Saturday, 18 August 2012

Phoenix Rises

A quick final post before we head home tomorrow. This has been a remarkable trip. Not just because of what we have seen and experienced, but because of how it all made us feel. There was a restlessness that was palpable with both of us. Maybe it was the routine of everyday life or maybe it was just busy schedules that haven't allowed us to slow down and take a break. Maybe life's stresses were weighing heavily upon us both. Whatever the reasons, this ten day field trip has allowed us to reconnect with each other, (over a thousand miles in a car together will have that effect) and to live without pressures, schedules, or clocks. And....the sites were pretty awesome too. It is without irony that we are ending here in Phoenix, although the rising from the ashes stuff does make a nice bookend for our trip.

We drove from Sedona this morning and headed straight for the Musical Instruments Museum. I know! It sounds incredibly geekish, but the place came highly recommended by several very diverse sources. It was astounding. We figured that we would be in and out in about 2 hours, but we lingered for closer to four. What a great place. Interactive, constantly in motion, and great fun. I kept thinking about my friend The Beatles Fan and how much he would enjoy it. In his honour I will post a couple of great shots that The Husband took for me.

And so tomorrow we head back east, but not before we show gratitude for being afforded this tremendous opportunity. Thanks to all who held the world together back home for us. When the time comes, we will do the same for you.

One last thing......if there is one constant theme that kept arising in our conversations these past ten days it is that just like Jonathan Larsen wrote in Rent, "There's no day like today." Life is far too short and fragile to put off for tomorrow what you really want to make happen now. This trip has been talked about for over five years. We finally got off of our asses and pushed to make it happen. There will always be reasons not to do something. Instead find the reasons to do it. Everybody needs a reboot now and then. In the immortal words of Nike (the shoe company, not the god) "Just Do it!"

Friday, 17 August 2012

A Pre-Shabbat Hike

Shabbat Shalom to all who observe. We spent a wonderful pre-Shabbat at Red Rock Crossing in the Coconino National Forest so that we might hike the trails and climb up to the notch to get the best view of Cathedral Rock.

We hiked for more than four hours and over seven miles. Who knew that us old folks still had that in us? We crossed creeks in our shoes, climbed steep inclines to the some of the best views we have seen, (and that is saying a great deal) chatted with fellow hikers, and just flat-out had a great day. There is tremendous serenity in the natural beauty given to us. There is no doubt in my mind that we are all charged with protecting this precious gift.

We were dirty,dusty, and tired, but ever so content.

We meandered down to the creek upon our return, and decided to just chill a bit with the hundreds of ducks that seem to call this place home. They were in full-throated quack mode. I joked with The Husband that they all seemed to be getting ready to sing L'cha Dodi with us to help welcome Shabbat.

A few more quicks hits from our time here in Sedona.

The cicadas are positively orchestral in their chants.

There is a great deal of New Age stuff around here, but it is surprisingly non-judgemental. The locals seem perfectly comfortable with the skeptics like me.

The peace that I am feeling today is making this a pure Shabbat Shalom. We will be sorry to leave Sedona tomorrow, but look forward to the final leg of our trip in Phoenix.


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Pink Jeep!

A few thoughts from today in Sedona.

As I sit here gazing out at the Red Rocks from our hotel balcony, I am struck by the tremendous order that has seemingly grown out of chaos. It reminds me of days from long ago. Did any of your kids ever experiment with Play Doh? All of those bright colours packaged in individual containers, coursing with vibrancy. Until your three year old got his hands on them and squished it all together into one awesome creation. That Is what these rock formations remind me of. Colours and shapes that seem random, yet come together in such a way as to provide the viewer with a tremendous sense of the mysteries of the universe.

I went off-roading in the rocks today. Anybody who knows me well will certainly ask the question, "And so Dawn.....Did you puke?" The answer is a happy and unqualified no, although my ass does feel a bit like it was given three years of birthday whacks simultaneously. We did a two hour jeep tour of the scenic rim and ascended an additional two thousand feet to the top of the Mongollon Rim. Our guide Mike from Pink Jeep Tours was wildly entertaining and so patient with all of us newbies to the area. The panoramic views were astounding, although a wrong foot placed here or there.....well I will leave that image up to the sick imaginations of you, my readers.

It poured late this afternoon and it didn't at all dampen anything that I am feeling about this incredible place. In fact, the rain gave the rocks a whole new pallette of colour.

I have just about run out of adjectives. How else to say...beautiful, glorious, awe-inspiring, stunning, gorgeous. Help me out. Get out your thesaurus and find me some new words. Post them here or on my Facebook page. I have a few more days of blogging to take care of for this trip.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Red Rocks are Life Affirming

I have to say that I am rebooting my relationship with The Divine One on this trip. It is easy to get complacent about faith in my line of work. Too often I find myself stuck in the rut of page turning; willing the prayer to be over so that we might move on to the next. It comes with the job. How does the facilitator of prayer find meaning in the prayer for herself? The answer is neither simplistic nor is it single-layered. But, I do know that part of the solution for me is to see natural beauty in ways that it has heretofore been hidden. Today was one of those days.

Following a quiet and serene six hour drive from Santa Fe, we coasted into Sedona Arizona. (Not before we realized, of course, that we are now on Pacific time and lost another hour. It certainly helped to explain the discrepancies with Hannah our surly GPS! Never argue with a machine. It is a losing battle.) The Husband has been so excited about this leg of the trip because he booked us into the most magnificent resort imaginable. This is the view from our private cottage balcony.


And here is a quick look at part of the grounds.


It makes digging myself out of my spiritual quagmire a bit easier when I can see those views every hour of every day for a while. Tomorrow we will delve deeper into the Red Rocks of Sedona.

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam. She-kacha lo b'olamo.

Blessed are you Adonai our God Ruler of the universe, who has given us this in the world.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


The Husband has taken to spending copious amounts of his time poking fun at me because of my great desire to see Georgia O' Keeffe country. And while it is true that this lifelong dream was part of the impetus for this trip, it wasn't the only reason that I wished to travel to this part of the United States. That said, today was the day that I finally got to spend with Georgia and her genius.

I suppose that one of the reasons that I so admire the lady and her work is because she was a true original who refused to ever be pigeonholed or typecast. She reviled critics and others who saw hidden meanings in her paintings, and just when they thought that they had her pegged she reversed course. Flowers became rivers, rivers became mesas, mesas became mountains. And through it all, it was her intense love for nature and its beauty that brought her to finally settle permanently here in Northern New Mexico where she is a revered icon.

Georgia was a feminist before feminism was in vogue. She lived life her way and never questioned whether or not it was true or proper. And on top of all of that, she was one of the true art treasures of the 20th century. Being here in Santa Fe, it has become so clear to me; the beauty she saw in the place and why painting these landscapes was so vital to her work. So, if traveling here allowed me to spend time with this magnificent artist, then I will happily accept the good-natured ribbing from The Husband.

A few more highlights of the day. Santa Fe is a remarkable city. Adobe architecture is the norm and makes for a visual feast. Even the local Best Buy is housed in an adobe building.

The plaza in the heart of the city is a historical landmark that dates back to the Spanish and Mexican occupations. It is the bustling heart of this town, where native vendors come to sell their artwork and jewelry.

A few hours were well spent at the International Folk Art Museum. Peasant art from around the world is displayed in a stunningly beautiful architectural marvel that is nestled at the foot of the surrounding mountains.

Hannah, our surly Aussie GPS, is getting quite obnoxious. Today she took us off-road just for the hell of it. If you have never navigated dirt trails in a Ford Focus, you just haven't lived.

More from the "Are you f*#%ing with me or did you really name your kid that?" file....Canyon! Not Kenyon, Canyon!! Kind of fits with Blackjack, yes? And then there was baby Silas. Yes, I realize the biblical roots, but it still strikes me as odd.

Tomorrow from Sedona......

Monday, 13 August 2012

Do We Know the Way to Santa Fe?

The Husband and I were chatting in the car today and wondering how it could be possible for the vistas to get more stunning than those we have already seen. We grossly underestimated the possibilities. The Holy One was having a particularly good day when creating the Southwest of North America.

We started out early so that we might beat the crowds and the heat to the Taos Pueblo. The Indigenous people of this region have been inhabiting this land for centuries and continue to do so up until this very day. The adobe bricked homes function much as they did back in the day, with no electricity, running water, or modern conveniences. The adobe bricked ovens are still used for cooking. Of course we had to sample some fresh bread. What's a vacation without carbo-loading. I was especially impressed how the tribe continues to thrive with several programs designed to keep the younger generation involved. Our tour guide was a young college student who is employed by the tribe so that she can help make her tuition for the coming semester. Synagogues take note!

Once again we were determined to take in as much of the glorious landscapes as possible. We meandered through the back roads out of Taos strangely titled "The High Road to Taos." Odd because we were actually leaving Taos....but whatever. The once again terribly unnerving mountain roads took us through many villages and artisan colonies, very few of whom looked ready to receive tourists, so we carried on.

We finally hit desert views on the roads to Santa Fe. Breathtaking!!

Santa Fe is another beautiful city. We checked in and went straight to Canyon Road. Several blocks of the most interesting and eclectic grouping of galleries I have seen in any city in a very long time. We lunched in the courtyard of one and browsed away the afternoon in dozens more.

A few quick notes.....

To our friend The Social Butterfly: Trip Advisor is phenomenal! And it is even better when traveling with an iPad. Anybody considering a tablet purchase must seriously consider Apple's little wonder.

We had the best Mexican food last night in Taos. My tastebuds are still singing. And where did we find it? Trip Advisor.

The Husband has been so uncharacteristically diligent about bringing his glasses along. As many of you know, his habit is to leave home without them and then borrow others, but during this trip he has been on top of his game. Until today, when he noticed that he must have unwittingly popped a lens in the hotel in Taos. A trip to Walmart gave him three pairs for 8 bucks. Not beautiful, but at least he isn't seeing 8s instead of 4s on the bills anymore and I don't have to continually recite the menu items to him.

Yes it is hot! 97F today in Santa Fe. And that bullshit about it being a dry is hot!

Finally, traveling is always a little bit sweeter when receiving great news from home. Younger Son is now a fully employed citizen complete with all the rights and taxes that this designation carries. It was great to hear the excitement in his voice. We are so proud and sending much love.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Just a Quaint 5 Hour Sunday Drive

We knew starting out that today was going to be a driving day, but we planned and hoped to make it as picturesque as possible. The key to making a drive picturesque? Get the hell off of the interstates!! Honestly. Nothing has destroyed the natural beauty of this magnificent country more than an exit ramp flowing with Mickey Ds and 7-11s. The Husband donning his trip-planning hat, created a route that took us out of Colorado Springs and onto the Scenic Byway. The resulting surroundings literally took my breath away. I was dangling out of the Focus' passenger window attempting to grab snapshots with my iPhone. If it weren't for the snow and cold in the winter, I could honestly imagine living in Colorado. It is gorgeous, environmentally friendly, and healthy.

The only problem with the scenic route is a lack of hospitable waterclosets, and being that my anatomy is of the XX variety it made for a fairly interesting hour and half of praying to every deity known to humankind for the swift emergence of a clean gas station.

Take note of the wild sunflowers in the bottom left hand corner. They seem to grow wild everywhere around here.

Our destination for today was Taos, but rather than do an "as the crow flies" direct route, we decided to take what is know to the locals as the Enchanted Circle, which is an 85 mile circuit through the ski country of northern New Mexico. The small towns and hunting lodges are packed with tourists willing to kill a moose or two, or snag some poor unsuspecting fish from a stream. After stopping in the Red River Valley for lunch, we headed back up and down the mountains toward Taos. The drive was hairpin and heartstopping. The Husband kept asking if I needed a was that steep and that curvy. (Twin Son and His Better Half-if you are reading this, the cottage road is a breeze in comparison.) We were followed into Taos on this wild ride by a pack of bikers out for a joyride. Bikers seem to be everywhere on this trip. We aren't certain if it is the area or the season, but they are having a blast by the hundreds.

We finally made our way into Taos and the rain decided to begin in earnest. We were determined to spend as much time in this lovely artist colony as possible, so to hell with my hair! This is an unbelievable place. Artists setting up shop wherever they can find real estate. Native American weavers, jewelry makers, painters, and schlock artists all have found a haven here in Taos. And.....what do you think we found right in the middle of town? Chabad! Complete with native sign and pueblo dwelling. Ya just can't keep a good Jew down! Here is a better example of the beauty of Taos. I am not a windchime enthusiast, but these are especially beautiful.

The good news? Having a wonderful time and we haven't fought about line ups or traffic at all. The bad news? My hair sucks and I won't let The Husband take my picture. I'm trying to get over it.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Al Keyn Yesh Adonai B'makom Hazeh...

Today I stood at the top of a mountain and I had a giraffe eat right from my hand. How does one top experiences like that?

At the summit of Pike's Peak I had a John Denver moment. I talked to God and listened for his casual reply. Al Keyn yesh Adonai B'makom hazeh v'anochi lo yadati. (Surely God is in this place, but I did not know!) I saw the world from its precipice and I believe that this might be the place that heaven and earth actually touch. It was one of the most intensely spiritual moments I have had in a very long time. Those of you who know me well know that this is not a word that I throw around easily nor carelessly.

And...then....there were the giraffes. Who would have thought that the simple act of feeding lettuce to these magnificent creatures (vegetarian, by the way!) would fill me with such wonder and reverence. I pet their noses and allowed their tongues to run across my hands. It was awe-inspiring.

It would be very easy to get blasé about a day like today. I choose to remember it as one of the rare ones.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Gan Elohim

A friend posted the following on Facebook today. "Wondering what is the Divine spark that makes us all human." I must admit that while I have spent countless hours pondering similar questions, I have come to the conclusion that sometimes God's mysteries are best left to the universe. Every so often though, one comes across a natural wonder that just defies description and truly needs to be seen to be believed. Today we saw just such a formation in Colorado Springs known as Garden of the Gods. I have chosen to call it by its Hebrew name Gan Elohim, as only one Divine Spirit could have possibly have had a hand in this creation. Springing up at the base of Pike's Peak is a protected nature reserve filled with hiking trails, beautiful mountain vistas, and the coolest red rock formations we have ever beheld. As we hiked and meandered our way through the park, we were continually blown away by acre upon acre of natural and truly picturesque magnificence. This place must have been touched by the finger of God, hence my justification in using the Hebrew.

Following more than three hours hiking, we stopped in Historic Old Colorado City for some lunch. Tapas Colorado style! Nice. We wandered through Old Town and checked out many of the galleries and shops. This is a town that is still recovering from the devastating wildfires of several weeks back, so they are very welcoming of tourists to the area.
A few odds and ends. Heard a father calling after his son named...wait for it...Blackjack! At first we thought he was calling for a dog, but when we saw the tow-headed youngster come running, we knew. Wonder if his other son is named Craps!
We have become dependent on our GPS whom The Husband has monikered Hannah. Why? Well, it seems that our Ford Focus is carrying Montana plates. Get it?? Hannah Montana! Nobody has ever accused The Husband of being urbane. Hannah is a bitchy lass complete with Aussie accent who continually badgers us when we veer off her chosen course. We have already sent a slew of cuss words in her direction, but we both know that she is worth the $50 spent on her. Cheap-assed %#*+
We passed by The Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame. Who knew? One can actually attain immortality by getting themselves heaved off of the rear end of a bucking steer. What a country.
Tomorrow we head to the summit of Pike's Peak. Apparently there is 50% less oxygen up there. A great place for an asthmatic or a Republican. Less to suck up! Tomorrow from a mountaintop.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

We Are A Mile High

The Husband and I have been talking about this trip for so long, that it seems almost surreal that it has a finally begun. We left muggy and humid Toronto early this morning, only to land in muggy and tres humid Denver in the middle of mountain time morning. This is the first airport experience in dog's years that has gone smoothly. I didn't get stopped by US customs believing me to be a suspected terrorist smuggling contraband throat lozenges, nor did I get an unwanted hand-job from a truly hard up security worker. We came, we scanned, we flew! How novel? We managed in the system as it is actually supposed to run.

Denver International puts Pearson to shame. I cannot fathom how we will ever be considered a world class city with an airport right out of the twentieth century. Denver has done it right. A myriad of restaurants, shops, information kiosks, and helpful staff. They even handed us a link so that we can rate them after our trip. Pearson's staff runs screaming from passengers as if lit afire. Our bags were waiting for us and there was a prerecorded message from the mayor personally welcoming us to The Mile High City. Hands up if you think that Toronto's mayor would be a great opening site for tourists to behold?

We are only staying in Denver for a very short time before we begin our trek southward towards Colorado Springs. We spent the day in the beautiful downtown core. We passed right by Coors Field and I experienced a pang of remorse when I realized that we couldn't see a Rockies game because they are on the road. Gorgeous looking digs, though. The 16th street mall is what Yonge Street wishes it were. Several miles of closed-to-traffic pedestrian malls filled with shops and restaurants. We meandered over to the Capitol building and were struck by the fact that all of the flags on government buildings are still flying at half-staff to honor those murdered by a madman. 

I was fascinated by the stunning 19th century architecture on Pennsylvania Street and was enthralled by the Molly Brown house and museum. Not so enthralled to wait in the heat for two hours for the tour. From her photos Molly looked more like Kathy Bates than Debbie Reynolds. That musical just wouldn't have worked at all had she played herself. 

We stumbled upon a food truck festival in front of the US mint. 20-30 of the finest cuisine one has ever tasted. It was incredible. Not a tube steak in the bunch. 

I had been warned by many about altitude sickness, but I must admit that I feel just fine. It is probably because I am totally hungover from my motion sickness meds taken for the plane, so I am basically kicking the altitude's ass. 

We are psyched and excited, but also a bit worn out by the heat and the time difference. A light dinner and a good night's sleep and onward we go.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

10 Days in A Rented Ford Focus

This is how The Husband and I plan on spending the next 10 days. I will attempt to chronicle the experience here in this space, and hopefully we will both return to The Great White North to tell great tales and with our marriage still firmly intact. If any of you hear wild screams invading your peaceful August afternoons, it is probably just us reacting to some road trip malady. Keep you all posted!

Friday, 3 August 2012

1962: It Was a Very Good Year

A great deal happened in 1962.

-John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth

-Johnny Carson took over hosting duties on the Tonight Show

-Pete Best was dumped by the Beatles and Ringo Starr came aboard the Fab Four

-JFK played chicken with Khruschev in Cuba

-Marilyn Monroe died at the tender age of 36

-The Maple Leafs were on a roll and once again took home Lord Stanley's hardware

-One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest was published

-Lawrence of Arabia hit theatres

-Matthew Broderick, Rosie O'Donnell, Tom Cruise, Steve Carell, Roger Clemens, and Demi Moore were all born

And...some of my all-time favourite people came into the world. The closest friends of my youth. I wasn't around for most of it considering that I was born on the third last day of that year, making me the baby of the group, but...1962 was still a very good year. (BTW-I used to hate my December birthday. I always was the last to do everything. Now, in the throes of middle-age...It's not so bad!)

When talking with a few of those friends earlier this year about our upcoming dates with destiny and the impending half a century that we were all due to mark, we hit upon this idea of a mass birthday party. Given that our birthdays were obviously spread out across the twelve months of 2012, the idea of holding a get together as close to the middle of the summer seemed only logical. Our resident organizer took it upon herself to contact the group and a brainstorm was born. After much haggling over the calendar, (so many schedules to sync) the seven of us, our spouses, and a few offspring gathered last evening to celebrate 50 years together. It seemed only fitting. We were all so close-knit growing up, that ringing in this milestone was a natural. Yes, it is true that we all have our own lives now. Careers, families, and travels have all interceded. But it was amazing how easy it all seemed. Old patterns. Old jokes. Old stories. Like time and distance had never separated us.

There was more grey and less hair. A few more lines and a few more pounds. But none of that mattered. It was like we had never left each other for lives that demanded to be lived.

We had party favours. CDs with our favourite songs from another generation and retro candy came in personalized loot bags. Old photos provided some frightening reality checks on fashion faux pas and 70s hairstyles. And laughs. Lots and lots of laughs.

Many people have inquired about my feelings on this upcoming birthday. I have decided to embrace it for all its glory. And, why not? What's not to embrace. I look at 50 as a presentation of opportunities. Opportunities to try new things, to see new places, and to meet new people. But I refuse to dismiss the ones that got me here. Last night we celebrated it all! Happy Birthday 1962. You were indeed a very good year.