Monday, December 5, 2016
When the life of a friend sixteen years younger is shortened, depending on whether or not the friend tries another treatment, it forces me to think of my time on this planet. My friend is sixty-two. I am seventy-eight. She has two kinds of cancer. I am, as far as I know, in excellent health. I realize that I don't have as much energy as I once did when the simple tasks of waiting on her and driving to see doctors on streets, some of which I once knew, but which after almost twenty years, seemed barely familiar, made me feel like a nap would be a good idea. Then I realized that the fatigue might be accentuated by my avoidance of what my friend is facing. There is much unknown. I intended to wait to write until after tomorrow's two doctors appointments. However, writing about the unknown feels fitting. The doctors will only have projections and maybe only vague ones. After two stints in the hospital in a month, many treatments and transfusions, my friend is considering a decision not to undergo more treatment.
Last December 21st, another friend walked out of her bathroom about 10:30 pm and fell to the floor, suffering what a week later would be a fatal stroke. She had no stroke risks, no family history. She ate healthy foods and exercised regularly. Her weight was perfect for her tall frame, her blood pressure normal, and so forth. She did not regain consciousness, left without a chance for us to say goodbye.
Wednesday, before I leave Chattanooga to drive back to Nashville, I intend to have coffee with another friend from my years in this community. She is eighty-six, in reasonable health and will drive about thirty minutes from a congested suburban area to meet me in the heart of the city. She is eleven years older than my friend who had the stroke and twenty four years older than my friend with whom I am visiting. She is eight years older than me.
There is no guarantee that I will live to be eighty six, no guarantee that I will live longer than the moments I am experiencing now. Do I think of life that way? No. I plan to drive two other women to a weekend retreat at the Sisters of Loretto Motherhouse three hours northeast of Nashville on Friday. I expect to make my volunteer shift at Holiday Lights at Cheekwood Wednesday evening and lead a tour of blind middle schoolers at Cheekwood's Japanese Gardens on Thursday. If I thought this was the last week I had on this planet, are those the things I would do? Are there other friends in this city that I'd make sure I would see? Likely not.
Would I want to interrupt my son and daughter-in-law's lives and insist on time with them. I might. I would want to see my grandsons again, but with them in four different states, I would need to know I was dying and yet be alert. Even then not all would come. I would want to see my two long-time hiking friends, those who accompanied me on my spiritual journey, and my daughter. None live near my current home. And if I were able, I would still want to lead the tour for the blind students.
That fact is reassuring. As uplifting as Loretto is, I wouldn't make that trip. Others in the group are very connected to the Sister who will speak with us and with each other. I went for the first time last year after joining the centering prayer group from which this retreat emanates three months earlier. I will meet one of the women who is riding with me in our building's parking lot on Friday. I am hopeful that the weekend will be peaceful, perhaps enlightening. Other than occasional shifts at Thistle Farms, the business developed for the women in recovery at Magdalene House, leading groups of school children through Cheekwood's gardens is my volunteer mission. With winter coming, tours will be on hiatus until March.
That gives me two months to write the novel, get the story down, and time, if I'm willing, to send out dozens more query letters promoting my memoir to literary agents. Will I do that? It's a question that I can't positively answer. Is shining light on the particular evils that marred my childhood important to others? I've thought that it was, but most days now I feel that bringing joy to others is more important. At times I am haunted by a comment a women acquaintance said in passing several years ago. "I your book helps one person, it will be worth publishing it."
I spend as much time as possible in our county's wooded parks, walking and hiking the trails. Our fall has been long and the last colors just now fading. I've driven to Radnor Lake many afternoons as the light fades to find joy on those trails. The next three months will be different, but I will go when the weather permits, not only for healthy exercise, but for the peace and joy those woods bring. That, I know, is one of the blessings of my childhood--finding peace and joy in the woods.
I believe my memoir describes that peace, but perhaps not as fully as it could. That task, reading through the sections that describe my time outside, my pleasure with the flowers and fields, that I'm willing to re-read, edit and bring into sharper focus. Then perhaps I'll once again be motivated to send out those letters that feel as if they are dropping into a black internet hole.
Maybe the Loretto retreat will bring clarity. This slice of life doesn't seem as meaningful as those last years in Colorado. It's living into the unknown that is one of life's challenges. There is much to enjoy. Perhaps the joy is just in being--not as easy as in doing. Maybe there will be some of both in the days ahead. Relish each moment for each is a gift.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
by a friend who had a car exactly like mine, I liked the folks and the service. At 7:25 am I walked to the parking log, camera bag over one shoulder and a bag carrying cute thank-you notes with photos I took, needing to be written. I would go to the near-by coffee shop and breakfast place and write the notes. But the coffee shop didn't open until 8 am. While waiting I decided to walk into the old neighborhood behind the service station and see where I could use my new macro lens. And did I
find a lot of flowers! The one above was taken in front of an old library branch.
These are all shots that came from the camera without editing.
The ones below have been played with, some
a great deal--such fun! I will get a real editing program as I learn more about using the camera.
A dad in a hurry to deposit his daughter at her mother's came close to knocking me down as he backed into a parking spot beside me, as I took pink flower photos,and opened the door to get his child, who didn't want to get out of her car seat.
into the flower's center down yet. I also found my arm tired and my hand unsteady after taking a number of shots of flowers on this bush.
I also thought of people I saw as possible
characters for stories, houses where they might
live, a school, a library, a community for them to inhabit. One of these days I'll set a story in this city, perhaps in that neighborhood, one that has gentry mixed with junk shops and poorer housing on streets I didn't walk through.
The bee was intentional, the fly lit as I was focusing, and was too good to pass up.
I think I should be able to get much closer to these insects (Is that true?), but don't have that down yet.
I ended my walk after more than an hour and walked back to my waiting car, all ready for the trip to Myrtle Beach, which the station owner said I would love.
What a wonderful way to pass the time waiting for my car to be serviced!
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Heart warming, wonderful, lovely, embracing, fun, joy, magical, and busy, busy, busy!!! Those are a few words to describe my two weeks and three-day in Louisville, Boulder, Estes Park and the Rockies.
Quickly into the swing of things, our Butler Gulch hike, scheduled on Friday after I arrived Wednesday evening, was at the flower's peak and the water crossings' lower points. Taking a friend's "slow, slow, slow, water, water, water" caution, I did fine going from the trail's beginning at about 10,500 ft. to around 11,800. We stopped to exclaim over the flowers again and again, enjoy each other's company and "wow" at the flowers.
Yes, it's that same place, and I love it!!!
I was the guest of honor at two parties--both wonderful although the smaller one with friends from my prayer groups was easier for me to navigate because of overlapping interests and I had been in touch with most who were there during my almost year away. I would also see most of them individually so not everything needed to be said at the party.
What I was most surprised about and tried, though not always successfully, to absorb, were the many thank yous at both parties and individual get togethers--thank yous for little things that were often just what I did--encouraging and welcoming.
I mentioned in another post that several friends are dealing with the demise of their husbands, either mentally or physically or a bit of both. The attitudes ranged from "this is how I make it work for both of us" to "it's so frustrating, so hard" or in one case a "what can I expect" conversation based on my care-giving experience. Even more than when I lived there, I was a safe person with whom to share these concerns and frustrations.
My time with grandson Sam, though an entire day, didn't seem like enough as he was off for a vacation mid-way through my visit. He'd be more than unhappy with me should I post the cutest photo I took this visit so here is Sam with his dog, Lucy, taken on an earlier visit.
As always, my time in the mountains visiting and hiking with dear friends was nourishing and special. I was fortunate to have two hikes with my friend who now lives in California without which my summer would not have been complete and a great visit with the one who lives in Estes Park.
Several of my hikes with friends were done during three days when it misted, drizzled and rained. A friend insisted that I put his rain pants over my light-weight hiding pants which kept the chill as well as the rain away as we hiked down through the flower-lined trail from the 4th of July mines, stopped from going farther by rain clouds on the ground coming toward us. The next week I hiked a couple of times in beautiful weather so saw the views I only remembered on the other hikes. I was reminded that many of those views are available in memory!
There is so much to be grateful for--the incredible hospitality of my friends with whom I stayed, particularly those who were my home base, the generosity of the hostess and the host couples who planned and executed the parties so wonderfully and all who came, two Sunday mornings at St. John's, which is likely to always be "my church." My friend who loaned me her Prius to drive for nine days--amazing!
After a month away, I looked forward to seeing my son, and he was at the airport waiting. We had dinner together before he brought me home, and I was invited to dinner with them and grandson Will, who was home for a couple of days this past weekend. For those visits, I am grateful though those two-hours pass quickly.
I've written and deleted a list of what and why I miss Colorado. I've taken myself back to evenings when I would have liked companionship, times I was frustrated with my church, and in recent years, times I missed seeing grandson Sam as his life got busier. Life there wasn't perfect but the comparison makes me realize again how slowly one builds community, even when there are a few old friends living in the same city.
I'm still discerning whether to choose a church that most feeds me or to look for a congregation where I can serve. I've thought for years that my call to healing wasn't centered in a church community, that those I am called to minister to are outside of that fold, but in Boulder I found many in the pews. And is community the most important? Relationships with clergy? With healing as my ministry call, where is that best lived out?
Today I feel as if I'll continue the centering prayer group but concentrate on getting the memoir out to the pubic, updating my website, and ask the Spirit to show me where I'm not open, what I'm not seeing, where I can find companions on the spiritual journey.
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Chicago! Chicago! Where was it? We were supposedly docked in Chicago, but a look out our window provided a dismal view. The Navy Pier dock was closed for construction so we had docked far from the city. The bus shuttles into the Loop ran a schedule that let us go in and back out for dinner, our last night, and breakfast on the ship. We had not realized this so were staying two additional nights in the city. We could spend that day any way we wanted so Peter chose the Shedd Aquarium. When I said I hadn't thought of visiting an aquarium without youngsters, I should have realized--I was accompanying my adult child, even to losing me in the crowd without a plan of when or where to meet! His response when I chided him--"I knew you would find me here." It sounded like one of my grandsons several years ago! And our special event--a 4D film where our behinds were pinched, water sprayed, sea monsters jumping out at us! The grandsons, at least one of them, would have loved it. We zoomed from Navy Pier to the Shedd stop and back on a water taxi, not as cool as in Venice, but fun.
A note about the Shedd: it is large, has varied exhibits and many of those "can you find it" type small ones. I like the larger ones best and could have been in and out much sooner than we were. A photo I missed was of Peter leaning as far as possible, along with many youngsters, into the stingray tank to touch one of these creatures. A young man working there watched with me, and when Peter gave up, disgusted and sure that the young ones near him had scared the stingrays away, that aquarium assistant came over and took us to a place where there was a better chance of Peter's success. Before I had my I-phone camera in place, he had touched one of the fish and was standing up, satisfied.
Back to the ship, I looked for those couples I'd especially enjoyed with limited success. After dinner we went to the evening event, a jazz singer to whose songs Peter and I danced, though I insisted we not dance right in front of the vocalist, vying for center stage as was his preference! The next morning, I headed for breakfast to see folks who had earlier departures (Peter had arranged ours to be as late as possible). Luckily, I found those I wanted to see, saying goodbyes with the hope of future connections.
The lone occupants of a town car, we headed downtown to our hotel. Others staying in Chicago for a few days took an earlier bus to hotels farther up on the Magnificent Mile. Our hotel, the Congress, is a very old hotel with upgrading mostly in the lobby areas since it was our "girls" bargain hotel near the Art Institute and Grant Park. A modest attempt was made to freshen the rooms--newer bathroom fixtures, and paint, though the chips everywhere showed the painting jobs that were done over the years. The best thing was that the rooms are still large. The hotel does have lake-view rooms but ours was of the train and buildings.
After leaving our luggage, we headed for the Art Institute, my choice though I was certain that was on his list too. The usual 10 am opening we assumed. Wrong, 10:30. Waiting with coffee (me) at Starbucks across the street, we didn't pay attention to the gathering assemblage on the Institute's stairs. We were directed to the end of the general admission line in spite of Peter's proudly displayed walking stick. He quickly motioned me to follow him to the members door. (He has more ways to avoid lines than anyone I've known!) He asked the woman at the deskwhether his other art museum memberships had reciprocal privileges. No, then could he buy tickets? She directed us back to the ticket line. He then put on his most pitiful face and asked how much a membership cost--too much for folks not regularly in the city of course. He leaned on his walking stick and looked sad. The young woman acquiesced and sold him two tickets. He had successfully avoided the line though I'm not sure that we might not have been inside had we stood in line when it was suggested!
I raced to the new wing, which I hadn't seen, knowing that several of my favorites would be displayed there. They were--and more. Covering much of the Modern wing before the crowds arrived, I enjoyed hanging out with Matisse's Bather by a River pictured above, Picasso's Old guitarist and others of his, Braque, Chagall's White Crucifixion, a meaningful painting, Kandinsky, and many others. The art piece above was in the contemporary gallery, and it is candy individually wrapped in colorful cellophane. Viewers may take a piece as that's what is intended. The piece is dedicated to the artist's partner (175 lbs. of candy representing his healthy weight) who died of AIDS and the diminishing pile represents his weight loos and suffering prior to his death. The pile is also to be continuously replenished, granting perpetual life.
While I did not photograph any of the 10 Warhols in their own room, the Jasper Johns, Twombly, Rauschenberg, and others which were part of the recent huge gift of the Edlis/Neesons, I loved this charming piece by German artist Katharina Frisch, Woman with Dog.
I texted Peter for wine in the outdoor garden cafe, (I had soup and bread earlier in the modern wing cafe) and found my way back to the main museum and their large collection of Monet's and other impressionist and post-impressionist art for a long slow perusal of many favorites.
You may be waiting for my raves about a restaurant or a meal we ate, but this won't be the time. I picked a mid-priced place with a good review, but one that didn't take reservations--after getting no positive response about going to an old favorite up-scale Italian restaurant. No reservations, a bad idea, unless of course, it's a Chicago pizza place. So no go on the Purple Pig with a 45-minute wait and loud. When Peter saw what he wanted on the menu at the expensive steak house across the street, that was it. He loved it--and said several times afterward that we had a great meal. I never answered. It was okay, but with all the wonderful choices, a bore. So on to pizza, the Chicago girls on the cruise said that Lou Malnati's was their favorite, and they thought that one was downtown. They were correct--a 50-minute wait in a very noisy place with no perks for a white-haired man with a cane, except for a chair in which to wait. I thought we might get this event over at lunch, but when he bought a loaded beef hot dog at a stand in Millennium Park when we took a break from concert rehearsals, I knew I had lost. Beef (and Kosher) hot dogs must be rare in his town as he made a big deal of having one (in Nashville, the many hot dog places seem to have all kinds, from veggie, beef, Angus, short rib and on and on).
A view from the upper patio of the Art Institute
You may recognize the Frank Gehry designed Pritzker Pavilion bandshell in Millennium Park (in the top photo) where the Grant Music Festival's main concerts are performed. We were fortunate to hear a rehearsal of the Ryan Opera Center's performance: Of Mice and Men -- beautifully done! Except for the hot dog break, Peter spent the day seated in the bandshell area reading and waiting for the next rehearsal, and I returned from my wandering in time to hear the Mendelssohn "Italian" Symphony.
Packed and ready to meet Peter's 10:50 departure for the airport cab deadline, I left him sleeping and walked with those headed to the office towers near the lake and ate a leisurely breakfast at Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe, a recommended breakfast place filled with locals as well as tourists. Afterward I walked in the Maggie Daley park down to the lake front, wound my way through the flowers at Millennium Park and arrived with a dead phone battery back at the hotel at 10:25. Peter said we could get an early start as he was ready to go, but I said no. My phone needed to charge until his original deadline. We were going to reach the airport quite early as it was.
These flocks look just like the ones in mother's garden!
I realized as I was writing this, that I still felt short changed by not having dinner in one of the many creative restaurants, even an old school Italian or Greek place. And next time Peter visits Nashville, perhaps we'll eat at a steak house. They are here too!
ON TO COLORADO!!!!!
PS: My guess is that before long I will delete some of these cruise posts, but for now, here is the last one.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
I had heard my niece talk about visiting Mackinac Island, that staying at the Grand Hotel had been on her husband's bucket list, and they had enjoyed it so much. I hadn't thought about going myself until this cruise's itinerary listed it. The carriage rides sounded like fun, and the brochure pictured the Grand Hotel. A community exuding wealth and exclusiveness, not something I usually value, I didn't expect to be charmed.
We were loaded into twenty-person carriages like the one above and whisk off to tour the island with carriage drivers who were also guides--of varying abilities. As on any commercial venture, our rest stop afforded purchases of varying types. Our ride through the woods with a driver who thought constant talking made her a good guide made me want to walk back after lunch. At our next stop many headed for the bathrooms and back to the carriage, believing it seemed, that she really would leave if everyone wasn't on the minute she said to be. They missed this beautiful sea coast and the scene below.
At another stop, we had the option of exploring Fort Mackinac, which we did--a bit. Then on to the Grand Hotel for a sumptuous lunch, not on the cruise schedule. Greens (yeah!) with more than a dozen additions, shrimp, crab legs, seafood and chicken salads, and more. A table for two, better wine (that on the ship was budget varieties), quiet conversation and then back to the long table of varied tiny desserts plus slices of pie, cake, and cheesecake.
It had been a good morning and delicious and restorative lunch, and I was ready for a ramble through
the upper island and the woods while my companion wound his way down through town and to the ship. First I found a street and then a path that took me by the large white board homes that lined the higher edges of the island. Many had lovely garden, and the one below was a favorite.
A local woman directed me to the woods and explained that the wooden stairs I saw plunging down the hillside was the way the locals went into the village. I decided that I would return to those stairs when my time in the woods was up.
As I wasn't certain of the ship's departure time but knew it was earlier than I wished--5 or 5:30--I took trails that were close to the narrow roads, knowing I could easily become taken with the woods and forget the time. When I needed to get back down the hillside, I luckily found the stairs and enjoyed taking them from one set to the landing and on to another set of stairs. I was convinced that older locals took the stairs when I met a ranger coming up, passed the time of day, and he said nothing about being careful or wondering if I knew what I was doing. At the bottom, I realized I didn't know how far away the town was.
A family bicycling stopped to read a sign, and I asked how far it was to the village, explaining that I needed to get to the ship. A mile or so, the man said. Then he offered to tote me back to town. I declined, saying I walked fast and would be fine. It turned out that I didn't need to be on the ship until 5:45 for a 6 pm departure. I wandered through the town's streets crowded with tourists and as many shops filled with tourist junk as in Gatlinburg! I found an ice cream and candy shop and enjoyed a huge one-dip cone of peanut butter ice cream, one of their specialties. From that vantage point, I didn't mind walking out to board our ship.
and was tempted to forgo the afternoon cruise among the sound's many islands, but knew I would
be missed on the count of who was going so I went back. The cruise was fun, and the islands charming and interesting, and I would still have been happy walking along and resting among the shoreline rocks.
Little Current gave an opportunity to both walk through the tiny town and on to the shore trails. Its harbor was filled with boats and yachts with water fowl overhead. An elderly Englishman ready to head out on his motorized chair plus said it was a great place to retire, and if the election went the wrong way, I'd be welcomed there.
In Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, I found flowers throughout the village, and loved the hollyhocks and traditional flowers around the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site's stone buildings. The gardens were said to have been period from the 1800s. Who knew that was what Mother and her Aunt put together on the south side of our farm house!
Monday, August 15, 2016
We stood on the ship's deck, the wind blowing my hair straight up, and enjoyed the ship's movement through the water. That evening, standing on that deck, I had my first conversations with the couple who would become our friends throughout the cruise, one of those conversations where one quickly gets below the surface. While they weren't the only couple with whom I found a deeper connection, it was such a blessing to meet them early in the cruise. While I can survive casual conversations for a time, they aren't my strength, and my companion excels at taking the reins to tell his stories.
For you who don't know, I went on the Great Lakes Cruise with my "brotherly friend" who had lost his wife to an unexpected stroke about six months earlier. Acting as a substitute for one of the loveliest women I had known wasn't an ideal way to begin my first cruise, not a mode of vacation or a destination I would have chosen. The same couple with whom I went to Israel, I also spent time with them in small cabins in the Rockies, and he visited me in Nashville, staying in my apartment. We knew there would be adjustments, but thought it would be a good fit, and it was -- mostly!
The Pearl Seas ship, the Pearl Mist, is a smaller ship with 100 rooms, all with balconies. We were on deck four of five decks with a lounge that had an "any kind of coffee" machine where I met a number of men getting coffee for themselves and their wives. My friend doesn't drink coffee and sleeps later than I do and wouldn't think of getting me coffee if he were up earlier. I got dressed and out of the room, disturbing him minimally.
If you've met a traveling couple of different sexes who aren't romantically linked, you have an idea of how different we were from others on the cruise. This was especially true on the Pearl Mist, as we met at least a dozen couples who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversaries, either during the cruise or this summer. This cruise seemed intended for those who didn't desire exercise as the limited equipment was in poor condition and the decks too small for a good walk though some stops required a good deal of walking to see sights such as the Ford Museum and Greenfield Village and the recreated Huron Village settled by French Jesuits to convert the native Hurons in the 1600s in Midland, Ontario (below).
My friend preferred to introduce me when he could, saying that we weren't a couple but friends, elaborating about his wife as soon as possible. One meal we sat with two of the few younger (early 60s) couples where my friend told a litany of stories. Later, when in the dining room alone, they flagged me down and insisted that I sit with them, allowing for their curiosity about our friendship and about me to be satisfied. When I indicated that I wasn't looking for a man to fit into my life, one of the men said that in their community, the single ladies said that the old men were looking for a "nurse and a purse," or if not the purse, certainly the nurse! Later, in Boulder, I listened to friend after friend speak about the difficulties encountered as their husbands either failed mentally or physically and thought how apt the nurse image was. While I could do a blog that focused on traveling with a man friend who had been married 27 years and was recently a widower, I won't. (Perhaps later, I'll write an e-mail to a few friends who will appreciate the experiences and what I learned about myself.)
Our first stop was Niagara Falls! I had been there once, taking an evening break from an intense economic development finance course but never as a tourist. We piled into buses, stood in line to get our red plastic raincoats and loaded onto a packed Canadian side "Maid of the Mist" type boat, larger and newer than the one on the American side. Standing on the open deck, we were sprayed amid squeals from younger passengers.
My friend, Peter
The falls are amazing! The boat trip was short, and most were anxious to get back onto the buses and return to the ship. While given a half hour, I walked to the end of a bridge over the river, taking photos and enjoying stretching my legs though the woman in charge of getting us on the bus was concerned that I wouldn't get back in time.
On my walk, I encountered the tree below and when pointed to an opening, went inside. I'll use this and the inside photo in another blog, as inside, it was difficult to see the way out--a great metaphor for the prisons of our minds, and in later life, of our bodies too.
We went through the eight locks on the Welland Canal in St. Catharines below and sat for what seemed like hours waiting barge traffic to pass. I watched the locks with a family quartet doing a
"girls' trip"--a grandmother, her daughter, and two granddaughters, 12 and 14. The girls provided the Chicago pizza recommendation as that was their home.
To get us through day 3 and Windsor, Ontario, I'll show you a shot of the Edison Museum in Greenfield Village, which has an Edison at Work district with a chair that Edison sat in when he visited bolted to the floor. We enjoyed a ride in a Model T, a train ride, and I visited the Noah Webster home, Robert Frost home, and the George Washington Carver cabin albeit in a rush since there was too much to see in such a short time. I met my friend at the crafts area where he purchased lovely earrings for me.
Until another day!