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This red chair was a the very top of a very long, very steep, very creaky staircase in the World’s Wonder View Tower. From these windows, you could (supposedly) see six states – Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota. How that was ever determined is a mystery to me, but I liked the idea very much. It reminded me of when my parents took us to a point in North Carolina where you could stand in three states at the same time. I believe that was easier to determine due to surveyors, though that makes it sound far less romantic. The Tower is closed now, the owner having passed away, and the thousands of bizarre pieces of memorabilia contained therein auctioned off. I’m so glad I have a few images – and memories.
Quote of the day: “The sky had never seemed so sky; the world had never seemed so world.” — Neil Gaiman
Progress in the garden
Trying to feel comfortable feeling unsettled
40 Years At Sarah P. Duke
Come spring, the siren calls of memories,
Whispers in the wind saying, “Come home,
Come home, the daffodils are rebellious in bloom,
And the pansies of the long gravel walk
Yearn for your gentle touch on each velvet petal.”
Those short stone walls clamber for the feel
Of my shoes balance-walking down them.
The wisteria palace is approaching bloom, vines
Enveloping the gazebo in fragrant violet magic
Promising blosson clusters and later, velvet seapods.
I stand at the edge of the steps, waiting for the view to
Empty of souls, so I can survey my own
A descent to the fountains, tricking cherubs
Where my father used to scoop coins from the shoulder-deep pools
Of wishing wells for us on hot summer days.
He is gone now, but the fountains still sparkle.
Criss-crossing rows of bark mulch paths
Through beds of tulips and butterly bushes
Into shade beds of hostas and lilies of the valley.
Still descending, still cross-crissing
To the koi pond teeming with water lilies and dragonflies,
Then up the slate stones, slightly slippery, as they pass
The trickle-down waterfall
To the big sitting rock – the peasant’s view of the garden kingdom.
Down across another little waterfall, through the dark shade
Of climbing magnolias
Into the big meadow beyond
Where Sarah and I drank little bottles of pink champagne
And lay among the dandelions discussing philosophy and world affairs
While basking in the sun and avoiding the bees.
This haven, with its empty grass hills, where I snuck in
With high school boyfriends for moonlit make out sessions,
With sky-high pine trees where I gathered greenery
For the mantel at Christmas, filling paper grocery bags
And leaving with cold, resin-stained fingers,
With its Japanese garden and arching bridge
Redolant with peace and solitude.
The gardens call to me, with memories of roses and sweat,
Sweetness and spring.
Durham, North Carolina.
Quote of the Day: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero
Feeling some better
A talk with Charlotte
My voice when it sounds like Lauren Bacall
I loved the colors of San Miguel. I could (and will) wander the streets for hours on end. It seemed that at every turn something new and different and beautiful caught my photographer’s eye. There were details, some accidental, some by design, and some a partnership with nature and the sun. But all were beautiful.
And I love bougainvillea. It was one of my Mother’s favorites. The first time I ever saw it was in San Francisco when I was 14. Mother hadn’t seen it in years, and was thrilled. She would have been delighted with this peach variation on the classic brilliant pink.
Weather report here in Colorado? Snow last Friday, 70 degrees today, snow on Wednesday. Welcome to Spring!
Quote of the day: “There’s a magic here working its way through my veins. There’s something about the vegetation, too, that I respond to instinctively – the stunning bougainvillea, the flamboyants and jacarandas, the orchids growing from the trunks of the mysterious ceiba trees.” — Cristina Garcia
Small barefoot toddlers
Meeting a dog at the bus stop this morning
Snagging the last bag of cat food for Mr. Man
Back-and-forth viewing between the presidential candidates and Dancing with the Stars
As a former ballet and modern dancer, I am no stranger to broken toes. The first one – the right “piggy that stayed home” – was broken in high school as I twirled off stage during a class, misjudging and running into the red velvet stage curtain. And the metal flagpole behind it. The second one, also in high school, was broken during a performance at UNC-Chapel Hill. I performed a leap and landed smack on the tip-top of the left “piggy that stayed home”. The show must go on, so dipping offstage as part of the planned choreography, I gasped to a fellow dancer “I think I just broke my toe,” and then went back on stage. Sure enough, x-rays the next day proved that I had split the bone smack down the center. That one took a bit longer to heal. That’s also when I discovered that, no matter how bad the toe break, as long as it’s not a compound fracture, all they do is tape the toe to its neighbor toe and let it heal up on its own.
In other words, doctors are often a waste of time and money.
Moving ahead a year to college, the right pinky toe was the next victim. In that case, the perpetrator was not myself, a wood floor, or a metal pole, but a rather large woman in very spikey heels who took an unfortunate lurch back onto said toe with said heel spike while we were crammed together in the subway. I can still remember the pain, my sharp exhalation, and her titter of “Oh, sorry.” Poor little pinky toe. I believe that was in the Fall of freshman year, because I still danced on it.
That spring, I broke the right little piggy that went to market. I have no idea how. I believe it was a stress fracture from class. As soon as it healed, I broke the left one in the same way. My early demise of my dancing days was starting its slow approach. Both healed, and I danced on through another two years or so, but finally a torn back muscle, and knowing that I just wasn’t good enough, made me hang up my slippers with a few regrets and lots of happy and proud memories.
Last week after work, my big toe hurt. I didn’t really think anything of it, because I’m at that point where things just hurt inexplicably. Perhaps the weather was changing. Maybe I had caught it in the sheets while I slept and sprained it, Who knew? It felt mostly better for the rest of the week. Then I went to work on Saturday, and by Sunday, I knew it was broken. Another stress fracture. Bruised, swollen, tender, and exquisitely painful, particularly when moved or touched in certain ways.
Having learned how useless doctors and x-rays are in these scenarios, I lathered it was BF&C, taped it to its neighbor, and am letting it heal. Note the charming mustache duct tape. In the absence of paper tape commonly used for such medical procedures, this was all I had. My other option was duct tape with flames, but I found this more amusing.
So here’s to all the toes out there. They do an awful lot of hard work for as small and fragile as they actually are. Let’s hope that the next time I share them with you, they’ll be dug in the white sand or somewhere like this.
Marina Cay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
Quote of the day: We begin so aware and grateful. The sun somehow hangs there in the sky. The little bird sings. The miracle of life just happens. Then we stub our toe, and in that moment of pain, the whole world is reduced to our poor little toe. Now, for a day or two, it is difficult to walk. With every step, we are reminded of our poor little toe. Our vigilance becomes: Which defines our day—the pinch we feel in walking on a bruised toe, or the miracle still happening?” — Mark Nepo
The sound of rain on the woodstove pipe
Feeling happily tired
It has been one month since Kelsea flew 1399.9 miles away to the west to go to college. It feels like much longer to me.
I was imagining that with the plethora of communications channels these days, we would be in touch more often. When I was in college, my parents sent me letters, and I called them once a week. Back in those days of yore, we still had long distance charges, so it was always after 8:00 in the evenings, usually on a Sunday night. After all, my father would always call his mother on Sunday nights after the rates went down, something he did until the day she moved in with my parents. Even at the beach, he would walk down to the telephone booth by Mr. Godwin’s to call her at the same time every week.
Today, with email, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, text messages, twitter, snapchat, and probably lots of other things I don’t know about, as I say, I assumed Kelsea and I would be in semi-constant communication. However, my daughter is the exception to the rule of her age, and is not a fan of social media or spending hours on the computer. As she pointed out to me, I should think this is a good thing – she is spending her time reading, studying (I hope), playing ultimate, making friends, and exploring her new self, surroundings, and independence.
In an ironic twist of fate, I find that I am communicating with her via the occasional letter (though my first and favorite letter did not make it through the mails) and phone calls. She tends to call me on Sundays, a sweet coincidence, since I never told her about my father’s phone calls. I love to hear about her new life, though I find little to tell her about mine just now, which is okay. I do send her texts once in a while, but don’t want to encroach on her new life. I wasn’t a helicopter parent when she was here, and I won’t become one now that she’s gone. We Skype on occasion, and I’ve been lucky enough to see her space and meet some of her friends through Skype – I do have to be conscious of being dressed in something other than a bedsheet when I answer her Skype calls, since I never know if it will be just the two of us, or me, her, and roomful of others.
It’s hard to find the balance, to know what the balance is. I know she misses me, and I also know that she needs to learn how to manage that feeling. I know I miss her, and I suppose I have to learn to manage that feeling too. I do send her a message every single day – some funny or sweet animal picture – just so she knows I am out here and thinking about her. Parents have gone through this challenge for decades, if not centuries, when their children leave home. We are lucky to have the open channels available to us that we do, a little luxury that parents long ago didn’t have. I do know one thing though: she is happy. And that’s all that matters.
Quote of the day: “Now I understand that one of the important reasons for going to college and getting an education is to learn that the things you’ve believed in all your life aren’t true, and that nothing is what it appears to be.” — Daniel Keyes
A Broncos win (after a near heart attack)
A talk with my daughter
Petey’s new rear end
Beautiful Colorado days
Today was one of those blue days when I just want to crawl into the spiral of a shell and stay there until my spirits lift. But that’s not the way life – or depression – works. On these days. sometimes, my mind wanders to things that made me bluer, and then I have to shift my perspective on those things to see the blessings inside them. They’re in there, just like a conch is nestled within the spirals of its shell.
Quote of the day: “For a moment the image before us is frozen: our world, our lives, reduced to a handful broken stars half lost in uncharted space.” — Annie Kaufman
That my mother used to let me eat frozen peas in the summer when it was hot. They were so good and sweet, one at a time.
That I could afford to pay Kelsea’s first quarter college tuition today
The “golden hours” even when I don’t have my camera
The art collages on my bedroom walls
Watching “Catfish” with Kelsea – it’s her favorite show
I want to remember a wonderful day, a happy day, and so, the horses of Shackleford Banks in North Carolina, on the day last year that Kelsea and I went on one of our adventures.
The Bad Day:
– continuing to nip the identity theft in the bud
– being lied to and cheated by someone once dear to me
– having two spots being biopsied for skin cancer
– Mr. Man deciding the mud room is his litter box
– Mr. Man catching a mouse and putting it in the bed
– spraining my thumb trying to get said cat/mouse out of the bed/house
I’m working hard to find the lesson and blessing in today.
Quote of the Day: “Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.” – Rumi
Anne of Green Gables
Late-blooming irises the color of violets
The little painting that Kelsea brought me from a street vendor in Paris
It was cold walking downtown today.
The snapdragons and the zinnias and the sweet potato vines were still blooming, but so were the red holly berries, starkly brilliant against their dark green leaves.
I felt…confused and unexpected. I had forgotten what wind chill was.
I felt 18 again.
But my trenchcoat is the wrong color.
My pockets were empty. Where were my gloves? The lady passing me had big black-and-white herringbone patterned gloves, and I complimented her on how fun they were. She smiled.
Tears spring to my eyes. From the wind or the pretty spindrift of prose in my head or the memory of being 18.
At 18, I walked another city’s streets in thin, soft Indian-print dresses and bohemian shirts, like the one I wear today.
The coolie shoes that I wore then, regardless of the weather, have been replaced by cowboy boots, as befits this city.
I remember the endless Dr. Who-like scarf that I gave to my boyfriend at Christmas, a find from a Cambridge thrift-store now long gone.
As is the boyfriend.
And probably the scarf.
I like the direction my life is taking now. Despite the approaching winter, I am happy.
We moved from Asheville to Durham yesterday via the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was an emotional rollercoaster for me, going back to Durham, as I hadn’t been here since my Mother’s funeral. And I haven’t been on the Blue Ridge Parkway since my childhood, which is a rollercoaster road itself.
So I was weepy, full of self-doubt, feeling all ages, having that sense of tiredness of spirit that has been so familiar off and on since the loss of my parents, my best friend, my marriage. Feeling like I have everything ahead of me, and like I am not the same person I was two years ago, feeling like I’ve lost my confidence in my self, like I apologize for living, like I take responsibility for everything, regardless of whether or not its my fault. And my not-so-little girl held my hand and just quietly let me feel what I needed to feel.
We stopped at a couple of beautiful scenic overlooks – at one, there were so many butterflies that they simply flew into our faces. In fact, the Blue Ridge Parkway has very little roadkill, except for the suicidal butterflies. We took a quick hike up to Linville Falls.
Kelsea had the rare opportunity stand in a tree and sit on a tree on the same hike.
Otherwise, our trip through the mountains to the Piedmont was uneventful, with the exception of the car in front of us running off the road onto the grassy median doing 75 mph – I was sure he was going to flip, as he was fishtailing and spitting dirt, but he regained control and stopped.
Arriving at the King’s Daughter’s Inn in Durham was a dream come true for me.
I’d always wanted to live there when I retired (it used to be a home for little old ladies). The innkeepers have turned it into a lovely retreat, and have made a point of keeping a lot of the original character of the house. The solarium is a soothing haven of green.
The kitchen is separated from the breakfast room by heavy green velvet poitiers, and the bathroom door had a lock on it like the one in my bathroom growing up. And funny thing, I discovered I could still lock myself in and have great difficulty getting out. I almost had to call Kelsea on her cell phone to come open the bathroom door.
We walked around East Campus last night, and I told her tales of growing up there; we sat on one of the fraternity benches watching some ultimate players until the biting flies drove us half mad.
We took a sunset drive downtown for more tale-telling about my restaurant days, and headed back to the Inn to snuggle up in our cushy bed.
This morning after breakfast, we said goodbye to the King’s Daughters Inn and her stressed-out owners, who were preparing for a house full of wedding party guests. With a day to devote to Durham, we started out by finding the house I lived in the summer before I moved to Colorado – a very faded blue two-story on Lynch Street that we who lived there named the “L.O.P.S.I.D.E.D. P.E.N.G.U.I.N.”. I can’t remember what it stood for, but I’m sure it’s buried in a journal from those days.
We then circled around Northgate (I described the luxurious experience of buying shoes in the early 1960s in great detail), and parked by the house I grew up in. I was only a little weepy looking around the backyard and the front yard. Kelsea was amazed at how much I could tell her about our neighbors from 40 years ago.
We went by my old friend Harriet’s house at 6 Sylvan Place, and I told her about what that great friendship was like. We then headed onto West Campus and spent some time in Duke Chapel, meditating, remembering. I left a single tear behind.
Our next stop was the Divinity School Library and where we said hello to the librarian who took my Dad’s place, and wandered around the stacks looking at old books that my Dad acquired during his almost-50 years there. So much had changed, but a few things were still the same, and that made me feel loved.
And there’s still a fainting couch in the downstairs ladies restroom.
We walked down to the Biology building to say hello to the petrified wood. The big green hill that was perfect for rolling down, and the huge willow tree are gone, replaced by a building (as were some streets that I used to drive through). But there is the delightful addition of the Man and Camel Statue.
Having restocked on sweatshirts and water in the Student Union, we drove off for a tour of my lower/middle school campus at Durham Academy, which was also remarkably unchanged, a drive-by of my friend Martha’s house in Hope Valley, and then back to my old High School campus. Kelsea was delighted by the tale of Mrs. Schuster driving the school van through the wall of the gymnasium.
We felt a bit out of place checking into the Washington Duke – we’re much more like the doorman than the other guests. But we’ll survive the interesting combination of posh and preppie. Starving, we went on a foodquest.
Ninth Street in Durham has been revitalized since I was little, and is now a happening street full of shops and restaurants – we had dinner at Dain’s Diner, which was featured on the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food”‘s Durham episode, then bought a couple of presents at my favorite store ever, Vaguely Reminiscent, and the ever-popular Regulator Bookstore.
We are now embedded in the Washington Duke again – and by the way, the beds are made up as tight as straightjackets. Kelsea had to unmake hers prior to getting in.
Tomorrow, we end Cycle 1 of the EAR by finally making it to Topsail – 10 days in the Beach House will be bliss before we hit the road again. We have alternated between never wanting our EAR to end and being ready to stop driving for a little while.
The past two days have left me contemplative. You can’t go home again, but then again, the part of you that called a place home can discover that it has never truly left, and that the place has not truly changed. It’s amazing how many memories are stored in your head, how many emotions. As I have said before, I believe that in your spirit, you are still every age you have ever been. Today, the touch of a window latch, the sight of a cardinal in flight, the cool of the trees enveloping us as we drove the old route to school, just confirmed it.
As we know, according to my Mother, I was born asking where the next bus was. I’ve never been content in this incarnation, this body, much less in being settled in one place. In my head, I’ve been planning my journey around the world for years. I’ve been longing for a life on a tropical island since I was eight years old.
My Mother’s mother went from home to home in the South and Midwest with my grandfather, who would buy land, build a house, live in it, teach school, farm, then sell the place, buy land somewhere, build a house, live in it…you get the picture. I suppose my grandmother was content with this lifestyle – I never thought to ask. But I know that at some point, late in her life, she had some kind of epiphany, which resulted in my Mother receiving a letter that started with, “By the time you read this, I will be in Yugoslavia.” I think she had the wanderlust in her as well. I have two mental images of my grandmother – one is of her sitting in a chair in The Barn, the last house my grandfather remodeled. She’s wearing a plaid shirt, her glasses, looking away, looking peaceful. The other is of her in a trenchcoat, her head covered by a white scarf, walking on a hill at the Acropolis. Such a contrast, both so lovely. Both so her.
My Mother was very like my grandmother – practical, peaceful. On one of our last days together, we talked about the wanderlust thread that runs through the women in our family. She had it too, always happy moving from house to house, always wanting to go to Europe, to see the Grand Canyon. Her burning desire for most of her life was to go to India. She never told me about that until that conversation. My father was never happier than when at home, and so her dreams of journeying were thwarted. She never resented it. But after he died – in fact, while we were still in the room following his memorial service, she turned to her friend Jane and started discussing going on a Caribbean cruise. (She felt a little bad about that, but she had no reason to.)
She did go on her Caribbean cruise that Fall, and I met her in Tortola and took her and her best friend around the island. It was wonderful for all of us. But she never got to see the Grand Canyon. I suppose now she’s able to see it all, and that’s a nice thought.
Then there’s me. Always planning, sometimes going. I am learning that having the right place to call home is a good complement to traveling. It changes the wandering from an escape, a search for something, to pure adventure and peaceful exploration.
Kelsea daily says to me, “You know what I want? I want to go to Ireland.” She fell in love with Ireland, even moreso than she loves Wales, when she went to Europe last summer. I told her that I never even got on a plane until I was 14, and here she’s been to Europe twice. She can now say, in an annoyingly blase manner, “I didn’t care for Paris. I much preferred London.” To which I snarl, “I’ve never SEEN Paris.”
She says this is all my fault. I’m the one who put travel posters (one, ironically, of the Eiffel Tower) on the walls of her nursery. I’m the one who showed her pictures of exotic places around the world from the time she could sit in my lap. I’m the one who sent her to Europe to experience other cultures. And all of that is true. But it’s not my fault.
It’s something in our bloodline, something that runs through the women just like the shine does, a spark that makes us want to see the world, while having a true home to which to return. A longing for a life that is a perpetual Grand Tour. A desire to meditate with Buddhist monks in Tibet, to beachcomb on deserted islands off the coast of Brazil, to watch breaching whales in Alaska’s waters, and swim with seals in the Galapagos. To see lava creep down a Caribbean volcano in Montserrat, the moonlight on the Taj Mahal, and the sun shine through the ceiling of the Pantheon. To climb the hills of Bray, and count each sheep in Wales.
Homer said, “There is nothing worse for mortals than a wandering life.” I heartily disagree. My thinking is more in line with Robert Louis Stevenson’s: “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” (Stevenson died and is buried on an island in the South Pacific.)
In my eyes, our women’s wanderlust is a true blessing. My mother and my grandmother are smiling.