To Be a Tree

Balboa Park tree in San Diego, California.

Photo by SR Dryja at Balboa Park, San Diego.

By Sherry Dryja

I want to be a tree,
rooted and sure in my earthy ground,
reaching out to the sun with my branches,
tantalizing the world with my blossoms,
winking at the birds with my fluttering leaves,
providing homes to birds and squirrels and possums.

I want to be a tree that is,
that just is,
exactly a tree
and only that
perfection of trunk
and bark
and branches
and long roots
and gnarls
and twigs
and leaves–
glorious leaves which almost sing when the wind blows through them.

And when I die,
when my roots grow weak
and they loosen from the ground,
when the day comes that I can no longer stand straight and tall,
I want to be blown over by the wind
and land hard and fast on the ground
to become regal but hollowed-out homes for other creatures,
feeding the earth with my remains,
and know that my life mattered because I lived.

Tree roots, Balboa Park, San Diego

Roots of a tree in Balboa Park in San Diego. Photo by SR Dryja.

Lake Havasu City converts desert dust to tourist gold

Upon first arriving in Lake Havasu City, it seemed like any other dusty desert town in Arizona, in need of a good hose-down and a fresh coat of paint. The town was incorporated in the early 70s and it looked like it hadn’t been touched since.

But first impressions are often wrong and this one definitely was. Just below that dusty surface is a whole treasure of experiences to be had.

For starters, there’s the London Bridge. You read that correctly. Lake Havasu City is the proud owner of the original London Bridge. It was brought brick by brick from London to Lake Havasu by Robert P. McCulloch, a chainsaw magnate and the town’s founder, to act as a draw for tourism–and it worked! There are boat tours, walking tours, and Segway tours, all based around the bridge as a focal point.

London Bridge in Lake Havasu Arizona

The London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

We were there to walk the 5K in the annual London Bridge Half-Marathon and 5K. The race trail took us over the bridge twice and we got to see other parts of town as well.

London Bridge Half Marathon and 5K

Team Dryja ready to walk the London Bridge 5K!

The lake is what really brings people to the area, though. It is a big boating community, so you can bring your own, rent one, or take a tour on one. We were told by several locals that Lake Havasu is the second-most visited place in Arizona, thanks to the lake. The Grand Canyon is the first, of course. But for the lake, the bridge probably wouldn’t be there either. It is a reservoir lake, made up of water from the Colorado River which is contained by the Parker Dam.

Since the water is why people visit the area, most of the activities revolve around it, but boating isn’t the only way to experience it. There are hot air balloon rides, helicopter rides, and ultralight aircraft tours. Hikers can explore the surrounding hills. Gamblers can check out the casinos. Campers can roll out their tents and sleeping bags in one of the campsites dotting the lake. If you like lighthouses, take a tour that points out the many replicas of North American lighthouses around the lake. There’s lots to do.

Lake Havasu lighthouses

Lake Havasu is dotted by replicas of lighthouses that can be found in their original forms in other parts of the world.

Did you know that this town of just over 50,000 people is also home to three pretty spectacular breweries? One of our favorite things to do while in Lake Havasu City was the brewery tour we took through Arizona Brewery Tours. Mike Moreno, Regional Salesman for Northern Arizona at College Street Brewerhouse and Pub was our tour guide. He made us feel like VIPs as we rolled from brewery to brewery in our private SUV. Mudshark, Barley Brothers, and College Street all made us feel like honored guests as the owners and brewmasters shared their stories, served tastings of their current offerings, and showed us where the magic happens.

Beer tastings at Mudshark Brewery

Just six of the 14 tastings Scott Stocking at Mudshark served.

Scott Stocking with tour group at Mudshark Brewery

Scott Stocking with our little tour group at Mudshark Brewery.

Tour group with brewmaster of Barley Brothers.

The tour group with Keith, Barley Brother’s brewmaster. We think he looked like George Carlin.

Colby Hansen, head brewer at College Street Brewery with tour group

The tour would be incomplete without a bearded brewmaster and Colby Hansen at College Street Brewery fit the bill to a tee!

Table of beer tastings at College Street Brewery.

Our table of tastings at College Street! We were the talk of the restaurant.

Mike Moreno gave a tour of Lake Havasu City breweries.

The tour would not have been as enjoyable if our guide had been anyone other than Mike Moreno. Thanks, Mike!

Let this be a lesson. Don’t let the “vintage” look of a place fool you, especially this place. Lake Havasu City is a first-class charmer. Whether you’re there for the gorgeous lake, the London Bridge Half Marathon and 5K, the busy brewery scene, or any of the other activities around town, this is a place worth visiting more than once.

Lake Havasu sunset surprise

Lake Havasu is known for its lake–a reservoir of the Colorado River. It is also known as a Spring break party town with boats so jammed into the lake that you can walk from one to the other without a life jacket. Who knew, though, that it could boast a peaceful and enchanting sunset cruise as well?

Last weekend, my husband, parents, and mother-in-law took one of the most memorable cruises any of us have been on, thanks to Captain Kenny Samp at the Sunset Charter & Tour Company.

sunset cruisers on a boat

We arrived for our three-hour cruise and Captain Kenny immediately made us feel welcome with comfy chairs and bottled water.

Sunset cruise wildlife

On the cruise, we saw rams, owls, herons, and lots of other wildlife.

Rock formations at Lake Havasu.

We also saw interesting rock formations and learned about what made them so unique.

Lake Havasu lighthouses

Lake Havasu is dotted by replicas of lighthouses that can be found in their original forms in other parts of the world.

London Bridge in Lake Havasu Arizona

Of course, a lake adventure in Lake Havasu is incomplete without the London Bridge.

Sunset on Lake Havasu

But the reason we were on the lake to begin with was to experience the sunset. Weren’t we in for a treat!

Every person on the boat agreed–our three hour cruise melted into one of the most peaceful, satisfying experiences we could remember. Captain Kenny’s sunset tour left us feeling like we had been in a sweet dream filled with rippling water, beautiful vistas, and enchanting stars.

To see more photos of our sunset cruise, watch the slideshow below.

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Mary Oliver’s “At the River Clarion”

I am not a poetry scholar. All I know is what I like and I like Mary Oliver’s poetry. She has a way of talking about the world around us with reverence. She has a way of beholding the sacredness of nature, of all things. She has a way of articulating my own beliefs and experiences.

Below is her poem At the River Clarion from her collection of poems in the book Evidence.

At the River Clarion

1.

I don’t know how God is exactly.
But I’ll tell you this.
I was sitting in the river named Clarion, on a water splashed stone
and all afternoon I listened to the voices of the river talking.
Whenever the water struck the stone it had something to say,
and the water itself, and even the mosses trailing under the water.
And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me what they were saying.
Said the river: I am part of holiness.
And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered the moss beneath the water.

I’d been to the river before, a few times.
Don’t blame the river that nothing happened quickly.
You don’t hear such voices in an hour or a day.
You don’t hear them at all if selfhood has stuffed your ears.
And it’s difficult to hear anything anyway, through all the traffic, and ambition.

2.

If God exists he isn’t just butter and good luck.
He’s also the tick that killed my wonderful dog Luke.
Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.
Imagine how the lily (who may also be a part of God) would sing to you if it could sing, if you would pause to hear it.
And how are you so certain anyway that it doesn’t sing?

If God exists he isn’t just churches and mathematics.
He’s the forest, He’s the desert.
He’s the ice caps, that are dying.
He’s the ghetto and the Museum of Fine Arts.

He’s van Gogh and Allen Ginsberg and Robert Motherwell.
He’s the many desperate hands, cleaning and preparing their weapons.
He’s every one of us, potentially.
The leaf of the grass, the genius, the politician, the poet.
And if this is true, isn’t it something very important?

Yes, it could be that I am a tiny piece of God, and
each of you too, or at least
of his intention and his hope.
Which is a delight beyond measure.
I don’t know how you get to suspect such an idea.
I only know that the river kept singing.
It wasn’t a persuasion, it was all the river’s own constant joy
which was better by far than a lecture, which was comfortable, exciting, unforgettable.

3.

Of course for each of us, there is the daily life.
Let us live it, gesture by gesture.
When we cut the ripe melon, should we not give it thanks?
And should we not thank the knife also?
We do not live in a simple world.

4.

There was someone I loved who grew old and ill.
One by one I watched the fires go out.
There was nothing I could do

except to remember
that we receive
then we give back.

5.

My dog Luke lies in a grave in the forest, she is given back.
But the river Clarion still flows
from wherever it comes from
to where it has been told to go.
I pray for the desperate earth.
I pray for the desperate world.
I do the little each person can do, it isn’t much.
Sometimes the river murmurs, sometimes it raves.

6.

Along its shores were, may I say, very intense cardinal flowers.
And trees, and birds that have wings to uphold them, for heaven’s sakes–
the lucky ones: they have such deep natures,
they are so happily obedient.
While I sit here in a house filled with books, ideas, doubts, hesitations.

7.

And still, pressed deep into my mind, the river
keeps coming, touching me, passing by on its
long journey, its pale, infallible voice
singing.

___________________________

For more information about Mary Oliver, visit her Facebook page.

New reason to get outside for Worldwide Recess Day

My husband and I have a new reason for getting outside on September 14th, which is Worldwide Recess Day. We just adopted a new dog!

Meet our newest traveling companion!

AZ R.E.S.C.U.E is an organization that rescues cats and dogs from the euthanasia list at the local pound. Our little guy came to them in very bad shape, in need of lots of medical attention, besides needing to be neutered. Three months later, he is shiny, happy, and hopefully ready for a life of love and adventure with his new bi-peds.

On the couch together, just a paw’s touch away.

Thank you to Vicky and Phil, his foster parents, for taking such good care of “The Big Guy”, giving him the love and attention he needed, to be ready to meet a new family. Your strength, compassion, and blessing on the world are beyond measure. Without the commitment of organizations like AZ R.E.S.C.U.E and foster parents, we would not know the pleasure of feeling his particular warm paw pads press against our elbow as he sleeps next to us, or the belly laugh that bubbles out when he races to the couch and bounds into our laps. May you all experience the rich blessing that you give to others.

Traveling where the wind blows

Travelers tend to be restless creatures. A few manage to snip the roots at their feet and blow around the globe like a tumbleweed. Most of us, though, have roots in a place we call home and get itchy when it’s been too long since our last adventure.

No matter what kind of traveler you are, though, our dreams are built on the wind. We scatter to the far reaches of the earth, going where the wind blows.

So, when I came across an article by NPR’s Robert Krulwich which talks about how wind works and shows a work of art made up of wind patterns across the United States, I couldn’t help but be drawn to it, and want to share it with other travelers who might get lost in the patterns as I did.

A snapshot of the Wind Map from March 21, 2012. Photo from NPR.org and hint.fm.

The Wind Map by Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg looks like something dreams are made of while actually being made up of cold, hard data from the National Digital Forecast Database. The animated map shows wind patterns in near real-time, composed of that data collected throughout the day.

Below is a video of the wind as it blew on March 28, 2012.

To see the patterns of the wind as they blew through the US today, visit Viegas and Wattenberg’s website here. On their website, they mention that they are working toward providing Wind Maps for other parts of the world.

Now that you’ve seen the wind in action, where will it take you next?

Zipping around La Jolla on a Segway

On a partly cloudy afternoon last October, I took the “Another Side of San Diego” Segway Tour in La Jolla, California. My guide was a very knowledgeable, very friendly guy named Steven. We zipped all over town, taking in sea life, beach scenes, art, and architecture–all while smelling the fresh sea air and feeling somehow more connected to the town, its people, and the sealife because of the openness and accessibility of the Segway.

A sea anemone seen in one of the pools left behind at low tide. I think I even tickled this one with my finger.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was actually when we got off our personal transporters to go check out some of the life along the intertidal zone. It was accessible because the tide was out. Happily for me, Steven was a student of zoology and was able to tell me about the starfish, anemones, crabs, and other creatures living in the little pools of water left after the tide went out. It made me want to take their Tidal Pool Tour.

More sea anemones (look closely).

I also loved going into the two art galleries we visited: Legends Art Gallery, where they sell beautiful Mackenzie Thorpe prints and Dr. Seuss reproductions, and Lik Gallery, which showcases the photography of Peter Lik, known for his TV show, “From the Edge” on The Weather Channel. It was so neat to explore these galleries. On our tour, I learned that Theodore Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) lived in La Jolla and was inspired by some of the trees, buildings, and landscapes of the area. Peter Lik’s photography has also been inspired by the shores of La Jolla.

Seals lazing about near the Children's Pool in La Jolla.

There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about my tour. It provided a perfect balance of general sightseeing while focusing in on certain special details about the area. I would do it again in a heartbeat and, next time I’m in San Diego, I would love to take another Segway tour with “Another Side of San Diego”.

The price for this tour was $149. It was two hours in length and started and ended at Scripps Park in La Jolla. I highly recommend it.

Tips

  • Layer: I went in October. The clouds were overhead and made things a little chilly at first. As we went along, though, the sun popped out and warmed everything up. Steven brought along water bottles for the trip and there was a handy pouch on the front of the Segway to store my jacket when I took it off.
  • Wear comfortable shoes: If you heed nothing else I say, heed this advice. The Segway is all about standing and I learned from a previous experience that feet grow very weary standing on a Segway for two hours. I wore tennis shoes on this tour, and was very content the whole time.
  • Don’t forget your camera! I only took my iPhone camera but wished I could have zoomed in on some of the seals sunning themselves out on the rocks.