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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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….

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

Middle O’ Montecito

It’s a quiet night here in Middle O’ Montecito.

The perfect time to begin my little travel blog.

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Montecito…

Montecito is a lovely, little SoCal town with one of the best juice bars I’ve ever found.

The oh-so-ahh-mazing juice bar is hidden away in the Pierre LaFond market in Montecito’s quaint “Upper Village”.  Ask for a Lulu’s Special.  Add beet.

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(This is the pharmacy.  Pierre LaFond is across the street to the right…)

I’m going to detour now for a few details:

My name is Kayse.  And this post is hopefully the first of many I’ll write to document the incredible, somewhat accidental sabbatical I’ve been on for the past 15 months.  Montecito = stop number 15.  Besides being a quirky traveler and newbie blogger, I’m also a holistic physician who previously was from Tucson, AZ for six long, (rather hot, but enjoyable) stable years.  In Tucson I had a whimsical healing center/art gallery and also occasionally taught integrative medicine classes for the University of Arizona Medical School.  I decided to move to Hawaii in July of 2012 in order to live (and work) in paradise, or so I thought…But, rather than stay there, I simply kept moving.  And, I’ve been on the road since.

Why I didn’t stay in Hawaii is definitely a whole post of its own.  I will get to that.  Let me just briefly state that it’s not that it isn’t paradise.  It is.  It just is a special kind of adventure, gift, and compromise to actually permanently move to Hawaii.  And, I suppose I really just wasn’t ready.  Yet.  Now that eight months have passed since I left, I am just about ready to try it again.  Just.  About.  But not quite.

It would have been nice if I could have started this blog on month one of my journey, but I was definitely not that organized. So, I’ll do a little back-tracking to cover previous locations when I can, including my incredible seven months in Hawaii.  For now… I’ll start with the present.

Montecito….

I’m here in Montecito for a month, a month that ends in three days.  One of my best experiences of my month in this town has been a lovely interaction with one of the women who works at the juice bar.  Being quite to very fond of juice, especially from this juice bar, I’ve gone to get a juice about 3 times a week throughout my stay.  I’ve learned that one woman, in particular, seems to make the best juices.  After a month of requesting her as my juice-crafter, I explained (yesterday) that I’d be leaving soon and might not see her again.  We’d never really introduced ourselves, but we definitely had a relationship.  It was touching… and curious.  There was a beautiful moment of heart-felt goodbye, without there really ever being a hello.  I sat in the little park out in front of the market and pondered for a moment.  It’s interesting that sometimes, as a traveler, the closest friend you may make in a new town could be the clerk at the nearest market.

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I do love juice.

I am a holistic physician, but specifically, I’m a holistic psychiatrist.  I’ve discovered that one of the best ways to naturally boost your mood is to drink lots of fresh squeezed veggie juice.  Daily is best.  Weekly, at a minimum.  Add a chili-chocolate truffle, also available at Pierre LaFond, if you are in Montecito, and double your bliss.  If you aren’t in Montecito, you can simply add dark chocolate or (even better) RAW chocolate.  (Don’t literally add it TO the juice.  Just eat it WITH the juice.)  Cacao boosts PEA, a brain chemical that supports bliss states.  The combination of cacao + chili is an ancient one.  The Mayans used to use it for sacred cacao healing rituals and ceremonies.

If you try it, you’ll understand…

Speaking of bliss, Montecito itself would probably qualify as a legitimate trigger.  It is peaceful.  It smells incredible (Thank you eucalyptus trees!).  It is safe and beautiful.  I am especially fond of the quiet side streets and big brown rocks that poke out of the nearby mountains.  They remind me a little of Tucson, I think–minus, of course, the heat.  You can almost see those rocks I really like–poking out in the distance to the left of the tower in the photo above.  Montecito has some really amazing architecture, by the way.  If you’d like to feel kind of like you are in Europe–Spain, especially, or maybe Italy–this is your place!
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Despite having an all-together blissful month, I probably do not think Montecito is the right place for me to live full-time.  I can’t say why exactly, as it is wonderful in so many ways.  It just seems that I’m seeking some kind of mysterious, resounding “YES” from the place (or from myself within the place) where I will finally stay.  And I just did not get it in Montecito.  But, I did get many blissful moments and the opportunity to see an exceptionally beautiful property…  It was up in the foothills between Santa Barbara and Montecito.  Definitely a place I would consider myself blessed to live…at least for a few months.  But it was very small inside (a guest house to a larger main house), and the landlord was looking for a year’s lease.  So, I took a few days to think about it, and when I was just about ready to compromise, it was gone…I trust that it wasn’t meant to be my home (if it had been, I’d be there), though I was truly grateful to have gotten to see it…even for a moment….
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There’s some kind of mysterious
Recipe I’m seeking…
For a magical home
In a dream I’m dreaming….
*
Nature and people
And beauty and climate.
Work prospects, culture,
Politics, excitement.
*
There are so many elements
I want to consider
When planning for home
In hither or thither
*
I no longer believe
That perfection exists.
Everywhere has compromise;
Reality persists.
*
I’m really not sure
Which conditions I’ll choose,
But I must find home soon…
I can sure feel the fuse
*
Lit in my heart,
Burning through my body…
“Make a choice now,” it says,
Or your dreams will get soggy.
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OKay.  Poetic interlude.  Back to the story…

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One really enjoyable excursion in Montecito is to jog to Butterfly Beach (or drive there).  It’s lovely beach with beautiful polished rocks, views of the Channel Islands, and few people.  Sometimes it is visited by dolphins…Butterfly Beach is especially lovely at sunset on a full moon.  Marvelous.  Peaceful.  Enchanting.  If you have the time and like “upscale” kinds of outings, consider having lunch on the patio at the Four Seasons Biltmore hotel.  It’s across the street from the beach.  The view from the patio is wonderful.  And the hotel itself is like something you would see in Europe.  Beautiful Spanish stucco buildings with red tiled roofs, elaborate gardens, colorful tilework, fountains, etc.

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And the lunch is really pretty reasonably priced, considering the view:

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Montecito has a lovely yoga studio called Montecito Yoga or “MoYo”.  I went there one of my first nights in town to see a group of musicians perform.  Led by Sean Johnson, the band called themselves the “Wild Lotus Band”.  They were incredible.  The vibe was devotional–part kirtan (a traditional call and repeat style of music common in yoga circles), part concert.  My favorite song was “UNITY”.  I’ll post a link to a recording of this song on YouTube.  This recording is from the band’s home yoga studio in New Orleans.  It’s a little slow at the beginning, but stick with it.  It is uplifting and intoxicating almost with a surprisingly beautiful spoken-word segment in the middle.  I am a yoga instructor myself, so that helped me relate, as I was familiar with the Sanscrit chant that forms the base of the song.  Basically, it is a prayer for peace and harmony.

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Montecito is home to many lovely hikes and beautiful views, but I have to say mostly my experience here was about “going within”.  I have been traveling for 15 months now.  I am a bit weary and actually will be pretty excited when I finally do find the right place to land.  In Montecito I rented a charming little guest house/cottage with a small, scenic patio-garden.  I spent most of the month resting, reading, sitting/meditating, and writing (in my journal and for my other blog).  I also work from home as a psychotherapist (via online video conferencing and phone).  So, I only have a few days a week free to truly explore.  Sometimes, especially when I’m in a peaceful place (physically), my inner topography is much more compelling than the outer…

One of my favorite discoveries in Montecito was a patch of yellow ginger growing literally a few doors down from me.  Yellow ginger is a beautiful, very fragrant flower typically found in Hawaii.  I miss Hawaii very much, and as I mentioned above, I have been intermittently to continuously considering making it my permanent home…for probably the past 7 years.  So, finding the yellow ginger was both surprising and soothing to me.  It made me feel at home here, but I also wondered if it was a “sign” of some kind calling me back to Hawaii.

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These yellow gingers happened to be growing underneath my favorite SoCal tree–the pepper tree.  You would definitely not be likely to see that combination growing together in Hawaii.  (Pepper tree is visible in the picture below.)

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To say “I love flowers” would be an enormous understatement.  Even “I adore flowers” is a bit weak.  I really do not know how to appropriately express my feelings about them.  Flowers are a central organizing factor for my life.  Plants, too.  I am an herbalist.  And a gardener (when I stay put long enough).  I love all of the natural world.   But, I am most passionate about flowers.

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(These cheerful friends were also on my street…)

I’ll leave you with this little tidbit:

For me, every flower has a subtly different “feeling tone” or energy.  (Really, everything in nature and in the material world, too, can be thought of this way.)  If you spend time near a variety of flowers, you will feel slightly different around each unique type.  I love to go to gardens and sit in sequentially different patches of flowers, noting how I feel, what I think about, etc…I try to empty my head, if I can, and simply … meditate, connecting with the sweet and gentle energy of each different flower.  If I was having a bit of a frustration earlier in the day, it almost certainly will lift after just a few moments in a patch of flowers.  (The photo below is a wonderful place to do that experiment:  The Alice P. Keck Gardens in Santa Barbara.)  IMG_3636

Some flowers feel joyful, some feel soulful, some feel happy, some feel soothing….And on.  And on.

Try it…

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Yet another opportunity for bliss…

Thank you flowers.

And thank you Montecito!

GOODNIGHT!