Monday, January 12, 2009

Cruise: The End

Mexico was our final port of call; our last three days were spent sailing to Los Angles. It gave us time to take a much needed rest from the four back-to-back excursions. We celebrated Thanksgiving with our new friends. There was the last "formal evening" on Friday. It was fun to dress up (made easier by the fact you can rent a tux for the guys - Himself looked smashing!).

Early on the 30th we slowly made our way into the harbor at LA, traveling through a "pea soup" fog. The ship sounded its horn about every minute, and we could hear other horns sounding around us. Hear...we could barely see the water below us it was so foggy. At one point we went by a Sealand container loading area and all you could see was the huge mega-watt lights making cone shaped beams in the fog... looked like the 'mother ship' was getting ready to land!

I wish there was something nice to say about the disembarking procedure, but there is not. Horrible is the only way I can describe it. ALL 1900 passengers AND their carry-off luggage were scheduled to go thru customs AT THE SAME TIME. It was hot and they would not open the doors to the decks so we could get a breeze. The line winded around the ship, including in front of elevators so that when they opened the riders would face a wall of people (cranky, tired, foot-sore people). I actually saw one man in his mid-40s get off the elevator and SHOVE an elderly man WITH A WALKER in the line so hard he fell against another man who fell against me. I had time to brace, so I didn't fall. We were in line for 3 hours. It was pure craziness.

Once we were thru with that, we boarded our bus for the airport (I'd booked a transfer with the cruise line... next time I'll catch a cab as there were dozens of them waiting. I'd also book a late flight and ignore that stupid line until it was short!!) Anyway, the flight and all that was normal. Only interesting thing was seeing actor Tony Danza in the security line ahead of us. His shoes had to come off just like everyone else's!

Oh, one other funny "coming home" thing. I had turned my cell phone off for the length of the trip. On the bus to LAX I fired it up for the first time in 2 weeks. NINE voice mails downloaded. And they were kinda amazing! Some personal assistant to someone in Florida was frantically trying to get a hold of her boss. Seems the FBI was coming and she wanted to know what to do with some files or something like that. I'm guessing she was dialing an area code that the middle number is one off my area code. I haven't deleted the messages; I'll have to take another listen without the rumbling of a bus in the background!

All in all, we had an excellent time on the cruise. The ports of calls were all very interesting and I have wonderful memories of each.

Aruba - Snorkeling and seeing the beautiful tropical fish.

Columbia - The incredible engineering and architecture of the fortress, tasty coconut rice at lunch.

Panama Canal - watching the different widening methods from dredging to blasting, and the pure history of it all.

Costa Rica - See my first toucan, experiencing a rain forest.

Nicaragua - Masaya volcano and its sulfur fumes.

Guatemala - the beautiful brightly colored clothes of the Maya ladies, watching the volcano erupt

Mexico - baby sea turtles and drinking fresh coconut water.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

One bulb at a time...

Today I planted my first daffodil, and kept planting until I had put in about 100. King Alfred, Salome, Pink Pride and Old Fashion Mix.

Today was my first action in the landscaping of our yard. We now have a BIG yard... with so much potential it's incredible. But it's also a big yard that is overgrown, rocky, with bad drainways. It is a little overwhelming. We are definitely going to have to use "The Daffodil Principle" on it..."One bulb at a time, by one woman..."

The Daffodil Principle by Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards
Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, "Mother, you must come see the daffodils before they are over." I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead. "I'll come next Tuesday", I promised a little reluctantly, on her third call.

Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and so I drove there. When I finally walked into Carolyn's house and hugged and greeted my grandchildren, I said, "Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in the clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these children that I want to see bad enough to drive another inch."

My daughter smiled calmly and said, "We drive in this all the time, Mother." "Well, you won't get me back on the road until it clears, and then I'm heading for home," I assured her.

"I was hoping you'd take me over to the garage to pick up my car."

"How far will we have to drive?"

"Just a few blocks", Carolyn said. "I'll drive. I'm used to this."

After several minutes, I had to ask, "Where are we going? This isn't the way to the garage."

"We're going to my garage the long way," Carolyn smiled, "by way of the daffodils."

I sternly told Carolyn to please turn around.

"Mother, I promise. You will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience."

After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and I saw a small church. On the far side of the church I saw a hand-lettered sign that read "Daffodil Garden." We got out of the car and each took a child's hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path. We turned a corner of the path and I looked up and gasped.

Before me lay the most glorious sight. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it over the mountain peak and slopes. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns -- great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow.

Each different-colored variety was planted as a group so that it swirled and flowed like it's own river with its own unique hue.
There were five acres of flowers. "But who has done this?" I asked Carolyn.

"It's just one woman," Carolyn answered. "She lives on the property. That's her home." Carolyn pointed to a well kept A-frame house that looked small and modest in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house and on the patio, we saw a poster. "Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Going To Ask" was the headline.

The first answer was a simple one. "50,000 bulbs," it read. The second answer was, "One bulb at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet and very little brain." The third answer was, "Began in 1958."

There it was, The Daffodil Principle. For me, that moment was a life changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who more than forty years before, had begun one bulb at a time to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountain top. Still, planting one bulb at a time, year after year had changed the world in which she lived. She had created something of indescribable beauty and inspiration.

The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration. That is, learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time -- often just one baby-step at a time -- and learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time.
When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.

"It makes me sad in a way," I admitted to Carolyn. "What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five or forty years ago and had worked away at it "one bulb at a time" through all those years. Just think what I might have been able to achieve!"

My daughter summed up the message of the day in her usual direct way. "Start tomorrow," she said.

Today I planted my first daffodil...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Cruise: Mexico

Our last port of call was in Huatulco, Mexico. It is a lovely little town, with NINE bays all containing beaches. While it is a tourist town, there are not a lot there yet. It was the most beautiful beach port we visited.

** Coming into the Huatulco dock. **

In reading a cruising forum site, I found out that north of Huatulco was a sea turtle sanctuary. So we decided to cancel the excursion we had booked thru Princess, negotiate a taxi and go it alone. It was an excellent decision! After speaking with a couple different tour touts, one of them led us to his friend who had a taxi. We set our price and headed north. Our excellent driver was Alfredo.
** Alfredo **

The sea turtle sanctuary was about one hour north near the town of Puerto Angel (a very off the beaten path beach town). It’s an area I wouldn’t mind coming back to in the future for some quiet beach time. There were very few people using the beaches.

Anyway, when we got to the sanctuary we found out it had all sorts of turtles beside the sea turtles. But for us, we only had eyes for the elegant sea turtles. The area is a hatching ground and was very famous for its turtle meat factories and other turtle parts souvenirs. But it is now protected by Mexico and they have established both a hatching program (eggs are collected after the turtles come ashore to lay) and a breeding program (mature turtles are kept and the offspring are released). Because of the conservation program we were able to see turtles of all ages – from ping pong ball sized hatchlings, to dinner plate sized juveniles, to 5 foot long adults.

At this time the sanctuary is quite “basic”, but we were able to talk with the director and he told us of the plans for improving and expanding the program. I would love to come back in the future and see how it is coming along. I was a bit surprised there was no gift shop, as that is such a good way to raise funds. But as we pulled out of the gates, a man approached the taxi with different types of necklaces in his hands. And of those, there were little wooden sea turtle carvings.
** Hatchling **

** Juvenile (isn't he cute the way he rests his flippers?) **

** Adult Olive Sea Turtle **

** In the aquarium **

The patterns on the shells of the turtles were beautiful. I can understand why “turtle shell” combs, jewelry and such were so popular. However, it looks much better on the turtle than it does on people!

We drove back along the other side of the loop we’d started in our turn to Puerto Angel, seeing more beautiful countryside. Again, there were fruit stands along the road with all that delicious looking ripe fruit. We asked Alfredo about the green coconuts (as compared to the brown ones we normally see in our grocery stores). He explained the green ones are not as ripe and therefore have a lot “coconut water” still inside them. (Coconut “milk” is made by crushing the white flesh of the ripe coconut – it is NOT what you hear inside when you shake a coconut!). I commented that I had never had a fresh coconut. Before too much longer Alfredo had pulled over to a small stand that had coconuts he deemed “good enough”. He made our coconut order and a little girl took off to find the person who would be chopping open the selected coconut (which cost $1 US). I was so surprised when she came back with a boy of about 11! This is who was going to be swinging that machete?!?! Well, he did... with a practiced ease that spoke of years of popping open coconuts. Still, I cringed as I watched him hold the coconut with his hand as he whacked away the outer husk. It only took him about 5 swings before he was handing me a coconut complete with a straw for sipping. There was about a quart of fluid inside... slightly sweet and very refreshing. It was SO good! I could easily have one of those a day. After the liquid was gone, the boy cracked open the coconut & scraped out the unripe flesh. was like a jelly.
** Swinging the machete! **

** Enjoying my drink **

** Scraping out the flesh **

Before we were let off at the pier, Alfredo asked if he could take up to one more place. Checking our watches, we said “sure”. He took us to the hill top that overlooked the beautiful bay our ship was docked in. After enjoying the view for a while, we headed back down to the dock.

In the short amount of time left, I managed to walk a bit on the beach AND check out a couple shops with success. I was hoping to find two traditional forms of crafts famous from the Oaxaca region. First is the black clay pottery, which is made thru a rather tedious process. And the other item was the alebrije -- brightly painted wooden carvings of fantasy creatures or fantasy-looking animals.
** Souvenirs of Mexico **
The turtle necklaces, black clay pottery, a clay sculpture, the alebrije (as a sea turtle) and a bag of local Mexican coffee.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Looking back... looking ahead

One year ago I wrote on my blog "...this year is shaping up to be exciting." I had no idea just how much those words would come true.

2008... it was a very good year.

I had 118 travel days... 45 of them to see my family. I went to Alaska. We went on a cruise. We bought a house, I moved us into it and we started turning it into our HOME. My sister was married. We joined a new church. I won a state level photo competition and was selected for a juried art show.

2008... it was a very busy year!

Today I hung my new calendar. There's only a few dates that have writing on them, I did succeed in cutting back my outside activities. In 2009 I hope to work on changes to our home and to myself. I'll be working with all those photos I took last year. I'll have time to break out my pots and pans to start REALLY cooking again. I will be doing a lot of digging in the dirt planting things. I will be doing a lot of digging in my new (larger print ) Bible.

2009... a whole new year!