Sunday, October 13, 2019

Perspective

     I have been on retreat at Timber Creek Retreat House in Drexel, Missouri (timbercreekretreat.org). I first came here with a group in October 2014, and I have led an annual retreat here ever since. For several weeks prior to this year's retreat, I was experiencing a nebulous anxiety, which I could point in a variety of directions, but I didn't feel capable of shaking it. I felt a lot of uncertainty, worry and negativity. Given that the vast majority of my clothing says "Life is good" on it somewhere, this was not a comfortable place for me to be.
     Just driving up to this magnificent place causes a sense of relief to flood through me. I know that whatever may have been troubling me will gently slip away as I enjoy the setting, the people and the activities of the weekend. Both the folks who run the House and the folks on the retreat with me are people I dearly love. We appreciate and support each other.
     I lead daily Melt Method and yoga classes at various times. I usually bring some sort of supplies to enable folks to dabble in creative activity. This year's stock was for painting and collage making, and I was able to get two paintings and a collage started. I rarely make the effort on these things at home, so having time to play with all this stuff was very fun and head-clearing. Cool fall weather set in with our arrival and we enjoyed the first fires of the season in the fireplace in the hearth room, a comfy gathering place near the coffee machine where we relax together and tell stories. There is no better place than Timber Creek to recognize the therapeutic value of laughter.
     Before each totally fabulous meal, there is a time of meditation led by Tom Jacobs, philosopher, poet and musician extraordinaire. The view from the mediation room includes a pond, forest, benches, bird feeder, and often wildlife such as deer, turkeys, and of course, squirrel!
     The best part of Timber Creek is that everything is optional. It is a place where you can truly "take what you like and leave the rest." This can be a challenge sometimes, to decide what one wants to do and just do it. For instance, there are lovely walking trails surrounding the House. Most folks enjoyed lovely walks "over the river (creek) and through the woods." My inner nagger kept saying, "you should walk" and because the "should" word was involved, I did not. I stayed inside the entire weekend, enjoying the people, creative options, and nap time, glorious nap time.
     A writing on Timber Creek would be grossly incomplete if there was no mention of the food. We are served three fabulous meals each day, and we are not allowed to even bus our plates. Imagine! No clean-up, no dishes, just eat, enjoy and walk (waddle) away. Time spent in conversation around the meal table is one of my favorite things about the retreat experience.
     My group usually does not completely fill the House, so there are other guests who synchronously show up and blend in with our group. I do believe this has happened every year, and it's something we look forward to, as we have met many lovely folks this way, and it is a bonus for all involved.
     I also lead a session or two that I refer to as "release" opportunities. We gather in the Heart Room to talk, vent, listen, be heard, support and love on each other. I love the healing power of being able to safely express what is on our hearts and minds, know we are being heard and supported, and "let that shit go!" Often there is soul-rinsing (crying) involved. Energy is released and healing occurs.
     The days finish off with game-playing. For the past couple retreats it has been laughter-filled rounds of Rummikub. Quite the competitive bunch we are! I love to play games and this is one of the few times I get to do so.
     This year, for the first time, we stayed for three nights instead of two, giving us a whole extra day here. I expect this longer stay will be the norm of the future, now that we have experienced an extra day of love and spoiling and peace and joy and freedom and contentment.
     Anxiety? What anxiety? It's all in one's perspective, and right now, at now-o'clock, all is well.
               Leta

Entrance    Hearth Room

Friday, August 16, 2019

Game Day #6, Oakland Coliseum

(Note: FYI, the baseball vacation postings start with the Friday, Aug. 9 post.)
     Our last day started out with a tour of Oracle Park, home of the Giants. We had an outstanding tour guide who was thrilled to have a whole group of devoted baseball fans, as opposed to disinterested tourists. We went on the warning track, offering a great view from field level. DON'T get on the grass!


     The traditional batter's eye in center field is actually a working vegetable and herb garden, the produce of which is used in the stadium's food service. Willie Mays is the all-time hero of the place, and his retired number was 24, and they use 24 everywhere. There are even 24 palm trees surrounding his statue in the Willie Mays Plaza. 

     The highlight of the tour for me was the visitors' clubhouse. We were treated to stories by the clubhouse manager, including the celebration after the Cubs beat the Giants in the 2016 NLDS. As a Cubs fan, and certainly not a Giants fan, I was in hog heaven. 
     Upon returning to our hotel, I went out on a quest for ice cream. I went to a Ghiradelli shop and enjoyed two scoops while sitting in the nearby park and basking in the beauty of the bay and brilliant sunshine. There were folks swimming in the bay, and I expect that water was quite cold. 
     Evening time found us, after a long, slow bus ride, at Oakland Coliseum for the Athletics-Astros game. 

Tour host Bobby and me

Stomper, the mascot
     The main adjective I'd use for the stadium is "old." It's not the worst I've seen (Yankee Stadium is), but it is not memorable in any way. The video boards are way up high above the highest seats. The neighborhood is trashy at best. The concourses were fairly roomy, but I think that's because the crowd was so small. Many vendors weren't open because of that. Unlike the ridiculously high beer prices at Oracle Park, food and drink prices in Oakland are way more reasonable, so I sprung for a $12 beer. (That beats $19.25 at Oracle.) 
     It was a beautiful evening and we had great seats on the first base side. There were ten (yes, 10) home runs hit during the game, which the As won 7-6. Given that many of us had to catch very early flights, we were really glad it did not go into extra innings. 
View from our seats
     Back at the hotel, we said our goodbyes to the group, bus driver and hosts, completing another excellent tour by Triple Crown Baseball Tours. 
     Ready to go home,
             Leta





Thursday, August 15, 2019

Game Day #5, Oracle Park

(Note: FYI, the baseball vacation postings start with the Friday, Aug. 9 post.)
     We completed the bus trip up the coast, going directly to Oracle Stadium for the Giants-Athletics cross-town rivalry game. (Think Yankees-Mets or Cubs-White Sox.) I did my traditional trek all the way around the stadium to check it out, and also to locate a delicacy that had been recommended to me by a Giants fan/friend. In my roaming, I discovered a new high price for beer at a stadium:


Don't strain your eyes, I'll tell you... $19.25 for "craft beer." Given that I can get a dozen really fine beers at home for that price, it was easy to pass on the "craft beer" there. It was hot for these folks, in the mid-80s, and the video board kept posting warnings about staying hydrated, especially "older people." Luckily us older people had seats in the shade just past third base. It is a lovely stadium, but the concourses are narrow and therefore uncomfortably crowded. I went out during the game for both food and toilet breaks, and it felt like half the crowd was on the concourses. I learned the technique of getting behind some big, fast-moving guys who served as blockers for me.
     It is the setting of Oracle Park that makes it special, sitting on McCovey Cove. There were several boats awaiting home run balls, but none of those went out of the park. There is a counter on the wall in right field for "Splash Hits," currently resting on 80.






     It was another game with a lot of action, and the Athletics won 9-5. The aforementioned food delicacy was the Cha Cha Chicken Bowl consisting of Jerk chicken, rice, black beans and pineapple salsa. Not your average ballpark food, it was quite tasty, and even reasonable at $11.25. But then the accompanying bottle of water was $5.75. Can you tell I miss my hometown cost-of-living?!?!
     Even though our hotel was only four miles from Oracle Park, in rush hour, it took us almost an hour to get to the Marriott. The introvert in me was ecstatic to have an evening locked away in a room all to myself with a happy-hour beer, snacks and the Cubs game. Alas, the Phillies slaughtered the Cubs, but it's now a new day for more baseball.
           Onward to Oakland,
                 Leta


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

No Game Day #4, Up the Coast

(Note: FYI, the baseball vacation postings start with the Friday, Aug. 9 post.)
     Tuesday was spent mostly in the bus, driving up the coast, heading toward San Francisco. We stopped for lunch in Solvang, an adorable Danish-themed town, i.e. tourist trap. If you are a shopper, it's heaven. I am not a shopper. I did, however, enjoy beers and a light lunch with fellow travelers. We appreciated being able to sit outside and relax in the shade while conversing and imbibing.
     The real highlight of the day was a mini-tour of the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. It's on top of a mountain on the coast with a magnificent view of the ocean and mountains. The houses (yes, there are several) are spectacular, with antiques and art brought from Europe nearly 100 years ago. There are indoor and outdoor swimming pools that I would be overjoyed to lap-swim in. The history of the place is fascinating. The Hearst extended family still uses the place, even though it's a state park. Our excellent guide told us about a family wedding there recently. The views, gardens and statuary are magnificent. You may even have a personal connection to the estate. Grass-fed cattle are raised over the approximately 250,000 acres and are eventually sold to Whole Foods.








     On to San Francisco, Oracle Park and the Giants game...
              Leta




Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Game Day #3, Angels Stadium

(Note: FYI, the baseball vacation postings start with the Friday, Aug. 9 post.)
     Monday started out in fine fashion with calling my (much) older brother to wish him a "Happy 80th Birthday!" He's working hard at reversing a declining health situation, and I'm so grateful for him and his efforts.
     We left the hotel late morning (yes, I got myself out of the magnificent bed) and headed for Huntington Beach. WOW, there are miles of really wide, beautiful, clean beach. I walked to the end of the pier on an ice cream quest. Ruby's Diner did not disappoint--probably the best malt I've ever had. I spent time watching the surfers and then a seal playing with a school of fish and enjoying the occasional one for brunch. I walked down the coast a bit, found a place to sit under the clearing skies, and enjoyed people-watching. Seeing all manner of diversity in our human family in one area makes my heart happy. Alas, I arrived at the volleyball nets just a bit too late to watch several quite handsome young men in action. 
     After a short break back at the hotel, the bus took us the short distance to Angel Stadium. 


 
     I was reluctant to think that any stadium could bump Kauffman (Royals) Stadium off my #2 best spot (Wrigley Field forever being #1), but this one did. It is beautiful! It has wide, open, airy concourses with excellent food and beer choices. The rock waterfall beyond center field is stunning. The digital scoreboard and video boards are quite gigantic and cool. We had good seats beyond third base, eight rows up. The only downside is that the Angels have not extended the protective netting past the dugouts, so we were in prime foul ball territory and had to really pay attention to the game. Of course, that's the point of being there. Once again, we saw several home runs, and the Pirates won 10-2. It was glorious to enjoy the evening's cool temperatures knowing that it had reached 100 degrees earlier in the day back home. 
     After a very short night's sleep, we are heading up the coast.
             Leta



Monday, August 12, 2019

Game Day #2, Dodger Stadium

(Note: FYI, the baseball vacation postings start with the Friday, Aug. 9 post.)
     We left San Diego and drove straight to Dodger Stadium for the Sunday afternoon game against the Diamondbacks. On last year's tour, I became friends with fellow solo-traveler, David, who lives in LA, and he had arranged with Darren (our tour host) to get a ticket for this game to visit with Darren, Bobby (our other tour host) and me. As the bus pulled into the parking lot, I saw David sitting in the shade at the edge of the lot. Joyful reunion!

Me, David, Darren & Bobby

The Jackie Robinson statue in front of Dodger Stadium
     David did a fine job of touring me around the stadium. Dodger Stadium is the third-oldest major league ballpark behind Wrigley and Fenway. It looks it. The concourse is dark and small, ceilings are low, and unlike the newer parks, you can't walk all the way around. On each level, you can walk from right to left field around home plate, and that's it. David warned me, "If you see something you want to eat or drink, get it, because you may not find it on another level." There is a lovely view of the surrounding hills in the outfield. We had great seats in the shade just up from first base. There were numerous home runs and the Dodgers won 9-3. I will say that there did not appear to be many Dodger fans in our group. I made my preference well known by wearing a Cubs shirt.
     We left post-game for Anaheim and the Marriott Suites Hotel. Note to friends and family: I'm never leaving. The bed swallows you whole so that you never want to get out, and there is a Starbucks right in the hotel lobby. Plus I have a luxurious two-room suite. I think there is a pool, too, but I haven't been out of the bed long enough to find it.
     Another solo traveler and I went to the pizza joint across the parking lot and had a get-to-know-each-other supper. We are both rabid Cubs fans, she lives in downtown Chicago (my favorite city besides Wichita), and her sister lives about a half-mile from our home in Wichita. What are the chances? Meeting new folks is a great side benefit of these tours.
     OK, I'll get out of the bed for the Angels game.
         Ahhhhhhhhh, this is the life,
               Leta








Sunday, August 11, 2019

Game Day #1, Petco Park

(Note: FYI, the baseball vacation postings start with the Friday, Aug. 9 post.)
     After lazing with coffee, reading and writing, Saturday got off to a great start with an Uber ride to the Little Italy Farmers' Market. It is many blocks long with vendors on both sides of the street. Besides magnificent fresh produce and flowers, there were vendors featuring jewelry, clothing, cosmetics, juices, and all manner of healthy and not-so-healthy food options. I can attest that the red raspberries are outstanding!


     I walked through Little Italy and seemingly dozens of cafes and restaurants to Ballast Point Brewing Company (whose beer we get in Wichita) and enjoyed an outdoor lunch of fish tacos and beer.
     I feel it is important to have some sort of routine while traveling, so I returned to the hotel for my afternoon nap, napping being a hobby to which I am extremely dedicated. 😀 At the appointed time, I met up with tour hosts Darren and Bobby to get my game tickets, a fun reunion. I eventually walked the couple of blocks to the stadium and roamed around. It's a lovely stadium. There is a huge grassy hill beyond center field where you can watch the game or a concert on the stage behind the left center field wall. There are cool statues of Tony Gwinn and Trevor Hoffman, as well as a Padres Hall of Fame. This stadium may have the broadest range of good beers of any ballpark I've been in so far, as there are dozens of micro-breweries in the area. I made my way to my seat, ten rows up from the field on the third base side. Nice!


I'm including the Eric Hosmer shots for Kansas City fans who are especially fond of him, including me.  The poster of Hos with the puppy is pure melt-down. It was a great game, lots of action and several home runs. The Padres won 8-5 over the Colorado Rockies.
     To use an official baseball term... HOLY COW!!! Watching the video board between innings, I thought "that looks like my Cubs shirt," and I looked up at the face and it was me! A nanosecond of my 15 minutes gone, how fun! I guess that means it pays to be in the "good" seats. That was a "first" for me and a great bonus on the first game day.
     On to Dodgers Stadium...
               Leta