Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ojai to Joshua

Photo Montage Recap

Beautiful Ojai Valley, view from a hike. See the groves of oranges and avocados? Lush.

He's so cute. 

I realize this is the only picture of Mary Jo and Todds awesome home in Ojai, not the best shot but emblematic of my super cousins.  Crazy cousin Liam, plus Nick and cousin Max on their computers in Ojai.  A common sight. 
Rocky Ventura coastline, about 15 minutes from Ojai.  Believe it or not, we actually got some sun right before the clouds rolled in.  I loved the smooth stones,  speckled and colorful that dotted the coastline.

Aunt Carol Lynn and Nick lounging on rocks at the natural hot springs in Ojai.  These springs were a perfect temperature and lots of people were soaking up the heat and peace. 

My Aunt Mary Jo is the bathing beauty in our group.  Nick and I just got in half way, I can't wait to go back and take better advantage. 

I soaked my legs and enjoyed dancing with the rocks before we went to a delicious breakfast with Carol Lynn on the way out of town.

Welcome to Joshua Tree.

Our Joshua Tree campsite at Indian Cove, was by far our favorite spot.  We camped up against a huge rock face.  It was silent and clear and starry.  We slept so well!

Campsite view, rocky walls all around us.

More to come in the morning. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Quick updates on Ojai and Joshua Tree: pictures and links to be added later

Oct 25, 2010
Today we depart beautiful Ojai, a community of 8,000 ish that warrants much more attention.  It is a retreat home, an oasis for city folk, and a place where life feels easy and full of citrus fruit.  This morning we went to the natural hot springs, sulphur scented and warm and beautiful, these unmarked springs are known by the locals and are just off the road in a small canyon ravine.  Some of the spring colors were faintly reminiscent of Yellowstone glory, but here, we were able to soak legs and feet without fear of scalding or crumbling crust. 
Oct 26, 2010

The wind is rocking the car.  It’s 7:40 at night, pitch dark, thousands of stars overhead, fire in the pit, and we are fed.  We have a gorgeous campsite at White Tank Campground in Joshua Tree National Park, we are surrounded by upended rock, soft looking and climbable, we are also in the path of no resistance and are being whipped up by the wind.  Nick is persevering, standing by the fire watching the flame art, and I am in the car.  I just don’t want to feel the wind chill.  It’s only about 50 degrees, which is nothing, we slept in 28 at Yellowstone, and yet, I am feeling wimpy and cold.  
Aside from the present situation, today was amazing.  Yesterday, the further we got from cities, the more I felt like myself.  It’s always so great to be with family, showering regularly, eating too much good food, and feeling the love.  I relish that time.  I also relish the embrace of the mountains, of cozy sleeping in our tent, of the sun on my skin and being able to see for miles.  Nature needs no pretensions, being out here is where Nick and I are best for each other.  The other day I was talking to my mom, and she said something like, “how great it is that you’ve found how much you like camping together.”   At the time I noted to myself that, of course we like camping together, we got married, we better like camping.  And now I see how profound it really is, we are our best selves out in the open, seeing, breathing, noticing the natural world.  We are our best thinkers and are most in love under the stars.  When we were fashioning our cheese, apple, mustard, potato chip sandwiches last night, Nick gave me a huge hug and said, (forgive the paraphrase) “This is it, this is where we belong, out here where it’s just us and the rocks and the stars.”  We ate our crunchy sandwiches and had fig newtons for dessert and were s o happy.  
We were planning on driving to Zion National Park in Utah today, but we woke to delicious sunlight and decided that Joshua Tree was inviting us to stay another day.  Again, the views, the plant and animal life, and the history of this place is enchanting.  Huge conglomerate rock formations are all around us, climbers paradise, even novices are invited to scramble over big boulders and formations.  We went on a few hikes that highlighted different parts of the park. 
Lost Horse Trail took us up to an old gold mine, through Joshua trees and high desert environs where the Colorado and Mojave desert come together.  Desert colors galore and lovely, 4 miles later we felt good, looked a little pink, and were ready for finding a new campsite and a siesta.   
And then later after more lounging in the sun, we went on Skull Rock hike, which aptly ends at a huge skull like rock that’s been eaten away by wind and water.  The trail was educationally interpreted and we learned a lot about food sources and geology in the desert, including examples of Desert Oak tree with acorns, Juniper bushes, desert buck wheat, yucca plant, and Jojoba plants.  I wanted to forage around and gather a desert dinner.
The car is still rocking in the wind, it’s almost peaceful, here’s to hoping that the tent is cozy. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

San Francisco palms, houses, and dreams.

Thursday October 21, 2010
Palms in the city. 

San Francisco felt like the city of broken dreams to me.  If the mutual existence of brokenness and possibility were a color, it would be the paisley of uniquely San Francisco coastal colors.  

Enjoying a coffee and view. 

I loved the nestled houses and the bustling artsy energy, but could not get past the masses of street kids and street people that seemed to materialize everywhere. 

I took two really great and inspiring dance classes, which encouraged me to do some smart city walking and figuring on my own.  I danced with Kathleen Hermesdorf at ODC, and Sara Shelton Mann at the Yoga Loft; really different but equally thoughtful classes.  There was a little overlap in approach, and I was glad to have the familiarity of the first class when I began the second.  My aunt Tina, who knows the dance scene a little bit remembered when Sara was doing avante garde work in San Francisco years ago, making a nice connection for me.  Both classes were exercises in integrating energy into movement, Kathleen’s was tied to technique and Sara’s to improvisation.  I left San Francisco feeling physically sore and a little emotionally drained, but good.  I can’t avoid being saddened by the huge and visible gulf between the poor, apathetic street kids, and the rest of the population, who seem unaffected by the blatant pain.  But, I loved San Francisco, the energy of the city fit me like a puzzle, but it was hard to be there.  I found myself feeling like I could definitely live there. Being near the ocean is magic.   

It helped that we were staying with my aunt Maureen and uncle Greg, who have the most beautiful home.  We also did a great 7 mile walk through Golden Gate Park and along Haight street, and now, as I import our photos I realize that was a terrible documenter, or, most of our photos have mysteriously disappeared. 
We were lucky to be considered family, because we also got to visit their home in Napa, another great retreat, and so neat to see vineyards, I didn’t go wine tasting, which seems like a terrible mistake.  But we did get to walk all of downtown Napa, had great Greek food of all things, and later had a great dinner with Maureen.  I don’t remember the wine I had, but I found the waiters description to be hilarious- “buttery and round fruity notes,” and it was!  I loved the buttery-ness (who doesn’t love butter?)  It was delicious and luxurious to have a glass of wine in Napa! 

Beautiful Napa view before dinner. 

Goodbye rainy city. 

Right now we are driving down the coast towards Ojai and the sun is setting.  We’re on Route 1, and just passing Monterey, the sleepy sun is still poking through the mottled clouds.  The sky’s not red or pink, but the color of the ocean in light.  Grey blue and light orange striations, this sunset is peaceful and slow, no fireworks but it seems to match the color of the horizon perfectly.  
Now the full moon is up, hovering above us and lighting the way.  I’m glad to be on the road. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Redwoods reflections and awe.

October 17, 2010

I am a believer, trees have faces and souls.  The Redwoods are such survivors of time; their beautiful symbiosis with the throes of nature are a testament to my emerging belief system.  Survival must have something to do with adaptation and purpose.  These trees, borne and nurtured by sun and mist for over 1,500 years, have seen it all, and then return to the earth, becoming homes for animal and plant life, ultimately transforming the forest floor that we are lucky enough to walk on.  What a gorgeous decay process. 

Colors and swirls, artistry in nature. 

Towering trees, so old and strong. 

I wanted to touch their oldness, breathe in the air that is palpably thick with oxygen and nurturance, and lay on the soft moss that coats everything.  The ferns, the brooks, the spontaneous waterfalls, the bird and brush animals sounds that alternated from symphonic to silence, all of it was inspiring.  Somewhere in Wyoming, I remember reading a quote that might have been said by Teddy Roosevelt, on creating the National Park system.  I think he said something like, “Big spaces inspire big thinking.”  This has been with me for our forays into the wild, and I continue to thank him for setting aside this land for natural, inspiring, beauty.  Being deep in the forest, where it’s so easy to literally lose yourself, is mysterious and peaceful, and being in that mental place is rich for thinking.  

This is "Big Tree," 23 feet in diameter and 72 feet around.  A peaceful towering giant. 
This tree was carved out by an ancient lightning strike, and now is home to flora and fauna galore. 

When trees age, a gorgeous spiral pattern is revealed.  We've seen this over and over, and every time it seems more profound. 

This morning we packed up our seaside campsite, which we can add to the list of amazing sites, recall pillars and pinnacles in the Badlands, pine groves and rock formations in Yellowstone, lakefront wooded site in Grand Tetons, aspens and cottonwood groves at Devils Tower, WY, and of course our backyard camping in Custer, South Dakota.  

The jilts and washboards of the 6 mile gravel road was completely worth the beachfront camping at Gold Bluffs Campground.  We were literally a walk from the wild pacific ocean and we fell asleep to waves crashing.  In these parts, fog rolls in and settles like a sheet.  It was damp and cool when the sun wasn’t out, but being near the ocean alleviates any weather based discomfort, and I was so happy to be there.  

What a great companion for this trip, I couldn't have asked for a better partner. 

There he is again, who's that rugged, good looking guy on the beach?  

We had a campfire, and another amazing dinner (beans, quinoa, zucchini, tomato, garlic, curry steam), and walks on the beach.  In the morning a beautiful dog introduced us to her human, and we talked about her hitchhiking adventures, the frequent “gutter punks” (new phrase for me) in Oregon and California, and what trails we should try out.  We went for a DIY trail combination, starting in Fern Canyon, heading towards Miners Ridge and Clintonia, we did about a 5 mile loop, completely immersed in the mystery and ancientness that is the Redwoods. 
While we were walking, I kept getting the feeling that we were interrupting animal conversations and interactions, and wondering about what we lost out on by being human. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Getting down the coast.

Eugene, OR to Redwood National Park today.  The Oregon Coast blew my socks off, it's like summer vacation without the heat.  There's mist, and breeze, and I found an attached bivalve shell with purple iridescent insides.  When we were crossing over the bridge to Astoria, one of the bridge workers pulled us over to look at the sea lions frolicking under the bypass.  And we went to the original Goonies house (favorite movie of all time).  It's been a great few days.  Pictures and more coming soon, right now we're trucking it down to California to get a spot in the campground before it fills up.

And now for the Astoria photo montage.

Check out this view from the top of the column (a long spiraling drive up a mountain) in Astoria.  The bridge to Astoria is visible, and the city is below, along the coast and built into the hills.  

Here is my beautiful shell, which now lives behind the passenger seat in our car. 

Does this look familiar? 

Or this?  These are Haystack rocks on Cannon Beach in Astoria.  Also featured in the Goonies, best movie of all time. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Still playing catch up- Vancouver reflections

October 14, 2010
I feel a little negligent in my assumed duties as documenter and observer of things on this trip.  Lately, life has been so encompassing that writing has been an afterthought, which of course is probably a great thing.  We are sitting in border traffic, waiting to cross from lovely Canada into the USA.   We’ve been told not to wear sunglasses when talking to the border agents, and not to mention contraband fruit or plants that might be lurking under the back seat.  Kidding- we aren’t carrying anything contraband, unless the 8 or 10 Ritter and Cadbury chocolate bars that we picked up from the neighborhood Buy Low on the way out counts.  I remember eating these particular bars in France when I was there umpteen years ago, and not since.  Apparently you can get these German and British imports in the states, and clearly I haven’t done my research.  
This 3 day rendezvous with some of my favorite people in the world (dear friends Katie and Emmanuel (see photo)) was an oasis of great walks around town in the rain and the sun, displays of lush growth and thriving plant life at Lighthouse Park and Van Dusen Botanical Gardens, eating our way through each day at a variety of neighborhood staples and Katie made deliciousness, and conversation upon conversation about life, future, and opportunities for happiness.  
Big, flat great for climbing rocks and clear sea water.
Katie and Emmanuel, friends extraordinaire,  perch and pose on a rock at Lighthouse Park. 
It’s something special to be so near the sea, and at the same time in a major metropolis with incredible access.  It’s a really clean city, the public transport is great, the food is deliciously diverse, and the rocky beaches are beautiful and fully of poetry.  The 4 of us went for a long walk at historic Lighthouse Park (see Nick's ewok reference), I saw an elusive seal who showed me only a whiskery nose and the quick, diving slope of her back, and a dark cormorant doing the wing drying dance.  

Look at the cormorant on the rock, Batman style, doing the wing dance. 

The inevitable, lulling, rhythm of water encourages meditation and thinking, and I could have sat there on the big rocks all day.  Vancouver is an enticing international city.  On our walking tours of the city, we heard so many different languages, and I was pining to speak and learn French again.
One of the several highlights of this mini trip was getting to participate in two juicy dance classes at EDAM.  During my pre-Vancouver research, I checked out dance opportunities and was thrilled to find that EDAM was just a few blocks from our hosts apartment.  Peter Bingham, director of EDAM, teaches a daily class that knits somatic awareness beautifully with contact improvisation.  I was thrilled to take part in a thriving dance community; each class was full with about 20 people, and all of them were so engaged and embodied.  When I was at Denison University (1998-2002), Peter Bingham came a few different times for contact workshops, performances, and setting works.  It was great to revisit my dance practice, and to be delightfully swept up into dancing two days in a row.   I continue to wonder about my place in the dance world.  I’m working on the ever present, tenuous balance and personal struggle around dance and it’s community, education, nature, and friends and family.  At this stage, we are constantly overjoyed by our new understanding that anything and anywhere is possible, and for me especially, that home is where you are.  If I can get comfortable with that, life promises to be full.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Grutz says, "Blog? What blog? How's that? Oh! Yeah! This blog, kinda forgot.... Pt II!"

Such satisfying lunch! Thanks Katie.

Back to the quick run down continued from this.

Aside from my detention on Endor we did some other interesting and noteworthy things. Such as........
Meese! Look at the meese! Holy cow, meese!

While in the Grand Tetons, Carleen and I ventured into Jackson, Wy. to celebrate my 33rd birthday on the 2nd of October. She provided a delightful surprise, dining at the Snake River Brewpub. The 2nd also happened to be the Iowa-PSU game and I joyfully watched bits and pieces of the beatdown. The late start in Iowa and the time change made the timing perfect. This was a welcome sight.
Kinnick in all its glory. An exceptional birthday treat. Hawkeyes trounced PSU 24-3.
After leaving Wyoming we headed off to Idaho and Montana. Carleen and I found ourselves in Missola, Montana. It's like a smaller version of Madison surrounded by mountains and hills. Ultra-bike friendly and full of college kids. My kind of town. But I have to say it's interesting being in a rather progressive, green, liberal town that also embraces hunting and mining. It seems to be a pretty agreeable situation for all involved. Leaving Missoula, we ventured through Idaho (briefly) and into Washington, en route to Seattle.
Keeping it real in Idaho. Or eastern Washington. Folks in Nebraska are salivating with envy.
Ok, before I continue, and no, I'm not apologizing to anyone from Nebraska, I have to mention the 5 mile laser pointer from a previous post. While we were at the Bad Lands we attended a Ranger led astronomical program. Our ranger had a laser pointer with a range of 5 miles. Aside from seeing the 4 moons of Jupiter through a telescope, the green line emitting from Ranger Bob's hand was shockingly rad. He'd point to a star for identification and even with the near-full moon it would streak miles into the sky. I had no idea these things were available, let alone legal.

It was similar to this. And you really thought I was joking about being trapped on Endor.

Grutz says, "Blog? What blog? How's that? Oh! Yeah! This blog, kinda forgot.... Pt I!"

Howdy friends. Yup, it's been quite awhile and much has happened. But, seriously, I have a legit reason failing to write lately. I've been stuck on Endor. Against my will, no less.
My captors on Endor. Cuddly? Yes. Mean streak? A mile wide.
Here's the sight of the terrible deed....
Yes, lush Endor home of the maniacal Ewoks. There's one to the left, up in the tree.
Ok, it's Vancouver B.C., Lighthouse Park.
Yes, we're here in Vancouver BC! The best city in the world! (And yes, they'll be the first to point that out to you, the second you cross the city limits.) So we've done quite a bit to find ourselves in Canada. Quick run down ala photos with informative/funny/glib/painfully unentertaining captions(drumroll, please):
Cold spring in Yellowstone? Snow in September? Wrong, hotshot. Mammoth Hot Springs.
The water looked so appealing and captivating. Hauntingly sublime colors and reflections. But the boiling and sulfur and brimstone means hands off bucko!
Speed bumps in Yellowstone.
The beauty of the Grand Tetons.
The beauty of the Grand Tetons.
To be continued after Katie's lunch....

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dancing down the streets (and rail yards) of Seattle

Seattle is a place to behold. It's clean, airy, cultured, thoughtful.  There are sea birds around and the air is damp.  When the sun is out, the recently wet city sparkles.  Bikers are geared out in this city, and they have to be, given the windy, narrow roads, the frequent rains, and the hills.  This is really the first time that we are seriously coveting bikes that we see, missing our two wheels and the empowerment they bring.  We've decided that whenever we get to where we're going, we will experiment with cheap thrift store bike frames and make customized single speeds, as a challenge and for me, a bike knowledge growth opportunity.  

We've been here for a few days now, and we are really enjoying the city, loving spending time with my mom's best friend Marianne, and are completely grateful to have a house to relax in and a bed to sleep in for a few more days.  We've eaten really well, had the tastiest gyros west of Greece, slept in the most comfortable bed we can remember, been inspired by the city, and I got to take a decent dance class.

Yesterday we went on an inadvertent 11 mile walk through downtown and a few other neighborhoods, stopping at major sights like Seattle Center to see the Space Needle (but we didn't go up because it was $18 each, yikes!) Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square.  We had au chocolat chaud and un croissant chocolat at Le Panier, one of Marianne's favorite places and one that I visited a few years ago when I was here with my Grandmother.  It was brisk and beautiful and crowded.  Pikes Place Market was teeming with locals buying their daily bread, and tourists buying up cards and kitch.  It has a bustling energy, people move fast and have agendas.  Sometimes I felt pressure to walk quickly, and get out of the way, my wandering ways weren't always embraced.  After a full mid day of walking and exploring, we were ready to head home, and somehow got off our path, went over an enticing walking bridge, and on to a bike path.  We ended up following the bike path through a semi sketchy train yard with narrow passes, leading us to the opposite side of Magnolia (Marianne's neighborhood) that we needed to be on, many miles later, we survived the longest walk and crashed at Marianne's house.  I google mapped our days walk, and it turned out to be 11.6 miles.  Eeek.  My shins and heels are talking to me.

One of the many highlights of the day was Pioneer Square, where artisans sell their wares in booths, and bums are close at hand for jangly change.  If you're lucky and there's a slight breeze, look up, and you can see wind chimes hung in trees, listen, and you'll here beautiful tinkly sounds which add to the sensory beauty of the place.  I love that someone cared enough to hang chimes in trees for our pleasure.

Look at those chimes go. 
Today was/is much needed low key.  This morning I went to Velocity Dance Center to remind me how good it feels to move, and Nick went to the flagship REI store, which was full of sales and beautiful items.  I took Wade Madsen's advanced Modern class, which, while a little less than I'd hoped for, was a good way to start the day, get my bones moving, and my breath flowing a little more.  Over the past few years, whenever I go into a dance situation and before I can enjoy the class for what it offers, I have to recognize my intense bias towards dance that is not immediately embodied, smart and connected.  But lucky for me, if I can add intention to what I am doing, I can usually find value in the class.

Since I've been traveling, I've found myself in dance classes that start with crunches or yoga poses, and I feel my snarky self rearing up and wanting to shout at the teachers!  Wade's class had a logical progression, involved few disconnected exercises, and culminated in a rather big, challenging phrase that I felt good about dancing in my way.  Despite the jazzed up tondus and plies, I still felt better after finishing class than at its start.

Being in a big city makes me miss my Chicago dancing people so much, today I saw various postings for different Chicago based dance opportunities and awards (CDF etc.) and my mind immediately started working towards what it would take to sublet for 6 months, and make a piece, and be around great, mindful dance friends.

Yesterday Marianne brought home a huge Alaskan sockeye salmon that one of her clients gave her, and today, we are going to cook it up for dinner.  Nick is researching recipes that are semi bland (we're working with a picky eater :), and we will have petit peas, asparagus (on sale for $1.99/ lb!!), creamy potatoes, and crunchy bread on the side.  I can't wait to eat. But first, I have to wait for my stomach to digest all the candy corn and peanuts that I've consumed in the last hour.  We are having an October reprisal of the candy corn and dry roasted peanuts, introducing this Iowa snack to Seattle, and we all know the addictive qualities of the snack... danger light flashing.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Idaho potatoes to Montana mountains.

October 5, 2010
We’ve just crossed the border into Montana, leaving our quick Idaho driving experience behind.  We took the Idaho scenic byway and saw the Tetons from their western side, we drove through caverns, up a mountain, and back down to the plains at a 10 % grade. 
The clouds here are so arresting.  They are layered and full, they go on forever in defined strata, a variety of shades of grays and whites, they are stark against the landscape, which is long and everlasting.  The hills are rolling and still covered in sage bush platte, like the plains of Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, but very different from the potato field flats of Idaho.  In Idaho, we saw many trucks full of delicious fresh spuds carousing down the highway.  Straight out of the ground taters have got to have a superior taste to those we buy in grocery stores, I wanted to pull over and start digging until I found one.  
Check out a truck full of potatoes. 

We are in and out of valleys, and the clouds sit on the horizon.  They look like toppers on a hill cake, their bottoms unseen because they dip below the hill.  I am sure we’ve seen examples of all of the types of clouds, cumulus, cirrus, stratus.  I remember learning about the 3 different cloud types in John Berno’s class at North Avondale.  Leftover bits hang in the air, waiting to be burned off by the sun.  Billowing, windswept, stretched cotton, painterly, the clouds are so low you could trace their shadows on the land and it would be accurate.  
Quick gas station cumulus panorama, briefly out of the mountains. 

I can’t say enough that we are stunned by Montana, breath taken away by what surrounds us.  

I can smell the eau de campfire that we’ve carried with us, I hope we can keep it up. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Teton photo montage delight

Welcome to the Tetons, we were greeted by splendid and magnificent views all around.  It was hard to pay attention to the road, the sights were so grand. 

Sunset from our lake. we set up our hammock and yoga mat and relaxed by the lake to watch the sun drop between the mountains.  

Towards the beginning of our 7 mile hike, the aspens are still glorious, and the mountain is getting closer. 

At Inspiration Point, we relaxed and posed, spending some time taking in the silence and the scenery. 

The canopy of pines framed this shot of aspens lining the path to the distant hills. 

We have been eating so well, lots of lentils, quinoa, curry, biscuits, this fire roasted dish of diced potatoes and onions, seasoned with curry, salt, pepper and butter was so warming and tasty.  We will definitely be reprising it once we have a home kitchen!

I'm trying to document each camp site- here you see the expert shelter that Nick fashioned, just beyond the frame is our hidden picnic table and fire pit .  Also visible is the BEAR BOX.  We stored all of our food and cooking items in the bear proof box, we weren't interested in the Subaru getting claw marks. 

The clouds lay low in the Tetons today.  You can see an Ice Age Glacier near the top of Mount Moran.  It's so amazing to see millions of years old rock and ice formations, it feels like we are a part of the circle of life.

We have been witness to such amazing sights and sounds.  Next, I am going to dedicate an entire entry to the animal life we've seen, as they definitely deserve they're own page. (Heads up Peggy- WE SAW MOOSE, and I'll write all about it soon) Right now, we are headed to Missoula, MT, the Subaru got her oil changed, and we are refueled.  Thanks for reading dear friends!