November – Streamin’ gratitude

November, along with its holiday of Thanksgiving, is a wonderful time to pause and take a moment to reflect on our blessings, the fruits of our labors, our families and loved ones, our health, nature, our beautiful world and universe, and appreciate everything that inspires gratitude.  It is also a great time to be grateful for the health benefits that come from an attitude of gratitude.  The CBS This Morning video, “Why an attitude of gratitude can help your health,”* points out that research studies have found that an attitude of gratitude can have health benefits such as a sounder sleep, boosting the immune system, coping with stress, feeling happier, being kinder, motivating one to exercise and eat healthier, and feeling more satisfied with life in general.

This November we are grateful for the wonderful memories we have of our past 10 years of camping with our Airstream trailer, which was a custom factory order placed on the day before Thanksgiving.  We are also grateful for the good deal we received from the dealer (another good time to buy an Airstream is just before Christmas when most others are shopping for presents and dealers are eager to make a deal!).

Ten years ago this month, Larry and I and our late corgi Mac and pug Pau Hoa celebrated our first fall camping season at Vallecito County Park in the Anza-Borrego Desert.  We were so grateful that this park was relatively empty, quiet, surrounded by natural beauty and near the Ghost Mountain home of Marshal South,* which I photographed for the first time (see the full story here).

HPIM1749 Vallecito County Park 2007

HPIM1839 Morning Coffee

HPIM1813 Larry, Mac & Pau Hoa

HPIM1803 Larry cooks steak on Hibachi

Although we recently have passed our Airstream Safari on to a younger generation, we still have that esprit de corps of Airstreamers, exploring and appreciating each day as a gift, even when health issues arise.  In 2008, my sun-related facial skin lesions (Actinic keratoses) were treated and in 2009 one lesion was diagnosed as squamous cell carcinoma and removed through Mohs surgery.  In 2014, Larry was diagnosed having a small, slow-growing, benign pituitary gland adenoma that has been successfully managed with oral medication.  Last August, Airstreamer Sean Michael posted in this Long Long Honeymoon episode* that he also was diagnosed with a benign tumor on his pituitary gland and vlogged his Thank You!!!* to everyone for all of the positive energy he has received.  In September, Sean & Kristy vlogged tips regarding health insurance, especially while on the road, “Health Insurance & RV Travel.”*  Last month, Sean posted his great news* that this tumor is responding positively to his medication.  This is great news because a growing tumor here could impinge on the nearby optic nerve and lead to vision changes and possibly blindness.

We are so grateful for our eyes, our visual gateway to experience the wonder and awe of nature and the world around us.

DSC_0037 Stars above Airstream

Wonder and Awe* is also a breathtaking video filmed and presented by Louie Schwartzberg at a TEDx event.  “Nature’s beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude”, says Louie.  “Did you know that 80% of the information we receive comes through our eyes… and aren’t we grateful for our brains that can take this electrical impulse that comes from light energy to create images in order for us to explore our world?”

Gratitude* is another Louie Schwartzberg presentation given at a TEDxSF event.  Per TEDxSF, ” Nature’s beauty can be easily missed — but not through Louie Schwartzberg’s lens. His stunning time-lapse photography, accompanied by powerful words from Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, serves as a meditation on being grateful for every day.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Desert bloom and the Corgi Banner

Heavy winter rains and the deep Sierra Nevada snowpack have resulted in the official end of California’s epic drought* and an explosion of wildflowers in the Anza-Borrego desert not seen in many years, bringing more sightseers than the small town of Borrego Springs can handle causing traffic jams, restaurants to run out of food, and tempers to flare.  We avoided the crowds by returning to our favorite, peaceful, desert campsite at Agua Caliente County Park where we were greeted by the yellow blooms of the brittlebush

DSC_0143 Blooming Agua Caliente Airstream site

And nearby blooming creosote bush and ocotillo.

DSC_0049 Creosote & Ocotillo blooms

Early morning sun rays entering our Airstream Safari trailer reminded us to deploy the awning and sun curtain to delay the need to turn on the air conditioner.

DSC_0185 Morning in Airstream Safari

Chilled navel oranges are always a refreshing way to start the day, especially in the desert.

DSC_0254 Refreshing chilled oranges

Larry began the day by continuing to work on making a banner for the San Diego Corgi Meetup group that we joined last November after seeing the joy our corgis Mac & Tasha had while attending Corgi Nation Beach Day at Huntington Beach* last fall.  We and our corgis love the monthly, local outings that are fun and help our corgis develop their social skills.

DSC_0116 Larry making corgi club banner

DSC_0151 Larry setting up sun curtain

Larry, who also designed and made our sun curtain, designed the banner and cut out the fabric, lettering and pieces at home.  Then, while camping, he positioned, pinned, basted, and sewed the pieces while relocating the table under the moving shade around the trailer.

By mid afternoon, Larry and the corgis enjoyed the air conditioned trailer, while I continued reading Alexander Hamilton outside in the shade and breeze.

 

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow, was the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton.*

 

See and hear Lin Manuel Miranda perform “Alexander Hamilton” at The White House.*

DSC_0221 Agua Caliente campsite

We celebrated our last camping trip of the season with our wonderful neighbors, Bev and George, by flying the Human Rights Campaign* Equality flag.

DSC_0194 Bev & Geo, Bill & Larry

Before leaving, George took a photo of our corgis’ first viewing of the nearly completed banner!  Bev lovingly donated cotton balls for Larry to stuff the banner’s heart upon our return to San Diego.

IMG_0611 Larry & Bill, Mac & Tasha, corgi banner

The day after returning home, we attended the San Diego Corgi Meetup event, House of England Village Faire, and presented San Diego Corgi Meetup organizer, Geri, with their new banner!

HPIM3061 Banner's debut at corgi meetup

highres_459967678Seen right to left: Larry and corgis Tasha, Mac, Sidney, Sadie, and Rikki.                                  Photo credit: Geri S.

God Save the Queen… and the corgis!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Encore videos: A Corgi Puppy Grows Up! (Great Gatsby the Corgi),* his Surprise Birthday Party!*… and How Corgi Dog Changed My Life*… and To Love Somebody.*

 

Springing into action at Agua Caliente

Our rooster crowed, “Awake,” and we heard his call to action and proudly flew the flag of the United States,* along with the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality flag at Agua Caliente County Park in the Anza-Borrego Desert.

DSC_0279 Agua Caliente County Park

Like Canada geese, Bert and Janie finally, after unexpected surgeries, winged their way south from Montana to milder climes and spent the day chatting, hiking, and feasting.

DSC_0109 Bert & Janie, Larry & Bill

The following day, we drove up to Borrego Springs and visited our Airstream friends Bob and Theresa at their beautiful home.  Ten years ago, we took our 2007 Airstream Safari on its maiden cruise and followed Bob and Theresa in their Airstream Classic to our first trailer camping experience in Borrego Springs, California!  Over the years, Bert, Janie, Bob, and Theresa have joined us for desert hiking and feasting!

DSC_0237 Bob & Theresa, Bill & Larry

My breakfasts consisted of Larry’s homemade pumpkin bread, cool apple and orange slices, and reading material.  He calls it Hagrid’s pumpkin bread because it’s made from a pumpkin similar to those seen just outside Hagrid’s hut in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  These large and unusually shaped pumpkins are called Mexican Sweet Pumpkins (Calabaza de Castilla), that he bought at local Latino markets, poached and made into pumpkin bread (pan de calabaza).*

DSC_0040 Breakfast & HRC leaflet

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) represents a force of more than 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open,* honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.  HRC’s Buyers Guide helps consumers to find and choose businesses committed to workplace equality before making purchases.

After breakfast, Larry donned a plague doctor mask that I have worn at Renaissance faires (and while camping in the forest) in preparation for a surprise visit to the park’s supervising ranger.

DSC_0049 Larry as plague doctor

“Yo soy el doctor de la peste,* and I’ve brought Hagrid’s pumpkin bread as nourishment to feign off the plague.”

DSC_0058 Pumpkin bread for Maggie Tull

Agua Caliente County Park Supervisor Maggie was delighted to receive Larry and his pumpkin bread and happily shared it with the staff!  We returned to our campsite and Larry continued on his sewing projects…

DSC_0271 Project time for Larry

DSC_0072 Larry sewing HRC appliques

while becoming energized and redirecting energy toward positive change as we both stand indivisible…*

DSC_0032 Y'all means all (HRC shirt)!

Because y’all means all.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Year of the cock

“Year of the Fire Rooster comes a crowing saying, Wake up!  His crow alerts us that a new day is dawning, but we must rise and mobilize into action as we come together for the wellbeing of our roost/planet,” says Mysticmamma.com in the Astral Insights article, “Chinese Astrology for 2017 Year of the Fire Rooster~.”

DSC_0089 Year of the cock 2017

Our rooster couldn’t wait to arrive at Agua Caliente County Park in the Anza-Borrego Desert to celebrate and crow about the new lunar year, the Year of the Fire Rooster, which promises to “be yet another super-charged year, infused with intensity,” as noted in Sara Coughlin’s “What You Should Expect During The Year Of The Rooster.”  In CNN’s Year of the Rooster article, Hong Kong fortune teller Priscilla Lam predicts “What’s in store for world’s top leaders.”  Not surprisingly, she predicts, “There will be protests” (which have already begun, as seen in the Indivisible movement*).

DSC_0024 Year of the Rooster table

Unless I was determined to photograph the desert sunrise, I awoke on most mornings, not to the crowing of the rooster,* but to the sight of beautiful golden rays of sunlight bathing the interior of our 2007 Airstream Safari trailer.

DSC_0092 Surnrise in Airstream trailerMeanwhile, Larry has already been up and setting up our festival tree with Chinese New year decorations.

According to Wikipedia, red is the predominant color used in Chinese New Year celebrations.  Red is an auspicious color, an emblem of joy and symbolizes virtue, truth and sincerity.

Seen below are two red and gold firecracker decorations used to scare away evil spirits and associated with the Chinese New Year Legend of Nian.*  Below the firecrackers are three fish symbolizing wealth and abundance.

 

DSC_0087 Chinese New Year decorations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the day, Larry worked on a new Happi coat

DSC_0047 Larry worked on Happy Coat

while I hiked and photographed ocotillo showing new green growth due to recent rains.

DSC_0096 Ocotillo new growth

Abundant rainfall this season should produce a wonderful spring wildflower season.  But winter is not over.

DSC_0123 Desert dusk silhouette

A chillness set in as the sun descended and the Full Snow Moon* rose following seasonal planetary and natural cycles.

DSC_0120 Snow moon rising

History is also seasonal with recurring generational cycles, called turnings, according to the Strauss-Howe generational theory created by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe and explained in their book The Fourth Turning.*  Apparently, in this theory, we are currently in the “Crisis era“, analogous to the seasonal cycle of winter, which is followed by the “High era“!

With the turning of winter into spring, we look forward to returning to the desert this month to chase the lion and welcome the lamb and feel the sunshine, which almost always makes me high!*

In Like a Lion Out Like a Lamb,”* a beautiful poem by Marion Dane Bauer (read aloud).

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Carnival season in the desert

Carnival season is an annual period of public revelry traditionally beginning on Twelfth Night (January 6), and culminating on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), and is thought to have its origins in primitive times as a way of celebrating the new year, return of the sun, and rebirth of nature.  For us, it began in the Anza-Borrego Desert with gorgeous sunrises that make it worthwhile to leave a warm bed before the crack of dawn, quickly throw on clothes and scamper out of the Airstream Safari with a Nikon camera* in hand to capture the moment.*

DSC_0017 Desert sunrise

Larry had gotten up even earlier and was chatting with Monica from San Diego with her rescue dogs Gus & Bali (whom we have seen here on two other occasions).

DSC_0027 Larry, Monica with Gus & Bali

After my photo shoot, I dashed back into the trailer to get warm and brew coffee.*  I love the aroma of coffee steaming up from the filter and glistening in the morning sun. (They have a lot of coffee in Brazil per The Coffee Song sung by Frank Sinatra)*  (In the background of the photo below are homegrown Mexican limes from Monica’s garden.)

DSC_0047 Coffee steaming

For years we have enjoyed deliciously rich San Francisco Bay French Roast Whole Bean Coffee, available at Costco and made by the socially responsible Rogers Family Company,* who run their own coffee farms and mills. As the sun rose and the air warmed, I enjoyed this coffee, along with panettone (seen below)* and apple and orange slices at the picnic table festooned with carnival beads, masks, and Mardi Gras colors of purple (justice), gold (power), and green (faith).

DSC_0102 Panettone on Mardi Gras table

Venetian masks, such as the Commedia dell’Arte mask (seen above) re-emerged in 16th-century Italy and became the emblem of Carnevale di Venezia,* and allowed people to feel free and able to express themselves regardless of social class.  Carnival was outlawed by the fascist government in the 1930s and it was not until a modern mask shop was founded in the 1980s that Carnival enjoyed a revival.  “People dress up because they need moments of freedom,” says artist mask maker Sergio Boldrin.* (Enjoy the spirit and beauty of the masks and this season by viewing Mysterious masks of Venice masquerade*)

The jester character is the most popular costume for Mardi Gras.  Jesters often wear a motley costume of bright colors, especially the Mardi Gras colors, and a distinctive hat with floppy points with jingle bells.  Jesters are often seen laughing and holding a mock scepter.  (See The Jester; Court Jester or a Fool!*)  Larry enjoyed sewing jester style floppy points together for a costume collar for our corgi Mac.

DSC_0160 Larry sewing jester hat pieces

DSC_0201 Mac with jester collar

Meanwhile, I enjoyed another hike. This time I joined Monica for a hike up Agua Caliente County Park’s Desert Overlook Trail, which features views of the entire park and surrounding desert floor as seen in “It’s cooking up in the desert, again!

DSC_0176 Monica on Desert Overlook Trail

At sunset we lit on our festive wreath celebrating the return of the sun…*

DSC_0180 Festive wreath and sun

and enjoyed the Full Wolf Moon.*  Giorgia Fumanti: *Spente le stelle*

DSC_0185 Full Wolf Moon

The next full moon will occur on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar calendar and will mark the celebration of the Chinese Lantern Festival,* the final day of the lunar new year celebrations.*  2017 is the Year of the Fire Rooster.*  (See your Chinese zodiac horoscope prediction!)*

Encore song: Emma Shapplin – Spente Le Stelle*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.