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A Positive Change with Nature’s Help

  • July 19, 2012

Just got back from a trip to San Francisco and Santa Cruz - the trip initiated because of the need to drop my teen daughter at camp, but evolved into sort of a selfish pleasure trip for me. My daughter had never seen San Francisco before, so we did the full fledged unofficial tour starting with dim sum at Yank Sing in Ricon Center. Enjoyed a steamed shrimp dumpling with a ginger sauce - served on a spoon - of which i could have made an entire meal. Wonderful explosion of flavor. Eggrolls were deemed "best ever had" by my daughter, I'd have to agree.

View from the wharf in San Francisco

We then meandered over to Pier 17 in a crisp cool weather, heaven for a couple of Texans fresh from the swelterland. We put our names on a waiting list for the TCHO chocolate tour - if you want to do this, I'd recommend signing up in advance. We went on a Tuesday and the list was already full an hour ahead of time. TCHO transforms chocolate decadent pleasure into an art form - each bittersweet chocolate enclosed in a colorful-flavor oriented wrap. We learned to snap, sniff and never bite our chocolate, letting the flavors unravel on our tongues.

We stayed with a good friend and his partner in the city, who treated us to a fabulous pizza dinner (will have to find out the place) and a walking tour of the Mission district that culminated in a doughnut sampling at Dynamo Doughnuts. OMG. Bacon, chocolate spice (tasted like chocolate velvet with a hint a cayenne), lemon thyme, raspberry/blueberry fritter, we bought a dozen and gorged ourselves. The best part of the walk was the art tour - murals everywhere. I was feeling shy and only took a few photos. Loved the mosaic serpent in the middle of a playground.

Serpent in Mission District

serpent tiles

My daughter and I drove to the Golden Gate prior to heading south for her camp - quite the let down from our doughnut tour morning. Smothered in fog and tourists, my daughter didn't want to get out of the car "too touristy." Guess when you've eaten a bacon doughnut in a serene courtyard, a horde of photo-snapping familes ranks pedestrian - even in the shadow of the Golden Gate.

I dropped my teen at camp. Getting the MOM-your-mere-presence-is-horrifying look, I hopped in my car and headed to Santa Cruz. No agenda, only a room. Checked in at a bed and breakfast. Is this weird? Yes probably, but when you're over 50 you stop caring.

Had a cheesy dinner on the wharf by myself. A family with a wailing 5 year-old sat next to me. All of the sudden my romantic vision of a few peaceful days by the shore seemed like a really bad idea. Got back to my room and decided to sit out on my "balcony with the mountain view." Wrong. Overlooked a parking lot with a snippet of trees in the distance. At this point I was beating myself up for trusting the internet and paying way too much money for a room less than a block from a Howard Johnson's. Then I could hear the screams from the boardwalk. Geez. Santa Cruz for a peaceful getaway? What was I thinking?

I woke up the next morning determined to have a good time on my solo trip. A good friend had told me about a great running trail along the cliffs - this also happened to be a short distance from my B&B. Charged out into the fog. Dallas was normal baking, 100 degree hot when i left, so the fog felt blissful. Ran into Natural Bridge State Park and a bobcat strolled out in front of me. I roared, thinking this would make her scat, but the cat didn't budge. She finally strolled off.

Bobcat caught with my Iphone

After breakfast I headed to The Arboretum at UC Santa Cruz. Great place, found a mini forest with this sign attached to a tree: "Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees." - Karle Wilson Baker. I wished someone was with me to share the experience. Pouting a bit. Sat on a bench and wrote in my journal. A thought from Wayne Dyer that I'd read earlier in the day struck me: our opinions about life's events are more important than the event. Our opinions shape us for good or bad.

I could be sad that no one shared the day with me, or I could enjoy what the day held. Just at that point a bunny darted across the small grove in front of me, then another, then squirrels, then a pair of scrub jays battled it out a few feet away. i felt like Cinderella in the Disney movie when all the little animals swarm in to help. i laughed. I wasn't alone. I could choose to enjoy the day or not. I was the only person in the way of a good day or a bad day.

Flower at UC Santa Scruz Arobretum

That changed the whole day. I decided to drive up a little further on Highway 1 to Davenport, a little artist community. Entered the Davenport Gallery for their first ever psychedelic art show (finally! the owner sighed), lots of great pics of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead from the '60s. Had an incredible lunch at The Davenport Roadhouse (steelhead salmon, pomegranate/ginger sauce atop sauteed spinach and whipped sweet potatoes - best meal of the trip), then strolled on the beach.

Beach walk

I got back in my car and decided to drive a few more miles north to Big Basin. What an incredible treat. Got to watch kitesurfers on the beach, and did a short hike. The outing inspired me to come back the next day. I wrote a blog about hiking experience for Psychology Today: (more photos of Big Basin in that blog)

This is what I learned. Most of the time I can change the direction of my day. There are moments when I battle myself more than others, and there are days life pummels us with negative blows. But change is always possible (and really, inevitable). We just have to believe it.

Have a great week!





"Struck by Living is just the kind of book that our field and our patients need."

Madhukar Trivedi
Madhukar Trivedi, MD, Betty Jo Hay Distinguished Chair in Mental Health and Director of Mood Disorders Research Program and Clinic, UT Southwestern
About Struck By Living

In Struck by Living, Julie Hersh picks apart the irony of her life with humor and brutal honesty. Despite a loving husband, healthy children, financial security, Julie attempted suicide three times. With the help of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), Julie broke the deadly course of her disorder. Now well, Julie promotes the importance of mental health with collaborations with other artists and organizations.

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