Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The San Marco - Walnut Hills, Cincinnati

Last weekend Christina and I went for a bike ride at Lunken and then we stopped at Cafe deSales in Walnut Hills.  We had been wanting to sketch the San Marco and it was fun to have a bite to eat and then sit at the cafe and sketch.  You can see Christina's sketch in her mini sketchbook here.

Every time I drive through Walnut Hills I am in awe of this building.  I love that it is built on a funny, obtuse angle and the stone and copper work is amazing.  It was built in 1893 by local architects John Boll and Charles Taylor.  There are some nice images and history of the building here.  I like to imagine myself looking out the window of the round room on the top floor.  The architecture of Cincinnati never ceases to amaze me.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Each spring the ground under my mom's magnolia tree is strewn with fuzzy blue-grey coats cast-off when they became too small for the growing blooms.  As I walked around I couldn't help but notice them.  And I started thinking that we are always so focused on the blooms that we forget to notice the beauty under our feet.  This haiku honors our coats, whether they are still keeping us protected or lie dissolving under the magnolia.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Drawing on Easter Eggs

I had a great time last week decorating Easter eggs with my nephews.  After twenty minutes they were both done and back to their sports and tv while their mom and I sat there for another hour drawing and enjoying ourselves.  I have never drawn on eggs before but I saw it on Pinterest.  I guess all that time on Pinterest finally paid off.  Next year I'm bringing out the colored sharpies! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cherry Tree Blossom Sketch at Spring Grove

Last week I went to Spring Grove for a sketching outing with my friends Christina and Amy.  Our goal was to sketch the cherry trees which were in perfect bloom.  It was a gorgeous day and we sat beneath this tree sketching and chatting and having a wonderful time.  You can see everyone's sketches here

After scanning the sketch I like to choose a close-up of one section.  When I saw the above close-up I realized the colors make this the perfect post for Easter week.  Wishing everyone a joy-filled week and a Happy Easter and Spring! 

Friday, April 11, 2014


The final destination of my trip to Kauai was the "Sacred Forest."  This forest is owned by the Hindu monastery but on a different part of the monastery grounds than the temple.  Our group had a lovely lunch and then I got a chance to wander and take some photos.  The trees in this forest are called Rudraksha, or blue figs.  The curvy roots on these trees were fabulous and as if that weren't enough the seed pods from these trees are bright blue! When I looked up Rudraksha I loved what Wikipedia had to say:

"The word rudraksha is derived from two words - rudra (रुद्र) and aksha (अक्ष).

A. Aksha means eye. Rudra and aksha means the one who is capable of looking at and doing everything (for example, the third eye). Aksha also means axis. Since the eye can rotate on one axis, it too is known as aksha.

B. Rudra means the one who weeps. A (अ) means to receive and ksha (क्ष) means to give. Hence, aksha (अक्ष) denotes the ability to receive or give. Rudraksha is the one that has the ability to wipe our tears and provide happiness."

Wow, that is quite a name!... and in my opinion well deserved.

A statue of Ganesha greets everyone who enter the forest. I can definitely see why Ganesha is guardian of these trees.... the roots of these trees so closely resembling his trunk.

And in return Ganesha is offered the beautiful blue seeds.  When the seeds dry up they are used to make malas (prayer beads on a string or chain).

After enjoying my walk around these old giants it was time to meditate.  I found a nice spot nestled among the roots and settled in to one of the deepest meditations I had had yet, utterly dissolving into the forest.  That is until the rain started falling... lightly at first and then building to quite a downpour.  Although our stay was cut short, visiting the sacred forest was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.  And whenever I feel like Kauai is a world away all I have to do is close my eyes and I am back in Ganesha's magical forest of blue eyes and grey trunks.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Kauai's Hindu Monastery

The last day of the trip we visited Kauai's Hindu Monastery.  We were lucky to be able to attend one of the daily Puja ceremonies.  It was a feast for the eyes, ears, and nose (oh, and mouth -there was milk too!).  Although I did  not know the significance of all the rituals I did particularly like one of them.  Part of the ceremony involved writing a prayer, concern, wish or something you want to let go of on a piece of paper.  Then during the ceremony the monk placed all the prayers in a burning bowl and they were burned and released to the gods.  I loved this act of letting go.

The grounds of the monastery are amazingly beautiful.  Not only are there incredible statues of Hindu gods tucked around the property, but there are enormous banyan trees wider than my whole house that you can walk through.  

The banyan tree in the photo below is an amazing being.  It felt like I was walking through a forest but I think it was one enormous tree.  I felt enclosed... like if I closed my eyes and sat still the long branches might slowly embrace me.  The tree reminded me of the strangler figs in Costa Rica.  Those figs start growing as a small seed in the host trees canopy.  They then send their roots down the host tree while also growing upwards.  The roots growing down slowly engulf the host tree.  Sometimes the host tree dies and the only thing left is a fig tree with a hollow central core.  That empty space can then provide a home to other species.  Although some might not love the idea of being "strangled" I think the life history of the fig is a reminder of the benefit and beauty of emptiness.

OK, enough of my zen allusions.  But if you are ever in Kauai it is well worth the trip to visit the monastery and the trees regardless of your religious affiliation.  Plus if you walk four times around Lord Shanmuga, six-faced Murugan, he might hear your prayer. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Walking Meditation in Kauai

Last week I attended an amazing meditation retreat led by Kristin Kirk in Kauai. During the retreat there was much discussion about stilling the mind and listening to one's inner voice. The idea is that when the mind is still one can be open to what arises from within. This process can take place during meditation but can also be applied when one is going about the daily business of life.

Being a diligent student I decided to try and apply this idea early one morning when I took a walk. The house we rented was on a cliff overlooking the ocean and to get to the beach you had to take a ten minute walk down through the woods and around a rocky bluff. I decided to bring my camera and let my inner voice guide me.

As I started off down the path I was thinking, "Did I bring my extra battery? Did I bring my water bottle? I hope I have enough time before I have to be back for meditation." I then realized that I was in my usual state...thinking and rushing. So I took a few breaths, slowed down, and tried to clear my mind of thoughts. As I was walking I let myself be led by whatever caught my attention. If a colorful leaf caught my eye I would stop and take its picture...allowing myself to spend as much or as little time as I felt. If I spent 30 seconds or 5 minutes it was OK.

As I continued walking I kept myself open to whatever appeared. Eventually I rounded the rocky bluff and the rocks gave way to a beautiful beach. I took my shoes off and waded into the water.

When I looked down I spied a brown object in the water and as I approached I couldn't believe my eyes. Lying there in the water was a white spotted sea cucumber! I don't know why but I have always loved sea cucumbers and even made a 12 ft. sculpture of one some years ago. Discovering that little guy (or girl) filled me with joy and I felt so happy to have stumbled upon him.

After spending some time with the sea cucumber I felt the urge to keep walking and eventually came to the rocks on the other side of the beach. I put my shoes back on and continued onto the rocks photographing little pools of water and the incredible texture of the rocks.

I continued on and my attention kept going to a large rock a few feet above my head. At that point my mind popped in and told me I'd better be turning around in order to make it back in time. But the urge to climb up was strong so I proceeded to work my way up to the rock.

When I pulled myself up and onto the rock a breathtaking clearing with an amazing view of the ocean revealed itself. I walked to the end of the clearing feeling like I was on the end of the world. When I got to the edge I announced to the ocean and Kauai, "It's time to wake up!" And in that very second the sun emerged over the ridge and beamed down upon me.

As the sun warmed my face I completely relaxed into the moment and felt truly present. As I stood there tears streamed down my face and I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I had received a great gift and it is one I will never forget.