Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

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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‘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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Maui Magic

January 5, 2019

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On our first full day here, we went snorkeling at Maluaka. It had been years since I last snorkeled. And that was back in Thailand.  So, when I entered the warm waters of Maluaka on Wednesday here on Maui, it took me a little while to get used to having a mask on and breathing into the little snorkel tube that juts up above the water.  Kelley led the way to the coral reefs.  Rick took off in a completely different direction.  Jack, thankfully, stayed close by me, until he was certain I felt comfortable using my snorkel equipment.  I’d say it took me about ten minutes to feel like the sea was my home and that the tube wasn’t going to fill up with water and cut off my oxygen supply.  Once I was confident, I entered a sea world where flying and swimming merge, where schools of colorful fish swim by, and where enormous sea turtles swim gracefully.

My buddy and protector of the day, Jack McHenry. Jack is also one of my dedicated blog readers. Mahalo, Jack!

The water here is calm and clear, making it easy to observe marine life.  How I wished I had an underwater camera.  But I don’t, so my memory will have to hold the vivid colors of the tropical fish and my words will have to suffice to share what I saw during the hour and a half snorkel experience.

I saw Angelfish, butterfly fish, trumpet fish, yellow tang, sea urchins, wrasse, and reef triggerfish in these coral gardens.  The most exciting for me was to see the giant sea turtles swimming by or to see them burrowing or hovering on the sea floor. I also saw and learned the Hawaiian name for the Rectangular Triggerfish, which is Hawaii’s State fish:  humuhumukunukunuapua’a!

Humuhumunukunukuapua’a: Hawaii’s state fish

And a sad word on the coral reefs at Maluaka: they didn’t look good.  I look back on my Thai experience of snorkeling along the coral reefs there and clearly remember that the coral was vibrant and very healthy.  That was a long time ago. Perhaps it has changed there, too?  The coral reefs I saw on Wednesday in the protected marine area were clearly dying.  Much of the coral dying has to do with climate change as well as human use of chemical sunscreens.  People going into the water are encouraged to wear water-shirts or zinc or titanium sunblocks instead of chemical sunscreens. Even in small amounts, chemical sunscreens are highly toxic to coral and fish. How I wish there could be a world wide ban on chemical sunscreens!

And so you don’t leave my blog in a complete state of coral-despair, the next day, Thursday (yesterday), we went to Ahihi Nature Preserve for more snorkeling. This time I chose not to snorkel and instead did a solo walk on a lava trail so that I could focus on taking some photos with my Leica. Meanwhile, the others in my group went snorkeling and reported that the coral at Ahihi Nature Preserve looks much healthier than what I saw in Maluaka the previous day.

And here are a few photos from my lava trail solo time.

I have to include a foot-foto. Perhaps this type of photo proves I really walked this beach of black lava stones.  And you can be sure that I took my shoe off just for the photo and put it back on before walking on this rougher-than-pumice stone lava beach.

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Lava and Coral Collage with Shell Fossil in Lava Stone:

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Black lava in the foreground:img_7044

How in the heck did a caper plant and flower (photographed below) make it to Maui all the way from the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria?l1410143

Here in Maui, I see tropical plants, in their natural environment, growing to be at least ten times larger than when grown as indoor houseplants back home.

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Interesting how this photo of my lava cairn looks like a black and white photo when it is not.

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I will never understand why people feel the urge to carve their names into trees.  Aina, don’t you see?  You’ll be the death of this tree?

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Sunglasses, Sunhat, Frangipani (or Plumeria as it is called here 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

Yoga and Hiking in Sun-Kissed Sicily

April 23, 2018

Yes, our yoga and hiking retreat in sun-kissed Sicily will be taking place very soon.  I am excited about this yoga retreat coming up and wanted to include some of the trip’s highlights!

Temperatures look to be in the 70s for the week ahead. Many of my readers know that this is not the first time I am offering a retreat in lovely Sicily and that this will not be the last time I will be offering a retreat in Sicily.  I love this island, its history, the sunshine, the warmth of the people, the sea, the landscape, the food, and the Italian language and the dialect.  I love doing yoga at the villa, outdoors, looking out at the sea.

On arrival day, we will be greeted by this lovely family of caretakers of Piero’s villa (photo below). They are originally from Mauritius, have lived in Sicily for many years, and they make sure we are well cared for during our week on this magical Mediterranean island, the pearl of Italy, Sicily.

The Bangaroo family: Darwin (son), Sheemee (daughter), Luckshmee (mother), Narain (father)

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Retreat participants will be impressed by the inviting villa with its breathtaking views of the Ionian sea and Mt. Etna.  This is the view we enjoy as we do yoga. I have taken so many photos of this view.  It is different every morning and evening.

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On arrival day, we’ll unwind with a yoga session of deep stretching and relaxation.  Weather permitting, our sessions are held out on the lawn overlooking the most fabulous yoga setting I have ever experienced in my life.  All week, our yoga session themes will vary.  During shavasana, I will pepper the relaxing imagery with Italian words and the yoga retreat participants will be lulled into a deep transcendental state of being.

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And sometimes, we will go a little crazy with our yoga creativity!

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Yes, we will spend time on the road, en route to various hiking trails.  We are certain to pass field of wildflowers. Spring in Sicily is green!

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On Sunday, May 6 we will travel to Piazza Armerina and the nearby Caltagirone.  In Piazza Armerina, we will visit the famous mosaics of the Villa Romana del Casale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with our guide and archaeologist, Serena.  I visited this incredible site long ago, when I was 16 years old. I have always wanted to go back. And I am finally going back! 

More on Villa Romana del Casale LINK

Thirty minutes drive is Caltagirone, a town known for its ceramic arts and for the town’s famous 142 ceramic Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte built in 1608.  Those who like, will climb this staircase with me and we will all have time to walk around the town. There are various festivals throughout the year when the ceramic staircase is covered in flowers or in candles. Ceramic Staircase

On Monday, May 7, we will visit the historical nature reserve of Vendicari. In the past we have gone on archaeological tours and birding in Vendicari.  We will certainly see the many birds nesting here as well as the archaeological sites as we hike to Sicily’s most beautiful beach, which also happens to be a part of the protected nature reserve, Calamosche Beach.   I can’t wait to do yoga on this beach!

Flamingos of Vendicari as seen through my scope:

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photo below taken in Vendicari:Untitled Design

Tuesday, May 8, we will go on a long day trip Mt. Etna, where we will hike, if it is safe to do so.  It is about an hour and a half drive from our villa. Mount Etna was known to the Romans by its Latin name Aetna.  The Sicilians call it Mungibeddru, which translates to “beautiful mountain”.  It is an active volcano on the east coast of Sicily. The name Etna comes from the Greek Aitne, from aithō, “I burn.”

Some facts about Mount Etna:

  • It is Europe’s tallest volcano and one of the most active in the world.
  • Mount Etna stands at 10,810 feet tall
  • Since 2001, Mount Etna has erupted every year except 2007. The last major eruption was in 1992.
  • The circumference of Mount Etna is 93 miles (over twice the size of Mount Vesuvius).
  • There is snow present on the volcano year round.
  • The soil surrounding the volcano is very fertile. 3/4 of Sicily’s crops are grown near the volcano.
  • The biggest recorded eruption was on March 8, 1669. The lava reached Catania.  At least 20,000 people died.
  • “Another myth surrounding Mount Etna is that the Roman God of fire, Vulcan, used the base of the mountain for metalworking. As God of fire, he was considered as the manufacturer of art, arms, iron and armour, amongst other items. In this mythology, it is thought that Vulcan married Venus, the goddess of love and beauty after being promised a wife by Jupiter. At the base of Mount Etna, Vulcan built a blacksmiths, where he would beat red-hot metal whenever he found out that Venus had been unfaithful, causing an eruption.”

The photo below was taken by our hiking guide in March.  We will enter the park from Schiena del’Asino, which translates to “Spine of the Donkey” and take this trail for our hike.  Years ago, I went on a day trip to Etna.  At sea level, the day was warm enough for swimming in the sea, but up on the mountain, the wind whipped and chilled our bodies as we held our wind breakers tightly around us.

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After our hike on Mount Etna, we will head over to Taormina where we will have some free time to roam around this ancient Greek city.  We will have time to see the Greek Theater ruins and the romantic piazzas overlooking the sea and the butterfly-shaped beach below.

On Wednesday, May 9, we will visit the Baroque town of Noto and hike in the nearby Cava Carosello.  While on the hike, we will do yoga at this lovely spot photographed below by our trekking company, Siracusa Trekking:

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On Thursday, May 10, we will go on an Archaeological-trekking tour in Pantalica (UNESCO World Heritage Site) with archaeologist, Alessandro. Pantalica.  This is a place where ancient man lived and died in nature, a necropolis with honeycombed tombs dotting the sides of the trail. We will  have yoga at the ruins at sunset.

More information on Pantalica

Photo below Pantalica in March:

Pantalica (1)After yoga, we will head to the medieval town of Palazzolo Acreide where we will have dinner in a restaurant owned by two brothers by the last name of Gallo. They believe they are related to me, but I don’t think so because my father shortened our family name from “Brunogallo” to “Gallo” when he immigrated to America in the late 1950s…but you never know.

More on Palazzolo Acreide

On Friday, May 11, we will hike the nearby Plemmirio Nature Preserve where we will also have a peaceful and rejuvenating yoga session out in nature.  Later on, we will visit the colorful market of Ortigia and have free time to walk around on our own.

Link of Plemmirio Nature Preserve

I love this photo below. I saw this young woman texting on the side of this ancient cathedral in Ortigia.  The ancient and the modern side by side.  The cathedral was built over the Greek Temple of Athena. The temple pillars, dating back to 5th century BC, form the bone-like structure of the cathedral.  The open spaces between the pillars were filled in with stone to form an enclosed house of worship. The girl below is sitting on the original stairs of the Greek temple.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of my favorite cathedrals in Italy:

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Follow us on our Sicilian yoga and hiking adventures by checking back in on my blog post.  Namaste, Fran

Chiseled Town

January 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Beautiful little girl

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

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

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

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A New Christmas Song

December 16, 2017

a stream of consciousness flows from my brain to my fingers to the keyboard to the computer screen

my typing fingers are ants scrambling frantically, trying desperately to preserve their lives as a stream of Raid jets forth from a blue can held in the hands of a myrmecophobic person…i’m channeling my mother and her fear of ants..she even used the greek-derived-sicilian word to point them out “firmicoli!”

Eagle Pose at Nisqually National Wildlife Reserve

have i ever mentioned i’m a fast typist? quick-twitch muscles would have made me a competitive sprinter

but mom didn’t allow me to run competitively, said it was bad for a developing girl’s body to run, the nuns telephoned her, begged her to let me join the girls’ sprint teams, said i was the fastest of them all, but Sicilian Mamma said no and her no was a final NO

those quick-twitch muscles have a flip side, too, so that my hands contain much dexterity, flexibility, and steadiness, qualities that would have made me a good surgeon in the days before robotic surgeries

but teaching would become my vocation, my life’s work

and i am content

enough

today’s stream of thought and my fingers bring me to a morning in seattle, a morning at starbucks, where i stopped to get a cup of coffee last week, a common enough occurrence, but this given morning was a frigid one, frost on the pavement, romantic pink-tinged mountains mocking my frozen face

on that given day, as i walked into starbucks, i saw a homeless man standing outside the coffee shop, yet another homeless man looking like all the other homeless people: cold, lost, distant-yet-present, hopeful kind eyes, trying not to look too crazed from the cold frost enveloping his hat-less head, his un-gloved hands, his dusty-dark skin telling me a kind of not-so-kind story about america the sometimes-not-so-great, a story that begs the question WHY?

i went inside the warm cozy starbucks laden with christmas decorations, my ears inundated with the same cheesy christmas tunes i’ve been hearing year after year since i was born fifty-six years ago, thinking to myself doesn’t anyone ever get tired of listening to this crap, but stopping my thoughts quickly lest anyone think i’m a grinch or a an avatar of ebenezer scrooge

and as my hands and feet thaw out while i wait in line in the warm coffee shop with the music i cannot stand, my thoughts go back to the homeless man standing outside

i order up two cups of coffee

one is for him

maybe it was the cold temperatures

maybe it was because he didn’t ask

maybe it was because we connected on some unspoken level

maybe it was because of his very humanness

maybe it was because i just lost my beautiful cousin julie to cancer and my heart was swollen with tears

maybe it was because i feel tons of guilt for not sparing yet another dime, a dollar, a couple of dollars when asked

maybe it is because i am sick of seeing tents popping up all over the city, in the parks, on the sidewalks, reminding me of being in calcutta with rick in 2001

did i know mr homeless would grab the paper cup of coffee and follow me back inside? did i ever imagine he would find a seat next to me and sit quietly?

did i ever imagine the unimaginable would happen:

he started humming and his body started rocking to the rhythm of Walking in a Winter Wonderland and then he started singing, quietly but loud enough for those of us sitting nearby to hear him

a rich baritone voice singing “in the winter we could build a snowman…”, a trained voice, one that has sung in church choirs, a man with a voice that tells a story of one life, his life, a sweet voice that melted my heart and allowed me to hear a new christmas song:

one for julie

one for julie’s children and grandchildren

one for julie’s sisters and brother and their families

one for julie’s inconsolable mother

a sweet simple song to bolster the hearts of everyone at holiday time, a time when we are especially reminded of bitter-sweet loss and fullness, all at the same time

Celebrating Winter Solstice

December 4, 2017

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

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

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

Embrace the return of light.

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

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

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

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

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

– Audette Fulbright Fulson

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I found the following poem by Maureen Edden:

The Shortest Day

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

L1400277The following Turkish Proverb was shared:

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

And here is a good reflective poem by William Stafford:

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the
           world
and following the wrong god home we may miss
           our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of
          childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.
And as elephants parade holding each
          elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the
          park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something
         shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should
         consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the
dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to
          sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
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And the following two poems speak to tonight’s Super Moon.
On a night
when the moon shines as brightly as this,
the unspoken thoughts
of even the most discreet heart might be seen.
(Izumi Shikibu 10th-11th century)
All night I could not sleep
Because of the moonlight on my bed
I kept on hearing a voice calling:
Out of Nowhere, Nothing answered, “yes.”
(Tzu Yeh 3rd-6th Century)
We experienced the very bright night skies last night and the night before as the Super Moon, not quiet yet full, was lighting up the cloudy night skies.  We especially experience the brightness of the moon here at Ocean Shores, where there is little light pollution.  Today, because of the gravitational pull of the Super Moon, when we took a walk on the beach, the tide was very high, leaving very little room to walk along the shore.  You can see the long shadows cast by the noon winter sun and the narrow stretch of sand on a beach that normally has a very large span of sand.
L1400275L1400282L1400278Lucky us…Jerry gifted all of us with her freshly pressed apple juice from her apple orchard.  So GOOD!!!!  Stay healthy and hydrated, readers!  And get out there and look at the super moon tonight!

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