Tosha Yoga

Tosha Yoga

Tosha Yoga, the yoga place that S and I have been trying (on their introductory 5 classes for $25 plan), is in a building that looks like an old factory. The downstairs is an arts center. If you look closely at the above photo, you’ll see some stairs on the right that lead to the roof. The yoga studio is up there.

The corner of the yoga studio
Tosha Yoga from the inside

It is, without a doubt, the prettiest yoga studio I’ve ever visited. It’s a gorgeous space.

a tea tray
The tea tray
plants in a corner
The plant corner

And it is very yoga. Lots of focus on breathing, reminders to be mindful, and plenty of times where my thoughts can best be summarized as, “Don’t be ridiculous, my body is not doing that.”

But I think I said in my first mention of yoga in Arcata that it would be a long time before I tried side plank again? That was apparently a lie. In the very next class I flowed naturally into a side plank, because that was where the instructions took me, and I didn’t let my brain tell my body that it was impossible. My brain is, however, very grumbly about how sore I am. A couple years without yoga and a year without Bartleby and I have apparently lost all my upper body strength. And I don’t even want to think about the core exercises. Ugh. My stomach reminds me every time I try to sit up.

But the space is great and the instructors are warm and encouraging and, as always, the sense of peace and presence at the end of a class is immensely rewarding. And the good news for me is that the first class was enough to convert S from a yoga skeptic to an enthusiast, so we’ve been going to classes together. Having company always helps motivate me.

Of course, that also means we get to decide to blow off a class together. We had every intention of going to a class on Tuesday night — I even made dinner early, so that we’d have plenty of time to digest before trying to exercise. But Tuesday was the end of S’s weekend, and we’d gotten a lot done over the weekend, including tackling the storage shed and much gardening.* I was three quarters of the way through my quinoa bowl** when I said, “I’m really tired.”

S said, “Do you want to skip yoga?”

I had a brief moment of remembering all the reasons that yoga is good for me, even when I don’t want to go, and then I said, “Yes. Yes, I want to skip yoga. And instead, I want to watch Russian Doll on Netflix and drink mint tea. And in an hour or so, I want to eat ice cream and those fresh raspberries we just got.”

ice cream and raspberries

So we did. And it was really fun. The only thing better than going to yoga is not going with intention.

*I did not do any gardening and, in fact, my storage shed tackling was mostly limited to watching S work and occasionally carrying a load of stuff to a different storage spot or the street. So my right to be tired was reasonably questionable. But it’s arduous to watch someone else work!

**S was also a scoffer at quinoa bowls. The first time I made the suggestion, she didn’t quite roll her eyes at me, but she came close. The first time I offered her some, she passed. But I have completely sold her on their deliciousness now, the health virtues being just a side benefit.

A plan fulfilled

“Why drive two hours to go to a campground by the beach when we could drive ten minutes to the beach, then come home and cook something scrumptious in the kitchen?”

Trinidad Harbor.

Two plates of food.
The scrumptious dinner. Roasted brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes with rosemary, steak (cooked sous vide), and mixed greens with pea pods and a little grated cheese.

Yesterday was the first test of all three dogs in the van. We loaded them up and took them north on 101 to a rest stop. An exciting adventure! (Not really.) But the rest stop had an RV dump station, so I dumped the tanks while S and the dogs wandered in the redwoods. It was a pretty nice rest stop in general, and dogs — or at least my dog — loves a good rest stop. So many smells! And the dogs did okay. Z shared the dog bed between the seats with Riley without complaint, and Buddy took the bed in the back almost the moment he entered the van. Riley was the only one who seemed at all anxious about the whole thing, but even he relaxed after a while. He can rest his head on my leg while I drive, though, so I can rub his ears while I drive — very convenient.

On the way back to Arcata, we stopped in Trinidad. We got coffee at a cafe and drank it on their patio, dogs in attendance, while an early morning (-ish, it was around 10) musician set up and started to play. The fog began to burn off and the sun came out. It felt like spring and smelled like ocean and redwood forest and plants.

When I woke up this morning, I asked Alexa for a weather report. She used the phrase, “lots of sun.” I like that phrase so much! In Florida, it’s hard not to start taking the sun for granted. Arcata is teaching me appreciation.

A Cat Conversation in Five Parts

I don’t actually speak cat, but the dialogue in this scene was pretty unmistakable.

The setting: the front porch, on a day of sun after many days of rain.

The antagonist: me, spotting the cats and saying, “Wow, you guys look so pretty, I’m going to have to take a picture and send it to your mom.”

Our protagonists: Gina, the orange cat, terrorizer of Zelda and power-hungry battler for kitchen authority, and Vivi, the tortoiseshell cat, queen of the entire property and ruler of all she surveys.

Gina: The porch is cozy today.
Vivi: Indeed. Ah, an admirer. Someone to appreciate my beauty. How pleasant.
Gina: ACK! It’s looking at me!!!
Gina: The horror!
Vivi: OMG. It’s admiring our beauty, you coward. I can’t even…
Vivi: You are an embarrassment to cats everywhere.
Gina: I’m so ashamed.

It’s fun watching the animal dynamics in a house/environment of many creatures. There are two dogs, two indoor cats (these two), two permanent outdoor cats, and a revolving collection of visitors. Plus lots of chickens. They’ve all been trying to figure out Zelda’s place, as has Zelda herself, but Honored Guest is difficult to translate into dog/cat. So far, Zelda seems to have decided she’d rather not — whenever I bring her into the house, she hovers by the door, hoping to convince me to leave quickly, and/or hides in the bathroom.

But the dogs seem to be slowly deciding that Zelda is a friend, so I hope that helps. Last night there was some nose-touching with tail-wagging when Z came into the house. And the cats run the range from Gina, who is pretty clearly jealous and determined not to let any of her privileges be usurped; Vivi, who has no need to play power games with any species so beneath her; Moe, who runs if we come anywhere near; and Tank/Zen Kitty, who darts away if startled and glares if not startled. We give all of them a pretty wide berth, but especially Tank who outweighs Z and would absolutely win any confrontation. Not that there would be a confrontation. Z could star in one of the internet videos of dogs incapable of taking back her bed from a cat if the cats got anywhere near her bed, because she wants absolutely nothing to do with them. That’s Gina’s fault, I’m pretty sure. Gina is sneaky about trying to swipe at Z, but Z doesn’t have any problem reading cat body language. She knows what Gina thinks of her.

I’m fairly sure that I’ve now hit the longest I’ve stayed in one place in the van, during my two-plus years of living in it. Not the longest I’ve stayed in a given place, which is probably my brother’s house or Sanford, both with multiple repeat visits. And even Oscar Scherer State Park in Sarasota might still have more total days. But my longest time of staying still without some campground escape or move to another vacation.

I am loving it, actually. I’ve thought before that when not moving, the disadvantages of living in a van so outweigh the advantages that it’s simply not worth it. Without the travel, it’s just life in a metal box. But in Arcata, it’s life in a metal box with yoga down the street (twice last week), a farmer’s market on Saturdays, a nearby beach, meditation classes, gardening and chickens, a new writer friend to meet for coffee, used bookstores, trips to CostCo, a grocery store in easy walking distance with really good gluten-free bread… And this week some sunshine, too!

So no Oregon adventures yet, but as I said to Suzanne, why drive two hours to go to a campground by the beach when we could drive ten minutes to the beach, then come home and cook something scrumptious in the kitchen? Plus, we can then use the money that we would have spent on a campground to rent kayaks and/or take kayaking lessons. Or maybe sailing lessons. Or maybe both! There’s a place 15 minutes away that rents equipment and offers lessons so instead of driving to Oregon this weekend, we’re going to go investigate. They’re doing an all-day river adventure at the end of the month, which I’d like to sign up for, if I can bring myself to leave Z for that long.

Meanwhile, S is at work, and I should be working on Fen, not considering my future fun adventures. Back to the real words!

Mixed mood Monday

Zelda at the beach
Zelda, at the beach

I am sad to be living in a van today, because my system is violently rejecting yesterday’s delicious pork spareribs. But glad to be alone in my van, because it would be even more unpleasant if I was sharing my space with anyone besides Z.

I was glad to be in Arcata yesterday, though. We had a beautiful time at the beach. Zelda took off and ran like a puppy, so happy to be free. She met some other dogs and sniffed them nicely, then moved on, and ran some more. Lots of good smells, lots of room to run, lots of joy.

vast expanse of beach and sky
She’s the little white dot, chasing S and J and their dogs.

Leftover soup

One of my standard strategies for using leftovers is to toss them into some chicken broth and call it soup. This is a fine strategy and results in some pretty decent soup, usually. But yesterday’s soup… well, I was in the stirring and tasting and making thoughtful “hmmm,”s stage, when S’s stepson said, “What do you think? Does it need something?”

I replied, “This soup is kickass. I’m pretty sure it’s perfect as is.” After eating a bowl and serving it to other people, my conclusion remains solid. We discussed over the soup what it might have wanted — a squeeze of lemon? A swirl of Greek yogurt? A sprinkle of herbs or green onion? And the group consensus was that it needed nothing and it was time for another bowl.

So, for my own future reference, perfect leftover soup for a cold day (mildly spicy, thick and solid):

In a little butter, sauté an onion in the bottom of the instapot until it is golden brown. Then, because you’re tired of standing around the kitchen, add a tsp or so of Ras El Hanout, even though it’s too early. Mix it in with the onion impatiently, instead of letting it bloom,* and wait another minute. Drain and rinse two cans of chickpeas, and add them, then cover them with chicken broth. The quantity of chicken broth should be enough to cover the chick peas, but not much more than that. Close the instapot and turn on the Soup setting. When it beeps (or sometime later), open it and use an immersion blender to lightly blend the soup until it’s creamy but still chunky. Some of the onion and chickpeas get blended but not all of them.

Then add leftovers. In this case, the leftovers were a chopped-up chicken breast and some roasted carrots and sweet potatoes, so perhaps they were the perfect additions to the chickpea-onion-Ras El Hanout base, but some rice, some pasta, some sausage, some greens would all have been good, too. Let the soup simmer on the Keep Warm setting of the instapot while you wait impatiently for your dinner companions to get home from work. Eat. Say yum!

*The link takes you to an earlier soup recipe where I explain blooming spices in more detail.

Glorious sunshine

orange cat appreciating sunshine

My van is parked in S’s driveway, which means my view is basically of her street and sidewalk. Most of the days that I’ve been here, I’ve had a very good view of a great deal of rain. Today, however, it is gloriously sunny. Still chilly — there was frost on the ground this morning — but blue skies and sunshine. Everyone is appreciative, including the cat and all the many passersby. While I’m writing in the van, I’m an invisible audience to their interactions. It’s pretty entertaining, because wow, people are chatty with animals. A third of the population wandering by admires the cats and another third says hello to the dogs. It’s really quite charming.

Yesterday, I went to a meditation class, where the phrase that struck me, in the midst of the usual “follow your breath” and so on, was “open-hearted curiosity.” I don’t remember the context, but when I got home, I wrote it on my white board. I want to be approaching Fen with open-hearted curiosity. I want to see where the story takes me/her. So far that has not transformed into words flowing, however. I also downloaded an app to keep me off the internet, so that I would be forced to stare at my document instead of running away to read news stories and Facebook posts. My hour of internet-blocking netted me 73 words today; not a success, but I’m going to keep trying.

Also, I finally went to yoga! I am lamentably out of shape. That’s not a surprise, actually — it’s been a long time since I managed any more exercise than a short walk with the dog. But there’s not going to be any side planks in my near future. Still, yoga’s like writing — the more I do, the easier it becomes. And I know that if I go regularly (at least for the couple of months that I’m going to be in Arcata), I’ll get better. Plus, it felt great, even though I was dropping into child’s pose every other minute. I still got to have the lovely ending meditative rest. And I would look up the actual spelling of the lovely ending meditative rest, but I’ve blocked the whole rest of the internet to force myself to work. So maybe later. And meanwhile, I should get back to the working part of the day.

But, per request, a snippet of Fen:

First things first. Fen needed to call a glider. She scanned the sky, searching for a moving shadow. She didn’t see one, but she waved anyway, arm moving wide across her body, a gesture as big as she could make it. 

Then she stopped herself, feeling stupid. She’d just made herself invisible. How the hell was the glider going to spot her? 

“Elfie, can you summon a glider?” she subvocalized. 

There was a pause. Then Elfie responded, “A data access pattern should not summon a glider. It is not within the parameters of my function.” 

“Uh-huh,” Fen said, voice dry. “We’re past that now. Answering my questions is your function, right? So I’m asking a question. Can you summon a glider?” 

“I am capable of such a thing, yes.” 

“Will you?” 

There was a longer pause. Fen waited, beginning to muster her mental arguments. Gaelith had created Elfie to help Fen, Elfie was a non-traditional data access pattern for a reason, if Gaelith had intended Elfie to limit herself to merely providing information, surely she would have used a traditional design… but she didn’t need them.

“Yes,” Elfie said. 

Fen let go of the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. 

No guarantees that will make it in the final book, of course. And it’s quite random, it’s just what I was working on today, so also unedited, etc. But I will stop with the excuses, it’s a snippet!

Warm huckleberry muffins

Last night, I was cozy in the van, snuggled up under the covers, when S texted me, “Warm muffins and ice cream…?”

Um, that would be a yes.

I slipped on my sandals and maybe grabbed a hoodie and hurried into the house where I ate a gluten-free huckleberry muffin fresh out of the oven with some Haagen Daz vanilla bean ice cream. Yum, yum, and more yum. I am not going to start counting calories any day soon, but I’m definitely growing wary of the dessert potential of Arcata. Well, wary and appreciative, simultaneously. These were homemade muffins, but the local farmer’s market has a gluten-free baked goods stall, and the closest grocery store — two blocks away, so a quick walk — always has gluten-free options. And not the usual run of frozen Udi’s products, which are easy to avoid because I don’t like them.

Over our warm muffins and ice cream, S & I talked about plans. One of the reasons I’m ostensibly here is to help with the post-bereavement cleaning out and organizing. It’s a big job. But I think the more important reason I’m here, at least for this moment, is to be an escape companion. S wants to go places. She’s working full-time, so we’re mostly talking about quick adventures up in Oregon — Ashland, Medford, Gold Beach. I’m hoping the weather becomes reasonable, because traveling with three dogs is sufficient challenge for me without them being three wet, muddy dogs. But I’m already plotting out what should move from the van into the house for maximum space optimization for group travel, and it’s going to be fun to see more of Oregon.

Meanwhile, writing proceeds mediocrely. I am falling farther and farther behind my word count goals, not helped by deleting everything I struggled with last week. But I think the struggle was necessary to clarify some of my ideas about character and direction, so I’m trying not to regret that too much. And I do feel like I’ve resolved some problems, so maybe I can get back to the entertaining portion of the writing agenda.

Yesterday, I went to a meeting of the Humboldt County Writer’s Group, hoping to find some local writing buddies. A fun group, but I felt very old, not just in years, although those, too. But there was one other newcomer there, who I promptly invited out for coffee. She’s currently planning an intensive novel-writing April, so maybe we can join forces for some real-life writing sprints. Until then, I should get back to persevering on my own. Fingers crossed for a better word week this week!

a rainy bridge
My scenic shots are tending to be very gray. The writing group promised it would stop raining someday soon, though!

Best of February 2019

On February 1, I left Florida. A Cracker Barrel parking lot, a National Forest, a Walmart parking lot, a Texas State Park, a friend’s driveway, another Walmart, a Bureau of Land Management site, an independent campground, another friend’s street, a California State Park, an Army Corps of Engineers campground, and finally another friend’s driveway later… it was a long month. Twelve spots, most of them for a night or two, but the last one for over ten days now.

Sunrise in Arcata
Yesterday’s sunrise! The rain started again, but it’s been on and off yesterday and today, which is much more tolerable.

So what was the best? The first thing that came to mind when I started considering this post was the art project Kyla and I did together. Toddler B was excellent company, which was part of it, but there was also something so satisfying about creating something beautiful and concrete. I’m not a craft-y person at all, but I love having my photographs hanging in the van.

The morning I spent in San Francisco was also terrific. It was a combination of nostalgia for a place that still felt so familiar but a simultaneous reminder of how big and wondrous and exciting the world is. The universe felt rich with possibilities.

And then the night sky at Palo Duro Canyon State Park was truly amazing. I don’t have good photos — certainly not of the night sky, which is way beyond my ability level, but even my daytime photos didn’t turn out well. But this one shows something of the sheer sense of spaciousness.

Serenity (the van) parked at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
It felt like there was a lot of room to breathe at Palo Duro.

Lots of other good stuff in the month, too — Vietnamese food with Carol, pumpkin soup with S, a fantastic Finnish hot tub experience this week, roller-skating, even having fun with laundry. Not to mention that yesterday I got to play with puppies! The next door neighbor runs a rescue group and one of the puppies temporarily visiting her managed to escape and make her way under the van. I got rather muddy in the process of getting her out, but then got to thoroughly snuggle a puppy for my efforts — totally worth it.

But I want to acknowledge the sad, too. My cousin unexpectedly passed away this week and I’ve been grieving much more than I would have anticipated, given our lack of contact. He had a difficult life, and I hadn’t seen him in years, but his mom is one of my very favorite relatives — one of my very favorite people, really — and so his loss feels closer. And because he was part of my childhood, it brings back lots of memories of other people who I miss. Good memories, though. Still, one of the things that I’m working on right now has much in it about the nature of time (theoretical underpinnings that the reader probably won’t ever see, but that I’m thinking about) — and it’s annoying that time is so damn linear. But I’m glad that someday I will be able to look back on February 2019 and be reminded of both the good and the bad.

Arcata weather

I was warned that Arcata, the town where I’m planning on spending the next few months, was a chilly, gray, foggy sorta place. I’m not sure any level of warning would actually have prepared me, though. In defense of my weather shock, my weather app keeps sending me warnings. Severe Weather Advisory! Area Flood Watch! Flooding rain will cause hazardous travel. Hard Freeze Warning in effect. Etc. Nine warnings over the past few days, which I think probably means that this weather is not normal, despite the cold gray reputation.

As a result, my new favorite possession is my eggplant coat, which S refers to as my “puffy.” I call it an eggplant coat because I think it makes me look like a plump eggplant, but you know what? That is just fine. I am perfectly willing to look like a plump eggplant. I’ve become so attached to this coat that I start to feel anxious when it’s out of my sight.

Yesterday, I ventured out of the van exactly twice, both times to walk Zelda, both times in the pouring rain, because it really wasn’t possible to just wait for the rain to stop. Or rather I did wait for the rain to stop and finally gave up. Fortunately, I quite like hanging out in my tiny home listening to the rain. Poor Z does not like the way I’ve been walking her, though, because I’ve been carrying her from the van to the street and back again. She thinks it’s undignified and wiggles to get down, but I think muddy dog footprints all over my beds can only happen once in a while, not twice a day, many days in a row.

In more fun news, S took me roller-skating on Saturday night. I’ve never really been a roller-skater, although I ice-skated some as a kid. I wobbled a lot and never got so comfortable that it felt like flying, the way it looked for some skaters, but I had fun. The best part was watching the other skaters, though. Roller skaters tend to crouch and lean forward, but there were a couple people skating who were probably originally ice skaters: they had great posture and a totally different way of moving. If the roller skaters looked like they were flying, the ice skaters (on roller skates) looked like they were floating. I don’t know which I’d rather do, float or fly, but it did make me want to try ice-skating again.

On the writing front, I’ve been flailing. I joined a FB group for writers of Humboldt County, hoping I might find some real-world writing partners here, to help keep me accountable and maybe meet up with me at a cafe now and again to help my motivation. I didn’t go to their Sunday meeting, though, because it was pouring. Maybe next week. Meanwhile, I added a new note to my white board: Trust the reader. I think part of why I’m flailing in Fen is that I feel like I need to explain things that you will have forgotten and remind you of things that have already gone by and anytime a writer has to “explain”, a story is stuck. Maybe Fen 2 is going to have to start with a note that says “reread the previous book” but one of my other white board notes says, “skip the boring parts, the reader will thank you,” and I am going to try very hard this week to follow that advice. Last week, I was stuck in a boring part and got nowhere, so this week I’m just going to glide right over it. Or try, anyway. I might fall flat on my face. But if I do, I will get up, dust myself off, and think about Badonald’s for later. Or maybe a nap.

Zelda on the beach
Before the rain began, we had one quick trip to the beach. Z would have stayed and played, but it was COLD! We saw the ocean, took a picture, then headed back to the warmth of the car.

Liberty Glen Campground

I have spent so long struggling to post my time-lapse sunrise that even though the quality loses everything I wanted to share, I’m still posting it. If you watch it very closely, in the bottom right corner, you might get a chance to see the sun sparkling on the water drops that covered the tree. In the moment, it was crazily magically beautiful. On the time-lapse… well, you can’t really see it. Maybe if you watch it in a very dark room, you might get a glimpse. Mostly, though, you’ll have to use your imagination and trust me that it really was gorgeous!

So! Moving on… I left Half Moon Bay on Friday morning and literally prayed on the drive into the city to find a parking place. Literally. Out loud. I apologized to the universe for asking for favors — I have a pretty strict policy of only praying in gratitude and appreciation and to ask for blessings for other people — but I was envisioning driving around and around in Serenity, finding only parking spots that would require parallel parking in tiny spaces. Instead, there was an open parking space — not parallel! — directly in front of my favorite dim sum bakery from decades ago. Yes, it felt like a miracle. A really nice minor miracle. I envisioned my guardian angel patting themself on the back in that pleasure and delight that you get when you find someone the perfect gift.

I parked… and then I did not go in for dim sum. I watched people going in and out, most of them taking packages of deliciousness to go… and I thought about how miserably sick gluten makes me. And then I thought about how much I love shrimp dumplings and pork siu mai. And then I thought about the sore throat and the aches and pains and the feeling of having so little energy that even standing up is an effort… And eventually my friend S arrived and we went down the street to Burma Superstar, currently the #8 restaurant in San Francisco according to Trip Advisor, and ate delicious gluten-free tea leaf salad and braised pork with coconut rice. I’m pretty sure that means I am never going to willingly eat gluten again. I don’t know how many times I’ve said that San Francisco dim sum would be the place/food that I would pay the price for, but apparently it’s not. Fortunately, lunch was delicious.

While we were eating, it hailed! I took a video but I’m not even going to make an attempt to post it, but here’s a picture from the window, including a little girl picking up pieces. Hail must be pretty amazing if you’re a San Francisco kid.

little girl picking up hail in San Francisco

After lunch, S and I went to Golden Gate Park and took Zelda for a good walk, and then I dropped S off sorta close to the de Young Museum and headed north across the Golden Gate Bridge. I did debate going to the Museum myself, but I wanted to get to my campground before dark and I didn’t want to get caught in traffic.

That was a really good call. The campground would have freaked me out after dark. It was remarkably isolated, considering it was in Sonoma. No cell service, no electricity, and a steep and winding road in lousy condition to narrow, hilly campsites. Also mostly deserted. On Friday afternoon, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to stay.

But it was gorgeous.

Serenity, alone on the hillside.
Zelda, eager to explore
Come on, Mom. Let’s explore!

Zelda had no such doubts. She was bouncy and excited, loving the weather — cold and sunny — and the smells. So we stayed through Sunday morning, with a mostly very quiet Saturday. I could have run the generator to give myself some electricity (I did manage to get it working again) if I’d wanted to use my computer or cook anything complicated, but instead I read books and ate leftovers. I wasn’t as tired as I’d been on my quiet day in Half Moon Bay, but it was nice to have a day where I didn’t have driving goals.

On Sunday, I headed off reasonably early, and finally finished my long drive. I arrived in Arcata around 3, pulled into S’s driveway and got comfortable. My journey lasted seventeen days, and over 3000 miles. Some parking lots, some driveways, some campgrounds — and I ought to count them up, but I spent a long time trying to get that video to work and I’m ready to move on to other things! But it was a good trip. I’ve driven across the country four times now, with timetables ranging from four days (not solo) to about eight weeks. Seventeen days was probably a little too fast — I’m really ready to not drive again and I was pretty tired by the end — but I think I managed a good balance of driving days and restful days.

Still, I’m glad to be here. Yesterday S didn’t have work, because of the holiday, so we did laundry, ate a big breakfast of bacon and eggs, went to the beach with the dogs (briefly, because it was cold!), and had pumpkin soup and salad for dinner. It was a lovely beginning to my lengthy visit. Today, I’m hoping to put on my yoga clothes and wander down the street to the nearest yoga studio — a five minute walk away — and go to my first yoga practice in over a year. But first, breakfast.

Edited to add: I can’t believe I forgot to include this rainbow. It felt like a beautiful welcome to California!