Exercise as artistic and spiritual practice. Hiking Cinque Terre

Could it possibly be right that I have just one week left to go? I might finally make it all the way through this time! 🙂

  • Week 11 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Autonomy.”  This chapter teaches us ways to nurture and accept ourselves as artists by exploring behaviors that strengthen that artist.
  • Morning Pages: I forgot to bring my journal to Breckenridge this weekend, so I missed two days.  I’m back in the saddle now though.
  • Artist Date: No.  My planned artist date (and Valentine to myself) was to go to yoga class on the 14th.  But my son came down with the croup overnight, so I couldn’t go.  I guess that’s what I get for saving it for the last minute.

Any “Aha” Moments? 

  • Learning to focus on and honor the process rather than the product is VERY difficult to do, especially if you hope to one day make money from your art.  This chapter made me realize that our best chance at both being the best artist we can be AND to make money is to do work that is authentic and true.  There is a LOT of process involved, and let’s face it, who ever feels like a piece of work is “done?”  Just keep moving, keep working.
  • Likewise, I totally agree with Cameron on the importance and benefits of exercise to the artist.  I often get my best “writing” done while I’m running.  I need to treat the time to exercise as just as vital to my writing as the writing is itself.  Because it is.

A few favorite quotes from the Week 11 chapter:

“As an artist, I must be very careful to surround myself with people who nurture my artist–not people who try to overly domesticate it for my own good.. I may be a good cook, a rotten housekeeper, and a strong artist (caveat: I have NO idea how Julia Cameron snuck into my house to figure that out :-)).”

“The stringent requirement of a sustained creative life is the humility to start again, to begin anew.

“We learn by going where we have to go. Exercise is often the going that moves us from stagnation to inspiration, from problem to solution, from self-pity to self-respect.”

In what way do you nurture your artist?

Week 10 Check-In

Weeks 8 & 9 Check-In

Week 7 Check-In

Week 6 Check-In

Week 5 Check-In

Week 4 Check-In

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

Categories: Creativity, Health/Fitness, Spirituality, The Artist's Way, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , ,


What's on YOUR list?

ETA: As soon as I published this post, I immediately thought of more things I want to do and places I want to see. Rather than keeping track of them elsewhere, I will add them to the lists here.  I will also cross them off when I’ve completed them (except for the last list, because most of those things are ongoing rather than one-time).

For my 300th post, I decided to write a Bucket List – things I want to do before I die.  I divided the list into three (loose) categories of 100 each:  1) Places I Want to Visit, 2) Things I Want to Do (many of which include specific places), and 3) Ways I Want to Make a Difference in the World.

Making the first list was a snap.  I did not allow myself to include places I’ve already visited but want to see again, and even so, I had no trouble choosing 100 places.  I could never travel enough or see enough of the world.  I would go to every last corner of the earth of I could.  So I guess it’s good that I now have priorities!

The second list was more difficult.  I really had to stretch myself and give myself permission to dream big without allowing the censor to whisper, “Oh that’s not possible!”

The third list was by far the most difficult.  I always think in the nebulous terms of, “I want to make a difference,” but I never specify HOW exactly.  Now that I’ve reached 40, I realize it’s time I start not only thinking about it but doing some things.  For that reason, this was a very good exercise for me.  I think we should all think about not just what we want to do for ourselves but what mark we want to leave on the world.

One final comment: I did not include things that would require others to make specific choices.  For instance, I could easily have put, ‘See my kids get married’ or ‘Watch Michigan win a National Championship Game live’, but that would require outcomes I have no control over.  So I kept the list tightly focused on things that I would be capable (theoretically) of doing without being dependent on the decisions or actions of others.

Places to Visit

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

  1. Kenya – Masai Mara
  2. Egypt – Cairo, Pyramids, Red Sea, Nile
  3. Morocco – Marrakech, Fez, Tangier, Sahara
  4. South Africa
  5. Tanzania/Mt. Kilamanjaro
  6. Mauritius
  7. Namibia – Etosha National Park, Skeleton Coast
  8. Zimbabwe
  9. Bwindi National Park, Uganda
  10. Seychelles
  11. Australia

    Sydney Harbor

  12. New Zealand
  13. Madagascar
  14. Japan – Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara
  15. Thailand
  16. Vietnam
  17. Indonesia/Bali
  18. China – Shanghai, Beijing, Great Wall
  19. Tibet
  20. Nepal
  21. Bhutan
  22. The Taj Mahal, India
  23. Mumbai, India
  24. The ghats of Varanasi, India
  25. Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur
  26. Windsor Castle, England
  27. Cornwall, England
  28. The Lake District, England
  29. Scottish Highlands
  30. Ireland
  31. Crete, Greece
  32. Santorini, Greece
  33. Zakinthos, Greece

    Zakynthos, Greece

  34. Rhodes, Greece
  35. Symi, Greece
  36. Barcelona, Spain
  37. Sevilla, Spain
  38. Valencia, Spain
  39. Cordoba & Granada, Spain
  40. Provence, France
  41. Carcassone, France
  42. Normandy, France
  43. Amalfi Coast, Italy
  44. Bologna, Italy, March 2012
  45. Siena, Italy
  46. Tuscan countryside, Italy
  47. Sicily, Italy
  48. Lake Garda, Italy
  49. Salzburg, Austria
  50. Vienna, Austria
  51. Berlin, Germany
  52. Black Forest, Germany
  53. Swiss Alps
  54. Lucerne, Switzerland
  55. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  56. Croatia
  57. Budapest, Hungary
  58. St. Petersburg, Russia
  59. Sweden
  60. Norway

    Norway Fjord

  61. Iceland
  62. Hebrides Islands
  63. Rio de Janeiro
  64. Amazon Rainforest
  65. Argentina – Buenos Aires
  66. Chile
  67. Peru
  68. Macchu Picchu
  69. Patagonia – Argentina and Chile
  70. Alaska
  71. Many Glacier Lodge – Glacier National Park
  72. Charleston, South Carolina
  73. Savannah, Georgia
  74. Cape Cod, Massachussets
  75. New Hampshire in the autumn
  76. Moab, Utah
  77. Monument Valley, Utah
  78. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
  79. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
  80. Florida Everglades
  81. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
  82. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
  83. Hawaii – Big Island, Maui, Kauai
  84. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  85. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  86. Finger Lakes Region, New York
  87. Badlands, South Dakota

    South Dakota Badlands

  88. Yosemite National Park, California
  89. Santa Barbara, California
  90. Quebec City, Canada
  91. Niagara Falls, Canada
  92. Banff National Park, Canada
  93. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  94. Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
  95. Baja California, Mexico
  96. Chiapas, Mexico
  97. Nicaragua
  98. Belize
  99. St. Lucia
  100. St. Vincent & the Grenadines
  101. Basque Region of Spain
  102. Cuba

Things I Want to Do

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

  1. Publish many books for children
  2. Write and publish travel articles
  3. Write and publish personal essays
  4. Make The New York Times Bestseller list
  5. Write a novel (at least one). I almost don’t even care if I ever publish one.  I just want to write one.
  6. Write down my father’s “Greatest Hits” (i.e. his best stories)
  7. Dive the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  8. Dive in the Red Sea, Egypt
  9. Dive in Palau, Micronesia
  10. Camel-trek in the Sinai desert
  11. Go cage diving to see Great White Sharks
  12. Dive in a kelp forest
  13. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu during a full moon
  14. Ride in a hot air balloon
  15. Take my kids to Disney World
  16. See a wolf in the wild
  17. Go to the Rose Bowl when Michigan is playing
  18. Ski Jackson Hole
  19. Ski at every resort in Colorado
  20. Ski the Dolomites in Italy
  21. Ski the Alps
  22. Learn to ski moguls like an expert
  23. Learn to ski in powder like an expert
  24. Go heli-skiing
  25. Take a photography course
  26. Stand on the field at The Big House
  27. Perfect Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) pose in yoga
  28. Take an Italian language immersion class in Italy
  29. Take a flamenco dancing class in Spain
  30. Learn to speak fluent Italian
  31. Read The Divine Comedy in Italian
  32. Take surfing lessons
  33. Touch an elephant

    Photo from my brother

  34. Swim with dolphins
  35. Attend an Eckhart Tolle retreat
  36. Meet the Dalai Lama
  37. Attend an Olympic Games
  38. Spend Hogmanay in Edinburgh
  39. Spend a few nights on The Royal Scotsman
  40. Compete in a “mini” triathlon
  41. Run another half marathon
  42. Oktoberfest in Munich
  43. Take cooking classes in Italy and France
  44. Do wine-tasting tours in Italy and France
  45. Wine-tasting tour in South Africa
  46. See the Northern Lights
  47. Successfully grow broccoli in my garden
  48. Learn how to build an Excel spreadsheet
  49. Perform in a play
  50. Become a writing coach/teacher
  51. Attend at least one World Cup game
  52. Earn a living from writing and writing-related work
  53. See a whale in the wild
  54. Take my daughter to Rancho la Puerta
  55. Attend the Yoga Journal conference in Estes Park
  56. Do yoga in India
  57. Make meditation a regular practice in my life
  58. Write and e-publish a travel memoir
  59. Finally read David Copperfield to the end
  60. Learn Colorado history
  61. Polar Bear safari in Cape Churchill, Canada
  62. Bake a cake at altitude that doesn’t sink in the middle
  63. Go Deep Sea fishing
  64. See an opera at La Scala in Milan
  65. Carnavale in Venice
  66. Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
  67. Stand on the North Pole

    Absolut bar at the Ice Hotel

  68. Stay at the Ice Hotel in Sweden
  69. Take my kids to see Les Mis
  70. Sleep under the stars in the Sahara desert
  71. Take a helicopter ride to see a live volcano
  72. Walk on the Great Wall of China
  73. Bush-walking in Seven Spirit Bay, Australia
  74. Hike in Tasmania, Australia
  75. Hike The Grand Traverse and Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
  76. Stay in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora
  77. See the Iditarod – Anchorage, Alaska
  78. Kayak in The Inside Passage and Glacier Bay, Alaska
  79. Ride the Durango and Silverton steam train
  80. Swim with Manatees in Florida
  81. Attend the Highlights Foundation Writer’s Workshop at Chautauqua
  82. Go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras
  83. Go to the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM
  84. Go back to Camogli, Italy for the Sagra del Pesce
  85. Cruise the Antarctic Peninsula
  86. Learn to play poker
  87. Ride a zipline in the jungle
  88. Put all of our home movies together so we can watch them on TV
  89. Digitize all of my “paper” photos
  90. Organize all photos into digital albums
  91. Complete all twelve weeks of The Artist’s Way
  92. Go on a yoga/meditation retreat
  93. Bag one of Colorado’s “Fourteeners.” Preferably Long’s Peak, which I can see from my front window
  94. Write poetry more often – not for publication, just for myself
  95. Climb a 50 ft. indoor rock wall (which my daughter can do!)

    la Tomatina - Bunol Spain

  96. Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway
  97. See a meteor shower
  98. See every Michelangelo sculpture
  99. Participate in la Tomatina – Tomato fight!
  100. Learn more about my family history/geneology
  101. Attend a local “festa” in rural Italy
  102. See a Harp Seal in the wild

Ways I Want to Make a Difference

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa

  1. Raise responsible, independent, compassionate children. If I fail at this, nothing else will matter.
  2. Ensure my children receive a good education so they can contribute to the world.
  3. Love my children boundlessly
  4. Teach my kids to be appreciative
  5. Encourage the kids in their natural sense of wonder
  6. Expose my kids to as many experiences in the natural world as possible
  7. Expose my kids to as many cultures as possible
  8. Read as many books to my kids as possible
  9. Look my kids in the eyes when I speak with them
  10. Be as good of a mother to my kids as my mother was to me
  11. Donate a portion of my personal proceeds from the sales of my (future) books to benefit related charities
  12. Make an annual donation of food and blankets to the Humane Society
  13. Adopt another dog or two (eventually – Rocky is enough for now!)
  14. Continue teaching critical thinking skills via the Junior Great Books program
  15. Help bring healthy, whole food to all school cafeterias by supporting the School Food Project and Food, Family, Farming foundation
  16. Donate annually to National Public Radio and PBS
  17. Donate annually to National Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife
  18. Donate annually to The Sierra Club
  19. Shop for gifts through organizations such as Unicef and National Wildlife Federation
  20. Advocate sexual and reproductive health education and rights for women around the world – through donations and Kiva lending
  21. Continue making micro-loans through Kiva
  22. Vote in every election
  23. Take Volunteer Vacations
  24. Teach creative writing to children
  25. Teach writing workshops for adults
  26. Mentor new writers
  27. Lead writing retreats that inspire women to give time to their creativity
  28. Create a scholarship for these retreats
  29. Help others live creative lives with passion
  30. Support small, family-run businesses as much as possible
  31. Grow vegetables in my garden every year
  32. Plant trees in my yard and in the community
  33. Each time I shop, buy one item for donation and put it in a box.  When the box is full, take it in to the food bank.
  34. Buy organic food as much as possible
  35. Shop at farmer’s markets more often
  36. Continue serving on the PTO at my kids’ school
  37. Support fellow writers by buying their books
  38. Be “responsible for the energy I bring” – from Jill Bolte Taylor – more info here
  39. Be a better listener
  40. Practice patience
  41. Do a better job of keeping in touch with people who are important to me
  42. Volunteer to spend time with an elderly person
  43. Practice living in the present moment so I can bring my full attention to the people I am with/what I am doing.
  44. Participate in a Polar Bear Plunge for charity
  45. Complete A Course in Miracles
  46. Continue my Gratitude Sunday posts
  47. Consistently donate clothing, toys and other items that we no longer use
  48. Sponsor families in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas every year
  49. Find ways to volunteer with my kids
  50. Write letters to authorities advocating my views on issues that are important to me
  51. Help Em sell Girl Scout cookies
  52. Pick up litter at every opportunity
  53. Participate in 5K, 10K and other runs that benefit charity
  54. Donate my talents (writing critiques, editing, etc.) to online auctions to benefit charity
  55. Make eye contact with people and smile
  56. Whenever possible, say people’s names out loud to them
  57. Remember to say “thank you” for each and every kindness and courtesy
  58. Use my blog to create awareness of important issues
  59. Read banned books and make sure my kids read banned books
  60. Support the arts by providing funding for Kickstarter projects
  61. Use my public speaking skills to motivate people
  62. Recycle and compost as much as we can
  63. Solar power our home
  64. Use only non-toxic cleaning products
  65. Always take re-usable bags when I go shopping
  66. Tip well for good service
  67. Give compliments often
  68. Do nice things for strangers for no reason
  69. Promote the good work of others
  70. Don’t ignore people who are suffering – instead reach out to them
  71. Conserve energy – turn off unused lights, unplug appliances, etc.
  72. Write more Thank You notes
  73. Get my Christmas cards out every year
  74. Participate in Crayons to Calculators each year
  75. Participate in Turn Off the T.V. Week each year
  76. Start collecting Box Tops for education
  77. Write notes to authors of books I love letting them know
  78. Volunteer in a disaster recovery effort
  79. Keep the computer turned off from the time my kids come home from school until they go to bed
  80. Once a month, have a family game night
  81. Read out loud to the kids as a family activity more often
  82. Treat my family with respect
  83. Do not buy meat from factory farms
  84. Give without expecting anything in return
  85. Observe the beauty in the world aloud to others
  86. Practice forgiveness – work on forgiving those who have hurt me
  87. Invite a neighbor over for a cocktail
  88. Talk to my aunts and uncle so I can record stories of their childhood
  89. Cook meals for friends more often
  90. Teach the kids how to cook traditional family recipes
  91. Volunteer in a women’s shelter
  92. Volunteer, at least once, among the very poor
  93. Volunteer to promote literacy among both children and adults
  94. Read, with an open mind, articles and books written by people whose views are very different from my own
  95. Value experiences over stuff and teach my kids to do the same
  96. Help educate others about the importance of wild predators in the food chain
  97. Write more book reviews to support books (and authors) I love
  98. Learn about Feng Shui so I can apply some of it to my house
  99. Do a better job of remembering the birthdays of friends and family members and to actually send cards
  100. Advocate for art and physical education in public schools

Do you have a Bucket List?  If not, do you want to make one?  Here are some additional resources to get you started:

43 Things

Barefoot List

Creating a Bucket List

Categories: Authors, Charity, Children's Books, College Football, Cooking, Creativity, Dogs, ebooks, Entertaining, Family, Friendship, Garden, Goals, Gratitude Sunday, Holidays, Parenting, Picture Books, Poetry, Publishing, Self Publishing, Skiing, Social Media, Spirituality, Travel, Travel Writing, Volunteer/Community, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Believe it or not, our four-week stay in Camogli ends this morning.  I can’t complain too much because tonight, the kids and I will be in Lake Como.  Still, Camogli – and the entire Portofino peninsula on down to Cinque Terre – has taken up special residence in my heart.  I can see this being a place we come back to again and again over the years.  Here are some of the things I will miss most:

  1. The view!  Endless expanse of sea edged by the Portofino Peninsula on one side and the coast to Genoa on the other.  It’s beautiful at all times of day and night and in every kind of weather.
  2. The glorious sound of the sea – exactly as if the waves are rolling right into the apartment.  I’ve gotten quite spoiled falling asleep to that sound, as if my bed were floating on the waves.  I’m sure the silence elsewhere will be deafening indeed.
  3. The perfectly smooth stones on the beach, edges rounded by the pounding sea.  After being tossed around in a rough sea today, I understand why they have no jagged edges (although I have some bruises).  I’m almost tempted to take some home for the purposes of DIY hot stone massages, but alas, can’t justify the additional weight in the luggage.
  4. Focaccia Formaggio.  NOTHING like the focaccia in the States (or anywhere else outside of this specific section of the Riviera).  I watched them make it in my favorite bakery.  They toss the dough in the air until it is so thin you can see through it.  They lay the dough on a large rectangular baking pan.  Then they put little balls of cheese in rolls on top of the dough (like drop cookies).  Then, they place another paper-thin piece of dough on top of the cheese, make a few finger-holes in the top dough and bake it.  I don’t know what kind of cheese they use, but it is molten hot and so salty.  The dough is crispy and soft at the same time.  I have no idea how I will live out the rest of my years without being able to eat this every day.
  5. Revello – my favorite bakery (see #4).
  6. Primula – the restaurant and gelateria below our apartment building.  The food and gelato were delicious and Sasha, one of the waiters, doted on the kids even though he barely speaks a word of English.
  7. Hanging my laundry on the line outside our window and bringing the clothes back in smelling of sea, salt, and the slight hint of garlic from the restaurant below.
  8. The square off the promenade where children gather in the evening to play.  Despite language barriers, they manage to negotiate the exchange of scooters, balls and games of tag.
  9. Music in the piazza and in some of the restaurants in the evening.  I’ve heard everything from American blues, classical, jazz, flamenco to rock.
  10. Yachts slinking past the window in the inky darkness.
  11. The dramatic morning light, afternoon sun, sunsets and moonshine – all from my windows.
  12. San Fruttuoso Abbey.  After reaching it from a ferry, two separate hiking trails (this one and this one) and a private boat, I can now say it’s one of my favorite places in this area.
  13. The accordion player who plays every night underneath our window in the early evening.  He is an older man with grey hair, a hunched back and cloudy eyes.  He wears the same orange shirt and khaki shorts every day (or has several of them and changes them out).  He also wears close-toed clear jellies.  Wonder what the story is behind those shoes… Nonetheless, he’s gotten many coins from us during our stay.
  14. The Pasta Fresca down the way.  How nice to be able to go in and buy fresh pasta and sauce, heat it up for dinner and come away a culinary hero.
  15. The church bells, especially the 5:30 bells that not only ring but play a melody that somehow manages to be mournful and uplifting at the same time.  It was bittersweet hearing them for the last time yesterday.
  16. Taking our passeggiata (evening stroll) on the sea promenade along with everyone else and their kids, dogs, grandparents and friends.
  17. Fishing boats bobbing in the Camogli port
  18. Morning music – the tinkling, then crash, of glass falling into trucks that come to empty the recycling bins, the smacking of lounge chairs onto the stones as the lifeguards set up the beaches for the day, seagulls crying, but otherwise nothing but the sound of the sea.
  19. Being able to hike into the Parco di Portofino right from the sea promenade of Camogli
  20. The ability to take a swim in the sea whenever the fancy strikes.  I will probably miss that most of all, and I know the kids will.

ONE thing I will not miss: the 84 steps up to the apartment…

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it covers the highlights.  It’s sad to leave, but we’re ready for the next part of the adventure.  We’ll spend one night at Lake Como, then four in Milan with our gracious friends hosting us at their house.  After that, it’s a whirlwind through Venice, Naples and then back to Rome.  Journey along with us if you dare, but watch out because things are sure to get crazy now. 🙂

Categories: Family, Italy, Travel · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Still happy with the hike at this point

Today I went once again to San Fruttuoso, this time to take the kids to the beach there.  Phil was nice enough to ride the ferry with them and meet me so I could take one last hike before he leaves again for the States on Sunday.  My original intention was to take the same trail I hiked last week, but when I got to the turning point, I decided to try another route to see what could be seen.  I ended up traipsing along a gorgeous, mostly flat, ridgeline that hugged the coast.  Quite happy with myself, I had Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken going through my head.  “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — (insert chest thumping here) I took the one less traveled by.”

A bit further along, I faced another choice between connecting back onto the trail from last week or once again taking the unknown route.  The sign for the new route said, “Sestieri e molto impegnativo.”  I understood the first part of the sentence – “The trails are very…” But I was stumped on impegnativo, which was clearly the critical word in the sentence.

Don’t hike if you’ve been impregnated?  Don’t hike as part of a procession reenacting the Nativity??  I had no idea, but I decided to go ahead on the basis of three things:

  1. I am not pregnant.
  2. I am not part of a Nativity procession.
  3. I assumed that the sentence did NOT mean, “The trails are very likely to lead you to an untimely death.”

Besides, given that I’m in pretty good shape, it couldn’t be that much more difficult than the other trail right?

Well, yes.  Yes it could.

About five minutes after passing the point of no return, I ran into two Italian guys who told me, in Italian, that they had just seen Cinghiale — wild boar (read: ferocious pigs) along the trail and to be careful.  Here again, my limited Italian hindered me because I couldn’t ask, “What does one do if one encounters a Cinghiale?”  I know what you are supposed to do if you run into a bear, a mountain lion etc, but my wilderness training did not include Cinghiale.  I knew I should have packed my Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook.   I tried to recollect having read anything about wild boar, but all I can come up with is a faint memory of something to do with preventing yourself from being suffocated by a boa constrictor.  Not all that helpful here.

First set of chains

After that, I’d get jumpy every time I heard a rustling noise of any kind (which was often).  Then I ran into the chains – bolted into the rock wall to give you something to hang onto in order to avoid plunging to your death off the cliff face.  (TIP: If you ever hike this trail, make sure to test the chains first to see how hot they are before you stake your life on them.  Those suckers are metal, and they sit in the hot sun all afternoon.  Best to know what you’re dealing with before FIRST scalding your hand and THEN plunging to your death…)

The chains seemed to go on forever.  On one especially tricky section, I realized I’d let my guard down about the Cinghiale.  Probably not a good idea since Cinghiale would almost certainly launch an attack at the very moment you were hanging onto the chains for dear life, right?.  The fact that there was animal scat all over the trail did little to ease my mind.

At last there were no more chains.  But I was not able to celebrate because by then I realized I’d only just begun the

You're kidding me right?

long, steep ascent over the mountain separating me from the abbey and the beach.  I climbed up a series of the most excruciating switchbacks I’ve encountered since the Grand Canyon.  By this time, I was cursing myself and the decision to take The Road Less Traveled.  Obviously there’s a reason why nobody travels that path – perhaps because it broils under the peak of the afternoon sun?  At one point, I was leaning so far forward to compensate for the steepness I was almost parallel to the ground.  I told myself that if I did not get a glimpse of the abbey soon I would surely keel over and die.  Then the Cinghiale would come and feast on my rotting flesh, so that by the time anyone found me up here they’d only be able to identify me with my dental records.

That narrow little crevice was part of the trail...

But survive I did.  The reward was a refreshing swim with the kids and taking the ferry back home – the way normal people travel.

We capped the day with a fantastic meal of fresh tagliatelle from the Pasta Fresca down the way.  The sauce?  Cinghiale ragu of course…

P.S.  Turns out “Impegnativo” roughly translates to “difficult.”  A bit of an understatement if you ask me…

Categories: Italy, Travel · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Almost to Volastra. Amazed I don't look like a candle melting, given the heat and how much sweat I had dripping on me!

Yesterday I decided to tackle the Cinque Terre (CHINK-way TAY-reh) hike.  Cinque Terre means “five lands,” referring to the five villages built into the hillsides along this portion of the Riviera. The villages and the surrounding area are a national park, an ecological preserve, and a world heritage site. The route I intended to take was the #2 coastal trail, the name of which is deceiving because the trail includes a great deal of elevation gain and loss given that the mountains rise directly from the sea here.

I begin the hike on the Via dell’Amore, beginning at Riomaggiore, so named because it was a common place for lovers to meet between Riomaggiore and Manarola – the next village over.  Now it is replete with amorous graffiti, padlocks and other love trinkets.

Sculpture on the Via dell'Amore

Once in Manarola, I discover that the section of the coastal trail that continues to Corniglia is closed due to landslides.  There are two options: wait one hour for the train or take the steeper, longer, far more difficult “high trail” up to the village of Volastra, hike along the ridge and then descend back down to Corniglia.

Those of you who know me well or have hiked with me (I’m looking at you, Jane!), know that I have a habit of adopting wayward hikers who are lost, confused, or otherwise unsure of themselves or their routes.  So why should this hike be any different?

At the turn-off to the high trail hike from the train station at Manarola, there is much hand-wringing and debate going on.  One guy in particular keeps asking me questions.

Him: “What do you think?  Do you think it would be worth it to do the hike or will it take too long?”

Me: “What I think is that if I only have one day in my life to hike this trail, I’m going to go ahead and go up rather than sit in a dark, smelly train station for the next hour.”

Him: “Do you think the trail will be clear?”

Me: “I think the trail will be pretty well-marked, and once we’re up there, we should have a good visual on where we need to go.  I’m going up.  Would you like to come along?”

This is how Ryan from Seattle and I head off for a hike of a lifetime.

It seems Ryan, who graduated from college in 2007, is a bit disillusioned with life after three years of selling radio advertising.  So he quit his job and is spending his savings traveling west around the world.  Good for him, I say.  In return, he is amazed that I’ve taken time to myself before my family arrives later this week.  We agree that being alone is a great way to travel, but so too is finding company in unexpected places.

As we hike, I am re-acquainted with the attitudes and speech patterns of the mid-twenty year-old.  The hike is strenuous as all get-out, but spectacularly beautiful in return.  Ryan captures this sentiment by saying, “This hike is just totally SICK, man!”

Terraced, Sloped Vineyards near Volastra

And it’s true.  Volastra is one of the acclaimed wine-making villages of Liguria, and the vineyards are terraced smack onto the cliffs, carved straight down to the ocean.  The views from the top of these slopes down to the villages just can’t be believed.  It’s good to take the road less traveled.

Approach to Corniglia from the "high trail"

Approaching Corniglia, the third village, Ryan regales me with the story of an encounter he had with some English guy at a bar who was being a cad toward a woman.  He walked up to him and said, “Dude, you are like, SO disrespectful.  Don’t be a douchebag.”

I’m teasing him a bit (the right of an elder), but truthfully Ryan was a very nice guy and made good company for the 3+ hours we hiked together.  He told interesting stories of his travels thus far, including places in Southeast Asia I hadn’t visited.  And the hike was nothing short of miraculous, so I was grateful to have someone to share it with.

Approach to Vernazza, dreaming of swimming

At last we reach Vernazza, the fourth village along the hike.  We make a beeline to the breakwater and find some rocks that look promising for jumping deep into the water.  We count to three and jump in together.  At the moment of impact, I realize that the only time in my life it felt better to go from completely dry to full submersion was when I threw myself into the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  Sweet, blessed relief!

Farewell photo

Next we share a lunch of pizza and celebratory beer, which I offer to pay for, as I remember being in his shoes all too well – an eager traveler with meager funds.  The total came to 11 Euros.  He says, “Are you sure it’s okay?  That’s so expensive.”  At which point I have the urge to tuck him into bed, read him a bedtime story and give him one of those “It Gets Better” speeches.

After lunch, Ryan is eager to take the last stretch of trail to Monterosso.  I send him on his merry way, as I’ve decided I’m happy in Vernazza and have set my sights on a nice stretch of rock upon which to sun myself for a while.

After a couple more hours of sunning and cliff jumping, I amble through Vernazza and take the train to

My spot for cliff jumping and sunning in Vernazza. I bet my mom is glad she wasn't there to see me jump!

Monterosso – the final of the five villages.  I amble there for a while, then head on home.  The sun, sea, beer and exercise conspire to make me drowsy on the train, but just as I’m about to nod off I chuckle and think, “That hike was just totally SICK, man.”

Categories: Italy, Travel · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Today I did one of the best hikes of my life, from my “home town” of Camogli to the Abbey of San Fruttuoso. I went there a couple of days ago on the ferry, but wanted to make the trip on foot.

The hike begins along the sea promenade in Camogli before going up, up along a long series of winding stairs to San Rocco at the top of the nearest mountain peak hill. A quick view down to all of the boats dotted like ants in the azure sea and then more up. Before long I’m in terraced olive groves and then woodland.  The stones of the trail are so worn I can almost imagine the berobed and sandaled monks trodding upon it themselves of yore.  Once in the woods, I no longer hear cicadas but birdsong and the gurgling of a mountain stream. The stream keeps me company (and makes me thirsty). The smell of the woods is more reminiscent of Michigan in the summer than Colorado. Next thing I’m making a steep descent back down to the sea and the abbey, once again in the sun, and once again serenaded by cicadas.

I take a glorious swim in the sea before returning to Camogli by ferry just in time to grab some focaccia al formaggio from my favorite bakery as a pre-dinner appetizer. Next I head to my favorite wine shop to select a couple of bottles. The owner now recognizes me (natch) and helps me select a delectable vino rosso which I am enjoying as I write this.

In other news, I am fully expecting to be able to bounce a quarter off my a$$ by the time I get home. There are not just hills but mountain slopes that you have to walk up here just to get to the grocery store. And that’s not including the 84 extremely vertiginous steps up to our apartment. Those I walk at least twice a day – once to go wherever my planned excursion is for the day and at least one other in order to grab my post-dinner gelato.

I had originally thought I would hike the Cinque Terre trail tomorrow, but after today I think the better plan is to park my weary bottom in a beach chair with a book and practice what the Italians call il dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing.

Some photos for your viewing pleasure…

Boats dotting the cove below San Rocco

Part of the woodland portion of the trail

Christ of the Mariners - protecting those at sea. Was enthralled with this sculpture...

San Fruttuoso Beach

Cliffside Restaurant

San Fruttuoso Abbey from the ferry

Camogli from the "sea entrance"

Categories: Italy, Travel · Tags: , , , , ,


You know, I am so swamped with getting the house ready for sale, volunteer stuff at my daughter’s school, etc., etc. etc. that I considered not doing a Gratitude Sunday post this week.  But you guys have really upped the ante with your lovely comments on last week’s, and for some reason, I’ve had more people tell me this week that they look forward to this series than I ever have.  So, here is this week’s post, and I’m grateful to those of you who not only find inspiration in it, but take the time to tell me…

Quotes on Gratitude

In preparation for our trip to Italy, I’m reading any and all books I can find with an Italian theme.  My current book is La Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales.  In the second chapter, she provides a brief history of the development of modern-day Italian from Latin and considers this poem, by non other than St. Francis of Assisi, to be a turning point in the development of la bella lingua.  It seemed more than appropriate as a quote on gratitude for this series as well.

Be praised, My Lord, for Sister Moon and stars

in heaven you formed them–lovely, precious, clear.

Be praised, My Lord, for Brother Wind and air,

and every kind of weather, cloudy, and fair,

by which you give your creatures what they need.

Be praised, My Lord, be praised for Sister Water–

she is so useful, precious, chaste, and humble.

Gratitude List for the week ending April 16

  1. YOU! The readers of this blog. You keep me going with your comments, support, encouragement and friendship.
  2. Watching my cousin’s daughter (alas, my second cousin) ROCK the role of the Wicked Witch of the West in her high school production of the Wizard of Oz. My daughter was so inspired she made me promise to sign her up for a theater group next year.
  3. Meeting with Renegade Lunch Lady Ann Cooper about a plan to increase the number of school lunches eaten at my daughter’s elementary school. Read all about what Ann is doing here. We are fortunate to have her revamping the school lunch program in Boulder Valley School District.
  4. Getting carpets cleaned – they look brand new!
  5. The fact that my mom let us spend the night at her house so they could dry properly before we inflicted ourselves back on them.
  6. A great Margareaders meeting!!
  7. Hiking with Rocky
  8. We’re getting a tax refund! First time that’s happened in a long time.
  9. Beginning one day with three inches of snow on the ground and ending it with sunshine and 60 degrees.
  10. The trees are beginning to turn green – little baby leaves.

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Book Club, Gratitude Sunday · Tags: , , , , , , ,


Tree on the Chautauqua trailThis week’s Gratitude Sunday closes out the most spectacular week of fall weather that I can remember here in Boulder (not that we suffer from much bad weather, mind you).  Therefore, Fall is the focus of this week’s post.

Quotes on Gratitude (for Autumn)

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf’s a flower.” — Albert Camus

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” — John Muir

“No Spring nor Summer Beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one Autumnal face.” — John Donne

Gratitude list for the week ending October 23

  1. The best autumnal weather I’ve experienced in Boulder.  Blue sky, warm days, cool nights, full moon, the smell of leaves everywhere.
  2. Fall food – soup, spaghetti, chili, pot roast
  3. Stunning hike with Rocky in Chautauqua Park.
  4. Phil’s parents gave a presentation to Em’s class about living in India.  The kids are about to start studying India in social studies.
  5. Festive dinner with Phil’s parents, my mom and the kids.
  6. Three generations watching The Princess Bride last night
  7. A very productive writing week
  8. Snuggling in bed with Jay on a rainy morning.
  9. Hot bath season is here. My favorite way to end a day.
  10. Michigan had a bye week, so I didn’t have to suffer through another game like they had the past two weeks against Michigan State and Iowa.  A reprieve.

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Autumn, Family, Gratitude Sunday · Tags: , , , , , , ,


Another week, another Gratitude Sunday…

Quotes on Gratitude

“Love wholeheartedly, be surprised, give thanks and praise–then you will discover the fullness of your life.” — Brother David Steindl-Rast

“Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love, and to work, and to play and to look up at the stars.” — Henry Van Dyke

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” — John Ruskin

Gratitude List for the week ending October 16


    Shanahan Ridge Trail


    Losing my iPhone on a hike, but then finding it again when I took the hike the second day.

  2. Thus, getting to hike on two gorgeous fall days in Boulder
  3. Joining the Margareaders for another great meeting after missing last month.
  4. Homemade tomato, white bean, sausage and spinach soup made with garden tomatoes
  5. Homemade chicken noodle soup (I’m on a soup kick) made with garden carrots
  6. Phil’s parents arrived safely for a nice long visit.
  7. Em, though sick, got to take a nap with her grandmother in a patch of sun by the back patio.
  8. Helping out as Em’s school’s liaison to the The Lunch Box, an organization I am very passionate about
  9. Lots of great comments on the blog this week – thanks to you all!
  10. Re-reading the Harry Potter series.  I’d forgotten how delightful the beginning two are – it’s been years since I read them.
Categories: Books, Children's Books, Cooking, Gratitude Sunday, Volunteer/Community · Tags: , , , , , , ,


In just a few short hours, the Big Sur in the Rockies children’s writing conference will kick off.  I’m nervous and excited, but I’m also ready.  I’m proud of the work I’ve done these past couple of weeks, and I’m ready to expose it to the light of day.  I haven’t had any professional feedback on my work since the SCBWI conference in January, and it’s what I need now to take my work to the next level.

Since I anticipate spending a great deal of time this weekend indoors and seated, I took Rocky for a hike this morning.  The poor dog is neurotic from lack of exercise due to his convalescence from his surgery last week.  It’s actually very inspiring to exercise with a dog.  He knew big fun was coming, and he was beside himself with excitement.  A dog doesn’t think, “Ugh, I’ve been sitting on my ass all week so this workout is probably going to blow chunks.”  No.  Everything in his body language indicated he was thinking, “Oh, we get to go for a hike today?  Yay!  Yay!  Yay!  Please take me a very long way!”

Anyway, the hike was good for me too.  It helped clear my head and gave me some much-needed separation from my work.  Also, I saw my first bluebells of the season.  That seems like a good omen.

AND – at least now Rocky is sleeping for a reason other than boredom.

Categories: Dogs, SCBWI, Writing · Tags: , , , , ,

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