Category Archives: parks & gardens

You can make art anywhere…

Hey all, I’ve been a bit remiss in my blogging duties… last week got away from me as I working hard in advance of the long weekend (my birthday weekend no less), which was glorious.  Hope you all had festive fourths as well!

I will likely be sporadic and pithy over the next week or so as I am still catching up, digging out, and generally working too much (the price paid for a sweet sweet vacation).

Spotted this sidewalk chalk art in the cemetery a while back…

chalk art in the road, mountain view cemetery

Isn’t this girl lovely?

art in the road, sidewalk chalk art in cemetery

It reminds me that we can make art almost anywhere!

BEAT the HEAT: Five best swim spots in Oaktown

lyons pool oakland, best oakland swimming spots

Lyons Pool – Dimond Park

[NOTE: I updated this post in 2014 with new links and current schedules. See updated post here.]

It’s hot.  Too hot.  This is why I left L.A. many years ago.  Well… just one of the long list of reasons really.

But back to my point. It’s expected to top out near 90 today, so if you’re like me and you’re melting into a puddle of gritty discontent, here are a few sweet spots to cool you down and freshen you up!

  1. Lake Temescal – For some, the thought of swimming in non-chlorinated water is not appealing (I’m thinking of my boyfriend’s daughter who said, “EWW! it’s slimy!”) But for me, it’s simply the best. No burning eyes, no itching skin, and you get to swim with the ducks & fishes.  What could be better than that?? See last year’s post Sum Sum Summertime! for more detail and the history of this urban oasis.
    $3 for beach access; $2 for kids/seniors; parking can cost extra

    Open daily 5am to 10pm; lifeguards on duty 11am to 6pm
  2. Lyons Pool (Dimond Park) – This outdoor pool set amidst old growth oaks & buckeyes is heated year round and is delicious to step into, especially on cool evenings or foggy mornings. Serious lap-swimmers seem frustrated by its unconventional lanes and warm temperature, but I think this spot is just right, and nowhere near as crowded as Temescal.
    $5 to swim; $4 with multi-pass
    public swim: 2:45pm – 4:15pm M-F; 2:30pm – 4:30pm S/S
    lap swim: 6:30am – 9am/12pm – 2pm/7:30pm – 9pm M-F; 11:15am – 2:15pm S/S
  3. Trefethen Aquatic Center (Mills College) – Another lovely outdoor pool complete with hot tub and lawn areas for lounging, I haven’t been to this one in awhile but used to go frequently when friends lived in San Leandro. I’ve heard the pool isn’t chlorinated but uses another technique (oxygenation?), but I can’t confirm this. This one’s also a tad more expensive than other options, but many folks claim this is the nicest pool in Oakland.
    $7 to swim; $5.60 with multi-pass

    check their schedule here, ‘cuz it’s complicated and will be changing next week.
  4. Temescal Pool – This one’s a north Oakland favorite for it’s year round heated waters and easy access location. Featuring salinated water which means less chlorine (yay!) and lots of props to modify your swim routine (kickboards, fins, etc) this pool is extremely popular and can be quite crowded when the weather’s nice.
    $5 to swim; $4 with multi-pass

    public swim:
    2:45pm – 4:45pm Sat only
    lap swim:
    6:30am – 8:30am/12:30pm – 2:30pm/5pm – 7pm M-F; 11am – 2:30pm S/S
  5. Roberts Pool (Roberts Regional Recreation Area) – Another glorious heated outdoor pool, right in the middle of a redwood grove. I only put this one last because, sad to say, I haven’t been here yet. But from the descriptions I’ve read, it sounds like best spot for a lazy summer day of play. Fewer lap swim hours and far more public/recreational swim hours.
    $3 for public swim ($2 for kids/seniors); lap swim is $3.50 or $2.50 with multi-pass
    public swim: 3:30pm – 5pm M; 12:30pm – 5pm Tu-F; 11am – 6pm Sat/Sun
    lap swim:
    7:15pm – 8:15pm M-Th

Roll with it…

Happy last day of May everyone!  I’m feeling better this week… how about you?  Did you all have a nice 3 day weekend?  Can you believe it’s still raining?!? It put a bit of a damper on some of my weekend plans, but I decided to roll with it and adjust…

So instead of putting those veggie starters in the ground (yes, I realize this likely should have happened months ago), I spent a very satisfying afternoon snail hunting. The ducks and chickens next door were satisfied as well!

I think adaptability is one of our most amazing traits as humans. Of course it’s not a human trait exclusively, but we’ve seemed to have mastered it to a degree few other creatures have…

We went for a walk in Joaquin Miller Park yesterday during a stint of gorgeous breezy spring sunshine.  This squirrel cracked me up!

joaquin miller park, east bay hiking

I didn’t get to any art this past weekend, but there’s a lot coming up… another Art Murmur, two weekends of East Bay Open Studios including art “hops” and walks, street festivals, and more!

And, I’m taking a month long blogging course starting tomorrow. I’m hoping it will reinvigorate my blogging practice, which has suffered of late due to being squeezed into the tiny sliver of time remaining after all that other stuff that has to get done. Wish me luck!

And lastly, thanks to all who commented or completed my little survey last week. Sorry for whining… I was just having a moment.

And thanks too to my new twitter friend OaktownTuro, who graciously changed his mind and let me have the OaktownArt twitter handle! More on the twitter thing once I get it all figured out…

Rainy Day Redwoods…

When it’s pouring rain, I love walking in the redwoods (Redwood Park).  The streams are raging; leaf, bark, and moss are slick and shiny; colors pop; and the forest is filled with a dewy fog…

coastal redwoods, northern california redwoods, redwood trees in oakland
redwood park oakland, redwood trees, coastal redwoods
moss and lichen, moss on bark
bark detail
spring rain
California native spring flowers, CA native pink flowering currant

Nevertheless, I am definitely hoping for some sun this weekend for our 2nd Annual Oakland Running Festival (aka Marathon). Thanks to everyone who supported my fundraising efforts (I surpassed my goal last night!) You all are AMAZING, and I will try to do you proud in my race tomorrow! Wish me luck… and get out there and support the runners if you can. If the weather perks up a bit, it should be a blast.

Winter showers bring…


Sunday’s break in the week long series of winter storms – which reminded us all that sunny seventy degree weather in January is NOT normal – inspired me to shoot the incredible variety of flowers that have sprung up in my yard recently.  Most of ’em are small so I busted out my macro lens.

Just another installment of nature’s incredible artworks…  like my Chasing Spiders post.

purple daisy, drought tolerant daisy

I was told this is a South African Daisy- very drought resistant

blooming rosemary, small purple lily

Rosemary on left; and unknown tiny purple star flowers on right (some kind of lily?)

orange and red magnolia flowers

Marigold: I rescued this plant from a crack in the driveway... I had no idea it would turn out so pretty!

orange stalk flower cactus, white droopy star flowers

on left is an aloe flower (I think) and to right is a mystery plant that sprung up in a pot of lilies, which have not yet flowered (anyone?)

cherry plum blossoms, plum blossoms

These blossoms are from a tree that dumped a ton of tiny cherry-plums in the yard last year - I was told it's a "weed" tree!

iris about to bloom, pink geraniums

on left is an iris plant moved from west Oakland; on right are geraniums that amazingly bloom all year long

pink camelia flowers

Our neighborhood has a lot of camelias... must have been fashionable years ago. Sort of reminds me of Los Angeles...

calla lily flower

Lovely calla lily

succulent flowers

not sure what's on left (anyone?); on right is a flower from one of my succulents

euphorbia flowers

I'd never heard of Euphorbia before moving into this home, but we have a variety of these South African plants

Another type of Euphorbia... these plants are super drought-resistant


Snowdrops - these were some of the first blooms of the year... popped up all over the yard.

Peruvian Lilies

Alstroemeria - we have big clumps of these in pink, orange, and red. They mostly flower through the summer and are great for cut flower arrangements, but this lone flower sprouted early.

I have no idea what this is. It produces big flat heads of flowers, sort of like Queen Anne's Lace, but yellow. Anyone?

plum blossoms

Another plum tree, but these plums are bigger!

fuschia monkey flower, tiny pink clustered flowers

Not sure what's on left, flowers are shaped like Monkey-flower bush but are fuschia colored; on right is a highly invasive weed (I've been told) and I've ripped much of it out, but I really love the tiny clusters of pink flowers

perenial pink flowers

I think this is called a daisy tree (or shrub) - it's a pretty big perennial, covered in tiny flowers.

lavender flowers, blooming lavendar, purple daisy

another view of south african daisy on left; blooming lavender on right

impatiens oliveri

This plant was faring terribly - I was told it's called Poor Man's Rhododendron and was in too sunny of a spot. I moved it into the shade and it's much happier!

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ok, Oaklanders… I asked last week what dreams you had for our city and only one person responded.  And he kinda has to because we share a bed!

I have to say I was a bit disappointed. But hey, I’ve been busy too, so I understand that most folks are swamped once January rolls around… putting away the holiday decor, returning those god-awful sweaters your aunt bought you, digging through the backlog at work, and working off those chocolate-candy-booze-infused extra pounds.

But in all seriousness, the questions I posed in my last post were not rhetorical.  I really want to know. And in a certain sense, I believe it’s really important to form, verbalize, and actually announce to the world, our dreams/hopes/visions for the future.  Because a dream undeclared will likely remain just that… a dream.  But one voiced aloud, for one’s self and others to hear, ponder on, and process… is far more likely to be manifest into reality.

This is why Martin Luther King, Jr. announced his “dream” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of hundreds of thousands (and millions more via television)… to effect real change.  Nearly five decades later, with enormous progress made, we still find inspiration in his words.

So tell me… what’s your vision for our city?  What would you like to see change?  And how will you help achieve that reality?

As a kickstart to this little exercise, I thought I’d mention that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is this Monday, January 17th.  In addition to recognizing and honoring the incredible achievements of the civil rights leader, the day has also been set aside as a National Day of Service.

What is the MLK Day of Service?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’

Each year, Americans across the country answer that question by coming together on the King Holiday to serve their neighbors and communities.

The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President’s national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems. (from

There are lots of ways that each of us, individually, can contribute to make Oakland a better place for all of us, collectively, to live. OaklandSeen has a nice recap of some local service opportunities in their recent post Give Back / Pay Forward by Anna Edmondson.

  • One that I’m particularly inspired by is the Habitat Restoration project at Martin Luther King Jr. ShorelineApropos, right?! Volunteers will help continue the beautification and restoration of this tidal marsh & shoreline habitat by planting native shrubs, weeding invasives, and removing debris.  Workday is Saturday, January 15th from 10am – 1pm. (map here)

Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline

I paid a recent visit to this park, my first time, and was really surprised.  I hadn’t even known of its existence as it’s located in a semi-industrial area near the Oakland Airport.  Similar to Cesar Chavez State Park near the Berkeley marina, the area was previously an old landfill (aka dump!), but since has been restored to its natural environment, comprising over 71 acres of tidal and seasonal wetlands.  Native plants have recolonized and many species of migrating and non-migrating birds have reestablished themselves.

Part of the larger 500 mile long San Francisco Bay Trail, there are miles of short walking/biking trails along the waterfront and through the marshes with several bridges and a large observation tower.  It’s a great spot for bird-lovers, but also for picnicking, fishing, hiking, and biking. Check it out…

east bay parks, east bay hiking trails, east bay wetland restoration
MLK Jr. Regional Shoreline, east bay birdwatching spots
wetland observation tower, observation platform, shoreline observation platform
wildlife at MLK regional shoreline park
marsh birds, east bay bird watching
East Bay Shoreline Park, East Bay Wetlands Restoration, Oakland Parks
Walking Trail at MLK Jr. Regional Shoreline, bridge across san leandro creek
oakland bird watching spots, east bay bird watching spots
great egret, east bay marsh birds
shoreline trails, east bay shoreline trail
East Bay Wetland Restoration, Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline

Patience Grasshopper

Awhile back you got spiders.  Today you get grasshopper.  Just because.

long horned grasshopper, california grasshopper, grasshopper photograph

This little bugger was on one of my tomato cages. As a gardener, I know I’m not supposed to like these hungry herbivores, munching away on my carefully tended goods. But I can’t help but dig them… they’re so cute.

I’ve been visited by vibrant green grasshoppers like this from time to time in my garden, both in West Oakland and here in the lower hills. I decided, one seemingly mundane day, that one of these visits was a sign. But of what?

I did a bit of quick internet research to discover that grasshoppers (and locusts, which are a type of grasshopper) figure into cultural lore for many centuries, especially in Asia.

  • Regarded in China as symbols of good luck, longevity, happiness, prosperity, fertility, and virtue (wow, that’s a lot), families often kept them as pets.
  • In ancient Greece, they represented symbols of status and even immortality – Athenian women would wear decorative hair pieces and jewelry featuring the figure of the grasshopper as an indication of nobility.
  • And the Japanese cherished the songs produced by these insects (particularly the long-horned grasshopper, which I believe this one is), and considered them to be symbols of good luck.

As I lay in bed before falling asleep, I often hear the lovely chirping of what I thought was a cricket.  I now think it’s likely this little guy (or gal).  Woohoo little grasshopper!  You can come visit anytime…

long horned grasshopper, green grasshopper, photograph of green grasshopper