Posted on May 22, 2017
I have never been good at meditation. I have tried it on a few occasions, but I have struggled to steady my mind for more than a moment or two. As soon as I calm my brain it starts making lists of all the things I have to do later, regretting that thing I said to someone 8 years ago, or contemplating what dark matter is actually made of. All things that of course must be resolved immediately.
The only time I’ve actually enjoyed meditation was when I spent 10 minutes overlooking the canyons of Malibu after climbing to the top of a waterfall last week. The serenity of the sound of the falling water against the beautiful backdrop made it easy to let go of everything.
Although I have struggled with meditation in the past, this project is as much about pushing myself to do things that make me uncomfortable as it is about doing things that are exciting.
I was intrigued when I first saw a post advertising sound immersion mediation. The session was held at The Hot Room Yoga and Wellness Studio and was hosted by Massood Taj and Robin Barnes. The description of the event read:
“As the sounds of singing bowls, frame drums, native flutes, gongs, vocal overtoning and other sacred instruments wash over you. It invites you to move into a deep meditative state. Cellular vibrations can unlock unhealthy, stuck emotional tension held within our cellular memory, boost your immune system & cultivate a heightened awareness of your inner world and intuition.”
Here is an example of what it sounded like:
Massood and Robin had a multitude of instruments laid out on blankets surrounded by salt lamps and rope lights, which provided great mood lighting in the dark. They used water drums (a bowl is placed upside down in a larger water-filled bowl and then stuck for a percussive sound), frame drums, Tibetan signing bowls, crystal singing bowls, a handpan, energy chimes, a wooden bamboo flute thingy (that was made with bamboo that grows naturally in Tennessee), a Quena (Peruvian wood flute), an african talking drum, a kalimba, and an array of other fascinating instruments. A nice summer storm added to the soundscape.
The best way to describe it was that it felt like I was being treated to a live version of the music they play while you get a massage. It was extremely relaxing.
I was just as unsuccessful at clearing my mind as my previous meditation attempts, but I did have a few moments of zen when I pictured my view from my Dominican rainforest tree house. The music was beautiful and I loved the experience. If I ever hit the Powerball I plan to hire Massood and Robin to provide the soundtrack to my life.
Posted on May 15, 2017
Some people bring nothing but joy, bliss, and positivity to your life. For me, two of those people are my friends Justin and Samsara, who I met during my stay in a Dominican Republic tree house village. I was lucky enough to reconnect with both of them on a recent trip to LA, despite the fact that neither of them actually live in Los Angeles.
As one of our many adventures, and to offset all the food we gorged ourselves on over the weekend, we decided to go for a hike in the mountains of Malibu. Specifically, Justin took us all to Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfalls.
This is also known as the “three waterfall hike” because you can hike to all three tiers of Escondido Falls. The Escondido Falls are the highest in the Santa Monica Mountains, and the tiers are 50 feet, 25 feet, and 150 feet, respectively.
The actual hiking portion was simple enough, and stretched 4.2 miles past Malibu mansions and through beautiful flora. I usually hike 10-12 miles every weekend so I thought this would be a leisurely afternoon. But I should have known that a day with Justin and Samsara would be filled with adventure.
The first part of the hike is easy. Just a general stroll through the wild flowers, across riparian canyon terrain, and over several creek crossings that required careful stepping over logs and rocks. But that just led us to the first waterfall. After that, things got interesting.
In order to get to the second and third waterfalls you had to switch to climbing mode over large rocks and muddy hills. This path isn’t very accessible if you have any mobility issues, but with the help of some ropes and large tree roots, you can make your way to the second and third falls. Things get pretty wet and slippery, so be sure to have proper climbing shoes (which I did not have) and prepare to get muddy.
But once you get to the main falls, the climb is totally worth it!
For the last few years Escondido Falls has been relatively dry due to the drought. But thanks to a wet winter and some rainy days leading up to the hike, the falls were flowing while we were there.
Samsara and I spent some time goofing around at the base of the falls, jumping off the rocks, and having fun on a rope swing as Justin took off exploring.
While we were engaged in frivolity, Justin had made his way to the top of the falls and beckoned for us to follow.
Please note that Samara is barefoot for this hike, because she is a badass.
Other than one session of indoor rock climbing a few years ago, this was my first attempt at climbing. It was also my first attempt at bouldering of any sort. The climb was one of the scariest and most dangerous things I have ever done. I do not recommend attempting to take the same route we did unless you are an experienced climber. There were several points along the way that I did not think I was going to make it (I even had to abandon my bag, as you can see above) and had I fallen, it would have been disastrous.
At the top of the most difficult part of the ascent was a small slot we had to climb through. The only way to get up its slick walls was to push your back up against one side and use your feet to climb up the other. Basically I applied the trick I learned watching cartoons as a kid to pull myself up.
Having my own personal cheering squad at the top definitely helped too.
But the view at the top made the climb and the fear completely worth it. We could see the waterfall, the canyon, and of course, the Pacific Ocean.
We all took time to enjoy the view and take our fair share of pictures. Part of me expected to end up in one of those “selfies taken right before disaster” click bait articles.
But instead, we had a lovely time relaxing and meditating at the precipice.
It rained on and off that day, just like it did during our trip to the Dominican rain forrest. That combined with the company and the complete lack of cell service resulted in one of the best and most relaxing days I’ve had since returning from my planned #funemployment.
At one point while admiring the view we heard the sound of what sounded like a team of hikers coming up behind us. It was, however, a small rockslide crashing down the path we’d just climbed up.
I want to reiterate that you should not attempt to replicate my stupidity and that this climb is not meant for novices. My only saving grace was the flexibility gained from doing yoga 5 times a week for the last 4 months.
Of course we had to make our way to the very top of the falls for some photos. The water behind me is what was flowing over the top of the highest part of Escondido Falls.
It began to rain again right before we started our climb down. While the cool rain drops were refreshing, it also make the rocks extremely slippery and the dirt trail slick and muddy. I fell, more than once, and was utterly caked in mud. Fortunately, I only had some muddy clothes and a few scrapes and bruises to show for it.
Overall, we could not have picked a better way to spend our day. It was just the adventure I needed.
The Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfalls hike is free and the parking area is just off the majestic Pacific Coast Highway (which I hope to drive start to finish one day). If you visit on a Sunday, it is also just down the road from the fabulous Malibu Farmers Market where we got delicious fresh fruit and the best sprouted almonds I’ve ever had.
Posted on April 5, 2017
Taylor Hollow is a 163-acre nature preserve hidden away an hour outside of Nashville. The Nature Conservancy owns the property and they have done an excellent job protecting the land. Taylor Hallow is wonderfully secluded. In fact, you’ll have to drive for a good 15 minutes before you even come back into cell phone range. It is perfect.
I go hiking almost every weekend, but I have never gone on a wildflower hike. I didn’t know what I was missing out on.
They entire hike is lined with a crystal clear babbling brook which leads to a hidden cave. There is also a waterfall, but the water was too low for it to be running during our visit.
Taylor Hollow supports more than 380 plant species and is home to state endangered plants as the Blue-eyed Mary and the Ozark Least Trillium and several state threatened plants such as the Michigan Lily and the Butternut.
We picked the prefect weekend for a visit. Everything was in full bloom.
My crappy iPhone photos do not do the place justice, but it is just beautiful. It would be the prefect place for a spring picnic and an afternoon of seclusion.
Other than fluttering butterflies and busy bumblebees, there was not a lot of wildlife to be seen on the day we visited. However, I did make friends with a curious snail. (No snails were harmed in the taking of this photograph.)
Now that Spring is here, take advantage of the natural beauty that surrounds us and be sure to visit your nearest nature preserve or botanical garden.
Posted on March 4, 2017
The Tennessee Environmental Council had an initiative this year to distribute (for free!) and plant 100,000 native Tennessee trees across the state . . . all on one day. It was the largest community tree planting event in the state’s history. This more than doubles the 46,000 trees they planted for the same event last year.
We planted oaks, plum trees, and shortleaf pines. I was really surprised how small the trees were. The oak and plumb tress just looked like sticks and the pines were only a few inches tall. But, they were all adorable. It did not take much effort to get the trees planted. We just needed to dig about an 8 inch hole deep enough to fully insert the roots.
There was such a great turn out of volunteers that it didn’t take long to get our trees planted. So, I stopped by to visit some of the owls on the way out. Below is Thoreau the barred owl. Thoreau made his way to Owl’s Hill after being hit by a car and losing most of his right wing. Poor baby. He was, however, very wise and told me precisely how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop. I’ll never tell.
Now, for your enjoyment (because reading about trees is kind of boring) I give you some bad tree jokes:
Do you want a brief explanation of an acorn?
In a nutshell, it’s an oak tree.
What is a tree’s favorite shape?
Why did the pine tree get in trouble?
Because it was being knotty.
I apologize for all of those.