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.

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. 

Letting Ghosts Be

So fellow travelers, as I mentioned yesterday I am on an extended weekend trip visiting friends.


Dawn at a rest stop

Taking a few days for myself at the end of the school year is something I’ve been doing for several years.  Whether I camp  at a favorite spot or take a quick road trip it’s my way of hitting the reset button. When I return home I am ready to tackle the substantial list of to do items which has accumulated during the school year. Yes, July and August are two reasons I love my job at our local high school.

For the past few years I’ve attended a bi-annual event where a growing number of people from a creative group gathered. Often we were meeting in person for the first time,  yet it felt as if we had known each other for ages.  That’s a tribute to what can happen when people are given a space to be open, honest and genuinely themselves.

There were of course the elements of darkness, which we all know are part of us, an inevitable piece of our flawed human condition. Over time the group fractured when the shadows grew too menacing and real to be ignored. My decision to leave came only after I had taken time to process my feelings and I was clear my reasons were a core decision not a reactive response.

Thankfully the friendships formed have remained intact, at least for me and several of those friendships are the reason I attended part of the events this past weekend. I meet with several of my friends for either lunch or dinner, wandered quiet nature spots and purchased beautiful treasures at the event’s art show. I was blessed to hear one friend give an inspirational sermon on Sunday morning and another read poetry from her book published just last year.

Yet there were echoes from memories of those I missed.  “There are ghosts here ” one friend said to me. Indeed. I knew there would be, which was why I went.

I went to meet those ghosts and make peace with what was both lost and gained. I was there because I believed connections forged from truth cannot be destroyed by lies. I stood knowing my faith in Light is stronger than my fear of darkness. Finally, I left thankful for the lessons learned and willing to let the ghosts be. They taught me well.



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


So fellow travelers,  it is a tradition in Japan to bring gifts when visiting.  It would be a terrible dishonor to arrive as a guest empty handed.

Gifts given from a trip, whether the trip is across the city on the subway or across an ocean are called omiyage and have special significance.  The tradition is so deeply rooted there are omiyage shops in even the smallest of train stations. Large department stores have an entire floor of specialty counters offering a variety of goods, mostly food. Every item is packaged in decorative boxes and sales clerks carefully wrap each purchase.


So when Favorite Youngest Daughter returned from Tokyo the very first thing she unpacked when she got home were these treasures which she gathered from the islands of Okinawa, her last adventure in Japan before coming home.


For Okasan (Mom, that’s me ) regional wildflower honey and purple yam KitKat bars.  For Otosan (Dad, my husband)  chili oil made with local peppers and coffee.  She knows us so well.

Food is the most popular and more deeply appreciated omiyage. With the compressed accommodations in which even the wealthiest of Japanese live, gifting something which permanently takes up space is almost rude. Consumable gifts, particularly regional specialties are the best offerings to bring. Oh and one would never bring something home made. Two or three pieces of beautifully wrapped fresh fruit would be a far better choice. With apples in Tokyo selling at Y350 (about $3.00) a piece they are not cheap gifts by any means.

During our travels last August (was it really only eight months ago?)  I loved seeing omiyage wherever we went. It’s uniquely Japanese, a memorable part of my heritage.

omiyage2Edit  omiyage3

Train station omiyage shop offering traditional Japanese sweets.

The hidden treasure in the omiyage from Favorite Youngest Daughter is the opportunity to write a bit more about our time there. By far, of course, the best gift is having her home, even if it is only for a little while before her next adventure.


All wrapped up, resting on our couch.

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

Return to Sterling

So fellow travelers, a few weeks ago the Vernal Equinox dawned on a Sunday morning with a cold, unforgiving forecast.

It would have been easy to hunker down in the warmth of my favorite reading chair and finish the compelling book I was reading about bees.

Yet some persistent need sent me rummaging for my hiking boots and daypack. The simple fact that I could even consider hiking on the first day of spring was an extraordinary opportunity not to be missed. Trails are usually still buried in snow well into the early weeks of spring.


A brief  glimpse of sun through the kitchen windows sparked my resolve to head Northward to a favorite trail along Lake Ontario.

I left a disappointed dog sitting in the hallway.”Next time,” I promised her each time she wagged her tail hopefully while I laced up my hiking boots.


I am never quite sure how I manage to leave this face behind.

This trip would be a scouting expedition. There were reports of owls nesting  in the midst of a Great Blue Heron Rookery as well as an eagle nest in the same area. With the trees still barren of leaves, the opportunity to spot returning migrants darting through branches is at its best right now.  All too soon, the forest canopy will fill in making it more challenging to spot those elusive songbirds and the hungry birds of prey who follow their migrating meals.

Lake Ontario is less than an hour’s drive north, provided of course I am not distracted by say a flock of wild turkeys dashing across the road requiring me to pull over and snap some photos.


or stop to check if the trumpeter swans have returned to their nest in a small swamp along the way


No one at the nesting site but a lone red wing blackbird

and I took a few wrong turns because I forgot to grab the GPS when I left. Sterling Nature Center is at the end of an elusive dirt road reached by a maze of several smaller country roads which may or may not still have their signs intact after a season of snowplow passes. Once I pulled into the parking area, this glimpse of brilliant blue water under a crisp blue sky encouraged me to brave the brisk winds blowing off the lake.


As I’ve mentioned,  hiking in high winds is something I avoid whenever possible.  So the distant cry of hawks over Dragon Fly pond encouraged me to pull on a wool headband and head for the trails to the heron rookery


But first a little photo op  with this happy fellow, who was so busy at the feeder he didn’t mind my quiet approach and shutter clicks as he ate.

SNC chickadee.jpg

Chickadees may not be a rare sighting yet I am always thrilled to see them anytime, anywhere. They are loyal little spirits who keep my connection to nature alive through winter’s fiercest weather and remind me warmer days and greener views will come.

For now mosses are the only green showing in these woods


although there were some splashes of color to be found here and there


Perfectly framed by a rugged yet graceful arch


Winter Aconite by the feeder gardens

The wind whistled through the barren tree tops and rattled dried leaves still clinging to bushes along the trail.


Long dead leaves rattling in the wind like fortune telling bones.

Even before reaching the water, the haunting echo of geese and herons calling created an eerie atmosphere. Standing alone on the observation deck it was hard not to get spooked by the weird sounds and ghostly image of the twisted trees.  I regretted leaving my dog at home.


Still, it was good to have my hands free to switch between my camera and big birding binoculars as I scanned the nests in search for the one being occupied by owls. There is a helpful photo posted on site with the owls nest marked which guided me to the right spot.  I could just make out two ear tufts flicking now and then in the blustery winds. Time will tell if the owls will still be here when Favorite Youngest Daughter and I set out for the annual Birdathon event in six weeks. Last year a mid April storm caused the nest to fail and recent bad weather may have the same outcome this year.

Meanwhile I had another section of the trails I wanted to explore, a path which would take me along the lake, an area I come to often when trying to settle an uneasiness in my spirit.


to be continued

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