Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Friday, December 21, 2012

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Joining with SouleMama.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Respite and adventure

The best remedy for those who are afraid,
lonely or unhappy is to go outside,
somewhere where they can be quiet,
alone with the heavens, nature and God.
Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be
and that God wishes to see people happy,
amidst the simple beauty of nature.
I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.
-Anne Frank

Not long ago, feeling disconnected from nature and depleted from being endlessly wired in to technology, I decided to spend a few nights at a Buddhist retreat center in the Santa Cruz mountains.

The retreat center offers two types of lodging-- small, private rooms and yurts (similar to a tent cabin) away from the main buildings in a towering redwood grove. While trying to decide which type of lodging I wanted to stay in, I felt a tiny shiver of fear at staying alone in a yurt in a secluded forest, so I went with that. Something inside of me was craving both respite and adventure.

During the day, I hiked through the forest. On the trails I came across little altars and statues placed on rocks and tucked under trees. My favorite hike was the Eight Verses Pilgrimage Trail. Each of the verses are printed on a sign and spaced evenly throughout the trail with a nearby bench for sitting and reflecting.

There were offerings on top of some of the signs, like sea shells, medallions, stones, and bouquets of flowers.

The retreat was exactly what I needed. Time alone in a spiritually-nourishing, natural setting, where I could gaze up at the trees and listen to birds and reconnect with what is important to me.

This statue of St. Francis stood at a crossroads on a forest trail, placed there by the retreat center and used as a landmark on the hike to the yurt campsite.

Every time I came across him, he was a reassuring presence, letting me know I was on the right path.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Scenes from Napa

When I mentioned in my last post that I wasn't going to be around much, what I really meant was that I was heading to Napa Valley with my family for a long weekend to celebrate my folk's 50th wedding anniversary. (I thought it best not to advertise that I was going out of town just to be on the safe side.)

The trip was very important to my mother, who fought hard for it to happen in spite of health problems she is experiencing and the challenge of my sister traveling while seven months pregnant.

The hotel featured these soaking tubs in each room, which is where I spent a good portion of time every evening. I absolutely love baths and brought a supply of my favorite scrubs, soaps, and bath bombs, as well as a good book to read.

Don't tell my cats, but it was really nice having a big bed all to myself for a few nights.

(Don't tell the spiders that lurk in the corners of my apartment, but it was really nice to get away from them, too.)

Someone taped this sign to a random wall outside on the street.

My sister Hil, showing us the size of her belly. We talked alotta lotta lot about the new addition to the family over the weekend. It's hard to express the extent of our joy and excitement.

I'm not a big fan of expensive jewelry or George Clooney, but I love a good sense of humor. This jewelry store had many funny window displays. In case you can't read the sign, it says, "Every woman deserves studs" and above it is a pair of diamond stud earrings.

Our last night we ate at Brix, which is surrounded by hills and vineyards and a vegetable garden. We arrived at sunset, the perfect time to take photos.

The countryside was so gorgeous and serene. With all of the recent rain everything was incredibly green and vibrant.

It was the most time I've spent with my parents in many years and wonderful for the whole family to be together for an entire weekend. We ate good food, shopped, talked, and laughed so much. I really didn't want to leave.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Taking Refuge

I love being home, especially in the winter. I like to hang out in my pajamas, curled up in bed with the cats and a book, doing a little knitting here and there. There was a time in my life when I had a passion for travel, but these days I mainly want the peace and quiet of home.

But after being cooped up in my apartment for five days in row, exhausted and trying to shake off a cold, I wanted to run away from home. I couldn't stop thinking about my job and other subjects not suitable for one's vacation, and almost (but not quite) wished that I hadn't taken this week off because I really wasn't enjoying it.

Then everything changed.

I took a two hour drive to my favorite wildlife refuge. I swear that place is magical. Every time I go there, which is usually once a year, I ask myself why I don't visit more often. Spending time surrounded by wetlands and wildlife is so healing; it profoundly lifts my spirits.

A big storm is coming in today, but tomorrow I plan to get back on the road to visit another refuge. I wouldn't quite say my passion for travel has been restored-- I'm not ready to jump on a plane or anything-- but I have rediscovered a joy that somehow slipped through my fingers. Again.

If you live in the states and would like to visit a refuge, check out the National Wildlife Refuge System for more information.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Busy hands

Now that it's getting dark early I'm knitting more than usual, learning new knitting techniques and also going back to the old ones.

In order to knit the Mochimochi Land bats, I had to learn to knit in the round on double pointed needles. It's been a few years since I have attempted to do that because the last time was a major disaster. But I found that the sock classes I took earlier this year helped me master it (and I use the word 'master' very, very loosely) even though we used two circular needles for the socks. I haven't gotten very far with the bats because it took several attempts just to knit a few inches, but it feels great to have learned a skill that I didn't think I could do.

There is something about the colors of this cotton yarn that I love-- it reminds me of a 1950's kitchen. I was going to make dish towels, but decided to knit a scarf for a friend instead because I think she will look great in these colors, which are much prettier in real life than they are in the pic. For the first time in a very, very long time I'm knitting a plain old garter stitch scarf. It's nice not having to worry about making a mistake or wonder how it is going to turn out.

It was unusually warm in San Francisco last Sunday. We had a delicious lunch at Yank Sing. It was my first time trying dim sum and now I am a big fan. If you ever go to San Francisco, I must insist that you have lunch there. Dim sum is small individual portions of food that are extremely tasty, like pot stickers, dumplings, steamed buns, and spring rolls. Instead of ordering off a menu, you make selections off little carts that they wheel around. It's easy to go overboard.

Inside the building is a fountain that makes it seem like it is raining inside with the water staying inside this big round "puddle" so no one gets wet. That little face peeking out on the right is my sister Hil.

One of the wonderful things about San Francisco is that you never know what you are going to see. While walking down a busy street with office buildings and restaurants, we came across a tiny park with huge, whimsical monster sculptures.

These signs for the San Francisco Zoo were everywhere, and I was intrigued by the owl because that's not something you traditionally go to a zoo to see. I checked out their website and discovered they are having a twilight tour next week that is all about owls. Yay! I'm hoping to go if the tour hasn't filled up.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Summer fun

Last weekend I went camping for the first time in 14 years. The ocean was a five minute walk from the campground, and we could hear the lapping of waves at night. One day I walked down to the beach and sat for a couple hours staring at the water. My life has been extremely busy and exhausting the last several weeks, and I needed to just sit and let my mind wander without trying to accomplish anything. There was no one around except me and the wind, and I found myself spontaneously singing a Tibetan Buddhist chant, "Om Mani Padme", which means the jewel in the lotus. Suddenly I remembered that I had my MP3 player in my backpack, and that particular song was on it. Within a few minutes I was playing, splashing, and dancing in the water accompanied by Om Mani Padme.

I turned 44 years old earlier this week. It was very much a bird birthday! I received many owl- and bird-themed gifts, like an owl towel from Cory, owl bandages and a bird calendar from Hilary. Aren't those bandages a hoot? (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) While camping, my family surprised me one evening with a chocolate cake and candles. They sang happy birthday and spoiled me with presents. I was a happy camper. Another birthday treat occurred later in the week when my co-workers took me out to lunch at Applebee's and the waitress sang happy birthday to me in Italian. It was gorgeous.

A sweet blogger friend sent me a package of bird goodies in the mail for my birthday, including this vintage crocheted owl. Isn't it adorable? I'm still trying to decide where to hang it.

I'm listening to the audio book Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter Ann. Sue is the author of The Secret Life of Bees. The book is a memoir of her and Ann's journey to Greece as Sue struggles with her upcoming 50th birthday and Ann deals with depression over the loss of a dream. It is also about mothers and daughters and there is a strong spiritual theme. It's a little slow, but rich and textured and inspired.

I'm working on a reversible cable scarf in a soft cotton and silk blend yarn. Cables are still a bit of a novelty, and although this pattern is quite simple, I'm enjoying it very much. I've been wanting to knit a cabled scarf ever since I saw Cinder over at Brooklyn Tweed.

Hope you enjoy the Labor Day weekend.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wonderful morning

I've mentioned a few times that I love the beach and often want to go on the weekends, but can't seem to get moving early enough to avoid the traffic that can back up for miles. Well, this morning I managed to get there, thanks to a certain cat named Charlie who decided I'd slept in long enough at 7:30am.

It was a cool, beautiful morning. There were lots of crashing waves, pelicans, and a few paddle boarders playing in the water. My walk took about an hour, and while I enjoyed it very much, I was a bit preoccupied with a craving for something sweet.

So, I popped in at a French bakery for coffee and a pastry. The line was out the door, but it was worth the wait because I had the BEST chocolate eclair that I have ever tasted. Oh. My. Goodness. I think I may have found my motivation for getting up early and going to the beach on the weekends.

I also tried macarons for the first time. I've wanted to taste them ever since Anna wrote about them on her blog. The chocolate one was okay, but a bit too sweet. I saved the pistachio macaron for later because let's face it, a green pastry is not terribly appetizing, but have since tasted it and found it to be YUM.

As if that weren't enough, next door to the French bakery is a yarn shop!! Within minutes of entering the place I found six skeins of yarn I wanted to buy, but somehow managed to walk out empty-handed. I have so much yarn in my stash that it just isn't okay to buy more right now. But I thought about that yarn all the way home, and if there wasn't so much traffic in the opposite direction I might have turned around, gone back there and bought it.

Back at home, I stopped by my neighborhood farmer's market for fresh fruit and veggies. The strawberries are so good this year. I'm not sure why they taste better from the farmer's market than the grocery store, but they really do.

I also treated myself to a bouquet of flowers from the farmer's market, which Charlie seems to think are for him from the way he keeps sniffing and nibbling at them. Oh well, I guess he does deserve a thank you gift for getting me up and out the door so early.

Hope you enjoy what is left of your Sunday.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A night in Santa Cruz

Friday night I treated myself to a night at a hotel in Santa Cruz. I've wanted to spend the night at the beach for a very long time so that I can wake up and be a few steps from the ocean. The above picture is the view from my deck at nine o'clock at night. I could hear the rhythmic lull of the waves from my room, or at least I would have if I hadn't had to sleep with ear plugs. My neighbors in the next room were beer drinkin' rowdy types.

It was a very elite, upscale hotel. :o)

(Actually, I have no complaints and would stay there again. It was the perfect location and my room was nice. There is no escaping noisy neighbors on a summer weekend when you stay in a hotel near the boardwalk.)

I wanted to take a bunch of cool blurry nighttime photos of the rides at the boardwalk, but this is the only one that turned out decent. Not sure if you can tell there are swings on ropes attached to that disc. There is no way I would ever go on that ride.

When I arrived at the hotel, I could hear a band playing near the beach. The woman who checked me in said there was a free concert going on, but didn't tell me who it was. I walked over to find out and you'll never guess. Santana! They were awesome. I have my doubts that Carlos Santana was actually playing with them, and I couldn't get close enough to see because the place was jam packed, but no matter, they sounded so good. I had an urge to dance, but nobody else was dancing and I didn't want my tubby self to end up on YouTube.

This is the boardwalk early the next morning before it officially opened. Being there brought back so many memories ... family day trips as a child, me and my sister riding the Big Dipper and Cave Train, and when I got older going on dates there. I have so many memories of that place over the last thirty years that it feels a bit like home.

This is the municipal wharf. I love the look of the palm trees and hotels in the background.

And this was the view on my morning walk along the top of the cliffs. That was the main reason for going, an early stroll near the water, and it was the highlight of my short time there. Being at the ocean is soothing. Now I want to go back for a long weekend ...

Monday, May 31, 2010

Travel photos

I took many, many photos at the mission in San Juan Bautista last week but was hesitant to add too many to my last post for fear of boring everyone. This morning I decided I want to preserve more of those photos on my blog because I am so pleased with how they turned out and because the mission has such a special place in my heart.

Cactus blossom

Mary in the garden

An abundance of pink roses

Glowing rose

In the garden

One of the wandering chickens

Chicken feet

Peep and shadows

Bell tower

In the church