Bicycling Tucson in June

Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.
— John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Morning Bliss and more surprises

  Christina Taylor-Green Memorial River Park  * Christina Taylor-Green  was nine years old on January 8, 2011, when a madman shot and killed her, and five others, at a gathering in Tucson to meet then-Congresswoman, Gabriel Giffords. Her memory lives on at the beautiful park which bears her name.

Christina Taylor-Green Memorial River Park *Christina Taylor-Green was nine years old on January 8, 2011, when a madman shot and killed her, and five others, at a gathering in Tucson to meet then-Congresswoman, Gabriel Giffords. Her memory lives on at the beautiful park which bears her name.

A June day in Tucson, Arizona, is not exactly the first place you would expect to see people out bicycling, but the high desert is a surprising lady. Oh yes, temperatures will reach 105° today. But if you dare to rise early, don a helmet, and pedal the Loop, morning is ideal. Low 70° temperatures, the sun peeking over the Catalina Mountains, and a light breeze caressing your face creates a spectacular experience in the heat of the summer.

My favorite ride begins at Christina Taylor-Green* Memorial River Park just off Shannon Rd.  I point my bike north and pedal off on another blissful morning ride along a perfectly maintained pathway.

 Cycling bridge. Lenticular cloud above the mountains.

Cycling bridge. Lenticular cloud above the mountains.

At the fourth bridge, I often pause to sip some water and walk the labyrinth. A respite just off the trail, for those who know, the meander can hold many meanings.  For me it is a spiritual pause. No one knows when or where the first maze or meander was created, but it is a universal human rendering. Thank you to those who took their time to create it.

Surprises along the way

The labyrinth is not the only surprise awaiting. There are many. Catalina State Park lies just a few miles further north with its lovely vistas and Romero Ruins archaeological site. Home to Hohokam villagers between 500 A.D. and 1500 A.D., a few pit houses and an ancient ball court remain. Park your bike and take a walk into the past. Yes, their spirits are still there.

 The labyrinth is a sweet surprise.

The labyrinth is a sweet surprise.

Another stop along my ride is a Ramada located to the left before making the turn to the Oro Valley Marketplace. It is often quiet. If I’m lucky, I can spend a little time with the wildlife before heading back. Playful prairie dogs always enjoy the mornings. (They really enjoy just about everything.) Watching them scramble in and out of their holes, romping with each other, and catching a tasty morsel of breakfast is always a treat.

Sometimes a Roadrunner will scurry through, and there is always a hummingbird or two buzzing overhead grazing on insects too tiny for my eyes to perceive. The Ramada is a great place to watch human activity too. Other bikers, walkers and their dogs, rollerbladers, and an occasional horseback rider delight in the freshness of an early desert day.

The Loop

Completed in March, 2018, The Loop circles Tucson and reaches into some outlying areas of Pima County including Marana, Oro Valley, and South Tucson. With 131 miles of shared-use paths, a healthy alternative to the frustration of exhaust and traffic as you head for your favorite park, trail, restaurant, or even your workplace, might be your bicycle. According to the posted rules, if it doesn’t have a motor, it’s welcome on the Loop. And what a nice escape from crazy streets and highways.

So, if you find yourself in Tucson in June, do as Tucsonans do. No need to escape into the air-conditioning all day. Get yourself a bicycle and enjoy the great outdoors. You will begin to love Tucson in the summer. But go in the morning.

 

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Finding Peace in a Chaotic World

Harmony with nature will bring you a happiness known to few city dwellers. In the company of other truth seekers it will be easier for you to meditate and think of God.
— Paramahansa Yogananda

Everyone is a Seeker. To Find Your Heart You Must Only Listen

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If you have read my posts, you know I am a seeker. Lately I’ve been overwhelmed with the rampant excess and waste of the world, specifically the sad state of ocean health. That realization came to me in a quiet place at the Edge. You know, that place I like to wander.

What is a Seeker?

Today I want to discuss what it means to be a seeker, and how hearkening back to this truth about myself brings calmness to an otherwise chaotic world. For me a seeker wants to know everything, and doubts much.

When I wrote Dance of the Hummingbirds I was seeking truth about genetic memories. Is it possible that our brains hold the experiences, thoughts, and dreams of our ancestors in an oft-suppressed repository? Is déjà vu nothing more than an ancestral memory bubbling to the surface of consciousness?

As time goes by, more and more is revealed about our biological connections to past, present, and future. So what do we really know?

While writing Dance I dug into the research of Carl Jung,  renowned psychiatrist of the early  to mid-20th century. His theories suggested, if not confirmed, the possibilities I was exploring. 

Genetic memories will again play a part in the novel I’m now writing. The intertwining of the lives and journeys of Thorynn and Atsidi, and of course Lillie Lisle, a 21st century archaeologist, is fascinating. Have you ever considered those ancestral experiences you might hold deep within you?

Was Einstein a Seeker?

But what about seeking? I’m curious about Albert Einstein’s theories of the universe. I don't pretend to understand his great mind, but he discussed specifically how our perceptions create our reality.

We have five senses through which the world is filtered. What's out there beyond those five senses? When I reach into the space around me, what exists that is not defined by my sense of touch. What beautiful sounds create harmony beyond my sense of hearing? Is there music I will never hear? Bouquets of scents? Tastes? Visual miracles that my optic nerve cannot capture?

Sit alone in a forest or quietly in your backyard

Just sit and notice what surrounds you. Nature transcends our being? Is removing ourselves from nature, removing us from our timeless soul?

We are so very limited in our capacity to capture the very essence of this life we live, yet so convinced we know that we turn to violence to convince others that our perceptions are real, are right. In what realm does the plastic pollution I’m so obsessed with exist? In what realm do territorial boundaries exist? In what realm does mine and theirs exist?

Meditation is a practice which can take me to a place outside my senses. But what happens there? Is God, Allah, Jehovah, Siva, (or whichever moniker you want to attach to the vast universal presence) integral to the experience? Or is meditation simply a biological phenomenon unattached to deities and universal synchronicities?

I would love to hear your thoughts. I believe that the seeing that comes through meditation can bring peace. But I'm a seeker and know so little.

I am exploring this Edge in my daily experiences and writing. What is the Edge you are exploring? If you’re interested in joining me on the journey, I’m delighted to have you along.

As always Fair Winds

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I find the great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are standing.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Linda JB Herrick, writer

 

P.S. Lissa Coffey’s Daily Wisdom offers insight and peace to me each morning. You might like to read her words.

Oh, Is That a Thing?

5 Ways We Can Stop the Assault on our Oceans

The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations
— John Paul II
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The Story

I asked for paper at the grocery checkout several years ago. You remember those days when baggers asked you – paper or plastic?

The paper/plastic onus is now on the customer. Failing to say PAPER, means you get plastic. Heaven forbid I forget my bags. But it happens and once I realize it I must begin my checkout line mantra – paper, paper, paper, or I will forget during the checkout confusion.

Amidst the chaos of swiping or inserting my plastic credit card, searching for my plastic loyalty card, and trying to remember where I parked, it’s a wonder I leave with my sanity let alone paper bags.

Back to the story.

When I asked for paper, the young man bagging my groceries raised an eyebrow and questioned my selection.

 “More dead trees?” he asked.

Oh my. I stopped mid-checkout pandemonium and jumped straight into my teacher shoes. If I had a Bill Nye the Science Guy mask, I would have put it on.

“Trees,” I replied, “are a renewable resource. Plastic bags are manufactured using oil, a non-renewable resource. Once we consume the remaining oil resources, there will be no more. Can’t grow oil. We can grow more trees.”

A pleasant discussion followed about the term “non-renewable,” and I was out the door, paper bags in hand, searching the parking lot for my car.

The enlightenment of this young man took place long before I understood plastic grocery bags had become a much deeper problem than trees and oil. A recent photograph of plastic bags in the Mariana Trench – the deepest part of the ocean – is awakening the world to yet another human-wrought tragedy.

Another story.

Before Christmas my daughter accompanied me to Home Depot to buy our Christmas tree. I asked the young lady who trimmed the trunk, to not put plastic webbing on it. (Everything must be bagged now, even Christmas trees)

As young folks do, or don’t, she was oblivious to my request. The tree was delivered to our truck cocooned in orange plastic. Much to my daughter’s mortification, I asked the young lady to remove the plastic,  I thought I asked nicely.

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Here is the conversation that followed.

My daughter: “Mom, you could ask in a nicer tone,” and then to the young lady, “she doesn’t like plastic.”

Young lady: “Why?”

My daughter: “Because it’s bad for the earth.”

Young lady: “Oh, is that a thing?”

I nearly lost it but managed to stay silent while the young lady removed the plastic.

“Is that a thing?”

Yes, it’s a thing. And that thing is strangling the planet. Our oceans are becoming saturated in plastic waste as they swallow eighteen billion pounds every year. Beaches are plastic cesspools. Debris is vomited up by the oceans then swallowed again at next tide. Rivers slog along laden with plastic fishing nets, water bottles, and plastic bags.  The millions of marine creatures affected are helpless to stem the onslaught.

We are suffocating our planet with plastic and our kids don’t have a clue what is happening around them.

I live in the desert, yet am consumed with ocean health because the world is more than just the ecosystem in which I live

The global community is awakening to the problem, and many countries are taking steps to ban single-use plastics. But what about the U.S.?

Aside from California and Hawaii, state legislatures are pushing back under pressure from – you guessed it – plastics manufacturers and the plastic bag industry. In 2017 Michigan became the seventh state to ban single-use plastic bag bans. Did you get that? States are banning community bans. Wow! And my state of Arizona is among those seven.

Community efforts to ban single-use plastics are being squashed by state legislatures because those politicians hold a narrow view of their job – being re-elected with money from big companies.

Unlike our state politicians, I can see a bigger picture. When it rains, the plastic bags, cups, lids, and straws littering the dry riverbeds of my desert home wash into the waterways and dump into the seas.

Yes, the message is dire, but there must be a glimmer of hope. It’s up to each of us to fan the glimmer into a flame. Legislatures don’t have to ban single-use plastics, we can simply stop using them.

Efforts are underway to solve the massive problem we’ve created, but to restore health to the planet every one of us must take personal responsibility. We can do it. We MUST do it.

How can we begin to end the assault?

1.  Educate! Building awareness is key to changing a culture of waste. National Geographic magazine has made a commitment to the problem, but you don’t have to be an international magazine to educate.

2.  Recycle all plastics: Pack up the film used to wrap everything from soup to nuts and take it back to the grocery store. Most stores have a bin for the filmy bags and all those unnecessary wrappings. 

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Make sure your trash removal company recycles. If it doesn’t, find one that does.

3.  Refuse single-use plastics:

If you must have a straw, buy reusable straws

Make a spork your ‘go to’ utensil when you’re on the road

Say no to plastic water bottles. BYOB (or cup)

4.  PickUp3 – Beaches, roadways, hiking trails, etc. When you are out and about, pick up three pieces of litter and recycle.

5.  Contribute to cleanup efforts 4Ocean is an organization founded by two scuba divers who saw a problem and are taking action. Check them out here.

#PickUp3 - Pass it on.

What I Discovered on My Journey to the Edge

Go Forth and Subdue the Earth.      Surely We Have Misunderstood?

A year ago I began to explore the edge – my edge. Springing from an insatiable curiosity I yearned to see beyond the rim? Where is my edge – of stamina, of daring, of soul? And once there, what will I find?

My Journey

A solo trip cross-country with an inflatable kayak bundled in the trunk led me through small towns, along highways saturated with trucks, and to the rivers and lakes of Tennessee. My kayak (I named her Saffron) allowed me to paddle along the wild shores of the Harpeth River and the rocks of a Kentucky Lake bay. There, I saw fish spurt from the water chasing bugs or each other and turtles basking on logs dipping into the water if I paddled too close. I wondered about other fauna of the area. And my avian friends. Where were they?

I drove on to my childhood home in northern Indiana. There I revisited the depths of feeling I have for my stepmother – a woman with whom I have shared many years of my life. During our conversations I explored the person I have become. My own mother died many years ago leaving me empty and lost. (A topic for another time.) I cherish the blessing of my second mother, so like the first, akin to a best friend.

Rocky crags of Kalymnos

Cornfields, meadows, and waterways lacing the bits of backcountry still remaining of my rural home took me to places of beginnings, endings, enduring friendships, and memories of growing up. Of becoming, mixed with the anguish of loss.

Embraced in the warm hugs of my children and grandchildren in Chicago, it was hard to say goodbye. But I was compelled to find the edge, and heedless of the relentless hollow of pain in my gut, I boarded the plane that would take me to the island of Kalymnos in Greece.

The flight carried me to Athens, by way of a lengthy layover in Stockholm, Sweden. Because of the delay I was able to visit Sigtuna and finally see for myself the waterway of which I’d written, where Thorynn began and ended his journey in my novel Dance of the Hummingbirds. As I walked the shores of Lake Malaren, the feeling of connectedness was profound – rune stones, an ancient church, iconic red houses – all part of the homeland Thorynn returned to.

After three months of exploring the tiny island of Kalymnos and discovering once again the treasures of the Mediterranean I returned home to Tucson. The heat had long since carried itself back to the sun, but my travel to the edge raised an awareness that burned inside me.

What I found at the Edge

This edge was no longer personal. It reached far beyond my paltry self to a precipice. I had peered over the rim and witnessed disturbing devastation. Devastation created by humans.

I began to realize with every step of my journey I was not alone at all. Accompanying me everywhere was the debris of human activity – on planes, along waterways, on ferries, along shorelines, walking from my apartment to the market, hiking from one part of the island to another – human debris followed along and the native fauna did not.  

I have often been haunted by a verse in Genesis.

And God said, 'Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over fish of the sea, and over fowl of the heavens, and over every living thing that is creeping upon the earth. - Genesis 1:28

Subdue: to overcome by superior force.  Surely God didn’t intend for us to conquer and destroy Gaia, whom he created with such a noble spirit, the very host of our existence?  But, we have. We are.

Western society looks to the Bible when it comes up against a wall, and interprets the Word to fit the desires of the moment. We desire pleasure. We desire convenience. We desire to see nothing which reminds us of our mortality. Everything has become disposable and then swept away, out of sight. Swept into the oceans where we can no longer see it. Let the fish of the sea suffocate in our waste. Didn’t God say it should all be subdued?

I peered over the edge, and saw the end of a healthy world -- plastic and death floating in our waters, burning pits  of trash poisoning our air, erosion, flooding and more burning, drowned and charred remains of flora and fauna littering dry riverbeds.

Is there hope? Can we step away from the edge and reverse the surge toward our own destruction? Not if we stay in the center and cover our eyes. If we never venture toward the edge, we won’t know what lies beyond the precipice until it’s too late.

Will you Join Me?

My goal is to build awareness of our self-induced devastation and find solutions? Will you help reclaim the health and beauty we once exclaimed?

Scroll to the bottom of this page, or go to the landing page. There you can sign up to join me on my journey. I promise no spam or other unwanted clutter. If you find that you no longer want to hear from me about once a week, I will be sad and miss you, but feel free to unsubscribe. I look forward to your comments, ideas, and solutions. Maybe, just maybe, we can end this problem together. 

Dedicated to Sonny Melton

“No man is an island entire of itself.”

Today, I must take time to reflect on the horrific act of violence that occurred half a world away from where I am. I was not there, yet it has changed me as it has changed us all in some way.

My Dad often asked us our thoughts about a John Donne poem, which was in fact a eulogy, written over 400 years ago.

“What does this poem mean to you?” he would ask. And we would discuss it – the island, the promontory, the tolling bell.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
The World [Europe] is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee.

~John Donne~

This week Donne’s poem holds a deep poignancy for our family, our nation.

As a nation we lost 59 of our own. Not by the hand of religious zealots, not by a tyrannical bully making threats across an ocean. No, we lost 59 Americans through the unconscionable act of one of our own.  

One of those 59 people, out with his wife to enjoy a concert and the lights of Las Vegas, was a young man who introduced my niece to her husband. He was a groomsman in their wedding. Although I have only met him once, I have learned that Sonny Melton was a hero in his life and in his death. We mourn for those he left behind. My niece Jamie says, “God wanted him more.” Her husband Max wrote “A friend to everyone, loved by so many, and now a hero to us all.”

Nurses, teachers, police officers, a Navy veteran who survived Afghanistan but not his homeland, mothers and fathers. People who loved and filled the world with their gifts of laughter and generosity. There was no discrimination.

Fifty nine people lost their lives, taking with them the promise of their tomorrows.

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What might have been had they lived? We can only wonder.

Many people here on this tiny Aegean island have learned already of this American tragedy. No one remains untouched.

“Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

And so they leave us. And thousands of lives will be changed.

Rest in Peace.

 

From Troy to World War II – The Reign of ARES

 Ares, Greek god of war

Ares, Greek god of war

Are humans inherently violent? 

As an instructor of physical and cultural anthropology, I asked my students to answer this question every semester. Responses varied. Discussion was insightful.

From an ancient Greek perspective, war was ever-present and demanded a god to reign over it. Included among the powerful Olympian twelve was Ares god of war.

Throughout my lifetime, and my parents’ lifetimes, and my grandparents’, back to the dawn of civilization and well before it, humanity has found cause and means to harm itself. Are humans inherently violent?

As of this writing, the world waits.  Will yet another war of words turn to violence?  And Why? The question has been asked so many times. Why? Land, religion, power, and we mustn’t forget Helen of Troy.

In the month I have spent exploring this Aegean island of Kalymnos, I see evidence of conflict everywhere. The structures of aggression and fortification date back through the Bronze Age (2000 B.C.), perhaps even into the Neolithic period, although not yet quite proven. Ares stands tall here, commanding the mountain tops and watching for opportunities.

What strikes me is the island is very rugged, not well-suited to agriculture, barren of prized minerals, ores, or other resources of value.  Aside from its beauty, it seems it would offer nothing to those who thirsted after this tiny piece of the world. Its early inhabitants must have endured a life of struggle. Even the water is permeated with brine requiring rainwater harvesting.

 Goats welcome me before my ascent to Chorio. I know they have always been here.

Goats welcome me before my ascent to Chorio. I know they have always been here.

The goats love it, but what has been the attraction to invaders? The answer: it lies in a strategic pathway. Kalymnos’s unlucky proximity to its larger sister islands, Kos and Rhodes, and only 35 miles from Turkey have made it a prime target for attack and occupation.

Ares Insatiable Wrath

One of the earliest references to Kalymnians at war comes from the blind poet Homer in the Iliad.  In it, he mentions their participation in the Trojan War. The Persians (now Iran) took control of the island during the Persian War, then passed it on over to Artemisia I, queen of Halicarnassus (now Bodrum, Turkey). Later, freed by the Athenians, the island fought beside them during the Peloponnesian War, but then found itself again occupied, this time by Artemisia II. Liberated by Alexander the Great, the island found itself on the unfortunate side of history after his death. This time the attacks came from pirates.

For those who know the history of this area, by the late 3rd century B.C. Philip of Macedon was on the march. This time Kalymnos allied with nearby Kos Island to fend off great Philip and the ever-pesky pirates. But alas, here came the Romans. No wonder they needed fortification.

Nature inserted her own violence in 554 A.D. with an earthquake splitting the landmass to form the island of Telendos.   Deserted for many years, those who loved Kalymnos eventually found their way home, but not to peace. Never to peace.

By the early 1300s, the crusading Knights of St. John found Rhodes and finally Kalymnos – looking for infidels of course. Paradoxically, the Knights always built churches within their fortresses. Or perhaps not a paradox at all since they claimed to be fighting for God.

Aren't God and war antithetical?

Eventually the Kalymnians were conquered by the Turks, liberated then subjugated by the Italians, and finally, at the end of World War II, the Germans came to play. Freedom arrived for Greece and Kalymnos on Mar 7, 1948.

All of this on a tiny island in the Aegean.

Thirty six hues of blue wash peacefully to the shore below -- as it has for millennia. The contradiction is complex: tranquil seas carrying chaos to the shores.

 A windy ascent

A windy ascent

Hike to Chorio

It was a near-vertical hike on a hot September day. Limestone steps helped for much of the way, but at times the uneven stones wrought treachery on my ankles. Pausing mid-way to rest my wobbly limbs, I considered the comparison between the modern village of Hora, where I had just walked through winding uphill narrow streets designed to confuse pirates, and ancient Chorio (village in Greek) waiting at the top. 

Arriving at the fortress, I stepped through the small doorway and envisioned life as it might have been. A village surrounded with walls. 

An ancient olive press lies broken amid crumbles of limestone that once formed a roof, a chimney, an animal enclosure. Smoke stains smear the walls above ancient cooking hearths. Stone paths smoothed by the daily tasks of villagers living out their lives high above the sea. I feel the energy. Their spirits. Their laughter. Their sorrow. Birth, life, and then death among rock dwellings built to protect them.

 Walls of the fortress - Chorio Castle

Walls of the fortress - Chorio Castle

 Broken olive press - Chorio Castle

Broken olive press - Chorio Castle

 Remains of dwelling with chimney and smoke-stained hearth

Remains of dwelling with chimney and smoke-stained hearth

 Shields of the Knights of St. John - Chorio Castle

Shields of the Knights of St. John - Chorio Castle

Evidence suggests the people had everything they needed to survive on top of that mountain – goats, chickens, sheep, olive trees and other vegetation, a cistern to capture rainwater – everything. Everything except freedom from fear.

 Icon of St. George now hanging slightly askew

Icon of St. George now hanging slightly askew

 Early Christian Church on Chorio

Early Christian Church on Chorio

 Church altar. Here the photographer is slightly askew.

Church altar. Here the photographer is slightly askew.

A beautiful view of the sea to both the east and the west frames the rocky terrain. I imagine a young woman longing to walk along the shore, to dip her toes into water sparkling with sea nymphs, to dive into its coolness on a hot summer day. A youthful wish to enjoy respite from the monotony of a life enclosed. But the old yiayias (grandmothers) cautioned, and fear prevailed, trapping young and old alike atop the mountain, and they survived.

Hiking down the treacherous steps I glanced back at the fortification rising out of the rocks like candles on a cake. The image reminded me that we not only create and spread war, we revere it.

We celebrate victories and military might. We build ever bigger methods of destroying ourselves. If we were ashamed of this human imperfection wouldn’t we tear down the reminders of war? Rather, Ares stands proud and commands those reminders to remain for our children to also revere a thousand years from now?

Then again, why waste the hard work and fortitude of the ancestors. The fortifications might certainly be needed. Island legend describes the women of Kalymnos heading to the fortress yet again during the Stone War of 1935.  Believing the Italians were stealing their religion from them and their children, the women cast rocks at the aggressors and escaped to the mountain top.

When I peer over the Edge, I do not like what I see. How can I delight in the past when misery clings to it? The misery of women and children living in fear as Ares raged.

The Edge will always be a place to inform and be informed. Sometimes it is not beautiful, but there is always a message. The tranquility of the sea, of 36 hues of blue, informs me today. I will look away from the mountain top and toward the day when Ares falls from his throne and we have no more need for walls.

What are your thoughts? Are humans inherently violent? Leave your comments. I love to read them.

If you are interested in a more complete history of Kalymnos, you can find it here.

 Chrysocheria Castle. Built by the Knights of St. John

Chrysocheria Castle. Built by the Knights of St. John

 A bell at a Church built by the Knights.     The crystalline sea in the background.

A bell at a Church built by the Knights.     The crystalline sea in the background.

To Climb or Not to Climb -- the Crags of Kalymnos

First, a Story

Are you one of those people who thinks you must try everything?

I am.  I draw the line at skydiving and bungee jumping, but on the ground or in the water, I want to try it. During my thirties and forties, the challenge of the Olympic Games flowed through my blood. “I want to do that.” I urged myself. Running the 800 meter race, pole vaulting 15’ in the air, doing arabesques on ice skates, slaloming downhill at stop speed, you name it I was there – in my head, anyway.

After the Atlanta games in 1996 I followed Forest Gump out the door and started runnin’. “Sydney, here I come!” I was psyched.

On day 5, I stopped runnin’. Forest has much more stamina than me. My forty-some year old legs and lungs really weren’t into it. They flat out let me know that I had never run more than a mile in my life.

But finally, at age 48 (I remember it well because an official wrote 48 in black marker on my left calf.), I joined two of my colleagues (10 years younger and male – not that that matters) and completed a mini-triathlon – half-mile swim, 12-mile bike ride, and a 5k run.

On the morning of the event, after the “Hey, we’re gonna do this thing” and some high fives, I never saw them again.

Into the water I went, never looking back until my husband Bob came running to my side during the 5K. “You can do it, Berk.” He pushed me along as he had his track athletes for years. “You can do it.” And I did it!

 Many competitors never crossed the finish line that day, so dead last is not really last in my book. Yep, I finished dead last, and I have a well-worn T-shirt to prove it.

 View from Massouri

View from Massouri

 Crags hovering. Luring the climbers.

Crags hovering. Luring the climbers.

Kalymnos - a Climbing Mecca

A long story to bring you back to Kalymnos. Sport climbing is huge here! Ah, you think you know what’s coming next, right?

Kalymnos is a well-known rock climbing mecca. It’s still early in the season, the temperatures are just beginning to cool down, but I have already met several climbers heading up or coming down.

You guessed it! The urge to join the fun began to burn. My head started spinning – shoes, helmet, ropes, lessons. Yep, I was all in until I saw those folks (mostly young folks) swinging and dangling from rocks so high the zoom on my camera couldn't reach them.

Splash in the face. Fire out. Nope Berk, maybe in your next life. An Edge, yes. But I’ll keep my feet squarely on the ground as I explore it. Maybe I will just sneak a peak over it and call it a day.

International Climbers

Hailing from the Czech Republic, Petr and Jaromír are the first climbers I met as they descended the craggy mountainside at Massouri – the epicenter of climbers’ paradise. Physically fit and drenched with a sheen of strenuous activity, Petr was eager to talk about the experience.

“It’s very exciting to be here,” he said. “Climbing is good all over the island and here [at Massouri] you can jump right into the sea after a climb,” he added, gesturing toward the expanse of aqua and turquoise below. Both are experienced climbers having challenged the Alps in Austria and the Tatras of Slovakia. But, as Petr explained, “at Kalymnos there is the sea.” A soothing respite for an exhausting sport.

Soon this tiny island will be swarmed with rock climbers wearing and carrying the tools of the sport – climbing shoes, helmets, carabiners, harnesses, ropes, etc. The Kalymnos Climbing Festival runs from October 7-9 this year, and the island will be hopping.

Evi, the very sweet and always accommodating proprietor of Alkyonis Apartments, gives a “whoosh” as she sweeps her hair back. “After the 9th. Everything after the 9th,” she says, meaning she will then have time for my endless questions.

Massouri

 Beautiful mermaid sings a song of the sea, welcoming climbers and seafarers to Massouri

Beautiful mermaid sings a song of the sea, welcoming climbers and seafarers to Massouri

The signs along Massouri’s main road shout out to the climbers. “Dine here after you climb;” “Get a massage in the morning for half price.”  After missing the bus (I was chatting with Petr and Jaromír as it zoomed right on by me) I met Alrini and Eleyheria at Kaimaki for freshly baked galaktoboureko – a phyllo encrusted custard dessert – and Greek coffee (thick, sweet, and strong).  Every day the sisters bake galaktoboureko, bougatsas (another custard treat), and other Greek specialties. I found the two ladies and the desserts delightful. And Alrini made sure I didn’t miss the next bus!

Late September into early October is a lucrative time for the island. The Greek economy continues to struggle, so this is a welcome time. For a short span of days Kalymnians cater to the rock climbers who have replaced the sponge diving industry as a main source of income. It is the time for Evi, Alrini, Eleyheria, and other entrepreneurs on the island, to work hard and enjoy the rewards.

American climbers Kate and Zach

  Zach and Kate from Oregon have been climbing on Kalymnos for 17 days.  Day jobs? Data analyst and structural engineer, respectively.

 Zach and Kate from Oregon have been climbing on Kalymnos for 17 days.  Day jobs? Data analyst and structural engineer, respectively.

Back at my apartment I smell the warm spicy aroma of curry. Next door Kate and Zach are enjoying their dinner, al fresco of course. Lured by the fragrance I walk to their balcony to chat and find they are climbers from Oregon. I asked them what attracted them to climbing and learned a very different perspective from my thoughts of bagging peaks.

“I like the physical challenge, but also the mental challenge. It’s like trying to fit a puzzle together," says Kate ,

“It’s a multidimensional experience,” added Zach. “It’s not linear like many sports. It’s spatial. Sometimes you’re just hanging out there trying to find a way to grab hold of that next stalactite, or reach your leg far enough to grip the rock. Your body is rarely aligned. You have to arrange yourself into abnormal shapes to continue."

I have met climbers from all over the world -- Finland, Norway, New Zealand, the U.K. to name a few – who have come to challenge themselves on the craggy edges of Kalymnos.

Me? I stand below to watch daring women and men puzzling out the Edge, then wander down to a lovely taverna overlooking the crystalline seas washing ashore. I hope to do a lot of hiking, but the desire for ropes, harnesses, and carbines ebbs with a nice glass of wine. .

Opa!

 Sunset over Telendos, another climbing destination. Just add a glass of wine.

Sunset over Telendos, another climbing destination. Just add a glass of wine.

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Exploring the Edge

 Never mind lugging the suitcase. Just back in. 1st stop: Santa Rosa, NM

Never mind lugging the suitcase. Just back in. 1st stop: Santa Rosa, NM

One of my favorite people, Helen Keller, said, “Life is either a great adventure, or it is nothing.”

Her words have always resonated with me, and seeking adventure has punctuated the many different periods of my life.

Adventure can take many forms. Some people experience it through reading great books. Some spend their lives exploring the great adventure of the spirit within. Some travel the seas or the continents, or both.  And some want to experience it all.  A day in the backyard planting a beautiful garden is as much an adventure to one as traveling the globe is to another.

My question is, what is it within each of us that one person is happy to adventure in their own backyard but another feels an urge to venture out and peek around every corner?

 Pickin' black-eyed peas with Karen and Pickles. You can guess which is which.

Pickin' black-eyed peas with Karen and Pickles. You can guess which is which.

 Kayaking with sister, Amy, on the Harpeth River in Tennessee.

Kayaking with sister, Amy, on the Harpeth River in Tennessee.

As I write this, I am at my son’s home in Chicago. Each day is filled with the surprises of a two-year-old and an almost four-year-old as they explore the world around them. Yesterday, we experienced the marvel of a solar eclipse. Today we are putting the planets on our shirts, naming each one. Is Mercury hot or cold? What about Jupiter? On August 21, Brad’s back deck was an adventure for all of us. I’m sure it was for you as well. The adventure for Henry and Tommy was, “why are the grown-ups wearing those weird glasses, and why do they keep putting them on our noses?”

 Tommy and Henry at Lake Tippecanoe  Indiana

Tommy and Henry at Lake Tippecanoe  Indiana

Monday, I will board a Swedish Airlines jet for Greece because I am one of those people who is driven to explore around the next corner. Gardens are beautiful things. I love gardens, but I want to see all of them.

There will be a layover in Stockholm, which will allow me time to take a bus to the tiny medieval village of Sigtuna. The sequel (in process) to Dance of the Hummingbirds takes part largely in Sigtuna. This small beginning in 980 CE grew to become Stockholm.

What mysteries await? What will I discover just over the edge?

 Staying on the island of Kalymnos

Staying on the island of Kalymnos

The following morning I will fly from Stockholm to Athens, take a bus to Piraeus (the port of Athens) and board an overnight ferry to a tiny island near the coast of Turkey. Kalymnos is one of a group of Greek islands called the Dodecanese.

Dodecanese means twelve islands. I suppose that’s the number of islands discovered by the early Greek seafarers. There are many more than twelve. I won’t argue with the Greeks because I do know the island of Telendos was lopped off of Kalymnos in a 6th century earthquake, and some are called islets, not islands.  Homer could not have been aware all of these details. He was blind after all.  

For four weeks I will live alone in paradise to explore and to write. No family members will accompany me, no friends for security. This is a solo adventure. My time alone will be an exploration of the edge. What will I find?