19 November 2009

New eyes

It's rather a pleasure to come home after more than a week away and to see the place with new eyes. Yesterday afternoon, even though the afternoon was sunless, I spent an hour strolling around the yard, finding subjects aplenty to photograph. Like Wilmington and Baltimore, we are having a fine autumn.


There's a tulip poplar volunteer growing near the screened porch which displays its own lace, letting the observer see the intricacies of the vein pattern in this prominent disintegrating leaf.



The Japanese maple is one of my favorite specimens in our yard, the leaves showing both red and green, sometimes in the same leaf.



Getting this shot required flattening myself on the ground in front of the dandelion and red leaf -- and ending up sort of disheveled looking.



The crepe myrtles are giving us double colors in the same leaf, some red and green, here showing yellow and green.

17 November 2009

Over achievers

With a plan to get a head start on the day I sprang from a warm bed at the first alarm and arrived in the basement to discover the treadmill, stationary bike and elliptical machines already in use. ("Grrrr ... over achievers," she muttered.) Not wanting to venture outside in the cold dark and into unfamiliar territory, I took to the halls and the stairs. While a circuit of three times from the basement to the 9th floor and back didn't take nearly the time I would have spent on the treadmill, it certainly got my heart rate up, turning my legs to rubber in the process.

Still thinking about adaptability I enjoyed first conversations with my mentees immediately after breakfast, two new relationships which will demand very different things from me -- from the knowledge I carry around to new areas (psychic, theological, ecclesiastical) I'll have to explore, from directing at one moment to letting a realization emerge over time, from addressing the complexities of family life to encouraging a social life outside the parish, from meeting face-to-face with one and via Skype with the other. The same calling, the same profession, the same vows, the same desires (maybe) to service coming to life along dramatically different avenues of expression and in a variety of outcomes.

Somewhat akin even to the early moments of my day, with the treadmill unavailable the stairs satisfied my need for exercise and discipline, these relationships will be a wonderful challenge. At the moment another helpful maritime image or term comes to mind: I shall have to develop sea legs in this mentoring role.

16 November 2009

The art of navigation

I awoke in the still-dark at the second of two alarms (my cell phone followed by the glowing, buzzing digital clock on the night stand) this morning and spent 45 minutes in the fitness room on the treadmill. When I emerged from the basement and that virtuous experience, I was delighted to discover sunlight -- the first in days and days and days.

At breakfast I had another conversation with one of the two harbor pilots from Bermuda with whom I shared the shuttle from BWI yesterday afternoon. He was like a just-struck tuning fork in anticipation of the simulator this morning. I learned more about the inherent difficulties posed by the new cruise ships: the vessels are dramatically larger than the older boats in the fleets, but the channels through which they must move in advance of docking are not. It's much better to determine if they'll fit in the channel by using the simulator than it is to try it in real time and space.

It's interesting to me that during the course of our day we have talked about the role of a mentor to new priests from all sorts of angles, trying to define what it is we will be doing and why it's important. By the time I meet my two "mentees" tonight I think I am going to feel ready to begin these new relationships and do so with a fairly clear idea of what it is I have to offer them. In rereading my notes during a break this afternoon I noticed that I'd written the word "navigate" a couple of times. We are helping new priests navigate their early years in the church, finding their way into congregational patterns, over supervisory bumps, through the vagaries of continuing education and giving themselves permission for some self care along the way.

And, here we are having this orientation in a place the primary purpose of which is readying sailors, harbor and river pilots especially, to navigate pricey ships through dangerous and tight waters. One of the pictorial displays (of which there are many) along the walls of the classroom building halls celebrates the pilots of the Columbia River and bemoans the mouth of the Columbia River. The display is complete with navigational charts and photographs of wrecks, the two most dramatic being those ships, old and fairly modern, lost on Peacock Spit and on the Columbia River Bar. To my eye the most notable photograph is of the 1892 Columbia River Lightship (as opposed to lighthouse) which came loose from its moorings in November 1899 and ran aground, where it stayed until the spring of 1901 when it was moved overland by a local house mover some 700 yards and repositioned, a marker for the mouth of the river once again. (Click on the highlighted name of the ship to go to a great link and the full story, which includes the photograph in question along with several others.)

So, the art of navigation is what we're about, a fact which leads me to the photograph of the day. This is the sign on the door outside the entrance to the All Weather Navigation Simulator, an 8-ship interactive blind pilotage simulation program employing Norcontrol Polaris Automatic Radar Plotting Aids and shiphandling simulator. For sure it serves as a warning to those pilots who (in fear and trembling?) enter the simulator.


It's also, I believe, a profoundly theological statement. And, I hope I can help my two "mentees" avoid a collision or two through the years we work together, saving more than a few days from ruin.

15 November 2009

Drooping eyes

Much more of this kind of fun and I'm going to keel over with exhaustion. So, the briefest of notes.

Yesterday's wedding, reception and evening picnic were lovely. Ida had moved up the coast leaving the weather cool, damp and grey, but the major rain event ended in time not to ruin anything. I had to be at the church by 9:30 before the 11:30 liturgy and the picnic ended at 9:30 in the evening. Although Tal and I weren't "on" all of that time, we weren't able to completely relax between things, making for a long day. As the hours and events progressed I was grateful to have had a 30 minute walk on the beach shortly after 7:00AM, entering the day with my spirit well oriented. The sun even tried to come out (this photo taken on that early morning walk), but this was all it could manage all day.

Today Tal dropped me at the airport in Wilmington at 9:45, staying long enough to make sure the flight to Baltimore was going to go. Wouldn't that be a disaster, combining being dropped off and a cancelled flight ... Anyway, USAirways was on its best behaviour and I hopped from Wilmington to Philadelphia to Baltimore without incident. And, so far, the Maritime Institute is measuring up to the all the positives I'd heard in the run-up to this meeting. In fact, I was on their shuttle from the airport with two men who will be learning to pilot the new generation of cruise ships, which according to them "don't fit very well anywhere."

As we were approaching the buildings where the conference center is housed, I spotted a remarkable tree. After checking in, hanging up my crunched clothes and double checking the schedule (wouldn't want to be late or in the wrong place for anything), I walked back along our route to find it.


A stunner, even with my late afternoon exposure troubles. I'll try again in the morning. An Atlas cedar, I think?

12 November 2009

In good voice

Well, good might not be quite the right word, but ...

As you can see from the photograph which I shot yesterday from the covered porch on the second floor of the main building, the apartment Tal and I are inhabiting is perched atop the yacht club's kitchen and eating porch. To me it looks a bit like some depictions I've seen of the cabin on Noah's Ark. Amusingly appropriate, given the weather.

We've been out only twice today, having had breakfast between here and the waterway with a friend. The Causeway Cafe, warm enough inside to fog my glasses as I entered, is pure local color and my big bowl of cheese grits and shrimp hit a hungry spot that needed to be hit. Mostly, though, the day has been low key with both of us wading through our respective books.

Overnight yesterday's heavy rain moved up the coast, replaced by wind, gusting, relentless and bearing a soaking mist. So, along with luxurious hours of reading, we've also listened to the changing voice and location of the wind. In the early hours of the day the wind buffeted the apartment's northeast corner; now the sound is concentrated in the southeast, farther away from the living room. At times the sound has taken me to winter storms in childhood and the sad moan around the eaves of the house during the night at Brookgreen. Less charming and bordering on alarming, I've had the distinct impression that someone might actually be just outside revving a chain saw!

Since our arrival we've not even stepped foot on the beach.

11 November 2009

Horizontal rain

I'm not surprised. This week at Wrightville Beach has been on the calendar as long as Tal and I have known about Megan Woodruff's wedding. It will be my honor to assist with the liturgy come this Saturday morning. We have anticipated eagerly through the past several months spending a few quiet days here, here being the apartment at the Carolina Yacht Club on Wrightsville Beach. Our arrival, and our drive from Edgefield yesterday, coincided with Ida's landfall on the Gulf Coast Monday and its inland path across the southern states to the Atlantic. Now, it seems stalled, the announcers on The Weather Channel even naming Wrightsville Beach, exclaiming over the inches of rain we are seeing.

While I'm not surprised, I am quietly delighted. The rain is mostly steady, at times swirling, but mostly horizontal. At the moment the tide is in and the waves have drawn surfers. Even apartment-bound we are not in the least bored or restless, the mingling sounds of surf and rain calming and inviting us into our books.

I've been out only once, keeping the camera dry competing with any hope of interesting photography. As I prepare to post this, the surfers are in retreat, the photograph below taken through the fogged window of the apartment.

07 November 2009

Nary a beep nor a flash

Tal and I were up this morning long before light to be ready for the arrival of Bruce, his son, for their every-other-Saturday early morning fishing trip. So organized was I that Bruce walked in to find fresh coffee brewing and muffins being extracted from the oven. Despite its being the coldest day so far of the autumn, they were on their way to Satcher Pond by 7:30, leaving me plenty of time to clean up the kitchen, start the laundry, shower, and organize my tote bag with all the things I need for a day of keeping the gallery in Ridge Spring.

Shortly after 9:00 when I went to car, so much wanting to have the gallery open in advance of 10:00, I was met with nary a beep nor a flash. The lights didn't come on with the driver door standing open. The key in the ignition caused no beeping or chiming. Turning the key in the ignition resulted in absolutely nothing. Nothing. How could a battery that worked yesterday not even make a noise this morning?

A telephone call to another AARS member got the gallery opened on time. But, all I could do was wait for Tal and Bruce to return home. Luckily, the battery powering the trolling motor died and they arrived home before 9:30 -- with 20 fish in the fresh well to show for their abbreviated trip. But, the extra car battery we keep here for emergency wouldn't take a charge. So, Tal set out for our local NAPA -- which didn't have a battery compatible with the Sable. Knowing that the service department at the Ford dealership is closed on Saturday, Tal went there anyway, for advice if nothing else. The dealership manager, who was there alone running the showroom for the morning, found a battery and, since he didn't have the paperwork to process the purchase, simply told Tal to have me come in on Monday to pay for it. There are moments when living in a small town makes me shake my head. And smile in wonderment.

As I left for the gallery less than an hour and a half late, Bruce headed toward home -- and the recycling center between here and there -- with three dead batteries to drop off.

02 November 2009

Smoking shredder

Today has been the day I have looked forward to for months. My work on the search committee leading the process of electing the person to be the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina is done.

Since we're reimbursed for all expenses (the diocese wanting to know as precisely as possible what it costs to elect a bishop) I counted all the paper in my notebook and files having to do with the search. After the count (which resulted in four piles -- single-sided B&W, double-sided B&W, single-sided color, double-sided color) came multiple sessions with the shredder. It took several hours to crosscut what amounted to two reams of paper, but the job is done. The shredder may never be the same.

Just as one sheet began its journey through the machine's jaws as it were, I spotted something hand written along the bottom margin of the page and managed to tear it off in time, saving it from becoming confetti. It's a quote by one of the candidates which I jotted during a group interview in Charlotte.

"A person who thinks he's a leader but has no followers is only taking a walk."


It got a round of laughter when he said it and, you notice, I did write it down. It's probably a good thing for a candidate for bishop to say and to believe and to expect.

From my perspective, however, the idea of a simple walk is profoundly appealing.

01 November 2009

That red coat

In the liturgical church, today is All Saints' Day. At the Episcopal Church of the Ridge, gathering today at Trinity Edgefield in their three-building worship cycle, the prayers will include the bishops of this diocese and the parish's clergy who have died over the years. The names of those in the congregation having "entered the larger life" (one of my very least favorite phrases) since last All Saints' Day, as well as others whom the members of the church have specifically requested be remembered, will also be read. It's a solemn day.

As always today I think about my remarkable grandparents, all four of whom are dead. And, earlier today I surprised Tal when I laughed out loud. In thinking about them I'd let my mind wander and found myself -- deep in memory -- at my first and ill-fated wedding reception. Actually it was a marriage that was ill-fated. The reception was quite nice.

My new husband's boss during a toast look credit for our having met each other, good-naturedly (pompously?) taking responsibility for the day. True to form, Grandpa Johnson, gregarious and full of humor, was having none of that! He proceeded to regale the crowd with the story of his having, as a young man, spied a really cute girl wearing a red wool coat, a teacher new in Milford. Had that not happened, he concluded, neither my mother nor I have been born and the wedding reception would not be taking place. So, if anyone could take credit for the day ... well, you get the idea.

In truth, it wouldn't take very much for our lives to be quite different (if they happened at all). One decision by any of a vast number of people would be all it would take. The web of connection among us is delicately balanced, even precarious, and likely should fill us with wonder. After all, if noticing a red coat turned a life in a particular direction and influenced countless others, not noticing it would have done the same thing.

17 October 2009

More fish

Last night one of the most lovely gifts presented to Bishop Henderson (as opposed to the useful, like a fishing rod, reel and tackle box) was an icon written by an Upper South Carolina artist. As retired Bishop Duvall presented the original to +Dorsey, there was an unusual sound behind the stage and a large version of the icon, featuring what else but fish?, unrolled. It formed the backdrop for the remainder of the evening and today's worship.

We began the day with the Liturgy of the Word, including dozens of church banners, several colorful streamers and red-stoled clergy in procession. At the peace we moved into a late morning workshop, followed by lunch and the afternoon workshop before regathering for the Liturgy of the Table at the end of the day. I made this image when I paused in the worship space (which was the banquet space last night) before going to lunch. (Too bad I can't seem to hold the camera straight on vertical shots.)

I'm home now, the two hour drive featuring more rain, and have enjoyed hearing Tal's tales from his chilly early morning fishing here in Edgefield County with his son. The weekend's theme is at my every turn! I do wish, though, I were one of the ones wetting a hook.

16 October 2009

Exhaustion

Tonight's dinner and "roast" honoring Upper South Carolina's bishop who will retire at the end of this calendar year was simply extraordinary. Yes, it was long, but it's been 15 years since we've said goodbye to a bishop. Three hours might not be too much to ask. And, truth be told, Dorsey Felix Henderson Jr has lovingly held this diocese together through a very difficult few years. He deserved every loing minute and then some. Dinner for for than 500 was delightful, tasty and served efficiently by the First Carolina Center staff. The big surprise was the appearance of our presiding bishop and her husband and the best moment was the Skype appearance of Bishop Henderson's now adult-with-two-children foster son. Ah, the tears did flow. Two little voices calling out "Hi Uncle Felix" was almost too much to bear.

This is a closeup taken as the evening was ending, the theme of which was fishing. (I was part of a presentation by all DEC members past and present, an unrehearsed singing extravaganza based on the mission of the diocese combined with new words to the "Row, row, row your boat" melody. Be glad you missed that!) The centerpieces featured bowls of water, filled with shells, candles and glittery little fish forms all on a circle of mirror. Lovely. Enchanting, even.

But,it's almost 11:00 and I'm exhausted. Enough celebration for now.

Table settings

The setting up process for tonight's banquet was underway when I arrived at the Carolina First Center this morning. It was a slow process that went on all day. During the lunch break I cut through the banquet hall to visit the Trinity Cathedral Bookstore display in the exhibition space (without benefit of money, check book or credit card, by the way) and was stopped momentarily at the vision created by the sea of crystal and white table linen in the rather dark room.

By tonight it should be rather spectacular.

Reunions

What a day! -- and, it's only 4PM. I walked on this Friday morning from the hotel through a grey mist, the sun completely hidden. Again, as was true the two precious times I have approached and entered the Carolina First Center (it having had a different name on both those occasions), I was impressed and curious. Impressed at the setting, the outside view -- plantings, elevations, expanses of glass, and the inside space -- generous hallways and lobbies, countless meeting rooms and long escalators. It speaks to me of optimism, of wealth. I can only imagine (this is the curious part) the spectrum of activities that present themselves to the public under the building's vast roof during a year's time.

Diocesan business was just that, report after report, agenda item after agenda item checked off the sheet of paper in my lap. The morning session ran enough ahead of schedule that the bishop moved several items from the afternoon, and we cleared them up before noonday prayers and lunch. I forced myself, as we were gavelled back to order after lunch and the bishop began his annual -- and last, and emotional -- address, wondering if there might be time for a walk between the end of the session and dinner. The Greenville municipal airport is immediately adjacent, after all. It's OK to dream.

But, the day wasn't -- and never is -- all business. As Bishop Henderson likes to say, diocesan convention is really a family reunion. At every turn familiar faces and beloved people appeared, a phenomenon that went on all day. These encounters -- loud, animated, joy-filled, each one cut short by another -- have reminded me clearly of the danger inherent in my personality, that danger being the tendency to go alone, the way I have of cutting myself off -- oftentimes not deliberately, but sometimes on purpose -- from people. Now, I can only stand so much, introverted as I am, but some balance is in order. I have missed some of these people very much and feel a sense of renewal at the reconnection.

And, and ... following the bishop's address, the Search Committee revealed to the convention its slate of five candidates who will stand for election to be the 8th bishop of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, complete with two minute videos in which each individual introduced himself to the diocese. It was a great moment; our work as a committee is finished.

Now, to finish up that golf tournament. Next Friday's the day.

After that? A reunion of my own -- with Tal, with Whitby and Belle, with home. Can hardly wait!

Radiating

Last night when I called Tal to say goodnight, he asked me to call him early this morning -- which I did. At 6:30. Well, he said early. Our conversation was sweet and brief, since he had a bit more sleeping to do. But, his parting comment was this: "Remember, a lot of love is radiating from here to you. Two dogs and a man." Well, if that isn't a nice way to start the day, I don't know what is. Except maybe being at home.

By my calculations, in the past month I've been away from home nine nights (and the better part of 15 days). Some prioritizing is in order, I'd say. Having the statistics for the next month drastically different would be a pleasure. And, making them different will be my goal.

But, first ... convention.

15 October 2009

From the Phoenix

I'm safely in my room at The Phoenix, "Greenville's Inn," for the start of diocesan convention at the Carolina First Center in the morning. The emphasis on safely is deliberate, the rain between Edgefield and Greenwood a deluge (with the rutted road holding lots of water) and between Greenwood and Greenville steady for most of the miles. I found myself concentrating on simply getting here. That focused state of mind, now that I'm settled (with no need to go out, having brought my supper with me), has given way to gratitude and gentle fatigue.

True, tomorrow is the culmination of the Search Committee's work: the presentation of the slate of nominees for Upper South Carolina's 8th bishop. Work continues from tomorrow, of course, but it will be the Transition Committee taking charge to plan the walk-abouts, the election, a move for someone and the consecration. My part now will be simply to participate. No more travelling, no more minute-taking, no more evaluating on behalf of the whole.

That said, tonight's fatigue actually springs from the events of the day. I made it to two meetings during the morning -- an All God's Creatures board meeting to report on the golf tournament and a pastoral call to a member of my former mission congregation. And, Tal and I enjoyed a quick and light lunch together before I finished packing and began my rainy drive. During the afternoon I missed a meeting of the Village Gardeners. Can anyone, including me, believe I'm a member of a garden club?! And, as I type, I'm missing an "After Hours" at the gallery in Ridge Spring, an event sponsored by the Saluda Chamber of Commerce to introduce their membership to individual businesses or concerns in the county. Members of the Art Association of Ridge Spring have worked themselves very hard in order to be ready to receive their Saluda County guests and I hope it's going off well.

For me now it's my little supper, a book and what I hope's going to be a great night's sleep. I want to be rested for what will likely be an emotional, albeit satisfying, tomorrow.

30 September 2009

Milestones

People often tell me things happen in threes, in particular uncomfortable or sad occurrences. Two disasters and they're waiting for the next awful thing. I suppose there might be some truth in that "series of threes" idea. Depending on when one begins counting, however, things can happen in any number actually. Following the third event, one either begins counting again or "four" comes into play. More basically, I suppose there's no end to the ways people exercise their superstitions!

That said, milestones around here are piling up -- literally. And, so far in this seven-day period it's a three: Mom and Dad's 57th wedding anniversary last Friday and Tal's 83rd birthday yesterday. Today, as we made our way from Monetta to Aiken, our car's odometer passed 140,000 miles.

Ooh. I wonder what it means?! Other than we're on the verge of needing new tires.

29 September 2009

"Grant that he may grow in wisdom and grace"

That phrase is from a collect for birthday in The Book of Common Prayer (pg 830). My dear Tal's days have increased to the point that today he is celebrating another year. Since I'm in a hotel in Charlotte, I called him while my Wolfgang Puck coffee brewed. And, at 6:30 I just barely caught him, his ride for a day of golf in Elberton GA with the Emerald Seniors pulling through the gate as he answered the telephone. Had I waited to let that wonderful first sip slip down my throat before dialing, I would have missed him.

We will revolve in two separate worlds today, both of them good and meaningful. Even with two meals, a long agenda, and a 150-mile drive home, I'll likely pull into the garage a mere frazzle before he arrives home.

I don't know about wisdom and grace, but his stamina is remarkable. How does he do it?

28 September 2009

1:1

Monday morning came at full speed. Tal went to Aiken to be with his brother and family and I prepared to leave for Charlotte by lunch. I'd moved a lovely bowl of roses from the living room to the study so they'd not go unenjoyed. The blinds were open, the sun streaming across the desk. The light was so nice, though shadowy, and the white rose -- John Kennedy, I think -- perfectly past it prime, if that makes any sense. Eventually, nothing would do but I had to press the "pause" button on my travel preparations. I put the macro lens on the camera and the camera on the tripod.

This view is 1:1. The petal's moist look and delicate veins are elegant at the very least, and more pronounced, given the days since Tal brought the bloom inside.

27 September 2009

Pressing on

It's Sunday. Tal and his son, Bruce, are out fishing. I've just finished restoring the kitchen to order, having prepared a crack-of-dawn breakfast of peppered bacon, grits, scrambled eggs, toast with orange marmelade and coffee. How I make such a mess does boggle the mind. But, now the kitchen is geogeous! Even the stainless steel's been polished.

To add to the disorder of the day, the person who was supposed to pick up the dogs from the vet before the kennel closed at noon yesterday, didn't. This place isn't right without Whitby and Belle. Needless to say, both of us are disappointed; the quietness around here is rather loud.

I'm stalling on two formidable tasks I have to finish today, a writing project and one requiring alot of paper pushing, envelopes, mailing labels. My strongest motivation to get on with it is the fact that my part in both projects will be over by the 24th of October. Not that I'm wishing my life away ... or counting the days.

26 September 2009

Still sweet on each other

The adage is that a picture is worth a thousand words. I don't know about that, but this one's worth 57 years! Mom and Dad's anniversary celebration yesterday featured pizza at Pastaria 811, an out of the way Italian restaurant at Pawleys Island, where this photograph was taken. A glass of champagne followed at home.

Pretty cute, huh? And, they are still sweet on each other, a lovely phenomenon to witness.

25 September 2009

Indulged ... again

We arrived at Mom and Dad's yesterday afternoon. Already set up on the desk under the window in their office was a reel-to-reel tape machine, all cued up. On our last visit I'd recalled a set of interviews with Grandaddy Tarbox and had wondered if I could hear them sometime.

That sometime was today. This morning while Mom and Dad were at a doctor's appointment I sat in front of that machine and listened to the voice of my paternal grandfather, which I'd not heard in over 38 years. The tapes were made in 1969 (March, I think); he died in August 1971.

That soft voice with an accent, a distinct accent, one I didn't notice while growing up. But, how singular it is, listening to it now. Charleston? Southern, but not a drawl. Perhaps, it's coastal.

He talked about his days of flying, about the hurricane of 1904. Never an enthusiastic talker, the tapes were interviews with several individuals, from my dad to a couple of young boys in Georgetown, and Grandaddy didn't make it easy for them! He gave short answers. If the question asked for a "yes" or a "no," that's what the questioner got. Toward the end of the third tape, though, a woman whose name I didn't get, sat with him and one of his photograph albums. She would comment on something in one of the photos -- bird eggs, wrecked boats -- and that got him talking.

I found myself simply hearing the voice, not actually following the words. Not only am I an indulged woman. I'm vastly, wonderfully rich.

24 September 2009

Indulged

No matter what our position in life those of us who live in (what we have named) the first world have it pretty good. The now year old financial crisis has hit almost everyone in varying degrees. If we have children in our lives, providing for their needs and well-being dominates both our waking and our sleeping. The costs of health care and the arguments over health care reform escalate. No matter what it is that troubles any of us, in comparison with people in much of the rest of the world. we are blessed, even indulged. Truly, we do not want for much.

Today has been full. And, I have been indulged. On our drive to Pawleys Island to help my parents celebrate their (get this!!!) 57th wedding anniversary, our route, as usual, took us through North. From some distance away it was evident that two C-17s were doing touch-and-goes on the US Air Force Auxillary Air Field (aka North Army Air Base). To my delight (especially since Tal was driving) on the stretch of US178 which parallels the runway for a piece, one of these hulking aircraft looked as though it were coming right for us. On that same pass I was able to watch it on my right flare as it approached the runway, not quite touching its wheels to the concrete, pulled up and accelerated to go back around.


So, I saw a couple of Globemaster IIIs at North. No, it's better than that. This is the indulged part. After we passed Bull Swamp (aka Ethridge Mill Pond) on SC172, Tal stopped at the top of the hill and we watched those two planes fly over and approach the airfield. Not only were the planes impressive -- huge and powerful, but the view down that hill and across the rolling South Carolina terrain was more lovely than I can even begin to express. Oh, and the clouds were rather spectacular, wouldn't you say?

I'm so lucky.

23 September 2009

All dressed up

Before leaving York yesterday I had one of my bright ideas. I suggested to Tal during our morning telephone conversation that we use a gift certificate to a nice local restaurant that I'd been given late in the summer for supper that evening. When I arrived home shortly before 5:00, Tal greeted me in the garage already dressed for dinner. He had even called the establishment to find out when their evening service began.

Too bad the taped message didn't include the fact that dinner isn't served Sunday through Tuesday evenings. So, we arrived in our "finery" only to find the front porch wide and welcoming, but the interior dark and the air devoid of tempting smells.

Back home we went, where -- for no out-of-pocket expense -- we produced a meal of crab cakes, brown rice, tossed salad, hot rolls, wine and, by time for dessert, "home baked" chocolate chip cookies. I have to ask myself why I wanted to go out at all.

Oh, yes. There was the small matter of the state of the kitchen in the meal's aftermath. Now I remember ...

22 September 2009

Rural driving

Our board meeting this morning at York Place was productive but longer than usual. The economic climate and ever-changing state regulations are having an impact on the census. The administration brought us to to speed on possible strategies they may have to employ to ensure York Place maintains its mission to at-risk children. A trying time to be sure and, although everyone is upbeat, it shows.

My drive home along yesterday's route was again simply lovely and even restorative. The sole challenging stretch was long several miles (life 15) through rolling terrain and along a double-yellow line behind a pickup going, at best, 35MPH. The mirror on the driver's side dangled by its cable; only when an oncoming car approached did the driver lurch to the right from the middle of the road. Welcome to the south, I guess.

Calmness prevailed, but I was grateful for the car's 24V DOHC (whatever that means) controlled by my right foot. When my chance came, I took it! The fuel consumption at such moments something I refuse to consider.

21 September 2009

Greetings from York

Today begins the fall meeting of the board of trustees for York Place Episcopal Church Home for Children. I left home after an early lunch with Tal -- who, as I was backing the car out of the garage, shouted from the steps "I hope you retire soon!" So helpful. He was smiling, promise.

The drive was lovely. I opted for cutting cross country, Edgefield to Newberry to Winnsboro to Chester to York with lots of named crossroads along the way. Likely not as fast, but so much more interesting than I-20 and I-77. One day, I keep telling myself, I won't be on my way somewhere, won't be in collar and heels. One day I'll poke along, stopping to study things, like rolled hay in still-green fields and late summer weeds along in-need-of-maintenance fences. I probably won't ever do that, but I do enjoy thinking about it.

Following our afternoon sessions, the president of York Place and his wife welcomed us into their home for dinner. Actually, we had cocktails in their beautifully landscaped backyard, moved through a buffet line in the kitchen and dined on the front porch -- which, wrapping two sides of the house, seated 30 at set tables with white linen, candles and locally grown roses. Truly elegant! Tired as I was I hated to move away, knowing it was a very special experience, one none of us has with any regularity.

I'm at the Days Inn on the Rock Hill side of York for the night. I'd forgotten about the clientelle. The sound of diesel trucks will begin early in the morning, workmen getting a pre-dawn start on the day. How hard people have to work isn't enough part of my awareness, sad to say.

20 September 2009

Trial and error

The best part of having to attend a convocation meeting this afternoon in Greenwood was not the presentation I made or the interaction with old friends I'd not seen since leaving the Church of the Ridge, although both of those aspects of the afternoon were rather pleasurable. No, the best part was the drive -- 45 miles each way -- and getting to listen to NPR. On the way to Greenwood I caught the better part of Garrison Keillor's weekly monologue. Delightful. On the way home, however, I was almost transported by a discussion of the diagnostic process on "The People's Pharmacy."

While it was about medical diagnosis, it gist of the discussion had to do with not knowing, with trying the most obvious thing first, with being wrong and beginning again. One line had me laughing out loud (still in the realm of medical diagnosis): "If you hear the sound of distant hoof beats, think horses." So, if it looks like strep, it probably is. Start there. Tell the patient, however, that if the antibiotics don't have him feeling remarkably better in no less than two days, call back, come back because it isn't strep. What else might those hoof beats be is the question? One more thing: Be clear about where you are. Those hoof beats, if you're on the plains of Africa, could be zebras!

Oh, how I hate making mistakes, to the point that I hide them when at all possible. During my drive home this afternoon, however, I didn't hear anyone saying to be sloppy or caviler or not care. What I did hear was an exploration of the reality that we don't know everything there is to know; part of the joy of life is the process of figuring it out. Trail and error.

Part of the entertainment of the discussion for me was finding myself thinking about the computer solitaire game, Free Cell. The rule of thumb at the outset of a hand is to uncover the aces as quickly as possible. The sound of hoof beats ... Do the obvious, right? But, sometimes the player gets herself to the point that no more moves are possible. The player could give it up as lost. Or, the player can back up to a point where other options were available OR even back all the way to beginning and simply start over. The good thing about Free Cell is that every hand IS playable, winable. The hard part is that some of those winable hands start out in very unobvious ways.

I need to lighten up. To entertain backing up sometimes, to reexamine the situation, the question, the problem. I need to play with ideas, with the possbilities. The process of working something through, staying patient and observant, is more the point than getting it right the first time through.

Now, let's see if I can live that! Ah, hoof beats ...

19 September 2009

Positive exposure

Clergy conferences -- like all conferences, I suppose -- are uneven at best. Although time with one another, since we're all busy in our own places, is a value in itself, the topic's value and the atmosphere of the venue are significant variables.

I am so pleased to have participated these two days. The faculty of 14 is a fascinating, diverse, stimulating group, each one with whom I had conversation challenging, optimistic, smart, all of them I'd be happy to get to know better. This exposure has been beneficial, answering two important, even crucial, questions Tal and I have not been able to get answered satisfactorily since I stopped working. I'm leaving the Hilton feeling greatly hopeful, more whole.

Although the faculty came to the Diocese of Upper South Carolina from all over the country -- Arizona to Florida, Indiana to New York -- with specific topics to address with active and retired clergy, what has impressed me it not exclusively those topics -- health care issues, fitness strategies at all stages of life, financial options. Their interests are intense and varied, as well -- gardening, needlework, hiking, NPR (specifically "Car Talk"), public education. Those two areas, their interests and their specific areas of expertise, has left me feeling flooded with riches.

18 September 2009

Amendment of life

As I sat in front of the computer in my second floor Holiday Inn Express room at the corner of Taylor and Huger last evening, I became aware of a new sound in the mix of the air-conditioning, television, traffic: the staccato spatter of rain on the window to my left. I went to bed extra grateful for having driven to Columbia late in the day. Now and then a hunch turns to brilliance.

The feeling of good fortune continued as day broke, the rain continuing and the treadmill downstairs beckoning despite the fluffy comfort of the big bed. The fitness "center" (considerably smaller than my room) featured a stair climber, stationary bike, treadmill, television and a thermonstat set on 62 -- perfect!

It's been a long time since I've attended a clergy event. This one equals our annual fall diocesan clergy conference. Rather than being in the mountains of North Carolina as usual, we're at the Hilton -- lovely and hospitable (but not the mountains). This day and a half of presentations by people from the Church Pension Group, focusing on wellness, insurance, pension, are helpful in terms of the facts. More importantly, I think, is our having been stopped in our tracks with crafted and well-organized time to work on processes which all of us, clergy and everyone else, tend to avoid and/or put off.

The first speaker in my group read a quote from "What Color is Your Parachute? in Retirement" by Richard L Bolles. It went something like this: Will you plan the retirement you really want, or will you accept the one that just shows up?

Well, isn't that the question? Although I'm not officially retired, as in collecting a pension, Tal and I worked through what my stopping work would mean, so I'd say we did pretty well with the first part of the question. But, the second part? I know full well I'm not managing this time of luxurious freedom very well. Overscheduled, unnecessarily stressed, not enjoying life very much, I have to fix it, and soon.

17 September 2009

Roses on my mind

I am writing from Columbia tonight. The clergy of the diocese are meeting tomorrow and Saturday. I came over late in the day to save myself having to be out of the house by 6:00 in the morning, not to mention braving Columbia's incoming morning traffic. I'm thinking of Tal -- and roses.

Tal arrived home from his semiannual, Monday through Wednesday, Santee golf outing late yesterday afternoon. An intense time by all accounts. Three days. Three rounds of golf. He found the house neat and supper preparations -- rosemary salmon, his favorite -- underway. AND, thanks to his ongoing, almost year round patience, there were freshly cut roses from our yard adorning the dining table.

As I was making my way through the day -- working the list, I noticed those roses a number of times. At lunch they were in my line of sight, between me and the shiny black of the piano. I paused in my tasks to retrieve the camera. This shot, not showing the entire arrangement, is my favorite, the roses set on the piano and me standing in a chair looking down on them.



So I'm here and Tal's there. Something's wrong with this picture. I'm thinking of him -- and the lovely roses he grows.

16 September 2009

Truth in fiction

In the midst of cleaning and golf tournament stuff yesterday, I also dipped into a new murder mystery. The temptation was to ditch the tasks of the day, but I practiced great grueling discipline, reading only briefly.

I enjoy fiction more and more, sometimes for the story, but more for the truth the stories express. There are, of course, no new story lines; every one of those is used again and again and again. Frequently then, the story line between the covers of the book are remarkably familiar. Self recognition does come as something of a shock. In ways that tend to surprise us the same things happen to all of us that happen to everyone else.

Within those stories between the covers of the book are also reactions and feelings and reflection and learning. And, in those things we can recognize ourselves as well. If we want to, that is.

Anyway, page 76 in my new book ... "One thing I already learned in the ministry: everyone hit sinkholes in the journey, those places along the road where reason turns to bog."* I know that. I KNOW that. But, reading it yesterday turned into one of those moments. There's something in the way the character (and the writer) think it/say it that struck a match, illuminating in a flash my recent ruminations.

Reason turning to bog. That's not to let the rude or the cheater or the closed minded (or myself) off the hook. But, it does invite me to kindness and to patience. Now please do note: I didn't say anything about "best" friendship or any friendship at all for that matter. Just giving others the benefit of the doubt, sincerely. Who knows what might have turned reason into bog?

*"A Deadly Thing, They Say." Leslie Winfield Williams. Munsing OK: Tate Publishing, 2007

15 September 2009

At home

There is SO much to do I don't even know where to begin. When I woke up this morning, that was my first thought. My second thought had to do with the possibility of not getting up ...

If someone were to utter that lament in my direction, of course, I'd have something helpful to say, like "what's the most important?" or "just start," so that's what I've done. Asked and answered those two questions.

Primarily, the house needs to be cleaned and details for the All God's Creatures golf tournament (the 4th Annual, I'll have you know) given some attention. My strategy? Do one until I cannot stand it anymore and shift to the other. Here toward the end of the day progress has been made, but -- naturally -- nothing's really finished.

But then, is it ever?

14 September 2009

Reversing ourselves

Worship yesterday was at 8:00 and 10:00, the parish still on summer schedule. After a final conversation with the individual we were there to interview we set out on the two-hour drive to the airport, reversing ourselves way too soon and getting to appreciate our surroundings far too little.

The trip east was pretty straightforward, although we missed a turn or two approaching the airport and finding a filling station near the car rental return lot was a bit of a challenge. Although we were travelling late in the day, our initial flight and connections began on time and ended early. Tal arrived in Augusta at 11:50 to find me wearily standing on the curb. It had been a very long day; getting home was such a pleasure.

Tal has already departed this morning for Santee on a three-day golf outing. Glad we saw each other even for a very few hours. I think something might be slightly amiss with our calendar control!

Now, for the mail, a walk and lunch with a friend (at Barristers). Oh, and maybe a nap.

13 September 2009

It's damp

Well, it's so damp in my hotel room that the cover of the soft book I'm reading curled up tight while I slept. While I watched during a particularly intense downpour yesterday evening, the water outside my patio door rose at an alarming rate, coming rather close to running under the door.

Almost as wet inside as it is out (keeping the compressor on helps with the humidity, but then I'd need to wear wool), nobody seems to mind. In fact, the locals are gleeful as the rain continues. Even the wedding party and guests staying in the hotel make a run for it to the shuttles in all their finery with surprisingly good cheer.

Our visit? Going well. All I can say ...

12 September 2009

Out west

While I cannot be specific about my whereabouts, Texas is a big place. So, there you have it.

Once our delayed flight touched down early yesterday afternoon it was apparent I, travelling very light, have forgotten one thing. I keep two small umbrellas in the pocket behind the seat in the car I drive, both of which are safely still there. And, it's raining in Texas for the first time in two years. Pools have been closed all summer. No watering or car washing has been allowed in well over a year. Running fountains is forbidden. I spotted a Walgreens on the way to scope out the parish we'll be visiting. So, now there will be three umbrellas in the back of the car.

The landscape and architecture are spectacular, beguiling. Trouble is, we're going to have no time to do much but admire it from the car. And, there's a second, bigger trouble: I'm the driver.

11 September 2009

Reseated

This day started off a little out of kilter. Dear Tal got me to Augusta's Bush Field in plenty of time for me to meet my flight -- with time to spare. By 7:40 everyone scheduled to be on the 8:00 flight to Atlanta was aboard. The flight attendant had finished her recitation and had closed the door when we were told of a ground delay in Atlanta. As the minutes passed hopes of making my connection in Atlanta -- to begin with only 37 minutes -- faded. And, the seat on that connection, I had chosen it so carefully.

Passengers erupted off that little plane when the door was opened in Atlanta, hitting the corridor on Concourse C at a dead run. One look at the Arrivals/Departures monitors at the top of the jetway told me all I needed to know. My flight west had already taken off. At a help station just steps away, however, I simply waved the bar code on the boarding pass that I'd printed at home last night under the reader and out of the machine came an apology and a new boarding pass for the next flight -- only an hour to wait -- to my destination. There was time to find the gate and even a cup of coffee. And, (surprise, surprise) to meet the rest of my party, both of whom -- one originating in Columbia and the other Greenville/Spartanburg -- having also missed the flight.

But, that carefully chosen seat ... The travel agent arranging all the plans for the group of which I am a part had reserved three seats for us, together, on the 757 (which features three seats on either side of the aisle). With me in the middle. The mere thought of that for several hours made my head hurt; I didn't think I could stand it. So, when I checked in last night, I moved myself to another row where a window was available.

My seat on the new flight was a window, but, oh my. The aircraft was not a 757 but an MD88. Do check out the cabin plan. Seat 37D is, indeed, a window. Right by the port engine. Ah, the discomfort of a middle seat as opposed to temporary deafness.

So much for planning. I can't help but laugh.

10 September 2009

Too much of a good thing, maybe

We all have our addictive behaviors. Frequently, those of us self-described as morally upright and productive folks see these behaviors as nothing more than good habits and many of them are. But, all of us have our own addictions -- such as a quick and staunch denial of any validity in the suggestion. Ouch!

The thought isn't new; it, like everything else I might happen to say or write, isn't original. I was introduced to it while in seminary. Gerald May's now classic "Addiction and Grace" set it out fearlessly and was one of the primary challenges of my middler year. Much earlier in history Ignatius of Loyola's focus on human attachments in his Spiritual Exercises had much the same theme. And, in real life, a dear friend who read voraciously was challenged by her spiritual director to give up reading for Lent one year, his observation being that her thirst for knowledge, her focus on knowing, was beginning to take a dangerous position in her life. Addictions of alcohol, nicotine, drugs are not the only options out there. We can be addicted to power, to money, to exercise, to food, to people, to worry, to control, to being needed, to admiration, to being right, to putting one's self last, to electronic gadgets, to Facebook, to shoes.

I thought of all this and more early in the day when I took Tal out to breakfast at the beginning of a long list of errands, Monetta to Aiken. We went where? To my new favorite, to yesterday's lunch spot, to Barristers. I think I'm sort of addicted to the place and to how I feel when I'm there.

And you thought I was going to get too serious ...

09 September 2009

Lunch spot

Last week I was introduced to a new lunch spot by a transplanted-to-Edgefield friend. The place -- Barristers, open since July, is darling, the food delicious, the proprietor, also transplanted-to-Edgefield, gracious. I always enjoy time with this particular friend. This visit, however, was different and I think it had to do with the place. When another friend suggested over the weekend that we get together for a conversation and lunch this week, I suggested Barristers and now I know it's the place. Even with a difficult topic to discuss, I liked being in that spot, feeling like lingering.

I've been doing a lot of thinking on long daily walks about myth. While, in truth, I don't know every much on the subject, not having, for example, read everything the late and legendary 20th century mythologist, Joseph Campbell, wrote on the topic, I wonder if myth isn't a driving force in the lives we lead. Each one of us has a personal myth; it says something about who we think we are. Groups, nations, religions all have their myths. Those myths speak at some level to a truth, often more accurate at the would-like-to-be level than they are factual.

One of our national myths, it seems to me as I despair over the news when I can make myself watch, is that we are a peaceful, peace-loving people. We'd like to be, perhaps, but are aren't, perhaps never have been. We're always at war somewhere. Crime -- violent-to-whitecollar (violent in its own way) is a foregone conclusion at every level of society. And, we we are seeing with increasing force and clarity that we are a people unable even to talk to each other, to be civil, our discourse and debate (terms largely misused) hot, loud and mean. I wonder where we are going to end up.

What I liked so much about my lunches at Barristers, I know, is all tied up in my own myth. That little restaurant with its air of calm speaks to me, to the person I would like to be -- but am not, at least not enough of the time.

08 September 2009

Mumbled hellos

The telephone hasn't been my friend today. We've had the usual calls, none of which were the problem. No, the telephone rang this morning at 12:15 (yes, that's 12:15AM in the morning). It was a call for Tal which woke me up pretty completely, unsettled me, in fact -- enough that I got up and read for a couple of hours finally falling asleep in Tal's big blue recliner during the wee hours. Then, at 5:45 the same person rang the telephone again.

The good news is that I managed not to break a leg getting out of the chair to answer that second call; the bad news is I was up for the day. While I expect the telephone to ring during waking hours, I had to suppress a momentary rancorous flicker every time I answered it today. Grrrr ...

It's not the telephone's fault, I realize. While I don't have any idea what was gong through the caller's mind, I'm not going to lose any more sleep over it, I hope.

Tal's treading lightly, but considering offering a telephone etiquette course!

07 September 2009

"beside 'er"

Don't you sit down beside me!!!

We have spiders, specifically two black and yellow arigiopes -- one in the tea olive at the bottom of the stairs off the back porch and the other, whose web features an egg sac, above the garage window. I knew about the one at the back of the house. It's in the same sight line from the porch as the hummingbird feeder.



But, it wasn't until late this afternoon, while Tal and I were walking around the house with the person who is going to powerwash the gutters and soffits and paint the trim, that we spotted the second arigiope AND all the other spider webs. A little embarrassing, to tell the honest truth. But, it is late summer ... Even more embarrassing is my concern that power wash and paint is going to be mighty destructive to these and a variety of other creatures.

Here's one that won't be affected by our home improvements ... in tree next to the drive way. The web's a dramatic tunnel attached to the tree and a nearby flowering weed. So far, I've not see the inhabitant. Thank goodness.

06 September 2009

Adaptability

Today we were to have been away for the better part of the day. Labor Day Sunday on Lake Murray. But, an early morning telephone call let us know that the collective plans needed to be changed. That's OK. We're adaptable. BUT, that time away included the main meal of the day. Rats! And, the ball bounced back into my court ... Truth is, I didn't want to cook anything beyond the peach cobbler (the last of the Ridge peaches for this season) we were taking with us. Oh, well.

Lucky for me there were packets of frozen fish fillets in the freezer -- caught by Tal and his son, Bruce, on one Ridge pond or another (probably Satcher) and cleaned, packaged and delivered to our freezer already frozen by Bruce. Talk about spoiled, don't 'cha think?

Anyway, a pat of butter in the skillet and the fillets dusted with lightly salted flour. One minute on the first side, one and a half on the second. Add to that a salad featuring volunteer tomotoes and left over corn bread ... Tal was utterly astounded and I was pretty pleased.

I wish all change-of-plan around here worked out so well!

05 September 2009

Oh happy day

Today marked the opening of dove season. Blessedly, the only way we participated was to hear the shooting in the distance through the afternoon. We were up early, though ... to go fishing. It has been at least two months since I've wet a hook. And, I haven't been to Happy Days Pond since before I retired. That's at least 18 months. Needless to say, I was ready long before first light.

Our friends made it a wonderful return. All we had to do was arrive with our gear. The boat, tied to the dock and loaded with battery, electric motor, net, paddle, was ready for us. The coffee maker was even set up; I simply pressed the power button and let the welcome aroma waft into the early morning -- two mugs, two spoons, various sweeteners along with a note of welcome on the counter next to the Mr Coffee.

We caught fish, not in huge numbers and not huge in size. But, look at the brilliant color on that bream! We saw hawks, great blue herons and wood ducks. Another bird in flocks of a couple dozen at a time, swift and graceful with straight wings, skimmed the water, wresting our attention from the fishing again and again with their aerobatics. I assumed that they were drinking, but now that I'm home with the Sibley*, I suspect they were swallows of some sort, maybe purple martins, capturing the insects that dotted the water the whole time we were there, which looked a bit like raindrops on the surface of the water.

It was a good morning and we were slow to leave. This is a photograph taken from the porch of the cooking shelter where we rocked awhile and enjoyed a second cup of coffee. The beautiful view across the pond, the welcome we felt even in the absence of our friends, the deep comfortable chairs, the coolness of the morning and the flavorful coffee -- all of it in combination made for total contentment.



* The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. Written and illustrated by David Allen Sibley. Knoph, 2003.

04 September 2009

Advance notice

A two-engine, 32 car freight train went through Ridge Spring this afternoon while I gallery sat. I could hear it coming before it appeared, and, given the gallery's location -- off Highway 23 and slightly behind the Civic Center, I couldn't tell its direction until the first engine appeared directly across from the standing-open front doors, headed toward Columbia.

I never tire of the sound. My pulse quickens at least a mere bit at the first hint of a train's heavy rumble, of the faint far-off warning of the two-toned, almost discordant horn.

It's always been that way, my earliest memory of trains being summer vacations at my mother's parents' home in Milford MI. Hot, still summer nights in the upstairs bedroom, east-facing and overlooking the Atlantic and S Houghton Street intersection. How many trains tore through that little town each night? One, maybe two, I suppose. But, I remember it as the single most significant feature of Milford nights. That and sometime in the night the sticky sweat of that unairconditioned space giving way to a delightful coolness and a crisp sheet drawn up by morning. The gallery is unairconditioned, too. Hence, the standing-open front doors. Another connection, I suppose.

Until this summer and our Alaska excursion, the only trains I'd ever ridden were in metropolitan areas, basically buses on tracks, getting around San Francisco, Portland, going from Lafayette Hill into Philadelphia and from the Alexandria area to New York City and Baltimore. The extent of my "real" train travel had occurred only across Hungary, France, Belgium and in Great Britain where the schedule is convenient for the traveler and accurate to the minute, the experience in general one of remarkable hospitality. (Well, I might not include Hungary in that front, remembering now bayonet-equipped firearms toted by military personnel and confiscated money ...) Here on the east coast when distant friends have wanted to travel by train for a visit we've been required to be at the station in Columbia at 2:30AM to retrieve or to drop off, a schedule that doesn't count as convenient for anyone.

It's all romance, I know it is, this fascination. The tracks hugging the river under a towering cliff along the Hudson or the Columbia, that undulating line just under the horizon, likely some 100 miles away, on the Great Plains, the lonely whistle echoing through the hollows along the Appalachian Trail.

Someone is going somewhere, to interesting unknown places. I want to go, too.

03 September 2009

Outpatient

She's going to be fine, my friend, now minus a gall bladder and glad of it.

The attacks came a week apart, the first one unexpected and ferocious enough to warrant scheduling today's surgery, the second debilitating enough to require three days of hospitalization -- until today, when her husband brought her to University Hospital for outpatient surgery. Now comes the period of recovery, which I hope she and many others can honor.

It's been over a year and a half since I've waited with a family during surgery. Conversation comes and goes. Not small talk; serious conversation. The periods of silence are often long and, if we're able to endure it, can be profoundly companionable. And, the nicest things happen: The staff remarkably attentive and focused. Sunlight slanting through the blinds filling the room where we waited with diffused light. A friend arriving at mid-day with scrumptious, warm pastrami sandwiches that hit a hungry spot. A wan smile from the patient as she woke up, recognizing people who care so much for her standing by her bed.

I've loved being here today.

02 September 2009

Such is love

We got up early today, waking to still delightfully fresh weather. It was a morning full of unspoken anticipation. Tal has been pondering over a new set of golf clubs for months and months, talking to golf pros he trusts, trying out various brands, to me perplexing mixtures of heads and shafts, returning to his old, in reserve set occasionally, all the while biding his time, not wanting to make a precipitous move or to make a costly mistake.

One last conversation. Hitting a final bucket of balls at Mount Vintage late yesterday. A decision made. The set located. Today was the day.

Even though we were out in commuter traffic from the Ridge to Aiken and Augusta and even though we stopped for a Huddle House breakfast along the way and even though we had to contend with I-20 still under construction along our SC/GA route across the Savannah River, we arrived to make the purchase a good half an hour before the store opened. As we sat in the car outside the locked building, I found myself smiling inwardly. That my sweet husband, approaching his 83rd birthday and generally desirous of very little, is able to be this excited about a purchase fills me with delight.

Once the lights came on and the establishment opened, I wandered among the bags, clubs, shirts, shoes while Tal and the salesman did their thing. Again, I was aware of my own pleasure, the set he had wanted having been set aside as promised after he called yesterday and the lone salesman attentive despite several customers vying for his attention, the rest of the staff having been slow to arrive.

What I think I realize here at the end of the day, having had time to ruminate on the experience, is that such is the nature of love. I want the best for Tal and it has done my heart good today to see him full of anticipation. That's part of it. More importantly, though, is seeing him treated well, even honored, in a world that sometimes discounts and overlooks its older citizens. All too often, even if I don't make a move, I feel the urge to step in, to make sure the clerk, the person behind the counter or the desk, is paying attention to this dear, dear man. Today, I didn't have to do a thing but accompany him and to offer congratulations on this long-studied purchase.

It's been a good day. I look back over it contented and grateful.

01 September 2009

Hints

Mid-day yesterday during a break in the desk work (that never seems to end) and in anticipation of my piano teacher coming to the front door shortly after 6:00PM, I ventured out to sweep. That entrance to the house is the least used of the four and tends to gather leaves, mud daubers and spider webs. While I was at it, I also swept the walk from the porch to the driveway – that too narrow stretch of concrete, also neglected, littered with magnolia leaves and the remains of the crepe myrtle’s long season of flowering. In less than ten minutes I had worked up a bit of a sweat.

At the appointed hour, when I went to the door to greet my ever patient teacher, I was astounded. The temperature had dropped drastically. There was a hint of fall in the light breeze. My visitor was animated with joy, hardly able to contain herself. We stood on the steps breathing it in before entering the house and settling at the piano.

Of course, hints of the change of season have been regular of late. I’ve just not quite noticed them to the point of truly seeing them. Vines erupting off the tops of untended signs and fence posts, slender arches of growth groping for nonexistent support. The tall grasses beyond the ditches along the roadsides in full seed, golden when backlit in the early morning and late afternoon sun. Leaves assembling in asphalt and concrete eddies along cart paths on the golf course and neighborhood streets.

Yesterday afternoon was my wakeup call; last evening my end of summer alarm clock went off. I’m not a fan of summer. A better way to say that, I suppose, is that summer is not my favorite season. But, there is definitely part of me that hates to see it go. I shall miss especially being touched by how fast everything grows – from the grass around the house to the young pines along the driveway, their several growth spurts through the spring and summer months truly remarkable.

But, the hints of the end of summer and those feelings of loss are also – and importantly – hints of the beginning of fall, a very wonderful time of year in its own right. Slowing. Looking inward. Simplifying. Now that the end of summer alarm has sounded, I’ll be paying better attention. I hope.

01 August 2009

Benumbed

It's after 11:00 at the end of a long day. It began early and included most of the day at a diocesan meeting in Clinton.

On the drive home -- through lovely countryside and a singularly beautiful August afternoon, the rain late yesterday a contributor to that, I trust -- I promised myself I'd get a first draft of the meeting notes in the computer before calling it a day. They're passable, the notes. Check.

But, now I'm too tired to sleep. Not restless, particularly. Not fighting compulsive, circular thoughts. Simply, incredibly weary. Like a sailing ship becalmed on an airless sea. Eerily still.

Now what?

Patience, girl. Patience.

31 July 2009

Finding the familiar

I spent several hours today at the gallery in Ridge Spring. It has been well over a month since I've taken a turn as "gallery associate," keeping the place open for visitors. Although I would not have not gone to Alaska or not have spent generous time with family (and I'd depart within the hour if given half a chance), I find I've missed the place.

Much has changed. A new sign on the school building-turned-gallery, for example. A pretty but vicious-looking vine tendrilling its way through the front shrubbery and along the handicap ramp. Paint and a new (to us) mirror in the restroom.

But, it's the same, too. Familiar art. Welcoming wicker chair in the porch. Steady traffic on highway 23 and the coming and going of Ridge Spring's personnel to the maintenance building next door, an array of vans, golf carts, pickup trucks.

Mostly, though, what's familiar is the building's restful feel, restful not always having been a primary characteristic of the recent weeks, And then, there's the afternoon thunderstorms, the rooms, even with their huge windows, receding into gloom.


Ahhh ...

20 July 2009

Looking back a bit

Our three weeks post Alaska have been full. I don't want to be so focused on the present and the routine we're striving to establish that I fail to acknowledge the memorable.

Like a wedding on the 4th of July. I was the officiant for the very pretty lakeside service. How lucky I was that the official photographer's flash fired just as I made my available light shot, illuminating the bride's face rather nicely. Tal and I enjoyed an amazing hotel room for that weekend and long visits with family, the groom being Tal's great-nephew.



And, my parents have moved. Here's a photo of them during June visiting the new house while the pre-move renovation was going on.

And, below is that same room a mere two weeks after the move. Pretty spiffy, huh?


Late in the day of the move -- almost three weeks ago now -- Mom presented my sister, brother and me a dilemna. The remains of a large bottle wine out of the old refrigerator wouldn't fit in the door of the new refrigerator. So, we did the most logical thing we could think of. Cheers.

Ah, Sibley

Tal and I were roused from sound sleep at 4:15 this morning by Whitby and Belle, highly disturbed as they were by something outside the bedroom window. And, what sleeping weather it had been, the AC off and the windows open. So often good (cool night offering great sleeping) and bad (wakeful dogs able to see and/or hear what was going on outside in the middle of the night) are the same thing ...

I let the dogs out to scare off whatever had been out there (the barking pretty much took care of things long before I managed to get the back door open, I suspect; after all the windows were open) and then went to the porch to whistle them up. While I was out there, what a sound I heard in the distance. I just stood, rooted to the carpet.

It was an owl, but not the normal call we hear so frequently close to the house. I'm used to that, the barred owl and its sharp, insistent hooting. This was gentler, decidedly different. Sleepy as I was, though, I went back to bed once the dogs were inside.

At breakfast, however, back out on the porch, I remembered and went after the Sibley while my cereal began to sog. Unlike the other bird books on the shelf in the sun room, the Sibley describes the call and I was pretty sure I would have no trouble "re-hearing" that lovely sound as my eyes read the words.

What I heard early this morning was the great horned owl, its muffled hooting still perking me up pretty far into the day.

Thank you, David Allen Sibley. AND, thank you, Mom and Dad, for the 2007 birthday gift!

19 July 2009

Summer morning

It was three weeks ago today that Tal and I enjoyed 15 or so hours in the Anchorage International Airport, an experience that seems so very long ago. After flying across the country, stopping in Minneapolis and Memphis along the way, and arriving home exhausted, we've not quite yet settled into a routine despite our best efforts. But, we're getting by rather well.

In fact ... we are having an unseasonably cool weekend -- not like our typical July at all. Currently, it's 65 degrees and the doors and windows are open. AND, Tal took me fishing yesterday. One of our favorite bodies of water, known as Satcher Pond, had beckoned all week, quietly invading my thoughts at unexpected times. I mentioned this and the possibility of acting on it during the day on Friday and immediately Tal, deeply pleased by the suggestion, I judge, began making plans, cleaning up and loading the boat, assembling and checking tackle and the like. We were so organized we sprang from bed at the 5:00 alarm and were on the water by 5:30, long before sunrise.

We caught lots of fish, keeping two for our breakfast of fish and grits and biscuits. Not particuarly physically nourishing, I realize, but nourishing in other pretty powerful ways.

We fished mostly at the far end of the pond, at the Weaver Road bridge. This photograph was taken in the vicinity of 6:30 and features, rather indistinctly given the light level at the time, Tal's fishing rod and line in addition to dawn's luscious color. Enjoy!

29 June 2009

Last vacation photo

Our overbooked flight (not, we did NOT volunteer to stay behind) left Anchorage right on schedule, the sun still not having quite set. And, fact is, the sky never darkened completely, the horizon in the north glowing red for the first four hours of the flight. Then, the sun rose bathing the inside of the cabin in brilliant, golden light -- until the passengers on that side of the plane lowered the shades. Grrrr. We had just enough time in the Minneapolis airport for a little breakfast -- more Starbucks coffee and muffins, before leaving for Memphis.

By the time we found our way to the gate for our final flight, we'd been up 28 hours. Meeting the result of some pilot's sense of humor eased our fatigue somewhat and seemed worth one final photograph.

28 June 2009

Waiting long

Now, Tal tells me I never have to confess this mistake. But, no account of our Alaskan adventure will be complete without it. I promise.

As we boarded the Super 8 airport shuttle at 9:00 this morning, I looked at our Delta/Northwest itinerary for the umpteenth time -- checking, checking, always checking. My heart stopped, then sank. My blood froze. My head began spinning. That irritating buzz that happens when I'm confused flipped on. The single letter behind behind 11:50 was not an "A," it was a "P." I told Tal above the van's squeaking and rattling that I thought I had some bad news, but that I'd save it until we arrived at the airport.

Indeed, I was oh, so terribly right. Our bad news and angst was magnified by the fact that the Delta/Northwest counter was not even open, their first flight out not being until 7:00PM -- to Detroit. With no one to ask anything and since we couldn't move beyond that point without a boarding pass, what did I do? First, purchased two cups of Starbucks coffee and two luscious muffins. (Did I mention that the Super 8 had run completely out of breakfast food and wasn't expecting a delivery until Monday?) Second, signed on to the Internet. It was then that I learned that there were no morning or even early afternoon flights on any airline going east. Oh, I just hate it when things like this happen.

My darling Tal took the news in stride and settled in with his book. We took turns exploring that part of the terminal, a remarkable, bright building filled with all manner of art, the building itself, come to think about it, an art object. At 2:00 or so a lone Delta/Northwest agent appeared at the counter. Sympathetically, she confirmed that we were stuck, assigned seats, issued our boarding passes and relieved us of our luggage, declaring us free to move about the building.

If we had to be 15 hours early for a flight, this was certainly the right place to be. We were comfortable and entertained in the spacious observation deck, overlooking the runways on one side and the lobby (security) one level below on the other. We read, plane and people watched. I wandered with the camera. The hours passed.

Looking toward the main entrance of the terminal from the observation deck. Security is to the right. Concourse is to the left.

Interesting lights over the entrance to the concourse.

Here is the view from where we sat for much of the afternoon. Alaska Airlines is predominant. The airport also does a remarkable cargo business with carriers from all over the world, especially the far east (China, Korea), the predominant aircraft being DC-10s and Boeing 747s.

Speaking of cargo planes. The one (which I cannot identify) on the runway in this shot is huge, completely dwarfing the Boeing 747 waiting on the taxiway behind and to the left of it.

The mountains are both an actual feature here, the airport positioned between the Cook Inlet and the Chugach Mountains, and the terminal itself mimicking the mountains (with the feature, sightly cut off) in the upper right of the photograph.

We had a leisurely (how else might it have been given our situation?) supper at the only sit-down restaurant in the terminal -- a Chili's, enjoying our final Alaskan brews -- beer for Tal and wine for me. The sun's beginning to set and we'll be boarding our flight soon.

Homeward bound, finally ...

27 June 2009

In Anchorage again

The Super 8 isn't so bad. If one doesn't spend any time in the room, that is. We settled in a bit, beginning our repacking for tomorrow's flight home, and then set out on foot for a float plane harbor we'd been told we shouldn't miss. On the map it looked to be about a mile, but in unfamiliar and somewhat seamy territory, it felt longer and more than slightly threatening. But, we made it without any trouble and found ourselves a table in the Fancy Moose Lounge at the Millennium Alaska Hotel where we had a window seat on the comings and goings at the Lake Hood Float Plane Harbor, the busiest such harbor in the world. (Seeing the sunset photo of the hotel on the web site is worth clicking on the link.) While the food was fair and the service mediocre, the activity was simply fabulous.

We're calling it a night early, everything now categorized in the anticlimax phase of the trip. The flight home's going to be long and we're both starting new books -- mysteries by Alaskan authors others in our group purchased along the way and finished before the trip ended.

Although I'm tired, I am realizing that I am surprisingly refreshed. Perhaps it has been the places we have visited or the people whose company we have enjoyed. I'll need time to know. What I can say now without reservation is that this has been the best trip of my life.

Lingering farewells

When our boat tour in the Kenai Fjords National Park ended, we drove a very short distance to our lodging for the night, the Seward Windsong Inn, overlooking the Resurrection River. It was a bittersweet evening for us all coming so soon on the heels of an exciting day and marking the official end of our Alaskan expedition. How fortunate we were to be with such an interesting and congenial group. I can honestly say I am glad now to know each and every one.

Back in Internet-land here in Seward, the first time since Tuesday, we also received some sobering news from home. My dad has been admitted to the hospital. I wish I were there, but I'm not and cannot be. My sister, Joyce, and brother, Paul, are readying themselves to go help our mother. How grateful I am for and how comforted I am by that.

We ate breakfast this morning while watching the gulls give the bald eagles a very hard time over the river, generally well-deserved, I understand. I took these photos on our walk back to the room to ready our luggage for pickup. Can you tell I was dragging my feet ever so slightly?






The lingering was to no avail, I must add. The luggage was collected and we did set out for Anchorage -- back along the route of yesterday and Wednesday. Our rest stop in this direction was in a most delightful location, the name of which I do not remember. But, the terrain was astounding and the wildflowers abundant. This is Connie walking alone on the rise adjacent to the one on which Tal and I were walking. She seemed so at peace and I was suddenly and deeply aware that the ending to this trip was not going to be abrupt. Nancy was deliberately easing us out of the wilderness and back into our regular lives.

As a result of this stop I have a new favorite flower, pictured here: a chocolate lily. At first I didn't notice them -- brown, down-turned flowers. But, brown, down-turned flowers? They are so regal and striking, a fitting late discovery on our Alaskan adventure.




I suspect Nancy was lingering, as well, stopping at a favorite place of hers: the pottery studio of a good friend, featuring wood-fired kilns and a small gallery operating entirely on the honor system (always unlocked, purchasers leaving the money for the chosen item in the shop). But, our visit in the land of enchantment, the land of the midnight sun, did end. First we dropped Connie and Peter at the airport. Next Nancy left Tal and me at here at the Super 8 near the airport. Now that was a reality check, a far cry from the places we have stayed for the past seven nights. Her last stop was a downtown hotel to deposit Ann and Joan. We progressed through our final hours together steadily, but without any hurry on Nancy's part. I did not sense she was eager to finish up. A tribute to her professionalism, to our cohesiveness as a group and to Alaska itself.