There and Back Again: Redefining Home

So fellow travelers, it’s been a quiet few days since we’ve returned from our marvelous trip to the Pacific Northwest. There’s more than a hint of Autumn in the air, one local weather watcher reported a record early frost in her area a bit north of here. Delilah and I found signs of way too early color on our first walk.

 

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HRH Princess Delilah met us at the airport with squeals and cries of sheer delight. She arrived courtesy of her escort Mark B. who along with my good friend and camping buddy Lisa provide our spoiled rescue Diva with the best of care when we are out of town.  They also happen to be the adopted family of our former foster Sammy aka Sammers Wiggle Butt. He stays with us when they go out of town.  I’m deeply grateful for this reciprocal arrangement, without it our extended annual visit with our kids would not be possible.

Parting goodbyes grow harder for me each time as every trip deepens my connection to the wild wonders of the PNW.  The irony if this is not lost on me, since I had said for years that region of the country was one I had no interest in moving to. Never say never.

Functional graffiti on a side street in PDX

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Each year we explore more areas, seeking out potential towns to purchase a retirement home. My husband tracks property values on Zillow and I seek out natural vistas and new trails to explore. We learn more about the issues each area is facing  and I am planning at least one future trip to experience the colder rainy season. I expect I’ll remain a willing convert, after all you don’t have to shovel rain to get to your bird feeders or brush it off your car to load your groceries.

Rain 2014 the only year its rained during our trip

 

Since returning, I noticed I had a hard time saying I was “home.” Yet I also felt content to be back, walking the neighborhood with Delilah, cleaning my little fish pond and weeding the small forest attempting to take over various areas of my yard. I gathered flowers from the wildflower patch I seeded last spring and discovered a dozen or more tiny fry had appeared in the pond during our absence. Seeing them wiggle in the waterfall current and darting around the lily pads sent a wave of joy through my heart which ached to have coffee at the bagel shop* where Favorite Younger Daughter works and hike just one more mountain trail with either one of my girls.

Then insight dawned.

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Just as I can equally love two daughters with their unique talents and temperaments I can have and love more than one “home.”  It simply means I am twice blessed and for this I am truly grateful.

 

Massive sunflowers greeted me when I got home. They are the first ever to bloom after many unsuccessful attempts to grow them. I laughed right out loud when I saw them. Maybe it was good to be back at this home after all.

 

 

 

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

*If you happen to find yourself  in Portland  do stop by Spielmans.  Their custom roasted coffee is excellent and they make the best bagels I’ve ever had- and I grew up in New York City so that assessment bears some weight.

 

 

Mountain Spells

So fellow travelers, we have spent three days discovering the majestic power of the mountains in Rainier and Olympic National Parks in Washington.

Mount Rainier (above) and Mount Olympus (below)


They are spellbinding. 

 

Yesterday at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Favorite Older Daughter and I hiked a trail leading to a lookout point. It was a mercifully short, but knee cracking steep climb.  My daughter patiently paced her stride as I stopped to get photos and catch my breath more than a few times.

 

The views from the top were worth every inch we hiked.

Even more precious was this rare time alone together. “Proud” barely describes the depth of joy I feel being with the amazing young woman my daughter has become. I have not written much about her because it is not often we get to spend time together. I head back home in a few days with an increasing sense that “home” is no longer where I currently live. It’s become this wild and wondrous place I return to every summer, this place our kids call home.

While trying to describe my experience at the trail’s crest I wrote what I thought was a run on sentence, until I realized it was actually a poem

The mountains are calling and winding tendrils of awe around my  heart

Ice fresh air seductively imbued with cedar fills my head with wild dreams of following endless ridges laced with enticing ribbons of trails 

I would walk on and on diving below the tree line plunging deep into forests of forgetfulness and forgiveness  where nothing matters but the next step

A raven calls

I turn and face the sun

and walk step by step 

 back home

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


Afternoon Tea with Roses

So fellow travelers, this visit to Portland has a more relaxed pace. Taking time to simply enjoy being here as if this is where we already reside gives me a different perspective of this quirky city.

Portland is definitely exhibiting the aches and pains of a city which has grown far too quickly in the past decade. Some of the bruises are decidedly ugly.  Traffic gets steadily worse every year and Oregon’s absence of vagrancy laws creates an open door policy which requires a level of tolerance most large cities balk at. People become blind to the homeless because their presence is so pervasive it overwhelms any perception of being able to help. I have not been here long enough for the blindness to set in, what I see makes my heart ache. I am not sure I am willing to risk blindness to reside here.

During the week, the kids are up and off to work early.  I hang out with their beautiful rescue dogs, and edit photos from the previous days wanderings while enjoying a good cup of coffee, while my husband works (the great downside of the capacity to log in and work from any location.) When he’s done we head out to wander at will, returning later in the day to have dinner with the kids.

Today my husband drove out to see the custom auto shop where our son-in-law works. Ah those boys do love their cars and trucks. I met Favorite Youngest Daughter at the bagel cafe where she works and enjoyed a delicious sandwich, sitting on the deck surrounded by sunflowers while writing my post about the eclipse.

When my husband returned from shop talk, we headed to the International Rose Garden, a spot I had not yet fit into our daily explorations because I expected most roses would be well past bloom this late in August.  I was majestically proven wrong~

For some reason I was most drawn to the tiny buds yet to blossom, holding their secrets tight in the intense afternoon sunshine.

 

 

Late summer roses

Bright aromatic banquet 

Secrets yet to bloom

 

 

 

And the bees, zooming in and out of the fragrant flowers, pollen coating their wiggling bodies as they pushed deep to gather sweetness.

 

Busy visitors

gather sweetness spreading life

pure joy to watch

 

Portland is hot in August so we gladly accepted my younger daughter’s recommendation to visit a charming spot called the Tao of Tea.

We first experienced this type of tea service a few years ago at the Lan Su Chinese gardens in downtown Portland. Lan Su Garden is a beautiful treasure often overshadowed by the more famous Japanese Gardens.  The spot we went to today is a second location of the tea house located in the Chinese gardens offering the same menu minus the admission fee*.

Tao of Tea is well named, a sanctuary where rich wood walls buffer sound and seem to absorb the worries of this trying world as you sit sipping carefully prepared hand selected teas.  It was a most perfect haven to consider our younger daughter’s plans for the coming year.

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Cocoon of quiet

Pillow dumplings smokey tea

Heart connections thrive

Fluffy dumplings, exotic teas, the gentle trickle of a Buddha blessed fountain, all gifts I can wrap up in memory to take home until I can return.

 

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

*Editors note:  Given the opportunity to visit Lan Su Gardens, the unique and intricate landscapes are well worth the admission fee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zen Moment Sunset in Astoria

So fellow travelers, this moment from an evening post dinner walk in Astoria.

Sunset boardwalk stroll
Cherished moments together
Gifts of time and love

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

Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Nine: The Walk of Sages

So fellow travelers, the lush green winding drive north on the Taconic was the perfect counterpoint to two days of city traffic. It had been raining all morning and cloud dragons of mist sat mysteriously suspended above creeks and rivers in the narrow valleys.

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a photo taken in Vermont a few mornings later, with the same dragons

With a full tank of gas, a decent diner meal in my belly and plenty of time to get to my final destination I was in no hurry.  Driving mindfully through hills might not be considered genuine “forest bathing,” still I truly felt refreshed as my eyes drank in the peace and serenity of the view.

It also gave me time to process the many connections I felt during my time at Sagamore Hill. Parallel threads: my dad raised by an aunt when his mother died after giving birth; my drive to write, a deep reverence for nature, a love for gardens gifted to me when working alongside my Grandfather, an imposing man who, although more reminiscent of Archie Bunker than Theodore Roosevelt, would later in life challenge me to love others are they are with full knowledge of their prejudices. Ponderous thoughts.

No wonder I nearly missed the sign marking the turn for my destination, even with my GPS which indicated the turn was still ahead on the road. Spirit or sheer luck, however you choose to believe, sent a red tailed hawk swooping across the road to land in a tree by the sign to catch my attention.

The path from the parking lot led to a wide gravel walkway which sloped gently upwards towards the temple, flanked on either side by two towers.  One held a large ceremonial drum, the other a huge metal bell, signature elements of Buddhist sacred sites. Lining both sides of the pathway were statues of various Buddhist masters and teachers.

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While it is not uncommon to find statutes of masters at temples, these were by far the most unique and intriguing collection of sages I have ever encountered in one location. I could not help but chuckle and smile at some of their expressions and life stories, which were presented in both traditional Kanji and somewhat awkward English translations on signs placed before each one.  A few of their tales had me laughing right out loud, a welcome reminder that laughter can help us recover from suffering.

 

I thanked them with an offering of shiny new pennies tucked under their stone feet and continued on the path to the temple where Buddha sat waiting. (to be continued)

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

 

Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Eight: With All Due Respect

So fellow travelers, it is most fortunate the evening with Chihuly’s amazing glass art was so vibrant and colorful because the next morning I woke to dense grey clouds which soon gave way to heavy rains.

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Clouds over Oyster Bay Long Island

In one sense the rains felt a fitting mood for my departure that morning as my route out of the city would take me by Woodlawn Cemetery where my paternal grandparents rest presumably in peace. Being a mix of traditional Lutheran regard for elders with equal parts of Japanese ancestral worship it would be unthinkable for me not to stop and pay my respects.

I have an odd relationship with cemeteries. I find them intriguing and mysterious rather than ghoulish. Perhaps this is due to the frequent visits we made to the cemetery when I was a child. Our family would stop after church before convening for Sunday dinner with my Dad’s family. Most of the time one of my parents would take me down to the pond to feed bread crusts to the geese who resided there year round.  Honestly I found these cranky anatidae far more terrifying than the quiet denizens of the nearby graves. To my best recollection, the geese were the only cemetery residents who ever chased or tried to bite me.*

My memory of these visits is so deeply engraved, I can find the family gravesites without much wandering or the help of the new Woodlawn Cemetery Ap.

Gentle rain fell as I stood by the graves, a serene mist of holy water, washing away some burdens I had carried there. A long drive with some promising discoveries lay ahead of me that day so I remained long enough to wish my ancestors well, ask their continued blessings on those still walking earthly paths and left small tokens on the gravestones in gratitude.  This last gesture is decidedly influenced by my Japanese heritage.

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When my husband’s schedule kept him from joining me on my road trip, it created an open end to the dates I could travel so I decided to combine the trip with a visit to catch up with some cherished friends in Vermont and New Hampshire. This extended my itinerary to cover over 700 miles of solo driving, including several runs back and forth on various expressways and bridges in and around New York City.

“Bring it on,” said my Inner Kid from da Bronx when I laid out the maps.

I created various routes using both on-line mapping and a trusted well worn Road Atlas. While I appreciate the programmability of a good GPS (mine’s a Garmin with lifetime updates) just like hiking, I rarely leave home without a reliable set of paper maps. While mapping a trip online allows me to bookmark a nice list of coffee stops and diners along a given route, my GPS does not tell me Route 25A is an excellent alternative to the Long Island not-so Expressway.  This later fact courtesy of my road atlas, surely saved my sanity on the multiple transits back and forth across the Bronx and Throgs Neck Bridge going to and from Long Island where I stayed during the New York City leg of my journey.

On-line mapping does however offer some unique perks. Take for example a serendipitous discovery made as I planned the current leg of my trip heading north to Vermont. Planning this stop at Woodlawn Cemetery gave me the option of taking the Taconic Parkway to Vermont.  It’s a scenic, slower paced and far less congested route than going north via 87. However, unlike highway 87,  there would not be any rest stops or gas stations on the Taconic so I wanted to plan my break points accordingly.

That’s how I found the Chuang Yen Monastery.

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Who knew there was a Buddhist Monastery near Carmel New York?

Some intrepid researcher working for Google maps did and plunked a nice pin which popped right up for me to see while doing my route planning. Sometimes the stars and algorithms of social media align and there you have it:

“Site of the Largest Statue of Buddha in the Western Hemisphere.”

Wait what? (it is, I fact checked the claim) and just a 20 minute side trip off the parkway?

Given all my recent reflections on suffering and compassion it would be outright disrespectful to even consider passing up an opportunity like this. Who knows maybe my ancestors were pointing me to this hidden sanctuary.

I’m deeply grateful I made the side trip, otherwise I would have missed meeting some very mindful masters~

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(to be continued)

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

*On a personal note:  Some 37 years after those Sundays at the cemetery, I visited Woodlawn with Favorite Older Daughter who was at the time simply Favorite Only Child and just about the same age as I had been back then.  Spying the geese on the banks by the pond, she asked “Mommy can I chase them?” I hesistated for less than a nanosecond before nodding and waving her on. There is no way to measure the satisfaction I felt watching my own child scattering the geese left and right.  Revenge can indeed be sweet.

Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Three: Pilgrimage to Sagamore Hill

“The only man who never makes a mistake is someone who does nothing. ” Theodore Roosevelt

So fellow travelers, I wanted to mark my significant turn of decades by setting a goal focused on something new to experience in my next decade. Given the importance of nature to my well being, the idea of visiting each of the fifty-nine National Parks seemed a fitting choice.

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Crater Lake National Park,  from our trip to Oregon in July 2014 . Pre-goal, still counts.

No surprise then that one of the few heroes in my gallery of mentors would be Theodore Roosevelt, who created the National Parks system while serving as the 26th President of the United States. Setting forth on a pilgrimage to visit Roosevelt’s home at Sagamore Hill, now a National Parks historic site, felt like an apt beginning to mark my new goal.

After so many challenging trips around the sun if there is one lesson I have learned well, it is to cast a discerning eye when presented with alleged greatness. Therefore, those I consider true heroes are few and far between. Theodore Roosevelt sits high on my list. I am not blind to his many short comings but then neither was he. In fact, his willingness to admit his flaws and acknowledge his mistakes is one reason I hold him in high regard.

TR was also a writer, keeping a daily journal from a young age to record his thoughts and experiences. Writing is how he supported his family after most of his personal fortune was lost during his ranching years in the Dakotas. It was his primary source of income, his salaries from public office being more modest additions to his resources. He published three dozen books on a wide variety of topics and his writing styles altered to suit his subject matter from humorous to scientific to his well known “bully pulpit” blustering.

It is Teddy as father and head of the family he was known to cherish more than any public honor, which draws me in almost as much as the naturalist who published Summer Birds of the Adirondacks based on his observations over many years. It is in the letters written to his family, which have been published as a collection where he came to life for me.  His values and priorities, sense of humor, deep love for his family and passion for life itself even with all its challenges are put to paper so honestly I come away feeling as if I have been privileged to sit in on the talk at the family dinner table.

He brought this honesty even to his fractured relationship with his oldest daughter, Alice Lee, whose fierce independence and untamable anger created a rift they never breeched. It was a heartbreak second only to the day her mother (his first wife, Alice) and his own mother died within hours of each other. Roosevelt’s willingness to be open about his own humanity makes his leadership and wisdom more accessible. He led others through out his life as he taught and raised his children: by example. It’s a model I’ve been mindful of since I read his autobiography back in junior high school.

One hazard of holding great admiration when traveling to a historic site such as the Roosevelt Home at Sagamore Hill is the expectations and images we create hold tremendous potential for great disappointment.

SagamoreHill Edit

The instant I caught a glimpse of the house, with its sweeping lawn, wide wrap around porch and majestic trees I felt any doubts evaporate into the sweltering summer heat wave which had settled on Long Island that morning. Stepping out of my car, I caught sight of a bench under the gracious shade of a majestic cherry tree. I sat and watched small butterflies drift among the wildflowers scattered in the meadow, I had a reserved ticket for a tour of the house in about half an hour which gave me time to sit in gratitude for simply being there.

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It was a moment I like to think Teddy himself would have appreciated. To be continued

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

Road Markers

So fellow travelers, today I stand at the road marker of six decades on this journey of Life. While I’m rarely inclined to make much of milestone ages, I admit approaching this point has felt different.

Sunset reflection @ Onondaga Lake 

It’s not about getting older, that is after all something we do from the moment we are born. Yep, newsflash : none of us are getting any younger!

The turning point from young to old is a relative perspective. I’ve known octogenarians who still run marathons and young adults who dread turning thirty. Age is a number, being old is a state of mind. I embraced my fifties by saying “I’ve been around at least half a century,” when the question of age came up. The comment often surprised people, a few of whom professed disbelief until I told them my actual year of birth*. Eventually I started saying  “Well, I’ve passed the double nickle mark,” because my mid-fifties was the first point when stating my age felt uncomfortable.

Reflecting back I realize I was coming to grips with accepting the time I have left to live life’s adventures is considerably less than the time I have already lived.

And that is perfectly ok. I’ve lived a good life so far and I’m nowhere near done yet. So at sixty, yes that is 60, my mission is to mindfully go forward seeking adventures and experiencing all life has to offer for as many years as I am granted. Whether those are two or ten times that, it is not the number which matters but what we do with it that counts.

#Spiritof60roadtrip is off to a joyful start. Stay tuned.

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

*That would be 1957.

Parting Thoughts

So fellow travelers, one song bird is packed and ready for the next leg of her journey.

The image brought waves of emotion. As I sat on the porch in the morning sun  to be with the feelings, a bluebird sang out bright and clear.  These words floated up on the tears

Sunrise comes

Bluebird sings 

New horizons call

Heartstrings stretch

Weave a bridge 

Reaching coast to coast

Love abides

Boundless strong

Paving journey’s way

Parting moments are so bittersweet yet holding tight beyond the moment would cage the beautiful souls I’ve raised to fly free.

Besides hugs will always be waiting wherever we call home.

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


Lighting Their Path

So fellow travelers, this last day of a long hard school year is filled with some tough goodbyes.

There are always shifts in staffing at the end of each year. This time around those shifts are hitting a group of friends pretty hard.

Today’s goodbyes are a reminder of another parting tugging at this Mom’s heartstrings. Rather than dwell on what’s to come I want to be deeply present in the time remaining.

This Zen moment from an evening spent with Favorite Younger Daughter at a traveling exhibit brought these words to Light.

Finding the courage

To send young ones on their way

Mothers love stay strong

Being present in the moments we have for as long as I can and finding joy in simple things like a walk through magical lanterns of Light.

lantern walk

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