Welcome 2015! Last night I want to an amazing movie about Alan Touring at Blechley Park while he worked on breaking the Enigma ciphers. In many ways the first day of a new year is like any other day. It is only our cultural and historical practices that have place upon it the emphasis of NEW. For this reason, I am not one to write resolutions at the start of a new year. For me, resolutions are an on-going practice of being aware of what is going on in my life; of self-improvement which includes letting go of thoughts and feelings that are not constructive to me or to anyone else and of focusing (to the best of my ability) on what is positive and to be appreciated. And so I started it with a lovely meditative walk on a beautiful clear, sunny day. Susan took me to a park where George Washington’s army spent the bitter winter of 1777-78. Reading the plaques and descriptions of the soldiers’ hardships made it easy for me to feel total gratitude and appreciation for how my life was at that moment. There was a week left before my departure and we started to pack many of the activities that had taken a back seat … We went to Newark’s Museum, an unsung gem that houses one of the world’s largest collection of Tibetan art, including a beautiful Tibetan altar that was consecrated by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The Museum, although I want to call it a Gallery, also had on exhibit many other treasures from China, Korea and the United States. Attached to it is the Ballantine House which was built in 1885 with furnishings reflecting the lives of its occupants, a prominent New Jersey family that had founded a brewery. We took in a movie about Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything, and connected with friends for casual evening meals. Friday the 8th, rolled around very quickly and it was time for me to depart. Susan and I shared a lovely lunch in Morris Plains and then she put me on the train for Penn Station. A half block walk to the New Yorker Hotel connected me to a mini bus ride to JFK airport. And now I started to sweat nails because I was travelling on a complimentary KLM ticket; that means space available. When all paying passengers have been boarded and there are empty seats then I can go! I did not relish spending the night at a hotel at JFK airport. I sat with my fingers crossed and willed myself into a business class window seat. I was the last person paged and as my boarding card was given to me I took a quick peek. It was a business class window seat! A perfect time to feel appreciation and gratitude.
It was the 30th of December. Susan and I decided that Time Square on New Year’s Eve would be nightmare so we did the rounds the day (and evening) before. We took a morning train to Penn Station and walked the High Line. The High Line is a 1.45 mile long New York City linear park in Manhattan on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad spur called the Westside Line. The view of the city at our feet was magnificent and from the size of the crowds it was easy to deduce that walking the High Line was a popular pastime. When we finally got off, we went into a lovely restaurant for an early dinner at The Park on 10th in Manhattan. A leisurely meal accompanied by chilled Prosecco, was followed by a brisk walk and a bus ride to Rockefeller Centre and here the crowds were staggering. One could hardly move … raised arms everywhere, holding cell phones that were capturing the scene. It was well past eight when Mt. Tabor welcomed us back, after a relaxing train ride of about an hour. I neglected to mention that crowd control barriers were already being set up for the New Year’s Eve crowd and people were expected to be arriving in the early hours of the morning of the 31st; not my idea of fun.
Post Christmas is always a fun time for me; a time to reflect and enjoy, at a much slower pace, all the good times. Boxing Day breakfast included Panettone and a shot of Fundador, a great Spanish brandy. Mary, Susan and I got into building a 1000 piece puzzle. We stayed in PJs and grazed our way through the day, nibbling, working on the puzzle and constantly topping up our glasses. Pure decadence! The tempo did not change much the next day although we did discard PJs and Mary left the fold to return to Chicago. But Susan and I continued with the puzzle. Every time we passed the table a stop was inevitable, to find a piece or two. And finally it was completed! Now we could really return all concentration to drink and food. On Monday it was back to a semblance of normalcy: Susan went back to work and I took a ten minute train trip into Morristown for a look around.
It is hard to believe that I have not come here to record some of the loveliest events that I have experienced since leaving Mexico on the 20th of December. I arrived at a most uncivilized hour at Newark airport – 5 am – and Susan came to fetch me. As we drove up to Mt. Tabor this was the welcoming sign . We went straight to bed and slept until noon and then in the afternoon headed out for a nice walk. The weather was mild – not a sign of winter anywhere. Sunday was spent relaxing and enjoying the surroundings. In the evening we went to a fabulous Christmas concert and on Monday had an amazing lunch at an East Indian restaurant with one of Susan’s friends, Kay, to celebrate the latter’s Birthday. The food was sumptuous and the company most loving. The day was completed with some important shopping of turkey and libations. I should add here that I wanted to purchase a Panettonne for a Christmas morning breakfast. Every Christmas my mother would always make a Hungarian Kalacs and Italian Panettone is very similar in taste. On this particular occasion it was not to be … the Italian bakery that Susan frequents had sold all their Panettone! But I knew that Panettone would make a presence on our breakfast table. On Tuesday one of Susan’s Irish friends,Mary, came from Chicago to help with the festive celebrations.
Wednesday was a sunny bright day so we decided to head out into the woods for a walk. As we approached the biking trail, i noticed a sign was a little unnerving but decided that my bright clothing should be a clearly visible signal that I am not a moose! After our hike I went for a walk and on a whim walked into a shop that had shelves over-flowing with red boxes of Panettone!!! Wow, what a fabulous gift. Christmas Eve we went to Midnight Mass and Christmas morning was a delight of opening gifts that we exchanged and then preparaing a Christmas Day traditional Irish banquet: ham, stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots and a flaming plum pudding with hard sauce. This amazing meal had been preceded by a wide variety of nibblies washed down with Italian prosecco. The aforementoned meal was consumed by five willowy ladies (Susan, Mary, Kay, Adrianna and yours truly) who immediately took on the form of sugar plums without the fairies part of it.
I have entitled this post as La Vida Sencilla meaning “the simple, uncomplicated life”. That is exactly how these past two weeks have been. At times it felt as though time stood still allowing me to bask in the simple pleasures.
My daily routine in La Manzanilla is very low key: wake up around seven and make my way to coffee machine at eight. Sit on the balcony with cup of delicious coffee looking out over the bay and listening to the deep groan of the ocean.
Daily walks along the three mile long beach are a must, usually with a stop at the half way mark for a slurpie margarita or a cold beer. Lunch or dinner is eating down on the beach. The avocados and shrimp are absolute amazing, succulent and fresh.
On Sunday Leah, her friends and hosts (Linda & Claude) and I had a lovely brunch at a hotel on the beach.
Then on Monday I went to Melaque with Leah. It was a thirty minute bus ride and cost 15 pesos. One Canadian dollar is about 13 pesos. We poked around town – always fun – and then had lunch on the beach before we headed back on the bus at three in the afternoon. The Margarita hour was approaching!
That means a walk down to the beach to watch the sunset over the ocean and sip on margaritas served over shaved ice.
And now it is my last night here in La Manzanilla where there is no post office, no bank and where the pace truly allows one to savour the moment. We (Leah,Linda, Claude & I) walk down to Palapa Joe’s for drinks, guacamole and some fabulous music.
Zoë, you would have loved it. I leave for the wintery north of New York. It will be quite a change but spent in the company of a very dear friend from my student days in Spain.
The next step to my round of adventures was arrival late Saturday, the 6th of December in Calgary with an overnight at a hotel near the airport. Sunday morning I boarded a shuttle bus with a view of a beautiful full moon about to set as seen in this photo where it is “resting” on the outstretched arm of a crane.
It is always a little difficult to wrap my head around the fact that modern travel catapults me from below zero temperatures to plus thirty in less than five hours with scenery such as the view from my bedroom window of verdant nature and the blue ocean beyond. I try to imagine people making the same journey one hundred years ago. In spite of my love for travel and adventure, I am not convinced that I would have happily embarked on such a journey.
But here I am with every intention of making the most of these beautiful surroundings!
On Monday, the first of December, I took a train to Ottawa. It was wintery in St.Foy and no more balmy upon my arrival in Ottawa. I love travelling by train. To sit back in a comfortable seat which also allows one to get up and move around is luxury. Stefan was waiting for me with his usual beaming smile and gave me the bear hug that I always associate with him. I bathed in the waves of love … We dropped off my suitcases with my Airbnb hostess, Karen McHarg, and went to a Mexican restaurant on Elgin Street for dinner.
The week in Ottawa was wonderful. I got to see Stefan every day with the exception of one and enjoyed every moment that we spent together: visiting his digs, sampling different restaurants, applying for our EU passports and generally hanging out. I even managed two visits to a yoga studio to which Karen introduced me. Karen and her dog, Sandy, were one of a kind. She made me feel like one of the family and watching the exchange between her and her dog, Sandy, was unique. I have never seen a dog interact with its master as those two did. It was all wonderful. I truly appreciated the effort that Stefan made to stay in touch every day and now it was time to move on. I went to the airport on Saturday evening, the 6th of December, had one more dinner with Stefan before boarding my flight for Calgary. Thank you Stefan for a most memorable visit!
What a magical day I was blessed with today. Through the parted curtains I viewed a totally white winter scene before scurrying down stairs for breakfast.
After a light and quick breakfast Stephan drove Carla, Afra, Felix and me into Old Québec. We parked in the citadel and walked past field stone manorial homes, some still serving as private residences but many turned into museums and civic buildings. The whole scene was truly magical. Not only was it wintery but all the Christmas decorations that festooned the trees and buildings added an air of festivity.
We had a lovely brunch at L’Omelette,
after having attended an Anglican church service. Then a visit to Morrin Centre, a beautiful manorial centre with an amazing library.
Then It was off to a Christmas Market with a very authentic Santa Claus, hot wine, food and music.
Wow, I simply have to take some time and list all the fabulous gifts that have come to me this past month.
First of all I found a beautiful person to live in my home while I travel and play abroad. Then I had a great week to re-organize all my affairs for my absence. It was in the apartment of a friend who was absent and invited me to stay at her place and the plus is that it was in my building so I could access my storage and take out, consider and either pack or return to storage. Next came the offer from a friend to stay in her home during her absence. This allowed me to relax, withdraw, entertain my next move and then act.
I flew from Vancouver to Quėbec City. At least that was my plan but upon arriving in Toronto, the continuing flight was cancelled. I was able to manifest a helpful traveller with my wifi connection, then a complimentary hotel stay for the night at the Marriott. After that I had an amazingly helpful driver take me to a train statin although he operated a shuttle service from the hotel back to the airport.
Now I am on a train heading for Québec City. I was assisted by a very helpful ViaRail employee on the shuttle into Montreal’s central station; my luggage was taken checked in for the long train ride; I was assigned a seat in the “comfort” section although I had paid economy class fare … So many lovely helpful people; so many amazing events and experiences!
I am truly blessed and grateful!
Just a little warning … I have not blogged for a very long time. The WordPress platform looks alien so it will take me a few tried to once more become familiar with the various features and options. I am delighted that you are here, dear reader, but I ask for your patience and understanding while I make my way into the familiar. There will be more news and, hopefully, many photos to record the various happenings. Until the next time … CIAO
It has been some time since I posted a blog. Initially I followed the advice of the savvy internet gurus who recommended that a blog can only be successful if it contains new material regularly; regularly meant at least once a week. I took this to heart and posted regularly, sometimes from a truly inspired position but many times not. Then I decided that I would write and share only when it was meaningful and effortless. In other words when an inspiration would flow naturally.
On the 7th of March I had an amazing experience. I crawled under a grand piano onto some lovely silk fabric and rested my head in a nest of luxurious silk pillows. At the keyboard Craig Addy started to play as I settled in for a magical experience called Under the Piano. Although I had done this once before it was over four years ago and I could not really remember much about it other than the fact that it too had been magical. And anyway, that was then and this was now and I just wanted to immerse myself in the present sensations.
Sensations? Wow. I flew like a bird. I floated like an angel. I was in a different realm. I was out of my body. I was weightless. I was being caressed from inside out. Not only was I able to experience the magical effect of the sounds and vibrations while under the piano; they appear to be etched into the very cells of my soul, reverberating from the core of me out into the universe; waves of sensation rather like a tuning fork diminishing but eternal like an echo.
The music that Craig played for me is all around me right now because he records each session and makes the music available. And each time that I listen, that tuning fork is drawing back those sensations and having a continually amazingly soothing effect on me. The same effect as initially? I cannot really say. Is every kiss the same? Every hug? I gravitate to the recording because my soul craves that magical reverberating, that internal caress.
I wrote about this experience Under the Piano several days ago but was not totally satisfied. I felt that there was more to be said. A dear friend (and skeptic) has revealed to me what I believe that “missing bit” really is.
First of all one needs to relax totally while under the piano; to surrender all thoughts and feelings that may be going on in the mind and allow the heart to take over. It takes a great deal of courage for modern western man to surrender to the feelings and emotions that are normally under many layers of the conscious mind. That can make one very vulnerable. Modern man does not generally like to be vulnerable.
Yet surrendering, letting go, being vulnerable is the fulcrum of every self-help, personal growth program. To surrender to what is; to the awareness of now which is where true power lies, as Eckhard Tolle tells us is the secret of happiness. And this is exactly what happens while the body, Under the Piano, is absorbing the vibrations; allowing the music to wash and infiltrate the body and spirit. Upon crawling out from Under the Piano there is only JOY!
In this busy world the media and advertising direct our focus to our bodies. We go to gyms and spas; we diet; we work out. And yet there is more and more evidence that the body is a reflection of the mind and spirit. This is not only a message from Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer but more and more hard-core scientists are coming to the same conclusion. Yet how many of us take our mind and spirit to the gym or spa or nourish it with good healthy organic ingredients?
Julian Treasure, a master of sound, who has given numerous presentations on Ted Talks crawled under that same piano a few days ago and allowed Craig’s music to create magic, no doubt personal and therefore different from mine but nevertheless cathartic and ethereal. Here is his testimonial: Under the Piano with Craig Addy
And here are a few sample playings and testimonials: Under The Piano