L.A. — Botanical Garden Heaven…

I am so happy to report that I am just home from one of the most epic days of my life!  And where did it happen?  LA!  In my last post (L.A. — It’s “About to Happen”) I started off by saying I was a bit worried I wouldn’t find anything fabulous enough to do here for my birthday (Spending my birthday alone in a new place did not strike me as completely optimal…).  Well, it’s not my birthday yet, but today was definitely fabulous enough for several birthdays!  I feel so thoroughly gifted by my experience that I almost don’t need to do anything extra-special on the actual day of my birth.  My gift came early — 17 days early.

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(Super happy me!)

I’ll take it!

I’d never even heard of the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden (despite several previous trips to LA over the past 10 years) until a few months ago.  Someone I know moved from Tucson to LA and recently back to Tucson, and he mentioned to me  that he and his family really missed the Botanic Garden and (specifically) the peacocks.  I made a mental note and had it on my list of things-to-do this month (I’m spending a month in Los Angeles as part of my sabbatical search-for-home adventure).  Wow.  If I’d known how truly amazing it would be, I’d have…I don’t know… I guess don’t know what I’d have done.  I want to say I’d have come years ago.  But, I guess it worked out just perfectly.  I’ve learned that generally it’s good to not have super high expectations.  It is a quick path to suffering.  And while I knew the Botanic Garden was big…with peacocks, I purposefully tried not to have expectations, primarily by not thinking about it much in advance.

So, I really had no idea what I was in for…

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Now, I worry as I write this that I’ll tarnish the park experience for someone because they will have huge expectations after reading this.  Please don’t let me affect your experience too strongly in advance!!  I don’t want anyone reading this to have super-sized expectations.  It’s just not fair to you!  But, I will say that this Arboretum is quite simply the best botanical garden I’ve ever visited.  And I’ve been to a lot.  On several different continents.  There certainly may be a more “exotic” one in Bali or Asia.  I know there are some amazing ones there.  But I have been to incredible (and exotic) gardens in Hawaii, Fiji, several countries in Europe, Africa, Australia, all over the United States, etc., and none was more impressive to me than this one in LA.

Anyway, like I said, I don’t want to get your hopes up too high.  What was so wonderful about this place was probably my surprise.  And the contrast to the rest of LA.  I’d had a completely urban day the day prior.  Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Central LA, Silverlake.  Driving through miles of city, street lights, shopping, traffic, etc.  It was a fun day, but it was not ecstatic.  I almost didn’t even go to the Botanic Garden because I was kind of hesitant to get on the freeway for the 35 minute drive to the park.  I was worn out, and the idea of driving was not appealing.  But I knew it’d be better on a Sunday than during the week (when I’d be leaving the park in the middle of rush hour for that 35 minute drive (turned 2-3 hours probably) home.  So, I went for it…

And was I ever glad!

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Let me start my discussion of the park by saying that I ADORE PEACOCKS.

They don’t necessarily adore me back, but I don’t really take it personally…  I haven’t seen them be too super friendly with any humans, except maybe the ones feeding them.  I see them as not overly interactive but not especially shy either.  I relate to that description myself, so that may be one reason why I’m so fond of them.  They are regal, peaceful, graceful, and beautiful.  That blue color just captivates me…So, I was very excited about the opportunity to walk amongst them and engage at some gentle (but greater than when they are in a cage) level.  If the park had been 3 acres with free-roaming peacocks, I’d have been happy.  So, over 100 acres with peacocks and amazing flowers, trees, and gardens…I was in Heaven!

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The park, I believe is about 127 acres, actually.  It has a number of different “habitats” or gardens–such as a cactus garden, an Australian garden, an orchid garden (greenhouse), a begonia garden (greenhouse), a jungle, several forests, a medicinal garden, a herb garden, a perennial garden, a California-native garden, etc. There is a large spring-fed lake and even a historic house that was part of the property when it was originally the estate of the first mayor of Arcadia (CA) in the late 1800s.

When you first walk into the park, the desert habitat is the first thing you see on your right.  Apparently this whole area was desert when the land was purchased in the 1800s.  The owner, “Lucky” Baldwin, (mentioned above) designed and cultivated this paradise…practically from scratch!  I was super interested to learn a bit of the history about this place, as I love how plants and water can transform land so dramatically from something barren to something peaceful, lush, and healing.  I am very interested in the healing powers of nature, and I believe that people who cultivate their own land, especially, gain great benefit from this endeavor (mentally, spiritually, and physically).  It is restorative and balancing (in my opinion).  A symbiotic relationship of sorts seems to develop–good for the land, good the plants, and beneficial for the people living there.

There’s definitely positive effects from visiting beautiful, lovingly cultivated natural spaces, too…(And non-cultivated, wild spaces in nature).  Most of us cannot have large wonderlands of our own.  So, that such gardens are available for public use is an incredible blessing for which I am very grateful…

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(The desert gardens)

Prior to going on my “accidental sabbatical” I lived in the Sonoran desert in Tucson, Arizona for six years.  I love Tucson, and I love deserts, in general.  I don’t necessarily love them more than other places.  But I might.  I tend to be a lover of a variety of climates and geographic zones.  (And a lover of variety, itself!)  Basically, I love beauty, in all her forms!  But, deserts are particularly special to me, maybe because of all the time I spent in one or maybe because of the effect they tend to have on me and on people, in general.

Deserts are still.  Quiet.  Stark.  In some ways, they are simple.  Pared down, you might say. Not a whole lot there.  They are also extreme.  Not soft.  They require your attention.  (If not careful, you can dehydrate or die in a desert.  Or step on something quite sharp.)  I believe that energetically these characteristics of the desert promote a certain kind of awareness and self-reflection in people.  Not all people, necessarily, but people who are sensitive and working on themselves spiritually will usually “go deep” in the desert.  I considered the desert a wonderful place to be a psychiatrist (I am a psychiatrist for anyone who didn’t know.)  And personally, I felt that my time in the desert was a very powerful period of self-reflection and growth.  You cannot hide easily in the desert–literally or figuratively.

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One of my favorite plants in the desert garden at the Arboretum was the Madagascar spiny thickets, which is the tall, “arm-y” plant seen above in the picture. It is a variety of ocatillo, which was one of my favorite Sonoran desert plants, as well.

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Apparently their native habitats are being destroyed, so there is some kind of outreach work happening through the Arboretum to try to protect this interesting and beautiful plant.

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Another standout at the Garden was the pink silk floss tree…I had already discovered these trees several months ago in Santa Barbara.  There are several in the Alice P. Keck gardens in the center of town.  I loved them there, and I loved them even more at the Arboretum.  Apparently, they only bloom once a year.  Guess when?  October!  I am so lucky!!

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The tree itself is lovely, but the blooms are just enchanting.  They don’t have a strong fragrance, but they are just beautiful to look at and be around…You can see the trees lighting up the view in this distance shot of the park.  Where you see pink, that’s a silk floss tree…

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I am kind of geeky when it comes to plants and flowers.  I adore flowers.  If you’ve read any of my other posts, you definitely know this already.  But really, I love plants and trees, too.  I love the earth.  I love all of nature.  But I am geeky in that I love to know the names of things.  So, I really enjoy botanical gardens because most of them have labels on the plants and trees, and this offers me a great opportunity to learn more about something I love without having to resort to a book (or the internet).  I much prefer the outdoor, learn-as-you-enjoy-it classroom!  The LA Arboretum was one of the best-labeled botanical gardens I’ve ever been to, as well.  A+ on many fronts here… It was rare to see a plant without a label.

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My favorite new tree I encountered at the Arboretum was the “Montezuma Cypress” seen above.  It is kind of like a cedar you might see in the Pacific NW at the trunk but with droopier arms.  Very graceful.  I really, really liked this tree.  And there were many in the “forest” area of the Arboretum.

(Enjoyed hanging out within the tree arms below…)

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One of my favorite surprises at the Garden was the discovery of four turtles sunning themselves on a log in a quiet part of the lake.  You had to bushwack a little to get to this view and the path was not well-worn, so probably not many people have noticed (or disturbed) them.  So, that was a treat!

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They were so cute!

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As you can see, there is a big, brown (apparently spring-fed) lake at the Arboretum, home to many turtles, ducks, and geese.  It is quite scenic and tropical-looking…almost reminded me of the Amazon, which I visited back in 2005.

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There aren’t as many super tall palm trees in the Amazon (from what I can remember)(probably it’s just the forest is so thick the ones that are there don’t stand out as much), but there was definitely something “Amazonian” about this lake… Very jungle-y.

On one side of the lake sits “Lucky” Baldwin’s beautiful, restored cottage.  It even has (I think) the original antiques inside.  You cannot enter, but you can peek through the windows.

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It is a charming house with interesting architecture and many fine details.

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As I was walking around the park I kept thinking “it cannot get better than that…” or “that” or “that”.  I didn’t really mean to be making assessments, but I was so pleased I had a hard time stopping myself.  Just about everything I saw topped the last thing.  The whole place is truly incredible.  This is why I really meant it when I said it was one of my favorite days ever.  I love exploring, and to explore a series of beautiful, large garden habitats was truly like opening one surprise present after another.  It was so exciting!

Kind of “behind” the house is a series of more manicured gardens–herbs, medicinal plants, natives, perennials.  The design of this part of the grounds is especially lovely and is enhanced by incredible views of the mountains in the distance.

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(Is that amazing or what?)

(I’m guessing the well is original to the 1800s property…)

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(Charming…)

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My favorite find in this part of the Gardens was a magical plant filled with “dancing purple dangly” flowers.  (It was one of the few plants in the Garden for which I could not find a label.)  They were soft with a delicate, sweet fragrance, and they seemed to be falling and dancing like purple snowflakes…on a string.  Standing under them was very enchanting and fun… It was definitely one of the highlights of my magic-filled day.

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The “park” also contains a beautiful man-made waterfall and many little streams.  Quite impressive!  Looks almost like Hawaii…

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Speaking of Hawaii, there is a sort of Hawaiian-esque forest area as well.

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I love Hawaii and am considering making it my home.  (Moving to Hawaii–or trying to–was how I started this sabbatical.)  So, naturally I felt very “at home” in this part of the Arboretum.

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I just really could not believe that such a place existed in the middle of the city of Los Angeles.  Totally mind boggling.   And wonderful.

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The final bliss-periment station on my amazing visit to the LA Botanic Garden was in the perennial garden.  Here I discovered an enormous (obviously many years old) patch of the most cheerful, sweet pink flowers I’ve ever seen.  Strangely, this was the only other place in the park where the labeling fell short.  I couldn’t find a label.  Probably it was buried under the incredible proliferation of beauty.

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I felt like the energy of these flowers was so welcoming and happy.  I was truly very, very delighted to sit with them and absorb their wonderous flowerful gift of light, beauty, and love.  I hope that I gave them a gift of light and love and gratitude in return…

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(Happy early birthday to me!  (My real birthday is October 30th.))

That was truly one of the best days ever!

Thank you flowers.  Thank you plants.  Thank you trees.  Thank you Botanic Garden.  And thank you Los Angeles.  I will forever be changed by having had that fun, joyful, healing day of garden bliss.

❤ I am grateful ❤

Goodnight…

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L.A. — It’s “About to Happen”…

I’m spending a month in LA this month (October), a month that includes my birthday.  I was hesitant to spend my birthday here, as I usually like to do something “very special” for that day.  I worried LA might not have the “right” or “special-enough” thing to qualify for a birthday visit.  But, I wanted to be here for a month, and this is the month when all the atoms in the universe coalesced to place me here.  So, I will spend my birthday in LA.  (I am pretty sure many people actually come to LA just so they can spend their birthdays here…)

I trust it will be exactly what it needs to be…

I’m really enjoying my month so far, much more than I was expecting, actually. I spent a week in Venice back in July, and I was kind of traumatized by it.  I love Venice.  But it is a very complex place.  Weird, fun, edgy, hip, grimey, crimey, beachy, artsy.  It’s so many things.  Including noisy and chaotic…at least where I was in Venice.  This time, I’m up in Beverly Glen, a canyon neighborhood just above Beverly Hills and Westwood (UCLA area).  It is turning out to be a wonderful spot for me.  The neighborhood is quiet and peaceful and even borders a nature preserve (Stone Canyon Reservoir).  I actually found a “secret” (well, maybe…) hiking trail within walking distance of my house.  It was such a treasure to discover!!  It may not truly be “secret”, but I wasn’t expecting it, so it was a secret to me.  I celebrated with an internal “Yes!”, “Yes!”, “YES!” with each new turn, as I wove my way through the bushes and along the ridge that opened up to wonderful views of Beverly Glen Canyon on one side and the reservoir on the other.

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(Surprise hiking trail with wonderful sunset-mountain light show…)

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(Enjoying the view of the reservoir)IMG_4252

(Stone Canyon Reservoir)

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(Hiking along the ridge–canyon on the left, reservoir on the right)

“Exploring” (in nature) has always been one of my favorite pastimes.  As a child I used to love to ride my bike to semi-wild areas in my town (those reachable by bike, anyway) in south Georgia and wade up streams and through forests, looking for especially cool or beautiful spots, interesting plants, old oak trees (because they were the best for climbing), animal bones, or anything else that would captivate…  I remembered this about myself while I was up on the ridge poking around.  It made me smile….

One of the fun discoveries I made on this little exploring trip was a labyrinth!  Someone had apparently constructed it some time ago, as many of the rocks had washed away or been removed.  But plant debris in the shape of the labyrinth pattern indicated it had been there a while.  I replaced a few of the missing rocks but ended up getting side-tracked by an idea I had to construct a stone “girl friend” for my own amusement.  I was thinking, “What a nice labyrinth, and what a nice spot.  I wish I had someone to share it with…”  And…Viola!  I made a friend.  Literally.  Out of rocks.  It was super fun.

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Gave me an even bigger smile!

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I love creating things!

My strong passion for art is definitely one of the reasons I was/am drawn to LA.  I love the dynamism here.  Creativity is palpable to me in this city–more than just about any other place I’ve ever experienced.  I’m not sure why that is exactly, as I know there are many artists and brilliant, creative people in every city.  And I usually seek them out.  But, I guess there just must be some kind of relatively harmonious “frequency match” for my particular style of creative expression here in LA.  (We are dealing with merging of energies, after all…)  Or maybe there’s something especially attractive (to me) about the combination of creative + social + various other elements here…

I do have a kind of glamorous side to my personality.

That’s possibly what does it.

And the warmth.  I love the beachy, sunshiney, palm tree, convertible vibe of LA.  Glamorous, warm, hip, creative, eclectic, hopping.  It is a lot of things.  There is so much energy here.  When I have passed through on shorter visits I tended to be completely fascinated and totally overwhelmed.  I am very sensitive to energy.  A lot of chaos does me in.  So, generally speaking, I don’t really love cities–as they all are a bit inherently chaotic.  But I do like them.  I probably am coming to realize that I may be someone who’s most at home in nature but who enjoys visiting the city … perhaps even regularly

There is a lot to like about LA, actually.  And definitely plenty to not like so much, also.  Everyone knows the traffic is horrendous.  It really is.  I find that you can only go out between 12 and 3 on weekdays.  Maybe 11-3.  This is very limiting, especially if you are a night owl, like I am.  If you miss this window, you will have traffic.  Just expect it.

Relaxing into the inevitable helps…(with traffic, and all things…)

The chaos, noise, grime, and crime are definitely other less desirables of note for me.  Miles and miles of random kind of junky, strange stores in Hollywood and central LA are also not my favorite.  But, it’s a city.  A range of ambience is not really a surprise…  Plus, I like to focus on the positive…

One of my favorite things about LA is the feeling I speak of in the title of this post.  It is always “about to happen”.  And I don’t mean that “it’s about to but never does “.  No.  “Always ready to go” is what I mean.   Just waiting for you.  Me?  Yes, you!  Kind of like “just add water” pancake mix.  LA is “just add yourself” or maybe “just add yourself and a few hundred (or thousand) other people”.  There is always a buzz, always a flutter, always the option to go down to … wherever … and find the feeling of being a part of something that is greater than you.   And while the vibe on the highway is definitely kind of “dog eat dog” or “every man for himself”, I find a much more friendly, interactive vibe in the individual neighborhoods of the city.  People will speak to you at a coffee shop (usually), especially if you smile or say hello.  Or at a park.  Even if you speak to no one, there is definitely a sense of being swept up in the action…of being a part of the whole dance that is being collectively danced.  Your individuality contributes, but the force of the whole is definitely much greater.  I really, really love feeling this.  It is invigorating and beautiful.

It is so nice to belong.  I think it is very human to enjoy that feeling.

So…this month…I am enjoying belonging.  To the human race.  To the city of LA.

And, to life itself.

Now…Switching gears a bit… I want to talk a little more about what I’ve seen and done in LA (the “travelogue” part of my post).  I’m only 1/2 way through my time here.   And, I’ve done most of the very “LA things” on previous visits (Hollywood, Santa Monica, and, as I mentioned, Venice).  So, this month I’m focusing on parts of LA that I don’t know as well–Silverlake, Beverly Hills, Westwood, and Topanga.  Plus any surprise others that come up.  The real (overt) purpose of this visit (and of my whole sabbatical journey) is to find my next home.  I’m considering LA, so I need to get a sense of what it would be like to live and work here–not just sight-see.

Westwood.

Westwood, the home of UCLA, is quite close to Beverly Glen.  I was very pleasantly surprised to discover I could drive to and from the UCLA campus in about 8-10 minutes, each way, even during high-traffic times.  It is a beautiful, peaceful little enclave nestled up against the Bel Air hills.  I had no idea it would be so scenic or serene.   Lots of trees and green.   I actually had a job offer (to do my psychiatry residency training) at UCLA a number of years ago, but I declined because I thought it would be too stressful for me (at the time) to live in LA.  When I now see UCLA (for the first time), I am kind of shocked.  It’s not stressful at all!  I am still happy I did my residency at the U of Arizona.  It was the right place for me for many reasons, but UCLA is not “LA”.  It is a little bubble of pleasant university “spirit” and relative peace and tranquility.

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(An original Rodin sculpture in the Murphy Sculpture Garden at UCLA.  I remember learning about this piece in a college art history class at Duke.)

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(The beautiful main campus)

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(More sculpture garden)

I really enjoyed UCLA.

Beverly Hills.

I’m a little bit fond of glamour, so I like Beverly Hills.  I know, I know.  It’s overly manicured and superficial.  But it’s also peaceful and pretty.  Beverly Hills is not my personal version of Dreamland or anything.  But if I was to say I don’t like it a bit, I would be lying.  I do like it a bit.  I like the tree-lined streets with very little traffic.  I like the pretty gardens.  I like the views of the hills in the distance.  The palm trees that sway in the breeze.  I like the feeling of safety that is there.  In and of itself, Beverly Hills would probably be boring to me, but as a neighborhood in the middle of LA, I find it kind of refreshing.  I know that’s probably uncool to admit.  But I’m just being honest.  To me (and my experience of it is admittedly minimal) it is calm, almost soothing…a little micro-oasis.  I’ve noticed myself pleasantly sighing when I arrive back there (after a day out in the “real world” rest of LA) on my way home to Beverly Glen.

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(In Glam Girl mode on Rodeo Drive–the residential portion of the street.  It’s wide, quiet, and lined with beautiful, mature trees.)

Central Los Angeles.

I haven’t done that much in Central LA so far, but I did venture to the Grove shopping center—by accident.  I was driving through town to get to Silverlake, and I drove past the Grove.  I had heard of the Grove (when I lived in Tucson) from someone who’d spent a lot of time in LA.  She said it was “a very nice shopping area” (or something to that effect).  It didn’t look like much on the outside, so I drove around the block hoping to get a better view.  I ended up on a one way street leading directly into the parking garage (with no turn around).  Yikes.  Okay.  I guess I’m going to the Grove.  Turns out, I really enjoyed myself!

The Grove is like Disneyland for adults.  There is a large fountain, bridge and stream (not “natural” per say but quite nice still), music playing, outdoor cafes, upscale shopping, mature trees, manicured garden areas, sculptures, upscaled bathrooms (with attendants and mints), free (highly organized and efficient) parking, interesting architectural elements, random employees blowing bubbles (for ambience), a trolley, and a general air of “festive”.  I walked around for a few minutes, sat on a bench, watched some people, enjoyed the collective feeling of excitement, and then I went back to the car and kept going.

But, for a few minutes there I participated in the “dance” I spoke of earlier.  The dance of LA.  This dance was specific to “shopping at the Grove”.  It was definitely interesting and even quite fun.

Being curious helps me enjoy a wide variety of things.

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(“Disney-like” scene at the Grove)

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(There’s even a trolley.)

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(And huge pinwheels that actually work…)

I also have eaten at the hip and fabulous Cafe Gratitude in Central LA.  (There’s one in Venice as well.  And Berkeley.  And Oakland.  Probably some other locations, too.)  They have a variety of different (and actually, rather elegant) “veggie bowls” with simple, positive names so when you place your order, you are saying an affirmation.  “I Am Whole” is my favorite.  I’ve eaten it at three of the Gratitude locations.  It has seaweed (dulse, I believe), kim chee, quinoa, kale, sunflower sprouts, and sweet potato with a yummy (possibly tahini-based) sauce.  I also really like the Immortality elixir (add cacao) and the 100% organic cacao-mint milkshake with Vitamineral Green super-nutrient powder added.  Oh boy!  They need bigger straws because the cacao pieces get stuck on the way up.  Other than that, it is my favorite milkshake ever!  Fresh mint on top.  Delicious.

Silverlake.

Silverlake is a mello, hipster, artsy neighborhood.  It is home to one of the best cappuccinos I’ve ever tasted.  You can find it at Intelligentsia Cafe on Sunset Blvd.  (You can also find a similarly amazing cappuccino at another Intelligentsia in Venice, by the way.)

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Silverlake has many funky, charming cafes, shops, vintage stores, restaurants, etc.  It is definitely “its own crowd”.  Very different from other parts of LA.  Somewhat more similar to the vibe in Venice.  Artsy and hip, but not as weird.  I ate a late lunch at a place called the Casbah Cafe while I was in Silverlake.  It is a curious mixture of Parisian + Moroccan + Spanish/Central American foods and decor.  My friend chose it, but I actually stopped to photograph it before I realized it was “our spot” because it was so charming.

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My friend recommended the Central American-style chicken soup (complete with 1/2 an ear of corn, potatoes, bay leaves, and avocado on top).  It was good for sure, but I actually preferred the gluten-free dark chocolate torte I had as an appetizer.  (I’m a best-first kind of girl…when I can be…).  They had many delicious-looking pastries (the French influence) at this place.  Do not go here if on a diet.

Silverlake has many sweet little streets with lovely, quaint homes perched on hillsides.  The views are incredible, and the vibe is peaceful.  There’s lots of Spanish architecture, which I love.  It’s not quite as “hipsterish” up in the neighborhoods as it is on the streets.  This was a surprise.  But, I liked it.

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(Sunset hillside view from one of the residential streets in Silverlake.)

Well…That just about wraps up what I’ve done in LA and what I think about LA … so far….  I still hope to make it to the Arboretuem, The Getty, and Topanga Canyon in the coming weeks.  My mid-month evaluation one-liner is I like it.  I probably don’t see myself living here full time, though.  But, that’s why I’m here…to find out how I fit with LA and how LA fits me with me.  To do the dance.  And in doing that dance, we may both be a little different for having had the experience.  This month has definitely already made a big impact on me.  LA, however, may not really notice if I just pass on through.  But she might.

After all, I did leave her a friend on the side of the mountain…

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CIAO!

Venice

This poem is for my most and maybe also my least favorite neighborhood in Los Angeles.  It brought me great fun AND great challenge on my sabbatical journey.  I celebrate my time there and honor all who choose to live there.  It truly is a fascinating place…

❤  ❤  ❤  ❤  ❤  ❤  ❤  ❤

Venice.  Oh, Venice.

How I wanted you to be

My creative p a r a d i s e

…with edgy seams.

Pieced together

From mismatched parts,

You’re the epitome of style,

Hipness, and  Å ℝ Ⴀ.

Bike rides, skateboards,

Surfing and sand.

Walk streets, canals…

A Mystery Land.

Drink cappuccino,

See and be seen.

I endeavored to love you

And crafted a dream…

Inside my heart

The stage was set,

But when I arrived

Resistance was met.

Noise and chaos,

Weirdness and grime

Coexist right next to

What’s (really) quite divine.

A visit is nice–

Even stay for a while…

Appreciate the mixture;

It’s good for a smile.

Diversity I love,

And, occasionally, surprise.

But for home I want

There to be no disguise:

Beauty as beauty.

Pure and true.

I like to feel safe,

Even if that’s “uncool”.

On a path of detours,

Hard lessons grow roots…

For guiding my life

And revealing my Truth.

I’m thankful to Venice–

For exposing what I liked

Some parts, you see,

Really felt “just right“.

Others, apparently,

Were too far afield

For a quiet garden-girl

With a small streak of  e ạ Ḷ

❤  ❤  ❤  ❤  ❤  ❤  ❤  ❤

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(I still love you Venice….)

That Ojai Charm…

Ojai is a beautiful, enchanting town (more like “artist colony”) nestled in the mountains between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.  It is a gentle, colorful spot–yellow grasses, orange rocks, green forested hills, white stucco buildings, and pink skies.  When I was there (July), it was warm and dry.  But breathtaking.  There is definitely a feeling of magic–in the mountains, the town, and her people.

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Even though the climate is rather dry, there still is a feeling of obvious femininity in Ojai.  “Her” mountains and valleys feel soft…Golden.  At sunset the the sky and mountaintops throughout the valley turn a rosy pink for a long moment–aptly named “the pink moment” by the locals.  It’s like a sigh from the heart.

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I ran away to Ojai.  Well, I ran, and Ojai caught me.

Something like that.

I was fleeing…

Los Angeles…

It’s probably more correct to say:  I was fleeing my own overwhelm that happened in Los Angeles.  Los Angeles was just being herself.  I was the one having a problem!

I had decided to spend the month of July in Venice, the artsy/edgy coastal LA neighborhood.  I rented an apartment online, like I had done every month before (on this/my roaming “accidental sabbatical”)–an apartment that looked peaceful and pretty.   But, I arrived to a well-styled but old and small apartment in a less-then-optimal part of Venice.  The walls were thin and the light was dim.  I heard neighbors on both sides all through the day and most of the night.  Across the street, too.  There was no A/C, so windows had to be open at all times.  It was very hot, and there was no fan (though I bought one…).

I feel it’s important to say that I did have a few good experiences during my time in LA.  As is typical with me, good experiences often involve flowers.  This particular flower encounter was with a beautiful pink hibiscus growing street-side in a fairly busy part of Venice.  I was so happy to see it!  It was almost like seeing a friend at exactly the right moment (…when you need them the most).  Such a beautiful flower it was!   Really, a notable contrast to kind of grimy sensation that seemed to growing inside of me.  It was a good moment, and I was cheered up.  (Briefly.)

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Mostly, the city seemed to test me.  And I definitely failed!

It seemed like people had decided to make the vacant lot behind my building a neighborhood trash heap.  It was unsightly and contributed to a kind of (again) less-than-optimal vibe in that part of the neighborhood (people pulling up in cars to dump things, loitering, etc.).  Walking home from the hip Abbott-Kinney Street (which was in walking distance–one of the desirable selling points of this apartment) at 5pm (not even dark yet) left me feeling kind of squeamish.  And then when the across-the-street neighbors shot off fireworks until 4 in the morning on July 4th (the open windows didn’t help), I knew I could not stay there.

I was tired, hot, frustrated, frazzled, and even a bit fearful.  It was time to go.

Fortunately, my landlord was (is) a kind person.  She did not want me to be unhappy, and she did not mean to mislead me regarding the listing.  So, she let me out of my lease, and after five days I packed up my car and drove to the quiet, peaceful security of Ojai.

I was so tense from the stress of my five days in Venice that I could feel my body literally unwinding (muscles untensing) every mile I got further away from the city.  It was a good feeling.  I was grateful to be leaving.  But as I left I realized I was probably saying goodbye to some dreams I’d had involving LA.  And that was a little sad.

I am a psychiatrist…a very whimsical, creative psychiatrist.  Also, a holistic psychiatrist.  And a yoga instructor and an herbalist.  There aren’t too many psychiatrists like me.  So, at times, I’ve dreamed of living in Los Angeles–expressing my creative blend of art and medicine and holistic healing to a large, diverse, and, I imagined, receptive audience.  I wanted to reach the most people with my work, help the most people with my ideas.

But if I couldn’t even handle LA for 1 week, how could I hope to live there?  No, I must not be meant for LA.  That must not be how my dream of helping more people is going to be realized…  It was a little sad to admit that, but at the same time, I was so (relatively) traumatized by the experience of the past week that I was really willing to accept dream demise–anything to get me out of LA…

(Interesting note:  I actually am back in LA again this month {October}–this time in a quiet, peaceful canyon cottage in the Beverly Glen/Bel Air area.  It is going much, much better, though I still don’t know if I’m meant to stay here…It’s amazing, however, how much difference a neighborhood makes.  It’s also important, I believe, not to give up on dreams at the first sign of difficulty.  So, I’m giving it another shot.  Under excellent conditions.  If I do not wish to stay in LA after this month, then I will feel much better about making that choice from a place of peaceful empowerment (versus nervous system overwhelm).)

So, I found a little apartment at an artist’s compound just outside of Ojai.  It was perfect in almost every way.  Quiet.  Amazing 360 degree views (up on a ridge).  Large art installations in the yard.  A playful ambience, complete with trampoline and aerial silks…  The apartment was colorful with lovely paintings.  And a tub–one of the most healing (important) elements in a home, in my opinion.

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The internet connection was not perfect, and this caused a little bit of tension with the landlord (as I really must have steady, fast internet for my work–online psychotherapy and coaching via video/web conference).  (The host was attentive, however, and got it fixed quickly.)  There also was not a formal “den” or lounge area.  So, that wasn’t totally ideal.   It’s nice to have a comfortable place to relax (other than the bed).  The apartment was a kitchen/office + bathroom + bedroom.  No den, no sofa.  But, it was peaceful.  And I was happy.  There was a very nice outdoor space with grass and rocks and plants.  It was nurturing.  It was a very good spot to land.  I was grateful.  Very grateful.

On my first day in Ojai there was a special event happening in town–The One Love Festival.  One of my favorite musicians from Kauai (where I spent four months earlier in my sabbatical)–Elijah Ray and the Band of Light–was playing at this festival.  I was super excited to dance to one of my favorite musicians again–this time on the mainland.  It was the perfect way for me to continue to release the stress of my botched LA adventure.

So, I headed downtown to the festival–very excited for a bit of aloha love in music form…  Elijah has many beautiful, uplifting songs.  I recommend checking him out on YouTube if you are not familiar with his music.  He has one song in particular that I really love.  It is called “Last Goodbye”.  It is about the journey of conscious evolution, transitioning to a higher reality, and how important it is that community support each other during this transition.  It is very tender; yet, the melody touches your soul in a deep and powerful way.  I do not believe he has recorded this song, unfortunately, but it impacted me so strongly (when I first heard it on Kauai) that I dreamt about it for several weeks.  I could not get it out of my head during waking hours either.  It was clearly affecting my consciousness…on many levels.

The festival happened at beautiful Libbey Park in downtown Ojai.  I loved this park.  Very sweet.  Really, all of Ojai is very sweet.  The park is just an wonderful example of the overall energy of community and harmony you feel in Ojai.

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(Libbey Park during a free classical music concert later in the month)

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(Libbey Park fountain)

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(Libbey Park Ampitheater–Shyla Ray Sunshine (a local Ojai musician) performing during the One Love Fest)

I loved the One Love Festival.  It was just what I needed to lift my spirits.  Aloha blessings from Hawaii, peaceful community interactions, warm weather, art, music, and fresh air.  It was perfect.  And again, I was grateful.

Thank you Ojai.

One of the best things that happened for me at the One Love Festival was I purchased some Jin–a cultured probiotic tea–from a local “elixir artisan” who called himself Shiva.  It was seriously the most potent, delicious beverage I’ve ever tasted in my life.  (After drinking the incredible brew, I definitely felt Shiva was likely deserving of his name.)  I felt so amazing when the bottle was empty that I likened the whole experience to drinking a liquid blessing.  I took Shiva’s number so I could purchase some more, but I was never able to reach him.  Thus, it was a one-time miracle.  That was okay.  I was so glad for the experience, even if singular, I couldn’t possibly feel anything other than happy.

On my walk back to the car I spotted one of the most delightful sights of my entire month in Ojai–a crocheted tree!  It is at the front entrance of Libbey Park and really is just a(nother) wonderful example of the artistic undercurrent running though this special place.

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I also saw an incredible, painted bus in the parking lot….

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And some lovely woodsy areas…

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I was definitely catching Ojai fever.  I loved it here!

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Over the month that followed I had many amazing experiences.  I ran into friends from the Big Island (Hawaii) at the charming Sunday Farmer’s Market, ate at the delicious Farmer and the Cook restaurant, and met up with one of my friends from Kauai who had actually moved (full-time) to Ojai.  She took me to an incredible spot just outside of town where there is a beautiful river and refreshing swimming hole.  Again, it was just what I needed.  Cleansing–washing away any residual stress of my botched “LA experiment”–and welcoming me to this sacred, healing valley…

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I spent most of my time in Ojai resting, meditating, smiling, and unwinding at my peaceful home-for-a-month in the hills outside of town.  My favorite evening ritual was to jog down the road to the Villanova Preparatory School where there was a lovely cross-country running trail that wove through the tall yellow grasses and mostly Mesquite (I believe) forest.  There were a number of owls that lived in this forest, and I was blessed by several close encounters and sightings.  As a healer, I have always felt a connection to owls, but I’d never seen so many so close.  It was a true gift.  I miss them.

I also really miss the beautiful pink rose bush growing on the property where I lived.  I spent many evenings sitting quietly by this bush, watching the sky change colors and allowing my heart to be opened and uplifted by the incredible beauty of each delicate blossom.

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After a few weeks had passed, I felt so peaceful and inspired by the magic of this place that I decided to start on an art project I’d been planning (and putting off) for several months–a seed bead mosaic of a dolphin set against a Hawaiian sunset sky.  The project was physically small, but it was going to be big in terms of time and focus.  A quiet artist’s compound in a peaceful valley was the perfect place for beginning an epic creative journey…

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I adore dolphins and have missed them since I’ve been away from Hawaii.  So, I wanted to create this piece of art to honor the connection I feel to them and to remind me that that are in my heart no matter where I am…

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I worked outside almost every night–enjoying the pink moment (you can see it on the tops of the mountains in the distance) with my precious princess of a feline muse–Kashmir.IMG_2836

I didn’t finish the piece in Ojai, but I got a solid start.  The dolphin came alive in the enchanted Ojai valley… and its creation happened to coincide with a impassioned conversation (about dolphins and Hawaii) I had by surprise with a new friend (also an artist and fellow nomadic blogger) who was headed to Hawaii (from Ojai)  in just a few weeks.  Meeting her seemed to provide the final little nudge of inspiration I needed to finally get going on the project.

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And again, I was grateful.

Ojai was a charming, magical, nurturing sanctuary.  I really strongly considered staying there.  But when the dolphin was finished, I somehow felt complete as well.  It was a wonderful place to restore my energy and my spirits–to reconnect with nature, flowers, a sense of community, and, apparently also, dolphins.

I feel so blessed to have been “caught” in the welcoming arms of Ojai.  Now she will forever be a healing second home to me.

Thank you sweet Ojai.  ❤  I will always be grateful….

Ashland

Ashland, Oregon was one of the shorter stops on my 15+ month “Accidental Sabbatical”.  Yet, it was one of my favorites.  A scenic, sweet, spiritual, & creative little town…  IMG_0556

I only stayed in Ashland a week–while driving between California and Washington.  I loved it though.  I have driven through several times in the past–stopped, walked around, and thought, “This is a great town!”.  Over the years I’ve met a number of wonderful people from Ashland, as well, including one of my favorite spiritual teachers–Gangaji (www.gangaji.org).  So, I finally decided to spend a little time…

Ashland is known for its water, and the large hotel in the image is the Ashland “Springs” Hotel.  I did not stay there, but it is a historic landmark.  The water around Ashland has a higher than normal lithium content and has been suggested over the years to have healing benefits.  I do know (as a psychiatrist) that lithium is mood-balancing.  So, I can imagine that drinking (or possibly absorbing through the skin) water with large amounts of lithium probably could be subtly happiness-enhancing, if nothing else.

Apparently, the healing waters are piped right into the Springs Hotel and at least one resort on the edge of town.  There is also a natural hot spring just outside of town.  Unfortunately, I did not make it there.  I was too busy (and happy) seeing plays and exploring on foot to get in my car for an excursion.  Next time, though, I will definitely make it to the hot springs (or stay right at the resort).  There are fountains right in the center of downtown, however, where you can taste the “lithia water”.  It definitely has a strange (pungent) taste, but I drank from the fountains every time I passed them.  I got used to the taste and came to kind of like it.  I had a really nice time in Ashland and felt very content when I was there.  Maybe the water contributed to that?  Could be…

There is a really lovely park in Ashland, also named after the lithium water–Lithia Park.  It has miles of hiking and walking trails, green grassy spots, a duck pond, a playground, and a fresh water river running through it.  There was always a pleasant community vibe at Lithia Park.  I strolled through there almost every day of my stay.  I especially loved sitting on the river rocks.

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Ashland is home to the famed Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF).  It runs for a good part of the year and showcases a number of wonderful plays–including some that were not written by Shakespeare–in several different venues.  There is a beautiful, large outdoor “Elizabethean Theater” and several indoor theaters of various sizes.

I am not a huge Shakespeare fan, but I definitely do enjoy some of his work.  (And I recognize the beauty, genius, and greatness of most, if not all, of it…).  I especially like The Tempest, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo and Juliet.  Midsummer Night’s Dream was part of this year’s festival, but it was not playing while I was in town.  So, I saw King Lear.  It was a good performance–interestingly modernized.  It was in a smaller/intimate theater.  You really felt almost a part of the production.  That was fun.  My favorite performance of the play was by actress Sofia Jean Gomez.  She played Cordelia–the daughter who refuses to pander to her father in order to get a part of his kingdom.  In the OSF modernized version of King Lear Cordelia was kind of “Goth” in style with black, edgy clothing, a streak of purple hair, and a tattoo on the back of her neck.

I enjoyed King Lear, but the play that really knocked my socks off was The Tenth Muse.  It is a new play, written by an “up and coming” Mexican playwright Tanya Saracho.  It tells the story of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, an 17th century Mexican nun who was renown for her intellectual and artistic creativity and achievement, despite living in a time when women’s creative voices and intellectual development was generally suppressed.  The play was deeply moving–with extremely poignant dialogue, direction, and acting.  The entire cast, director (Laurie Woolery), and playwright were female, as was much of the audience.

I truly do not know if I’ve ever seen a play that resonated more deeply with me.  I was so touched by it that I honestly wanted to sit in my chair and cry when it was over.  Though Sor Juana was able to express herself initially–much of her work was lost and later suppressed during the inquisition, along with the voices of many other women healers, artists, and intellectuals of the time.  The story (based on fact) was intense…both sad and inspiring.  It has stayed in my heart, very prominently, since.  Hardly a week has gone by that I haven’t thought of it, actually.  The incredible Sofia Jean Gomez was also in this play.  She gave a truly stunning performace as Sor Isabel, a distant relative of Sor Juana who was trying to preserve her legacy some years later (still during the inquisition).  Sor Isabel had become emotionally and physically ill from the forced oppression/suppression of the time and specifically of her own and her blood-relative’s Muse-inspired gifts.

All of the acting in this play was incredible.  But for some reason, Sofia Jean Gomez’s performance really hit a chord with me.  I am so grateful to have seen, heard, and witnessed this beautiful, impassioned piece of art.  If it weren’t for my lovely landlords’ strong recommendation, I would not have thought to see it.

Now I feel utterly blessed by the experience.

The Tenth Muse was definitely the highlight of my stay in Ashland, but there were a few other things that I really enjoyed…

For one–the town itself is filled with charming homes, peaceful streets, gardens, and deer.   Deer are literally wandering through the neighborhoods.  Everywhere.  I think for the residents this can become kind of a nuisance, but animals have a certain “energy” about them (as does everything).  Deer are symbolically associated with gentleness, quickness of thought/action, and tenderness or sweetness.  I really believe that having them all over the town contributes, probably pretty significantly, to the pleasant, sweet energy there.

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During my short stay, I rented a lovely attic apartment in a charming purple historic Victorian, right on the main street.  It had incredible views of the surrounding hillside and a beautiful garden.  It was so pleasant and quaint, I really did not want to get out and explore. But, I still did….

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Ashland is nestled in a bucolic valley setting–reminiscent of a European countryside (a very fitting location for a Shakespeare festival).  Driving into the region you are greeted by miles and miles of rolling yellow hills, forests, farmland, rivers and streams, and blue skies (usually).  It is very tranquil.

One of my favorite discoveries in Ashland was a pine cone in the shape of a rose. I love nature and tend to be very observant of the world around me.  So, one day, as I was walking to town from my little attic apartment, I noticed these pine cones on the ground next to their parent trees.  How special they were!  There were many, so it was not just an anomaly.  This truly is the divine design of these particular seed units!  I thought they would make a great hair accessory!

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Other than seeing plays, drinking water, sitting on rocks, and posing with pine cones, I had one other rather notable experience in Ashland–a daily trip to the Co-Op.  I am definitely quite passionate about health.  I LOVE super-charged yummy nutritious food, salads, and fresh-squeezed juices.  The Ashland Co-Op is one of the nicest, healthiest health food stores I’ve ever encountered.  They have an amazing juice bar, a large salad bar (almost or maybe even 100% organic), and a great prepared foods section with some truly nutritious options (quinoa salads, fresh cabbage salads, etc.).

It was possible to walk just about everywhere from my sweet little apartment, so every evening I would stroll down to the Co-Op to buy dinner and a fresh-squeezed veggie juice and sit outside listening to a friendly local play the guitar.  The scene at the Co-Op is definitely a bit “rootsy” (hippie-ish), but this, for me, was part of the charm.  There were fathers riding up on bikes with their children (and not locking them up while they shopped).  There were couples with young babies in strollers, teens on skateboards, and an assortment of single individuals, like me (some travelers, some locals).  The person who played the guitar was there almost every night–playing and singing for free (not even a hat out).  He seemed to know everyone, and everyone knew him–even me, by about day two…

I loved those Co-Op excursions.

And drinking a juice every day felt incredible!  Highly recommended.

Expensive, yes, but worth it…

There is also a really amazing restaurant called The Dragonfly that I did not eat at on this journey but have visited (twice) in the past.  The “Buddha Bowl” is incredible.  So is the patio seating in the little garden.  Ashland is also home to a growing “New Age” community.  It is really quite full of conscious, creative people, and the businesses definitely reflect this!  There are many nice galleries, shops, yoga studios, and a great spiritual bookstore.  The book store is called Soudpeace, and it’s located right next to an ice cream shop on the main street.  I got a wonderful book there and a beautiful “enhydro” Tibetan quartz crystal cluster (has trapped pockets of water).  It looks and feels amazing.  I’m enjoying it on my coffee table right now!

Well, I think that about sums up my visit to beautiful Ashland, Oregon.

If you’ve never been there, consider checking it out.

It really is an enchanting little spot…

Northwest Fairytale

Once upon a time in August I spent the month in a beautiful cedar cottage on a small island in the Puget Sound.  It was quiet, peaceful, and magical.  With one small exception…

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The house was a bit like a gingerbread house.  Brown and warm and sweet.

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The land was like a fairytale, too.  There were big fir and cedar trees.  Lots of flowers.  There truly was an air of magic.  Like real fairies lived there.  (I think they do!)

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The island where the house is located is called Bainbridge.  It’s about a 30 minute ferry ride from Seattle.  I went to Seattle one day.  It was surprisingly quite a bit more trouble than expected.  A 30 minute ferry ride actually took about 2 hours because there is a long queue and boarding/unloading process.  It was a beautiful ride, but I only did it the one time due to the laboriousness and expense (about $38 round trip with a vehicle).  I cannot really believe that many people go through that process every single day (to commute to work in Seattle).  But, they do.

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(The ferry queue.  Bring a book…)

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(Up in front with the kiddies!  It’s the best spot.  But windy.)

I had a fun day in Seattle–visited many of my old favorite spots.  I did my internship (first year of post-graduate medical training) in Seattle in 2005-6.  I loved Seattle, but it was a busy year.  I did not really get to know the city as well as I’d hoped.  I lived in the neighborhood called Wallingford, and I spent most of my time there (when not at work).  It’s a wonderful spot, particularly because of its proximity to Gas Works Park–a beautiful, lively place to spend an afternoon, especially on a sunny summer day.

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While visiting Seattle, I ate at one of my favorite restaurants there, which may also be my favorite Thai restaurant anywhere:  Kwanjai Thai.  It’s a tiny little spot, in a pale-colored, wooden house–just off the main square in the Fremont neighborhood.  It is pretty unassuming in appearance, and the prices are very reasonable.  But do not walk by this gem!  They have the best Panang Curry I have ever tasted (and I have tried a lot).  Add tofu.  They also have delicious spicy eggplant and mixed vegetables.

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I love to shop at the PCC market in Fremont and walk along the canal.  The Sunday Market is fun, too.

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When I lived in Seattle this market was much smaller.  It was mostly produce, flowers, handmade soaps, a few local crafts vendors, etc.  Now there are antiques and all kinds of miscellany.  It’s almost like a swap meet.  Not as casual and charming as it used to be, but still a pretty cool thing to check out…

Riding the ferry back at sunset was peaceful…

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Life on Bainbridge is pretty slow.  It is very green, like a green dream.  And kind of damp, relatively speaking, even in the summer.  There is moss on the trees and rocks and a coolness in the air.  There is a really great coffeeshop called Hitchcock Cafe where I got an incredible cappuccino one afternoon and literally the best fudge I’ve ever tasted in my life.  The barista was a beautiful young woman, beaming with life.  She made me ponder how lovely it is when someone is truly happy and willing to share their happiness with strangers.  It really does affect your day–if someone sincerely happy (in love, perhaps) enters your world…I try to do this for people, but on the day I met her, she was the one who made me feel happier.  I enjoyed the moment and was grateful.  And when I tasted the fudge, I was very, very grateful.

The fudge was ancho chili, sea salt, and chocolate.  It was not too sweet and very spicy.  I ate a piece for about 3 or 4 days in a row and felt totally amazing about it, until I realized I might want to not have that much sugar on an ongoing basis.  At that point I paused my little fudge parade, and strangely I never managed to get another piece.  The shop was always just closing when I happened to be in town or mysteriously out of fudge.

My favorite thing to do on Bainbridge was jog through the moderately old growth (second or third growth, I would guess) forested trails (about 2 miles worth) literally just behind the property of the house I’d rented.

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The trails wound through the woods, across part of the island, and down to the water.  I loved running through the woods to the ocean’s edge, at Blakely Harbor, where I would sit on a log and contemplate the incredible beauty–the smells, the quality of the air, the trees, and on one special evening, a beautiful sunset full moon rise.  It totally surprised me!  I did not know where the moon was going to rise or in which direction I was facing, but suddenly the moon popped above the tree line, over the water and part of the island directly in front of me.  It was incredible.  Pinks, oranges, blues, purples.  The moment was very ethereal–light breeze, sea gulls, boats tinking (tink, tink, tink–clips hitting masts) and bobbing.  And I was just taking it in…all by myself…on a peaceful, deserted shore.

Thank you life.

I wish I could have talked myself into taking my camera along for one of my runs, but I just really don’t like to run with electronics.  It takes away from my experience.  Plus, I can actually feel the subtle EMFs they give off, even on Airplane mode.  Thus, I’d really rather only use the  phone or ipod when I really need to be entertained.   And in those cases I definitely prefer to not hold it in my hand.  So, all that is just to say that I don’t have a photo of my favorite spot, and if you weren’t thinking about radiation or EMFs from your cell phone, it’s maybe worth a sliver of awareness.  But, use your own judgement, of course.  I’m sensitive, and I can feel it.  Less sensitive people might actually not be as susceptible to the effects of these sorts of things… It’s an interesting question, and I do not know the official answer.

Back to the photos.  I do have a picture of a nearby park I also liked to visit, in addition to the harbor.  The park is higher up–with a view of the water and a community prayer wheel made by a local artist.  I used to go by the park on the way to the water’s edge.  On one of my first days on the island, I walked just to the park and had my camera with me.

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Can you see why I said Bainbridge is kind of like a “green dream”?  There is this quiet, other-worldly quality to the land and the vistas.  It is a very restful, peaceful place.

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Another wonder of my time in the Pacific Northwest was the situation of “wild blackberries”.  On the way down to Blakely Harbor, where I would sit by the shore, was a small stretch of path that was literally a tunnel of blackberries.  Both sides.  Up high and down low.  For the first few weeks of my stay, they were not ripe, but the last week they were in varying stages of exquisite.  Every few nights I’d jog down to the harbor and pick several handfuls of blackberries to eat while I watched the “sky show” (sky changing colors at sunset).  It was heavenly.  I truly have never tasted more delicious blackberries.  I became quite skilled at picking them at the perfect stage of ripeness, too.  That was fun!  To be in tune with blackberries.  I felt in tune with the deer, too.  I knew they were eating them when no one was looking because their tracks were everywhere…

One of the highlights of my trip to Bainbridge was a tour of Islandwood, an amazing eco-education center that occupies a large piece of land that was very near my little cabin-home-for-a-month.   Islandwood is a special place, and it is one of the reasons I even knew about Bainbridge Island.  A few years ago I read an article about Islandwood in a Harper’s Bazaar magazine that arrived mysteriously at my door (in Tucson, AZ)(I did not have a subscription), and since then I’ve wanted to come see it.  Treehouse classrooms, permaculture gardens, plant-based on-site waste-water treatment, and many acres of protected wildlife habitats where city children can come to learn and discover…  It is truly a wonderland!

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One of the other people on the tour (an island local) took me to a well-known Bainbridge landmark called the Harbor Pubic House (at the “main” Bainbridge harbor–not the little one I visited on my runs) after our Islandwood adventure.  I’m not much of a beer drinker (or drinker of any alcohol, really), but I did try one.  I liked it so-so, but the view I liked a lot.  I actually went to this restaurant twice because the ambiance was so pleasant!  Patio seating, peaceful vibes, incredible views.  I am generally quite health conscious, but I also endeavor to be flexible.  I believe in listening to the body, really.  Mine will usually inform me (within minutes to hours of eating) if my choices were/are aligned with health or not… There’s always the standard way of learning, too.  Books, reading, etc. That works.  I have done a lot of that.  But the body is really the best teacher.  It knows the subtleties of what we need.  The trick is really learning how to listen…

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One other thing I really loved about Bainbridge was the Farmer’s Market.  They have one of the best Farmer’s Markets I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to a lot (I go to them everywhere…)!  What I loved so much about this market was the setting, which was in a park with trees and grassy sitting areas.  What I loved second about this market was the live music.  Third, the delicious food vendors.  Fourth, the amazing flower arrangements.

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Have you ever seen a more charming flower display?

I’m not sure I have!

Imagine a peaceful community scene of shoppers, families, flowers, veggies, bluegrass music, a barista in a mini-Airstream trailer, and several local hot food vendors.  The music is free.  You can shop, get a coffee and a snack, sit on the grass, listen to music, and if you are lucky, which in summer you usually are, enjoy the perfect temperature and sunny weather.  And, you probably have in your hand one of the most beautiful bouquets of flowers you’ve ever seen.  Except the week before.  And the week before that…

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Other than going to the market and running through the forest, I used my time in Washington to start my first blog Diary of a Mystic Gypsy”, which is mostly poetry, and work on a bead art mosaic I’m calling “Dolphin Love”.  I have this fascination with mosaic artwork, especially mosaics made from tiny seed beads.  Think Huichol indians–they are definitely one of my inspirations.  I like the beadwork projects because they require a lot of focus, so I am able to really enter into a blissful mindstate that most artists and athletes call “The Zone”.  In The Zone there is no time, no worry, no to do list.  There is only complete presence.  And to me, perfect presence is bliss.

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I definitely love an outdoor art studio…And portable art…

To make bead mosaics I use wooden tea tree oil soaked toothpics (available at any natural market) and ordinary Elmer’s School Glue.  I prefer Toho beads, but I did not have access to them for this project.  So, I used Mill Hill brand.  They were quite nice as well.  More variety of colors and textures but smaller quantities.

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This project probably took about 35 hours.  It definitely was a process of “stages”.  Stage 1 was the ocean, then the dolphin, then the cloud, then spiral of the sun.  Next came the yellow of the sun and the clear accents.  Finally, the colors of the sunset sky and the white accents.  Every step was fun for me, and the time passed quickly.  Now, I have a bright, colorful, whimsical dolphriend.  He makes me smile every day.

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I really adore dolphins and already have dedicated a post to them on my Diary of a Mystic Gypsy blog.  I will also talk more about them when I cover the Big Island, Hawaii portion of my adventure.  For now, I just want to say DOLPHINS–I ♡ you–joyful, magical, healing, FUN!

Okay.  That just about covers the “what was magical” section of my post.  What about the exception to magicalness that I mentioned in the first paragraph?

Well, I may be a psychiatrist and a healer, but I am definitely not 100% evolved or enlightened.  I am consciously and lovingly on a path of growth…and service.  But, I am also still learning–working to become the very best ME I can be…every single day.  On Bainbridge what was seemingly “unmagical” was a surprising interpersonal challenge I had with someone I met there.  Although in the end, that, too, was pretty magical.  It just took a bit of work for me to arrive at that perspective.

Now, I tend to believe that everyone who comes into our lives, especially in a greater than fleeting way, does so for a reason.  So, that I met this person and connected enough to even have an interpersonal challenge is significant.  I generally don’t have a whole lot of interpersonal challenges.  But, being that I’m not completely through my life-lessons (and I am a Scorpio…with Cancer rising (ie, super sensitive)), when the time is right, they appear!

What happened with this person seemed to be a bilateral “pushing of buttons”.  (I cannot say for sure what she experienced, as it’s certainly something at least somewhat different from what I experienced…But, there did seem to be a duet happening…)  “Pushing buttons” is one of my favorite psychiatric terms.  I use it often in my work with patients, and to me it means “to irritate”.  People can irritate us for various reasons, and ALL of them are important.  I view irritation as a sign, a sign which suggests: “LOOK DEEPER”.  It is not a cue to run.  Not if you want to grow, anyway.  So, when I got irritated, I had to take notice.  Why am I getting irritated?  What is happening to bother me?  What I believed was happening was that this person was doing something that I didn’t like–that I possibly perceived to be affecting me negatively.  But when I looked deeper, I saw that actually she is subtly like me in some ways, with habits that I believed I’d eradicated or “healed”.  She was doing something that I knew I did sometimes or had done in the past.  And, the behaviors in common were things I had tried to “heal” because I didn’t like them.

I realized I was judging this person and thus, myself for having this or these so-called undesirable behaviors or tendencies.  What needed to happen next was an extension of compassion to myself–for all the times I’d acted this way or at least thought to…

Could I forgive myself, in other words?

The answer was a little slow in coming, but it was a yes.  I could forgive myself.  That is one way (I believe) we come to truly love.  We accept and forgive, even those things we do not find 100% optimal (in ourselves and others).  So, I faced these parts of myself, acknowledged them, and forgave them, which is maybe something I was unable to do many years ago, when the behaviors were more common in my life.  No one had reminded me of these parts of myself in some time, so I’d practically forgotten they were there.

So, this wonderful AND challenging person was a teacher for me.  (She truly was quite wonderful and delightful–just complex, as many people are.)  Through our dynamic, she showed me an area within my heart where I seemed to be holding love and compassion away from myself.

Life is rich, and every day we are given opportunities to see where we need to grow.  Most of us just push these opportunities aside, possibly believing that another person in the dynamic is the one with a problem.  But if we reframe it to see that they may be showing us something about ourselves, then we have an enormous opportunity.  I have discovered through years of living this way (and working with this idea professionally) that interactions with people SHIFT dramatically when this perspective is applied.  I cannot say for certain this perspective is 100% accurate in every situation, but it often seems to be.  If nothing else, thinking this way usually brings about transformation and insight.  When applied regularly, things that used to “trigger us” very obviously lessen.  The “buttons”  shrink and eventually disappear.  One day we encounter the kind of person who might have pushed our buttons in the past, and at that point we barely have a bLeeP in their presence.  With compassion, we can love our would-be button pushers, and thank them sincerely for their role in our evolution…

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So, the moral of the story is:  the challenging character is me.  With enough love, there’s no challenge…and really no characters…probably no story either…

Thank you Washington…Thank you Fairytale,

…for truly being one of the most transformational stops on my journey.

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And they all lived happily ever after.  

THE END