PEACE & PORCHES: SAN LUIS OBISPO

San Luis Obispo loves its peace and porches!.  Peace signs are evident everywhere here and almost every house has a porch.  You can count on seeing some sign of peace ( painted on rocks, woven twigs into  peace wreaths, stickers on cars, window decals, etc) in/around  almost every yard and house.   P1390199Yes, here in San Luis Obispo  every house seems to have a porch, a garden, and a peace sign…. somewhere.  P1390192

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It is all rather, well, peaceful. Yet, in our walking observations, no one was on the porches and there certainly weren’t any peace demonstrations rocking the streets.  To us, these are  cute and quaint signs of a progressive, comfortable, & educated community who are  all very busy working to pay for these houses.

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GRUMPY CAT GREETS US IN SAN LUIS OBISPO

P1390189Hey!    Hey!   Grumpy Cat, we thought this was a jolly town.  Why so somber?  We begin our walk-about San Luis Obispo with great anticipation as Oprah has called it the happiest city in America (not that we totally believed that).  But, Grumpy Cat, or Grouchy Cat or Serious Cat, seemed to be an omen.   It was a good omen, though.   We understood the cat’s somber appearance to be an intelligent warning to look deeply and not just at the surface.     Okay, we did that.

One thing we noticed right off were all the porches.   Classic homes, built long ago, with large welcoming porches adorning many homes here in San Luis Obispo, or “SLO” as the natives call it.    Although no one welcomed us to the porches and seldom did we see anyone actually sitting on the porches, they still conjure openness to neighbors and passer-bys.   Also, SLO has a sense of ease, of relaxation about it.    The homes are not mammoth and there is a pleasant mixture of old and new, of apartments, of creative homes with gardens, of regal homes that do not embarrass their smaller neighbors.    Guess you could say it feels very American: egalitarian and hopeful with its wide swaths of public parks.

Thanks Grumpy Cat for giving us a chortle and for the omen/warning to look deeply.  After our  week in SLO, keeping our eyes open, we noticed quite a bit….that much lurks under the surface of sweet and tidy…..we’ll be sharing more.

BIG SUR’S CHARTER SCHOOL AND ART COMPOUND: A FAR-OUT FORAY INTO THE BLISS

In the folds of mountain, tall trees, and ocean, a gentle wind blows.   All feels right with the world.   We have just one more hour in Big Sur, but when we discover this artistic compoud, just down from the General Store, time slows and lulls  us into an alternate universe.  A fantastically  charming school, seemingly contained in the vibe and magic of the  60’s and 70’s, appears, well, magically.

Big Sur Charter SchoolJaimie feeling inspired here by the magic.  So, she found her cat mask and hooped around the charter school.   Far-out fun!

Here,  children feel, smell, and learn in an atmosphere drenched in those ineffable vibrations of a time where magic, wonder and creativity were the norm.  We feel the joy of discovery and the sadness of knowing we will have to leave.   Yet, we know, too, we can carry this magic and wonder and creatvity along with us.   Such a gift, this place.   There IS an ESSENCE here as deep as the tree roots.

Big Sur CreativeAn art studio , of course!, is on this compound (which feels like an island unto itself), offering sculptures that seem to grow out of the soil and trees.    The energy flows yet feels reflective, with integrity, of a time where alternative life styles flourished.    Yes!

Big Sur Words

A provocative bit of writing posted on the window of an art studio on the compound.   (oh, and adjoining it is a very small real estate office).      Please stay the way you are most wonderful place!

ESALEN: PEACE TO ALL WHO ENTER

Enchantment.  The twisty, windy road to Esalen, on Higway 1, is worth it.  I remember Esalen in the 70’s and it really has not changed all that much.  There is the same laid back come hither feeling, even if you are there for therapy or one of the many conferences  and  workshops.   A lovely organic garden is tended by volunteers.   Small, rustic cabins charm but do not overwhelm with cuteness .   So happy there remains some authenticity in a world that seems so full of new age luxury retreats.   This is the real deal.   I always have felt an immediate peace and joy here.   For those who come in after 1 am for the hot springs, this singular experience will, most likely, remain with you long after you have left Esalen.  Perched so close to the cliff’s edge, sitting in these healing waters (clothing optional) in the dark of the night with oceanic rumblings is as close to  transcendental glory as I can imagine.    Thank you, most gracious place! Esalen BI look life a wee elf in this photo, and that is, actually, how I felt there!

~Bria

A MILLION DOLLAR CUP OF COFFEE : Big Sur Bliss

Here,  a few paces down from  Esalen, Jaimie made our morning pour-over, organic coffee.   101_1898With this view, coupled with the sweet, gentle air,  we called it our million dollar cup of coffee….because everyone says the view here is worth a million dollars. (give or take a million).   Of course the view is priceless .   That cup of coffee will be long remembered.   Again, words just do not suffice.  Feeling bliss, feeling at peace with ourselves and the world and feeling a profound gratitude equals a very good moment.   Besides, what better place to spin the hoop?

We stayed and enjoyed our coffee and view and the embracing air until a Highway Patrolman pulled up .  Uh oh, trouble in our paradise moment….was our van parked wrong or were we not allowed to stop here?  No, no worries… he said we were in his favorite lunch spot!    Not wanting to usurp his happy lunch moment, we felt this was the right moment to leave.

Thank you Big Sur for your million dollar cafe!

BIG SUR : A PLACE LIKE NO OTHER

“YOUR WAY STARTS AT THE OTHER OTHER SIDE.  

BECOME THE SKY. ”  

~RUMI

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Big Sur : sometimes, there are no words. . . just ecstatic joy.   Beauty does that.  And, here at Big Sur the air feels infused with a calming, soft energy.  Feelings quiet the mind.  We feel full, filled, overflowing.

There is no other/than this/the world is sewn together with / an invisible stitch/if perfection exists/ this is it/ fleeting to the permanency of our hearts. 

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MAKE FUN WHEREVER YOU ARE AND NO MATTER WHAT!

I Never Lose Sight of the Fact that Just Being is Fun” – Katherine Hepburn

Monterey Van

We noticed this whimsical van in Monterey.    With the ubiquitous gray, white and beige vans and autos prevailing, this splash of  color & creativity is eye candy for all.    So, Jaimie decided to practice her hoop fitness regimen in the parking lot.   Amazing how fun is possible always, and is , often, free.     Sometimes, it takes an external stimulus, like this van, to incite the inner enthusiasm mechanism.    Whatever and wherever, just make some fun.    This moment turned into a teaching moment  as well:  some fun-receptive middle agers and an elderly man decided to give the hoop a spin.    (they preferred not to be photographed, save for one man, so we always honor such requests.  Of course.)

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 Such moments are forever in our hearts.   YAY to fun.   

No More Real Cannery Row: Monterey Went Fancy

John Steinbeck’s Monterey is no more.  Not even a real trace.   Cannery Row is now a clean, upscale place .   Pretty,  pricey motels and shops provide no excitement , no thrill.   It is a larger town than we imagined, with a distinct upper middle class feel.   For some reason, despite the natural beauty of the harbor and the gentle hills, Monterey feels , well, boring.   The main street does boast a real cafe though: the Plume Cafe .   And, there is a Trader Joe’s downtown in the same small plaza as Peet’s Coffee.    Up through the alley is a charming French bakery with delectable treats.    Having a post office a few steps away is a plus too.

Arriving near dusk , we found it difficult to find the street with all the motels.   However, we did trust our instincts enough to ask a security guard on the wharf, near Cannery Row, for directions.   He was surprisingly kind and helpful.   He suggested we just park and P1300592sleep on the wharf.  He said he would watch over us.  As well, this wonderful young man  even made sure to open the restroom.  How lucky we were to sleep so close to the water and awaken to a lovely, expansive view with seals singing in that ineffable way of theirs!

The kindness of strangers is not just an old fashioned truth.   Trust and lack of fear go together well and the pay off is always more than expected.   This is a truth that repeats the more we travel.

J Orbit in Monterey CA

 Next morning: Jaimie hooping in our temporary “front yard”

A HIPPIE’S HIDEOUT !

P1300442This is Bob.  He is a hippie.   A good man who raised four children on the coast with his beloved, now deceased, wife.    Like a page out of the sixties, we met him at a rally for Martin Luther King.    There was immediate sympatico and we ended-up having dinner at his creative home in Paradise, CA.

Serendipities still happen in that uniquely 60’s way, that way where friendship is, still, quickly formed without suspicion .    Singing and playing the guitar in his living room as dinner cooked, he embodies all that is good of that special era.  Long live hippies!

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Place of Peace: Paradise

P1290948Sedona comes to mind,  or a Japanese garden, but Paradise…Paradise, California? Yes. Paradise is a place of peace.  A “P.O.P” as we are calling calming~serene places we encounter on this journey.  Paradise has a lot of parks; verdant, spacious parks where  you are as likely to see outdoor tai chi as if you were in China. Being a retirement community  it is quiet.  Yes, that is peaceful, but yawn, can be a sleepy bore too. Not really in Paradise…where there are eccentric vagabonds  and edgy big wheel truckers out and about,  enough to spike  you awake from a deep om chant.   Though there are few sidewalks once you are off the main drag, the Skyway, Paradise  is pretty walkable ( and we saw spright retirees, teens, and all kinds of folk walking often).  The energy of walking creates peace in a place.  One afternoon,  we stopped in a new-to-us cafe.  The vibe was homey and  laid back.   Patrons were hanging out on a big porch outside with inviting seats. We overheard a gaggle of middle-aged girlfriends with frosty perms talking, some of them just recently moved here from LA.  Hmm,  is Paradise “discovered”?….found by the roving tribes in this country looking for the just right,  undiscovered, promised place?  Is genrification edging closer?  We looked around, at the pothole driveway for  the cafe and its neighbors: an  auto repair shop  with a rusting patchwork of  car  junk scattered around and a tiny thrift-antique shop ( it seems like there are hundreds of these here,  tucked all over Paradise’s Skyway and off Skyway  streets).  Nah, that seems like a far-far-far away world here. The girlfriends  laughed easily and ordered more coffees.  Peaceful.

When I  spin ( hoop)  I  sense a place…get in touch with its energy, pace, and quality.  I found Paradise to be a very good  place to spin. There is a tranquility among the tall trees and parks that are never  too busy.

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When we lived in  Chico we thought that we had a pretty good take on Paradise: that it was the closest place where there would be snow in the winter, that is was funky, and because it was a retirement place, it was boring.   Now, many years later,  as we drove through town on the Skyway,  it looked like not much had  changed. We followed the directions to a friend’s place and thought we would visit and skeedadle out the next day.    But oh how we love to be surprised by a place we thought we had  all figured out!  The next day  our  friend showed us around some of her favorite  parks and took us to a Tai Chi class at the community center.  As we walked around a very peaceful pond at one of the parks and I  spun by a fountain, P1290989 there was instant interest by inquisitive and engaging retirees. Two days later I  had a  hoop fitness class in one of Paradise’s  parks with vibrant, fun 60+ students! P1300352

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The tai chi class was in a large  open space with big windows facing a  view of trees and space and the The Tai Chi teacher gave excellent, insightful, and holistic  instruction.  As I  attempted crane move in a meditative yet alert state that the environment inspired, I  stopped for a moment, where was I?  I  would expect this experience of transcendent excellence at a top retreat like Esalen.  Our bodies still remember  the calm and peace this class and instruction gave us.  We will go out of our way and all the way to Paradise to take this class.

P.O.P’s are often not where you would expect….like Paradise, who we crown one of the Places of Peace.