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….

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!