Autumnal Face

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.– John Donne


Autumn is my favorite season of the year. I’m not alone in this. Surveys show that autumn and spring always run a tight race for favorite season. says that autumn is the winner, while Gallup says the honor belongs to spring. Both agree that your age has a lot to do with what you prefer. The under 35 crowd prefer summer, while the over 65 prefer spring. Autumn tends to be the favorite for people like me in the middle. It’s perhaps the one time that I don’t mind being like everyone else.

My guess is that our reasons for an autumn preference vary. I know many who equate fall with football season. Others mark it as the end of mowing season! Lots of people like the relief that autumn brings from the heat of summer. Others look forward to autumn produce—apples and pumpkins—oh, my.

And what is with this pumpkin fetish people have? I mean, have you seen the number of things flavored with pumpkin these days? However, if you live near a pick-your-own-farm, you have to do this. If there’s not one close, it’s worth a drive. Really.

These are all great reasons to love autumn, but they aren’t mine. I’ve thought long and hard about this, and one thing I’ve discovered is that I need color. Lots of it. And autumn provides that.

During the past couple of years, I’ve been undergoing a major transition in my life. It awakened a need to bring color into my life. Although I am perhaps the world’s worst wall painter, I painted walls. I ignored home re-sale advice and moved beyond white. What is white but an absence of color?

A teal accent wall space now highlights treasured photographs. Door frames and doors received a splash of color. I reclaimed my bedroom with seamist green. And discovered that color opens our eyes and our souls.

While the array of autumn colors is probably reason enough to prefer fall, it’s not my only reason. To me, autumn signifies change and a new chapter more than any calendar changing to a new year does. I agree with Nora Ephron, who wrote this about fall: “It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

When we’re young, autumn is the beginning of a school year, always brimming with new wonders and possibilities. Later when you’re a parent and taking those back-to-school pictures, you revel in the wonder of watching your children developing into the unique human beings they are meant to be.

The things I have to do and the things I want to do could easily fill two lifetimes, but in the autumn of my life, I’m trying to make a point to occasionally take time to be still and be grateful for everything in my world. I’m listening to another writer, Elizabeth Lawrence, who tells me that “everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.”

Happy first day of autumn. May you find plenty of opportunities to “watch the leaves turn.”

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Mom Memories

On a recent hike I noticed a family on the trail. A young mother was carrying a sleeping infant on her back. One of her hands held the hand of her pre-school age son. The other hand was pushing an empty stroller. I’m assuming it was the father walking behind them. He was loaded down with a small day pack and water bottle.

Irritation flared inside me. I understand that young children go through stages where they want Mom, but couldn’t he at least have pushed the empty stroller?

I said nothing, of course, and passed them. But I did question my intense desire to berate the father. I finally realized it was because I identified with the mother. Therapists call it transference.

When my three sons were young, I was the one juggling kids and everything that comes with them. And I was tired most of the time. Often too tired to ask for help from their dad. And yes, resentful that I even had to.

But as so often happens, time has provided me with perspective. And I wouldn’t trade juggling kids, diaper bags, and strollers down sidewalks or hiking trails for anything. Because those are some of the my most precious memories. Being a mother.

Although I’m still a mom and still making mom memories, my sons can pretty much take care of themselves now. So I hold tight to mom memories from their early childhood. Reading books, kissing ouches and applying magic bandages, listening, answering endless questions, throwing baseballs, staying up all night when they were sick, the many first days of school, and yes, hiking while attached to multiple children. Today, any memories of lack of sleep or time to myself have all but disappeared. I only remember the joy of being a mother.

Don’t get me wrong. Plenty of great dads carry the load, both physically and emotionally. I believe my own sons will be those kinds of dads when they reach that stage of life. But now as I think again about that family on the trail, I feel sorry for the dad. He doesn’t know what he’s missing. I wouldn’t trade my mom memories for anything.

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Celebrate National Parks!

Almost 102 years ago President Woodrow Wilson signed off on the National Park Service. This bureau within the Department of the Interior was charged with conserving “scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

In my opinion, the National Park Service is one of the best agencies in our federal government. They started with 35 national parks, including the first, Yellowstone National Park. Today, the National Park Service oversees more than 400 parks, historical areas, and monuments covering more than 84 million acres in the United States and its territories. And many offer free admission.

Each April, the National Park Foundation launches a week-long celebration known as National Park Week. It includes special events and celebrations, including a fee free day on April 21 when you can get into the biggies like Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Grand Canyon for free.

This year, Earth Day falls on the second day of National Park Week. It will be a day of celebrating and recognizing the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System and the Wild & Scenic Rivers System.

When I play the “if I weren’t a writer, what would I be” game, forest ranger is at the top of the list, and kudos to the more than 20,000 NPS employees who care for and help preserve these national treasures.

Take time to appreciate our National Parks. They’re one-of-a-kind. Here are some of my favorites.











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Fiesta! San Antonio Turns 300

One of my favorite places in Texas is San Antonio. And history says that I’m not alone. When Spanish explorers came to the New World in the late 1500s, they were looking for treasure and trade goods. Spanish explorers traveled north from Mexico in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. They found a river they named San Antonio River. A dusty outpost sprang up next to the river in 1718. It was San Antonio de Béxar Presidio, more commonly known as San Antonio.

San Antonio has evolved from a Spanish provincial capital to a Mexican stronghold to a Republic of Texas battle site. Native American and Spanish residents were joined by people from Mexico, Africa, Germany, and a new country called the United States.

This year, San Antonio celebrates its 300th birthday. The city kicked off their Tricentennial celebration this past New Years Eve with a free concert in Hemisfair Park near the Institute of Texas Cultures. The annual Fiesta San Antonio kicks off with the Battle of Flowers this month and will be followed by the Tricentennial Commemorative Week during the first week of May.

Although San Antonio is the seventh largest city in America with plenty to see and do, the downtown area around the Riverwalk is the best place to start. The Riverwalk is an American version of the Italian city, Venice. The 15-mile long Riverwalk winds through San Antonio, taking you to restaurants, shops, and museums. The San Antonio Museum of Art, known as SAMA, is housed in the old Lone Star Brewery.

The banks of the Riverwalk feature cypress trees and other lush foliage. Arched stone pedestrian bridges take you to the other side of the river. Music, often mariachis, can often be heard. The smells are amazing and your most difficult task may be deciding where to eat. Boudros and Lula’s are popular restaurants.

If you tire of walking, see the Riverwalk area by water taxi or in the open air, flat bottom river barges. If you’re going farther down the river to the missions, rent a kayak or get a bicycle from a B-cycle station.

The Spanish established hundreds of missions in the Southwest. Most disappeared as casualties of war or time. San Antonio’s five missions make up the largest concentration of existing colonial missions in the United States. In 2015, they were designated a World Heritage Site.

Four of the missions are operated by the National Park Service. The fifth mission, the Alamo, is a state historic site operated by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. It is the most accessible of the missions with the others farther south along what is known as Mission Trail. First christened Mission San Antonio de Valero, its name changed to the Alamo when it was converted to military barracks first for Mexican independence and then for Texas independence. The Alamo’s last battle gave Texas its state motto—Remember the Alamo.

Although San Antonio’s Hispanic culture is evident everywhere, the three-block outdoor plaza known as El Mercado or Market Square is America’s largest Mexican market. Stop by Mi Tierra for a meal or at the very least a mouthwatering pastry.

Two things are evident when you travel to San Antonio. One is that it is a true melting pot of cultures that works. And the other is that the city knows how to fiesta. Happy Birthday, San Antonio.


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Dr. King’s Legacy

My earliest memories are of my little brother having the audacity to come along and steal my mother. I also remember my dad convincing me for a short time that he was Superman. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when he thought it would be funny to build a fire in the fireplace on Christmas Eve. I mean, the real Superman wouldn’t light a fire where Santa was supposed to land.

Like most young children, my world consisted of what affected me directly. But the late 1960s were a tumultuous time, and there was lots of banging from the door to the outside world. The Vietnam War, Civil Rights, student protests, women’s rights, hippies and free love, a musical revolution, and so on. One day, the chaos from the outside broke open the door—the day Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

Dr. King’s tragic death is one of my first memories of the world at large. How could a person who was trying to do so much good die? We’re talking nonviolent protests. A man who said, I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. And, The time is always right to do what is right.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, go. It’s worth your time and money. It not only speaks to Dr. King’s life and death, but also the world of segregation and discrimination. It shows you what life was like in the back of the bus.

The world shifted when Dr. King died on April 4, 1968. But Dr. King’s legacy and the people who believe in him marched forward. Things changed for the better, not always, but sometimes. Most noticeably, segregation was made illegal in all areas of life. People began seeing beyond skin color and finding friends, neighbors, co-workers, and love.

Fifty years later, the world is shifting again. So much hate and anger are whirling through America today. Ugly words, persistent lies, rampant racism and sexism seem to have taken on lives of their own. Children go to school, a place that should be safe, and instead are gunned down.

What would Dr. King say if he were here now? Whatever he would say, you can be sure they would be words of love and hope.

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