Author of Madam, Have You Ever Really Been Happy? An Intimate Journey through Africa and Asia

Category: California


I seem to be full of questions these days. My kids say it drives them crazy, but what about me? I’m the perplexed one, the one who doesn’t know what’s around the next corner and wakes up every morning wondering what new catastrophe or maybe even great pleasure is in store for our civilization…what war will be waged, who will be the next population group to face starvation, or who may face justice, finally, for perpetrating a heinous crime. Then there are those who keep chipping away, making things better, getting married, having babies, remaining optimistic about climate change solutions. Just look around. They may be your neighbors. I’m all for them. Get thee behind me, anguish, and go about making a difference, however small it might be. Just look at the amazing things Dr. Paul Farmer did in his short life, if you’re looking for hope. I read Tracey Kidder’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, about his work in Haiti twenty years ago and have been following him ever since. So, I guess I know in my heart What’s Next. Gratitude, compassion, acceptance, and, above all, participation. That’s a tall order for the best of us! It’ll sure keep us busy and it beats complaining.

Can you imagine coming home from peaceful, very warm and hospitable Palm Springs, after visiting your youngest son, Robert, and his lovely wife, Gwen, to wake up two days later to this? And just three weeks after you’d gone through the ritual of bringing in the New Year by burning your Christmas tree?

Click on the photos to enlarge.


I spent a relaxed and WARM week in Palm Springs, writing, reading, and relaxing during the day and enjoying the hot tub and pool in the evening. It doesn’t get much better than that! Rob and Gwen are going strong with plans for expanding their business in golf range automation, using Rob’s targets, which he installs for night golf throughout the country. Learn more about them HERE. This adds a new, exciting dimension to the sport.

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Sunday was a day of exploration in the mountains and a visit to the famous Integratron in Landers, CA. It has an interesting and somewhat controversial story behind it, but I can vouch for the efficacy of the hour-long meditation and Sound Bath that I experienced. Daughter Martha corroborated the restorative quality of sound and music in her work in somatics and how various tonalities can, indeed, affect your body in a healing way. I am grateful for the experience.

Next time, Joshua Tree and a return to the rotating aerial tramway.

Back on Whidbey, I’m taking my usual walk in the woods each day, but have been trying other trails as the weather permits. Here is a relatively new area for me, Deer Lagoon, not far from the beach on Double Bluff. I was there in January as the sun was just setting.

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Many of you have had the privilege of seeing the extensive immersive Van Gogh exhibition that is being shown throughout the country. I had the privilege of experiencing it in the warehouse area of Seattle. It is an enormous, very imaginative display. You are not just viewing the paintings, but you are walking among large digital images, interspersed with stories of the artist’s life, accompanied by exceptional music. It cannot replace the intimacy of the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, Holland, which I visited shortly after it opened, where you get a close view of the original paintings, but you do get a feeling for the depth and breadth of his work and his troubled life, cut short so tragically.



Wonder of wonders. I am hoping to make a short trip to NYC to check on Broadway as well as relatives and Jersey friends, and enjoy the usual late March or early April snowstorm. But don’t hold your breath. Ask Covid. After that, Martha, her partner, Doug, and I plan to go to Portugal in late spring. Stay tuned and stay safe!

It’s always wonderful to be welcomed back to Washington by Mt. Rainier!



First it’s sunny and 50 degrees; the next day it’s raining and a few degrees above snowing; and then it’s sunny and 30 degrees, followed by hurricane city at a balmy 65 degrees. So now, on a cold, brilliant morning in March my body and mind are thoroughly confused and I just want to go back to the sun and surf and therapeutic paradise called L.A. But, folks, NOT to the traffic! 

I was reminded of George Carlin when I entered the cattle car called tourist class on United Airlines, hugging my peanut butter sandwich sans bottled water, and glad that I was still thin from my bout with giardia on my last trip to Asia, so I could fit into the ever-shrinking seats. If you haven’t read it, grab his essay on flying. It’s prophetic, and I think I could add a few choice sentences of my own to his description of the chaotic life on board, especially when it comes to the adventure of securing a rest room (The ones forward are for First Class passengers, only, we are admonished). I could hardly blame the young man in the aisle seat for getting progressively sloshed during the tedious flight. 

I’ve traveled around the world twice, never losing so much as one backpack, but I arrived from the Phoenix connection (no relation to the French Connection) minus my only suitcase, thus breaking my perfect record. From now on it’s “carry on or die.” It was nice of the airline to wake us all up at 7 on Saturday morning to return it. 

Thus began a glorious ten days with sons Tom and Robert, and Rob’s wife, Gwen Abel. Let me urge all of you to visit the myriad sites in and around southern California. It’s not just movies, freeways, and palm trees. It’s replete with challenging mountains, spectacular sunsets over the Pacific, beaches, museums, gardens, and surfers with rippling muscles. Who could ask for anything more? Travelers—don’t miss this part of America when you come to visit. 

Here is a brief listing of my hikes. All you tourists look them up. They’re very special. Both my sons do these canyons on bikes, but deigned to walk with me this time. The first was Upper Rustic Canyon.  Seems there was a community of Germans and Nazi sympathizers who settled in these canyons, and in the late 50’s, after a dry season, there was an horrific fire which destroyed all the homes, leaving only the bare foundations, water works, and a series of incredibly steep steps going straight up for half a mile. I know. I climbed down, and had to climb back up. The area is now overgrown with cactus and exotic flowers. Nearby is the Josepho Boy Scout Camp, and  high on a distant hill is the old Max Factor estate and the mansion of Dennis Tito, the first American civilian to go into space. You may remember that he paid the Russians 20 million dollars for the privilege. 

The second day we hiked up Mandeville Canyon on the West Ridge. You can imagine the views! All of the west side of L.A., Palls Verdes Peninsula, and Catalina Island. Both canyons are part of the Santa Monica mountains.

During the week I visited my old friend, Karen dePlanque, in LaJolla, two hours south of L.A. by train. It is truly the city of perpetual springtime. Comfortable nights, warm days, walks on the sand from Torrey Pines to Blacks Beach, and lingering around Seal Beach watching the baby seals being taught the rudiments of swimming by their mothers while fat relatives loll in the sun on the shore. As we walked down the beach we discovered the rocky haunts of seal lions, and wondered how on earth they ever negotiated the ragged cliffs, even at low tide.  

In the evening it was mesmerizing to watch the surfers at the famous Windansea area in LaJolla, riding huge waves, even after the lights on distant boats signaled the setting of the sun. Where did such gigantic waves come from? A surfer answered my question. All the way from New Zealand. 

On my last weekend I visited the J. Paul Getty Museum, high on the cliffs overlooking Brentwood, UCLA, and West Los Angeles. This is a complex not to be missed. Gwen’s mother, Ruth Abel was, indeed, a most able and knowledgeable guide, and I soon realized that the architecture and gardens from the outside were every bit as pleasing as the revolving collections and exhibits within the spacious interior. 

Our final hike was in the hills above Malibu Canyon. We started at Tapia Park and climbed 3,000 ft. to an overlook. Stretching as far as you could see,  beyond ever-more canyons, was the Pacific Ocean. The boys rode their bikes back, most of the way on the beach, while Gwen and I enjoyed a quiet ride along the shore, and immediately jumped into the pool when we reached Playa del Rey. Lying on my back in the water and looking up at the clouds in February…wow! That’s livin.’

The day before leaving, son Tom, horticulturalist par excellence, drove me to the Huntington Gardens near Pasadena. This vast botanical garden encompasses more than a dozen gardens—among them a Japanese, Chinese, Desert, and Children’s garden—a research library, and an art gallery, all built in 1919 by the financier Henry E. Huntington. I’ve traveled through Australia and New Zealand and visited many of their gardens, and I can vouch for the uniqueness and beauty of this special place near the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. 

All you golfers—I urge you to visit Rob’s website: and see his latest plans for tournaments in colleges and high schools worldwide.  

I just finished Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea, for me a life-changing story that has me itching to return to Asia and, in my small way, support those who are in the forefront of educating the children of the Muslim world. I highly recommend his website: Buy the book and help toward the education of children, especially girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

One last note: I highly recommend that you go on line and catch the March 7 broadcast of the PBS show NOW, an interview with Alex Gibney, the director of this year’s Oscar-winning feature documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side. This powerful film tells the story of an innocent Afghan taxi driver who died while being interrogated and tortured by U.S. soldiers. The frank discussion (including statements by the interrogators themselves) examines the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo. Alex is a member of the Summit church I attend, and has done extensive research over the past five years for this film. 

© 2024 Meg Noble Peterson