Saturday, April 22, 2017

How long should I meditate?

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day—unless you're too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” — Zen proverb.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter 2017

most quotes collected from my 2016 Zen Calendar 

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.
- Rumi

Your sadness, your fear, your loneliness, even your despair is so fragile, friend. It can break open at any moment. A single note in a piece of music can do it. A kind glance from a stranger. The feeling of the spring breeze on your face. A reflection of a bird in flight. In any moment, your sorrow can shatter into nothingness; it has no more reality than that, no more substance than a shadow.
- Jeff Foster

No one asked you to be happy. Get to work.
- Colette

On Meditation and Practice

Practice thirty more years.
- Zen saying

In addition to sitting - cooking, gardening, cleaning, and walking can all be part of our meditation practice, especially if we really connect with present awareness along the way.
- David Nichtern

You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait. You need not even wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
- Franz Kafka

Zen is really just a reminder to stay alive and to be awake. We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past. Zen practice is about appreciating your life in this moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past, and there is no reality apart from the here and now.
- Peter Matthiessen

It is time to put yourself back in tune... Put your zazen pad somewhere between your bathroom and kitchen. Sit down there in the morning after you use the bathroom and before you cook breakfast. You are sitting with everyone in the world. If you can sit only briefly, you will have at least settled your day.
- Robert Aitken

Leave your front door and back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don't serve them tea.
- Shunryu Suzuki

Give yourself a break. That doesn't mean to say that you should drive to the closest bar and have lots to drink or go to a movie. Just enjoy the day, your normal existence. Allow yourself to sit in your home or take a drive... Park your car somewhere; just sit; just be. It sounds very simplistic, but it has a lot of magic. You begin to pick up on clouds, sunshine and weather, your past... You begin to pick up on a lot of things. Just let them pass like the chatter of a brook as it hits the rocks. We have to give ourselves some time to be. 
- Chogyam Trungpa

Let me give you a wonderful Zen practice. Wake up in the morning... look in the mirror, and laugh at yourself.
- Bernie Glassman

There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness...
- Anne Lamott

Who are you in the silence between your thoughts?
- Gil Fronsdal


To me photography is an art of observation... I've found it has little to do witt he things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.
- Elliott Erwitt

Art does not reproduce the invisible; rather it makes it visible.
- Paul Klee

Art is frozen zen.
- R. H. Blyth

The great artist is the simplifier.
- Henri Frederic Amiel


How beautiful the world was when one looked at it without searching, just looked, simply and innocently.
- Hermann Hesse

Everything that is made beautiful and fair and lovely is made for the eye of one who sees.
- Rumi

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.
- Albert Schweitzer

Be kind

Perhaps the most "spiritual" thing any of us can do is simply to look through our own eyes, see with the eyes of wholeness, and act with integrity and kindness.
- Jon Kabat-Zinn

The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do ourselves; is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.
- Pema Chodron

Be silly, be honest, be kind.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be wise. Treat yourself, your mind, sympathetically, with loving kindness. If you are gentle with yourself, you will become gentle with others.
- Lama Thubten Yeshe


If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.
- Amit Ray

Being aware of your breath forces you into the present moment - the key to all inner transformation. 
Whenever you are conscious of the breath, you are absolutely present. You may also notice that you cannot think and be aware of your breathing. Conscious breathing stops your mind.
- Eckhart Tolle

Sit and be still
until in the time
of no rain you hear
beneath the dry wind's
commotion in the trees
the sound of flowing
water among the rocks
a stream unheard before,
and you are where
breathing is prayer
- Wendell Berry


There is only one important point you must keep in your mind and let it be your guide. No matter what people call you, you are just who you are. Keep to this truth. You must ask yourself how is it you want to live your life. We live and we die, this is the truth that we can only face alone. No one can help us, not even the Buddha. So consider carefully, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?
- The Dalai Lama

The Buddha is found everywhere: in other people - even the ones we do not like very much.
- Francis Harold Cook

The great way of the Buddha-Law is: in a grain of dust are all the scrolls of the sutras in the universe; in a grain of dust are all the infinite Buddhas.
- Dogen

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.
- The Buddha


The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.
- William Morris

Maybe happiness is this: not feeling like you should be elsewhere, doing something else, being someone else.
- Isaac Asimov

That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.
- Willa Cather

Vipassana is a word that means, "to see things as they really are" and it is this beautiful yet difficult practice that carries one to the end of unhappiness.
- Michael Kewley


There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
- Henri Matisse

If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment.
- Georgia O'Keefe

The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.
- Terry Tempest Williams

I don't know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.
- Vincent Van Gogh

On a bare branch 
a crow settles 
in autumn dusk.
- Basho

In the sun
   the butterfly wings
      Like a church window.
- Jack Kerouac

Distant mountains
      in the dragonfly's eye.
- Issa

The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fibre and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing.
- John Muir  

Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.
- Henry David Thoreau


It takes a long time to understand nothing.
- Edward Dahlberg

Student: "Roshi, what are you doing here?"
Suzuki-roshi: "Nothing special."
- Zen koan


And if there is not any such thing as a long time, nor the rest of your lives, nor from now on, but there is only now, why then now is the thing to praise and I am very happy with it.
- Ernest Hemingway

Nirvana is right here, before our eyes.
- Hakuin

Wherever you are is the entry point.
- Kabir

Perfectly Imperfect

There is no perfection,
only life.
- Milan Kundera

If others had not been foolish, we should be so.
- William Blake

You shall love your crooked neighbour with your crooked heart.
- W. H. Auden

And at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling.
- Shanti

Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.
- Henry Miller

No amount of anxiety makes any difference to anything that is going to happen.
- Alan Watts

Follow your inner moonlight; don't hide the madness.
- Alan Ginsberg

If you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns of running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of the galaxy. You are all just like that, and there is nothing wrong with you at all.
- Alan Watts

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
- Zora Neale Hurston

More to Ponder

We think sometimes we're only drawn to the good, but we're actually drawn to the authentic. We like people who are real more than those who hide their true selves under layers of artificial niceties.
- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

All great truths begin as blasphemies.
- George Bernard Shaw

Autumn light
fill the room
- Soen Nakagawa

Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow.
- Oscar Wilde

You may not control all the events that happen to you but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone else's cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.
- Maya Angelou

The spirit down here in man and the spirit up there in the sun, in reality are only one spirit, and there is no other one.
- The Upanishads

Don't look for miracles. You are the miracle.
- Henry Miller

It is what I was born for -
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over...
- Mary Oliver

I would believe only in a god who could dance.
- Friedrich Nietzche

Through the ample open door of the peaceful country barn,
A sunlit pasture filled with cattle and horses feeding,
And haze and vista, and the far horizon fading away.
- Walt Whitman

Mental and physical reactions come and go
Like clouds in the empty sky
Greed, hatred and ignorance appear and disappear
Like bubbles on the surface of the sea.
- Yongjia Xuanjue

No matter how much we want it to be otherwise, the truth is that we are not in control of the unfolding of our experiences.
- Sharon Salzberg

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.
- Albert Einstein

All things are in the universe and the universe is in all things: we in it, and it in us, and in this way everything harmonizes in perfect unity.
- Giorano Bruno

A poem has secrets that the poet knows nothing of.
- Stanley Kunitz

Nor love thy life, nor hate; but what thou liv'st,
Live well, how long or short permit to Heaven.
- John Milton

Maybe you are searching among the branches for what only appears in the roots.
- Rumi

Truth cannot only comfort you. At times is has to cut through to the bone, to the very marrow evenm if this is what it takes to set you free.
- Mooji

The truth will set you free - but first it will piss you off.
- Gloria Steinem

The biggest cause of suffering is being here, and wishing you were somewhere else.
- Ajahn Brahm

Confidence, life art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions.
- Early Grey Stevens

You are caught between all that was and all that must be. You feel lost.
- Haruki Mukakami

Life is painful, suffering is optional.
- Sylvia Boorstein

Get rid of words and meaning, and there is still poetry.
- Yang Wan-Li

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.
- Rumi

All endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time.
- Mitch Albom 

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.
- Joseph Campbell

We do not remember days, we remember moments.
- Cesare Paves

May you live all the days of your life.
- Jonathan Swift

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.
- Henry Miller

And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T. S. Eliot

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
- Walt Whitman

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ghosts and demons

I didn't realize how many ghosts and demons were in the plays I've seen at the theatre recently. But they really are constants of so many great stories. Frightening, pathetic, funny, threatening - aspects of our selves.

*****Sheets (Director/playwright Salvatore Antonio) / April
Ghost + Suicide

Veritas theatre offered House Seats tickets and I scooped them up, then the theatre reneged when the play started getting positive reviews. So disappointing! I ended up buying tickets despite being peeved.

Memorable performances by (mostly) naked actors, including the unflinching exposure by a burn victim of their disfigurement and loss.

The stage presented awkward threesomes, inexperienced escorts and clients, suicide and death. Underneath was vulnerability and the human need to be really seen and accepted.

The ghost in this play was omnipresent, from the moment guests took their seats through to the last moment of the performance.

***Picasso at the Lapin Agile (playwright Steve Martin) / March
The spirits here were out of time, not really ghosts so much as displaced souls.

East Side Players staged the absurd comedy, where Einstein, Picasso and Elvis end up in the same bar, competing for drinks and women.

The script demanded excellent comic timing and although delivery was a bit hit and miss, it was entirely fun none-the-less.

**Five Faces of Evelyn Frost (Quebec playwright Guillaume Corbeil) / Feb

Can Stage/Berkeley theatre.

I genuinely liked this but thought it was about 55-60 minutes too long. Did I mention it was a 70 minute production?

A critical eye cast on social media, the play made its point quickly with the actors trying to outdo each other with their tweets, Facebook posts and Instagrams. Whispering and shouting and making announcements without listening, connecting or getting to know each other. A lonely, sociable/but anti-social existence.

The stage was heaped with discarded costumes from which bodies rose and descended. Great commentary and strong performances but so so so long.

****Who Killed Spalding Gray? (Written and performed by Daniel MacIvor) / Dec
Demon + Suicide

Can Stage/Berkeley theatre.

A one man production in the tradition of Spalding Gray, with the actor speaking directly to the audience and holding them transfixed with manic confessions. This was a fantastic account of events in one man's life, and his bizarre hypothesis of how angry spirits attack the most vulnerable. Releasing one man's demon means someone else becomes the host. I'm glad I saw an afternoon performance and returned to bright daylight afterward, rather than entering into a dark, cold night.

***Chasse-Gallerie (book adapted by Tyrone Savage / music and lyrics by James Smith) / Nov

A raunchy and rollicking Quebecois tale , with devils and lumberjacks and innocent girls led astray in a canoe.

The demons make a side bet with one another and take the lumberjack girls to hell, but the women succeed in overthrowing the underworld and return with warning tales.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Egg Moon - April Full Moon

Egg moon. Pink moon. Wind moon.

It is looking full 2 days in advance of its 'official' moment (April 11, 2:08 am). We are full of eggspecatations.

Egg Man in the Moon, Joanna Braithwaite

Monday, April 3, 2017


Tuesday I felt giddy in the sunshine when I took my walk at lunchtime. It was cold, but bright, with the promise of spring in the air. When I came home from work that night, I snapped a photo of the snow drops nodding. Thursday night it was snowing! Big fat flakes and a sloppy drive home from yoga. Friday morning, snowdrops in the snow drops. Friday afternoon a cold, freezing rain.Saturday the temperatures were rising as I swept the back deck clear of debris. Sunday I clipped back the lenten roses, swept away the dead leaf on the hydrangea, snipped the cedar, and watched bees buzzing in the crocus. I also tagged branches of the Japanese maple for early summer pruning, remembering the advice to allow space for butterflies to explore, visualizing a monarch resting its wings. Thankfully the peony didn't undergo too much damage from the roofers, who had tossed debris right onto the plant, breaking branches. Buds are in progress, and I pruned away the dead wood. Weather is always unpredictable this time of year, but the temperature swings have been 20 degrees in three days. Volatile. I feel my pulse quickening. The heavy heartedness of winter lifting.

Sunday, April 2, 2017


In February, we feasted at High in the Sky, with an Italian theme. For the anitpasto I brought along Lupini beans, olives, capocollo, soppressata, & proscuitto. Caroline made a gorgeous torta Crispelle with sausage and broccoli rabe for the primo, and also brought along a pasta machine and dough so we could make absolutely fresh pasta. For the contorno, Maureen served a chicken piccatta with lemon and caper sauce. Tiramisu for the dolce! Delicious wine pairings included a Bordeaux Blanc Clarendelle, Anselmi (one of my favourite Italian whites), and a lovely pinot noir.

March was our turn to host, and the ladies persuaded the gentlemen to be the cooks. After much deliberation, Rob chose a Mexican theme. On fiesta day, we went down to Kensington market in the morning for the ingredients: tortilla, tomatillos, peppers (serrano, poblano), Mexican crema, and Oaxaca cheese. We also discovered mini wafer Obleas Mexican candy that we shared at dessert. For libations, Mexican Mojitos, tequila and cervaza on hand! 

Appetitzers were filling! Jimmy walked in with KFC chicken, (which I thought was his contribution, but it turned out to be an April Fool's joke) and then made burritos to order. Dick had stuffed peppers and drunken tequila shrimp. People were full by the time Rob served the soup, and then even fuller when the main was set before us... the best enchiladas I've had in my life!  It was nice having someone else on kitchen duty, but we did miss raconteur Rob's company as his dishes demanded last minute preparation.  We ended the night with Dick's dessert - Mexican brownies with vanilla ice cream.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
1 small onion, diced 
2 tablespoons minced garlic 
2 jalapenos, finely diced 6 cups loww-sodium chicken broth 
One 14.5-ounce can fireroasted diced tomatoes 
One 14.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained 
3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless 
2 limes, juiced, plus wedges for garnish 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves 
One 8-inch flour tortilla, grilled, cut into thin strips 
1 avocado, pitted, sliced

In a large saucepan heat the vegetable oil. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Once the onions have softened add the garlic and jalepenos and cook for another minute. Pour the chicken broth, tomatoes and beans into the pot and bring to a boil. Once at a boil lower heat to simmer and add your chicken breasts. Cook the chicken for 20 to 25 minutes. Once chicken is cooked remove from pot. When cool enough to handle shred it and set it aside. Add lime juice and fresh cilantro to the pot. In a serving bowl add a mound of shredded chicken. Ladle soup over chicken and top with a lime wedge, grilled tortilla strips, avocado slices and cheese.


This cheesy, creamy dish originated at a Sanborns cafe in Mexico City in 1950. Its name, "Swiss enchiladas," alludes to its copious use of dairy.


1 1⁄2 lb. tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed
2 serrano chiles, stemmed
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1 cup sour cream
1⁄2 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup canola oil
3 cups cooked shredded chicken
1 1⁄2 cups cups shredded queso Oaxaca or mozzarella
8 (6") corn tortillas

Arrange an oven rack 4″ from the broiler and heat broiler to high. Place tomatillos and serranos on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil, turning as needed, until blackened all over, about 10 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes, and then peel and discard skins. Transfer to a blender along with cilantro, sour cream, cumin, garlic, poblanos, and 1 cup boiling water; season with salt and pepper, and purée until smooth. Set enchilada sauce aside.
Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, grasp tortillas with tongs and fry in oil until pliable, about 1 minute. Transfer tortillas to a work surface. Place chicken in a bowl and toss with 1 cup enchilada sauce until evenly coated. Divide sauced chicken evenly among tortillas, and roll tortillas tightly around chicken. Pour about 1 cup enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, and place tortilla rolls in dish, seam side down, creating one row down the center of the dish. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over rolls, and cover evenly with cheese.
Heat oven to 375°. Bake enchiladas until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted on top, 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve with plenty of sauce.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Weekend intensive

These past few months I have been focusing on my home practice. Well, maybe 'home' isn't quite the right word, as I also carried my yoga mat and block to Hawaii, enjoying the ocean view and sun and breeze as part of my morning ritual.

This weekend intensive with Marlene at YCT was rejuvenating, and I was reminded once again of the privilege to have such a seasoned teacher's voice as a guide, bringing new perspectives to even the simplest of poses. Observing the shape of the legs and then using straps to straighten them to sit in dondasana for 5 minutes, and then seeing what awareness that brings to tadasana. In a workshop I usually surprise myself by being able to do something I didn't think possible: this time I managed to do a backbend, walking my hands down the wall right to the floor. Haven't done that in ages!

Although I am careful not to repeat the same sequences day after day, having a good teacher takes me out of familiar territory. I hear an instruction in a new way, or there is a pose I haven't done in awhile, and am reminded to bring it back into rotation.

I have made up some 'wild cards' to incorporate it into my mornings, cutting up old watercolours and writing some words: "uttanasana with your back against the wall,"  "Tadasana: standing, inverted and lying," "Be present," "palms flat against the wall," "Parivrtta Trikonasana " and "Ustrasana." Nudges to keep practice fresh.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Spring Forward - March Full Moon

We spent the weekend in Greely, Ontario and Chelsea, Quebec. After dinner, we watched the moon rise between branches of a forest, lots of snow reflecting moon shadow. A beautiful night, but too cold to venture outside, so we stayed in by the fire, enjoying the company of old friends. Now, back home, watching the moon rise over the neighbour's house. It is almost 8:30, darkness quickening.
This glow in the dark moon clock is made up of authentic lunar images taken in Western France by astronomy photographer Norbert. If it hung on my wall, I would turn it ahead by an hour today and wonder why we persist in daylight savings time. 

It doesn't hang on my wall, but I'm tempted to order it, and Amazon promises it would be here by March 14...

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Book Keeping

I like recording the books and authors I've read, and I'm not the only one! Several friends I know record their choices in hard cover books and others use virtual communities. Personally I've used Google Books, and My Library Thing, but mostly I've been using this blog. Sometimes I rate the books, sometimes pull quotes, sometimes share personal reflections of the learning or insights the books have brought.

Instead of listing books here in my blog, I'm going to give Good Reads a try as a way of tracking, see how it goes for 2017.

My book shelf includes the books I've read so far in 2017.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Hawaii Itinerary

We covered a lot of miles on our Hawaii trip, circumnavigating four islands on our drives and getting a birds-eye view from the air during Island hops. Each island is so different from the other, with vast differences within each. Elevation, wind direction, and age of the volcanic eruptions all make a huge impact on how much rain will fall, sun will shine, and plants will grow. 

The longer the Hawaiian place name,  the more it becomes a mist in my memory. Even now as I'm writing them down, any name more than three syllables evaporates. Complicating matters are the place names that appear on multiple islands and maps that identify the same geography with different names.

So before the words disappear like invisible ink, here is a quick overview of our itinerary over the three weeks.

HAWAII ISLAND Makalani Oceanview Cottage Pu'uhonua o'Honaunau (Place of Refuge) National Historic Park  Kealakekua Bay, Ho'okena Beach State Park,  Pebble Beach, Mahai’ula Bay, Green Sands BeachSouth Point, Kona Coffee/Greenwell Farms Stained Glass Cottage Volcanos National Park HILO Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden Kanile’a Ukulele Kaimu Bay MAUI Hana Cabana Road to Hana Waianapanapa State Park, Oheo Gulch, Seven Sacred Pools, Charles Lindburgh’s grave (Palapala Hoomau Congregational Church), Red Sands Beach, Hana town beach Moana Lani B&B-Lil Grass Shack Old Lahaina Town Feast at Lele Ka’anapali, Mokolea Point, Kapalua, Front Street Beach, Napali Beach,WHALE-WATCHING JoDo Mission OAHU Courtyard by Mariott Oahu Northshore Sunset Beach, Waimea Beach Park, Kaena  Point, Pupkea, Kailua, Haleiwa, Bonzai Pipeline Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden Iolani Palace KAUI Zen Root Maloaa Bay, Ke’e Beach Park, Tunnels, Wailua River, Princeville, Fern Grotto, Makana Mountain Kilauea Lighthouse  Jo2 Restaurant Waimea Plantation Cottages Driftwood Beach, Poipu Beach, Waimea, Hanapepe Kaui Coffee Waimea Canyon Allerton National Tropical Botanical Garden

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Kaui, Allerton Gardens

Moreton Bay fig trees in
Kauai's Allerton Garden
While in Kaui, we visited Allerton Gardens. This garden is one of five overseen by the National Tropical Botanical Gardens trust (NTBG). The only way to view them is to take a guided tour, which is a good thing. Many of the plant specimens here are imperilled and visitors to gardens are prone to taking seedlings and seeds home in pockets. Limiting visitors controls the volume of people traipsing through the space.  The guided tour also means, if you have a good guide, that you get to hear a bit of the backstory about the place. 

It was our guide's first tour, and he did a great job of telling stories without dropping Latin plant names.

The gardens were originally created by Robert Allerton and John Gregg Allerton, lifelong companions.
On March 4, 1960, Robert Allerton became a father. He was 86 at the time and his newly adopted son, John Wyatt Gregg, was 60. They had met 38 years previously at a "Father-Son" fraternity banquet at the University of Illinois where the single and childless Allerton, 49, had been invited by a friend to stand in as a "father" to a then 22 year-old Gregg, who was an orphan. Interviewed in the 1980s, Gregg explained: "Robert Allerton was invited over there for lunch for a football game and he didn't have a son and I didn't have a father so we were paired off and lived happily ever after. Historical Perspectives on Kinship
Robert Allerton was the artist and John Gregg Allerton was the architect. Together, their combined talents designed a unique garden concept of linked outdoor rooms. They would invite guests for dinner and feast in the moonlit garden. Visitors would be invited to choose costumes to suit their mood from a vast wardrobe. It sounds like the Allerton's knew how to entertain.

The Thanksgiving Room, where they often held their dinner parties, isn't named after the American holiday, but because Allerton was grateful he had not committed suicide earlier in his life, at a point of deep despair. Persevering had meant he lived to share the gardens with friends to an old age.

The Mermaid Room has a fountain that beats 52 times per minute. Just sitting there quietly is lovely meditation, as the fountain is timed to beat at the pace of the human heart at rest. Another area is planted with clumps of golden bamboo that tower overhead, making beautiful music on a windy day. Fountains and statuary adorn the landscape throughout. The gardens were ahead of their time and influenced landscape architecture for decades to come. 

Today the estate is maintained by NTBG and people can sign up for the tours, but it's also been the site of several films, including Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean. 

Research is underway here and at the McBride Gardens to study the potential of plants as healing pharmaceuticals and food sources. We saw a  seeded form of Breadfruit known as 'breadnut' that is grown for its nutritious, tasty seeds which contain 13-20% protein, 6-29% fat, and are a good source of potassium, calcium, and niacin. Seeds are boiled, roasted, or ground into meal or flour. This superfood is highly nutritious and has the potential to feed the world's hungry. NTBG is helping to study, propagate, and deliver breadnut plugs for planting to feed the hungry in Zambia, Costa Rica, Ghana and Nicaragua.

Just spending three hours here I could breathe easier - all the oxygen and the calming effects of the plants. Definitely one of the highlights of our Hawaii trip!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Kaui, Waimea

The Hawaiian word waimea means reddish water, and three places on the islands we visited have the same name. We passed though Waimaea on Big Island, Waimea Bay and Falls at Oahu, and here in Kaui we explored Waimea Canyon, the Plantation Cottages, and Waimea town.

Waimea Plantation Cottages is vintage Hawaii, located on Driftwood Beach and a short walk away from Waimea Pier. More than 60 cottages are here, so it feels like a small town within a town. Each building has a written provenance and story about previous residents. The grounds and gardens are picture perfect and many of the cottages have ocean views. We spent a lot of time on the beach here just wave-watching. Our cottage had a mango tree in front, apple bananas on one side and a pomelo tree on the other.

A short drive away is Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park, where we spent a full day and a half. There are many places to pull over and several vantage points along the way, with the highest point of elevation at Pu’u O Kila Lookout, almost a mile high. Views are spectacular, and we literally took hundreds of photos and videos. Now when I look at the photos I find myself closing my eyes to see the canyon better, because really, it is the feeling the place evokes, above the clouds.

Hanapepe is a charming little town closeby that bills itslef Kaui's "biggest small town." We stopped in during the day and it was fairly quiet, but when we returned on Friday evening the art night was in full swing. Musicians were playing at the different ends of town and the galleries were showing the work of local artists. My favourite place was Talk Story, the independent book store, where it was fun to explore the shelves.

Kaui Coffee Company offered a tour of their extensive operations. They have turned what was once a sugar plantation into a coffee farm. Here the plantings are flat and not on slopes. They also harvest and dry the beans with machines, grading them using tumblers. Kaui Blue Mountain and espresso were both delicious roasts. The brand is not quite as expensive as Kona coffee, but not as tasty either.

Waimea historic town has a well-marked walking tour, and the Plantation Cottages where we are staying are part of the circuit. It has erected a monument to Captain Cook, because this was one of the first places the fleet anchored and made contact with the Polynesians. There is also a Russian fort nearby, where territory was claimed for the Russian czarina in 1817.

Waimea Pier
Ishihara Market, a short walk away from our cottage, had a great assortment of pokey at their deli counter. There were also signs posted for food stamps at the check out. It turns out Hawaii has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the States, and we saw many tents on every island that weren't vacationers'. So many of these islanders were once visitors who decided to stay.

Hanapepe is a charming little town closeby. We stopped in during the day and it was fairly quiet, but when we returned on Friday evening the art night was in full swing. Musicians were playing at the different ends of town and the galleries were showing the work of local artists. My favourite place was Talk Story, the independent book store, where it was fun to explore the shelves.

We reserved a sunset tour of the Napali Coast, which was unfortunately cancelled due to bad weather conditions. So when we get home I think I'll make Mai Tais and watch video clips of different sunset tours as a way to extend the vacation.

Hawaii Kaui Full Moon - February

We are in the Southern hemisphere and have been watching the moon wane and wax over these last three weeks. In Kapa'a it floated in the sky above the clouds, almost full.

Last night was very cloudy, too cloudy to catch it's fullness in a photograph. The clouds brought a tropical rain, which fell through the night onto our tin roof here in Waimea. Sometimes heavily enough to wake me. I went outside on the lanai and tried to memorize the stirring scent.

Other events were hidden in the night sky as well. The penumbral lunar eclipse may have been visible in Toronto from 7:43 pm on February 10, but Facebook friends were complaining of snow, so likely didn't have a great view. There is also a comet passing, in the neighbourhood of Venus.

This year, Friday 10 to Saturday 11 marks the date for the full moon in February. Known as the Snow Moon to Ojibway tribes. I am far away from snow right now, returning soon enough.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Nani Manu - Beautiful Bird

Many joys of this Hawaii vacation have been brought by the gorgeous birds. The first place we stayed, in Kona on Big Island, stocked their bird feeder well. We started our day in the mornings and ended at dusk, watching the birds lit in and out, taking turns for the seed, and then we'd leaf through pages in the guidebook trying to identify their names.

Some we knew. The pretty little House Finch. A Northern red cardinal that came along every evening. Seeing these familiars was like coming across old friends in the jungle.

The rooster was actually the first bird we saw when we arrived, brash and strutting with its gorgeous plumage. They were everywhere, and made me laugh, even at their 5 a.m. early morning calls. Naming the roosters and chickens junglefowl or moa made them seem a bit more exotic than the invasive species they've become.

Red Whiskered Bulbul
photo credit
Also at the feeder in Kona: Japanese white eye, java sparrow, saffron finch, red whiskered bulbul, saffron finch, ring necked pheasant, and zebra dove.

Cattle egrets and mynas were on all the islands, but we first noticed them on Maui. Red crested cardinals were prominent on Maui and Ohau, where they are seen as becoming a threat to local species. We saw white rumped shama thrush enjoying botanical gardens.
shama thrush
photo credit

In Kaui we came across the national goose, Nene. At first they seem a bit plain compared to their colourful cousins, but the pattern of the feathers is striking.

A black-bellied whistling duck jumped out at us on a jungle road, it's odd beak making it easy to identify later. One source hilariously described it as a "boisterous duck."  

Tropicbird in Waimea Canyon
 photo credit
At the Kilauea Lighthouse, Frigates were flying and Masked Booby were hopping at the rocky shore.

We spotted tropicbirds soaring in Waimea Canyon.

Hawaian Honeycreepers
all descended from a single finch ancestor

In Kaui, I would occasionally see a blurr of red in the jungle or against the green of fruit trees. There are a few red forests birds here. It may have been an I'iwi (which are still common on this island although in rapid decline), or an 'Apapane (typically found in forests at higher elevations), but definitely not an akapi (now found only on Big Island, Volcanoes Park).

Unfortunately many of the birds once found in Hawaii are now extinct. Audubon notes "the arrival of Polynesians and then Europeans famously wiped out countless vulnerable island species, many of them before their existence was even recorded." Their feathers made them desirable for Polynesian royalty and later, for haberdashers. Now even more common varieties are becoming endangered and dwindling in number. Even the national goose, the Nene, is endangered. Species are threatened because habitats are dwindling, and some of the food sources such as taro crops are no longer grown. Of course,  pesticides are also a problem. Throughout the islands there were handwritten placards, NO SPRAYING! and NO GMO! However protests are not always heeded.

The other threat to many Hawaian birds are rats, which are not native to Hawaii and go after nesting females, eggs and young chicks. When we were in Kona we trapped a rat that had been eating fruit overnight. It must have been in paradise with all the birds at the feeder... Our host was apologetic but acknowledged rats are a problem across Hawaii. Since the rodents had no natural predators, mongoose were brought to the island to help combat the problem.Unfortunately, mongoose are diurnal, rats nocturnal, so it didn't help the rat situation. Also unfortunately, mongoose love eating little birds. Rats, mongoose and cats are among the greatest threats to birds here and elsewhere.

A number of societies in Hawaii work to protect endangered species, including the Hawaian Audubon Society and the Kauai Forest Birds Recovery Project.


Red junglefowl or moa
House finch
Northern cardinal
Japanese white eye
Java sparrow
Ring necked Pheasant
Red whispered bulbul
Saffron finch 
Zebra dove 
Cattle egret
Breadfruit and Shama thrush
Red crested cardinals
Common mynah
Tropicbird Waimea canyon
Hawaiian goose NuNu 
Black bellied whistling duck 
Masked booby

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Kaui, Waimea Plantation Cottages

 Every place we've stayed in on this trip has been unique, and this is quite the gem!

Waimea Plantation - main building
During his online search, Rob found Waimea Plantation Cottages available for rental at what was once a sugar plantation. Hurricanes and changing economies have led to a shift in the business model, away from sugar mill to resort. In addition to the original cottages on the property, other buildings have been acquired from plantations across Hawaii. Now there are more than 60 cottages here, and each room comes with a list of their origins.

It is fun to take the inventory along on a stroll to read about the history of the buildings. Vintages are 1904 - 1930, but the insides have been renovated for modern amenities. Cottages range in size from 'iki' (small) to larger 2-3 bedrooms.

We are staying in one of the original property buildings. Here's how it's described:
Waimea Sugar Mill Company House #30 - Fermin Ilar 
Ilar was listed as a general labourer in 1954 employee list. Originally this was a one bedroom house with a small step-down kitchen. 
Other descriptions are a bit more lengthy:
Cottage #9 - Dugold Campbell
Dugold Campbell was born at Lamlash, isle of Arran, Scotland, and the seventh of eight children of the Rev. Colin Campbell... Arriving in Honolulu January 9, 1885 aboard the S.S, Mariposa, Dr. Campbell came to accept a position with the Board of Health as a government physician for the Kileau district of Kaui. In July 1887 Dr. Campbell applied for and received the position of government physician for the Waimea district. His salary was $1,500 a year and he was also responsible for caring for the inhabitants of Nihau... As early as 1893, Dr. Campbell was asking the Board of Health for funds to establish a hospital in Waimea, but there was no money for such a project... he led a drive to raise money by public subscription. Two years later the hospital had been constructed... with the proviso that... indigent Hawaiians be treated free of charge.

I think I would've liked hanging out with this guy:
House #51 - Charlie Kaneyama
Career at Kekaha Sugar in Industrial Relations in which he spent a great deal of time working on the plantation newspaper "Kekahamana," including photographing plantation events from 1940s - 1970s. Charlie was a musician, playing a large number of them, and big band leader well into his 80's. In the late 60s through 70s he taught ukulele to school age kids. When he retired from Kekaha Sugar he took up painting, adding that to his creative life.

Other inhabitants are identified from Germany, Scotland, Japan, and Portugal and positions range from general labourer to dairy herdsman, ditchman, seaside superintendent, manager, and director.

The cottages are fairly close to each other but there are lots of plantings that make for green privacy and cool shade. The beach here is more walkable than swimmable, with two miles of shoreline from the pier to resort.

It's also the perfect place to watch the sunset over the private island of Ni‘ihau.

National Geographic named it to The Staylist of 150 Hotels You'll Love in 2008 and it continues to get stellar reviews.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Kaui, Northshore

I've been looking forward to staying at Zen Root since we booked our stay months ago. What a unique place. Very comfortable, with a great vibe. The host designed and constructed the place himself, in between conceiving and building installations for Burning Man. From the lainai we could see the ocean and look for whales with binoculars.
Maloaa Bay

Just down the hill is a beautiful beach where the locals go, with shoreline access tucked discreetly down a path between two private houses. Calm enough to swim and snorkel on most days. When I googled Moloaa Bay it turned up that this is the beach where both the pilot and season 1 episode for Gilligan's island were filmed. Robert's Hawaii tour buses were stopping here on their movie tour of the island, but they stayed only long enough to hum the theme song.
a local fishing in Maloaa Bay

Although we didn't take the tour, the list of movies shot in Kaui is quite long and includes recent films like The Descendants and Snowden to the relatively recent, like Avatar, Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean, to classics like South Pacific and Blue Hawaii. It's fun to transpose the lists and try to match it up with the beaches and jungles we visited.

tunnels at Haena 
We drove a few hours most every day to take in the incredible views and beaches. Anini ShorelineKilauea Lighthouse, Makana Mountain (Bali Hai), to the end of Kuhio Highway and Ke'e Beach Park. Stopping in different places along the way to enjoy scenic lookouts or pull out our chairs and look at waves hitting the beach.


Waioli? Wainiha? Lumahai? It was unmarked, so I'm not entirely sure but if you are driving north on the Kuhio Hiway this beach is hiding behind New Zealand Pines.

We took a river cruise down Wailua River to the Fern Grotto. It reminded me a lot of Toronto Island with palm trees, and watching the river boats cruise by us when we are at anchor. The Smith family musicians entertained us with Hawaiian music and taught the hula. It was cheesy,  but fun, and we saw silver fish jumping several feet out of the water and landing with a splash.

Jo2 was an outstanding restaurant in Kapaa. Chef Josselin is a six-time James Beard Foundation Award nominee, a pioneer of Hawai`i Regional Cuisine and author of A Taste of Hawai`i.  Beautiful on the plate and absolutely delicious, I had ceviche Tahitian style, Thai squash tempura, crispy duck salad and Rob had the slow cooked wagyu beef cheek.

Not sure at this point if I am emptying out or filling up, but am definitely rejuvenated! It is now well into the third week of the vacation and this stretch is definitely one of our favourites of the trip.