Sunday, March 29, 2009

On Foot in San Diego: Encinitas Meditation Gardens

This weekend I had a buddy on my walkabout, my 12 year old granddaughter. Traipsing around looking at stuff was not her idea of fun - she'd rather stay at the house and watch TV on a Saturday morning. I sweetened the deal with a camera to use and a promise to stop by a funky outdoor clothes market.

We headed up to the Meditation Gardens in the Self-Realization Fellowship Retreat and Hermitage in Encinitas at the advice of Charles Boyd, a Charlestonian temporarily displaced in San Diego and now back in Charleston.

"It's not really sightseeing because it's in San Diego", Jennifer rationalized on the drive up. "I don't like sightseeing, Mommy always wants to do that when we go on vacation".

A Golden Lotus tower meets every traveler arriving into town from the south on historic Highway 101. Behind the tower lies the seventeen acre Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) for prayer and meditation. Most of the grounds are taken up by the Hermitage and Retreat. A few bluffside acres, perhaps two, of unbelievable beauty and serenity are dedicated to a Meditation Garden.

Before we got to the gardens, I took the opportunity to slip some history of Encinitas into the conversation. We drove past the Darby House and talked about the railroad beginnings of Encinitas, then past the Boat Houses and talked about how building the dams at Lake Hodges and San Dieguito in 1918 influenced the growth of the little town.

A mining engineer, James Noonan, bought the SRF property in 1887, built a house and moved his family here from Colorado. The house burnt to the ground six years later and the family moved away. Certainly there would have been no water to fight a fire at that time.

In 1936, James Lynn, a follower of Paramahansa Yogananda, bought the property and built the Hermitage on the bluffs, presenting it to him as a gift when he returned from a tour in Europe and India. Paramanhansa Yogananda lived and taught here in the Hermitage for the next twenty five years until his death in 1952.

Every inch of the gardens is beauty, bringing the beholder to a slow pace to absorb it all.

Gnarled trees give a feeling this place has been here forever. I missed the Ming Tree planted by the Yogi. That will have to be another trip.

Koi ponds...

Giant golden fish...

Beautiful blooming seaside succulents...

Weird little guys growing on rocks.

A Golden Lotus temple designed by Parmahansa Yogananda was built on the edge of the cliff in 1938 with a large pond to the side that mirrored the temple.

Unfortunately, the Temple slid down the cliffs in 1943, leaving only these steps.

Benches are placed everywhere in the gardens. These two couples sat unmoving for a long time. Thinking, praying, meditating?

Jennifer, a future film director, was completely absorbed photographing the gardens.

Her photos were a creative take on the environment.

Photo by Jennifer

Photo by Jennifer

She waited what seemed like hours for this dove to pop his head from behind the branch.

Photo by Jennifer

She caught the entanglement of a pine tree by nearby palm roots.

Photo by Jennifer

We topped off the day with cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake at the Highway 101 Diner -- ugh! I didn't want to think about the fat grams! -- took a look at the 1883 school house, located the 1926 sidewalk concrete stamp, and went to that funky outdoor market where she bought three cool shirts. I think I'll be having a buddy on future walkabouts.
"Let us pray in our hearts for a League of Souls and a United World. Though we may seem divided by race, creed, color, class, and political prejudices, still, as children of the one God we are able in our souls to feel brotherhood and world unity. May we work for the creation of a United World in which every nation will be a useful part, guided by God through man's enlightened conscience.

In our hearts we can all learn to be free from hate and selfishness. Let us pray for harmony among the nations, that they march hand in hand through the gate of a fair new civilization."
- Paramanhansa Yogananda -

Friday, March 27, 2009

Two things

I gotta get my butt in gear and go get my hair cut, but first two things...

Terrie at Kappa No He has written a book! Go see (and buy!) it here.

I check the I Can Has Cheezburger site at least once a day. What can I say? Those crazy animals and their hoomins make me laugh. For instance:

Now, if I could just get Sammy to flush like this kitty does, but pee in the potty first, I would be a very happy woman!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Missoula Sidewalk Graffiti

At the top of a long set of stairs downtown Missoula

Three days of boiling water due to a water main break, the microwave stopped working, the toilet started leaking, the paper didn't come, I was out of Cheerios -- all this by just 5:30 this morning.

Made it through to the end of the day and nobody died, so it was a good day.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

On Foot in San Diego: Encinitas Boat Houses

Yesterday I trekked up to Encinitas, about ten minutes north of Del Mar, to get a glimpse inside the Encinitas Boat Houses. They were recently acquired by the Encinitas Preservation Association, but they are still rentals to help pay down the cost of the acquisition. One of the "houses" was between tenants and, for a few hours on Saturday, the public was allowed in. Having learned from my experience trying to get into the Marston House a few weeks ago, I was there early to be in the first group.

In the way of background, Encinitas is a beach town of about 60,000, sprung up when the California Southern Railroad was building a line between Oceanside and downtown San Diego in 1881, intended to connect with the transcontinental Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. As water and wood for train fuel were available from Cottonwood Creek, Encinitas was a made a stop on the way. The population at the time was about 20 people.

A second boost to the town came in the 1920's with the opening of Lake Hodges reservoir as a water source. The population around this time would have been 200 people. One of these guys was Miles Kellogg, a local builder, who salvaged redwood from the Moonlight Beach Dance Parlor and Bathhouse that bit the dust in 1928 during Prohibition. The wood pieces were too short to build a conventional house so Mr. Kellogg drew on his boat building experience back in Michigan and built the SS Moonlight and SS Encinitas in 1928 in the mode of vernacular architecture.

The inside of the "boat" definitely has a boat feel, complete with portholes,

a galley kitchen,

and bow deck. Well, not your typical bow view from a boat.

One benefit from my stint at rowing is being able to remember the differences between bow and stern, port and starboard. The tenants next door have nicely fixed up their bow, a relaxing place to sit at the end of a long work day with a glass of Merlot and a cat.

As with many of my walkabouts, the people you meet can be as interesting as the site. I struck up a discussion with a gentleman in our tour group who appeared to be late 80's in age, sharp and witty. Lord, let that be me. He recalled these quirky boat houses built around the time he and his family moved to Leucadia just up the coast. I wondered if he might be connected with the English spiritualists that settled Leucadia in 1870 -- pre-railroad! - and danced outdoors in diaphanous white robes - the reason many of the Leucadia streets are named after gods and goddesses. I was dying to ask him but settled on asking more mundane questions about his growing up in the area.

Looking across the 101 and railroad from the bow, you can see the Derby House, built in 1887 by a railroad foreman for his wife and daughters near the train station, but also as an overnight boarding house for train passengers. The house is still privately owned.

After leaving the Boat Houses, I walked around the corner and up the hill a bit to the 1883 one room schoolhouse, built when there were 11 adults and 8 children comprising the total of Encinitas. Colonial Revival architecture, I believe. It took me back to my own early one room school house days in a Kentucky hollow with my father as the teacher.

Researching the Boat Houses online, I came across this description from a tenant in the 1970's.

"The upstairs was unheated and could be very cold and drafty in a winter rain storm. There was a terrible wind storm in February 1974 that I thought might knock the boat off its moorings. But it rode out the storm without a problem."

Two decks, a sunlight-flooded upstairs office with windows on three sides, two bedrooms, 1/12 baths, looking for a tenant at $1,950/month. A steal!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sonnjea's New Blog

Sonnjea of Koji's Kitchen (one of my favorite blogs, BTW) has started a new blog called "but tell me...Who Has Won?". It's much more serious than her previous limerick blog, which I really enjoyed until I ran out of limerick material/steam/whatever.

Anyway, here's how she introduced Who Has Won earlier this week on her Koji blog...


A new era dawned in America, and perhaps the world, a month or so ago; an era with hope and change as its watchwords and service as its credo. Unfortunately, our newfound national sense of do-gooderism comes when neither the government nor its citizens can financially afford to do… much of anything.

But if I could afford to do something, I wondered, what would I want to do? I’m concerned about climate change and environmental issues like sustainable farming and energy conservation. I worry about health care and the standard of living of our nation’s elderly. I don’t think people should wear fur.

Then I read George Clooney’s Nothing New To Report on his recent trip to Chad to visit refugees from Darfur, in which he talks about interviewing people who had been raped or maimed and the feeling that their stories were “not really tragic enough” to wrest people’s attention from such pressing matters as “the economy. Iraq. Ponzi schemes. The Oscars.”

And then I knew where I wanted to focus my do-gooderism: human rights. I’m not an expert on what’s happening around the world by any means, but that’s precisely the point of this blog. I’m going to share what I learn as I go along. I’ll give you the background on the issues, along with where to find more information and the best ways to get involved – with or without writing a check.

I can’t do it alone. I welcome your comments, feedback, suggestions and even opposing points of view. Keep in mind, this is my blog, so I’ll delete comments I find offensive, but I am interested in points of view other than my own. I hope to have guest bloggers from time to time, as well.

Why do I think I can have any impact if George Clooney, for pete’s sake, can’t get people’s attention? Because we all have different spheres of influence. Mine may be infinitesimally small in comparison to Mr. Clooney’s, but it is different. And you can influence people I can’t. So if we all start to make ourselves aware of the human rights violations that are happening in the world and letting others know about the situation, and pressuring elected officials to do something about it, and using our dollars and sense (yes, I meant to spell it that way) to pressure corporations to do something about it and supporting the organizations that are doing something about it… maybe something will be done about it.

The blog title comes from Sunday, Bloody Sunday, released by U2 in 1983 about the conflict in Northern Ireland.

And the battle's just begun
There's many lost, but tell me who has won?
How long? How long must we sing this song?

Please make a point of visiting this well-written blog (well - both of them, actually). If you've been thinking that you'd like to get involved in human rights, she's doing all the homework for you!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

On Foot in San Diego: Sherman Heights, the Charleston of San Diego

Soon after I moved to Del Mar, a seaside town twenty miles north of downtown San Diego, my furnace needed to be replaced. They call it a furnace out here, but it's not more than a glorified heater. I complained to the furnace guy about needing a new furnace. His response, "well, lady, it is an old house". Where I came from a 1973 house was not an old house, but this formed my notion that San Diego was a city of fairly new houses without the history we had back East.

I still had that impression when I first saw the 1867 Villa Montezuma on one of my history outings a couple weeks ago. OK, I conceded there was an old house out here, but it was rare enough to be a museum piece.

That notion was dispelled last weekend when I took a walking tour of Sherman Heights led by Louise Torio who lives in a restored Victorian home down the street from the Villa Montezuma. Louise is a trove of information about the architecture and history of Sherman Heights. She pulls along a little suitcase of old pictures showing what this part of San Diego looked like more than a hundred years ago. I was fascinated walking in this place of history.

By the end of the tour, my head was spinning with Victorian, Queen Anne, Greek revival, mission revival, Craftsman, Spanish colonial revival...all this and more in these few city blocks.

By way of a little history, Sherman Heights was San Diego's first residential subdivision built on land bought by Captain Matthew Sherman, here fresh from the Civil War. While Alonzo Horton was buying the land for the now downtown San Diego, Sherman bought 160 acres just east with a great view of the bay. I figured he bought the whole lot for $800. He built his family a little farmhouse on the land in 1868 and the structure is still not only still there, but nicely restored.

Set a little uphill from Horton's New Town San Diego, Sherman Heights soon became the place to live - location, location, location - for all those doctors, lawyers, government workers, and other builders of the city. The county assessor built a home across from Louise's house.

This, by the way, is Louise's house and the cottage next door she and her husband have restored. I asked about the colors and, indeed, these are authentic Victorian house colors.

According to Louise, the area has about 400 historic places, some still unrestored but many are like this handsome home.

They were really into balconies and porches. I could just imagine the view looking east toward the mountains at sunrise or west over the growing San Diego town toward the bay at sunset.

The architectural detail in restoring the homes is amazing...

Even Jack in the Box has caught the revitalization fever with its Craftsman bungalow.

Many more historic homes are waiting to be restored in Sherman Heights. This little Queen Anne house still needing a redo caught my eye. Hm-m-m, with a little time and money...

Along the way, we came across a mural designed by muralist Mario Torero, reflecting the multi-ethnicity of Sherman Heights painted in 1980 on the side of a food market.

Louise introduced a woman in our group, Liliana Garcia-Rivera, who had actually been one of the young people who painted the mural, the girl in the yellow sweater.

Liliana's family lived in the home across the street from the mural and she is working on restoring this beautiful home. Like many of the homes in the area, the restoration will involve removing the stucco placed over the original wood siding of the house.

The view of the bay is gone, replaced by San Diego's building skyline. The beauty of it is still with us, thanks to Lousie Toro and those who are restoring and revitalizing historic Sherman Heights.

Louise leads tours of Sherman Heights every first and third Sundays of the month.

For more pictures of Sherman Heights and Villa Montezuma, go to

Saturday, March 07, 2009


On Monday, Janet wrote a post about nurse home visits to low-income parents, and she linked to this article in I've been thinking about something in that article all week. Here's the paragraph that caught my attention...

"There's really no mystery to the program's success, says Olds. Simple interventions, like encouraging new parents to show affection to their children or to talk to them more, result in exponential rewards for babies. In poor families, adults tend to speak to babies only to issue commands, in a business-only style of parenting rather than talking to children to communicate affection, identify objects, introduce concepts or teach language — a phenomenon more common in middle-class and wealthy households. Studies have shown that by preschool age, children whose parents gesture or talk to them less in babyhood know significantly fewer vocabulary words than children whose parents engage them more often. That deficit can affect students' performance for years."

I guess I should have figured that someone else had noticed (and studied) how parents in poor families talk to their kids. Honestly, it breaks my heart when I observe their behavior while I'm walking at the mall. How can any human speak to a child so harshly? I don't think I could talk like that to a snake - and I really don't like snakes. (If I did slip and say something mean to a rattler, I'd be strongly tempted to give it a hug afterward to make it feel better. Notice I said "tempted".)

I pass their babies riding in their strollers or their small children trailing behind them with no adult hand to hold. I smile and wave at the cute little sweeties, who usually look back at me like there's something wrong with me. Are they not used to being smiled at? (Guess it could be that I look like an alien to them; they've probably never seen anyone with such odd hair.)

So yes, Janet, I wholeheartedly support nurse home visits for poor families. But I'm going to go a step further and ask anyone who reads this post (all three of you) to tell five people - by blog or Facebook or in person - about how the way we talk to our babies affects their development and performance later on in life. Tell them to blog about it and talk to five other people too. If we keep it up, maybe some day new parents won't have to wait to learn something so fundamental from a visiting nurse.

What's in it for you and me? These kids are our kids' and grandkids' peers. Enough said.

P.S. Before you get the idea that I'm totally naive, let me just say I do see this as the vicious cycle it is - that these parents are treating their children the way they were treated by their parents. That just doubles my sadness. What a waste of potential...