Smoke

Above me, the morning sky wakes bright and clear blue. But looking east, the thick mountain cover that’s ordinarily snow or rain-clouds is a different color, hanging ominously north to south. A heavy gray-smudged orange haze blankets the Sierra. Smoke.

The morning news reported that the Rim Fire threatens the city of San Francisco’s drinking water supply with ash. Homes, wildlife, and vast stretches of land, including Yosemite National Park, are in danger. Time lapse film of the Rim Fire, created by the National Park Service, is savagely beautiful when viewed on my computer. But close-up, homeowners and firefighters might not have the same reaction. I didn’t, when I packed my car in Colorado, ready to flee with my dogs and family from oncoming fire.

Seeing smoke hanging in the sky reminds me that my reactions to reports on television news are brief. Sometimes I follow up by donating to relief funds for victims of shootings, hurricanes, flood and other disasters. When the High Meadows fire in Colorado spared us, I spent time volunteering with other families, evacuated children sheltered at the high school while their parents worked with insurance representatives or tried to salvage belongings. I brought water bottles and snacks to firefighters. It helped me feel not quite so powerless in the face of disaster.

Life on this planet of ours includes sad, even shocking events frequently enough that I have come to value proactivity. Regular donations to the Red Cross, for instance. A frequent prayer for all people, everywhere, in any difficulties they may face. Lovingkindness. Chesed. Blessings.

I feel compassion for those who suffer. (Including an occasional “Poor baby” just for me!)

A mindfulness colleague in my meditation group once quoted Shinzen Young: Suffering = Pain x Resistence. (S=P x R). In other words, there will be events that cause us pain. Pain is a natural part of existence. When I was learning to carve nature scenes into the covers of wooden boxes with my exacto knife, I slipped and cut my hand. I had a choice in how to react:

“Owwwwwuh! I am so clumsy! Why can’t I ever learn something new without a disaster? And look at my hand. It will never be beautiful again after that cut. I’ll probably have a big, ugly scar. Oh, it’s going to hurt so badly if lemon gets on this cut…”

 You know. On and on. Like that. But I had another choice:

“Ouch.”

In both cases, the cut hurt. But in the first example, I multiplied my pain. Lately I’m starting to realize there’s enough pain, just being alive, without multiplying it. It makes me appreciate good days and good friends.

Today, as I lift my eyes to the hills, I’m sending special Sierra thoughts and prayers in their direction. And, as usual, in yours.

Smoke

Above me, the morning sky wakes bright and clear blue. But looking east, the thick mountain cover that’s ordinarily snow or rain-clouds is a different color, hanging ominously north to south. A heavy gray-smudged orange haze blankets the Sierra. Smoke.

The morning news reported that the Rim Fire threatens the city of San Francisco’s drinking water supply with ash. Homes, wildlife, and vast stretches of land, including Yosemite National Park, are in danger. Time lapse film of the rim fire,

created by the National Park Service, is savagely beautiful when viewed on my computer. But close-up, homeowners and firefighters might not have the same reaction. I didn’t, when I packed my car in Colorado, ready to flee with my dogs and family from oncoming fire.

Seeing smoke hanging in the sky reminds me that my reactions to reports on television news are brief. Sometimes I follow up by donating to relief funds for victims of shootings, hurricanes, flood and other disasters. When the High Meadows fire in Colorado spared us, I spent time volunteering with other families, evacuated children sheltered at the high school while their parents worked with insurance representatives or tried to salvage belongings. I brought water bottles and snacks to firefighters. It helped me feel not quite so powerless in the face of disaster.

Life on this planet of ours includes sad, even shocking events frequently enough that I have come to value proactivity. Regular donations to the Red Cross, for instance. A frequent prayer for all people, everywhere, in any difficulties they may face. Lovingkindness. Chesed. Blessings.

I feel compassion for those who suffer. (Including an occasional “Poor baby” just for me!)

A mindfulness colleague in my meditation group once quoted Shinzen Young: Suffering = Pain x Resistence. (S = P x R). In other words, there will be events that cause us pain. Pain is a natural part of existence. When I was learning to carve nature scenes into the covers of wooden boxes with my exacto knife, I slipped and cut my hand. I had a choice in how to react:

“Owwwwwuh! I am so clumsy! Why can’t I ever learn something new without a disaster? And look at my hand. It will never be beautiful again after that cut. I’ll probably have a big, ugly scar. Oh, it’s going to hurt so badly if lemon gets on this cut…”

You know. On and on. Like that. But I had another choice:

“Ouch.”

In both cases, the cut hurt. But in the first example, I multiplied my pain. Lately I’m starting to realize there’s enough pain, just being alive, without multiplying it. It makes me appreciate good days and good friends.

Today, as I lift my eyes to the hills, I’m sending special Sierra thoughts and prayers in their direction. And, as usual, in yours.

Filling Up The Cup

Sometimes we writers, and all humans, really, need to refill our cups of creativity and abundance. I did just that this week in Carpinteria, California, with two of my best friends from Colorado. But as beautiful as the setting was, I do that wherever I am with them. Sitting with really good friends is like sunshine on the stormiest days of our lives. We know there will be days like that. We know we can weather them together, even if we are far apart. We are connected. I am grateful. On stormy days, when my toes are frozen, or have been stomped on and hurt, this day, today, this warm sand, will still be a part of me. Because I wasn’t distracted. I wasn’t doing anything. I was just being, with friends, at the beach. I am just being.

Smoke

Above me, the morning sky wakes bright and clear blue. But looking east, the thick mountain cover that’s ordinarily snow or rain clouds is a different color, hanging ominously north to south. A heavy gray-smudged orange haze blankets the Sierra. Smoke.

The morning news reported that the Rim Fire threatens the city of San Francisco’s drinking water supply with ash. Homes, wildlife, and vast stretches of land, including Yosemite National Park, are in danger. Time lapse film of the Rim Fire, created by the National Park Service, is savagely beautiful when viewed on my computer. But close-up, homeowners and firefighters might not have the same reaction. I didn’t, when I packed my car in Colorado, ready to flee with my dogs and family from oncoming fire.

Seeing smoke hanging in the sky reminds me that my reactions to reports on television news are brief. Sometimes I follow up by donating to relief funds for victims of shootings, hurricanes, flood and other disasters. When the High Meadows fire in Colorado spared us, I spent time volunteering with other families, evacuated children sheltered at the high school while their parents worked with insurance representatives or tried to salvage belongings. I brought water bottles and snacks to firefighters. It helped me feel not quite so powerless in the face of disaster.

Life on this planet of ours includes sad, even shocking events frequently enough that I have come to value proactivity. Regular donations to the Red Cross, for instance. A frequent prayer for all people, everywhere, in any difficulties they may face. Lovingkindness. Chesed. Blessings.

I feel compassion for those who suffer. (Including an occasional “Poor baby” just for me!)

A mindfulness colleague in my meditation group once quoted Shinzen Young: Suffering = Pain x Resistence. (S=P x R). In other words, there will be events that cause us pain. Pain is a natural part of existence. When I was learning to carve nature scenes into the covers of wooden boxes with my exacto knife, I slipped and cut my hand. I had a choice in how to react:
“Owwwwwuh! I am so clumsy! Why can’t I ever learn something new without a disaster? And look at my hand. It will never be beautiful again after that cut. I’ll probably have a big, ugly scar. Oh, it’s going to hurt so badly if lemon gets on this cut…”
You know. On and on. Like that. But I had another choice:
“Ouch.”
In both cases, the cut hurt. But in the first example, I multiplied my pain. Lately I’m starting to realize there’s enough pain, just being alive, without multiplying it. It makes me appreciate good days and good friends.

Today, as I lift my eyes to the hills, I’m sending special Sierra thoughts and prayers in their direction. And, as usual, in yours.

In the right wrong place at the right wrong time

Driving this morning, I saw a young mother pushing a stroller in one hand, while using the other to assist an elderly gentleman using a walker. He appeared a little confused when the light changed, and was trying to cross the busy road diagonally, instead of in the crosswalk. I pulled over and parked my car.  
May I help? I asked.
Yes, please!
Her son was left in his stroller on the sidewalk as she tried to redirect the man with the walker from traffic. I pulled the stroller away from the edge of the sidewalk and sat with her little boy. I stayed while his mom tried to guide the man back and dial her cellphone at the same time. She finally crossed the street with him.
The two of them sat on a bench on the other side of the road, four lanes of traffic between us. She was on the phone but holding the man’s hand.
The little boy’s brown eyes lit up when I started singing The Wheels On The Bus, and we pointed at a bus, then each big truck that rumbled down the road. I went through my entire preschool song repertoire. We saw a cement mixer spinning, and a long red fire truck. We finally saw two police cars with their lights flashing. I showed the little boy how to make my car lights flash with the key transmitter.
Once help arrived, the mom made her way back across to me and her toddler, whose name, I learned, was Milo. Her big brown eyes matched her son’s. No wonder I hadn’t guessed Milo as we went through every name I could think of, laughing at all my wrong guesses.  It turns out the man was neither her dad, nor granddad. He was a stranger she saw stumble in the grocery store parking lot. She’d gotten out of her car to help him to his feet, then to the bus stop when he said that’s where he was headed. He could not remember his next destination.
  
The providential banana cake
She and I hugged each other. She was a little shaken. She said I was her guardian angel. I told her she beat me to the guardian angel job today!
We both agreed, that could have been our parent or grandparent, or even, someday, us. She laughed when I told her I wouldn’t have been there at just that moment if I hadn’t left a cake on the counter and driven back around my block to get it. She just happened to park in exactly the right spot at the grocery store to see the man fall.
We were both in the right wrong place at the right wrong time.
♥ Bless you, Milo’s Mommy, wherever you are. 

In the Right Wrong Place at the Right Wrong Time

Driving this morning, I saw a young mother pushing a stroller in one hand, while using the other to assist an elderly gentleman using a walker. He appeared a little confused when the light changed, and kept trying to cross the busy road diagonally, instead of in the crosswalk. She was trying to keep them all from being hit by oncoming traffic. I pulled over and rolled down my window.

Want some help? I asked.
Yes, please!

I parked my car and jumped out. Her son was in his stroller at the sidewalk as she tried to redirect the man with the walker from traffic. I pulled the stroller safely onto the sidewalk and sat with her little boy. I stayed while his mom tried to guide the man back and dial her cellphone at the same time, but he was determined. She finally crossed the street with him.

The two of them sat on a bench on the other side of the road, four lanes of traffic between us. She was on the phone but holding the man’s hand. She kept on eye on me, too, between cars.

The little boy’s brown eyes lit up when I started singing The Wheels On The Bus, and we pointed at a bus, then each big truck rumbling down the road. I went through my entire preschool song repertoire. We saw a cement mixer spinning, and a long red fire truck. We finally heard sirens and saw two police cars with their lights flashing. I showed the little boy how to make my car lights flash like theirs with the key transmitter. Ah, the distracting power of electronics. He loved it.

Once help arrived, the mom made her way back across to me and her toddler, whose name, I learned, was Milo. Her big brown eyes matched her son’s. No wonder I hadn’t guessed Milo’s name as he and I went through every name I could think of, laughing with him at all my wrong guesses. It turns out the man was not his granddad, she told me. He wasn’t a neighbor or friend. He was a stranger she saw stumble in the grocery store parking lot. She’d gotten out of her car to help him to his feet, then to the bus stop when he said that’s where he was headed. He could not remember his next destination. The police had finally gotten his information from his wallet and were taking him to safety.

She was a little shaken. She hugged me tightly, whispering thanks as she looked down at her precious, oblivious, happy toddler. She said I was her guardian angel. I hugged her back, and told her she’d beaten me to the guardian angel job by a mile today!

That forgetful, forgotten gentleman could have been our own parent or grandparent, or even, someday, we nodded, us. She laughed when I told her I wouldn’t have been there at just that moment if I hadn’t been forgetful, too.

Book club bananas Foster cake and kindle

Book club bananas Foster cake and kindle

I’d left my homemade Bananas Foster cake for book club on my kitchen counter and had driven back to get it. My forgetfulness made me arrive at that precise intersection at just the same moment that they did.

She just happened to park in exactly the right spot at the grocery store to see the older gentleman with the walker stumble. What providential timing.

We were both in the right wrong place at the right wrong time.

♥ Bless you, Milo’s Mommy, wherever you are.

Recipe for a perfect day

Recipe for a Perfect Day:

Ingredients:
1 cup of fresh coffee
2 eggs over easy
1 great day on the Alpine Meadows slopes
4 close friends
11 groomed packed powder trails in black and blue
4 inches of fresh powder over base off trail
5 deck chairs overlooking Lake Tahoe
1 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon
1 handsome man at my side

Directions:
mix vigorously until joy and laughter fill the air
soak 15-20 minutes in hot tub until tender spots are soothed

Serves:
1-5
Double recipe if desired.

Looking southeast across Lake Tahoe
 

Recipe for a Perfect Day

Recipe for a Perfect Alpine Day:

Ingredients:
1 cup of fresh coffee
2 eggs over easy
9 hours of sunshine
1 handsome man at my side
11 groomed packed-powder blues
4 fresh, untracked powder black diamonds
5 deck chairs overlooking Lake Tahoe
3 great, fearless friends
1 bottle of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

 

Apres-ski view, Lake Tahoe

Directions:
Mix vigorously until joy and laughter fill the air. Soak 15-20 minutes in hot tub until tender spots are soothed.

Serves: 1-5. Double recipe if desired.

And you thought you look funny snoring?!

Video of the Northern Elephant Seal*

February 14th is a time for romance. Head to the beach and find the mate of your dreams, like this guy! Yes, he snores a little. But he is helping to bring his race back from the brink of extinction.


Valentine’s Day is the peak of mating season for the Northern Elephant Seal. This beach is about seven miles north of San Simeon, near the Hearst Mansion. It’s called the Piedras Blancas rookery, because it is the site to which these elephant seals return twice a year to mate and bear their young. You can view the seals from raised boardwalk viewing platforms on the bluffs. I was impressed that every single visitor was quiet and respectful toward the seals, (and each other.) As you’d expect, this isn’t a place to bring your dog. Mine was happy with the windows down in the parking lot, nose in the cool, fresh breeze.

The largest male elephant seal I saw was, I’d guess, around fourteen feet, but they can grow up to sixteen feet long, and over five thousand pounds! The pictures can’t capture the scale. This large male was larger than our SUV. The pups and females scurried out of their paths as the males hulked across the sand, sometimes pursuing a female, and other times battling other males. The pups’ piercing cries for their mothers, and the bellowing call of the males, were cacophonous. I could have stayed all day.

If you make the trip, you might want to bring a jacket, plus sunglasses and sunscreen if you go in the afternoon, as the beach faces west. And, of course, your camera!

*No animals were disturbed in the making of this video. A zoom lens and great spot on the viewing platform are all you need.

Elephant Seals Take To The Beach

elephant seals san simeon 043

February 14th is a time for romance. Head to the beach and find the mate of your dreams.

Like this guy, stretched out on his back. Yes, he snores a little. But he is helping to bring his race back from the brink of extinction. According to  http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/education/marine-mammal-information/pinnipeds/northern-elephant-seal/ there were fewer than 100 northern elephant seals by 1910, down from around 15,000, due to overhunting for lamp oil. elephant seals san simeon 026

Valentine’s Day is the peak of mating season for the Northern Elephant Seal. This beach is about seven miles north of San Simeon, near the Hearst Mansion. It’s called the Piedras Blancas rookery, because it is the site to which these elephant seals return twice a year to mate and bear their young. elephant seals san simeon 036You can view the elephant seals from raised boardwalk viewing platforms on the bluffs.

I was impressed. Every single visitor was quiet and respectful toward the seals, (and each other.) I was awed by experiencing the intimate lives of these enormous creatures in such close proximity.elephant seals san simeon 024

The largest male elephant seal I saw was, I’d guess, around fourteen feet, but they can grow up to sixteen feet long, and over five thousand pounds! The pictures can’t capture the scale, because volunteers ensure that no humans disturb the seals by going onto the beach. This is for the seals’ protection, but frankly, you wouldn’t stand a chance against one of the big guys. That large,snoring male was bigger than our SUV!elephant seals san simeon 018

The pups and females scurried out of their paths as powerful, blubbery males hulked across the sand, sometimes pursuing a female, and other times battling other males. The pups’ piercing cries for their mothers, and the bellowing call of the males, were cacophonous. The sparkling sea added to nature’s noise. florida 2014 191I could have stayed all day. elephant seals san simeon 020

As you’d expect, this isn’t a place to bring your dog. Mine was happy with the windows down in the parking lot, nose in the cool, fresh breeze. If you make the trip, you might want to bring a jacket, plus sunglasses and sunscreen if you go in the afternoon, as the beach faces west. And, of course, your camera!

*No animals were disturbed in the making of this post. A zoom lens and great spot on the viewing platform are all you need.