Archive for the ‘Blue Zones’ Category
We have just returned from nearly 2 weeks in Portugal and northwest Spain. We had never been to either location. As always, visiting new places and experiencing different cultures is enlightening. We were thrilled.
Portugal is attempting to preserve the best aspects of its past, while moving to integrate into the EU. Family and Community are strong bonds for many. Blue Zones abound.
Porto and the Douro River are all about the ancient vineyards and steeply terraced hillsides. Port wine is giving way to a renaissance of dry reds and whites. We visited a small villiage which produces wines and bakes thousands of loaves of bread daily the old-fashioned way, in wood fired ovens.
Castello Rodrigo is a small hilltop fortified village occupied in tun by Celts, Romans, Moors and Christians over millenia. The streets are steep, narrow, and primarily pedestrian only. The buildings are mostly from the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
We visited the 4th and 5th oldest Universities in Europe. We explored Salamanca and Santiago de Compostella. Not all of history is pretty, but it is enlightening. How can you understand where you are, or have any idea where you are going, if you do not know where you have been?
River Cruises make travel easy. This was our second trip with Viking.
European diets are different. More about that later. First I need to recover from west-bound jet-lag.
Jay Ginther, MD
The “General Sherman” Giant Sequoia tree is the largest living tree, and the largest single living organism on earth. 275 feet tall, with a footprint 36 feet in diameter at ground level, and an estimated trunk volume of 52,500 cubic feet. Wow.
We were awed by the immense size of this and other trees nearly as large. Photos cannot properly picture these giants. You have to experience them in person. Even then they are difficult to comprehend. Their cousins, the Coastal Redwoods are taller, but nowhere near as wide.
We saw the giant sequoias last week when we went to our son’s wedding just 4 miles from the Mariposa Grove of giants in Yosemite National Park. The biggest are in Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks. I had not been there before. I am overwhelmed to have seen them now.
Humans caused serious harm to these trees by supressing natural lightning strike fires from the 1850s to 1970s. The undergrowth began to choke the giants and prevented new seedlings from growing. Although the most striking characteristic of these trees is huge fire scars 50 to 75 feet tall, they require fire to supress competition for water and nutrients.
Studying the growth rings of fallen trees reveals that they grow the fastest in the years just after fire scars. And those fire scars are every 5 to 13 years over the centuries before European settlement.
Wandering through the forest in the company of these giants (some over 3000 years old) is truly a trip to the Blue Zones.
Yosemite Valley is incredible. Kings Canyon is 1/3 deeper than the Grand Canyon. So much to see of the natural world.
Jay Ginther, MD
The Blue Zones emphasize the importance of family. Few events are more family centered than a wedding. Our son was married this past weekend in California. All aspects of our Iowa family were represented, as well as my sister from Ohio. We enjopyed our time together.
More important, we got to know the bride’s family better. Despite differences in geography and distant ethnic backgrounds, we all hold similar values of family, faith, and purpose (pillars of the Blue Zones).
We all knew that the bride would fit in well a year ago, when she helped, then not yet 3 year old, RJ get over the fact that attention was centered on his 6 week old sister, Gwen.
The cycle of life moves on and we are enjoying it. You should take time to enjoy your point in the cycle of a Blue Zones life.
Jay Ginther, MD
All three kids were home this weekend along with both grandkids. That put us in a Blue Zone.
One year old Gwen was showing off that she can walk by herself – especially when she had an audience to cheer her on. Three weeks ago she could manage only a few steps at a time. Now she can walk across a room. Amazing difference! Until you realize that she took 5% of her lifetime to learn that new trick.
Almost 4 year old RJ is a perpetual motion machine. Saturday he went out with his uncles (both starting sweepers in high school) and came home with a complete soccer outfit for his classes starting Monday. He tore around the yard with them kicking the ball ahead of him. Under duress he took off the cletes and shin guards for bed. More running at the family picnic today with his cousins. He is sleeping in the car heading back to MN in the entire outfit. Good thing his car seat is in the back and downwind.
Engagement party last evening, for son Greg and his fiance Erika, gave them the opportunity to see our friends who knew him in HS. He is certainly not a kid any more. In fact he and his siblings are all in their thirties. When did I get old enough to have kids that old?
Family is a Blue Zone.
Jay Ginther, MD