Our awesome Yellowstone Trip! – Guest post by Rohith N

This is a guest post by my friend Rohith who shares with us some great memories and experiences from his recent Yellowstone trip. Have a good read and enjoy the photographs! 🙂

————————-

This year’s 4th of July, we chose to pay a visit to the world famous Yellowstone National Park located in the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Sitting on an active super volcano and known for its geysers and hot springs, Yellowstone is the first national park in the U.S.

As I flew out of Portland to meet my friend who works in Helena, more friends joined us there from Seattle and Memphis. After some late night shenanigans on the day we met, we woke up the next day to start our exciting journey towards Yellowstone. While a group of our gang headed to reserve a camping place near Mammoth Springs, another group ran to Walmart to buy camping gear.

We hit the road and took I-90 towards Billings and exit 408, which lead us to the hilly road on US-212W. The views from 11000 ft above sea level were breath-taking and we were fortunate enough to spot various fauna like squirrels, racoons, bears, bisons, deers, antelopes etc all along our way. We reached Cooke city, gassed-up our cars and cruised towards Mammoth Springs exploring wonderful valleys, beautiful meandering rivers and wide vistas spotting herds of bisons here and there.

cooke city
Cookie city

bisonsAs we entered the park, cell phone signals weakend and the offline maps came handy. We stopped at Tower Falls, which though is beautiful, is just yet another waterfall. We reached Mammoth Springs by night where we met our other group that went ahead of us to reserve a camp site, and who knew this whole plan would be one of our best trips so far in the US. We cozied up by a campfire and as we gazed at the stunning starry night sky, I went on cherishing my beautiful childhood nights spent in my village back in India when I used to fall asleep looking at the countless shining stars under the vast clear night skies. The whole experience was magical and even more special as it brought back a lot of great memories.

Next day in the morning we first visited Mammoth springs. That was the first time in my life to see a hot spring and I was astonished by it. As we continued, we stopped all along our road taking in the scenic beauty around us. We loved the Turquoise colored Prismatic Springs and did not leave a single chance to take great photographs.

mamonth
Mammoth Springs

prismatic springs
Prismatic Springs

We then headed to Old Faithful to have our lunch and later went to the see the spectacular eruption of it. The geyser is named Old Faithful because of its consistent and predictable eruption timing through years.

old faithfu

Next stops were the Yellowstone lake and Mud springs. Yellowstone lake was serene and calm but Mud springs were pungent and we didn’t want to explore more. We reached upper and lower falls around 7 PM that day, but we couldn’t go closer to falls as we were short of time. On our way back, we stopped at Chico hot springs which are man-made pools filled with natural spring water. We relaxed and swam there and had a wonderful time.falls

We spent the last two days of our trip visiting surrounding places of Helena and had fun time playing cards, swimming, bowling and eating a lot of home-cooked food by our friend. We made some wonderful memories and had experiences of a life time.

Yellowstone is place where even after exploring it for one whole week, you will still have much of it left unseen. I suggest to make arrangements in advance if you want to stay in a motel close by, as the rooms get booked months in advance and get expensive if you are close.

I hope you enjoyed reading my experiences. So pack your bags, and get set go to Yellowstone! 🙂

To all the great Gurus _/\_

Guru – Advayataraka Upanishad describes syllables gu as ‘darkness’ and ru as ‘destroyer’, thus meaning “one who destroys/dispels darkness”.

Today is Guru Purnima, this day is dedicated to all the greatest Gurus. This day we take turn to celebrate their greatness, their guidance and their blessings.

My mom told me that there is Guru in every living being around us. She told me that nature is also a great teacher. The lesson we learn from nature is to give as much as we can, unconditionally and with no judgements. Similarly, every person we meet in this world has something, even the tiniest thing to teach us and inspire us. And of course, there are the greatest Gurus of all times who guide us into the path of light.

Let us all take a moment to venerate them and express our gratitude towards them _/\_

गुरु ब्रम्हा गुरु विष्णू
गुरुः देवो महेश्वरा
गुरु शाक्षात परब्रम्हा
तस्मै श्री गुरुवे नमः

I have found this very good article on google that focuses on the Guru Mantra. Thank you to the author!

Sun-kissed in Miami!

On a warm tropical midmorning, as the sun shimmered upon the endless Atlantic, we let the crashing waves bury our feet in the loose sand of Miami beach. The relaxing sound of the untiring waves and the whispers of the balmy ocean breeze put our minds to rest as we escaped the daily routine. We spent our day lying on the beach in the bright warm Sun under the blue skies, listening to our favourite music, building sand castles and playing with the ocean waves.

So, if you are looking for a perfect tropical beach vacation, pack your bags and go to Miami. We went there in late October when the temperatures were around 80F. There were little drizzles and scattered thunderstorms now and then but that’s about it, the rain just came and went.

Miami is a city of contrasts. The beautiful relaxing tropical beaches on one side are a stark contrast to the modern and magnificent downtown that boasts of shiny skyscrappers and panoramic bayside views. And that’s not all, Miami downtown is known for both historic and modern buildings.

IMG_8901

The beautiful view of Miami Ocean Drive skyline from South Beach is unmissable. There are scenic trails in South Beach area so you can take a ride on your bycycle in this tropical setting. You may as well take a stroll around the Ocean Drive neighbourhood to see the Art Deco Historic District, the Versace Mansion, the Sunray Apartments where the famous chainsaw scene from Scarface was filmed, Caribbean inspired Mango’s Tropical Café restaurant and a many more fancy buildings and restaurants. This whole area glitters during the night and comes alive.

Wynwood walls, close to the Miami downtown is a haven to some wonderfully talented and budding graffiti artists. The murals, graffiti and street art are life-like and meticulous. This very famous thriving art hub in Miami and South Florida will leave you amazed.

Another place to explore in Miami is the Little Havana neighbourhood that bursts with Cuban vibes in Florida. It thrives with Cuban culture and art, and is also the right place to find the best Cuban food in Miami. You will find shops selling Cuban cigars, Cuban retirees playing dominoes at Máximo Gómez Park and some live performances at Cubaocho.

Trying Cuban food is a must for cuisine connoisseurs in Miami. The local restaurant ‘La Carreta’ in the Little Havana neighbourhood of Miami serves famous “abuela style” food, as well as the authentic Cuban Espresso. We did try a shot of the Espresso, and oh boy! It is definitely rich and dark! After food, don’t forget to grab an icecream at the famous Azucar Ice Cream Company. I tell you, the unique flavors are not to be missed!

 

With many more things to do and many more places to go around, Miami travel is both fun and refreshing for all age-groups. It is a must to-do for travel enthusiasts. Given the lot of variety it offers, no wonder Miami is a world famous travel destination. Amen to that!

Sleepless in Seattle!

From lush green woods to beautiful lakes to cloudy skies, with the majestic Mt Rainier in the backdrop of a magnificent skyline, Seattle’s sweeping panoramic views steal your heart and take your breath away.

IMG_9264
Seattle downtown as seen from Kerry Park

IMG_4149
Mount Rainier as seen from aeroplane!

We visited the state of Washington on a short three day trip during the end of April month. Dense vegetation, with rains on and off, a little chilly but endurable weather, never-ending lake views and a lot of things to do in and around Seattle, we enjoyed the stay totally.

On the first day, we went to the beautiful and powerful Snoqualmie Falls just about half an hour to an hour drive from the SeaTac airport. From the surrounded observation deck, the gushing milky-white water fall is a sight to behold. With Salish Lodge on one side and lush green forests on the other, and water falling 268-foot and continuing into a river, it’s a picturesque scene that stays with you forever.  Rising mist from the base of the falls sprayed on our faces with the little drizzles from the cloudy skies made the experience magical.

IMG_4162IMG_9227IMG_9229

Later on that day, we took the elevator to the top floor of Seattle’s Space Needle and enjoyed the beautiful panorama of the city. We also visited Kerry Park, which offers the best and most amazing view of the Seattle city downtown. Pike Place Market, a happening place overlooking Elliott Bay waterfront has some attractions to visit like the first Starbucks Coffee Shop, the Pike Place Fish Market, the Market Theater Gum Wall, street entertainments and so on.

IMG_9232
Views from the top of Space Needle

IMG_9253
Puget Sound as seen from the top of Space Needle

IMG_9260

Another day tour we did was a ferry round-trip from Seattle to Bainbridge. We spent a day on Bainbridge Island driving around and stopping at a few landmarks and sight-seeing locations.

IMG_9313
Enroute to Bainbridge Island on the ferry

IMG_9364
Enroute to Bainbridge Island on the ferry

With great music playing in the car, the drive through winding roads meandering through beautiful green vegetation was super refreshing. Below are a few photographs from Rockaway Beach and Point White Pier on Bainbridge Island.

IMG_4286
Point White Pier on Bainbridge Island

It is phenomenal how you can hop on the WSDOT ferries and get to various enchanting islands surrounding Seattle, just for a day or two.

My main reason to do the Seattle trip in April was to visit the gorgeous Tulip fields of Skagit Valley. This rural part of Washington State blooms every Spring with vibrant colored Tulip fields. Under Washington’s cloudy skies these long-stretched fields are a paradise for photographers and flower-lovers. As you enter the Skagit valley, it’s beautiful around as you get to explore the country side of Washington away from the bustling downtown of Seattle.

In this quick three day trip, these are mostly the places we could go. We also had a chance to meet some of our good old friends after a very long time. We had a blast of a time!

Next Spring plan to go to Seattle and enjoy a relaxing and memorable trip! There are many more things to do and many more places to go in and around Seattle. Don’t forget to share your wonderful experiences 🙂

 

My salute to the Sun within! ☀

We are all connected to the Sun. The Sun inspires us. He is the ultimate power-house, shining bright giving light to our lives. Untiring and undying, he energizes this world.

I come from a background where people worship the Sun as a diety. The Sun is refered to as Aditya or Surya. Here is a Sanskrit prayer to the Sun.

Nama Suryaya Santaya Sarvaroga Nivarine |
Ayu rarogya maisvairyam dehi devah jagatpate ||

Oh! Lord Surya, ruler of the universe, you are the remover of all diseases, the repository of peace 
I bow to you. May you bless your devotees with longevity, health and wealth.

image1
Madhubani Painting by me – The Sun

Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutation is a yoga routine that refers to the symbolism of Sun as the soul and the source of all life.

As my life keeps evolving, I want to let as much Sun as possible into me and realize the Sun within. I want to let His warmth and light guide me and inspire me.

Here is my salute to Him!

DSCN1898
Sun rising over Puri Beach

DSCN2436
Dazzling evening Sun as the coconut trees sway in my Grandfather’s village

IMG_2862
My Sun-kissed feet

 

Running on the beach ✓

All good things are wild and free – Henry David Thoreau

This photograph was taken by my dad a year ago, as I ran wild and free on my favourite Vizag beach. I don’t remember the last time I ran on a beach. But this one was a magical experience, apart from being an intensive workout 😉

beachrunning

As I kept going on the shore, fighting the wet sand (I wasn’t efficient 🙂 ), I let the crashing waves touch my feet and kept reminding myself that the whole point of life to feel alive.

I am glad I have this beautiful memory captured in a picture, thanks to my dad! It lifts my spirits everytime I see it 🙂

Do you have any such memories? Do share in comments.

Lake Pleasant and our Kayak!

NOW is the right time to take an adventure and to experience something magical!

Yes, we went Kayaking in the gorgeous blue waters of Lake Pleasant and enjoyed the thrill of navigating a Kayak through still waters for the first time in life.

Like Morpheus said, “Don’t think you are, know you are”, all it takes is just one moment to decide you can do it and just go do it! Kayaking has always been on my life’s To-do list and I am extremely happy that I made it happen. As much as it scared me to be so close to water wondering what secrets it hid beneath its seemingly calm surface, it offered me the experience of a lifetime and taught me that I am braver than my fears.

IMG_2504

Surrounded by mountainous desert landscape, we rowed a bit in the shallow blue waters along side the ducks and lived some wonderful moments of life! Needless to say, my fellow Kayaker was very good at grasping the paddling techniques and made the journey quite comfortable 🙂

212223

Are you a Kayaker? Or, do you have dreams to paddle a Kayak? Take me to your page, and inspire me more! 🙂

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.

shiva-the-hindu-god-1165592_1920

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.

70473872_e367a294e3_bphoto credit: Nagraj Salian Trimbakeshwar via photopin (license)

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.

9486379674_581cc9d0d6_bphoto credit: iamrawat Brahmagiri Hills via photopin (license)

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.

2851190459_1b05708405_bphoto credit: ganuullu trimbakeshwar jyotirling, nasik, maharashtra via photopin (license)

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! 🙂

202523_10151556022976679_571026986_o

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

 

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.

15400959_10155545433616679_2725465723282115842_n

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? 🙂

img_0354

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’.

picss

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!

img_0183img_0194

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.

15534816_1801133330152604_1615626487547822080_n

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

picss1

img_0523

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.