Rancho La Puerta is a wellness resort in Tecate, Mexico, dating back to the 1940s. My first visit to Rancho La Puerta was in 2009. Since then, I’ve returned to the Ranch as a musical guest some ten times! This year, I took my daughter Ruby along as my side kick, and we had a wonderful time. Personal highlights of the week included hiking, swimming, fitness classes, wandering through the meandering gardens, reading by the pool, eating award winning vegan meals, and best of all: connecting with old friends and staff members from years past, as well as meeting new friends. In short, a trip to the ranch felt like coming home.
A week at Rancho La Puerta encourages slowing down, breathing deeply, and living in the moment. Indeed these are gifts available to us every day of the year wherever we are! Try it now…… take a big breath in and a long, audible exhale…..Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Joe and I recently returned from a quick trip to Iceland, the icy wonderland in the North Atlantic which is home to around 350,000 people. On our first day we explored the capitol city of Reykjavik on foot. On our walk, we watched gorgeous swans, ducks and geese swimming and posing in a large city pond, we ambled down cobbled city streets and marveled at the mix of historic and modern buildings, and we lunched in a fabulous vegan cafe called Mama Reykjavik.
One evening we took a boat ride to view the Northern Lights (great adventure, but alas, no lights.) We soaked in the famous blue lagoon where we rubbed mud all over our faces and let the mineral rich water soak into our skin. On our penultimate day, we took a 7- hour bus tour of the Golden Circle which drove us along miles and miles of highway with spectacular views of the snow covered landscape, Stops along the way included Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir Geothermal Area, Þingvellir National Park, and the Kerid Crater (where we hiked around the icy edge).
Rose, our guide on the Golden Circle explained the gastronomical delights of Iceland including fish soup, lamb stew, and on the wilder side, sheep’s head, and fermented shark. As Joe and I stick to a vegan diet, we were happy to find plenty of options in Reykveck.
Thanks to it’s abundant geothermic activity, hot water heats homes throughout the country, as well as provides hot water for hundreds of public pools, and natural soaking spots which Icelanders enjoy throughout the country-in every village and town. Add Along with abundant soaking and swimming pools, Iceland boasts sleek modern buildings, free health care and educational systems, and a nearly crime-free oasis where the policeman don’t even carry guns because it is so safe. Indeed, Iceland is a chilly oasis of civility in the north Atlantic.
To get a sense of the vastness and open space, watch the 2016 movie Rams, available on Amazon Prime and Apple TV, about two estranged, sheep-farmer brothers who live next door to each other and haven’t spoken in 40 years who come together for the good of the family sheep stock. Gives a good look at the desolate, icy landscape of rural Iceland.
Víkingur Ólafsson, word-renowned Icelandic pianist, records music as serene, stunning, and clean as the Icelandic landscape. His newest recording, From Afar, features 22 works including Icelandic folk songs, along with romantic and contemporary pieces. Listen to his Ave Maria by Sigvaldi Kaldalóns here.
“Walking in the Air” by Howard Blake-played by Laura
It’s warm and cozy in my studio as the rain drums on the roof on this penultimate day of 2022. I’m reflecting on this past year, a magical year. My personal highlight was the publication of my book, Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier. Over the past few months, I have thoroughly enjoyed giving concert presentations to audiences in Tecate, Mexico (at Rancho La Puerta), Seattle, and in Eastern Washington. I am just getting warmed up, as there are several more Heart and Place concerts in the works for 2023. I will also be releasing a recorded collection of songs/pieces (on a CD and digital recording) entitled Songs of Heart and Place.
In addition, the year provided special moments all along the way- teaching my students (ages 5-adult), working as a visiting artist in Olympia and Edmonds, early morning swims with my dear swimming pals, traveling to Sedona, hiking along the south rim of the Grand Canyon, cooking dinner for friends, and the daily interactions with people in my neighborhood. There’s magic afoot everywhere.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve been taking a staycation filled with music practice, organizing my studio, planning for the year ahead, taking long walks, reading, and spending time with family and friends. Holiday events have included a couple of special music concerts. The first, a Harry Connick Jr. concert at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall- which felt like a trip to new Orleans with fabulous jazz musicians, funny stories, and Harry’s voice and piano prowess- oh my! On another night, Ruby and I attended the Northwest Boy Choir’s “Lessons in Carols” proceeded by dinner at the Wild Ginger-our annual tradition. (picture of me and Ruby taken at the Wild Ginger-which is across the street from Benaroya Hall)
Music remains a plentiful source of joy, levity, comfort, and connection in our daily lives! May you have a multitude of musical and magical experiences in 2023. Wishing you a warm, cozy, prosperous, healthy, and memorable new year!
I’ve recently returned from a mini book tour to south eastern Washington. Along the way I gave two Music in the Westward Expansion presentations and took in some of the rich history and natural beauty of the area. The first program was an after hours program at the Fort Walla Walla Museum, located at the edge of town. The second program took place in Prosser at the Prosser Historical Museum.
Joe, my partner in life and roadie, drove (about 600 miles total) the tour vehicle (his Subaru Forester), and helped me haul my very heavy digital piano, guitar, music stand, Northern Cheyenne courtship flute, and other miscellaneous music paraphernalia in and out of the venues. Joe, who is also a master birder, managed to enjoy two exciting mornings of birding at Fort Walla Walla and at the Whitman Mission. For his eastern WA report, visit Short and Tweet Bird Reports.
In between events we enjoyed the vibrant downtown scene in Walla Walla where we strolled along picturesque sidewalks by welcoming shops and restaurants and ate some delicious meals. The Walla Walla Valley is known for its wine industry and the area around Walla Walla is surrounded by gently rolling hills lush with grape vines, and home to some 120 wineries.
At Fort Walla Walla, my presentation was in the main lobby which houses a historical covered wagon, a beautiful stage coach (pictured below), and display cases full of relics from the mid 1800s which made for a perfect setting for Music in the Westward Expansion. My program was part of a series called “After Hours” where authors and historians present programs on their field of expertise. The presentation was recorded and will eventually be added to the Fort Walla Walla website in the past programs link. Thank you to Ella Meyers and the Fort Walla Walla Museum for hosting this event.
The day after the Fort Walla Walla event, we spent anafternoon at the Whitman Mission where missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman established a mission near the Cayuse Nation at Waiilatpo on the Columbia Plateau in 1836. At the mission, we walked the grounds, marveled in the open space, and learned more about the complicated and difficult story of the Whitmans and the Cayuse people which is an important and pivotal story within the story of the American Westward Expansion.
In Prosser, the county seat of Benton County, located along the Yakima River, I played on an 1860s Chickering square grand piano. The piano was originally shipped from the East Coast around Cape Horn to Astoria where is was then shipped up the Columbia River and hauled overland to Prosser! Playing the piano in the parlor setting truly felt like stepping back in time. Thank you to Alys Means and the Prosser Historical Museum for hosting this event.
I’m home after another rejuvenating week at the beautiful health resort, Rancho la Puerta, located at the edge of of Tecate, Mexico where the motto is Siempre Mejor- always better. Last week included lap swimming, hiking, practicing yoga, eating delicious food, admiring gardens, creating art, meeting new friends, connecting with old friends, taking a writing workshop, encountering wild life, strolling along brick pathways, spending time with Joe, leading a singing class, and performing a piano concert- “Music and Stories from Westward Expansion.”
Joe and I recently traveled to Sedona, Arizona for a rejuvenating spring break filled with stunning desert hikes. West Fork Trail, a.k.a “The Call of the Canyon,” just a few miles north of Sedona, is a popular hike that meanders back and forth across a rippling creek and through a canyon maze of spectacular striated rock ledges, peaks, and walls. We also took in the Grand Canyon-the South Rim. I was delighted with the hiking trail that runs parallel to the canyon for several miles! The day was glorious, the canyon, well, grand!
I learned that among the many early Westerns filmed in Sedona, was a 1923 movie called The Call of the Canyon. In 1924, The Pullman Herald urged, “Better answer The Call of the Canyon and come along to the Western thrill-land. Where a son of toil teaches a daughter of jazz the a-b-c of living and loving.” Sign me up, I need to watch this old movie ASAP!