I have stated this before; I either find wolves or they find me. In this case my little one and I were walking to Starbucks and I stopped right after I noticed this advertisement for frozen food at a grocery store. It is clever and adorable! From Paris to Dallas, San Francisco to Seville, Antigua to Alaska, Venice to Vancouver, and all sorts of places in between I have found them, or they have found me. I have seen them on coins, ancient tiles, and tapestries; in statuary, murals, and stained glass. I have bought artisans’ crafts from all over with wolves carved from gems, woven in baskets, and burned into gourds. American essayist Henry David Thoreau once said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” I see a world with wolves, where they run free in the wild and are protected from trapping; where the only shooting allowed is from the lenses of cameras. I see a world where they have families that strengthen our national parks and the whole earth both environmentally and economically. A world with wolves — what a wonderful world indeed.
“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair’d the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress
Or softly lightens o’er her face,
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek and o’er that brow
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,—
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.” ~ Lord Byron, English Poet
She walks in beauty even in sleep. I would say auburn tresses rather than raven, but she definitely has a heart whose love is innocent. I pray she continues to walk in grace and beauty all the days of her life. She is my greatest achievement, my gift from God, and the legacy of all those whose blood she carries who have gone before her. She is destined for great things. And she is my whole heart. I walk in beauty because of her.
Our wolf hybrids love to play. They especially love their squeaky toys. The sad part for me is in seeing them destroyed … cute little bunnies, foxes, and raccoons. Typically the toys have two squeakers each … one in the head and one in the tail. Cheyenne and Dakota love to play tug-of-war with them and then they take turns chasing each other snatching the toys back and forth. Recently my little one discovered the squeakers are no longer plain white disks; now they are making them into red hearts. I find this cool and a little sad at the same time. Their toys typically don’t last long but it is better than the alternative of them eating all our furniture. A friend of mine actually patented some dog toys years ago and made a killing. I have stated before wolf hybrids should not be pets. They are high strung and require lots of attention. But I have devoted over half of my life to them and I understand them. Australian filmmaker Tim Cope said:
“Perhaps most important for nomads was the belief in the symbiosis that existed between wolf and humans on the steppe. Wolves were an integral part of keeping the balance of nature, ensuring that plagues of rabbits and rodents didn’t break out, which in turn protected the all-important pasture for the nomads’ herds.”
Wolves have been vilified for centuries and thankfully man is finally starting to understand again their gentle nature and the critical role they play in our environment as both apex predators and a keystone species. There is still so much to be learned from them. They must be protected and preserved … and allowed to play.
It was the final day of our trip. We had ridden up in a little cable car on a crazy steep hill and had gone down the famed Lombard Street with its eight hairpin turns. It has been claimed to be “the most crooked street in the world” and I believe it. But still no sign of my beloved St. Francis. And then I did a little research. It turns out the Mission San Francisco de Asis was founded in 1776 and is both the oldest intact Mission in California and also the oldest building in San Francisco! It was incredible going into a building that had survived earthquakes and was as old as the founding of our country. Then I discovered the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi. I had wanted to visit Assisi and Gubbio while we were in Italy on our honeymoon but we just couldn’t swing it. Imagine my surprise when I discovered exquisite Italian murals portraying the life of St. Francis and radiant stained glass throughout the length of the church. Finally I had discovered him in these two holy places. Since it was our last night, we decided to take a romantic dinner boat cruise around the bay at sunset. When we came up to the dock this guy took one look at Burk and said, “Way to go player!” which we both took as a funny compliment. I was wearing my beautiful red cape and we were happy and relaxed. American photographer Imogen Cunningham once said, “I think San Francisco is the best place in the whole world for an easy life.” After dessert we headed up for dancing to a great live band. For as long as I live I will never forget passing under the Golden Gate Bridge, all lit up, with the lights of San Francisco twinkling off in the distance. And of course the last song they sang was “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” I sure did.
On this day we booked a tour of Muir Woods followed by some Napa wineries. A giant bus picked us up at our hotel and we were off. Muir Woods is a national monument for a reason. Only twelve miles north of San Francisco, it protects 240 acres of old growth coast redwood forest (Sequoias) and is one of the few small areas remaining in the San Francisco Bay area. These precious trees can only be found in a narrow, cool coastal belt from California in the south to Oregon in the north. Before logging hit, there were an estimated two million acres of old growth forest containing redwoods growing along this narrow strip along the coast. It is sickening really. In 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt declared the land a National Monument. Named after the famed naturalist John Muir, his environmental campaigns helped establish the National Park system. I have no words to adequately convey the silent majesty of this small forest. Pine needles lent silence to our steps as we approached one area aptly named “The Cathedral.” They even posted a sign requesting no talking in acknowledgement of its tranquility. It was literally like worshipping God in church and I had no doubt it was sacred; possibly even more so than edifices built by man. In a huge semi-circle these majestic giants encircled us, and it was both humbling and awe-inspiring. I had been through Sequoias as a child and they had always stayed with me. This brought it all back and made me feel as if I’d never left. Muir once said:
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
Burk and I both hated to leave this sacred spot of peace that is but a remnant of what once was. But next it was on to wine tasting and I noticed our bus became a little louder with each increasing stop. The Germans (whom we did not know were German) started to unwind and practice their English. People began chatting with each other more freely and let down their guards. By the time we broke for lunch folks were pretty well “loosened up.” My husband likes sweet, white wines and I prefer heavy reds so we kept switching in mild embarrassment after we were given a glass to sample. Everyone ambled out in the sunshine to feed the turtles in one of the vineyard’s ponds and I remember thinking it was awfully quiet on the way back. We had a great day, full of beauty and discovery; learning and adventure. I’d say we painted the town red.
It was day four of our trip and we decided to head out to Chinatown. I had seen Chinatowns in Vancouver, New York, and even Montreal but San Francisco boasted the oldest in North America as well as the largest Chinese community outside Asia. I was worried about seeing dead animals hanging from windows and I am GREATLY relieved to report I never saw any, thank the Lord. We passed under the famous green Dragon Gate flanked by massive Foo Dogs; Imperial guardian lions. Tourists were milling up and down the steep street in and out of shops jammed with all kinds of goods made in China. Colored parasols blocked ceilings, tiny goldfish resided in delicate blue and white porcelain bowls, and “Fortune Cat” figurines were everywhere. I have read the calico is considered to be the luckiest. The white represents happiness, purity, and positive things to come. Black is supposed to ward off evil spirits. Gold is for wealth and prosperity. Green is for good health and red means success in love and relationships. I had also wondered about the significance of why some of their paws were raised — I saw right, left, and even both in the air. Every time I’d ask all I could get in reply was “Lucky Money Cat” and I guess they figured that’s all I needed to know. We saw jade, silk, and long, winding red paper dragons alongside delicate hanging lanterns in every color. Outside I gave cash (SO GLAD I remembered to bring some again!) to an elderly man playing my favorite, the Chinese violin. In addition, he was effortlessly coaxing one of my most beloved classical pieces from its strings; French composer Camille Saint-Saens’ “The Swan.” He played passionately and with an expert gentleness that suggested either years of practice or great innate talent. Regardless, I felt my little acquisition of a “lucky cat” had already benefitted me, even though it did not bring me any money. Some things are priceless … like coming out on a sunny day and listening to the painfully beautiful strains of an exquisite piece of music being carried on the wind. The American playwright Tennessee Williams once said, “Luck is believing you’re lucky.” I agree. And with my handsome husband by my side I was lucky indeed.
The third day we headed out to the Japanese Tea Garden. Part of Golden Gate Park, it was originally built during the World’s Fair in 1894. It is the oldest Japanese garden in the United States with a complex of paths, ponds, and a teahouse featuring plants and trees pruned and arranged in the Japanese style. Its three acres contain statuary and structures influenced by Buddhist and Shinto beliefs as well as many elements of water and rocks to create a calming landscape. All this was ours to enjoy on this morning and with no entry fees. Dallas could learn something from them. This wooden moon bridge was placed with a high arch so its reflection in the still water forms a circle, symbolizing the moon. And from the moon to the tides, we wound up with a stunning view of the ocean for lunch. Seated behind floor-to-ceiling glass, we saw blue sky, rolling white waves, and several giant Seal Rocks rising up out of the sea. The historic restaurant was literally as far as one can go on the West Coast — Land’s End — and the views of the Pacific were magnificent. It was made all the more lovely because this day was our anniversary. I always search for some place special or unusual in some way to celebrate and for dinner we ate at Forbes Island. Built in 1975 by a millionaire houseboat designer, it was a private home opened to public dining in 1980. As we are both children of the ’70’s, it had all the swank of our early childhood (oh yeah) and we LOVED it! A sharp dressed captain in a little boat took us out and we were warmly greeted as soon as we set foot on board. We actually dined below deck and could see fish swimming outside of the portholes. The bar was fabulous, as was the service and the food. Walking around was an absolute blast. Above board it had sand, a waterfall, and actual palm trees growing! Plus we got to go all the way up the winding spiral staircase to the top of the 40 foot working lighthouse! It is the only privately built lighthouse in the United States and is equipped with a lens made in France dating back to 1820. This place was probably the best we have ever chosen to spend our anniversary dinner in the now nine years we have been married.
“In small proportions we just beauties see; And in short measures, life may perfect be.” ~ 17th century English playwright Ben Jonson
It was the perfect end to a perfect day and we were both over the moon bridge.
Our second day we headed out to the famous Pier 39. My favorite hands down was watching the lounging sea lions sunbathing on barges, bellies up, whiskers out and sometimes barking at an occasional wanna be interloper. I loved that they were FREE and just chose to congregate there. I’ve never been a huge people watching fan, but I could have observed them for hours. I chose this picture because of my website and blog: a carousel with seashells. It had two stories and was absolutely magical. I adored the ones in Paris, but this one was so unique with all the sea creatures painted on it. I have a fond memory of riding this with my husband despite the fact that we had no children. We had a wonderful time shopping and even saw a Zoltar fortune teller machine. It was absolutely FREEZING — in June! — and Burk bought me a beautiful red wool Peruvian cape which I literally lived in for the rest of the trip. American writer Mark Twain did NOT say, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”, but I can certainly believe someone did! It was even colder here at this time of year than in Quebec City! But it made for a wonderful respite against the brutal Texas heat and humidity so I did not mind at all. I remember joking the next time I would be able to wear my cape was at Christmas — and it was! Even then Dallas still was not as cold. We visited the Ghiradelli Chocolate Company and walked along the boardwalk. It was an unstructured, leisurely day and we had a lovely time … on Pier 39.
Having run out of French-speaking places to visit for our wedding anniversary (within reason; we hadn’t been to Bora Bora) my husband asked where I would like to go to celebrate our third which was in 2010. Since I love St. Francis of Assisi I thought it would be cool to visit the city who bears his namesake. On our first day Burk really wanted to visit Alcatraz. Oh the DREAD; I would have truly — and I mean this — rather have had a root canal than go to some horrible old prison; I could not think of anything worse! But in a marriage one compromises. I want him to go places with me with a CHEERFUL heart — not just begrudgingly go just to be going — and so I resolved to do the same for him. Alcatraz: WHO KNEW?! I had so many beautiful pictures I could not choose one for this blog. The first thing in the morning we went down to the docks, got our tickets, and boarded the ferry that would take us to the island. As we approached I saw all these Native American signs and symbols. Graffiti was scrawled in greeting saying, “Indians welcome” and “Free” was written into the stripes of the American flag painted underneath the wings of an eagle. I was confused and intrigued. When we landed, I found myself anxious to look around. The small island was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, military fortification, military prison and eventually a federal prison (the only thing of which I knew). But beginning in November of 1969, for more than 19 triumphant months, the abandoned island was occupied by a group of Native Americans who were part of a wave of Indian activism across the nation, with public protests throughout the 1970’s. Now managed by the National Park Service, it is the site of the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast and has, to my utter amazement, become a protected sanctuary for seabird colonies of western gulls, cormorants, and egrets! And therein I found my joy. My husband thought the tour inside interesting but I chose to stay outside with the tangy sea air blowing my hair, white waves crashing against the rocks, and the sounds of all kinds of seabirds creating a sort of soothing cacophony. Rising to heights of nearly 100 feet, the cliffs provide nesting and roosting sites for pigeon guillemots, cormorants, and several different types of gulls. I took an incredible photo of a nesting Great Black-backed Gull (the largest gull in the world!) but she did not take too kindly to the invasion so I quickly moved on. There is also a nesting habitat of agave that provides for night herons. Gardens planted by families of the original Army post and later by families of prison guards were discovered and are being restored to their natural state. In clearing out the overgrowth workers found many of the original flora were growing right where they had been planted more than 100 years earlier. Numerous heirloom rose hybrids, including a Welsh rose believed to have been extinct, have been discovered and propagated. There were a lot of different types of roses, succulents and more growing among manicured gardens of cutting flowers as well as wild sections of native grasses with blackberry and honeysuckle. It was a nature lover’s delight and a true treasure all out of what was once solid rock. The world renowned German born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein once said:
“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”
Little did I know at the beginning of our day I would have such a wonderful experience with the beauty of nature and Native pride all on what I assumed was a God-forsaken island in the middle of San Francisco. I left my heart…
I get a kick out of witty cocktail napkins when I’m at parties. I enjoy discovering them and will actually keep one as a remembrance if it is truly funny; not mean. I had fun with this one as it took me a minute to read it. Ironically I had just been handed a drink. My tastes have changed over the years. I never drank in high school, and when I was over 21 (legal drinking age in the U.S.) I began enjoying Amaretto Sours. The best one I ever had was in San Antonio at our hotel on the river, as they made theirs fresh and not from a mix. Then I began drinking Blue Hawaiians. I didn’t particularly even like them; I just adored the blue color and I have always loved pineapple juice. To this day I’m not sure why that wasn’t a surefire winner with me. Finally I discovered “my” drink: a 7 & 7 with a lime. I do not like going to upscale parties where they try to convince me my beloved Canadian whiskey is not nearly as good as (fill in the blank with whatever they have). Yes, there are more expensive whiskeys, but for me none compare. I will allow for the substitution of Sprite instead of 7-Up but I also know when bartenders switch that on me, as well. I like to say that my favorite drink is like green bean casserole at Thanksgiving: it’s all in the chemistry. JUST MAKE IT LIKE IT IS! Don’t be pretentious and try to give it slivered almonds or eschew the recipe in its entirety simply because it comes out of cans. That is snobbery and it is silly. It’s all about the inexplicable mix of French’s french fried onions with the mushroom soup but it seems as if someone always has to try and tinker with it. The same goes for my drink. As American Judge Judy Sheindlin has famously said, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining”. Hey, that would be a good one to have made … read the writing on the napkin.