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Travel insights,
Stock photos for sale,
Postcard from Aarondell, Traveler Profiles.
Perspective from the Galapagos,
More Travel and Culture photos,
Email in Paradise reconsidered,
Elephant bathtime in Thailand.
Travel journal from Kathmandu,
Lhasa and the islands of the Andaman Sea.
Our own adventure travel tours to Bali, Peru, Nepal and Africa.
Reports from world nomad/travel writer Bill Strubbe, now in California
Journal entries from our young backpacker/adventure seeker Nick in New Zealand South Africa, Patagonia.
Mikal beams a sensual look on Rio, Havana, and the Aeolian islands.

We received these thoughtful sketches from Bill Strubbe, world travel writer, who has built a simple and environmentally friendly house in the highlands of Northern California. The giant redwoods grow on top of the ridge. His writing desk looks out on miles of Pacific coast. After years of nomadic journeys, he has a home and it's a dream come true.

Bill's Yurt

A Well-Rounded Home
by Bill Strubbe

Our correspondent constructing the roof of his yurt, which fuses modern function with a traditional dwelling from Central Asia, set in an American landscape.

Coming Full Circle
    Inside the yurt, all is round. When I lay in the sleeping loft, I gaze up at the curving sweep of the roof, and out the circular dome window to the stars. Many times a shooting star's trajectory passes through that velvet circle, and I drift to sleep with a circular wish in my dreams. Life inside a circle feels like coming home, home to the way things used to be. A yurt, like a teepee, or an igloo, or Massai thatched hut mimics the expanse of the 360-degree horizon as a native American stood in the middle of the windswept plains, the dome of the night sky while paddling the Pacific in a dugout.

Water World
     In the height of summer, when the meadow is parched brown and the fear of fire lurks, it's difficult to imagine that the meadow will ever sprout again into lush green. Now, in mid-January, elemental water holds sway, and it's hard to imagine the heat of summer will ever come. Water alternately pours/falls/drizzles from above, soaking the path underfoot, overflowing the pool and pond. When the ground reaches saturation, a peculiar thing happens; the hillside looks riddled with broken water pipes as mini geysers spurt forth from the vast network of flooded gopher tunnels.
    The patter of light rain on the canvas yurt top gentles me to sleep; later, it startles me awake as the wind lashes it with soggy sheets. It's like trying to sleep inside a giant drum. I stick earplugs in, burying my head under a pillow, and hope for the best. On either side of the yurt, two streams gurgle and splash down the slope to Salmon Creek in the gorge far below, eventually emptying out to the sea. Many times through out the day, I interrupt my work, step out the French doors onto my deck, and simply listen to the gentle sounds of water obeying the dictates of gravity; it never fails to bring smile to my face. Who hasn't dreamt of living within hearing of flowing water. Come May, the waters will diminish to a silent trickle. Only the croaking frogs will recall the rainy season.

Silent Giants
". . . They are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time."
-- John Steinbeck

Leaning against the trunk of one tree I'm particularly fond of, I gaze at its towering neighbors. Suffused in verdant light, all is hushed, a muffled calm permeates the soul. Way up high tree tops rustle in a sudden breeze, and a moment later a pine cone plummets to the earth nearby. Examining it, I marvel that such a tiny thing could spawn this titan against my back.

Frankly, it's a mystery to me how others are able to restrain their emotions. I also cannot fathom how anyone has the heart .. the audacity to even contemplate reducing these natural wonders into decking planks for a hot tub. Sitting here, I can easily imagine chaining myself to this tree or blocking a tractor's path. Unlike a person or an animal, these docile giants have no means to fight back or flee. We are their last and only defense.

Above the yurt, beyond the house, stands a 30-acre grove of high elevation redwoods in the western part of the county. I just returned from a meditation walk there, and I tried to avert my gaze from the orange tags on selected trees. The owners have marked the gentle giants that they deem will help pay for their kids college education, their third automobile, their trip to Tahiti. For years, dedicated and weary -- environmentalists have thwarted the chain saws, but the fatigue, court litigation, and prospective tax write-off maybe buyers have run their course.

It ís almost impossible to imagine the horror, should that day ever come. I fantasize that all the neighbors on the road will unite, rise up and lay down before the tractors, chain their souls to the trees. We might be inspired like, Julie Butterfly, the angel who spent two years living in a redwood tree. Once I saw her speak at a local gathering. Humble, lovely, dedicated, and full of compassion, she has all the makings of a latter day saint. We need new heroes.

"The redwoods once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stay with you always. . . from them comes silence and awe. The most irreverent of men, in the presence of redwoods, goes under a spell of wonder and respect." -- John Steinbeck

    It ís in twilight that the owls begin to prowl. It thrills my heart, stops me in my tracks, when I hear the first hooo-hooo-hooo of the night. I scan the redwood silhouettes for the flutter of the owl, but it ís an impossible task. If I'm patient, and wait and watch long enough, eventually it will take flight. Once it flew 15 or 20 feet overhead. Another time, it alighted on the fence beyond the sunflowers. I crept up close, really close, before it saw me and took flight.

Into the Dark
    Darkness is primal, perhaps the maiden terror of our species who dreaded venturing beyond the warmth cast by the cook fire, the glow of the torch, or the reassuring flicker of candles in the parlor. The boogey man of every child's nightmares reigns supreme in that limnal place where shadows dance, then are swallowed into sheer black. I'm reminded of this every time I cross the meadow from the square of the house to the circle of the yurt, and occasionally ponder what if a mountain lion or a bobcat should happen to cross my path. I take solace in that a mountain lion has been sited on our ridge for many years. On moonless or foggy nights, it ís like venturing into a pool of ink, but I've traversed the path a thousand times and by now could do it in the dark, literally and figuratively. My feet tell me when I've strayed off the path into the taller grass. I can move by feel.

Starry Starry Night
    On clear, heavenly starlit nights where the Milky Way streams overhead and actually reflects in the sea, I pause mid-field and marvel at the wonder of these stellar pin pricks. I slowly turn the full 360 turn to take it all in, and am filled with gratitude that I live somewhere where I can wonder at the night sky. Those mysterious lights, a glimmer into our dreams, have always been with us. They are the source of much of our mythology, the beginnings of our imaginings beyond the limits of this world.

Bill Strubbe's travel articles have appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, The San Francisco Examiner, Mother Jones and The Advocate. You can contact him through
Inspired Planet.

Letter from Hawaii:

Swimming with wild dophins
      I just returned from 8 days on the Big Island of Hawaii where I swam with the wild dolphins. Much like sex, the more you get the more you want.

      The first couple days I diligently got up early in the morning -- 6:00 AM. -- to go down to the water and find them, but they were always where I was not. That third morning I still didn't see them and I sat on the shore and cried. The dolphin people here(and there are a number of very serious dolphin folks)say that your experience with the dolphins reflects what ís going on in your life. As usual, I in my enthusiam and eagerness, was trying too hard, and not just letting things happen.

      After my cry, I then headed back home to have a nap where my friends were just heading down to the water. An hour later they came back and told me the dolphins were at Two Step Beach. I raced down and there they were, about 20 dolphins swimming and jumping out of the water and spinning in the air. I jumped in and swam out to where they were and got to experience them for 20 minutes or so. Not only do they spin, but they also do full somersaults. You can't help but laugh when you see it.

      The next day at Keakelua Bay there were about 50 or 60 swimming. While most of the adults are snoozing after a night feeding at sea, the juvenile ones like to play around and jump and interact with the people out there waiting for them.

      It is a beautiful, serene sight to be floating above a pod of a dozen dolphins cruising below you in the deep blue. You can hear their clicks and chattering. Several times they surfaced within 5 or 10 feet of where I was. A I heard several people laughing because several dolphins were playing the "leaf game"- one catches a big leaf on a flipper and the others try to snatch it away. If you're really lucky, they'll eventually include you in the game and deposit it a few feet in front of you. The moment you try to grab it, one will race out and snag it away. They always win.

      Another time I saw a tiny baby dolphin come to the surface just several feet in front of a woman, turn on it's side, and splash her face with its tail, then race away.

      The highlight of my encounters came on the third day when a pod of 6 passed below me, among then a small baby not more than three feet long. Out of it's air hole came a large bubble that turned into a perfect ring (like a person blowing a smoke ring). As it slowly rose to the surface the diameter got bigger like a halo and then it broke up into bubbles. I tried to swim through it, as it's supposedly great luck to do so. Later, I heard from several people, that though they've seen an air ring in videos, they've never seen it themselves, so I felt like a received a great gift.

      These first encounters were so fraught with exictment and expectations that I'm afraid I was not attuned to the more subtle energies of the dolphins; their needs, their sonar and healing abilities, the instant telepathic communications that everyone says is possible. After being with dolphins enough, you calm down and experience them on a deeper level.

Love and Peace,

Bill Strubbe's travel articles have appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, The San Francisco Examiner, Mother Jones and The Advocate. You can contact him through
Inspired Planet.

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