Walking a Labyrinth

Have you ever walked a labyrinth? Not a maze of several puzzling paths, but a pattern with a single winding path that leads from the opening to the center? I walked an outdoor labyrinth in Concord, Massachusetts, this fall.

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There are two basic labyrinth patterns: the Classical pattern which has seven paths surrounding the center and the Medieval pattern which has eleven. The labyrinth I walked was made of a classical pattern.

Besides being a path with a pattern, what exactly is a labyrinth? According to the Labyrinth Network, the labyrinth is a tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation.

Labyrinths are old. The oldest dates back to the 13th century. They can be found around the world and across many cultures and religions.

Why do people walk a labyrinth? Labyrinths are thought to increase right brain activity, they can stimulate problem solving and act as a tool for conflict resolution according to the Labyrinth Network. They offer the walker a chance to meditate and to pray, to release and to receive.

IMG_1471So, what did I experience? On that sunny early fall day, I walked barefoot, feeling the warm bricks beneath my feet. I walked slowly and tried to breathe deeply (I have a habit of breathing shallowly). I cleared my mind as best as I could and just walked. Afterward, I felt relaxed and refreshed. Did I experience increased right brain activity? Maybe. Next time, I’ll plan on being creative soon after my walk.

Since my labyrinth experience, I’ve discovered several in the area I live, made of pavers, gravel, or field stones. My neighbor has one in her backyard. San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral has both an indoor labyrinth and an outdoor labyrinth. I’ve even seen portable labyrinths made of canvas.

If you’re interested in finding a labyrinth near you, whether you live in Alabama, South Dakota, Texas, or Colorado, the Labyrinth Society has a labyrinth locator to help you find one. There are over 75 labyrinths in Massachusetts alone!

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Trip taken September 2013.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

Horizon. The space or line where the sky meets the earth. 

On the road near Royal Natal National Park, South Africa.

On the road near Royal Natal National Park, South Africa.

According to Franklin Roosevelt, “We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.”

Cahoon Hollow Beach, Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Cahoon Hollow Beach, Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Emigrant Wilderness, near Yosemite National Park, California.

Emigrant Wilderness, near Yosemite National Park, California.

Perhaps that’s why I love to travel. To see beyond my own boundaries, to meet new people and encounter new places, to experience life from a different angle.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota.

Upper West Side, New York City.

Upper West Side, New York City.

An Unusual Point of View

I didn’t have to travel far to capture this frog on film. He (or she!) climbed up my front storm door and hung out for awhile one hot summer night. Perhaps it was cooler against the glass.

underside of frog with a white belly and yellow legs

With his white belly and toes that are not completely webbed, it looks like he might be a wood frog (Rana sylvatica), a frog which lives in the northeastern U.S. in forests or woodland areas. To see some other unusual points of view, click here.

Trip taken July 2013.

Where the Beach Sings

Have you ever heard the beach sing? Not roar from a shell but really sing? There’s a beach north of Boston where the sand squeals or “sings” when bare feet walk along its shore. It’s name? Singing Beach.

Squeaky Sand

Singing Beach is a small idyllic beach located in the town of Manchester-by-the-Sea on the North Shore of Boston. Getting there is a challenge, but for many, its beauty overcomes the expense and the effort.

We visited Singing Beach most recently in July when the air was balmy, the moon was rising, and the sun was ready to set.

Singing Beach and the Moon

The beach is officially open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Lifeguards are on duty until 5 p.m. Amenities include a snack bar, restrooms, and changing areas.

Non-residents are not permitted to park in its small parking lot on the weekends. If you’re from out of town, the best way to get there is to take the commuter rail to the Manchester stop and walk the ½ mile from the center of town to the beach. Other options include looking for a 2-hour parking spot on the street or spending $25 to park in a lot in town and walking 20 minutes or so to the beach.

Finding it is easy. Just follow the stream of people carrying beach chairs up the hill. Just when you think you can’t go any farther, you’ve arrived, but know you will be charged a $5 walk-on fee.

If your schedule is flexible, try going during the week. The town opens up the beach parking lot to non-residents Monday through Thursday from June 17 through August 29. The fee to park is $25 per car. During the month of September, only residents are allowed to park there.

Whatever it costs, most beach goers believe it’s worth it.

Singing Beach and the Moon

Trip taken July 2013.

Picking Flowers at Small Farm

Looking for a quick escape from Boston? Just 30 miles west, in the small semirural town of Stow, is an organic pick-your-own farm where rows of basil, sage, and mint fragrant the air, and sunflowers, snapdragons, and zinnias color the sky.

Small Farm Sign

At Small Farm, you can surround yourself with cherry tomatoes in a mini maze, pick your own flowers by the quart, or snip your own herbs by the bag and bask in the farm’s peacefulness and tranquility.

Picking flowers at Small Farm

Butterfly at Small Farm

Organic lettuce, cucumbers, onions, peppers, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, beets, and sometimes corn are available for purchase as well.

Organic produce at Small Farm

You might even find local honey or jam sold by the cash register.

Small Farm Just Picked Flowers

Enjoy your bounty, and when your tomatoes are eaten, your pesto devoured, and your bouquets have faded, Small Farm will be waiting for your return, at least until after the first frost.

Trip taken: often. Photos taken August 2012.

Guilford Mooring

On a recent drive down Connecticut’s coast, we stopped in the historic town of Guilford for lunch. We passed through the town green, choosing instead to eat near the water. Without recommendations or much hesitation, we chose the Guilford Mooring purely for its location among the Guilford docks.

Guilford Mooring

Although there were only a few dining inside the glassed in restaurant, we ate outside under an umbrella where several others were enjoying the warm early summer air and slight breeze.

Entrance to restaurant

IMG_0682The restaurant’s menu offers a variety of fried and fresh seafood options, easy to adapt to dietary restrictions (unless of course, you’re allergic to seafood). The clam strips were plentiful (“best I’ve ever had” said my husband).

Plate of fried clam strips and French friesThe swordfish sandwich piled high, and the fries narrow and just crisp. The tuna Cobb salad was just as anticipated, complete with rare fresh tuna and served with balsamic dressing.

Slices of rare tuna, hard boiled eggs, black olives, and bacon on lettuce.

The lobster salad, normally served in a roll and with fries, was served simply on a plate for our gluten-free diner. Yum!

Chunks of lobster salad over lettuce with slices of tomato

The restaurant is located at 505 Whitfield Street in Guilford, Connecticut, just off Route 95.

Trip taken June 2013.

On the Road: Looking for a Burger

You’re in unfamiliar territory. You’re driving (or flying) for miles, and you need a burger. Or at least someone in the backseat does. Besides the obvious and familiar chains, where do you find a good and quick burger when you’re far from home? Here are a few places we’ve found while driving up and down the West and East Coasts.

The West Coast, South West, and Texas

In-N-Out Burger: The menu at In-N-Out is simple and old fashioned: just burgers (made with 100% beef), fries (fried in vegetable oil), shakes (made with real ice cream), and beverages. If someone in the family doesn’t eat meat, they can order a grilled cheese. If you’re gluten-free, be sure to order the “Protein Burger,” a burger wrapped in a lettuce leaf instead of a bun. Messy but yummy.

IN-N-OUT BURGER

All Over (Almost)

Five Guys Burgers and Fries: We first discovered this burger place on a trip to Florida only to learn there was a location close to home. With another simple menu, Five Guys Burgers and Fries specializes in burgers and hot dogs with your choice of a plethora of toppings. And the fries are good and plentiful. But don’t come here if you’re allergic to peanuts. Five guys uses peanut oil and offers peanuts to customers as they wait for their burger. If you’re gluten free, just get a burger without the bun. The burger is gluten free, even if the bun isn’t. Five Guys is located in 47 states. If you live in Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, or South Dakota, you’ll just have to travel.

Five Guys

New England

A small New England burger chain, Wild Willy’s has only six locations in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. While its burgers are made with certified Angus, all natural beef or even bison, Wild Willy’s offers more than specialty burgers. There you can get a grilled chicken or steak sandwich, or salad with fries or onion rings and a shake. If you’re gluten free, make sure to ask for a gluten-free bun, and check to see if the fries or onion rings are fried in a dedicated deep fryer. Last time we checked, both were gluten free at the Worcester, Mass. location.

Washington, D.C.

While traveling in DC in April, we discovered another simple and fast burger joint, just off the highway, Burger 7. Burger 7 offers a healthy alternative to those who crave a burger but are trying to eat healthy at the same time. The menu includes grass fed hot dogs and hormone free beef, turkey burgers and veggie burgers, whole wheat buns and lettuce leaf wraps, potato fries and sweet potato fries both cooked in olive oil, plus shakes made with organic milk. Burger 7 has three locations in the DC area, but we ate at the one in Tyson’s Corner.

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Where else can you get a burger? Do some sleuthing on the internet if you’re visiting a particular place or check out these links for favorite burger joints in Los Angeles,  Boston, the Midwest, in South Carolina, and across the U.S.

Who serves your favorite burger?

Trip taken 2012 and 2013.

In-N-Out photo used under Creative Commons from whatleydude.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries photo used under Creative Commons from kennejima.

Twist – Where Everything Tastes Good

There aren’t many restaurants where everything is gluten free … and everything tastes good.

Twist Bakery & Café in Millis, Mass., does not advertise its gluten-free qualities, but word of mouth has spread the good news. Not only can those on a gluten-free diet choose their food without thinking too much about it, they can bring their friends, too. All food is gluten free and peanut free and most items are soy free, dairy free, and nut free as well.

On a recent visit for lunch, the gluten-free and non gluten-free diners in our group were excited to choose from the extensive menu.

Twist Bakery

Hot Reuben sandwiches, turkey melts, and tuna salad on rolls, quiche, pizza, cupcakes, lemon bars. Everything we tasted was good. Nothing tasted “gluten free.”

Twist Bakery

If we could change one thing, it would be their location. While Millis is only 25 minutes from Needham and 45 minutes from Boston, it’s an hour’s drive for us. If only they were closer, we’d be there almost every day.

Trip taken November 2012.

Where Were You on April 15th?

Where were you on Patriot’s Day? The day of the Boston Marathon, the day of the bombings?

After checking into a hotel in Baltimore, I waited for the elevator, glancing up at the big screen TV hung on the wall. I don’t remember the exact words – just Boston Marathon and explosions, those words enough to grab my attention, to shock and to scare me.

Far from Boston, we ventured out for dinner. The Inner Harbor of Baltimore was eerie, the mood tense and ominous as more and more police appeared, on bike, in boat, in cars, in helicopters.

Police cars lined up near harbor

Back home, only 30 miles west of Boston, my daughter texted me to assure me she was safe. Back in our hotel room, we watched the news.

I know people who were on bikes at the Prudential Center, just a block away. I know of people who were delayed as they ran the course, realizing that the delay prevented them from crossing the finish line at 2:50 p.m. I’ve heard stories of people in my town and in neighboring towns who were dining nearby, volunteering in the medical tents; people who walked into one of the explosions.

We awoke Friday morning at home to the news and Boston’s shut down, spending the day glued to the TV, relieved when Suspect No. 2 was cornered and later apprehended.

An American flag undulated on the back of a pickup truck in front of us as my daughter and I drove into Boston on Saturday. A man walked down Newbury Street with another flag draped around his shoulders. The streets were full of red, white, and blue: families wore Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox shirts, people wore college sweatshirts –from Boston University and Boston College.

Barriers prevented us from walking down the cross streets of Exeter and Dartmouth towards Boylston Street where police and FBI gathered evidence.

Police and FBI at Exeter Street

In front of the Nike store, we joined others writing and drawing sentiments with chalk on the sidewalk.

Writing sentiments on chalk on sidewalk

We saw flowers and stuffed animals and therapy dogs at the eastern end of the Boylston Street makeshift memorial.

Flowers and people at barricade on Boylston Street

We read signs in front of cafes and stores offering free coffee and discounts to responders. We spoke to a man who lost his daughter on 9/11.

On Sunday, I ordered Boston Strong t-shirts for each member of our family. I’ve watched videos and read articles of people across the country and around the world routing for Boston, singing “Sweet Caroline,” and raising money for The One Fund Boston.

I was in Baltimore when Boston was bombed. Where were you?

Trip taken April 2013.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

My love of color is evidenced by the colors of the home in which I live. My house is red, my car is green, my bedroom is lilac, my bath is aqua.

As I travel, my eye is drawn to color. I found red in a hibiscus in Central Park, in the comb of a rooster in South Africa, in the shirt of a man on the 4th of July in Boston, in the strawberries and radishes at a farmers’ market in California. I found orange in the flames of a campfire in New England, in the wings of a butterfly on Cape Cod, in a tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, in a handpainted sign on the Brooklyn Bridge.

I found yellow in a meadow in the Sierras, on a New York taxi cab, in a candle in Frankfurt, and in bubbling macaroni and cheese. I found green in the leaves and on the wings of a bird, and on a girl’s sunglasses on the beach.

I found purple in the lilacs in front of Louisa May Alcott’s house and inside a hot air balloon. I found blue in the skies everywhere I went.