Death Valley National Park boasts the highest air temperature ever recorded (134°) and routinely hits 120° in summer in the shade. Why would anyone go here? Well, it’s your closest chance of experiencing Mars on Earth. Cracked salt flats flanked by colorful striped hills and badlands. A valley that you both want to walk farther into and also run far away from. In December we thought the park would be empty. It was packed, parking lots teeming. But on our way out, we pulled off the perfectly paved road and watched dusk descend on the valley without another soul in sight.
A year ago today we drove three hours through the mountains of Maryland and West Virginia. It was a drab December morning, but we were filled with anticipation.
Santa was riding on a fire truck near your home, so our first shared moment consisted of listening to you whine at the sound of sirens while you had a dingleberry removed.
We didn’t even know what a dingleberry was back then.
Now we do.
And we also now know that whine of yours can range from frustration to discomfort to just looking for some attention.
Back on the ground and out the door you took off, running on impossibly short legs through the grass, jumping, weaving around our feet, latching on to loose pant legs. Within 20 minutes you were passed out in the car and basically slept through the 3-hour ride to your new home.
A year with Balthasar. It has consisted of taking you to 12 states (plus D.C.), to four national parks, and you’ve already dipped your paws in both the Atlantic and Pacific.
Your living quite the charmed puppy life.
Some things haven’t changed much over the past 12 months – you still have puppy dreams and make adorable noises before falling asleep. You hate closed doors (especially to the bathroom when one of us is in it) and you don’t want us to be in separate rooms. You love running on grass and cleaning out peanut butter jars. You have been tearing up cardboard boxes with zeal since day one with us.
Other things have changed – you now love cuddling and getting “scritches.” You’ve developed quite the obsession for tennis balls and got rid of your habit of stealing other people’s newspapers. You love the water now and can’t imagine not at least testing the temperature by getting your tummy wet (it’s never too cold).
This past year you’ve wowed us with your intelligence and the speed that you pick up new commands. As you’ve grown into an adolescent we have found ourselves questioning our positive-only, force-free training.
But then you’re so polite, ask permission for everything, and are kind with every human you meet. It’s been a challenge, but the training is working.
We hope to have many many more years with you and celebrate many many more “gotcha days.”
But today we’re thinking back about the 365 days with a bouvier named Balthasar. We’ve gone through thousands of poo bags, had hundreds of ear licks (your “kisses”), taught you dozens of commands, and you’ve taught us to be more forgiving, curious, loving, responsible, and to cherish the moments when the herd is all together.
We’re having a heat wave in Maryland. With temperatures in the 70s in February, many of us wander around delighted and frightened. For those with gardens, the temptation to get back in the dirt is strong. But will we have another frost before spring? After experiencing Japan’s gardens we’re more inspired than usual to prune this, shape that, plant those. When you look at this tree and you imagine the patience that went into forcing this pine to take that shape you remember that gardening is an exercise in restraint. Step away from the shears and wait a few weeks.
If you find yourself with a garden space that is horizontally challenged, take a tip from the Spaniards and go vertical. In countless courtyards throughout Cordoba, gardeners are not deterred by limited space. Instead they put plants in containers that climb up the walls toward the sunlight. No need to get fancy with the pots, simple terra cotta will do. Add in some blossoming flowers in coordinating colors, mix up the textures of the foliage, and just keep rising higher and higher. One more thing: consider drought-resistant plants because watering all of these regularly would be bothersome.
Trees growing in a straight line? This is not coincidental. This is what happens when trees grow out and on top of dead, fallen trees. A concept called the nurse log. As you hike through the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park everything feels very alive – the greenery all around is teeming with life that supports more life. And if that weren’t enough to inspire, the local library placed signs with poetry along the trail (including the poem below).
Nature is what we know –
Yet have no art to say –
So impotent our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
In Kyoto we wanted to visit the bamboo grove Arashiyama. We had seen pictures of rows upon rows of bamboo that looked mesmerizing. We trudged there all the way across town and were, well, underwhelmed. Yes, lots of bamboos. But it didn’t have that dizzying quality we expected. (Plus it was packed with tourists). We had seen more impressive groves elsewhere in Kyoto. On an unassuming detour at Fushimi Inari, we walked by hundreds of bamboos lining the trail. Later at Enko-ji we saw the grove pictured here, which had a major advantage because we were the only people there.
If you haven’t heard, it’s going to be hot the next few days and into next week. H-O-T hot. Like 99 degrees hot here in Frederick. But it’s not just Maryland, a heat wave is in the forecast for much of central and eastern U.S.
I grew up in Louisiana, so I’m no stranger to heat (and humidity!). But how do others handle the heat? Here are a few clever ways I’ve come across.
We were in Dubai in January and it was hot. It was about 30 degrees away from summer weather, but it was 85 and I was wearing lots of modest clothes. So how do you escape the heat in Dubai? You go to the mall.
The wonderfully air-conditioned mall.
We joked that Dubai was one huge mall because there were so many of them, but it makes sense. Isn’t there nothing better when it’s ridiculously hot out than stepping into a 65 degree climate-controlled space?
The other week we were complaining about the heat in Maryland. We were dealing with low 90s here and I decided to check the weather in Southern Spain. It was 110 degrees. Spain was one place where we were fascinated by how they’ve handled hot weather.
You have table misters that keep you cool while dining alfresco or just walking by.
Sun shades that stretch across streets do you don’t have to walk in the sun.
And kissing lanes that are designed to be so narrow for more shade.
This is also the culture that has perfected the art of the siesta – a midday nap that coincides with the hottest part of the day.
I was thinking of all of the places we’ve traveled when it was hot, and the only thing that I could think that Greece really got right about the heat was having the sea RIGHT there. You just jump in and immediately cool off. Genius. 😉
When we were in Phoenix this past January it was warm (for January!) and sunny. At one street corner I happened to look up as we waited to use the cross walk and saw the ingenious shade structures on all four corners of the street. It was this convenient little tree-shaped plastic fan that spread out over us and provided shade from the relentless Arizona sun.
I don’t know if it necessarily makes me feel better to know others are dealing with hight temperatures, but I do hope that some of these heat-beating solutions will be implemented more widely here in the U.S.
What other smart ways have you found to beat the heat?
You smell Takeshita Street before you see it. A saccharine cloud descends upon you. It’s not even noon and you find yourself craving ice cream wrapped in a crepe drizzled with syrup. As you walk down what’s supposed to be one of Tokyo’s most fashionable streets your every inhale is tinged with sugar. You expect to see Harajuku-style dresses and cosplay, but the predominant fashion on this weekday is sailor collars on school uniforms. Clusters of school children line up to buy candy, creme puffs and other goodies. Meanwhile you’re wondering whether they could all possibly be skipping school.
They talk a lot about energy in Sedona. They describe mystical qualities of their famed red rocks. As we hiked to Cathedral Rock, we didn’t quite experience an energy or magnetism about the place. We did, however, note that hiking there made us feel like we were on Mars. The almost unnatural red and organge, the odd rock formations, the super wide vistas all felt other worldly. As did the people-shaped rocks that looked down and watched over us as we explored, something we didn’t quite notice until we got home and looked at photos like this one.
When you travel the last thing you want is a blister or aching feet. But what shoes should you pack?
Ultimately the shoes you pack should meet most (if not all) of these considerations:
- All weather. It’s not the time to pack suede shoes if you’re going anywhere that rains at all. Your shoes should be able to get wet, dirty, muddy, dusty, etc.
- Comfortable as can be. You should be able to walk miles in these shoes without aches or blisters. This requires significant breaking in.
- Versatile for all outfits. Your shoes should work with every outfit you pack. You won’t want to wear the same shoes day after day. Get shoes that work with jeans, khakis, pants, capris, shorts, and bonus points if it works with skirts and dresses.
Below are my go-to shoes for traveling as well as recommendations from my well-traveled friends.
Me, my husband, and my friend Kerry all swear by Merrells. The best thing about these shoes is that technically it’s a sneaker, but it doesn’t look like a sneaker. Too many jokes have been made at the expense of white-sneaker sporting American tourists, but at the end of the day a good pair of sneakers is what you should wear when you’re walking 10-12 miles a day. The three of us have gray-colored Merrells, which like Dr. House proved, we can make look as sporty, casual, or nice as we want.
Sperry Boat Shoes
I love my Sperry boat shoes. The moment it climbs past 65 degrees in the Spring until it falls below 60 in the Fall, I’m in my boat shoes about 75% of the time. In addition to being comfortable, boat shoes look nicer than sneakers (even Merrells). If we’re traveling in any season other than winter, my boat shoes are in my bag.
A pair of strappy flat sandals
In Louisiana we use the term “lagniappe,” which means a little something extra. If we’re traveling in the summer I’ll throw a pair of flat sandals in my bag as lagniappe. These are nice for the beach or to wear with a sundress to look a wee bit dressier than my other shoes. I wouldn’t spend the day walking in sandals, but it’s nice to have the option to dress up. My favorite sandals have been from J Crew and Madewell – they only last a couple of years, but I don’t spend a lot on them. These look very similar to a pair I bought a couple of years ago and I just bought these, but haven’t worn them yet, so can’t say if they are comfy.
A few more ideas
My friend Melissa says that her Converse all stars work well for long days of walking while traveling. Kerry’s husband and family members love the brand OluKai for comfortable all-day walking shoes, which was new to me. After spending 15 minutes on the OluKai website I’m ready to buy all of the shoes.
What are your go-to shoes for traveling?