Treasure Hunt Hidden Talents

So fellow travelers, it is said the first shall be last. Truth at least for the initial post I wrote while in Portland a few weeks ago. It required me to recognize the depth of change  and emotion I had not processed over the past year before I could put words to virtual paper.

The main reason we went to Portland in 2014 was to see Favorite Oldest Daughter and Favored Son In Law, who had moved there earlier that year. From the moment I landed at PDX the city caught me off guard, drawing me in with it’s quirky charm, relaxed vibe and phenomenal food experiences (one does not eat meals in Portland, one has edible experiences, at least I do)


The patio at the Tin Shed, which after Portland’s food courts, is my favorite place to eat

When we returned the next year, I was fully prepared to find the charm  was just first time visit magic. Again, the I  was delightfully surprised. By the end of our second trip, my husband and I were set on the idea of relocating to the area when we retire a few years down the road. So this year, with both daughters now living in Portland it was the experiences I shared with my family that became my focus.

One Saturday while my husband went to the rock climbing gym with our older daughter ThaiRockclimbingEdit                                                                              Favorite Oldest Daughter rock climbing in Thailand

I went to a bird sketching workshop at the Portland Audubon Nature Center with our younger daughter. She found the class shortly after she moved to Portland and it sounded like a perfect fit for Team Loonatics.  I hit several art store sales to stock up on the supplies we would need, making sure to hand carry the essentials in case our checked luggage wandered off to a random destination (it didn’t, but I know better than to take chances with anything I absolutely need to have when I arrive on a long trip.)

Jude Siegel, the artistleading the workshop, was a vivacious and skilled instructor.  She lead our small, diverse group through several basic drawing exercises, designed to teach us to really see what we would be sketching.  She worked on shapes, proportions, perspective and then moved onto color mixing. We worked with watercolors, a medium I have always found challenging yet her tips and demonstrations gave even novice artists the confidence to dive in and start creating.

During our lunch break, my daughter and I found a shady bench outside where we sat to eat and talk about her new plans for college. Last spring she transferred to Portland State University’s Honors Degree program after finding the curriculum at TUJ did not offer enough to hold her interest.  It had been a tough for her to leave Japan. She still talks about how much she misses living there and had looked into other colleges in Tokyo hoping to find a course of study she was interested in. Listening to her perspective, I had to notice how much she had grown and matured in just one year.

We spent several more hours, working away at our new found skills.


At the end of the workshop each participant shared their work and Jude asked us to talk about what we had learned. Her one caveat was we not speak negatively of our artwork in anyway. Each person spoke honestly of the challenges and everyone’s experience of the process was slightly different.  Yet we all came away with a feeling of success and everyone expressed a desire to continue working with what we had learned.

It was the time spent, learning something new, just two birders stretching our creative wings that I will treasure and remember every time I take out my little paint set and work on a new painting.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.



Treasure Hunt : Cicada Awakening

So fellow travelers, I had one last post from our trip to Portland left to finish. It was actually one of the first posts I created.

Initially I thought having only two photos to work with was what held the words back.  My writing flows mainly from the images I have either in my head or if I am lucky, captured with one of my cameras.


The Grotto rose garden Portland Oregon.


Yet as I worked on the other posts, picking out the best images to frame my storytelling I sensed it was not a lack of visuals that had me stalled. Then, sitting by my pond watching the early morning light dancing playfully on the lily pads I had an epiphany. In that moment I finally let the sound of cicadas crack open the shell around my heart. It was a sound which brought me back to the crossroads I stood at one year ago.

                                                                                                   Cicada shell, they have shown up all over our back yard while we were away on Portland

The endless song of cicadas is a signature sound of summer in Japan. Their pulsing, high pitched serenade can even be heard over the traffic of Tokyo’s busy streets. In quieter parks and green spaces the sound can reach a deafening pitch as they screech in desperation to fulfill their need to procreate. It was a sound which followed us mercilessly for two weeks last August when we traveled to Japan to help Favorite Youngest Daughter get settled at Temple University’s Tokyo campus.

On our last day in Tokyo, my daughter and I made a pilgrimage to a sacred spot. It remains a moment eternally preserved in my memory, an anchor which keeps waves of fear from pulling my heart into the dark undertow of worry.  This year, saying goodbye in the living room of my older daughter and son-in-law’s  recently purchased home in Portland where she is currently living was a bit easier than hugging one last time at a train station in Tokyo. I turned to look back and wave only once, knowing more than that would have sent me running back to hold on and never let go. The Japanese strands of my DNA kept me from crying on the train ride back to our hotel. The cicadas sang without ceasing as I stopped at a neighborhood temple to make an offering.

IMG_3872edit                   Neighborhood shrine, Hamamatsucho, Tokyo

It was a sound I would not consciously hear again until I sat by my fish pond when we returned from Portland last week and it was a sound which hit me like a tidal wave.  Suddenly I was feeling the full force of my emotions, not only from my time in Tokyo, but the weeks and months which had passed since then. Like cicada larva emerging from it’s shell, everything I had held in while adjusting to my new role as a long distance Mom burst forth.  This awareness took on a life of it’s own for a good half hour.

 When I looked up from my tears I saw a dragonfly take flight from a cattail at the pond’s edge. The cicada songs I continue to hear each day now sound different, more distant and harmonic. The memories it invokes are full of grace and freedom.

IMG_3868edit                                                         Cicada on a garden rock in Hamamatsucho 

And suddenly I knew I could finish the last post from Portland. (post to follow)

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready


Treasure Hunt Natural Wonders

So fellow travelers, Oregon has surprised me with its diversity of habitats and terrains. Within half a day’s drive from the quirky urban landscape of Portland we have explored


wild and deserted stretches of the Pacific Coast



dense forest covered hills



snow capped (even in summer) mountains



hidden waterfalls

and on this year’s trip  we spent three amazing, glorious days with the kids, exploring the natural wonders near Bend, including



breath taking Crater Lake a volcano with a caldera lake, the deepest in the United States



a mile long, lave tube cave at Newberry National Volcanic Monument, which we discovered also has a huge lava field where NASA astronauts trained for their moon mission




the mysterious Painted Hills desert where temps hit 103 keeping photo treks short and close to the relief of our air conditioned rental car



and Smith Rock State, a mecca for outdoor rock climbing which draws climbers from all over the world. It has the benefit of year round access to over 1,500 routes.

On the way back to Portland, we stopped for a refreshing swim in Lake Billy Chinook



and as spectacular as it is to swim in the basin of a massive and ancient canyon




it was this view of my three adventurers on the trail ahead of me which I count as my favorite vista of the trip


Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.











Treasure Hunt : Looking for Lewis and Clark

So fellow travelers, I first met Lewis and Clark  at PS 26 in Yonkers NY.


Faded filmstrip images from third grade history lessons peaked my interest. Soon I was scouring the shelves of my local public library, reading everything I could find about their journey. The details of their expedition ignited a lifelong desire to wander in nature.

Yet it was the story of the extraordinary friendship between William Clark and Merriweather Lewis which drew me in.  As a bookish “slant-eyed” kid who preferred climbing trees to dressing Barbies it was easier to go solo than fit in. Lewis and Clark’s tight well balanced camaraderie intrigued my solitary spirit. Since the longest we lived anywhere was four years, any close friendships I did form were left behind like unforwarded mail (although the advent of social media has forged some reconnections from my childhood and teens.)

Twenty years ago I visited the Museum of Westward Expansion at the base of the St. Louis Arch. I could have wandered the exhibit for hours and the view at the top of the arch (yes, if you get there, it’s worth the time and effort to make the trip up) with its vast horizons stretching  east and west put their journey into mind bending perspective.

And I have been to the historic locations in good old Philadelphia where they gathered supplies for the expedition. Whenever we get stuck at an airport on our coast to coast travels I remind myself a 24 hour delay is nothing compared to obstacles like the month of portage it took for the expedition to make their way around the Great Falls of the Missouri River.


Photo Note: This is not the Missouri River, but it is a fitting image. This is  the Crooked River which runs through Smith Rock State Park in Oregon. Photo by Emma Rahalski

The historic Lewis and Clark trail ends on the northern coast of Oregon. By a serendipitous bit of good luck , the little Air B&B beach cottage I found available for two nights was located at Sunset beach, on the northern coast of Oregon….

on Clark Road, just past Lewis Road

 a mere fifteen minute walk from the one end of the Fort to Sea Trail.


I would have the chance to walk in the footsteps of my life long heroes.

The Fort to Sea trail runs between a quiet stretch of the Pacific Coast and Fort Clatsop, the shelter built by the expedition when they arrived at the Pacific Coast in November 0f 1805, knowing they would have to winter over before beginning the trip back East. It turns out the trail is a six mile hike each way over some tough terrain, so most hikers arrange for a drop off at the Fort and pick up at Sunset Beach  rather than hiking uphill back to the Fort. So hiking the full trail would be an adventure for another time.

I decided to walk from the coastal trailhead up the trail away from the beach. I simply hiked until I could no longer see the parking lot, then  stood taking in everything I could see and hear at that vantage point.I made myself a promise to return and hike the full trail from the Fort down to the coast.


It was a cloudy and misty day, a flat light not great for photography, but good ambiance for historic imaginings. As I walked back towards the ocean, I passed a large exhibit which described a massive coastal storm which hit the Northern Oregon coast in 2007.  It destroyed much of the coast line snapping huge trees like match sticks. You can still see the aftermath nearly ten years later.

stormbonesedit trees like bones scattered on the hillside


As I came out of the coastal brush to seagrass covered dunes, I made note of the point where I first heard the sound of waves


and I turned to look back at the hills


before walking the final steps


to the great Pacific Ocean


Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Zen Moment New Roads

So fellow travelers,  I had to head up to the high school where I work this morning to update my computer password. The smooth, glistening surface of newly paved roadways with freshly painted lines in bright whites and yellows had me pull over to snap a shot.

new road

 In order to access schedules for the coming year I had to log onto a district computer to update my password, an annual security ritual I am usually content to postpone until my first day back at work. An email indicating our schedules would be posted on line early turned out to be inaccurate. Either that or maybe I just pulled the easiest schedule ever since I do not have any class or duty assignments (yet.)

Being back in the building so early actually was a treat. Usually our first day back is pretty hectic, even without our students, who begin classes the next day. The halls were silent and empty except for our wonderful custodial team hard at work polishing the floors.  There was a sentient air of possibilities.  I found myself hoping our students will absorb the atmosphere of new beginnings and make the best of this year.  It’s hard to see the ones who struggle give up so young. One of my personal missions is to finding those bowed heads, make eye contact and give out encouraging smiles everyday.

As I drove back home over the shiny new roads (which road crews were so kind to complete while we were on the Left Coast visiting our kids) I realized words were gathering my feelings into a poem.

The road shines new and
clearly marked yet still you doubt
unsure it is yours

For all those still looking for a way.  Have faith, the road is wide open and yours to take.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.


Zen Moment with Mount Adams

So fellow travelers, while meandering in nature I periodically encounter a spirit presence I call Buddha rocks.

 Something in the shape of these earth bound teachers catches my eye and as they hold my attention I sense a connection which defies explanation.

Today while driving some backroads north of the Columbia River Gorge, I had  a most impressive encounter

don’t know why Mount Adams held my focus or what message was grounded deep in my  consciousness during our encounter.  I have learned to accept moments like this will reveal their lessons in good time. 

Silent mountain sits

Buddha wisdom cast in stone 

Timeless listening 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready. 

Treasure Hunt the Left Coast Trail

So fellow travelers, we have headed west for the coast.

Hello Pacific Ocean, I’ve missed you

We’re staying in a cosy little Air BnB called the Shell Cottage. It is walking distance from the Sunset Beach Trailhead of the Fort to Sea Lewis and Clark Trail. More on that adventure to follow. Meanwhile we have discovered ~

a favorite brew pub with a marvelous view


the Left Coast version of the Jersey Shore


 local wildlife delicacies


unexpected views reminiscent of Japan

and a connection with two of my life heroes whose footsteps I hope to shadow for a mile or two before making our way back to Portland.

Stay tuned !

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready. 


Treasure Hunt in PDX

So fellow travelers, in the first few days of our Portland adventure we have discovered


Hipster Breakfasts

Sacred shrines

Global markets

Profound food pods

Meteoric sunsets 

and the fun has just begun. 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready. 

A Full Cup of Gratitude

So fellow travelers, after many welcome hugs and big dog kisses we have safely arrived in Portland.

Blog post about our first days adventures to follow. For now a simple zen moment brewed with a hand crafted latte at an iconic local coffee shop

The gift of caffeine 

A full cup of gratitude 

Good morning blessings.

 Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready. 

Airport Jazzmen

So fellow travelers, I see so many passing through this busy airport tonight. I wish one and all safe and easy journeys.

It’s been a long day that started at 5am trying to get airborne for our annual adventures in PDX. Having made it to Chicago O’Hara airport by switching airlines we grabbed a bite to eat before hopefully boarding our next flight.

We discovered the little food court where we found the Billy Goat Grill (of SNL cheezeburgu cheezeburgu no coke Pepsi fame) Hearty diner food and good beer at decent prices and these guys posed  center court playing their heart out.

Looking around at diversity scattered about the tables, young and old, dark and light skinned, dressed in hijabs or jeans I noticed a majority of my fellow travelers were plugged into devices of different kinds. No one would have heard a single note of our center court concert.

Ah well at least we were all gathered peacefully under one roof. Harmony in silence, together yet not quite connected. Thoughts which made their own rhythms

Haiku for airport jazzmen

The jazzmen play but

No one hears their melody 

 Ear buds tuned us out 
Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.