Not just ours…

We watched it.

Mesmerized by it’s glow. It’s charm.

Its seemingly languid way.

Of slipping away.

Until it was gone.

Kind of like it was teasing us with a childlike chant…

“now you see me, now you don’t”

The afterglow was proof enough that truly we hadn’t just imagined it.

It really had been there.

But.

If we had blinked, we would have missed it.

We watched it slip behind the horizon, slip off the edge of our today.

A new thought washed over me.

We think of the setting sun as ours, the closing of but just one of our many days.

I, for the first time, realized…

that final slip, that closing…

…is not just ours.

It is now the beginning of something altogether new.

For someone else.

It is not just ours

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Those Rocks. That Tree.

As time passes, and life happens to and around us,  we are not necessarily the same people year after year.

And, it seems, to me, that we shouldn’t be.  Without compromising who we are at the core; we learn and grow. As a rock erodes into a pebble and eventually into sand over time, we have the potential to change in seemingly invisible ways every day. Our minds can change. Lord knows our bodies change. Relationships come and go and add rich layers of memory and story and sometimes hurts and forgiveness.

Our kids, the people we are raising, leave us changed daily.  Responding to the struggle(s) of the day, whether it’s the 7th grade math, freshman year jitters, college goodbyes, first heart breaks, puberty, or the teething and diapers – it all becomes part of our core. Like cooking from a recipe made so many times we feel it more than we can explain it. It just is. We just are.

My son is on the early cusp of puberty, my father has dementia. I am still a mother and a daughter but what that means and requires of me is changing as they change. Some days it looks no different than the day before, and then suddenly it’s obvious we are all different.

That said, among all that we juggle – the balls we manage to catch, and the ones we simply know are hovering in the balance, seemingly invisible but so very present – comfort can be found when we return to a place that does not change. A place that is somehow a constant for us, a landmark in both the metaphorical and concrete kind of ways.  A place that somehow soothes our soul, beckons us to memories that we can smell and feel from visits gone by, but it’s as if it were yesterday each time we return.

When you recognize a tree in the forest like an old friend, and know the one rock on which to sit by the lake.  They are unchanged and exactly where you saw them last.

That.

A place where the soul settles and rests.

And exhales.

We should all have that kind of place.

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.  – John Ruskin

A place where we are sure of who we are, excited about possibilities we perhaps can’t even fathom (but like those balls hovering in the balance, we know they are there…) and revel in all that has been.  From good to difficult and everything that lies between. A place where –  no matter the season,  no matter the weather  – gives us just exactly the moments we need. No matter in what direction the winds may blow, to have and find comfort in a place that we are so very lucky to know.

And I’ve been lucky enough to learn that when someone you adore adores the same place as you – well, that’s one sweet exhale.

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Ps…thanks to Lori for the Ruskin quote!
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She had to ask

Standing at street’s edge; waiting for the light.

A dynamic, vibrant, bustling world class city.

Next to us a young woman stands, waiting.

Poised, stylish, together, confident in her own skin kind of way.

An unlit cigarette in hand.

The signature scarf worn in that effortless and elegant way;

the way of Parisian women.

We catch a moment’s contact of eyes

and then return to our impersonal, stoic forward stares.

Waiting.

I sense movement to my left and turn.

She leans in, so subtly in her graceful way.

Parlez vous Francais?

She had not pegged us as tourists.

There was the chance.

She had to ask.

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Non.

But my eyes said more.

Merci.

Merci beaucoup.

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If Trees Could Talk

The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber. The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Wisdom of the Sands, translated from French by Stuart Gilbert


We know that when we invest our hard earned money in a long term vehicle – we hope that when we tuck it away in good faith that the next time we see it, that it will have (fingers crossed!) grown from a tiny amount into something more than it was at the start.  We may make deposits along the way, keeping our eye on things as we go. But, we are never quite sure that the yield will be what we hope.

A few weeks ago, Kiddo and I set out on our annual vacation; another road trip of ‘epic proportion’. While last year we pointed our GPS in all directions south, this year we turned it upside down and put our focus on all things north.

All in all, our travels took us 1121 miles over the course of 6 days and 2 states and while I try to plan trips so that the entire trip IS the trip, we had a featured destination. We were going to live in a Treehouse for a few days!

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Here we go!

En route, we toured a brewery (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, anyone?), walked across a one of a kind bridge (Sundial Bridge), saw rivers, mountains, lakes and even a volcano (Mt. Lassen) a dam (Shasta Dam) and a classic old mountain town (Dunsmuir). We saw GIANT trees, wildfires and Elk. Coastal fog and a working Lighthouse. What you hear about the shortage of water in Ca is true – the dam is 143 feet below the crest, the rivers once raging seem so lonely down in the nearly dry river beds in some cases.  In one day’s drive we had puffy white clouds, heat nearing 100 degrees, pure sunshine, fog, wildfire smoke and rain.

Upon arriving at our primary destination on day 2 we were enchanted! Part of a larger outfit called Out-n-About Treesort, we stayed at The Lilly Pad – a Bed and Breakfast ReTREET in Cave Junction, OR!  Tucked away in the forest on a private 13 acre wooded homestead, and 36 feet off the ground and built around an old Cedar tree which proudly boasts no less than 150 birthdays.

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The charm of The Lilly Pad was beyond compare, Kiddo and I were both like kids at Christmas running around getting acquainted with our digs. First up was “uploading” our gear via a simple but ingenious pulley system.  I love efficiency!  Once inside, we were met by a queen size bed with down comforters, a mini fridge, bunk beds. Lights, giant windows where  you can roll up the tarps and be one with the branches and birds. A coffee maker (good coffee in that mini fridge too, I might add!). A sink. A toilet. Good living up in those branches. And, at night the path is lit with rope lights that look more like fairy lights.

But perhaps its best amenity was the seclusion. The quiet. The call to disconnect and then connect with what is most important.

Kiddo and I played games.  Silly games. He discovered Parchesi and remarked about how old fashion games were made with such clever thinking.  We made up games.  We hung out in the hammock and took endless silly selfies. We pushed each other on the swings.  We hung out and talked. And talked. We talked about unplugging. About his love for video games. We tossed around a business pipe dream I have and he egged me on for over an hour, trying to flush out ideas, offering many of his own (good!) ideas. He taught me how to hula hoop. Yes, you read that correctly, my ten year old son taught his 40 something year old mama to hula hoop. (I’ve always wanted to learn!)

Deposits into that long term account were being made, I could hear the coins hitting the metal.

We signed up for the zipline course the next day, six platforms, tree to tree and across meadows.  I must be honest and tell you that I wasn’t sure who was the kid between the two of us; it was a total blast. But, by platform three, I could see the look on his face. I know my Kiddo.  He was done. But to be done, he had to complete one more line from platform four – from 50ft off the ground up in a tree.  I left him standing there, went first and then got to watch him zoom in, performing each part of the process perfectly.  He did it. He was brave and held on and had a great zip. But, he knows himself and his limits and quietly said, “that’s it mom.”

I nodded and hugged him and told him how proud of him I was.  Then, I went on to complete the final two lines.  Whee-hooo!  So, this time, he grabbed my phone and took the pictures.

Later, we talked about limits, and comfort zones, and fun and trying and challenges.  And knowing ourselves.

Ching. Ching.  More deposits.

As we ventured on in our trip, we stayed in a couple of Airbnb.com homes.  We were welcomed by such gracious hosts and I felt grateful for being able to show my son a way of travel that is not always synonymous with the word tourist.  I got sick for a day or two and while that definitely is not a travel tip I suggest, you who have been reading here for awhile know me to be of the mindset that these are the things that become the stories. “Oh, remember the year my mom got sick on the road trip?!”  And, it revealed to me a kindness and compassion in my son that again reminds me what is most important here.  As I apologized profusely to him for missing a cool adventure because I about passed out from some kind of food poisoning, he simply said; “don’t let it take you over mom, things happen.”

Needless to say, the rest of the trip was a little subdued while I rallied. We drove through beautiful redwood forests, saw trees that made our 150 year old Cedar Tree look like a toddler. Hours in the car and giant trees are not high on the woo-hoo list for any ten year old, mine included. We talked, ate cherry sours (once I could stomach them again!), played Fact or Fib, traded air time for our playlists (which have many of the same songs!) and talked some more. We got serious when my son asked me about regrets in life.  What mine are, what his are.  I was honest and let him in on a few things I would rather erase completely. That’s how it is with regrets.

Ka-ching.

As we went on a short hike through the  Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, there were a few grumbles and groans about taking this hike in the first place. I promised there would be no more hikes (trust me, I was feeling about 40% at this point) but that it was important to see these amazing trees, that people come from all over to see them, learn from them and just stand and feel small in their midst. I also laughed and told Kiddo that I knew I would have to wait about 20-30 years before he would really get it.

And that I was willing to wait.

 

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It became clear to me in that moment what this trip was all about. We had some of the coolest moments of all time. We also had some miserable moments and we had some pretty boring, mile after mile moments.  But together we logged not just miles. Not just experiences. Not even just memories. Seeds were planted, quietly. Deposits made into my most important, most valuable investment of all time.

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Name That Tune? No, Name That House!

Last weekend, I was able to steal away for a couple of days with a couple of friends and we spent a weekend reconnecting and relaxing in and around the quaint and charming little town of Carmel. We don’t, for one nano second, not ever ever take for granted the beauty of the California coastline and though we lost count, my friend J must have uttered, “Wow!’ about a bajillion times.

While driving from point A to B, we passed through the intersection where beautiful meets gorgeous.

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Then, we started noticing that all of the stunning homes along 17 Mile Drive have all been named. The first one that caught my attention is the Butterfly house and its beautiful and conscious California drought resistant awesome landscaping.

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Wilder Butterfly

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Beautiful and requires no lawn mower!

From there, we wandered and meandered and found these humble (ahem!) abodes with fun and creative names.

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Best Nest

beside the point

Beside the Point

scenic dugout

Scenic Dugout (I could handle watching a ball game or two from inside that dugout!)

 

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Song of the Sea

There were many more homes with affectionate nick names such as Point of View and Sea Haze. I found myself completely enjoying the creativity and personality of each and also thinking about the possibilities of what it would be like if we all named our homes? First of all, it would just be fun, would make evening walks quite different, but wouldn’t it also add another dimension of community among us?  What would you name your home if you could – or maybe you already have? It got me thinking about what I might name the home where I live now and the name JuJu came to me because it’s just got great energy and a bright cheery feel to it. But, I also know I will just keep thinking about this. By now, you know how my brain works, right?

Then we passed by this ‘little’ stunner and found her curiously lacking an identity like her neighbors to the left and right.

Name that house

Name that house

So, I leave you with a Cheers and a Challenge:

…a cheers to time away, renewal and spending time with friends who make all the difference in our lives; and

…a challenge to take some ownership for the naming rights of our nameless abode.  What would you name her? And look, there is even a blank slate above the windows above the garage, just waiting to be inscribed!

Cheers!

Cheers!

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Seal the Deal

On the last leg of the road trip, I took the long way home, the one with the prettiest of views…

We decided to drive up the coast of California and it was a stunningly beautiful coastal day; a mix of just the right amount of fog to punctuate the otherwise hardly detectable difference between the ocean blue and blue skies.  For awhile, we cruised behind a zippy red sports car and we tried to keep up, imagining that we were them!  But, before too long, we lost them, as  we made the first of many stops along the way to take in the view.  What we found at this stop was the perfect beginning to the ending of a wonderful vacation.

It truly ‘sealed’ the deal for us.

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Elephant Seals

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This guy is 5,000 pounds, and 16 feet long!

Along California’s central coast is a population of Elephant Seals. Turns out, we passed by during the quiet time of the year; hundreds of the seals were lounging about on the beach, but come January through May?  The ‘rookery’ as it is called, will be home to thousands of these guys and gals.

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Plenty of space!

Elephant Seals spend eight to ten months a year in the open ocean, diving 1000 to 5000 feet deep for periods of fifteen minutes to two hours, surfacing for maybe 3-5 minutes before plunging to the depths again.  They migrate thousands of miles, twice a year, to their land based rookery for birthing, breeding, molting and rest.  The rookery we saw is along Highway  1,  seven miles north of San Simeon and is home to about 17,000 animals.

When you think of hanging out on the beach, wouldn’t you think of snacks, roasting hot dogs, enjoying a beer?  Right?  Well, not the 5,000 lb elephant seals. They go on a diet while on land, and when on the beach, they do not eat.

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They fling sand on their backs to keep cool.

The adult animals come on to the beach in the winter for the birthing and breeding season with adult males arriving in late November or early December when they contest for a dominant position on the beach. Winners in that contest are referred to as alpha males or beach masters.  Funny, some things are so similar across different species…

Another interesting similarity? The peak of mating is around Valentine’s Day.  And then, the females leave.

The Elephant seals form harems, in which the dominant, or alpha, male is surrounded by a group of females.  Mother Nature’s Bachelor show? On the periphery of the harem, the beta bulls wait in hopes of an opportunity to mate.  They assist the alpha bull in keeping away the less dominant males. Fights between males can be bloody affairs in which the combatants rear up and slam their bodies against each other, slashing with their large canine teeth.  However, not all confrontations end in battle.  Rearing up on their hindquarters, throwing back their heads, showing off the size of their noses and bellowing threats is enough to intimidate most challengers.

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So, which one is the alpha male?  Will he get the girl?

The rookery is a very noisy place during the breeding season as males bellow threat vocalizations, pups squawk to be fed, and females squabble with each other over prime location and pups.  Kind of just like families, right?  Gargles, grunts, snorts, belches, bleats, whimpers, squeaks, squeals, and the male trumpeting combine to create the elephant seal symphony of sound.

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One of the young pups. Oh, so much to learn….

Siblings

Siblings

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Solitary?

What is an elephant seal? A deep-sea diver, a long distance traveler, an animal that fasts for long periods of time, elephant seals are extraordinary. They come together on land to give birth, mate, and molt but at sea they are solitary. Tremendous demands are placed on their bodies.

Yep, sealed the deal for us!

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