Archive for the ‘health’ Category

The Stones Do Speak!

June 9, 2019

I am in Greece with a group of yogis, enjoying every moment of this Greek adventure.  I will photo-document this trip and write a few words about the photos.

We started out with two nights in Athens.  Our hotel overlooked the Acropolis so when we did rooftop yoga in the morning, we had a most inspiring view.  About every fifteen minutes, the sound of church bells graced our yoga sessions. Later, we had a fantastic guide show us around the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum.

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These stones do speak of a rich and long history of Greek and Western civilization!

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Below we have Vasiliki and her cousin Nasi. Vasiliki is the brain-child and genius behind this incredible trip. Over the years, she kept suggesting we do a yoga trip to Greece.  Last year, we began the planning in earnest. The itinerary, the restaurants, and our two hotels are based on some of her favorite places to visit.  We could not be luckier to be on this retreat in Greece and have Vasiliki on this trip with us!

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Our group at the Acropolis in Athens:

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While still in Athens, we had dinner at the Port of Mikrolimanon, a small picturesque port, located near the commercial port of Piraeus.  Stunning setting and fantastic food.

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On our way to Nafpaktos, a lovely quiet town off the beaten track where we are staying for the bulk of our time, we passed this bridge:

The Rio–Antirrio Bridge (Greek: Γέφυρα Ρίου-Αντιρρίου), officially the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge, is one of the world’s longest multi-span cablestayed bridges and longest of the fully suspended type.

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Taken from a photograph in the small museum next to the bridge. The bridge was completed in 2004, just in time for the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Athens that year. Below is the opening torch bearing ceremony of the bridge and the Olympics!

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And the site of the original Olympics below.  I loved our day at the Olympic archaeological site with the Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Hera, the altar of the Olympic flame, the Stadium, and the archaeological museum.  This day was very hot, but oh so worth the outing!  Three of us ran the original Olympic race course. Yes, I am officially crazy to run that in 95 degree weather, but it was thrilling.

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All the museum pieces come directly from the Olympic site. They are so beautifully preserved and detailed.

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And last but not least, a magical late lunch in a Greek home.  When in Greece, eat like the Greeks! It was Vasiliki’s idea to have our main meals daily at 2pm.  It’s a great idea. That way, in the evenings, we can go to one of the many sidewalk cafes and enjoy some drinks and light appetizers (Greek meze). The food was fresh and delicious.  Our host, Maria, cooked all this amazing food served in her gorgeous home.  Her sister Vasuli helped serve the meal.

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Photo of Maria and Vasuli, our lovely hosts.  Gail took this photo (thank you, Gail!).  These sisters are two of FIVE sisters, just like my family!

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I knew I would love Greece, but I had no idea what that love meant until I came here!

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A Nature Sanctuary

May 13, 2019

Big news: Rick and I are putting our weekend ocean-side home in Ocean Shores, Washington on the market. Yes, we are selling our weekend home, our sanctuary.  We have had beautiful times there, many wonderful yoga retreats, and we will always hold dear the many memories of family and close friends coming out to spend precious time with us over the past twenty years.

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I can’t even begin to count all the meals I have cooked in this home, how many vegetables I have picked from the garden beds, how many bouquets of flowers I have arranged from the cut flowers that grow so profusely in the garden! Many readers of this blog post have been out to Ocean Shores for a yoga retreat.  Please read on and leave me a comment if you are interested in being the new happy owner of this very special home. Or simply peruse the photos and fall in love with a very special place!

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Our dream is to sell this home to someone who will appreciate the healing energy of this place, the beauty, and the tender loving care Rick and I have poured into this home for over 20 years. If we do not find a buyer amongst friends and acquaintances, then the home will go on the market with a local real estate agent. At this point, the sale of the house will be For Sale By Owner, contract to be drawn up by a real estate agent.

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OS House Real Estate Description

A one-of-a-kind home in Ocean Shores. Natural, secluded, skylighted, four-bedroom, two-full-bath, chalet-style craft house with externally accessed quarter basement and workshop on three-lot parcel (eligible for new boundary-line revisions) with sewer paid in full. Open great room, kitchen, dining area, living space, upper landing, and stairs. Oak and tile floors, hemlock trim, cherry wood cabinets, walk in pantry, cedar deck on three sides. Wood stove, hot tub, woodshed filled with wood, storage sheds, greenhouse, drip system, compost barrels, forest benches. Official wildlife reserve with mature flower, shrub, vegetable, herb, and fruit tree gardens surrounded by see-through deer-proof fences. Great for naturalists (we are on a bird migration path), gardeners, developers, families, artists, and second-homers. Less than ten minutes to the ocean beaches. This cozy creative forest home will sell fast.

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More information from Fran:

We call this home Little Renaissance. It is a sanctuary where you will experience the purest air and beautiful light. The skylights in the cathedral ceilings provide light even on the wildest stormy winter days. Little Renaissance is a home nestled in the woods, a place filled with good energy. When my parents came to visit, upon stepping foot into our home, they said in unison, “Quest’e ‘na casa di salute!” which translates to “This is a house of health!” Hearing that from them moved me deeply, because my parents were both in poor health and being in a healthy environment was of utmost importance to them. Declaring our home a “house of health” was the greatest compliment they could have given us!

I think about my parents exclaiming that every time I walk into our Sanctuary.

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I believe the person who buys this home and property can be considered very fortunate.

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We named this home Little Renaissance because it is a place where the arts, spirituality, and nature-connection flourish, where you can be creative, free, and healthy. When the windows are open, we hear the ocean waves. The house is situated one quarter mile east of the Pacific Ocean and one mile north of Protection Point on Grays Harbor. The property and nearby beaches are teaming with wildlife. Cranes roost in a nearby spruce tree, which I watch from my desk. At night, you can hear the barred owls hooting a tune as if they’re asking, “Who cooks for you?”

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The summer temperatures are perfect in Ocean Shores. Summer temperatures in Ocean Shores are a wonderful relief from the recent hot summer days in the city. There’s no need for air conditioning. In addition to beach walks along the ocean, to the jetty, to Protection Point, or to the wonderfully hidden 121 acres of the old-growth preserve called the Weatherwax Trail on this 6 mile long peninsula, there is also a required community-membership recreational facility that includes a gym, swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, basketball court, and weight room. Most recently, two yoga studios have popped up (Coastal Karma Center and Oyhut Yoga). Clam digs, fishing for surf perch, lake fishing for trout and bass, surfing, kayaking and canoeing in the canals, beautiful drives, hiking and backpacking deeper into the Olympic Peninsula await you!

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Birders can enjoy Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge in Hoquiam and the annual Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival in May. Outdoor enthusiasts, people seeking quiet contemplative time and time to read and write, those who love to garden, and folks who love to watch winter storms will enjoy life here at the coast. The house is big enough to entertain your friends and family. We are a two and a half hour drive from Seattle.

CERTIFIED WILDLIFE HABITAT
We have Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary Status. In order to have this status, there is a checklist with topics on food (source must be from plants as well as supplemental feeders), water (bird baths and natural sources), cover (natural places where wildlife can find shelter from the weather and predators), places to raise young, and sustainable practices (soil and water conservation, control exotic species, organic practices by eliminating chemical pesticides and fertilizers). It’s all in place. What a great habitat to own!!

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AND A FEW MORE FACTS:

  • House square footage: 1,445 square feet. Rick completed building the house in 1999.
  • Lot size: 20,475 square feet. We did a boundary line revision combining the three lots into one parcel. The house sits on what was the south lot, which includes a perennial/ornamental garden, a fruit orchard, and vegetable garden boxes. The two north lots are still mostly wooded.

FLOOR PLAN:

  • Bedrooms (4 bedrooms, two upstairs and two downstairs) 11.5 x 13 feet. This figure includes closet space (all the rooms are the same in size, three have bedroom closets and one does not have a closet, making that one bigger..an armoire can be added to the 4th room for a closet)
  • Great Room (includes living room, wood stove, dining room and kitchen, open floor plan) 23 x 20 feet
  • Bathrooms  5 x 7.5 feet (both bathrooms, one upstairs and one on the main floor, are identical).

WHY ARE WE SELLING?
I imagine most everyone who reads about our piece of paradise going on the market will ask “Why?”. Why are we selling our home and property? We bought the first lots in 1994. We completed construction of the house in 1999. So we’ve been tending this property for twenty years and loving every bit of it. Now, however, we feel it’s a time in our lives to experience something different, to enjoy new adventures, like adding regular weekend day hikes and backpacking back into our lives. We’d love to experience new trails and destinations. And we will simply enjoy our lovely condo in Seattle, where Green Lake is our front yard, and I will continue to enjoy my yoga teaching in Seattle.

Below is a link to the video I put together so you can see the beauty of Little Renaissance:

VIDEO LINK

Little Renaissance needs a new owner to lovingly tend to her.  Are you that person? Please comment below and I will send you a private email.

List Price $269,000

Make your appointment now to come view the house in Ocean Shores! Either Rick or Rick & Fran will be out there to show you around on the dates indicated below.  We will also show you our nearby local beach (Pacific side and the Grays Harbor Protection Point side) and the community clubhouse/gym.  Contact Fran at fran@frangallo.com or leave a comment below.

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Namaste,

Fran

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Costa Rica Waterfall: Guest Writer

March 24, 2019

One morning during shavasana, while still in Costa Rica, I ended the class with a visualization. The visualization was about becoming the element water. As water, I guided the group into becoming a flowing river. The flowing river was alive and well aware of its tumultuous journey, aware of the enormous boulders made smooth by the power of water to wear away stone.  The river flowed fearlessly forward, aware of other rivers snaking and tumbling through forests and meadows.  The rivers became the veins of the earth, essential to life. My visualization described how other rivers were also striking their own unique course and how eventually the various rivers would meet up in the vast waters of the ocean.

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After shavasana, I learned that Sarah Tsagris, one of the retreat participants, had created a piece of writing along the same lines the night before!  Her body of water was a waterfall.  Her writing is beautiful and she gave me permission to share it on my blog. Below is her writing. This is my first time to have a guest writer appear on my blog.  I’ll also add more photos from our fabulous time in Costa Rica. Slideshow of the retreat is at the bottom of this blog post.

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The Waterfall by Sarah Tsagris

As the molecules of water flow down the waterfall, what must they be thinking?

Maybe they started deep within Mother Earth and were birthed gently by the spring into the river? Maybe they began as cloud vapor and huddled together as a raindrop falling hundreds of feet to moisten the earth before finding the stream? Maybe they crystallized into snowflakes and drifted gently towards the Earth.

Once in the river, the molecules flow along together. Maybe their path is calm, maybe it is turbulent, maybe they get frozen at times, maybe, at other times, they are assaulted by chemicals or pollution. Whatever path they encounter, they will eventually flow down the river.

What must they be thinking the moments before they enter the waterfall? They can hear the roaring water but they cannot see what is coming next. They can sense the anxiety of the surrounding molecules. They cannot turn back. There is no other way to go but downstream. They must surrender to the flow of the river, the flow of life.

As they flow over the edge, they must feel as a child feels going down a slide for the first time: scared, exhilarated, and energized. As the water molecules bounce and cascade down the rocks, maybe they lose their direction, maybe they make contact with the rocks, maybe they have a free fall, or maybe they glide effortlessly down the falls. Finally, they land in the refreshing pool at the bottom of the falls. They regroup, breathe, and look back at where they came with pride and thankfulness.

Their journey does not stop there.  It is a never ending cycle. They will head back into the river with more confidence. This time they know with all their being that they are doing what nature intended. They know they can just BE and THAT is enough. They must surrender to their fate and find faith, trust and fearlessness. They need not exist with uncertainty and anxiety. Eventually they will burrow back into the earth or vaporize into the air and the cycle will repeat itself.

And below is the link to the slideshow I put together from our fabulous week in Costa Rica!

VIEW SLIDESHOW

The next dates for Yoga in Costa Rica will be (two weeks to choose from!):

March 21-March 28, 2020  AND March 28-April 4, 2020

Details/Information

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Embracing Pura Vida in Costa Rica

March 24, 2019

I came back last Sunday from a one week yoga retreat in Costa Rica. I love Costa Rica! The expression Pura Vida takes on a lifestyle in Costa Rica.  This simple beautiful expression refers to the “simple life” embraced by the people of Costa Rica. This expression embraces a philosophy. When you say thank you in Costa Rica, you will hear “pura vida” in response to your gratitude.  The expression can be used to say:

Hello

Goodbye

Everything’s cool!

You’re welcome.

Last week I gave perhaps one of my most successful yoga retreats in Costa Rica.  Everything about the retreat was wonderful. The setting, the delicious fresh and organic food, the kindness of the staff at our boutique hotel, the weather, the views from our yoga platform and sea view terrace, and the birds and sounds of the lush jungle contributed to a perfect place to rejuvenate, rest, and relax!

On the first morning of our yoga practice, I asked everyone to share an affirmation with the group.  The affirmation became a mantra or a set of words carrying a positive message that would keep us focused on peacefulness and well being.  The affirmations are below, accompanied by my favorite photos of the week.

I am healthy and pain free.

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I am enough.

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I am strong.

I am confident.

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I am fearless.

I like me here.

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As I breathe in, I connect to my spirit.  As I breathe out, I smile.

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On day four, we did affirmations again. This time, they were different in an interesting way. When I heard these affirmations, I felt they reflected a deepening of our yoga practice:

I am strong.

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I am happy.

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I am present.

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I am kind.

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I am evolving.

I have strength by being gentle.

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I am getting healthier.

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I have balance.

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I am released.

I am enough.

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Never doubt how powerful words are!

And how about a little free write for you?  Written on the bus on departure day…

iridescent blue butterflies, each wing as big as my hand, flutter magically in the jungle…four days is all they are given..four intense days of life to feed, sleep, breed, reproduce, be beautiful, shine, fly, live, explore the jungle…what would you do with four precious days of life? 

time concepts..it takes nine months for a pineapple to grow and ripen, just like a human baby..think about that next time you eat a pineapple!

pepe-the-coati eats bananas every morning, a coati is related to the raccoon, looks like an anteater and walks like a monkey, suzanne watches pepe’s little tongue lapping up water out of her hot tub, john and i spot a bird with an incredible red head and shiny black body, and on the boat we spot spotted dolphins, they are attracted to our boat and gather round, swimming and showing off! howling monkeys sound like apes and singing cicadas almost make it impossible for everyone to hear me during yin yoga! costa rica is rich with wildlife

dancing tango and salsa moves, music stirs the soul, forty years dance instructor shows his great skill, teaches me salsa steps, encourages and teaches a young man who wants to impress his girlfriend with new dance moves..certainly new dancing skills will give our young man the confidence he needs to dance flawlessly with the love of his life

warm weather..sun turns my skin brown, sunshine factor of 10!!, we all become more flexible, my skin is so clear, my eyes are a deeper brown showing flecks of green i inherited from my dad, clean pure food feeds body and soul, i feel light and healthy and free

morning yoga on the jungle platform filled with birdsong, cool wet towel is comforting, forests are alive and forest bathing is real, the trees give off chemicals that are cancer fighting and ever so soothing to the soul, i am one with the jungle, the rainforest calms me and brings us serenity, hardly any mosquitoes at this elevation, a cool breeze comes just in time and the infinity pool offers cooling waters…evening yoga on hot stone slab, the sound of the cicadas accompany the sunset..everyday is spectacular from start to finish, red streaks in the sky and we hear a bird crying over and over again, “last call, last call, last call” or at least that is what it sounds like and we laugh until our stomachs hurt..spa drink quenches out thirst and is soothing after our evening yoga on the sea view sunset terrace

NEXT COSTA RICA YOGA RETREATS March 2020: LINK

Never too early to sign up! Come join me.

 

 

Living in a Beautiful World

March 1, 2019

I led a Yoga + Snowshoeing Retreat over Presidents’ Day Weekend at Walking Lightly Ranch in Whitefish, Montana.  The weekend retreat was perfect in every way, except that everyone thought it was too short!  We all flew from Seattle to Kalispell for the retreat and I agree we should have had at least one extra day.  Next time around, I am adding an extra day so we can have the option to go into the town of Whitefish to have a look around!

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The NEXT WALKING LIGHTLY RANCH RETREAT is next year:

May 21 – May 25, 2020 (Memorial Day Weekend)

View Details

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If you love mountain landscapes and big blue skies, healthy organic cuisine made to fit every person’s specific dietary needs, kind gentle folk who own and run the ranch, sweet loving Tennessee Walker horses waiting for a pat on the head, and if you love a spacious and pristine yoga studio with warm radiant wood floors where you can practice your yoga while looking at the trees from the many studio windows, you will be in heaven at Walking Lightly Ranch. It’s a very special place.

Kim captured the tomatoes in the pattern of a heart before the salad got tossed and eaten!

One evening, I asked everyone to randomly choose a winter haiku from a stack of index cards.  Earlier, I had sifted through many winter haiku and selected the ones that stood out the most. Though the haiku were written in the late 1600s and early 1700s in Japan, they are so contemporary and they fit our winter retreat scene so perfectly. Below, I will include the haiku I had prepared for the group along with some photos.  Thank you to the yoga retreat participants for contributing some of your photos!

And don’t forget to view the short video below!

photo by Lee Ann

Tethered horse;
Snow
In both stirrups.

-Buson

Awake at night—
The sound of the water jar
Cracking in the cold.

-Basho

The winter sun—
On the horse’s back
My frozen shadow.

-Basho

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Winter solitude—
In a world of one color
The sound of wind.

-Basho

Photo by Kim Johnson

Blow of an ax,
Pine scent,
The winter woods.

-Buson

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Cover my head
Or my feet?
The winter quilt.

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Flowers offered to the Buddha
Come floating
Down the winter river.

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The snow is melting
And the village is flooded
With children.

-Issa

From the end of the nose
Of the Buddha on the moor
Hang icicles.

-Issa

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See the river flow
In a long unbroken line
On the field of snow.
– Boncho

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Napped half the day;
No one
Punished me!

-Issa

VIEW VIDEO of the retreat weekend set to Coldplay’s Beautiful World

Not too early to sign up for next year’s late spring Montana adventure!

View my WEBSITE for details.

Dave and Mata Mandir playing for us.

‘Twas Twain’s Maui

January 12, 2019

I’m back from Maui and my heart is happy to have traveled there. It was relaxing to bask in the sunshine, enjoy the warmth of the island, and marvel at the lava-red sunsets. I still have a few Maui blog posts to write and will write them and line them up for the next couple of days so you can travel vicariously with me! img_7310‘Twas Mark Twain whose heart was captured by the great beauty of Maui way back in 1866. Mark Twain was Missouri’s famed son. He was a quick-witted American writer, journalist, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, lecturer, silver miner, world traveler, popular public speaker, and keen observer of life.  One of the most influential American writers, he painted word-portraits of the world he lived in.  He was only 30 years old when he traveled to Maui, Oahu, and Hawai’i Island.  Clearly, he had a great time:

Twain hiked through Hawaii’s beauteous jungle. He surfed naked on a wooden surfboard. He rode horseback across the plains.

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When Twain visited Maui, the Hawaiian Islands were a full 93 years away from American statehood.  Hawai’i wasn’t even a US territory when Twain traveled there. It became US territory in 1898 and became the fiftieth state in 1959.  Back in 1866, the islands were known as the “Sandwich Islands”, so named in 1778 by Captain Cook after the man who sponsored Cook’s voyage, the Earl of Sandwich.

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Twain spent five weeks in Maui during an overall four-month visit on the Hawaiian Islands and for the rest of his life, he longed to return.   I had prepared the following excerpts before traveling to Maui, hoping to share them with my fellow traveling friends on the day we went to Haleakala Crater and National Park.  I thought the following Twain quotes would be inspirational because Twain climbed the same crater we were at and described it as the “sublimest spectacle” he had ever seen.  However, sharing what I had prepared was not to be while in Maui, so I am now sharing my selected excerpts from Mark Twain below, along with some of my photos.

On the trail: Haleakala Crater

Haleakala National Park: above the clouds at 10,023 ft (3055 m) above sea level.

“I went to Maui to stay a week and remained five. I never spent so pleasant a month before, or bade any place goodbye so regretfully. I have not once thought of business, or care or human toil or trouble or sorrow or weariness, and the memory of it will remain with me always.”

“The native language is soft and liquid and flexible and in every way efficient and satisfactory–till you get mad; then there you are; there isn’t anything in it to swear with,” he wrote.

No alien land in all the world has any deep, strong charm for me but that one; no other land could so longingly and beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done. Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the same. For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf-beat in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore; its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud rack; I can feel the spirit of its wooded solitudes; I can hear the splash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.
– Samuel M. Clemens (Mark Twain), Paradise of the Pacific, April 1910

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This is the most magnificent, balmy atmosphere in the world–ought to take dead men out of grave. -quoted in Mark Twain in Hawaii

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Poet, Botanist, Birders, Librarians, and Educators

January 5, 2019

Poet, botanist, birders, librarians, and educators….Yes, that’s quite a line-up of front stage performers and they happen to be the company I am keeping in Maui!

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There are six of us exploring this green oasis of an island together. It’s an exciting group to be with. Everyone has his or her area of expertise and so our island time is also a great opportunity to learn from one another.

Randall is a botanist. From him, I am learning so much about trees and the lush flora around me. Sounds odd, but I had never heard the term “tree scar” until I heard it from him. Now the expression seems to be a common description, a part of being in the tree world. Below you have a great example of a tree scar I observed at Ahihi Bay. The lowermost fronds of this tree eventually die and new fronds grow above it. The dead fronds drop off and leave a scar in the tree. Tree scars create patterns and can be very beautiful like the cordate scar below. The tree was covered with this heart-shaped pattern.

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We went to the historic town of Lahaina yesterday. We took two cars and it was decided that when we arrived in Lahaina, we’d simply all meet at the Banyan Tree. I was secretly wondering how we would find the specific banyan tree rendez-vous. Really, I need not have been at all concerned about finding it. The banyan tree, our meeting point in Lahaina, is the largest banyan tree in the United States. This Banyan Tree was planted in 1873 and now covers an entire acre! It’s super hard to miss! And it is quite impressive.

The banyan tree spreads by way of aerial roots! The aerial roots grow thick and then eventually reach the ground. The original massive trunk is in the middle of the park and there are a total of 16 major trunks all belonging to the parent banyan tree. Below you can see a detail of the famed Banyan Tree.

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While roaming around Lahaina, the old whaling village which hit the height of its whaling boom in the mid 1800s, Rick and I went to the Plantation Museum. We also found a great bookstore and, thanks to Kelley and Jack, we discovered a beautiful art studio featuring the art of Vladimir Kush

Kush, a surrealist painter, sculptor, and jewelry maker, creates a metaphorical and mythical world filled with dragonflies, butterflies, ladders, water, trees, and human figures. His work seduces you to enter a creative, delightful, sometimes disturbing, always wondrous world of clouds, animals, eggs, embryonic forms, butterfly windmills, and banana hammocks.

While ambling about, Rick and I also found the historic Pioneer Hotel, now a Best Western. It’s been around since 1900 and overlooks Lahaina harbor and the Pacific Ocean. We sat in the quiet inner courtyard, enjoying the breezy shade and marveling at an antique seafaring canoe. Below is a detail from the carved masthead of the Hawaiian outrigger canoe displayed in the Pioneer Hotel courtyard. The photo captures one eye of a don’t-mess-with-me creature fearlessly facing the sea and leading the way.

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Below: a statue in front of the Pioneer Hotel. This fellow demonstrates how your ears and nose keep growing as you age.

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Our birder Kelley helped us identify birds at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge.  Kealia is the year-round home for two of Hawaii’s native and endangered waterbirds: the Hawaiian coot with its gorgeous white forehead and the Hawaiian stilt. We were fortunate to see both.

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The boardwalk was lined with great explanatory panels. This panel has a painting of a Hawaiian coot in the foreground.

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Beach alongside the Wildlife Refuge:

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After the wildlife refuge, we went to Iao Needle. There are no trails leading to the Iao Needle.  The photo was below was taken from an observatory deck.  The hike we went on led us along a river with boulders and swimming holes, rushing rapids, and lush vegetation. Below is from the information panels:

The traditional name for this 2,250 foot high peak is Kuka’emoku. The peak is known as the phallic stone of Kanaloa, Hawaiian god of the ocean.

During periods of warfare, the peak was used as a lookout by warriors. It was here that some of the Maui warriors retreated from the forces of Kamehameha I during the Battle of Kepaniwai.

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Granola for the New Year

December 29, 2018

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It’s raining here in Ocean Shores. Been raining nonstop for some time now.  I bravely don my rain parka, tighten up the hood, and dash out to the garden to pick a variety of super greens (mustard greens, spinach, chard, kale, collards) to clean, steam, and make the spinach ball recipe as seen in my previous blog post.  These greens are the tough Super Heroes of the winter garden, standing bravely against the winds coming off the ocean, the relentless sheets of rain that fall sideways, the hail, and the onslaught of hungry moisture loving slugs. Here at the coast, until we get a deep frost sometime in late January, the greens grow tenaciously in the garden.

But this post is about GRANOLA.  And this post makes me think about a question I have.  What makes a recipe yours?  How many alterations later can you claim the recipe as your very own?  Since I am clueless on the subject, if you have any input, I’d love to hear your comments below.

I refuse to buy granola.  I find it is too sweet.  Store bought granola practically makes my teeth shiver from the cloying sugary morning kick it delivers.  I have collected many granola recipes and this one included here is my favorite.  The original recipe was given to me from my friend, Betty.  If Betty is looking at this recipe, she may ask herself if this is her recipe because I have altered it slightly.

This is the perfect batch to make for the new year!  Make it now and enjoy it through the first days of the new year. It lasts a good two weeks in a sealed container.

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Granola Recipe

5 Cups rolled oats
1 C unsweetened large shredded coconut flakes
1 C Wheat germ
1 C Walnuts
1 C Almonds (I use slivered almonds)
Sunflower Seeds (half cup) and Pumpkin Seeds (half cup)

2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
¾ C Vegetable Oil (I use Olive Oil!)
¾ C Honey and Maple Syrup (equal mixture of both)

Preheat 350 degree oven. Mix above ingredients together in BIG bowl. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Spread half the mixture on one sheet and the other half on the other sheet.
Bake, stirring @ 5-10 minute intervals in the beginning. Then in the last 10 mins. Stir every few minutes until brown (light)

IMPORTANT: I keep rotating the sheets every time I stir.  The sheet on the bottom rack moves to the top rack and the one on the top goes to the bottom.  Or you can just bake one sheet at a time and skip the rotations.
Careful on the last 10 minutes it can burn quickly.
Let it cool and store in a tight container.
Each batch takes +- 30 mins.

Serve with milk, almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk, or yogurt. Don’t forget to add your fresh fruits and dried fruits. Sliced bananas, chopped apples, raisins, and fresh blueberries are my favorite toppings.

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Biophilic Spheres

December 15, 2018

Over the course of a few years, I witnessed the jungle-like biodomes of Amazon’s headquarter campus emerge from the ground on Seventh and Lenora. I curiously observed the three spheres billowing out from the raindrop-splattered window of my bus.  I eavesdropped and heard my fellow bus riders-turned-critics unhappily refer to the spheres as Bezosballs“.  I giggled and googled.  Yes, I giggled at the critics’ comments.  And I googled turn-of-the-last-century black and white photographs of the old Denny Regrade, as seen from 7th and Lenora, fired my imagination, and marveled at this current transformation of Seattle.

For a long time, I resisted going inside the spheres.  I’m not a part of the Amazon world (or am I?) and questioned why I would want to visit this employee lounge and workspace.  To be honest, negative thoughts concerning Amazon’s monopolistic behaviors had me planting my feet firmly far from the spheres, not wanting to go there.  But finally I succumbed to my curiosity and stepped inside the biophilic spheres with my friend Anna. I’m so glad I did because only now can I fully appreciate these conservatories and workers’ green lounges in the heart of the Denny Regrade!

The spheres have meeting spaces and can seat a total of 800 people.  They are of biophilic design, meaning they incorporate nature into the built environment.

The three glass domes are covered in pentagonal hexecontahedron panels (see the shape below) and serve as an employee lounge and workspace. The architects looked for biologically inspired patterns.  I found this pattern motif to be incredibly fascinating!  If you look at each of the photos where you see architectural structure, you can see this pentagonal shape repeated again and again.

Biophilia is defined as follows:

Biophilia (according to a theory of the biologist E. O. Wilson) is an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world.

Biophilia is the theme running through the spheres. The word refers to the rich natural pleasure that comes from being surrounded by natural organisms.

Spheres: Origins

The Spheres are a place where Amazonians can think and work differently–surrounded by plants.  In their design, we were inspired by biophilia: the idea that humans possess an inherent love of nature and other life forms.  But what began as a concept for adding plants to the work place evolved over time into a lush botanical conservatory, home to thousands of tropical plants and trees. Today The Spheres offer nature immersion for its visitors working in the heart of the city.

The domes house 40,000 plants. The plants were not taken from the wild, but cultivated in various nurseries. The bulk of plants were cultivated in massive greenhouses on the Eastside.

Your Brain on Plants

We created The Spheres to give Amazonians a chance to refresh and restore themselves. Imagine a work conversation happening near a waterfall or a flowering wall of orchids.  Even short doses of nature have been proven to boost well-being. Immersed in greenery, we’re more relaxed and alert–we can think more creatively.

Much like a climbing vine or the veins of a leaf, we wanted The Spheres to be built of highly detailed, organic shapes. There are no corners in nature.

Smart Sustainability

Our new buildings in The Regrade, including The Spheres, are heated with recycled energy. This district energy system captures heat at a non-Amazon data center in the neighboring Westin Building Exchange and recycles that heat through underground water pipes instead of venting into the atmosphere.  Nearly four times more efficient than traditional heating, this innovation saves energy and makes long-term sense. Meanwhile, the energy we recover is enough to heat about 365 homes each year.

District Energy

How does the system work? Warm water from the Westin Building runs through underground pipes to a heat exchanger in the Amazon building, Doppler. From here, heat recovery chillers raise the temperature of the water, which is used to heat three campus buildings with two more planned for the future.

A note on “biophilic design”:

Last month, global report by Human Spaces into the impact of workplace design revealed that, “employees who work in environments with natural elements report a 15 per cent higher level of well being, are six per cent more productive and 15 per cent more creative overall”. Some call this ‘biophilic design’ – the introduction of natural elements into the built environment – but the term perhaps risks over-complicating something profoundly simple: people just feel better when they are closer to nature. And the office shouldn’t be an exception.

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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


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