Thursday, April 30, 2009

We do not walk on our legs, but on our Will." --Sufi proverb

We drove yesterday from Austin to Tyler.  I spent about four hours yesterday with Sabine,  an old friend who was diagnosed about 18 months ago with brain cancer.  She has had absolutely the finest medical treatment available, just like Teddy Kennedy, whose cancer is the same as hers.
She's had two surgeries and one gran mal seizure, is on steroids, has one side of her body that does not work well at all, and yet...and yet, she has spunk and spirit. I have noticed this phenomena before, that grace and humor often come with the patience that cancer seems to extract from its victims.  She reads and watches television and wonders what she will do for the rest of her life, or how long her life will be.   She has followed my walks since I started doing them, and wanted to hear in detail how both the training and the walk works.   I'm going back this morning to spend more time with her before we drive back to Austin.  

Sabine is one of the 15 cancer survivors for whom I walk each year.  She is proof that it is possible to learn to live in the moment.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pandemic alerts.

I've written and talked so much about pandemic readiness over the past several years that it is as if my friend has come to visit.  I'm impressed by the level of transparency from our government in rolling out the plan; and think generally that the media has done a good job of not sounding hysterical.  I'm in the peculiar position of being on the road, having visited both California and Texas.  But right now I see no reason at all to fly home.  To all those who have not yet sent me an email  to ask best precautions to take:  wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth when coughing.  Lots of liquids never hurt anyone.  I'm in touch with colleagues around the world and their message is still "live your life."  I'm here in Texas until Friday, then moving on to spend the weekend with Lauren in Chapel Hill.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wildflower Center.

Matt was kind enough to drive me a distance today to walk some of the grounds of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  For those gardeners among you, here are a few photos of the beautiful campus.

The architecture tracks the history of Texas, according to the center's brochure.  The courtyard reflects the Spanish missions, and the limestone of the cistern demonstrates German farmers' craftsmanship.
I enjoyed the explicitness of this sign.  Could any possible action have been missed  here?

The center is 279 acres and features 650 species of Texas native plants.

An important message of the center is that as much as 30 per cent of the world's native flora is at risk of extinction.

More limestone, beautifully integrated into the landscape.  

Dry creek bed area.

Simple arrangement of wildflowers at the entrance to  the cafe.

Path to gift shop.  It's probably a good thing that we ran out of time before I went through it.  For those interested in seeing more, check out

Santa Fe to Austin.

On the morning we drove to the Albuquerque airport, we visited "Museum Hill" outside Santa Fe.  Of course since it was Monday, all the museums were closed -- but here are a few outdoor shots, to get the feel of the place.

This large piece (above and here)  is called "Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer" by Craig Dan Goseyum.  He watches over the place.

The buildings, earliest of which was built as a research facility in the 30s, are completely attuned to one another, as is all the signage and the landscaping of the area.

Another beautiful outdoor sculpture.

And another.

Entrance to one of four museums on the hill.  

A pleasant space for contemplation.

I was awfully sick on Saturday evening -- perhaps a cosmic or karmic purge of bad ju-ju left over from corporate America?   I had been dining and working on the site of an old kiva earlier that evening.  In any case, after determining it was not salmonella or swine fever, I spent Sunday in bed.  That meant I missed the last session of the retreat and sightseeing that afternoon and evening.  So it was a double treat to get at least this look at the oldest part of New Mexico, where the Santa Fe Trail crossed.

I got into Austin last evening and spent it with old friends.   I've been out for a walk in the rain this morning, and am hoping to see Lady Bird Johnson's Wildflower Garden this afternoon.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Night Fever.

A few photos, some of which are fuzzy, of the site of  this evening's dinner and session.  Here are the eight of us on a path to a higher grouping of stones that have special meaning to our hostess.

Rock wall just behind the guest house, which  is at a higher elevation than the house where we've previously had most of our meetings.

Looking down from the guest house, site of a former kiva.

A spectacular sunset.

Another view of the eight participants indoors.

A photo of our our hosts and moderators of these sessions, the four authors of the book on sabbaticals.

What a workplace!

Okay, I admit it, this is one of those "eat your heart out" blog entries.  Here are a few photos of the location of our weekend meetings.  

Good food, great ambience, and eight interesting women, along with the four authors of the book on how to get the most out of a sabbatical.

An outside corner of the courtyard, past which I did a morning walk.

Another area for relaxing and talking.  We are working until 9pm this evening, and then again until noon tomorrow.  Once done, I plan to explore downtown Santa Fe.  I'll be flying to Austin on Monday.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Southwest.

On Thursday before I boarded the Southwest Chief, Mike Spalter took me to lunch in LA's Chinatown.  Ocean Seafood is known far and wide for its dim sum.

Most of the trip across California and Arizona took place at night.  But these pictures were shot after we had crossed the border into New Mexico.  I'm amazed still that the iPhone camera works so well at speeds up to  80mph.

The Sandia Mountain range, outside Santa Fe.

Our weekend conference is being held on a 17 acre estate where the original buildings were designed by an artist.  Here are just a few photos from this afternoon.  I'll shoot more tomorrow. The Rancho de San Sebastian is both vast and intimate, a function in part of the air, the mountains and the sky -- but a testament to the woman who took the initial buildings and made them thematically complete.

Entrance from parking area through into the back garden.

We start again tomorrow morning with a 7:30 session, so I'll sign off for tonight with las flores.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Biltmore, Los Angeles.

Given my druthers, I would rather stay in a beautiful piece of architecture any time.  Here's a view of The Biltmore's lobby.

Stairs from lower Rendezvous Court up to lobby.  The staircase is bronze.

Detail from lobby ceiling.

Detail around entrance to the wood-paneled Gallery Bar, which hosts live jazz every weekend.

Another viewinto the ornate Rendezvous Court where high tea is served in the afternoon.  The fountain is marble and the ceiling is wood beamed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The West Coast.


I’m at the end of my second day of travel on the Coast Starlight.  It’s been a lovely ride, a great way to begin this adventure.  The sounds of a train are eerily familiar from experience, but also from books read to us as children  --  the sound of the horn saying “make way, make way.”  The metal- on- metal sound of the brakes coming into a station.  The familiar voice of the conductor with his “all  aboard!”  Traveling down here along the California coastline has been a spectacular way to re-introduce myself to the American vistas we so often overlook.  There’s actually time to do that.  

The other pleasant disscovery was the neighborly ways  of fellow travelers of a wide variety of ages, colors and hometowns.  On this train there is an old-fashioned,  restored “parlor car,” with comfortable swivel seats and big windows for sitting, reading, and then conversing usually when a spectacular view emerges.

Though we have had a couple of delays, we came in early to the Art Deco Union Station in Los Angeles this evening. I’m spending the night at the historic Millenium Biltmore hotel, which is spectacular.  Late tomorrow afternoon after lunching with a former colleague and good friend, I'll  board the train for an overnight ride to for Santa Fe.  

Trees in Washington and Oregon are especially lush this time of year. This is near Olympia and the Cheetwoot peninsula, the black bear place, according to Coastal Salish.

South of the Three Sisters to the east of Eugene, Oregon.  A spectacular sunset.

Another view, with my  iPhone camera and the train going 80 miles per hour.

Coming down the California coast to San Luis Obispo.

One of the largest fig trees I have ever seen near the train station in Santa Barbara.  More tomorrow, including some photos of this hotel.  Right now, it's time to see if I can sleep without the swaying cradle of the train.

Monday, April 20, 2009


I've cleared my desk and sent emails that were still pending.  I've got most of my high tech suitcase packed, and only my black briefcase left.   Only things I can't fit in that I really wanted to take are my Ugg slippers....I thought they would be great for padding around on the train.   But I've got my swim gear and walking kit, so I think as long as I can find a laundry along the way that I will be golden.

Here's a picture of my silver Tumi Tech rolling suitcase and my Victorinox Prado LXE.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nearly 4,300 headstones.

A lot of tears today, as folks walked among the headstones and crosses to read the names that cover nearly a half mile of the east side of Green Lake.  

Sponsored by the Veterans for Peace, "working together for Peace and Justice for all through the promotion of non-violent solutions for conflict," it's like being sucker-punched to remember violent death in the midst of such natural beauty.

Donations for this installation and setup in various locations can be made on site or by check to:
Veterans for Peace, Chapter 92, Box 50106, Bellevue WA 98015, marked "for ANW."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." -- Mark Twain

I have started to tie up loose ends for my train trip.  I leave on Tuesday morning.  I am very much looking forward to having this time with myself, and with dear friends,  several of whom are also relatives.

I've been away from full time work for three weeks, and that's almost enough time to open up my mind.  The need to make lists and cross things off is still high --- how else would I get organized for the trip? -- but I've come to live calmly in the present, and to anticipate the opportunities each day offers.  The trip is intended as a way to slow myself down and take a break.  Hazlitt said "Travel is liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do just as one pleases."

My final itinerary is pretty exciting.  I board the Coast Starlight train to Los Angeles on Tuesday morning and arrive on Wednesday evening.  On Thursday, I board the Southwest Chief for Santa Fe, arriving Friday afternoon.  I'll be in Santa Fe for a weekend think tank session.  I leave on Monday afternoon for Austin, where I'll spend three days with old friends from Rochester. Then on Friday morning, to Chapel Hill, to spend the weekend with Lauren.  I'll leave on The Carolinian for Princeton on Monday morning, to spend most of the week with my sister.  I have several meetings in New York on Friday, before I leave on The Pennsylvanian to spend three days with James in Pittsburgh. Then on to Washington DC, for several meetings and then time with Clarissa, whom I've known since graduate school.   She'll put me back on the Capitol Limited on Friday for Chicago.  I have a brief layover on Saturday before I board the Empire Builder, which brings me back to Seattle on May 18th.

I include the names of the trains because I love trains and their special place in our history.  I've reserved "roomettes" for overnight travel, but expect to spend a fair amount of time in the sightseer lounges looking at the land we'll travel over and meeting new friends.  Through a cooperative effort with the National Park Service, volunteer rangers provide narratives on selected routes -- I'll hear the first of these on my way to LA, when rangers join us from the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail Ride between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. 

I have both my new tiny laptop and my iPhone, which I have mostly mastered, thanks to a remarkable book called iPhone: The Missing Manual by David Progue of the New York Times.   I have my book manuscript begun in 2006 to finally finish at its full length.  It's a mix of photographs I shot and text I wrote about renovating our home.    I'll post to this blog, as well as tweet, using both the iPhone and the netbook. 

I know I'll have a great time.