Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

‘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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Maui Magic

January 5, 2019

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On our first full day here, we went snorkeling at Maluaka. It had been years since I last snorkeled. And that was back in Thailand.  So, when I entered the warm waters of Maluaka on Wednesday here on Maui, it took me a little while to get used to having a mask on and breathing into the little snorkel tube that juts up above the water.  Kelley led the way to the coral reefs.  Rick took off in a completely different direction.  Jack, thankfully, stayed close by me, until he was certain I felt comfortable using my snorkel equipment.  I’d say it took me about ten minutes to feel like the sea was my home and that the tube wasn’t going to fill up with water and cut off my oxygen supply.  Once I was confident, I entered a sea world where flying and swimming merge, where schools of colorful fish swim by, and where enormous sea turtles swim gracefully.

My buddy and protector of the day, Jack McHenry. Jack is also one of my dedicated blog readers. Mahalo, Jack!

The water here is calm and clear, making it easy to observe marine life.  How I wished I had an underwater camera.  But I don’t, so my memory will have to hold the vivid colors of the tropical fish and my words will have to suffice to share what I saw during the hour and a half snorkel experience.

I saw Angelfish, butterfly fish, trumpet fish, yellow tang, sea urchins, wrasse, and reef triggerfish in these coral gardens.  The most exciting for me was to see the giant sea turtles swimming by or to see them burrowing or hovering on the sea floor. I also saw and learned the Hawaiian name for the Rectangular Triggerfish, which is Hawaii’s State fish:  humuhumukunukunuapua’a!

Humuhumunukunukuapua’a: Hawaii’s state fish

And a sad word on the coral reefs at Maluaka: they didn’t look good.  I look back on my Thai experience of snorkeling along the coral reefs there and clearly remember that the coral was vibrant and very healthy.  That was a long time ago. Perhaps it has changed there, too?  The coral reefs I saw on Wednesday in the protected marine area were clearly dying.  Much of the coral dying has to do with climate change as well as human use of chemical sunscreens.  People going into the water are encouraged to wear water-shirts or zinc or titanium sunblocks instead of chemical sunscreens. Even in small amounts, chemical sunscreens are highly toxic to coral and fish. How I wish there could be a world wide ban on chemical sunscreens!

And so you don’t leave my blog in a complete state of coral-despair, the next day, Thursday (yesterday), we went to Ahihi Nature Preserve for more snorkeling. This time I chose not to snorkel and instead did a solo walk on a lava trail so that I could focus on taking some photos with my Leica. Meanwhile, the others in my group went snorkeling and reported that the coral at Ahihi Nature Preserve looks much healthier than what I saw in Maluaka the previous day.

And here are a few photos from my lava trail solo time.

I have to include a foot-foto. Perhaps this type of photo proves I really walked this beach of black lava stones.  And you can be sure that I took my shoe off just for the photo and put it back on before walking on this rougher-than-pumice stone lava beach.

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Lava and Coral Collage with Shell Fossil in Lava Stone:

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Black lava in the foreground:img_7044

How in the heck did a caper plant and flower (photographed below) make it to Maui all the way from the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria?l1410143

Here in Maui, I see tropical plants, in their natural environment, growing to be at least ten times larger than when grown as indoor houseplants back home.

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Interesting how this photo of my lava cairn looks like a black and white photo when it is not.

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I will never understand why people feel the urge to carve their names into trees.  Aina, don’t you see?  You’ll be the death of this tree?

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Sunglasses, Sunhat, Frangipani (or Plumeria as it is called here in Hawaii):

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Winter Solstice 2018

December 22, 2018
Contrary to wanting to sit in stillness, I find myself rushing to post today’s writing.  My goal is to post this before the last rays of this short day recede beyond the horizon. Today, here in Ocean Shores, the sun will shine for only 8 hours and 25 seconds.
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Winter Solstice this year comes with the promise of a full moon, and a meteor shower later tonight.  But best of all is that, here at the coast, we have clear skies with a few billowy clouds and no light pollution.
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Winter Solstice is an invitation to slow down.  It is an invitation to listen, to be attentive, to savor what little light comes our way.  Winter Solstice is glancing out the window and admiring the Winter Trees.
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Winter Solstice is bundling up and taking a brisk walk. Winter Solstice is a bright burning fire in the wood stove and a cup of hot tea.
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I am including a poem, Winter Trees, by William Carlos Williams, as well as an anonymous poem, followed by some of my favorite winter solstice photos I’ve taken over the years.

Winter Trees by William Carlos Williams

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

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From the reaches of the north,
a place of cold blue beauty,
comes to us the first winter storm.
Wind whipping, flakes flying,
the snow has fallen upon the earth,
keeping us close,
keeping us together,
wrapped up as everything sleeps
beneath a blanket of white.

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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

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!

Slideshow from the Land of Fire and Ice

October 23, 2018

The following slideshow is of our recent yoga retreat in Iceland. It is a trip I hope to offer again and again.  The slideshow is set to the music of the Icelandic group Low Roar and the song playing is called Breathe In.  The words go well with the experience of being in the Land of Fire and Ice.  The melody seems to carry the mystery and stark beauty of the landscape.  Most of the photos in the slideshow are mine, but a few come from some of the other photographers in our group.  I believe all the photos capture the light that is unique to Iceland!  Being so far north, the sun’s rays hit at an angle, which, when captured by camera, makes every person holding a camera appear to be an extraordinary photographer.

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We did yoga every morning and every evening, though you will not find a single picture of our yoga sessions.  We immersed ourselves in our practice.  In our yoga sessions, we became warriors, molten lava, geothermal energy, and pure rays of northern light.

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It was a pleasure to see friendships deepen and new friendships forged.  As the week progressed, everyone in our group appeared to become more luminous. Was it the relaxing and cleansing aspect of the yoga practice?  Or was it the hot springs?  Or perhaps it was the hiking?  Could have been the pure spring-fed water we drank directly from the tap? It was probably a combination of all of these ideas and more.  All I know for sure is that the retreat was a great experience, one that I will never forget.

Turn up your speakers for this 6 minute slideshow of our retreat in Iceland:

Iceland: Yoga in the Land of Fire and Ice 2018 from Fran Gallo on Vimeo.

http://www.frangallo.com

 

Laugarvatn Hot Springs

October 17, 2018

Today was one of those perfect days which I think I’ll replay in my mind again and again. The day started at 6am when my alarm went off.  I made coffee, read the news online, checked email. Then, I went off to teach yoga.  This morning’s yoga was focused on the chakras.  Chakra Yoga was followed by breakfast.

At 10am, we left our cabins for Laugarvatn.  There we hiked a hillside in a wooded area. Along the trail, there were panels with depictions and Icelandic instructions for various stretches recommended while hiking.  After the hike (and the stretches), Einar drove us to the hot springs of Laugarvatn on the Golden Circle.  We first enjoyed lunch, a beautiful spread of delicious fresh vegetables and fish.  Some people in my group enjoyed bread which was baked using geothermal steam.  I have tasted it in the past and it is delicious.  After eating, we enjoyed the hot springs of Laugarvatn.

The hot springs are located in a lakefront spa, featuring natural steam baths, outdoor mineral pools and a sauna. There are various temperatures, one being especially hot. Soaking in geothermal springs is very healthy.  At Laugarvatn, we soaked in a natural pool lined with rocks. While inside the steam rooms (both wet and dry sauna rooms), we listened to the sound of the bubbling hot springs coming from deep within the earth

Every so often, when the heat became too intense, we bravely walked over to Laugarvatn Lake, which is right next to the springs, and took a very fast dip in the 40 degree Fahrenheit water! Every bracing dip came with a yip and a few loud shouts.

The day ended with a second yoga session (a focus on postures to strengthen bones) followed by another delicious dinner (three bean salad for the vegetarians and lamb for the others).

I am including some of the benefits of soaking in geothermal healing waters:

Anti-Ageing Properties  Hot springs are also recognised for their anti-ageing properties. Bathing in a hot spring increases the production of collagen and tightens the elastin within the second layer of the skin.

This leaves your skin looking both firm and youthful.

Other minerals such as calcium, lithium, magnesium and even radium also help improve your skin.

As geothermal water cools, it saturates and then forms into a white mud. This form is completely hypoallergenic and has anti-ageing properties that can firm the skin, reduce pores and revitalise appearances. It is also effective against rashes, sores and skin problems such as dermatitis and psoriasis.

Respiratory Problems  As well as improving your skin, taking a dip in a geothermal spring offers many additional benefits to your overall health. As mentioned above, sulphur is a common mineral found in hot springs.

Sulphur can help treat respiratory problems such as asthma, and it can help clear excess mucus from your lungs.

Pain Relief  Moreover, the heat and buoyancy of a hot spring is very therapeutic for your body. The buoyancy helps to reduce the body’s work load.

As the body is focused on the sudden heat, the nervous system’s sensitivity lowers and the heat becomes a form of therapy for sufferers of muscle pains and arthritis.

Soothe sore muscles and chilly limbs.

Better Blood Circulation Bathing in hot springs helps to boost blood circulation. As the skin soaks in minerals such as calcium and sodium, hydrostatic pressure increases.

This increases the flow of oxygen to our bodies and boosts blood circulation, keeping your body fit and strong.

Increases Endorphins Our bodies absorb minerals in the water which stimulate the immune system and strengthen it. These minerals enhance the production of endorphins within the body and this interacts with receptors in the brain.

Think of it as a “happy chemical”, endorphins release a positive feeling and relieve the body and mind of stress whilst alleviating tension in tired muscles.

Overall, regular geothermal bathing can help normalize your body’s functions and nervous system whilst drastically improving your skin’s condition.

My lovely cabin mates Keira and Colleen.

There’s a whole lot of magic going on here in Iceland!

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20+ Reasons to do Yoga Outdoors

July 1, 2018

While I do love all seasons, I find myself anticipating summertime more than any other time of the year. I love the long days of the Pacific Northwest. My garden comes alive and I love spending as much time as possible outdoors. Practicing yoga outdoors is a real treat.  I offer Yoga in the Park on Tuesdays in June, July, and August (in Meridian Park in Wallingford, Seattle). See details at the end of this blog post.  All are welcome to come to my all-levels Hatha Yoga classes.

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I have brainstormed and come up with 20+ reasons to do yoga outdoors. I hope you will give yourself a beneficial outdoor yoga experience this summer!

Note: the photos are from my Yoga in the Park classes.  The blue sketches were done by Tina Koyama, Seattle yogini and sketcher extraordinaire. She sketched these from last Tuesday’s class.

1. Practicing yoga outdoors can change your entire yoga experience!  Be soothed by the greenery around you. Take in the smells of summer, hear birdsong, breathe fresh air.  Natural scenery can heighten your awareness and awaken your sensory mind.  Scent, sight, hearing, and touch activate your brain and make you more present. Fresh air heightens breath awareness. All of your senses will awaken.

2. Practicing yoga outdoors adds a different dimension to your practice.  You experience yoga’s original link with nature.  The word “yoga” means “union” and when practicing outside, you can experience union with birds, butterflies, bees and other insects, flowers, trees, sky, clouds, wind, humankind, and connect to the universe.

A recent Swedish study found viewing nature, especially fractals (the organically occurring patterns in tree branches and fern leaves for example), increased wakeful relaxation and internal focus—two pretty important components of a rewarding yoga practice.

 

3. You will become a part of the photosynthesis process.  When you breathe out, the trees around you breathe in. Talk about feeling connected to the trees!  Experience your deep connection with nature.

4. Yoga outdoors allows you to experience human interaction and has some wonderful social benefits.  All of us, while doing yoga outdoors, hear the sounds of laughter, children playing, the happy sounds of other people enjoying the park.  Other people’s laughter has the effect of boosting your own sense of happiness.   You leave your yoga session with renewed energy.  (You also leave the park super hungry because movement, full breathing, and relaxation have a way of making you crave healthy nourishing food.)

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5. There is nothing more satisfying than doing yoga outdoors and spending time in nature, especially after a day of working indoors. You can spread your wings, take in deep breaths, feel free, and allow your body to be warmed by the sun. Doing yoga outdoors can replenish your depleted energy.

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6. Dr. Matthew Baral, author of This is Your Brain on Nature, says, “Nature connects us to our roots.”  “The grass, the ocean, the trees are all part of our primeval world.  It is where we feel most at home.”  Practice outdoors, connect to your roots, align yourself with nature, and come back to your true home.

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7. The beauty around you can help inspire your practice.  You will find yourself moving away from worry and disconnecting from heavy thoughts by moving away from stress-triggering environments or situations.  You’ll move away from newscasts, newspapers, your computer, TV, desk, paperwork, iphone to an outdoor environment. You will disconnect and reconnect.  In nature, you can connect to yourself in a deeper, more meaningful way.

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8. Being one with nature and exercising outdoors will boost your self-esteem. Perhaps this boost comes from soaking up Vitamin D, which has been shown to decrease depression.  Even if you are limiting your exposure to the sun, practicing in the shade sends feel-good signals to your brain.

9. If you have taken classes with me, you have heard me talk about “grounding” or connecting to the “earth” through your feet. It is a strange term to use indoors as our bare feet are placed on a mat, which is placed on a wood or carpeted floor.  However, when teaching yoga outdoors, telling people to ground their feet to the earth becomes an intensified experience and a new term arises, “Earthing“.

Earthing, also known as grounding, refers to contact with the Earth’s surface. An entire blog post can be dedicated to Earthing! I will include a quoted paragraph about the profound benefits of Earthing as per the following article: Link 

According to research, as read in the article/link above, going barefoot and connecting your feet directly to the earth, has the following benefits:

  • direct contact with Earth’s vast surface supply of electrons
  • sleep better
  • reduce pain
  • regulate diurnal body rhythms, such as cortisol secretion
  • neutralize free radicals
  • decrease inflammatory response
  • increase immune response
  • blood thinning effect
  • reduction of primary indications of osteoporosis
  • shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic tone in the autonomic nervous system (in simpler terms, Earthing helps you to RELAX and RENEW!)  You enter the relaxation zone!
  • increase in blood oxygen
  • stabilize the electric environment of all organs, tissues, and cells
  • grounding yourself, or simply having direct contact with the earth, be it sand, rocks, or grass, can reduce the risk of heart problems, pain, and stress.

“Emerging scientific research has revealed a surprisingly positive and overlooked environmental factor on health: direct physical contact with the vast supply of electrons on the surface of the Earth. Modern lifestyle separates humans from such contact. The research suggests that this disconnect may be a major contributor to physiological dysfunction and unwellness. Reconnection with the Earth’s electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being. Earthing (or grounding) refers to the discovery of benefits—including better sleep and reduced pain—from walking barefoot outside or sitting, working, or sleeping indoors connected to conductive systems that transfer the Earth’s electrons from the ground into the body. This paper reviews the earthing research and the potential of earthing as a simple and easily accessed global modality of significant clinical importance.”

When I was in Germany, I experienced part of this Earthing movement via Sebastian Kneipp’s barefoot therapy and cold water footbath immersion therapy.  In the village where I stayed, there were barefoot walking paths throughout the fields and a few therapy pools for water wading.  After a long hike, it felt fantastic to walk barefoot on the paths or to immerse our feet in the cold water wading pools.

10. Doing asanas such as Warrior I or Warrior II outdoors can make you feel powerful.  Being outside can make you more attentive and emotionally balanced.  Fresh air can help clear your mind. When you feel balanced and when your mind is clear, stress levels are lowered, which in turn reduces the stress hormone cortisol.

11. Breathe freely, take in prana (life force), and improve your lung capacity.  Being outside improves respiration because we breathe in fresh air. The increased oxygen will make you more alert and improve depleted energy.

Your lungs have 6 liters of air capacity.  Being outside will make you want to breath deeper, allowing more oxygen in. This breaks up any accumulated pollutants and toxins that are trapped in your alveoli due to habitual shallow breathing.

12. You will connect to Mother Nature.  Surely, while being outside, you will hear some annoying sounds such as traffic in the distance, the occasional airplane, a dog barking nonstop, and you’ll be sure to have to swat at an insect or two.  You may have to deal with wind or cooling changes in temperature or drizzle.  The flip side is that you will be witness to sunsets, breathtaking views, varying shades of green.  You may see a butterfly.  It may land on you.  Or the rarest of birds might just land on a branch next to you. These are some aspects of our live planet, Earth. Doing yoga outside provides a means to love and appreciate our planet and all that she provides.

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13. Alleviate stress.  Doing yoga alleviates stress.  And when you take your yoga practice outside, in a forest, a park, or even in your own back yard, you experience nature as healer and a catharsis takes place.

Studies have shown that people who are exposed to a forested environment more often have far less stress than those who are only in urban environments.

14. Improve your balance.  There is rarely such thing as a perfectly level ground in a park, a forest, or a meadow. When practicing yoga, you will find you have to accept the lumps and unevenness under your mat or under your feet. When doing tree pose, for example, on an uneven surface, in order to stabilize your body and reach a point of balance, your legs and core muscles become stronger.

15. Become stronger and more stable in all aspects of life! When you are home, you can control your environment.  Too hot? Open a window, turn on the fan, or the AC. Too cold? Close the window, put on a sweater, turn up the heat, take a hot bath, make a cup of hot tea. Music too loud? Turn it down.  Don’t like the music? Turn if off or change the playlist. When you are out in nature, you are not in a controlled environment and you do not have control of the outer elements. You learn to welcome the breeze, you learn to move faster if you need to keep warm, your learn to use your core in a stronger way if you are sitting on an incline. You will learn to embrace the elements rather than fight or try to change them. You can no longer expect things to be a certain way and begin to accept the situation as it is in a given moment.

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16. Your OM in the great outdoors will sound purely magical.  You may notice a crow cawing in the distance as you OM or you might just notice how your relaxed body and bolstered lungs can really belt out a strong vibrational OM.

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17. You get to feel intoxicated on Nature.  It’s the best high you will ever experience.

18. Sun Salutations were meant to be practiced outside!  There are no ceilings separating you from the sun.  You simply must experience this.

19. Experience the best yoga music ever: waves lapping, wind rustling leaves, birds singing, children laughing, happy murmurings in the distance.  The forest, park, and beach is alive and waiting for you.

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20. When in downward facing dog, look at the trees and see your world upside down.  When in tree pose, root your standing foot into the earth and connect to the trees around you.  When in half moon, imagine you are celestial, in orbit, a satellite.  When in shavasana, melt, surrender, and merge with the earth. Practice shedding an older version of yourself.  Being outdoors gives your asanas (postures) a unique dimension.  Your practice will improve.

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SEATTLE YOGIS:

It’s happening! Yoga in the Park is in full swing. It’s a great outdoor all-levels Hatha Yoga experience and I hope to see you in July and August (no class on August 7th and classes cancelled on rainy days). Classes take place in Meridian Park, Wallingford in Seattle on Tuesdays from 6-7pm (enter the park from Meridian, go up the steps and you will see us on your far right).  It’s a donation based class.  We’ve been going strong since 1998 (with one season hiatus last year)

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Live Music Coming Your Way July 10 at YOGA IN THE PARK:

On Tuesday, July 10, Liz Talley, Glenn Frank, and Lisa Latchford will play and sing for us while we do yoga in Meridian Park! Two years ago, they graced our outdoor yoga class with their music (see photo below). It was a pretty magical experience and I hope you will be able to come on July 10!

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