No Roads Lead To Juneau

Second stop:  Juneau, Alaska.

I love the idea that you can’t drive to Juneau, Alaska.  You can fly.  Juneau has an airport and you can take a seaplane and land on water…..what a rush.  You can take a boat, ship, ferry or cruiser.  And…..if you really want your car with you so you can drive on the roads in Juneau, you can take the ferry and bring it along.

We took the Goldbelt Roberts Tramway from the cruise ship docks, up through the rainforest to the Mountain House at 1,800 ft.  The view of the Gastineau Channel below was gorgeous. I didn’t expect to see the colors of aqua and turquoise that I usually associate with tropical waters. It was stunning.   Even when we can’t see a glacier, their presence is evident everywhere there’s water.

The trees and underbrush were so thick, the mountainside looked sort of feathery with a jillian different greens sparkling, reflecting through the raindrops.  Magical.  A feast for the senses.  Happy Anniversary to us!

Dawson Glacier

Our approach to the Dawson Glacier was slow and methodical, weaving in and out of icebergs. Because of the density of the compacted glacial ice compared to water, only about 1/10th of an iceberg is seen above the surface. We didn’t see one as big as the one that sunk the titanic; but, we showed them a lot of respect anyway.

Dawson-Lambton glacier was named by British expedition leader, Ernest Shackleton, just over a hundred years ago.  He named it for Elizabeth Dawson-Lambton, a financial backer of his expeditions.  Seeing this rugged country, I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be an explorer around 1900, travelling by ship.   I really enjoyed being on a luxury liner holding a camera, hot chocolate and coffee and knowing that when I got too cold, my fabulous breakfast was waiting inside in a beautiful, warm restaurant.

The blue colors we captured with our camera were so exciting and so unexpected.  Sometimes the whole area was a brilliant turquoise and other times the translucent blues appeared out of  murky grey-green water.

I had to know:  why are glaciers blue?  Well…..the ice is so dense it absorbs every other color of the spectrum but blue.  So blue is what we see.  The crystalline structure strongly scatters blue light so we see a myriad of blues.  They were spectacular.


The captain described calving to us over the intercom system. It seemed everyone on board the ship was holding their breath, cameras at the ready, watching for the birth of an iceberg to happen right before our eyes.  We didn’t see one…..but it was so awe-inspiring just being that close to the glacier, we didn’t really care.

Happy Anniversary to us!


The first stop on our Alaskan Cruise was Ketchikan.  It reminded me of Yellowstone Park 40 years ago.  It’s so remote and quiet. I felt so content just to be, while I was there.  There was plenty of time to do anything we wanted to do.  No rush.

We went to the Village of Saxman to see the totem poles and one of the workshops where they are being carved today.  There was a small booth, a hair bigger than a telephone booth (if you remember what telephone booths looked like), with a man sitting at a window selling totem pole stories for $1.00.  Those stories told about the spirit guardians represented by the figures on the poles.  They were used to pass on morals and wisdom to the next generation.

I posted a picture of the raven totem pole, (above left) on instagram and quickly received a comment from one or Donny Varnell’s friends telling me that he had carved it and a little about him.  Donny’s works can be seen all over the world. Isn’t Instagram fun?!!!  It connects all of us from all over the planet in little short bursts and lets us share our experiences, interests and information.  I love it!


We tourists couldn’t get enough of the Tlingit Plank House behind me (above) and the totem poles.  I loved the red, black and turquoise colors used to paint everything.  Just like all of the cultures peopling this earth, they used symbols to represent their Gods and all of the forces of the universe.  We really are all one.


Logging is a big part of Alaska’s history. We went to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show to see the loggers demonstrate their skills.  Amazing.  It was so much fun to see them in this setting.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to work as a lumberjack out in the mountains.


Back to the ship…..what a great way to travel.  On to Juneau. Happy Anniversary to us!


“Let’s do something fun for our anniversary.”  It was an innocent, sort of flip comment. Yes.  We both agreed. And it was left at that.  Later in the day, Lynn suggested “how about an Alaskan cruise?”  This was just three weeks before our anniversary…..don’t you have to make reservations way in advance?  Alaska is cold.  There’s not a lot of lying around in the sun in Alaska. Maybe we should explore doing something further south.

But, the thought lightly danced across my mind, doesn’t Abraham-Hicks have an Alaskan cruise in the summer?  It seems like they do.

Well, they did.  We made the reservations with a few clicks of the mouse for the cruise and the workshop during the cruise for when?????  This seems almost impossible…..with so little thought and no advance planning…..we boarded the ship on our anniversary!  Does the universe orchestrate all things for our well-being and happiness?  Yes!  Yes!  It does!

What a beautiful ship the Celebrity Solstice is…..gorgeous.  So much fun!  I loved coming up the ramp to the ship and being greeted with champagne.  Everything was beautiful.   The theatres, the restaurants and the flow of one inviting lounge after another were beautiful. We loved soaking in the hot tubs while looking out through glass walls at the water and surrounding mountains as we wound our way around islands and through fjords on our way to Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway.

I was blown away by the ficus tree suspended in the center shaft along side the glass elevators.  It was five stories tall and spectacular in every way.  The red pot appeared to be decoupaged with all kinds of flowers, shells and fanciful creatures. Five stories tall!  I had to ride the elevator up and down to enjoy the full impact of this glorious phenomenon.  Who in the world came up with this brilliant idea?

Decoupaged pot
Decoupaged pot

This was a trip full of surprise and fun from champagne to a ficus tree, great food and sightseeing to a fabulous workshop with Esther Hicks and Abraham.  Happy Anniversary to us!

Bowie Paean

The myriad of personas that David Jones, David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke, donned on the stage and screen only begin to hint at his creative genius.

This past January, David Bowie died.  I began noticing articles in magazines about his death featuring pictures of his concert costumes and talking about his contribution to music, culture and the fashion world.  Many names of famous rock stars, musicians, fashion models and actors were listed as his collaborators.  I got caught up in reading about his music and then his lyrics and then about his fascinating life.

I’ve enjoyed watching one homage after another by Lady Gaga, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Jimmy Fallon on TV, and listening to them give him credit for the influence that he was in their lives.  He was an entertainer through and through.  And the entertainment they provided in his honor was flashy, bold and uniquely their own.

i am intrigued by descriptions of how he created a back story, lyrics, wardrobe and makeup for each new personality that he became while in the spotlight.  Over these past few months, I’ve been painting skulls.  I’ve become completely obsessed with them.  So I couldn’t resist painting one more.  In my skull painting tribute to him, I’ve combined some of the elements from his most famous photos.  This is my Bowie Paean.


Meditation?  I was encouraged to start a simple meditation for 15 minutes everyday. Immediately an image of a cross legged, religious person in robes sprang to mind.  No, no, forget any preconceived notions.  This is just you, by yourself.

Dress comfortably, I was told.  Sit comfortably.  Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Breathe in, deeply, but comfortably (don’t try to hard), and then breathe out, feeling your breath move through your body.  These were simple instructions.  So I decided, this must be doable.

Initially, I set the timer on my phone, relaxed and settled into my breathing.  Then, thoughts, worries and to-do-lists, one by one, popped into my mind.  I was told this would happen and not to worry about it…..just recognize the thought, dismiss it and refocus on my breathing.

The first few weeks it seemed like I wasn’t making much progress; but, gradually, those thoughts were fewer and it became easier for me to refocus quickly.  The only reason I kept with it was the wonderful feeling that encompassed my upper arms and torso.  It was a sort of tingling feeling…..a very wonderful feeling.

The one caution I received was to meditate without an agenda.  Don’t expect answers to questions.  Do it with a completely open mind.  Do it to relax my body and allow my mind to connect with my source, my God, my soul.  What a beautiful thought.

I’ve known that there are activities that are meditative.  I recognize as I paint that often I’m lost in a place without thought.  Many people describe their experiences while concentrating on these sorts of activities as being in a time warp. They are so focused that it’s as if they’ve lost time.  Scientists, artists,  musicians, athletes, well, creative people in any area, talk about “coming to” and realizing they’ve been totally absorbed in their process for minutes, sometimes hours at a time.

In the Tao of Physics, Fritjof Capra said, “During periods of relaxation after concentrated intellectual activity, the intuitive mind seems to take over and can produce the sudden clarifying insights that give so much joy and delight.”  I love that description.  I think he’s as much a poet as a physicist.

We all use words to try to interpret our experience, based on our belief system.  More and more, I’m using “intuitive mind”, imagination, inspiration, soul, source, God, inner being, and still small voice as descriptions of the same thing.  I want to listen.  I want to receive the inner peace and knowing that listening brings.  The problem, for me, is the noise, the everyday noise of everyone else, the radio, TV and my reaction to them.  That’s where meditating comes in.  It provides the quiet.

After months of meditating I can’t imagine ever stopping.  When all of me is quiet, wonderful ideas, exciting ideas burst onto my mindscape, sometimes as thoughts, sometimes as images. I get goosebumps all over my body.  I highly recommend it.

And, so, the thing I’ve learned and the thing I want to share with you is that meditating is fun.  After meditating, I feel more relaxed, happier, more clear about what I want and full of exciting and satisfying ideas.  What a blast!

Skulls Are Like Chocolates

One day last October, I walked my regular route up and down the hills in my neighborhood enjoying the fall colors and the crisp, cool air.  Many homes were decorated for Halloween so there were lots of pumpkins on porches and cobwebs stretched across doorways.

As I passed one home, the lawn decorations caught my eye…..crawling out of the ground was this happy-go-lucky gentleman, his fingers clawing at  the grass as he laughed at me.  I smiled back and asked him to pose for a picture. I explained that I wanted to paint his portrait.  He didn’t object.  In fact, he even held his pose as I walked around him to get a good shot and even as I finally disappeared down the street and around the corner.

For some reason his happy demeanor begged for bright colors.  Once I got started, he was mesmerizing.  His bone structure, his pearly whites, that glint in his eye kept my brush moving around his head.  I thought dark hollows would be more appropriate but no…..he was on fire.

Phosphorescence 22"x30"
Phosphorescence 22″x30″

I have found that skulls are like chocolates.  I can’t paint just one. By the time, I got mid-way through Phosphorescence, I already had another drawing finished.  It’s so much fun to have a subject become so interesting that the ideas just keep coming.

It’s infectious.  One by one, these skulls have materialized.  I know their thoughts, amusements and intentions.  I’m excited about their futures.

I have one final skull in the works.  David Bowie just died in January.  I’ve enjoyed watching tributes to him by Lady Gaga, Madonna, Elton John and Jimmy Fallon.  And, so, my offering will be a paean to David Jones, Bowie and Ziggy Stardust.

The Dance of Bliss and Fritjof Capra

Nataraja, the King of Dancers, is the Hindu God Shiva performing the Dance of Bliss.  It is a multilayer metaphor for the fire of life, the rhythm of birth and death, the destruction of ignorance and creation of enlightenment. Talk about intriguing!

I first became aware of Nataraja when I read about a similar statue given to CERN by the government of India in 2004 in celebration of India’s participation in the research center.  I understand why it is of value to India; but, I think it’s so interesting that physicists and engineers working on the Large Hadron Collider would embrace it as representative of their work.

All of the elements of this sculpture are symbolic.  Each arm and its position, the hair, the skull, the cobra, the eternal fire of the universe with all it’s illusion, all balanced atop the dwarf demon of ignorance,  conjures thoughts about the freedom of the soul and how it’s achieved.

I wonder about the setting in which the traditions of the Nataraja were passed.  Was it in the home?  Did mothers and fathers teach their children about the cosmic dance, the vibration of subatomic matter? Or was it in a sacred environment in which the tribal leader or religious head taught initiates? How much detail was known and shared?  Did it include the rhythms of the earth and all of its life forms as well as inorganic matter?  Have the original meanings been preserved or have they changed over time as each generation follows the last and the earth’s cultures evolve?  Fascinating!


A special plaque placed next to the statue explains the significance of the metaphor of this dance with quotations from Fritjof Capra, Ph.D., Theoretical Physicist:

“Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of dancing Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists have used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of the cosmic dance. The metaphor of the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology, religious art and modern physics.”  

I’m constantly amazed at this world.  It’s evolving faster than a 250 mph bullet train. It’s so exciting to see things I’ve never seen before and read about things I’ve only imagined. There’s always more.  And… I know where to look when my curiosity is piqued.  More often than not it’s right in the palm of my hand.

Canal City Hakata, Fukuoka

Looking up at this gorgeous building, Canal City Hakata, Fukuoka, was impressive enough but imagine at the same time a symphony concert synced with the fountains.  It’s one of those goosebump moments when everything comes together just for your pleasure.  It’s sight and sound and the whoosh of water spray.

canal city hakata

Straight ahead, through those doors is the lobby of the Hyatt Regency, Fukuoka.  That’s where I first experienced iced coffee.  I’m an espresso girl.  Don’t try to talk me into cold coffee. But, I was urged “just try a sip, you’re going to love it”.  I tasted it, and okay, it’s okay.  “But wait, we haven’t put the cream in yet.”  Oh My Gosh!  Who knew iced coffee was so great?!!!

Korea Japan Jan-Feb 2016 024

Walking out of the Washington Hotel where I was staying in this massive complex, past the shops, restaurants, theatre, cinemas, and fountains to the Hyatt Regency entrance, there was so much to see.  It was a little more complicated and confusing because of all of the Japanese characters.  I’m so glad that pictures are a universal language all their own.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of the water in the canal.  It danced.  Undulated.  Swirled. Then the fountains stopped spraying and the water became calm.  Until, a soft breeze rippled across the mirrored surface in the most intriguing shapes and reconfigured them again and again.

These reflections look more like paintings to me than photos of water.  Well, actually they do look like photos of water.  But they are definitely inspiration for paintings.

Don’t you love going somewhere you’re never been before. Everything is new.  It’s as if your eyes were seeing for the first time and your ears had the volume turned up.  Maybe it’s an alertness…..all of your senses are enlivened…..that comes with being out of your comfort zone and in an excitement zone. “I love being in the SherrieZone.”

Japanese Tea Ceremony And Starbucks

The closest I’ve come to a Japanese Tea Ceremony, after a week in Japan, is still just a quick scene in a movie years ago.  My memory of it was a quiet, respectful preparation of tea by women in beautiful kimonos.

One description I read said that it was the choreographic ritual of preparing, serving and drinking Japanese Green Tea called Matcha and sweet pastries to balance the bitterness of the tea. The ritual is intended to elevate the everyday act of making tea to an art form.  The hope is that you leave such a ceremony feeling more awareness of your everyday routines and having a desire to make every moment more meaningful.

I was expecting to seeing tea houses in Japan; instead, I saw coffee shops on almost every street corner and usually several in between.  The big chains like Doutor Coffee, Starbucks, and Excelsior Caffe are everywhere.

They all offer Matcha tea as well.  It supposedly gives a caffeine kick that is lifting but more calming and easier on the nerves than coffee because the caffeine is released slowly preventing coffee’s typical insulin and adrenaline spikes.

Dana Velden describes it this way:  “The caffeine hit of an espresso can be a bit like having an express train screaming through the middle of your body; a deep, powerful, jittery roar.  I find the effects of matcha to be just as stimulating but in a more delicate, refined way, as if a thousand butterflies have descended on my body; beating their wings until I’m lifted, gently but resolutely, a few inches off the ground.  (Seriously)”  Wow!  That’s a great description.  Doesn’t it make you want to try some right away?!!!

I’ve noticed Matcha Tea on the menus of many US coffee shops, even our local Jamba Juice store.  Goggle “matcha recipes” and join in on the latest health craze to sweep the internet.  Besides smoothies, you’ll find tiramisu, cupcakes, pancakes, yogurt popsicles, etc.

Matcha tea is stronger than regular green teas because it’s a powder that includes the leaves.  Most green teas have you steep the leaves, strain them and then throw them out. That’s a good reason right there to search out organic matcha from Japan.

Smaller, independent coffee shops are thriving too.  They have a more limited selection of beans, but their coffee is stronger.  In fact, in many places American coffee is listed on their menu…’s much weaker than the Japanese prefer. They offer a slower pace.  You are greeted at the door and if there is a table, you are invited in.  If not, you must go.  Yes, that’s right. Go. There’s no standing room and no take-out.

Of, course, there are so many coffee shops, just go down the street two or three doors and the next one will probably have a table for you.  The cups are porcelain and the pastry and cakes wonderful.  French bakeries are everywhere.  It’s so easy to fall in love with Japan.