Saturday, January 31, 2009

Attracting a Partner Flower Essence Aromatherapy Perfume

The batch of perfume I was making yesterday is my Attracting a Partner formula. I always need to restock this perfume at this time of year. Maybe it's Valentine's Day coming up or New Year's resolutions. This perfume sells better at this time of year than any other.

People usually think of perfume as attracting a partner through scent and intrigue. "I can't seem to forget her. Her Windsong stays on my mind". I remember that commercial jingle from my youth. Perfume is all about attracting a partner -- from the outside in.

Mama Love Healing perfume is a little different. Using flower essences and aromatherapy to change how the wearer feels is a big shift in perspective but, really, how you feel about yourself and others is what it takes to attract a great relationship. If you think love and relationship is about intrigue and allure you're kind of missing the point. It's about communication, respect, self-respect, and sharing. Attracting a partner from the inside out.

Mama Love for Attracting a Partner is made specifically for women and includes all organic natural ingredients that help to increase feelings of self-acceptance, willingness and ease to honestly share one's feelings, and increased ability to give and receive love.

It's available through my personal online shop at Mama Love and is currently a featured item in my shop on

Friday, January 30, 2009

Artist's / Writer's Spiritual Retreat

Sometimes you get what you "want" and sometimes you get what you "need" and that turns out to be what some aspect of your being "wanted," all along. That's a piece of the manifestation process people neglect a lot.

What if your inner being has been longing for peace and quiet, freedom from high rent, a great place to be while building internet connections up and doing your writing, craft or art, but your belief system says I need "x, y, z" instead? Well, if you get those other things you were longing for (a place in the desert to do your art) but you don't get anything close to "x, y, and z" then you might think you didn't get what you "want." You might even think, temporarily, that you don't have what you "need."

So when I woke up this morning I thought how what I really need to take advantage of this place we have now is to get my bookkeeping up to date (I lost track of that in the move we just did), to get more Mama Love displays ready, and to restock my ready-to-go supplies of perfume. Then Paul and I went for a walk and, as we often do, we started to talk about what we would do if we stay here. Paul asked me what "inspires" me about the property we're on and that put me in a bad mood. I like to feel inspired. I like to feel enthused about where I am and how that feeds my soul and what I think I want to do. And given that we're way out in the middle of what I think of as "nowhere," far away from any cultural attractions, distractions, and "things to do".... well, is it okay to admit that when I think about that I'm not too happy with this place at all?

Grumble, groan...I didn't want to talk about anything that had to do with staying in Snowflake (we're actually outside Snowflake, not in a town with a name at all). We're in the desert! From the perspective of a bicoastal gal--I've never been more than a few minutes away from an ocean both when I was growing up in New England and then in Santa Cruz--this is the ends of the earth!

But then I remembered a longtime fantasy I've had of painting at an easel in a spacious outdoor location and knew that for that purpose this would be a great place to be. When we returned home I thought it would be nice to bring my perfume-making supplies to the back porch and do my work outside.

So I did and, except when the guy a little bit down the road decided to do a little target practice (everyone out here seems to have several guns), it was a very quiet and peaceful thing to do. I enjoyed making my perfume in this place. And once I finished channeling Reiki into the batch I just did I felt extremely peaceful and grateful to have done it.

When an artist or writer.. or for that matter a monk or a person in need of spiritual peace... chooses a retreat they don't pick a noisy place with lots of distraction. They pick a mountaintop, a lake cottage, or a place like this.

I didn't think we needed an artist's or writer's retreat. I certainly didn't consciously want one. But I have had the desire to live on a retreat center since my early 20's and had the fantasy of living an artist/musician's life way out in the country a lot longer than that. I never had the desire to live in the desert, 30 minutes from the nearest not-very-interesting town. I never in my wildest imagination visualized an artist/writer's retreat like this. But perhaps getting a taste of country living is useful to our souls. And really getting to experience that will help us begin to formulate a vision of what we want to do next.


Paul did the photo accompanying this blog entry. It's actually the front porch of the house we live in here. The homestead, by the way, is called Sugarfoot Ranch.

Sedona Artwork on Cafepress

With improved internet access Paul is finally able to get his photos online. You can see the first few he's put up on his blog and then check out our Cafepress gift shop. We're going to have to change the name of the section labeled "Santa Cruz and Beyond" to something more appropriate in the near future. Three really great Sedona photos are up there now and we plan to add a lot more soon. Probably pics from wherever we go.

I think the photo at the top of this blog looks really good on items like the framed tile shown in a square crop. We don't usually think to use that orientation in our photography and only get to see the results when we alter the photos for Cafepress.

One of my very favorites that Paul did is this photo taken at Crescent Moon Ranch under Cathedral Rock from the perspective of standing in Oak Creek at dusk. Not everyone thinks to go into a raging river in order to get a unique shot but there was a relatively acceptable rock to stand on so Paul went in. When he looked up after taking his shot there was a line of photographers and wannabees waiting to follow him in. We never saw anything like it. They saw him shooting from that location, got curious, and then wanted in themselves. A photography circus! Pretty fun, I thought. If you click on the photo it will take you to that section on Cafepress.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mama Love Flower Essence Aromatherapy in Lake Worth, Florida

I'm excited to announce that my Mama Love flower essence aromatherapy healing perfumes are now going to be available at The Soma Center in Lake Worth, FL. I just checked out their website and was so impressed. It's a combination yoga studio and cafe with great classes and a lot of heart /art! It made me feel envious because I think we'd love to be part of a community resource center like that. Ashleigh, the owner of the center, wants to turn Lake Worth into the coolest place in that part of Florida. Mama Love is honored to be taking part.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pebbles -- The Importance of Holding to One's Life Purpose

“You really ought to figure out what to do with all those juniper trees. Forget about your spiritual counseling and healing practice, Mama Love, your art and photography and writing. You need to make a real living!”

If it had been said that way I would have rejected the influence out of hand. But it didn’t come that way. It never does.

After a long worried, almost panicked-sounding conversation about the awful economy, the awful things happening to “everybody,” and the awful worries this relative had about me and Paul living in the desert, the statement was made that “Isn’t it wonderful you have so many juniper trees on that property. You really ought to figure out something to do with all that.”

That’s how the message got in. Hmmm. Maybe I should.

I got people on my Botanical Perfume group to suggest ways to make Juniper Berry concoctions in alcohol and oil but before I got very far I became obsessed with the rocks and stones to be found on this land instead.

Both Paul and I did for a little while. It started when our cat Peeps followed us way out on the property again and we wanted to chase her back home so we could walk further and faster than she would let us go. Her “seek and retrieve home” intentions must have affected us because immediately after we started to chase her back we looked down and found a treasure trove of ancient Indian pottery shards amongst the pebbles at our feet.

So the obsession began. We started searching through pebbles to find pottery shards to bring home and then I, at least, became obsessed with the pebbles themselves.

“Aren’t these pretty. Maybe I could do something with that.”

Pottery, sculpture, maybe pebble mosaics. Maybe I could cover cheap thrift store finds and sell them at the flea market. Maybe there are craft fairs we could get involved in. I even drew pictures of what could be done on paper. Flower pot holders, pebble covered picture frames, mirrors, maybe candle holders, too.

It was really getting out of hand until I felt an internal imperative to go and start collecting the stones already. So I went back up the hill where we found the most variety with my extra large fanny pack and starting sorting through stones and picking out my favorite ones.

When I had a heavy full pack I realized what the internal guidance to go collecting stones was for: to get it out of my system! I spent a long time collecting these stones and still didn’t have enough for a single project. I was bored. I was done and I hadn’t even gotten started.

Then Paul and I walked home through the juniper trees and I realized I didn’t want to do anything with them either. And why would I? Don’t we have enough we really want to do? Where did this idea that I had to do something with the resources on this land even come from?

And then I remembered that earlier conversation and got mad. I dumped my pebbles on the ground -- I didn’t even want to take them home for myself anymore. They looked beautiful on the ground. I really did pick some pretty ones. But then I covered them up with desert sand and really let them go.

This isn’t MY choice. This is for somebody else. Somebody who doesn’t believe in the possibility that Paul and I could actually prosper in the work we love. In the work we’re called to do.

What’s the reality about that? We’d like to say we have this one worked out. We don’t, but one thing is for sure. Putting aside what we love in order to start something completely new makes no sense!

But there’s more to this story than that. Since getting it in my head that I really ought to do something with the resources here in this environment -- this land, the closest town-- I completely lost interest in the Flower Essence self awareness and instruction deck I had earlier been called to do. But as soon as I let go of the idea that I ought to do something else, the desire to get back to that self awareness deck came back with a roar!

The man credited with starting Flower Essence Therapy, Dr. Edward Bach, railed against people interfering with a young person’s ability to stay in touch with their own callings. All those “shoulds” and expectations and purposeful conditioning stops a person from being able to remember their life purpose. It seems wrong to follow one’s “selfish,” “foolish” or “unrealistic” personal desires and inclinations. Far better to get a real job at Walmart or Taco Bell. At least you can depend on that.

Really? That’s not what the people in our practice tell us to do. Our basic needs have always been met. We’re not getting rich (or we would have been able to stay in Santa Cruz) but.... We’ve only just arrived here, have barely gotten started letting people know who we are and what we do, but our business since getting here has been just as good as a relatively good month in Santa Cruz. That’s all been done over the internet. Once we let people know who we are in the local area...well, it’s pretty clear to me that if we keep on the course we’re on things can only improve.
On another note, we got satellite internet access! Wa-hoo!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cat Poop

No photos this thankful for that. The newness of living in a strange place, combined with the vagarities of trying to combine various lives, is driving a lot of our activities and eating up almost all of our attention right now. Can't share too much about that just yet...but one story seems to demand to be shared. Maybe because it's symbolic of something more? Don't know.

Arizona high desert living demands a different way of seeing life than the way of living we thought was "sane" in Santa Cruz. Take the issue of disposing of cat poop.

The old way? Use a litter box, scoop it out every day, and dispose of it in a recycled plastic bag by tossing it in the garbage. I guess the recycled part made it seem virtuous.

The high desert way? "Throw it in the desert!" That's what I was told the first day I asked. And why did I have to ask? Well, we don't divide our garbage into recyclables and trash and put it out on the street for the trash collectors to pick up out here. No! There are no trash collectors. There is no recycling center. The nearest "dump" is 45 minutes away. So instead we divide trash into burnables and nonburnables...and I didn't know which category used cat litter fell into.

"Just throw it into the desert." That's the same thing as our backyard. I couldn't bear the thought of it so I walked a fair bit of distance away from the house, dug a hole in the ground, and covered it up as best as I could. The response from our hosts was a bemused "That's an interesting thing to do...but I guess if you really want to...".

The next day I discovered that the coyotes had dug it up so the next time I threw out cat poop I dug the hole deeper. Ha, Ha. It was still no good.

By then though it had started to dawn on me that the desert is full of poop! First of all this property is a free range cattle right of way. Unless people put up a fence the local cattle ranchers have a right to let their cattle graze wherever they want. Our hosts don't believe in fences so the cattle walk right in, eat whatever they can get at, and poop wherever they want, too. Paul and I haven't seen any cattle on the land yet but proof of their past use can be seen wherever we go.

But, lest you forget where we are, that's not the most prevalent poop to be found. There's coyote poop, antelope poop, rabbit poop, and who knows what else. What's a little cat litter going to do?

Using plastic bags to dispose of it seems downright decadent now. Ridiculous, not even close to ecologically sound. I still cover it up. But that's just a formality, to make me feel less uncomfortable. I know better than to think it matters a single bit.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Woman and Her Cat

Since we came back from Sedona our cat Pipa (Peeps for short) is intent on keeping us in her sight. She's taken to trying to accompany us on our walks, bleating for us to return home the whole time. This is me and Peeps on the land we're living on. You can click on the photo to see it larger.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Back in Snowflake

Paul's already talked a bit about us leaving Sedona on his blog and I wish I could have shared my thoughts before we left town, too, because now that we're back in Snowflake we're in a very different reality.

Sedona is not our home. It's a great place to visit, I'm sure we'll return again (maybe with a few clients and/or friends?), but the cost of living is worse than Santa Cruz and there's no sense in leaving one high-priced situation to create another. 2/3 of the Sedona workforce commutes from somewhere else but the only truly affordable alternatives are not acceptable, at least not from our point of view.

There were other factors involved. We really needed Sedona to provide venues that supported the nature of our work without wanting us to be circus freaks to "bring in the customers." That wasn't currently possible in the off-season with the economy in a downspin. There are A LOT of metaphysical practitioners in Sedona. In fact, it would be fair to call it the Wild West of the Metaphysical. People dress up in costume, claim to channel beings from the "Fifth Dimension", offer workshops in "neuro-interplanetary energy healing" and resort to all kinds of other tricks to vie for the gullible and entertainment-oriented public's attention. It was horrifying at times from our perspective and hard to get around. The true healers are not the ones who scream "look at me!" all the time. But it's hard to help people who could benefit from what you do if you don't let people know about it. Paul and I are trying hard to walk that line. It would be a rare healer who wouldn't be tempted to give in.

Snowflake looked sweet, even somewhat charming, when we returned and the virtues of living on a peaceful piece of land in the country seemed even more valuable. And Paul's half brother Bill and his wife Teri Lynn were there when we arrived and we had a really wonderful evening with them. The next day, though, the downside of the reality of living here hit hard. We're going to look into satellite internet today and try to claim some space in the office for the things we like and need to do.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Wherever You Go...There You Are

Paul's favorite quote from the movie Buckaroo Banzai has come up a fair bit lately. He likes that quote because of the context it occurs in the movie. The hero says it up on stage in response to the very sad and almost hopeless sounding tale told by a suicidal audience member. He then decides to dedicate his next song to her and she pulls a gun out of her bag and points it at her head.

It all ends up alright but the point is made that New Age platitudes are less than useful when a person is in the midst of great pain and suffering.

This quote and ones like it have other meanings though and here in the land of extreme contrasts it's hard not to think about its original meaning. You bring yourself with you -- and all your beliefs, hopes, dreams, life experience and positive or negative baggage -- wherever you go.

We meet a lot of people and ask them questions about living here and hear some pretty varied responses. The first days we were here we heard people describe the towns they commute to Sedona and Flagstaff from (Cottonwood and Campe Verde) in a resigned way. Nothing good to say about it except it's "cheaper" there. Sigh.

In the last two days we've heard people describe the same places in glowing terms. "Oh, I love it there! They have everything you need. They have a Walmart, etc., etc." More recently we've heard people say they love the tiny development happening halfway between Cottonwood and Sedona. Page Springs, they always say, is beautiful! And it's where John McCain lives when he visits on vacation. We met an artist who lives there with her partner and read Craigslist ads offering housing on family ranches or farms. Maybe we'll visit today.

Sometimes people talk about the Sedona area in terms of friendship and community. "There's no community here. It's all about the tourist trade." "It's a great place to be if you like 'solitude'." Another person (from Cottonwood) said the exact opposite: "People are so great here! Everybody knows each other and we all help each other out." The person who said this was originally from Massachusetts. Another person (originally from Montana) said something else entirely: "It's a weird place. No feeling of townwide community. Just lots of tiny ones-- artists, young people, healers, retired folks."

Some people complain that Sedona is a sleepy little town with nothing to do. Someone else told me there's "too much to do. The place is saturated with spiritual folks coming to the area and offering workshops and talks. You get sick of it after awhile!"

Talk about cost of living throws us, too. People say Flagstaff is expensive and Sedona is worse. That's correct compared to the rest of the state. But Flagstaff housing prices are half what they are in Santa Cruz. Sedona prices ARE significantly higher than that but you can still find an occasional bargain compared to the Bay area if you look around a bit. (And a timeshare condominium doesn't get built in the space between the great house you got and what used to be a lovely view.)

It's all a matter of where you sit, what your life experience has been, your point of view.

With me that changes quite a bit. Must be my Libra tendency to see things from more than one perspective. I flip-flop on my point of view a lot. Makes Paul a little crazy because I think I love it here one day. Want to get away the next.

We know that what we do depends a lot on what we want to create. But here's the rub. Not only do we come from different perspectives, our environment seems to influence what we want as well. So, for example, ideas about creating retreats that we never had in Santa Cruz arise for me here. It's just so gorgeous. But these thoughts don't come up for Paul, quite the opposite, except as a point of theoretical discussion ("it would be great for someone to do"). Why? He's never taught a workshop or led a retreat before, has never even attended one. But I have, a lot.

We're not quite at odds with each other but we do come from different perspectives, have had very different life experiences, and sometimes we have a lot to work out. That works really well somehow in the sessions we do. We tend to integrate our perspectives for the client's benefit really well. We do that for ourselves, too. But it takes a lot longer...because we don't always have the benefit of turning to people like us to talk us through.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Crescent Moon Ranch, Sedona AZ

Wow! What a sweet place. On old ranch, converted to national park, along the banks of Oak Creek just under Cathedral Rock.

The contrasts in color in this place in winter -- stark white tree branches against bright red rock walls and deep blue skies -- freaks the camera out. Taking pictures here is not for amateurs!

Paul did much better than me with his polarizing filter. He doesn't have internet access for the computer he's using right now and is reluctant to download all his photos to mine. And that's really too bad because he's been getting some stunners!

We took hundreds of photos in this place and we weren't alone! This is one of the most wonderful places at sunset -- the red rocks glow BRIGHT orange. Again, it takes finesse to really capture it. About 15 photographers with tripods were there at the end of the day and this is the off-season.

We're putting a lot of thought into how to take people here. The healing retreat weekend idea comes up again and again.

Tlaquepaque, Sedona AZ

Tlaquepaque is a special shopping center consisting entirely of fine art and craft galleries and restaurants, probably the nicest of its type I've ever seen. The shopping center itself is worth seeing for its Spanish architecture, artistry and attention to detail.

Lots of sculpture and surprises, too. We would never have expected to see these rather intense sculptures by artist Bruce Butler there.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Uptown Sedona, Mama Love and Reiki, Too

After filling up at Cathedral Rock, Paul and I decided to go to the Uptown Shopping district. Yes, the very one we were so shocked by when we first came into town, hasn't looked so shocking since we settled down. And this was late in the day in the lowest point of the off-season so it was no longer crowded and actually started to look somewhat appealing.

So we went and had a great time. I talked Mama Love to a couple of shops -- nobody was ready to buy and there were lots of sob stories about the economy to tell--but I wasn't turned away either and the sob stories didn't get to us.

We were hungry though and, in looking for a place to eat, Paul and I both felt we should explore the next street over, really close but off the main tourist street of town. There we saw a big sign saying "Reiki Center" and "Infinite Light" and Peace Place. It turned out to be a Reiki teaching center, treatment place and giftshop. The owner Michael was wonderful. Sweet, welcoming, relaxed. He showed us around and bought a full display of Mama Love on the spot. He was very encouraging about having us move to town, if that's what we choose to do, and we both felt touched and warmed.

We had dinner at Mago's Korean restaurant on his recommendation. It was great! And then walked down the main street again, had some Prickly Pear ice cream (delicate, light pink, slightly reminiscent of mild strawberries), and enjoyed the tourist trap setting we avoided before.

"What's a Vortex?" -- Cathedral Rock

"What's a vortex?" Almost every website about Sedona and certainly every tourist publication in the area uses this phrase to introduce Sedona's number 1 tourist attraction -- the spiritual "power centers" supposedly located in many of the area's most beautiful natural formations.

Paul and I take New Age spiritual hype with several good grains of salt. Yeah, we're pretty open-minded and well-ensconced in some New Age practices and thought...but we also try to be pretty practical and down to earth. So when we were exposed to the talk about vortexes in this area it was our first inclination to be cautious about the whole thing.

I have been to Sedona briefly before, climbed Bell Rock -- supposedly one of the most powerful centers in the area -- and felt nothing. So I was more than cautious about this whole thing. I was skeptical. The place is awe-inspiring enough just because of its amazing physical beauty. Does a person really need to think it's a "power spot" to feel the magnificence of it all?

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, I had been feeling disappointed, confused and frustrated by the trip. I came with quite an agenda and was thinking we should shop my Mama Love perfumes around and then quickly get out of town.

But yesterday we woke up to a beautiful day and Paul and I found ourselves talking about how we might take advantage of the fact that we're here with no rent or hotel fees to pay and enjoy another day. We had not deliberately visited any spiritual vortex spots this trip (although there is supposed to be one where we walked in Boynton Canyon) and we could see one of the most famous ones, Cathedral Rock, right from behind the house we're housesitting in.

I've been attracted to that spot since we got here and told Paul that if there was only one vortex site we deliberately checked out that's the one I wanted to see. So we went.

The road to the trailhead, Back O' Beyond Road, is just across the highway from this house. When we got there the sun was directly behind the high cathedral spired rock formation in front of us so we both thought it was going to be a horrendous day for taking photos but I wanted one anyway. I thought it would be fun to use our star filter to do a hoax photo hyping the spiritual power of the vortex ourselves...but the filter did not fit the lenses we brought. I asked Paul to help me out so he grabbed my camera, stopped it down to F32, and took several shots. He hasn't yet worked his own Photoshop retouching magic on the photo at the top of the page but he said I could put it up anyway. Like those "spirit orbs" he was able to capture? Isn't it amazing how they look exactly like lens flare? That's because they are.

The trail to the top of the rock is very steep and was slippery because of the recent light snow and rain. Neither one of us felt up for the climb so we spent most of our time near the pyramid-like shaped base where the photo to the left was taken. I really loved it! And it felt great just being there....but were we able to feel any vortex power at all?

I couldn't tell so we followed my guidance to move a little further away down the trail. Then I felt something for sure! It didn't feel as good when we moved away. I felt disappointed we had left, like I wasn't "done" somehow so we returned to where we were and continued to take pictures, enjoy the view and just soak up the atmosphere.

It was very peaceful for me and, if the rock itself wasn't icy cold this particular winter day, I felt certain it would be a perfect place to meditate. But after soaking up the experience of just being there by being quiet and breathing it in I started to feel filled, nurtured, and lifted up. I put a wish out that perhaps we could bring people for healing to this location. Just being there felt that good.

Later I read an internet site that said that the energy of the vortex is not most powerfully felt at the top of the rock but at the base where we had been standing. The juniper trees in this spot supposedly twist because of the energy of the place, and wishes made in this location are supposed to be more likely to come true.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Healing in Progress -- Boynton Canyon Trail

It's been a difficult journey in many respects this time around. Paul and I have done several exploratory trips before this one. We went to Canada, Port Townsend, New England...each time ruling places out, returning to Santa Cruz with lots of disappointment and confusion. At least I felt that way.

We don't mind learning what we need to learn but this time neither one of us wants simply a lesson-filled "vacation." There's no Santa Cruz safe house to crawl back to. Snowflake isn't where I want to be. So, I'm afraid to say, I couldn't leave my hopes and expectations at the door when we jumped on this tour bus. Paul really wanted me to let go of my agenda and approach this trip with a sense of discovery. But I couldn't. I had it forced upon me instead.

Things I was really counting on to work out fell flat at every turn. Places I expected to love I didn't. Images I had of certain places ahead of time couldn't have been more wrong. Spa possibilities I had hoped might become excellent venues for us turned out to be fearing economic collapse.

No surprise, really, about that. I knew this was the slow time of year. Add recession problems and places that used to just ride the slow time out are laying people off.

We were guided to think that, of course, healing work in Sedona is far from dead. On the contrary it ought to be better than ever -- just more accessible to people like us. People without huge amounts of money to spend who need some healing and inspiration.

So we continued down the road on the Boynton Canyon Trail and found this sign on the path warning people not to disturb the vegetation: Healing in Progress, Stay on the Trail.

Could the signpost for what we needed to believe be more clear?

Well, later in the day it didn't feel so good. We checked out a couple of places on the main tourist track that were offering intuitive consultations and healing work.

I was hoping that we would fit in there and after talking to a couple employees I felt particularly hopeful again...but Paul disagreed. My inner guidance said the same thing but it wasn't until I spoke by phone with our host "Terri" that I got what I needed to let it go. The average person who takes advantage of the services these places have to offer are people who have never taken advantage of services such as these at all. Most of them get tempted because Sedona is just so filled with over-the-top hype and sensationalism about this kind of stuff. You'd almost be a fool not to give it a shot. But the atmosphere on the main drag of town, at least, is more like a psychic amusement park. Healing work can, and I'm sure does, happen. But the average person comes intending to get out in 15 minutes. They just want a single question answered or approach it as a form of entertainment. Nothing wrong with that as a place to begin but Paul and I do our work primarily for people interested in personal or spiritual development, and for those embarking on or fully engaged in a healing life path.

Still the advice to "Stay on the Trail" was a good one. I gave up on all of my preconceived agenda except for the one to try to sell Mama Love and the day we had today was a much better one. I'll put more photos together and put up another blog about it later this week, perhaps tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Little Horse Trail, Sedona, AZ

Yesterday was the best day of our trip so far. Our host "Terri" left a note saying there was a hiking trail that left directly from her backyard so we decided to explore a bit.

No more than 50 yards from her house we turned around and the first picture is what we saw. The house you can see in the middle of the first photo is her neighbor's. Terri's house is just behind the trees on the right.

We went, oh, another hundred yards or so and joined up with a popular hiking spot called Little Horse Trail. There's Paul in the next picture walking less than 5 minutes down the road. We couldn't go more than a few feet, it seemed, without stopping to take another picture or two. It was one breathtaking scene after another.

We found ourselves bemoaning the fact that Terri is trying to sell her house. Trying to make it on a massage therapist's paycheck in that expensive location has worn her bank account down...but she has a wonderful workshop or classroom space in the place she has now, a large living room and kitchen. We couldn't help but think it would be a great place to take people on a healing retreat-style vacation.

You might be wondering if the color red in some of these pictures is for real. Actually, the contrast in color in the scenery fools the camera a bit. Adjusting camera settings to get the green and blue to come out more accurately makes the red pop. But in the setting sun, it really does look like this. It's RED, it really is!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ghost Town in the Mist - Jerome, Arizona

It was a grey rainy day so we decided to explore the territory south of Sedona a bit. People who work at the cafes we've stopped at rarely actually live in Sedona proper. They commute from places they claim are "cheaper." Financially cheaper, that is. But I think there's a cost in living in bleak places that dampen the soul. Cottonwood and Camp Verde are the two towns mentioned most often...and ALWAYS with a degree of resignation that breaks the heart.

We drove through Cottonwood pretty quickly and didn't stop to take pictures -- it was too sprawling, ugly and depressing. Inexpensive rundown mobile home parks and an Old Town that wants to be a "tourist" draw but probably has a hard time holding its own, juxtaposed with suburban-style shopping malls, tract houses, and miles and miles of suburban nightmare housing developments, one after another for as far as the eye can see. San Jose/Cupertino and all the other suburban sprawl towns that run into each other and can't be told apart came to mind..but with 1/10 of the "charm". I hate to sound fussy but if I could possibly choose between a place like this and living like Paul's mom and stepdad do I'd choose true county living over suburban tract house hell any day of the week. We continued down the road to Jerome instead and those are the pictures you see.

Jerome, population 476, isn't exactly where we want to live either but it sure is unique. "Depending on how you look at it," one resident said, "Jerome is either an artist's town with a biker problem or a biker town with an artist problem." It's an old mining community built on a steep hill that was known as the "wickedest place" in the West because of the number of brothels and outlaws that could be found there. It had a prosperous copper mine for awhile but became practically a ghost town after World War II.

In the late 60's and 70's hippies and artists rediscovered the place and tried to reclaim the falling down buildings, old hotels and rooming houses. That process is still going on, more or less, today but, to be honest, if this community was in California earthquake fault territory it would have fallen down completely long ago.

Everything looks like it's barely hanging on to the steep hill it's perched on. The buildings are all cock-eyed and falling apart. We both felt dizzy and disoriented while we were there until we gave in to the experience and let our artist instincts take over. I particularly got a kick out of seeing old ruins next to partly reclaimed homes with satellite disks and new woodstove piping sticking out of the top. We also both really loved the artists' cooperative we visited while we were there.


Paul and I started our journey through Sedona and places close to it a couple of days ago. We're calling it our "Discovery" tour because things so far have not been what we expected them to be.

We started by going to Flagstaff, a town Paul had a good feeling about on our way out here. Funny thing is I didn't feel great about it but I didn't have a "bad" feeling either. So we went.

Flagstaff has a university with a fairly progressive vibe, a space observatory, an arboretum, and a very historic Old West downtown. It's the closest major city to the Grand Canyon and has a major connecting point for Amtrak running through it. We thought we'd love it.

We showed up on an Art Walk night and thought we might enjoy checking out some of the galleries. Well, surprise, surprise, we didn't. At least not that much. It was like Santa Cruz in the mountains with lots of not well-cleared away dirty city snow. I didn't mind that -- it reminded me of my childhood growing up in New England just south of Boston. What bothered us was the Santa Cruz-like city part.

Whoa! We didn't expect that. We've gotten so acclimated to country life that returning to an urban environment was a bit of a shock. Paul's mom and stepdad live on 46 acres of undeveloped land surrounded by other 40 and 50 acre parcels of undeveloped land. It is absolutely silent, spacious and peaceful. Flagstaff is a typical college/tourist town -- full of fun and people and cars. It was noisy, relatively speaking, and -- for us-- a bit claustrophobic. Theoretically, it would be a great place to visit for shopping, nightlife, etc. but we think, right now at least, that we'd rather live a little further out of town.

The weather was threatening to dump a lot more snow so we cut our Flagstaff adventure short and headed down to Sedona yesterday. We took Route 89A through Oak Creek Canyon and there was met by another set of surprises.

First of all, the canyon is awesome! One of the most stunning places I have ever seen. Towering rock walls leading down to a tree-lined creek. Switchback curves led to one amazing view after another. Paul said it felt intimidating for him to drive it because the energy of the whole thing was so intense.

It starts out at the top completely undeveloped and undevelopable. Wild wilderness for several winding miles. Halfway down little bits of civilization appear. Campgrounds, national park land. Near the bottom there are more hotels and bed and breakfasts, a few tourist gift shops and general stores, very similar to what one would find in Big Sur. I liked it. It felt inviting and if this was a different kind of trip and the weather was more picture perfect we would have stopped to hike and look around. Still, we KNOW we'll be coming back so we just continued down the road.

The rock walls turned bright red and the views continued to be awesome. We were feeling really amazed by the whole thing and suddenly the road drops us into uptown Sedona. Shock and awe but not in a good way.

After having our hearts opened up by the most amazing natural scenery a person could imagine we arrive in what the locals here call the "Rubber Tomahawk" district, one of the most intense tourist buy, buy, buy zones I've ever seen. Normally I like a little art and craft touristy gift shopping but, as I said, the contrast was so intense we felt bombarded by the experience of it all.

And it was crowded! That must be because this was the end of Christmas/New Year's holiday season. If there's a major recession going on, at least to our inexperienced eyes, on this weekend in this region it was hard to see.

The towering awe-inspiring red rock monuments surround the town in almost every direction. Pretty views of what would otherwise be considered gorgeous mountain and desert scenery show in between. That is if you look up and out. Right in front of you when you're driving through Sedona are hotels and tourist shops, one after the other. The scenic backdrop fighting with tourist attracting action is enough to drive the most careful driver to distraction. Add a lot of road construction and a large traffic roundabout (rotary) without traffic lights in the center of town, just to make the feeling of chaos complete, and you might get the gist of how we arrived at our reaction.

We decided to go directly to our friend "Terri's" house. We're housesitting for her a bit while she's out of town.

Terri lives in what might otherwise be considered an upscale suburbia.... except it's in red rock country. This is the view from her front yard.

The next picture is the view from her backyard, as seen from the vacant lot next door.

There are houses just to the left and right of what I took a picture of and behind the larger trees. Suburban ranch houses and small adobe mansions. 1/4 acre lots. But, wow, that backdrop!

At one point I asked Paul what he thought about the idea of living in what ought to be a national park. He didn't answer for a very long time and I think we're both still trying to process it all.