Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Riding an Old Steam Train at Roaring Camp





ALL   ABOARD  ! ! !

Two very lucky moms. Two utterly awesome sons. And a special treat that we will all treasure forever! Our guys decided to invite their moms out for a round-trip train ride, followed by dinner on the wharf!!

Roaring Camp's old Steam Train departs from the Beach Boardwalk, so w
e all agreed to meet each other there. Finding places to park on the first Saturday of summer vacation, was hard enough! But then we all had to FIND EACH OTHER! (This is where cell phones are worth their weight in gold)

Once we were all finally connected and ready to board our train, there was a  slight snafu. We had managed to cut the time so close, that we missed our train! It took off just before we arrived. But, what adventure is truly complete without unexpected developments??

We remained calm, however, and decided to just DRIVE up to Roaring Camp, instead. There, we could still catch the 'return trip' from the the old saw mill depot. This way we'd ride the train back to the Boardwalk, where we would be rewarded with a delicious meal, upon our arrival. So we left the dazzling tumult of beach amusement park vibes, behind us, for a leisurely car trek up into the mountains.


There was plenty of time before we had to board our return train, so we stopped for a stroll through some of the old-growth redwoods in Felton, where we took a walk across the historic covered bridge.   

Matthew and Dennis met during college where they worked together on creative projects, at CSUMB through Film, Art, and Media studies. Most of these photos were taken by my son, Matt, who is currently a TV news photographer at KSBW.          

When we finally boarded our train, we chose the 'Open Air' car, where we were able to lean back and peer upward into the endless reach of ancient redwood trees, as they sought the distant sunlight, high above their dense habitat.




We rolled along the tracks, at a gentle pace, through shady, verdant corridors, as fresh air caressed our skin.  Patches of bright sunlight streamed through whenever space opened up between the trees.

It was a thrill to cross the old historic bridge when we rumbled over the trestle, high above the San Lorenzo River (in Henry Cowell Park, beneath us).



Whenever I hike the forest trails below this bridge, I often gaze UP at the overhead trestle, with deep appreciation for such magnificence. What a thrill it was to  cross over this very same historic bridge, peering down into the park, at such beautiful scenery, from a birds eye view.

There was plenty of time to wander through the different train cars. I was particularly captivated by the plush red-velvet lounge car seats, and tiny windows along the ceiling, with echoes of a classy bygone era! 


You could almost hear their conversation as the curtain of time parted, to reveal women in fancy vintage clothing, and men in  pin-stripped suits.


As our train approached town, we got to rumble through the old tunnel that cuts through the mountain, emerging at Chestnut Street (in downtown Santa Cruz). The odor of fresh dirt inside the tunnel revived childhood memories of running free and wild, exploring vacant lots before development took over. 

It's impossible to take this train ride and not feel a sense of peace and serenity seep into your soul. The lively train conductor shared fascinating stories about the old days when lumberjacks, sawmills, and pioneers, occupied Roaring Camp. Children on the train learned how to say "Highball" with the engineer, when he was ready to take off. The whole experience was a fun escape from life's typical pace of routines and agendas.

Finally, our return to civilization brought us into the busy Boardwalk once again. It was warm & sunny when we eventually pulled into The amusement park railroad depot---back where we had started (and where at least some of our cars still waited!). But now, refreshed by the stillness and beauty of mountain rivers and majestic trees, we were hungry!




Disembarking, we strolled along the seaside, where we walked all the way to the end of the wharf to dine at Stagnero’s Restaurant. We enjoyed the view from our upstairs table as sailboats drifted along blue waters, and sea gulls perched on nearby peers. Our sons treated us to a most delicious dinner, with vista views of the Santa Cruz shoreline spanning out in both directions along the coast.  

I was quite enchanted by the golden cups that that held the drinks they served us. 

Finally getting to meet one another was a treat for us moms! Like a couple of  girlfriends, we had a great time hanging out together. We relished being able to spend the whole day with two of the most amazing guys we know! It was a delightful adventure that will continue to live in our hearts. 

With such delicious food, (and having sons who conjured up this wonderful treat for their moms) who could be happier! From start to finish, the excursion was spectacular. Relaxing, refreshing, inspiring, and invigorating. It was an honor and a delight. I am filled with gratitude.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Alleys of Langley



~ My Whidbey Island Adventure ~

Part III:   A Walk  Along  The  Alleyways




Autumn's elegant style 


          

           
                       softens the day 
      
            

paints late afternoon 







with moody light













           as alleyways show us 



                                                            










the heart of

a place



         



   

       
         where paths cross
  
                     as

          you stop and chat 


            
 




  



     feeling more alive
  



 





             


                    just knowing 
            










                                                                             
                 




                 that everyone



                        

             

 simply belongs 







           A town

           where 
           
    a boy and his dog






         
stare into deep blue waters, amazed by LIFE

~ ~ ~ 

Langley's alleyways are intimate places where neighbors wander amidst shops, pubs, cafes and galleries. 

This tiny storybook village is populated by folks living in a mish-mash of cabins, old farm houses, and modern homes. Here, folks recognize each other and an easy familiarity makes one feel 'at home'. I found that a trip to town became much more than merely picking up provisions. Langley's layout invites you to explore! It's charm beguiles.
  
Inside Langley there are but a handful of streets, each offering treasure and fascination, like a big playground. The actual dwellings where people live, are spread out, mostly found along dead-end roads off the highways that lead in and out of town. Exploring such avenues, might reveal a moody shoreline vista, a wild stretch of open land, or a home tucked among magnificent old trees.

Langley reminds me of the early San Fernando Valley, where the 'Eucalyptus Days' of my childhood meant driving to the dairy for milk, or taking trips to the dump with any trash we could not burn in our incinerator (when my brother and I, would have a blast riding back home in the empty 'open trailer' after we'd emptied out all the trash)! 

Being here took me back, to an era before subdivisions, shopping malls, zoning laws, and safety restrictions. When you chatted with the clerks at the hardware store, bank, or gas pump. When school bus drivers still knew everyone's name. 

Discovering Langley you step into a vibrant small town world, that pulsates with love, made visible. Life and work are not separated, here. Artists, business folk, professionals, and craftsmen contribute in obvious and visible ways, as integral members of a thriving community. They raise families, earn a livelihood, and yes, tourism is essential to the town, but it seems that Langley is an endangered species on an idyllic island! If you have a chance to visit this adorable place, I encourage you to take the Ferry Boat across the water and make yourself at home in a place that time forgot. You won't regret it!


Discovering Langley


~ My Whidbey Island Adventure ~

Part II:   Langley's Downtown Spirit

“Langley Summer Color”  
© Judi Nyerges, http://fineartamerica.com 



To enter Langley is to step inside the pages of a First Grade Reader again! My stroll around town was reminiscent of Norman Rockwell paintings, where neighborhoods, shops, galleries, and cafes create village intimacy. Homes mingle with local businesses like old friends!


A stunning corridor of Autumn splendor, first welcomed me into this crown-jewel of small towns. Waking up on misty Cultus Bay, I was greeted by a romantic, moody morning. My rental car made its way past Bailey's town store, bar, and local hangout. Silence ushered me through the corridor of fog-shrouded pines, into a town that time had left untouched.

Langley's vital, artistic atmosphere created a miniature magical world, perched above the bay! Unique in character, it's intimate nature stole my heart.  


I took my laptop into one of the trendy Coffee houses, populated by local artists and poets, where creativity was palpable! This sweet village has a full range of cultural attractions: a 'lived-in' library populated with local townsfolk, art galleries with crafts in the making, and charm galore. Dreams of living here won't leave me alone! It felt like a tiny encapsulated version of my own home town (minus all the shopping malls and suburbs!). 

I checked out Callahan's Studio,
where I had an appointment to make a piece of hand blown glass during my stay

The barn-like double doors of this converted Firehouse, remain open all day long. Lovely glassware items are on display, perched on stands and lining shelves.


Passing by, you tend to pause, and stare: A gloved instructor holds a long black steel rod, with red hot molten glass, bulging like a liquid balloon, at its distant tip. He pokes these viscous glass blobs into hot fiery ovens, after first dipping the large unruly bubble-mass, into a bowl of colored chips. The swirls and hues of finished pieces need time to cool off, so they will be ready for pick-up, the next day.

The Star Store
This old fashion 'General Store' is a wonderland of enchantment. This country mercantile has groceries and supplies of all sorts. I wandered through the artful, eclectic, boutique area, checked out the trendy clothing, quality hiking boots, and canning goods. I filled my cart with grocery items that I still needed, while checking out the gifts and Kitchenware items, all in one magical emporium.
 

Inside the 'Useless Bay Coffee House' I found my writing nook. I sat down and drank a cup of tea, tried one of the tempting pastries. And did a little writing on my laptop. I would have spent endless hours here, each day, if I'd had more time.


 This 'Disneyland' of a downtown, made me feel like a kid, from another era, on old fashion "Main Street'! Tourists can peer into shop windows with lively displays, and meander along the alleys to explore the secret alcoves, and enjoy the cherished art of lazy sight-seeing.

An old fashion movie theater, (that's been overlooked by time) sells popcorn, that still tastes fresh and natural. I went there to see GRAVITY when my new host-friends, James and Janet, who invited me to join them. 

Just knowing that their downstairs vacation rental (in my 'heaven on earth' quarters) were waiting for me to return, I felt cozy and secure. In Langley, I became a kid again. The close-knit sense of belonging, with the funky array of shops and alleyways, felt like home away from home! 

On our way back from the movie, we stopped at the home of a colleague, whose spacious environment was all-natural 'beam & board', inside and out. Seated around a big rectangular wooden table, in their country kitchen, they all 'talked shop', while I joined their awesome dog,
on the 'area-carpet' of the hardwood floor, nearby. It was a delicious taste of community life, surrounding Langley.


~ ~ ~

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Behind The Blue Door


~ My Whidbey Island Adventure ~

Part I: The Magic Portal

After fantasizing most of my life about running off to a 'deserted island', I finally did it! I ran away to the land of my dreams. Originally, this was my mother's fantasy, but I became infected with it as well.

So how was it? Well, for starters it wasn't deserted at all: it overflowed with life!


On the Island, behind The Blue Door, a sacred abode awaited me. This adorable room held a secret that had been well hidden before my arrival. The Blue Door wasn't what it seemed. I would not discover this, however, until long after my return home.



I was so excited about this get-away that I  spent an entire week slowly packing. I  left  our sleepy little mountain village, early that morning, trading a peaceful redwood corridor for the woes of morning rush hour on the Silicon Valley freeway. Then parking lots, shuttle bus rides, airport chaos, a bumpy jet flight, and crowds galore.

After landing at the Seattle airport, I stepped off the plane fully prepared to enter The Magic Portal, immediately. While lugging my heavy suitcase, I found my way to the rental car kiosk, ignorantly thinking I was, 'but a heartbeat away', from the Ferryboat that would take me to my Island. (on the map, everything looked so much smaller and closer!)

Since I had ignored all the pre-wrapped snack bar food, while passing numerous airline counters, I was starting to get hungry--and inclined to feel sorry for myself. But something familiar intervened: One of my secret powers. (It's actually a force, an energy), which has the handy ability to totally obliterate the very IDEA that problems actually exist. This simple 'acknowledgment' is how I tend to 'refresh my mind-browser'. It can instantly 'poof' such bad ideas right into thin air, with a calm smile. 

Onward! We are almost there! The Force suggested.
 
Reconnected once again--the 'smile upon my soul' was back! The innate spirit of ADVENTURE had taken on a life of its own (which had been slowly spreading like stealth wildfire, throughout my cells for weeks now), so this dream-trip journey had acquired an ability to suffuse my whole being, with infectious promise!

Driving through Seattle, my rental car tackled a massive urban sprawl that dwarfed any freeway in my home town. I survived late afternoon rush hour traffic, trying not to get lost, and having to change lanes amidst throngs of impulsive drivers, darting in and out. (On the map, everything looked so much simpler.) 

I took sanity breaks! One of Seattle's many 'university areas' had a Whole Foods market. On a stop for something to eat (finally!), I strolled around the neighborhood, drawing deeply upon the vitality, of all the nearby 'college kids', who were out and about. Then I loaded up with provisions before heading off to the Island. 

Finally, I found the Ferry Boat entrance, where an elaborate system, of waiting lines simply meant more hours must pass, before we would actually board the gigantic ship, but luckily, I had brought along my I-pod (with a full battery)! 

While waiting in line, I tried to draw comfort, knowing that eventually, I would be delivered into Paradise with a blissful smile of satisfaction on my face! After all, I was on my way, at last, to the legendary Whidbey Island! But 'the hoped for thrill' simply could not find its way through the weariness that had begun to deflate me, as the wait dragged on.


At last, I was able to enter into the belly of this massive ship, where my car was dutifully sandwiched among rows and rows of vehicles. Totally depleted by now, however, I had neither steam, nor stamina, left over, to even care about the view anymore; nor to get out and survey the scenery that slowly inched away behind us. 

If I wanted to watch the coast of Whidbey Island draw imperceptibly closer, it would mean getting across to the other side of the ship. But I literally could not budge from my seat inside the car. 

Weary and dejected, I pouted all alone in my vehicle while others got out of theirs, to visit the snack bar. I stared blankly through large open squares along the sides of the ship, as vista views of the coastline lost its charm. The mainland grew more distant, while my stamina faded with every inch that crept between us, and the continent.


My spot, near an open-air window, faced the land, that grew smaller in our wake. Early twilight began to play with the setting sun, the sparkling water, and the golden glow of the continent behind us. (So much for thinking I would still arrive with plenty of daylight to find my way!)  


I just sat and stared off toward the Northeastern side of Seattle's proud skyline, where monotonous, dense forests blanketed the receeding shoreline. We inched along so slowly that it was not clear if our Ferry was really moving. It made no sound. 

Exhausted by long lines, chaotic traffic, endless miles, and all the extra hours that had somehow slipped away, I just sat there, numb and weary. One by one, lights began to twinkle from hidden seaside dwellings along the coast, as dusk closed in. 

Finally we pulled into the Clinton Ferry Dock. So, I turned the motor on, and drove onto the island, where I unceremoniously followed the signs to Cultus Bay. Not exactly the glorious arrival I had imagined!

Fortunately, the directions my hosts had given, to find the vacation rental were perfectly easy to follow. James, who commutes to his job at a Seattle university, met me in the driveway, when I arrived. Friendly and warm, he helped carry my luggage through their home and down the inside stairway to my own area. I met his wife Janet, a social worker, as I paused briefly in their living space upstairs. They were very sweet folks, within my general age range; so solid, kind, and settled, that it felt like I was coming home to family. 

Once downstairs, and alone in 'my quarters', I just stood there. FEELING IT. Exotic and serene, at once. Better than the photos online. This refuge was vibrant and alive. The very space was saturated with life-force. My stunning view from the deck outside, overlooked the cozy harbor of Cultus Bay. It was an exquisite painting, come to life!

When I first stepped through the threshold, and stood inside the rumpus room, closing the door behind me, all I knew was that I felt safe, free, and utterly, deliciously alone. Slowly, I began to inhabit these precious quarters, unpacking and setting up my new life. Moving my stuff into the intimate bedroom item by item, and allowing the space to remain prominent, as 'my things' found their niche in closet or shelf, until the idea of 'impact' became synonymous with order, function, and above all: invitation! All you need to do here, is BE! (this precious refuge whispered, over and over again…)

A perfect balance of 'nestled and vast' embraced me with loving arms. A sense of limitless expanse, and warm shelter, permeated the territory where I would reside. The hallway between kitchen and bedroom was a corridor of passage: an enchanted portal into 'my self' (something that had become lost across the decades). I set up my sweet little bathroom last of all, then surveyed my new world. And it was just right!

Dwelling in a place with glass walls was a new experience. It was getting dark when I arrived. I stepped out onto the balcony overlooking the harbor homes, and docks. Lights were lit up along the scenic waterway, Reverence fell over everything. Stillness and beauty prevailed. The mainland was a blur of distant lights across the Puget Sound.

My first night demanded absolutely nothing from me. No thoughts of tomorrow, nor the life that I had left behind me. No plans of any sort. No time frame. No thoughts of Langley and the adventures that lay ahead, nor of my appointment to make a piece of hand-blown glass at Callahan's studio. Just sink into the warm comfort of bed and nothing more. The week that followed would bring delightful exploration, discovery, and just plain fun--but for that first night: merely sanctuary. And infinite permission… to do absolutely nothing but exist.
~ ~ ~

If you want to see some of the magic this place does offer; here is a sweet video introduction. For me, it brings back memories of special places and times. Langley, as the 'Heart of Whidbey' in my experience, is where community gathers. It's also a lovely place to walk around in peaceful solitude.


. . . To Be Continued . . .

video from: https://www.youtube.com/user/RoseRonler

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Manzanita Magic: An Oracle Dog-walk through The Sandhills!



Back before he died; Willy and I took a walk almost every day. Our little black mutt was a most precious family member, and how he loved his daily walks! But on one particular morning, during our walk, I encountered something that invited me to take a significant turn in the direction of my life.

Willy loved the ritual invitation almost as much as the walk itself. It was an ongoing game we played: a family tradition. To whip him into an instant frenzy of ecstasy and wild excitement, you only had to almost say the magic phrase: "Do you want to go for a-a-a-a-a . . ."   (then silence and a breathless interlude). His hyper-alert, furry form would freeze--as if he'd been placed 'on hold'! Like the calm before the storm, Willy's ears stood on sharp alert--his tail paused mid-air, in a motionless trance of torture--while Life itself waited to hear what would come next . . .

Willy knew the word. His whole being had experienced it already, inside, but until the humans finally relented, and finished their sentence, his big chocolate eyes, would remain riveted on the verge of insane dog-laughter. Until uttered aloud, it simply wasn't REAL! So, of course, we played our part by  s-l-o-w-l-y  teasing forth this sacred word-charm, at last!

"Do you want to go for a "WALK?"  

Once he did finally hear this magic word, out loud, the dam would burst! Reassured that his high hopes were really true--he'd turn round and round, in mad circles, unable to contain his thrill, prancing and lifting himself up, excitedly, making happy dog sounds, as he bolted for the door.

We would each re-enact our role in this human/dog game, over and over again. We all needed the medicine waiting for us, up on top of 'The Sandhills'.

Fortunately, our street dead-ends at the entrance to a rare and precious eco-system of Sandy Hills and desert foliage. It's part of a tiny, unique, and well-hidden greenbelt, crisscrossed with delightful trails—well, it's actually more of a white-belt! 

Eon's ago, when the ocean floor was uplifted, high into the Santa Cruz Mountains, most of it became forest terrain, with Pines and Redwoods. But this small section of The San Lorenzo Valley, managed to remain exactly intact--like the Pacific shoreline it once was, with a smattering of desert plants, and loose sand.

The Silver Manzanita resides here, it's root-feet dug deep into hard packed sand dunes.

Silver Manzanita, Oak, and Madrone Embracing
The stately Madrone with it's bare and brazen branches is exquisite to behold. Dancing with the humble Manzanita--these two remain entwined, showing off their smooth red sheen of wooden limbs, protected by the sturdy old oaks. A Moonlit stroll, up into these sandhills, reveals one of Earth's well-hidden treasures. At night, the ground beneath your feet glows with incandescent moon dust! 

Winding among petrified dunes, dusted with a light layer of loose powdery-white sand, an entire world of utterly unique fossils, flora, and fauna is tucked away. But it refuses to stay 'in place'. Fickle as the sand it's made of, everything shifts and alters easily. Change is constant. No wonder I love it so much up here! My known world is exactly the same.

Metamorphosis is ongoing. Fortunately, I've always found it interesting. But I remember back, over a decade ago, when a particularly huge wave-swell hit. My marriage had ended abruptly, and it was easy to get caught in sudden undertows of loss and pain. Wave-swells would surge through without notice, pulling me beneath the surface, swift and hard.

On one particular day, as Willy and I started off on our walk, I found myself growing weary of bracing against the tides. I discovered something interesting, quite by accident: Pain is patient. It resides politely within us, until we are ready to deal with it. But it was actually the modest Silver Manzanita bush, who helped me out, the most.

Meandering back down through these familiar hills that rise from the Valley floor, I ran behind Willy, trying to keep up, when a monster wave of angst took me by surprise. It felt utterly impossible to manage. So, I followed my little black mutt through the smooth white mounds, of this rare, endangered habitat--drawing comfort as if from an old friend who knows me well.

Then SUDDENLY, I realized what it was we shared together (this unique area of terrain: and me); I understood why I need its lessons NOW. This place is going extinct—rapidly before our watching eyes. While my life as I had known it, was also going extinct, as well.

Willy, ran around exploring until he found a spot to rest, while I stopped to admire a particularly vibrant specimen of Manzanita.

Rooted in powdery sand, it's bearing was so majestic; so alive, that it might suddenly begin to walk around. 

Speaking directly to this lovely young tree , I shared my admiration. Silently, it listened. Soon I found myself asking for advice,

     “How does a plant deal with dying?" 

The bush was rather surprised at first; but soon replied,

     “Cycles rather than endings---that’s what we experience.”

So, I pondered this and saw how my personal relationship to grief, mirrors the plight of these lovely sandhills as they rapidly lose plants and critters--while they continue to erode. They are being rapidly crowded out by housing developments, while Life--as I'd known it--was slipping away as well.

      “Both of us are in the business of dying.”  I explained, then I also
       added,


     “And yes, for you it’s all about cycles but for me this isn't just a    

      cycle. It’s an ending. You probably don’t even care, one way or  
      another about your future. But, to me, my future matters   
      tremendously.”

Taciturn it merely presided over the sunsets glow. I regarded its equanimity and remarked, 

     “Well, the truth is that       neither of us is very
      good with endings.
      You are blissfully
      unprepared and have
      no clue how to how
      to deal with them,
      while I have been
      drawn to endings all         my life, without                 knowing why. 
     "In fact, our society in
      general, isn't so good
      with endings. We
      have overrun the            planet the in our               attempt to deal with
      pain, loss and grief. 

My lecture did not phase the lovely Manzanita, with it's intricate web of deep red branches, glowing through the silver-green foliage. It simply presided over the area. The next remark seemed to come out of nowhere:
 
    “There will always be waves of pain.”

This sage-like insight was stated in a very calm manner. I can’t say it was the silver manzanita, but I can’t say it wasn’t. However, since I like to feel engaged, I grabbed onto the quality of the word  w-a-v-e: sensing its pulse-like rush, punctuated with pauses. They did surge through me.

     “Yes, its true.”  I agreed, then noted,

     “Pain does have a beginning, a middle and an end. Like waves, it also tends to come and go."

       
What I glimpsed about waves of pain was a godsend as the waves would no doubt keep on coming. But this meant that I could breathe, rather than stiffening up, knowing that it’s always just one wave at a time. There's usually a break before the next one comes. And that could be manageable, if taken, just one wave at a time. I felt good about our conversation and turned toward home.


There was something else though, as the prickly leafed red limbs of the manzanita grabbed at my sweater, inquiring directly,

     “This business about dying. Aren’t you being given a chance finally, to do it right, this time?"  

While I considered this wise advice, the Silver Manzanita paused for a moment, then it continued,

     "Here is one of the most important relationship in your entire life and it is ending (changing). What if you put all the TLC possible, into making this a worthy ending? Remember, you and these sandhills are not alone. The planet is dealing with endings, Big Time, right now. Welcome to the club!”

     "Thank you." I said. And as I bowed to my new friend, something heavy lifted from my spirit. We just never know where, or how, Life's wisdom might arise!

~ ~ ~