Monthly Archives: December 2010

Up in the Air

After finally packing it all up, I got just a few hours of sleep before Dad sped me off to the airport at 5am. I was feeling quite settled and sorted as I waited to board my first of three flights that would finally end me in Miami. There was a young woman in her late twenties who was having a major freakout in the gate next to mine. I wasn’t sure what her problem was but it was quite disconcerting. She was visibly distressed and had worked herself into quite a tizzy. I was just about to offer some help but some other good Samaritans beat me to it escorting her away. I found out later that she had never flown before and was very very scared. I tried to imagine and empathize. But the first time I went on a plane I was twelve. And I was alone. And I was going across the country to see an aunt I didn’t know. And I didn’t cry. But then, I guess kids are more durable.

On the flight from Edmonton to Houston I was sat next to a charismatic Saskatchewan native called Ashley. He helped the time zoom by keeping me engaged in lively conversation between my cat naps. On the next leg of my journey, I met Cory who is a Irish/Norweigon paramedic. We talked the whole way to Orlando which helped distract from the plane full of youngsters on their way to Disney. They even had their own line to board which was four time longer than the adult line. For once, we unfamilied types got a break.

I waited for my friend Jon’s flight to land then we both made our way to our last leg to our final destination. We were giddy with excitement or exhaustion, I don’t know which. We were two of only five passengers on a tiny little prop jet. I have never been on such a small commercial plane and it was really neat. Just two rows of seats behind the pilots who sat up front completely in plain view. I marveled at all the lights, knobs, dials, and buttons they managed with effortless panache. It all looked so complicated to me but they just barely hovered their able hands over the controls and we were airborne. Airplane pilots are so cool.

The lights were off in the cabin which made it easy to see out the windows. I was enthralled by the whirr of the giant propeller for a while before finally getting interest in the lights down below. I marveled at the sensation of the tiny plane swiftly cutting through the airspace like a hot knife through butter all the while pretending this was my own private jet and the pilots were my friends. It was a decadent fantasy indeed.

After some time, Jon and I migrated to the back of the tin can and sprawled out over the empty seats lulled to sleep by the hum of the engine. Next thing we knew we had completed our decent and made a hard landing in Miami. It was completely bizarre but it felt like these two young pilots were driving some rad sports car as they sped down the strip. They all but squealed the tires and we neatly slid into our parking space with precision and expertise. It was clear they were having fun.

After grabbing our luggage, J and I caught our shuttle to the Catalina, an art deco boutique hotel in South Beach. After hearing my excitement to get to Joe’s Stone Crabs, our driver Alexandro generously offered to take us there. He was ever so helpful to arrange for our luggage to be checked before making a special trip to deliver us to my very favorite restaurant, just in time for one of the last seatings.

After a delicious meal where I ate far too much (it was the Key Lime Pie that did it), we hobbled down the street to walk along the beach. The air was warm and the sand was soft. Save for a few other late night revelers, it was more or less empty. Finally checking into the hotel at 2am, I barely remember my head hitting the pillow.

Grateful for pilots.

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Finding Grace – Zephyr Cove, Nevada

Now where was I? Hum. I am starting to realize that where I *was* matters a lot less than where I am right now. So lets start with that. I am sitting in bed in Lake Tahoe feeling really really blessed. I am at peace and feeling my life is quite harmonious at the moment. My friend has graciously lent me his condo for the month and I am soaking up the solitude. I haven’t driven my car since I got here as everything I need is in walking distance. Everyday I walk to the Anytime Fitness and pound out a good solid sweat session. I have a few extra pounds that insisted on traveling with me after the cruise. Next I stop at the Safeway to pick up some fresh fruits and veggies for dinner. Both of these venues are 24 hours which I haven’t quite utilized just yet but knowing my random bouts with insomnia, I just may. Anyway, I may just do it for the fun of it. Because I can.

I was really impressed with the gym which has state of the art equipment and TV and iPod jacks on every cardio machine. Its brand new and I felt the owner, Brian, was genuine when he looked me in the eyes, shook my hand, and told me he was really glad I was here. Appreciation is so integral to building good connections. Because the place is 24 hours and there are many times you may be there alone, they have an strong focus on security. I was uber impressed that they even provide little security alarm devices to take with you if you ever feel insecure leaving the place in the middle of the night. I guess I have underestimated the value of feeling safe and comfortable in a workout space. It really makes a difference and allows me to really focus on my body, not the energies around me. The other members are friendly and respectful too which I suppose also makes a difference. Needless to say, it isn’t hard for me to spend several hours there without even realizing it.

The Safeway is my other fun field trip. They carry all sorts of strange things like jars of Pigs Feet, pickled everything, and not just French Vanilla ice cream but Mexican “Ole Vanilla” ice cream too. Their selection is incredible and sometimes I like to just wander the aisles to see what kinds of things people are eating these days. As for me, I am staying on the healthy train for now. I admit, those tiny single serving cartons of Ben and Jerry’s/Haagan Daaz/Starbucks ice cream on sale for just a dollar are pretty hard to resist. But my will power seems to have returned after having abandoning me for a week while I was on the ship. Everything seems to be getting back into balance actually, and for this I am so grateful.

Tonight I went a couple doors down for dinner with my lovely French neighbor Marie, who has also let me piggy back her internet connection. There were five women there and we shared delicious homemade healthy food, a little bit of wine, and a lot of warm conversation. I was kind of timid to go at first as I have fallen quite heavily back into my hermitess tendencies. After the constant company and busyness of the last few weeks, I have swung quite fervently  the other way. I am quite content in my happy little bubble and somewhat routine I have developed. But my absent host Pat called me from his current work post in DC encouraging me to go meet his wonderful neighbors. Finally after some coaxing (including a handwritten letter of invitation pasted to my front door when I arrived home from the gym), I reluctantly walked over all the while trying to hush my inner critic.

I am so glad I went. Not only was the food spectacular, but it was a real gift to feel some camaraderie with some quite interesting ladies. I guess there are times when I forget the unique energy that manifests when several women gather. It is not only uplifting but almost necessary for us to share space, time and energy with our sisters.  Sometimes I take for granted that unspoken understanding that we have between us to love, support, and cherish each other as the fairer sex. In any case, nights like this remind me. And I can assure you that I left there with a spring in my step, a huge smile, and a heart full of gratitude because of it.

Grateful for gentleness.

Next: Last weeks Cruise Summary and The Fantastic Fun Return to San Francisco

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Moving Moments

Tonight I am bundled up in front of the fireplace wrapped up with a huge duvet with the making of Lord of the Ring playing in the background. I have been a tad sick over the past few days so I am doing my best to heal without completely losing my sense of routine. I have been in Tahoe for a couple weeks now and the weather has gone from bad to worse. There has been a storm warning in effect for almost a week now and I guess I didn’t take it too seriously at the start. I didn’t realize that the heavy snow mixed with the rain would create a giant slush puddle which would leave my feet soaked through. I think that the cold feet is where my illness began. It was so odd when I would try to find some solid snow to walk on but every time, no matter how sturdy it looked, it was just a thin cover for an ice water which has the consistency of cement. My feet just fell through like butter into the mess of watery snow. But as determined as I am, I trod on so as not to miss out on my daily gym routine. Silly me.

So now I am fully outfitted with winterwear thanks to my local friends but I am fighting a pretty uncomfortable cold. At least now I can walk down to the store and get supplies instead of stranding my car which doesn’t want to make it up the icy hill to my house. Today some of the neighbors helped me push it up the last few feet into the carport where it will stay put. I hate winter. What the heck am I doing here? Good question. I had planned to come here to write, relax, and plan my next move. And I have succeeded on all three counts. I am leaving in just over a week to my favorite place in the world, so far. New Zealand.

The deal was too good to pass up so I took it as a sign. I leave on Dec 30 and arrive into Auckland Jan 1. I will miss New Years Eve altogether. Because of the time change and crossing the international date line, Dec 31 just won’t even exist for me. So don’t expect a phone call from me on your birthday Sis…good thing we celebrated it together before I left Canada.

I am kind of excited to bring in the New Year in this very unique way. Generally I find the whole NYE party thing over hyped and I usually end up feeling slightly ripped off. I can honestly say I don’t think this experience is very common so I will be sure to enjoy it, however it pans out. It has been suggested that I make a party on the plane which I imagine will happen nonetheless as it’s a direct 13 hour international flight. Read: free alcohol and food. Anyway, I am looking forward to the journey as well as the fact that it is now summer in the southern hemisphere. Yay for warm!

Tonight there is a rare astronomical occurrence which I was lucky enough to catch. As I walked to the gym, I felt the energy in the air slightly different and found myself noticing the strangest of things. The moon is full and shone down like a flood light catching certain trees and objects in such a way. I took a break from my treadmill hike to catch the different phases of the full lunar eclipse as it took place. Finally the last few minutes I was absolutely mesmerized as the slivery crescent glow was slurped up by the shadow. It was like an optical illusion as my eyes tried to adjust. I could honestly imagine that this was a actual ball suspended in the sky not 50 feet away. It was bizarre how suddenly the moon was not a flat dot in the sky but sphere which I could practically reach out and wrap my hand around it like a knob waiting to be turned.

I marveled at the completely blacked out moon which kind of glowed a faint brownish red and thanked my lucky stars that the clouds had dissipated long enough for me to witness this historical event. How magnificent that the week long storm let up just in time. The full moon being eclipsed on the solstice doesn’t happen very often…only every 500 years or so. I am super glad I made the effort to participate in the experience. They say the longest night of the year is the darkest and this night just gave that phrase a whole new meaning. The beginning of winter has officially started here in the North which means its high time for me to split. I can already feel myself getting lighter.

I just checked out the window and the saw the eclipse just ending. The moon is back in her full splendor shining just about as bright as the sun. Its so wonderful the powerful moments nature provides us. I was just talking to a friend today who teased me for not knowing what day it is, blaming my carefree lifestyle for my absentmindedness. I agreed that I find it less important to know times and dates (except when I have to catch a flight, that is) so I can more fully focus on moments which are cheapened by a start and end. I don’t think my meaningful moments can be defined in such rigid measurements and to do so would be futile. When I have tried, I’ve only managed to clumsily rob them of their magic, insulting mystery. The exquisite nature of miracles are such that we cannot predict them. Perhaps the importance is not so much the event, but what surrounds it and what results. One thing is for sure: living in the present sure is a gift.

Grateful for exquisite moments.

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A Life of Adventure

I am sitting on the floor in the San Francisco airport next to the outlet so I can charge my electronics before getting on this 13 hour flight forward in time. I will be getting into Auckland in 2011. Its an odd concept to get my head around. One: Changing years up in the air over the international date line. Two: Losing a whole day. Poof! Just gone. Three: No matter how many times I do it, I always get a thrill out of doing from one hemisphere to another.

I am just STARTING to get excited. Its been a bit trying to get here mentally. The last few months have been cold. I know, I was in Canada and Lake Tahoe and what was I expecting? I guess I just didn’t realize how averse I have become it. I HATE cold! So to sum up the past month or so:

I went on a cruise down to the Caribbean after a short visit home to Canada. It was a nice trip but I had been to most of the ports already. I did however get to visit Honduras which was new to me. I tried to go scuba diving but ended up going fishing instead and catching a barracuda. That was fun. I also went snorkeling and got stung by lots of little jellyfish. That wasn’t so fun but not nearly as deadly as my mom thought it should be. She had been watching some documentary about how the oceans are overrun with the deadly jellyfish and they are killing everyone. Good thing she has me to dispel such rumors.

I was pretty happy to get off the ship even though it was beautiful and brand new, just launched this year. My favorite part was the 4 story live Banyan tree suspended in the middle of the atrium. I never got sick of looking at that. The service on the Celebrity Eclipse was a step up from the lines I had frequented in the past and I am pretty sure I would sail them again. I loved having a balcony and the best show I have ever seen on the seas. It was a cirque type show and was absolutely mesmerizing. I don’t even know how many times I  gasped out loud in wonderment.

After debarking, I flew from Miami to San Francisco again where I was whisked straight to a thanksgiving type dinner party with Joe, Alessandra and friends. It was too yummy and I left stuffed full of turkey and good conversation. Anyone who knows me knows that turkey dinner is my absolute favorite meal and this spread was that and then some. Wow. All I can say is that after the week of gorging on the cruise ship and that epic dinner, I was ready for a diet.

But first I went to a Hannakha brunch with Matt, Nilu and friends where I had to eat yet again. It would have been rude to show up and NOT have the yummy time that was presented there before me. We drank champagne and nibbled homemade applesauce smothered latkes and tender brisket till we could nibble no more. Then we lit some candles while our Jewish peeps sang a song. It was a cool experience and I was happy to be able to share in a traditional ceremony.

After that I finally sped off to Lake Tahoe where I promptly joined a gym and began my health routine. I spent a good couple weeks just getting my body back into some sort of balance. In the process I made several friends in the area. I discovered the DVD vending machine at the Safeway and watched a bunch of movies. I perfected Black Bean Brownies and rediscovered the joy of Jello that we all seem to lose somewhere between childhood and teen age. I found my tolerance for snow was just the length of time it took me to walk from my front door to the gym with a short pitstop at the Safeway. All these things were open 24 hours and I most definitely took advantage of that fact. Its fun going shopping at 3am. And its surreal to walk in the snow covered streets in the dead of night and winter. I assure you, the peaceful feeling inside my soul was far from dead.

I loved watching the full moon/lunar eclipse/solstice. It was quite the powerful transition and I was really glad I was able to witness it. Christmas was joyous with Linda and her family who live just up the hill from me. The dinner was delicious and the dancing afterwards was a blast. I finally got to MonteBleu casino where the nightclub was situated. I danced my pants off giving myself quite a memorable little Xmas present night.

Lastly I had a few friends come up to Lake Tahoe to visit and enjoy the snow with me. We had a homemade pizza party, modeled jewelry for a photo shoot, had fires, steamed in the sauna and played games. I believe a  much needed snow break good ol’ time was had by all (thanks Pat, the host with the most!). Luckily my coastal buddies got what they were looking for (not seeing snow for 8 years?!) and we got quite the dump. Infact, two days later when we were trying to drive back to San Fran, it took us more than double the time it should have. Chains on tires were mandatory and still we were amazed to see dozens of stranded stuck vehicles along the mountainside. Slowly and carefully Matt and Nilu navigated through the near white out blizzard safely delivering us all to our respective homes on the coast. I got a short visit with Joe and Alessandra today before coming to the airport. I sure do feel blessed to have a network of such gracious friends.

The last day or so I have been slightly nervous. I am not positive why. Perhaps is the very small light backpack I have to live out of for the next 6 weeks. I wonder if I have under packed? The thing is only half full! Have I become that streamlined over the past few years? It has been a while since I have backpacked around with no real plan. A lot has changed since my first big trip. How will it affect me and how I travel? Will I still be so brave? Will I still have the energy? Will I get bored or lonely? All these silly thoughts flutter through my head but none really stay long enough to become a worry. I think I am just excited. No matter what, I am going to have an adventure. Oh we are boarding now! Gotta go! The summer of 2011 awaits!

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller

Grateful for the will to adventure.

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