Thursday, August 27, 2009

Berkeley, California

The fabulous Pacific Ocean on our way from the Avenue of the Giants to the Bay Area.

Eating at Crepevine in Berkeley. Everyone got too hungry. We made eggs at midnight the night before due to poor planning of food that day.

A fun building near our friend's house.

Colorful Telegraph Avenue.

A bunch of street vendors on Telegraph Avenue.

We had a great time visiting the Bay Area. A good friend of mine who we would have normally stayed with, had family visiting her and some other things going on that made it complicated for us to stay with her. Thanks to her amazing resourcefulness, and the incredible kindness of her neighbor, we had a whole house to ourselves, right next door to her! These amazing friends of hers, whom we had never even met, let us stay in their home. It was a real treat to spread out like that, after such continuous close quarters in a car and tent. Not only did we all have more space, there was a piano, two cats for Eli to play with and a huge trampoline as well. We have been the recipients of such beautiful generosity on this journey. I look forward to meeting these lovely people, who we have already gotten to know on some level, through living in their house.

Our friend next door is a gourmet chef, and while we were in Berkeley, she treated us to two nights of her fabulous cooking. After all the road food we had been eating (pizza, pasta, sandwiches, pancakes) having home cooked meals of professional quality gave us lots of pleasure and energy. At the dinner table Eli said, "I feel like it is Thanksgiving!" I know what he means.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Redwoods in California

This photo was taken at out campsite in the Del Norte campgrounds in northern California. Our tent was surrounded by these magical trees.

This photo gives new meaning to the concept of hugging a tree.

Man in bliss.

Woodland fairy.

Family in a tree.

Close up version.

Love among the trees. We felt small, but the love felt big.

See how big they are?

Being among the redwoods feels like being a hobbit in Lord of the Rings.

When I am among the redwoods, I feel like everything is okay.

One of the things I was most excited about sharing with our children on this trip was these magnificent trees. Pictures hardly do them justice.

The indoor cat has made a discovery on this journey: I like my nature BIG. Big mountains, big oceans, big sky, big prairies, big trees!

A Rough Night

Being eaten by a sculpture in Portland in front of the sports arena.

A rose petal creation by Eli made from rose petals from the Rose Garden in Portland.

My feet on the beach. This was the softest finest sand I have ever felt.

The Oregon coast. It is rougher than the California coast, but just as beautiful.

August 24th, 2009

I am in a hotel right now, and very happy about that. Last night was really really hard! I did some kind of funny body twist as I was getting into the tent last night and my lower back became the locale for a pain festival. I also ate some tomato meat sauce pasta in a swarm of bees and the food was yummy but kept me awake. On top of that I was over the top hormonal (still am) and had to pee horribly badly. It was so dark and I was afraid of bears and so it took hours before I finally hobbled out of the tent and did my business. Back in the tent I kept trying to do deep breathing and stay calm and not trust my destructive thought cycles, but the sleeping bag was so narrow and my hip was starting to hurt too, and finally, I just started sobbing. I did it quietly, however, so as not to wake up the rest of the sleepers. I used great restraint in not waking up Joshua through all of this, thinking it was better that at least one of the adults got some sleep. I kept thinking that I would just get up with the sun and maybe take a walk or something, but the sun was not there! I think I was squirming around for a good three or four hours. I finally fell asleep just as the sun was coming up.

Today when I woke up I could hardly move. Fiona had to help me pack up and put my shoes on and Joshua had to help me lift my legs into the car to get in my seat. I couldn't even walk to the bathroom. He had to drive me there. Once I was still in the car the pain wasn't so bad, so long as I didn't twist or move much. We drove to Talent, Oregon where of all people, we were meeting a friend from Woodstock who is now living there, who is a body worker/healer! He did some EFT on me and some other strange healing thing involving an invisible green dragon and I have been a lot better since. Still in a little pain, but much much better.

So I went from hell and misery and despair into a whole lot better in less than 24 hours. It can happen. I wouldn't have believed it last night though!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Portland, Oregon

A giant fly on a roof of a restroom somewhere in Oregon.

In Portland, we ended up staying with some new friends that we met through a connection of Isaac's. I am just so impressed and floored by the amount of generosity that we have received on this trip. So many kind and wonderful people have opened their homes to us on our journey. What a huge contribution to the odyssey. A huge thank you to everyone who has hosted us and shown us around.

We had a great time in Portland. The weather was constantly changing: rain, sun, clouds, warm, cold. The air crackled with crispness and the colors were very pretty. And of course, there was Powell's City of Books, the largest independent booksellers in the country with a gigantic store that occupies a full city block. We were browsing the stacks at Powell's within hours of arriving in the City of Roses.

I wish we had taken more pictures in Portland. I guess we were too busy doing things.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Seattle, Washington

View of the lake from one of the parks we visited in Seattle. There were so many parks and beautiful views of water all over the city.

Cora playing scientist at the lab in the university.

Bob and Joshua together again.

Bob's gig at Slim's Last Chance. That's Bob on drums. The next night Joshua recorded Bob's playing inside the empty Odyssey for a recording project.

Pearls sitting on the Fremont troll.

Isaac in contemplation by a lake.

Eating ramen in downtown Seattle with the lovely Mariko.

Uwajimaya, the largest Japanese grocery around. What a treat.

After the long stretch of nature and camping, and then the gentle reintegration into culture in Bellingham, the urban environment of Seattle was a shock to the system. It took a few days to get used to so many cars and people and sounds, but after a day or two we found our groove in Seattle. I was surprised that when we were in the downtown tall building area of Seattle, my body suddenly relaxed in a ripple of familiarity. I felt strangely at home among buildings that blocked the sky. Even though I have lived in the rural countryside for over a decade, apparently my New York City roots are still in tact.

We spent the whole time in Seattle visiting with dear old friends and it was such a joy to finally see them in their home town. Although I love being able to see good friends as frequently as possible, I really appreciate the resilience of a true connection with a loved one. Even after years of not seeing these wonderful people, it was so easy to jump right into knowing and loving one another. We have reconnected with so many lovely friends on this journey so far and have plans to visit with many others.

A good friend of mine mentioned to me the other day that all of these posts seem so upbeat and happy. Her comment really got me thinking....why is that so? This trip is not without its challenges, but mostly, it has been a very joyful time. The movement is good for our family. The adventure. The teamwork. I continually have a sense that we are on the right track with our lives. I guess it comes through in the documentation of the trip.

Another friend reflected back that we seemed to have planned this journey out quite well and that we seem to have so much intentionality around it. I would say that her comment is true. An interesting thing I keep noticing is that Joshua and I have a cellular memory of doing the same kind of trip together twenty years ago. On that two and a half month journey back in 1989, we developed cross country traveling chops that are still with us. Yes, it is different and more complex to be doing it with three children in tow, but we also have amazing technology this time, such as computers, an iPhone, a GPS and a comfortable vehicle which make it all so much easier. This type of travel is in the DNA of our marriage. In fact, the intensity of spending so much time in a car and getting to know each other through the built in situation of constant decision making by living on the road, is what made us decide to get engaged. We felt that if our relationship could withstand such continuous close quarters and we could find such cooperation and partnership and still laugh and have fun that it was time to take our relationship to the next level. Our very engagement was born out of life on the road. And here we are again, together with our children, engaged once more.

Next stop, Portland, Oregon.

(Posted by Cora, even though it says Father of Pearl at the bottom. There was a small technical difficulty.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bellingham, Washington

On our way to the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

Love on the boardwalk in Bellingham.

Beach sculpture by Eli.

A moment to sit and look at the water together. I thought we should actually BE in some of these pictures!

That's me (Cora) kayaking on the Bay. Being so close to the water nourished me and I felt like a real mermaid. One with a boat.

Super Eli in his life vest just before getting into the row boat on Chuckanut Bay.

Bellingham, Washington is where our friends, Matt and Michelle live. It is a lovely town--very quaint and clean and full of cute shops and pretty places to be. On our first night there we took a walk on the boardwalk and watched the sun set. We all bent down to the water and touched the Pacific Ocean together. It felt like a huge accomplishment just getting ourselves that far.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Little Road Weary, But Up For The Adventure

Three weeks on the road with a family of five is a lot of fun, but it's also a lot of work. Preparing meals, setting up and breaking down tents, navigating new terrain, and processing the tons of information that come from putting ourselves in brand new environments every few days--it takes a while to recover and rejuvenate between activities.

Here I am napping in the middle of the day on concrete steps next to Lake Washington in Seattle--a little road weary, but up for the adventure.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pearls: Things of Beauty Born Out Of Irritation

In 1993, Cora and I decided that we wanted a new last name. Somehow, the names we grew up with were not fitting anymore and we wanted everyone in our family to have a shared family name. We searched for a name that was both meaningful to us and related to our family history (Pearl comes from my great-grandfather's last name and was Cora's great-grandmother's first name.) This decision was one of many endeavors of balls out creativity and self-determination that has characterized our marriage and life together as a family. Each day the name becomes even more relevant to my life experience.

This photo is a rock pearl sculpture made by Eli while we were in Yellowstone.

He found a little translucent stone and put it between two halves of a rock that had a perfect break in the middle. Isaac and I shined a flashlight on it after the sun went down and snapped a few photos of Eli Pearl's pearl.

As I was admiring Eli's vision and resourcefulness, I couldn't help but think about how fitting the name Pearl is for our family. A pearl starts as a microscopic piece of sand that is trapped inside an oyster, creating a discomfort and an irritation. From this rub, the oyster creates a gem.

Although this trip has led to a lot of fun and adventure, much of this family odyssey grew out of irritation and discomfort.

We needed change. We were no longer feeling "at home" in our house. I was no longer feeling creative forward motion in my studio. Some friendships and family relationships were beginning to feel strained.

So we decided to start again--getting rid of many material belongings and stirring up change.

It has been a beautiful journey so far, but the rub of feeling misplaced is well within reach of my memory. I remember this irritation daily and appreciate its role in creating forward motion-- especially when it's time to create beauty out of a new irritation--when I hear kids fighting in the back seat or somebody got too tired or hungry while driving for too many hours or one of us feels stressed out about the uncertainty of where we will end up living. I look to these momentary irritations to provide us with the bit of sand that we can grow and polish into a gem.

When we took on the name Pearl, about 16 years ago, we were saying 'yes' to this aspect of nature that creates beauty out of irritation. We decided to take the irritation of our pasts (of which there will always be an abundance) and create beauty out of it.

May we continue to find that clarity as our travels progress.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More Glorious Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington

Our current main home. This version of it is in my favorite campsite so far, near Cody, Wyoming.

Pools of hot sulfur water steaming out of the earth in Yellowstone.

Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park erupting. Boiling hot water shoots out of the earth every 90 to 125 minutes. I don't know the guy in red. He was one of the many awestruck geyser watching audience members. I like how his red shirt adds to the composition of the photo.

It was a long and gorgeous drive across the rest of Wyoming into Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone has acres and acres of natural miracles. The whole park is situated on the most active volcanic activity on the earth. The last time the whole thing blew was 500 million years ago. No one knows when it could blow again. When it does, it could take out all of North America. Seeing the earth boiling around me was very impressive. It reminded me once again of how small I am and how big and powerful the earth is. In a strange way I find that comforting, remembering the forces that are way bigger than me.

Although I loved the beauty and strangeness of that place, it was really quite the tourist attraction. There are several major campgrounds with as many as hundreds of sites each. We were situated among several RVs and a tenting family that seemed to have at least half a dozen small children under the age of 8. They had a baby that was howling incessantly as I tried to fall asleep. It was like being in the middle of a small city, in the middle of a forest. When I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth the next morning, there were women in there with makeup bags and blow driers who had a whole beauty regimen going on. I even saw one gal with high heels on! I realized then that I had turned into Camper Girl, much to my surprise. At that point, brushing my teeth was my big effort toward extra personal beauty.

Upon leaving Yellowstone we had a beautiful drive through the southwestern portion of Montana. We stopped in Bozeman at a Barnes & Noble bookstore. First we used the bathrooms, then we bought some books. Isaac found a great book about colleges which is helping him figure out which schools he would like to visit on our journey. When I bought the book, the saleslady was moving at a pace that to me, felt like slow motion. I became aware of my fast talking, fast moving, east coast ways. I noticed my own impatience with her lack of speed and realized that faster is not necessarily better. What was my big rush? Did I have a plane to catch? Montana in general was laid back in its energy and every person we met was so nice and helpful.

We also stopped in Butte, which used to be an old copper mining town that now feels like a bit of a ghostown, and we also stopped in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, which was a lovely lovely place that we thought we might like to visit again. Idaho was very beautiful and mountainous and had its own special character. It is amazing how each state really has its own personality, and even in just the panhandle of Idaho, I found that to be so.

We continued on past Spokane, Washington (which for those of you who don't know is pronounced Spo-CAN) and drove all the way to a Shilo Inn at Moses Lake, Washington. Moses Lake wasn't too exciting, but being in a hotel sure was! Swimming pool, kitchenette, internet access, beds, SHOWERS. So many good things. So much deep appreciation for all of them. We enjoyed full use of our hotel experience and were renewed by freshening up after a full and intense week of camping.

Next stop.....Bellingham.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wyoming Is Heaven on Earth

Joshua and the kids walking up the mountain at over 9000 feet elevation to touch some snow.


Can you tell just how BIG everything is in this part of the country??

Sage and mountains and big sky everywhere you look.

Some of the rocky mountains had more trees than others.

There are miles and miles of roads that look like this. Stunning.

Rock formation at Big Horn National Forest.

Wyoming took my breath away the entire time we drove through it, from one end of the state to the other. Every mountain pass awakened the cowgirl in me, and I didn't even know I had an inner cowgirl! I could easily imagine riding a horse through this land, with wind blowing in my hair and not a care in the world. Even in our Honda Odyssey, I felt a deep connection to the mountains, rocks, lakes and big sky all around us. It was a magical place. If you want to experience heaven on earth, drive through the Big Horn National Forest. My heart sings just thinking about it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

More South Dakota

Joshua playing a piano from Deadwood at The Bay Leaf Cafe, a restaurant with a healthy and delicious menu in Spearfish.

On the way to Spearfish, SD.
The location of Joshua and Cora's first fight on the trip.
(May it be the last.)

Deadwood, South Dakota.
The real town that was dramatized in the HBO series a few years ago.

From the Badlands we drove to the Black Hills of South Dakota to the town of Spearfish. On the way we had our first fight--just a misunderstanding and release of built up tension spurred on by a dramatic phonecall from my grandmother. The loud stream right next to us helped move the energy quickly. It was a sudden burst of extreme emotion that ended with some good hugs and a return to love.

We did another hour of driving after the fighting incident and we stopped by a campground that I remembered staying in twenty years ago. We got to view a spot near there where a key scene in "Dances with Wolves" was filmed. It was hard to imagine a whole movie crew in such a remote location. We considered staying at that campsite, but it was our nineteenth wedding anniversary and we had reservations at The Bay Leaf Cafe and really wanted to go there. The choice was to stay in a beautiful campground and skip the restaurant or stay in an RV campsite that was not as nice but close enough to the restaurant that we would still be able to eat there. Food won out over campsite and it was a good thing too, because the next day rain overtook the whole place. The amenities of the RV park were very helpful in those conditions. I spent hours in a white cinder block laundry room doing laundry with Fiona and Eli while Joshua and Isaac cooked breakfast (!) and broke down camp in the pouring rain. I did an extra load of laundry with the clothes they had been wearing as well as everyone's soggy sneakers. A woman who worked there, who had a voice scratchy from lots of cigarette smoking, heard all the banging from the shoes and said, "I hope that doesn't dent my drum." It took me a while to realize that she meant the round thing that holds everything and spins around in the machine. There were no dents in the end and there was a load of dry shoes, much to everyone's delight.

We didn't exactly fit in with the RV crowd at Elkhorn, but it was fun talking with a 64 year old man from Texas married three times, with a few near death experiences and an artificial heart valve that you can hear pounding away if you are standing next to him. I asked him how those experiences changed his life and he said that they made him realize that it is best to enjoy life, and live it to its fullest, because you never know what can happen. He was certainly living his dream of getting away from the Texas heat, driving around in beautiful places and motorcycling with his honey here and there. He said that the only time he loses awareness of the somewhat painful pounding of his heart is on his motorcycle--something about the vibration of it and getting lost in the experience of joy. I always like seeing someone live their dream and am fascinated by all the ways in which each person's dream is truly a reflection of who they are.