Feeling alive in February

Every time I complete my three-mile walk, whether it's to the post office on my more productive days, or through the nearby Samarkand neighborhood on my contemplative days, I wonder why I make it so hard for myself.

It's always a struggle to get into my workout clothes and get out the door, yet the minute I'm outside, I'm overcome with the sights and sounds of LIFE.

I can't help but smile (for reals) as I walk along the roadside, catching sight of a Black Phoebe on the edge of a dumpster, disappearing as he dives in for a gnat, then reappearing and landing. Dive and land. Dive and land.

I pass through the showgrounds and marvel at the shiny coats of the weekend guests munching their hay, and I inhale the unmistakable scent of "horse." There are cones set up in the showgrounds parking lot and a number of motorcycle cops standing around waiting for someone to start riding. There's a guy who brings his dogs to play on the lawn. He always leaves his motor running...

Now that it's February, I start to see signs of spring: The purple flowers of ceanothus, lavender and rosemary are in full bloom, and the rose bushes are starting to bud. The almond trees are covered in delicate white blossoms (at least they are in Samarkand -- the one in our backyard doesn't flower as our House Finches consider the buds a delicacy).

The sky is clear and "Santa Barbara blue." The sun is warm but there's enough of a breeze to refresh me as I trudge up and down the hills.

Acorn Woodpeckers pack the top of a tall palm tree, making me impatient to see them at my feeder again. Maybe next month?

I pass a man pushing a baby stroller, a woman walking her dog and a couple walking their cat. Seriously.

A tiny white dog yaps from behind a gate, inquisitive and bossy. A white cat leaps from behind a bush and bolts into the next yard. Was it me? Knowing cats, probably not.

A desert landscape planted with succulents sports a tiny plastic dinosaur among the scenery. I keep meaning to pick up some toy dinosaurs and secretly add to the display.

Seniors roll balls at the lawn bowling club, gardeners whack weeds or sit on the curb with sandwiches and water bottles.

A flying insect of some sort loses its bearings and plows into my leg. Not sure who's more startled.

A flock of crows takes off at my approach, and I hope I didn't disturb their meal for long.

There's a lemon tree with yellow leaves -- not enough nitrogen? There are vivid freshly-planted annuals in the yards of the overachievers. Doors and windows are propped open for fresh air. A surfboard rests against a porch railing.

There is LIFE everywhere. I see it, feel it, smell it, hear it. When the occasional bug flies into my mouth, I taste it, too. My heart is pumping. My skin is damp with sweat. My breathing is heavy. My body feels alive.

I could stay in the house and stare at my computer screen all day. Which I frequently do.

Or I could go outside and feel ALIVE. Which I don't do enough!