Yellowstone Part 2

I felt so small.

On the edge of the forest, standing in the gravel, in the pitch black, shivering as the night air brushed by, I looked up.

Sparkling stars sprinkled the dark canvas, which was rendered a royal purple by the soft, delicate splash of cream.

The Milky Way.

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I inhaled the soft scent of pine and grass, and the gravel crunched between my toes as I tugged the blanket tighter around me. I savored the silence, drinking in the vast skies, a feast, a symphony for the eyes. This is what wonder feels likes.

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You are confronted with vastness, you acknowledge your smallness, and you accept both.   You are unable to comprehend the sheer beauty that engulfs you, but you allow it to consume you and quiet you.

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The colors are vivid, as vibrant and intense as a Friedrich painting, but no photograph does any scene justice. The paintings, even, are shamed by the experience of seeing the golden light peek between the trees at sunset; the lake awash in pink, champagne mist at sunrise; and the endless valleys and plateaus flooded with regal trees and feathery grass.

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The waters hush you, the waterfalls spray violently, and the rivers flow and bubble exuberantly; hot springs run down the mountains, joining the rivers.

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And, despite the fact that it is summer, the thunder rolls and the clouds darken; lighting  fires and illuminates the mountains in the distance. It rains the refreshing, romantic, out-of-place rain that makes you want to dance joyfully in the meadow, arms open wide and hair flying.

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You close your eyes, take a breath, say goodbye, and know that somehow, you’ll be back.

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Yellowstone Part 1

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Snake River facing Grand Teton

The airport, which probably qualified as an oversized ranch, was so small only three airlines serviced it. There were no jetways; instead, travelers were greeted by open sky, a soft breeze, the majestic Teton Mountains, and no cell service. The town of Jackson, with a population just under 10,000, was nestled in the valley of Jackson Hole, eight miles south. The size of the sign indicating the airport’s presence was about as large as a generously-sized agenda. No words, just the symbol of an airplane quietly pointing the way.

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Forest in the Upper Geyser Basin near Old Faithful

There were blue skies, open plains, and forest as far as the eye could see. Cars, like the intermittent lost ant, occasionally sped down the highway at a leisurely pace of 55 mph. The national elk refuge and Grand Teton National Park left scant room for any roots of civilization. It was quiet, and you could think.  From Jackson to Yellowstone was 76 miles, depending on the destination within the park, but there would have hardly been enough time to soak in the splendor of the landscape, which was occasionally dotted with bison.

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Pool in Upper Geyser Basin

Each scene was a painting, as heavily-saturated colors burst forth and created a serene masterpiece for the eyes and heart. The green of the plants, the oranges of the sulfur, the incredibly deep blues of the water; they all sang with incomparable beauty. It was a place that shouldn’t exist, but miraculously does.

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Dry riverbed at Gros Ventre Junction

On a chilly, early morning, the sun softly kissed the rocks of a dry riverbed. The water flowed, sparkling and chiming, a few yards away. It was crisp and sharp, so clean that you could see the rocks beneath. If you closed your eyes and listened, the most brilliant symphony played as nature slowly, though not lazily, awakened.

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Sapphire-colored water at Upper Geyser Basin

Wonder is such a sensational, singular emotion, felt in solitude, but always shared. There never seem to be words to communicate the sense of beauty, joy, and peace that envelope us as we become small and grace becomes big.

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River at Upper Geyser Basin

And we wandered, slowly, drinking in the serenity.

Muir Woods + Marin Headlands

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This week I did something I swore never to do: I drove on the side of a cliff. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but I’m telling you, Highway 1 is not the safest road you could be driving. Deep curves, steep roads, and sometimes no guardrail…several times I envisioned accidentally driving off and tumbling into the abyss below. Needless to say, I drove under the speed limit. And, I didn’t care if the car behind me was judging. No Marissa pancakes today, please.

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The last time I was in Muir Wood was maybe 10-ish years ago, and I’ve never been to Marin Headlands. I’ve heard a lot about the Headlands, but they’re a bit far and honestly I’m somewhat against driving anywhere more than 20 miles from my house. But, Squaw was here, so there’s the exception. If it weren’t for her, I definitely would not have gone, because going alone is almost certain death. Both lovely national parks are, unsurprisingly, without cell reception. That means no GPS, and frankly I’m surprised that we made it out of both places without being horridly lost.

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Once we arrived, however, scenery was worth the near death and destruction. Marin Headlands has a handful of trails, and we ended up on one near a beach. Which beach, I don’t know, because I’m incompetent when it comes to paper-map reading, but it was the most dramatic scene. Karl the Fog had decided to roll in, shrouding the view. But, you could hear the waves lapping gently and the wind whipping. Despite the lack of view of the Bay, the Headlands themselves are something to look at, a quiet and peaceful respite from the smog, dirt, and grime of the city.

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After bumbling our way back to 101 North, we survived parallel parking and waltzed into Muir Woods. I had forgotten how grand the redwoods are, majestically towering into the sky. Beauty and grace are so evident in the vast trees, trickling of the streams, and hushed, wooded paths. Sometimes I forget that these places still exist, but it’s undeniably peaceful when you inhale the gentle sent of moss and earth and listen to the stillness.

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Twin Peaks, San Francisco

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In continuing with our mini California adventures, we chose to see what all the hype was about with Twin Peaks. Sadly, I have yet (yep, still) to figure out how to use Muni, which is the transportation system that mainly consists of buses and trolley cars from the 1930s… It’s not the most efficient thing to grace mankind, and I’m also just a bit lazy when it comes to figuring out public transportation, so that’s why I’ve never been to Twin Peaks before. It’s quite far from downtown.

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Neither peaks are too peak-y. It’s an extremely brief climb up to the top, where you are graced with a serene panoramic view of a chaotic monstrosity. While googling “places to park at Twin Peaks,” I did find a fun fact, courtesy of San Francisco Recreation and Park: Spanish settlers called Twin Peaks “Los Pechos de la Choca.” Google the translation. Twin Peaks is second in height only to Mount Davidson, which measures 938 feet to the Peaks’ 922 feet. All of the bay is visible from the Peaks, and Mount Diablo towers in the distance.

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As we observed the metropolis below, it sprawled out majestically before us, the Golden Gate sheathed in mist. Downtown SF seemed a doll’s world, in its proper place; the towering giants reduced to matchsticks, nothing from above.

Like slugs, the cargo ships chugged in the bay, and neatly, gridded, the city sits, waiting. Serenity is made of the chaos of the city, simply by observing it, instead of being in the throws of it.

As the monster is brought to its knees, you too, from your vantage point, forget your own smallness. Now you are the master of the city that lays at your feet. But you, like it, are destined to the same—to be blown away, into the sea

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This is why I love cities. Not for being in the midst the unforgiving, threatening cityscape, but for the ability to observe the behemoth from a peaceful perch. It’s an idyllic scene, removed from the actual dirt, noise, and general unpleasantness that a city brings. It makes sense now, why people kept country homes. The city is overwhelming.

Ironically, as I made note of all of this, a garbage truck pulled up behind us, and the scent of rubbish wafted over our noses…

When you look at a city’s skyline, it’s akin to being awakened and seeing the glimmer of hope, adventure, and possibility. It’s romantic and dreamy, the compact arrangement, the geography laying before you. You feel on top of the world.

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Twin Peaks

501 Twin Peaks Boulevard

San Francisco, 94114

Parking at the top

 

 

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Carmel-by-the-Sea

What kind of name is that? I thought to myself as I found the town on Google Maps. Carmel is by the sea … isn’t that obvious? Pushing the annoying redundancy out of my mind, I hoped out of the car and marched to the beach, brothers and Cousin Ben in tow.

 

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I hate the beach, but I also am peculiarly drawn to the sound of the violent, graceful waves, the salty air that plays with your nose, and the vastness of the landscape. People seem to have this notion that all of California revels in glorious weather, with warm breezes and inviting ocean. Southern California, maybe, but up north? Chilly. Really, that’s being generous. Icy or stinging, that’s a bit more accurate. Such was the water at Carmel-by-the-Sea, but the water did not dampen the town’s charm nor its beauty.

 

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There is a walking path that stretches along the coastline, providing magnificent, serene views of the ocean and the quaint homes that make up the neighborhood. At the end of the path there is an outcrop- rocky, but if you’re willing to climb, you are met by the peacefulness of the sea and a gentle breeze. The ocean stretches endlessly before you, and there is an excellent view of the coast extending north and south: Pebble Beach (which is actually not a beach(?)) to the north; and imposing hillsides and forrest to the south.

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Venture into town, and it’s like stepping into a European countryside, although the cottages are sandwiched together, as is characteristic of California. The streets are narrow, the architecture charming, and you’re sure to find a good pastry or two. One shop sold a lovely, delicate cinnamon pastry—perfect after a long walk along the coast.

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San Francisco on Film

One of my favorite portrait photographers introduced me to film photography. She uses a Rolleicord, and all the photos she takes are so vivid in color and detail, I knew that I wanted to explore this medium of photography, too. So, I caved, bought a Rolleicord, did an obscene amount of Googling because I had no idea what I was doing, and experimented last summer. Recently, we bought an Epson scanner, so I was able to scan all my negatives, and here are some of the results!

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North Beach is one of my favorite neighborhoods, if only for the cute cafes and Italian restaurants that line the streets. I stopped poor Divya every 10 feet or so because I wanted to take a picture of something! This little cafe was just so charming.

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During winter break, the family trekked out to Land’s End. Open ocean, jagged cliff lines, and violent, majestic waves … it was like watching a beautiful symphony, being captivated by the melodies and artistry. It is moments such as these, when you feel small, and the world feels big, that you are filled with curiosity and wonder.

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And of course, there are few greater joys than stumbling across fresh flowers in the middle of a metropolis, but I did just that on a little corner in Nob Hill.

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Voilà! (A bit of) San Francisco on film.

Happy exploring!

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Boston’s South End on a Rainy Day

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A couple weeks ago, I was writing an article for the Buzz about Boston’s local florists. I had the privilege of talking to many shop owners and learning just a little bit about the flower industry and the joys of owning a flower shop. When I called one shop, Olympia, I had a lovely chat with Eileen. I had not had the opportunity to step inside Olympia before writing my article, and she kindly invited me to visit the shop. Last Saturday, I trekked over to the South End in the rain to say hello and thank you. Unfortunately, Saturdays are her day off, but I’m still glad I was able to enjoy the whimsical space and admire spring in the South End.

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I’m completely convinced that some of the best adventures are the ones that we aren’t seeking. Sometimes, I like to stroll and enjoy the scenery, with no intention of taking photographs. However, despite the rain, the South End was filled with marvelous flowers, and I was delighted any which way I looked. It was impossible not to stop and snap a photo. Here’s a small collection of the neighborhood in bloom.

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Happy spring and cheers to your next adventure!

~Marissa

 

Boston’s Oldest Flower Shop

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Boston is rife with flower shops, and they’re all charming and have unique stories. Olympia Flowers & Gifts claims the title of Boston’s first flower shop. 115 years old, its doors first opened in Dudley Square, Roxbury. The same family has owned Olympia since it opened, and the current owners are the great-grandchildren of the founders.

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Located at the corner of Washington Street and Massachusetts Avenue, its simple green awning and charming windowsills filled with flowers beckon passerby. Inside, the walls are adorned with photos of old Boston and the shop. It’s wonderfully nostalgic. The selection of flowers range from plant-your-own to bouquets. Eileen Bornstein, wife of co-owner Joe Bornstein, says that the flowers are freshly selected from the flower market each day.

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If you’re ever in want of something to do on a lovely spring day, wander the South End and meander into this historical, bright little spot. And, after you’ve picked up a bouquet (or two!), Flour Bakery is only a few paces away.

Pinhole!

Apologies that I’ve played hooky for the past week! It’s time to turn in our thesis and I have the joyous task of editing around 50 pages that talk about infectious diseases. I never want to read about a mosquito ever again. But, on the bright side, I am now fairly knowledgable about a new and major disease (Zika). It’s good to be informed, I guess.

The weather here had taken a turn for the beautiful over the weekend, and everything was flowering! Glorious. Today, it’s dark and gloomy, but on Sunday, the birds were singing, the air was warm, and the sunshine inviting. I have this little mirrorless camera that is tricked out with way more features than I could actually use, master, or care for, but I was interested in some of the cool effects I found, and ended up really liking the “pinhole” effect, which I’m sharing today.

The pinhole camera has been phased out for a while, but I’m personally charmed by its simplicity. Essentially, it’s a light-proof box, no lens, small aperture hole. Wikipedia tells me that it works like a camera obscura, and now I am intrigued, because there’s a giant camera obscura in San Francisco. Can you guess what I’ll be spending the weekend reading up on? Meanwhile, happy spring! I hope these flowers bring you joy.

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On the Esplanade
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Marsh Chapel
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Springtime at Marsh Chapel
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Flowers on Commonwealth Avenue

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Scenes from Nashville

In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy wrote that all happy families are alike. The same goes for cities. All cities are alike…to certain degrees. The imposing skyscrapers, the sky obscured, and the dirt. Cities are dirty; the grime is pervasive. The air…it hovers over you, an invisible cloak. In those respects, all cities are alike.

To complete Tolstoy’s sentence, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. And in this literary analogy, each city has a little something that whispers, beckoning you to know her secrets. Music City certainly had a few.

I didn’t spend very long in Nashville, but the brief taste I had was enough. From the pedestrian bridge, the Riverwalk was visible; the old warehouses dragging you back to mid-nineteenth century Nashville. It’s southern, charming, and weathered, challenging you to appreciate it amidst the sleek, imposing towers. Somehow, it works, and modernity fades as the Cumberland River flows, slowly, and time is suspended.

[I also went to the Loveless Cafe. Read about it here. One word: Biscuits.]