Seeking Wild Penguins

There are many penguins on display in zoos. You can watch them swim and dive in their little tuxedo looking suits. They are the cutest things ever. You cannot help but smile when watching them. I had only seen penguins in the wild in Alaska and I felt as if I were experiencing something rare and beautiful. There is something special about seeing animals in their natural habitat, especially if they are rare and far from your own home.IMG_6907

When we recently traveled to New Zealand, I was sure after doing my research that I wanted to try to see the elusive and rare, yellow-eyed penguins. If you see the picture on the internet, you know right away that this is something rare and beautiful. It is not the textbook tuxedo looking penguins we have seen in zoos. Yellow-eyed penguins are not easy to find, even on nature excursions. I always try to plan some things for vacation that are not a sure thing. I don’t know why such self challenges are so fun, but it is exciting when you try something that may turn out to be a good effort, but unsuccessful and maybe even disappointing.

There are plenty of sure things if you plan well, like traveling to see the geysers on the North Island of New Zealand. They have been there for thousands of years, and you know they’ll still be there when you go see them. But these penguins intrigued me. I don’t like being disappointed, but I like that I tried and truthfully, I always say I am one of the luckiest people ever, so I have a good chance at success. I usually see the rare sights, but if not, I have the right positive attitude and appreciate the effort of trying.

IMG_6888The yellow-eyed penguins live on a peninsula by the town of Dunedin, on the east side of the South Island of New Zealand. I was armed with information regarding the available excursions, and hoped for some good weather to be able to trek and search for the penguins.

I planned our trip with the peninsula excursion, and to cover my bases, I talked to the guides and made sure there was other wildlife to see in case we did not find the penguins. They assured me the four wheel van ride there and back would be lovely, and we would stop to see other wildlife on the way. Once we reached the end of the road we would have a challenging hike from the top of the sea bluffs to the coast, and we actually had to do that twice in two different locations. That was enough of an incentive alone to do the trek, so I booked it. I love good hikes and I love seeing beautiful countryside, and any kind of wildlife in a foreign country is exciting.

They picked us up at our hotel, and because it was a bit chilly we dressed in our warm jackets covered by our rain gear for wind protection, hats, mittens and hiking boots. The van was full of other explorer tourists, all filled with anticipation and cameras in hand. Everyone shared information about what they knew about the penguins. You could hear the excitement in people’s voices, all hoping as a group that we could see these rare creatures together.

We drove out of the city and through the hills until we reached the narrow dirt roads. We drove along the edges of cliffs with no guard rails protecting us from the steep cliffs below. It is always extra fun when there’s a feel of danger on a trek.IMG_6918

After about an hour, we ran out of road at the top of the cliffs overlooking the sea. We got out and headed onto the hiking trail and started in a zigzag fashion down the hills. Some areas were a little steep, but it was a very nice hike. It was late afternoon heading into evening, and even though the sun felt bright at first, it was low enough in the sky that we were happy to have our layers of clothing. We heard we were more likely to see the penguins at this time of day, as they feed in the ocean most of the day, and rest on land at night away from predators.

IMG_6988As we got closer to the bottom of the cliff, our guide stopped dead and spoke in hushed tones. He pointed out a yellow eyed penguin almost standing on our trail and blocking our way. It was standing in the sun as if posed to sun itself. Our guide actually pointed out that it was cooling itself in the breeze. I referred to it as a penguin with attitude. It stood there with its bright yellow eyes and yellowish head in its perfect little penguin tuxedo. It looked like it was about to say something profound or let out a war cry, just to be sassy.

It seemed not to mind that we were snapping picture and video, as we tried not to get too close or to scare it. Everyone kept their distance and did not move around a lot, as we had been instructed on our way there. Also, no flash photography, and everyone was very good about observing that rule. I really want to see beautiful things, but I also try to follow all of the rules to make sure we IMG_6931preserve these beautiful creatures for other generations. The rule is to observe, but do not harm or interfere with them.

The little guy eventually dawdled off and we continued down to the beach. We walked by sea lions wrestling with each other and taking naps on the beach, which I loved. My husband and I snapped selfies with them in the back ground and we watched as they growled, fake bit each other and wrestled like middle school boys with too much energy.

We kept moving down the beach and found another penguin along the trial hanging out in the shade under a bush. We had field goggles along and scanned the hillsides for even more penguins that had already found their resting place for the night. We cackled with eaIMG_7008ch other about how lucky we were to see not only one, but multiple yellow-eyed penguins, and to get so many nice close up pictures and watch their little shenanigans on the sun drenched cliffs. What a treasured memory for years to come for all of us. They were peaceful, yet playful, hopeful and joy filled waddling on the warm grass abutting the ocean sand.

We made our way back up the cliffs, huffing and puffing all of the way, giving ourselves the best cardiac stress test possible, only to then go down another cliff on the other side, and observe the fur seals with their babies. There were nursing mothers and babies playing on the jagged wet rocks. Our guide filled us in on the habits and statistics on fur seals as we snapped picturesIMG_6967 and marveled at the beauty of the cold foamy sea and the rocky cliffs, full of chocolate-brown fur seals in the backdrop of the bright orange setting sun.

As we trekked back up the hill and quietly made our way back in the dark along the narrow roads to the city, we could see the Southern Cross constellation, and the billions of stars in the southern night sky. We were victorious in our quest to see the rare yellow-eyed penguins, and along with our feeling of accomplishment, we again were reminded that nature nurtures. We were cold and tired physically, but we were mentally and spiritually refreshed and renewed. Rare and beautiful things inspire us and fill our lives with joy and wonder, and are worth pursuing with our time and our energy.



Chi Centering & Wine

Centering your Chi is a real thing! I heard about it years ago. I like to try all new things fun, like yoga, and I like the concept of meditation, but I have not been blessed with the ability to sit that long. So when I heard about how to take steps to center your Chi I wanted to give that a try.

Centering, as I understand it, means balancing your life force. You attempt to keep your internal self in balance and harmony. If you are in balance and harmony you are positive, patient, you treat others and yourself with care and kindness. You reject pessimism, stress anxiety and negativism. You can center your Chi in many ways including through meditation and yoga.

I have written about my five girl friends from law school before. We have a lot of stories together. We graduated in 1987 and we have stayed in touch all of these years, and kept up with our girls weekends together. One of our friends lives in Arizona, not far from Sedona, so we decided to 100_7138take a trip to Sedona.

My attraction to it was the advertising that it was known as a spiritual power center because of the Vortexes of Subtle Energy located in the area. It is the place to center one’s Chi. You can actually get maps of where the energy vortexes are located and while I find these things funny, I am more than willing to give it a try and hike to the vortex to see if I can feel its energy and center my Chi. The whole concept was fun. It gave us all something to talk about even if we were all skeptical. However, we all like to hike and we like to hike and eat good food and drink good wine, and Sedona had all of those things, and as a bonus it is a gorgeous area of Arizona with dark red soils, hot weather and crisp cool streams.

100_7199We started talking and planning and everyone was in. I saw one ad for Sedona that actually said, “Come to learn how to manifest the soul’s purpose and heart’s desires while releasing resistance to loving your soul’s mission.” Who could resist that promise? As lawyers we like words and those are good words. We met at our friend’s house in Fountain Hills and drove to Sedona. We had a beautiful hotel, and as much as we loved the descriptions of Arizona online, Sedona was even better than promised. Its lush greenery and dark red mountains and soil covered in desert greenery made it one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

100_7096These girlfriends are very special to me. We have remained friends for so long because they are all very positive, fun people. I love them.   Even though most of them have learned to live a balanced life, they are also the kind that are open to try new things and to go along on a good hike. So we went on our hike, and we had a map showing where the energy Vortexes were located in the Sedona hills, and we used our best abilities to imagined absorbing the energy of the vortex as we soaked up the Arizona sun and breathed the fresh fragrant air. Being the good sports that they are, we stopped at each vortex and raised our arms toward the sky like a sun salutation. I don’t know if it was in fact an energy vortex, but I was on the hillside on one of the most beautiful places in our country, with some of the best women I know and that was an energy boosting experience, no matter how you looked at it.

100_7230We spent a long weekend together and hiked different trails each day and caught up on each others’ kids, family and work. In the evenings we continued to talk and would share good food and even better wine. We went on a pink jeep tour through the hills and went to the spa for massages. Each time we heard about a new trail or a cleansing stream in the foothills we hiked and checked it out. We heard about a cleansing healing stream from the locals. Keep in mind the locals are some of the most interesting people you will ever meet. There are multiple palm reading shops and places to buy crystals and have your auras read or participate in rain drop therapy. This was a fun and interesting place with fun people. It is a low stress, high tolerance and accepting of all type group. We could all learn a 100_7171thing or two from them.

To get to the healing stream required a bit of a hike, but was well worth it. We hiked for about an hour in the hot sun, but when we got to the stream it was ice cold. We entered together and refreshed ourselves. I could see why they called them healing. To enter the cold refreshing waters after being in the hot sun did feel as if it had special rejuvenating powers. We spent time together sitting in the warm sands and walking in the healing waters. I cannot say whether the stream had healing powers, but I can say that my weekends with the girls are healing. We spent some quality time together as we always do and shared our deepest thoughts, worries, hopes and dreams. Our weekends together are cathartic and healing in the most basic sense of the word. We come back better. We come back stronger.

100_7125Balancing your life and centering your Chi may be a process that many strive to define and perfect. For me balancing is spending time with the people who I care about deeply. They are my family, my friends and those people who make me better and who look positively upon life. For me it also means spending more time in nature than in an office.   It is using your vacation time wisely. Time is our most precious commodity. Use it wisely with the right people and be in the places that heal your soul. Spend time in beautiful places, drink rum and good wine and eat good food, but remember to share it with the people who accept you, empower you, and support you and those who make your life better.

Intergenerational Travel

050101 1407__1161The title sounds like something out of Star Trek, but the actual trip proved to be more fun than space exploration. A few years back, when the kids were in High School, we decided to take a trip to Colorado with my parents, our teens, and an extra neighbor boy, Chris who had spent a lot of time at our house, and was very close to all of us. We planned the trip with Mom and Dad driving their big RV, and we would follow in our Yukon with all of our camping gear. The kids rode mainly in the RV with Mom and Dad and I rode with them a lot too. Poor Joe had to drive by himself a lot.

We stopped along the way to eat. It was great having the RV and its refrigerator with all of those constantly hungry teens along. We had reservations at Rocky Mountain National Park with the tent in a site close to the RV site. My dad was always the grill master and did a lot of the cooking for the crowd on his little grill. It took us a day to get there and our weather could not have been better. We settled in and as we looked around I could see this amazement on the kids faces. We had done a lot of travel with our kids, but Chris had not been so lucky, and none of them had been to the Rockies before. It was worth the entire trip just to see Chris’ face as he saw050101 1535__1138 these beautiful mountains rising above the large cool pines. The campsite was right in the middle of all of this beauty. The sites, cool moist air, and beautiful smells were almost overwhelming at first.

The mountains are so large, it almost made you dizzy to look up, and of course at that altitude the air was thin. It is, in my estimation, one of the most beautiful places on earth. I am old enough that I remember John Denver’s best song, Rocky Mountain High. I could not help but think of the lyrics: “He was born in the summer of his 27th year coming home from a place he had never been before…” The Rocky Mountains are majestic enough that it does give you a natural high and there is a certain comfort level when you are enveloped by them. There is no way to be stressed from the office when you hike the trails and witness the majesty of this most beautiful park.
070714 1238__912We did activities for everyone. My parents were really flexible with that and actually it was nice having them along to give rides and pick us up. We planned a twelve mile hike up into the mountains to see a lake in the park. Dad drove us with his RV to the site to drop us off at the trail head. He got in a little trouble with the ranger for driving his RV on a narrow road, but he had so many years experience as a truck driver that he accomplished the task with no problems at all so the Ranger just smiled and let him go.

I loved having teenagers. On that same hike, we started off on the trail and I happen to look at my daughter Jenny’s feet and here she was going on a twelve mile hike with her purse on her arm and in flip flops. Well the RV had already left so nothing to do about that now. I told her she should have worn her hiking boots, but she insisted it would be fine and of course it was. It is nice to have young and tolerant feet! I had to smile sometimes, because I saw others on the trail look at her sandals and kind of cringe, but she did not even have one blister or anything.

070715 1319__829We hiked up the six miles to the lake and it was worth every step to get there. It was a beautiful blue crystal lake surrounded by those majestic snow kissed mountains. I took a picture of Ben, Chris, and Jenny resting and eating our sandwiches by that lake. I actually have it blown up in my office, it is so gorgeous. Chris kept feeding his Oreos to a squirrel. It was so cute. We ate our lunch and took stock of our water supply. It was a little low, but to our surprise that big purse Jenny was carrying on her back also had a large bottle of Gatorade in it. That purse and little girl in her flip flops made everyone’s day. Gatorade was just what we needed for that hike back down the mountain where Dad and Mom were waiting with their RV. We also went White Water rafting down the Royal Gorge, and Mom and Dad stood on the Royal Gorge 050102 1310__1086Bridge, watched for us and took pictures when we went by. We did a lot of fun things together on that vacation

I have to admit I was a little hesitant at the beginning of the trip as to how it would all work with three generations traveling together, but I have to say it was one of the best and most memorable vacations we ever had. I hope my parents can say the same thing. At that time Mom and Dad had been empty nesters for quite some time and were not used to the noise and commotion of a family of teens, and of course these children took after me and were loud and could have fun no matter where they were. But Mom and Dad were always upbeat and never seemed bothered by the commotion. They seemed to enjoy seeing the mountains through the eyes of this curious group of teens, who had never been to the Rocky Mountains before. They took in stride the shoes that they had to trip over going in and out of the RV and the constant 070714 1323__905feeding and care that it took to keep this group happy.

I was a little worried that the kids, with all of their electronics and such, may not like the rustic camping and all of the hiking and being in close quarters with us and the grandparents, but they also were never crabby or a problem of any kind. Once in a while during the trip one would retreat to a bedroom and play a game on their phone or something by themselves, but soon they would be back again in the thick of things. They never once fought or got into any trouble. They were easy to be around. It was fun seeing how everyone interacted. They would help with cooking and small chores around the RV.

050102 1904__1053Everyone got along the entire trip and some became very close. I think my kids became closer to their grandparents and I know Chris became closer to them and to us too. Our kids became closer and they still talk about this trip as one of the best. It was a one hundred percent success story and now that our kids are gone from home and my parents are not as flexible to travel that far anymore, I am sure thankful that we did that trip with them. It has provided fond memories for our kids as well as us, and for my parents. Life is short and the time you have with your kids at home and your parents is short. Take those opportunities to try something out of your comfort zone. For us intergenerational travel meant witnessing the beauty of our county together and seeing it through the eyes of the young and the older. For us it strengthened our family bonds and created a common memory and stories that we all share.