Posts Tagged ‘enjoying the Pacific Northwest’

Yoga in the Company of Dogs

August 19, 2018

Ruby – Cleopatra – Sidney – Bo 

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll bet you have heard this prayer:

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

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

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

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


Mothers and Daughters

October 19, 2015

This past weekend, we hosted a Mother Daughter Yoga Retreat at Little Renaissance.  We had three generations present and, yet, we never felt any sort of generational gap.  The inter-generational aspect of the retreat was so fun and all interactions were meaningful.  I observed that the one grandmother present was gleaning wisdom from her grandchild as well as from the other younger retreat participants.  I love how the interactions transcended age and went into the arena of wisdom, love, and deepening relationships.

Circle of Love

Circle of Love

At one point, after a yoga session, I asked everyone to share with one another their ideas on the following: What I admire about you or What I can learn from you.  Everyone freely and openly shared their admiration for one another.  What I have to comment on is how impressed I was with the three youngest present.  They were fun, age-appropriate mature, not glued to social media, and into human interaction which included heart to heart connection with each person present!

Abi and Jen

Abi and Jen

We did a shared reading on Saturday night and here are some of the readings or sources of readings.

Rick read The Waking, a self-reflective poem that describes waking up from sleep by Theodore Roethke.  Rick was quite animated as he read and Cecilia was moved to film him doing his exuberant reading.  Towards the last line, he was so expressive that Ruah spontaneously laughed so hard with delight that she hit her head on her water glass.  She didn’t cut herself, but we had to ice the hummingbird-sized egg on her forehead:

The Waking

By Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Theodore Roethke, “The Waking” from Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke. Copyright 1953 by Theodore Roethke.

Harmony and Ruah diligently doing their Spanish homework!

Harmony and Ruah diligently taking time out to complete their Spanish homework!

Other readings included:

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (you can view it being read by Anthony Hopkins on youtube).  Abi read this dramatic poem which calls for total sensory involvement as the reader observes with the mind’s eye the  many scenes of sensory images.

The forecast called for rain all weekend, but we had pleasant weather for this time of year. We walked the beach and did not get wet.

The forecast called for rain all weekend, but we had pleasant weather for this time of year. We walked the beach and did not get wet.

Cecilia read from Journey to the Heart:  Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul by Melody Beattie.  She chose the reading from October 11th in the book.  I do not have the book so cannot include the reading, but I did find another quote from the book:

“You don’t need to limit yourself anymore. You’ve opened your heart. Now open your mind. Look around. See all the possibilities. The universe is teaming with them. It will lead and guide you into this abundance if you ask it for help and then allow that to happen. Open to life’s abundance. Open to all its possibilities. The more open you become, the more creative you’ll be—in work, in play, in love, in life. The more creative you are, the more possibilities you’ll see.”

From shared readings, I discover great books.  Jen read from Calling in “The One”, 7 Weeks to Attract Your Soulmate by Katherine Woodward Thomas.  The book is great for people ready to find their soulmate.  The chapters focus on internal change and appeared to offer powerful tools for attracting one’s soulmate.

The whole group (minus Rick who is taking the photo)

The whole group (minus Rick who is taking the photo)

Saturday’s Shared Readings took place around 10pm and I think I was too tired to take note or to remember what everyone read.  The last one I remember is the poem Tiffany read from We’Moon.  We’Moon is an astrological data book and calendar filled with poems and beautiful artwork.  Tiffany read a poem called Trucker’s Language and is about women using words and expressive forms of communication which are actually words of empowerment!  The title really captures your attention and the poem does so even more.  Tiffany will send me the poem and I can come back and include it in this blog entry.

Enjoy the remainder of photos from the weekend retreat at Little Renaissance on Washington’s wild coast.

Trees sprouting from driftwood

Trees sprouting from driftwood

multi-armed goddesses

multi-armed goddesses

Abi meditates under the Bodhi tree

Abi meditates under the Bodhi trees

back at Little Renaissance, Weather so mild in late October that we have lunch outside!

Back at Little Renaissance, the weather is so mild in late October that we have lunch outside!

Yes, that would be Harmony walking on Rick's back!

Yes, that would be Harmony walking on Rick’s back!  That’s it…She’s hired!

Salmon Fishing

August 30, 2015

Last weekend, I experienced salmon fishing for the first time.  The whole experience was much more intense and more of an undertaking than I ever imagined.  It would have been much easier to just go over to Whole Foods and pick up a fresh salmon fillet, but I would have missed out on the grand experience of reeling in the big one!  I went to the mouth of the Columbia and came home with a 25 pound wild King Salmon.

The fishing took place on Matthew Chandler’s 26 foot boat, a Willie Nemesis.  I can’t really compare Matthew to other skippers and guides because this was my first experience salmon fishing, but I can say wholeheartedly that Matthew is a very professional, caring, and knowledgeable all-round good person.  His business is Get Hooked NW and I feel lucky to have been guided by him.  As an added bonus, his daughter Alvean was on board.  Already at 10 years of age, she is a skipper in the making.  She helped us hook our bait, change our weights, and disentangle wind whipped fishing lines.

Skipper Matthew Chandler of Get Hooked NW

Skipper Matthew Chandler of Get Hooked NW

Alvean, fishergirl extraordinaire!

Alvean, fishergirl extraordinaire!

The first day of fishing was not as successful as I imagined it would be.  I had a number of “fish 0n” shout-outs, but as I reeled the line in, the salmon would shake themselves loose of the non-barbed smooth sharp hooks.  Jayne caught the fish of the day on the first day.  That was it.  All of us others lost fish.  Patience, I learned, is the greatest virtue of a fisherman/fisherwoman.  (Interestingly, spell-check doesn’t recognize the word “fisherwoman”.)

Loads of other boats floated nearby at the mouth of the grand Columbia in Astoria, Oregon.  We watched in disbelief as man after man (yes, mostly men were out there) pulled in great big thrashing salmon, the men whooping as their nets hauled in the giants of the sea heading up river to spawn.  The ultimate optimist, Matthew convincingly explained that we were going to get our fish the next day.  The first day, he explained, was practice.  The first day was learning how not to reel in too quickly or too slowly, how to “walk the dog” (fishermen’s term for going with the fish, not against it, when pulling it in).  He had so much confidence about him so we were not disheartened with the non-existent first day’s catch.


Early morning on the Columbia River.   All around us, fishermen were catching salmon.

On that first day, when we asked, “Are we doing something wrong?”, Matt smiled and said there’s a fisherman’s superstition that you shouldn’t have bananas on the boat.  Some people believe bananas on the boat bring bad luck.  “You don’t have any bananas with you, do you?,”  Matthew asked us the question with laughing eyes.  Um, yes, we did.  One person on our boat took the banana business very seriously and urged us to please not pack any bananas the following day!

The next morning, we woke up at 4am.  I could sense everyone’s determination to have a successful fishing day.  (Just to be sure, we did not pack any bananas with us.)  This day, our second and last fishing day, was also the last opportunity to catch a wild King.  After that day, only hatchery fish are allowed to be caught.  You can tell a hatchery fish because one dorsal fin is snipped.  All wild fish with fins intact were to be released the following day and onwards as the wild fish are given more of a chance to make their arduous journey up river to spawn.

Washington fisheries have very strict rules and regulations in place to protect salmon.  I am very grateful for this.  Where salmon are concerned, Washington fisheries is most successful in managing salmon population (and in deciding how many can be caught) because so much is known about the life cycle of salmon.  The average life span of a salmon is seven years and adults weigh over 22 pounds.  The environment, unfortunately, has been extremely difficult for the salmon.  Salmon need to go upriver to spawn, back to the place where their lives began.  How can they go upriver when the rivers are running dry this year?  We have had a dearth of rain.  Climate change isn’t helping.  There was not much snowfall in the mountains last winter and Washington’s glaciers are quickly receding.  How will the rivers provide transport for the salmon on their way up to spawn?  In addition, salmon need a certain temperature to spawn and the low running river waters are warmer than ever this year.

Astoria, at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. The day started out with a spectacular sunrise. Unfortunately, the colorful sunrise had to do with smoke in the air! Tthe eastern winds had shifted to the west and the entire west coast of the state of Washington got smothered in smoke from the forest fires that are raging in our state. Climate change and severe drought have brought on the worst wildfires Washington has ever had!

Astoria, at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. The day started out with a spectacular sunrise. Unfortunately, the colorful sunrise had to do with smoke in the air! The eastern winds had shifted to the west and the entire west coast of the state of Washington got smothered in smoke from the forest fires that are raging in our state. Climate change and severe drought have brought on the worst wildfires Washington has ever had!

Quite frankly, the concept of fishing is not an easy one for me to reconcile!  In my head I think that if I allow myself to eat fish, then I should be able to catch one.  And if I can’t kill a fish myself, I should be able to watch it be killed in the most humane way possible.  And if I can’t fish and be witness to the whole process, then I shouldn’t eat fish.  I forced myself to watch the swift grim-reaper-bludgeon take the valuable life of the salmon.  I also watched the process of filleting.  I do not eat mammals and have drawn the line at being a pescatarian.   Last fall, I was appalled by the photos that appeared on Facebook of my niece, having shot her first deer, standing beside “her” buck, proudly displaying its horned head and doleful dead eyes.  Sadly, when I saw the photo of myself holding “my” salmon, I realized I am no different from my huntress niece.  My salmon was fiercely full of life before it took my bait.  It was swimming freely, just as my niece’s buck was freely roaming the forests, grazing, running, his heart beating out a rhythm until his fateful day.  I have to come to terms with these facts and admit I want to fish for salmon again next year and I can only do that if I am not in conflict with the process of taking a precious worthy sea life.



No trip to Astoria would be complete without the Steller Sea Lions.  You can smell them and hear them well before you actually see them!  They congregate by the hundreds on the docks near the fishing boats in Astoria.  They grumble.  They growl.  They roar.  They yell at each other.  They bark.  All the sea lions we saw on the docks are males!  There is, for some reason, a surplus of males and so these single bachelors hang out with each other, cuddling, arguing, loafing about.

The Steller Sea Lions’ habitat is the NW Pacific Rim.   Surprising to me, I learned they are on the Endangered Species list.  Between 1980-2000, there was a shocking 80% loss in their population!  By they year 2000, there were only 55,000 remaining in the world.  Strict protective measures were put in place, and today, there are 150,000 Steller Sea Lions.  2340 of the 150,000 hang out in and around Astoria, much to the chagrin of the fishermen.  You see, the sea lions and the Astoria fishermen compete for the same food source:  salmon.


Steller Sea Lions

Why, you may wonder, are the sea lions struggling to survive?  In the past, Steller Sea Lions were hunted for their fur.  Today, there are other reasons for their struggle to survive.  Their dwindling numbers have to with competition for food sources.  Changes in the environment have been harsh on the salmon runs, one of the main sources of food for the Steller Sea Lions.   One can only imagine how much they have to eat to maintain their weight.  A healthy male is 10-11 feet long and the average weight is 1250 lbs!  Survival struggles also have to do with getting hit by boats, tangled in fishing lines, eaten by sharks and killer whales.   All these factors have put a great amount of stress on the Steller Sea Lions.  They have developed Multiple Sclerosis, a neurological auto-immune disease often exacerbated or brought on by various stress factors.  You might notice in the photos, above and below, that some of the sea lions are tattooed.  This is related to research programs being done to help further understand the human and environmental impacts on the sea lions and the effects of MS on them.


Hundreds of Steller Sea Lions lie on the fishing docks, digesting a feast of salmon.  According to a most recent count, there are 2340 Steller Sea Lions in the Astoria area and the mouth of the Columbia.  Last year, they sank a dock because they are so darned heavy!!


Matthew’s/Alvean’s dogs, Bonnie and Clyde, came to greet us after the second day of fishing (held by Annalise).

Another thing about fishing is that you will encounter a whole new jargon!  I wish I had written down all of the fishing expressions as I heard them.  Here is an example of a snippet of conversation between Matthew and a skipper:

“Catch any?”

“We crackered it!”

The second line above is a negative response to the first questions.  To “cracker something” means to screw up or to tally something and come up with zero.

“Fran, give your reel a couple turns.  You’re smackin’ bottom.”

Smackin’ bottom” means my hook and bait are dragging the river floor.  Another way of putting it is, “We’re a dragon.  Reel in.”

“Don’t horse ‘im in.  You gotta walk the dog.”

“Horse him in” is to forcefully pull your fish in, with a great risk of losing it.  Instead you have to “walk the dog”, which means to follow the fish with your rod, but always keep the line taut.  Honestly, I did not master the technique, so perhaps I am describing it poorly.  I did look up “walk the dog” on line and was amazed to see loads of You Tube videos on the technique of “walking the dog”.  Apparently, the technique varies greatly if you are fishing for trout, bass, salmon, etc.  And the technique is varied when you have a fish on or if you are trying to lure the fish to take your bait.

There is a science to fishing and a host of knowledge learned to master the art of fishing.  For example, I can hear Matthew saying, “Remember, fish look UP!” or “If you reapply sunscreen, wash your hands before you touch your line!  Fish hate the smell of sunscreen.”   It takes years to learn the ins and outs of fishing science.  I also think that to be a fine fisherperson, you have to start thinking like a fish.  I knew Matthew was full-on in fish-mode when I heard him say, “I hate the smell of sunscreen.”


Matthew helps us net in our fish.


Did I mention how beautiful salmon are?  These are the scales of my beautiful King.

If you are interested in booking a fishing excursion with Matthew Chandler, you will do best to book now for next year.  He was booked solid this year and I imagine he is always in very high demand.  He is a gem of a guide:   Get Hooked NW

Adventurous Living

March 9, 2015

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We hosted a yoga retreat this past weekend at the coast.  It was a great experience. This was one of the warmest weekends in March I have ever experienced since living in the Pacific Northwest.  The walks on the beach felt dreamy.  My toes sank into the warm sand and I felt relaxed. We ate lunch in the garden (it was warm enough!).  Earlier this morning, we took a break from our morning yoga session in order to watch a small herd of deer grazing  just outside our window.

One of the retreat participants read the following quote about adventurous living for her shared reading.

Remember the high board at the swimming pool? After days of looking up at it you finally climbed the wet steps to the platform. From there, it was higher than ever. There were only two ways down: the steps to defeat, or the dive to victory. You stood on the edge, shivering in the hot sun, deathly afraid. At last you leaned too far forward, it was too late for retreat, and you dived. The high board was conquered, and you spent the rest of the day diving. Climbing a thousand high boards, we demolish fear, and turn into human beings.
Richard BachA Gift of Wings

The quote spoke directly to so many of us who hesitate to do that which frightens us the most!  For some, it spoke specifically to our work with headstands this past weekend.  I have a headstand bench.  So many people hesitate to use it at first, but once they do, they want to go out and purchase one because going upside down has so many benefits and inversions, when you can do them, create an incredible sense of euphoria!

I don’t have photos from the work with the headstand bench, but I have a few photos from our glorious walks on the beach.  Enjoy! With love from Fran

March 7th, Ocean Shores, Washington...I swear we have the most beautiful beaches here in Washington!

March 7th, Ocean Shores, Washington…we have the most beautiful beaches here in Washington! (photo taken by Tricia)

Perfect fishing day to catch sea perch

Perfect fishing day to catch sea perch

Group shot (photo taken by Rick)

Group shot (photo taken by Rick)

formation on beach (photo taken by Tricia)

beach walk

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Collage from Joon’s Visit

May 13, 2014

Still in Hindelang, but I just got around to putting this collage together from Joon Joongwong’s visit last week.  It was great having him visit us in Seattle and Ocean Shores.  You can see from the collage below, that he brought a taste of Thailand to our home.  We also seemed to move nonstop from one wildlife reserve to another, one beautiful waterfall (Snoqualmie) to another (Sol Duc).  Rick and I also showed him some of the best our area has to offer in terms of wildlife and bird reserves, hot springs, ancient rain forests, wildflowers,  ocean, lakes, waterfalls, sunsets, and sunrises.

Click on “play” and watch this very short collage come alive with captions and upbeat happy music.

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