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.

20150824_084152

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solar Eclipse 2017

So fellow travelers, when I realized the 2017 total solar eclipse would pass through Oregon I began to make plans to schedule our annual visit to Portland around the August 21st event.

20170822_130020

 Lunar map by National Geographic©

After all, I am that kid who wanted a telescope and a wall map of the Moon not the new model of Barbie’s Dream House for Christmas .

So, we booked our flights, marked our calendars and ordered two packs of NASA certified Neil deGrasse Tyson approved eclipse viewing glasses shipped direct to our Favorite Older Daughter and Favored Son-in-law’s home in Portland. Why risk forgetting to pack them?

A map from EarthSky.org, my go to source for comprehensible astronomy news and information, indicated Portland was just outside the path of totality. Additional research showed there was not a hotel, AirB&B or campground site available within the 100% zone during the weekend of and Monday evening after the eclipse. Everything had been booked over a year in advance. See? Some Americans do trust science.

If we were going to view the eclipse at totality we would have to find a site we could travel to and back that same day.  Some diligent searching turned up the Solar Eclipse Viewing Party at the Oregon State Fair grounds in Salem. At just eight dollars a car  for parking this free, family friendly event sounded perfect. I signed up to receive “Eclipse Event Updates” via email and within a week memos from the Oregon DOT and OEM (Department of Transportation and Office of Emergency Management) began to show up in my inbox.

Our original plan was rise early, drive to Salem and arrive at the fairgrounds before the gates opened at 6am.  Under normal circumstances the trip would take just over an hour door to door, however according to the initial reports from ODOT traffic was expected to be heavy on the handful of roads leading to areas within the path of totality.  This would be a major issue for Madras, a tiny town dead center in the path where totality would last over two minutes.

We drove through Madras last year on our way to Bend, where we spent three days exploring the wonders of Smith Rock and the Painted Desert  .Thousands of people were expected to descend on this sleepy little place, with a handful of small businesses and one, maybe two gas stations.  News reports of restaurtants stocking up and scheduling staff around the clock popped up. Wow! and as ominous reports of potential highway gridlock and gas shortages arrived in my eclipse feed, I began to second guess our original plan.  Would we end up stuck on a highway, watching the eclipse from the road?

20170821_075258My detailed research indicated Portland was within the 99% range of totality.  The kids’ home happens to be within walking distance of the trailheads at Powell Butte Nature Park. So that became our backup plan.

Powell Butte trail map

 Once on the ground in Oregon, I began to follow various Twitter feeds to keep up to date on weather, traffic and wildfire reports. Summer is wildfire season in the PNW and unfortunately several fires had broken out in the totality zone. There were areas with mandatory evacutations and road closures.

Yet, as eclipse day approached many of the anticipated issues did not materialize. Aside from an early report of gas shortage, which officials realized resulted from thousands of cars going to Symbiosis a big festival near Prineville, it seemed so far people had heeded the directive to “Arrive early, stay put, leave late.”

It was tempting to consider making the trek to Salem. Powell Butte registered at 99.4% on an interactive eclipse tracking map. Would the potential headaches be worth the additional .6%?

In retrospect, I can answer yes ~ provided we wait out the departure traffic headed out of Salem. That 50 mile drive north to Portland took most people over four hours. Guess poeple were less inclined to follow through on the “leave late” instuctions.

20170821_081716

 

The experience on top of Powell Butte was still pretty cool. I hiked up a few hours early to stake out a spot with a wide unobstructed view. A small, diverse crowd gathered. Kids and dogs played while we waited. A couple on horseback rode up and waited in the shade of the treeline. Coffee, snacks and water were shared. Photographers with special filters on their tripod mounted cameras offered people a closeup glinpse of the action.

 

 

 

 

The view from our spot

For a few hours we were simply one community joined in mutual awe of Nature.

It cooled down. Eerie crescent shadows snaked along the ground, then suddenly the light dimmed to a strange violet color, not totally dark, but something unlike any light most had ever seen. Silence,  then cheers and applause. In the distance,  snow capped Mt. Hood shone brighter for just an instant then dimmed.

And all too quickly, sunlight returned. It is amazing how much light just a sliver of the sun can radiate onto Planet Earth from so far away.

Our experience in no way matched what I saw later in images from the totality zone, yet it left me with a humbled sense of our humanity and after some thought, these simple words ~

Filtered eyes look up

Moonshadow eats the sun while

Open hearts reach out

IMG_1631

Eclipse photo by Peter Rahalski

Now to start planning for 2024.

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

Market Magic

So fellow travelers, this Portland trip is focused on savoring my favorite elements of this quirky city.

Foraging in vintage shops which abound in treasures and Goodwill stores which offer bargains on items we forgot to pack, like a fleece jacket to stave off cooler coastal temps.

Gastronomic delights dreamed of for the past year, revisited and found true to the memories. Marionberry shakes,  kimchee quesadillas, beer infused mac and cheese to name a few.

Photo note:  Wet Dog Cafe, Astoria. The wait staff was amused I’d come all the way from New York to have that mac and cheese.

 

Getting lost in vast ocean views.

 

 

 

Sunset Beach after a hike (post pending)

 

Today I wandered around the Portland Farmers Market. 

Each Saturday the central green space of the PSU campus becomes a feast for the senses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local produce, most of it organic,  food products like honey, jams, pickles, fresh pasta and breads. If, somehow, you are still hungry after the bounty of tasty samples, there is a tempting collection of food booths scattered throughout the market offering options from wagu beef tacos to veggie curries.

 

Lavender and honey ice cream was all I needed to feel content while enjoying the musical entertainment at the little stage under the trees.

Today’s featured performance was a smooth jazz trio whose take on classic crooner hits brought me back to childhood memories of radio infused Sunday drives.

Sinatra vs Bennet was an unending debate between my grandparents. ( With all due respect to Frank and my grandpa, I lean towards Tony, the young upstart my grandmother favored.)

 

But it was this colorful musical duo with their sweet terrier pup that I was glad to find.

I met them last year and heard the story behind their journey to the safe haven of PDX. In their eyes like so many others, this city became a harbor for stormtossed souls seeking acceptance.  The rhythms of their Hawaiian folk tunes carved a triptych word pattern.

20170819_133908

 

Shredded lives

 broken threads

 rewoven

 stronger now

 tapestry

 framed in hope

 

 

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

 

 

 

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.

It’s a Dogs Life

So fellow travelers, I am finally back in Portland Oregon, resting comfortably at the residence of Favorite Older Daughter and Favored Son-in-law. 

It feels like we never left. And it feels like an eon has passed. Time is strange like that. 

Caught this moment with the kids two rescue dogs, Zeus and Coffee. 

They go and they come

Mysterious human ways

We wait patiently

Simple moments are sometimes the best respite from the worrisome moments in life.

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

Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Ten: Drawing the Hat of Buddha

So fellow travelers, after gathering my koans* from the sages along the walkway, I approached the main temple and saw a path which lead through a small garden of wild flowers.

20170714_140644cropped.jpg

Perched on a large rock at one end sat a fat round statue I recognized as the Buddha of  prosperity, health and happiness. (He’s sitting on the far left in the photo above) A wide flat rock offered the perfect place to sit among the flowers and meditate with this jolly Guardian of Joy.

20170714_144006

As I sat in contemplation, I became aware of the unaddressed burdens I still carried from the months of difficult experiences at work. Now in this graceful spot, quiet but for the gentle buzzing of bees I could let those emotions speak freely, seek to understand the fears that fueled them and ask for ways to heal, be more resilient and move forward. After some time, I felt something shift within me; exactly what the messages were I could not say right then but I felt settled enough to leave an offering in Happy Buddha’s open hands and continue on my way.

 

 

Off to one side of the temple was another red tiled building which was the meditation hall of Kwan Yin, Goddess of Peace and Compassion. As Buddhism spread through out Asia, its priests incorporated elements of indigenous belief systems to encourage local populations to convert. Often, as with many ancient spiritual practices, these were matriarchal Goddess centric belief systems.  The evolution of Kwan Yin as a key figure in Buddhism is an example of this. I would have liked to see the meditation hall, but a hand painted sign in both traditional calligraphy and English informed me it was closed for “Redoing to prepare for coming soon celebration of Ancestors Anniversary,” so I walked over to the main temple.

As I climbed the temple steps, a gentle breeze stirred sending a wave of chimes from the small bells hanging off the corners. I stopped and closed my eyes, momentarily transported back to Japan by this welcoming, comforting sound memory.

20170714_142502edit.jpg

I left my shoes on the numbered rack outside the temple door and entered the great hall.

Immediately a stillness deeper than any worldly silence enveloped me. Circling around the offeratory stations dedicated to different Bodhisattvas, I gradually made my way to the center of the temple and sat on the floor. The vast luminous white Buddha rises 37 feet, sitting stoically in a giant lotus blossom, eyes closed, hands clasped in prayer surrounded by ten thousand tiny buddhas. Gazing at the Buddha’s calm expression for a moment I thought I saw a smile. Blinking I looked again and now I feel more than see this smile. Subtle, immutable, born of uncorruptable truth and radiating a wisdom beyond time and human effect. I closed my eyes, committing this Smile to memory, waiting for it to permeate deep into my consciousness.

A young nun seated by the doorway indicated I was permitted to take pictures, but I chose not to.  Somewhere within this meditation I received reassurance this Presence I had felt did not require a photo to be recalled.  I headed on my way, carrying a profound feeling of completeness I could not put into words.

Some hours later, seated at the table in the cottage where I stayed the next two nights, I discovered this reassurance was as real as the chair I sat in as I began a drawing of the Buddha’s face. Working on the round nodules of the Buddha’s head became a form of meditation. The harder I tried to get them just right, the wonkier they came out. So I closed my eyes, recalling the Smile with it’s serene wisdom. The feeling I had carried from the Buddha’s Great Hall was there. Writing about it now find I have the words to describe what I felt.

It was as if every moment of suffering I or any being had ever experienced had not only been acknowledged, but shared and transformed into pure energy, energy which now could be used to create change for the better. Hope and Light from darkness.

then I moved the pencil on the paper again letting the circles flow~

20170715_093730edit

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

*Koans are riddles, used in Zen Buddhism to push seekers beyond logical reasoning to find enlightenment in the mystery of being.  One of the most famous is “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”  May vipassana bless you.

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.

20170716_145837edit.jpg

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.

20170714_135903edit

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.

20170712_184507edit

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.

20170714_114320edit.jpg

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.

20170714_141323.jpg

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~

20170714_143211edit.jpg

(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 Seven: Glassy-eyed Wonder

So fellow travelers, in my first post I alluded to an event which guided the timing of this trip.

20170713_185519edit

Acquiring coveted tickets to one of the viewings for Chihuly Nights at the New York Botannical Garden had more to do with when I scheduled this road trip than it being my 60th birthday. In all honesty if I could have picked anywhere to be on my birthday I would have spent it with my daughters in Portland, Oregon. However an impending alignment of the sun and moon required choosing between heading west for a solar return in July or a solar eclipse in August.

The eclipse won so hopefully I will be writing about that adventure next week!

So the main lunacy of this expedition became a late afternoon drive from Oyster Bay to the NYBC, a trek which involved navigating both the Long Island and Cross Bronx Expressways, which I might note are not so “express” at that time of day. Allowing myself two hours to make the 35 mile drive turned out to be just about right.  No, don’t torture yourself by doing the math to figure out my average speed; I lived it, trust me you don’t want to suffer needlessly.  We are after all on a quest to seek the counterpoint to suffering.

What I will say is every minute on the congested roadways was absolutely worth it.

20170713_191709dit

 

Illuminated

Garden fantasies create

Glassy eyed wonder

 

 

 

But I’ll let you decide that for yourselves. Enjoy~

 

 

 

 

 

~ and these are just a smattering of the images I was able to capture.  There are many more, which will make appearencs over time as I discover the words embedded in them.

IMG_7982edit

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