Archive for the ‘coastal living’ Category

Cooking as Therapy

December 11, 2018

In my last blog post, I included some photos of some dishes I made last weekend and I mentioned that cooking is therapy for me.  I think a lot of people can relate to cooking as therapy.  In this blog post, I will include some recipes for you.

Thai Shrimp Coconut Curry

What you should know about this dish is that I made up this recipe. I’ve made enough Thai dishes that I have a feel for which ingredients go well together in a Thai curry dish. I wonder if my friend Joon Joonwong from Bangkok will laugh when he sees my recipe! (He reads my blog!)  Many Thai dishes call for sugar. Instead of sugar, I use roasted sweet potatoes. They give the sweet taste without having to use processed sugar and by roasting them, they don’t completely melt in this dish. Instead, roasting the sweet potatoes gives the potatoes a firm texture.  Plus, sweet potatoes have good nutritional content and are healthy to eat:

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene). They are also a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. Additionally, they are a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and phosphorus.

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Peel and cube two sweet potatoes. Toss them in olive oil, crushed garlic (about 4 cloves of garlic), salt, and pepper and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about a half an hour or until they are cooked through.

Chop one yellow onion and saute it in coconut oil.  (I made the saute directly in my Le Creuset Cast Iron Pot, pictured above).

Slice one green pepper and add to the mix above and saute it.

Peel and slice about 6-8 large carrots.  When the onion is translucent and the green pepper softened, add carrots to the above mixture.

Meanwhile, add the contents of one can of coconut milk to the onion, pepper and carrot mixture.  The carrots will not yet be cooked through when you add the coconut milk.

Add two-three tablespoons of Green Curry Paste to the saute mixture and the coconut milk (Thai Kitchen brand is the one I used, see photo below). The paste has ginger in it and is very tasty.

When the sweet potatoes are roasted, add them to the mix.  At this time I also add salt and one tablespoon of sambal (use more if you like spicy!). Sambal is a Thai pepper paste which I buy in Pike Place Market, but is available at most stores in the Seattle area. The one I use is Huy Fong Foods Sambal Oelek Fresh Ground Chili Paste. It comes in an 8 oz bottle.

Add the juice of one lime.

Simmer the curry. Stir it often.  When the carrots are cooked (or soft), add shrimp. Use fresh shrimp or, if frozen, defrost first.  How much shrimp did I put in?  A lot!  At least 12-14 large shrimp. They were not in their shells, but still had tails on. Cook the shrimp 3 to 4 minutes. Doesn’t take long. Don’t over cook. Cooking time depends on the size of the shrimp.

Serve with brown Thai rice.

Vasiliki’s Greek Salad

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Lucky me! My friend Vasiliki has had me over for lunch a few times recently.  “Let me just put together a salad.” And voila, she puts together a salad so good that I have to reproduce it, again and again.  “Oh, it’s so easy. Everyone makes salads like this, don’t they?” She actually thinks everyone makes salads this delicious!

Add the following in a bowl (you can decide the amounts of most ingredients).

Feta Cheese (cubed)  You can buy really good feta cheese from Trader Joe’s.  Not sure where Vasiliki gets her feta. I’ll have to ask!

Cherry tomatoes (sliced in half  or Roma tomatoes if you prefer)

Celery (slice about 4-6 stalks very thin).  Don’t be shy. Use a lot of celery!Vasiliki strips the celery of the long threads before slicing them.  This completely alters the texture of the celery, leaving it crunchy but not stringy or hard to chew.

Green Onions/Scallions (5-8 scallions, chopped)

Black Olives (Vasiliki tosses them in whole and you have to spit out the pits as you eat!)

Capers

Garlic (Vasiliki uses garlic salt. I use a little freshly chopped garlic) Warning: Everyone will know you just had Vasiliki’s Greek Salad.

Dress the salad with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and oregano.

Mamma Gallo’s Spinach Balls

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This recipe is one of my favorites and makes a great appetizer! It’s healthy and a great way to eat your greens! I will include my mom’s original recipe and you will also see in my notes below that I have adapted it in many ways.

One of the biggest adaptations is that I only sometimes use spinach. Often, I use all sorts of Power Greens that I grow in my garden: kale, chard, mustard greens, collards are the ones I love most. I harvest the greens, steam them, cool them, squeeze out the excess fluid and replace them with the spinach in the recipe below.

Honestly, who needs polpette/meatballs when you can have these?

20 oz frozen spinach, chopped (Fran’s version: fresh spinach/power greens such as kale, chard, mustard greens, or collards steamed, cooled and squeezed of its excess liquid)
7 oz package of Herb Stuffing Mix (Fran’s version: about two cups of Italian seasoned bread crumbs)
3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1 tsp garlic, finely minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 lb butter, melted (Fran’s version: I never use butter. Instead I use olive oil)

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Finely chop the greens. Saute the onions and add the garlic to the saute at the very end. Mix all ingredients together and make into walnut-sized balls.  Note: if mixture is too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If mixture is too dry, add one extra egg. It should be very easy to form firm balls Line a baking dish or cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the walnut-sized balls on the lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 F

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Winter Light

December 8, 2018

Clear skies, scant clouds, crispy cold days, and frosty nights lead me towards the essence of the Winter Solstice.  At the ocean side, under the comfort and warmth of my feather bed, I sleep with the window wide open, while Rick sleeps a fitful stint on the sofa, wracked with the facial nerve pain of shingles. I wake up to the churning of the waves several times during the night, wondering how he is tolerating lu fuocu di sant’Antoniu, the Fire of Saint Anthony, as shingles are called in Sicilian. The cold air and clear skies bring him no relief. I drift back to sleep, somewhat ashamed of my own comfortable and strong body as I dip into my dreams. I dream about my dad. I dream about my maternal grandmother. I dream they are with me, talking to me, giving me advice, guiding me lovingly. My dad stays close to me in my dreams, but my mother does not.  As in real life, my father’s presence looms large in my dreams.  I look into his green eyes, his dark sun-kissed North African-like skin, and I smell the scent of his skin. In my dreams.  I feel peace when he comes to sit beside me. My grandmother cracks me up with her worrisome looks and her fretting over matters that seem trivial to me.  My father’s calming presence overrides her worries.  If only I could make these dreams last forever.

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The sun comes up. The sun casts long winter shadows. I ask Rick to bundle up and go for a walk with me on the beach.  I am a planner. My mind is often at work.  Yoga keeps me present.  Yoga, teaching, meditation, reading, cooking, hiking, and writing all keep me in the present moment. And walking on the beach, a mere 34 degrees Fahrenheit with a stiff wind cutting into my white rain-and-wind-proof coat, shoves me into the present.  The coat makes me look billowy, but the coat keeps me warm, so it doesn’t matter, really.

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We go back home and Rick heads over to the comfort of his new friend, the sofa. He draws the blanket up to his neck and he sleeps fitfully. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome produces pain that is exhausting.  This could linger for six weeks.  A terrible virus that may have affected the hearing in his left ear.  Antibiotics and antivirals are the name of the game. Sleep heals. As he sleeps, I go out into the garden and harvest our healthy greens:  mustard greens, chard, kale, and collards.  I come in the house and I cook up a storm. Cooking is my therapy. The ocean house smells of heaven and ocean. I wonder if Rick dreams of Michelin-starred kitchens as I cook and create divinely tasting foods.

L1410076Below: A delicious Greek salad that my friend Vasiliki makes for me when I have lunch with her. I have memorized how she makes it and I make it now and think of longevity!

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I transform super-greens, fresh from the garden, into vegetables balls.  They are easy to pack for my lunches, easy to plop into the mouth!

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And back in Seattle, yesterday I went for a walk at Green Lake, my own front yard.  Throngs of people were walking, jogging, bundled up, and enjoying the winter light.

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Winter Beauty Berry (above)

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I went out with my Leica and captured a red maple leaf, hanging by a thread, glistening in the sun.

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I am certain my Maple Leaf was the last of its kind on earth.

MONTANA YOGA RETREAT:

Three spaces still open for Montana Walking Lightly Ranch Yoga and Snowshoeing Retreat, February 15-18, 2019 in Whitefish, Montana (fly to Kalispell and our shuttle will pick you up and take you to the ranch.  Shuttle included in the retreat fee. Snowshoes provided.). More INFORMATION

Gratitude to Mother Earth

November 22, 2018

Prayer for the Great Family

(after a Mohawk Prayer)

Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day–
and to her soil: rich, rare, and sweet

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in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing light-changing leaf
and fine root-hairs; standing still through wind
and rain; their dance is in the flowing spiral grain

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in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and the silent
Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
clear spirit breeze

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
freedoms and ways; who share with us their milk;
self-complete, brave, and aware

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
holding or releasing; streaming through all
our bodies salty seas

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in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through
trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
bears and snakes sleep–he who wakes us–

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in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Great Sky
who holds billions of stars–and goes yet beyond that–
beyond all powers, and thoughts
and yet is within us–
Grandfather Space.
The Mind is his Wife

so be it.

-Gary Snyder

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A short note about the Mohawk People:

The Mohawk Indians were farming people. Mohawk women planted crops of corn, beans, and squash and harvested wild berries and herbs. Mohawk men hunted for deer and elk and fished in the rivers. Traditional Mohawk foods included cornbread, soups, and stews, which they cooked on stone hearths.

And a short description of Gary Snyder:

Snyder’s writing focuses on environmental concerns and Zen Buddhism. He is an environmental activist who is known for his simple, clear style, as well as his first-person descriptions of his experiences in the natural world. In 1975, his collection Turtle Island was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Gary Snyder is an American man of letters. Perhaps best known as a poet, he is also an essayist, lecturer, and environmental activist. He has been described as the “poet laureate of Deep Ecology“. Snyder is a winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the American Book Award.

Lastly, here is a definition of Deep Ecology:

Deep Ecology is a holistic approach to facing world problems that brings together thinking, feeling, spirituality and action. It involves moving beyond the individualism of Western culture towards also seeing ourselves as part of the earth.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yoga in the Company of Dogs

August 19, 2018

Ruby – Cleopatra – Sidney – Bo 

These four furry characters graced a recent yoga session I led on Marrowstone Island this past weekend.

Don’t know where Marrowstone is?  Neither did I!  This was my first visit to Marrowstone Island, a small island located just 15 miles from Port Townsend.  I was visiting a friend who has a weekend home on the island. We had such a dreamy relaxing time doing yoga outdoors, enjoying an evening dinner together on the large front porch, taking long beach walks, foraging blackberries and apples, eating cobbler. The sky finally cleared of smoke from the terrible Canadian forest fires.

844 fortunate people make beautiful Marrowstone their home.  I saw a sign on a beach house that said:

If you are lucky enough to live on the beach, you are lucky enough.

But back to Yoga in the Company of Dogs!  Not every culture sees dogs as a source of great company, as creatures capable of great affection, as sources of great pleasure and undying faithful love.  I am not a dog owner, but I love dogs.  Dogs can make you feel loved like no other.  They can make you feel safe.  They do not judge people based on social status, physical appearance, or personal hygiene.  No human will ever celebrate your presence the way your dog will when you come home after a couple hours or a few days of being away.

I’ll bet you have heard this prayer:

Lord, help me be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.

Research shows that oxytocin spikes in both human and canine brains when a dog gazes at its owner.  If you are reading this blog post, and have a dog, you probably already knew this before scientists measured oxytocin levels.  And if you are from a country or a culture where dogs (or cats) are seen in a different light and not esteemed in this way, you may be surprised to learn that many or most dog (cat) owners in my culture see their dogs (cats) as full-fledged family members. We will go to great measures and shell out great amounts of money to seek medical/veterinarian care when our pets are ill. Often, in my culture, dogs (or cats) are our best friends.

So it is not surprising that the yoga session I held on Saturday morning, in the company of four dogs (Ruby, Cleopatra, Sidney, and Bo) was delightful and deeply relaxing.  I have done yoga in the company of dogs many times before.  They become deeply relaxed.  Tiny Cleopatra, a chihuahua who is normally very nervous around strangers, became so relaxed that she got out of her little cuddle bed and ventured out to sniff at my legs.  She even started interacting with the larger dogs, who were equally relaxed.

All the dogs were off leash, but none strayed very far.  Toward the end of the yoga session, all four dogs were crowded near us.  Some were lying in Shavasana-like poses.  Others were finding comfortable perches on our bodies.

Giving Thanks

November 27, 2017

Last week, my classes were focused on gratitude.  And I have been especially filled with gratitude these past few days.  Thanksgiving and my birthday invite me to be thankful for the life I have, and for the people in my life: family, friends, students.  I have immense gratitude to be living in one of the most beautiful places in the continental USA, one filled with pristine forests, rivers, wildlife (we saw a herd of elk today!!), hiking and ski trails, and all the bounty that nature provides.  I am grateful for my own effort I put into maintaining my relatively good health.  Embracing yoga and making the yoga practice a part of my life, keeping stress levels low, eating a healthy, organic diet, keeping cardio-active, doing weight training, and getting enough sleep are disciplines woven into the fabric of my being.

I also have tremendous gratitude for my parents, who not only gave me life, but also gave me the best in education.  My parents grew up very poor in Sicily.  They both had to stop school in the 8th grade because of poverty and the need to work to help their parents make ends meet.  Instead of continuing on to the 9th grade, my father left school and did hard manual labor in the fields (no tractors or plows used) and my mother became a seamstress.  They worked hard their entire lives.  As far back as I can remember, they always told me that I’d go to college and, no matter how much my university tuition would cost them, they would cover it and give me the educational opportunities they never had.  And they held true to their dream.  They started this dream by sending me to private Catholic school from early on and supported me throughout my university years.

So thank you, mom and dad.  I am eternally grateful.

To celebrate my birthday and Thanksgiving, two great days of gratitude, Rick and I went to La Push on the Olympic Peninsula.  Rick’s Grandma Glenda went to La Push regularly and she always told us how very special it is.  It is remote, a long way from Seattle. The ocean is wild, and the beaches strewn with much enormous driftwood. We have been there four consecutive years in a row and we now understand why Grandma Glenda went there year after year!

Below you will see many photos from the weekend, along with descriptions of the place and of my experience there.

In gratitude, Fran

Below: Lake Crescent, the third deepest lake in the USA.  Our long drive to La Push passes this lake:

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Arrival at La Push: stormy skies, wind, frothy sea, sun setting early

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My new rain boots. Every year, I have seen these boots for sale at the resort reception.  I leave, later wondering with much regret why I didn’t buy them. This year, they were on clearance and I was lucky enough to get the last pair in my size!  They were meant to be mine:

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La Push is on the Quileute tribal lands and these boots are decorated with the tribe’s hummingbird design:

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I was obsessed by both my new boots and this RED driftwood that looks like red-hot burning coals:

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IMG_0857And had to include the photo below..a friendly dog jumped into my photo as I was taking yet another shot of the RED driftwood:

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Most of the time we were there, it was storming.  At some point, the sky opened up…briefly. IMG_0862

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We cooked most of our own meals, but went out for breakfast twice.  There is one place to get a meal and we found it on our first trip to La Push.  Every time we go, we see a charming Quileute elder named Bev.  She always sits in the same seat in the restaurant. This time, as soon as she saw me, she held her arms wide open and gave me the warmest hug! She did the same for Rick. When she found out it was my birthday, she promptly disappeared for a while. I thought she left without saying goodbye, but she came back with a gift for me.  She gave me this precious woven basket, a miniature with a rose motif on one side and a duck on the other side, woven from cedar and local grasses:

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I had my heart set on buying fresh crab while out there, but we found out it is not quite yet the season. We saw crab pots everywhere..the crabbers are ready and waiting for the right time set out their pots.

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Salmon! The quote below comes from a board educating people about the importance of saving the salmon as they dwindle in population:

Generation upon Generation, the salmon have returned to our waters offering of themselves so that the Quileute People might live. There was a time, not long ago, salmon were many. Now they are few.  Generation upon Generation the salmon have helped the Quileute People.  Now the Quileute People must help the salmon.

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You can see the small island offshore, beyond the boats. It is called James Island, but in ancient times, the island was called Aka’lat, Top of the Rock, in the language of the Quileute People.  Aka’lat was the burial ground for chiefs. It was also a fortress in times of defense.  The steep walls protected the Quileute People.  The island is unoccupied, but the Quileute People believe the spirit of their ancestors live there.

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Quileute Tribal Art: Salmon

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Rialto Beach is a nearby gem in the Olympic National Park:

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Dancer’s Pose on slick/wet driftwood:

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The sea brings in a sofa!

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Whidbey Island Visit

October 16, 2017

My weekend seems to have begun on Thursday evening when I went to see the dress rehearsal for the opera, The Barber of Seville.  It was delightful!

Then on Friday, after teaching a morning yoga class downtown, I went to Whidbey Island for two days. We were blessed with gorgeous autumn weather and we went hiking at Ebey’s Landing.  It’s one of my favorite hikes.

L1400087You can see the trail goes along a cliff overlooking the sea! Wind, sea, cliffs, prairie, forest, fields, views, history, a nearby historical graveyard, Ebey’s Landing has it all.  L1400089

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Fields along the hike:

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Gigantic strands of kelp on the beach:

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After the hike, hungry as ever, we headed over to the Front Street Grill in Coupeville for a Penn Cove clam dinner.  The clams were the best ever, done up Thai style in a coconut milk sauce.  Then back to Linda’s to rest and relax.

Linda’s decor is magical and festive:

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On Saturday, I woke up to an exquisite sunrise.  Luckily, I dashed outside to get a photo because the spectacular show didn’t last very long:

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The sunrise was the perfect opening scene for the one-day private home-style retreat I led that day.  We had an all-levels active Hatha Yoga session in the morning, followed by a delicious lunch and an invigorating walk to Meerkerk Gardens.  In the afternoon, we enjoyed a long restorative yoga session. For some crazy reason, I decided to transport all my bolsters over from Ocean Shores to Whidbey for the afternoon restorative session.  Glad there was space in the car for them!  It made for a wonderful session!

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Meerkerk Gardens have a grand collection of rhododendrons and plenty of other trees, including maples, which were in full autumn splendor:

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Hope you are enjoying this Autumn Season!

October Splendor in the Garden, at the Coast

October 1, 2017

I went out to the garden to cut flowers for a bouquet.  Before stepping outside, I wondered which flowers, if any were to be found, would work for my bouquet because it is so late in the flowering season and most flowers have already done their blooming. It is already the first day of October and the leaves are starting to turn red so you can imagine my delight at finding many blooms for my bouquet!

How can flowers make me so happy?  Flowers and sunshine!  Below are the flowers I cut and you can see the bouquet I created from the autumn blooms.

The hydrangea below is a very special type called Ayesha Hydrangea.  One of my favorite aspects of this hydrangea is the cupped petals.  Each petal looks like a little spoon.  When it rains, each petal holds a drop of water.  The flowers are heavy and precious!  Sadly, I’ve heard another name for this species of hydrangea is called “mop-head”.  I hesitated to include that bit of information.  I don’t like the name.  It takes away from the beauty of this remarkable flower. Everyone who sees my Ayesha instantly falls in love with “her” and wants a cutting or a start of this bush.  I need to buy some rooting hormone and get some promised starts started!

Long ago, I taught a little girl by the name of Sophie.  She was very young and yet her parents insisted she learn Italian from me.  We are talking some 20 years ago.  I believe Sophie was four years old at the time. So I taught Sophie Italian using the TPR technique.  Total Physical Response technique is a method used to teach children language, using physical responses and physical exercise as a means to engage in interactive learning.  It worked well with Sophie! In return, in lieu of payment in cash, her father, a landscape architect, paid me in bushes, rare flowers, and trees!  Talk about a cool barter system!  This rare Ayesha hydrangea is one of the plants I earned in the teaching/plant barter.  After 20 years, Ayesha is still thriving and as beautiful as ever.

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Here are a few other hydrangeas in bloom today, October 1st.

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Other flowers to make it into my vase were fuschias and the fronds of Lucifer Crocosmia.  You can correctly suppose the flowers of Lucifer are a hellish (or heavenly) RED.  I didn’t have the heart to cut the last of the crocosmia flowers, especially the rare yellow ones that seem to bloom only every other year (also part of the teaching/plant barter deal).

Below are the last of Lavatera (Mallow) flowers. They also made it into the vase.

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The rhododendrons have already set their gigantic buds for next year’s spectacular flowering performance!  I am a garden nut for good reason.  Flowers are my garden’s song.  Flowers are life unfolding!

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And the bouquet!  So pretty.  I was surprised to see how well the white single petaled anemones did this year.  They made it into the bouquet, too.

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Sunshine, don’t be fooled!

Big fat billowing clouds give no hint of the sudden squall that will soak me, within seconds, to the bone.

Upon arrival to the beach, a blue kite dances in the sky, a girl with yellow boots frolics in the sand, chasing waves.

Sweet youth mock me not!  Like a child, I search for moonstones and agates and fill my pockets with gems.

The grass seed-heads on the dunes are illuminated by the early October sun.

Today’s clouds, a painting waiting to be painted.

This is your lucky day! This is my lucky day!  Ours to celebrate!

Happy October!

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To Fish or Not to Fish

August 20, 2017

This past weekend, I went fishing at the mouth of the Columbia River with my friend Jayne and her family.  Jayne’s nephew, Matt Chandler of Get Hooked Northwest Guide Service, is the skipper and fishing guide of the boat we were on.  Matt is the best skipper and guide ever!  Not that I have anyone else to compare him to because the only times I have gone salmon fishing have been with him, but his patience and teaching skills are commendable!  He really cares about us, keeps us safe, does his best to ensure that we have an overall positive and exciting experience.  He does his best to make sure we catch our quota on the fish and is very ethical when it comes to all the rules and regulations concerning the fishing industry. He is also deeply respectful of the river and the life it holds.  The river, the fish, the clients are a part of his livelihood.

We did our best, but Jayne and I didn’t actually reel in any salmon this year.  It was not for lack of trying.  However, fish or no fish, we still had the best experience ever.  I had the opportunity to meet more members of Jayne and Matt’s extended family and enjoyed getting to know them.  At the end of the fishing day,  Matt’s sister-in-law Kathryn gave Jayne and me one of her freshly caught salmon because she didn’t want us to go home empty-handed.  I was deeply moved by her gesture of kindness.  Once I realized that I just might not catch a salmon this year, I started planning in my mind how I would go to Pike Place Market to buy myself a salmon. Kathryn’s generosity and thoughtfulness didn’t make that shopping trip necessary.

So I didn’t have to go through the moral dilemma of fighting with a beautiful salmon, or of watching the beautiful creature taking its last breath of air before a quick end to its life.  No, all I had to do this time was quietly thank Kathryn’s salmon for its life and will do so again as I prepare to cook it for dinner tonight.

I eat mostly a plant-based diet (and fish/seafood).  I know you will think me strange, but sometimes it even breaks my heart to pull up a perfect head of lettuce from my garden or to pull up beets whose green leaves look so happy growing in the sun.  Imagine the magnification of these thoughts when I pull a salmon out of the water.  I would have liked to reel in a salmon, but, frankly, there was a part of me that felt relieved I didn’t have to go through all the inner dilemma of actually catching a fish.

Yes, strange me, I can’t wait to salmon fish again next year.   I already know that, if invited again, I will go. I will fish responsibly.  I will not waste.  I will be filled with gratitude for the life of the fish. I will also most likely go through the roiling dilemma of a person grappling with taking the life of another living creature fighting for its life.

Below are some photos from the fishing trip, along with a few related facts..

Below: arrival at the fishing pier.  Up at 4:45am.  At the dock just before 6am. Fishing by 6am.  Astoria, Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia river is such a gorgeous spot!

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7 Facts About The Columbia River  (from sparkpeople.com)

The “Columbia River” is one of the more magnificent rivers in the United States. The river’s headwaters actually begin inside Canada, but the majority of it flows through Washington State and along the Washington-Oregon border before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. A great deal is known about this important natural resource, but here are 7 facts you don’t know about the Columbia River.

1. 498 miles of the Columbia River’s total length of 1,243 miles is found in Canada.

2. Cape Disappointment marks the northern edge of the mouth of the Columbia River. It received its name from British Captain John Meares who had searched for the river, couldn’t find it, and determined that it didn’t exist.

3. More than 40 percent of all wheat that is exported from the entire United States is at one time or another barged down the Columbia River.

4. There are 14 hydroelectric dams that produce power on the Columbia River, three of them lie within the borders of Canada’s British Columbia.

5. Despite the fact that the Columbia River starts in Canada and flows south into Washington State, the first 200 miles of the river actually flows northwest from its source.

6. The largest dam on the Columbia River is the Grand Coulee Dam. The original planned height of the dam was to be between 200 and 300 feet, during construction the planned height of the dam was changed to 500 feet high.

7. The three Columbia River dams that are found inside Canada, Mica Dam, Duncan Dam and Hugh Keenleyside Dam, were all built in the late 1960s and early 1970s and were required as part of the Columbia River Treaty between the United States and Canada. They are all mainly used for water storage, although power production was enabled at two of the dams years after they were completed.

The Columbia River is a great source of hydroelectric power and recreational opportunities. It has developed into one of the more important resources that the Pacific Northwest has and is used to the benefit of the entire nation. There are a number of worthwhile attractions and locations to visit up and down the entire length of the Columbia River.

Below: Kathryn looking out at the rising sun on the Columbia

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Sunrise:

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Sunrise casts its golden light over the Astoria-Megler Bridge.  The bridge is actually green but the sun makes it appear golden. The bridge stretches 4.1 miles across the mouth of the Columbia.  It’s a cantilever through-truss bridge made of steel and cement.  Construction began in 1962 and the bridge was completed in 1966.  It is very high on one end to allow ships to pass under on their way to and from Portland, Oregon.

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Below are a few facts about salmon  (from Defenders.org).  The most shocking fact is that salmon are down to 3% of what the numbers where at the time of Lewis and Clark!  No wonder we are restricted in what we can catch.

Salmon is the common name for fish in the order Salmoniformes. They live in the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and are anadromous, which means most types of salmon are born in fresh water, migrate to the sea, and return to freshwater to reproduce, or “spawn.” Salmon appearance varies greatly from species to species. Species like chum salmon are silvery-blue in color while some have black spots on their sides, like the Atlantic salmon. Still others, like the cherry salmon, have bright red stripes. Most of these species maintain one color when living in fresh water, then change color when they are in salt water.

Diet

In general, young salmon eat insects, invertebrates and plankton; adults eat other fish, squid, eels, and shrimp. Unlike all other salmon, the sockeye salmon has a diet that consists almost entirely of plankton.

Population

Did You Know?

Beaver ponds provide critical habitat for juvenile salmon.

It is difficult to estimate population numbers due to the large number of species and wide geographic range. However, population numbers in the Atlantic Ocean and in parts of the Pacific, as well as the Colorado River, have dropped drastically from what they were historically. In the Colorado River, for instance, salmon numbers are down to 3% of what they were during the time of Lewis and Clark.

Behavior

Most salmon are anadromous fish, meaning they are born in freshwater (rivers or streams), travel to and live much of their lives in salt water and return to freshwater to spawn. After spawning, all Pacific salmon and up to 50% of other species die within a few weeks. The salmon that do not die can spawn two or three more times.

There are a few species and subspecies of salmon, like the Danube salmon and the kokanee salmon, that spend their entire lives in fresh water and never migrate to the ocean.

Reproduction

When the female reaches the place where she will lay her eggs, she makes a depression in the riverbed with her tail, and then deposits her eggs in this depression. She waits for males to fertilize the eggs, then covers the depression and moves on to make another. Females will make as many depressions as it takes to lay all their eggs (up to seven depressions).

Our skipper Matt Chandler (standing) with his nephew Jimmy and his dad Jim.

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Fish on!  Matt helps Kathryn net her salmon.

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Stellar Sea Lions

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Summer Yoga Celebration

August 14, 2017

We held our annual Yoga on the Beach Retreat at Little Renaissance this weekend.  The forecast called for clouds, cool temperatures, and rain.  However, the cooler temperatures of 65 degrees, free-of-forest-fire clean air, and the blend of sometimes cloudy and sometimes sun-drenched skies made for a perfect weekend, weather-wise.

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We had yogis from Tucson, Arizona, Eugene, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.  What a lovely yoga-filled weekend it was!  Below you will see some photos as well as some of the readings participants shared on Saturday evening.

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Here is a reading on healing, read by Paula, written by Rachel Remens:

Healing is not a work of perfection or expertise. We are all healers. We heal with our wholeness, our humanity, all of our life experience, even our wounds. Our own wounds make us gentle with the wounds of others and able to trust the mystery of healing, not as a theory but from lived experience. Our vulnerability connects us to the vulnerability in others in compassionate and loving ways.

Healing is actually a worldview, a cosmology…. For a healer, the world is not broken and in need of fixing… the world is hidden. Everything and everyone has in themselves a hidden wholeness, a potential for growth, a dream of themselves. A healer reminds people. A healer befriends dreams. A healer is a feeder of dreams.

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I read the following by Danna Faulds:

It only takes a reminder to breathe,

a moment to be still, and just like that,

something in me settles, softens, makes

space for imperfection. The harsh voice

of judgment drops to a whisper and I

remember again that life isn’t a relay

race; that we will all cross the finish

line; that waking up to life is what we

were born for. As many times as I

forget, catch myself charging forward

without even knowing where I’m going,

that many times I can make the choice

to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk

slowly into the mystery.

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Gene read the following, written by Emily Carson:

Make of your Life a Flame

Blaze the path that burns for you. Light it up with your intention, with your willingness, with your intensity. Don’t just flicker here—burn.  You are not a light about to go out.  You could be here resolutely, absolutely.  You could burn every step you take.  You tread too gingerly on this planet. Scorch the earth where you walk. Be the fire that lives in you. You try not to offend, not to disrupt, not to upset, but for what? So that you will look behind you one day and see no footsteps?  Leave a trace here; the earth can take it. And your fellow humans, they can take it, too. They may be bruised and scratched a bit by your vitality at work, but we all get knocked around a little bit. It is still worth it. Make of your life a flame. It will destroy things, but only those that are ready to go.  Make of your language a torch. Let it light as well as burn. And make of your footfalls a purposeful path, a real and intended way. Change all the places you walk by changing the way you walk. Change the people you see by the way you look at them, with your tongue and your words. Change the planet; it will only evolve.  And I’m not saying you should intend this transformation; you should intend only your own intensity. Whatever happens then is right. Blaze your path. You are not living enough yet; your vitality is still squelched. Destroy everything in your way. Bless the earth that you scorch. Thank it for the chance to be alive, and leave it knowing it was there for you and you made the most of it.

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And the following poem was read by Melissa, author unknown:

Today

Outside my window a new day I see, and only I can determine what kind of day it will be.

It can be busy and sunny, laughing and gay, or boring and cold, unhappy and gray.

My own state of mind is the determining key, for I’m only the person I’ll let myself be.

I can be thoughtful and do all I can to help, or be selfish and think just of myself.

I can enjoy what I do and make it seem fun, or gripe and complain and make it hard on someone.

I can be patient with those who may not understand or belittle and hurt them as much as I can.

But I have faith in myself, and believe what I say, and I personally intend to make the best of each day.

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A Simple Mantra

May 24, 2017

So Hum

We breathe in.  We breathe out.

We inhale and silently and hear SO.

We exhale and silently and hear HUM.

Two words create internal sounds that bring us to reflections of beauty.

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So Hum (also spelled Soham). This Sanskrit mantra is made of two simple words which bring us to truth.  I AM THAT.  THAT I AM.  I am the beauty I see around me.  I am a reflection of the trees, the pond, the sky, the trail, the yogis bursting with life, and the exquisite property so tenderly loved.  I identify myself with the universe.

So Hum. The images tumble forth.  The yogis in the group become poets before my very eyes:

Iridescent blue of the damselfly on the pond, SO HUM

 (photo by Rick)

(photo by Rick)

Dark water, red leaves, blue dragonfly SO HUM

The barred owl casing the robin’s nest, SO HUM

(Rick's photo)

(Rick’s photo)

Eye of the owl  SO HUM

Purple blossoms falling on the grass SO HUM

Creek crashing through the sea SO HUM

Moss on the temple  SO HUM

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The color Chinese red on the house door  SO HUM

Path leading to the house where we do our yoga

The skittering wind  SO HUM

Beauty and artistry of the carved wood  SO HUM

(photo by Rick)

(photo by Rick)

Hummingbird by my red bandana  SO HUM

Kathy (wearing her red bandanna) and Dayna

Kathy (wearing her red bandana) and Dayna

So we took a day to experience the glorious nature of Vashon Island and revel in our unique surroundings.  We enjoyed a morning session of Hatha Yoga, followed by an organic lunch made with love from Karen Biondo, farmer of La Biondo Farm & Kitchen on Vashon Island. The weather was fine enough for us to eat at a long table outside, the inviting forest formed a backdrop to our meal.  After lunch, some of us went on an hour hike to Fern Cover and others took naps, walked solo around the property, rested, read, socialized, took time to stop and be.  Some forged new friendships.  After lunch, we met at the temple and meditated.  We also did some standing yoga on the temple grounds. Then we brought our  yoga session indoors again and finished up our yin session with a long shavasana.  A perfect day in so many ways.

One of the entrances to the Chinese Tea Merchant's House, where most of our yoga took place. Gigantic doors open up to the landscaped garden and forest beyond.

One of the entrances to the Chinese Tea Merchant’s House, where most of our yoga took place. Large doors open up to the landscaped garden and forest beyond. (Photo by Milo)

Rhododendron (photo by Rick)

Rhododendron (photo by Rick)

Leaves and Light (photo by Milo)

Leaves and Light (photo by Milo)

Lunchtime! (photo by Fran)

Lunchtime! (photo by Fran)

An exceptionally fine May day! We ate our Salad Nicoise at the outside table. (photo by Fran)

An exceptionally fine May day! We ate our Salad Nicoise at the outside table. (photo by Fran)

A hike to Fern Cove (photo by Fran)

A hike to Fern Cove (photo by Fran)

Rick reads poems at Fern Cove, at the end of Mill Creek Trail (photo by Fran)

Rick reads poems at Fern Cove, at the end of Mill Creek Trail (photo by Fran)

My playful friends!! (photo by Leslie S)

My playful friends!! (photo by Leslie S)

Yes, our chef gone upside down in headstand! (photo by Leslie S)

Yes, our chef Karen turning the world  upside down in headstand! (photo by Leslie S)

Rick's photo of us doing yoga outside of the temple!

Rick’s photo of us doing yoga outside of the temple!

End of the day...shavasana (nice enough to have doors open to the land and forest of Vashon Island.)

End of the day…shavasana (nice enough to have doors open to the land, fresh air, and forest of Vashon Island )

NEXT VASHON DAY RETREAT WILL BE HELD MAY 20, 2018.  NEVER TOO EARLY TO SIGN UP!  (just let me know in your comments below if you’d like to reserve your space and I will be in touch with you!)

And I leave you with a poem I read to the group on Sunday:

Prayer for the Great Family (after a Mohawk Prayer) Gary Snyder

Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day–
and to her soil: rich, rare, and sweet

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing light-changing leaf
 and fine root-hairs; standing still through wind 
and rain; their dance is in the flowing spiral grain

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and the silent
 Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
 clear spirit breeze

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
 freedoms and ways; who share with us their milk;
 self-complete, brave, and aware

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
 holding or releasing; streaming through all
 our bodies salty seas

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through 
trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
 bears and snakes sleep–he who wakes us–

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Great Sky
 who holds billions of stars–and goes yet beyond that–
beyond all powers, and thoughts 
and yet is within us–
Grandfather Space.
The Mind is his Wife

so be it.

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A very special place, indeed!


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