Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
Here
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

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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

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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
           world
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
          childhood
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
          park,
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
         shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should
         consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the
dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to
          sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
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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!

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Giving Thanks

November 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

In gratitude, Fran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quileute Tribal Art: Salmon

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

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Dancer’s Pose on slick/wet driftwood:

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The sea brings in a sofa!

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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!

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

October 16, 2017

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

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

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

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Fields along the hike:

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Gigantic strands of kelp on the beach:

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

Linda’s decor is magical and festive:

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

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

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

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Hope you are enjoying this Autumn Season!

October Splendor in the Garden, at the Coast

October 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunshine, don’t be fooled!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy October!

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To Fish or Not to Fish

August 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunrise:

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

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

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

Diet

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

Population

Did You Know?

Beaver ponds provide critical habitat for juvenile salmon.

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

Behavior

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

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

Reproduction

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

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

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Fish on!  Matt helps Kathryn net her salmon.

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Stellar Sea Lions

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Part II: Lured by Rajasthan and Taj Mahal

August 20, 2017

Part II brings you dreamy images of Rajasthan, India.  This tour with daily yoga includes visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra.  Please enjoy the photos.  The photos below were all taken by me except for the first two (the tiger photos).

Journey to Rajasthan, Delhi, and Agra takes place from January 17 — February 3, 2018

This tour is led by Arvind Singh, organized by Kelley McHenry, and offers daily Hatha yoga, which I will be teaching.  In today’s second post, I am sharing a few of my favorite photos from travels in Rajasthan, Delhi, and Agra.  We will be revisiting the places below in the January 2018 travels. These trips to India will be the last I will be offering in India, only because I hope to offer yoga retreats to various areas.

Registration is open through the end of August 2017.  There is plenty of space for you.  View Full itinerary

One of the most exciting places we visit is Ranthambore National Park.  The park is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger.  If we are lucky, we will see a tiger.  The photos below are from a few years back.  These two photos were taken by a tour participant on one of our trips with her lovely Olympus camera (so I call these two photos “Rebecca’s Tiger”).

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Ranthambore National Park and Keoladeo National Park are two of my favorite nature visits on this tour. As of the last count, Ranthambore is home to 34 adult tigers and 14 cubs.  Both Ranthambore and Keoladeo are World Heritage Sites.  Keoladeo is considered to be the richest bird sanctuary in the world.  It is located in Bharatpur and is home to 366 species of birds.  Below are a blend of photos from both national parks:

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And a bundled up Arvind-with-bird-upon-head on an early morning chilly tiger safari outing to Ranthambore:

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Another highlight of the trip is the visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Agra, the Taj Mahal.  It is massive and one of the most beautiful buildings on earth.  Arvind tells the love story behind the Taj Mahal and explains the vision behind the construction of this mausoleum so perfectly.  The first time I saw it, I was so moved by the sheer force of the site before me that I thought my legs would buckle to the ground.  I believe one must see and experience the grandeur of the Taj Mahal at least once in a lifetime!

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When I think of Rajasthan, I see colorful saris, turbans, and the warm faces of the desert people.  It is an otherworldly and welcoming part of India. L1280618

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Where else do you find a “Blue City”, vast palaces that stand out like glistening jewels in a desert landscape, and immense astrological palace observatories?

Jodhpur the Blue City

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Imagine doing early morning sun salutations on the terrace of your hotel as a pink sun rises, awakening and lifting your spirit:

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I love the photo below with cow, auto rickshaw, and outdoor pots and pans.  India is, at times, wonderfully mind boggling.

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I had to do a little climbing to be in this photo.  India is all at once complex and simple, ancient and new.

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While in the desert, the camels await you.  They make a most humorous sound.  The first time I heard a camel, I asked aloud, “What’s that sound?”  A nearby woman answered me in a matter-of-fact tone, “That is camel, madam.”  Look at how the camel is watching me do Ustrasana, Camel Pose.

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India is 1,344,664,943 beating human hearts! 

There is an India population site where the numbers keep augmenting before your very eyes.

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Part I: Lured by Images of South India

August 19, 2017

I have two back-to-back tours in India taking place January 2018.  Both of the tours are led by Arvind Singh, organized by Kelley McHenry, and both tours offer daily Hatha yoga, which I will be teaching.  In today’s post, I am sharing my favorite photos from my last trip to South India.  We will be revisiting the places below in the January 2018 travels. These trips to India will be the last I will be offering in India, only because I hope to offer yoga retreats to various areas.

I can’t capture the entire trip with these few photos, but hope to give you an idea of the beauty that is INDIA (in this case, South India).  I hope the photos will be of interest and lure you into considering joining me in January.  Or perhaps the photos will offer you an opportunity to do some armchair travel!

South India Tour with Daily Hatha Yoga takes place January 2-January 18, 2018. I am happy to announce that this trip is definitely happening.  Registered participants are already purchasing their flights.  Registration is open through the end of August 2017 View Full itinerary

Periyar Park is a reserve for the Asian elephant.  How I love this park and the elephants living there!  In the evening, the elephants in the park gather at the edge of the lake to get their fill of fresh water.  We watched them from our boat, from the middle of the lake.  In this photo, a baby is coddled and protected by two females.  The next day, we visited the park again in the early morning.  Three naturalists from the park guided us on a walking tour.  I never imagined I would walk in elephant territory, but my group and I did just that.  We got pretty close (at least I think we were close!) to these massive and lovely wild creatures.  Seeing them was thrilling!

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The photos in this blog are not in chronological order of the tour.  The photo below was taken in Mumbai, at the start of the trip.  Mumbai is not considered South India, but it is where we fly into and is a short flight to two of our destinations: the UNESCO World Heritage historical caves of Ajanta and Ellora.

Mumbai is vast.  It felt like a cultural center to me, lively and thriving. I loved visiting the Taj Hotel and the house where Gandhi lived for a while.  I was fascinated by his personal library, which still sits intact in his home.

IMG_0428The people of India are bighearted, friendly, beautiful inside-and-out, welcoming, and the children, in particular, are adorable.  Seeing the children and their proud, loving families is a great joy to experience in India:  L1340459

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L1340599Below: School kids enjoying Shiva’s Butterball (as this boulder is called).  You can see a path worn on the stone surface where the kids are playing.  The worn path is most likely created from thousands of years of kids sliding down, as two of the school girls are about to do.

L1340576When I think of South India, I think of the numerous ancient stone carvings of the temples.  Mahaballipuram has impressive stone carvings, as do the caves of Ellora and Ajanta.  It is a singular and unforgettable experience to walk among such massive carvings!

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L1340313During the journey, we stayed in some wonderful places.  The most unique overnight stay is on the houseboat in Kerala.  We relaxed and enjoyed being rocked by the waters.  The rooms are deliciously cool thanks to the air-conditioning (I don’t really like AC, but so appreciated the comfortably cool boats!).  In the afternoon, we got into smaller canoe-like boats and floated along smaller river ways to see the many houses and people living along the banks of the river.

L1350299L1350279We attended Kerala’s signature performance and classical form of dance, drama, and music called Kathakali.  It is an art form that is more than 400 years old.  Below you can see one of the Kathakali performers.  We had our own intimate and private performance. On this day, we all wore our new colorful Indian clothing.  In the second photo below, you can see our festively dressed group gathered around one of the actors from the Kathakali performance.

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12933011_1348191141863221_6997846868358269616_n-1And lastly is a photo of Maria.  We did a South Indian cooking course with Maria in her home kitchen.  I discovered Maria on line and asked Arvind to please include a cooking course with her.  After a little hesitation (Arvind had never met Maria and didn’t have much of an idea of what the experience would be like until he further researched), Arvind agreed to include Maria’s cooking course in the itinerary.  The food was some of the best we had ever eaten in South India!  She appeared to be a magician, an alchemist of sorts, as she blended her spices and demonstrated how to put the various dishes together. To top off the experience, her husband sang Hindi love songs from various movies for us as we ate our delicious dinner.  As we ate, serenaded by Maria’s husband George, Arvind’s head swayed to the live music.  Between bites of food, Arvind sported the satisfied smile of a Cheshire cat.

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  • Click here for a link to see incredible on line images of the Ajanta and Ellora caves.
  • It is so difficult to fathom how the stone sculptures and caves were carved, that some people have theories of an advanced civilization being involved in making them. Though I do not subscribe to this theory, it is fascinating to watch the following video clip to see how intricate the temples are at Ajanta and Ellora. View video
  • View one of my most popular blog posts on India: 10 Reasons Why I Love India
  • This trip is organized by Spiritual India Journeys.

PART II is coming your way next: Rajasthan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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