India – Circa 2018 – Time to Commit to a Travel Journal!

Circa or Exactly 2018…To be precise. If the fates allow. We are scheduled to take off in 147 days(ish). Not that I’m counting (pssst…spoiler alert, I’m counting).

Every single time I go on a holiday I mean to journal the experience so I can cultivate from it at a later date for my fiction. Every single time I do not do this. Even when I had a novel idea for the Camino de Santiago before I set out to Spain on that adventure, I didn’t journal as planned. I carried a journal in my backpack, though. All the other useless stuff weighing me down wasn’t enough. I also had to make sure I was carrying a journal I wouldn’t crack open a single time along the Way of St. James. I was too busy splashing in mud puddles and meeting new people to bother with a journal. Next time!

I regret my inability to journal immediately after every journey I take. And yet the cycle never changes. So, I’m calling myself out. THIS TIME I shall attempt to journal once again. In September, when we embark on this trip to India, I will have a journal with me. This time will be different. This time I will not only carry a journal across a country. I will open it. I will write in it. I will bear witness to what it is I’m bearing witness to. I will make words every night and keep track of the smells and the sights and the sounds and the people and the animals and the tastes. I will prevail.

And I will scour Ontario for the ugliest journal known to man. This way I can’t use the highly popular excuse, “But it’s far too pretty to spoil” argument that renders me incapable of writing a single word in the journals I choose solely for their pretty factor. I will pick the butt-ugliest journal on the shelf and I will christen it with words before we even land. That is the goal.

As Exhibit A below suggests, however, I may fail in my goal. I carried the same journal with me to 3 consecutive Ontario Writers’ Conference conferences. Each time I planned to take notes in it. Each time I couldn’t bear to destroy it with the presence of ink. At the 4th conference I casually mentioned my dilemma to Wayson Choy. Apparently Wayson is an extremely pragmatic man. He ripped the journal from my hand, opened to a random page and jotted down the following:

WAY.jpg

Exhibit A

My problem? Wayson is not coming to India with us. Maybe I can toss my ugly India journal into the street and run over it a couple of times with my car. Or maybe I can pound my fists on Wayson’s front door and plead with him to christen my new ugly India journal?

My problem with that is, ever since Wayson wrote in the above journal (Exhibit A) I have been unable to write in it. I mean, Wayson Choy wrote in it! So, no late night drive-by pleading for journal christening. The running-it-over-with-the-car idea is looking better by the second.

I need to journal India. I mean, I need to. I have always wanted to set a story (stories) in India. I don’t know what, but I know I want to do it. I’m hoping the story will come to me in my travels. But I’m afraid it won’t if I don’t diligently journal.

india.jpg

Our Itinerary

I’ll figure something out. I did commit my commitment to a blog post, after all. That’s one way of attempting to police myself. If I blog about it, it has to happen. Right?

Edit To Add:

20180422_144953

Found a journal. This one from the Dollarama spoke to me!

Writing Through a Crisis of Happiness

The following was originally published in the WCDR Wordweaver in the spring of 2014.
WRITING THROUGH A CRISIS OF HAPPINESS
It’s been ages since I’ve had a daily writing regime. I was fanatical about my sacred hour of writing before the rooster crowed. Then life changed. Drastically. I came down with a debilitating Crisis of Happiness™.
20150325_154726.jpg

A Lazy Trip through the Canals of Suzhou, the Venice of the East.

          I write from darkness. I’m a writer because of my misery-laden psyche. From darkness comes creativity. Remove darkness, and the urgency to write evaporates. Happiness equals a dry well.
20150326_185629.jpg

An Evening Stroll in Wuxi Shi, Jiangsu Sheng, China.

          While on my recent vacation to China and Hong Kong, I planned to re-institute my early-morning writing hour. I thought it’d be easier to get back into my regime while vacationing. But Beijing was breathtakingly beautiful. This made for great writing fodder, but also ramped up my Crisis of Happiness™.
shanghai.jpg

A Day of Shopping in Shanghai.

          We travelled almost every day. We went from Beijing to Shanghai to Suzhou to Hangzhou to Wuxi to Shanghai to Hong Kong. Most mornings I awoke in a different hotel room than the morning before. With 14 days to re-establish my habit, I persevered.
20150327_162031.jpg

Boating in Hangzhou Shi, Zhejiang Sheng, China

          Writing is a discipline. We must take it seriously in order for it to have importance in our lives. I had been using it as a crutch to prop up the rest of my life. One early morning in Shanghai, I considered a change of perspective. Write from a place of joy. Such an easy concept. If I could write from a wounded psyche, I could also write from joy. I embraced the pre-dawn vista of Shanghai spread out before me like a frenetic wonderland and I picked up my pen. I wrote. I was back.
20150324_133038.jpg

Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China (Selfie-Capital of the World!)

          I can’t, however, write about the place I’m in. Amid the unsurpassed beauty of Suzhou—Venice of the East—I wrote about how, atop the Eiffel Tower, the blinding Paris sunsets distort the views of the beautiful city below. Having spent the previous day boating through Suzhou’s beautiful canals, I happily wrote about
Paris sunsets.
hongkong2.jpg

A Tipsy Night in the streets of Hong Kong.

          This morning, I awoke with a vivid memory of a tipsy evening in a restaurant atop the peak overlooking Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour. I wrote about being down in the harbour earlier that day, and how water lapped at the hulls of the ancient heritage boats precisely the same way it lapped at new boats. The ancient ones were festooned with Chinese lanterns and decorous accoutrements, but their seaworthiness seemed questionable. The powerful
new motorboats were sleek, sexy, and clearly capable of seafaring adventures.
hongkong.jpg

I see a ship in the harbour…and boats, too.

          I wrote about how perspective changes a person. I used to be one of those rickety old boats swaying in the wake of the newer models, always fearing that today is the day I sink. Oh, how I tried to write my way out of sinking. But I realized one need not be the shiny new boat to stay afloat. One need only move the pen across the page.
note

Write. Bear Witness.

          Writers are witnesses not only on the days we’re miserable and tired. We must also be witnesses on the days we’re overcome with joie de vivre. We must bear witness every day.
          It’s 5:00 a.m. Can I get a witness…

Violently Happy – The Sedona Syndrome

“Violently happy
it will get me into trouble.
Violently happy
I’m driving my car
too fast
with ecstatic music on” ~ BJORK

The rush of emotions I felt while staying in Sedona was very real. And very intense. I can’t imagine living there and EVER getting used to it. Take a place like that for granted? Never! It’s funny…there was much talk about the vortexes that could be found there. But it seemed to me that the entire place was one big vortex of energy…and it made me feel in-sync with the everything in a way I had never felt before. I felt violently happy.

“Sedona spiritual vortexes are powerful and transformational energy centers that are located at specific sites throughout Sedona, Arizona. Vortexes are the intersections of natural electromagnetic earth energy, also known as ley lines.” ~ From the website SEDONA RED ROCK TOURS.

Day 5 – THE GRAND CANYON

It was a two-hour car trip from our place in Sedona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. And it was a beautiful drive, filled with insane mountain twists and turns that brought us to a dramatically higher elevation. And with the top down in the early morning hours we came to understand just how cold it got in Arizona when the sun was not up!

day5-1

My first real glimpse of the Grand Canyon. South Rim from a lookout we came to after parking the car and walking towards the trailhead. This must be the place!

We set out fairly early in the morning, as we knew it would be a long day of hiking down into and up out of the canyon. To think I didn’t think I wanted to do the Canyon. I don’t know what I was thinking…having the red rocks of Sedona on my bucketlist, but not having the greatest hole in the history of holes on the same list?! From the moment I knew I was going to see the Canyon, my thoughts on it began to change. Of course I should want to see something so incredibly beautiful. As we put it on our list of attractions we would visit on the trip, I added it to my bucketlist…feeling slightly guilty that it wasn’t already there.

day5 2.jpg

I would say WE chose Bright Angel Trail for our excursion down into the Canyon, but if I did I would be lying. I chose nothing…I only thrilled at the trails that were chosen for me. I remained blissfully unaware of the paths chosen for me until we arrived each day at the various trailheads. Each one was perfect! Including BRIGHT ANGEL…

I’m not going to lie…GOING UP was difficult. But it wasn’t TOO difficult. I’ve been hiking and walking and jogging and running for a couple of years now…so I was ready for the hike up out of the Canyon. But it wasn’t a walk in the park.

day5 16.jpg

This sign kind of says it all. Go down only as much as you think you can climb back up. No further. And there’s no shame in resting along the way back out of the Canyon.

This was one of the longest treks we took and by far the most populated. There were a lot of people on this trail. I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Is there anything more beautiful?

The Bright Angel Trail was probably also the most well-formed of all the trails we were on in our week in Arizona. The trail was wide and clearly indicated all the way to the bottom…with two rest stops along the way for water and bio-breaks. It was quite impeccable and user-friendly, as trails go.

And I never tired of looking up, down and all around me. Every glance gave another gift to the eye and the soul. So much beauty…and to think I almost said no to this incredible force of nature.

The vastness of the Grand Canyon makes one simultaneously disappear into oblivion and feel more vital and alive and big than ever before. It’s the equivalent of a spiritual enlightenment if ever there was one…

DAY 6! BELL ROCK AND THE COURTHOUSE BUTTE! Our final HIKE day. We originally decided to have Thursday as a day of rest before our Friday all-day trip back home to Toronto. But I couldn’t imagine being there for a day and NOT hiking. There were two trails fairly close to home and side by side with one another that we decided to try on our last full day in Sedona. They were easy…so it would be sort of a rest day. (-;

day5 27.jpg

There were many places along the perimeter of Bell Rock where you could climb and explore. Such a beautiful place! This was only a skip and a jump up on a ledge near the bottom…nowhere near the top.

Probably one of the easier hikes we did in our week…it was a trail that circumnavigated the two attractions. One big circle of a hike with two beautiful formations in the middle…or so I thought. There was a third, much smaller formation that was no less beautiful. I never did find out what it was called, but it took my breath away…

day6 7.jpg

Is it weird that I saw these as four little witches having a little huddle? I swear, I felt their scheming and heard their cackling…

As with the notion that going down is voluntary but coming up is mandatory at the Grand Canyon, one should never bite off more than they can chew on ANY trail in the desert like conditions of Sedona and the surrounding area. On this trail (We actually did the BIG PARK LOOP TRAIL—which incorporated the two other trails on the site) we came upon someone in clear distress…someone who misjudged his ability to complete the trail. We stopped about a quarter of the way along the trail to help a man rise to his feet…with the assistance of his friend. And I scoured the brush just off the trail to find them a walking stick to further support him until they made their way back off the trail and to their car. It’s never a good idea to take to the trails if you’re not one-hundred percent certain you can finish it. This man was clearly in deep distress. I was glad to see them heading straight for the exit and not redoubling their efforts to push forward.

day6 16.jpg

We decided to bring our shadows with us on this trip. It’s always comforting to find them either trailing behind us or showing us the way!

Although this was an easy trail to walk, there were certainly a lot of things to climb and explore along the way. It was absolutely a FUN trail to do…and I would highly recommend it!

day6-17

This is the formation I mentioned earlier whose name I couldn’t seem to discover. If you happen upon this blog and know the name of this formation, please let me know in the comments!

 

I called that unknown formation THE MUSHROOM…for obvious reasons. My one desire, once it came into view, was simply to TOUCH it. I thought, ‘If I could just touch that awesome formation, my day will be made.’ The closer we got to it, the more I realized my wish would come true…but I had no idea just HOW thrilled I would eventually become!

As you might be able to see in the collection of photos above, I was not only able to touch THE MUSHROOM…but I was also able to climb to its very pinnacle and look out at the vastness of the area from its tippy top stepping stone right smack-dab in the centre of it! This little formation became one of the highlights of the trip for me. It just sort of took my breath away when we walked around the corner of Courthouse Butte and saw it sitting there all by itself all pretty and mushroomy and whatnot. ❤

day6-35

At the end of our trail when I heard, “If you want to climb Bell Rock, I’ll wait down here for you.” I jumped at the opportunity  and practically flew up that rock! If you see little specks of people down below me in this pic, they are actually ON bell rock…there are several layers of it below them and I’m several layers above them. It was such a fun climb…I just jumped from rock to rock, slope to slope until I reached the point I wanted to get to. What a beautiful vista down below. As I walked around up there, I was able to take in everything else in the area…including the highway and all the buttes and hills strewn about…

What an amazing day Day 6 turned out to be. A day of rest morphed into one of the most memorable days of an incredibly memorable trip!

After that incredible hike, we had one last afternoon at the pool followed by one last evening out on a beautiful Sedona restaurant patio. It was a revisit to THE HUDSON…one of the first restaurants of the week. We loved it so much, we rebooked before leaving the first time.

If you ever go to Sedona and you’re looking for a place to eat…please make sure that wherever you go, you ask for the patio! I’m quite certain wherever you land, you can’t go wrong. The town is literally surrounded by mountains.

Well, that’s it. Sedona and Arizona in a nutshell. It was literally one of the hardest places I have ever in my life had to leave. But I will definitely carry it with me always and forever. In fact, I’m quite certain I’ll be back. One day…

50.jpg

This is 50! (x 2 = 100!)

On the Occasion of my 50th Birthday! Sedona at its Best..

day4-11

September 13, 2016 – A Milestone Birthday Celebrated in Paradise! THIS is 50!

Day 4 – West Fork Trail at Oak Creek AND Thomas Point Trail!

BUT FIRST! Huevos Rancheros! Before setting out to hike the West Fork Trail, we went to a little restaurant I saw down the street from where we were staying. I LOVE huevos rancheros! And with a name like HUEVOS, this restaurant spoke to me immediately!

I was NOT disappointed. Their huevos were incredible!

day4 1.jpg

When in Sedona, Arizona, do yourself a favour and stop by HUEVOS – A MORNING EATERY. Their huevos rancheros are top notch!

After an amazing breakfast, we were ready to really begin the first day of my 50s.

Sedona has so much more to offer than red rock. It really opened up to us on my birthday. The West Fork Trail was lush and beautiful. If you do the whole trail, to the end and back, you get to cross the meandering creek a couple dozen times. Sometimes, this is done on strategically placed rocks, and sometimes it is done on logs and branches.

While walking the West Fork Trail, you’re down in a valley of sorts…and it doesn’t matter in what direction you look up into, you will find the beautiful mountains and rock outcroppings that Sedona is famous for. They’re everywhere. But the trail is simpler and more relaxing than a lot of the other trails…because of the way it’s nestled in the forest valley. If you do this trail, it will give you a nice variety of scenery AND a pleasant cool walk.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On our way out of West Fork Trail, I decided to leave a little something behind…a token of Canadiana. Just like the ones you will see alongside any highway or byway in our own country. An INUKSHUK!

After the pleasant trail in the West Fork on Oak Creek, it was time to cross the street and see what Thomas Point Trail was all about. For a 50th birthday, I’m pretty sure it was one of the best on record. I don’t know how it could have been better…

day4 42.jpg

One thing to point out about Thomas Point is that the trail was hard to find. We almost gave up on it. You are led to believe you’re on it, and then the path you’ve taken leads to exactly nothing…but dead-ends. I was just beginning to feel a sense of relief that we weren’t going to climb the almost 1000 ft to the top when we discovered our wrong turn and found the right path!

day4 43.jpg

While getting slightly lost and turned around on Thomas Point Trail, we were momentarily pummeled by a short freak hailstorm.

After finding the proper trail, we made our way up the rather big hill or small mountain. At first, prior to coming out into the open, we criss-crossed our way up the forest. This was difficult but not too difficult…strenuous but not too strenuous. It was when everything opened up that we felt a little more vulnerable. The path narrowed and it suddenly felt like we were no longer climbing a hill, but a mountain side. And the edge was right there beckoning to us with every footstep. And cacti appeared and other desert flora.

Yes, it was steep. Yes, it was incredibly windy at the top and it felt like the mountain was fighting to kick me off, and YES! I did wave my hiking towel over my head in victory. THIS IS 50!

Word of advice if you ever find yourself looking for the trail on Thomas Point Trail…LOOK. Once you find it, you’ll be glad you did. The vistas that open up to you once you get up and out in the open are heart-stopping and breathtakingly beautiful! SEEK AND YOU SHALL FIND. And if you don’t find it, go back across the road to the person on duty at the parking and ask. It really is a must see (sort of secret-ish) trail.

After a long day of hiking, climbing, creek-crossing, laughing, loving, running, walking, and inukshuk making, we were ready to head back down to Sedona proper.

I found it very difficult not to take pics from the car for the entire duration of  our holiday. Everything was just TOO beautiful. The 5000ft elevation sign on the roadside was posted on the way down the enormous hills that took us to the trails…so I’d estimate that we were somewhere around 6000ft while hiking…although we were down in a valley. Elevation was pretty mysterious in Sedona. We were HIGH!

After a long day of trails and mountains and driving, we were ready for dinner. And with a creekside table, L’Auberge de Sedona was ready for us! I will never forget the day I turned 50…and I will never forget the meal I had at L’Auberge that day. We were both celebrating 50…so it was a combined 100-Celebration, as it were. (-: The restaurant was fabulous…every plate was a feast not only for the mouth but for the eye. The fois gras was the best I’ve ever had. Even the dessert was special. Who gets pearls on their dessert? And the waiter was fantastic. He even handled our Scared-Canadians grilling about the upcoming election with finesse and aplomb.

This was a birthday I couldn’t even imagine being around for at one time. I’m glad I made it. And with any luck, it’s just the beginning. I mean, fifty is still young, right? It’s the trailblazing and mountain-climbing age. We have a few good years left in us.

(The rest of the trip will be covered in a third post.) And, yes, dear reader…these posts are just as much for me. When I’m old and grey(er) I’ll be able to find out what I did on my 50th birthday, simply by reading this post. God willing.

day4-end

Driving back down into Sedona with the top down on the Camaro. This is 50!

%d bloggers like this: