Civil War. 
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A powerful and sad book. Learning about Rob and how he escaped poverty to attend Yale, the positive changes he made in his community after graduation, and his shift to drug dealing before he was murdered is tragic and outlined how hard the road out of poverty is, and how societal factors can stand in the way of pursuing the American dream.
The GrownUp: A funny, brief, fast-paced ghost story. Fun for a rainy afternoon.
The Sound of Gravel: There are an endless amount of well-written coming-out-of-poverty stories illustrating resilience. In 2016, Hillbilly Elegy fell into this category for me. The Sound of Gravel was equally powerful in working oneself out of poverty and outlines the strength of the author leaving a polygamous sect. 

Dakota: A really beautiful book about South Dakota. I started it sometime in mid-2016 when I realized my Mom and I would be traveling through the state for a couple of days while driving to California. Despite dropping it in a river in Vermont before departing (and it growing slowly moldy) I somehow held onto it and finished it over a year later. It's a beautiful collection of thoughts and reflections on the state's history and people. If you like poetry or feel a strong connection to place (even places you've never visited!), I'd recommend it.
We Were Eight Years in Power: If the election of Trump or the history of racism in the United States even remotely interests you, this book is a great and deep book to digest. Fun tip: the title does not solely refer to Barack Obama's presidency but refers originally to Reconstruction. 
I Am Malala: I mistakenly figured I wouldn't learn more about Malala from this book after loving the film He Named Me Malala, but I was wrong! It was just as great as the film but longer.
American Boy: Larry Watson is great! I loved Montana 1948 and thought this novel taking place in Minnesota in the 1950's was just as great. It reminded me of some kind of symbolic novel that would be assigned (and I would love) in high school English class. He has such a simple and direct way of writing and storytelling. While I loved it, I think I'd recommend his books to men more than women. 

First They Killed My Father: So powerful. Luong Ung's name had come up a few times in my undergraduate career as she is an alumna of the school I attended. I knew of the Vietnam War, but nothing of Cambodia or the Khmer Rouge. Very sad, but a book that shines light on a very recent genocide and Luong's path to survival and being welcomed in the United States as a refugee.  
The Last Campaign: I think I'll always enjoy learning about Robert F. Kennedy and the 1960's in the United States. This book breaks down RFK's presidential campaign and what it meant at the time. A journalistic and detailed look at an interesting period of American history.
Circling the Sun: While novels taking place in the United States or western world tend to be extremely popular, I love learning about a different culture of part of the world via novels. While the main character is British and parts of the novel take place in Great Britain, the story centers on Kenya in the 1920's. A wonderful story of real life Beryl Markham as she pursues life as an independent woman. 
Disgraced: A powerful play focusing on stereotypes, Islam, and identity in America. 
The Midwife of Hope River: A sweet novel taking place in central Appalachia during the Great Depression. Focuses on the different clients a local midwife serves. Great characters.
When Breath Becomes Air: It deserves the hype! Very powerful as it explores what makes life worth living in the face of an imminent end. 
The Pecan Man: I love southern fiction, particularly books that explore themes of race. This book is a bit like To Kill a Mockingbird. A quick and meaningful read.
Just Mercy: The best book I read all year. So incredibly thought-provoking and well-written about the history of an unequal American justice system rooted in racial bias and one man's work fighting death penalty cases in southern states in the 1990s. Cannot recommend enough. 

The Sun is Also a Star: A fast-paced and addictive novel detailing a love story occurring in one day in Manhattan. 
Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam: I took about four years to (very slowly) read this book as it's comprised of hundreds of letters American soldiers wrote home while stationed in Vietnam. Very powerful, sad, and timeless. 
Notorious RBG: A really lovely biography on Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Enjoyably humorous in parts, but mostly a wonderful look at a trailblazing Supreme court justice. 
About Alice: A sweet essay to the author's late wife, Alice. Full of beautiful and uplifting words about Alice as a woman, mother, and change-maker. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Moon & Stars

The moon and stars have been distracting lately. I think of the constellations seen from Monterey, the moon in California, and the stars in New Hampshire on a clear night this week. Seen when walking at night or stepping out of a car, or turning off a light before falling asleep. Admiring them, I think of how fast time moves, how infinite space is, of creating a life that is true and happy.


The urge to write has arrived less this year than last year, or the year before that. This saddens me, but I know if I push myself to write, it could (and likely would) return. There feels like less to share as I acclimate to life and work in California. I miss the east coast and New Hampshire at times, thinking of the people and traditions and community I know better than any other. Yet I continue to be awed by California’s mountains, wildlife, coast, trees, nature, and culture.  

Earlier this month. Morning in Cambria, CA.

Late November. Soledad, CA.

As I clean and categorize old photos during these days off, I’ve found myself seeing the many images captured during the two years I spent in New Hampshire before moving to California. They show each distinct season in the small towns I lived in and moved through. The memories remind me of how predictable and comforting that time could be. I’m not sure what the distant future holds. For now, I see opportunity and a life in California, but am grateful for visits to the east, to home. Seeing the snow fall outside today brings me back to the winters I remember, even if the evening clouds mask moon and stars.

Thanksgiving Day. Pacific Grove, CA.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Ability to Work for Change

I think often of being in this new place, of the happiness in small moments, in smiles and jokes and the presence of those among us. As the employees of the school I work at sat in the school chapel yesterday for an end of year celebration marking retirements and employment milestones, I looked around and knew the names of the 75 people sitting all around. I thought of knowing and meeting and being aware of each of these people and just how quickly time moves, just how quickly we become acquainted and adjusted and a part of our surroundings.

I began learning Spanish a few weeks ago. It was a friend who recommended the free app which teaches and tests your language skills. We made plans to get together and continue learning through conversation with one another. The truth is we both hear it almost daily here and know it's spoken by so many who work in jobs we seldom see. It's similar enough to English, and while challenging, I'm looking forward to improving!

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I met up in San Luis Obispo. She was coming north from Los Angeles and I was heading south from Monterey. We walked through the town, caught up, told stories and laughed, and toured the San Luis Obispo Mission after a tasty taco brunch. The Mission system here is quite beautiful, with 21 Catholic Missions established by the Spanish in the 1790s along the coast of what was then Mexico. They stretch from San Diego to San Francisco. I have no photos of the San Luis Obispo mission, but on my drive north through the hot desert, I drove past the tiny town of San Miguel and loved the bell tower ruins I spotted. I pulled over and found another mission I didn't know existed. It was evening and 92 degrees. A train passed by as I began to walk around. A monk was watering the roses and a group of women recited the rosary in Spanish in the chapel. The light and color of the sky was beautiful. 

While in SLO, I purchased a small book, The World as 100 People. It's very visual with graphs and drawings and the facts listed below continue to stay with me.

If the 7 billion people in the world are represented through 100 people,

61 are from Asia and the Middle East, 4 are from the United States.
5 people speak English. 63 speak more than 6,000 other languages other than the 9 most spoken.
1 person owns 48% of the world's wealth.
50 people do not trust their government.
48 people do not have freedom of speech.
20 people live in fear.
48 people live on less than $2.50 USD a day.
40 people cook using solid fuels in open fires.
17 people are unable to read and write.
7 people have a university degree.
11 people own a car.
15 people are undernourished. 1 person is starving.

It is so easy to forget those who live among us, down the street or across the world. I think of the ability we all have to lobby for free press, speech, and governments and how we can all work to stop war and discrimination. The continuing vast inequality in access to food saddens me until I remember how unequal food and wealth distribution can be born of the inequalities we can work to change -- fairness, care, and governments that work for their citizens.

Sunday, May 21, 2017



The decision to write when I feel like writing has caused quite the quiet blog here. But just now, on a Sunday afternoon, I began to feel the itch to write. Graduation at the school I worked at occurred this afternoon and despite the light fog and chill, it was a beautiful ceremony, as happy as any graduation can be. It was a joy to see families from around the country and world dressed in beautiful traditional or non-traditional attire, cheering for  their loved ones. Nearly every graduate wore an orchid lei, surely a tradition originating from the Pacific islands that has spread to California.

The summer fog has begun to appear here. Just 3-5 miles inland though, traditional summer heat has arrived, and just 100 miles inland in the central valley of the state, temperatures are beginning to reach 100 degrees for the first time this year.

A couple of months ago, I explored Pinnacles National Park, the closest national park to me. It was stunning and a great time of year to explore as the wildflowers were in bloom and it was very green. The park includes tall cliffs and low caves left behind after a volcanic eruption 23 million years ago.

While on one of the tall cliffs with a group of University of Vermont spring breakers (my Boston red sox cap sparked the connection!) my hiking partner identified a California condor overhead! They're very endangered but Pinnacles is one of the few locations where they can occasionally be spotted due to a breeding program in the park. It was tough to say if the bird's wingspan truly looked to be nine feet across, but it was majestic to see if overhead. Since visiting, I've been thinking about how much I would love to return to Pinnacles soon.

May and June are some of the busiest months of the year for my job but I'm looking forward to returning to New Hampshire for a short while in July. Approaching a year here, I continue to find this part of California to be breathtakingly beautiful, friendly, interesting, challenging, and not dull. I also find it to be incredibly "discovered." It's known and loved and there are an abundance of visitors, wonderful places to visit and dine and socialize, and a high cost of living. I feel so fortunate to be here now, to live among such beauty. I think often of New Hampshire, whether asked about it or when I let it naturally cross my mind. Beyond thinking of it as my home state and a place familiar and lovable and missed, I think of it as small and quaint, underrated and not discovered. I feel pride when I think of the state, the seasons and nature, and driving its roads. Recently, a woman I was speaking with described visiting the state once in winter and how unbearably cold it was. It's true, but after speaking with her, I found myself thinking back on winter nights. Of snow falling softly, headlights illuminating a quiet road dusted with snow, golden light streaming from homes and businesses, piercingly cold air that wakes you when you step outside and icicles hanging. I don't think it's homesickness when these memories arise, but I think they're memories, temporary longing, appearing to show me what I haven't seen or heard or felt in some time. I hope they continue.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Books of 2016

We may be many weeks into the new year, but I love looking back on what I read the year before and as these lists from friends tend to help me in choosing what to read next, I though I'd share some of my favorite books from last year!
I didn't include every book I read and I may have read more than one book by Jimmy Carter (they're quick reads!), but included just one here. 13 of these 24 were listened to as audiobooks (plenty of driving last year!). I finally learned too, that non-fiction audiobooks tend to work well, fiction audiobooks, not as much. 

Bossypants: Funny and thoughtful. Interesting to learn more about Fey's journey and professional and personal outlook.
God Help the Child: Deep and beautiful. I had only ever read The Bluest Eye by Morrison in high school. This felt like a mixture of novel and poetry on modern-day race relations in the U.S.
The Lovers: Afghanistan's Romeo and Juliet: Moving and fascinating. Examining an Afghan couple from different backgrounds who fall in love and spend years running away from their families and government. Tragic to understand the society and laws that remain so discriminatory towards women.
The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A tiny bit sleepy, but I found it pretty fascinating and would recommend. I'm happy to live in modern times.
How to Raise an Adult: A book read for work, but I really loved it! Explored how today's children and teenagers are over-parented, reaching the age of 18 with an inability to live their own life, make decisions and know what they desire, not what society and their parents desire.
A Man Called Ove: Funny and touching. A great novel with many important points.

Big Magic: Inspirational! About the creativity in each of us, how we must take time to explore it, not dismiss it, and how much good comes to our lives when we embrace our artistic interests.
Devil in the White City: A long-time bestseller I just picked up. Fascinating, historical, eerie, well-written.
Men We Reaped: I had wanted to read this book for a couple of years, I was particularly interested in Ward's childhood in rural Mississippi and her account of losing 5 young men close to her including her brother and cousin within a short period of time to accidents, drugs, and suicide. All were under the age of 25. Having lost a friend to suicide four years ago, I found so many parallels in Ward's story and was particularly touched by how she described her community failing its young men through poverty and few opportunities. 
Hillbilly Elegy: Another one with so much to say about. I loved it and have really enjoyed the conversations I've been able to have with my Mom after she read it recently. I've read the articles arguing that it does not provide a fair look, but if nothing else, it shows an American experience we rarely see.
Brown Girl Dreaming: Poetic and lyrical. For adolescents, explores several different layers and perspectives of the 20th century civil rights movement. 
My Life on the Road: Excellent. I loved learning more about Steinem's experience as a feminist leader, community organizer, and constant traveler. I felt such a connection to her in also loving travel and struggling to be in the same place for long. She's lived a remarkable life.

Night on Fire: Similar to Brown Girl Dreaming. For adolescents, lovely and thought-provoking.
Missoula: Very hard to listen to in many parts, but a necessary and very well researched book on how rape on college campuses can far too easily be swept under the rug. The backdrop is Montana's vast wilderness.
Life After Life: Quite mesmerizing. I listened to the audiobook of it and would have loved to have picked up on more details. It was excellent historical fiction as the main character is born again and again and again in 20th century England, living a different life intertwined with world history each time.
Alligator Lake: Possibly my favorite novel from last year. Very southern, exploring modern-day race relations and family relationships. A great story and I hope Lynne Bryant writes more books. 
The Book Thief: I had started it a few years ago and didn't finish it. There were moments it didn't completely hold my interest, but I can understand why it's viewed as such an extraordinary book. The ending and very last pages will stay with me for a long time.
The Glass Castle: Similar to Hillbilly Elegy but a little bit funnier and from a female perspective. A touching story of overcoming poverty.

Between the World and Me: I don't think I can write anything that would convey how excellent and necessary this book is. It deserves a re-read from me, is incredibly tender and thought-provoking on the ongoing racial division and what it means to be a black man in the U.S. today. 
Because We Are: A great story, set in modern-day Haiti, part mystery with complex and life-like characters.
A Full Life: Interesting and sweet. Carter tells his life story. I particularly loved his childhood in rural Georgia in the 1920s and 30s without technology or modern inventions and how he dissected many of his decisions as president.
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter: Not as sensational as the title suggests. A thorough and tragic look at how intellectual disabilities were viewed in the mid-twentieth century. 
Etched in Granite: A very local book! It came on my radar when I visited my small town library's website early last year and saw that the author was coming for a visit. I began the book, attended her discussion, and finished it a week or two later. Local and historic, it's set on a "poor farm" in the nineteenth century in the White Mountains, less than an hour away from where I lived. The book was inspired by a small cemetery in the area with tombstones marked only by numbers representing residents of the workhouse. It was well written, haunting and recognizable, as forest cemeteries and country roads and farms all felt familiar. There were so many recognizable towns and scenes and just typing this now makes me long for those empty, winding dark roads in the middle of a New Hampshire winter with so much sky and hills and dense forests. I look forward to reading her second book.
At the Edge of the Orchard: I love Tracy Chevalier's books and while this didn't quite compare to Girl with a Pearl Earring or The Last Runaway, it was excellently written and the historical fiction I was looking for. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Nation of Immigrants

I don't cry often, but after waking up and beginning to read about the American ban on all refugees as well as immigrants from seven nations in effect this morning, my vision grew blurry. Even now as I write this, after reading more articles and sitting at my desk in the sun as one of the most beautiful days yet this year unfolds outdoors, I'm swallowing and trying not to cry. 

I skyped with two friends from Europe this morning as I do occasionally on weekend mornings. Lydia, in Germany, and Zieshan in London. When I last visited Germany four years ago, I remember Lydia pointing out the stars on the sidewalk to mark where Jewish families once lived before the second World War. I met Zieshan four years ago when we were both studying at St. Andrews. He is Muslim, born in the U.K. to immigrant parents and I've learned so much about the importance of family from him. More than anything though, we relate as two young people living and working in Britain and the United States. 

Later in the morning, between planting succulents and running errands, I thought of Cleophace, a refugee who arrived in Vermont from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1990s. He lost his mother to the conflict and was separated from his wife for seven years. We were classmates. I volunteered and fundraised alongside him for the non-profit organization he founded, Ibutwa, which directly supports women in the DRC who've been harmed in the genocide and civil war. He educated our entire college and surrounding community multiple times each year about the conflict and how we could be aware, involved, and supporting civilians. We even appeared on a local television news show together a few years ago. He's an attorney now, with four children and contributes far more to his community and society than I do to mine. In my final year of college, I met Halah in a peace and justice course. She was my age and graduated high school with the second highest academic scores in all of Iraq. We met up often after class to discuss boyfriends and assignments.

There are so many more refugee and immigrant stories we all hold, before even mentioning that we are a nation of and for immigrants. I first read the Diary of Anne Frank as a college senior, and immediately regretted that I hadn't read it sooner. Despite the seven decade age difference between us, Anne wrote and dreamed and thought and spoke just like I had as a young teenager. Her diary personified the holocaust, delving into the story of one of six million lives lost. Had the world looked differently upon refugees 70 years ago, she could still be alive today, contributing greatly to any nation or society. I had never seen the words below until yesterday, but it makes me so sad to imagine the Frank family being among the 300,000 Europeans who applied for a few thousand spots to emigrate to the United States in 1941 after the fall of Holland, Poland and France. I want to believe today is different from 1941, but there are few signs that barring refugees and immigrants has ever produced greater world peace or prevented conflict and death beyond our borders. And yes, I'm not focusing on within our borders because we do not choose where we are born. I have no greater right to safety and security than a Syrian or Iraqi. I do not believe in keeping "them" out to keep "us" safe when neither of use had a choice in our surroundings. We are not in a world war, but the same anti-semitism and desire to not admit civilians from countries embroiled in war from 1941 is unarguably repeating itself today with fear of Islam and nations in the Middle East.

April 30, 1941
"I am forced to look out for emigration and as far as I can see, U.S.A. is the only country we could go to, perhaps you remember that we have two girls. It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance."  
-- Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Going Forward Together

Morgan Hill, California

Time, evening darkness and several rainy days have limited my ocean walking recently, but the last week has included a few trips to San Francisco and San Jose for work and personal reasons. I continue to be so amazed by the beauty of the drive from the Monterey peninsula inland and north to both cities. The agricultural fields, stretches of hills, roadside produce stands and blends of colors in the sky continue to fascinate and inspire.

It was a privilege to join the annual MLK Jr. March in Seaside on Monday. With a large selection of fantastic signs to choose from, I wished I had made and brought my own! It was the first major march I'd ever been a part of and it was wonderful to meet and converse with so many. My favorite sign (though not photographed) was "Grandmas for Integrity." Seen below, the sign "MLK is with us now" was another favorite.

I can't say I haven't thought this week and the past couple of months about the last eight years and how appreciative I've been to spend the formative years of ages 16 to 24 with a President who has set the tone for progressive social change and domestic policies that made me proud. I think particularly of the advancement of gay rights, of universal health care, gender pay equality and an increasing focus towards climate change. Inaction in Syria and drone strikes across the middle east along with mass shootings and escalating race relations highlighted the past several summers in our own country are remembered too, in far less positive light. As I think of transitioning into adulthood, completing high school and college, living abroad and shaping my own opinions and ideas, I'm thankful for President Obama's leadership, nationally and globally.

"It is our responsibility as global citizens to learn to communicate with those we are taught to see as enemies. For it is only when we understand each other, love each other, and think of every man and woman as our brother and sister that we will finally be on our way to ending war." 
--Medea Benjamin

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A New Year

It's been a while! Travel back east, a busy few weeks at work, time spent with friends and a move to a nearby town have kept me more occupied than I thought. I just opened a book for the first time this year yesterday. Being back in New Hampshire at the end of last month was lovely. Familiarity was everywhere in friends and family, fresh snow, long dark highways, dense woods and holiday foods, music and gatherings.

I was surprised too, at how happy I was to be back in California. To be surrounded by grass and daffodils, to see deer grazing on lawns, to be near the ocean again and hear seals barking in the evenings. I've realized how happy I am to be in this new place.

It's been rainy off and on this past week which seems to define the winter here in non-drought years. It was clear on New Years Eve though, and a friend and I ventured to the coast and caught the tail end of the sunset. The colors were beautiful, blending together and dipping into the ocean, a year past.

Final 2016 sunset!

coastal plants

Earlier this month, a friend and I ventured into San Francisco for a beautiful and clear day of exploring the city. 

Since returning to California, I've felt more invested in my job and activities here, more convinced that I love this region and space. I'm looking happily ahead to returning for a week to New England this summer. I often find at all times of the year I'm homesick for those summers, the ease of life, long days filled with light and complete comfort and relaxation among the trees, flowers, lakes and untouched woods. For right now though, and the year to come, this feels right.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Back in the East

The last month in California flew by. Winter arrived in late November and the nights dropped into the 40s. The use of space heaters on the central California coast -- where it often rises into the 50s and 60s on winter days, but drops at night -- reminds me of fans in the summer heat of New England. You keep one nearby during the day and it's turned on all night. There were beautiful sunsets in the last few weeks of December, clear, sunny days along the coast, many wonderful rainy days, and like most anywhere else in this hemisphere, many dark afternoons and evenings and mornings.

I'm back in New Hampshire now after arriving last night on a jumbo overbooked flight from San Francisco. I knew I was headed home when a man a few rows behind me proclaimed at one point that his coffee was "wicked hot!" Boston was beautiful and scenic to fly into, even in the darkness. And being with family in the city last night brought back so many memories of how much I love that city, it's history and character and neighborhoods and the memories that return when there. It's wonderful to be among the familiar now, with family and friends and the feeling of being somewhere I know so well. This is my home but California is where my life is right now. As the year comes to a close, I'm extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity of a job there, and so happy that I took a chance. The zero and subzero temperatures here are shocking, but I loved visiting so many old friends today and hearing the familiarity in my voice as we spoke of landmarks and places, people and ideas. I spoke faster and turned more than a few -ing's into -in's (ex. "Are you goin' too?!")

This morning as I drove to where I last lived and worked, I noticed the absence of cars on the road, the empty highways and shorter pine trees, the thick, dense forests of empty brown trees and branches. I had forgotten about icy driveways and walkways when I stepped out of the car in heeled boots, and snowbanks took me by surprise as I turned into traffic. In deserted spots, the snow masses are covered in ice and I was reminded of how until the age of ten or so, I was light enough to walk along them, one or two feet off the ground. Today was a reminder that familiarity and love is still here, and pieces of it, particularly in nature, will always be here. I'm looking forward to the time ahead at home, the rest and relaxation and time spent with others.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Weekend Exploration in Central & Northern California Part II

So many quotes that I can vaguely recall have been coming to me recently. In this time where many are seeking answers, I've found comfort in researching history, political action, social justice movements and great pieces of writing. I particularly love the quote below by Robert F. Kennedy speaking to young South Africans in 1966. It's a speech I quote often, the entirety of it touches upon so many topics I feel strongly about and believe are still relevant. I like to think too, that 50 years ago, men referred to all of humanity. 
"Hand in hand with freedom of speech goes the power to be heard, to share in the decisions of government which shape men's lives. Everything that makes man's life worthwhile-family, work, education, a place to rear one's children and a place to rest one's head -all this depends on decisions of government; all can be swept away by a government which does not heed the demands of its people. Therefore, the essential humanity of men can be protected and preserved only where government must answer-not just to the wealthy, not just to those of a particular religion, or a particular race, but to all its people." 

Back to California. My friend Allison and I had four fantastic days here recently when she visited and the first two, we touristed hard. The second two had a slower, more relaxed feel. 

In Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach, we noticed the waves were enormous! The largest either of us had ever seen.

In Santa Cruz, we saw (and smelled) this large gathering of sea lions. They were loud in their barking and restless in their movement to find a comfortable spot. They seemed to seek sun and rest.

To be among redwoods, we visited Henry Cowell state park and as it was a bit damp there, we were thrilled to see banana slugs. I'd heard so many describe them as "not really that yellow," but I suspect they were referring to a different species of yellow slug or ones that don't exist in California as the ones we saw roaming the forest were as bright and purely yellow as the UC Santa Cruz mascot! I was fascinated by how they slid along and used their tentacles. I restrained myself from bringing a family of banana slugs home.

The redwoods are wide, but mostly just tall. It's tricky to see the tops of the trees but being among a small forest of them feels so peaceful and quiet.

On our way to San Jose for Allison's flight, we stopped by Los Gatos, a town with a lovely and walkable downtown and a name that translates from Spanish as The Cats.

An art gallery and succulents. Two very welcome sights!