Archive for month: April, 2012

Aloha Nui Nui

Categories: Adventure, Biking, Conscious Living, Travel - Tags: , , , ,

Lest anyone imagine us Madly, Kindly and Truly celebrating our “Golden Years” and Jim’s 75th Birthday on a beach somewhere under a palm tree with a tall drink with a paper umbrella—NO!!

We just cycled 50 Molokai miles today in a headwind, climbing almost 3,ooo feet on a gorgeous narrow road that even has Big Sur beat hands down for extreme coastal beauty.  (This, because one dramatically rugged stretch of the road with almost NO cars, hugs the escarpment edge, zigzaging in precipitous switchbacks from the beach up to the pass offering jaw-dropping vistas of the azure sea crashing into white foam on rocks below).

Along the way, we stopped briefly to hike in hushed jungle silence to the remains of Liliopae, the island’s largest and hidden heiau (temple), where powerful Kahuna (priests) made human blood sacrifice drench the football field size array of stones blood red. The ancient aura is still potent.

Back on our tandems after a brief stop at the Puu O Hoko Ranch Store at the top, we descended a sheer white knuckle road however many breath-taking feet down into Halawa Valley.  We stopped to catch our breaths for a picnic before hiking 5 rugged miles into a beautiful sacred waterfall cascading into a large pool.

At the entry to the trail, however, our path was blocked by a cursing Harpie. (Was she on drugs?) Why didn’t her proximity to the ancient sacred pools she was guarding, help her at least maintain a modicum of aloha courtesy while defending her beliefs?

She’s not alone with the major sturm and drang on Molokai against visitors. Turns out a few months ago a yacht with 30 tourists docked in Molokaii. Many locals are terrified that that signals the beginning of commercial tourism, cruise ships, etc. and they want NONE of that. Fair and foresighted enough.   Unfortunately, since we’re in lycra bike shorts and neon safety colors, we stand out like beacons.  We’ve been cursed, given the Hawaiian version of the double “F” sign and barked at by dogs.  Not all the people are that way, for sure–some are very hospitable, and we are here under our own pedal power, respectful of the sacred sites and history of this island.

After the strident Harpie finally realized we were visiting at the invitation of our guide, her neighbor down the road, she retreated and we were able to set out on the jungle trail, probably still hyperventilating a bit from her high decibel confrontation.  But by the time we reached the waterfall Jim and I were too beat and it was getting too late to even take the time to take a swim, envisioning still ahead of us, the return hike then bike ride back up and down those amazing hills. These Golden Years are exhausting!

Tandem Bike Touring in Hawaii

Categories: Adventure, Biking, Conscious Living, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Relationships, Self-Improvement, Travel - Tags: , , , , ,

Daisy, Daisy, Give me your answer true. I’m half crazy all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage.  I can’t afford a carriage.  But you’ll look sweet, upon the seat, of a BICYCLE BUILT FOR TWO!

So, we’re off on another tandem adventure.  Last winter was so endless and wet, we jumped at the chance  for some sun this year to rejoin Santana Tandem Tours for their “Sweetheart Ride” on three of Hawaii’s islands–Maui, Lanai and Molokai.  Jim and I will go early and relax first in remote Hana, Maui, then assemble our tandem and join the group for the tour–and wind up with a trial run — a rental RV for a week touring around on the big island of Hawaii.

But first, we have to scramble at the eleventh hour to revive the frequent flyer tickets I’d reserved with American Airlines months before for the trip.  SOMEBODY over there had pushed the delete button.  So after four hours in the middle of the night escalating from the first groundling to the top senior supervisor, we finally have seats, but not non-stop and costing even more fly miles and flying out of San Francisco instead of closer San Jose.  Well, soon we’ll be in Hawaii and this will be a distant memory!

After a langorous recovery at a condo on the beach in beautiful Hana, sleeping, reading, cooking, beach combing and hiking, we wind back the narrow Hana “highway” (misnomer–it’s one lane) to Kanapali to join the Santana group and assemble our tandem.  Oops….should have started MUCH earlier–there are so many little pieces!  So many adjustments!  Jim is stalwart and help abounds….

Bike Building on Maui

Sleeping With Horses

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Dining, Horses, Relationships, Travel - Tags: , , , ,

To celebrate our thirty-first year together and our 28th wedding anniversary, Jim and I decided to celebrate our romance by sleeping with our horses.  No, not literally, but at the Point Reyes Country Inn and Stables in Marin County.  We’ve been going there now for the past three Septembers and so love it, we are only too happy to return.

View of Spectacular Pt. Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, CA

I polished the tack, washed the truck, cleaned up the horse trailer and spiffed up horses with baths. Shambhala, my chocolate Rocky Mountain gaited Horse with the flaxen mane and tail, always looks spectacular with or without a bath, but Cheyenne (my “Last White Horse”, she vowed) especially needs a bath.  Cheyenne is my dream horse—a little Kentucky Natural Gaited mare, she is a buckskin paint with white mane and black and white tail, four white legs, and large areas of buckskin and white.  She is the smoothest ride ever and the sweetest disposition I could imagine.  Her white legs, white rump and the white in her tail, however, are usually anything but white.  We have an ongoing battle with tarweed in our pasture, and when the tarweed wins, its sticky, gummy leaves rub off on the horses’ noses and legs, and wherever there’s white fur, it goes gunky dingy funk colored. So, before stepping out for a sleepover, shampoos are square one necessity.


We load up some picnic supplies for the trails, load up the beautifully clean “ladies” in the horse trailer, and set out for an intentionally midweek stay, as the weekends at Pt Reyes National Seashore are often very crowded, and after a long, unseasonably foggy summer, we are enjoying the dog days of Indian summer with a welcome hot spell.  The drive up is uneventful except for the shock of discovering the toll on the Richmond Bridge has gone up to $15 for truck and trailer, and soon to be $20!  Those trolls in the tollbooths have you by the short hairs.  Pay or go home.  So we pay.  We take off 101 onto a beautiful backcountry road north through the beautiful valley of Nicasio.  Jim had cycled there years and years ago, and remembers a wonderful cowboy bar and grill, which, to our delight, is unchanged and open and serving lunch on the patio under the oaks.  Giving the horses a few carrot snacks and letting them out of the trailer to relax under an oak tree, we decide to share a crab cake burger.  Delicious—and we know we’re on our way to a good celebration.


Arriving at the Point Reyes Country Inn and Stables, we’ve reserved “Same Room, Same Paddock, Same Time Next Year” so we settle in like old hands.  Shambhala and Cheyenne clearly love the big paddock with the huge oak tree in the corner and immediately check out the “boys” next door—a pair of black Tennessee Walkers and quite good lookers as well.  The girls are happy and so are we as we find our upstairs corner bedroom waiting—with one deck over looking the meadows and mountains in the back, and the other on the sunny side overlooking the wisteria covered patio and the paddocks below.  We unpack and prowl around the little village of Point Reyes Station, then savor the rest of the afternoon chez nous before dressing up for an absolutely stellar anniversary dinner of local fresh Tomales Bay oysters, fresh cod and wild caught salmon at the tony Olema Inn.

As the Inn is a B & B, we are served breakfast and meet other horsey folks visiting at the same time.  We swap stories about horses and riding plans.  Jim and I have ridden most of the trails in this beautiful area, so we’re looking for some we haven’t ridden yet.  All of us are leery of anything close to the two trails where some very aggressive bees have hives and have attacked both horses and riders, including one guest last week who ended up in the hospital after her horse went beserk. No, we won’t do the Wittenberg or the trails this year!   It’s predicted to be in the high 80s today, so we opt for the very southernmost park of the preserve and the coastal trail out of Palomarin, with a picnic ride to Bass Lake.  It turns out to be a gorgeous, dramatic nine mile ride with sweeping views from Drakes Bay south to Bolinas Bay, and a few stomach curdling drop offs down to the wave-pounding rocky coastline below.  The horses are barefoot, so the only drawback is some of the terrain is ouchy-rocky for them; I plan to put on their rubber booties if we ride on this type of terrain tomorrow.  Picnicking at the lakeside, Jim hoots out loud when a bright red claw emerges from the weeds of the murky bank—Whoa!  Guess a large sweet water crayfish is trolling for handouts!


Back at the inn, the horses check out the boys next door to their paddock and we shower off the trail dust and hot weather sweat before enjoying another relaxing evening and delicious repast at Stellina’s with a delightful young couple we’ve met at the inn—he’s a commercial pilot and she an Ecuadorean beauty and they are as interesting and charming as they are handsome.  We’re always happy when we meet new YOUNG and active friends and they love to ride!


Thursday, we decide to try the Rift Rim Trail toward Five Brooks out of the Bear Valley trailhead and we are delighted!  First of all, Cheyenne, who has never behaved very well at opening gates, has a star performance as we have about six gates out and back to open and she nails them all!  Second, there are vast open meadows with black Angus cattle grazing and an opportunity for some full out yee haw galloping!  The horses (and we) LOVE to pull out the throttle when there is good footing, excellent visibility and wide open space—beyond the big meadows, we come upon streams, leafy forest glens and best of all no other souls for the whole ride.  We end up riding back into the little village of Olema to share a salad and cup of clam chowder—its fun to tie up at the Olema Farmhouse tierack for lunch.  That afternoon, after retiring the horses and unhitching the trailer, we drive the truck up the coast to pick up a bountiful bakers’ double dozen fresh oysters and ice for the trip home to grill, so that withdrawal from this beautiful respite won’t be so hard to take.

Chicken Breast

Categories: Adventure, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Personal Growth, Relationships, Self-Improvement, Travel - Tags: , ,

Remember that goofy guy that kept getting lost in Bill Bryson’s Walk in the Woods?  He kept losing track of where he was.  Over and over on his misguided perambulations along the Appalachian Trail, he’d find himself way off course, so many times, in fact, that he earned the moniker “Chicken John”.

When Jim got us spectacularly off course a few summers back on our summer llama pack trip into Crabtree Lake, the time two llamas and I nearly fell off a ledge where we weren’t supposed to be, I began calling him “Chicken Jim” and wrote up all the hairy details in my book.  (Pulling Up Stakes: Stepping Into Freedom, April, 2012).

Well, since it seems we never stay put for very long, we had only been home from France for 10 days before we set off again for our end of summer High Sierra packtrip.  I was really excited to spend a week together in the back country with our llamas,  Tashi and new puppy Beau, but when we found out that they weren’t allowed on the ferry across Florence Lake to the trail head, a sudden change of plans was needed.  Without the ferry ride, we’d have to cover 11 miles the first day.

Unconditioned llamas, new puppy, old knees, replaced hip, 11 miles on Day One?  Not possible on day one or any day.   Unfortunately, Jim doesn’t share my passion for the animals so I could hear the gears silently sliding by in his brain—“Leave the animals at home.  No problema!”  He wasn’t really up for the trip under any circumstances, and was accusing me of always commandeering him to do my thing—so, seeing a difficult choice but a strategic marital one, I said, “Well, if we leave the animals at the ranch this year, we could take the ferry and hike in only 5 miles to the Muir Trail Ranch.”

A grin as big as Texas slid across his face and he said, “Deal.”  So for the first time since we got the llamas in 1992, we took off into the back country without them.  We actually had a great time staying at this historic five-generation family enclave right off the John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails, located serendipitously on the San Joaquin River and Blaney Hot Springs.  We day hiked out to Evolution Valley one day, and another, we took horses up to the gorgeous Sally Keyes Lakes, then hiked up to Heart Lake and Selden Pass.  Every evening there were the natural Hot Springs and home cooked dinners.  Pretty good compensation for forfeiting my beloved four leggeds.








On the way out yesterday, however, deep into the rhythm of hiking, and listening to Krista Tippett interview Bobby McFarrin on the power of song, I missed the turn to the ferry landing on Florence Lake.  I didn’t realize I had missed it for a couple of miles.  There was no way I had time to retrace my steps and catch Jim and the 11 O’clock ferry!

Shoot, that meant that the whole reason for leaving the animals at home, to avoid an 11 mile hike, was out the window.  I had no choice but to keep going and going and going and going around the lake to the boat house and our truck on the other side.

Halfway through my hike, I saw the 11 O’clock ferry speeding across the lake, presumably with a very concerned husband aboard.  I really blew it.  Now, I’m the lost fool, the one who needs a new moniker.  I thought about “Chicken Harriet” and thought that sounded lame—-but then, how about, “Chicken Breast”?—It made me laugh, and so it is, I have another new name.

Whiling the four hours it took me, after my iPod battery died, I soothed myself with what Bobby McFarin had said about the power of song to distress a difficult situation.  I began singing every road song I could remember from Girl Scouts:  “We’re on the Homeward Trail….”, “There’s a Long Long Trail A Winding into the Land of My Dreams…”, “Swinging Along the Open Road, in the Fall of the Year.”  Several repetitions later, I remembered my Scottish grandmother, “Sassie’s” favorite song: “Loch Lommond”—and before long, I came up with my own new lyrics:


On yon bonny banks and by yon bonny brae,

On the bonny bonny banks of Loch Florence,

Me and my true love are ever want to be,

On the bonny bonny banks of Loch Florence.


Oh, you take the ferry boat, but I  took the high trail.

You’ll make the boat dock before me.

For you are my true love, and ever more shall be,

On the bonny bonny banks of Loch Florence.


I’m on the high trail, a walking and walking,

Walking and walking afore me.

For we two are true loves and ever want to be

Reunited at the dock on Loch Florence.

Adrienne Rich: Poetess Comet’s Passing

Categories: Conscious Living, Psychology, Relationships, Spiritual, Women's, Writing - Tags: , ,

Poet extraordinaire Adrienne Rich died this week in Santa Cruz. Her neighbor, Carolyn Brigit Flynn, writer, Poetess, and my editor, was moved to write this amazing tribute:  It is so poignant and powerful, I wanted to share it with you all.

On Adrienne

MARCH 29, 2012

I awake this morning to the stunning knowledge that came last night: Adrienne Rich is gone.

She died in her home within blocks of me, here in Live Oak, Santa Cruz. Jean met her years ago, at a Sunday afternoon poetry reading at Garfield Park Church, a benefit for our local Food Bank. She had heard that a good poet was reading; it was the girls’ weekend with their father, and Jean was on her own. It was 1997, the year that Adrienne refused the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton. Jean read that the poet had decided not to sit at the tables of power and please them with her work, saying that the administration was involved with cynical politics when too many in the country were suffering. Jean thought that was cool–and feeling her own poetry begin to swell within her, went. It was a brave thing for Jean to do, in her own way; something untold and even strange in her family, to choose poetry on a perfectly good Sunday afternoon, to choose poetry over errands or work or other ordinary weekend pursuits.

Jean had also read that the poet was from Live Oak. Adrienne Rich got up, small and finely honed.  A taut and spell-binding reader, she offered, among other poems, her stunning classic “Diving Into the Wreck.”  Jean went there with her, went all the way down, went down to see the damage that was done/and the treasures that prevail, went down into herself and felt the poet had transported her. Afterwards she walked up to Adrienne, with the collection in hand, and asked her to sign it, saying “I live in Live Oak too.  We’re neighbors.” “Wonderful!” Adrienne said, and they smiled together, unassuming and true, friendly and common as neighbors are.

“I liked her,” Jean says. “She was nice, just ordinary folk.  She knew I didn’t know anything about her fame and I think she liked that. I didn’t really learn who she was until I started writing with you, and you read us her work.”

I didn’t know who she was, Jean says, but perhaps we all can say that, all of us who have read her for three decades and owe her some part of our lives. She lived in our town, she died right down the street. I remember turning from the deli counter at the local market once and seeing her choosing her bread. Startled, I almost called out. I saw her head rise, saw that she knew what had happened within me, saw her pull into herself, a kind of dread– I smiled as if at a stranger and moved on. I wanted to build a kind of zone around her, something to protect her from all she was to us, so that she could simply be all that she was. She had said too much, broken so many silences, she had opened so much in us. She had been fierce in her insistence upon intimacy and truth–not only with others, not only between women, but within the self—she insisted we dive into all the false layers to something intimate, secret, true, unspoken. She was speaking what we had not spoken, not even to ourselves, perhaps most particularly not to ourselves.

This morning I opened her collection The Dream of a Common Language at random, and this was the first poem I came to, from Twenty-One Love Poems:

(The Floating Poem, Unnumbered)

Whatever happens with us, your body
will haunt mine–tender, delicate
your lovemaking, like the half-curled frond
of the fiddlehead fern in forests
just washed by sun. Your traveled, generous thighs
between which my whole face had come and come–
the innocence and wisdom of the place my tongue has found there–
the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth–
your touch on me, firm, protective, searching
me out, your strong tongue and slender fingers
reaching where I have been waiting years for you
in my rose-wet cave–whatever happens, this is.
Adrienne Rich

Stunning. And stunning to imagine that she published this in 1974, almost forty years ago.  She broke the world open. Already an accomplished, award-winning poet of national stature, she defied the literary canon that marked women’s lives as uninteresting and unworthy of poetry.  She wrote of the intimate and the daily, she wrote of marriage and of divorce, of politics, of violence and injustice; and then, having fallen in love with a woman, wrote the truth of her own eros.  It literally broke everything open.

Yesterday, sitting in the car eating lunch–before I knew Adrienne had left us–in my private worries, I listened to a woman on the radio speak about walking the Pacific Coast Trail. She was asked how she did it, what she carried, her food, the wild animals she encountered, and the ungodly weight of her overlarge pack. Then she was asked what she read. She listed any number of literary writers, Nabakov, Faulkner, books she had packed up and shipped to various stops along the Trail to replace as she walked. But the book she carried all the time, which she read daily and which became, as she put it, her sacred text, was The Dream of a Common Language.

Ah yes, I thought, my book–and how many of us feel that way about one of Adrienne Rich’s many collections of poems, or about some other of her works and essays–that they are ours, we are intimate with them, that she pulled something out of us that we were missing, the touch of our own skin, the love we might offer ourselves, the turning to our woman’s body, saying Yes, here now, you are home.

This small moment in the car brought her to me yesterday. I thought how I never see her around town any more, how she no longer offers readings, and I wondered how she was. Of course, even then, she was gone. Then last night, I heard the news. Now I wonder how she is, how this journey of life takes her and moves her anew. I awoke to fog, and The Dream of a Common Language, which I’d put by my bed. For an hour I read her, before I moved out of bed, moved yet again–or in a new way, for I know more now–by the intimacy of her language, the voice below the voice that called me back into something intelligent and solid in my own heart. How petty our inner miseries can sometimes be. Then a writer can call us into attention. She speaks what is true, in a new/old language, and we are back with life.

This morning, I wanted her words. Before the obituaries, the essays and tributes in the media in the next days and weeks, which I will read hungrily, I wanted only her words. Her words, and my own musings, what my mind might burnish and find gleaming among her memory. Last night an email arrived showing that Adrienne Rich was trending seventh among the top ten Twitter posts worldwide. That means millions of people were sending out homages at her passing. And too, millions more will hear her name for the first time in the coming weeks, and will go searching, reading, and she will be born anew.

Deena Metzger once wrote that when a person dies, their life is thrown shimmering up into the air for a time with great clarity, greater than even was possible when they were alive–and the truth of their being rains down upon us all. And thus, strangely, for a time, we have them more in death than we did in life. In the next months, Adrienne Rich’s life will be thrown up into the sky. Millions of people, like me, will take her work off their shelves and re-read what she has left us. And many of them, I hope, will write. I hope they will write poems and essays and journal entries and blogs and musings on the backs of envelopes.  I hope they will write of Adrienne and her memory, of their grief, of their mourning, of all she gave, of her life, so tender and hard. One might think ruefully that these poems and musings will mostly be unknown writers and poets writing about a great poet. But the creative energies of the universe don’t hold things in that way. The Creative simply wants to move through as many hands and hearts as She can find. And Adrienne would not have wanted a writer to think that way. She would want anyone who is drawn to the pen and to the page to dive within, to search deep, to be unafraid to name shame and ugliness, to name the bedrock strength, and to write their own truth.

Once I went to one of Adrienne’s poetry readings at Bookshop Santa Cruz, and we in the audience lined the walls and the chairs and aisles and sat cross-legged on the floor, women mostly and a good number of men, of every shape and size, and many young women in their studious glasses and punk hair. Adrienne was impressively introduced with her lengthy list of honors and awards. Then she came out to us, small and pale and dark-haired. She had a pile of books in her hand. These books were not her own. She was painfully aware, she told us, of the privilege that came with her white skin, with her academic upbringing, with her command of what Audre Lord called the master’s language. Too many women of color, too many unknown, working-class poets in small towns were unread and unpublished. For an hour, she read them to us.

So write about Adrienne Rich today.  Write it out, while her life is shimmering all around us: how she and her work are in some way part of your life. Share your writing with a friend.  Send it on to me.  Throw her life, as it lives in you, glittering into the air, for all to see.

(for Adrienne Rich)

Yesterday mist cloaked the far
pine tree, which had once
gleamed with sunlight on the smallest
needle, suggesting to me
the possibility of new vision.

But yesterday you were gone–
though I didn’t know it yet–
and were you gone?–
You who gave voice to the dead,
(should I say voices)
you who gave voice
to dead women

whose lives floated like ragged wires
or bits of forgotten cloth
until you took them up,
braided them together
into something alive and singing.

Are you gone?–and not to say
your work, for which you gave and gave,
and which will never leave,
or your power, for which
you dove mercilessly, to which
you cleaved, unwilling to release it
to men, to the trappings of
motherhood, marriage, the academy
even prestige, honor, awards–

No, you are not gone,
rather you have slipped below bedrock
into somewhere unknowable to us–

in that place now
you are among the voices,
as you could never have dreamed
when this life held and throbbed
your frail body, so small to contain
all your fierce devotions.

You have left us your poems
which I will finger and etch
until my eyes fall prey to mists.
Like holy texts (though you would not
wish to become canon) I will study
and follow your intimate language,
your poetry of dailiness, the musings
of your mind set to track each raging
thunder, each skein of yarn, each
crack of brilliant light,
each small sediment of rock
laying wait in the riverbed.

Love was your topic: love and power.
And how a woman finds
her work, her art, how we,
any of us, dare to defy even
the broken effigies
we hang loosely about us
for the world to see, while something
true rages within–

you, you

you always dug in, to the swollen
red place pulsing
the true pain–which always
led to something gleaming,
as a shell shining in mud,
upturned suddenly by the torrent
to which you invited us,
to which you now turn,
saying Ah, I have seen you,
I have known you,

and still, this love, so new,
in the end I did not know,
not like this
–another sinking
past bedrock, into all that is real.

Carolyn Brigit Flynn