Archive for the ‘Washington State’ Category

A Nature Sanctuary

May 13, 2019

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

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

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

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OS House Real Estate Description

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

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More information from Fran:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AND A FEW MORE FACTS:

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

FLOOR PLAN:

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

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

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

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

List Price $269,000

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

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Namaste,

Fran

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More Snow

February 11, 2019

As I write this email, big fat snowflakes are coming down again on Seattle. Makes me wonder about tomorrow’s downtown commute.  Remember, Seattle has hills and more hills, and navigating those hills with sheets of ice is quite dangerous.

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But on the fun side of Snowy Seattle, here are a few photos from today’s walk around Green Lake.  The lake is starting to freeze over.  You can see thin sheets of ice in some of my photos below.  I thought to do a Dog Fashion Show Photo Shoot because I saw so many cute dogs wearing coats, hoodies, knit snow pants, and other adorable fashion statements, all in vivid colors…maybe next time.

Silhouette: Early morning hummingbird visit outside our window. The hummingbirds are hungry and we have to make sure their food (sugary syrup) doesn’t freeze!

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Cloud Reflections on Icy Green Lake:

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Adorable Westie named Mikie!  Check out his coat!

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Seattle Snow

February 9, 2019

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Yes, we got snow!  And more snow coming our way tomorrow and next week.  It’s beautiful and I feel so lucky to live right across from Green Lake.  Just outside our window, I see people skiing along Green Lake’s outer and inner trails on cross-country skis, kids on sleds, dogs wearing dog coats and sniffing the snow, and adults happily walking around.

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Here is our Honda covered in snow:

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Rick and I went out early this morning to enjoy the hushed beauty of the fresh snowfall.  Already, people were out skiing and walking around the lake!

I’d say the downside of such a rare heavy snowfall is that we have a hard time driving around.  All it takes is two inches of snow and the city shuts down or operates at low capacity.  The reason for this is because Seattle is surrounded by hills. Melted snow freezes into ice overnight and the combination of ice and hills is treacherous indeed!  Furthermore, since we rarely get much snow, the city has a limited number of snow plows and only major roads are cleared. It is also unusual for the city to salt the roads because it is bad for the environment (the city uses sand on icy roads), so slippery surfaces come with the snow.

I was looking forward to leading my annual two-day February workshop this weekend east of the mountains, but we had to cancel due to this winter storm.  Here in Seattle, the snow upsets our work schedules and, rather than drive, commuters take city buses. The city buses have chains on their tires, drive on snow routes, and the buses are so crowded that there is standing room only for many of us.

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The upside is the sheer beauty of the snow!  As you can see from these photos, the snow makes way for a photographer’s dream.

Three views of Snow Crow:

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Definitely no swimming at Green Lake for a while:

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Fishing dock:

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Rick, the birthday man of the day, got a blanket of snow from Mother Nature!  He says this is the first time it has ever snowed in Seattle on his birthday:

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More snow is expected to come our way and the temperature is at a freezing point in Seattle. Some areas got over 12 inches of snow.  It is 32 degrees at the moment. One might ask, “Is this the most snow Seattle has ever had?”  No, definitely not, but it is unusual.  On average, we get about five inches of snow every winter season.  There are some years when we have no snow in the city.  Records show that the greatest snowfall in one day in Seattle was on February 2, 1916, when 21.5 inches covered the city.

The 1916 Seattle record snowfall almost sounds like the Great Blizzard of January 1978 that hit the Great Lakes region (Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio got hit the worst), including my hometown Merrillville, Indiana, and dumped over 20 inches of snow on top of the previous 5 inches already on the ground.  The blizzard was accompanied by winds that made snowdrifts that covered houses and brought temperatures to well below freezing!  I was a teen and had cabin fever because we were all stuck in the house for about a week.  At the end of Week One, I was feeling very housebound. My childhood friend Simone came by my house in a van driven by her new and odd boyfriend, Pico.  Reluctantly and totally out of character, my parents gave me permission to go out for a “drive” with my friend and her new boyfriend.

Pico decided it would be cool to drive over to Lake Michigan.  So off to Lake Michigan we went.  He drove his van very close to the frozen edge of the lake.  Not a soul could be seen in any direction. Winds howled around us. “Hey, let’s walk on the lake! It’s totally frozen over.”  Against my better judgement, I bundled up and off we went.  Brilliant Pico kept the van running so it would be nice and warm upon our return.  As I walked, I could barely see anything because the wind was whipping fiercely and tears were running down my face.  My lungs burned from the frigid temperature.  We slipped and slid on the frozen waves, at first giddy with laughter.  But within minutes, a deep panic set in!  We were only about thirty-five feet from the van and I said, “We have to go back to the VAN now!”  No one questioned me. Somehow, we made it back to the van just in time.  Our hands and feet, even though we wore warm mittens and heavy boots, were showing signs of frostbite.  A deep throbbing pain set in as our hands and feet defrosted in the warmth of the van.  Simone cried because her fingers hurt so badly. I refused to cry.  I was, instead, angry at myself for going on this death-wish of an outing. We could have run out of gas or we could have locked ourselves out of the van because the keys were in the van with the engine running.  These sobering thoughts kept me sharp and made my sixteen-year-old-brain think more clearly about the idea of “safe adventures”.

So, you see how the snowfall brings back memories of days gone by!  When we first woke up this morning, both Rick and I immediately thought about our cat, Little Bear, who died March 2012. We had him for almost 18 years and he so loved the snow! And we loved him more than I ever thought it possible to love a furry being. I guess that’s why his little spirit came to mind today.

And back to the pristine beauty of snow at Green Lake:

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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.

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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

Yoga in the Company of Dogs

August 19, 2018

Ruby – Cleopatra – Sidney – Bo 

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll bet you have heard this prayer:

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

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

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

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

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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There is a place…

June 2, 2018

There is a place….

where magic happens.  It’s not far from Seattle, just a short ferry ride away on Vashon Island. For a few years now, I’ve offered day retreats at what I will call a “secret garden”.  I’m not allowed to say on social media where this place is because it is a private property, but those of you lucky enough to have been at one of my yoga day retreats there will know exactly where it is.

The photos from this blog post are from a yoga day retreat I offered at this site two weeks ago.  I am afraid that this may have been my last retreat offered at this enchanted site as there are some changes taking place on the property.  I am not to talk about the situation.  Just like Jury Duty!  Being cryptic is not my style, but there you have it!

What I can say is that two weeks ago a group of 14 lucky yogis got to breathe in the emerald forest air, see a bit of Indonesia in the Pacific Northwest, walk among ancient stones imported from Asia, eat organic, locally-sourced food infused with love and tenderly prepared by Karen Biondo of La Biondo Farm on Vashon.  Together, we meditated in an ancient temple, shared some beautiful imagery we observed during our stay on the property, images we continue to carry in our hearts, did yoga in an authentic antique Chinese tea merchant’s house, and shared meals and warm conversations.  New friendships blossomed and old friendships deepened.  It’s the kind of gathering every yogi dreams of.

I will always have a deep gratitude and respect for David Smith, who visualized this lush paradise and created this Indonesian-Meets-Pacific Northwest haven at his home on Vashon. David was a delicate gentle soul. When he passed away, he left this precious legacy behind.  The current caretakers of the property have done a marvelous job of keeping this place vibrant and ever more beautiful when I didn’t think that was possible. I can’t believe we have been lucky enough to practice yoga on this property.  I will continue to search out another treasured place to host my next day retreats on Vashon.  Wish me luck and if you have any leads for future Vashon sites, let me know.

Chillin’ before our meditation session inside this temple:

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Summer
Summertime brings joy
The sun warms us outside in
Nature calls us out

Beach Walk
Nature opens eyes
While great blue Herons hunt fish
Water sparkles wet

Poems by Milo Minnis: fellow yoga instructor, yoga day retreat participant, poet, student of Judith Lasater, visionary, beautiful human being

Serene: photo of statue below taken by Skye McNeill (Surface Designer, Illustrator, Photographer, Graphic Designer extraordinaire! visit Skye’s website)

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“As yoga teachers, our job is to mirror back the inherent goodness and inner wisdom of our students. But first, we have to find it in ourselves.”  – Judith Hanson Lasater

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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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