Saturday, December 30, 2006


I'm feeling a little blue. We left the ocean and headed inland, where we thought evenings might be warmer, better for camping. They're not. A trip to the grocery store found us stumbling into surburban hell. The cars, the Walmart... Thankfully (painfully?), they're surrounded by miles of agricultural land- a hundred vineyards and wineries, and some of the best olives imaginable.

If we were home, I'd be looking forward to the New Year's Eve labyrinth walk at St. Mark's. Instead, I'm anxious to head back to the ocean, welcoming the new year without the maze of highways and strip malls. Whew.


Thursday, December 28, 2006


We’re not in Texas. The holiday we’d planned, spending time at a citrus orchard just this side of the border, called for revision. The van “issues” set us back, but we were prepared to rush, even brave Disneyland at high season. When Reena from the orchard wrote that she didn’t remember us ever having spoken, we cursed, then opted to take California at a more relaxed pace. Leisurely, except our complete lack of plan or accommodation for Christmas/New Year’s.

“So, convince me you’re trustworthy,” Chris said over the phone. I'd sent an email to Anne, a woman I don’t know, and she had forwarded it. Chris was on his way to LA for a week, so we might never meet. Maybe he'd just leave the key for us with a neighbor. The key to a remarkable 13-acre camp with 10 cabins, a lodge, commercial kitchen, office, shop, craft room, nature meeting room, and assorted other buildings. Nervously, I joked, wondering if it was possible for me to act as a reference for myself. “I think you’ll have a good time here,” he said. I hung up, awed by the kindness of strangers.

We worked from a list, planting a small patch of amaryllis bulbs on Christmas day and lining a new trail with recently downed oak and pine the day after. For much of the week, we’ve made it our mission to defend the young oak from gopher, deer and woodpeckers. The trees haven’t yet learned their proper form; they sprout limbs horizontal to the ground, baby branches criss-crossing their would-be trunks. We do our best with roll after roll of chicken wire, breaking a dozen steaks and shredding our fingers along the way. In a second Christmas miracle, we trained and sheltered 40+ immature oak. We can't offer protection from the pines swaying fourty-feet above.

Yesterday’s windstorm brought a tree down next to the archery range, 10 feet from where we were netting a coffee berry bush. We abandon our forestry projects and did what all sensible persons do in a windstorm, headed for the beach. Laughing, racing and climbing, one afternoon in the life of a kite. Unlike eight pines at camp, we lived to tell the tale.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Elephant Seals

Driving south on Hwy 1 yesterday, I saw something from the corner of my eye. Something huge, lying on the beach. Moving. At 60 miles an hour, I couldn't make out the details. Around the corner a mile down, we see them, hundrends of seals lying in the sand.

Sue, a volunteer with Central Coast Friends of the Elephant Seal gave us a brief lesson in marine biology. The seals first claimed this beach just north of Cambria in 1991. Last year, 3,800 seal pups were born on this 1/4 mile strech of sand, the largest breeding ground on the mainland. The pups weigh about 70 pounds at birth and gain 10 pounds a day for the month that their mothers care for them. It will be another couple months before the pups take to the sea and teach themselves to swim. The males won't develop their "elephant" noses until age 4.

As if standing close enough to observe that seals scratch themselves with their knuckles wasn't enough... Two miles down the road the cattle were grazing along side zebra. Really.

We made it to Camp Ocean Pines, our home for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Confessions of an agnostic

We left the Meditation Center yesterday and headed right into a parallel universe- Arden Faire Mall in downtown Sacramento. 10:30 Monday morning and already, no parking. Through Macy’s cosmetics department, past the Disney store and just before the Cinnabon/Orange Julius, we found the Apple store. It’s a three-hour wait to ask the guys at the genius bar about the random shutdown syndrome our laptop has developed.

Four stairs seems like an appropriate buffer zone between the women and packages ahead of us on the escalator. Ukiah whispered, “Sometimes I wonder if all these people are real. If they can be real.” We descended into the crowd; hundreds of purple and turquoise ribbons pinch the enormous fir tree behind Santa’s village. Back at the Meditation Center, I had plenty of questions about their teaching of the “illusion” of this “material world” and considerable reservations about the “demonic” people who don’t “know” or care. Inhaling mall air under artificial light, it starts to make sense. I miss the chanting.

Santa Cruz brings redemption. The Surfer’s Museum is closed, but a handfull of guys in wetsuits paddle into the morning waves. Santa Cruz Roasting Company brews organic, fair trade coffee. There’s an independent bookstore down the block from a music store we can’t recognize by logo. There’s no fee to park and walk along the beach. The taco stand offers vegetarian and vegan burritos. The sun is shining and not everyone walking, biking and skating downtown is weighted with shopping bags.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Sacramento Valley School

On Thursday we visited another Sudbury school, the Sacramento Valley School. Aslin and I felt comfortable and made friends there within minutes. I think we fit in because we’re used to the system. The kids and staff were really friendly and welcoming too.

They had a “white elephant” gift exchange which I’d never heard of until now. The idea is that everyone playing the white elephant game brought a present, wrapped it, and put it under the Christmas tree at school. They drew numbers from a santa hat. The numbers determined what order everyone chose a present to open. You also had 3 steals, so on your turn, you could take another person’s gift, then they have to open a new one. The presents ranged from a jester hat, to a poly-pocket doll, to candles, to a roll of toilet paper.

What a great idea, it looked like so much fun… Although some people got stuck with less satisfying gifts, such as the toilet paper roll. See where that ended up?


Friday, December 15, 2006


This is Serabi and Rama. Serabi limps because a racoon bit her. She got sick and almost died. Now she's ok but she still doesn't like to use her left back leg- unless she's trying to get close so you will pet her. Rama is stong and sweet. They both like to chase squirrels.

Once a day they get fed tofu, rice and dogfood. They get fed leftovers from parties too, but they don't like to eat salad.

It's my job to walk the dogs every day. We walk to the first stop sign and back. They try to cross the street but I don't let them. Once, when I was walking Serabi, Rama followed us without a leash, so I had to hold him by the collar.

Every Tuesday Jen takes the dogs to her house so they won't go digging in the neighbors garbage. Usually at night Rama gets locked up in the old barn because he likes to go around and do his nighttime mischief.

I love those dogs.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


In a closet under the stairs, the remains of this year’s pumpkin harvest are stacked in a lopsided pyramid. I flip the switch, but the light shines only at the top of the stairs, the entrance to the meditation room. In the dark, I choose three. The pile doesn't tumble.

After a half-hour of steaming, and an hour of cooling, the pumpkin is ready to serve its purpose. Pumpkin bread. With a touch of molasses, plenty of clove and cinnamon and an unmeasured mix of baking soda, baking powder and applesauce as an egg replacer, we bake two Big loaves. Enough for desert tonight, breakfast tomorrow.

Here, the communal kitchen means there's always an assortment of quick and tasty stuff for lunch. It also means the bread is gone by the morning. I check both refrigerators, the freezer and a row of lower cupboards, hoping to find some baked breakfast goodness. Nothing. Except that foil covered pie plate in the corner of the counter. Across the top is written…

“This is not for you.
It’s for Krishna.
No peaking. Please.”

Another breakfast of rice and apple.

The contents of the pie plate aren’t the only secret here.

I can't tell you about using the back door to enter a European embassy in the Middle East. Or about crawling under a truck to hide and not openly offend Allah while drinking. I’m not sure if I can tell you about curing cancer with silica, guru "shopping" at age 18, teaching yoga at Folsom prison or working for TV Guide. Brad and I signed confidentiality agreements.

I can tell you that it’s been raining for days, that we’re in a flood plane here, that a flash flood could carry our van away- so we should keep the keys on us, in case we need to move it in a hurry.

The broccoli is harvested, fig tree pruned, compost turned- and now, 35 rose bushes need pruning. In the rain I thought about Alice in Wonderland, counted leaves and sang, “We’re painting the roses red, painting the roses red…Don’t tell the Queen what you have seen…” I’m sure the glowing review I just read for Frank Beddor’s ‘The Looking Glass Wars’ (a new retelling of the classic) prompted my song. I kept humming for hours, stopping occasionally to curse a thorn. “Painting the roses red…” My own little mantra at this Bhakti Yoga center.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dance Party

This is not the same as the squirrels and their disco ball.

Today Nora and I did African dance class which had some yoga too. Most of the dances we learned were from Guinea – with a style that is kind of low to the ground, with strong legs. The teacher, April, was so “there”- you could follow her rhythm and learn easily.

We wore sarongs for fun and to get us in the dance mood. Most of the dances had really fast foot movements and your hands and arms had to work hard to keep up. One dance was a greeting dance, to say “hello” to friends. We danced in a circle and people take turns in the center. You cheer them on. The dances had different parts for women and men, but you can exchange them if you want to.

For yoga, we did the elements- earth, water, fire, air and ether. You invent your own motion for each one. Earth was kind of slow, moving low to the ground or even leaving your feet planted, just moving a little. Air was lightweight with lots of spinning and arms and legs waving.

It was just one class, but a think is should be more than two hours. Even though you sweat a lot.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Thanks to slow methodical care of Jack and the crew at Wolfsburg, the van ran strong and trouble-free over Grant’s pass and along Mt. Shasta, delivering us, with confidence, to two acres of a Sacramento suburb. And that’s when I had my moment of concern. Maybe it was only apprehension.

We made brief introductions with some of the staff here at the Meditation Center, toured the gardens and imagined how inviting the pool would be if the weather were warmer. The yoga studio is a converted barn with heavy exposed beams and lush wool carpet. A mural of Krishna and his brother (?) standing in a garden of Eden covers one wall. The air is citrus-spiced but fresh. A tapestry is centered on the south wall.
“Om Hari Om
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna…”

In the kitchen, persimmons crackle in the dehydrator. Vidjapatie offers potato salad, “really more of a vegetable salad with peas and carrot, celery, and the good mayonnaise- not with egg.” The salad has chives and apple, no onion. “Onion has too much passion.”

Andrei, a middle age polish man, melts butter at the stove. He has walnuts soaking in a shallow bowl. “You should always buy nuts at the Russian store. At health food store, like $8 a pound. Russian store, maybe $2.” With carpenter hands, he rolls balls of dough through shredded coconut. His cd skips. The Krisha chants and bells repeat more than usual.

I went to bed last night wondering what to expect in our stay with the Hare Krishnas. I woke this morning to singing, chanting, bells and three bellows of a conch shell. They meditate every morning. If we’re up at 6:00, we’re welcome to join in. For an hour, my dreams rose and fell with their enchanting songs.

We fed the goats, made breakfast and Brad and I spoke silently about how best to navigate this spiritual world. Uddhava brought us the “WWOOF information“ book, a series of notes for volunteers. "It's almost like a transcendental hostel here, " she said as we talked about the day's chores- picking beets, turning compost, walking the injured dog.

“…You’ll find that we like to chant the Hare Krishna maha mantra here, but do know that we are not Hare Krishnas!!” Paragraph 5 of our book raises as many questions as it answers.

65 degrees is short sleeve weather. We thinned turnip and bok choy seedlings, cleared beds of dead corn and lettuce, thought about climbing the neighbors persimmon tree, and caught a frog Ukiah named Putt-Putt.

Tomorrow we’ll visit lamas at the Rudolph Steiner College farm. I wonder if the kids will bring their GameBoys.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Book List

Phase two of our trip, time to clear space for an updated profile.

The friendly folks at Blogger encourage us to share our "favorites". Unfortunately, their space in limited. Maybe we can list 15 books. Divided by the four of us that's 3.7 titles each. And at least one of us struggles with identifing fixed favorites. Instead, we've been recording books, music, movies and other current interests. We reccomend the books that fueled the first leg of our travels…


Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great; Judy Blume
Love Ruby Lavender; Deborah Wiles
The Sisters Grimm; Michael Buckley
Azu Manga Daiho volumes 1-4;

Mortal Engines; Philip Reeve
The Merlin Conspiracy; Diana Wynne Jones
Death Note, volumes 1-5; Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata
Collin's Japanese Phrase Book; Hulmut Morsback & Kazu Kurebyashi

Cloud Atlas; David Mitchell
City of Glass: Paul Auster
In a Sunburned Country; Bill Bryson
The Watchman; Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
Anansai Boys; Neil Gaiman
Criminal issues 1-2; Ed Brubaker


Cloud Atlas (Yep, that makes for a double recomendation!)
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man; John Perkins
Home from the Vinyl Cafe & Vinyl Cafe Diaries; Stuart McLean
Bliss & other stories; Katherine Mansfield
Black Clock #5; Cal Arts MFA program
Sex Wars; Marge Piercy
The Imposter; Paula Sharp
The Tea Ceremony, the uncollected writings of Gina Berriault
Milkweed; Jerry Spinelli

Road Trip USA; Jamie Jensen
Volunteer Vacations; Bill McMillon…

Sunday, December 03, 2006

On the road again...

Just can't wait to get on the road again...

Any minute now. Just as soon as we get the sleeping bags packed. And a dozen other little things we're likely to almost overlook. Like the power cord for the van. And our toothbrushes.

We're headed for Carmichael, California and a week at the Lotus Garden Meditation Center and Yoga Studio. We'll be helping with their 2 acres of medicinal and culinary herbs, vegetables, fruit trees, flower gardens, dairy goats... The Center, just outside of Sacramento, is working towards urban self-sufficiency. Likely an interesting contrast our second California stop- Disneyland.