Tag Archives: Shinazy

Going To Death Valley ©

Shinazy’s trip to Death Valley

death valley

For four weeks starting mid February the North American desert is in bloom.  Even in the hottest, driest desert, Death Valley is awash in flowers.  Some are tiny; these are the ones you only notice when you bend to tie your shoelaces.  Others hide among the protected thorns offered by otherwise menacing plants.  Regardless if the winter rains make puddles or ponds, the desert will put forth a floral spectacle.

Appreciating the desert’s Spring display was among the lessons my grandparents, Gigs and Bussie, taught me.  From age six to sixteen, I accompanied them into the California deserts to hunt for unusual rocks and survey the annual color splash.  Our camping trips were simple excursions.  The day before our departure, Bussie would pack the station wagon with survival provisions.  I was an observant and helpful child, so now as an adult I thought I too could attempt a similar journey.

As with any journey I started with a plan: what clothes to pack, route to take, canned rations and tools to bring.  For weeks, every time a needed item passed through my thoughts I’d add it to The List.  Since I was going alone into the Death Valley wilderness I had to ensure I remembered everything – if I did not bring it, there was no place to get it.

Part of the fun concerning this trip was to duplicate how my grandparents travelled, so I left the GPS and cell phone at home.  I never went online to plot my route.  With confidence, a paper map, and my one-‘n-only credit card I set off to rough-it in the outback.  The only thing I needed to buy was gas.  I was prepared!

death valley300 miles into the trip I encountered the first flaw in The Plan.  What my memory neglected to tell me was my grandparents only used cash; plastic money had yet entered their lives.  With teaspoons of gas remaining in my truck’s tank, the station attendant reproached me, “Your card’s no good.”   I never carry cash; I get frequent flyer miles charging … everything.

The word ‘stranded’ seized my mind.  What was an electronically dependent girl masquerading as a pioneer to do?  A frantic call to CitiBank, who informed me, “Your card was hacked.”  This news told me why my only source of currency was corrupted, but did not help me buy fuel to resume my expedition.  However, after I answered every security question about my life since birth, CitiBank agreed to allow me to purchase gas, but absolutely nothing else.  And, I had to call them before every purchase.  It was then I realized, “Maybe some of the old timer ways had benefits.”

With the credit card crisis cured I continued, knowing this one lapse in judgment was the only mistake I made.  Although I had no paper money I did have a paper map.  But time had a surprise for me.  It seems today’s paper maps show less detail because “everyone has GPS.”  No longer able to navigate my route, I asked a local for directions.  This was my second faulty plan omen.  After missing the you-can’t-miss-it intersection, it started to snow.  I travelled up and up, mile after mile.  The smaller the hole on the windshield became the more petrified I became.

Was panic going to turn me to stone before the zero temperature?

Where was a turn-off so I could escape?

What would my grandparents do?

death valley

Twelve hours, three snow flurries, and two gas refills after departing home I arrived at my campsite where I would build a fire and evaporate the day’s troubles.  But, alas, the National Park Service had another plan.  Posted on the sunburned table was a sign, “No Campfires”.

As I stood there in the Death Valley blackness, shrouded in every thread I packed, listening to my stomach symphony, I wondered . . . Did I pack the can opener?

photos courtesy shinazy & calsidyrose

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Easter Nest ©

Shinazy’s family Easter Nest tradition

easterMy mother loves the pageantry of holidays and celebrates with couture runway flair.  In my youth, when Easter approached, she would start the search for the next new outfit; for me it was time for another magical visit to the ancestral homestead in Colma.

Every year when the daffodils emerged from the dirt, I knew we would soon be shopping for the perfect dresses, bonnets, gloves, and shoes.  My two younger sisters and I – life size ‘Russian nesting dolls’ – would wait, hands folded in our laps, while shop ladies scurried about to find three identical suitable Easter dresses.

Although we did this every year, I only remember wishing that this year’s frock would be long enough to cover the scabs and bruises on my tomboy knees.  These shopping trips ended with the purchase of black patent leather strapped shoes called Mary Jane.  (I secretly called my shoes Sally, in honor of my former imaginary friend who moved away once my sisters were old enough for me to boss – but that’s another story.)

The purpose of these outfits was that we looked stylish for the Easter Parade, the annual spring photo shoot at my grandmother’s – Pauline, aka Gigs.

Before I was born, Uncle George decided that Easter needed more than just baskets and eggs sitting on the dining room table.  One year he returned from the yard with an armful of weeds that he lovingly arranged on the table; this was the start of my family’s Easter Nest.  When my generation increased in size, the nest moved to the front porch, where Aunt Judy decorated it with daffodils.

Every year, my sisters, brother, cousins, and I would stand in single file waiting for Gigs to adjust the focus and light meter on her cameras.  We would then parade past the Easter Nest, then pose around the nest, then pose with our baskets, then pose, and pose.  These movies and photos memorialize a tradition – a time in a family’s history – our Easter Parade.

Shinazy_BOBBblog_EasterNest_ALvin-egg-huntWhen my daughter was old enough to understand that the Easter Bunny delivered sugary goods and multicolored eggs, I continued the Easter Nest custom, sans, the clothes shopping excursion.  We lived in an apartment and had no lawn to mow or weeds to pull for the supply of nest building material; so coworkers would provide garbage bags filled with freshly cut green clippings.  The front door landing became the site for our first Easter Nest.  Some of my favorite holiday pictures of my daughter and son are the Easter Nest photos.

The Shinazy clan has produced another generation of wide-eyed cherub faces to smile at the wonder of the Easter Nest.  Although we no longer live within 20 miles of each other, continuing the tradition keeps the family connected and our stories carry on.

photo by danielle & shinazy

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Good Life ©

Shinazy honoring the a good life of her female relatives

good lifeComing from a long line of amazing women, I know the history of my great, great, grandmothers.  Over 6 generations, from these grand gals through to my daughter and niece, our stories have one thing in common:  A knack to live a good life.

Each of us stumbled upon something we claimed as our own.  Something to express a desire, a passion, a need.  Something where we stepped back and exhaled an “Ahh”, aware of internal warmth, reminiscent of the sun shining on our face as it does on the first day of Spring.

For my great grandmother, Grammy, her Something was her fairy-tale garden where she painted the landscape with trellises of ever blooming fragrances.  Here she constructed a wishing well and a pond surrounded by plants of exotic shapes.

My grandmother Nana grew rows of tulips and hedges of roses from every Mother’s Day floral bouquet she received. These were gardens where dandelions swirled and kept floating as if they knew their home was elsewhere.

Other women of my family sewed garments, created jewelry, restored vintage stain-glass, or baked pies.  Many traveled, attended classes, and wrote stories.  Some lived the word ‘dilatant’ and moved from passing inquisitiveness to fleeting curiosity.  And still others sat on the back porch with a bowl of green beans in their lap.  A good life, that Something, came in many forms and either changed or hibernated with time.

Over time, decades of time, Aunty Flo returned to her Something. To advance her career in the business world she stopped being a professional Hula dancer.  Upon retiring, she felt dance calling again.  She told me, at age 75 she walked into a studio, closed her eyes and saw herself as the young girl in the hand-made grass skirt.  Although, during the later lessons she struggled to rise from deep dips, for her to live a Good Life she had to dance.

good lifeWhen I talk of a Good Life I repeatedly use the word ‘nature’.  If I’m in the concrete city too long I yearn for the freedom of life without walls.  Being outside rejuvenates me.  When I connect with nature, I’m in harmony with . . . Every thing.  I see solutions and make corrections before I’m in too deep.  By the time my head touches my fluffed pillow I’m already dreaming.  Basically, I’m aware of my senses and all they offer.

Today, our senses offer us the Good Life.  Enjoy!

photos by family member & jim johnson

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Being a Mavericks Surfer ©

A Story by Shinazy

mavericks, surferI’m peering through binoculars at dots bobbing up and down.  I see them in between one-inch high waves at the Mavericks Surf Competition.  Then something happens … The Wave emerges.   A surfer propels himself down the face of a 30-foot giant aqua-blue wall.  The top of the wave folds like a used Thanksgiving napkin and the surfer disappears into The Tube, swallowed.  My breathing stops, anticipating, will the athlete reappear?

While waiting my mind wanders to my first athletic endeavor and that of every city girl with a piece of chalk in her hand . . . hopscotch.  Yes, the children’s sidewalk game where we balance and jump on one leg, instinctively calculating ballistics before we toss our marker into poorly drawn squares.  Hopscotch, a sport for strong, skilled athletes.

We trained for years.  In just over 13 months, from our birth, we mastered synchronizing our feet, ankles, legs, knees, hips, spine, arms, shoulders, and head to move from one set of embracing arms to the outreached arms a short distance in front of us.  Over the next year we completed our first marathon over kitchen floors and living room carpets.  Some of us incorporated stair repeats.  Once we ran, we never stopped.  We were endurance toddlers.

Our training continued, constantly climbing the ladder on our favorite slide and using our abs to navigate the slope, ensuring we stayed within the low, cold, metal lips.  By kindergarten we were jumping rope.

mavericks, surgerWith every contest we competed against ourselves as well as the reigning first grade champion.  We desired to be in first place.  We practiced and played with determination to win.

It’s also during this time we risked bodily harm.  We were fearless when we wrote to Santa – we’re ready – we needed a two-wheel bike.  Those first days without training wheels frequently resulted in scraped knees and bruised elbows.  But we continued; we must learn this skill.  With nerves and experience we soon used our power and peddled, alone, to our friend’s house.

As the lone surfer emerges, he flips the nose of his board and starts to paddle out into open water to try again.

Try again.

It never crosses the surfer’s mind to head for the safety of the shore.  It was the same for us when we were kids.  Someone might say comparing Mavericks to hopscotch is comparing the sun to birthday candles.  Nay, I say.  Sometime in our lives, we, too, had athletic skills that represented equal ferocity.  Today is the surfer’s day and the waves his playground.

photos by creativeage and knapjack

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Save The Whales – Beyond Darwin ©

By Shinazy

whalesToday is a winter day.  At noon the temperature is minus 20*F (- 20*).  It’s white in every direction; even the water is white, covered in a sheet of ice.  Except for a hole that contains 12 Killer Whales who are trapped, land locked, separated from food and their journey south.  Separated from their life cycle.  This most recent save-an-animal news is happening in an ice field off the coast of Inukjuak, Quebec, where the 1,500 residents plead for the world to help, while their government assesses the situation.  The situation gets colder every day and the hole gets smaller.

Because the Canadian government is not getting involved, the question seems to be, Who Should?  For some folks there’s another question: Should We?

One way to view this Save-The-Whales movement is the Darwin approach:  Survival of the Fittest. “If they got themselves into this situation, they should get themselves out.”  I heard this argument when Humphrey the humpback whale wandered into the San Francisco Bay and was unable to find his way back to the ocean.  After weeks in the bay’s fresh water Humphrey was doomed to never have baby whales.

Yes, this would be one way to handle the situation.

However, we humans, being at the top of the food chain with the biggest ‘hearts’ would not let Humphrey become a Darwin statistic.  The world watched and the locals acted.  After many attempts, using various methods, Humphrey was finally lured out of the bay.  It was our big brain and bigger empathy that decided using humpback whales feeding sounds would get the recuse job done.  And, it did.  Saving Humphrey became a somewhat regular event.  Over the next few years he developed a habit of making a left-hand turn on his way south.  But, we were always there to guide him back.

Several years later, another Humpback became tangled in crab traps off the Farallone Islands, again near San Francisco, California.  This time it was obvious that we, our behavior, was the cause.  This time there was no talk of Darwin.  The course of action was clear:  We were responsible, so we needed to save the whale.

whalesToday, with these 12 stranded whales, we are faced with a situation that is less clear.

Is it our actions, our global behavior resulting from our need to consume, to produce, to industrialize, causing the ice sheets to change?  Or, is this a group of whales with faulty GPS genes?

Do we interfere with the Darwin path or do we attempt to save?  The world continues to watch.

photos by kythpryn and shinazy

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Quiet Escape ©

A quiet moment with Shinazy

It’s quiet.  The first winter storm just passed but the sky holds onto its grey while the redwood needles pretend that the raindrops continue to fall.  I’m in Butano, a coastal mountain hamlet, only minutes away from San Francisco.  There’s no sense of civilization here.  No motor sounds, no whirr of industry or consumption.

quietThe rain has stopped long enough for the worms and bugs to wiggle onto the bed of decomposing brown and green.  On the edge of my vision a flutter of wings – birds seeing their evening meal.  They scurry to swallow before their neighbor.  It looks like dancing; some wild choreographed stomping of tiny Irish River Dancers.

In this dense forest a crow or black bird or raven sounds the coming of Goliath.  On cue the tiny dancers stop, heads still until some unspoken note signals them to zoom away.  How is it that there are no head-on collisions?  The damp ground is now empty.

I hear it coming, breaking the quiet – the caw loudens.  Like the landing of a jet fighter the crow is on the ground, a centennial guarding the nude dirt.  But he must hear something my human ears do not because he suddenly starts to drill holes.  Is he finding the retreating bugs and worms?

The false tree rain stops and now the branches are light enough for the breeze to move them, a new sound to pause the silence.  I can actually hear the tones the difference leaves make as they rustle against each other.

The sun must be setting.  The sky is still the same pale grey, but the distant trees are black.  And the nothingness approaches.  I can no longer distinguish one redwood from another.  I can only see the autumn colors of the Manzanita that grows near the porch.  Night is coming.  Even the crow is gone.  quiet

I’m here to escape the never-ending din of the city.  I felt my ears and mind were always being assaulted.  I needed to reconnect with nature.  In this quiet I hear … something: my thoughts, time, imaginary sounds.  I only know life with noise, so in this stillness I hear what may not be there.

Evening is settling.

The next storm is coming – new sounds for me to hear while I escape into the quiet.

photo by shinazy and luchilu

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Halloween Of Yesterday ©

Shinazy’s  Halloween Memories


My earliest Halloween memory is when my younger sisters and I dressed our baby brother for his first trick or treat.  We costumed him in our frilliest feminine frock with bows in his hair and patent leather Mary Janes on his feet.  He was our living doll.

As the first door opened to our knock knock, the neighbor complemented each disguised sister.  But when the neighbor’s eyes dropped to my brother her smile faded.  In a concerned maternal expression she asked, “Oh, sweet girl, why aren’t you in a costume?”  And, in a forlorn voice my brother said, “But, I am … I’m a boy!”  The neighbor’s words validated our fashion designer talent.

When we became moms, we continued the family’s Halloween tradition and introduced our children to the art of masquerading.  One year my daughter and her friend, Helen, dressed as the couple in the painting, ‘American Gothic’.  The disguise’s realism convinced the candy-givers that Helen was my daughter’s chaperon.   The girls were prouder of their artistry than their haul.

Another year my middle sister visited with her five-month old son who was wearing a yellow fleece sleeper.  Instantly we all saw the possibility and out came the black electrical tape and white pipe cleaners transforming him from sleepy cherub into cuddly bumblebee.  As the girls buzzed out the door, they carried him in a sling, giving the appearance he was flying.

Each year we thought about who would be what.  There was the year my daughter or son transformed into a clown, scarecrow, Thing from the Adams family, Oscar the grouch – complete with garbage can.

My son’s favorite persona was being a mummy.  For two years I cornered the local four-inch gauze supply on the entire San Francisco Peninsula.  I appreciate the patience required by Hollywood make-up artist; for several hours I wrapped, shredding at strategic points, rubbing other areas with carbon paper.  The longer he paraded about the more unraveled he became – a creature of the living dead.

Then came the pivotal year when either age or height interrupts the notion to repeatedly say, “Trick or Treat.”  When this happened to my daughter it was Toga Party time.

halloweenThe year this happened to my son, he, a friend and I dressed in all black.  We blacked our faces, and loaded my 1969 VW Bug with toilet paper and set off to TP several friends’ homes.  This was no roll-tossing-into-trees happening.  We draped a hedge with TP garland, tied bows on branches, gift wrapped a car.  With each home we became more skilled at the craft of TP art; we even returned to the first home to improve our Halloween caper.

When October approaches I think how fun it will be when the next generation is ready to continue our family Halloween habit – what will they want to be?  Perhaps an iPhone.  It’s possible.

photos courtesy sister72 and stevendepolo

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To Dream, Again ©

Following a dream with Shinazy

dreamI’m standing in line at Starbucks day-dreaming about ordering my current favorite.  Behind me are two young women discussing their future.  The tall one tells her friend, “Why don’t you just give up?  No one’s going to publish your poems.”  To this, the poet sighs, “But it’s my dream.”

Dreaming one thing, doing another – being a poet laureate, published author, a professional writer.

I, too, wrote poems during those brooding adolescent years.  On lined binder paper, secured in a black plastic spiral notebook, I deposited lyrical expressions, images of the torture of being misunderstood.  I had dreams of publishing my work.  But, then my focus changed.  Boys distracted me and I postponed my dream.

In my 20s, I started writing a novel, “Imprisoned Shadow, a tale of a young woman who had yet to discover her identity and her strength.  However, this time, it was the joy of raising a family that distracted me and I blissfully postponed my dream.

Then, the worst day of my life occurred, I had my 30th birthday!  Remember, we couldn’t trust anyone over 30.  With my years of parenting experience, I decided to write a child user guide – an updated version of the Dr. Spock’s Baby & Child Care™.

It was an encyclopedia, providing all my practical “know how” of what to-do and when-to-do it, such as placing a plastic wading pool under the highchair when teaching a child how to drink from a cup; or laying a full-length mirror sideways on the floor so that a playmate was always in the room.  I typed and typed, and typed, one copy for me, one copy for my publisher.  But soon my “job” became a “career”, distracted I became, postponed became my dream.

In the prehistoric days before Starbucks and Pete’s Coffee became as essential to the very function of my life, I was introduced to espresso.  As this new love affair began, a new problem presented itself:  where could I find great coffee outside my neighborhood?  Ah, ha!  I saw a need for a coffee travel book.  And, of course, I was the perfect person to write the “Latte Highway.”

But, alas, as time passed, the promise of the next best-selling travel guide became more and more faint, and then stilled altogether as the emergence of a new diversion reared its head: the birth of the Starbucks Reward Card.  The almost sinister lure of endless ounces of this steamy black elixir had tempted me away from my original purpose.  I heard it whisper, “Why write when you can simply drink and enjoy all the rewards?”  I took the bait.  For years afterward, my caffeine-infused mind occasionally would ask.  “Now, where did I put that dream?”

Fast-forward and my dreams of publishing had morphed into jotting down fragments of information.  No published poems, no great American novel, no guides, nor tales.  Instead, I composed concise memos, well-crafted business strategies, procedures, emails, texts.

Then one day I wondered, did my desire to write – really write – ever fade away?  Or, did it remain crouching behind my memories and to-do lists.  Can a dream be resurrected?  Is it ever too late?

Nay, it’s never too late.  Today is a new day and here I sit at my computer typing, writing, telling stories.  Living my dream, again!

photo by shinazy

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Hike Half Dome Alone ©

Hike to Half Dome with Shinazy


Last year three of us decided to climb the Half Dome Cables.  We trained and then went online to capture our permits – first come, first get.  We watched the webcam and saw the snow slowly melt, too slow to install the cables – no cables, no climb.  But we decided to hike anyway just to see a record water flow; we wanted to experience everything … but the cables.

During that 12-hour hike, we stopped at every sight.  After catching our breath from the altitude and the beauty, we took pictures of waterfalls, rocks, rainbows, valleys.  We travelled together, encouraging each other to continue, sharing our thoughts as comrades.   All this togetherness enriched our experience.

This year, with a lighter snowfall, the cables were installed on scheduled.  Our luck held, permits from the Lottery arrived and our group swelled to five.

On hike day, as sunrise removed the evening we set boot to trail.  Within 5 minutes the group split, taller Half Dome hikers with longer strides pulled away.  Then my quicker pace had me increasing the distance from the other short-hiker.  Now, I was alone.  I was hiking the same trail as last year, but with only one set of eyes – mine, and this made it a different path.

If asked, I would say I’d never been there.  Last year, Vernal Fall was a fire-hose pounding my black-plastic-garbage-bag poncho.  I knew there were 600 steps carved into the granite cliffside, but I could only ‘see’ them with my feet as I clung to the wet stonewall.  But this year, there was only a modest spray and I could see the steepness and the uneveness and the majesty of each step.

That 2,000-foot climb is rewarded by the flat, hot, and sandy Little Yosemite Valley.  Previously the Merced River roared, drowning all sound.  Now, I could hear birds and I thought I could even hear a squirrel rolling a pinecone.

As I continued, the solitude allowed my mind to see oddities.  In a wide sandy trail why are all the pinecones resting exactly in the middle?  Why do people stay on the sandy path instead of hiking on the firmly packed game trail that runs along side?  And, on and on my mind wandered.

When alone in the forest there’s no sense of time.  One minute I’m blinking my eyes to wake-up and the next I’m blinking because Half Dome just materialized.  Five hours had passed, but no fatigue just excitement.  The goal of this hike was before me; it was time to climb the 45-degree incline of the massive granite slope called Half Dome, and not alone, I had the seed of memories . . . and my camera.

photo by glennwilliams

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Casual Cyclist ©

Cyclist and storyteller: Bobbi Rankin

cyclistI’m one of the casual cyclist.

I like my 7-speed Specialized with its comfy seat and handy basket.  I look forward to a time in my week when all the signs point to a good cycling day.

It’s one of those mornings and I wake up early, but not too early.  I look out the window and see the morning fog is receding back over the coastal hills and the wind, the wind is . . . clam.   I hear my bike calling to me from the garage.  Do you hear it say,  “Climb on board and let’s go for a ride?  Let the wind blow through you hair and helmet” (yes, my girls make me wear a helmet).   I do, I hear it say, “Let’s go cycling.”

The path I frequent meanders along the local waterways.  It is a popular place for the serious and casual cyclist, the wanderer, joggers and folks walking their dogs.  Fortunately for all of us, the path is well marked to keep us going in the right direction, similar to driving your car.

So off I go, casually cycling along minding my own business and there, right in front of me is a person haphazardly walking their dog while taking on a cell phone. Yikes, I ring my bell and I say, “Heads up” in a voice that is sure to be heard.   Just in time I see the dog being pulled to the side of the sheepishly smiling person.

As I come around the next corner, in the middle of the road is a family gathered around a stroller rearranging the baby’s blankets.  I grab my brakes, stand on my pedals and loudly say . . . “Heads up.”  Much to their surprise they see that I’m heading right for them.  I do stop, just in time, cause if I hit them I’d be in big trouble.  I like to stay out of trouble.

Ok, two close calls and as I look far ahead of me I see no more obstacles in my way.  I’m glad to say the coast was clear.

Finally, I’m cruising along without a worry or thought in my head.  When low and behold, before me comes a gaggle of geese mossing along enjoying their day as they waddle across my path on their way to the water.  Well, no bell ringing or yelling, “Heads up” will change the course of these geese that, by the way, think they own this water rich area where I live.  So, all that is left to do is stop and lets these geese meander on down to the waters edge.  Obviously the geese can’t read the well-marked path!

I come to a bench where I can sit to take in the beauty of the marshland and all the activity of the local water foul.  I relax into the bench while eating my lunch and enjoying the peace and quiet. Then I begin to laugh at myself as I admit, casual cycling means just that, casual and not taking myself so seriously.  As usual I’ve enjoyed my day in this cycling friendly area.

The bottom line is, it’s always a pleasure to be a cyclist and be with good friends, my bike and me.

photo by bobbi rankin

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