Tag Archives: travel

Wild and Dangerous

1 Sep

I’ve been to Alaska twice but each time was for work so I didn’t get to see much of the terrain. However, even a glimpse of the locale is enough to witness its majesty. The natural beauty is breathtaking.

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Alaska is dark for much of the year though. At some points there are only four hours of light. Then in the summer there is endless light.

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I almost prefer it when it is colder and the tourists have gone home.

I have always met incredible people when working here – people I will remember for the rest of my life.

Despite not having seen much of the geography, every time I’ve been in Alaska some Higher force has spoken to me. Whether it’s the spirit of the people or the animals, something whispers that it’s okay to be wild. It’s okay to be free. Some of us are not domesticated.

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We are a world that thrives on convention and when you don’t fit into those conventions, it’s easy to feel lost and not good enough.

Alaska doesn’t care about those conventions. Alaska is true to itself. It has its problems for sure but it doesn’t apologize for itself.

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On Aesthetics

2 Jan

The first time I was in Venice I was sixteen years old. While traveling, I had a major crush on the high school water polo who couldn’t give me the time of day. In the end, it was the British tour guide who got my heart despite a ten year age difference between us.

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His influence on my life over a number of years dramatically impacted my intellectual education.

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Yet there comes a time when recognizing beauty becomes in-bred. Your own beauty suddenly radiates from within. There is no longer a need for someone else to draw it out – as lovely as that is….

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It’s the beauty that has always been there waiting for its turn on stage.

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The Italians know that beauty is eternal despite how it alters with time and light.

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Italians also love company. They are always together. You rarely see anyone alone. They find beauty in being together and in being.

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They take their time, no one gets things in to go cups, and everyone drinks lots of wine and coffee.

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Italians also flirt. I was in the company of this man for five minutes and you’d think we were long lost lovers.

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Beauty is important. It’s one of the conduits to heaven and reminds us of the Divine present among us. In drama therapy, we say that the aesthetic choice is usually the more healing one.

Embracing the Mystery

20 Dec

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I’m going to be in Venice for New Years. Not Venice, California. Venice, Italy.

When a friend-of-a-friend invited me to stay at her Venice apartment this winter, I was reminded to not turn away the gift horse. As Sheryl Sandburg wrote in her book, Lean In, “When you’re offered a space on a rocket ship, you don’t turn it down.” You jump in no matter what is going on in your life, no matter how inconvenient. The dance doesn’t alway come around again.

Going to Venice is not convenient. It’s sandwiched in-between the holidays, a writing deadline, and a teaching trip in Memphis immediately afterwards. I’ve also been gone for the last two weeks teaching. But when is boarding a rocket ship ever convenient?  You either say, “Carpe Diem!” and do it or you stay safe right where you are, never fully becoming who you meant to become.

I like order and control, particularly as the old year transitions into the new. I like to mastermind my goals and get my ducks in a row. I work on my taxes and await the New Year with quiet respect. I don’t party it up with horns, streamers, and confetti.

In Venice the locals drink champagne in St. Mark’s square. I’ll work on my tip sheet for the publisher while downing a beautiful cappuccino and I’ll map out my goals walking along the canals. But then I’ll drink champagne too, gesticulating like the Italians as we embrace the wild beauty of the night.

On the way out, I’ll pass through NYC where I’ll have an apartment to stay on 5th Ave. near the Met and the Guggenheim thanks to a friend’s sister who is a film producer. They are leaving museum passes on the counter and instructions regarding my stay with the maid. There will be two Parisians there too. Do not turn away the gift horse.

My expenses are maxed out at present but the trip was paid for almost entirely by miles. Do not turn away the gift horse.

I will be tired and jet lagged and discombobulated teaching so soon after it all but this is life. Instead of trying to capture, control, or manipulate the Mystery, we must learn to bow to it. When she beckons, we follow. We do not know where we are going. All we can see is the magic and mist and romance of it all.

*Photo credit – Laura Sousounis

On Sacred Ground

22 Apr

My father loved the topgraphy of the United States and wanted to make certain I had the same appreciation of it. When I was little, he pulled me out of school for a few weeks so we could travel across the United States in a motor home. That trip left an imprint. I remember seeing Old Faithful and Morning Glory, the Grand Tetons, and hot air balloons dotting the sky in New Mexico. I also recall Mt. Rushmore and the Bandlands of South Dakota. I have a picture of my dad with his back to the camera staring out over that dramatic landscape. My dad knew he was on sacred ground.

In South Dakota we also went to a place called Wall Drug. Founded in 1931, the store is both historic and a wonderful place to shop. I was allowed to buy a souvenir and wanted an Indian Princess doll and a pair of moccasins. I loved my Indian doll. I had her for many years.

Scroll forward forty years later. You know you travel a lot when you look at the flight departure/arrival board and think, “Okay. Which Rapid am I going to? Rapid City, Cedar Rapids, or Grand Rapids?” Clear the head. Rapid City. I’m going to Rapid City, South Dakota.

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Recently I interfaced with a number of individuals working in the Native American community. I loved hearing about the rituals and customs of the people here and was saddneded to hear accounts about the on-going impact of historical trauma, although I am aware of how deep it runs. Suicide is an epidemic in certain parts of South Dakota and racism and discrimination continues. It astonishes me what we humans do to one another and how we just don’t seem to learn how to stop mistreating one another. Personally, I have very mixed feelings about Mt. Rushmore… This land was beautiful prior to the monument, as impressive as it is. It was once someone else’s sacred ground.

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I wish we would just stopping messing with nature. We passed a dead deer on the road making me think once again, “What has our so called progress done? At what cost and at whose expense?”

Without a doubt the land here is sacred ground. Would that every step we took in life be one on sacred ground. If we could bring a sense of Spirit into the every day and realize that each step on the path can connect us to the Grandfather, I think we’d all live with more reverence, respect, and awe.

Transcending Dimensions

4 Sep

Driving home the other day, after having a two hour coffee with someone twenty years my junior, I suddenly realized something. My trend to be friends with people twenty years my senior has expanded to folks at the other end of the spectrum as well. I realized that I had had dinner the other night with someone in her twenties, that one of my closest friends this summer has been someone in her twenties, and my dear friend, Charissa is nearing 30. Likewise, some of my favorite people are in their late sixties.

So often, we think we’ll have things in common with people our age, but that isn’t always the case. Just about everybody in my age bracket is consumed with taking their children to soccer practice and maintaing their mortgages. My older friends have finished doing that and my younger friends haven’t started. Some of my younger friends, still single, volunteer for humanitarian causes internationally, and some of my older friends, divorced or widowed, also do tremendous amounts of service. Then there’s my 75 year old friend who just got back from a cruise with her boyfriend who she met two years ago in a hiking meet up group. She too swims at the pool, has an active meditation practice, and wild, kinky blond hair like mine. I find this all fascinating. I am also amazed at the vast wisdom and talents of my younger friends.

Taylor Swift sings of shaking it off, but I also think in life that we need to shake it up. It’s important to have friends of all ages, ethnicities, religions, occupations and social classes.  Learn to speak more than your own language – literally and figuratively. Be in the world and your world expands.

My grandmother, who is 96 and on hospice care used to tell me she never wanted to be part of the Organ Club. “What’s that?” I asked her. “People in my age group who only want to talk about their doctor appointments and what organ is failing them. I just find that depressing.” So my grandmother always took an interest in younger people. She had many friends. As I move through my forties, I’m seeing the great wisdom in her mindset. We should never think that we’re getting too old to do new things or to connect with others. That is the beginning of death.

A few years ago, my friend Charissa and I took a road trip up the California coast. It was one of the best trips of my life. We dubbed ourselves Thelma and Louise because in that iconic film, Thelma was a bit younger than Louise.

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We weren’t this bad ass looking but we felt the incredible joy of freedom. It’s something to treasure, to hold on to, and to cultivate all one’s life.

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Lessons On The Path

8 Jun

In Hebrew the word “derek” stands for the path or the way.

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Sometimes it’s hard to stay on the path, but if we stay the course, the better the journey.

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When we feel lost and alone on the path, we can remember that the universe opens its arms to meet us. Why not sojourn with God when He invites us in? The path we want for ourselves often isn’t nearly as Divine as the one He would have us take.

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Sacred Ground

17 Oct

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So often sacred ground is thought of as somewhere geographically and spiritually extraordinary. And indeed, I have been to some of those places where a vortex of energy seems to exude dimensions of heaven here on earth.

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And yet sacred ground can be found in ordinary places as well. Our kitchens, our writing desks, our workplace.

Lately I’ve been thinking I’m on sacred ground most when I’m engaged in work I truly love. When heaven and earth seem to meet in one single point in time that suddenly transcends all notions of physical space and geography. I can think of nothing better than kicking off my shoes and realizing I am here, where the shore meets the sand and God graces us.

Flight

22 Sep

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Being grounded in reality can be a good thing. It unflinchingly forces us to face what needs to be addressed and plunges us into eventual acceptance whether we like it or not. But being too immersed in day to day life creates stagnation, boredom and monotony. It limits creativity, vision and growth. And that is when it is time to take flight.

While being in the air temporarily uproots us, it allows us to soar into new possibilities. As long as we are not flying to escape into a disembodied state, the journey to new horizons refreshes us. And upon landing again, we better appreciate our roots. For this reason, I will always balance having my feet on the ground and being up in the air. Here’s to flight, even when the airport is crowded and you’re not flying first class.

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“The soul takes flight to the world that is invisible and there arriving, she is sure of bliss.” Plato

I Like It Hot and Sticky, Don’t You?

25 Apr

When I was eighteen and stepped outside the airport in Jakarta the heat and humidity were so intense I thought I was going to faint. The city I lived in for a year as an exchange student was situated in the hills a few hours outside of Jakarta and thankfully, had a slightly more moderate climate.

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But certain experiences in my early years have conditioned me to be somewhat fond of humidity. First it was summers spent in Wisconsin with my grandparents where I loved the warm thunder showers that would break the heat and bring mosquitoes. This was such a change compared to the arid dry weather of Southern California. Then came Indonesia where the vegetation was so lush and wet sensuality pulsed through the air despite the sexual constraint of the culture. After that came time in Connecticut and New York where summers were filled with verdant green and restless nights from heat.

And yes, these climates are sticky and gross and make my hair even more unruly. But I also feel a certain comfort in the warmth. I feel alive in the mess of it. And maybe that is precisely why I like humidity and the rain that washes it all away.

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I Love Waiting Around – Don’t You?

11 Mar

The time waiting for a Super Shuttle pick up is always tenuous. It’s not like you can really relax and do anything because you know they’re coming. Any minute. Only if you’re like me, you start waiting for them an hour before they arrive.

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I have never liked the time before heading off to the airport, particularly when I was a kid waiting to fly home from after a visit with my grandparents. Despite being happy to go home, I’d always be melancholy. I’d tear up knowing that a time was ending and that my heart felt tender. I was also that kid who was sad when school let out for summer… I am no different today. While I don’t get as sentimental leaving a hotel (although sometimes I grow fond of a place), departures and arrivals become microcosms of the transitions in our lives. And no matter how much I travel and how much I’ve both endured change and thrive on it, I also simultaneously resist it.

As I get older, I am even more aware of transitions. Some visits become our last. There suddenly are no grandparents to visit but one and no parents to return home to. The scenery changes as do the seasons and the years.

So what do we do in the gap, in this transition between one situation and the beginning of another? The Tibetans call this the bardo state. By definition, the word crystallizes the process of transition itself and its resulting chaos. Bar means “in-between” and do means “suspended” or “thrown”. It is “a continuous, unnerving oscillation between clarity and confusion, bewilderment and insight, certainty and uncertainty, sanity and insanity” (Rinpoche). In yoga, this is the space between the breaths; the shift from one position to the next.

In this space I believe we free fall, we notice, we surrender, we become. And so yes, I have to come to love waiting around as much as I hate it. How about you?