Wild Adventure-Grayson Highlands State Park

For the entire month of July we were on vacation.  YEAH! We camped, hiked, swam, and visited friends as we slowly made our way up to New York City and then back down again. Our whole trip was based around my son’s acceptance into an “elite” theatre  intensive with the Broadway Artists Alliance in New York City.  On this trip, we experienced the powerful magic of nature and the crazy-making magic of the city.  A little bit of everything. Perfect Gemini road trip!

One of the most beautiful places we explored on our trip is called Grayson Highlands State Park, in Southwestern Virginia. The park is home to several herds of wild ponies.

There are signs telling visitors not to pet or harass the ponies, but in all honesty, those sweet little ponies walked right up to us and forced us to pet them! We had no choice!!! (Not sure how wild they really are, but we loved them!)

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The weather on the mountain is known to change very quickly, and it did. The first afternoon we were there it was warm and sunny, but by late afternoon, and with no warning, strong winds began to blow. The temperature quickly dropped from perfect to freezing, and as the wind howled, heavy rain poured out of the sky. We huddled in the tent, feeling both excited and nervous…rain began to drip into the tent. Would our tent hold up?  Thankfully the storm passed quickly but the cold stayed with us. It was so cold that we had to bundle up in our winter jackets, the only time we needed them on our trip. IMG_4122

The air was so fresh. The views so beautiful. The energy so calm but so alive. The forest speaks a language my soul remembers.

The park has several hiking trails, there are beautiful waterfalls,  and the Appalachian trail runs right through the park too.  We spent hours skipping rocks into the river. I am certain the world would be a better place if we all spent more time quietly skipping rocks. 

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If you ever find yourself in the mountains of Virginia, go to this park, it is worth it. So beautiful.

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Beautiful waterfall At Grayson Highlands State Park

Our whole trip was really magical and I will try to write soon about each place.  

Go on a WILD  adventure~Tiff

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”~John Muir

 

 

 

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Restoring Under the Hammock

Just a short drive from the overdeveloped madness of South Florida , is a state park called Highland Hammock. The drive and the surrounding town, are not spectacular, but as soon as you enter the park, you enter another world.

Highland Hammock is one of the oldest state parks in Florida. There are trails all around the park. And all of the trails are so different. So beautiful. So healing.  There are Oak trees that are estimated to be over 1000 years old. Cypress swamps, and wildlife, we saw so much  wildlife.

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Barred Owl

Some of the park feels very prehistoric. Especially the Cypress swamp. Early in the morning on a hike, I spotted a cottonmouth, a very venomous snake, swallowing a large fish. We watched in fear and amazement, as the snake unhinged its jaw, and swallowed this fish.

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Cottonmouth Eating a Fish

 

We camped in one of the primitive campsites. As the sunset, with the clear sky, and the new moon, the stars were bright and beautiful. I saw a shooting star. I made a wish.

The whole trip was so restorative. We hiked slowly on the trails. We gazed up at the stars. We hugged trees. I did Restorative yoga everyday, (which my son called “sleeping”), and we ate good nutritious food.

 

We saw deer, pigs, hawks, osprey, owls, turtles, alligators, snakes, opossums, armadillos, and even two river otters.

Being in nature is so healing. Like a soul shower. We feel balanced.

Nature is the best teacher. We can never have enough nature.

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~Tiff

 

The Loaded Gun At DisneyWorld

On Saturday morning, Feb 20th, 2016, I found a loaded handgun in the grass, at a playground, in DisneyWorld, Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. The gun triggered strong emotions of fear and anger, and completely altered our weekend plans.

My mom, sister, and I all live far away from each other, but we decided to meet and go camping together. It wasn’t my idea to camp at Disney, it was my sisters idea. She said the resort was beautiful, and while I protested a little, I finally agreed. Upon arriving and exploring on Friday afternoon, I realized my sister was right. Fort Wilderness is beautiful.  There was a playground right next to our campsite, that my daughter loved.  She probably went down the slide 50 times. Friday night we attended a campfire sing a long with Chip and Dale, and while it certainly is not “normal” camping, it was a lot of fun.

 

Saturday morning, I woke up cold, body stiff. Sleeping in a tent, on cement (even with a yoga mat), is not comfortable. I did a little yoga, drank some cold instant coffee with almond milk, watched two cardinals fly from tree to tree, and enjoyed the early morning quiet.

When the kids woke up, almost immediately, they started begging us to take them to a theme park. We told them they would have fun at the campground, which has playgrounds, trails, and swimming pools with waterslides.I thought of sending the kids off to the playground, but I wanted hot coffee, and the kids needed breakfast, so we all decided to walk to a restaurant at the resort.

Pushing my daughters stroller, I looked down in the grass and  I saw a gun. At first glance, I thought it had to be a toy. Upon closer inspection, I realized it wasn’t. We told park management, and soon the Orange County Police arrived. We spoke with one officer who shook his head in disbelief and said, “That gun was fully loaded and at a playground in DisneyWorld.”

I felt really upset. I  kept thinking “What if a kid had found that gun?” Of course I imagined all sorts of frightening scenarios.Loaded guns, children, Disneyworld. Certainly not the normal situation for the “Happiest Place On Earth.”

Back at our campsite, management was there, waiting to take our statements. We told our story, and added that we felt very uncomfortable and wanted to change campsites. They said the resort was completely full, but instead they offered us a 2 bedroom, 3 bathroom suite at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort. In addition to the suite, they gave us one day park hopper passes to the theme parks.

When we told the kids, they started jumping up and down in excitement. My niece and nephew ran over to me, hugged me, smiled, and said “Thank you for finding that gun!!!” Of course they didnt really understand what could have happened.

We packed our things and drove to Animal Kingdom resort. When we entered our room, our jaws dropped. We walked slowly, in awe of our beautiful and enormous suite. The Disney Staff gifted us with Chocolates, Candy, Coloring Books, Crayons, and even a Disney Board game.  Our suite had three sliding glass doors that opened to a large balcony, overlooking a large field, designed to look like the African Savannah. Zebras, Giraffes,gazelles, ostriches, and many other African animals walked around freely. I had never seen anything like it.

Feeling like all of this was a strange dream, we checked the internet for the price of our suite, and saw that it costs over 1,500 dollars per night.  (Slightly above my normal hotel price range. Haha.)

 

We rode the shuttle to Magic Kingdom, which was very crowded. But it was beautiful. The kids were happy, smiling ear to ear, they seemed to skip rather than walk. My 2 year old daughter, who looks like an owl,  her large eyes grew even wider as she looked around and took it all in. We rode many rides, saw two parades, the firework show.  We stayed at Magic Kingdom until the park closed. All of us had a wonderful time, even though in the back of our minds we kept wondering about that gun.

 

 

 

Back at the hotel, we slept in the master suite, and that bed was the most comfortable bed  I have ever laid on. Very different than sleeping on cement as we did the night before. 🙂

We woke up and enjoyed a leisurely morning and an afternoon of waterslides and swimming.

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I made it back down to South Florida last night, just in time to see the very end of the Street Painting Festival in Lake Worth. I saw a painting that fit our weekend perfectly. And right below the painting, someone had written the word “destiny.”

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Destined Disney Weekend

 

The weekend could have ended tragically, but through destiny and perhaps some guidance from a guardian angel, we had a beautiful, safe,  fun, and memorable weekend.

 

I want to add, that Disneyworld has clear rules that guns are prohibited. I think the police handled the situation quickly and professionally. However,  I don’t know if the gun was registered or if the police were able to find the gun owner. I don’t know if someone accidentally dropped their gun or if this was malicious.  But I do know that this should not have happened. This is just one more story, that proves, once again,  that this country has a problem with gun safety. This was a loaded gun at a playground. And while our story has a happy ending, most stories involving loaded guns, do not. 

 

 

Dancing With My Shadow

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It is a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” ~Pema Chodron

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Balance between light and darkness. When the shadow self comes to visit, don’t fight it, invite it, learn, dance..

Balanced~Tiff

 

The Swamp to The Salty Sea:Everglades National Park

Saturday morning, I woke up feeling tired.   Even after a cup of ‘bullet coffee’, (coffee with butter, coconut oil, and a little cayenne pepper), I still felt low energy. Luckily, we had plans to go camping, and I knew some leisurely hiking would be the perfect cure.  Nature is the best healer.

We packed up and headed out for what we thought would be a camping trip in the Everglades National Park. The drive down to the Everglades, into Homestead, is one of the most awful, depressing, (what have we done to the earth?), drives one can take. We listened to Harry Potter, and The Half Blood Prince on CD, and that made the drive much better.

Slowly the concrete nightmare, gave way to large commercial crops, and then the park entrance. Once inside the park, we entered a whole different world.  Nature. Beauty.  Quiet. Healing. Balance.  MOSQUITOES…

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And Alligators-Such different, ancient, scary energy

The park doesn’t take reservations, and while the campgrounds are very rarely full, they were full. Booked, for the holiday weekend. Once again, as often in life, we had to be flexible, our plans were forced to change.

While swatting mosquitoes, and walking on a boardwalk over a swamp,  we all agreed we were a little bummed but not totally devastated, that our camping trip would become  a day-trip.

Winter in the Everglades, is said to be less “buggy,” but the mosquitoes were intense.  Not everywhere or all the time… BUT, we could be walking quite comfortably, and out of nowhere,  swarms of mosquitoes would rush out and attack us… and yes, we were all wearing repellent. We saw the sweetest (but also funniest) seeming family wearing matching mosquito suits, faces fully covered. There was a moment, where mom, dad, and kid, were all looking through there binoculars at the same time, and in the same direction, with matching clothes. 🙂 

We saw Hawks and Ospreys literally EVERYWHERE. I felt the need to be very quiet and just listen and feel. As to be expected, we saw several alligators. And in Flamingo, which is the very southern part of the park, the southern tip of the Florida, we saw two manatees.   Manatees are fascinating to watch (and swim with), so gentle and magic, and very different from alligators.. ..

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Hawk Watching Over Us-Spirit Animals

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Down in Flamingo, where we saw the manatees,. there were hundreds of birds, called Black Skimmers hanging out on a pretty shoreline,  they literally skim the water when they fly, it was so beautiful to watch them. They are beautiful and VERY loud.

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Mermaid Pose By The Salty Sea

We stayed in the park exploring, until after sunset, and Florida sunsets really are beautiful.

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Driving back, that night, we snacked on gluten free and vegan (uncooked) Smores. Dark Chocolate. Mmmmmm..  I smiled, feeling so grateful to have these moments, these memories with my kids, my family, our mother Earth.

From the Swamp to The Sea, Mother Nature, You Amaze Me.~Tiff

 

 

Green Magic: A Sea of Veggies

We bought our first hybrid car last week, just in time to take a trip to Northern Florida. The car is not new, but it gets 55 miles to the gallon, the gas expense is low.

Anyways, every year, On New Years Eve in Gainesville, which is nearly 300 miles north, our friends have a dance party in the woods.With the new car, there was no question we would be dancing straight into the New Year. Dance is such a powerful way to heal, release, and restore. And it is so fun.  I danced for hours with both of my kids, but without a doubt, my 2 year old daughter ruled the dance floor. She has impressive dance moves and she loves it.

The friends that host this party, inspire me so much, and not just because of the booty shaking in the woods.

My friends own and operate an impressive Organic farm, called Siembra Farm. I have been to the farm many times over the years. But I hadn’t been to the farm in over two years. I was shocked and super impressed by how much it has grown, and what they have going on now.

Acres of kale, collard greens, sweet potatoes, turmeric, carrots, tomatoes.. Looking out at the field, you see a sea of healthy vegetables. Mmmm

 

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Hanging out With Cody at Siembra Farm

 

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Veronica-Farmer and Awesome Yoga Teacher ❤

If you live near an organic farm, please support it. Many organic farms offer CSA shares.Community supported Agriculture.  Weekly boxes of fresh seasonal veggies. If you are in the Gainesville area, check out Siembra.  http://www.siembrafarm.com/

 

We left the farm with a trunk full of fresh sweet potatoes and carrots.

Eating fresh organic vegetables is a completely different experience than eating store bought and transported, non organic veggies. For example, A couple years ago, in the Azores, we had a big garden and we grew a bunch of carrots. I juiced our freshly picked organic carrots and juiced store bought carrots, just to compare. Completely different taste. Completely different feeling. Completely different!!!!!   The fresher the veggies, the better they taste, and of course more nutrients too. Woohoo! 

Everyone should have access to fresh, healthy food. Food can be medicine or poison. What we eat has a direct impact on our health and the health of our planet. Fresh, local, organic food is the way to go. The choice is up to us. Change begins with us. 

Have a Happy New Year, full of growth, positive change, and fresh veggies. 😉 ~Tiff

 

The Beauty in The Sunrise and Sunset

A few weeks ago, I taught a beach yoga class that I will never forget. A beautiful strong class.We went into a very deep meditation.  We were all blanketed in this magical feeling, and for many minutes after class officially ended, we sat silently, softly smiling, everyone feeling that ‘Yoga high’.

Well, that high ended with an accident, a horrible accident, that shocked us all, and left me confused, frazzled, and ultimately feeling very guilty. 

The ocean was wild that day and the lifeguards had put up a red flag. It was warm out, blue skies, but very rough water.

One of my students (who is also a friend, healer, and a teacher),he walked to the shoreline, and decided to dive into the water. He unknowingly dove into very shallow water and his shoulder hit the sand very hard. He came up with his arm hanging several inches lower than it should have been, and his collar bone sticking out, it was grossly out of place. It felt like this weird nightmare, caught in between these two worlds,  and I  really didn’t know what to do.

The lifeguard came over and kind of knocked us back into reality. He was grounded in the situation, and he gave us firm instructions. He also said to my student, in his macho but caring lifeguard voice ” Dude, I know you are in a lot of pain, but we saw that dive and we all thought you broke your neck. You are very lucky.” I am sure he didn’t feel very lucky. And as reality sat in, so did my guilt.

My student was rushed to the hospital, and had to have surgery. And I  kept thinking, “if he hadn’t come to my yoga class, none of this would have happened.” 

I have tried to remind myself that I didn’t instruct him to dive into that shallow water, but the guilt is still there. The concern is there. The pain is there. The memory of this beautiful man, soaking wet with a horrible injury, is still is fresh in my mind. And I have to process and work through that feeling that somehow it was my fault..

I have tried to remind myself that although this has changed his life, it likely has put his life on a track that could only open up because of this accident.   It was the tragedy of my sons seriously broken arm, that forced me to homeschool him, and ultimately allowed us to take a trip to the Azores, a trip that changed our lives, and led to the birth of my daughter. A beautiful path opened out of a very painful situation.  There is a way to look at this situation (any situation) and someday understand the reason. Because there is a reason behind everything. But just because my student will get through this doesn’t mean it isn’t insanely painful. I know it is.

Recently, I have had two very close friends experience intense tragedies, both involving death, in nightmarish ways. My heart goes out to them.

 

We all experience misfortune. And right now, in this moment, my heart goes out to anyone and everyone experiencing grief, loss, sadness, guilt, pain, or fear. Experience it. Surrender to it. Pray. Love. Forgive.

Life and death are mysterious…We can be jolted out of our bliss at any moment. In an accident or even death. Samsara.  This life is impermanent. We only have so many breaths. Everything is in a constant state of transformation. Death included.

I have been doing a meditation about death, and it is surprisingly healing. When we realize our life is impermanent,  we try to make each moment count.We live each breath.  We see the beauty in the sunrise and the sunset. 

Namaste, Tiff12248193_10204499516517914_5042567486272250404_o