train of thought

4.27.11 ~ New London
4.27.11 ~ New London, Connecticut

There isn’t a train I wouldn’t take.
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
(Travel)

The past few days have been a whirlwind of planning, juggling and preparation – and we finally boarded a train yesterday to come visit Tim’s brother Dan and his family here in Woodbridge, Virginia. By car the trip should take about seven hours, but in recent years it usually winds up taking us eleven hours because of traffic jams, pauses to pay tolls (even with EZ-Pass), rest stops and driver fatigue. Enough already! Tim calculated the cost of gas, wear and tear on the car (last time we came we lost a hubcap!), tolls, food, etc. and decided that the train would only cost slightly more and would save us tons of aggravation!

We hopped on the train in mist and fog at Union Station in New London at 12:46 p.m and arrived at Union Station in Washington at 6:30 p.m. About six hours! This is surely the best way for us to go! Whenever the train ran along I-95 we were going faster than the cars on the road and found this knowledge so thoroughly satisfying.

Had plenty of time to relax and let our thoughts wander or disappear…

Between Old Saybrook (1:08 p.m.) and New Haven (1:35 p.m.) I enjoyed the Connecticut shoreline scenery. Skunk cabbage was everywhere swampy, and in the marshes I saw an egret with two babies! I also saw an osprey pair sitting on their nest on a platform constructed for their nesting convenience.

Around Bridgeport (2:00 p.m.) the marinas and seascapes disappeared and the warehouses and truck lots started appearing, and lots of graffiti, some ugly, some artistic. At Stamford (2:25) my thoughts turned to daughter Larisa and her boyfriend Dima, because his parents live there. They emigrated from Russia to Connecticut when Dima was seven years old. Then the sun started to come out!

New Rochelle, New York (2:45 p.m.), we started seeing jets coming into the various airports in and around New York City. My cousin got married in New Rochelle in 1974 but I don’t remember the details much – the past is gone. Pennsylvania Station, New York City (3:15 pm.) – perhaps Tim & I will be getting off at this station in the near future, Larisa is planning to move to the Big Apple in July to join Dima, who is already living there and working there, doing research at Mount Sinai Medical Center. This was the longest stop as the train took on a new crew for the rest of the trip. I pulled out my Kindle and started reading Falling into Grace by Adyashanti.

I was thoroughly engrossed in the book and didn’t pay much attention to the scenery in New Jersey. We made one stop there in Newark (3:50 p.m.). Two good things – I was not getting motion sickness reading in the train – maybe I grew out of that problem! – and it was a good thing I had my Kindle because if I had Falling into Grace with paper pages I would be underlining almost every sentence! Wished I could talk with Kathy about believing and not believing our thoughts!

As we approached Philadelphia (4:50 p.m.) a hot flash power surge, as Laurie would call it, decided to come over me. Tim was sleeping soundly beside me and it was all I could do to struggle within the confines of my window seat, getting my hoodie off and my indigo blue Japanese fan out of my bag, without elbowing and poking him awake! But I did succeed! Tim has a stepsister and I have a cousin in Philadelphia – I hope we can visit them in July when Jeff has his photography show there, too! Perhaps we’ll take the train…

Wilmington, Delaware (5:15 p.m.) and then Baltimore (6:00 p.m.). My thoughts turned to Dad and Aunt Lil and how they used to take the train to this station to visit their sister, my Aunt Em. We used to drop them off at Union Station in New London in much the same way as Nate dropped us off there earlier. It’s funny when you think about it, how we often repeat patterns from the lives of older relatives. Dad used to drive to Maryland, as we used to drive to Virginia.

And I have a feeling we won’t be driving to Virginia any more. The train was full, even though it wasn’t a holiday weekend. Many middle-aged and elderly ones with suitcases, not just businessmen. If you live on the east coast you probably know what a nightmare traveling on I-95 has become. I heartily recommend the train to anyone!

Washington, D.C. (6:30 p.m.). Dan and his daughter Erica were there to greet us! They work in D.C. and fetched us after work. Fran and her son David had a yummy taco dinner ready for us! We are now safely arrived here with Dan & Fran, even if we were under a tornado watch this morning. But the sun is out now and the weather looks to be improving so we should have a wonderful time catching up with each other!

4.28.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia
our home away from home ~ 4.28.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia

artist date

Recently Jeff posted a great story about what he called an artist date with a friend. At the end of the post he posed the question, “Have you allowed yourself an artist date in a while, if so what, where?” That question started a long trip down memory lane for me, and although I never thought of it in those terms before, I have had a few very memorable artist dates over the years…

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts

In the late 1980s my mother and I found ourselves staying at the YWCA in Boston to be there for my grandfather, who was having by-pass surgery at a hospital there. All the details escape me. But while Grandfather was actually having the surgery, to keep ourselves from going nuts, Mother and I decided to go to the museum and check out a current show. It was something about the object as art, or something like that. Mother had already been diagnosed with and had some treatment for her breast cancer. In her opinion some of the “art” in the show didn’t seem to be worthy of the name, and I had to agree. It was the first and only time I went to an art museum with my mother. The wild taxi ride, zigzagging at high speeds over the crooked little back streets of Boston, back to the hospital, was much more memorable!

I think it must have been in the late 1990s when I visited the Boston Museum of Fine Arts again, this time with Tim. I had chanced across a used coffee table book on Renoir at the Book Barn, which I bought, and then fell in love with paintings, which seemed to me to be expressing celebrations of the simple joys in life. When I learned that Dance at Bougival was at the museum in Boston I had to go see it. When we got there we studied the floor plan to try to figure out where it might be, and set off on our search. As we went from room to room I started to fret, thinking I must have been mistaken about it being there, etc… I almost walked past it, it was on the wall behind us as we entered a room. “Barbara,” Tim said from behind me as he gently tapped me on my shoulder. “Look.” I turned around and there it was! Much larger than I expected, life-sized! And then I had an intense moment of transcendence, don’t know what else to call it. Time seemed to stand still and at the same time the dancing couple was moving. They were as alive as could be. The colors were vivid. I was stunned and got a huge lump in my throat as I tried not to let the tears come.

“Dance at Bougival” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

That’s when I learned how art is similar to music. One can listen to a recording with great pleasure and appreciation, but there is nothing like live music to stir the soul. And one can also look at a picture of a painting with great pleasure and appreciation, but there is nothing like the original painting with the living spirit of the artist still present on the canvas and in the paint used to create it.

It’s time for me to continue cleaning for tonight’s party. It was too cloudy to see the lunar eclipse last night. 🙁 And I wish I was on Cape Cod — they got 11 inches of snow in Dennis yesterday!!!

mead moon

6.25.10 ~ Eastern Point
mead moon ~ 6.25.10 ~ Eastern Point

At 4:00 a.m. this morning a very loud, but very pretty, bird song awakened me. It was soon joined by many others, all adding their distinct tunes. Soon I will have to start boiling the beans that were soaking overnight… We are having a belated Midsummer bonfire/cookout up at Dad’s tonight. Belated so more people could make it, having it on the weekend.

Yesterday Tim took the day off of work so we could go to Dad’s to help my sister and brother-in-law with the preparations. We were about to do some food shopping so I called Auntie to see if she needed anything at the store. (Fiercely independent, she lives near Dad in an elderly housing complex.) She sounded terrible. She said she had fallen at 3:00 a.m. and that she was in a lot of pain. After I got off the phone with her I called her doctor and he was willing to see her in an hour. When we picked her up I asked why she didn’t call us and she said she couldn’t reach the phone at first. Then  asked her why she didn’t press the life alert button on her wrist? She forgot it was there. By the time we got to the doctor I was wondering which morning it was that she actually fell…

Fortunately the doctor examined her thoroughly and said that she had a cut on her elbow that did not need stitches, and that she was badly bruised head to toe on the left side of her body, but nothing was broken or dislocated. He suggested that she start using a cane. The attention and reassurance from the doctor had lifted her spirits considerably. We drove her to the medical pharmacy in the next town and she worried all the way that she would not find one short enough for her. But we did find one. Tim is a cheerful and pleasant problem solver and he made the selection process a treat. (Had no idea there could be so many options and features on a cane! Dad had used one for years, one that his own father had carved from a branch.)

Auntie was a little grumpy about having to use a cane now. But I pointed out to her that she had done very well getting to age 95 before needing any assistance at all with walking! She tried it out on the sidewalk leading to her “cottage.” The walk has a slight decline and she was very pleased that it kept her from pitching forward. Phew! Hopefully this will work out for her.

Back to food shopping, back to Dad’s. Getting very tired… Bernie wanted a walk so I took him while the others continued laboring away. Didn’t take the camera, but rather spent the time observing Bernie to see if I could figure out how he manages so well with his blindness. I think he has a detailed memory of the lay of the land because he never bumps into anything stationary, like a tree or a stone wall. But he often bumps into small twigs sticking up from the leaves, or plants that have popped up along his usual routes. My brother-in-law leaves a dish of water on a bench outside for Bernie’s convenience. Yesterday he had moved the bowl over and placed some potted plants he was transplanting on the bench. Bernie was distressed and disoriented because he couldn’t find his water bowl. My brother-in-law figured out what the problem was and redirected him to the other end of the bench.

We finally headed home, realizing we just weren’t going to get to the fun part, decorating, until today. Going to put the beans in the slow cooker and head out to my dad’s early and cook them up there while we decorate the garden and the trees. Dad’s beloved chestnut tree is blooming, the air is filled with its scent.

We followed a lovely big full moon all the way home! I also spotted three young deer on the other side of the highway, up on the edge of some rock outcrops. They weren’t so young that they had spots, but they weren’t full-grown. Maybe “teenagers.” I hope they weren’t thinking about crossing the interstate.

The moon was so pretty we went down to the beach to see it shining over the water. Took a picture, but because of the moon illusion the camera did not capture the hugeness of it perceived with our naked eyes.

6.25.10 ~ Jeff’s notecards

Came home and found that Jeff’s cards had arrived! They will serve as stunning invitations to next year’s summer solstice gathering… Who knows, maybe Jeff will create something wonderful we can use for our winter solstice gathering…