on the move

Sponge Brittle Stars off Curaçao by Laszlo Ilyes
Sponge Brittle Stars off Curaçao by Laszlo Ilyes

It’s hard to keep up with our kids these days, who have always lived within 50 miles of us since they flew off from our nest over a decade ago! Big changes are afoot!

Larisa passed a licensure exam, granting her permission to practice social work in New York City, where she is planning to move to in July, fulfilling a childhood dream. Her boyfriend Dima already has an apartment lined up for them in the city. At the moment, however, the world adventurers are in Curaçao scuba diving. I wonder if Larisa & Dima will see creatures like the one pictured above as they dive into the sea.

Cumberland Island National Seashore
Cumberland Island National Seashore

Nate & Shea have worked from home for a while, which means their home could be anywhere. And the adventure bug has now bitten them, too – they’re planning to move to St. Marys, Georgia this summer. This news really came out of the blue and I’m still trying to absorb it! Before they go, however, they will be taking a Disney cruise in June and I get to feed their fish and their cat, Sassy, while they are sailing around the Caribbean.

So happy for all of them, even if we will miss having them so close. St. Marys is next to Cumberland Island National Seashore so once they get settled I’ll be chafing at the bit to visit them in their new home by the sea.

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

that’s okay

postcard by Frances Brundage

Well, I have to say that it wasn’t the Thanksgiving trip and visit I was envisioning, but I did find the love in it. As luck would have it, half an hour into the ride I got a sore throat. And it would not turn out to be a little episode of scratchiness announcing a common cold, but rather developed into the worst sore throat I’ve had since I had mononucleosis thirty years ago. (Is it possible to get that twice?) And no one else got sick!

There are bad times
But that’s OK
Just look for love in it
Don’t burn the day away
~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Pig) ♫

A few relatives recommended “Throat Coat” as a remedy, so Tim went out to find some for me. It did help my throat a little for an hour or so at a time. But it took me a few days to figure out that it was also triggering the migraines that kept starting for no other apparent reason. When I stopped the “Throat Coat” they disappeared. So I went back to my green tea and honey.

Thankfully everyone else seemed to be having a good time and I enjoyed watching the goings-on while curled up in a corner of the living room. When I retreated to the bedroom I received frequent visitors, including nine-year-old Khari who was especially sympathetic and attentive. He’s such a thoughtful little guy! And of course Fran was spoiling me by cooking special dishes to accommodate my wheat-free, milk-free, hormone-free diet. The rice stuffing with dates, chestnuts and figs was extra delicious, even if it did hurt to swallow it!

This is now the eighth day of this monster cold virus… throat is improving, but I still have three huge canker sores on my tongue and my voice is still very hoarse. Tucked in at home now with tea, honey, laptop and Tim.

first snow

“Early Snow” by Konstantin Kryzhitsky

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?
~ J. B. Priestley

It looks as if I have a busy day ahead of me, but my spirits have been lifted by an early snowfall, and, even if the snow will melt away as the day goes on, the feeling of delight it gave me continues… I heard two rumbles of thunder during the night, so I was not expecting to see snow when I got up out of bed! It felt so good to bundle up and go out to warm up the car for Tim, and brush the thick wet stuff off of it. I know I’m weird, but I love going outside in the winter, and this is the time of year when one can see bright yellow leaves from autumn resting on the still-green grass from summer, covered with a dollop of winter white snow.

One year back in the 1980s sometime it happened to snow one day in October, during the peak of fall color on a weekend. We were on a hike deep into the woods of Pachaug State Forest with two other families. It was so very enchanting! Everything seemed bathed in a magical light… (I call it snowlight.) We cooked a meal we brought over a campfire and took in the sounds of nature, the stillness of the snow, the fading light. Even the eight little ones were quietly mesmerized and not complaining about a thing. We reluctantly turned back so we could be out of the woods by dusk.

Things are not going well for Auntie. She’s had a trip to the emergency room in an ambulance and numerous visits to doctors and clinics in the past couple of weeks. Somehow during all this she broke some of her ribs, a painful addition to all her other problems. We’re all feeling the strain.

In my moments of solitude I’ve been exploring the vast treasures to be found at Wikimedia Commons, discovering artists I never knew existed from Ukraine and Norway and other interesting places. I went through a phase years ago where I dragged Tim, Larisa or Fran with me to museums from Boston to New York to Washington, to see all the Renoir paintings I could locate. In the process Larisa fell in love with Rodin. And now that I’ve “discovered” William-Adolphe Bouguereau, I hope to be dragging one or all of them with me to find one of his paintings in the near future!

Early Snow, the painting above, is by Konstantin Kryzhitsky, an Ukrainian painter, who lived from 1858 to 1911.

M. C. Escher: Impossible Reality

M. C. Escher
Drawing Hands, 1948
Image via Wikipedia

Saturday Larisa, Dima, Tim & I were very excited to visit this special exhibition at the New Britain Museum of American Art. There were 130 works of the Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher on display, most, if not all of them, from the collection owned by the Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece. There is a photo gallery at the bottom of this web page that shows many of the works we got to examine yesterday.

The Herakleidon Museum’s collection consists of more than of 250 of Escher’s “most important and rare works as well as woodcuts, mezzotints, lithographs, photographs of the artist, sculptures and many of his personal items.” At the New Britain Museum of American Art we got to see “the extremely rare lithograph stone for the making of Flat Worms.”

According to the museum’s website: “Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) has earned worldwide acclaim as a master printmaker, draftsman, book illustrator, and muralist. Though never having studied extensively in mathematics, the mind-bending techniques and impossible realities depicted in M. C. Escher’s works prove him a brilliant mathematician. Much of Escher’s work is intuitive; without focusing on labels, Escher created what came to him instinctively.

I picked up this book in the gift shop which includes Escher’s comments on some of his works. Wish I could include some illustrations in this post, but every picture of his work is copyrighted! But here is a link to the Oldest Escher Collection on the Web.

My two favorites were “Hand with reflecting globe” and “G.A. Escher,” a drawing of his father at age 92, reading a paper with a magnifying glass. We also learned that Escher had a half-brother, Berend George Escher, a Dutch geologist, who influenced M. C.’s work with his knowledge of crystals. Tim had four favorites: “Metamorphose,” “Mosaic I,” “Moebius band II,” and, shown at the beginning of this post, “Drawing hands.”

The exhibit will be in New Britain, Connecticut, until November 14, and then will be traveling to the Akron Art Museum in Akron, Ohio. Not sure if that’s it, but it is definitely worth making an effort to see. I loved one of Escher’s quotes they had on display:

He who wonders discovers that this is in itself a wonder.
~ M. C. Escher

The Oldest Escher Collection on the Web

Larisa in Norway

August 2010 – Larisa, Johanna, Erin

In August our daughter Larisa had the opportunity to travel to Norway with her cousin, Erin, to visit Erin’s friend, Johanna. Larisa gave me permission to post some of her pictures!! One of my passionate dreams, when circumstances allow, is to visit Norway, the land of some of our sea-faring ancestors. Although Johanna didn’t live by the sea, the mountains offered more than enough beauty and scenic vistas to satisfy my curiosity for now… Larisa brought me a treasure: one of the flowers she picked in the field (below).

Larisa – Norway.2010 – “The hills are alive…”
Larisa, Erin, Johanna – Norway 2010 … Amazing how blue the water is!
Norway 2010 …nature…

According to Wikipedia: “A stave church is a medieval wooden church with a post and beam construction related to timber framing. The wall frames are filled with vertical planks. The load-bearing posts (stafr in Old Norse, stav in Norwegian) have lent their name to the building technique.” There is a replica of one at the Norway Pavilion at EPCOT in Disney World, which I have visited four times.

One of Norway’s stave churches – 2010
…Erin in the graveyard of a stave church…

Raised by a genealogist, Larisa knows that pictures of cemeteries are essential souvenirs to bring back from any country visited.

Show me your cemeteries, and I will tell you what kind of people you have.
~ Benjamin Franklin

Norway 2010 …feels like home…

The first time Larisa showed me the picture above, I got butterflies in my stomach because it seemed so very familiar. I saw that same reaction portrayed once in the movie The Motorcycle Diaries. When Ernesto “Ché” Guevara took in the spirit of the ruins of Machu Picchu, he wondered, “How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?” I knew exactly what he meant. It is the same feeling I also had when I walked into the stave church replica at EPCOT.

And of course it also made me think of Sigrid Undset and her books Kristin Lavransdatter and The Master of Hestviken. And the Kristin Lavransdatter movie directed by Liv Ullmann.

Thank you, Larisa! You have given your mother a most wonderful gift!

except for the wind

"The West Wind" by Winslow Homer
“The West Wind” by Winslow Homer

There’s a Mary Chapin Carpenter song, Zephyr, that keeps tugging at my heart the past couple of months. The lyrics may be about romantic connections but they stir up feelings about family ties for me. (Some of the lyrics included in italics.)

Why do crickets chirping in August sound so sad to me?

I don’t know nothing, nothing today…

“Good” stress vs. “bad” stress. How do we know which is which? When Tim was going through his cardio-rehab program I attended the group discussion about stress with him. The nurse moderating the discussion stressed that if something seemed stressful to you then it is stressful, no matter how anyone else might feel in the same situation.

“Good” stress: Tim came home from his trip to England with an assortment of cheeses and wanted to have a cheese tasting party. An incentive to clean the house!!! The party was wonderful!!! Our home is so clean!!!

“Bad” stress: unrelenting for the past few years… I used to be known as a meticulously clean homemaker, who often rearranged furniture and redecorated, but I no longer have the energy or the inclination to stay on top of things. A homebody by nature… Well, that’s not entirely true…

I’m a zephyr on the inside
And it’s a hard ride when you feel yourself tied down
Hide-and-earth bound
But there’s no tether, on a zephyr

Because my father’s and my aunt’s situations are so distressing to me, when I find myself with “free” time I usually read or blog or redecorate my blogs, which is so very soothing and relaxing. Forget the housework. But it has been nice writing this today in a house a good deal cleaner than it’s been in a very long time.

I tried to be constant just like a star
I tried to be steady and yar
But the storms keep breaking over my head
I’m aching for blue skies instead

What is “yar,” Mary Chapin? Sounds like a sailing word… She must mean yare, which is pronounced “yar.” I love looking things up! An adjective “describing a boat that handles with little effort. A good sailing design, quick and capable.” I have the feeling I should have known this. It sounds like a word my grandparents might have used. “Steady as she goes,” I do recall. Steady and yare, steady and yare…

Wish I could handle things with just a little less effort, because

I’m a zephyr on the inside
And it’s a hard ride when you feel your heart tied down…

…All of the wings I’ve ridden back home to you
All the things I’ve given I’ve wanted to
All that you see has always belonged to you
Except for the wind…

Yes, my dear family, little ones, elderly ones, and dead ones, I’ve freely chosen to give them all I’ve had in me to give. Even if it’s hard, love keeps me from flying away… As Louisa May Alcott once wrote, “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” Steady and yare…

Love is all there is and time is just sand
And I might just slip through your hands

I took Auntie to the surgeon for a consultation again. More skin cancer to be removed, this time from her leg. It makes me remember when my children were young and Auntie was newly retired so she came to our lovely little beach with us all summer long. Time is just sand on the beach, and time often stood still on those endless days.

Those were good times, watching the kids’ swimming lessons, reading novels, chatting, soaking up the sun, damaging our skin.

The time a seagull pooped on our umbrella and us laughing at the antics of the kids dragging the umbrella to the outdoor shower in a futile attempt to clean it off with water… The times the gulls stole our fries or those scrumptious $1.50 each kraut-dogs… Melting ice cream dripping down sticky, salty bellies and legs… “Watch me swim out to the raft, Mom!” Marveling about the fact that we could hear their conversations out on the raft but they could not hear us calling them from the beach. Sound travels only one way over the water. I can still hear their voices sometimes…

The outdoorsy kid always in the water. The creative kid, drawing on or sculpting in the sand. The future social worker coming for frequent cuddles and eating all the slices of cantaloupe when no one was paying attention. The time Grandma & Grandpa came for a picnic and we all took a walk and saw three baby swans riding on a mother swan’s back as she swam around the salt pond… The year the kids were interviewed by a newspaper reporter about the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish population explosion…

Larisa K. Rodgers, a sixth grader, became a victim Monday. “All I know is, it hurts,” she said. Larisa was swimming at Eastern Point Beach when she was stung on both thighs, dashed out of the water and ran to the first aid room. “It rashes up really big,” she said, though she needn’t have explained. …. “I’ve noticed more,” said Larisa’s brother, Jonathan, who has his own method of measuring the jellyfish problem. He says he gets stung about once a summer, but this summer he’s been stung three times.

[Source: “Beware of the blob! Jellyfish numbers increase,” by Steve Grant, The Hartford Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, 13 August 1992, page 1]

As I’ve been for many years, I’m still grounded, but…

I’m a zephyr on the inside
And it’s a hard ride when you feel your life tied down
Hide-and-earth bound but there’s no tether…

~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
(Zephyr) ♫

blessings

Bernie by the succulent garden ~ 7.29.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie by the succulent garden
7.29.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

As difficult a day as Wednesday was, Thursday I started feeling less flustered and more grounded. And a bit sheepish.

Before I went up to Dad’s I stayed home a while to watch The View to see the interview with President Obama. I came away from it with a restored feeling of hope… I won’t go into politics, but listening to him talk without the pundit filter reassured me that he is still the same man who I came to trust, respect and admire while reading his two books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope. I like that he is so even keeled and doesn’t lose sight of the big picture. It set the tone for a much better day!

We had a good visit from Dad’s “baby” sister. Aunt Em is 81. She’s a vivacious widow who lives in Maryland near her children and grandchildren, and still drives by herself on long trips like the eight-hour one from Maryland to Connecticut. Her presence is a tonic to Dad and Auntie. Together, they are the three surviving siblings of a family of eight children.

It was hot and humid, perfect weather for Papa who, like many elderly ones, always seems to be cold. There is a space heater in every room he occupies, and they are used often, even in the summer. So he wasn’t a bit hot in his flannel shirt! We wheeled him out to the landing on the wheelchair ramp and got a chair for Aunt Em, and left them to have some time alone together.

I went for a non-walk with Bernie. It was too humid for him to move around, I suspect, but he decided to soak up some sun on a stone wall. Cats are solar-powered, you know. But he could do without the humidity, being a cat hailing from arid New Mexico! It fascinates me that to the naked eye, Bernie’s blind eyes look a dull solid yellowish-gray. But the camera reveals all sorts of colors, each shot making his eyes look like multicolored marbles.

Since Bernie didn’t seem to be going anywhere, I snuck around the side of the house and surprised Aunt Em and Dad. “Paparazzi!” I announced, while climbing up the outside railing of the ramp, aiming the camera between the bushes. At first Dad didn’t understand the joke but Aunt Em found it hysterical. She stopped laughing long enough to explain the humor to him and then he started laughing, too. Got two snapshots – it’s been such a long time since Dad has laughed out loud!

paparazzi shot, Dad and Aunt Em ~ 7.29.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
paparazzi shot, Dad and Aunt Em

Aunt Em treated us all to a take-out dinner in the evening after Auntie and Larisa arrived. Spending a few moments catching up and making plans with my daughter was wonderful…

When I made it home, tired after the hour-long drive, I found a tube of natural progesterone cream on the kitchen counter. After work my darling husband had made the trip through heavy summer tourist traffic to the nearest health food store. (The progesterone already seems to be helping!) I am grateful and blessed.

midsummer memories

6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
the setting ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

We had a midsummer party Saturday night, but the pictures I took did not come out well. So I’m going to “cheat” and use pictures from last year’s celebration, which will seem new to my readers because I didn’t have this blog back then…

This is the fourth year my sister and I have done this, and it keeps getting better. All year long we toss around ideas. We got started doing this, I think, because we are both nature lovers. And because we have a little Norwegian heritage and my sister once lived in Sweden for a year. Our adult kids have come to love it and look forward to it just as much as Christmas/Yule. This year we had 17 friends and family attending, a very nice size gathering.

In the first picture, my brother-in-law and Bernie pause for a moment before the decorating begins. The picture is taken from the front yard, looking down one story over tiered stone walls leading down to the side yard. My parents built this house themselves about 1960. My father built the stone walls after we moved in. My brother-in-law installed the patio much more recently for our midsummer parties. Last year my sister found some nice wooden folding chairs to replace the green plastic ones pictured here. Little improvements here and there…

6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
woodland garden

My brother-in-law does the gardening now. He doesn’t use chemicals or pesticides – it’s so naturally beautiful.

Last year we managed to get Dad outside for a little while. The year before that we actually got him to whittle some sticks down for the kids to use to roast marshmallows. But this year he was too fragile to jostle around across the lumpy terrain  in his wheelchair. I’m not even sure how aware he was that there was a party going on. I was hoping he would catch a whiff of his blooming chestnut tree (it didn’t bloom last year…) but he didn’t say anything about it. When I asked him about it he seemed so confused that I didn’t press him any more.

My sister, my daughter and I have been using pretty beads to decorate glass balls that hold floating candles. The effect is so enchanting after dark. Some of them shattered the first year we tried it, so now we’re using fishing line instead of wire to string the beads. The wires wouldn’t allow the glass to expand from the heat of the lighted candles. It’s hard to get good pictures of them, though!

6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
gnomeland security

The summer breeze was blowing on your face
Within your violet you treasure your summery words
And as the shiver from my neck down to my spine
Ignited me in daylight and nature in the garden

~ Van Morrison
♫ (In the Garden) ♫

Another highlight of the evening is the arrival of a bottle of frozen vodka! Preferably from Norway, but this year we settled on one from Iceland. We give it to my brother-in-law ahead of time and he freezes layers of flowers and water around the bottle. It’s so pretty to look at and then we drink shots using my sister’s cobalt blue glasses, which only come out of the corner cabinet twice a year!

And finally there is the fire. We roast marshmallows and make some-mores. Play with sparklers and glow sticks with the little ones. Blow weird bubbles with magic bubble wands. Swat at the mosquitoes that make it through the citronella and the smoke. We always say we’re going to stay up all night – it’s supposed to be one of the shortest of the year – and greet the morning sun, but we have never made it much past midnight. Following are some more pictures…

6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Dad’s beloved chestnut tree, all dressed up
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
granddaughter and grandfather sharing a rare moment outside
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
frozen vodka extraordinaire
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
candlelight floating in decorated glass balls
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
firelight