Day 81: Moon and memories put the future in focus…

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It was the evening following my quest of the naked kind at Caples Lake, and I had made a reservation at a restaurant that had been recommended to me at Lake Tahoe. I have to admit that another drive up to the lake wasn’t high on my priority list.  But it was that little voice inside that encouraged me to go.  I felt compelled to get ready for a dinner out, but something told me “Just don’t forget the camera!”  And so, feeling a little tired from the exposing quest I had just conquered, and with the urging of someone I couldn’t see, I began to get ready for what I thought would be another tasty quest, not realizing that it might just take me down a road I wasn’t prepared for… memory lane.

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It was a chilly night at the lake, one of the first real cool nights as the season is beginning to change. I wore a pair of jeans, a light top and my light grey sweater to wrap around just in case it was needed and my sling-back sandals as I was hoping for an opportunity to meander onto the beach.  I had my camera packed and Siri with me to guide the way to this new Quest… and off we went over the Sierra Nevada Mountains!

As I began the drive up, I will admit I was still feeling a sense of euphoria from the naked quest I had just completed. It wasn’t so much about completing the quest, but rather the start of yet another transformation to be free and learn about myself.  A year ago, I never would have even considered going skinny dipping, let alone the playtime that transpired or even recording it… let’s not forget sharing this intimate moment with strangers from across the planet!  “Why?” I thought.  Why was I so closed off from these experiences?  Why did it take this long to start this metamorphosis?  Hmm… I thought long and hard about these questions, and found it interesting because I believe that I had modeled a lot of my personality around the way my Mom was. She is quiet, a bit reserved, not engaging when it came to school events or social gatherings.  Yet, I had tucked away the outgoing personality traits from my Dad and refrained from sharing them.  I grew up very introverted and yet had this extrovert inside of me that was yearning to be released!  Essentially, I was living as someone I wasn’t.  When engaged in work, I was very extroverted, but outside of work I would crawl into my safe cocoon and let life pass me by.  Until one day… ok, maybe not one day, but one revelation.  I was lost… lonely… and not really living.

Without revealing too much of my personal life, my job entails supporting the lives of others and here I barely knew how to live myself.  Let me correct myself, I know how to live to some extent and I know the value of what living really is.  I see death quite often and I hear the wisdom of the spirits leaving this physical world…. Their last words are those that remind the ones left behind to not worry, to enjoy all that exists, to smile, to do all that they wish, to help others, to live a healthy life, to not get caught up in work and focus on family, to have no regrets, to live life to the fullest…

The words of advice seem not to vary among those leaving. No, the words are always expected, but to some family members it happens too soon.  I have spent far too many years listening to the spirits as they leave with their priceless words of advice.  Their eyes are clear, true, honest, expecting nothing in return for the wisdom they share at the completion of their journey.  And year-after-year of listening, I still hadn’t changed a thing.  It wasn’t until my last visit with my father, as he lay ill and preparing to move on, that I knew this Quest was what I needed to do.  Perhaps it was his spirit that spoke the loudest.

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My father…. Some in my family could not understand him as perhaps I don’t understand my own mother. I always felt close to him, as if I could empathize with the challenges that he faced and the desires that he held.  I didn’t realize until later in my life how very similar we really are.  I will share those stories in some later blogs, but for now I fast forward to one last conversation that we shared during a semi-conscious moment I was able to catch during my last visit.  My Dad was in bed, a man fighting to hold on to every day as if he still had something he needed to do or say.  He was always a physically strong man, about 6’4 and built like a linebacker, but with a soft heart hidden by a stern façade.  He made all the ladies at the retirement home melt when he flirted with them.  He never passed up a delicious meal but always knew the meaning of moderation and exercise.  My Dad was always very protective over me and this was never taken for granted and always appreciated.

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My last visit, I sat and just talked… about my life, my hopes, my dreams, my goals… He was always curious about my life and my adventures, whatever those might be.  I had no expectation that he was even listening as he laid in a sleepy state.  I held his hand and as I spoke, I fought back tears because my Dad always said, “Please don’t cry.  It is not helpful.”   Despite his words of wisdom, I will confess there were several tears that made their way down these cheeks and dropped to the floor.  I sat and looked out the window to see if I could re-focus and he squeezed my hand as if to give me a hand hug… I told him I loved him and that I promised to run for him, as well as I could, as fast as I could, and for no other reason, than to smile… He knew when I spoke about running, it was really about something so much more.  It was about living… truly living.  Not just existing, but following through with the goals, hopes and dreams I had set.  My Dad wanted nothing more from me than to be truly happy.  He knew that I loved to travel and explore.  He knew that I loved to express myself.  He knew that I believe in saying what needs to be said; even when others would argue it is not polite to do so.  He knew that I was strong and had a will to cross mountains and swim oceans.  He knew that I had a message to share with the world.  His life was what taught me that those who have courage have a responsibility to help others, to make a difference however big or small, not walk away when others walk away… to fear nothing and no one.  Yes, that was my father!  His very last words to me after saying he loved me, which I already knew, were “Go run… Fast…. Win!”  I knew it wasn’t about a race; it was about the journey….

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Those words run in my mind more often than I care to admit. I can still see and hear him struggle to let those words leave his lips and I can see the intensity in his eyes as if those words carried an immeasurable value.  And yes, I can feel him with me on this journey… albeit, not all the quests, especially not the naked one!  No, I know my Dad knows what I need to do and the path I need to go down.  He has taught me everything I need to know about the mission in front of me.  My only hope is that I can continue to find the strength to be more courageous as the days go by.  The real mission isn’t baring one’s soul to nature, and isn’t trying a new dish…. it is helping others to see what courage looks like, where to find it, how to use it… so that countries and cultures and people can come together and leaders can be born.   The truth must be spoken because in the end it takes one voice of saying what is right to change the direction to better times.

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Deep breath, several tears wiped away and Siri had announced my arrival at Garwoods on the lake. I stepped out of the car and saw before me beautiful clear Lake Tahoe.  A heavy sigh of contentment and with a smile so hard to refuse, I grabbed my sweater and camera and made my way to the entrance.

 

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I was seated in the deck area and as I sat down I suddenly had an overwhelming feeling of understanding or clarity, as if someone had just handed it right to me.  I set the menu aside and looked up and gasped at the sight before me!  There on the horizon was the most magnificent full moon just beginning to emerge over the mountains.  I was fixated on this magnificent sight as if I were in an absolute trance.  The waitress came by and made the comment, “We rarely have nights as beautiful as this with a full moon.”  I responded that I had forgotten tonight would be a full moon.  I placed my order and looked down at my camera and thought to myself, “I never take the Canon to dinner.”  Yet, I had that voice of instinct that spoke loud and clear tonight.  I let the waitress know that I would be down on the beach taking pics to not worry if my food arrived and I wasn’t there.  Off I went…

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I felt the magnetic pull to click away and every frame was like a little gift from heaven. I was intoxicated by the moonlight over the lake and now that my soul was nourished I felt I needed to return to the deck for dinner.

Sure enough, my salmon meal had been waiting for me to return.  I had ordered a glass of Rombauer Cabernet Sauvignon to help celebrate the day’s events.  I sat and indulged in a delightful dinner while the moon dazzled me with its elegance and grace.  The water was a rippling glow as it shimmered underneath the magical moonlight.

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My glass of cab had arrived and in my mind I made a toast:

“To all good things the road less traveled has waiting for me…To the guide(s) that help direct me along this path…To the wisdom that is lent to me from spirits past and present that life be lived to its fullest with the great intent to light the way for others on the darkest of nights as the moon has done for me today… to courage seen and spoken… to the great Metamorphosis and the start of a Re-Enlightenment!”

My tongue was pleased with the delicate taste of wine that followed that toast!

I had finished dinner and as I left, I took one last walk along the pier… as if to thank the moon for its glorious display of beauty and confirming wisdom. It was a night that almost didn’t happen if not for that little voice that told me to go and not forget the camera!  A drive that reminded me of what courage looked like, why it was important, who inspired it, and that it was very important to continue along this path of enlightenment.  It was a long day full of exposure, revelations, immeasurable beauty, and a run down memory lane that had me feeling at ease.  Although my father has passed on, the memories he gave me will stay with me as if they were created yesterday…. The priceless gift of wisdom that will always remain, glowing as bright as the moon on the darkest of nights.

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Thank you Dad… Wondering what tomorrow will bring…

 

 

Qi Thought of the Day…

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For only a short time the trees shed the memories of the season to place themselves in a protective cocoon from the harsh cold conditions that seem to sneak up on them.

Their leaves tell the stories of how much they grew when they basked in the sun and refreshed in the rain.  The colors are the joy that remind us that they live!

Relish this visual gift of change as there are only so many to take in.  Live, as the trees do with vibrancy and a dynamic color that remind us life is meant to be lived!!!

 

Day 80: Wet and Wild

 

“What spirit is so empty and blind that it cannot grasp the fact that a human foot is more noble than the shoe and the human skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed.”

— Michelangelo

I woke up early and it was forecasted to be partly sunny with a 20% chance of showers. I had this day planned for a week now and I made the decision that I wouldn’t let a couple of raindrops stop this girl from baring it all and getting wet.  Yes, the Quest of the day was planned to take me to an elevation of 8000 feet to an alpine lake to do something daring and provocative… skinny dip in the middle of the day!

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I knew this Quest would have many wondering, “Why?”. My answer to that, is “Why not?”  I have heard people say they have done it in the cover of darkness or perhaps in their youth.  However, I had not had that experience.  Perhaps their motive for taking such a daring risk was for young love or just a youthful exuberance for life.  My motive was to be brave and to experience that natural naked and wet sensation.  No, my “very” young days are past, but perhaps there was a hint of exploring my own sensuality mixed with an abundant exuberance for life!  So, with my justification serving as permission to step outside my comfort zone and do something daring, I started my day with a good, long, hard run and a cool shower… slipped into my white summer dress for the last time this season, grabbed my camera, towel and blanket and asked Siri to guide me to Caples Lake just South of Lake Tahoe.

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As I began the 1.5 hour drive, I had a lot of things on my mind and the clouds that began to billow to the South were beginning to make me wonder how wet of an adventure this might be. I decided that no matter what the weather or temperature, this Quest needed to happen as I was in the right frame of mind and I just had a feeling the day would be okay.

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I had made my way South through the valley and began my climb up the mountain. I noticed that the breeze had picked up ever-so-slightly and the aspen trees had begun to change. The blue in the sky was rich with the virgin colored clouds that began to build higher and higher.  I could feel the subtle tension in the air as if the energy were there to form a storm, but it resisted perhaps out of respect for the mission I was about to undertake.

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As I continued the drive, the sun reflected off of the water in a creek, creating a glistening effect.  I immediately pulled the car to the shoulder and made the quick decision to stop and take some photographs.  As I approached the creek, there were old wooden fence posts that served as an entry to this natural wonder.   My camera was set and I walked to the creek’s edge.  The beauty of my surroundings was like a poem being written from the most intimate part of one’s heart.  The trees spoke of freedom to shake and bend in the wind.  The water spoke of happiness for the crevice it flows through.  The flowers spoke of the joy that they bring to the landscape.  The sun spoke of generosity to help all keep warm, grow and smile.  I stood quietly reading this poem as if it were being narrated just for me.  The view was nothing short of perfection and I felt humbled to witness such artistry.  I looked and watched as the clouds continued to grow and knew I must be on my way.

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As I continued along my drive, I wondered if I would have the courage to complete this Quest. I worried that others might be around to preclude me from my goal.  I feared the cold of the water as it would be around 50-55 degrees!  I had to stop my negative thoughts… If this was meant to be, it will be.  And just like that I pulled into the deserted parking lot for Caples Lake.  I stepped out and in absolute awe, I felt inspired by the sight before me.  I could smell the scent of rain and the ground was still wet from a shower that had just passed.  The sun began to shine bright and the clouds seem to dance all around leaving the rays to shine on the lake before me.  I grabbed my bag and made my way down the path to the lake’s edge.  The shore was rocky but a soft sand lay in between the rocks.  I continued to walk and there tucked around a protected corner was a tiny little patch of private beach situated below several large boulders that acted as a barrier.  I stood in shock as this was indeed a perfect place to be!

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I looked around and upon further exploration found a couple of fishermen nearby but not within eyesight of where I was located.   I decided to lay my blanket out and just soak up the sun and take in the scenery.  I could feel my muscles begin to tense with the concern of others seeing me au natural.  I had to close my eyes and focus on my breathing.  I reminded myself of why I am doing this.  I wanted to push myself to a place I had not been.  To experience a very natural moment and in the process continue to find comfort in the skin I was given.  To embrace and accept the body I was in and to feel that sensuous glistening feeling without a hint of guilt or concern.

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I lay on the blanket and started to feel more comfortable and relaxed. I felt a little chilled and decided to let the sun kiss my skin in an effort to keep me warm before I dipped myself in the cool water.  I didn’t expect the pleasing feeling I was beginning to experience.  I was starting to feel excited and the mere thought of this forbidden adventure had my senses on high alert and I could feel my nerve endings awaken.  First the goose bumps on my skin that began to form and my nipples were unmistakably responding to the delicious thoughts…. A beach… lying barely clothed with the sun touching every centimeter of skin… I licked my lips trying to fight the desirable thoughts I found had invaded my mind like an adrenaline rush with the first few strokes of a swim.  I cautiously looked around and found no one there and breathed a sigh of relief.  My hands began to find their way to places that would ordinarily make me blush but at that moment they caused a soft sigh to emerge while my legs began to move slowly yearning, wanting more…  As I went even further, this adventure of the skinny dipping kind had turned into a self-gratifying odyssey.  At the very climax of this adventure were the pleasing sounds I tried to resist. I reveled in an irrefutable dampness that heightened my desire and then the feeling of every muscle tighten and a release so pleasurable I let go as I didn’t want it to end.

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After some moments of repose, I reached for my large beach towel to wrap myself in to shield me from any prying eyes that might appear. I came to the realization at that moment that I still had a mission to accomplish, I needed to really get wet in the cold water that I found myself staring out at.  Really?  “Whose idea was this anyway?” I thought.  “Oh yeah, mine!”  I was having second thoughts by now.  I won’t have a wetsuit for this dip in a cold lake.  What if someone sees me?  Apparently it didn’t dissuade me just a little bit ago, so I can’t follow that argument.  I need to do this.  I need to take on this challenge with wild abandon and feel those sensations, however cold they might be!

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I took a look around one last time and the same fishermen were still engaged in discussions of the fish story kind and I had to seize my opportunity to take the plunge! I tiptoed to the water’s edge and in a flirtatious sort of way, discarded my towel and began the slow and cautious walk into the lake.  Every step was as I predicted: cold!  But standing and walking bare skinned had me in a playful mood.  I took my hands and ever-so-quickly let them tease the water’s surface.  I couldn’t help but think that I was doing this!!!!  In the middle of the day at 8,000 feet at a gorgeous alpine lake… feeling gratitude for finding the courage to not miss the opportunity so many have experienced.  As I crept deeper into the lake, I could feel the ice-cold water reach the very sensitive spots on my body and they sent shivers up my spine.  I decided not to spend too much time in the water but enough to look out across the lake, remember the sight of the mountains in the distance and the sun as it played peekaboo from behind the clouds, and the feeling of being free to do this quest.  And as my eyes were captivated by the water meeting the mountains on the horizon, I decided it was time to return to shore.  As I took a step forward, I tripped over a rock in the water and inadvertently went head first into the water!  I gasped and giggled at the same time.  As if time had stood still many years earlier, I felt the excitement I remembered from my youth… A carefree sense of joy that I had not felt in so long.  I sat on a large granite boulder and just let myself go, to soak up the love the sun had to give and find my smile yet again.

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Alas, it was time to depart. I felt a little sadness when it was time to leave, as I had grown to like this little spot so close to heaven.  But as I turned to walk away, I continued to shoot pics hoping not to forget a single image I had recorded in my mind on this Quest.  From the eloquent words that nature recited at my impromptu visit by the creek, to the semi-private sandy beach shrouded with rocks, to the views of the horizon where the mountains touched the lake to the white cotton ball clouds that danced across the sky, to the carnal feelings that my body experienced and I could not resist, to the awakening of what life’s simple pleasures should feel like, but most importantly  to the courage I had to dig deep for in order to bare myself to the open air and water to experience just a hint of the Eve-like naiveté that was embedded in my DNA.

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Having indulged in a sensual Quest, pleasing to the senses, and embraced by a boldness only courage could have delivered… Wondering what tomorrow will bring…

Qi Thought of the Day…

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Life is neither fair nor painless, but it is beautiful.

Take time to open your eyes, look around and appreciate a new view.

Use your taste and try something that dances on your tongue.

Close your eyes, sit in the still of silence and listen to yourself breathe.

Walk into a bakery, stop and just inhale the sweet scent of vanilla and cinnamon and feel a smile emerge.

Wrap yourself up in the softest blanket and feel it drape across your skin to awaken your senses.

Dare to take time to live and breathe, you won’t be disappointed, because life is Beautiful!

Day 79: Crystal Clear…

 

 

“In a crystal we have clear evidence of the existence of a formative life principle, and though we cannot understand the life of a crystal, it is nonetheless a living being.” – Nikola Tesla

It was Sunday morning and the sky was blue and the sun was brilliant.  It was a perfect day to venture out to Crystal Peak to garner some strength and energy from the earth’s surface.  I had never gone mining for crystals or tried to search for any such precious resource from the earth, but the sound of mining for precious rocks seemed crystal clear.  I was unfamiliar with the territory and considering that there were actual mines to enter into, I decided to take a friend who was familiar with the area.  Was it dangerous?  “Potentially”.  Would it be worth the adventure?  “I certainly hoped so.”  And the decision was made to go off-road up a one lane rough trail and reach Crystal Peak-a Quartz mine, to hopefully find some crystals that might lend me some energy and perhaps even protect this shy sheltered spirit.

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Quartz crystals… I knew very little about them. I knew how they grew; I knew what they are composed of:  Silica and Oxygen.  I knew where to find them in nature.  But what I didn’t know was their potential healing and protective qualities.  Yes, dare I say, this crosses over to the metaphysical side.  I wasn’t sure how I felt placing so much possibility into a crystal, and then I stopped and decided to do a little bit of research before I passed judgment.  According to http://physics.knoji.com/clear-quartz-crystal-crystal-physics-the-piezoelectric-effect-and-metaphysical-properties/

“Quartz Crystals have what is known as Piezoelectric properties, which means electricity resulting from pressure, This type of property holds an accumulated electric charge as a solid material. Other solid materials and biological matter that holds this type of electric charge are DNA, bone and certain ceramics.

The Piezoelectric Effect is described as the linear electromechanical interaction between the mechanical and the electrical state in crystalline materials with no inversion symmetry. The Piezoelectric Effect is a reversible process as well which means that when an outer or external electric field of energy is applied to the object or material, it exhibits and equal but opposing electric charge. An example of how Quartz Crystal is used in modern technology is in the inner-workings of the wristwatch.”

As I read this, it all came back to me…The science lessons in school about the the Piezoelectric properties.  And yet, I still had my doubts.  How is it that a crystal could affect changes in my body and my mind?  I went on and found a website that truly challenged my thought process.  According to http://www.alizons-psychic-secrets.com/clear-quartz.html

  • “Clear Quartz helps people to be released from the past in order to ‘move on’. It amplifies and transforms energy and as such is a very powerful tool for both healing and magical purposes.
  • This clear Crystal can give physical help in treating vertigo, chronic fatigue; arthritis; fibromyalgia and intestinal problems. It is also said to give general pain relief and improve strength and stamina. The Quartz Crystal is said to be the connection between the physical dimension and the dimensions of the mind and as such is ideal for meditation.
  • For meditation purposes Clear Quartz encourages focus and concentration. It is ideal for spiritual development and heightened consciousness.
  • Clear Quartz is also an ‘Angel Crystal’ and helps you connect more powerfully to your own Angels and Guides making communication with them easier.”

 

I am a very analytical person. I can also have the ability to take a leap of faith and believe things that many might not always agree with.  My religious beliefs are rooted in Christianity, but the power that exists from all that is right and good can be seen every day here on earth.  Without getting too religious, or too metaphysical, I do believe that there are things such as spirits and perhaps even psychic abilities/intuition that many have that seem truly remarkable.  I don’t’ believe all that I see and hear but I will say that I am open and willing to learn, observe, experience and then decide for myself how relevant it might be in my life.  Armed with this information, I decided I needed to go crystal mining and see for myself.

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I made sure to wear my hiking gear, shoes, and shorts with pockets, light tank and a back pack to store all the treasures I might find. I made sure to pack plenty of water, a few tools for digging and picking and a first aid kit-just in case.  With Siri at my side I met my friend at the base of the mountain and we began the harrowing drive up the dirt and rock trail.  The views looking out were truly gorgeous but as we drove I feared what would happen if we came across another car as there was a cliff on one side and nowhere to pass on the other.  Alas, we didn’t come across another truck until we had cleared the long drive up the mountain.

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As we arrived at the quartz mine, the sign from the forest preserve announced permission to take one 5 gallon bucket of quartz per vehicle per week.  I thought to myself, “5 gallon bucket”?  That seems to be a positive sign for finding crystals I thought.  We had arrived and there were several cars parked in the lot.  My friend indicated to me that there are two open-pit mines that we could crawl into but if they are occupied by others, than we will not be able to mine below.  As we made our way onto the trail, we were greeted with two large quartz boulders.  The beauty and size were stunning!  As we walked I could hear the crunching below my hiking shoes and looked down to see white and rust colored quartz everywhere!  The quartz crystals reflected in the light and made a glittery trail.

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The first open mine was occupied, as was the second. My friend educated me a little as to where to look for these crystals.  We were in search of clear crystals as well as clusters.  At first I found it difficult to identify a “good”clear crystal from a cloudy crystal as most were covered in dirt.  My friend boldly befriended the miners in the second open-pit and they allowed us to sift through the rock they were pulling up from the mine.  I began sifting, searching and examining the rocks.  It seemed one after another, I was finding crystals of all shapes and sizes.  I found clusters of crystals and solid rock with crystal embedded in them.  As I picked them up I would hold them to the light and the sun would beam right through and it created an amazing energy of light as it passed through the crystal.  I couldn’t wait to clean them up and see what treasures laid beneath the earth’s protective covering.

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I had filled my backpack up with my treasured crystals that I had worked hard to find and gather. I then realized how quickly several hours had passed.  The sun was at the highest point by now and I was beginning to tire from being exposed to the heat and altitude.  We had made a decision that it was time to return.

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Before returning we walked around the peak. I was in awe at the gems of crystal that encapsulated the very top of the mountain as if it were a fragile but strong layer of protection.  Just as my friend had turned to head back I felt a pull to go just a little further when I looked down and there on the ground was a medium size rock with a clear crystal embedded in the center reflecting the light of the sun as it entered the rock.  It lay with a red iron dusting that colored the rock as if it were a delicate and specially created piece of nature’s art.  I felt as if it spoke to me in a strange energy sort of way.  I reached down and picked it up and turned it over to see the other side and there on the surface were even more clear crystals.  I immediately decided that it would return home with me.  I held it ever so carefully in my hands as if it were a prized possession fearing it would fall and break.  We then made our way back to the truck.

As we slowly and cautiously drove down the mountain, we discussed our finds of the day. My friend described in detail how to clean and care for my crystals.  It was suggested to me that I place them strategically in my house as they have an energy that could enhance my own positive energy for the better.  I sighed, as what was being told to me was similar to what I had researched online.  “Could it really be?” I thought…  I couldn’t discredit the strong feeling I had about returning with the rock I had found at the end of the adventure, and so why would I discredit a possible energy force with the other crystals I had found?  The conversation stalled a bit and silence filled the air.   Before I knew it, we had returned to the base of the mountain.  I had thanked my friend for the ride up and the detailed guidance with the adventure and we both parted ways.

cp21When I arrived home, I made sure to clean the crystals as instructed and took a close inventory of what my finds included. I was in shock at the crystals that sat in front of me.  Several clusters of champagne colored glitz and many perfectly clear crystals and then several clusters of opaque but shimmering quartz.  I couldn’t believe that what looked like dirty rocks out on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere could yield such magnificent beauty and brilliance.  That feeling alone was powerful.

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I placed them strategically in my house and mostly in my office as I meditate every morning and ask the powers that be to help guide me on my quest, life and journey. Now, I have often wondered, “Is life different, better, than before the crystals came into it?” Do I feel healthier or more protected? I don’t think so… But when the sun is at 10’oclock in the morning and the sky is clear of clouds and I am working at my desk, there is a prism and a canvas of sparkle that appears on my wall next to me that reminds me of the magic that the earth has given me.  That magic only appears on sunny days… and when the clouds roll in and I miss the brilliant display of light it creates, I am reminded to identify, acknowledge, and value and appreciate all the good in my life.  And when I see this site on sunny days, I can’t help but smile to be reminded of the energy that the sun extends through crystals that I found at the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere with my own hands and a good friend to guide me.  Yes, a reminder that good things beget good things.

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Yes, it is crystal clear to me that positive energy, whether it comes from a crystal, or a natural site to behold, is gift that keeps on giving. The drive up a narrow trail, with breathtaking views at Crystal Peak, gave me a mother lode of thoughts.  Sifting through the dust and rock, I found more than quartz gems.  I also found a power that reminds me every day to remember the good in my life and be ever grateful.

Feeling enlightened, positive and gifted with the unintended wisdom that accompanied these radiant natural crystals… Wondering what tomorrow will bring…

Day 78: Sharkfest leaves me hungry for more…

You learn more from losing than winning. You learn how to keep going.

-Morgan Wootten

 

 

Sometimes the finish line is just the beginning…

I have been swimming for 18 months and the goal was to continue to compete in triathlons. When an injury brought that to an abrupt end, I still kept swimming. I really didn’t have a goal, but it felt good on the knee and it was another activity I could do and I enjoyed spending hours being a dolphin.  After swimming in the Trans-Tahoe relay, I decided to take the opportunity and compete in an open water swim race.  And so this Quest took me to the cold waters of Lake Tahoe for an open water swim of the Sharkfest kind!

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It was 3:30am and I was out of bed in a flash! This was the day I was going to compete in my first solo open water swim.  I had no expectation of winning or even placing.  The goal was to complete the one mile swim and see what it felt like to go all out in a school of other swimmers for what hopefully would be a quick one mile swim.

I sat in my office returning emails and drinking a spot of coffee when I noticed that my departure time was approaching.  Suddenly, I started to have that heavy feeling in my tummy and my mind started to play tricks on me… “Am I really going to do this?”  “I won’t have my trusty spotter with me!”  “What if I start to feel hypothermic again?”  “What if……”  My breathing began to increase and my eyes were moving rapidly thinking about all the original reasons I chose to do this race to begin with.  I thought about all the accomplished swimmers I would be competing against… “That’s right”, I thought… “Competing”, because this is a competition after all!”  Wait, I didn’t want to compete… I just wanted to “Complete!” the race.  I stopped all thoughts immediately.  I sat and took several deep breaths and reminded myself of the mission.  The goal for today was to complete the race, enjoy the view and yes, most importantly: SURVIVE!!!

I changed into my swimwear, slipped on my grey yoga pants and shirt, grabbed my favorite Lululemon jacket, my wetsuit and swim bag, and left my Ego sitting in my chair in my office.  With a warm coffee in hand, a little bit of courage onboard, I was ready to face my challenge of the Shark kind!

I made my way up the quiet and lonely road to the Sand Harbor Park entrance at Lake Tahoe.  I could see other swimmers arriving and I started to have that nervous feeling begin to roll over me like the waves coming to shore.  I tried to remind myself once again; it is about finishing the race and having another experience to learn from.  With that thought, I cautiously and quietly stepped out of the car and grabbed my gear.

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I checked in and received my yellow swim cap, had my number placed on my hand.  I wasn’t entirely sure if the number was meant to identify my body should I drown or for mere recording purposes.  I knew the answer, but my mind did go there for about 30 seconds.   I noticed I still had about an hour before the race.  I walked around and tried to stay away from the other swimmers as my mind did not need to be tricked any more.  I stood tall on top of a granite boulder trying to summon the strength I would need for this race…then simply took in the view and tried to center my spirit for the challenge I was about to embark on.

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Before I knew it, it was time to begin to get ready. I made my way into my wetsuit and as soon as I finished, my Coach from the Trans Tahoe swim team arrived.  His daughter, an accomplished swimmer, was also racing.  Let’s be clear, she is a torpedo in the water and she is merely a teenager!  We saw each other and started to chat.  I could not believe that out of all the people in the universe, I didn’t want to see today, he would be the one!  I didn’t want to see that look of disappointment when I crossed the line in last place!!!  Oh well, if last is where I end up, then it can only get better from there, I thought!  Besides, I had to remind myself that I was in the presence of some highly trained and talented swimmers!  Most had been swimming all their lives and competing in college and elsewhere.  I had only been swimming for a year and a half, with no serious formalized training, so if I could survive and cross the finish line, that would be impressive to me!

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It was 15 minutes to start and I decided to step into the cold water to warm up.  Some swimmers gave me a look that said, “She needs to warm-up?”  I second guessed myself for all of 30 seconds, and then noticed many of the other swimmers following suit.  The water was COLD!  I slowly crept out into the deep and I could feel the ice-cold water enter the wetsuit and chill my back ever so quickly.  I stopped, gasped, and knew I had to go even further.  After running in place for a couple of minutes, I stepped even further to shoulder level and the water reached my neck and I quivered at the cold sensation.  It felt like lying in the snow without a scarf to protect your neck.  I knew the next phase would have me swimming below the water’s surface and before I allowed myself the time to think about the torture, I dove right in… and right back up!!!  “AHHHHHH!!!!” I quickly gasped!  And before 5 seconds could pass, my body had quickly adjusted to the cold water, and I began to swim.

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The water was exceptionally shallow and the large granite boulders that would normally be well below the water’s surface were barely covered.  And so, it was announced by the MC, that we needed to be ultra-careful to navigate the waters for the first ¼-1/2 mile.  I had done this many times at Donner Lake, but never in a race before.  So, I took that bit of information and filed it away with the reminder to stay calm in the race.  Before I knew it, they had announced the temperature of the water, a balmy 64 degrees in the shade and up to 68 near the finish.   I sighed with relief, thinking I have swum across and back in Fallen Leaf Lake and that was at least 10 degrees colder… “I’ve got this!”, I thought.  And without further hesitation, the MC counted down to the start and off we all were like a school of Parana fighting our way through the water to get ahead.

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I remember the first 20 strokes of having my face kicked; almost being swam over, dodging large boulders and navigating to avoid the safety kayakers. I noticed that my breathing and heart rate were exceptionally elevated, most likely due to the adrenaline rush I was experiencing.  I stopped for just a moment to try and gather my senses and tell myself to settle down but I felt like I was quickly losing the battle.  Thoughts of returning to shore entered my mind!  I kept thinking, “I can’t breathe!”  In reality, the adrenaline was too much to handle in the cold water.  I forced myself, stroke after stroke, to push through.  I could see others flailing and thought, “That can’t be me!”  I have to finish even though I had barely begun!  I remembered the beginning instructions that if we thought we couldn’t make it, to raise our hand and the safety kayak would come get us.  I struggled to keep my hands moving and resisted raising them.  I managed around the first bend with boulders peeking out of the water everywhere.  I could hear the other swimmers saying, “Look out!” I could see some swimmers asking for help.  I still did not want to be that swimmer.

I continued to struggle with my breathing until I realized that I needed to take a break and figure this out. I found a boulder to barely perch on and stopped.  The safety kayaker came by and said, “You are doing great, are you sure you need help?”  I responded, “I don’t need help, just a second to catch my breath and I’ve got this!”  He said, “Ok, but let me know if you need me.”  I smiled and said, “Thanks, but I’ve got this….”  And 60 seconds later, I was back in the water, swimming, like I knew how to swim!  Stroke after stroke, passing swimmer after swimmer… sighting every now and again… and hearing some of the other swimmers ask for help.

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I could feel my pace pick up as I continued to pass others. I felt strong and my breathing had regulated.  I knew that I missed the opportunity to finish at the middle of the pack, but that didn’t matter because just a few minutes prior I was wondering if I could even continue.  The goal was to survive, finish and learn. So, I swam the only way I knew how, with a calm consistency and singing a song in my mind.  Today, it was” Orinoco Flow” by Enya… a slow rhythmic water song that took my mind to open waters, sailing in the sun, just me, the wind and the water…  Yes, I had centered my Qi and just kept swimming.

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As I approached the last quarter-mile, I could feel the other swimmers begin to close in and I picked the stroke up a little more. I kept thinking, “Just keep swimming… just keep swimming…”  And before I knew it, we all stood up and made our way toward shore.  I remember looking back and confirming I wasn’t last… what a feeling that was!  My Trans-Tahoe swim Coach cheered me on as I made my way past the finish line… no judgment, no look of disappointment as I had anticipated, just him saying, “Go Michele!  Great job!”  I looked at him with confusion… I thought, I didn’t do that well, how could you say that?  I stopped and looked back at all the swimmers still in the water and thought about the fact that I almost didn’t make it.  In fact, I came very close to not completing the swim.  And in an instant, I realized that I had made an accomplishment of sorts.  No, I didn’t finish first, but I didn’t finish last, and in the end, I did complete the race!  Heavy sigh…  I gave him the return high-five he had extended to me and a smile emerged on my face.  Just 1.5 years ago, I couldn’t even fathom competing in an open water swim and today, I did!

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My Coach’s daughter placed 3rd overall!  What an outstanding job!  I placed…. well, 115/149 13 minutes behind the first finisher.  All I have to say is that it wasn’t last, nor fast, but  I finished the race!

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I learned a lot that day… A lot about myself and how powerful the mind is when it works with us and against us. For all intents and purposes, I could have easily asked to end the race and be helped away.  It took a lot of strength and focus to center my spirit.  I can’t remember a time when I had to work through a dire situation like that before.  From fearing disappointing my Coach, to fighting to swim around boulders and through a mass of people, to trying to regulate my breathing with a surge of adrenaline dominating my physiology, to the cold of the water and battling my own self-doubt of surviving or finishing.

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Surviving was never really the question, it was a seed of doubt I was responsible for planting. In hindsight, had I just said I want to finish with 2 people behind me, the goal would have seemed much easier.   When I placed a fatalistic outcome in the mix, I was drawn to that negative thought like the rock I had to perch on.  Next time, and there will be  a next time, I am only going to fill my mind with positive and realistic goals.  I am going to practice the course a week out of the race and I am going to take the first 100-200 meters as a warm-up and then once my breathing is in sync with my mind, I will swim like I truly know how.  So, you could say that next time, I am going to be the shark I know I can be and I hope to eat the competition!

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Having completed my first open water swim race, faced challenges that I imposed on myself but overcame, learned what to do in the next competition and yes, there will be another!  Wondering what tomorrow will bring…

Day 77: My heart on a string…

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Today was a preplanned day and the goal was to head to the lake to indulge in the sweet sound of music from several quartets with musicians who have studied and performed in places such as the NYC opera and ballet to the Chicago Symphony orchestra to St. Petersburg. I have attended musical events and concerts in the past but never had the pleasure of an intimate concert at Lake Tahoe.  My only hope was that I could have a relaxing afternoon letting my mind get lost in music, my heart be serenaded and my spirit be centered by the  sound of a sweet violin….

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It was a very warm day in the valley and I knew that the temps up at the lake would not be much better, so I made sure to dress light, a skirt, light white top, my open-toed high heels and a light sweater for the evening to follow.  Siri would not be a necessity for this trip, but my iPhone was always by my side.  I made my way up the mountain to the venue.

The drive up to the lake is about 30 min depending on traffic, and just enough time to indulge in some important reflection. Today, I simply felt grateful.  Grateful for the opportunity to be able to take the time and attend an orchestra concert at such a beautiful place.  The week was a bit busy and stressful, and so this escape was very much needed.  I could feel the vibration of the music already and the thought of the constant melody started to relax my mind.

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I arrived at the venue and there in front of me was a large white tent with a short walkway to the entrance. I stood in line for but a moment when I was handed a program and made my way into the seating area.  Unfortunately, it was requested that no video or photography be taken while at the concert.  Going against my goals of documenting my attendance, I decided to record portions of the concert instead.

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The concert that was originally scheduled had to be altered due to several musicians being unable to attend the last performance of the season. I could see the displeasure on some of the audience members faces however, I did not mind as there were other musicians that filled the void.  Furthermore, it was a lovely day for a concert and nothing could disrupt that feeling!

The concert began with the first group of 4, two violists, violinist, and a cellist. The theme of the concert was “Salute to London”.  The first piece was String Quartet Opus 77, No 1.  The music started off light and built up to a crescendo.  Then the finale seemed to return to the slower beginning melody.

Please listen to the rough audio clip for the first musical piece

There was an intermission that allowed me to look around and I noticed that most of the audience was perhaps 70 and older.  They sat with their spouses or friends and enjoyed the afternoon at the orchestra.  I sat and thought about how far music has come since the days when symphonies and quartets were the only music of choice.  From Hip-hop, to rock and roll, to heavy metal, to country, to soul, to jazz and the list goes on… how far music has evolved.  I could not imagine a life without music.  The sound of one note connecting to another filling our minds and hearts with the energizing message of inspiration, motivation, delight and romance to list a few feelings, is invaluable.  I sat and thought about the last run I did without the sound of “Journey” to fill the void of the treadmill, or the sound of “Bocelli” when I am out for a walk, or the sound of “Sarah Barellis” when I am working and need something to lift my spirit up and keep me motivated, seemed unfathomable.  Life without music… seemed almost too sad to bear.  I particularly like when I am driving on a sunny day and  a song comes on and within the first note, I know exactly who the artist is. If it is one of those songs that reaches your soul, then the volume gets increased, the windows get rolled down and I let my heart sing!!!  Ah yes, back to the orchestra.  I listen to classical music on occasion, more to settle my mind after a long day or perhaps before bed.  I played the flute for many years, and so it is hard not to want to lick my lips and purse them, raise my hands in that alternating position and gently blow softly to touch the senses that create a smile.  Yes, I do miss playing the flute, but hope to take up a different instrument as part of my Quest, very soon.

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The intermission was quickly over and the second performance with a new quartet was about to begin.   Britten’s Phantasy Quartet for Oboe and Strings was to perform next.  The quartet was comprised of the oboe, violin, viola, and cello.  The sound of the oboe was intense, with long runs of music between rests.  The violinist played as if he were making love with slow and long runs of the sweetest melodies and then building to an intense crescendo of rapid transitions and low notes until the climax of quick and sharp high notes and then silence while the oboe went solo for but a moment… I could feel the violinist’s exhaustion and pleasure after his brilliant performance… every note was on key, his movements were brisk and yet delicate… the sound was magical.  The violinist took the rest to casually wipe his glistening skin from the harmony he had just created.  The music continued but in a subtle tone and so I closed my eyes as if already having been pleasured by the sounds of the sweet violin and just rested in a blissful state.  The concert had soon ended and I opened my eyes and stood with the audience to applaud the intimate performance of the four talented musicians.  The crowd meandered out the door and I made my way to the parking lot and passed one of the musicians on the way out, he smiled at me and I at him as if to say, “Thank you” for the afternoon delight.

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With the sun beginning to set in the western sky it was time to head to the Lone Eagle Grille at the Hyatt at Lake Tahoe for a dinner reservation. I felt relaxed and needed to take in the view of the Lake.  I was just a tad early for the reservation and decided to walk along the beach and just memorize the waves as they came ashore.  The breeze was light, reminiscent of the music I had just indulged in.  The sun was  a heavy orange as if to take a rest for the day.  I sighed as if to give my worries or troubles to the sun to take with her as she set for the night.

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I looked at my watch and realized that it was just about time to return to check in for my dinner reservation.  For just a moment I sat and felt grateful for the courage to drive up to the lake and listen to the orchestra play.  I found true relevance in this quest.  Four months ago, before this Quest started, I would not have taken a day away from work or life to just enjoy and do something different.  Before the quest, life was always full of obligations to others and their needs.  Today, it was about recognizing that by living our lives, we must nourish our souls as well as others.  We need to take those afternoons to do something different, something that some may be scared to experience, something new, something they wished they had done sooner, something just for yourself.   Time… it is so short.  The minutes seem like many, but that thought is really a mirage.  The days can be long when filled with things we don’t necessarily desire to do, and that is why we need to balance those hours with new and exciting experiences.

To Live: To have a reason to live for or to be alive for.

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Yes, work is important, but I had someone important tell me once, “If you only do what you have to do in life, you’re not really living.” I stood up and slowly walked back to the restaurant where I was promptly seated, enjoyed some fresh salmon, a glass of white wine, a sinful dessert and a view that held so many possibilities, promises and dreams… Making no excuses for this simple indulgence… today, it was about relishing in an afternoon delight with the sweet sound of the violin to invigorate my senses, make me remember playing an instrument with my delicate hands and lips, finding pleasure in time spent by myself with the view of the sunset over the lake, behind the mountains and in my heart.

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Feeling rested, alive, sensual and fulfilled… Wondering what tomorrow will bring..

Publishing pause…

I apologize for the pause in publishing… life has been a bit busy lately with work… quests… and just needed some time to clear my mind and rest my thoughts for just a little bit.

Hopeful to publish again tonight… 🙂

Until then, here is the Qi Thought of the Day to nourish the mind and motivate the spirit to continue to do great things!!!

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“I have become my own version of an optimist.  If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door, or I’ll make a door.  Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.”

-Rabindranath Tagore, Indian writer