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Sunshine Award 2014
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(Meditative Soup for the Happy Soul)
You haven’t heard from me for a couple of weeks for a simple, ineluctable reason. It is simply this: despite all the intricate plans my mind was making, my body decided to shut down for a week or so. Chills. 103-degree fever. Chills again. More fever. Extreme lethargy. Extreme fatigue. Headaches. Dizziness on rising. Loss of appetite. When the fourth day of fever began, I called the doctor. I went in and was diagnosed with “walking” pneumonia. I barely coughed at all, but there it was. An x-ray had revealed an infection on my lung. Antibiotics were prescribed. I gobbled them down for a week, drinking insane amounts of water. After many hours of Netflix movies and soreness on both hips from being in bed all day, I gingerly ventured out for a little longer each day, until I finally started to feel, well, “normal.”
I’m really glad I was sick. I wasn’t glad while it was happening to me, but I think illness is a time when your delirious mind has a chance to reorganize itself, put everything into perspective, and make you focus on the essentials in your life. I ate very little, but when I did get my appetite back, it was only for small quantities of healthy foods. The very thought of junk food was repulsive. I lost 10 pounds.
I also cut out the futile luxuries of perfectionism and anxiety, in which my mind had been indulging when it had more energy. All the focus was on resting, being kind to myself, and feeling better. Everything else was on indefinite hold.
“Whales have been here forever. Their flesh has fed the people and been the occasion for celebration and feasting. Their bones have been made into tools and objects of status and ceremonial importance. The sighting of a whale still thrills all who see it.
May it always be so!”
Cultural Resources Director
Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians
“We made them endangered. Now we must discover their needs and change our behavior to assure their survival.”
OSU Whale Biologist
I took a spontaneous solo trip up the California & Oregon coasts, all the way to the Olympic National Forest in Washington state, making inland ventures to visit friends, family, and natural phenomena. But that was more than 20 years ago. My recollections of Newport were hazy at best. They didn’t include the Oregon Coast Aquarium (which opened one year later), nor the touristy fisherman’s wharf area. I remember natural seascapes with real working towns and real fishermen in little buildings behind mounds of oyster shells. Things have obviously grown up a bit since then. For all of its 10,000 inhabitants, this seaside community really holds its own, maintaining charm, natural beauty, and culture. There is something for everyone here, from family style tourist to hard-core naturalist to artsy bohemian to yuppie culture vulture.
While I used to grab a pair of shoes and a backpack and just go when I wanted to travel, I now have a family where things must be planned in advance. So for this trip to the Oregon coast, we checked the tour books, researched the websites, and booked our hotels and activities. One thing I was glad to have reserved was seats on the Marine Discovery Tours boat in Newport. It’s an educational vessel that goes on tours to see marine life: specifically, hopefully, whales.
A slight nip in the 9 a.m. air sent us off under a gray sky. Our seasoned captain gave facts about the history the Yaquina River and Harbor, as well as the impressive Yaquina Bridge and Bay. Our young naturalist guide (a University of Oregon student) pointed out the NOAA research facility and ships, as well as the Hatfield Marine Science Center, operated by the University of Oregon. We went “over the bar” into the ocean, where the dip and roll of the waves necessitated rail-grasping for those brave enough to ride the bow. The sky was overcast, but the slight chill would soften to a muggy warmth within an hour. Our captain, a retired seafaring policeman named Bob, was kind, about 5 feet tall, with an easy smile and an outgoing manner. He invited all the children on deck to take turns “driving the boat.” Our naturalist student showed the young people how to bait and set out crab pots off the stern of the boat.
I’ve been doing some important research this past week. Here are some things that everyone should know about puffins:
1. There are two types that live in the North Pacific Ocean: horned puffins and tufted puffins.
2. Puffins are auks. They are not penguins. Auks live north of the equator, and penguins live south of the equator. They are not related.
3. Puffins, like all auks, can both fly in the air and swim underwater (cool!)
4. Puffins are damned cute.
5. The ones at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon like to splash-land, showering the spectators in the aviary. They think it is great fun. They are right.
6. The puffins mentioned in #5 also enjoy swimming very close to people and doing crazy, frenetic dances in the water.
7. They like to be watched and photographed.
8. They love life.
9. (Bonus fact) I think I’d like to come back as an auk in my next life.
I couldn’t let the subject rest without sharing these really dramatic views from Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. You’ll recall my post from July 8, 2014. I returned to experience the scene one more time and capture some of the drama created by the trees, cliffs, and lighting over the ocean. The “God rays” as I call them can be seen descending from the clouds toward the ocean in the last shot. The effect in real life was much more breathtaking than could be captured by my little Canon Elph, but you can get an idea of the beauty at every turn.
My Rating: 3 Stars
In my July 8th post, “Of Pelicans, Seals, and Ghosts,” I blogged about the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach, California, and mentioned the Moss Beach Distillery, a historic restaurant with a special story. Apart from having been a speakeasy in the late 1920s, it boasts a ghost, who purportedly appears occasionally to visitors, and sometimes makes strange, inexplicable things happen. I had the opportunity to dine there last night, and I emerge from the experience with mixed reviews.
The ever-changing view of the Pacific Ocean, dotted with fishing boats and changing light and cloud patterns, is gorgeous. The large windows on the upper floor are positioned to take full advantage of nature’s grandeur, as is the outdoor patio below. Dogs are welcome here (outside) and they even offer a doggy menu.
The decor is interesting: the stained-glass front windows seem to be original, while the bar sports a mixture of various tiffany-style lamps. The stamped-metal ceiling in the upstairs dining room gives an Old Spanish feeling. The large windows dominate, however, drawing your attention to the view.
The ambience is relaxing and the bartenders and waitstaff are jovial and attentive. The food quality is somewhat spotty, and the menu selection a bit unusual. For example, I ordered oyster shooters with vodka as an appetizer. You can only buy them by the piece (a lot of seafood places will also offer a six-pack). The oysters themselves were rather miniscule, and for $5 a piece ($7 with vodka), one would expect something a bit more substantial. The glasses in which they were served seemed too big for the oysters, and there was definitely too much tomatoey booze for my taste. Also, you can’t get a traditional crab cocktail or a crab louie here.
They served delicious, fresh, hot sourdough rolls with butter, and refilled our basket three times. Three people in our party of four ordered salads with their dinner. They were substantial in size and could easily serve two, each. I was able to sample two of them. The Caesar Salad had crisp, fresh lettuce and an irresistible creamy dressing. The Beet and Mandarin Salad was delightful, with fresh “designer” lettuce, freshly cooked beets, tasty mandarin slices, and delicious candied walnuts.
The meal unraveled, however, when it came to the entrées. One person in my party ordered the Crab Quesadillas, which were “good.” Another ordered the Pesto Salmon ($32) which she reported was way overcooked. Two of us ordered “Coquille de Mare” (also $32), which was described as a casserole of rock crab, prawns, and crimini mushrooms baked in jack, swiss, and parmesan cheese. I expected to find pieces of seafood in the casserole portion, but all I could find were mushrooms, and while it was flavorful, it was also quite heavy and greasy. The brown rice and vegetables that it was served with, however, were excellent.
Upon returning home, I researched the story of the ghost (the “Blue Lady”). She apparently had been the lover of the piano player at the Distillery, which she frequented in the 1920s. Unfortunately, her husband discovered her affair, and murdered her on the beach below the speakeasy, attempting to kill her lover as well. Her ghost is said to enjoy the company of the living, and she is reportedly seen from time to time at the bar.
Wikipedia reveals that some of the “sightings” of the Blue Lady were deliberate hoaxes by restaurant personnel, who admitted to placing images of the Blue Lady in the mirror of the women’s restroom (I did notice that the mirror seemed like one-way glass), piping in the sound of a woman’s laughter, and making lamps sway in the bar. The establishment is proud of its ghost, displaying her glowing head and bust in its entryway, and including her story as an insert in their menu. I also overheard our waitress telling another guest about some unexplained incidents that she had experienced in the restaurant: things being moved, and unexplained messages on the intercom.
This place has a lot of charm, history, and cachet, not to mention location. As some reviewers on Yelp pointed out, the restaurant can get by on these things alone, and tourists will continue to come here. If you want to get a drink and some appetizers, enjoy the view, and maybe catch a Giants’ game on TV, this is a very acceptable place. If you come here for fine dining, however, as the pricing on the dinner menu would lead you to expect, you will probably be less than satisfied. Not enough attention is paid to the finer points of food preparation, especially of the dinner entrées. I give Moss Beach Distilley three stars out of five.
The opportunities are always out there, but how many of us reach out to them? I’m talking about things you’ve always dreamed of doing. It’s different for everyone, but for me the list includes a few things that I’ve been wanting to do since childhood. Here are my top four:
1. Scuba diving (ever since I saw my first Jacques Cousteau program).
2. Fying an airplane. I did get an opportunity to do that as a late teen, in a Cessna with dual controls. My cousin was getting her A&P license at the time, and her instructor took me up. It was great. I’d still like to get a pilot’s license and fly wherever I want to.
3. Owning a yacht and sailing around the world. (I’d really better get started on this one)
4. Publishing a book (or several).
I think the main thing that has been holding me back is my inability to see these things as not only possible, but as real. There is a sense that these dreams are extravagant, self-indulgent, and superfluous. The idea that life should be about doing “serious” things and “making money.” Also, I (as I assume is true for many others) look around for approval/permission from others. That is a big mistake. I’m not sure why I haven’t done these things yet, but, as the second half of my life begins, I figure I’d better get off the observation deck and into the water. Literally.
Yesterday I saw a movie on Netflix called “Maidentrip” about a 14-year-old girl from the Netherlands named Laura Dekker who literally sailed around the world by herself, in a 40-foot ketch named Guppy. It was inspiring, to say the least. Once she decided to undertake the voyage, Dutch child welfare services tried to stop her, and she had to go through harrowing legal battles before getting clearance. She finally won and achieved her ambition, documenting the voyage on video.
I’ve signed up for a scuba diving certification class! It starts in about three weeks. I’m excited about it, and also a little apprehensive. I’m not apprehensive about the diving part, or being underwater, or any of that. I’m concerned about passing the prerequisite, which includes swimming 3/4 of the length of the pool underwater on one breath. I can swim the whole length underwater with fins on. But I’m pretty sure it will be fins off for the test. The other two qualifying tests are to surface swim 5 lengths of the pool (piece of cake) and tread water for 10 minutes (could do it in my sleep). But why is it so hard to swim underwater? I have been practicing. So far, all I can do is a little over half a length. The harder I try, the harder it is. Today, I talked with some fellow swimmers, who gave me pointers. Look down, not up. Keep your body horizontal. Stay relaxed. Find the “zone” in which you continuously glide forward with minimal effort from your limbs. It’s tricky, because you have to stay rigid enough to keep the forward momentum, but relaxed enough to conserve energy and oxygen. One of my fellow swimmers even demonstrated for me. He made it look effortless.
Finally, they suggested I look on YouTube for instructional videos on free diving. I’m about to check into those. I know that most of getting past this is psychological, and that persistence will eventually pay off. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Wish me luck!!
Not too far south of San Francisco on the Coast Highway, you come to Pacifica. A sleepy little town of 38,000 (well, it seems sleepy to big-city dwellers), it has three main beaches along its 2-1/4 mile coastline. If you start at the Pacifica Pier, you can walk south along Sharp Park Beach (bordering Sharp Park golf course), to the site of Mori Point Inn, built by Stefano Mori, an Italian immigrant farmer in the 1870s. The roadhouse was taken over by his son Jack, who turned it into a speakeasy during Prohibition of the ’20s, smuggling in boot-legged Canadian whiskey from offshore. The feds caught up with Jack in 1923, confiscating 24,000 cases of liquor and closing down the establishment.
A steep flight of wooden stairs (now known as Bootlegger’s Steps) leads directly up to a high bluff overlooking the ocean, where you can walk along the coast toward Half Moon Bay. The uninterrupted view of the Pacific is breathtaking.
If you don’t climb the steps, and instead turn left at Mori Point, you can walk along a restored wetland area at the end of the lake (Laguna Salada) that is the habitiat of the endangered California red-legged frog. I had ventured here a few times, but never saw a frog until I met some locals, who told me exactly where to look. The walk also encounters crows, gulls, unabashed squirrels, lizards, and lots of other wildlife.