Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

So Hum

February 24, 2018

The mantra So Hum inspires me to look around, to see my reflection in all that is. It means “I am that”.  “That” refers to all of creation.

We had a rare snowfall in Seattle yesterday. I woke up to a few inches of snow.  Green Lake looked so pretty from my window. SO HUM.

I hastily put on warm clothing (it’s frigid out there), and walked around the lake. As I walked, I was overtaken by a profound sense of awe. SO HUM.



I sometimes share the So Hum mantra with my yoga classes.  I tend to guide the classes in a So Hum meditation when we are in a new environment (like in India or in Sicily on a retreat).  It is when we are on a yoga retreat or when we travel that we tend to really open our eyes and see the world as if for the first time.

Recently, I came across the following handwritten journal entry I wrote while in India last month.  It is a meditation on the mantra So Hum in which I use imagery from Ranthambore National Park, home to 62 elusive Royal Bengal Tigers.

So Hum

I am the jungle cat dashing across the road.

So Hum

I am the sloth bear, with its anteater-like snout, making its way up the mountain side.

So Hum

I am the barking alarm calls of the spotted deer and the sambar.

So Hum

I am the grazing blue-bull antelope.

So Hum

I am the slumbering crocodiles.

So Hum

I am the colorful kingfisher sitting on the branch of a gum tree.

So Hum

I am the Royal Bengal Tiger sleeping in the tall grass, choosing not to be seen.

So Hum

I am the monkeys jumping from branch to branch, holding their human-like babies tightly, wrestling with one another.

So Hum

I am the elusive leopard, making its rare appearance as it climbs to the top of the cliff.

So Hum

I am a dusky eagle-owl, a brown fish owl, a collared scops owl, a spotted owlet living in a gorgeous forest preserve.

So Hum

I am the kindness and enthusiasm of the naturalist guide.

So Hum

I am the rough road leading us deep into Ranthambore National Park.

So Hum

I am dust. I am sunshine.

So Hum

I am the tiger I did not see.

So Hum

I am the pink sunset, warming my heart.

So Hum

I am India.

So Hum

I am.

So Hum


India: Two Slideshows for You!

February 14, 2018

IMG_2984India is right here in my heart.

I arrived in India thinking this would be my last time teaching yoga with Spiritual India Journeys, and I left India with a plan to go back to teach yoga again with Spiritual India Journeys in January of 2020!  What can I say?  I am hooked on India!

I already miss the warmth, the sunshine, the refreshing coolness of the evening air, the generous smiles, the chaos and the jumble of street shops, and the perfect palaces and forts. I miss the temples and seeing people in prayer.  I miss our guides who educate us and keep us safe while proudly showing us their gem of a country.  I miss the forests of the south and the serenity of the hotel rooms with their fresh crisp white bed linens.  I miss my morning bowl of Indian yogurt (curd) and tropical fruit that smells and tastes as delicious as it looks. I miss my roommate Kelley bringing me a morning cup of coffee while I am still in bed.  I miss savoring the piping hot cup of coffee in that air conditioned hotel room, getting deeper under the sheets, knowing that I still had 45 minutes before the morning yoga session.

I miss teaching yoga in India, where you never know what to expect.  Will there be peacocks this time, or a surprise sculptured lion with gaping mouth looking at you?  Will there be a flock of parrots flying overhead or will it be the jungle babblers mocking us?  Or perhaps, while doing our Sun Salutations, will we encounter curious crows cawing at us? Maybe we will have to place our mats over pigeon feathers on a plush strip of grass.  Or will I have to place my mat on a sequined and glitter-covered floor, our studio home to Bollywood dancers by night?  Will the sunset be pink this morning or will it be golden?  Will we hear Hindu chanting or will it be the Muslim call to prayer as we begin our yoga this early morning?

I miss it all. But most of all, I miss the tour participants, the yogis who became my family for four solid weeks, two groups with whom I shared meals, thoughts, laughter, concerns, and deep one-of-a-kind experiences.

Together we touched the pulse of India. Together we touched life and seem to have journeyed to its very center.

Below you will see TWO slideshows from the January 2018 tours with daily yoga in India.  The first one is 5 minutes long and the second one is 6 minutes long. Turn up your volume!

(1) Enjoy the slideshow of South India 2018.

(2) Enjoy the slideshow of North India and Rajasthan 2018.



Nature as Divine Temple

January 31, 2018

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

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

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

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


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


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





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



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

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

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

Fresh tracks.

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

Relaxed Sambar:


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

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

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

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

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




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

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

End of a glorious day:


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

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




Spicin’ It in Kerala

January 16, 2018

Written yesterday:

Yesterday we went to the Spice Plantation. Our guide was so informative. We walked around and he showed us the various spice plants. He taught us remedies and recipes to make the most of the spice’s healing properties. He also identified birds, which were flying overhead, hanging out in the trees, and singing boisterously. At one point, an elephant strolled by. The elephant was a working elephant and was giving tourists a ride. Our guide explained that Kerala elephants have working rights. Only female elephants (male elephants go into musk and can be dangerous and aggressive) can be employed for tourism and their work hours are limited. In the past, the elephants were used for logging. Today no hard labor is allowed at all.


Below is what our knowledgeable guide taught us during the spice plantation tour:

PEPPER grows on a vine and is native to Kerala. The vine can grow up any tree. The tiny clusters of pepper corns are green. I learned that red, black, white, and green pepper corns are all from the same vine. If you leave them on the vine long enough, they turn red and various shades. White pepper has the skin removed and tastes very mild. Most of the spiciness of the pepper corn is in the skin.


One of the most interesting aspects of the pepper plant is that the pollinating agent is rain drops! Vasco da Gama brought the pepper plant back to Portugal with him and became a rich man! In his day, pepper was knows as Black Gold!

Cold and Sore Throat Remedy: Place 5-6 pepper corns, dry ginger, and basil leaves in a pot of water. Boil. Strain and add powdered coffee.

GINGER is related to cardamom and turmeric. All three are indigenous to Kerala. The Spice Plantation can easily be organic because, in general, insects do not eat spice plants. The only problem the plantation experiences is with the monkeys. Monkeys like to eat cardamom because it is sweet. They do not eat ginger or turmeric.

NUTMEG grows up high on trees. However, there is no need to climb trees to get the nuts because when they are mature, the nuts fall to the ground. The skin of the nut is red, is called mace, and is used in cooking in India. Nutmeg is the actual nut free of the red skin (mace). Many parts of the nut and tree are used. The shell of the nutmeg is pickled and the leaf is boiled in water and is used to reduce cholesterol.



In order to grow nutmeg, both male and female plants are needed. Males can live within 3 miles of the female tree and pollination still occurs! The pollinating agent is wind.

Sleeping Remedy: 1 or 2 pinches nutmeg powder with milk. You are advised not to drink this more than 2x per week because too much nutmeg hurts memory power.

Reduce Cholesterol: Boil the leaf of nutmeg in water and drink as a tea. The leaf does not affect memory so you can drink as much of this tea as you like.

CLOVES grow on a tree. Our guide warned us that when you buy cloves, they should be brown and not black. Black indicates that they are dried out and have lost their oils. Clove should be oily. Clove is good for toothaches, but can damage enamel. Clove helps rid the smell of mildew. It has a shelf life of 6-7 years if stored properly. Clove powder only has a shelf life of 6 months.

Protect yourself from mosquitoes: Stick three cloves into a lemon or lime sliced in two and place as many of these clove studded lemons in your room or near your body to chase away mosquitoes.

CINNAMON tree has to be 15 years old before its bark can be peeled. After peeling the bark, it takes the cinnamon tree six months for its bark to grow back. The dried leaves of the cinnamon tree are used in biryani rice.

And yes, the tree smells like cinnamon!

cinnamon tree and bark:


Cinnamon helps reduce high blood pressure and, when used in the winter, it helps keep you warm.

Below is a recipe/ way to use cinnamon to reduce fat. More than once, we asked our guide to repeat the recipe below…just to make sure we got it right.

Reduce Fat: Add half teaspoon cinnamon and half teaspoon ginger powder to one tablespoon of honey. That’s it. Don’t dilute it. Eat this every morning before breakfast for one month and, according to our spice specialist guide, you will see results in one month.

TURMERIC We also saw turmeric bulbs. The guide called them bulbs, but they looked like tubers to me. It is great for killing bacteria, for memory power, and in Ayurveda medicine, it is used medicinally to treat skin cancer.

Turmeric powder mixed with sandalwood and water, made into a paste and applied to the face is great for skin brightening and evening out irregular skin pigmentation and spots. This mixture also helps clear pimples and blackheads. In both cases, apply it as a facial masque, let it dry, the wash it off.

Fresh turmeric is used medicinally and dried is used as a food and spice. We learned that ginger is the complete opposite Fresh ginger is used for food and spice while dried ginger is used medicinally.

Seeing our great interest in weight loss remedies, our guide gave us the following additional ideas:

  • one or two pieces of 70% dark chocolate eaten daily every morning will help you lose weight ( of course we saw the cacao plant on the plantation).
  • Take a cup of warm water and add black pepper powder plus a few drops of lime or lemon juice. This is great for burning fat.
  • Take 2 or 3 tablespoons of cumin seeds and soak overnight. In the morning, discard the water and eat the soaked seeds. Do this daily for 20 days and you will see results.

We also saw allspice ( it comes from a leaf of the allspice tree), henna leaves used for hand design patterns here in India and hair color. Henna is always red in color though the leaves are green. We saw Indian borage, coffee plants, papaya (great for digestion) and banana trees, pineapple plants and jackfruit trees with their enormous fruit.

The list goes on and on. The variety of spice and fruit grown on the plantation was overwhelming.

The most expensive spice in the world is SAFFRON.

Number Two is VANILLA, the fragrant flower of a vine. Vanilla is native to Madagascar and grows beautifully in Kerala. Its pollinator is the hummingbird.

The world’s third most expensive spice is Kerala’s indigenous CARDAMOM. It needs high altitude and is pollinated by bees. Cardamom is used medicinally for diabetes and it reduces high blood pressure and lowers cholesterol.



Chiseled Town

January 10, 2018

We have been in Mamallapuram, also known as Mahaballipuram, for the past two heavenly days. With much reluctance we have to move on today. This going to another city brings a slight amount of dread (why must we leave the comfortable known, this elegant seaside hotel, the gentle breeze, the happy flocks of friendly South Indians?). However, moving on also invites an element of excitement because the India experience is one grand surprise after another. Just when we think nothing can surpass a given meal or a given temple or a given historical site, we are served up another unimaginable delight!

By Indian standards Mahaballipuram is a small town with a population of 8000 people. Back in 2001, my first visit here, the town was a quiet gem and, as I walked around, all I could hear was the consistent pleasant clink-clink-clink of stone masons and sculptors chiseling and chipping away at slabs of local granite. The sculptors’s hut-studios lined the streets and the artists magically rendered rock into statues of Ganesha and Shiva. Clearly, it seemed the chiseling artist’s job is to release the trapped bulls, monkeys, tortoises, and deities from the stones.

Today the town is bustling with masses of pilgrims visiting the temples and other holy sites of this town, but it is still charming as ever. Below are photos and descriptions of this wonderful town with its UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Monolithic Stone Temples carved from the existing granite. These 1,400 year old stone-sculpted temples are on the shore and vulnerable to tsunamis and rising sea levels.





The temple is surrounded by many bulls. The sculpted bulls were all found in the sea and you can see how eroded they are. The details of the faces are missing in these bulls. No one knows how old they are ( they pre-date this 1,400 year-old temple), exactly how many temples have been washed out or taken over by the sea, or what other treasures remain buried at sea.



Our lively guide for the day, Stalin. Presumably, his parents were communists and gave him this name.


Arjuna’s Penance below. Here, my fellow Catholic- raised readers, penance refers to “meditation”, a profound meditation Arjuna took on to seek wisdom and answers to difficult questions ( perhaps I can write more in this later). This incredible bas relief is carved into the immense live stone wall.




Beautiful little girl


My yoga Challenge continues I’m on day 46! Only 10 more days to go.


And, always a delight to lead my fellow yogis in yoga practice  yesterday, we had “International Yoga Day”. The lifeguard joined us, as did a French woman and a very lovely Irani-British woman.


Krishna’s Butterball. Krishna loves butter so this extraordinary rock, sitting seemingly precariously on the side of a steep hill, is named with Krishna in mind. Scientists cannot explain how the boulder got there.


Friends, Yoga Challenge, Fog, and Stepping Out in the Unknown

December 10, 2017

One day in early March 2010, Linda Tally said, “Fran, you should start a blog.”  And I started one that very month. My blog has been going strong ever since.  I may not write a blog post every day and, certainly, weeks go by without a blog peep out of me, but I do keep ’em comin’. Writing blog posts has made me better at crafting my words. Blogging has made me think more deeply and, over the years, my photography has improved.  Daily, I find myself thinking about topics I could write about, even though few of those topics actually materialize in blog form.  The countless topics are tucked away into the files of my brain.

I like to imagine that one day I will have more time for writing, but, for now, so much of my life is occupied by teaching and practicing yoga. I will just have to be content with whatever snippets of time I am able to devote to tapping out my thoughts on this computer.  What I’d love to craft is a book of essays on yoga thoughts, experiences, and philosophy.  Also on the back burner is a book about my Peace Corps experience and a return trip I took to Senegal long after my Peace Corps days were over.  My dad’s incredible life story awaits an audience as do the stories, swirling around in my brain, related to my Sicilian heritage and the many colorful characters who have helped shape me into who I am today.

Until then, you get a mishmash of this human’s thoughts and musings.

Yoga Challenge: As I mentioned in a previous blog, I started a personal yoga challenge on my birthday, November 25.  For the challenge, I am posting a photo of myself doing a yoga pose every day for a total of 56 days on Instagram (Yoga by Fran Gallo on Instagram).  Today is Day 15. Each day represents a year of my life.  The Yoga Challenge is much more difficult than I thought it would be.  Doing the pose under various conditions, taking the photo or getting someone to take the photo for me, and wanting to take shots outside when it’s darned cold out and often raining are some of the situations I’m confronting. The greatest challenge is the vanity issue.  I don’t like to be showy and I feel self-conscious taking and posting the photos, but it’s good for me.  I am far from perfect in form, physicality, and character, but I’m human -very human- and I’m doing my best and the photos candidly capture me just as I am the very moment in time the shot is taken. Yoga has been a part of my life for 27 years of the 56 years the postures represent.  Though far from easy, doing this challenge only seems right apropos my yoga practice and life.

And yes, sometimes it’s fun!

Below: Yesterday at Green Lake (Thank you, Jayne!)  The winter sun was bright and hitting the trees.  I noticed the long shadows cast by the sun and noted that it was only 2:40pm.  My face looks florid because of the light.  What I love most is the skinny tree-shadow my body is casting in this photo.


And then a complete turn-around in weather today.  The lake was foggy and the weather very cold.  I almost slipped several times on the sidewalk’s thin layer of black ice. The docks were covered in a thin film of frosted ice.  Sky and water merged to form a muted gray.  The photos from today are gems. (Thank you, Gail, for these very cool photos!) My friend Dayna says this photo looks mythical. I agree.  The ducks and geese add mystery to the photo.  Green Lake’s Duck Island seems to float. The fog was so thick that the photos almost look black and white. But the graffiti tells you another story.  In the photo below, the colorful graffiti vividly stands out, looks penciled in, an afterthought-splash of blue. The graffiti tells you the truth of the photo. It is not black and white.


Because of the ice on the docks, the only type of poses I could do safely were balance poses. Yes, oddly, I had a greater chance of slippage with two feet down because there was no grip for my feet!P1010005



David Whyte On a whim, I purchased a ticket to hear David Whyte read his poetry last night at the Center for Spiritual Living.  Let me start by saying that, even though I am married to a poet, I don’t always understand poetry when I read it.  It is best for me when I hear it read aloud, preferably by the poet who wrote the poem.  And what is most enjoyable is when the poetry is prefaced by a story, as happened at last night’s reading.

The evening was thought evoking and such a treat for my heart, my spirit, my mind.  Whyte grew up both in Ireland and in England.  It was a delight to hear him speak and read.  He is a master at story telling and poetry reading.  He connects with his audience and I especially love his mastery of the English language.  His words are rich with description.  His imagery transported me to Ireland, to a river, to a talking stone with the face of a sheela na gig carved into it set upon a plinth, to a conference of Catholic nuns seeking out deeper biblical understandings via the words and insight of a poet-heathen, to the Camino de Santiago and to Finisterre, where a pair of boots are burned to symbolize the end of one journey and the start of another.  Whyte’s imagery flowed into my dreams last night.  In my dreams, I walked on water.


David Whyte’s words ask us to waken into this life:

There’s a road always beckoning

Just beyond yourself

is where you need to be.

David Whyte asks us to “drink from a deeper source”:

  • Nature calls out to you, asking difficult questions.
  • Be bigger than yourself.
  • By walking you make the path, the pathless path.
  • Dedicate yourself to the impossible.
  • Step out and get just beyond yourself.

As I write, I hear David reciting his poetry with his style of repetitions.  The words are repeated, the words are repeated, until there is an understanding, until there is an understanding, followed by silence, an understanding followed by silence.

Also of note, David Whyte spoke about friendship:

But no matter the medicinal virtues of being a true friend or sustaining a long close relationship with another, the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.

Thank you, David Whyte, for your insight, wisdom, and words on friendship.  I was very moved by the reading last night.  I think it lent to the preciousness of today and to an ever deepening appreciation of the friendships I have cultivated in my life.



Celebrating Winter Solstice

December 4, 2017

I know we are still days away from the Winter Solstice, but this weekend, we had our annual Winter Solstice Hatha Yoga Retreat, always held the first weekend of December.


For me, this time of year is an opportunity to seek light, a time to put up Christmas lights and light candles in the early evenings.  I also see this as a time to surround myself with light, with people of light and radiance. I did just that this weekend with the lovely retreat participants! The early evenings and long nights leading to the winter solstice give ample time for restorative yoga by candlelight, time to contemplate, rest, reflect, and renew.


Here is a passage I found on line explaining the significance of the Winter Solstice:

Embrace the return of light.

Winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun is at its lowest arc in the sky. The word solstice is derived from the Latin word solstitiumsol meaning sun and –stitium meaning stoppage. One ancient definition of solstice is “standing still sun.” Because the earth is tilted on its axis, the northern hemisphere leans farthest away from the sun during the winter solstice (on December 21 or 22), resulting in a long, dark night.

The winter solstice has carried strong symbolism for many, many years. Some refer to solstice as the rebirth of the sun—and not coincidentally Christmas celebrates the birth of the Son. Ancient cultures feared the light of the sun would not return unless they performed vigils and rituals on the solstice.

Solstice can be a magical, contemplative time—a night of spiritual reconnection and ritual. While solstice may not have gained the notoriety of Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanza, many people celebrate it as a deeply meaningful holiday—a time to celebrate renewal, rebirth, and gratitude for the coming light.



During the weekend retreats, we often do shared readings.  The theme this weekend was winter solstice and I love what the retreat participants shared.  Below is some of what was shared:

“Did you rise this morning
broken and hung over
with weariness and pain
and rage, tattered from waving too long in a brutal wind?
Get up, child.
Pull your bones upright.
Gather your skin and muscle into a patch of sun.
Draw breath deep into your lungs;
you will need it
for another day calls to you.
I know you ache.
I know you wish the work were done
and you
with everyone you have ever loved
were on a distant shore
safe, and unafraid.
But remember this,
tired as you are:
you are not alone.
and here
and here also
there are others weeping
and rising
and gathering their courage.
You belong to them
and they to you,
and together
we will break through
and bend the arc of justice
all the way down
into our lives.”

– Audette Fulbright Fulson


I found the following poem by Maureen Edden:

The Shortest Day

it is night when I get up each morn
I have hardly made it to the noon
before blue shadows cross the lawn
and I am looking at the moon

L1400277The following Turkish Proverb was shared:

Good people are like candles; they burn themselves up to give others light.”

And here is a good reflective poem by William Stafford:

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the
and following the wrong god home we may miss
           our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of
storming out to play through the broken dike.
And as elephants parade holding each
          elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

And the following two poems speak to tonight’s Super Moon.
On a night
when the moon shines as brightly as this,
the unspoken thoughts
of even the most discreet heart might be seen.
(Izumi Shikibu 10th-11th century)
All night I could not sleep
Because of the moonlight on my bed
I kept on hearing a voice calling:
Out of Nowhere, Nothing answered, “yes.”
(Tzu Yeh 3rd-6th Century)
We experienced the very bright night skies last night and the night before as the Super Moon, not quiet yet full, was lighting up the cloudy night skies.  We especially experience the brightness of the moon here at Ocean Shores, where there is little light pollution.  Today, because of the gravitational pull of the Super Moon, when we took a walk on the beach, the tide was very high, leaving very little room to walk along the shore.  You can see the long shadows cast by the noon winter sun and the narrow stretch of sand on a beach that normally has a very large span of sand.
L1400275L1400282L1400278Lucky us…Jerry gifted all of us with her freshly pressed apple juice from her apple orchard.  So GOOD!!!!  Stay healthy and hydrated, readers!  And get out there and look at the super moon tonight!


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:


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


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:


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


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


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:


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



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:


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.


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.


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.



Quileute Tribal Art: Salmon


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



Dancer’s Pose on slick/wet driftwood:


The sea brings in a sofa!



Floating Leaves

November 20, 2017

It’s been a while since I last posted a blog.  I’ve been busy teaching and stealing away moments so I can plan, launch, and promote my yoga retreats coming up in 2018 (coming your way soon).  November and December have always been busy months for me and this year is no exception.  Just want to say all is well here! I think about blogging all the time. I always think of themes and ideas to write about for my blogs, but most of the ideas just float around like colorful leaves on the water’s surface, escaping word-dom.  Word-dom.  That’s a made-up word.  I like it!

Rick and I made a quick jaunt to Ocean Shores this weekend and then we came back to Seattle early yesterday for our dear friend’s mother’s memorial service and this evening we went to a concert at the Jazz Alley to hear the legendary Taj Mahal.  It was such a great show!

This morning we took another incredible walk at Green Lake, our new “front yard”.  I think the photos that I took today speak to the beautiful autumn we are having.  We are deep into November, the days are short and the air chilly and damp.  Miraculously, last week’s strong winds did not manage to loosen every leaf hanging by their stems.  The leaves, on the ground, in the trees, blown into the water, still dazzle the eye.  Below are my photos from this morning’s walk.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers!









In Love with Autumn

October 30, 2017

I’ve been taking many walks, marveling at the fall colors and the dazzling sunshine or the morning fog that casts a mood to the day.  I keep thinking to myself this is the best autumn ever, the leaf colors more vibrant than what I’ve seen in the past.  Then, today, I went through autumn photos I have taken this year and from years past.  I have come to the conclusion that every autumn is beautiful even though I want to say this year is the best.

I took the photos below at Green Lake yesterday:




As I walk around admiring the colors of the season, the special slant of the sun’s rays, and the fresh smell in the air, so particular to this time of year, I can’t help thinking about the coming of the shorter, darker days, the long cold nights and days approaching, and the imminent days of endless rain in Seattle.  And so I cling to the drops of sunshine, the cool air that feels so good on my skin, and the richness of the colors of the leaves.

There’s so much beauty as the trees shed their leaves.  I bring out my fall and winter clothing, pull out my sweaters which, once again, look and feel brand new.  The weight of the fabrics and the coziness of a simple scarf wrapped loosely around my neck give me comfort that no other season’s clothing offers.

Below are other favorite autumn photos I have taken, some recent, some from a few years ago. I have also included two poems found on line that speak to the season.

Even if the first photo below has the electric wire in it, I still like how the trees appear torched by the sun.



I like the images in this rhyming poem:

Autumn’s Majesty

© Patricia L. Cisco

Sun with his artistic touch,
streaks skies of blue with rosy blush,
trimming Oak and Maple too,
crimson reds with yellow hue.

Birch and Hemlock, purple and gold,
apples, pumpkins bright and bold,
burns by day and cools by night,
cloaking trees in fiery might.

Wispy winds and tumbling leaves,
cypress scents within the breeze,
starry eves and harvest moon,
sets the stage for crickets’ tune.

As spiders spin their tapestry
and crickets sing in symphony,
their final song of destiny,
it’s clear for all the world to see,
Autumn’s vibrant majesty!


Below: “spider’s tapestry”  I took the next three photos by shooting up at the sun through the spider web.
Yes, selfies:



Sing To Me, Autumn

© Patricia L. Cisco

Sing to me, Autumn, with the rustle of your leaves.
Breathe on me your spicy scents that flow within your breeze.

Dance with me, Autumn, your waltz that bends the boughs of trees.
Now tell me all the secrets you’ve whispered to the seas.

Sleep with me, Autumn, beneath your starlit skies.
Let your yellow harvest moon shimmer in our eyes.

Kiss me, Autumn, with your enchanting spellbound ways
That changes all you touch into crimson golden days.

Love me, Autumn, and behold this love so true
That I’ll be waiting faithfully each year to be with you.




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