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Sunday, August 18, 2013

When the Travel Bug Bites

Earlier this year, I was bitten by the travel bug. And despite a wonderful two-week trip to Turkey, I am still being bitten by this bug.

I have a hiking trip later this year to Yosemite National Park, to Vermont for hiking and photographing the fall colors, and finally, to Croatia and Slovenia. I've also booked a trip with National Geographic for winter wildlife viewing in Yosemite National Park in January. And I'm already thinking about other travels for 2014. There is so much of the world I want to see, so narrowing my list to just a couple of countries every year is a challenge. In addition to  the Yosemite trip, I am making plans with a friend for an African safari in the spring. And I have already booked a trip for a year from now, to the capitals of the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, with a final stop in the beautiful city of St. Petersburg, Russia.

I am looking into a winter trip early next year to northern Canada to photograph the northern lights. Morocco, China, England and Cinque Terre are other destinations high on my list. Although I spent two weeks bicycling in southwestern Ireland nine years ago, and I spent close to a week in London last summer, I would still love to revisit those countries and spend more time exploring the countryside. I also love the thought of living in a foreign country for a few months, as I did in Moscow in the late 1990s. I really enjoyed living in an apartment in a foreign city, shopping at the local markets and having the time to explore the city on foot, rather than rushing around like a tourist trying to see all the major attractions in a short amount of time.

Sometimes, when I'm browsing on-line at potential trips, the images shown and the thought of visiting these places literally take my breath away and bring tears to my eyes. I have a stack of catalogs from various travel  organizations. I love going through them and imagining future trips, and of course I always watch HDTVs House hunters International.

As a senior citizen, I don't know how many more years of good health and mobility I will have. So I am trying to do as much travel as I can while I can still get around well. Someone recently told me that I am living the life she would want for herself should she win the lottery. I know that I am blessed to have the financial means and the adventurous spirit to travel, and I am looking forward to adding even more destinations to my list.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Morning Fun

I love nature. I love to be outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air. So when I looked outside early this morning and saw the makings of a beautiful sunrise, I grabbed my camera and headed out for a walk.

The sun had not yet risen above the shoulders of the Sandia Mountains, but already the sky was turning pink.

Clouds, the remnants of last night's storm, lingered nearby. The air was cool and still smelled of rain. The neighborhood, always quiet, was completely deserted, with no cars on the roads. Even the wildlife were nowhere to be found. I saw no coyotes and heard no birds.

New Mexico's altitude, low humidity and clean air result in a sky that is exceptionally crisp and beautiful, and this morning was no exception. Although the typical crisp blue wasn't yet as glorious as usual, the clouds were fascinating in their various shapes and colors.

I ended up walking just over two miles. When I got home, I leashed up my dogs and the three of us headed out.

My old dog Mila, who will be 15 in a couple of weeks, has been struggling lately and some days I have to cut our walk short because her back legs just don't want to cooperate. But this morning, she was in rare form. The three of us walked just under a mile, with Mila moving along at a good clip, bunny-hopping much of the way because of her hip problems. But she wanted to explore, so we went 'off road' a bit and explored a couple of undeveloped lots. We went back to the road, but she wanted to go exploring some more. She wasn't ready to come home yet, but I figured I had better bring her home before she overdid the exercise. It was such a pleasure to see the old girl having such a great time and moving so well.

This was the most enjoyable walk -- with my dogs and on my own -- that I have had in a long, long time. All the elements came together to make a perfect morning: a beautiful sunrise, cool temperatures, the lingering smell of last night's rain in the air, and a beautiful sky. My old dog had a lot of fun during her walk as well, doing what she loves best -- exploring the neighborhood. It was a wonderful start to Sunday morning.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Power of Touch

We know that touch -- a massage, a hand placed on a shoulder, a hug -- can make people feel better, both physically and emotionally. Touch has been shown to increase the levels of endorphines, chemicals in the brain that are natural stress and pain fighters. I witnessed an example of the healing power of touch last night with my dog.

Mila, my elderly dog, is just a month shy of her 15th birthday. She has both arthritis and hip dysplasia, both of which can be uncomfortable. She also pants a lot, which can be attributed to heat, pain or anxiety. Heat isn't a factor, as our house is a comfortable 73 degrees. Pain is a possibility, but Mila takes both an anti-inflammatory and a pain medication. The most likely reason for her panting is anxiety, according to the owner of the veterinary clinic where I take my dogs. He explained that elderly dogs sometimes feel anxious, which results in panting.

Last night, Mila was panting a lot. So I sat beside her on the floor. She has never been a dog to like a lot of attention, but she does enjoy our nightly time together. As I do every night at bedtime, I sat on the floor with her. Although she is very hard of hearing and didn't hear me speaking to her, I still believe she sensed my words on some level. I kissed the top of her head, held her face in my hands, rubbed her soft ears and massaged her neck, which she loves.

It wasn't long before the panting stopped, her eyes fluttered closed and her head relaxed further into my hand. After a few minutes, I got up. Mila rolled onto her side and fell into a deep sleep. She remained this way for an hour or more. Her panting never resumed until the next morning.

I do believe that touch can heal, or at least relieve anxiety. My old dog proved this last night.