Monday, December 16, 2013

Remembering my Mom and that we would all do well to live in the moment...

Wandering at Oblique Creek

This new year makes it fifty suddenly
gone. Thinking of life’s steady return
to rest cuts deep,driving me to spend
all morning wandering.

Skies clear,air’s breath fresh,
I sit with friends beside this stream flowing far away.

Striped bream weave gentle currents;
calling gulls drift above idle valleys.

Eyes roaming distant waters, I find
ridge above ridge: it’s nothing like
majestic nine-fold immortality peaks,
but to reverent eyes it’s incomparable.

Taking the winejar, I pour a round,
and we start offering brimful toasts:
who knows where today might lead
or if all this will ever come true again.

After a few cups, my heart’s far away,
and I forget thousand-year sorrows:
ranging to the limit of this morning’s
joy, it isn’t tomorrow I’m looking for.

- T’ao Ch’ien (365-427), as interpreted by David Hinton, Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Zion National Park - Canyons and Angels

I live as I do
Because life is mysterious and precious
Fast or slow, day by day
In a wonderful way.

Excerpt from the Journey Itself is Home (Rod McIver)

I did this trip last year with my most awesome girlfriends and it was so inspiring that I wanted to share it with my family too.  On our first day in Zion we hiked the Narrows from the bottom up.  I was hoping we would make it all the way to Wall Street where there is a magical side canyon to explore.  But our car broke down on the way to Utah and so we had less time in the park than we had planned.  The good news is that we were just shy of Wall Street and more importantly, the kids had a GREAT time.

Day 1 - Beginning our hike up The Narrows.

Laura generally took the lead and either Scott or I tried to keep close to Ben.

For those of you who don't know, my husband is a second degree black belt.  They are doing some karate form thingie with their staffs.

I'm including this photo because it shows a rare spot of sunshine in the canyon.

Success and smiles!  Everyone stayed safe and mostly dry. By the way, renting the dry suits for kids is key because they did fall completely in the water a few times.  (thanks to Zion Adventure Company for the rentals)

 Day 2 - Angel's Landing Hike.  We started in the cool morning air to ascend to some welcome sunshine, a completely different day than the Narrows hike.

Laura not looking too excited about the 22 switchbacks called "Walter's Wiggles." 
I'm not sure what I'm doing here - a farmer maybe? 

Walter's Wiggle # 17, almost there.

I love my kid's ingenuity - they got sick of walking up the wiggles and decided to climb them.

The hike up to Angel's Landing is a 1520 foot gain in elevation.  Here we are perched on the cliff's edge at Scout's Overlook watching for condors.  All told, we spent nearly an hour here watching for a California condor.  When all four of us were peering over the edge one flew right below us along the cliff wall. It was a truly magnificent sight and I was so excited to share it with my family!
 And yes, Scott is dangling our camera over the sheer 1500-foot drop for the photo op.

Me and my little man Ben, patiently watching for condors, overlooking the Virgin River. 

Ben's hair got so long and matted (under his hat) that he got his first dreadlock.

My kids teased me about my tall black socks but just wait until they are teenagers - then I will really embarrass them. 

I love it when they have random moments of sweetness.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Road Closed

I love this sign. This area is closed to motorized travel through the winter and early spring up until June 15, which means that I have all of this beautiful country behind the sign to myself.  The area is part of Red Canyon Ranch and also part of a special management habitat unit for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.  It is closed to motorized vehicles for part of the year to protect wintering elk and mule deer from disturbance.  In June, just before it opens, the wildflowers bloom like wildfire on the hillsides and the deer and antelope are knee-deep in clover. 

I talked to life-long Lander residents that said they've never seen flowers this beautiful as they were this year.

I got up early on many mornings this spring to ride my bike before work.

I took my mom for a picnic when she came to town.  And while sitting in this beautiful meadow she quoted my grandpa, "Gee, I wonder what the rich people are doing."

View of the flowers by Laura.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Twenty Years Ago

Hot springs, teepees, snow in springtime, dancing, and becoming slightly unhinged in Saratoga, Wyoming.  Love this poem ~ for my girlfriends....

This Dance - by Jewel Mathieson

We have come to be danced
Not the pretty dance
Not the pretty pretty, pick me, pick me dance
But the claw our way back into the belly
Of the sacred, sensual animal dance
The unhinged, unplugged, cat is out of its box dance
The holding the precious moment in the palms
of our hands and feet dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the jiffy booby, shake your booty for him dance
But the wring the sadness from our skin dance
The blow the chip off our shoulder dance.

The slap the apology from our posture dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the monkey see, monkey do dance
One two dance like you
One two three, dance like me dance
But the grave robber, tomb stalker
Tearing scabs and scars open dance
The rub the rhythm raw against our soul dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the nice, invisible, self-conscious shuffle
But the matted hair flying, voodoo mama
Shaman shaking ancient bones dance
The strip us from our casings, return our wings
Sharpen our claws and tongues dance
The shed dead cells and slip into
The luminous skin of love dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the hold our breath and wallow in the shallow end of the floor dance
But the meeting of the trinity: the body, breath and beat dance
The shout hallelujah from the top of our thighs dance
The mother may I? Yes
you may take ten giant leaps dance
The olly olly oxen free free free dance
The everyone can come to our heaven dance.

We have come to be danced
Where the kingdoms collide
In the cathedral of flesh
To burn back into the light
To unravel, to play, to fly, to pray
To root in skin sanctuary
We have come to be danced!
We have come.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Panama Part IV - Our last day in Panama - the Panama Canal Transit

On our last day in Panama we did a partial transit of the canal. 
Ben said it was his favorite part of the whole trip.  I gave him the camera for the day and he took literally hundreds of pictures, running from the bow to the stern to take every moment of the day in.  I have to admit, it was way cool.

The big container ships getting off-loaded in the canal. Panama City has the second largest duty-free area in the world, second only to Hong Kong. 

Our transit on the Pacific Queen went from the Pacific Ocean to Lake Gatun.  Lake Gatun was created between 1907 and 1913 by the building of the Gatun Dam across the Chagres River. At the time it was created, Gatun Lake was the largest man-made lake in the world, and the dam was the largest dam on earth.  Imagine, they used steam shovels for excavation!  If they built the canal today, with all of our technology, it would still be a marvel of engineering.

Laura as we approach the Bridge of the Americas. 

This is first of a series of locks that we went through that eventually raise the vessels to the level of Lake Gatun.  There was a yacht and a sailboat in the locks with us.  Each boat is tied up to the sides of the lock.  If it is a big vessel then there are railcars that run along the tracks on each side that help ferry it through so the sides of the ship don't hit the sides of the locks.

After the gates of the locks close behind the ships, the lock starts to fill.  It's a simple concept, like a bathtub filling up.

Here is the 'bathtub' about halfway full.

And here the lock is full, right before they opened the gates in front of us.

The rail cars that keep the boats in line as they navigate the locks.

In this photo they've tied up the two boats together to keep them steady in the second lock.

Here we are tied up to an American sailboat in the third lock.  I could have stepped off one of the decks of our ship right onto their boat, sigh. 

Check out the size of the tugboat compared to the ship.  This ship is not very big by today's standards.  There are many ships that are "PanaMax", or ships that are bigger than the canal can handle.  They are now constructing another channel next to the current channel to accommodate these behemoths.

Note the "No Smoking, Safety First, Protect the Environment" signage on this tanker.

The above photos shows just a small portion of the Culebra Cut, where they literally had to blast through a mountain (the continental divide) to dig the canal.  The ships are being lifted, little by little, over a mountain range.  Amazing!

 More of the rail cars, just because Ben took lots of pictures of them.

Laura and Ben in front of Lake Gatun.  There is an island in Lake Gatun called Barro Colorado which has been protected since the 1920s.  It's 3,800 acres of lowland tropical forest provides habitat for the island's 74 (and counting) bat species! The Smithsonian Institute has a research station there.  I would love to visit it someday. 
The partial transit was not cheap (think skiing in Jackson for a day for a family of four) but it was well worth it as it was truly the experience of a lifetime. The story of the Panama Canal is fascinating - check it out:  American Experience - The Panama Canal

And that, my friends, is our story of Panama.

Last night in Panama in Casco Viejo where we ate a fabulous dinner followed by the best-ever ice-cream.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Panama Part III - El Valle de Anton

Los autobuses in Panama run all the time because everyone rides - not very many people own their own cars.  You only have to wait for about 20 minutes at any one stop for one to pick you up.  But it didn't take long for us to figure out that the buses will pick you up wherever you are if you stand in the road and flag them down.  The 'long-distance' buses that go from town to town are pretty nice and usually have air conditioning, similar to greyhound buses here.  The rural buses are small and crowded and are often full of kids coming from or going to school.  It was often standing-room only. We were the only gringos traveling by bus (except going to Santa Catalina) - but it's a cheap and efficient way to travel.  I had no idea (with my limited spanish) if I could get us from Santa Catalina to El Valle de Anton, with five bus changes, but it worked! The above picture shows the lonely bus stop we were dropped off at along the Pan American Highway en route to El Valle.  As luck would have it, we crossed the highway and there was a bus on the other side waiting to go to El Valle.  It worked like clockwork.  Amazing. 

The bus pictured above is typical of the buses you see in the cities, called diablo rojos.  They are old American school buses painted crazy colors and lit up by equally crazy neon lights at night.  Each one of the buses is an original and the graffiti-style artwork is great.  You might see Jesus on the front of the bus and a pinup girl on the back.  Laura thinks that the Lander school buses should look like these.

The bus ride to El Valle was a bit nutty.  The roads were steep and windy as we climbed from sea level to the mountains. Plus the driver was texting every few seconds and talking on the phone.  He was also changing the radio station while holding his phone.  I don't know why he bothered because every station in Panama seems to play really bad rap music that all sounds the same.  When we got to El Valle we took a walk around town to find something to eat. 

En el mercado - we also found a yummy panadaria. 

This was a seven-dog stop. For entertainment we often counted the number of dogs at each bus stop. 

The picture below was taken during an evening walk and the light was so pretty as a storm was rolling in.  El Valle is fairly upscale - it's a small rural town where wealthy folks from Panama City come to escape the heat.  I liked that most of the fences in Panama are living fences.

The kids are missing in the above photo because we left the kids to their own devices (i.e. watching Sponge Bob in Spanish in the hotel room) and took a walk on the outskirts of town.  It was beautiful in El Valle as much of the rainforest here is protected. 

Ben on the rooftop with mountains around us.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit it but the main reason we went to El Valle was to go zip lining.  It's one of the best bird watching places in Central America but we only had a little time for birds which I do regret.  I figured the kids deserved a special treat with the zipping.

We hiked through a beautiful rainforest preserve for the zip lining and had a nice guide that took time to help us identify birds.

Ben has been wanting to do this for years, he was so excited!

The rainforest preserve had the best interpretive signs.  Much more entertaining than the US Park Service!  The golden frog is an endangered species once endemic to El Valle.  We did not see one, except in meditation on this sign.

Mis hijos - walking back to town from the rainforest preserve.  Time slows down when you don't have your own transportation, and that's a good thing.  The flowers were beautiful and we saw some amazing birds (Panama has some 944 species of birds!)

In front of our hotel which is above other stores and restaurants.  We had a pretty view of the surrounding mountains from the rooftop terrace.

From El Valle we got on a bus to go to Panama City for our last two days in the country.  The funny thing was that in Panama City we asked the bus driver to drop us off at a certain pizza place near a highway underpass (we weren't even sure of the name of the pizza place).  The hotel owner in El Valle said it would get us within walking distance to our hotel in the city.

Yes, that is a taxi cab behind us.  Did we take it? Of course not... we were on a quest.  But taxi cabs were usually cheap if you asked before getting in ¿Cuánto cuesta?

Wow, luxury digs in Panama!  From our humble beginnings at a hostel -- to a room with a spectacular view of Panama Bay and the canal.  But of course I'd take a hostel next to the surf and sand over an air-conditioned 5-star hotel any day!  I missed hearing the ocean at night...  But, watching the big cargo ships was way fun, as was the swimming pool.

The kids were excited to play in the pool with two kids from Canada that were near their same age.  They invented a game where they threw mangoes at Panama beer cans on the bridge that went over the pool.   The height of culture for our trip.
Up next, our canal transit ~ sailing up and over the continental divide!