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.

Haunting echoes of Moonlight Canyon

Delayed by unexpected surgeries, writer/outdoor photographer/Airstreamer/snowbird Bert Gildart and Janie finally arrived in the warmer climes of California’s Anza-Borrego Desert to enjoy hiking, biking and overall renewal.  Last week they visited us at Agua Caliente County Park and Bert couldn’t wait to put on a camera backpack and carry a tripod onto the Moonlight Canyon Trail where he has photographed bighorn sheep.

DSC_0124 Bert Gildart in Moonlight Canyon

We entered the canyon from the east where its shady, steep granite walls hold onto the night cold, so a ways in, Bert enjoyed sitting on a boulder and soaking in the warm rays of the rising sun (to drive the cold winter away).*

DSC_0134 Chasing the chill away

A few moments later, Bert forged ahead and set the pace, while looking for suitable subjects to photograph, saying, “When I choose to photograph something, I like it to be better than the ones I have previously photographed.”

DSC_0197 Bert on the hunt

As we rose out of the canyon, the trail became steeper and the sides were lined with granite detritus as we stumbled upon elusive Ghost Flowers that thrive on gravely slopes and sandy washes.  The pale cream flower is translucent, sometimes hard to see, and is the basis of its name.

DSC_0198 Ghost Flowers on Moonlight Canyon Trail

Bert and I quickly went to work photographing this treasure trove of Ghost Flowers.  The last time I saw these flowers here was 6 years ago!

DSC_0203 Bert shoots Ghost flowers

Bert scrambled up loose granite to get another shot.

DSC_0219 Shooting ghost on sliding granite

Upon finding a suitable subject, Bert got serious and set up his tripod.

DSC_0186 Bert's Nikon on tripod, Ghost shot

He asked me to pull out two hand-held strobes from his backpack and showed me where to hold one of them as he held the other and took the picture.  Bert explained he sets the camera’s shutter speed to 250th of a second (which makes the flowers look motionless, even in a breeze) and sets the aperture at f/32 for maximum depth of field.  The two hand-held strobes, overwhelm ambient light and produce a dark or black background (Photographic artistry of Bert Gildart).  See Bert’s article and photos in his March 8 posting, “Ghost Flower.”

DSC_0179 Bert uses hand-held strobe

The Ghost Flower, Mohavea confertiflora, has 5 ragged-edged lobes with maroon speckles and a maroon blotch at the base (Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers).  These marks resemble the female bee Xeralictus and operate as floral mimicry (sign stimulus) to the male bee, which enters the flower and pollinates the Mohavea (Wikipedia).  (Below are my Nikon D40 images.)

DSC_0154 Ghost Flower, Mohavea confertiflora

DSC_0191 Ghost Flowers, Moonlight Canyon

Visiting these Ghost Flowers renewed our spirits and strengthened our bodies.  Thich Nhat Hanh reflects this in his meditation “Flower Fresh.”*

*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.

Airstream torquing tendonitis

Before every trip, I follow a checklist of procedures that need to be done and items to include, which are spread over a 4-day period.  Critical items that must be done are checking and adjusting tire pressures, and checking the torque of the trailer wheel lug nuts to lessen the chance of a tire or wheel failure (See Outside Interests‘ “Tire Tips – Part 2″).  I lug around a rather heavy air compressor to each tire that needs more air and then I apply a torque wrench to each lug nut in a star pattern* to the specified tightness of 110-120 ft-lbs two days before departure (See “Carry a Torque Wrench for RV Maintenance“).*  See and hear Colonial Airstream’s Patrick Botticelli’s video, “Airstream Tire Safety,”* which includes information about tire inspection, tire pressures, lug nut torque, DOT (Department of Transportation) Code for manufacture date, and when to replace tires.

dsc_0022-torquing-airstream-lug-nuts

Last month, two days before our first trip of our fall-winter-spring camping season, I checked the tire pressures, placed PressurePro tire monitoring sensors on our ST tires* and checked lug nut torque.  I am right handed, so I lugged the air compressor and checked the lug nuts mostly with my right arm.  Our aged air compressor seemed to struggle at times with the job, so at the end of the day, I went to Home Depot and got a new compressor and then went to Costco and picked up a half-gallon of ice cream and a large apple pie, mostly with my right arm.  That evening, I felt my arm ache, which interrupted my sleep. The day before departure, I continued with my checklist and the ache became pain and burning that persisted throughout the night. I awoke on departure day realizing that hitching up would result in further injury, so we reluctantly canceled our November trip to the desert.

Ten years ago, we first bought this Airstream Safari just before Thanksgiving when I was 69 years old [actually, I was 59, as caught and corrected by my dear Dr. C., whose sharp eye, insight and wit are evidenced in his comments below]. By the way, November is a great time to shop and haggle for a new Airstream.  Next month will be the 10th year of our camping with this Airstream travel trailer, and I will be 70 in March.  As Willie Nelson sings, “Gee, ain’t it funny how time just slips away.“*

It seems this Airstream is holding up better than my body parts, as my Kaiser Urgent Care diagnosis of right arm tendonitis* confirmed.  Fortunately, after a 2-week course of Ibuprofen (Motrin) 800 mg q8 hrs and most importantly, mindful rest,* I feel up to preparing for our return to the desert this month.

Whether this incident is a fluke, or a sign of things to come remains to be seen.  We have reservations for camping sites through next April…

Meanwhile, we are attending the fun events such as the Harbor Walk at Oceanside, CA, put on by  San Diego Corgi Meetup.

hpim2972-larry-mac-tasha-at-oceanside-ca

Happy Holidays to all, no matter who you are, where you live, or what you believe!*

Wait, wait, there’s more:  A Dr. C. inspired encore video selection: James Cluer’s Wine Route – Bordeaux Part 8: Cháteau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.