Summer Yoga Celebration

August 14, 2017

We held our annual Yoga on the Beach Retreat at Little Renaissance this weekend.  The forecast called for clouds, cool temperatures, and rain.  However, the cooler temperatures of 65 degrees, free-of-forest-fire clean air, and the blend of sometimes cloudy and sometimes sun-drenched skies made for a perfect weekend, weather-wise.

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We had yogis from Tucson, Arizona, Eugene, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.  What a lovely yoga-filled weekend it was!  Below you will see some photos as well as some of the readings participants shared on Saturday evening.

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Here is a reading on healing, read by Paula, written by Rachel Remens:

Healing is not a work of perfection or expertise. We are all healers. We heal with our wholeness, our humanity, all of our life experience, even our wounds. Our own wounds make us gentle with the wounds of others and able to trust the mystery of healing, not as a theory but from lived experience. Our vulnerability connects us to the vulnerability in others in compassionate and loving ways.

Healing is actually a worldview, a cosmology…. For a healer, the world is not broken and in need of fixing… the world is hidden. Everything and everyone has in themselves a hidden wholeness, a potential for growth, a dream of themselves. A healer reminds people. A healer befriends dreams. A healer is a feeder of dreams.

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I read the following by Danna Faulds:

It only takes a reminder to breathe,

a moment to be still, and just like that,

something in me settles, softens, makes

space for imperfection. The harsh voice

of judgment drops to a whisper and I

remember again that life isn’t a relay

race; that we will all cross the finish

line; that waking up to life is what we

were born for. As many times as I

forget, catch myself charging forward

without even knowing where I’m going,

that many times I can make the choice

to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk

slowly into the mystery.

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Gene read the following, written by Emily Carson:

Make of your Life a Flame

Blaze the path that burns for you. Light it up with your intention, with your willingness, with your intensity. Don’t just flicker here—burn.  You are not a light about to go out.  You could be here resolutely, absolutely.  You could burn every step you take.  You tread too gingerly on this planet. Scorch the earth where you walk. Be the fire that lives in you. You try not to offend, not to disrupt, not to upset, but for what? So that you will look behind you one day and see no footsteps?  Leave a trace here; the earth can take it. And your fellow humans, they can take it, too. They may be bruised and scratched a bit by your vitality at work, but we all get knocked around a little bit. It is still worth it. Make of your life a flame. It will destroy things, but only those that are ready to go.  Make of your language a torch. Let it light as well as burn. And make of your footfalls a purposeful path, a real and intended way. Change all the places you walk by changing the way you walk. Change the people you see by the way you look at them, with your tongue and your words. Change the planet; it will only evolve.  And I’m not saying you should intend this transformation; you should intend only your own intensity. Whatever happens then is right. Blaze your path. You are not living enough yet; your vitality is still squelched. Destroy everything in your way. Bless the earth that you scorch. Thank it for the chance to be alive, and leave it knowing it was there for you and you made the most of it.

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And the following poem was read by Melissa, author unknown:

Today

Outside my window a new day I see, and only I can determine what kind of day it will be.

It can be busy and sunny, laughing and gay, or boring and cold, unhappy and gray.

My own state of mind is the determining key, for I’m only the person I’ll let myself be.

I can be thoughtful and do all I can to help, or be selfish and think just of myself.

I can enjoy what I do and make it seem fun, or gripe and complain and make it hard on someone.

I can be patient with those who may not understand or belittle and hurt them as much as I can.

But I have faith in myself, and believe what I say, and I personally intend to make the best of each day.

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Seattle’s Cool Hood

August 5, 2017

Can’t believe that after living in Seattle for 26 years, I finally got around to visiting Georgetown, Seattle’s oldest neighborhood.  I went there one afternoon and evening in July to enjoy and explore this part of the city with a group of friends/yoginis.  Miriam, a long time resident of the neighborhood and lover of history and neighborhood lore, showed us around.  She did a great job of bringing the past to life, of showing us how resilient a neighborhood can be, and showing us how vibrant the neighborhood is today.

Our walking tour with Miriam coincided with the annual Georgetown Garden Walk, which is always held the second Sunday in July.  Mark your calendars now for next year’s garden walk.  Or better, yet, perhaps Miriam will begin taking groups on private tours, like she did for us.  She is remarkable.  Our trip was extraordinarily precious because afterwards we went over to Annette’s house for a great potluck dinner in her back garden. The hydrangea blooms were at their peak and we enjoyed a wonderful evening together.

Annette's hydrangeas in full bloom.

Annette’s hydrangeas in full bloom.

We walked the neighborhood and saw so many gardens, so creative and artistic in nature.  Many of the original houses used to have (and some still do) an extra lot used for gardening.  The land was rich and attracted farmers long ago.  The streets were formed by following the original flow of the Duwamish River, whose course used to curve throughout the neighborhood. You can still trace the curved streets of Georgetown in S Front Street, S Fidalgo Street, and S River Street.

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I mentioned above that you can trace the old course of the Duwamish River by following the curvy roads.  In 1913, work began on straightening the river! The idea was that a straighter, deeper river would make it easier for ships to navigate the area.  The city planners envisioned more industry on the reclaimed area and they wanted to control the flooding often experienced by the meandering and curved Duwamish. You can read more about the straightening of the Duwamish on this link.

Today the Duwamish is a straight river.  Perhaps that is what makes Oxbow Park so special.  Oxbow Park sits in the heart of Georgetown.  “Oxbow” refers to a U-shaped bend in the course of a river.  Right where the park sits was an oxbow of the Duwamish.  The park is also known for its Hat ‘n’ Boots.  The two photos below were taken by MJ.  The boots and hat were originally part of a 1953 Western-themed gas station, located in Georgetown.  The light blue boot was a ladies’ restroom and the darker blue was a men’s restroom. The hat was the office, where you’d go in and pay for your gas.  The gas station was wildly popular and became the busiest gas station in the state of Washington.  When Interstate-5 was built in the 60s, it cut right across Georgetown and diverted traffic away from the gas station.  The gas station could not sustain itself and went out of business.  The hat and boots were eventually moved to Oxbow Park.

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I found this information about Oxbow Park.  I love the bit about Elvis visiting the original gas station in 1962:

Oxbow Park is located in the heart of historic Georgetown. In 1953, Seattle artist Lewis Nasmyth was hired to “rustle up” a design for a western-style gas station in Georgetown. Featuring a 44-ft. wide cowboy hat and 22-ft. high boots, the Hat n’ Boots opened the next year to a stampede of customers. In fact, for a time it was the biggest selling station in the state. Legend has it even Elvis dropped by when he was in town during the World’s Fair in ’62. But in the early 60’s, a brand new interstate, I-5, cut a swath through the neighborhood and started diverting traffic away from the station. By the late 80’s it pretty much looked like trail’s end for the Hat n’ Boots. That’s when some Georgetown residents saddled up to rescue the soul of their community. “The Hat n’ Boots is as important to Georgetown as the Golden Gate Bridge is to San Francisco,” says Allan Phillips, former director of the Georgetown Community Council. “If the Hat n’ Boots were ever to be gone from Georgetown, it would be like losing our soul.”

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Georgetown is replete with murals (see above), saloons, bars, breweries (the original Rainier Brewery, built in 1882 and once the sixth largest brewery in the world), coffee houses, bakeries, restaurants, Fran’s Chocolates (retail, production, and viewing tours all right in Georgetown) and a haunted castle!

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Well, the Georgetown “castle” is actually a Victorian-style house, deemed a castle when it was built in 1903.  Eventually, the house fell into disrepair and was recently completely renovated.  It is beautiful!  Miriam told us some juicy stories about the original residents of the castle.  I have included some information I found on line about the “castle”.  It is said to be haunted and is part of the Georgetown Haunted House Tour.  The tour might be a fun one to do around Halloween.

The Georgetown “Castle” is located in an old industrial, red light district of Seattle, WA. A large 3 story, turn of the century, Victorian style home, was reportedly built in 1903 by Peter Gessner, who was a gambler and blackjack dealer at the famous Central Tavern in Seattle’s Pioneer Square District. More…Having trouble with the local authorities for running “questionable” gambling and prostitution activities, he decided to move his operations farther out of town, to avoid too much unwanted attention, turning the home into an infamous brothel and gambling parlor. He died a gruesome death one year later, committing suicide in the house by drinking carbolic acid.

The home was then purchased around 1912 by Dr. Willis H. Corson who was a former superintendent and head coroner of the King County Hospital, located close by. This hospital and it’s grounds, which at the time surrounded the house, served as the county poor house and tent city for tuberculosis patients, as well as a crematorium that was used to burn the bodies.

Having heard stories about the infamous Georgetown Castle, yet never actually seeing it, I was surprise to find that it was nothing close to a castle. Just a large 3 story Victorian that sat just off the street in a somewhat run down residential neighborhood of south Seattle The view of the house was skewed by trees and unkempt vegetation. The only thing you could see from the street was the large dark tower looming from out of the trees. In a poor state of disrepair, the house was covered with nearly a century’s worth of peeling and cracked pink paint and loose siding. Beyond a short, rusty, chain link fence, the front porch leaned slightly to one side. Our first gut impressions were that this place is totally haunted.

full article on Ghost Hunt

And the grand finale was the potluck dinner at Annette’s house. It was a pretty magical evening. The day had been hot and the evening was comfortably cool, the food absolutely delicious, the company and conversation lively, the setting so comfortable and beautiful.

Carol's dessert....

Carol’s dessert….

devoured!

devoured!

Stehekin-Dazzle

July 28, 2017

We made our annual trip to Stehekin last weekend.  Stehekin, Washington is a place that awakens the nature-loving adventurer and dazzles the eye of the outdoor enthusiast.  I didn’t see any bears this year, but I did see a grouse, big as a hen, on the trail.  Leslie and I also spotted a baby osprey in its enormous nest. The baby osprey was squawking for its parents.  While there, we hiked, read by the river, visited Karl’s Stehekin Garden.  And I got in a lot of restful sleeping time.  The bed in the cabin is so comfortable, the night so quiet, and the air coming in from the open window so pure, fresh, and soothing.  I slept deeply and dreamed of the night forest.

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Stehekin is a wilderness place of forests, waterfalls, mountains, and tumbling creeks (26 creeks flow into the river). It is a place where time seems to stand still.

Stehekin refers to the grand 17-mile long river, which carries glacial water from the Cascade Mountains. The Stehekin River a surreal blue as a result of the glacial melt.  It flows into Lake Chelan, a 50.5 mile lake.Stehekin also refers to the community, which sits in the Stehekin Valley and is part of the North Cascades National Park.

One reason why Stehekin remains so pristine and wild is because the area is not accessible by road.  You can only reach Stehekin by hiking, float plane, boat, or ferry.

Below are some photos from last weekend’s visit.  It was not quite as hot this year and the mosquitoes were not so bothersome as they have been in the past.  And there were no forest fires this year so the vistas on our hikes were very clear.

Our champ, Miss Winnie, resting at a creek after a long deep drink of cold water:

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Morning Sun on Cabin:

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The Stehekin River greets us in the morning:

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Reflections, a perfect Stehekin morning:

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And I found these waders drying on the clothesline amusing (along the forest path leading to Karl’s Garden):

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Old cars like this Chevrolet, in excellent running condition, abound in Stehekin:L1390773

Refreshing water stop during one of the hikes:

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A trip to Stehekin requires:

  • Hiking and a visit to Rainbow Falls
  • Fly-fishing (if you are a fisher-person)
  • A visit to the Stehekin Bakery (their pies are ridiculously delicious)
  • A visit to Karl’s Organic Garden

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A visit to Karl’s garden is one of my Stehekin highlights.  Karl’s produce is beautiful.  He keeps bees and sells honey.  And he has goats and sells goat cheese.  The perimeter of his vegetable garden is studded with flowers.  This time of year, Karl’s dahlias are in full bloom.  I could not help myself.  I kind of went crazy on the flower photography.

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Karl also offers food for thought on his white boards.  Here are some examples of his words of wisdom:

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I love Stehekin  (one of our hiking lunch spots below):

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The Chakra Rainbow

July 20, 2017

Last Saturday, MJ Conboy, of MJ’s Plant Smart Kitchen, and I offered an in-city yoga and cooking day retreat at a very modern and elegant condominium in the Belltown area of Seattle.

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The day could not have been more beautiful.  It was a day filled with pure sunshine and a slight breeze.  It was nice to start our gathering at 8:30am.  The casual half hour before the morning yoga session gave participants leisurely time to meet each other and to connect.

The morning yoga session was held out on the terrace.  I took the above photos during the yoga session. As we practiced yoga, I admired the herb garden.  Obviously, it was planted by loving hands.  And as we practiced yoga, we looked out over the trees that line 4th Avenue downtown Seattle.

Chakras were the theme of the day.  The word “chakra” means wheel in Sanskrit.  Ancient yogis felt specific energy vortices along the spine.  They felt this energy moved like a wheel spinning fast, producing energy.

The chakras are energy centers. There are specific yoga postures or categories of poses for each chakra.  I always find it fascinating that a given posture, or physical movement or stance,  can help bring the various energy centers into balance.  Each chakra has its own color, its own element, and an area of spiritual growth associated with it.   The colors of the chakras make a rainbow.

Root Chakra (Muladhara)

  • Red
  • Earth Energy
  • Represents cultivating stability, ability to thrive when one’s foundation is good, focus on shelter and sustenance, connection to earth, nature, and home.  Root chakra asks us to examine and work through our fears.
  • Postures (Asanas) include all poses that involve balance such as Tree, Eagle, and Half Moon.  Also included are pelvic tilts, bound angle, and child’s pose.

Pelvic Chakra (Svadhisthana)

  • Orange
  • Water Energy
  • Represents physical well-being and learning to honor the body by balancing nutritional needs, sleep, work, and pleasure. This chakra controls our emotional center and how we experience emotions.
  • Postures (Asanas) include all poses that are hip openers.  I included the following: pigeon, crescent moon, horse pose (stretch version), triangle, wide forward bends, seated forward bends, and uttanasana (forward bend with feet hip distance apart).

Navel or Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)

  • Yellow
  • Fire Energy
  • Represents internal, physical, emotional and spiritual strength. This chakra rules our sense of self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem.  As this chakra comes into balance, we learn how to use our strengths in a very positive way.
  • Postures (Asanas) include all poses to help us grow strong, such as Warrior I, II, and III.  Also included are Horse Pose, Chair Pose, and Archer.  All abdominal strengthening poses are included such as Side Plank (all variations) and Boat Pose.

Heart Chakra (Anahata)

  • Green
  • Air Energy
  • Represents vitality and love, love that nourishes our spirits and this is unconditional and free.  This energy center helps us to become loving, kind, and generous.
  • Postures (Asanas) include all poses that open the chest, lungs, and shoulders.  Arching (backbending) and twists help to move energy into the heart center.

Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)

  • Light Blue or Turquoise
  • Air/Ether (Space) Energy
  • Represents communication, the ability to say what you mean to say, to speak truthfully, to speak one’s own words, to express oneself well.
  • Postures (Asanas) include doing the Shoulderstand Cycle, which includes Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana), Plough, (Halasana), and Fish Pose (Matsyasana).

Brow Chakra (Ajna)

  • Indigo
  • Air/Ether (Space) Energy
  • Represents ability to perceive, to tap into one’s wisdom, to be perceptive and intuitive, to be mindful and aware.  The brow chakra helps us to see, know, and understand ourselves and the world we live in.
  • Postures (Asanas) include seated and guided meditative poses such as Shavasana or Seated Meditation.

Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)

  • Violet
  • Ether (or Cosmos) Energy
  • Represents the source of all healing, the highest attainable energy center.  The crown chakra represents tapping into one’s full potential, connecting to the soul’s longing for peace, love, and happiness.
  • Postures (Asanas) include inverted poses.  In a given chakra class, I work the inversions in before the final meditation portion of the session.  Inverted poses include Legs Up The Wall (Viparita karani asana), headstands, shoulderstands, and downward facing dog.

And of course, the food was as colorful as the Rainbow Chakras!  Below is a photo of a Green Glo Drink:

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MJ’s Green Glo Drink was made with the following ingredients:

  • Green Apples
  • Lemon
  • Ginger
  • Parsley
  • Spinach

A few photos from our outdoor terrace session (choice of sunshine or shade for all).

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Lunch included food preparation demo from MJ.  Below is a delicious and colorful Thai spring roll (dipping sauce was made from almond butter):

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And a Creamy (non dairy) Avocado Cucumber Zucchini Soup made in a blender and served at room temperature, topped with dill and pistachios:

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After lunch, we took a fun and brisk walk over to the Olympic Sculpture Park.  We all marveled at how beautiful this park is.  I always feel so proud that we have this fabulous park in Seattle:FullSizeRender 15

Words of wisdom, with love from Fran:

  • Do yoga and take time to sit still in meditation every day.  Even short bursts of yoga and meditation count!
  • Walk and walk some more and enjoy your environment (even in the city there are many green pockets).  Seek out green spaces and breathe in prana-charged air.
  • Include more plant-based foods into your diet.  Explore new greens, new vegetables, new recipes.  Respect your body and eat wholesome, nutritious foods.
  • Take a day of wellness for yourself.  You deserve it!

A photo of MJ and Fran (moi) in front of a Belltown Mural:

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Summertime…

July 9, 2017
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Summertime

And the livin’ is easy.

I’ve always loved Gershwin’s “Summertime”.  And this season is also my favorite.  Living right across from Green Lake is like having a big park as my own front yard.  It’s a fun place.

So fun, in fact, that I’ve been slow with my blog writing.  Imagine me, when not teaching, taking aerial yoga classes, sweating profusely as I walk the not-so-dreadful-anymore Blaine Stairs twice a week with my pal Jeri, walking Green Lake, weight lifting with my trainer Tom (one of the fittest guys at Seattle Athletic Club), and sitting on my sun-drenched almost-too-hot balcony reading and making my way through a pile of great books Donni left me before she moved to Oregon to start her new life.

I’m cardio fit and strong, and back to the weight I was before going to Sicily where I freely indulged and ate too much good food (!).  It has taken me five weeks and a lot of sweat to get back to my pre-Sicily weight.

And so you get the idea.  Summer, it’s a great time to be in Seattle. Below are a few photos from the past few weeks.

We’ll start off with the garden at Ocean Shores.  We started the garden design summer of 1999. Today the garden is mature.  The roses are in bloom and the crocosmia soon to follow.  A watering system is in place. Blooms burst open in Ocean Shores about two weeks after I see the same bloom in Seattle.  Today I saw a hydrangea in bloom in the city, so I know what my garden will be doing two weeks from today.

The garden at Little Renaissance gives me so much pleasure.  I spend as many weekends there as possible in the summer.  Sometimes when leaving for the city, my heart aches to leave the garden looking so pretty.

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All of the photos in this blog were taken on my iPhone so the quality isn’t as good as the ones taken on my Leica.  It seems I haven’t been taking my camera around with me as I used to.  I will make a point of taking it with me again.

The photo below is from a houseboat/barge dinner party on Lake Union near Gas Works Park.  We did yoga on a grassy strip under big-leafed trees and then came back to the houseboat to continue a fabulous evening.

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One of Simone’s artistic bouquets from her garden for our gathering at the houseboat/barge:

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Below: I got artsy with water and reflections.

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And what is summer in the Pacific Northwest without a hike?  Global warming had Seattle temperatures reaching 97 degrees one fine Sunday.  What did I do on such a hot day? I went on a hike to Wallace Falls with Leslie and Winnie.  The heat combined with the 12-mile hike nearly whooped me off my feet.  Wait, it did!  I slipped and caught myself on a log.  A bruised hip and a sprained hand later (yup, Leslie…I really did sprain it..tell you more later),  I still look back and say it was one fine hike!

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We spent the Fourth of July with my family-in-law at the Clark’s Cabin in Home, Washington.  And no one seems to know where Home is! Most people who have lived in Seattle their whole lives confess, “I googled Home to see where it is.” Home, WA is a small community on the Key Peninsula and sits on the waters of Carr Inlet.  (Carr Inlet is an extension of Puget Sound).

Stunning views of Mt. Rainier and cute beach houses await you if you get to visit Home. In the 1800s, a group created an anarchist community in Home.  Home was a place where they embraced radical views and free love.  In 1911, three women and two men from the community were brought to court on charges of “indecent exposure” because they were seen skinny dipping. read more about Home

Home is where we celebrated the 4th of July at Geoff and Jan’s lovely cabin:

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And Arvind Singh was briefly in town all the way from Varanasi, India.  On Thursday, I enjoyed dinner with him and a lively group under a summer sky in Kelley and Jack’s magical garden.

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Arvind left early on Friday, but I was up at Richmond Beach again to enjoy a concert on the lawn by Deobrat Mishra and his nephew Prashant Mishra.  It was an excellent evening.  I first met Deobrat and Prashant in Varanasi.  They are 11th and 12th generation sitar and tabla players.  They are outstanding.

View sample of Deobrat and Prashant’s music.

Today, I am wonderfully tired from a hike to Snow Lake with Bev.  It was crowded, but that did not take away from the beauty of this place.  There was snow around the lake and the color of the water a deep blue.  I imagine the lake stays cold all year long, but I’d be willing to jump into it in late August.  Maybe one day, I’ll have a special photo to show you!  For now, here is Snow Lake from today.

At the trail head:

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Grand finale: Snow Lake!!!

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Gathering Circle

June 18, 2017

Quarterly, I offer a free yoga class at the Chief Seattle Club.  The Chief Seattle Club is in Pioneer Square, Seattle, and is a safe and sacred place where urban native peoples can rest, be nurtured, and receive services to help ease their lives.  Many of the members of Chief Seattle Club are homeless.  The club is open seven days a week from 7am-2pm.  It is a place where members can have a hot shower, get a warm hearty breakfast, receive medical support, housing assistance, computer training, legal assistance, mental health care, and chemical dependency treatment.  It also offers traditional healing practices as a primary method of healing.  There is also a Native Art Program and Gallery and there are regular outings to visit tribes and participate in pow wows.

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There is so much to say about this center!  Mainly, I believe it is a place where urban native peoples can be supported and find acceptance.

Many years ago, the building was a hotel.  The space today has been completely renovated and is environmentally friendly.  It has solar panels that heat all the water in the building and some of the construction material was salvaged from the old hotel.

My favorite part is the circular space with high ceilings and wood carvings located in the center of the Chief Seattle Club.  It serves as the Gathering Circle.  This is the spiritual center of the building. It was designed by Native American architect, John Paul Jones.  Weekly mass is offered in the Gathering Circle.  It is a gorgeous space and I feel honored to offer yoga sessions four times a year in the Gathering Circle.

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There are two ways to describe my teaching yoga experience at the Chief Seattle Club.  One is through this poem, written by Coast Salish Chief Dan George (Tel-Lal-Wah).  I believe this poem captures the spirit of the native people I work with, who are deeply connected to earth, land, and their ancestors.

My Heart Soars

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.

The faintness of the stars,
the freshness of the morning,
the dew drop on the flower,
speaks to me.

The strength of fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
And the life that never goes away,
They speak to me.
And my heart soars

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Teaching yoga at the Chief Seattle Club profoundly moves me.  I always leave feeling they gave me more than I was able to give them! Another way to capture and describe my experience there is to capture fragments of dialogues from discussions before and after the yoga session:

Me: Before we begin, let’s do a check in. Yoga is wholeness, truth, peace, connection….connecting to self, to community, to ancestors, to breath, to universal consciousness, to nature. This is your sacred time to share anything you feel will help you to connect with your yoga today.

I am not lost. I am strong, firmly rooted.  I come from a line of ancestors who live through me.  My work is to help people see that things are not as they appear. The world is an illusion. Things are not what they seem. I want people to see me as an artist, as a visionary.

I love yoga, but I feel unsettled so I can’t get to doing yoga as often as I’d like. I’m so happy to be here.

I’d like to stand and speak to you in my tribal language and then I’ll translate for you…

During the yoga session, they grow wings and become eagles, they grow stronger and become warriors, they grow roots and become trees.  I am humbled by this group.  As we do yoga, I understand they are true yogis, already connected and re-embracing wholeness.  I observe how they relax deeply in shavasana.

Me: How are you feeling?

I am the rock that rises to the top of the mountain as the earth’s plates push me upwards.  Eventually that rock rolls down to the deepest part of the ocean and eventually dissolves into sand.  That’s me.  That’s how I feel…right now.

Once in a dream, I watched a big sheet of glass shatter to the ground..big shards on the ground.  Sometimes I feel that’s me.  Today I was able to fit the pieces together again.  Every piece is needed to make this picture perfect. The ugly parts, the perfect parts, they all came together to make me whole again. 

I feel relaxed.  I almost fell asleep….I think I did.

She puts her jacket on, then takes it off, then puts it on again and off again.  I need to go, but I want to stay!  I feel so peaceful.

I cried.  The pain inside is gone.

I feel alive. 

I feel like all this energy is flowing inside me.  I love this feeling!

I am enough.

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Enticement

May 29, 2017

Japan Autumn Tour with Daily Hatha Yoga

OCTOBER 29-NOVEMBER 12, 2017

I recently made a slide show for the  Japan trip coming up Autumn 2017 and found myself marveling at the various photos depicting a place and a people very dear to my heart.   Below are a few of my Japan photos I choose to share today with a description of why these, in my mind, are such enticing photographs.

Registration is now open for the Japan Autumn Tour with Daily Hatha Yoga.  Please check out my website and join me if you can!  Meanwhile, enjoy the photos:

Miyajima Island

Miyajima Island.  We visited this peaceful healing place after a day in Hiroshima. We felt heavyhearted as we left the historical horrors of Hiroshima and, by contrast, coming to this place was like listening to soothing music.  The island is considered sacred to the Japanese.  Docile deer roam the island and add to the gentle island atmosphere.  Deep red shrines punctuate this precious island, which seems to embrace its visitors. The green of the forests makes for relaxing sleep, something everyone needs when traveling.

The main shrine on Miyajima Island.

The main shrine on Miyajima Island is photogenic at all times of the day.  Here it was sunset and the tide was out.  The Japanese have a strong esthetic sensibility.   Japan is a photographer’s paradise.

And yet another from Miyajima.  I guess you'd think this was my favorite spot.  There were many favorite days, places, and activities.  It's just that Miyajima possessed a certain varying enticing light at all times of the day, making it a very photogenic place.

And yet another photo of Miyajima. I guess you’d think this was my favorite spot. There were many favorite days, places, and activities throughout the trip. It’s just that Miyajima possessed a certain varying enticing light at all times of the day, making it a very photogenic place.

This musician played the koto for us in Kyoto.  The music is so ethereal.  She was so lovely, too, and so accomplished.  Her English was nearly perfect. Plus she did yoga three times a week!  She blushed when she told me about being a yoga practitioner!

This musician played the koto for us in Kyoto. The koto music is so ethereal. She was so lovely, too, and so accomplished. I love her kimono.  Her English was nearly perfect. Plus, I found out she did yoga three times a week! She blushed when she told me about being a yoga practitioner!

Mossed over lanterns at a shrine in Nara.  The shrine was full of these ancient lanterns.  Once a year, these lanterns are all lit up. It was delightful enough for me to see the lanterns within the wooded shrine. I walked the ancient path and felt as if they were already illuminated.

Mossed-over lanterns at a shrine in Nara:  The shrine was full of these ancient lanterns. Once a year, the lanterns are all lit. It was delightful enough for me to see the lanterns within the wooded shrine. I walked the ancient path at dusk and felt as if they were already illuminated.

Land of tenderly tended gardens.  As soon as you walk in a Japanese garden, you lose yourself to the paths, the carefully placed and pruned trees, the ponds and reflections. The scent of earth and pine envelope you and let you know you are imperfectly perfect just as you are.

Land of tenderly tended gardens:  As soon as you walk in a Japanese garden, you lose yourself to the paths, the carefully placed and pruned trees, the stones,  the ponds and reflections. The scent of earth and pine envelope you.  The gardens let you know you are perfectly imperfect just as you are and that life is ephemeral.

What's in a cup of tea ceremony's green tea?  Thousands of years of culture, sensitivity, the art of hospitality, kindness, beauty, and serenity.  From the sound of water slowly being poured and the swoosh of the whisk bringing the tea to a froth, to holding the ancient cup made by a master potter, my hands warm to the cup and my heart warms to the soul of Japan.

What’s in a cup of tea ceremony’s green tea? Thousands of years of culture, sensitivity, the art of hospitality, kindness, beauty, and serenity.  From the sound of water slowly being poured and the swoosh of the whisk bringing the tea to a froth, to holding the ancient cup made by a master potter, my hands warm to the cup and my heart warms to the soul of Japan.

Koi and reflection of leaves on the water.  How lovely the Koi of Japan.  Embracing longevity and smooth transitions in life, the koi swims silently across the water. Time stops still for a moment.

Koi and reflection of leaves on the water. How lovely the koi of Japan. Embracing longevity and smooth transitions in life, the koi swims silently in the water. Time stops still for a moment.

Rooftops are so pretty that they don't look real.

Rooftops are so pretty that they don’t look real.  Waves and waves of tiled roofs give shelter to a culture steeped in history.

A tea house reflected in the water.  What I love about this tea house are the two people enjoying their tea.

A tea house reflected in the water. What I love about this tea house are the two people enjoying their tea!  I’d love to know what they are discussing.  How did they plan this day? “Let’s wear our kimonos tomorrow and go have tea at the tea house!”  Did they know they would be reflected in the water, photographed by this American woman, their collective dreamy image brought back home with me so I can forever dream their dream?

These little dippers at every shrine seem to purify my heart as well as my thoughts.  I enter the shrines clear of worldly concerns.

These little dippers at every shrine seem to purify my heart as well as my thoughts. I enter the shrines clean of worldly concerns.

Transformed!  Every group has an energy, a way of clicking together, a way of forming a family-like bond, if only for the precious time together, sometimes some the bonds formed go beyond the time the group is together.

Transformed! Every group has an energy, a way of clicking together, a way of forming a family-like bond, if only for the precious time together, sometimes some of the bonds formed go beyond the time the group is together.  I look at this photo and my heart leaps with joy.  Such a fine group of people!  We all experienced the Japan journey together last year. 

Chiaki, our guide, is certainly a great part of this experience.  The reason why I am so late in getting the word out about the trip is because I was waiting to be sure SHE would be our guide.  I would not want to do the trip without her.  She is simply amazing.  Her English is excellent, her love of her country, her work, and people she works with is evident, and her knowledge of history is profound.  She is entertaining and she is REAL.  She is honest and hardworking.  I cannot sing her praises enough.  Suffice to say, those going on this trip are LUCKY.  Chiaki holds us all and guides us to all fall in love with Japan and with her.

Chiaki, our guide, is certainly a great part of this experience. The reason why I am so late in getting the word out about the trip is because I was waiting to be sure SHE would be our guide. I would not want to do the trip without her. She is simply amazing. Her English is excellent, her love of her country, her work, and the people she works with (us!) is evident, and her knowledge of history is profound. She is entertaining and she is REAL. She is honest and hardworking. I cannot sing her praises enough. Suffice to say, those going on this trip in 2017 are LUCKY. Chiaki holds us all and guides us to all fall in love with Japan and with her.

Experience Japan for two weeks October 29-November 12, 2017.

DETAILS and TO REGISTER: http://www.frangallo.com

A Simple Mantra

May 24, 2017

So Hum

We breathe in.  We breathe out.

We inhale and silently and hear SO.

We exhale and silently and hear HUM.

Two words create internal sounds that bring us to reflections of beauty.

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So Hum (also spelled Soham). This Sanskrit mantra is made of two simple words which bring us to truth.  I AM THAT.  THAT I AM.  I am the beauty I see around me.  I am a reflection of the trees, the pond, the sky, the trail, the yogis bursting with life, and the exquisite property so tenderly loved.  I identify myself with the universe.

So Hum. The images tumble forth.  The yogis in the group become poets before my very eyes:

Iridescent blue of the damselfly on the pond, SO HUM

 (photo by Rick)

(photo by Rick)

Dark water, red leaves, blue dragonfly SO HUM

The barred owl casing the robin’s nest, SO HUM

(Rick's photo)

(Rick’s photo)

Eye of the owl  SO HUM

Purple blossoms falling on the grass SO HUM

Creek crashing through the sea SO HUM

Moss on the temple  SO HUM

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The color Chinese red on the house door  SO HUM

Path leading to the house where we do our yoga

The skittering wind  SO HUM

Beauty and artistry of the carved wood  SO HUM

(photo by Rick)

(photo by Rick)

Hummingbird by my red bandana  SO HUM

Kathy (wearing her red bandanna) and Dayna

Kathy (wearing her red bandana) and Dayna

So we took a day to experience the glorious nature of Vashon Island and revel in our unique surroundings.  We enjoyed a morning session of Hatha Yoga, followed by an organic lunch made with love from Karen Biondo, farmer of La Biondo Farm & Kitchen on Vashon Island. The weather was fine enough for us to eat at a long table outside, the inviting forest formed a backdrop to our meal.  After lunch, some of us went on an hour hike to Fern Cover and others took naps, walked solo around the property, rested, read, socialized, took time to stop and be.  Some forged new friendships.  After lunch, we met at the temple and meditated.  We also did some standing yoga on the temple grounds. Then we brought our  yoga session indoors again and finished up our yin session with a long shavasana.  A perfect day in so many ways.

One of the entrances to the Chinese Tea Merchant's House, where most of our yoga took place. Gigantic doors open up to the landscaped garden and forest beyond.

One of the entrances to the Chinese Tea Merchant’s House, where most of our yoga took place. Large doors open up to the landscaped garden and forest beyond. (Photo by Milo)

Rhododendron (photo by Rick)

Rhododendron (photo by Rick)

Leaves and Light (photo by Milo)

Leaves and Light (photo by Milo)

Lunchtime! (photo by Fran)

Lunchtime! (photo by Fran)

An exceptionally fine May day! We ate our Salad Nicoise at the outside table. (photo by Fran)

An exceptionally fine May day! We ate our Salad Nicoise at the outside table. (photo by Fran)

A hike to Fern Cove (photo by Fran)

A hike to Fern Cove (photo by Fran)

Rick reads poems at Fern Cove, at the end of Mill Creek Trail (photo by Fran)

Rick reads poems at Fern Cove, at the end of Mill Creek Trail (photo by Fran)

My playful friends!! (photo by Leslie S)

My playful friends!! (photo by Leslie S)

Yes, our chef gone upside down in headstand! (photo by Leslie S)

Yes, our chef Karen turning the world  upside down in headstand! (photo by Leslie S)

Rick's photo of us doing yoga outside of the temple!

Rick’s photo of us doing yoga outside of the temple!

End of the day...shavasana (nice enough to have doors open to the land and forest of Vashon Island.)

End of the day…shavasana (nice enough to have doors open to the land, fresh air, and forest of Vashon Island )

NEXT VASHON DAY RETREAT WILL BE HELD MAY 20, 2018.  NEVER TOO EARLY TO SIGN UP!  (just let me know in your comments below if you’d like to reserve your space and I will be in touch with you!)

And I leave you with a poem I read to the group on Sunday:

Prayer for the Great Family (after a Mohawk Prayer) Gary Snyder

Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day–
and to her soil: rich, rare, and sweet

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing light-changing leaf
 and fine root-hairs; standing still through wind 
and rain; their dance is in the flowing spiral grain

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and the silent
 Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
 clear spirit breeze

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
 freedoms and ways; who share with us their milk;
 self-complete, brave, and aware

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
 holding or releasing; streaming through all
 our bodies salty seas

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through 
trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
 bears and snakes sleep–he who wakes us–

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Great Sky
 who holds billions of stars–and goes yet beyond that–
beyond all powers, and thoughts 
and yet is within us–
Grandfather Space.
The Mind is his Wife

so be it.

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A very special place, indeed!

Sicily 2017 Slideshow

May 13, 2017

Was it one week or two?

It was one hundred lifetimes lived in a single day.

Warm sun on my skin

Within days, my skin goes brown, my eyes grow bright.

A gentle breeze floats in from the sea.

I am surrounded by beauty

and smiles.

How will I ever go back home?

This ancient land clings to my feet, tugs at my heart.

I am trapped by an invisible seaweed netting.

Cherry tomatoes burst with flavor. The local markets display mounds of dried wild herbs and mountains of colorful fruits and vegetables, which will taste as beautiful as they look.

Every morning and evening, we practice yoga to the sound of birdsong

and to soft lapping of waves.

The fragrance of the zagara flower is intoxicating.

Orange blossoms perfume the wall-less outdoor yoga studio.

Mt. Etna lets out a steady stream of smoke, steam, and dreams.

Mongibello stands tall, shrouded in purple at sunset, pink at sunrise.

What do you call the blue of the Sicilian sky and sea?

Flamingos, not yet fully pink, are feeding at the marsh.

Are there words to describe such insane raw beauty?

At night, I wonder how my parents ever left?  I wonder if I  carry the scars of their pain?

Quarry stones, hewn perfectly, stand witness to ancient history and warm today’s cat.

With the click of my camera, I capture the wild red poppies growing in a field of yellow daisies and I offer the poppies’ perfection to my lost friend Adriana.

We do yoga in the ruins of the tuna fisheries.

I feel the solidity of ancient stone under my feet, the mass suffering of the giants of the sea, and the beauty of the moment.

I watch my friends, long-time friends and new ones, do yoga on this ancient island. I lead them in a yoga sequence and I feel  Madre Terra’s energy coursing through us all.

Mother Earth and the Sicilian Sun nourish our spirits.

I breathe and I am renewed.

Fran’s website: http://www.frangallo.com

Turn up your speakers and enjoy the slideshow below (about 8 minutes long):

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Alive in Modica

May 3, 2017

Once again…a few of my photos to share from this incredible trip.  I have slowed down in my photo taking.  I can’t compete with Rick, Gail, Monica, and Karen, who all take great photos!  They have a good eye and their cameras are so much nicer than mine is.  Compared to their cameras, my Leica seems to be a child’s toy.  Hopefully, I will get some of their photos from the yoga sessions and some of the group photos we have been taking to share with my readers.

Below: the town of Modica!  We had a cooking lesson with Chef Ninni Radicini at the cooking school, ate a wonderful lunch, and then went walking in the town of Modica with our fabuloso guide and friend, Giorgio Modica of Modica!

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On the way to Modica, I finally got the shot I wanted: fields of wildflowers at their peak of beauty.  Red poppies standout against yellow flowers

On the way to Modica, I finally got the shot I wanted: fields of wildflowers at their peak of beauty. Red poppies standout against yellow flowers

The tomato sauce used in the Pasta alla Norma

The tomato sauce used in the Pasta alla Norma

The base for the caponata..later the eggplant, vinegar, and sugar are added to make a very delicious side dish.

The base for the caponata..later the eggplant, vinegar, and sugar are added to make a very delicious side dish.

Cannoli shells

Cannoli shells

Filled with ricotta and ready to eat!

Filled with ricotta and ready to eat!

Espresso: You cannot get a bad cup of coffee in Sicily!

Perfect Cup of Espresso: You cannot get a bad cup of coffee in Sicily!

Perfect Setting for Yoga Practice

Perfect Setting for Yoga Practice

And Yes, we really do yoga, twice daily!

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Fran back bends over Lisa

Fran back bends over Lisa


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