El albergue

El albergue

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Single Life

Ah yes, this is it. The freedom! The lack of interpersonal cares! No one to worry about and have bothering me all the time with needs for attention… So sweet and simple is the life of a single lady.

I may have a roommate, but she’s only one, and she’s just as busy as me, which means we don’t tend to get in each other’s hair. All of which means my life is of course full of boundless horizons, not tied down to anything at all, brimming over with possibilities...

….and so goes my inner monologue as I stare hungrily into the open fridge, bereft of any bit of prepared food. Long gone are the awesome leftovers from dinner shifts at work last week, and I didn’t get around to cooking today, so basically all I have is passion fruit and pear jelly, a bit of pasta sauce, a slice of cheese, and half a tub of hearty greens… 

“Such a glamorous life is mine,” I continue as I rummage through the cupboard, pop open the can of refried black beans, and unclip the bag of verging-on-stale tortilla chips.

“Oh, how truly lucky I am,” I go on, the chips dipping down into the can of beans and traveling one after another into my pondering mouth as I stand over the kitchen sink.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Nighttime thoughts

It’s happening again, the same thing that happened this afternoon when I tried to take a nap. I can’t sleep. My mind won’t shut down because it wants to keep pondering the possibilities of a honey garlic peach marinade, brown butter rosemary cous cous, and maybe a fresh garden salad or clean and simple butternut squash… fresh bread… rolls? loaf?

The glorious contemplation of what all sorts of spices and meats and juices and veggies would do when joined together is keeping my mind from repose.

Then the synapses of my brain fire in a completely different culinary direction. Scrap that meal! What about lentils in a savory sundried tomato sauce? Or maybe barley? But what would best be served with that? And what would be the best timing for making it this Sunday afternoon for my friends?

I turn from one side to the other as I lie in the darkness of the quiet wooded night, all thoughts of sleep chased far from me as I debate the various merits of this vinegar over that, this spice palette here over that spice palette over there.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The art of sleeping

Last week, I forayed outside my village inn bubble to visit some friends living in San Francisco. The drive ended up being far better than my now small town mind feared it would be (Traffic! Dreaded traffic!), and it felt natural to be back in a teeming cosmopolitan city. I relaxed into the crowdedly narrow streets, the quirky bakeries, the mobs of pedestrians, and the dogs running gaily about in every open space – and I reveled in memories of café conversations and sidewalk strolls and books in the park and simply existing in the middle of the throbbing pulse of a city.

The first night too felt right. It brought back memories with the twinkling of the city lights in the darkness – memories of movies and sharing food with friends and going out to dance. But as I lay down to sleep on my friends’ couch, I realized that amidst all these comfortable memories, there was something I had gotten completely out of touch with – the art of sleeping in the city.

It’s a tricky thing, this sleeping in the city. First, those beautifully twinkling lights that never go out… well, they never go out. It’s never really dark. Then, there is the upstairs neighbor watching TV and practicing his best impression of a hippo doing ballet. And those carefree carousers on the street outside and the cars and the buses and the midnight dog walkers. It’s never really quiet.

My friend put out a pair of earplugs for me before going to bed herself, “Just in case,” she said. I let the earplugs lie there the first two nights, saying to myself, “I don’t need those, I am a pro at sleeping in the city. I can handle it.” Ha! I finally caved the third night and then had to admit to myself with chagrin that it was the only night I really slept very much.

As I drove back up the windy road home that last day, I found myself fantasizing about the peace and quiet of my room in the woods, where it’s always dark unless the moon is full and the breeze brings no sound more disruptive than the sway of the trees. Ah yes, THAT is where sleeping is at its best.

I fell asleep that night, content to be back in my own quiet bubble… only to be awaken early the next morning by the frantic barking of some neighbor’s dogs and the incessant monotone squawk of some bird that had decided to declaim its woes right outside my window.

I sighed. Where had I put those earplugs?

Friday, July 24, 2015

A change of pace

Today is the day. I have decided. Yep. Today, I am taking the morning off. I was going to run to the gym before running off to hours of choir rehearsal and then running to a whole afternoon and evening of work. But nope, today, I am taking the morning off.

It was kind of a late-in-the-game decision last night as I got ready for bed. I stood looking at my planner, going over the day to come in my head. I could feel myself getting tired just thinking about everything that needed to happen, all the places that needed running around to.

So I said, “Nope! No gym! I’m taking the morning off!”

I still have to go to choir rehearsal and then work, but at least by staying home from the gym, I feel like I have exponentially decreased the hectic quality of my day. Don’t worry, I won’t be all blobby and lazy – I’ve got a fair bit of much-needed stretching in mind.

But for the moment, enshrined in a blanket, fingers wrapped around a steaming mug of tea, I feel like whispering to the robins out on the early morning lawn, “Hey, big news! I’m taking the morning off!”

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Colors of Mendocino

I’ve had so many images running through my head lately, images that I have longed to write down, to share. And now that I sit here at long last at my computer, fingers over keyboard, I find myself unable to thread all these images together cohesively. And yet they all more or less have to do with the same idea – color.

I suppose I’ve been obsessed with color because I’ve been thinking about the wildflowers along the running paths I frequent. And then once I start to think about something, it seems to pop up everywhere I look. It sort of infiltrates my every waking moment…

There are the dusky greens of the redwoods I walked through the other day with a friend on an unforeseen morning off – deep, shadowed greens highlighted by the soft brightness of new growth on the trees and on the ground.

There are the solitary bursts of color that seem to peak out from under and around the forest greens – slender vermillion wildflowers, snowy rhododendrons, happy daisies, delicate purple irises.

There are the sleepily waving golds of the coastal prairies, blushing with ruby sheep’s sorrel, somehow complemented to perfection by the gentle grey of rocky cliffs and overcast skies.

There are all the tiny coastal wildflowers, hardily thriving under the constant beating of the ocean winds – dusty purple asters, bright pink blooms of the ice plant, wild radishes with pastel petals of pink and yellow and white, flaming Indian paintbrush, dainty sweet peas, periwinkles, creamy orange pimpernel, poppies, and many others that brighten my run as I pass them by.

Everywhere I look, I see colors – beautiful, compelling colors. I see sunsets…wow. I see foaming waves. I see driftwood and shrubs and birds and the lime green tennis balls on the front feet of a walker waiting patiently by the side of the road for its owner to come back and reclaim it.  

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Oh yeah, I went backpacking, didn't I?

I just realized I never wrote anything about the backpacking trip I went on in early April with a couple of friends. I guess that must be because it came about in a whirlwind of planning and scheduling, had its glorious three days of existence, and then sort of got crowded out of focus by the swarming duties of life once we returned. But I think if merits a few words…

It was my first backpacking trip, and as such, I was incredibly excited for it. I was ready to get in some challenging hikes, enjoy the beauty of secluded trails, and share great moments with great people. Plus, we were planning on visiting the Lost Coast, which by all accounts was pretty darn remote and relatively untouched – it sounded epic.

The preparations for the trip were hurried, but it all worked out great. My co-trekkers supplied all of the communal gear like a tent, cooking utensils, water filter, etc; and they borrowed pretty much everything I needed (pack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad…) from various friends of their own. They even borrowed hiking boots for me, which, incredibly enough, were pretty nearly a perfect fit!!

The trip itself was amazing. We hiked about 15 miles in to camp the first day, did a day hike of around 10 miles, and then day three hiked back out those 15 miles again. A fair few miles, and mostly along narrow switchbacks cutting up and down steep ridges. It was tiring and thrilling at the same time – legs and hips could definitely feel the strain, but man oh man were there some incredible, incredible vistas out over the water!

There were look out points with sheer cliff dropping an easy thousand feet from a few inches beyond our toes to breakers crashing on jagged rocks. The coast curved out to north and south, fading softly into the distance. The horizon itself seemed more massive when seen from a ridge top, impressing upon one the true immensity of the Pacific.

And our camp was the perfect hideaway from civilization – a tiny beach tucked back between two imposingly tall ridges, with a stream bubbling through to the waves. We saw seals, an osprey, pelicans, a river otter, and even bats at night. We watched the sun set through an arch of rock that sheltered our little cove, sat around our fire, and rested as we talked of anything and everything. It was hard to leave when Day 3 rolled around and we had to head on out again.

There were, of course, difficult parts to the trip. My friend was having trouble with her boots and pack, and old knee injuries were coming back to haunt her every downhill stretch. The wild elk that shared the same trails we followed left behind little friends on the grass and bushes in the form of ticks that we were forever stopping to brush off our clothes. And the two of us girls got a little lost the first evening – we couldn’t find the continuation of the trail because everything looked the same in the twilight of the redwoods – and we had to wait for her husband to come back from setting up camp and rescue us.

Altogether though, it was a wonderful trip, and I’m so glad it happened. Now, I’m planning out what gear of my own I can start investing in as I dream of more hikes, more treks out into Creation, more journeys in fellowship with friends.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mindful nothing

The other day as I was driving home from work, my eyes were startled by a brilliant pink slashing across the robin’s egg blue of the sky.  The sun was setting! And setting with quite some pomp, by the looks of it. It had been a long day, and I was tired, but on the spur of the moment I zipped around the corner to find a good spot where I could pull over and just stare at the sunset.

And that’s exactly what I did - I just sat there and took it all in, doing nothing, thinking nothing. I just absorbed, my mind attuned to the world around me.

The steely blue waves surged against the rocky cliffs. The bright blues and pinks of the sky above faded together into purple indigo. The shadowy forest of cumulonimbus rose from the far-off horizon. The shudders of coastal wind rocked my car from side to side.

I sat there and felt. My eyes soaked up shades, shapes, shadows, and outlines. My mind wandered about among the swells of water and cloud. I drifted. I felt something inside me bubbling up, like a hollow vessel being filled by a quiet spring.

It was one of those moments that fills me with joy, that makes me want to write epic poetry and sing opera at the top of my lungs and dance like no one is watching, all at the same time. It made me realize how few such moments I’ve had in my life lately, how seldom I’ve allowed myself to simply stop, stare, absorb, ponder, dream.

And I miss that. I miss those moments of mindful nothing, full of the everything of life.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tea Time

As I sit here on my bed, drowsily content, I cuddle my warm cup of tea in my hands. I’ve just had a wonderful nap to counteract the sapping of a busy work schedule. The joyful prospect of community choir practice shines bright in the near future (very near… in fact, I should probably be getting ready to go right now). The gardens are cheerfully bathed in sunshine outside my sliding glass door…

And this tea ties it all together. My perpetually chilly fingers curl around its warmth. My nose is filled with its fragrant steam. My mouth, throat, and belly are soothed by its liquid caress. I might even go so far as to say that it’s working its way around to calming my very heart!

How does it do this? How does a simple cup of tea manage to impart so much comfort and complete such a quiet moment?

As the level of tea in my mug drops, I find myself wishing it were somehow bottomless, that I could keep on sipping it forever, that this moment of perfect peace would never go away.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Sometimes, I like to have really serious, adult conversations. And then sometimes I just really have to talk about popcorn.

I love it. I really do. I mean, who doesn’t love a big bowl of fresh popcorn, with all its lovely warmth and buttery perfection? I’m not the only one who goes crazy over it, grabbing big handfuls and stuffing them down the hatch with the spastic enthusiasm of a four year-old who’s still working on the whole food-in-mouth-and-not-on-floor thing… right?

I’m not incredibly picky about it either. Microwave popcorn with all its fake butter? Lay it on me.  Movie theater popcorn with extra buttery goodness? I’m excited. Air-popped popcorn with parmesan cheese? Umm, yes. Stale popcorn strings hung up for a festive occasion? Hey, they’re only a day or two old, and I get hungry walking from my bedroom to the kitchen to make breakfast!

All those popcorn sources aside, I have to say that I now have a clear favorite. In a world of popcorn glory, this one single way of making popcorn now reigns supreme in my mind – the Whirlypop. Oh man, does that thing do it right.

Imagine with me a big pot. In goes a generous tablespoon or two of oil and a good ½ cup of those wonderful golden kernels. On goes the lid. Up goes the heat of the stove. Around and around goes the handle turning the paddle inside the pot. Sizzle goes the oil. Then bing bang boom, those shiny little kernels explode in a firing squad-esque display of sound into a mass of fluffy white under your hands. Oh heaven. Almost every single kernel is popped – no more of those sadly disappointing ones that refuse to reach their full delightful potential. And it is so delicious…

My brother and sister-in-law gave me this amazing Whirlypop for Christmas in conjunction with a jar of coconut oil, since that is the oil of their choice for poppin’. So of course I’ve tried it out with coconut oil in conjunction with salt, with garlic salt, with parmesan, and even by itself. It’s so tantalizingly fragrant when you use that coconut oil!!! I’ve also tried it with standard olive oil with the above mentioned toppings, and I even broke out this incredible butter-infused olive oil my cousin gifted me. That buttery flavor was definitely a perfect pairing with the parmesan, let me tell you!

Recently though, I just about blew my own mind with a little experiment I tried… When putting the oil and popcorn kernels in the pot, I added dried rosemary, and let it all heat up together. Throw on some garlic salt when it’s still steaming hot, and oh lands, is that stuff good. With any of those oils, it is amazing. …I may or may not have gleefully substituted it for a “normal” dinner a few times.

I’ve even begun to dream up different possible popcorn creations as I drive home from work or lie in bed drifting off to sleep. Chili-lime? Curry? Sweet and sour? …oh yum… the combinations are endless!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Swimming blind

Living as I now do in the midst of a natural playground (SO many beautiful places to go hiking and exploring!!), I tend to think of the great outdoors when I think of exciting new experiences. Recently though, I’ve plunged right into what has to be for me one of the most exciting adventures I’ve had in a while… I bought a car!

Having never owned a car myself or dealt with any of those pesky things like car insurance and whatnot before, this has been sort of like trying to swim underwater through a murky lake – I had an idea of where I was going (Car! I need to own a car!), but I really couldn’t see how far away that goal was or what little or big obstacles might pop up out of nowhere to hamper my progress.

Prime example:  When I learned that I needed to buy a car sooner than expected, the first overwhelming question was “Where?” Should I try to find one up here in Mendocino? Should I try to find one in the Bay area? Should I try to find one back home, where hopefully there might be some better deals hanging out? Should I look on Craigslist? Should I go to a dealer? Ahhhh!!!

But I dived right in, feeling my way around, asking people with more experience for advice. Of course, I hadn’t taken any positive direction one way or another, but at least I was orienting myself, right?

Well, lo and behold, out of the blue, my housemate found me a seller in Fort Bragg that she had a good connection to! AND, wonder of all wonders, it was exactly the kind of car I had been hoping to find - a Honda CRV! Not only that, but it was in great running condition and had under 100,000 miles on it! AND it was in my price range!!!

Then came lots of uncertain paddling through lots of unknown territory – go talk with the seller, look over the car, pretend like I know what I’m looking for/at, take it to a mechanic, listen to said mechanic’s advice like a lost child desperate for directions… Upon deciding to go through with the deal, the seller and I both sort of waded through the paperwork as newbie’s on the scene, mostly certain that she had all the papers necessary. Then I realized last minute that the car needed to be smogged before the DMV would process the change of ownership. Thank heavens someone in my gym class knew where to get that done. And when I made it to the DMV, I felt so wide-eyed and clueless, standing there in front of the lady at the desk sort of stammering. She was wonderfully patient though, and all the documents were in good order. (Yay!)

This is about where my figurative head burst above the figurative waters, and I took a deep figurative gasp of air. A car! I own a car! But oh wait, what’s this further stretch of water to swim? Oh yes, that would be figuring out car insurance. Phooey

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dinner by Candlelight

Wine Hour at Brewery Gulch Inn last night was a romantic affair. As the innkeeper on duty, I was busy every single moment, going back and forth between the kitchen and foyer to help the attendant pour wine and set up the dinner buffet, stopping to answer guests’ questions, turning around every which way at my desk to sort through what seemed to be a hundred distinct pieces of paperwork, picking up the ever-ringing phone to answer reservation inquiries, and constantly strolling over to the fireplace to jab the smoking logs into a decent blaze. But for all that, it was too lovely an evening to go at all crazy. The guests chatted quietly over little glass lamps burning brightly on the tables, the fire was cozy, and food and wine found its way into guests’ hands around the myriad candles lighting the service area. Most of our lights were off, and more candles glimmered around the rest of the foyer. Every movement and word seemed softened in the flickering glow. The food itself, delicious as it always is, seemed somehow better for the ambience.

It was such a peaceful picture of rest and enjoyment.

Even the owner, harried as he was with keeping constant watch over the generator and frequently checking to see if the power had been restored after the big storm, seemed affected by the graceful mood of the candles. Instead of being peevish, as he most certainly had a right to be, deprived as he had been of sleep throughout a long night and day of running an inn on the fragile strength of a back-up generator, he was generous and friendly as he talked with guests softly illuminated in the darkness.

And when PG&E called to let us know that power might not be restored until the following evening, even that news was not immune to the effect of the candles. As I hung up the phone, they continued to flicker gently, seeming to say, “Don’t worry. Things will work out. Now sit here with us and enjoy this moment of quiet.”

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The tale of a young food lover

Let me tell you a tale, a tale of a young girl named Laura. Laura was a sensible girl, as young girls go, and although she liked all sorts of food and enjoyed her three meals a day immensely, I like to think that she usually kept herself more or less in hand, seldom over-indulging at the table.

One Christmas though, Laura received the gift of an invitation to a Crab Cake Cookoff – and quite a fun and festive feast it so pleasantly promised to be. Being the refined delighter in food that she was, Laura of course accepted, marking the day in her schedule with joy.

Time passed, the day approached, and soon our foodie female hero was walking with her friends through the entrance to the community Crab Cake Cookoff. The walls were lined with booths from restaurants and private chefs alike, each with an offering of freshly crafted cakes of crab unique to their own special preparation. Not only that, there was winery after winery as well, with bottles laid out in attractive display. And all, ALL were vying for the favor of the crowd of milling tasters, with colors, speech, smells, and smiles to highlight the flavors of their product.

The tasters’ task (which was Laura’s too) was to sample each cake and sip each wine and then vote on which was the best. It was a weighty task, but our doughty young girl set to it with quiet determination.

A little view of the fun and madness

She nibbled, she sipped, she nibbled and sipped some more. And what things she did nibble! What things she did sip! Crab cakes fragrant with garlic or fennel, dressed with tropical salsa or creamy béchamel, presented with garnish or by themselves. Pinot Gris, Champagne, Zinfandel… the list went on and on!

Soon, Laura’s stomach felt quite full. Yet still she nibbled, still she sipped, and still she so joyfully and gleefully savored. …very soon, her stomach felt a good deal more than just filled; it felt quite positively bursting! There were still a few more booths to visit, a few more cakes and a few more wines just begging to be tasted. Alas, she quite simply didn’t have the space to fit a single bit more in. So she called it quits and waddled over to cast her vote as best she could.

Her duties done, she stepped aside to chat and rest her tummy. And as the warmth of that bright blue day brought out a drowsy yawn, she vowed she couldn’t possibly eat anything ever again.

…At which point of course, a friend called her up to invite her over to have Hawaiian BBQ that night.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

This new year

Life seems to always be about adjustments, about figuring out how to function and succeed in the midst of new situations, new jobs, new seasons of living. There’s a part of me that this frustrates immensely, as just about every time I start to settle comfortably into a routine and feel like I’m finally getting the hang of things, something has to go and change it all up on me. Gone is all the stability I’ve been working so hard to create. The outline of my days is completely different, and new guidelines for living in this new place have to be set up and understood.

Of course, if life was always the same and never changing, it would be…. stagnant. It would inevitably grow old and boring. Change is what keeps me on my toes, growing, learning.


Even though I know this obvious truth and more often than not welcome the exciting new adventures that change brings my way, there are times when I just wish I didn’t have to go through all the struggle of readjusting all the time.

This new season of life especially seems to be more difficult for me to figure out than many in the past for some reason. Funny thing is, it hasn’t really hit me until recently. I have been trundling along, single-mindedly focusing all my energy into a few key points of existence, and only now am I realizing how many things have really actually changed in my life of late and how many things from before are missing. Sometimes, when I sit and think about everything this entails, it starts to overwhelm me.

So this year, as I seek to readjust myself to the place and time in which I find myself, I have to remember that God brought me here for a reason, and that because he wants me here, he will take care of me in every area of my life, inward and outward. I know that he’ll give me the grace to figure out how to fit all the activities I WANT to do around all the new responsibilities I HAVE to take care of. Friends, writing, music, exercise, and the like are the things he has placed in me as a part of who I am, so I KNOW that he’ll help me fit them all back into my life.

How that will happen, how it will all work out, I’m still not sure, but one thing I do know for sure – 2015 lies before me like a giant question mark, leading I don’t know where, but tinted with the colors of expectation and encouragement.