An impromptu day trip to Tonto Natural Bridge!

We can never have enough of nature – Henry David Thoreau

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all – Helen Keller

What else can be a great pleasure in life than having a great company, good food and a beautiful place to explore. Just the day before to Memorial Day long weekend, we, a group of ten friends decided to head off to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park for a quick one day trip. We weren’t entirely sure of what all places to go, but we zeroed in on Tonto Natural Bridge as our first destination.

Let’s just go somewhere and not have any expectations can be one of the best escapes one can ever imagine. So, we took quick home prepped lunch and snacks and hit the road towards north of Payson, Arizona. As bright and warm weather welcomed us to the state park, we first had our lunch at the picnic tables and recreation area, before setting foot on the Pine Creek Trail. There are four different viewpoints from the parking lot to view the bridge from its top, but not until we hiked down the short rugged trail surrounded by pine trees, the spectacular view of world’s largest natural travertine bridge unraveled.

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Bridge from one of the viewpoints. PC: Sravan K

The bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point. The amazing sight of sparkling water spilling off the bridge top is totally worth the hike.

There is some running water under the bridge and it was fun hopping over the boulders and soaking a little bit in the sprinkling waterfall. We took a lot of pictures, spent time hiking through the slippery rocks and admiring the vastness of the bridge.

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Panorama under the bridge – PC: Sravan K

There are three other trails Waterfall Trail, Gowan Trail and Anna Mae Trail. One of the them leads the way back up from the other side under the bridge.

It is a salubrious experience to explore Mother Nature and admire its wonders. Needless to mention the fun we had making our way through the rough trails in a spirit of adventure, this short one day trip to Tonto Natural Bridge remains one of my favourites.

 

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Prescott’s beautiful lakes!

Located in the Bradshaw Mountains of Central Arizona, is the city of Prescott that boasts of mild climate and serene nature, making it a great happening destination throughout the year for vacationers.

Be it a family picnic or a romatic getaway or a recreational trip, Prescott’s wilderness and its gorgeous lakes are a great choice.

The three major lakes that the City of Prescott maintains are Goldwater Lake, Watson Lake and Willow Lake. While the spectacular Goldwater Lake is a small reservoir nestled in the piney mountains of Prescott National Park, Watson and Willow Lakes are man-made reservoirs within the Granite Dells area located in the North of Prescott.

Goldwater Lake located 4 miles south of downtown Prescott in the Goldwater Park Area offers picnic area by the lake and recreational activities like fishing, kayaking and canoeing are allowed. Gentle breeze from the crystal clear blue waters of the lake and the surrounding whispering shady tall ponderosa pine woods enliven the mood and leave you refreshed. There are trails connecting to the Prescott National Forest from the lake area for enthusiastic hikers.

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Amidst the eroded lumpy and rugged granite boulders of the Granite Dells are the man-made Watson and Willow Lakes. The enchanting blue waters of these lakes surrounded by the unique spectacular rock formations makes the vista quite scenic. The reflections of these rocks in the water on clear sky days makes the scene look even more breath-taking. There are hiking trails connecting the two lakes and camping, kayaking, canoeing and fishing are permitted.

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So, if you are looking to beat the boredom blues, or if you want to escape the mundaneness of every day life, Prescott is one wonderful getaway to consider. Go and have a tryst with this great wilderness! 🙂

Charaiveti, charaiveti – Hiking into desert landscape!

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt – John Muir

In every walk with nature, one recieves far more than he seeks – John Muir

We share this Earth with flora & fauna and the elements of nature. We humans think we are the most intelligent of all, while there is a lot for us to learn from nature. While we are a tangled mess of emotions, pride and predujices, nature is real, simple and pellucid. Hence, it is important that we connect with nature once in a while so we don’t forget our real nature.

Like someone rightly said, “If we were meant to be at one place, we would have roots instead of feet”. The more we move, the more we seek and the more we learn. And how wonderful is it when you can learn from the greatest teacher, Nature.

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Here is a beautiful Suktha चरैवेति! चरैवेति! from the Aitareya Upanishad.

Charanbai madhu vindati charantsvadu mudambaram.
Suryasya pasya sreemanam yo na tandrayate charan.
Charaiveti, charaiveti – Aitareya Upanishad, 7.15

The honey bee, by its motion, collects honey, and birds enjoy tasty fruits by constant movement. The sun is revered, by virtue of its constant shining movement; therefore, one should be constantly in motion. Keep moving, keep moving on!

So, myself and my friends decided to march along and do a little hiking in the unique desert wilderness of Arizona. As the sun rose up the distant mountains, we marched up the hilly trails of Dreamy Draw listening to sounds of the gentle zephyr. It wasn’t just a fantastic workout, but also a soul searching experience.

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Not really in hiking boots! 🙂

Do you love to hike? Do share your experiences 🙂

 

 

Shiva, the Limitless and His tranquil Trimbakeshwar!

Ask me what intrigues me the most. My prompt reply would be ‘the transformer, the supreme concept of Lord Shiva‘. I feel that Shiva is there but no where. How simple, soft, compassionate, straight-forward and formless and yet so powerful, infinite and fascinating is He? He is an enigma.

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Ask me where I want to go all the time. In my mind there is this ancient stone Shiva temple tucked away in a deep forest and with a river burbling by its side, bringing me a whole lot of tranquility and inner peace taking me far from this tumultuous world. Yet, the question still remains. Can inner peace be achieved only by running away to a serene place? What is the idea of Shiva telling me..to run away or to flow with life? And I think, the answer is this simple – “Sometimes you have to disconnect to stay connected”.

My today’s post is about one of my most favourable places on this earth, the ancient Hindu Shiva Temple and one of the 12 Jyothirlingas, Trimbakeshwar.

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Jyothirlinga, the infinite pillar of light means ‘The Radiant Sign of The Almighty Shiva‘. Trimbakeshwar is surrounded by three hills namely Brahmagiri, Nilagiri and Kalagiri. River Godavari originated in these hills and can be seen distantly from the Lord’s abode. A very serene place, it gets more verdant during monsoons. About the temple, read more here on wiki.

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It is a very positive experience visiting Trimbakeshwar. You will be given yourself after the visit. You will be left with some new questions in mind and you will get some answers too. You will be left in a unique peaceful state of mind to continue your quest for the light. The simplicity and stillness of the place combined with the aura and holiness of the formless Jyothirlinga radiates good vibes and shows you the right direction.

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Did you ever visit Trimbakeshwar? Leave a comment with your experiences. Will see you later 🙂

The unfathomable Grand Canyon.

Let me be frank. I don’t get it when people say what’s in Grand Canyon except for the rock. Personally, I get very philosophical every time I visit it or think about it. May be it’s just me, as it is said ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder‘. So, here is my little ode to this magnificent natural wonder that awe-inspires me every single time I visit it.

Standing royal, the Grand Canyon reiterates the power of nature to us. Every glance at its dimensions takes our breath away and each attempt to peruse it reminds us how tiny we are in this Universe. It inspires us to be undeterred by the trivial problems of life and to stand sentinel to protect ourselves and those who trust in us. Here is my Grand Salute, to The Grand Canyon!

This photograph was taken by me a few years ago when we visited the Canyon during winter time. Isn’t it more stunning to see it dotted with snow, and don’t you agree that no camera can beat the naked eye’s view! 🙂

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Do share links of your blogs on Grand Canyon, I would love to read!

 

My tryst with Madhubani!

Let me begin with this quote, Art takes nature as its model – Aristotle.

I have been longing for a while to get my creative self explore the surreal yet very real Madhubani/Mithila Art. Like they say some days Motivation finds you, today I let my monochromatic black and white imagination flow and take the shape of a Katchni style Madhubani Painting. Before I brief you about this art form, here is the small painting that I finished today…and I thoroughly enjoyed doing every detail, and especially since I chose my favourite Sun God as the subject.

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Mithila or Madhubani Art is a very old art form originating from the Mithila region of India and Nepal, the majority of which falls within modern day Indian state of Bihar. This fascinating folk art which was traditionally done on freshly plastered mud walls and floors of huts is characterized by the use of geometric shapes and patterns to depict nature and mythology. The themes represent scenes of courtship, wedding and other folklore, and revolve around illustrating devotion, love, prosperity, fertility, valor, good luck etc in the form of specific symbols like fish, the Sun God, peacocks etc each of which has a specially associated meaning. The modern day Madhubani Paintings are being done on paper and cloth also, using colors that are plant derived and paper that is hand made. If you are an avid reader and an art enthusiast and want to know more about this specific art form, this book ‘Madhubani Painting by Upendra Thakur’ is quite a good read.

What captivated me about this art form was the remarkable usage of elements in nature to depict life events stating that nature and man are inseperable. The striking and distinctive style involving geometric patterns for detailing makes it easy to read these paintings. Be it the monochromatic black and white line work called the Katchni style or the Bharni style where subjects are filled with vibrant solid colors or the less detailed Godhna style where figures appear in symmetry and concentric, Madhubani paintings are sure to leave you in awe-inspiration, and like Leonardo da Vinci said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

And, I end my small write-up on Madhubani Paintings leaving it all to your art hungry soul to research more about this fascinating art form and if possible encourage. Have a wonderful day readers, and painters. 🙂

A happy day with the Arts People!

Last weekend, as the sun shone bright, I reached the venue where I was supposed to volunteer as a Vendor Relief, and was so looking forward to it. With not many expectations in mind, I checked in to the Phoenix Festival of the Arts and took my badge and t-shirt.

Spotting this mom-dotty duo who were volunteering at the entrance welcoming guests and just began to have their lunch, I took a quick chance to approach them and ask for their company as I was already starving. So, that’s how my day began, with very pleasant and welcoming lunch partners. Is this how life feels in a strange land, with strange people? Yeah, I think being in the company of total strangers is one of the nicest feelings in this world. No prejudices, no barriers, no opinions, no distances and no strings attached. We enjoyed lunch together while we spoke about what and why the volunteering, etc. Also, I got to see this Christmas Parade by some pretty  children in the Fair Grounds.

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My next stop was the beginning of my volunteering. So, this event was an Art Festival held by the Phoenix center for the Arts every year.

As a Vendor Relief, my job was to go around booths asking if they needed some break and I could watch the booth for them. “When you help others, you actually help yourself”, said Swami Vivekananda. And yes, how true is that! Every time I volunteer, or help someone, or do good, it comes back to me. And what is it? The positivity, the goodness and the satisfaction. And also I get a good exposure of the world, the people in it, their stories, their joys and their sorrows. It opens up my mind to wider arenas and my heart to acceptance. This time also, I am so thankful to the Universe that I had a fantastic experience and I got to learn many new things from all these artists. So, why don’t do you join me and share my experience? 🙂

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First things first. Dressing up to the occasion. Well, it is definitely a choice, if you don’t want to. But, dressing appropriately to an occasion connects you to the event, puts you in the right mood and also changes the way people look at you which is important if you want to ‘connect’.

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Since it was an Art Festival, I decided to give an Ethnic touch to my ensemble by wearing a Red Cotton high-low kurti with white printed designs on it that I got in India paired with blue jeans. Wearing an Indian Kurti, when you are in an Art Festival on a Foreign land is for sure trendy and classy, and makes it look unique. I paired this attire with big cream colored Stone ear-hangings, and a knitted scarf to beat the cold in case. But, tee hee..once I got the volunteer t-shirt, I had to layer myself up with it that’s a different story though 😉 To perfectly complement the outfit, I carried my favorite Fossil Explorer Straw Cross Body Bag and wore my perfect colorful Mojdis bought in a craft expo in Hyderabad, India, though replaced them later with my comfy Crocs as my walking time increased. Ta da! Didnt I pretty much nail the outfit?

My first stop was this booth where a lady was exhibiting her hand made jewelry. Call it an act of Universe or not, a particular blue resin pendant caught my attention and it had etched on it, Dancing Ganesha with eight arms. I am a Hindu, and all our prayers and Pujas first begin with praying to Lord Ganesh. You can read more about the significance here. Isn’t it interesting that you are alone on a strange land, with complete strangers around you and how the Universe makes you feel that you are still connected and belonged. I asked her if she needed a reliever, to which she said No and then we had a brief conversation about her beautiful jewelry creations. It was a fun start!

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Moving on further, I found this very creative artist Kelly, who is a graphic designer and also creates her own designs and prints. Her designs were beautiful and after discussing about both of our interests and goals in life, what and how etc, I watched her booth for a while and she took a quick break. This meeting is so special to me because of late I was looking for some answers regarding Graphic Design and related fields, and voila I get to meet with this awesome artist specialized in the same field! Visit her website here to know more about her works.

As I kept walking further down the aisles, the talent and creativity of the various artists and artisans enthralled me and the variety of stalls that lined up amazed me. The diversity of arts included Pottery, Canvas Paintings, Glass Art, Hand Made Jewelry, Homemade Bath and Body Products, Arts and crafts made of Recycled metal, Handmade bags, Custom Printed T-shirts, Pashmina Scarves, and what not! There was live music and food trucks served up delicious warm food. Kids played around in merriment. It was a fun-filled warm sunny Saturday.

In another brief meeting, I met this lovely couple from Berrie Creative who were selling their unique and creative vibrant colored lampshades made of glass and wire. And I did not know that a small conversation with them would give me a hope for a life-time! They told me how to never give up on an interest and keep experimenting. Trust me, I have never seen such creative glass art in my life. The lamp shades were mesmerizing.

Later, I relieved a couple of artists so that they have their lunch. They were very kind and appreciated me for helping them out. Isn’t is wonderful when people realize your effort and good intentions and respond back to you positively. Ohh, what would I do without all these beautiful people in my life!

My next stop was Reflections in Metal, a unique art handcrafted out of rolled steel. Their display had amazing pieces of art and in quite large numbers. The vendors were so welcoming and were explaining well about their art to the guests. I couldn’t remember their names, but after talking about their work I took a photograph with them which made them very happy. And when I waved them Goodbye and Merry Christmas, the eldest gentleman of the two stopped me and gifted me a Metal Cross that was among the items being sold! Wow! What was that! Does affection and appreciation has any bounds? I was so elated, particularly when someone fondly gifted me a Cross, and that too during Christmas season…like I always believe, connections don’t happen without a reason. Now, this Cross is in my Puja room along with the other Gods. I am Hindu, and what Hinduism teaches is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. It is a Sanskrit phrase found in Hindu texts such as the Maha Upanishad, which means “The world is one family”, and I believe in it. 

My next meeting was with Mr. David Jarvinen of The Mosaic Guys who stunned me with his Mosaic Art work! We exchanged a few pleasantries about India and its vivacious culture, and how David conducts workshops on his art teaching different skills. He has a great knowledge and understanding on art, culture, diversity of India and even Hinduism..so we talked about it for a while. It is very important for an artist to know about different cultures, don’t you think? This awareness widens ones horizons and helps in becoming more creative by drawing inspiration from a multitude of talents. I am so looking forward to meet David in one of his workshops some time in future. I would love to learn various mosaic art techniques 🙂

Taking a stroll asking vendors if they needed a break, I witnessed their passion for art and had many beautiful conversations. Me being an art lover, and a beginner in Acrylic Canvas Art met many Canvas Artists, Muralists and appreciated their work. Some of the muralists were donating the money from their sold murals to a humanitarian cause. It was a therapy to watch the paintings come alive! I made new connections, new friends and drew new inspirations 🙂

A special mention is needed about ‘Paintings by the disabled’ stall. All the paintings were unbelievably lively and excellent! We bought a miniature Canvas Painting of the Prickly Pear Cactus.

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Towards the end, my family joined me in the festival. They enjoyed live music and chilled out on the lawn watching Muralists painting murals under the warm winter sun. The whole environment was fun and frolic lifting up spirits.

And then while finishing up my shift, I met Amelie. With a calm face and a gorgeous smile, she invited me to her booth. Her paintings were so full of life, spirituality and love. I am so glad I got to know her and could make friends with her. Visit her website here to see more of her brilliant and life-changing artwork.

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Finally, I wrapped up my evening at the festival by taking my family around. My son goofed around all the while and really enjoyed each and every aspect of it. There were these folks from circus entertaining kids and adults alike, walking around the place.

We came back home after purchasing a lamp shade and a face balm from Flower Song Soaps.The lampshade now lights up our Puja/Meditation room. Every time I see the lamp, I remember that lovely couple, their smiles and the encouragement they gave me. I am using the face balm daily post scrubbing my face, and it gives me the perfect moisturizing for Arizonan winters along with an exquisite fragrance.

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So whenever I say I believe in Fairy tales, I mean it. Look what all this love gave me in the middle of an ordinary life – in deed a Fairy tale!

Thank you Phoenix Festival of the Arts for having me and thank you for everything. These moments will be cherished forever.

Thanks readers for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed sharing my experience. Do you have any such fairy tales in your life? Did you ever experience such happy moments. Please don’t forget to leave it in the comments 🙂

On a final note, I would like to appeal to you, please encourage and appreciate handcrafts and local made.