Tasha, Tasha, Tasha! (Or, Why I Hate Travel — “A Lion’s Meditation” by Boris)

I feel just like Jan on the Brady Bunch.  Remember how everything was always about Marcia?

Marcia Brady

Well, around here it’s “Tasha, Tasha, Tasha!”

Tasha the herding dog

I’m so sick of that stupid dog.  Naturally she got to be Kate’s first guest blogger, even though I have lived with her far longer.  Just because that moron dog likes to go in the car, that’s supposed to make her a travel expert?

Please.

My name is Boris, and I’m Kate’s cat.  And as you can see, I am by far the best looking creature in our house:

Handsome Boris, a non-traditional ragdoll cat

And even though I like helping Mom with this blog:

[]”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””u8iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiihjnb v8888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888

(that was me, walking across the keyboard),

I HATE TRAVEL.

Even five minutes in the car makes me hyperventilate.  The only good thing about travel is that when dopey Tasha goes with them I get the house to myself.

cat and dog are not friends

Would you PLEASE leave now?

It’s not like I’m ignorant about travel, mind you.  In fact, I’m the only pet in this house who has ever flown on an airplane — First Class, no less.  Even though a casual observer might think I’m an average tuxedo cat from the shelter, I’m actually an exceptionally rare breed:  a “non-traditional” ragdoll cat, directly descended from the infamous Josephine and that alley cat (supposedly spliced with human genes) who knocked her up.  After Mom lost her favorite kitten (another non-traditional ragdoll) to cardiomyopathy, I guess she was desperate for a replacement and found me online.  (Kind of like how she found Dad online to replace her first husbandI would praise the internet for making upgrades so easy, except she found that disgusting dog online too.)

As a breed, we ragdolls are supposed to be super affectionate and almost completely resistant to pain.  I only share the first trait when I feel like it (NEVER with Tasha), and I test the latter frequently.  Dad calls me clumsy.  He claims I’m the only cat who consistently falls off things and doesn’t know how to land on his feet.  (I think he’s just angry about all the vet bills.  Well, if that idiot dog wouldn’t chase me all the time, I wouldn’t need to climb so high.)

The only part of travel I really love is when Mom brings out the suitcases.  Unlike Mom, I LOVE packing.  But doesn’t she know that suitcases are meant for sleeping in?

cat sleeping in suitcase

If it were up to me, Mom would stay at home ALL the time — with me.  Dad can travel all he wants, so long as he takes Tasha with him.  Mom clearly likes me the best anyway.  We don’t have any dog art in the house (who would want to paint a stupid dog?), but there are LOTS of felines around here.

My favorite is the life-sized bronze lion above our staircase:

Boris and bronze lion

Except when he tries to steal my food:

cat and bronze lion

Hey, I got here first!

It’s so obvious I’m the favorite around here.  Mom even bought me a souvenir from her last trip.  It’s called “Lion’s Meditation,” by Michael Parkes:

Lion's Meditation by Michael Parkes

I love it.  The artist got things right, the way life should be:

Feline plus adoring Female equals happiness. 

A lion’s meditation, indeed.  At home alone, with no loud obnoxious dingos messing things up.

Perfect.

—————-

Mom says there are only 36 days left for this blog.  I think people are sick of reading about travel anyway.  What do you think?  Will you read MY blog?  (I’m thinking something like “The adventures of Boris-the-Badass cat and Natasha-the-Nincompoop dog?”)

Travels with Tasha (our Dog-cation in the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country)

Tasha in Santa Barbara

I’d say hello, but as you can see, my mouth is full … My name is Natasha (“Tasha”) and I’m Kate’s first guest blogger.

I’m also her dog. 

We just arrived at my favorite canine-friendly beach in Santa Barbara, right in front of my preferred hotel, the Biltmore (Four Seasons).  Unfortunately, we’re not staying here this time and the surf is so high today there’s no beach:

surfer dog

surfer dog

It’s a good thing I know how to swim.

By now you’ve heard an awful lot about my mom’s birthday (December 21).  I don’t get what the big deal is … Sure, it’s the purported End-of-the-World as well as Jane Fonda’s birthday, but my own birthday (January 27) is just as special — I share it with Mozart, Baryshnikov, and Bridget Fonda.

Why does Kate want to take another trip on 12/21 anyway? Frankly, I don’t understand why my parents ever insist on going anyplace without me … I’m an EXCELLENT travel companion.

Like on this trip.  As you can see, I am extremely useful as a navigator:

Tasha is a front seat dog

I don’t know why Kate keeps strapping me into the back seat with that harness, as I’m obviously a much better co-pilot than she is.  Besides, sitting in the back deprives me of the view:

Santa Ynez wine country

My parents don’t fully appreciate my talents as a tour guide.  I swear if I didn’t alert them with my LOUDEST BARK every time I see a cow, horse, or motorcycle, they wouldn’t notice anything.

In case you can’t tell from the picture, we’re driving through the Santa Ynez Valley wine country.  Right now we’re passing through the town where my parents adopted me in 2009:

Buellton - famous for split pea soup and mini-Australian shepherds

Buellton – famous for split pea soup and mini-Australian shepherds

Dad keeps joking about dropping me off at the breeder’s, but I don’t find this funny at all.  We finally reach our destination – a little Danish town called Solvang.  Mom calls it “kitschy” but I love it because most of the restaurants and hotels welcome dogs.

Solvang - California' town of Danish kitsch

Mom still tries to feed me dog food every morning though … can you imagine?  Of course I refuse to touch it, and hold out for omelettes, sausage, and those wine country cheese plates.

Our hotel, the Royal Copenhagen Inn, is not quite the Four Seasons.  They don’t have dog beds or toys here, and they don’t serve filet mignon for breakfast either.  But I guess not many dogs have the discriminating taste I do.  (I do live in Newport Beach, after all ...) I think it’s funny this place has a “Secret Garden” for dogs to run around in:

Tasha in the "Secret Garden" at the Royal Copenhagen Inn, Solvang

The garden isn’t bad, but they don’t let dogs in the pool.  So much for “dog friendly” — I wonder where I can file a complaint for false advertising?  They also won’t let me into the breakfast room where all those Danish pastries are.  So when Mom isn’t looking, I let myself in and run eight laps around the diners before she can catch me.

Overall I’m having fun, but I still don’t understand why they call it “wine tasting.”  Even though they let me into a couple of tasting rooms, no one offers me any wine.

Babcock Winery with Tasha

When do I get to taste the wine?

But even so, it’s been a pretty okay weekend.  More importantly, I think I can solve Kate’s problem of where to celebrate 12/21/12:  With ME, of course.

At the Biltmore Four Seasons in Santa Barbara. 

Where they know how to treat a dog well.  Plus, I’ll be sticking with this blog’s “B” theme … from Barcelona to the Biltmore?

——

What do YOU think?  Please tell Kate she really should be with her dog for the end-of-the-world.  (I would NEVER abandon HER on such an important date!)

Berlin, Beijing, Bali, Burkina Faso, Brisbane, Berkeley, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Bora Bora, and Buellton (or, the Travel Moments that Transform Us)

From Barcelona to B_____________?

When I launched this blog on 2012’s summer solstice in Barcelona, I was searching for a great place to wrap things up for the winter solstice on 12/21/12, the infamous “End-of-the-World” (or start of a new era?).  Belize seemed the perfect choice – not only for its Mayan heritage, but for the alliteration:  “Barcelona to Belize” just has a nice ring to it.

But I still haven’t decided where to spend my last day on this planet.

This morning I started thinking about some of the other “B” places I’ve been, and what these trips have meant. The places listed in the title of this post span a travel period of 25 years; each journey has been transformative in a different way.      

Here’s what can happen if you travel to “B” places:

You may get frustrated because you can’t speak the language.  You may learn humility for the same reason.  You may diversify your palate.  You may find a second family.  You may discover Wanderlust is part of who you are.

You may witness a revolution.  You may be followed by mobs of people like a movie star. You may be disgusted by local habits (or you may join in and learn to spit).  You may spend time in a hospital without modern hygiene.  You may learn to live with cockroaches in your room. You may be given snake venom, tiger balm, and foul spelling mystery brews as medicine.  You may be surprised when this works. You may ride a bicycle everywhere and decide to paint it in bright colors after your third one is stolen.  You may learn to bribe low level officials in order to get even the simplest things done.  You may have your identity card and your allowance stolen.  You may spend endless hours on trains. You may get shoved around a lot.  You may get used to your mail being read and your room bugged.  You may wish you could afford a $12 Mai Tai in the city’s only Western hotel. 

You may find yourself breathless gazing at the beauty of a tropical ocean.  You may vow to yourself never to let corporate life stop you from seeking beauty.  You may have an affair with a much older man. 

You may have to sleep on the  ground and not be able to shower for ten days at a time.  You may get dysentery so bad you feel you might die. You may learn to attract butterflies with your mind.  You may learn to truly appreciate clean sheets for the rest of your life. You may hallucinate in the desert.  You may use your travel time to read all the classics.  You may fall in love and get married. 

You may move to the other side of the planet and start a completely new career as a “witch doctor” (naturopath).  You may learn this choice is not compatible with your decision to marry a “real” doctor.  You may learn that no matter how large an American spider is, it’s not really BIG.  You may miss ants that do not bite. May may miss central heating (and air conditioning even more). You may regret not getting that law degree.  You may miss home.  You may get divorced even though you still love the man. 

You may feel broke and broken.  You may go back to law school.  You may become roommates with a crazy French lady who talks like a poodle. 

You may miss a catastrophic tsunami by mere hours on your honeymoon with your next husband.  You may feel blessed.  You may become a lawyer. 

You may learn to tango.  You may learn to appreciate the amenities of five star resorts. 

Your vision may go spotty as you gaze upon the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen.  You may have the best sex of your life.  You may be be inspired to cut back your hours in what you’ve decided is the world’s worst profession.  You may lose your job. 

You may buy a puppy.

You may decide to write about it all.

With Hubby in Bora Bora, 2009

With Hubby in Bora Bora, 2009

The bottom line?  No journey is wasted. 

In case you didn’t recognize “Buellton” in the title of this post, it’s a small town in Santa Barbara County, right in the middle of the wine country where Sideways was filmed.  It’s where we bought our dog, Natasha, three years ago and near where we’ll be wine tasting this weekend.  Tasha adores road trips and will be coming too.  (She may even be my first guest blogger next time?)

Cheers, until then …

Hubby and our puppy at the Hitching Post in Buellton

Hubby and our puppy at the Hitching Post in Buellton

Question:  When was the last time you took a quick inventory of lessons learned in YOUR past journeys?  Do you find such exercises useful?  And if you have any ideas on where I should end this journey, I’d LOVE to hear them!

Further Proof I’m a Goddess, the Meaning of Life, plus a Rather Disturbing Discovery …

As if being born on the shortest day of the year and turning 45 at the putative end-of-the-world in 2012 weren’t enough, I do have further evidence of my possibly divine status/birthright to guru-dom.

Namely, my immaculate conception.

Even having been born in the late 60’s and being a child of the 70’s, I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box when it came to sex.  When it finally dawned on me one day as a tween sitting in the kitchen staring at the date on my parents’ rosemaling embellished anniversary plate, it took me a couple of hours to get up the nerve to ask: “Mom, how many months does a pregnancy last?”

Because even counting three times, I was quite certain there were only six months between my parents’ wedding date and my own birth.

My parents were high school sweethearts and I was born during Dad’s final year of college.  Hardly scandalous material even back then. And I certainly don’t mean to disparage my parents in any way, as their generation shows far more loyalty, resilience, and just plain decency than my own.  My parents lived through Dad’s service in the Vietnam War and went on to have three more kids after me.  They have been married forever now, and from what I can gather, Dad still thinks Mom is groovier than Marcia Brady and foxier than any Bond girl of any decade.

Raquel Welch & Ursula Andress

how I imagine Dad must view Mom …

Which is why I still have just a wee bit of trouble believing Mom’s story:

“We just must have been hyper fertile.  I swear we didn’t even have sex.  Your father just got a little too close one night … of course we waited until after we were married to try it again.”

Did I mention my parents were born the same year Bill Clinton was? (Maybe their generation has a slightly more narrow view of what constitutes sex?  And if two decades make that much difference, I wonder how the meaning of “virgin” might have evolved over 2000+ years?)

But on second thought, I do believe Mom.

It wasn’t my parents’ fault.

I simply wanted to be born too badly.   I was in a hurry.

And now that I have just 135 days left until the End-of-the-World, I feel more panicked than ever to squeeze everything I possibly can into life.

Which reminds me that I promised to reveal nothing less than the Meaning of Life in this post.  Being the immaculately conceived Guru-Goddess that I am, I am unabashed by this challenge and will simply do what all the other gurus do. 

I will borrow someone else’s thoughts on this.  Here goes …

The purpose of life is:

“To be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe, you fool.”

— Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions.

I don’t remember much about Vonnegut’s novel (apart from loving everything the man has ever written), but find his theory amazingly comforting.  The longer I go without working a “real” job, the more material I need to rationalize my hope that writing (“being the eyes and ears of the universe”) may, in fact, be all that is required of us.

But if simply observing the world is what we’re here for, I just realized I will never meet a guru who possesses more wisdom than my cat:

Boris the Buddha

Boris the Buddha …

I don’t know about you, but I find this slightly disturbing … my cat charges less than $2 per day (two cans of Fancy Feast plus all the premium kibble he can eat).  How will I ever make a living as a Goddess?

————-

What about you?  What are your experiences with Gurus?  Spill everything: the good, the bad, and the ugly … maybe I can even convince Boris to impart some of his wisdom in a reply if you have Pounce treats.

Kittensy Whiskers and Other Sources of Unexpected Joy

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens …”

I can’t seem to get Julie Andrews’ neurotically chirpy voice out of my head, raving on and on about all of her “faves.”   And I want to hold her personally responsible for starting this whole nauseatingly naive positive thinking rage.

“Brown paper packages tied up with strings. These are a few of my favorite things!”

You know, all those gurus who are 100% positively positive all the time, no matter what.  The ones who constantly post those perky little “inspiring” truisms on Facebook and insist that “everything happens for a reason.”

“Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels. Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles …”

I can’t get that damn song out of my head!  (Bet it’s happening to you too by now; sorry …)

“Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings …”

Enough already …

But on second thought, even though I don’t exactly share Ms. Andrews’ fondness for schnitzel and snowflakes, she does have a point when it comes to kitten whiskers:

Kittensy whiskers

The song caused me to dig for old photos of my cat, Boris, when he was just a kitten with all those bitten-off whiskers.

And it makes me smile.

Especially when I compare it to his current set of bad-ass walrus whiskers:

walrus whiskers

 And this makes me smile even more. 

How did my sweet little kitten morph into this tough guy?   I realize this has nothing to do with travel, but living with him has been a journey of sorts, too. 

Above all, Ms. Andrews’ song has made me conscious of the passage of time … and how being here, right now, and noticing the little things that make me happy is all that truly matters.

Geez, I’m becoming one of those sappy sentimental types I can’t stand.

I guess that’s what happens when you get that damn song stuck in your head …

Question:  Do you sometimes find unexpected value even in things you criticize or make fun of?  Tell me about it!

Always Coming Home, The Matter of Time, and Boris-the-Bad

What is it about home?  Dorothy and E.T. sure seemed to understand that coming home can be the most desirable journey of all.

Ruby Slippers

There’s No Place Like Home …

But this isn’t always readily apparent to those of us travelers who still aren’t sure where exactly home is.  Not because we don’t have a house (we’ve been in ours for seven years now; the longest time I’ve lived anywhere in my life!), but because we easily relate to so many other places in the world.

Even on the Fourth of July. 

It’s not that I’m unpatriotic or don’t love my country (I do! I do!), but like Dorothy and E.T., no matter where I am in the world, it seems a little voice in my head whispers to me almost constantly:  “I want to go home.  I want to go home …”

Even when I’m already at home.

This has bothered me for some time now, and might explain why I have such itchy feet:  am I “Star Seed” like E.T., looking for a home on this Earth that I’ll never be able to find? 

Or even worse.

According to Shaman Ernesto Ortiz, a chronic deep longing to go Home is one sign that a person is nearing the end of her karmic cycles and completing her contract for this lifetime.

A scary thought.

But one I hope you are thinking about too as we approach 12/21/12.  Not because it’s the End-of-the-World, but because eventually all of our worlds will, in fact, end.

My husband lost a great deal of “karma” this week.  How do I know?  He’s at his Aunt Carma’s memorial service in Utah as I type this.  (I realize this is a dumb pun on her name, but my point is that time is fleeting, elastic, and mysterious for all of us.)

I really experienced this last week at the Guggenheim in Bilbao when we explored Richard Serra’s The Matter of Time, a maze of spiraling sculptures you can walk through (if you’re brave enough).  The effect is quite disorienting.

exploring Richard Serra's The Matter of Time at the Guggenheim, Bilbo

How do I get out of here?

So we’re home now – back behind the Orange Curtain in Newport Beach, California – and I’ve only barely skimmed the surface of everything that happened last week in Spain.  That’s the problem with travel writing; when I’m traveling, the last thing I usually want to do is stop living the adventure just to write about it.  (I will work on filling in the gaps on this and other past trips soon!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about what journeys to make in the next six five and a half months leading up to 12/21/12.  The next one will be a mid-July writing/meditation retreat in Taos, New Mexico I’m taking with author/filmmaker Ruth Ozeki (author of My Year of Meats, among others).   I haven’t seriously meditated in any disciplined manner for quite some time now, so am looking forward to seeing what impact this will have on my writing life.

Stay tuned. 

But I’m home, for the rest of this week at least.  One of the best parts about coming home has been reuniting with our pets:

Boris & Dudley plan their attack

Let’s ambush her …

This is Boris-the-Bad (tuxedo cat) and his partner in crime, Dudley-the-Dude.  I am actually not a Crazy Cat Lady (only Boris is mine), but since I gave Dudley to my mother-in-law as a present once, we owe her free cat sitting whenever she travels (which is A LOT).

Why do the cats look so smug here?  The picture was taken right before their attack:

cats hunting dog

Poor Natasha doesn’t see what’s coming …

My poor little dog, Tasha, didn’t quite manage to get out of the way before they pounced.

There’s No Place Like Home.

Which reminds me of my favorite travel poem of all time:

Please bring strange things.

Please come bringing new things.

Let very old things come into your hands.

Let what you do not know come into your eyes.

Let desert sand harden your feet.

Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.

Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps

and the ways you go be the lines on your palms.

Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing

and your outbreath be the shining of ice.

May your mouth contain the shapes of strange worlds.

May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.

May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.

May your soul be at home where there are no houses.

Walk carefully, well loved one,

walk mindfully, well loved one,

walk fearlessly, well loved one.

Return with us, return to us,

be always coming home.

                 — Ursula K. Le Guin

Question:  What do you miss most about your home when you travel?  Have you ever felt the desire to “go Home” even when you’re already there?