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Archive for February, 2013

DAY 1 IN QUITO

Through friends in California we have made new friends in Quito, Tony and Susana. Fast new friends, in fact. T & S, with precision and passion, introduced us to many major historical sites in the Old Colonial center. They have shared many fabulous stories, some of which will find there way into my stories.

We’re in the middle of a rainy spell which has hidden the surrounding mountains with a gray curtain. The three hidden mountain, Pichincha, Coxopaxi and Cotacchi, are active volcanoes.

My new friend Susana calls each of these mountains her ‘fiancé’ . Her relationship with these ‘fiances’ is both intimate and passionate. Some of her best moments come from her hikes, the images she takes and the friends she takes to visit her mountains.

I overlay Susana’s intimacy and passion for her mountains with my intimacy and passion for the Sierra Nevada mountains. Feels like a match. I’m so happy to be surrounded by the cousins of my mountain spirit pals.

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7 a.m. Like an old bear out of place, i lumbered from our van in the Flamingo parking lot in the Everglades National Park.
7:30 a.m. Exhaled at a morning sunrise over the amphitheater.
8:00 a.m. Eco Pond, full of water birds.
took a walk around the lake. another birder; another image shooter;more pelicans; more herons, egrets, osprey; more birds in flight formations, coming in, taking off.
8:30 a.m. Pulled over for another pond. Alligators looking like logs. Manatees looking big and heavy.
9 a.m. Long pine trail. A chance to view the coastal prairie and search for a panther.
10:30 a.m. 9 Mile trail (canoe trail, through the water ;-0. sat on a picnic bench; canoes pushed off, caring kids full of birthing memories.
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mad dash to Miami International Airport.
3 p.m. Bartender in International hub taps two tall draft beers. He pushed two orders of chicken wings over the glaze of the bar.
4:15 p.m. in-flight to Quito. YEAH!

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Out on Casey Key, out at the end of the jetty, Florida dolphins chase schools of Sheephead fish towards shore. This action leads to a feeding frenzy, pelicans diving, breaking the ocean’s surface. Large splashes with the right sounds followed. I’m a blue heron, on a rock, my feathers ruffling in the breeze and aware of the activity around me.

As i turned around to catch a view of the frenzy, my eyes stopped short and my soul hit the ‘pause button’. Can you imagine the sight of a shoreline filled with sunning old seals?

Casey Key must be a ‘senior magnet’ much like Venice Beach in California is a ‘youth magnet’. Old folks lined along the jetty, some fishing, most sitting in lawn chairs and park benches . . . simply sitting. Stretching out on the beach, north of the jetty, a few old folks sat in a pile of shells, sorting. More rows and rows of old folks sat in lawn chairs along the beach watching the opera-like sounds and moves of various ocean birds and sunning, browning and feeling relaxed.

The richness of this sight, the volume of this container of age, the serene contrast against the backdrop of an expansive ocean ecosystem splashed hard on my soul and drives me to stay in a ‘neutral space’ as I enter my pilgrimage, to reflect and respond as my mind slows and my inquisitive soul grabs a front rock seat.

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After gifts are distributed from my pack, we’ll each carry around 35 liters of clothes and gear. These are small packs for a three plus month adventure and the small size will also help us from being ‘held down’ by our stuff.

Our packing style and ingredients haven’t changed much over the years. Thirty five years ago we traveled through France and ultimately lived in Spain for six months with the same ‘simplicity’ mantra.

While traveling I find most of my pleasures come from; sharing stories with folks, both locals and travelers; participating in the daily activities of street life; and, the tastes of fresh ingredients served in small community cafes.

Where i sleep or what I wear seldom highlights a story. Though the cave that we called home in Granada, Spain is an exception.

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Travel Cookies to go

I started the oven out at 300 degrees and baked off the Ricciarelli, an Italian gluten-free cookie. The texture, intense almond flavor from the house-made almond paste and minimal sweetness make the cookie a hit every time. The cookie is also durable in travel so it tops my list of gift cookies for Ecuador.

Since they bake at low heat, the bake time is around 20 minutes, which gives me time to shift over to prepping the Oatmeal Plum drop cookies.  I substitute house-made plum leather for raisins to reduce the sugar and give the cookie at bit of a tangy twist at the ‘tail’ of the chew.  I looked out the kitchen window while scooping out dough.

As I twisted the bottom of a glass on top of the cookie dough ball to flatten the shape, I felt the plum tree out on the patio reaching out to me.  That old plum tree, and it’s so old I’ve nearly cut it down for the past three years, keeps producing the most tasty San Rosa plums in town.  When the tree finally does die I may have to rename or retire the cookie.

I realized, as the plum tree touched me, that we’re quite similar in nature.  We each are a body that produces fruit or talents or friendship or love which becomes an ingredient for doing good or adding flavor to the world. I smiled as I tucked the cookie sheets full of Oatmeal Plums into the oven.  Gifts are for discovering.

My selection of traveling gift cookies also included a Rosemary Lemon butter cookie, a Lavender Mint short cookie dipped in bittersweet chocolate and my signature Raspberry Almond Ravioli cookie.

The cookies are cooling on the rack and I check another to-do item off my list. I’m down to just a few last items before we depart tomorrow night.

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