Day around Santa Fe

We headed out in the morning, the plan was to see a few things on our list and then have breakfast.  The cathedral was still closed so we figured we’d come back.  And then the hunger hit.  OK, well let’s just go eat first and then start sightseeing.

We put our name down on the waiting list at the well-renowned and much recommended Cafe Pasqual’s.  What a gem!!!! We split two dishes and a flute of bubbly and had a wonderful time talking and catching up.  “Christina, this table over here keeps looking at us.” I remarked.

“Yea, Sally, we’re kind of loud.”

“Oh, we are?” I said, erupted in laughter, and kept telling my story.

Breakfast at Cafe Pascual’s – Huevos Barbacoa & Huevos Motuleños – not pictured, a flute of Gruet Blanc de Noirs

After breakfast, we wove through the streets of downtown Santa Fe to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. But!! I needed to get on the donkey for a photo op :).

 

Me on a metal donkey in Santa Fe, NM 🙂

At the museum, we paid our admission and checked our coats and bags.  Just as we were going to start exploring, a young guy gave his 2 docent-guided badges back to the woman at the front desk who turned around and said to Christina and me, “there are 2 spaces now open in the docent-guided tour starting right now if you’d like to join, she’s wonderful!”

“Thank you!” We exclaimed and put the laniards around our necks.

Gail, the docent, was a hoot!! She seemed to know everything about Georgia O’Keeffe and the way she led the tour was charming, we went from room to room as though we were traveling through the life of the famous artist.

In the first room, Gail told us about a painting by O’Keeffe, a floral piece titled, the Jimson Weed, she went on to say “well, if you have this flower in your garden, you’d better tear it out because it’s poisonous! If you have a dog or a cat and they eat it, well they’ll just die!”

I leaned into Christina and said, “natural selection.”

She rolled her eyes and elbowed me.  he he he

Gail was so enthusiastic about Georgia O’Keeffe, it is so inspiring to see people passionate about something, anything!  She had these quirky mannerisms, she would say something and then look around, “can you believe that?!”

After our lovely tour at the O’Keeffe Museum, we walked around and checked out what the street vendors were selling in the plaza.  A lot of silver and turquoise jewelry here, copper, too.

Next stop, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, it was so beautiful inside.  It was very well-lit which is a bit unusual for Cathedrals.  I loved the energy inside.  I don’t care if you’re religious or not, there is something beautiful about having faith in something, anything.  And striving to be a good person, do a constant re-check of your life and make sure you’re on the right path.  Be true to yourself, be true to human kind, be kind.

We checked out the Loretto Chapel and miraculous staircase.  If you haven’t heard, this staircase is built without any nails.  Unfortunately, I am too tired now to write about the details but maybe I’ll refresh this post with data at a later date.

Loretto Chapel

Rosaries hanging from a tree at the entrance to the chapel

The miraculous staircase

“I used to be addicted to soap but now I’m clean!”
ha ha ha!

Yes, you are. This sticker was on an electrical box on a random street in Santa Fe

Cute street-side bar on Canyon Road, a street with several art galleries and shops

Christina rocking on the rocking chair

What a lovely idea for a rocking chair. The seats are facing one another. Christina and I sat on this for a while and rocked back and forth, I could do this for hours, all that was missing was a drink

We walked back to the hotel for a rest, then went to the Gruet Tasting Room at the Hotel St. Francis.  We sat in the sunshine and enjoyed a bubbly tasting, it was lovely.  We talked and dreamed of the future and even got philosophical.

Next was dinner at La Choza.  The food was magnificent; we split a meal: green chili stew, a blue corn burrito, and a chicken taco.  It was all lovely but we are beat.  Worn out from touristing.  It’s bath and bed time.

Good night, folks.

Ciao Albuquerque, hello Taos!

It was reconfirmed to me that I am not a city person, and I don’t know what it is but I do not care for Albuquerque.  I was having a miserable time and my eczema was terribly broken out so I decided to cut my losses; I rented a car, booked a hotel room, and drove to Taos in Northern New Mexico.

But before I left town, I really wanted to take the Sandia Peak Tramway, an aerial tramway at the north of Albuquerque with spectacular views of the Sandia Mountains.  I left the house, grabbed a coffee and a coffee cake and had an uber take me up to the tramway landing.

Tram going up

I struck up conversation with a skier.  He was from upstate New York and a really nice guy.  He lives in Albuquerque now and has an annual pass for the tram and comes up all the time to go cross country skiing.  He’s got life figured out.

Flight # 04

 

View from the tram, about halfway up

At the top of the tram, we got off and walked around.  There was a young lady with a Scorpions zip-up sweatshirt on and I smiled to myself, I just heard a Scorpions song for the first time in my life.

View from the tram landing

Before heading back to town, I had a drink at the bar at the tram landing.  I ordered the first bubbly on the menu, La Marca prosecco.
I made my way back to town and rented the car.  I was so happy to be leaving Albuquerque and to have wheels.  I got on the road and quickly found the local country station.  I was so happy to be driving.  There’s something about the freedom of a two lane road, double yellow lines bisecting weather-worn asphalt that allows me to breath a little deeper and those tiny muscles in my shoulders and forehead–that I didn’t even know I was clenching–to release.

Freedom

I took the long route, two-lane roads rather than the big interstate and drove to Madrid, a small town, population 204 on the way from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, where I stopped for lunch at the Mine Shaft Tavern.  April, the charming bartender from Nashville served me, I had a pint of La Cumbre Amber (a local brewery) and ordered a Green Chile Burger, voted best here some years back.  When April brought it to me, she said with her sweet southern drawl, “you gone need both hands for that, gurl.”  Right.  No daintily taking the top bun off and eating my burger with a fork and knife.  I devoured it all and washed it down with my beer.  It was magnificent.

I settled my bill and walked across the way to Harvey’s chocolates (Shugarman’s Chocolates), where the quirky, Mr. Harvey, with grey ringlet curls, curlier than mine, had a full house.  He was breaking off bits of chocolate bark to everybody that walked in while also taking people’s orders and packaging their chocolate.  I bought some coconut chocolate bark to take home and got back on the road, next stop Taos.

I finally made it to Taos just as the sun was setting and dusk was creeping in.  I checked into my hotel, Blue Sky Retreat at San Geronimo Lodge which is quite literally the opposite of my lodgings and the environment in Albuquerque.  It is so tranquil here and the charming couple running the B&B made me feel incredibly welcome.  After I unloaded the car, I made some chamomile tea and went outside to watch the stars, my favorite flickering star was already out, proud as ever.  I sat on a fence post and took in the sky, it felt as though I could see it moving.

Eventually I went inside and lit a fire in the fireplace in my room, I had a bath and called my mom.  “How’s Christina?” she asked.

“I don’t meet Christina until Sunday, mama” I responded.

“So you’re alone? Are you happy?”

I pondered her questions.  Virtually, my whole adult life I have traveled alone and been extremely content and satisfied doing so; however, this trip has been different, trying, and no, not really enjoyable.  I think I am done traveling alone.

Reno vacation

I love to travel. Travel days are so exciting to me, I always have my bags packed and by the door the night before. I have unchecked items on my packing list that are for the morning.  And I always budget enough time to make tea.  This travel day was no different. 🙂

The view from our room — this is not a black and white photo!

I am in Reno for Christina and my annual MLK weekend getaway to Tahoe. We got snowed out of Tahoe so here we are. Well, here I am. Christina doesn’t arrive until late tonight.  So I spent the day writing, I took myself to a nice brunch, I napped, went to the gym, picked up groceries, and napped some more before I picked Christina up at the airport.

My groceries: wine, apples, avocados, beef jerky, nutella, popcorn, protein bars, clementines, garbanzo bean puffs, tuna, chocolate, and not pictured, cheese and carrots in the refrigerator. (Good thing I checked a bag, there’s no way we’ll drink 4 bottles of wine!).

Upon her arrival, we caught up over wine and went into a deep sleep, making sure we had closed the black out curtains really well.

Day 2, we sat and admired the snowy mountains outside our window over coffee and tea.  We don’t need to speak when we’re together, we can just be.  Eventually we settled on a plan for the day and headed out to find a cafe before driving to Tahoe for the day.

I think I found where we’re going out tonight!

 

Capuccino at Magpie coffee roasters that the sweet guy beautifully made for me

We drove to “House of Bread” on the other side of town.  We needed bread for our picnic and the lady at the bakery, Susan, immediately opened up to us about the abusive relationship she had escaped.  This is not unusual (that people open up to us).  We had a really nice conversation, bought some sourdough and went on our way.

Unreal trees on our drive from Reno to Tahoe

View from the freeway…AMAZING!!!!

We made it to our destination, Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village.  We have been coming here for as long as we’ve been doing this annual trip (3 years) and the place has only been opened for 3 years…super cool!  One of the ladies behind the bar, Christie, recognized us and said, you come up every year, don’t you?  That was really special.  We had a few beers and talked about life.  We booked some accommodations for future travel together (yay! nothing makes me happier than traveling with Christina).

Alibi Ale Works!!!!

The brewery, Alibi Ale Works

We bid our farewell (Christie called out, “See you next year!”) and we headed on our way to our next destination, the Ritz-Carlton where we park down at Northstar and take the gondola up to the hotel where there is a lovely lobby with a huge vaulted, wooden beamed ceiling and an octagonal center stone pillar with 4 fireplaces, on every other surface.  On the ride up, we sat in a gondola with 3 other people who we learned were from San Diego.  After the door was closed by the attendant, one of them pulled out a flask, took a sip, and offered me a swig of his whiskey.  It was Johnnie Walker double black.  Quite good, a bit smokey.  It made me think of my uncles back in Syria who used to always drink Johnnie Walker and sneak it in my coke as a kid.  I love how taste can trigger memory.

We found a seat in the lobby and ordered wild boar nachos and drinks (I got a pear gin fizz, delicious!) There was a pianist (keyboardist?) playing beautiful covers in front of the fireplace.  Four middle-aged ladies sat across from us and we struck up a conversation.  One of them was planning her trip on the Camino de Santiago and was really excited to hear that I knew about it and had lived near by, we talked and she had lots of questions.  Eventually they asked us what we both did and a bit about our lives.  We shared with them and they were impressed by our desire to and actual travel.  On the gondola ride down I asked Christina, “do you think it’s a generational thing or just us?” She concluded that it was just us, or that people don’t have the means or don’t prioritize travel.  I disagree, I think travelers have existed forever, think of explorers and writers…people have been curious about the other and what’s out there since the dawn of man, I say.

I don’t know, all I know is I love to travel, whether it’s getting on an airplane and changing four flights to get to some far off destination or hopping in my car and driving up to the Russian River.  Exploring, getting out of your routine, breaking your schedule, and seeing new things is vital for growth and expanding one’s horizon.  I say.

Cheers, friends!!

A moment with a dog

I am house- and dog-sitting for some people.  I hardly know them, really, but they trust me with their house and to care for their dog while they are out of town.  I was recommended to them by my boss, for whom I have house- and dog-sat and who is a friend of theirs many years ago and when I’m available, I’m happy to help.  I tend to be open to whatever experiences life throws our way as we learn from them and why not?!

I did not grow up with pets.  Frankly, I am so independent that the idea of a dog waking me up at night because s/he wants to be let out to pee is bothersome.  I like my sleep and don’t want it to be interrupted.  Maybe I’m selfish.  However, I had an experience today that made me really think and reconsider this all.  Last night, after the dog woke me up several times, he got sick.  I woke up this morning to a mess which I cleaned and immediately felt sympathy for the dog.  This being, who I firmly believe has a soul, is ill and uncomfortable.  I have noticed his shivering and lack of strength, lethargy, and decreased appetite but it took him getting sick for me to understand that this poor soul is at the end of his life.

After cleaning up his mess, I rolled out my yoga mat to do my morning yoga.  Despite his lethargy, he found the strength to come sit on my yoga mat and wagged his tail.  Message received, there would be no yoga this morning. I sat up and began to pet him and he leaned his head, with his full body weight, on my leg and stopped shivering.  I pet the little beast and talked to him and he calmed down.  I thought about it.  This little animal is old and declining in health.  I can be woken up at night to comfort him, God knows I would do it for a friend and I have been known to stay out late at night imbibing on the finer liquids of life.  While sleep is valuable and being well-rested is important, there are times where losing some sleep to care for another soul is OK and in fact, from that experience and behavior you experience the most beautiful moments in life, which are just that, moments with another soul.  I think that is the purpose of life.  At the expense of sounding hyper-philosophical, I think that’s it.  We live to have moments with others, our souls yearn for other souls that give us happy feelings and how beautiful is that?  So while I did not have my 8, uninterrupted hours of sleep and my Garmin reported my sleep as choppy, I had a moment this morning with a beautiful dog, he trusted me and the feeling I had with his whole body weight surrendering to me was euphoric.

I wish that feeling for you, the euphoric, time-stopping feeling when you feel connected with another soul — be it a dog, a lover, a friend, a child.  Have a beautiful day!

Love

There is no love; there are only proofs of love.”

– Pierre Reverdy

I am by no means an expert on love, however; as a living, breathing, interacting human being, I am bound to experience love in my life.  Love can come in many shapes and forms: the love of a parent to a child (definitely unconditional and unique), the love of friends, cousins, siblings, or lovers — that is, romantic love.

As I contemplate this quote by the French poet Pierre Reverdy, I think of my own experiences of love.  What I find ceaselessly amazing is that you can’t force or anticipate love but when it happens, when you feel it, it cannot be denied.  I think what Mr. Reverdy means here is that there is no definition, no formula for love but rather every experience of love, unique as it is, is the very definition and proof of love.

This makes me think of geometry.  10th grade.  Mr. Light’s class.  I hated geometry.  Especially proofs.  I could not wrap my head around how one rule was indicative or led to the next rule which in turn encouraged the problem solver to go to the next rule and the following and then after several steps, a statement was proven.  I struggled to understand this.  It was abstract and not for me.  Now, love on the other hand, I can accept, but I have been bound to doubt it.  The cynic in me seeks an ulterior motive for the person giving me love (be it a friend, lover, etc.).  This doesn’t happen often and usually requires some sort of insinuating circumstance that serves as the seed of my doubt, i.e. someone unassuming loving me. When we are able to love openly and freely, it is amazing.  I have had the most beautiful experiences — proofs, if you will — of love.

The summer I graduated college, I had no idea what I was doing with my life.  I was living with my brother and his several roommates and a pit bull, Daisy.  I didn’t have graduate school lined up and in fact, wanted nothing to do with school.  I was over studying and wanted an adventure.  I had applied to teach English in Spain but hadn’t heard anything back.  I had very little in the terms of a pay check, working only at a chocolate shop, my brother had me living with him rent free but I needed to do me.  Anyways, I was stressed.  My body does not deal with stress well and my eczema (a skin condition) was terribly broken out.  One of my dearest friends Lynzy knew this condition was exacerbated by stress and told me to relax.  She was packing up her apartment and moving, having just graduated, too and would pick me up in the mornings from my apartment and bring me to hers.  She would dress me in soft, yoga clothes and lay me in the middle of the living room.  She played on her phone with a blue tooth speaker, Andrea Bocelli music (one of my favorite artists).  She made green tea for me and kept water constantly filled by my side.  She would make an oatmeal paste and with a big makeup brush, brush it on my face and keep warm wash cloth compresses on my neck, cucumbers over my eyes.  She would then go to a room in her apartment and pack a box, checking in on me every 15 minutes to wash my face with a warm wash cloth and refill my tea and water.  She would rub my back and tell me that I needed to breath and relax.  Her selfless care for me was so touching and has been an example in my life of how I wish to serve others.

I guess at the end of the day, how is it that we want to show (prove) our love, which I believe is a very part our my being and existence?  Maybe it means mailing packages of things that remind me of my friends to them, near and far.  For me, it’s feeding people.  It’s sharing a story, a laugh, a hug.  In other words, it’s giving a part of yourself to those you love.  Maybe it’s fixing a friend’s car, if your expertise is automobile mechanics.  Walking a friend’s dog when they are unable to.  The ways we can show our love are endless and I wish for everyone to take the time and effort to do so.  It’s not just at Christmas that we ought to give.  Christmas isn’t the only time of the year that we show those we love that we care for them by getting them gifts.  If you have love in your heart, it is present year round and I encourage you to show that love, daily.

The little actions that show us that someone is thinking of us is what makes life worth living.  Coming home to a flower, even if it’s picked from the side of the road, can turn someone’s day around.  Leaving someone a simple note, “thinking of you,” can bring immeasurable joy to those we love.  We have the luxury of technology these days, a text message can serve as a vehicle to impart a smile and some cheer in those we love.

Today, and everyday, I challenge you to do something that makes one person in the world happy, be it your lover, your mother, your neighbor, or the guy across the hall that eavesdrops on your conversations.  Life is too short and loving is so easy, let’s make the world a happier, more loving place.

No good deed ever goes unrewarded

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The Dead Sea, Jordan side

I woke up as the car rolled to a stop at the parking lot of Mount Nebo…in my half awake state, I thought I had heard somebody say that the site closed at 5pm.  It was 4:55.  Three police officers sat on plastic chairs near the entryway, “Is it open?” I called out to them. “Yes,” the middle one answered lazily, swinging his crossed leg back and forth.  “Do they close at 5?”  I asked, the tinges of irritation creeping into my head.  “Yes,” he responded in the same monotonic tone.  I chuckled away my irritation…he had answered my first question honestly.

At the front gate, we were told that the entry fee was 1 Jordanian Dinar.  We pulled out our wallets and paid.  “Doesn’t it close at 5?” I asked.  “Yella, 5:30.” (Alright fine, 5:30), the guard responded as if he had just acceded to a pleading toddler.  Still in my sleepy haze, I handed over a 1 JD piece and the guard looked surprised, “Miss, this is no longer used.” “Oh, I’m sorry,” I said and handed him another. “Where did you find this?”  I explained that I had found them in a box of currency at my parents’ house.  “These are no longer in circulation! Can I look at it?” He stared, inspecting every letter, every crease, starry-eyed at the out-dated currency with that juvenile glow of excitement.  After I paid – with effective currency – I told the guard he could keep the out-of-service piece.  He tucked it delicately into his uniform pocket.  I checked my wallet and found 1/2 and 1 JD notes that were no longer in circulation and took them out and handed them to him. “Here,” I said with a smile, “have these, too.”  “Allah yerda3 3allayki” (may God be kind to you) and he went on…wishing God would have favor on me, thanking me for my kindness.  He waved us through, despite our attempts for the last person in our party to pay, he insisted that it was unnecessary.  I felt like his blessings and well-wishes, although welcomed on my part, were a bit much for me giving him the equivalent of $2.50 in worthless currency.  But like they say, one woman’s trash is another man’s treasure.

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Cross sculpture at Mount Nebo (Moses’ serpent cross)

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Beautiful olive tree

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Mount Nebo, Jordan

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Looking out onto the Promised Land (Jericho is in the far distance and the Dead Sea to the far left)

On our way out, the same guard stopped us and handed each of us a Mount Nebo keychain as a token of his appreciation for our kindness.  I walked to the car with a skip in my step thinking that despite what we may hear, kindness and appreciation are not lost in our world.  As my dad says, “life is a mirror, if reflects back out at you who/what you are.”  So if you want to see more kindness in the world, put some kindness out there.

Marvel in the little things

I hope that today you notice the little things.
A rose bud on the brink of blooming.
A child stopping to stomp in a water puddle.
The bubbles madly racing to the surface of your champagne flute.
Despite how much they irk me by eating my flowers and squash blossoms, marvel at the deer in the garden.
Life is fleeting.
Enjoy life today.
Enjoy it everyday but let’s focus on one day at a time.
Your skin is beautiful.
Embrace you.
Love you.

Once you blow open a mind, there’s so much that mind can absorb

I happened upon a panel discussion of students from MIIS’ spring break trips yesterday evening.  (MIIS = Monterey Institute of International Studies) A couple of students had visited Washington DC, others Taiwan and China, another to the UN in New York and another to Cuba.  The facilitator asked them questions about their experiences, things they had learned, “ah-ha” moments and advice they had for students.  It was very inspiring to listen to what these students from modest Monterey had witnessed, experienced and lived.  

A woman sitting near me in the audience raised her hand and added to what the student who had visited Cuba had commented about perspective (he had said that visiting Cuba blew his mind).  This woman, who turned out to be Professor Jan Knippers Black, said, “Once you blow open a mind, there’s so much that mind can absorb.”  That stuck with me.  We go through life with our pre-conceived notions, we all do whether we want to admit it or not.  In doing so, we inhibit ourselves from seeing things differently.  Something may not necessarily be right or wrong but we can learn from it, we can adopt in our lives small changes simply from observing how other people live and behave.

Conflicts are started because we assume that those people are doing things the wrong way, they are vehemently anti-“our way” and therefore we must change them or isolate ourselves from them, etc.  How much of life do we miss out on that way?  Imagine if we withheld judgement and looked at other people, cultures, political systems, you name it, as simply different and something from which we can learn.  This is where our mind can absorb things at face value, rather than be muddied by a pall of judgement and preconception.  So next time you watch the news or see something that is different to you, try to assess it with an open mind.  There will be things that even after open-mindedly assessing, you will be opposed to (FGM or slavery, for example), that is alright, but there will be many things that if inspected from another angle, can teach you something (i.e. governments investing in human capital).  

“Growing your own food is like printing your own money”

For those of you who are not familiar with TED, you ought to be.  The notion is “ideas worth spreading.”  People come together for TED talks and give a short blurb about just that, an idea worth spreading.  It can be anything from coping with an ill partner to an innovative business design.  There are conferences and all the TED talks are available online.  I recently attended an independently organized TEDx event, TEDx Monterey – it was so inspiring.  A fantastic reminder that there are people in our community doing super cool things, you just have to be willing to hear about it.   

At TEDx Monterey, they played this TED talk about gardening.  You know, growing your own food.  Have a look and see what you think.  Maybe you’ll plant a garden?  Even if it’s just a container garden – plants in old milk jugs or cleaned out paint buckets.  Plants are a form of life and life wants to live.  Give it the bare minimum to survive and it will thrive… 

“To love another person is to know God in the face”

I just saw Les Miserables, the movie, based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel.  Many of you may not have read the book, too bad Monsieur Hugo was paid by the word as the novel is a good 1000 pages, but well worth it!  The book was made into a musical and came out today (25 December 2012) on the big screen.  I saw the movie at Lighthouse Cinemas, in Pacific Grove, a quaint theatre nestled in the downtown of our sleepy town.

It was fantastic!  It really follows the passion that life can possess and the endurance of the human spirit – both for good and for bad.

If you don’t know the story, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is enslaved (his punishment for stealing) and then released but violates his parole –  he assumes a new identity and starts a new life as an honest man, but he is not free as he is hunted from that point on by Javert (Russell Crowe), the unwavering face of the law who has made it his personal vendetta to seek justice.  Now we also have Fantine (Anne Hathaway), a mysterious factory worker who we discover from the other jealous co-workers, has a child, Cosette, whose father left and is being taken care of by an inn-keeper and his wife, although it is unbeknownst to Fantine that her Cosette is not treated very well.  After it is revealed that Fontine has a child, illegitimately, she is kicked out of her job and forced into prostitution to provide money to the inn-keepers for Cosette.  She falls ill and is discovered by Valjean who takes her to a hospital and promises to raise her child.  All the while, Javert has discovered Valjean’s true identity and is determined to see justice served.  Doesn’t happen.  Valjean finds the innkeepers (TheThenardiers), who feign the role of caring parents and pays them to take the child and Valjean and young Cosette escape into hiding.    

Much later, we see the grown Cosette, indeed under the (great) care of Valjean but living in secrecy as they are still hiding from Javert.  We are now in the midst of the French Revolution and the young revolutionaries are out in full force, including Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne) who sees the grown Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) in town one day and falls in love immediately.  Now in between the revolution, we also have a love story, a hopeless love and a secret (as Valjean’s true identity is unknown to Cosette).

I will leave it at that because I really don’t like spoiling the end of stories.

The music from the musical is fantastic and it was very well done in the movie. Who knew Russell Crowe could sing?  Anne Hathaway, who lost 25 lbs. for her role as Fantine does an excellent job looking miserable, half dead and defeated.  We, the audience, as we often do, find ourselves sympathizing with the underdog – having hope for true love, for true justice, not just the legal type, and believing in the goodness of humanity.