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"For me, and, I am sure, for most of you, to be human is to always be in the process of becoming, to be in quest of openings, of possibilities." ~ Maxine Greene




Friday, December 31, 2010

Good Intentions From Stubbing My Toe

Well, here it is, the last day of 2010!
I honored my intention to walk outside more often without my shoes on, in order to connect with the earth's energy and balance myself inside and out.  This was the scene today at Alki Beach (pronounced with a long "i," as in "eye").  In less than 5 minutes, I can drive down the hill from our house and be walking along the seawall and then strolling on the sand.  I didn't take this photo, but it does reflect what the colors were like today.  Imagine the Olympic Range in the distance with A LOT more snow, however!  The sand was chilly, but the sunshine was absolutely glorious!

I was, unfortunately, somewhat distracted with my thoughts (way too many rambling around in my head), so I ended up stubbing one of my little toes on a log.  OUCH!  The chilly sand masked the depth of my pain as I continued to walk ... er, limp along.  When I finally reached the edge of seawall where I planned to put back on my shoes, I could see that the experience was going to be somewhat painful.  I managed to walk it out, but since coming home have been icing it.

So, a word to those of you planning to walk on the earth barefoot: WATCH YOUR STEP.  But regardless of the throbbing toes, my walk turned into a 4-mile experience along the water; it was hard to leave that scene.  People were jogging, roller-blading, walking their itty-bitty dogs in their itty-bitty holiday sweaters, and others walked or ran with bigger huskies, poodles, and retrievers.   Cyclists cruised by, all bundled up, but smiling.  We have not seen the sun for a while in Seattle!  It was just a spectacular day.

As I walked along, the throbbing in my toe lessened a bit, and I enjoyed the sensation of my mind clearing up; the heavy load of obligations and feelings of being overwhelmed started to drop off my body like little clumps of dirt.  By the time I reached my car, I felt somewhat cleansed, and I found myself smiling at the other people passing by.

That walk brought me to contemplating this past year, and some of the things I learned in 2010:
1. It's a good thing to ask for help.
2. It's really good to receive the help that comes.

3. Life in these cranky bodies is VERY short, universally speaking, so it is a very good thing to be kind to one's self and to others--physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually--and to act with a humble and an authentic heart.

4. Chocolate still is my favorite food

5. How one breathes during the day--with shallow breaths or full ones--is intimately connected to the state of one's mind.  A "tight" mind leads to inadequate breaths.  A clear mind leads to a body that breathes with ease.

6. And, no matter what kind of horrible shape the world seems to be in right now, there are 1,000,000 stories of good will and love and peace and happiness for everyone single piece of news broadcasting hate or violence or fear.

So, for 2011, I intend to pay attention to how I am breathing, and I will offer kindness to others; I will pay attention to what I am feeding my mind and my body, and what I am believing about myself and the world ... and I will watch out for logs!

Peace and Joy!  2011: BRING IT ON.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Grounding

For some reason, the other night I found myself listening online to David Wolfe, a guru for understanding healthy eating, living, and being on the earth. What he shared made a terrific amount of sense.

Basically, those of us who spend a great deal of time each day plugged into electronic gadgets (guilty!), and who are rarely standing barefoot on the earth (guilty again!), are physically and spiritually disconnected from our Source Energy.  The way to regain a sense of balance is to, literally, take off our shoes and walk upon the earth.  "Rubber-soled shoes have been the worst invention of mankind," David Wolfe states (paraphrase).  "You know that, during a lightening storm, if you are in your car you are probably going to be safe from electrocution.  Why is that?  It's because of the rubber wheels.  Rubber does not conduct electricity.  So", what do we wear on our feet?  Most of us wear rubber-soled shoes.  As a result, we cut ourselves off from the vital energy that the earth gives us freely, every day."

Given that we are electric beings (more than chemical beings), it makes sense to pay attention to what we expose ourselves to in terms of electricity.  I spend several hours each day in front of a computer, and I carry around a cell phone, and I also watch TV on occasion.  I also listen to the radio while in the car 2 hours each day, and am exposed to microwaves, other people's cell phones, and so forth. Knowing that all of these electric "beams" are coursing through my body each day, I bought a "Q-Link," which I wear around my neck several times each week; it's intended to protect a person from all of those harmful electric waves, and sustain one's own energy field, or aura.  I do feel like I have more energy when I am wearing it: I am more focused and clear about what to do.  I finish tasks more quickly.  And my head feels light and spacious.  It's quite amazing.  I am still experimenting with that technology.

But, back to the earth.  The basic idea about walking barefoot is this: The earth emits a "negative charge" that actually helps to balance us, inside and out, as electrical beings.  All of the technology we deal with each day emits "positive" electrons, which wouldn't be so bad if we then balanced those with negative electrons; but we are usually disconnected from the earth by our rubber wheels or rubber-soled shoes, so the positive electrons prevail, leading to all kinds of problems with our health.

Now, these labels of negative and positive may seem counter-intuitive, since "negative" (which carries the connotation of "bad") actually means something good; but this is not a zero-sum game.  We are speaking of BALANCE of both negative and positive, yin and yang.  When we are out of balance, we have inflammation of the joints or a certain organ in our body.  When we are out of balance, our hormones act in ways that are aggravating, especially at certain times of our lives!

When the earth's negative ions can enter the soles of our bare feet, they recharge us, so to speak, with the natural energy that is already within us.  It's like plugging yourself into the right electrical wall socket.  That's why people who are depressed get better when they walk on the beach.  I have heard this before, but the little detail that was left out of that prescription is that you need to walk BAREFOOT on the beach.  Some people still keep their shoes on, and that is no good.  "You have to be skin on skin with the earth," says David Wolfe.

So, after spending about 3 hours on my laptop at a coffee shop today, I went to the beach across the street, and took off my shoes and socks.  It was about 40 degrees outside, and cloudy.  The sand was icy cold, and at first the sensation of cold and wet sand preoccupied my mind.  But, after about 10 minutes of strolling slowly and watching the little waves roll in, and the seagulls flutter about, I became more aware of the sensation of the sand under my feet.  It was hard as concrete in some places, and gave way in other spots ... It was grainy and smooth, cold and strong.  I stood still for a few moments, and actually felt some bubbling energy entering my left foot!  I have no idea what that was, but I don't think it was a clam with indigestion. 

I want to return this weekend again, and walk for a little longer.  You should try it, and see for yourself if that experience re-energizes you!

Here's the YouTube with David Wolfe explaining all of this (10 min, 50 seconds (hit the back arrow when finished, to return to this page!):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RGN5ikfOho&feature=related

And more explanation (with another video when you scroll down):
http://longevitynowbonus.com/blog/the-importance-of-grounding-yourself-using-david-wolfes-grounding-technologies

Sunday, December 5, 2010

As long as I live

I just got a call tonight from a colleague. "I need your help. My husband has only two weeks to live, maybe three." She paused. "I don't know what to do about my contract or benefits. Do you know who I can talk to?"

Hearing these words from the quivering voice on the other end of the line automatically made me take a deep breath. As she continued, I found my mind quickly clicking away with answers, and maintaining a straight-up policeman's report approach to the situation. I have known this colleague for about 7 years, on and off; we teach at the same university, but in different locations. She is an artist, a scientist, a psychologist -- fully involved with life, and engaging her students 150% in their own learning. Her classes are rated the best of any I know, and I am always stunned by the amount of creativity that flows from her efforts—although, for this woman, it seems as easy as breathing.

But she was having a very hard time breathing now.  She called me because I am the level-headed one between the two of us -- not carried away by emotion, but able to quickly see the lay of the land and make a decision about the most appropriate course of action. In spite of that capacity, which was being called upon in this moment, my heart opened and I felt my eyes tearing up. I wanted to communicate something of value ... but what helps at a time like this? "I'm sorry" just doesn't seem to fit.

So, I acknowledged her pain. "You have worked so hard these past couple of years to bring healing to your husband; he has lived so much longer than anyone thought, and that’s on account of your care."

That's all I could come up with. But she accepted it, and spoke a little more about the situation. "I don't know how to be with a dying person. I have never had to do this. We have to give up now. He’s going to hospice." She sounded so strained and absolutely exhausted.

I had no answers, and I knew she didn't need to hear me say something trite. The closest I have been to dying was when I picked up a small sparrow that had flown into our dining room window. I held it and felt its rapid-fire beating heart, and its delicate lungs moving faster than I could count the breaths. And ... then ... nothing. I felt the Life Force leave, just like a switch being turned off. The bird stopped breathing, its heart stopped its beating, and the weight of its tiny body pressed itself into my palm. One instant it was almost weightless; the next, it was like a heavy river rock.

That was, perhaps, the most sacred moment I have ever had the privilege of experiencing so far in my life.

As I write this, I remember a similar experience the day I met this colleague. We were at a faculty retreat in late September, the venue of which was a large lodge on a lake in northern Washington State. It was a clear day. My first impression of her was that she was extravagant and very stylish in her large-brimmed hat and scarf. Her coat was long and nothing you would find in a typical American store. She wore long black boots. "Flamboyant" came to mind, but in an intriguing sort of way. She was not lofty, but very earthy. We were both seated facing one of the huge windows that looked over the lake. Someone was talking about something to the group of 30-some educators there, but only my colleague and I flinched at the moment a small bird flew right into the window. THUD. We saw it fall straight to the deck below. There may be a few others who heard it or saw something, but this woman and I were the only ones who registered concern.

When we went on a break a few minutes later, I found myself making a bee-line out the back door to check on the bird. So was my colleague, and she got there first. Without hesitation, she gently scooped up the little bird and talked to it, caressing its tiny brown feathers. I am pretty sure it died right there in her loving hands. I remember that we looked for a suitable place to bury it in the woods near the lodge. It was so strange to come back at the end of break with black, pungent earth under our fingernails, and pine sap on our hands. I remember noticing that—in spite of the flamboyant dress of my new friend, her fingernails were those of a worker: short and industrious. When we got back into the room, all of the other faculty members were standing around and chatting over cups of steaming coffee and donuts. None of them had a clue about what had just transpired outside with that little bird. It was our shared precious moment. Our Sacred Secret.

I don't know if she remembers this incident, but as I write this, I think it is exactly what I need to recount to her: "You DO know what to do. You were just there, and you spoke with love from your heart. You held that little bird and caressed it. You were just THERE. That's all you could do, and that's what you did."

Of course, I know that losing your husband of many years is a bit more traumatic than these incidents with birds, but isn’t the principle more or less the same? All you can do is speak love to the dying person, and be there.

This recollection of the bird at the lodge was not part of my thinking during our short conversation. All I knew was that I needed to be the firm "foundation of sense" to her when everything about her world made no sense at all. Why did a robust man in the prime of his life suddenly succumb to this disease? How could it have robbed him of 60 pounds of precious body weight in such a short period of time? Why him? Why her? They were madly in love after many many years of marriage. Why why why why why?

I steadied my voice. "Yes," I can get those contacts for you; I’m sure there is something that can be done to help you out..."

She interrupted me: "Please email me. I don't have any paper or pen right here."

"Of course," I replied. “My computer is right here, and I will do it now.”

"Okay, bye. Thank you." She hung up the phone.

Such a precious conversation. I cannot be with her to hold her hand or give her the hug that communicates everything I want to say without words. All I know is that, as long as I live, I want to prepare for death better. I want to be present for more moments -- my own, and those I spend with others. I want to be able to "hold" even a distant colleague as gently as she held that bird—as gently and lovingly as I held my little sparrow.

That’s all a person can do.  I think that, ultimately, that's what we are called to do for each other, every day.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas Shopping Frenzy ~ What to do?

Every year, I am more and more baffled about what to do about Christmas ... All of that SHOPPING! According to one news source, 1 in every 3 Americans goes shopping today, "Black Friday." That is an absolutely astonishing statistic. There are a 310,792,445 MILLION people in the U.S. as I write this; if one-third of them go shopping, that means there are 110 million people driving to big-name stores, for the most part, and spending money on STUFF. We see them on TV, camping out the night before, hoping for some great deal ... or not:

There was a young man interviewed on the Seattle news last night; he was camping in front of a Best Buy at Southcenter Mall. When asked what he was hoping to get, he replied, "Oh, I don't really need anything. I just thought it would be fun." This is the face of the future of our nation.  Even in other countries (primarily Europe), people are losing their minds. Watch this, and pay particular attention to the women riding the escalator, who suddenly covers her mouth in surprise ... god only knows what she sees in the mass of bodies below (then click on the back arrow to return to this page):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdvIq_h-luY

So, this whole Christmas shopping thing confuses me more and more each year. I am repulsed by the notion of shopping for Christmas, yet I enjoy giving gifts to people. But the pressure from manufacturers to give things to people all at once (i.e., once each year) rings so hollow for me. At no other time of the year do I feel compelled to buy gifts simultaneously for every person in my family, or every coworker, friend, or neighbor, so why should I do it now? Just because everyone else is doing it? It's not that I mind showing love and appreciation for others through a small gift, by why should it be all at once? The whole thing feels so obligatory and, therefore, meaningless.

And then there is the question of the conditions under which all of those items were produced: Was the sweater for Aunt Louise sewn in a sweat shop? Was this perfume tested on rabbits? How much damage to the environment occurred in the manufacture of these shoes, or this TV screen, or that laptop?  So, every year, I go back and forth between "buying into" (pun intended) the rampant consumerism or rebelling against it completely. People who go shopping retort, "It's good for business! More buying creates more jobs! But look at how much money I saved by buying this! Look at the great deal I got! And it was the last one!" But no one asks the question, "Where is all of our consumerism taking us?" I mean, what's the point? Couldn't we show love and appreciation for each other more often throughout the year, and leave it at that?

I have seen the website for "Buy Nothing Day" (today), which I heartily support. And then there is the "Small Business Saturday" approach, which can help to ease some of that frenzied pressure by simply encouraging people--if they are going buckle under pressure and shop--to shop at smaller, local businesses, as opposed to the larger chain stores.

I really don't know what the answer is for me ... As I move through this life, endeavoring to find ways to live more intentionally, I have to say that the Christmas Shopping Frenzy leaves an increasingly sour taste in my mouth. But to not follow the crowd labels me a Grinch or a Scrooge. The search continues.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Enjoying the Fresh Air

In this photo, Duke and I had just returned from his afternoon walk in the neighborhood.  The sidewalks were crunchy and slippery with snow and ice!  In spite of his years (13.5 and counting), and some arthritis in his hips, he did very well negotiating the challenging conditions.


It always amazes me that animals can just acclimate to the temperature, regardless of how hot or cold it is. Duke didn't need anything but his collar, while I had to put on leggings, snow pants, a turtleneck, fleece sweater, ski jacket, hat, and wool socks and boots!

Chilling Out

Kuan Yin, Goddess of Wisdom and Compassion, after the snowfall. 


She is content, and contemplating the meaning of "cold." 


Or perhaps she feels warm under the blanket of snow ...?

Snow in Seattle ~ November 23rd

Here's the Duke Meister, looking rather serious in the snow!  But he enjoyed coming outside to watch over me as I snapped a few photos of our yard and the icy street.


Seattle got hit hard with snow on Monday, and then a blast of Arctic Air last night; it's in the low 20s and clear today, but much of the city is shut down due to icy streets.  There is no school or work to go to ... 


We are having fun baking muffins and cookies, and making the house smell really really good!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Mind BEFORE Meditation

Here is my mind,
a snapshot before sitting down
on my meditation cushion ~
filled with ideas,
colorful and bright,
fun to look at!

But a bit overwhelming;
hard to take in
just one thing.
Focus?  Hardly.

The Mind AFTER Meditation

Here is what my mind is like
after 30 minutes of simply
witnessing
my breathing, in and out ...

Thoughts still arise, but are less
frequent, and there is S P A C E. 
Amazing.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Song Lines

I was recently in Boulder visiting some friends and colleagues at Naropa University and, after speaking about my trip to Australia and showing them pictures, I received on loan a book titled “Stories from the Origin,” by Ann Parker (another Naropa faculty member).

In this book, written 30 years after her own travels in Outback Australia, the author provided vignettes and musings about the Aborigines, about her own perceptions of life “in the bush,” and the juxtaposition of those perceptions with the continual unfolding of a different reality ~ a reality that has been described by Aborigines as “The Dreamtime” (and they refer to it as many other things, as well, but that’s too much to go into here).

What struck me about the book were the similarities between the author’s experiences and insights and the experiences and insights I had when living in a small village in northern Alaska about 25 years ago. I was there only 9 months as a high school teacher, but hardly a day goes by that I don’t remember something from that space and time; it profoundly altered my perceptions of myself, of my students, and of the greater cosmos. My recollections from those months have been working inside of me all of this time, continually shaping my trajectory, much like water has shaped the Grand Canyon over hundreds of thousands of years.

For a long time, I have wanted to take my journal entries and sketches from that Alaskan experience and publish them. But, as the years dribbled one into the next, other things took precedence and I figured that no one would want to read about them anyway. But, now, after reading Ann Parker’s book, I realize that those stories are timeless; they need to come out. Somehow, I feel as though giving them a voice will further that trajectory (whatever it is) in a powerful way. I don’t know what it will look like, but it feels urgent now in a way that it didn’t before. I am excited about writing my stories, and will endeavor to publish some posts about my process as I go along.

In Ann Parker’s book, she writes about “song lines” and “singing the world into existence” ~ I found all of this incredibly intriguing. The concept of a “song line” parallels my inner yearnings to publish my stories; I feel like I am trying to listen very carefully for my own “song line” into the rest of my life, and somehow through writing about things that happened a quarter of a century ago, I will finally hear my own tune.

It goes like this (and I am paraphrasing and quoting Ann’s writing here, while she also quoted from a book published in 1997 by Bruce Chatwin, titled “Songlines”):

“The Aborigines believe in the existence of ‘song lines,’ which are like ‘energy lines’ that guide them across the landscape in search of each other, in search of another encampment, or some yams, or a watering hole. The belief is that the totemic ancestors (those from the Dreamtime), while traveling through the country, scattered a trail of words and musical notes along the line of their footprints. These dreaming tracks lay all over the land as a means of communication between tribes. The song is the map as well as the direction finder. If you know the song, you will always find your way across the country” (pp. 76-7).

I love this idea of song lines … Who knows, we might ALL have “song lines” of one sort or another ~ an inner map and compass ~ but the continual cacophony of our daily lives drowns them out. I certainly do not mean to co-opt the Aborigines’ ancient beliefs, but there must be something universal and connected about their song lines, and my resonance with them. Such an experience leads me to ask, “If there is a song line for me to follow, what is it be saying? Where did it come from?  Where will it lead?”

As the title of this blog asserts, the answer will come while I evolve … intentionally.


(The picture above was created by Damian Frost; I found it at his website: http://www.dfrost.net/illustrations).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Last photo from Darwin


Here we are, smiling in spite of the fact that we were minutes from parting ways and leaving the lush, tropical, and humid air of Darwin.  It really was sticky!  But everything was so GREEN.  I will post some more pictures of the trip on this blog, but for now I am bringing closure to this amazing trip.  The dust of Australia got into my bones, for sure, and I will go back.  To see so much of the country in two weeks was truly remarkable ... from the breezy and warm air of Sydney, to the rains and cool grasslands of Canberra ... through some snow (!), and then into the sugar cane, macadamia nut groves, and incredible beaches of the Gold Coast ... then to the Bundaberg Rum Factory (yum!), and then west, into the red and scrubby Bush, where the air grew thicker and thicker with dust, and the heat reached 90-100 degrees (Fahrenheit) -- or 32-37 Celsius by mid-morning ... to the hot and humid streets of Darwin.  It was all amazing, and I will indeed be digesting this trip for a long time.  There is so much more I want to see.

Digesting Down Under

video

Just look at this beach!  The miles and miles (kilometers) of warm, smooth sand, the sun on your face, the soft breath of wind in your hair ... I wish I could have had 30 minutes of footage!  Juliette, Michael, and I walked on a number of beaches; this one was just a 2-minute stroll from our apartment in Noosa, which is just north of Brisbane on the Gold Coast.  Absolutely LOVELY.  I will always remember the feeling of being fully satisfied; there was nowhere else I wanted to be.  Sigh ...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tennant Creek Grocer


We stopped in Tennant Creek for a few groceries before heading north to Elliot!  The food offerings along the highway were getting slimmer so Juliette made her rounds, gathering up pasta and fruit and veggies.  M re photos will be coming soon!  My trip to Australia comes to an end in a couple of days; tomorrow, we head to Darwin, spend the night, and then I fly to Sydney.  After a short night there, I fly to Auckland, New Zealand, and then back to San Francisco.  The time zones are goofy: I land in San Fran about 15 minutes after leaving Australia!  So, I basically get to enjoy Wednesday for a very long time.
  ~ "Over and Out" from the Outback, where we are resting at Juliet and Michael's sweet little home in Elliot.

"Jerky" looking for Grog!


After another long day of driving on the Barkly Highway, we passed into the northern Territory and rolled into Avon Downs, where Juliette and Michael lived for about 18 months before moving to Tennant Creek.  There is a police station here, and a rest area across the highway, where several campers pulled over for the night.  One of the current officers,Cameron, and his family, own a cow named "Jerky".  As you can see by the look on my face, he is getting a bit too friendly with my beer!  

Crocodile Dundee Tavern


Of course, we had to stop at the Walkabout Creek Hotel for a short break!  It was REALLY hot for a Seattle Girl; I got a lemonade (in a can), and took a few more pictures of the inside (which I will post soon).  For those of you who don't know, this tavern was featured in the Crocodile Dundee films.  It used to be set off of the main highway, but was moved to attract more visitors.  We heard it was up for sale ... about $1.4 million!

Where Qantas Airlines Started


Here Michael and I stand in front of a jumbo jet in Longreach (747-200, nicknamed "City of Bunbury").  Qantas stands for Queensland and Northern Territory Airline Services, and it began in a small town called Longreach in the 1920s.  We spent about one hour touring the museum.  Fun!

Camels!


Here are a few of the dozens of camel we saw along the highway a couple of days ago, between Rockhampton onthe coast and Longreach (heading due west).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Boat Ride!

video

Byron Bay Lighthouse


It was a stunning day, as we drove from Yamba, north to Noosa Heads!  We ended up on some country roads, and passed macadamia nut groves, banana trees, and some spectacular views of the ocean.  This particular lighthouse was finished in the early 1900s, and is on the eastern-most point of Australia.  It's about 800 feet above the sea.

At Noosa Heads

G'Day!  Here is a shot of me on the front of a small boat that we took out on the Noosa River today.  Juliette and Michael rented it for a few hours, so we drove it all over the place, enjoying the houses along the banks, and also seeing some non-spoiled areas with just birds and mangrove-like trees.  There were also a lot of houseboats and all manner of water transport along the way.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

We arrive at Noosa Heads Beach!

Here's a picture of the beach ... well, one of them (!) in the area called Noosa Heads.  On the map at the top of this blog, look for Brisbane and then just a nick above that for Noosa Heads.  We spent the night before in a place called Yamba (pictures will be forthcoming!), which is about 440 km south, and along the shore.  Very beautiful as well!  We arrived here in Noosa in time for Happy Hour at a place high above the surf, and enjoyed the view of surfers. swimmers, and even a few whales!  We will be staying in this area for a few days.  I will post some pictures of our trip since Sydney -- it takes a little extra time to upload the pics from the camera and then get them online, and we have not had much "down time" with all of the travels between places.  It has been a whirlwind tour from Sydney to Canberra and then over 900 km north to where we are now ... through sun, wind, rain, and even some snow!  Crazy weather.  More soon!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Genet at Darling Harbour in Sydney

Just a quick shot of a Happy Camper!  We walked around Darling Harbour and looked at the boats.

Here's the view from our apartment in Sydney!

Michael and Juliette "pulled out all the stops," and reserved a two bedroom suite on the 73rd floor of the Meriton Serviced Apartments -- This is the view!  We are looking east, over the Pacific ocean, and back at all of you.  We had a dining area, kitchen, and livingroom area to sit in -- very comfortable, modern, and clean.  A lovely place!

Juliette and Michael at the Harbour

We have taken various modes of transport about Sydney -- busses, trains, and the monorail!  Yesterday (Wednesday), we were at the water again, and I took this picture of Michael and Juliette standing in  front of the building (far in the background) where they got married 23 years ago.  It was a beautiful morning ... we then headed to the Chinese Garden, and walked around some more before catching a ferry boat back to the main harbour by the Opera House.  I will try to post a map of the city and highlight the areas we've been!  Today, Thursday, we drive south to Canberra ... about 2.5 hours.  We will stay there for a couple of days with Michael's brother, Richard, and his wife, Gail.  More soon!

Genet's Birthday "Bombe"

We went to a restaurant on the waterfront, with a table overlooking the harbour and the Sydney Opera House.  We enjoyed a PHENOMENAL dinner of steak, fish, and suckling pig (you can try to figure out who had what).  Accompanying the main meal were steamed carrots in honey sauce, creamy mashed potatoes, and "chips" (fries) cooked in duck fat!  Of course, we had some wine and beer.  For dessert, the waiter lit this "Bombe Alaska" ... three layers of ice-creamy confection, covered with whipped egg whites ... the whole thing was drizzled with brandy and lit on fire!  Quite the event.

Getting ready for a boat ride

Here we are, Michael and Genet, getting ready for a jet boat ride in Sydney Harbour!  We went out and got thoroughly drenched, in spite of these fashionable red ponchos.  More photos will be forthcoming!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Here I go!

This picture was taken by me and my iPhone, just before getting in line to check my bags; I am currently in the San Francisco airport, having sailed through baggage claim after my quick flight from Seattle (via Alaska Airlines), up to the "Air Train" (elevated train) and to the International Terminal. Everything has gone smoothly!

It was fascinating going through Security; I heard so many different languages, and saw families and friends wishing each other goodbye. It was different from a domestic terminal, where the prospect of seeing your loved one again sooner, rather than later, seems more probable. My favorite people to watch were an elderly couple: the woman was very stylishly dressed in a long black skirt and gold colored sweater; she sported some simple, yet stunning gold and silver jewelry, all of which was complemented by long silver hair. Her husband, presumably, had on lovely black slacks, a white button-down shirt, and suspenders. He was tan and very healthy and earthy looking ... They both looked straight out of an Italian vineyard.

At the moment, I am sitting in a Mexican restuarant named "Andale" (for "Let's Go!") And I am listening to a family converse in rapid French at the table next to me. I wonder how many other nationalities I will encounter, and I wonder at the marvel of this high-tech transportation, where we can all amiably walk into a tube and get hurtled through the air at hundreds of miles per hour ... and then gently set down in another place on the planet.

My flight will be departing soon; I have a seat in row FORTY-FOUR. Yikes! But it's on the aisle, which is what I will need in order to get up and walk around a lot.

See you on the other side!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Julie and Michael make it to Sydney!

They did it!  Two left Elliot, and two arrived in Sydney ...

From an email sent Australian Time, Oct 9, 2010 4:29 PM
Subject: Update from Australia

Julie and Michael reporting:
"We arrived early evening yesterday, after four days travel - 40 hours in the car and just over 4,000 kilometres (2485 miles, give or take a bit). We went from the heat of the central desert, to the coast of Queensland and south to Sydney. Presently, we're in the Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney, enjoying a beautiful, cool and rainy spring day. A huge change from our 'home' in north central Northern Territory. We had one near miss with a kangaroo, drove through cattle being herded across the road by two drovers just outside of Longreach QLD, and the windshield got sprayed continuously by enormous bugs and at one point by gravel. Other than that, it was smooth sailing. We were happy to arrive at the Yamba pub, over-looking the ocean on the north coast of NSW. It is always wonderful to arrive at the sea, after traveling so far from the interior of the continent."

Genet here ... So, I can just picture the cattle drove, and I can picture the bugs, having lived in Minnesota right after the farmers fertilized the fields ... but having "one near miss" with a KANGAROO?  That should be an interesting story, and I'll do my best to get the facts when I finally land Down Under. 

By the way, I learned recently that the word "kangaroo" is a bit of a misnomer ... One story goes something like this (from an Aboriginal person):

"At the time of colonial settlement, an English government official was walking along a beach with an Aborigine when he saw a strange furry animal with a long tail, hopping along in front of him.  Unable to speak the Aboriginal language, he pointed his stick at it.  The Aborigine said, 'kangaroo.'

The Englishman turned to the Aborigine, saying, 'I say, my man, what was that you said?'

The Aborigine said again, 'kangaroo.'

From that day on, 'kangaroo' is what the animal was called, but the Aborigine was really saying, 'There he goes.'  The kangaroo's Aboriginal name is 'bagaray.'  (From Gadi Mirrabooka: Australian Aboriginal Tales form the Dreaming)

Who knew?  More tales to come ...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Trip Begins "Down Unda"


Julie and Michael kick off our Australian Adventure!

Sent Oct 5, 12:29pm
Elliot, Northwest Territory, Australia *

"In one hour we start the drive from Elliott to Cloncurry, Queensland. We think it will take about 9 hours driving and is about 800 km ... so an easy start; longer trips come ... Also, no interstate on these roads, just one joined lane in each direction … Two set out but will two arrive? ... more later.... kenty"
* Photo above retrieved from the NW Territory News: http://tools.ntnews.com.au//photos/index.php?group_id=68

Click below to see the section of the continent they are covering on Day 1. The starting point, Elliot, is located along Hwy 87 in the middle of the map. Use your cursor to click and "drag" (move) the map to follow Hwy 87 south to Warumungu, just above Tennant Creek; then, follow Hwy 66 east into Queensland through Mt. Isa and into Cloncurry. (NOTE: REMEMBER: TO RETURN TO THE BLOG, USE YOUR BACK ARROW!)

Testing Video Uploads

So, before embarking on this long Australian trip, I wanted to practice uploading videos. Duke just returned from his afternoon walk and, knowing that he likes to replenish the liquids he's just dispersed around the neighborhood, I was standing by his water station. The video speaks for itself (see the entry below, "You can lead a dog to water ...")!

You can lead a dog to water ...

video

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Bear is a Bear … or is it?

So, of course, everyone wants to know if I will see (and maybe hold) a koala bear during my trip Down Under (pronounced “Down Unda”).
I have no idea if I will, but I hope I can! Being the curious sort, I had to look up a few facts about koalas; after all, if one is going to find its way into my arms and fix its beady little eyes into mine, I want to know what I’m holding.

First, koalas are not really “bears” (who knew?!); they are marsupials, or mammals with a pouch where the young one gets to hang out until ready to leave his or her mother. This “pouch potato-ing” goes on for about 6 months, and then there is another 6 months of the baby hanging on the mom’s back or belly! Not a lot of privacy for mom … (where’s dad?!)

Anyway, Koalas are found munching on, and sitting and dozing in eucalyptus trees, which grow best on the eastern side of the Australian continent.

Have you ever been in a eucalyptus grove? There is a very nice one in the Berkeley, CA, Hills, where my brother has often taken me for walks when we are visiting family in that area. The aroma is so spicy and pungent and “clearing,” and I typically feel quite energized after strolling through that grove. The trees are very high and messy; they seem to drop everything! Strips of bark and slender leaves are scattered everywhere. I wonder if the eucalyptus trees in Australia will be different? For some reason, I think of those trees as being stubbier than the ones in California.

Anyway, Koalas tend to live for about 20 years, and weigh as many pounds; they eat a lot for their size, about 2.5 pounds of leaves each day. (Think of it in human terms: a 160-pound person would be eating about 200 pounds of salad. Whew!)

Unfortunately, Koalas are a threatened species, because the forests they need for their survival continue to diminish in size due to the hand of man, and apparently koalas need a lot of room to roam: about 100 trees per koala. But that’s only 5 trees per year during the normal lifespan, which isn’t a lot to ask.

I mean, how many trees have I consumed so far in my life? Almost every DAY, I am involved to some extent with handling printing paper, copy paper, paper towels, toilet paper, envelopes, cards, notepads, cereal boxes, receipts, handouts from my physical therapist … and so much more that I cannot even think of right now.

I wonder, "Could I get myself to reduce my 'paper footprint' to that of a koala? Hmmm. Five trees for every 20 years ... that means I should be only up to 12.5 trees. Doesn't look too promising.

If I do get to hold a koala, and when our eyes meet, I will be sure to apologize for all of the human behavior of which I am a part, and swear to do my best to set it right again.

Note: This information was obtained from the National Geographic website:
http://www.animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/koala.html.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Dream Time



When we think of the history of Australia, we often assume that it started with the Portuguese, or the Dutch, French, Spanish, or British explorers. But we need to roll back the clock from the 1500-1600s to approximately 68,000 to 40,000 BC, when the Aboriginal tribes were thought to have traveled by boat from southeast Asia. Some historians put that date back to 70,000 BC! Before the Europeans invaded the continent, there’s no telling how many Aborigines lived there, but by the time the Europeans arrived, it is estimated that there were about 1 million native people. They lived in about 300 clans, and spoke 250 different languages; they traveled continuously in search of food and water, but maintained a special spiritual connection to specific pieces of the land. In spite of the great diversity between the clans living in the desert, the rainforests, the mountains, or along the shores, they all shared (and still do to some extent) a belief in what is called “The Dreamtime” ~ a mythological “era” in which ancestral beings (“totems”) formed the Creation.

I recently watched the film “The Last Wave” (1977), which offered this explanation of the Dreamtime: “Aboriginals believe in two forms of time; two parallel streams of activity. One is the daily objective reality, the other is an infinite spiritual cycle called the ‘dreamtime’, more real than reality itself. Whatever happens in the dreamtime establishes the values, symbols, and laws of Aboriginal society. It was believed that some people of unusual spiritual powers had contact with the dreamtime.”

I am fascinated with the concept of “time,” and enjoy learning about the perspectives of the Aboriginals who, even now, do not seem to operate in the one-dimensional 24-hour day cycle that a great deal of the world’s people build their lives around. But what IS “time”? And is there a Dreamtime for non-Aboriginal people? This is worth exploring …

For more images and a helpful overview of Australian Aboriginal history, go to:
http://www.crystalinks.com/aboriginals.html