Archive for the ‘Cats’ Category

Dinner with Darwin

May 1, 2018

Darwin’s an impressionable, charming, and very bright young guy in his 20s, originally from Mauritius, living in Catania. We met him last year at the villa, as he is the son of the villa’s caretakers and he helps his parents with their workload at the villa. Those of you reading this, who were also at last year’s yoga retreat at Villa Saracena, will remember him.

“I work part time at a bar. The food’s the best. You should come by.  No, I don’t work on Thursdays, but I’ll plan on being there the night you come by.”

So we connected via “messenger” before our Thursday evening date with him and came to find out he no longer worked at the bar.  He had quit the night before we were going to meet. “The owner wouldn’t pay me, so I quit. But it’s ok, I’ll meet you there.”

After hearing more about his nightmarish-ex-boss, I suggested we meet elsewhere.  And so we had dinner with Darwin in an outdoor trattoria in the Massimo Bellini Opera House Piazza.  Darwin speaks English as if he were born in the back streets of London. He studied at Cambridge Preparatory High School while living with his uncle. He knows all the colloquial British English expressions, the good ones and the bad.  He’s witty, funny, charismatic, knows just about everyone, and is at that special place in his life, you know, where the whole wide world is about to unfold for you!

We enjoyed asking him questions and listened to his animated replies. As we conversed, people strolling by on their evening passeggiate saw him, and greeted him, “Eh, Darwinneh! Che mi dici?”  (Hey Darwin! What’s goin’ on, man!) And there was our attractive waitress, who came to our table one too many times so I asked him, “So, Darwin, is she your friend?”

“Well, yeah, yeah, but I don’t know her name. I just call her Mella. I call everyone Mella or something like that.  You know, Carmella/Carmello is such a popular name, so I just call everyone Mel, Mello, Mellina, Carmel, Armel, and you know, it kinda works. They love it! The women find it sexy when I call them Carmella!  Even if it’s not a given man or woman’s name, and 5 times out of 10 it is their name, they just get a kick of it. ”

He grabs his cell phone, unlocks it. Tosses it my way and says, “Look!”

I was wrapped up by his English accent and was trying to figure out why a woman would find it sexy to be called someone else’s name (in fact, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like it if you called me Carmella!), but I managed to catch his phone.  He leaned over and opened up his contacts and there it was, in plain English, an endless list of Mellas and Mellos, and variants on the names, complete with phone numbers. Sometimes he writes in a second name to differentiate various friends: “Mello Grande (big), Mel Alto (tall), Carmello Birra (beer-probably had a beer with the guy), Carmella Serena (quiet, serene).”

I also noticed that when Darwin’s Italian friends, both men and women, young and old, stopped by our table to hug him, tap his head, punch his arms, tweak his cheek, greet him, or give him a kiss on the cheeks, Darwin added a little zest to his perfect Italian: instead of rolling his r as Italians do, he would pronounce his r like the soft throaty French r.  Now this would make sense, given that Darwin speaks French because he hails from Mauritius.  However, I have heard his English r and it doesn’t sound French.  And I have also heard him roll his Italian r, so I know he can do it. So I asked him about it.

“Oh, well, you see…they love it!  Yes, my friends love it! They find the soft French r charming, especially the girls.  Yeah, the French r!”  His laughter is contagious. “Francesca, you actually caught that?”  He doesn’t realize I’ve been around the block a few times and I understand and am fascinated by the subtleties and power of language.

“Hey, Darwin, what did your dad say when you got your nose pierced?”

Actually, Darwin’s septum is pierced and he wears a septum ring. Is that what it’s called? I should have asked him!  I think it’s just called a “nose ring”, whether the piercing is in the nostril or the septum.  It looks really good on him and gives him a certain look, along with his close-buzzed head.

“My dad? No problem. My dad understands me.  He’s cool.  He loves me and accepts me.  Yeah, he’s the best.  He’s super cool with this.”

Darwin’s a really good guy!

“So, what are your dreams?”

We found out that he once-upon-a-time wanted to be a surgeon. Why? Because he wanted to help people.  He is definitely bright enough to pursue this dream, but he quit school.  He did part of his high school in England (Cambridge), but later quit. Just didn’t work out for him to attend school.  He was bored. So now, the surgeon dream is out the back door and in through the front door is a new dream to own and run a bar with a friend in Catania.  They already have found the place and are renting it at a great price. Now they are saving money to get the business going.

I bet when we come back next year, we’ll be visiting Darwin at his new bar, assuming a more attainable dream doesn’t drift in through the side door.

The next day, we left Catania and headed to Siracusa. Below are some photos from Siracusa.

Ortigia

We toured the catacombs under the church of San Filippo.  As you enter, a skeleton is painted on the wall.  He’s been there for hundreds of years and his job is to greet you, to welcome you to this underground world of the dead.  One of his arms rests on a balcony and the other arm and hand is ready to sweep you up:

The next two pictures are also from this burial chamber. On one side of the chamber, the picture of the skull and bones says in Latin, “We were like you.” And across from this, another skull and bones says in Latin, “And you will be like us.”

Well, after such grim greetings, we walked around and delighted in the beautiful homes, the fresh sea air, the sun-filled day.

 

We see the artist Fiore’s beautiful work everywhere!  His signature works of art are on the walls of shops, restaurants, on table tops, and on planters filled with geraniums.  His colors are vivid and he really captures an essence of Ortigia and Sicily. And today, while walking around, we met him!  He was in his atelier, door flung open to the sea.  He was intense, focused, and busy at creating another masterpiece.

 

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Greek Sicily enthralls me.  The next two photos are from Apollo’s Temple. The columns are Doric style. The temple was built in the 6th century B.C. You can see the temple embedded into the nearby homes (see the second photo below). At one time, the space between the temple pillars were filled in to construct the walls of a mosque and later a church. Today, the temple stands near the lively outdoor fish and vegetable market.

And I have to include photos of Cat Lady.  Cat Lady, the woman in the photo below, stepped outside her open door and asked me to take a photo of her and the cats so I took a few photos. Believe it or not, that’s a “smile” on her face because I had just given her some money for cat food.

Using dramatic hand gestures and a passionate voice, she told me her story. “I don’t know why, but I keep finding kittens outside my door!  And what am I supposed to do?  They come to me! So I have to take them in.  They love me. I love them. I feed them. Sometimes I eat less so they can eat more.  They are wonderful! Would you like to come in? Would you like to take a photo or two?  Would you like to pet them? They love to be pet!  They don’t like to go outside. They love my home.”

And let me tell you.  I have never seen so many cats in my life. I asked her how many cats she had and she promptly said, “Eleven.”  I’d say take her number and multiply by 5. Maybe more. And, oh, did the place stink!  I took the photos by standing in the doorway.  There was no way I was going to cross the threshold.  I don’t know how the woman could still be alive inhaling that stink.  Her house was all mottled and filled with pictures of Jesus, the pope (with head bowed, praying), angels, and Mother Mary.  Maybe Cat Lady is protected by the pope’s prayers?

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And we will move away from cats and end this blog with a sunset.

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Nature as Divine Temple

January 31, 2018

The following is a list of excuses for my failure to blog in recent days:

  • WiFi has been very slow
  • I’ve been busy offering yoga daily (except for yesterday because we were at the tiger reserve longer than anticipated) plus we’ve been on the go, busy taking in all the incredible sights of Rajasthan.
  • WiFi has been very slow
  • The trip is winding down and I am needing more sleep to keep my energy levels up so I can keep going strong until departure on February 3.
  • WiFi has been very slow

I’m posting some photos of our time in Ranthambore National Park.  I know it will take a lot of time to download photos so I will do what is possible tonight.

What I really want to say about our safari outing is that, for the second time ever and for the second time in a row, my group did not see a tiger.  We went out on safari twice, but did not see a tiger.  The hotel was filled with other tourists coming from all over the world as well as Indians touring their own country.  Every person I spoke to saw Royal Bengal Tigers that day or the previous day  Our group was the exception.

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Our first outing was at the crack of dawn. It was very cold and the vehicles are open air.  As the vehicle bumped and bounced along the terribly-gutted pot-holed roads leading to the tiger terrain, I wrapped the provided wool blanket tightly around my body.  Once the sun started coming up over the trees, the air started to warm up and the sun beamed down on us. The light became golden and spilled out over the forest and I felt myself in a holy place. It dawned on me that the forest, with all its birdsong and beauty, is a temple. As the jeep jostled my bones and attempted to rearrange my organs, I looked out at the forest around me and marveled. Nature, I believe, is a divine temple.

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From our jeep, we admired birds, including four kinds of owls, and spotted deer, the blue bull antelope, monkeys galore, and sambar (another type of large deer). Our naturalist guide identified the names of the animals we were seeing.  The morning light was lovely and we saw fresh tiger tracks. …tracks but no tiger.

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Sambar:

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One of four owlets peaking out from the tree.  Not sure you can see one in the crook of the tree:

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When we got back to our hotel after our first safari outing, we met another group from North America staying at the hotel. All 18 members of the group were abuzz with frenetic excitement.  I didn’t even have to ask.  I knew they had seen a tiger on their morning safari.  One of the men, a very cheerful fellow from Toronto, said, with certainty, that we would definitely see a tiger on our second outing.  His optimism was rock solid.

The second outing was in the evening of the same day. This outing was much longer because our guide really wanted us to see a Royal Bengal Tiger.  We drove around and around the bumpy trails, my angry back refusing to keep quiet.  We stoically endured the rough trail knowing that nothing comes easy, especially when it comes to seeing a tiger in the wild

Well, as you already know, we did not see a tiger.  However, we learned all about tigers.  We learned that a female tiger currently ruled this territory we were in and that she had three cubs, two females and a male.  Her cubs were almost two years old.  The mother tiger’s tracks were visible from the jeep, so we knew she was around. Our guide also pointed out leopard tracks near the tiger tracks.

Fresh tracks.

We watched the playful monkeys and the relaxed spotted deer and, when I saw the animals so relaxed, I knew there was no tiger in sight.  There were no forest alarm calls telling us the great predator was in our vicinity.

Relaxed Sambar:

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We saw crocodiles. We saw peacocks. We saw parrots and parakeets. We saw countless birds of all colors. And suddenly a jungle cat crossed our path!  Our guide yelled out excitedly, “LOOK, Jungle Cat is crossing road!”  The jungle cat looked a lot like a large domestic house cat.  Our sighting of the cat was so brief that it was impossible to get a photo.  But, wow, was that exciting!

After much looking through grasses and trees for a tiger, it was starting to get dark and cold again, so we started heading out of the park.  As we approached the cliff rock wall area nearing the entrance/exit of the park, our guide heard the ALARM CALL!  The alarm call is when the spotted deer stand still and bark with their tails straight up.  The sambar also made piercing sounds and the fawns were ready to dart. The monkeys scattered in a panic. Then our guide saw the leopard! Wow. Was that exciting or what?  In no time at all, other jeeps filled with tourists hefting enormous binoculars and cameras with ridiculously large lenses arrived and clustered around us.

The leopard was climbing the rock wall up toward the overhang or top of the rock cliff.  He was very large and yes, spotted.  I could make out its muscularity.  He (or she) was moving swiftly, seemingly defeating gravity, making the climb up to the cliff overhang look effortless.  The leopard was by no means close to us, but we could see it.  The whole experience was breathtaking, completely exhilarating, even if the leopard was so far that my camera would never catch it in a photo.  I just took in its body and memorized what I was seeing.

I still can’t believe I saw an ultra-elusive leopard. What a lucky sighting.

But, wait!  There’s more.  Just as our guide said, “Chalo!” (Let’s go! in Hindi), we drove off a few meters and there was, along the same rock wall, a very large sloth bear.  He was even easier to spot than the leopard, who easily blended in with his/her environment.  By contrast, the bear’s shaggy black fur and bulky body stood out from the rock wall.  I couldn’t make out its snout (which looks like an anteater’s snout), but I could clearly see his body.  There was a jeep full of Indian tourists next to us and all I could hear over and over again was the excited, BALOO, BALOO, BALOO!!! (this is the Hindi name for the Sloth Bear.)

BALOO

BALOO

BALOO

Enough excitement for one day.  We left the park feeling satisfied with the jungle cat, leopard, and sloth bear sightings.  But frankly, I still felt more than one twinge of jealously as the other North American tourists voluntarily showed me their video footage of the Royal Bengal Tiger who walked alongside their jeep.  Bas.  Enough.  Silly feelings, I know… but I’m only human.  A leopard is no small thing, right? I repeated this to myself again and again as I went to bed exhausted on safari night.

“Ranthambore Fort lies within the Ranthambore National Park, near the town of Sawai Madhopur, the park was the former hunting grounds of the Maharajahs of Jaipur until the time of India’s Independence”

End of a glorious day:

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“Ranthambore National Park is a vast wildlife reserve near the town of Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan, northern India. It is a former royal hunting ground and home to tigers, leopards and marsh crocodiles. Its landmarks include the imposing 10th-century Ranthambore Fort, on a hilltop, and the Ganesh Mandir temple. Also in the park, Padam Talao Lake is known for its abundance of water lilies.”

Remnants of the 10 century fort within the park.  An antlered sambar sits partially hidden in the left lower corner of the photo:

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Sicily for Adriana

April 27, 2017

I thought to post some of my best photos from the past two days.   This post is dedicated to my friend and co-worker from Seattle Athletic Club, Adriana Allison Brown, 34 years old, married to Aaron Brown and mother of two beautiful little girls.  She passed away two days ago on April 25, was hit by a vehicle as she was walking the crosswalk at Lenora and Western (Seattle) on her way to work at the Seattle Athletic Club as a personal fitness trainer.  I thought of Adriana all day these past two days.  She told me recently that she would like to come to Sicily one day.

I am heartbroken.

Adriana was as bright as the Sicilian Sun.

Adriana was as beautiful as the red poppies below.

Adriana “era buona comu lu pani“, a Sicilian expression which literally translates to Adriana “was as good as bread”  (see explanation below).

 

Yes, I got my poppy photo! Red is the dominant color for the poppies I have been seeing.

Yes, I got my poppy photo! Red is the dominant color for the poppies I have been seeing.

Bread (pane). For my dad, a meal without bread was not a meal at all. The highest compliment you can pay a person in old time Sicily was to say, "Era buonu comu lu pani" = He was as good as bread!

Bread (pane). For my dad, a meal without bread was not a meal at all.  Bread is the staff of life. The highest compliment you can pay a person in old time Sicily was to say of that person, “E buonu (buona) comu lu pani” = He/She is as good as bread!

Old tile detail

Old tile detail

Sweetness: potted geraniums

Sweetness: potted geraniums

Simple delicious ingredients for sauce alla Norma.

Simple delicious ingredients for Pasta alla Norma.

Sicilian Cat. Her name was Meow!

Sicilian Cat. His name was Meow!

Oranges kissed by the sun.

Oranges kissed by the sun.

Cheese at the Siracusa Market

Cheese at the Ortigia Market

One of the pupi (traditional puppet). There is a puppet theater in Ortigia.

And ancient pupi (traditional puppet). There is a puppet theater in Ortigia.

Kat-Krazy Day

June 12, 2016

And here we are: a blog post that is easy on the eyes, short and filled with feline sweetness.  Wednesday was a Kat-Krazy Day.  That is to say, I met three fine cats and fell in love with each one.

The first cat I encountered  is Marilyn’s newly adopted calico cat, Callie.  All we know about Callie’s history is that she has gone from home to home, owner to owner.   In her new home, Callie is loved, loving, and is already feeling very comfortable.  The home is the real deal!  Callie is just about as sweet as they come.  I am so happy for my friend and for Callie.  Our pets are an incredible source of unconditional love.

It was a little dark when I took this photo. But you can see how Callie has found my bags and has snuggled into them. I am already in love with this girl!

It was a little dark when I took this photo. But you can see how Callie has found my bags and has snuggled into them. I am already in love with this girl!  She is very very loving!  It’s a win-win situation. Lucky Marilyn!  Lucky kitty!

Then I came across a cat that looked almost identical to my cat of almost 18 years, Little Bear!  There were two big differences in the two cats.  This one’s name was Georgia and she was a SHE!  And she is polydactyl!  That is to say, Georgia has 6 toes on her front paws.  Other than those two physical differences, I felt I was with my cat again.  As soon as I saw Georgia, I dropped my bags to the sidewalk and started taking photos and petting her.

Tuxedo Cat Cuteness!

Tuxedo Cat Cuteness: Georgia, Little Bear’s Look-Alike

Georgia, too, liked my red bag!

Georgia, too, liked my red bag!

OK, so the photo above is my new feline friend Georgia and the photo below is my old cat Little Bear…they are practically identical, n’est-ce pas??

The one and only, King of My Heart, Little Bear!

The one and only, King of My Heart, Little Bear!

And if you have never seen this before, have a look at the link below.  The link is a pdf with another photo of Little Bear and poems Rick wrote for him.  Little Bear was most regal and the subject of so many poems:  link

And lastly, a magical moment meeting Rebecca’s cat, Axel.  He was snuggled in his tree perch indoors, basking in the sun, dozing on and off.  His sunlit fur against the dark blue wall made for the best cat portrait ever:

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Gentle Icelandic Horses and Soothing Secret Lagoon

September 25, 2015

About to leave for Reykjavik..our time here at Minniborgir Cottages has come to an end.  Must pack and get some breakfast.  So here are photos from yesterday with some captions.  Brevity at its best!

Sydra Horse Farm near Fludir: home of the gentle beautiful Icelandic horse I rode

Sydra Horse Farm near Fludir: home of the gentle beautiful Icelandic horse I rode

Pia and me on our horses. She rode Prince and I rode Gluntz

Pia and me on our horses.

Our riding guide Noemi, from Switzerland

Our riding guide Noemi, from Switzerland

Noemi's horse and countryside

Noemi’s horse and countryside (kind of hard to take photos while on a horse)

Such beautiful horses!

Such beautiful horses!

Sweet kitty at the horse farm

Sweet kitty at the horse farm

Picked up the others from their hike after our horse ride: Bev

Picked up the others from their hike after our horse ride: Bev

Did something rather unusual!  We ate at an Ethiopian restaurant for lunch.  Delicious.  Julie B can speak a little Ethiopian and made fast friends with the owner.

Did something rather unusual! We ate at an Ethiopian restaurant for lunch. Delicious. Julie B can speak a little Ethiopian and made fast friends with the owner.  Who would have thought to have this experience in Iceland??

Then off to the Secret Lagoon, the best of the hot springs so far, very natural setting, and deeply relaxing.

Then off to the Secret Lagoon, the best of the hot springs so far, very natural setting, and deeply relaxing.

Bridget and Bill soaking in the hot springs at the Secret Lagoon

Bridget and Bill soaking in the hot springs at the Secret Lagoon

I even did a session of Water Yoga (I think I may have a new career as a Water Yoga Instructor)..I only lasted about 15 minutes before I needed to stop, get out, get rehydrated and cool down.  the water was wonderfully warm and the day SUNNY!

I even did a session of Water Yoga (I think I may have a new career as a Water Yoga Instructor)..I only lasted about 15 minutes before I needed to stop, get out, get re-hydrated and cool down. the water was wonderfully warm and the day SUNNY!  (Fran and Karin)

Sicilian Cats II

January 15, 2015
Scruffers Cuddling

Scruffers Cuddling

What better way to make my re-entry into the 2015 World of Blogging than to post some of my favorite photos of cats!  This blog is dedicated to my friends’ father, Daddy Don, who loved cats.  He especially loved Italian cats.  Strays?  He loved them even more!  When in Italy, he’d buy cat food and fed legions of stray cats.

All of the photos below were shot in Sicily:

Cats make you happy! My daddy's cousin and one of his many many cats!

Cats make you happy:  my daddy’s cousin and one of his many cats.

Black Roof Cat

Black Cat Green Eyes

Proud Mamma

Proud Mamma I

Proud Mamma II

Proud Mamma II

Sicilian Cats

Sicilian Cats

Well fed cat

Well fed cat: I live here

Another view of Signore Gatto

Another view of Signore Gatto

Hanging out

Hanging out

Greek Temple Cat

Sicilian Greek-Temple Cat

Es

To Your Health: Salute!

Out all night, snooze all day

rough night, sleep in

Sono stanchissimo (I'm very tired!)

Sono stanchissimo (I’m very tired!)

Sicilian Cats

October 6, 2014
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You don’t have to love cats to love these cats!  They are adorable and they are all Sicilian cats.  They seem to be everywhere. They especially love to hang out around the ancient Greek temples or in the Greek theaters or Roman amphitheaters.

I haven’t had much time to blog, but had to post these cat photos.

As I sit and write, everyone has gone to bed after a full day starting out with yoga followed by an  outing with our fantastic guide Graziella, who guided us to Siracusa, Ortigia, and Noto.  Another beautiful day in paradise!  I can’t express enough how blessed I feel to have yet another beautiful group of yogis to share this week with.  I really love our group and everyone is ever so enchanted by Sicily, which-of course- makes me so happy!

It is warm out this evening. The sound of the surf is so calming.  Our villa sits on the bay and I can see the lights of Catania, at the foot of Mt. Etna, dancing and sparkling across the Ionian sea.  The night air smells of a mix of jasmine and the sea.  If the feeling of love had a smell, this would be it!

Enjoy these sweet kitties and know that we are all happy here in Sicily!  Am loving every single day here.  Our groups have been fantastic!!

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A Valley Like This

September 11, 2014

Driving along the North Cascades Scenic Highway is a spectacular experience.  The Washington Pass is breathtaking, made all the more special because the highway eventually leads to Mazama, Washington, to a gorgeous cabin where we spent a few days with our friends Kathryn and Ben.

I was very struck by the fact that William Stafford’s poem, A Valley Like This, was displayed on a huge panel at one of the lookout points along the North Cascades Scenic Highway.  The poem is so beautiful…don’t you agree?

William Stafford poem posted on one of the lookouts along the Cascade Scenic Highway

William Stafford poem posted on one of the lookouts along the Cascade Scenic Highway

I was looking at these mountains as I read the William Stafford Poem

I was looking at these mountains as I read the William Stafford Poem

Ah, one more view

Ah, one more view

Below are more photos from our scenic drive and our stay in Mazama.  Interspersed is some free-writing from our precious days spent with Kathryn and Ben.

The Cascades...

The Cascades…

though this streak of fine weather persists, autumn is sneaking her way into the scene…cool nights tinge the leaf tips of maples and other deciduous trees to reveal hints of red, gold, and orange highlighted leaves in the morning…and though these mornings are cool, mountain sun dazzles us by noon, pine tree oils warm up and send their fragrance into the forest air, happily we hike mountain trails that lead us to waterfalls, rock walls, thick forest….monument trail leads us to eureka creek bridge where we have lunch…our damp workout-wear, free of our backpacks, quickly dries with the mountain sun

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“the long party that your life is…”  with Kathryn and Mountain-Man Rick

our friends decided to make santa barbara their home, sweet santa barbara where rick was born, where winter days are warm, california sun-kissed land… but the beauty of Mazama and their comfortable cabin with its tower overlooking the river, forest, and mountains beckons them to come visit this home, too..

outside/inside, a continium

outside/inside, a continuum

and so we are nurtured by Ben’s fabulous culinary skills, meals that still make my mouth water just thinking of them..feline entertainment and bengal kitty softness lies under my fingertips as furry friends preston and hampton vie for all the love that comes their way..they are beautiful gentle cats with wild rosettes on their fur, if love can be weighed -which we know is an impossible notion-preston and hampton are a combined 40 pounds of pure love and sweetness, more than a handful but enough joy to fill the hearts of our friends and us, their friends…

dinner time

dinner time

did you know the word "companion" literally means "the person you share your bread with"..cheers to our beautiful companions

the word “companion” literally means “the person you share your bread with”..cheers to our beautiful companions

two heads are better than one!  too bad i didn't get a photos of their handsome faces

two heads are better than one! too bad i didn’t get a photos of their handsome faces

we sit outside the cabin, looking out over the river and riverbed, which is drier than usual this time of the year after a hot hot summer with very little rain, and we see a teenage bear quickly crossing the river and stones…my heart skips a beat, then beats faster!  we are seeing a bear, rick calls out to her, she stops, looks at us, and continues on her way…nature welcomes us to mazama

cabin deck and river where we spotted our bear

cabin deck and river where we spotted our bear

Mountain Man heads back to the cabin

Mountain Man heads back to the cabin

..while i hang out on the hammock

..while i hang out on the hammock

Mazama...

Mazama…

Dog Days of Summer

August 13, 2014

Here’s a journey that must be told through photographs.  Our annual trip to Stehekin is always filled with such immense beauty and this year’s adventure was no exception.  Stehekin provides a sacred wilderness that seems to defy time.  Leslie, Winnie, and I filled our days with various hikes, while Rick spent his days fishing for trout on the Stehekin River and writing haiku.

Stehekin Garden

Stehekin Garden

Below are the many photos that should come with the scent of pine and pitch, the smell of the glacial light-blue river, the ever-present distant smell of a camp fire which, sadly, comes from the forest fires that are raging in various areas in Washington state.  The following photos should also come with sounds:  the tired fearless engine of the ol’ family truck as Leslie shifts it into gear and gets going, the rushing river, the tumbling waterfall of Rainbow Falls, the sound of our footsteps on the trails, the chattering of the squirrels as Winnie scares them up trees, the wisps of the wind coming off Lake Chelan, the never ending conversations that Leslie and I share on the trail, the high pitched hum of mosquitoes on the River Trail, and the occasional loud clapping of our hands as we come around a bend on the trail in order to warn any bears that might be just around the corner because,  no, we don’t want to surprise a bear!

Enjoy Stehekin, Washington and a few photos at the end from Chelan.

Our first evening sunset in Stehekin.  The smoke from the fires was kept at bay because of the wind (blowing in our favor), but once the wind died down, the Stehekin Valley slowly filled with smoke.  Oddly, the smoke made for what Leslie referred to as  "dramatic Cathedral lighting".

Our first evening sunset in Stehekin:  Tradition calls for a postprandial walk to Rainbow Falls.  On our way back from the falls, the sky turned red.  The smoke from the fires was kept at bay on this first night and the whole next day because of the wind (blowing in our favor). However,  once the wind died down, the Stehekin Valley slowly filled with smoke. Ironically, the smoke made for gorgeous photos and dramatic Cathedral lighting.

Back at the cabin, Winnie kept busy chasing squirrels up trees.

Back at the cabin, Winnie kept busy chasing squirrels up trees.

A visit to Stehekin is not complete without a visit to The Garden, where I stocked up on the garden's veggies, fruit, and goat cheese.

A visit to Stehekin is not complete without a visit to The Garden, where I stocked up on the garden’s veggies, fruit, and goat cheese.

Dahlia I (dinner plate size!)

Dahlia I (dinner plate size!)

Dahlia II

Dahlia II

Dahlia III  Karl grows these dazzlers in his garden. I love the variety in the Dahlia family of flowers.

Dahlia III   Karl grows these dazzlers in his garden. I love the variety in the Dahlia family of flowers.

And this year, Karl added a roofed structure to protect his fridge and tables bearing honey, beeswax candles, salves, and herbs.  Beautiful Navaho weaving.

And this year, Karl added a roofed structure to protect his fridge and tables bearing honey, beeswax candles, salves, and herbs. Beautiful Navaho weaving.

Winnie is very comfortable in the old truck!

Winnie is very comfortable in the old truck!  We think she had a truck in her pre-rescued life.

Reminders of fires past....

Reminders of fires past….

Ah, this cold water feels good on my hot paws!  And it is oh-so-refreshing to drink!

“Ah, this cold water feels good on my hot paws! And it is oh-so-refreshing to drink!”

Woman's Best Friend  (I think of all the photos, this one captures the Lakeside Trail the best).

Woman’s Best Friend (I think of all the photos, this one captures the Lakeside Trail the best as well as the JOY these two have found in each other!).

Hair whipping wind coming off Lake Chelan

Hair-whipping wind coming off Lake Chelan

My friend Winnie

My friend Winnie  (Oh, by the way, the water really is that blue!  The water comes from melted glacial water carrying silt that creates this unique blue color.)

Back at the cabin, our Haiku-Fisherman Rick has caught us a dinner sized trout!

Back at the cabin, our Haiku-Fisherman Rick has caught us a dinner sized trout!

Rick in his fishing raft on the Stehekin River.

Rick in his fishing raft on the Stehekin River.

Sit and Stay a while!

Sit and Stay a while:  my reading bench

I know it says "River Trail" but it could have said "Mosquito Trail" and would have been more descriptive.  We have never encountered mosquitoes like this on the River Trail!  Deet Jungle Juice Off Repellent needed to be reapplied again and again, but worked and kept us going.  Met some firefighters at the trail head, one who tried to warn us about the mosquitoes (we thought he was being wimpy and exaggerating the whole thing because we have done this hike before and it is buggy but worthwhile, but, in fact, the firefighter was right!)  We later met a baby-faced forest ranger on the River Trail.  He had countless welts on his arms, so I sprayed him down with OFF and he was very thankful!

I know it says “River Trail” but it could have said “Mosquito Trail”, which would have been more descriptive. We have never encountered mosquitoes like this on the River Trail!  DEET Jungle Juice Off Repellent needed to be reapplied again and again, but worked and kept us going.

All good things come to an end and our time in Stehekin went by quickly.  This was taken before departure by float plane.  Here is our float plane waiting for us.  Rick had to carry Winnie.  Winnie looked like a damsel in distress hanging on to Rick. with her hind legs clamping down on his hip bones and her front paws on his shoulders!  You can see how much smoke from the forest fires has moved into the Stehekin Valley.

All good things come to an end and our time in Stehekin went by quickly. This was taken before departure by float plane. Here is our float plane waiting for us. You can see how much smoke from the forest fires has moved into the Stehekin Valley.

Back in Chelan:  Miss Coco

Back in Chelan:  Full-Figured Coco (she is adorable!)

Mr. Tickman with his pose of total abandon and his belly that begs to be pet.  This little boy magically wriggled his way into the Fichtner household.

Mr. Tickman with his pose of total abandon and his belly that begs to be pet. This little boy magically wriggled his way into the Fichtner household.

Irresistible Tickman

Irresistible Tickman

I think this bowl of kibble says it all!

I think this bowl of kibble says it all!

And lastly, this is MY hydrangea!  Leslie's mom planted her and called her Francesca.

And lastly, this is MY hydrangea! Leslie’s mom planted this bush and called her Francesca.  This makes me so happy!

30 Shades of Green

May 12, 2014
Bavarian Landscape: 30 Shades of Green

Bavarian Landscape: 30 Shades of Green

 

Hello from Hindelang in the Bavarian Alps.  I only have one precious week here visiting dear friends Tom and Ursula.  My journey from Seattle to Hindelang was long, but, three planes and three trains later, I am now ensconced in this beautiful green village, Hindelang.  The week ahead will be filled with hiking, great times with Tom and Ursula, yoga in the evenings followed by wonderfully healthy light dinners.

We went on a hike today to Schwarzenberghutte, a lodge and lunch stop at 1380 meters.  The trails were muddy, the air about as fresh as it gets, a few cows were out munching on fresh grass and wild flowers, and the weather cold and wet.  As we gained altitude, rain gave way to snow.  Before we left, Ursula lent me one of her rain ponchos, which kept me both dry and warm.

The title of this blog came to me as I was taking in all the various shades of green in this alpine terrain. I have tried to capture the shades of green and the mist and experience of being here through the photos below.

Our winding path and green landscape

winding path and green landscape

Slopes of Green and snow covered mountain in the background

slopes of Green and snow covered mountain in the background

Poncho-clad Tom and Ursula

Poncho-clad Tom and Ursula  (and snowdrops/raindrops on the camera lens)

Tom (looking a little like Superman)

Tom (looking a little like Superman)

Cheese plate at the Schwarzenberghutte, a lodge run by a friendly man named Albert

Cheese plate at the Schwarzenberghutte, a lodge run by a friendly man named Albert

30 Shades of Gray

Tom and Ursula seem to have been photo-shopped right into the 30 Shades of Green Landscape.

Green Perspectives

Green Perspectives

A new friend!  "Now tell me the truth...Do I look chubby in my fur?"

A new furry friend!  Imagined dialog:  “Now tell me the truth…Do I look chubby in my fur?”

YogaKurse means Yoga Course and not Yoga Curse (just in case you can't read German and that crossed your mind!).  Special class for men!  I absolutely love this.  In this tiny town, there is a yoga course uniquely for men.

YogaKurse means Yoga Course and not Yoga Curse (just in case you can’t read German and that crossed your mind!). Special class for men! I absolutely love this. In this tiny town, there is a yoga course uniquely for men.

Wooden Door: detail

Wooden Door: detail

Gotta love flowers, especially when the colors jump out at you like this.

Gotta love flowers, especially when the colors jump out at you like this.

 


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