Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Summertime Affirmation

August 31, 2019

“I LOVE my life!”  We are sailing as we throw our arms up in the air and, like wild women high on life, we scream out loud in unison, “I LOVE MY LIFE!” It is our affirmation. It is our mantra.  It is our ritual. And I laugh as the wind off Elliott Bay whips my hair into Medusa-like waves of unruliness. My Spiritual Women’s Group feeds my soul and reminds me to un-tame myself.

And the sailing trip is a punctuation mark to the waning days of summer.

My artist friend Beth gave me the biggest compliment on my sunset sailing photo below when she asked me if she could have permission to paint this photo!  YES!

What a summer it has been! It’s been a summer filled with teaching, plus getting our ocean home ready and vacated for the buyers’ original closing date, which was supposed to be August 23, and then extending the closing date (due to unforeseen circumstances on the buyers’ end) and sitting in limbo while waiting for the new closing date to arrive. My husband and I have been busily merging two households into one modest condo space in the city, picking and choosing, sorting through and sorting out, sifting, lightening the load, getting rid of THINGS, giving to charity, reliving the last twenty years with bitter-sweet emotions… and excitedly entering a new chapter of our lives. My emotions are a hodgepodge of various colors smeared into a bright rainbow.  It’s all so overwhelming and wonderful!

Time has flown by.

We had our last Yoga in the Park on Tuesday. Yoga in the Park 2019 was incredible. There are many people whom I only see during these outdoor summer yoga classes.  I started teaching the park classes some 20+ years ago and the tradition will continue next year.

I feel a grand wallop of GRATITUDE to the following musicians who graced our sessions with beautiful music: Borys Kossakowski (a man who plays many instruments, including guitar, saxophone, and clarinet), Andrea Carino (flute), and Glenn Frank (guitar) + Liz Talley (cello).

And thank you to Tina Koyama for sketching us! I hope you will all come again next year!

On the last outdoor yoga session of the year last Tuesday, we had a Yoga Potluck, a picnic table laden with tasty wholesome food, including summer seasonal fruit, Borys’ homemade bread, and Larry’s cherry pies and ice cream. Everything was so delicious.

Thank you Mother Nature for the rain (even though we had to cancel some classes early on) and for the sunny days, for the green trees and the big blue skies, and the smoke-free air this year. And even though I suffered a bee stung on the first day of Yoga in the Park, I want to thank the bees and their love of clover and for being essential pollinators. Thank you Mother Nature for the simple breeze and the color green and for providing the perfect shady and sun-filled setting for Yoga in the Park. Thank you to those of you who brought your lovely children.  The children added to the richness of Yoga in the Park. And thank you Annie and Brenda for bringing your furry yogis, Murphy and Pete. They are the true masters of Downward Facing Dog, Upward Facing Dog, and Shavasana!

On the last day, I asked one of the children, attending with his mother and sister, if he would like to show Fish Pose to the group because his fish was truly inspirational.  He confidently and happily walked to the center of our yoga circle and instantly transformed himself from Boy to Fish Yogi.  Here is what his mother wrote me later:

I LOVE Yoga in the Park and it was really special to get to share it with my children this year. They both really loved it and I really appreciate you acknowledging Ruya – he was very excited and I think it built his love for and confidence with yoga. We will definitely see you at Yoga in the Park next year!

Also I wanted to share with you that I’ve had a wonderful summer (a month in Japan, time with family, camping, etc.) but my favorite experience I’ve had all summer was the first Yoga in the Park session I attended (with Sana). There was a long moment when I felt total presence, bliss, and gratitude looking up at the beautiful leaves blowing in the wind (my favorite phrase: “wind bath”) with the blue sky as background. Thank you so much for creating such an amazing experience and space for everyone. – Nami

YOGA IN THE PARK NEXT YEAR If you live in or near Seattle and didn’t get a chance to join us this year, there is always next year! In 2020, I will be adding another day to the Yoga in the Park all levels Hatha Yoga Classes because I truly love these classes. In fact, I feel sad that it is over. Here’s the outdoor park yoga class schedule for next year:

Tuesdays 6-7pm Meridian Park (same place as the last 20 plus years!) June 16-August 25, 2020, 11 sessions

Wednesdays 6-7pm Green Lake (NEW!! Will be near the Bathhouse Theater ..there is parking near the Bathhouse, too..there’s shade and sun, flat grassy areas, and no duck droppings at the spot I staked out). June 17 – August 26, 2020, 11 sessions

Go ahead and mark your 2020 calendars!  I will add it to my on line Google Calendar soon. And yes, we always end the last session of the season with a potluck!

Teaching SCHEDULE:
I’m leaving for Sicily on Sunday, September 1st, where I am leading two yoga retreats (!!) When I return, I will be teaching my regular classes in Seattle. I will be adding a Wednesday 4pm Gentle Hatha Yoga class at OmCulture Green Lake the first Wednesday of October. I resume teaching Monday, September 23, 2019.

Mondays
7-8am St Joseph in Capitol Hill (class is full)
10:30-11:30am Seattle Athletic Club (membership based)
1-2pm Seattle Athletic Club (private instruction)
4-5:15pm OmCulture Green Lake (drop ins welcome) Gentle Hatha Yoga
5:45-7pm OmCulture Green Lake (drop ins welcome) All Levels Hatha Yoga

Tuesdays
7:45-9pm Teaching a group at a Private Residence in Belltown
10:30-11:30 Seattle Athletic Club
4pm-7pm Adaptive Yoga Therapy for the Special Needs Child in Magnolia

Wednesdays
7-8am St Joseph in Capitol Hill
10:30-11:30am Seattle Athletic Club
4-5:15pm OmCulture Green Lake (drop ins welcome) Gentle Hatha Yoga (this new class begins October 2, 2019.)

Thursdays
7:45-9pm Teaching a group at a Private Residence in Belltown
10:30-11:30 Seattle Athletic Club
4pm-7pm Adaptive Yoga Therapy for the Special Needs Child in Magnolia

Stay tuned for my blog posts from Sicily and enjoy the last days of summer!

Lush South India

August 15, 2019

LUSH South India awaits you!

Here is your chance to experience India with one of India’s best tour guides, Dr. Arvind Singh, and to practice daily Hatha Yoga with me, Fran Gallo, while you are touring various jewel-like sites of South India. There are two enticing trips to choose from and this blog post focuses on the South India adventure. My next blog post will focus on the second trip being offered in Rajasthan.  Readers, kindly share this blog link with friends who may be interested.

  • South India January 2 – 18, 2020 (this blog’s focus)
  • Rajasthan, Agra, and Varanasi in North India January 18 – February 5, 2020

The deadline to register is August 31, 2019 or sixteen days from now. Both trips are organized and offered by Spiritual India Journeys. I am lucky enough to be hired by Spiritual India Journeys to teach daily yoga. I get to experience yoga with you and help you navigate one of the most fascinating continents on earth.

There’s got to be a reason why I go back to India again and again, right? I was certain that last year would be my last time taking part in the India tours (only because I have worked with the tours six times and would like to offer a variety of other yoga-related travels).  However, I had such a great time and felt so deeply connected to the tour participants and to the experience of being fully immersed in India that I committed to teaching again in India in January 2020!

Why travel to India? India is simply other-worldly and enticing! It is a vast country with much diversity in its people, religions, languages, cuisine, spices, terrain, climate, art, music, dance, history, and architecture (to name a few!).  Being on one of Dr. Arvind Singh’s tours is like a college course in that you learn so much.

Quite frankly, it is really mind boggling to write about India. Where do I begin? In this blog, I will use my photos from South India to give you an idea why you must go to India at least once in your lifetime. I hope to and intend to perhaps convince you to come with me in January 2020. Your greatest challenge will be deciding on which trip to sign up for because, honestly, they are both incredible! (Perhaps you will sign up for both trips since they are back to back!) The following is only a sample of what you will experience in our South India tour with daily yoga.

LUSH SOUTH INDIA

Mamallapuram

The first time I went to Mamallauram, I was greeted by the ching ching ching of the stone cutters chipping away at their stone carvings of bulls, lotus flowers, Ganesha, Saraswati, and Gopi Krishna, to name a few. Not only does this town have a name that is a mouthful and very fun to say aloud, it is also home to some of India’s most well-known historic monolithic temples and carvings. There is a singular boulder lovingly called Shiva’s Butterball. It is enormous and seems to balance delicately on a steep hill. The boulder leaves you wondering where on earth this stone came from. Did this magically rendered boulder drop from the heavens? And if so, did the earth shake and quake when it dropped? Or did it pop up, erupting from the bowels of the earth? Did Shiva forget to eat his tasty butterball and leave it to melt in the sun? And, let’s say this boulder rolled into place from some invisible disintegrating mountain chain. If so, why did it stop rolling to where it is today and how has it managed to balance in place so perfectly for millennia when most of us cannot even hold Tree Pose for more than three minutes? The lone-stone sparks the imagination of schoolchildren and adults alike.

Many school children arrive by the busload to admire the mysterious boulder and the nearby carvings. The children are beautiful, dynamic, boisterous, and adorable. It is ever so fun to interact with them as well as the adults accompanying them.

Our guide brings meaning and life to the ancient carvings, Shore Temple, and stones as he interprets the stories behind the ancient artwork.

Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We usually arrive early evening and are greeted by a local guide who gives us a tour of the temple. The temple and grounds are vast and the guide gives us access to sacred places of Hindu worship. The temple is overwhelmingly exquisite in structure, art, and architecture.  The early evening brings a sense of magic as the temple lights are turned on.

Trichy Rock Fort Temple

Rock Fort is a historic temple complex built on an ancient rock that reaches 272 ft, located in the state of Tamil Nadu. There 344 steps cut directly into the stone and the steps lead directly to three temples. One temple is all the way at the top of the rock.  The rock was used as a fort by various rulers. The oldest structure within the fort is a cave temple built in 580 AD. The cave temple is filled with intricately decorated columns, carved directly from the existing rock.

And just so you know, it’s not everyone who can make it to the top of the 344 steps. The day might be hot and the sun beaming on the stones may make you feel like a fire walker. Usually, if the day is particularly hot, jute mats are placed over the stone so you can walk more easily without feeling the hot stones on your sensitive feet. To enter temple grounds in India, you must always remove your shoes and enter barefoot. Some clever people in our group packed several pairs of socks to wear on such occasions.  After walking around the temple in socks, they simply tossed the used pair of socks in a rubbish bin. For those who can not climb so many stairs, there are markets and shopping stalls, tea shops, and more accessible places for you to visit while the others in your group do the stair climb to the top.

The climb to the top is exhilarating.  And at the very top, you get to pay homage to Ganesha as the temple is dedicated to him. Ganesha offers protection and power. He is the remover of the obstacles that life throws your way. The climb is a journey, a pilgrimage. Even if you are not Hindu, the climb to the top gives you a chance to experience Tapas. The tapas I mention here has nothing to do with small tasty and delectable dishes found in a restaurant in Spain. Tapas in Hinduism is an ascetic practice voluntarily carried out to achieve spiritual strength or purification of self.  Tapas are spiritual practices that often involve a high degree of self-discipline, like climbing 344 steps to reach a quiet temple in the sky. Engaging in a period of deep meditation or going on a ten-day Vipassana meditation retreat are also forms of tapas.

In the yoga practice, Tapas is one of the niyamas, yoga’s ethical guide to living.  Tapas refers to “self-discipline”. Everyone who manages to undergo the temple steps has an intense experience. It is a powerful and unforgettable experience.

The word tapas comes from the Sanskrit root word tap, which means “to be hot.” This relates the word to the concept of spiritual rebirth and the inner fire needed to achieve spiritual rebirth.

Madurai

My best writing about India happens when I am actually there, when my head is swimming with stories of gods and goddesses, or humming with the sounds of humanity, or filled with names of birds I have just seen in the quiet of the morning in Madurai. There is one hotel where we stay which has employee-groundskeepers who double as avid birders. These knowledgeable birders offer early morning and early evening bird watching on and near the hotel grounds. Even if you are not a birder, you will want to go on these walks. You will most likely see at least a few of the following species of birds: Indian paradise flycatchers, blue-bearded bee-eaters, Indian pittas, red-whiskered bulbuls and red-vented bulbuls, Malabar trogons, Indian golden orioles, purple-rumpled sunbirds, and the greater raquet-tailed Drongo with its showy long tailed feathers! The magical names of these birds are beautiful but nowhere near as lovely as the actual birds!

Meenakshi Temple in Madurai

This temple is fascinating. I am not a Hindu and yet I feel perfectly comfortable in this and all Hindu places of worship. I believe the reason for this is because temples in India embrace universal aspects of spirituality. Temples in India represent a macrocosm of ideas related to what it means to be human and our relationship to the divine. I do not understand all that is happening around me when I am in a Hindu temple, but I understand that the temple is a powerful place of worship. In Meenakshi Temple, I feel the sanctity of this temple strongly. I understand why this temple is so beloved a place of worship. This is a temple dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi. She sleeps with one eye open because she is always looking after you. Intricate stone carvings, colorful mandala-covered ceilings, festive bright saris, and ceremonies greet you. Arvind explains it all for us, but really, in the end, you take into your heart what you feel while you are there. Large numbers of women come to this temple to pray for safe pregnancies. The women also come to pray for their husband’s health. When I saw the women praying for their husbands at this temple, I felt so deeply moved. This temple is truly a special place of spirit.

Periyar National Park

This national park is home to the wild Asian elephant. The elephants are magnificent and can be seen from your boat on Lake Periyar.  In the evening, the elephants make their way to the lake for a refreshing drink of water. Mothers create a moving fortress for the baby elephants as they walk by putting their cherished toddlers in the center of their group!

Cardamom County

Cardamom County is the name of the hotel we stay at near Periyar National Park. Besides a large inviting swimming pool and a beautiful yoga studio, where you can see a giant squirrel up in the trees, there is an Ayurvedic doctor who gives each hotel guest a complimentary Ayurvedic consultation. I cannot tell you how much I benefited from this consultation! I had very specific concerns and the doctor gave me some great ideas on hydration, diet, and lifestyle. I was given guidelines on many aspect of life. I dream of going back and checking into the Cardamom County Hotel for one full month to simply get treatments, consultations, and eat a wholesome Ayurvedic diet prescribed specifically for me! There is a wonderful Ayurvedic spa at this hotel and the treatments are heavenly and affordable!

Houseboat

Hands down, this is the most relaxing part of the whole two weeks! What else are you supposed to do on a houseboat but relax! The houseboat has sleeping rooms and space for us to do yoga. The bedrooms are wonderfully air conditioned. The waters are lined with colorful homes and as we go out on smaller canoes, we can see local life taking place along the canals. From the canoe, I felt terribly voyeuristic watching a woman squeeze the excess water from her freshly washed long thick hair. But, I shamefully kept staring, mesmerized by her beauty, unable to pry my eyes from the scene.

On the houseboat, the staff is attentive. They prepare delicious meals for us. Most people just chill out drinking fresh coconut milk straight out of the coconut. We lie back, taking in the essence of India. After a full two weeks together, we all just lounge about and smile, digesting the journey together thus far. No need to talk at this point. Time to just take in the sun setting over the water, the water turning pink as sunset deepens. This is a bit of heaven on earth.

Cooking with Maria

I am proud to say that I found Maria. When I told Arvind I wanted to add Maria’s cooking school experience to the itinerary, he looked at me askance! After all, he had never had a cooking school component on the tours. However, he gave in to my request. Shortly after the cooking experience with Maria, he said with an ear to ear smile, “Tell me again how you found her????” Maria is lovely and reminds me of a wizard mixing up some magical concoction that will make you fall in love or make you fall deeper in love with all that is India. Oh, yeah! We all file into her modest kitchen and it’s all hands on. We create a gigantic meal over her little 4-burner cook-stove. Later we eat together at a big table while her husband sings for us. While her husband sings Bollywood love songs, Arvind happily bops his head.

FOR SOUTH INDIA REGISTRATION and ITINERARY DETAILS CLICK HERE

 

Cinnamon Bear and Prayer

August 2, 2019

A dearth of blog posts from me. Don’t worry, I tell myself. I will pick up the pace again. Here’s some free-writing from today…

Cotton Kills Every Monday and Wednesday, rain or shine, I climb the dreaded-and-yet-welcoming Capitol Hill tough-but-essential-cardio-stairs with Jeri… Post workout, I tell Jeri I’m heading to Stehekin where I will hike with Leslie. “Cotton Kills” Jeri jokingly reminds me, referring to the story I told her about hiking Granite Mountain one hot summer day with my hiking-buddy Leslie:  In the city it was 90 degrees, but up-mountain, it was a refreshing 15-20 degrees cooler. We reached the almost-summit and decided that yes, we would hike to the top. So we hiked up and across a stretch of winter-remnant snow. The snow gave off a refreshing feel against the hot summer sun. We felt utterly alive atop the mountain. We decided to sit on the snow and slide back down, oh so fast and much fun! My cotton day-hiking pants got wet from the snow. “I’ve got a soggy bottom,” I said and we giggled until our bellies ached. We continued down the path, winding our way back down Granite Mountain, towards the car. We were giddy from the pine-scented air, the delicious sunshine, the feeling of being healthy and able-bodied. We were tired, but satisfied with the day’s hike.

Breathing deeply, invigorated by the healthy chemicals so generously emitted by the forest, we came across two men on the trail. One of the men looked at me disapprovingly. He stepped closer to me. “We are Mountaineers”, he said with authority. With a loud commanding voice, he warned me, “We’re on the trails looking for people like you!” His face fully scrunched up now, he got even closer and asked, “Don’t you know Cotton Kills?” Apparently, he had taken note of my seat-of-the-cotton-pants-snowmelt! Quick-to-the-forefront, Leslie had my back, “Well, I’m also a mountaineer. And we are out here enjoying nature. Comment on that!” And off we went, letting the admonishments slide off our shoulders, nearly skipping down the trail with more energy than ever, my green cotton pants drying as we descended.

Cotton Kills.

Good people rock my world!

Below, two photos from Granite Mountain:

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Reading I think of all that is going on in my life and I sink my teeth into the book I’m about to finish, How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. It is fascinating. Stop time?? How about simply slowing down time? The story makes its way into my dreams. Reality and dreams merge.

A Time to Give Outside Cherry Street Coffee Shop, a sad-eyed, toothless, aged, barely-verbal homeless woman communicates that she would like a coffee. The crooked lines of her hand-written sign tells us she is deaf. OK! We will get you a coffee. I move my mouth around the words in an exaggerated way so she can read my lips. With her hands, she tells us she would like her coffee with cream and two teaspoons of sugar. Language is series of universal gestures!

We go into the coffee shop, stand in line to order her coffee. Wait, she should also have something to eat! Oh, but what can she eat without any teeth? I look for the softest muffin to be had and find one. As I fish around in my wallet to grab a few dollars to help pay for the purchase, a man we do not know, appears and says, “I’d like to contribute, too.” He hands over some money. Homelessness has a real face, a beating heart. Homelessness is a life lived and still living.

The Work of a Yogi My little yoga-buddy cries as I attempt to do our Adaptive Yoga Therapy session. He doesn’t feel well and is feeling some pain. For the next twenty minutes, all I can do is rub his back and hold him tenderly. The sound of his pain is met by my cooing and om-ing. His pain drains me. Two days later I am doing yoga with him again and this time, he feels much better. As we do Adaptive Yoga Therapy, he giggles and he smiles. His smile lights up the world.

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Stehekin, Washington and my Cinnamon Bear Pitch on my clean feet: the gift of pine trees…yoga practice next to the glacial run-off of the Stehekin River. Slight breeze and delicious air make for a great yoga session. Cozy cabin gives us shelter. Thick down comforter lends to deep dreams, dreams of my cousin, east-coast Fran, great story-teller of family lore, a living memory bank for the Gallo family.

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Where is Stehekin?, Seattleites ask. Stehekin, Washington is a hidden treasure at the mouth of the Stehekin River. Paradise. Wilderness. It is an annual trip I anticipate every summer. Leslie and I log on 18 miles over the weekend as we hike to Rainbow Falls, the Stehekin River Trail, and Agnes Gorge. Rick goes fly fishing and catches us trout for dinner.

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It is at Agnes Gorge where we see the bear, a gorgeous healthy hefty teenager of a bear with the shiniest cinnamon-colored coat ever! I could not have dreamed up this color. He is oh-so-handsome.  He was too busy eating berries to even notice us. I felt calm watching him, “our” handsome Cinnamon Bear.

(Cinnamon Bear’s photo didn’t come out so well. All I had was my iPhone.)

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Sculpture Park Yoga in Sculpture Park with 15 fabulous yogis. Our session took place on the grassy steps leading to Richard Serra’s Wake sculptures. The sculptures are like colossal waves made of weathered steel, produced by the artist after the loss of his partner.

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A wave of grief.

A wave of life.

A wave of love.

A wave of hope.

Our session is followed by a potluck and we celebrate three hearty septuagenarians from our class. Want to stay youthful? Keep doing your yoga! (or start your yoga practice now!) A curious passer-by asks, “Is this a Yoga Potluck???”

YESSSS!

(Thank you to Kim for the following photos from Sculpture Park):

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Little Renaissance Ocean air, a world away from the city…birdsong and the sound of waves are crashing on the nearby shore. “Are you the owner?” he asks. It is clear they are in love with the sanctuary we have created the last twenty years. In my head, I keep hearing All you need is one buyer! Precocious nature-loving, bird-adoring little boy winks and declares this is THE house they’ve been looking for. Pending status is our reality as I write out this free-thought of a blog post.

Saying My Prayers Say or think what you will: St. Anthony is the saint to whom I owe many thanks. My prayers to him have come through with Little Renaissance finding a loving and appreciative family to steward our precious ocean property…. and to finding and being reunited with my backpack (with my computer in it) after I left it on the city bus downtown Seattle! No, Rick. I didn’t tell you about that one until now! Oy! Thank you, Mary Magnano, for giving me the St. Anthony santuzzu (Sicilian word for “saint card”).

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Waves keep on crashin’

Breathe.

Happy August, readers!

Stories of Ivory, Bronze, and Stone

June 24, 2019

Stories from Greece are still swirling around in my head. Stories we heard from our fabulous guides. Stories that bring bronze, stone, ivory, and gold to life.  Perhaps most incredible is that the objects, which give rise to these stories and give a view into ancient history, have survived thousands of years of looting and natural disasters such as earthquakes and fires.

Photo credits go to Gail Fox for the museum photos on this blog page.

Don’t forget to view the slideshow (link is here and below).

Imagine unearthing this head found in Delphi! It is a burnt ivory head with copper eyelashes and a pure gold headdress.  A total of three similar life-sized heads of statues where found buried in Delphi. Archeologists say that they portrayed the god Apollo, his sister Artemis, and their mother Leto. The eyes are eerily realistic.

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The Charioteer of the Delphi Museum dates to 478 BC.  It is perhaps the most famous of all statues in Greece. The Charioteer of Delphi is displayed in his own room apart from other museum ancient works of art found at the Delphi archaeological site. And it is breathtaking!

The statue is made of bronze.  Miraculously, the statue was not melted to be used to make something else. Nor did it corrode. It was perfectly preserved because it got buried in a rock fall in Delphi in 373 BC.

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“The statue was commissioned by a Sicilian tyrant named Polyzalos to commemorate his chariot victory in the Pythian Games in 478 BC. It is a life-size statue belonging to a larger group, which represented a chariot drawn by four horses.”

Polyzalos lived in Sicily at a time when Sicily was a Greek Colony. We know so much about Polyzalos and this statue because there is an inscription at the base of the statue with his name, the specific commemoration, the artist, and the date the gift was made to Delphi!

The attention to detail is unbelievable! The Charioteer is a boy as you can see from his fine face. He is just starting to grow facial hair. He has a serene look on his face because he has already won the race! In fact, his head has been decorated to celebrate his victory.  The art work is so detailed that you see the veins of his arms.

In the photo below,  you can see how his hair is moistened with sweat and you can even see sweat dripping down the back of his neck. enhance-2

Below: These two well preserved statues were discovered buried side by side in an ancient necropolis. They were once upon a time set upon pedestals to commemorate a grave site.  The statues date back from 550-530 BC.  Who is this woman so finely dressed, holding her robe, looking at her nearby lover?

In the photo below, both the woman and the man are positioned to look out at the audience.  But in real life, they were found lying in a pit next to each other.

The young woman wears her finest clothing, her bridal gown. She is in love and dreaming of building a life with the love of her life. Her wedding will be a grand celebration because she is wealthy and her family will give her the best of all they can offer. But sadly, she never gets married because she dies a premature death and these statues bring to life youth at its finest, so full of promise, reaching out for it all. It seems that Death is unable to snuff out their enduring love.

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MERENDA KOUROS 540-530 BC & PHRASIKLEIA KORE 550-540 BC

Together forever: in 1972, a kore (“maiden”) and a kouros (“naked youth”) were discovered buried side by side in a pit, in an ancient necropolis at Merenda in southeastern Attica. Their story is one of family tragedy, foreign invasion and inspired archaeological detective work. Laid to rest in the late 6th or early 5th c. BC, the pair were long forgotten. In 1730, however, Michel Fourmont, a French Catholic priest and antiquarian, noted an inscribed stone that had been reused as a column capital in Merenda’s Church of the Panaghia. In fact, it was an ancient statue base, which referred to “Phrasikleia,” a young woman who had died before having the chance to wed.

Removed to Athens in 1968, the stone remained in obscurity until the Merenda statues were later unearthed near the chapel. Archaeologist Efthymios Mastrokostas recalled the inscribed base and deduced the kore – holding a lotus bud, symbolic of life and death– might be the virgin Phrasikleia. Confirming his conclusion was a large lead ring found in the grave, which had originally affixed the kore to her pedestal. It fit the base perfectly.

I will offer another Yoga + Culture in Greece Retreat in September 2020. Exact date TBA.

 

Below is a video slideshow from the trip. I don’t think the embed code works so I will also include the link to a 3.5 minute video set to the music of Zorba the Greek:

VIEW SLIDESHOW

Costa Rica Waterfall: Guest Writer

March 24, 2019

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

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

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The Waterfall by Sarah Tsagris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIEW SLIDESHOW

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

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

Details/Information

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Embracing Pura Vida in Costa Rica

March 24, 2019

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

Hello

Goodbye

Everything’s cool!

You’re welcome.

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

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

I am healthy and pain free.

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I am enough.

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I am strong.

I am confident.

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I am fearless.

I like me here.

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

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

I am strong.

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I am happy.

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I am present.

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I am kind.

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I am evolving.

I have strength by being gentle.

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I am getting healthier.

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I have balance.

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I am released.

I am enough.

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Never doubt how powerful words are!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEXT COSTA RICA YOGA RETREATS March 2020: LINK

Never too early to sign up! Come join me.

 

 

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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Silverswords and Moonlight

January 23, 2019

I’ve been back from Maui for almost two weeks now.  My last blog post had a slideshow that didn’t post properly in everyone’s inbox.  Some got it, some didn’t!  The mysterious glitch produced an advertisement for skin tags!  What a disaster!  I will try to include the slideshow again at the end of this blog post. If instead of tropical paradise, you see an advertisement for skin tags, moles, warts, or men’s underwear, simply ignore.

One of the aspects I love about writing is that blogging and/or writing is a learning experience for me.  When I see unusual flora, for example, I can do a little research and share what I learn with you, my readers!  Below are four learning encounters I experienced in Maui.

SILVERSWORD

Haleakala Silversword (or ‘ahinahina as is their Hawaiian name) is an endemic plant.  It is found nowhere else in the world other than on the slopes of Haleakala on Maui.  It grows on volcanic soil and puts out a strong taproot so it can withstand high winds. The panel at the Halekala National Park had this to say about it:

Despite harsh conditions, ‘ahinahina can live up to fifty years. It flowers only once in a lifetime, then dies.  Its seeds, as many as 50,000 in a single flower stalk, dry out and are dispersed by the wind.

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The Haleakala Silversword relies on the native yellow-faced bee for cross pollination.  Alien yellow jackets and Argentine ants are preying on the pollinators, threatening the long-term survival of the ‘ahinahina.

The information panel at the park listed the exotic and gorgeous silversword as an “endangered” plant, but on line I read that the plant is “vulnerable”.  There is a world of difference between “endangered” and “vulnerable” when referring to the continuing existence of a plant or animal species. I hope what I read on line is true and that the information panel at Haleakala Crater is in need of being updated! Either way, there is a risk of losing this plant forever. If protected, I hope this plant can make a strong comeback and survive!

Apparently, once upon a time, Haleakala’s volcanic mountain sides were covered in silverswords.  A long ago traveler to the Haleakala Crater, Isabella Bird, wrote the following stunning-but-simple description of what she saw in 1890:

We came upon thousands of silverswords, their cold, frosted silver gleam making the hillside look like winter or moonlight.

This is from an information panel from Haleakala National Park:

‘Ahinahina is believed to have evolved from a California tarweed that arrived here (Maui) millions of years ago, perhaps hitchhiking on a bird.

When I think back on my experience of Haleakala, I still see the glimmer of the silverswords, its succulent spikes shining like pieces of aluminum foil reflecting sunlight.

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PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVERS

BIRDS!!  With the Hawaiian Islands being the most isolated land in the world, the closest neighboring land mass being 2467 miles away in California, it is astonishing to think that Pacific Golden Plovers fly past California, all the way to Alaska. In fact, Pacific Golden Plovers make an annual migration back and forth from Hawaii to Alaska.  That is a nonstop bird flight of 2,982.5 miles one way! I am clueless as to how the Pacific Golden Plover can make such a migration without stopping to rest, eat, or drink.  I kept thinking about them while on the flight back to Seattle.

Plovers are ideal subjects for this kind of research because they return to the same wintering territories every year, so scientists know exactly where to go to find a particular individual. “They’re so strongly site-faithful that we can predict where they will be with almost 100 per cent accuracy,” explains Johnson. “If they’re alive, it’s almost certain they will come back to the same place.”

On their spring flight northwards, the birds averaged 63 kilometers per hour and covered around 4800 kilometers in about three days. They made the return trip in around four days.

Plovers are well-known as fast flyers, and in this study some birds reached incredible speeds, presumably with the wind behind them – for example, the ground speeds of three individuals ranged from 167 to an exceptional 185 kilometers per hour.

A few facts about these Super-Birds:
  • The Pacific Golden Plover eats molluscs, insects, worms, crustaceans, lizards and is known to eat birds‘ eggs and small fish.
  • Breeding: The Pacific Golden Plover breeds in Alaska in June and July. The breeding habitat of Pacific golden plover is the Arctic tundra from northernmost Asia into western Alaska.
  • It nests on the ground in a dry open area.
  • A beautiful shorebird, the Pacific Golden-Plover breeds in western Alaska and Siberia and winters on islands across the Pacific Ocean, through southeast Asia, to northeastern Africa. It is uncommon in North America and is found breeding in Alaska and migrating/wintering in small numbers along the Pacific Coast.

EDDIE PU

Next I have the story of a native Hawaiian from Maui called Eddie Pu.  He was a legend on Maui and he often said of himself,  “I’m just a simple Hawaiian.”  This made me think of the Dalai Lama, who says in a similar fashion, “I am just a simple monk.”  Simple, but extraordinary!

“I wake each morning before sunrise and meditate to thank the land, to thank my ancestors for what they have given us.” -Eddie Pu

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(above: Jack on the Eddie Pu Trail)

I first learned who Eddie Pu was as we walked along a portion of the Eddie Pu Trail.  He was a park ranger, lifeguard for over twenty years, a man who meditated every morning and connected to the land and to his ancestors. It is said that when he was young, he had a dream in which his ancestors came to him and asked him to walk the ancient sacred trail that circumnavigates the island of Maui.  This trail is 211 miles long. It is the original shoreline trail used by the ancient people of Maui. It is overgrown and winds around the coast and is also known as the King’s Trail or the King’s Highway.  I was very impressed to hear that Kelley met him once and her parents knew him.  Eddie Pu passed away or, more aptly put, returned to his ancestors in 2012.

Eddie Pu was a legend, and earned the nickname, The Walking Man of Maui.

He was hired in 1972 as one of the first park rangers at ‘Ohe‘o Gulch, a series of pools and falls now part of Haleakala National Park. Over the years, he saved many lives, including those of the Saudi ambassador and his wife and son, who were swept out to sea. Pu dove into the waves and rescued them one by one, though he ended up in the hospital for several days. Later, the “simple Hawaiian” was flown to Washington to be thanked in person by President Ford. In the decades Pu stood guard at ‘Ohe‘o Gulch, where flash floods in the mountains catch seaside bathers unawares, no one drowned. Since he retired, seven people have died.

Imagine Eddie Pu walking on the strenuous trails in the hot sun, passing coves, black beaches, and sharp lava formations on his solo annual pilgrimage. I imagine him communing with the off-shore humpback whales and sea turtles from the trail.  I wonder what kind of shoes he wore?  And how did he survive the 211 mile solo annual spiritual trek with just a bag of dried fruit?  Where did he sleep? I wonder if locals took him in for the night? What an honor it would be to open up one’s home to this living link of the ancient Hawaiian culture.

Pu always walks the nearly 200 miles alone. “A spiritual walk to heal my soul,” he explains, and his secret route changes from year to year.

I really like the following camera story:

Pu has come across sacred ruins and even human remains. “I bring no camera, draw no map—these things must be left there and not disturbed,” he says. He tells a story about how on his first two trips, all the film he shot came out black. After the second trip, he dreamed he must go to the island of Moloka‘i. A young girl met him at the airport and said, “You follow me. My great-grandmother is waiting for you.” They came to a home where an old woman sat on a porch chair, rocking and laughing.

“Eddie Pu, you should throw away your camera,” the old woman said, still roaring in mirth. “Your film will never come out. Your mind, that is where you must store pictures, so our ancestors will not be disturbed.”

The following was written about Eddie Pu in 2005, when he was still alive. I was not surprised when I found out that Mr. Pu and I share the same birthday:

It is hard to guess Eddie Pu’s age. His long gray hair is pulled neatly back and kept in place by a ti-leaf headband to ward off headaches. In a few weeks, he tells me, he would set off with a towel, a walking stick, and a bag of dried fruit to do what he has done nearly every birthday for more than 25 years: Walk around Maui. On November 25, he turned 75.

SEA BURIAL

After a long walk one morning, we saw two long traditional Hawaiian canoes out at sea, moving quickly in tandem towards the beach. The canoes were decorated with large green leaves.  The rowers, both men and women, wore traditional sarongs and had wreaths wrapped around their heads. As they made their way from the sea towards the sandy beach, a large group of locals had gathered to welcome the rowers.

When we arrived at the site where they had pulled ashore, I introduced myself to one of the rowers and asked him as politely as I could about the ceremony taking place.  He was so kind.  He shook my hand and explained that a dear friend had “gone back to her ancestors” and that this was a traditional Hawaiian sea burial.  My guess would be that the deceased was a Harley rider because most people gathered on the beach wore their Harley leathers and chaps.  There were children standing near their parents and people were holding hands and hugging, comforting one another.  I fear that Stacey, for that was the name of the deceased woman, was most likely a young or middle aged woman who lost her life in a motorcycle accident.

Then the chanting started.  The leader would say a stanza of prayer in Hawaiian, ending the prayer stanza with Hui Hou Stacey.  When he said Hui Hou Stacey, the group of grievers would say it aloud in unison with the prayer leader.  It was so beautiful.  And like magic, calling out Hui Hou Stacey seemed to calm the masses.  I later learned that A Hui Hou means “Until We Meet Again”.

Until we meet again, Stacey.

I refused to take photos.  All the tourists on the beach gathered around the grievers and were clicking away.  I am sure it would have been fine to take a photo or two, but I was so moved by the ceremony and I just wanted to pray for this unknown Hawaiian woman whose community of loved ones had so deeply moved my heart.

After the prayers, all the grievers and the traditionally clad rowers carried the two large sea-going canoes out to sea.  I couldn’t believe I was an accidental participant in this sea burial.  I watched transfixed as the Hawaiian pallbearers carried the two canoes out to sea, canoes carrying the ashes of their loved one.  Then the grievers stood in the sea, as the waves lapped up around their legs, they silently watched the canoes swiftly row out to the sea.  Once far from shore, the rowing stopped. The canoes rocked in stillness.  People from ashore solemnly witnessed Stacey’s ashes returning to the sea.  The rower I spoke to at the start of the ceremony had told me, “She loved the sea and she will return to the sea today”.

Read more about Hawaiian sea burials.

VIDEO (3 minutes long)

Below is my three minute video from Maui.  The video is set to a song called Kolonahe, meaning From the Gentle Wind, by the artists Ku’i Lei Awapuhi  (vocals) and  Keola Beamer.  Thanks to Kelley for introducing me to this song! The song carries the rhythm of the island. It’s very soothing. Turn up your speakers!  If all else fails: click here to see the video

‘Twas Twain’s Maui

January 12, 2019

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

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

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

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

On the trail: Haleakala Crater

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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I transform super-greens, fresh from the garden, into vegetables balls.  They are easy to pack for my lunches, easy to plop into the mouth!

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And back in Seattle, yesterday I went for a walk at Green Lake, my own front yard.  Throngs of people were walking, jogging, bundled up, and enjoying the winter light.

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Winter Beauty Berry (above)

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I went out with my Leica and captured a red maple leaf, hanging by a thread, glistening in the sun.

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I am certain my Maple Leaf was the last of its kind on earth.

MONTANA YOGA RETREAT:

Three spaces still open for Montana Walking Lightly Ranch Yoga and Snowshoeing Retreat, February 15-18, 2019 in Whitefish, Montana (fly to Kalispell and our shuttle will pick you up and take you to the ranch.  Shuttle included in the retreat fee. Snowshoes provided.). More INFORMATION


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