Archive for June, 2010

A Walk in the Cemetery??

June 28, 2010
Watching the squirrel by Cheryl McDonald

Watching that Squirrel

One of the things I get to do daily while I am here in Oakland is to take Miss Marlena for a walk twice a day. One of her favorite places to go is actually this beautiful cemetery at the end of Piedmont Street. I could not find the name of it but it is attached to the Chapel of the Chimes which was designed by Julia Morgan and is a very beautiful and a very large mortuary and mausoleum. I have been here before for meetings. They invite people to hold all kinds of meetings there, just to prove it is not a scary place. Which I will have to say it certainly is not.

Standing Stones by Cheryl McDonald

A view from up on the hill above the park

Anyway, this cemetery is really a wonderful place to walk, it has winding paths that go through all the way to the top of the hill where one can get an amazing view of the bay, Oakland and San Francisco. This is a very old cemetery and there is some really amazing history that can be found here. I can just imagine the stories of all the lives that have been laid to rest here in this place.

Waiting Angel in Sepia by Cheryl McDonald

Thoughtful Angel in Sepia by Cheryl McDonald

Sympathy by Cheryl McDonald

The Lightbearer in Sepia by Cheryl McDonald

While walking through this cemetery almost everyday, I started taking pictures of the sculptures and the view and the grounds. It also started me contemplating death- of course…

I am completely amazed at the beauty and grandeur of many of the shrines that people have created to honor and memorialize their loved ones. This cemetery is certainly not a place for the dead but is a place for the living to remember those that were somehow important in their lives, some for better and most probably some for worse.

Reflections within and without in sepia by Cheryl McDonald

Lofty in sepia by Cheryl McDonald

I have also been reading a lot this week and one of the books I read was called “the Untethered Soul” by Michael Sanger. I was drawn to it because of the title, as of course I have decided to untether my life in many ways. He is an eloquent and down to earth writer and he talks a great deal about how to let go of those energies that we store in our bodies relating to past experiences and how this can help us to be more present here in the moment where we actually live. One of the concepts he talks about is death and how death is actually our friend because without it there would be no urgency to experience and enjoy the life that we have.

dog walk by Cheryl McDonald

Deer in the woods by Cheryl McDonald

So as I am walking through this wonderful cemetery I am noticing all the life that is actually going on here. All of the people walking dogs and baby carriages and the squirrels and deer and gophers and birds that are free to experience this beautiful setting and are part of the experience of being in this place.

Leaning in by Cheryl McDonald

Can't take it with you by Cheryl McDonald

Death is a difficult thing for us, particularly in this culture as we either dramatize it, demonize it, fear it, or ignore it. However death is part of life and it is something we all do at some point. It really is only a moment away and we never know when that moment might be. I have very much enjoyed my time in this cemetery and the experience of walking among the dead and all the life that this place holds as well. It has given me much appreciation for the value of this moment in this my untethered life. Thank you Michael Sanger

Cheryl is the owner of Passions at Play Art & Design, doing photography, watercolor, fine art and illustration please check out her work at


Life begins with a budding vine

June 21, 2010
New Life by Cheryl McDonald

New life begins with a budding vine

Today is the first day of the rest of your life

yes we have all heard that over and over and over again. Even though it is true, it has become such a cliché that we no longer pay attention to it. We are creatures of habit and it is very very easy to get ourselves so accustomed to our surroundings and what things and people and even rituals that we have in our every day lives that we forget the joy and the light and the luxury and even the reasons why we choose to have these things as part of our lives. We do agree, I am sure, (at least most of the time) that we do have a choice and we do choose everything that we allow to be part of our lives. so everything in our day-to-day living is because we choose it to be there. This is a subject we could discuss at length, but for today I choose to use this as just a lead-in to my story.

Forgotten Dreams by Cheryl McDonald

A spider's web, falls apart if the spider does not care for it

If you have read this blog, you know that I have chosen to give up my apartment and do some exploration by house sitting, travel and visiting friends. This week and next I am in Oakland, CA taking care of the home and pets of a friend of a friend. What I am noticing about staying in other peoples homes, is that even though we all have very much the same needs for living, we choose to do things differently. Whether this is because routines are passed on by generations or we have come across purely by accident ways that we prefer to do things, there are many many different ways to do the same thing.

Sunshine on my face by Cheryl McDonald

Marlena enjoys a bit of sunshine on the back porch

What I am also finding is that I very much miss having a pet. Here I am blessed with the company of a sweet and feisty Jack Russel Terrier named Marlena and a beautiful cat named Leona, who are so full of love and very happy to share it. Marlena and I walk everyday and get out to see the world together. A very fun partner she is!

String of Prayers

A string of Tibetan prayer clothes graces the front porch

So this week I am finding myself paying attention to details. Not lofty mountain tops or desert valleys, but light in the garden, and art of a friend, life details that make this place a home.

I have always noticed how much more I appreciate my home when I have been away from it for a while. Now that I am grounded within myself rather than a place, I find that I can appreciate the details where ever I am, with much more appreciation. It has caused me to re-evaluate the way I do things and why. What are the rituals I want to keep, how can I have the opportunity to do the things I love to do, such as art, journaling, gardening, and finding ways to share my creative abilities with new communities? Everything is up for evaluation and I like the changes that are occurring in me.

Green by Cheryl McDonald

New Leaves awaken in the light

So what are the details that you appreciate in your life, in your work? Are you still noticing them and enjoying them or have they gotten covered over by the rush to get through the day? I invite you to take a moment and see where you are and what is the goodness of this moment? Find those details and take them in again, it really will add new dimension to the life that you lead.

So today, this moment really is the first moment of the rest of your life why not make the most of it?

Light Abstracts by Cheryl McDonald

light abstracts and old table against the wall

Cheryl McDonald is the owner of Passions at Play Art & Design. Photo essays, landscape photography, and watercolor illustration.

To see her latest published photo and story check out Snapixel Magazine- Travel edition on

Wandering on Hwy 78

June 14, 2010
Wheel and fence by Cheryl McDonald

In the Yard "main street" Julian

Well another wonderful week has gone by and I have spent a great week in San Diego County. The weather has been perfect for me, as I really do love the coolness of San Francisco. Southern California is in the typical “June Gloom” weather pattern, cloudy and overcast mornings and evenings with just a little sunshine in the afternoon, as I said, perfect. I have been staying with friends in a wonderful country home in Vista, had the opportunity to do some gardening- pulling weeds, hanging out at garden shops and  even helping to dig a stream bed for to better drainage. It was good getting out in the sunshine and fresh air and felt good to be helpful also. Took a drive down to San Diego and visited the San Diego Watercolor Society Museum and the Quilt Museum and also checked out the North Park Arts district, unfortunately I had missed the art festival a couple of weeks ago, but the area had some great looking opportunities for art, food, and vintage shopping.

Thursday I had an opportunity to take a drive and take some pictures. Where should I go? I thought about going back to San Diego and shooting in Balboa park or Old Town or the Gas Lamp district- places I love in San Diego, but I made the decision to got out to Cleveland forest and see what was happening with wildflowers and visit Julian for some apple pie! Yum!

Yellow by Cheryl McDonald

Wildflowers in the foothills

White Pearls- wildflowers by Cheryl McDonald

Wildflowers in the Desert by Cheryl McDonald

I chose to drive out Hwy 78 and enjoyed driving through the mountains, which are so different from the Sierras, not as high, so the vegetation is very different lot’s of Scrub Oak and Cottonwood trees, mustard and grasses. I was quite surprised at the amount of wildflowers that were still blooming. Lucky Me!

Julian Pie Company by Cheryl McDonald

Julian Pie Company

The Pie Ladies of Julian Pie Company by Cheryl McDonald

Marcy, Teresa, and Rhonda of Julian Pie Company

I got to Julian about 10am a bit early on a week day for several of the shops, but not too early for the pie shops. I walked up and down main street and checked out all of the possibilities and decided I really like the look of the Julian Pie Shop. It was set back off the street with a wonderful patio out front for sitting and having coffee and pie, some of the locals were there. It was the place to meet to catch up on the news. I went in and checked out their pie selection. I do so love original apple pie , my Grandmother and Mother made awesome apple pie and so of course that is what I chose. The pie was wonderful and I was so impressed with the story of the restaurant, I decided to give them some love and add them to my blog. So check out the Julian Pie Company here, and if you get a chance to visit Julian, please check them out personally!

After seeing all the great little shops and enjoying some of the history of the town, I was ready to wander some more. I had seen a sign for Anza Borrego just before Santa Ysabel and  since there so many wildflowers through the mountains, I decided to drive on out to the desert to see what was happening out there. As I drove through the valley on S2 I ran right into a swarm of locusts that were flying across the road- ewww! They were so thick I could not get out of the car. The birds of the valley are going to be fat and happy this year!

Desert Cactus by Cheryl McDonald

Desert Cactus

Rock Formations- Anza Borrego Desert by Cheryl McDonald

Rock Formations- Anza Borrego Desert

Anza Borrego Desert by Cheryl McDonald

Anza Borrego Desert

The other side of the mountains was a complete change- the dry Californian desert vista opened up huge in front of me and although there were some wildflowers still blooming, the real scene was the cactus, the rock formations and the panoramic desert. You can see for miles. On previous treks I have driven on down the mountain into Borrego Springs and even on to the Salton Sea, but that was not on my itinerary for today, so I turned around and headed back, ending the day with good friends, good food, and good stories to tell.