Tamalpais Path has a lot of steps!

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A stray ball on the bank of Codornices Creek reminds onlookers that a basketball court is nearby.

IMG_1627Right on Euclid Avenue is Codornices Park, which for some reason that I’ve never understood, is pronounced cord-uh-nee-sus. Bordering its northern edge is Tamalpais Path (#100), which offers a beautiful view of Codornices Creek and the fields and playgrounds that lie just south of it. I visited that playground fairly often when I was a parent of a young child, as it’s a favorite spot for birthday parties.

IMG_1628Surrounded by woods, it doesn’t feel like it’s in the middle of Berkeley. As you walk east toward the hills, you cross a few wooden bridges and catch glimpses of houses that are set back in the woods, away from the streets.

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the path not taken

Once you reach a bend, three routes present themselves: on the right is one that wanders back into the park.

IMG_1632To the left is a mysterious curved stairway that I assume is on private property.

And in the middle is Tamalpais Path, which is how I proceeded, regardless of my curiosity about the stairway.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

IMG_1637The concrete steps looked manageable, so I continued in blissful ignorance, unable to see how far they went or how high they rose. At first, every ten or twelve steps, a landing offered a respite from the ascent. But after several such sections, a long stairway came into view. I took a deep breath and began to climb.IMG_1641

Because trees bordered each side, their branches obscured the views ahead, lulling me into thinking that each set of steps could be the last. On one hand, I wish I’d known ahead of time what I was embarking upon. I probably would have counted the steps. But maybe it’s better that I never knew how far I’d travel because the prospect might have tired me out before my legs did.

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So I just kept taking pictures of what lay ahead of me and occasionally turned around to see what I’d climbed. The last few sections had railings, which I made use of. It’s as if the path builders knew that hikers would have plenty of energy at the bottom of the path but would need support toward the end.

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Can you make out the street sign at the top of the stairs?

 

 

When I finally reached a place on the steps when I spied the top of a sign that I recognized as the end of the trail, I was so happy that I took a photo from that exact spot.

The path exited onto Tamalpais Road, where I walked happily on more level terrain. Narrow sidewalks were not always passable between the parked cars and overly enthusiastic flora spilling from people’s yards. But the streets were quiet, and little traffic passed by while I wandered the neighborhood.

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Earlier, when I was on Oak Street Path, I’d seen a deer–my first one during this year-long project of walking every path in Berkeley. And on Tamalpais Road I saw another deer. This one was actually in someone’s front yard. When it saw me, it took off up the stairs that presumably led to the house’s back door. Because a wall blocked my view, I couldn’t see where it ended up. Perhaps it’s lying in a chaise lounge in their back yard now.

IMG_1655I saw some unusual structures on Tamalpais Road, including two funiculars and a building that appeared to be a two-story room, judging by its dimensions.

Storybook houses and wood-shingled beauties were scattered among more modern architecture–most in mint condition and a few in need of repair or a paint job. IMG_1647 IMG_1650IMG_1658

And I saw a variety of landscaping that I couldn’t resist photographing. All in all, it was a most pleasant walk.

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I passed both the La Loma Steps and Rose Walk on my way back home, but I decided to save those for another day…

 

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Oak St. Path (#46)

IMG_1611The western entrance to Oak St. Path is on–you guessed it–Oak Street. Fairly flat, the dirt path is occasionally broken up by what appear to be logs or thick wooden rods that approximate steps. At the beginning, juniper bushes grow along the north side and a short wooden fence borders it to the south. As you round each bend of the somewhat meandering path, the plant life varies, and sunny spots give way to dappled light created by trees leaning toward each other creating a canopy.

At thIMG_1615e midway point is a juncture at which one can take Laurel Street south or continue east on the trail, which ends at Euclid Avenue. The map shows a short cul-de-sac called High Court. There are even two different signs that claim to point out the entrance to said street. One is practically hidden by surrounding greenery, and the other is almost up against a house. But if there was a passable road, I could not see one. I’m sure it’s there somewhere…

IMG_1604When I was making the slight jog on Laurel to cover the second half of the trail, I spotted a deer ahead of me. Deer are not unusual in the Berkeley Hills, but one generally sees them closer to nightfall. It was after 4 p.m., but the sun was still quite high in the sky, so it felt like midday, which is why it felt more surprising. He looked straight at me without bolting. Not wanting to rush him, I waited a bit and took a photo; and he eventually wandered off to the left where it became more woodsy.

Although I don’t recollect seeing any oak trees on Oak Street Path, there is a large palm. On one tree trunk along the path someone had painted the word “Fargo.” A Coen brothers fan?  Or IMG_1608a transplant from North Dakota who was missing home? Either way–why paint on a tree?

On the property adjacent to the path is an ivy-covered structure in a tree that looked like it may have been a homemade lookout tower or the skeleton of a tree fort. The bottom of it is about even with my shoulders, and it’s probably six feet high, but I couldn’t tell if there was a platform on top or not. What do you think it is?

IMG_1619Near the end, the path widens considerably. To the left (north) is a driveway that winds out of sight. So this short section of the path is drivable. A bit further up, it turns back into a pedestrian-only walkway, after which it takes a sharp right turn south, where I spied some mailboxes. Apparently, for a few residents, the path is actually their address.

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I’ve noticed that alongside most of the paths I’ve traveled, the adjacent homeowners have put up fences to delineate where their property lines begin, which isn’t surprising. I imagine public paths coming so close to one’s house would be an issue for those who value privacy. So I particularly appreciate those few people whose landscaping is more open. It’s as if they’re saying, “Look, this may be private property, but we can still share its beauty with path wanderers.”

Or at least that’s what I’ve decided they’re saying.

 

 

A Short Cut (#45)

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Today I realized it had been a while since I’d taken one of the Berkeley paths, and if I wanted to traverse them all, I’d better get busy. But I also had a limited amount of time. So of course the perfect one to take today was called The Short Cut.

IMG_1572On my way to the top of the path, I encountered a little library on Oxford. Although it was not an official Little Free Library, it was the same idea. I wonder if Berkeley has more of these little libraries than anywhere else on Earth…

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IMG_1584The path’s upper end is on Oxford Street, and it runs along the side of Oxford Elementary School, where a few children were enjoying the sunny day in the yard and on the play structure after school hours. The playful squeals and laughter were sounds I know well from my teaching days. It was a refreshing change from the usual quiet walks where I rarely see anyone else.

IMG_1576The Short Cut is a paved gentle downhill slope with only a few steep stairs at the bottom where it ends on Walnut Street. Along the way was a small garden with a skeleton of a tent around it for some minimal protection from deer, I suppose. I couldn’t see what was planted there, so I may have to go back and check during another season to see if there’s been growth.

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On Walnut Street, I saw another little library that was not one of those official Little Free Libraries, but it worked much the same way. Except it is also a living garden, which was a nice surprise.

The general theme of the couple of blocks around the Short Cut seemed to be kids because right on Walnut is a parent co-op that I’d never heard of before behind a lovely mosaic plaque that read:

IMG_1580Children’s Community Center f. 1928

We are the oldest parent childcare cooperative west of the Mississippi. This plaque was made on our 75th anniversary. Thanks to all who helped and thank you to all who make CCC CCC! 2003

Nice, huh? I don’t know how they figured out that they were the first, but kudos to them for their staying power! (I understand the last sentence, but it looks funny, doesn’t it?)

IMG_1581As I turned the corner back onto Oxford, I caught a glimpse of some ornaments hanging from a tree. When I stopped to investigate further, I noticed a hammock hanging from the trees between the sidewalk and the house. It was just waiting there for someone to jump in and enjoy the gorgeous afternoon. I loved that it was in what was essentially the side yard rather than in an enclosed back area. It seemed to be saying that one could relax and still be open to the outside world. Comfy but sociable. I hope it gets frequent use because I enjoy imagining someone in it, smiling at passersby who might be walking the paths of Berkeley.

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I just liked the sign on this house on Oxford.

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Lumbly’s Red Velvet performance is inspired

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We have season tickets for the Wednesday preview night at S.F. Playhouse. Although we’ve taken BART, it usually take longer, and it’s more expensive than weeknight parking at the Sutter Stockton Garage. So last week we drove. Wednesday nights usually have less traffic than weekend nights.

But not when there’s an accident on the Bay Bridge.

It took us an hour and 15 minutes to get to S.F. Playhouse–a trip that usually takes 45 minutes. So we arrived ten minutes after the show started. Luckily for us, the house wasn’t full, so the usher kindly seated us on the side, where we wouldn’t step over other audience members.

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Playwright Lolita Chakrabarti

But all the running and anxiety getting to the theater was worth it.

Red Velvet is a wonderful play by a playwright I’d never heard of, Lolita Chakrabarti, set in an era in Europe I knew little about. Nineteenth-century England was having its own racial unrest when Ira Aldridge was the first black man ever to play Othello at London’s Covent Garden. Although now it would be hard to imagine the Moor being played by a white actor, it was standard practice in 1833, when “teapot” acting was the convention. As explained in the program, “Actors would place one hand on their hip (the handle) while the other arm was presented outward to convey passion and emotion (the spout).” It was also common for the theater manager to take the leading role and stay center stage for the duration of the play. One of the many restrictions at the time was that only two theaters in all of London were permitted to put on full-length plays. But revolution was in the air, and Aldridge was at the cutting edge.

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Carl Lumbly as Ira Aldridge

Directed by Margo Hall, Red Velvet features a stellar cast and a lovely set. Elena Wright beautifully manages three separate accents to establish the three characters she plays. Richard Louis James is delightfully believable as an old actor stuck in his very British rut, and Susie Damilano proved herself once again to be a versatile actress, as well as the company’s co-founder and producing director. It was fun watching Britney Frazier’s facial expressions as the nearly silent character of Connie, a black servant, as she listened to the arguments between the French director (played by the always-charming Patrick Russell) who brought Aldridge on board and the white British actors who had their own feelings about such casting.

But the highlight of the evening was watching Carl Lumbly play Othello in the play within the play. His stage presence alone is worth the ticket. This production deserves to be seen. And there’s still plenty of time for you to get tickets because it’s playing through the end of June.

Clearing: Day 2

bkl-dailyomLesson #2 of the course “A Year to Clear” instructed me to look down the list of lessons and note any titles that resonated with me. It’s also suggested that I keep a journal to document this year. I figure I’ll just blog about it occasionally. That counts, doesn’t it?

So scanning the long list of titles mostly impressed upon me how many 365 is. That’s a lot of lessons. The titles that leaped out at me were “Getting Rid of Is Not the Same as Clearing” and “Cultivating a Should-free Life.” There was also an intriguing reference to Monkey Mind, which piqued my curiosity.

What I noticed after copying the image of the book cover is that the person who wrote the lessons (Stephanie Bennett Vogt) is not the same person who wrote the book (Madisyn Taylor). So maybe the course and the book are just related but not the same? (And this is the first time I’ve ever come across the name Madisyn.)

Anyway, I’m back on track to “clear my year.” At least for now…

Already behind in my year of clearing

Jan 1This year, rather than making new year’s resolutions, I decided I’d have a theme and a motto instead. My theme is Letting Go. My motto is Less Is More.

Along these lines, on January 1st, I signed up for an online course, “A Year to Clear,” from an organization called  Daily OM. (I haven’t figured out if OM is an acronym or if it’s supposed to be a mantra. I hope I find out in one of the lessons. There’s a book about it as well, but it looked too new age-y.) Every day since then, I’ve received in my inbox a lesson that is intended to help me in this endeavor. There are a total of 365 lessons, so my intention was to begin on January 1 and end on December 31.

bkl-dailyomBut today is May 1, and I haven’t read any of them.

Now the whole idea of getting just one lesson a day is part of the creator’s slow-drip method based on a Japanese principle called Kaizen. She doesn’t want people to rush ahead and read several at once because it’s a process that’s supposed to be ongoing.

But I currently have 128 lessons awaiting me.

I’m trying not to feel pressure from this because I think that would be counter-productive. So, I’m just going tbreatho take a deep breath and read lesson 1 today. And I’m letting go of any guilt for starting four months later than I planned to.

My year of clearing starts now.