Seattle Beachcombing

img_0148When I learned I’d be celebrating Thanksgiving in Seattle with my daughter, I immediately sent word to my beachcombing buddies who live there. Who wants to go to the beach on my free day?


Seattle beachcombing gang June 2016I had enjoyed a lovely time beachcombing with these gals in June, and looked forward to a second opportunity. Sherri had to work and Leslie was maternally engaged (new Grandma!), but Chris and Lynn were game. Of course, living in Hawaii where seasonal changes are subtle, I intellectually knew, but did not internalize, how dramatically the weather changes from June to November at higher latitudes.

img_0216Wednesday morning dawned sunny, apparently an anomaly. As I waited for Chris in front of my flat, I regained the knowledge that sunny can still be brutal. I went back in for more layers, and began to wonder if perhaps my friends gave up beachcombing in the winter months and they were just humoring me. No chance of that, both ladies declared later. Beachcombing is a year-round obsession.

bundled-upWe returned to the spot we combed in June. As we left the tree- sheltered parking lot and headed to the left of a lighthouse, we saw more clouds than in town, and the force of the wind off Puget Sound hit us full force. Luckily, we were all pretty bundled up. It was not quite as fierce as Damon Point where we met at a beachcombing conference more than a year ago. But it did rip the tears right out of my eyes once we made our way to the beach. I’ve learned to partially overcome that by walking with my back to the wind, in this case, backwards. It’s very difficult to beachcomb when you can’t see.

perfect beachcombing glovesChris noticed that my hands were in my pockets, so she handed me the perfect pair of mittens for beachcombing with the fingers exposed. Unfortunately, over the course of the morning, I found myself using them to wipe my sniffles. I’ll have to take them home and wash them before I can give them back to her.

some-of-lynns-bone-collectionAlmost immediately Lynn started finding bones. She’s been beachcombing for 10 years and has collected everything from glass to fishing bobbers of all colors and sizes. So she was happy to add to her bone collection.

Chris is currently collecting driftwood. There is a plentiful supply here along the Sound; the beach is littered with tree limbs and whole tree trunks. We even found a carved trunk. img_0157Upon closer inspection, we could see that the carvings had been painted a reddish color at one time. Both gals said it must be a recent beaching, as they had never seen it before. They follow some excellent beachcombing advice – know your beach. That way you recognize an anomaly when you see one, and you know where to find specific things. For example, on this beach, there’s a section where clay babies are plentiful. I saw some wonderful shapes among the concretions and picked up several, along with some driftwood.

img_0163At one point I thought I spied a red marble among the rocks, and shouted “Marble!” My companions quickly came over. But no, it was a hard berry.

We made our way down the beach to where it disappeared, and turned around, but found the tide was coming in. Skirting round the logs, I stepped ankle deep right into an incoming wave. The temperature of the Sound is around 42 ̊F at this time of year. Yuck, cold and wet socks and shoes. Oh well, one of the hazards of combing.

img_0165On the other side of the lighthouse, we found shelter from the wind, and the combing was different; still plenty of bones and driftwood, but no clay babies. Here the sand was soft and dry with fewer rocks and shells. About 40 seagulls hung above the water some 50 feet out and we wondered what they had found. Indeed, one of the best things about beachcombing is this opportunity to study nature.

img_0330I’ve become more discriminating in the sea glass I put in my bag. If they aren’t “cooked” enough, Chris’ expressive word for tumbled and frosted, I throw them back into the water to “cook” some more. A nice piece of sea glass can take 20 – 30 years to develop that patina. Pottery shards are another matter – anything goes. I scored a shard of blue pottery and two white pieces. The shard with the bumps is intriguing.


Along the way, Chris and I recalled our other beach-combing last summer. We went to Alki Beach on the edge of a busy shipping lane. Alki has a long history of being a dumping grounds, so beachcombing is good there and is a well-known site. The beach is mostly rocky, with the occasional piece of seaglass. Chris found a gorgeous large blue chunk.

can you find the marble?The beach also has sections covered in drying kelp and seaweed. In fact, that’s where I found a marble and a lovely piece of shell covered in a miniature seaweed composition. Can you spot the marble on the dried seaweed?

beachcombing in SeattleA gentle rain brought me back to our present adventure in November. No one said anything as we ambled along on the sand back towards to parking lot. About five minutes later, Chris said, “We better get moving before it starts raining.” I laughed out loud. This is the difference between unrepentant beachcombers, especially those who live in Seattle, and everyone else. As they said again and again, “There’s no such thing as a bad day at the beach.”


img_0327PS. Here’s what I collected while beachcombing in Seattle: clay babies, driftwood, pottery shards and sea glass.


If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.


Posted in beachcombing, friends, Making community | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sure signs it’s fall in Hawai‘i

on Mamane St in HonokaaSeasons change very subtly in Hawai‘i. But after 5 years of living here, I can see the shifts. Fall is a mix of cool rainy days, often too many in a row, and warm sunny days often with low humidity. I relish those sunny days as the best of all the seasons. As I walk to yoga practice with Anita, I notice how far the sun has shifted, rising straight along Mamane Street. My long early-morning shadow reaches before me, and the sun warms my back as I walk.

On those overcast and rainy days, I start wearing capris, even pants, and a sweater over my shirt to yoga. No more shorts and sleeveless tops. I may even keep the sweater on for the whole class!

Honokaa People's TheatreAt 6 pm on Sunday when Mindfulness Meditation ends, it’s now after sunset and I have to walk home in the dark. Luckily, Honoka‘a is anything but scary. (For more, see A Safe Cocoon.) With only two restaurants open at night, the streets are mostly empty. The globes from the Honokaa People’s Theatre welcome theater-goers to the Sunday night showing, and I enjoy seeing their soft white light, beacons in the deserted street.

fall-crop-of-starfruit-and-orangesMy starfruit tree bears hundreds of starfruits, yellow- green to golden in the sun. Last year, Thomas and Kim lassoed the tall branches that were impossible to reach and bent them slowly, so that now almost all of the fruit are within reach. The last few I’ll be able to pick with a ladder. I took 75 to the Hāmākua Harvest Farmer’s Market on Sunday morning, and will bring another 75 this weekend. The good news is that if they don’t sell, they get taken to the food pantry. My little orange tree is also laden, but I save these for family and friends.

harvesting-macadamia-nutsMacadamia nuts litter Stacy’s front lawn and I get to harvest them for my own special roasting of mac nuts. The picking-up is just the first step in a long process of drying the nuts on my back lanai, removing the husks, drying the nuts again on the outdoor rack, cracking the shell off, drying the nuts again in the oven, and finally roasting. It will take a couple months before we taste them. At the moment, I have 100 pounds of nuts drying out back.

The Packers play football and some Sunday mornings or early afternoons I am lucky enough to watch them. Not all Packer games are televised here. The better their season, the more games I get to see, sitting on the couch with my coffee. Even for a Cheesehead, It’s just too early in the day to drink beer.

crab-spiderOn the downside, the crab spiders (they look just like little crabs) come out and spin webs everywhere. I have to wave a broom or dropped palm frond in front of me as I walk through my yard. They’re prolific little hard shelled arachnids.

The ocean is also cooler and the waves can be bigger – often 10 to 14 feet! When that happens, prudence demands that we abandon our ocean bobbing. That’s okay; soon winter will be here, and instead of swimming, we can watch the humpback whales.

All in all, I appreciate the blessings of autumn, and am grateful for the eyes to see them. Being present and living in the moment can do that for a person. Aloha.



For more on macadamia nuts, see:

Watch them like a hawk

Macadamia Academia


If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.


Posted in Adjusting to Hawaii, Being present, Honoka'a People's Theatre, learnng new things, Macadamia Nuts, Meditation, plants in my yard, Small town life, yoga | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Exploring Ka‘ū (Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach and Naʻālehu)

My sister asked me if I ever stayed home these days; I’ve been indulging my passion for travel, right here on the Big Island. These staycations have made me appreciate, once again, the wonder of living in Paradise.


Last weekend, Dianne, Julia and I traveled to the district of Ka‘ū, home of Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach Park and Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. We stayed in a two-bedroom rental for $75/night – such a deal! The pool and hot tub were within sight of our lanai, as was a mesmerizing view of waves crashing into a point of lava.

pond-with-water-hyacinth-and-water-liliesOur first stop late Friday, was Punalu‘u Beach. I had been there last year with my sister and one other time many years ago with my family. But these were just quick stops on our way to somewhere else.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach ParkThis time we could really explore. To the left of the parking lot, there’s a large pond with invasive water hyacinths and water lilies. This pond is part of a wetland system fed by springs and small streams. A strange-looking duck strutted around nearby. It was so peaceful just looking at the still water, even though the surf was pounding just feet away across a small isthmus of black beach.

father protects/hold child in cold waterPeople reading books and snuggling couples enjoyed hammocks strung among the many palm trees. On the ocean side of the isthmus, there’s a swimming beach where a young father had taken his child out into the cold water, hugging him close as the waves tumbled to shore. It’s a small beach, but it’s the largest spot on the shoreline not lined with lava rocks. It’s also one of the few beaches on this side of the island.

basking sea turtlesI remember on my first visit being astonished to find actual black sand. When lava flowed in this area it exploded as it hit the cold ocean, pulverizing the black lava.

sea turtles basking in the waning sunAs we walked along the beach to the right, we came to a spot where Green Sea Turtles sometimes haul out onto shore to rest. They also swim 700 miles to nest here. Peak nesting season is from May to December. All sea turtles are protected by state and federal laws. My sister and I felt lucky to see one in this spot last year. So Dianne, Julia and I were astounded to find ten on shore, basking in the remaining sun. I knelt in the sand behind the rock demarcation line to watch these beautiful old creatures, enjoying the wind at my back and the retained heat of the black sand late in the day.

img_9769This south-eastern part of the Big Island is quite windy when the trade winds blow in across the Pacific, accompanied by large waves. Indeed, for the Friday-through-Monday trip, the wind rarely stopped blowing, and we even decided not to swim one evening because of wind-blown white caps in the pool! But for the most part, the wind was a welcome break from the usual heat/humidity here at sea level.

sunrise-and-sunset-at-resortThat evening and every other, we enjoyed watching the sunset while cooking for each other and eating outside. The lanai was a sheltered spot, so we didn’t lose our dinnerware to the wind.

The evening sky colors were calming. Sunrise was equally beautiful but energizing. Ka‘ū’ provides the vistas to see both. I don’t get to enjoy the horizon or sunrise/sunset from home because too much lush vegetative growth hinders the view. So I took this opportunity to relish these “vista” moments.

Sea turtle on swimming beachSaturday we returned to Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach and enjoyed the sight of a very large sea turtle basking right on the small swimming beach. He was quite the celebrity, with people taking his picture while maintaining a respectful (and legal) distance. I imagine that people who brave the rough water and swim there often get surprised by the occasional passing sea turtle.

the-water-is-cold-at-punaluu-black-sand-beach-parkI tried the water, but it was much colder than the beaches on the Kona side. Not that I would have plunged in anyway; I understand that the rip tides are strong here. Of course, this is the onset of “winter,” and even the Kona ocean has been cooler in the past three weeks.

Afternoon found us in the resort pool and hot tub, and then we took a nap. The wind in the trees made it easy to fall asleep. Besides, we needed to be alert for the evening, when we drove the 34 miles to the Jagger Museum Overlook at the Volcanoes National Park. We had heard that the Halema’uma’u Crater lava lake had risen again and was quite active.

glow from Halema'uma'u Crater 12 miles awayAs we began the ascent from sea level to 4000 feet, we began to see a red glow in the distance. At about 3000 feet, we stopped to take a picture. With the Jaggar Museum Overlook still about 12 miles away, and the glow so visible from the highway, our anticipation grew.

active-volcanoArriving around 9 pm, the parking lot was half full. The strength of the wind nearly blew us off the path. The crowd was mostly young people, many taking selfies of themselves and the lava lake. They may have actually got something this time, for I’ve never seen the lake so active. We could clearly see fountains erupting from three locations, though my camera was not capable of capturing the enthralling sight. Soon the weather got worse with sideways-driven rain, and even the shelter of the building wasn’t enough. So we dashed to the warmth of the car, talking about hot chocolate on the way back.

active-volcano-daytime-flamesThe next day, we decided to go back to the park to see the lava lake in the daytime. It was the first time I was able to see more than the billowing sulfur dioxide smoke. When the wind fanned the fumes away from the surface of the lake, I could see a speck of red – a lava fountain. It made my day.

the vistas of KauBesides active lava and the Black Sand Beach, I was excited to visit the sweet little town of Naʻālehu, the Southernmost Town in the USA. The route along Highway 11 passes through macadamia nut groves and small farms, with vistas of Mauna Loa, the ocean, and fields that had once grown sugarcane.

punaluu-bake-shopThe town itself has less than a thousand residents. But its bakery is famous as the “Southernmost Bakery in the US.” Punalu‘u Bake Shop and Visitor Center had many kinds of malasadas and other treats. Malasadas are a donut-like fried sweetbread without the hole, brought to Hawai‘i by Portuguese immigrants. Some places, like Tex Drive-In in Honoka‘a, fill them. In Naʻālehu I tried the malasada with lilikoi icing; it tasted like real lilikoi. When we arrived just before 9 am, a line of people waited for them to open. Overheard: “I caught your new malasada song at the festival. Loved it! Who in the band wrote it?”

“I did. It has a Dire Straits flavor.” These folk love malasadas.

And while I hesitate to mention bodily functions in the same essay with eating, I must tell you that they have modern, clean bathrooms in the Visitor Center part of the operation, something that might be hard to otherwise find in this remote part of the Big Island.

Hana Hou RestaurantHana Hou, a cute little restaurant down a side street, specializes in pies – two cases of them! We ordered coffee and shared a piece of macadamia nut cream pie – the best I’ve ever had. They make them and everything else they serve. If you order a burger, it’s local beef on a homemade roll. If the daily special is roast turkey or roast pork, they are roasting it in the back. Mashed potatoes are the real thing. Coffee is excellent Ka‘ū-grown.

hana-hou-pieA new friend, Lisa, told me that she camps in Ka‘ū every year at Thanks-giving, then comes to Hana Hou (which means again, encore, all over again, once more in the Hawaiian language) for the full Thanksgiving feast. One time she was driving with a visiting friend from Kona to Volcano. They kept holding off for supper, waiting to get here. When they arrived, the restaurant was closed for a family event. Disappointed, they turned to go. The restaurant owners knew there wasn’t anything else around for miles, so they invited them in and gave them a to-go container to fill with homemade stew, vegetables, rice and hot homemade bread. They each had a plate from the delicious family feast! This is Aloha at its best. I must come back here (hana hou) for a full meal.

church-and-theater-in-naalehuThe town has several charming churches and an old theater that didn’t make it. I am so grateful for our own Honokaa People’s Theatre, especially when I see the ruins of other theaters on the island.

tree-lined-cemetery-in-naalehuBut I think the most striking thing about Naʻālehu is the cemetery or “grave garden” as Dianne’s grand-daughter calls them. It tells the story of the diversity of Hawai‘i. You see Japanese graves with incense sticks in holders, graves with crosses, angels and the Blessed cemetery-in-naalehuVirgin, Native Hawaiian graves planted with canoe plants, and graves with gifts from buddies – bottles of beer and booze, some unopened and some empty. Brightly painted wooden boxes framed a picture of the beloved; small American flags whipped in the wind on others; one grave even had a large horse statue, perhaps a tribute to a paniolo. We spent many meditative moments soaking in the culture of this town through the stories we gleaned from these graves.

Kau VistaThen it was time to get back to the rental, pack up, and return to every-day life in Honoka‘a. But I’m sure I’ll be back to savor the food and small-town atmosphere of Naʻālehu, and the nearby turtles, lava lake, wind and solitude of Ka‘ū.


If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in black sand, eating in Hawaii, Hawaii beaches, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii's melting pot - ethnic groups, lava lake, places worth seeing on Big Island, the nearby Pacific Ocean | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

We all take calculated risks (warm ponds in Puna)

pahoa-parking-lotMy friend Stacy invited me to join her and two friends on a long weekend to Puna, a Hawai‘i district that has a reputation for life on the wild side. I was reminded of that when we stopped for lunch in Pahoa, the only sizable town in the district. The restaurant parking lot was surrounded by chain-link fencing and the two businesses sharing the lot posted interesting warning signs. But I knew we would be in a gated community and safe, so I didn’t see a risk.

cottageWe were all delighted with the rental cottage: two bedrooms and a well- equipped kitchen, in which we took turns making gourmet meals. It’s always a risk cooking for others. Seems that everyone has some sort of food allergy or preference these days. Within this group, one won’t eat fish, another won’t eat chicken, and I won’t eat beef. One is on a paleo diet, and I try to eat gluten-free. None-the-less, we managed to eat a great deal of food in four days.

drinking coffee on large lanaiBut the best part of the cottage was the huge lanai where we ate at the large table and played games (I’m now addicted to Rummikub), read and drank our morning coffee on the padded lounge chairs, and held deep conversations. One of us even chose to sleep out there. Surprisingly, there weren’t many mosquitoes.

fun-swimming-in-the-pondJust steps from the lanai was the real draw for this rental: a large pond bound by lava walls. The ocean water filtered in, raising and lowering the level in the pool with the tide. We could feel springs feeding the pond too, warm from its journey through the thermally hot lava tubes. The pond temperature fluctuated a bit as the ocean water filtered in, but was always warm. It was long enough to swim laps, and about eight feet deep.

img_9490The pond is shared, but the other house was empty this weekend so we had it to ourselves. Unfortunately the water was within view of an elderly gentleman in a third house who often stood at an upstairs window. If not for him, we could have done more skinny-dipping. On the other hand, what was the risk? He probably would not have reported us. Poor Stacy couldn’t swim at all; she was recuperating from knee surgery.

The clear water always beckoned. (This was nothing like the sometimes-brackish waters of Ahalanui County Beach with its almost Olympic pool size pond. Unfortunately, it’s only 2-5 feet deep and overused. We visited that pond a couple times before moving here, but stopped when we saw bare babies in the pond: too high an ick factor.)

tilapia near steps leading into pondMorning was the best light to see the tilapia near the steps leading into the water. The owners had stocked them years ago to keep the pond clean. They gathered expectantly, darting about in large schools, waiting to be fed. We were allowed to fish, but only if we ate what we caught. No thank you – the fish were just fun to watch. The reflection of the palm trees at that time of day gave the impression of a painting.

I spent many hours just drifting around on a noodle, doing my best impersonation of a manatee. The hours passed by quickly as we talked about issues important to us. But eventually we had to get out and dry off. Then there was time to walk in the quiet neighborhood.

gated-communityMost of the houses in this gated community had these natural ponds in their yard. The area had clearly been one of small cottages at one time. A few of the old cabins remained. But most of them had been replaced by larger homes, unlocked-bicyclesmany with ornate gates, even though the whole community was gated. I guess they didn’t want to take any risks. But kids being kids, we saw unlocked bicycles piled up at points that lead to the ocean.

I couldn’t wait to tell my daughters about this cottage. But all I got back from them was a polite “no thank you” accompanying an article about someone being infected by flesh-eating bacteria in the Ahalanui County Beach Hot Pond.

floating around like a manateeI’ve done some research since. There’s a Hawaii State Department of Health advisory site that includes clean water reporting. You can insert any site in the islands into the search field to check current conditions. The Kapoho tide pool area has four monitoring stations that check for Clostridium perfringens and Enterococci. When I looked, this area was safe. (Whew!)

But I also began to think about calculated risks we all take. My daughters swim in the ocean, even though they could be bitten by a shark. My friend smokes, even though she could develop lung cancer. We drive, even though we could be in an accident.

pond at rental cottageI think I will go to this rental again, despite the risk. It was just too perfect not to indulge. I’ll be cautious and refrain if I have open cuts, or if the state’s website has posted a warning. That’s taking prudent responsibility for living life full out. But if these conditions are met, I’m going.


If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.


Posted in friends, living full out, places worth seeing on Big Island, the nearby Pacific Ocean | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Gifts and lessons from the sea at Lyme Regis, UK

gray day at East BeachThe day began gray, with rain a good probability. It was about time really; I’d only had one day of rain the whole time I’d been in England. But it would be nice if it held off. This day, my daughter and I would be out on East Beach hunting fossils, our last adventure together before taking her to university.

In March when we came, we had six people on the Lyme Regis Museum Fossil Walk, so only Paddy Howe, the museum’s geologist, joined us.

explaining-what-we-are-looking-forBut today we were expecting 50, so Chris Andrew, the museum’s biologist, and a third helper were also along. Chris was the funny guy to Paddy’s straight man, often poking fun at ‘geologists.’ It was wonderful to see the warm camaraderie between these guys who work together probably every day.

We listened to them explain about the kinds of fossils we might expect to find, using their toy props and fossil samples: ammonites, belemnites, spine bones from ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, gryphaea (devil’s toenails), sea lilies and their stems, sea urchins and coprolites (poop). Chris said it’s one of the highlights of his job that he gets to use toys.

metal-pin-with-sword-and-anchorAnd then we swarmed onto the beach. I knew I’d be fighting the urge to pick up sea glass and pottery shards, so I had to make a rule for myself – only patterned shards, nothing else. That worked fine until I found a little metal pin, a badge, with a sword and anchor on it. Well, I had to have that.

I’ve been beachcombing for about two years, and have worked hard to train my brain to see squares, spheres, triangles, trapezoids, shiny objects, and colors. But here, on this beach, I was supposed to be searching for brown, gray, and black items in circle, cog, and stubby pencil shapes. I’d take a few steps, get excited about seeing some beautiful colored sea glass, and then have to reprimand myself to “focus – focus on the gray.”

sept-fossil-hunt-ammonitesPaddy and Chris both warned us that this was not good fossil hunting weather or season. While the East Beach gets covered every day up to the cliffs by the tide, there hadn’t been a good storm to churn up the rocks and fossils for a couple months. On top of that, this was the end of the summer season, with many more visitors to Lyme Regis than any other time of year. Fossil hunting is the perfect summer holiday, especially for families, so the beach had been picked clean for weeks. Yes, every outing resulted in some finds. But it wouldn’t be as rich as our wintry visit in March. Even my eagle-eyed daughter was having trouble finding stuff, though she handed me two ammonites that weren’t quite up to her standards.

3.5 beads found on East BeachMeanwhile, I found my first ever bead, then my second, my third, and part of a fourth, all spaced hundreds of feet apart. Unable to contain my excitement, I made an exception for these as well, but chastised myself each time to get back to gray and black organic shapes.

belemnites-and-marbleEven in the usually rich belemnite field, I came up empty handed, though Chris found a few that no one else wanted. So I took them. Then, practically under my foot, I spotted a small green sphere. Could it be a marble? It was no longer a perfect sphere and smaller than a regular marble, so either old or very well tumbled. Of course, it might be a perfect fused green glass specimen. Regardless, I kept this additional gift from the sea. But, back to gray…

first-buttonVery soon after, near a rock that I thought was dinosaur poop, I found my first-ever button. I was astonished. My first-ever button, beads, old marble, and metal badge. And I wasn’t even looking for them. This must be some lesson for life. Perhaps: Prepare your mind for success, but redefine success when it suits you. Regardless, I sent a quick prayer, “Thank you God, for these abundant gifts.”

concretion containing ammonite and fossil woodAt the end of the walk, they gathered the group together to split a pile of concretions, hoping to find ammonites within. Indeed, Paddy uncovered quite a few, enough for all the kids on the walk to get one each, and for those who came from a long distance away (Hawai‘i!). I chose a sample with a small ammonite that also contained a piece of fossilized wood. I was thrilled.

pady-cleans-up-my-fossilPaddy welcomed everyone to bring their ammonite to his Fossil Workshop, so he could clean it. I went the next day. Realizing that if I wanted a devil’s toenail, I would have to buy it, I broke my rule (find treasure, don’t buy) and got three. One was a double.

soaked by the rain on the Fossil WalkMeanwhile, the rain had held off until the last hour of the walk. But then it came down quite steadily. My daughter sprinted the 45 minutes to our flat, while I trudged back slowly and carefully, though I didn’t stop for anything. By the time I got back, my shoes, trousers, rain jacket, and even the shirt underneath were soaked. My child had warmed up some soup and made us hot chocolate. We looked over our beach finds, treasuring this last bit of time together before returning to London, and parting in a new way at university.

mother-and-daughterPerhaps all these gifts from the sea were the Universe’s small way of softening the loss of the best treasures of my life, my daughter, and three years earlier, her sister. The lesson is that like gold cast into waves, they both will return to me, the mother beach, again and again, but changed in the process. Maybe that’s what they mean by Life’s a Beach.


For other essays from this trip to what-remains-of-worm-holesEngland see:

Everyday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Exploring Brighton, UK

chris-andrew-biologist-at-lyme-regis-museum-and-large-ammonites-on-the-beachMust-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

Living like a local in Canterbury, UK (and finding Greyfriars Gardens)

Punting on the River Stour in Canterbury, UK

I have a confession. Learning history in Canterbury, UK


If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in beachcombing, college, daughters, gratitude, Mother-daughter bonding, Travel, travel as a transformation tool, Travel make me learn | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Can a beachcomber ever be satiated? Collecting at Lyme Regis, UK

kayaks-surfing-sand-castlesMy daughter has finally arrived in England, and we’re back in Lyme Regis. We both love this seaside town with its link to England’s Jurassic past. It’s all about the sea: kids make giant sand castles, young people surf even in grim weather (an interesting mix of paddle boarding and wave surfing), families stroll the Parade, fishing traps and kayaks stand in large stacks at the end of the day, boats rest in the harbor at low tide. You can rent beach huts by the week, versus owning them (£15,000) in Brighton.

church-peas-cod-liver-oil-colorful-housesAnd it’s so English (apologies to my Brit friends). The church where Mary Anning is buried  is open (obviously it’s a safe place), houses are colorful, the tiny pharmacy carries 11 types of cod liver oil (I found only one back home), the Co-op sells not only garden peas and mushy peas, but marrow processed (?) peas. Our landlady provided digestives.

cornish-bakeryThe baker of “Voted World’s Best Cornish Pasty” fame rings a bell every day between 4 and 5 announcing, “Pasties; half off,” and locals come running to get them.

best cod everPeople are so nice. When we found ourselves without wallets to buy fish and chips at a stand along the Parade, we asked how much for just a piece of cod. “Only £4.” We were still 60 p short. The lady said she’d cover the difference out of her own pocket. We protested – how about you sell us one of the half pieces? She gave us both halves, some of the best cod I’ve had on this trip, and threw in two shrimp.

narrow-streets-with-vehicular-traffic-in-lyme-regisThe streets here are every bit as narrow as Canterbury, but with traffic! Buses regularly come within a few inches of my hinder; one misstep and I’m toast. But seriously, everything about this town is endearing.

devils-toenails-and-fossil-workshopThe first day we visited Paddy Howe’s Fossil Workshop just downstairs from Alice’s Bear Shop and Hospital for Poorly Bears and Dolls. We renewed our acquaintance from our trip in March. Paddy is the geologist who takes us novices on the Fossil Walks. I noticed he had many Devil’s Toenails for sale. This is the object of my desires this trip. (I gave up my obsession with dinosaur poop from the last visit.) I resolved to buy from him if I could not find one, even though this is against my beachcombing principles (find treasure, don’t buy).

my best French Lieutenants Woman poseThat evening as the sun set, my daughter and I walked out to the beach and then onto the Cobb. I did my best Meryl Streep French Lieutenant’s Woman pose, but clearly I need her figure, the cape and wretched weather.

We planned to take the Lyme Regis Museum’s Fossil Walk, the next day. But somehow I wrenched my back and spent the day in bed. My daughter wisely rescheduled it for two days hence. (Hence? Maybe I’ve spent too much time in England.)

But the next day, my desire to get out to the East Beach overcame my back twinges, so off we went, well lubricated with Aleve. I remembered from last time, that I was so distracted by the abundance of sea glass and pottery shards that I could not concentrate on dinosaur fossils. So today I would focus on these pretties, allowing me to be single-minded for the Fossil Walk.

methodical-paceMy daughter finds my pace aggravatingly slow. She has eagle eyes, a definite advantage over my old floater-impaired, and astigmatic eyes. We felt it best to part and she dashed off. Luckily I had a sturdy bag, because I could barely take two steps without seeing something worth picking up.

red-sea-glassOnly 30 minutes later she was back, grinning. “I found something that you’re not going to like.” Really? “Yes. I know you too well. Do you want to see it now or later?”

“Okay, now,” I sighed. She pulled a quarter-size chunk of tumbled red sea glass out of her bag. She was right. I was envious. I’ve never found a piece of red glass, much less one that size.

The wind was picking up and the sky turned gray, so she headed back to the flat, while I continued for another two hours.

sea glass found at Lyme Regis, UKI didn’t find any rare red glass, but did harvest the finest tumbled glass I’ve ever found. The clear, now white glass was the best – thick (which can mean old), well-worn and pitted. The receding tide also exposed a fair amount of worn thicker green and seafoam colored glass. As in March, the town’s old dump spill also provided fused glass globs (upper right).

cobalt-sea-glass-and-glass-containing-markings-and-wireNone of the cobalt blue was thick, and very little of it was well-worn. But I like it, so I picked up as much as I saw. Some of the glass I found had bottle lip lines, markings, or contained wire mesh, a safety feature invented in 1892.

potery shards collected at Lyme Regis, UKI also collected lots of pottery shards, of every imaginable type and color. Some had markings, many had patterns. As I told someone, this collection will provide hours of amusement, much like my grandmother’s button collection; I never tired of looking at them either.

cullings; will take back to beachWell, I’m satisfied that I collected enough glass and pottery that I can now concentrate on fossils and be fully present for the Fossil Walk. In fact, I’m satiated and I already have a box of glass and shards that I’ll return to the beach tomorrow. Wish me luck on finding a Devil’s Toenail.


fused glass burned at the town dump then spilled into the oceanFor other Lyme Regis essays, see:

I found a fossil! Nope, not yet at Lyme Regis, England

Fossils, sea glass and shards; an abundant beach at Lyme Regis

Gifts and lessons from the sea at Lyme Regis, UK

For other essays from this trip to England see:

Everyday London

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

evening-fishing-off-the-cobbThe “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Exploring Brighton, UK

Must-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

Mermaid Sign at Lyme Regis, UKLiving like a local in Canterbury, UK (and finding Greyfriars Gardens)

Punting on the River Stour in Canterbury, UK

I have a confession. Learning history in Canterbury, UK

Gifts and lessons from the sea at Lyme Regis, UK


If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in beachcombing, daughters, enjoying other cultures | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

I have a confession. Learning history in Canterbury, UK

graveyard in St. Martin's ChurchI have a confession. I never took World History. Not in high school, not in 14 years of college (slow learner). But it’s never too late to learn. So I’m taking this travel opportunity to fix my ignorance, at least about England. I can travel from BCE through WWII right here in Canterbury, at so many historical venues. One of the biggest surprises has been the cost of this education. Living in Hawai‘i, I’m used to thinking of tourist venues as expensive. But Canterbury offers most sites for very little, some even free.

Roman street levelLet’s start with the Romans. (Visit the Canterbury Roman Museum for £8 or £12 in combination with the Canterbury Heritage Museum.)

Just coming in the door, you find out how deep they have to excavate to find Roman ruins. German bombing during WWII exposed some including a roman villa showing tiled floors and the under-floor heating system for the bath. (I loved the play area where you can dress up in togas and soldier helmets.)

The big guy, Julius Caesar, invaded England in 55 BCE (unsuccessfully) and 54 BCE (successfully, fording the Stour River and then the Thames) but he didn’t stay. Eleven years later, Claudius ordered another invasion and began the long Roman rule of England that lasted until about 400 CE, when the Roman Empire dissolved at the hands of the Germanic tribes that invaded it. Meanwhile, the Romans had a big presence in Canterbury.

Artist's representation of Roman CantrburyI more or less remembered all that from Latin Class. Ms. Iris Gallez taught us Roman history and mythology along with “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” They were great road builders, and one of their roads came through Canterbury from Dover on the way to Londonium.

Roman theatre-and-bathsIn every large city they built public baths, temples, forum (is it fora when plural?), and markets. The large theatre is now buried beneath The Three Tuns, a 15th century pub, and the public baths are under Waterstone’s Bookstore and on view in the basement.

roman-use-of-glassWhat I didn’t recall was how proficient the Romans were in making bricks, and in using, if not making, glass.


The Roman Museum has great exhibits, including a silver horde buried about the time the Romans left Britain and mock-ups of a market, a home dining room and a kitchen.

St. Augustine's AbbeyWhile the Romans brought Christianity with them to Britain, it mostly died out when they left. Pope Gregory sent Augustine to Britain in 597 to convert the Anglo-Saxons. (Visit St. Augustine’s Abbey for £5.80; includes audio tour.) Luckily for Augustine, King Ethelbert had married a Frankish Christian Princess, making his job much easier. The King had allowed Bertha to continue to practice her religion in a Christian Church restored from Roman times, St. Martin. Under his wife’s influence, the King converted, and, of course, so did masses of his people.

St. Augustine's AbbeyHe gave Augustine land to build a church inside the city (the Cathedral) and a Benedictine monastery outside the city walls, which became St. Augustine’s Abbey. The form of this abbey has changed over the years; the early wooden church gave way to two stone and one brick church (reused roman bricks).

original vs Norman Churches at St. Augustine's AbbeyAfter the Normans arrived in 1066, the Norman bishops tore down all three of the old churches and built a grand Norman style church many times bigger than the old churches, in fact, about the size of the present Canterbury Cathedral. In addition, other buildings were added or remodeled such as a library, refectory, dorms, infirmary, and everything else you’d need to take care of a community of monks.

Destruction of St Augustine's AbbeyWhen Henry VIII’s Reformation came along, the monks were kicked out, the library and its 2000 manuscripts were destroyed, buildings including the grand Norman church were pulled down and the materials sold, and others were remodeled for the crown’s use, including an apartment for Catherine of Cleves, one of Henry’s wives. It wasn’t until 1844 that a rich landowner saw the deplorable state of the abbey, bought it, and saved it from further ruin.

norman-castle-in-canterbury-ukThe Canterbury Castle is also a Norman invasion story, covered in Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK. It’s free and unsupervised. I still say it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

canterbury-cathedral including ornate pulpitThe Canterbury Cathedral dominates the city. Ordinarily the entrance fee is £12. But if you plan to attend a church service, it’s free; just be sure to make a donation. My favorite service is Evensong, where I can hear a first-rate choir. organ pipesThis cathedral is the home of the head archbishop of the Anglican Church. Originally a Catholic Cathedral, it was a pilgrimage site for centuries after four of King Charles’s men accidentally murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170. Well, the murder was on purpose, but they thought they were doing the King’s bidding. Oops. The pilgrimages mostly stopped after the Reformation, when it changed to Anglican.

External view of Canterbury CathedralThe Cathedral’s history is intertwined with all of the other stories of the city. St. Augustine built the first structure in 597. After the Norman invasion, the Norman bishops tore it down and build a grand Gothic structure, which was enlarged to accept the huge number of pilgrims coming to St. Thomas’ shrine. When the French-speaking Walloons and Huguenots arrived in 15 and 1600s they were allowed to use the crypt of the Cathedral for French services, a practice that continues to this day.

pilgrim-hospitalEastbridge Hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr (£2). But while the pilgrims still flowed here every day, they needed a place to stay. Rich people usually had horses and could stay in the many inns along the road. As they got close to Canterbury, they’d urge their horse on in order to arrive before West Gate was closed for the night. That “Canterbury gallop” contracted to our modern word canter.

chapel-and-undercroft of Eastbridge HospitalBut the poor couldn’t afford an inn. So they turned to East- bridge Hospital (meaning hospitality). It could accommodate 12 pilgrims a night. They slept in the undercroft, ate a meal on the floor above, and went to chapel above that, overlooking the High Street. They were allowed one night’s stay for free (later 4 pence), but if they got sick, the monks nursed them back to health for however long it took.

The Canterbury Tales posterThe pilgrimage from London to Canterbury was four days walk, and pilgrims often traveled in groups for protection during the arduous journey. Perhaps they would tell each other stories to keep the group amused and occupied along the way. This is the essence of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Now here’s my second confession. I never read this milestone work, until now. But it seemed sacrilegious to me to spend weeks in Canterbury without having read Chaucer, and me being a writer. He was the father of English literature, doing the radical thing of writing in English!

The Canterbury Tales venueI suggest you read at least the tales of the knight, the miller, the wife of Bath, the pardoner and the nun’s priest, if you intent to go to the venue Canterbury Tales (£9.75 with audio and guide). Otherwise you won’t appreciate the work they did to present these five stories.

Canterbury Heritage MuseumFinally, there’s the Canterbury Heritage Museum (£8 or £12 with the Roman Museum.) The building was originally a residence for poor, sick and old priests, built in 1200. It has exhibits covering the 15th through the 20th centuries. Two things stood out. I especially appreciated learning about Canterbury’s gifted Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan playwright and a contemporary of Shakespeare. He was murdered at 29.

adult-weekly-food-rationThe other exhibit that affected me deeply was about the Canterbury home front during WWII. It helped me put myself in the shoes of the courageous citizens of that time. I saw a typical week’s rations for an adult, a paltry amount that many today could eat in one sitting. No wonder the Victory Garden was so important.

home-front-battle-in-wwiiVolunteer fire wardens, many of whom were women, watched neighborhoods from roof tops to locate where night bombs had started fires. They communicated the location to fire trucks to put out the blazes, but would also attempt to put the fire out before it could become a large blaze. Apparently, from these roof locations, they could grab unexploded bombs and dropped them off the sides of the buildings before they could start roof fires. This was a tedious, all night job.

indoor-morrison-shelter during WWIIFor people with yards, their Anderson shelter became their refuge during air raid strikes; the British government distributed 3.6 million of them. At 6 ft high x 4.5 ft wide x 6.5 ft long, they were designed hold six people. Buried to a depth of 4 ft, then covered with at least 15 inches of dirt, they saved many lives during the war. But they were cold and damp in the winter, and may people did not have a yard. The solution was a Morrison shelter installed in your flat. It had a table top and legs, and, underneath, a steel structure with a wire surround to prevent occupants from falling debris. People often put a mattress inside and slept there.

Edward Rutherfurd's book, LondonSo there you have it, bits of English history from Roman times to WWII, learned in Canterbury. But I also read Edward Rutherford’s London. It’s a novel that follows several fictitious London families through British history from Julius Caesar to WWII. Each family represents a different culture: Celt, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, Dane/Viking, Huguenot, Flemish, and Welsh. This book finally helped me connect the flow of history through time. It’s an extremely entertaining read. So you don’t need to come to Canterbury, just go to a used book store and get hooked on this novel! It’s armchair time-travel at its best.

Whew, I feel better for learning a bit of English history, and no exam! Now, what other culture do I need to go study?


stained-glass window in Canterbury CathedralFor other essays on this trip to England see:

Everyday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Exploring Brighton, UK

Must-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

Anne of Cleves arriving at her apartments at the former St. Augustine's AbbeyLiving like a local in Canterbury, UK (and finding Greyfriars Gardens)

Punting on the River Stour in Canterbury, UK

Can a beachcomber ever be satiated? Collecting at Lyme Regis, UK

Gifts and lessons from the sea at Lyme Regis, UK


If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in learnng new things, Travel, travel as a transformation tool, Travel make me learn | Tagged , , | 2 Comments