Sorbet for the Soul, Giant Wishes!

There we were, hiking down a trail in Meyer Ranch, Colorado this summer, when we came upon a meadow with the largest dandelions I’d ever seen. It’s like the universe was saying, “Hon, writing and publishing Kidlit is such a herculean ask, you need wishes big enough, loud enough, and strong enough to be carried all the way from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast. Take a deep breath and blow!”

Turns out the palm-sized puffballs aren’t dandelions, but Western Salsify whose flowers looks like a yellow daisies. Soon after, we met the infamous llamas, Stardust and OnFire, and that chance meeting was even more spectacular than hiking in the Rockies, discovering golfball-sized dandelion lookalikes, listening to the click-click-click of a flying grasshopper, passing an elderly man hiking uphill with a cannula and portable oxygen, and saying hi to many happy dogs with their people.

Then, a week ago I was on a run and stopped mid-stride to take a pic. I asked the homeowner if he’d put “Don’t Give Up” out just for me and he said, “If that’s what you need…”

It is. It’s what I need.

So, in an effort to take a deep breath and blow my wishes and energy and thoughts and words and characters and layers and stories all the way from my imagination to the page to childrens’ imaginations, I’m posting a series called Sorbet for the Soul–photos and sentiments along with literal and figurative signs which beg for my attention.

Maybe if I take a moment to blow giant wishes and absorb messages and do the thing that informs my life–finding the extraordinary in the ordinary–my herculean ask will one day soon come to fruition.

Western Salsify flower, image source: Wildflowers of the United States.

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Llamas Hum–Who knew?!

On our recent hike in Meyer Ranch Park, Colorado, my aunt, daughter and I snapped pics of the pretty wildflowers, breathed in the piney fresh mountain air, listened to a grasshopper click-click-click as it flew around us, pet many dogs, and witnessed an elderly man with a cannula and portable oxygen hike uphill (to which my daughter said, “Good for him! We have nothing to complain about!”).

Heading to the parking lot, we spotted…

…two llamas in the meadow! A man and a woman each led a llama and a chihuahua.

The tiny dogs’ names? Ruth and Charlie. Guess the llamas’ names?! Just guess.

Stardust and OnFire!

Aren’t those the best names?!

Stardust likes people so much that if she doesn’t encounter any, she hums. I didn’t know llamas hum! When I stopped scratching Stardust’s neck she said Hmmmm. Hmmmm.

When I commented that OnFire needs a haircut, her “dad” told me she won’t let him trim her bangs. Too funny!

OnFire needs a haircut.

Get Back in the Saddle–Horseback Riding is a Fun Tween and Teen Activity

Trail-ride-ready at Seaton Hackney Stables in Morristown, NJ.

I love it when my nieces or nephew visit! My sister calls it “Camp Naomi” when any of her daughters stay over. Last winter, my brother’s daughter spent a few days in New Jersey, and we had a great time exploring the American Museum of Natural History, hand-building at a Visual Arts Center of New Jersey pottery class, and going on a trail ride at Seaton Hackney Stables in Morristown. Though I live in the ‘burbs and my town is a commuter-train-ride away from Manhattan, you don’t have to drive far to find horses. In fact, Watchung Stable is located in a neighboring county in the midst of the wooded Watchung Reservation.

Located in the Watchung Reservation, Union County’s Watchung Stable has a long and rich heritage. Owned and operated by the County since 1933, its goal is to provide the opportunity to learn how to ride, enhance equestrian skills or just enjoy the natural beauty of the 26 miles of bridle paths that weave through the Reservation, a 2,000-acre forest preserve.

Watchung Stable

My niece and I enjoyed the peaceful trail ride through Morris County’s Loantaka Brook Reservation. The stables have a low-key, friendly feel, and the staff and guide couldn’t have been nicer.

Hon, need an excellent tween or teen activity? This is it!

Me and my niece say hi to a stable resident.

Stables near Essex County, NJ: Seaton Hackney Stables, Watchung Stable, Mortonhouse Farm, Silver Bit and Spur Farm

Top Ten Cool Facts About Lake Dillon, CO & an Underwater Ghost Town

Citizens of the town on Dillon, Colorado, in Summit County stand along a boardwalk in front of commercial storefronts. c. 1887. (Photo: Denver Public Library)
A house moving from Old Dillon to the new townsite (Courtesy: Dr. Sandra Mather Archives and Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, from the Summity Historical Archives)

“Kayaking on Lake Dillon, CO” shows the lake of today–beautiful, serene, and surrounded by statuesque mountain ranges. Before posting, I wanted to find fun facts but had no idea I’d learn about a town originally built as a “stage stop and trading post” for pioneers heading west. And I had no idea that town became an “underwater ghost town!”

Pretty cool, hon!

Ten Fun Facts About Lake Dillon, CO and its History

  1. Lake Dillon is a large, fresh water reservoir located in Summit County, CO.
  2. The reservoir, which supplies water for the city of Denver, has approximately 3,233 surface acres of water and can hold 83 billion gallons of water.
  3. Over 26 miles of shoreline surround the lake.
  4. Lake Dillon is nestled along the Ten Mile and Gore Mountain ranges and bordered by the towns of Dillon, Frisco, and Silverthorne.
  5. The mountains top out above 14,000 feet.
  6. Construction of the dam that was built to create Dillon Reservoir began in 1961 and was completed in 1963.
  7. The entire town of Dillon, Colorado, and a hydroelectric plant were relocated to build the dam.
  8. The town’s cemetery and more than 300 graves were moved before construction of the dam started.
  9. The Old Town of Dillon actually sits at the bottom of Lake Dillon.
  10. Dillon is nearly 60 miles west of Denver and on the other side of the Continental Divide, so a tunnel was built to get the water from the reservoir to the city.

Mountain town to railroads to dams to a tunnel that took 18 years to complete.

Old Dillon

In 1960, the town of Dillon was bustling. Home to 814 residents, it was the largest town in Summit County. But, it also needed to move.

The Denver Water Board wanted to create a new dam and the place where Dillon sat would eventually be 250 feet under water. So, they moved the town. For the fourth time.

Dillon was originally built as a stage stop and trading post in the 1880s. At that time, it was on the northeast side of the Snake River in the Blue River Valley. The town, named after prospector Tom Dillon, was officially incorporated in 1883.

But when the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad expanded into the area, it bypassed Dillon. Wanting to be closer to the tracks and therefore have a better chance to survive and grow, the town was relocated to the western side of the Blue River.

Not long after, a second railroad arrived from the northeast. Again hoping to make it easy for expansion the town moved for a second time. This town site, established in 1892 at the confluence of the Blue River, Snake River and Tenmile Creek, allowed for one train station for both rail lines.

By the early 1900s, the Denver Water Board recognized it needed to do something to meet the growing needs of the expanding city. Eventually they decided on damming the Blue River and diverting water to Denver.

The board bought water rights for the Blue River Valley and slowly began buying land. During the Great Depression, many Dillon residents were not able to pay property taxes so sold their property to Denver Water for back taxes. They also bought land on a hillside along what would soon be the shore of the new reservoir for the new town.

By 1956, the remaining residents were told they had to sell and be out by September 1961. On Sept. 15 of that year, the process to relocate Dillon for the fourth and final time began.

Moving the town of Dillon

Those who wanted to move homes and businesses from the Old Dillon to the new town site were responsible for paying for the cost to transport those buildings. So, many decided not to and instead began rebuilding or simply moved away. However, a few did choose to make the move. At least 10 homes were uprooted and relocated to the New Town of Dillon. A new cemetery was purchased near the new town site and more than 300 graves were moved.

Once everything that was going to be moved was, the remaining buildings were demolished and construction of the dam was ready to begin.

Dillon Dam construction

Construction on the Dillon Dam officially began in 1961 and was completed in 1963. The idea was to divert water from the Blue River Basin, store it in the massive reservoir and transport it to Denver when needed.

The only problem was that Dillon is nearly 60 miles west of Denver and on the other side of the Continental Divide. Denver Water’s solution? A tunnel.

The 23-mile Roberts Tunnel, the longest underground tunnel of its kind, was drilled between Dillon and Grant, on the other side of the [Continental] Divide. It took 18 years for crews boring from each end to meet in the middle.

When water is needed, it flows from the reservoir, through the tunnel and into the South Platte River, which feeds into Denver’s water supply.

Amanda Kesting, Caitlin Hendee (Denver Business Journal)

Sources: Town of Frisco, Colorado.com, Denver Business Journal, 9 News

Kayaking on Lake Dillon, Colorado

Me and Rosanne kayaking on Lake Dillon.

Looks Photoshopped But It Isn’t!

The highlight of this summer? A short trip to Denver, Colorado! (shout out to my aunt, Rosanne and cousin, Alex!) One of my daughters traveled with me, and we took advantage of the beautiful summer weather and gorgeous scenery. We kayaked on Lake Dillon, paddling in ripply, cool water and in a picture-perfect postcard setting. I could not get over how fluffy the clouds were and how blue the sky. Afterwards, we visited the Farmer’s Market and picked up yummy, small-batch chocolates. No wonder we all loved the day!

Hannah and Alex.
Tandem kayaking.

Horseback Riding in Montserrat, Spain

Trail ride at Three Rivers Ranch, Spain

On our excursion to Montserrat, my family hiked half a day and rode horses the other half. We descended the mountain and arrived at Three Rivers Ranch where we met Juan, a Spanish cowboy. His primary focus is his cattle which explains the variety of cows lazing in the sun adjacent to the stables. We learned that he leads trail rides as a way to exercise the horses. We enjoyed getting to know our horses’ personalities and learning best riding practices.

The beautiful countryside that is part of Montserrat National Park reminded me of Tuscany– rolling hills, vineyards, and gorgeous landscapes in every direction. Hon, I felt grateful that the day worked out so well, and that Hubby and I had an opportunity to share a full, active day with three of our four kids. We all love adventure, exploring, and being outdoors.

Writing this post reminds me of other trail rides, one of which was local and a great activity with tweens and teens. (info on that coming soon…)

Hon, do you like to horseback ride?

Hiking Montserrat, Spain

Montserrat, Spain.

Montserrat’s trails are rocky, sunny, and steep. Hon, I needed to catch my breath! We were lucky to be accompanied by a guide who knows the mountain well enough to re-route us when paths were blocked. You know what we saw? Mountain goats resting in the shade. The multi-peaked mountain range overlooks Catalonia and reaches 1,236m (4,055 feet) at its highest summit, Sant Jeroni. The other two main peaks are Montgrós at 1,120m and Miranda de les Agulles at 903m. 

The geology and nature of Montserrat Mountain Range are unusual and to preserve it, a nature park was established in 1987. In Mesozoic era, over 100 million years ago, the mountain top was under water, part of a delta area, and the sediments in the present day rock pillars were in the bottom of a river and lake. After the lake and river dried, the area was exposed to erosion, and over a long period of time, the mountain with several peaks formed.

Not just the geology is uncommon, but also the climate up in the mountain is unique, with different micro-climates. Wildlife of the park includes mammal like squirrels, boars and goats, a wide range of different birds, bats and geckos. Vegetation varies from oak forests to small flowery meadows, and altogether there are over 1250 species of plants.

Finnsaway
Climbing a vertical, rocky path.

Rock Formations, Montserrat, Spain

Montserrat, Spain

One of the highlights of traveling to Spain was hiking Montserrat. If I had more time, I would have loved to visit the historic monastery on the other side of the mountain. Montserrat, which means jagged mountain, “has had religious significance since pre-Christian times. Before Christ, a temple was built [there] by the Romans to worship Venus.”

“Miracles are attributed to the Black Madonna found in the 12th century, which is still the destination of pilgrimages today. The monastery owed its strong growth to these ascribed miracles. The basilica of the monastery was built in the 16th century, in the transition period between Gothic and Renaissance. The Black Madonna is kept in the basilica.” (Barcelona.de)

This mountain is home to one of the most important religious sites in Spain. A residence for the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, the mountain is visited not only by those seeking spiritual rewards but also by those looking for one of the most spectaculars views of Catalonia. The history of Montserrat goes back to 880 when a group of shepherd children saw a bright light descending from the sky in the Montserrat mountains.

The monks are also the owners of the Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, a publishing house that continues to operate today. It is the oldest press in the world, having published its first book in 1499. Music lovers will appreciate L’Escolania choir, a boys’ choir of sopranos and altos based at the Benedictine abbey. They perform every day at the Basilica of Montserrat.

Trip Advisor
Image source: © Jorge Franganillo

The rivers that formed the delta carried large rocks and pebbles that gathered in the delta itself, as did limestone as a result of decaying organic material. Then, some 25 million years ago, there was a shift in the earth’s plates resulting in the sea being pushed further out and the area around Montserrat being pushed upwards. As a result, the land was exposed to air, leaving the formation of rocks and limestone to suffer the effects of the weather.

Over the course of the next few million years, the rainwater and wind carved shapes into the limestone, which was relatively soft compared to the stone, producing the incredible system of curves and peaks that is Montserrat today.

The Culture Trip

House of Many Colors: Casa Vicens, Barcelona

Image source: Accessable

Barcelona is the city of Gaudí.

The first place we visited in Barcelona was Gaudi’s first project. Casa Vicens was designed and built between 1883 and 1885 as a summer house for the Vicens family. Antoni Gaudi i Cornet (1852-1926) “is one of the most noteworthy figures in universal architecture.” The house is a marvel even before you enter, with its wrought iron palm leaf gates, ceramic tiled walls, and interesting doorways. The garden is planted in colors that coordinate with the house.

Gaudi was lauded for “his support for traditional architecture, along with his exceptionally ground-breaking genius both in terms of shapes and the building and structural systems of his projects.” He designed buildings where “the construction and ornamentation are integrated in such a way that one cannot be understood without the other.” Casa Vicens was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 2005. ( https://casavicens.org/casa-vicens/)

Have you been to Barcelona? What did you think of the Gaudi architecture?

Palm leaf fence, ceramic-tiled walls, and unusually shaped doorway.

Wall of ceramic sunflowers and leaves.

Lantern with colorful disks in entranceway filled with texture, colors and patterns.

Vivid blue arched ceilings and stained glass windows.

Cool perspective and view of cherub sitting on a ledge.

Meaning and Miró , The Smallest Noise and Constellations of Sounds

Joan Miró, gouache, c.1934

Last in series of posts from Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona.

I found many of Miró’s works intriguing for their artistry and for their meanings. As a writer whose Kidlit language is lyrical and seemingly simple, but actually layered with emotion and action, I appreciate knowing the thoughts that inspired the process.

When it comes to canvases saturated with one color, I have a harder time connecting to the work, but the meaning behind “Landscape” felt different–it’s like us as individuals in our lives or us as humans in the universe.

“Letters and Numbers Attracted by a Spark(V)” called out to me. Letters float in the sky and look down on water and earth. I wonder,

Do the letters which form sentences and tell stories that are derived from my imagination with the goal of resonating with children ever going to get a chance to come to life?

The depth of meaning in Joan Miró’s work springs from a desire to capture the essence of human existence. On a personal level, this desire also implied an affirmation of identity that arose from Miró’s strong connection with the land–with Mont-roig, the original source of his creativity. ‘It is the land, the land. It is stronger than I. The fantastic mountains have a very important role in my life, and so does the sky. It is the clash between these forms within my soul, rather than the vision itself. In Mont-roig it is the force that nurtures me, the force.’

Excerpts from Fundació Joan Miró

Landscape, c. 1968

“‘Silence is a denial of noise – but the smallest noise in the midst of silence becomes enormous,’ said Miró. As the only referential element, a blurry point acquires a powerful presence, but also makes the space around it resonate. Therefore the point reinforces the presence of the space while also emphasizing the weave, the material of the canvas.” (https://www.fmirobcn.org/en/)