answers are not the point

“The Sunflower Galaxy from Hubble” by ESA/NASA/Hubble

We’ve all been on this spiritual path looking for answers, and the joke is that answers are not the point at all; the point is to have a blast with the questions. The point is not to hold back from the Mystery just because there is no final understanding. Along the way, incredible understandings come out of the Mystery, but the Mystery, itself, will remain a mystery.
~ Nirmala
(Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self)

weekend in the mountains

12.10.16 ~ cougar, Western North Carolina Nature Center

Last weekend we flew to a different part of North Carolina, where Tim’s brother had rented a vacation house in the southern Appalachians. So we had a little family reunion and an early Christmas there. We spent the better part of Saturday at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville. It was very cold there in spite of the welcome bright sunshine!

12.10.16 ~ Katherine was very much interested in understanding and using the map

We bundled up and enjoyed seeing many animals native to the Southern Appalachians. All of the animals there are rescues and could not survive in the wild. Katherine especially loved watching the river otters gliding in and out of the water, but I couldn’t get a good picture of them. They were moving too fast!

12.10.16 ~ Katherine studying the brochure
12.10.16 ~ sunshine made the bitter cold easier to bear
12.10.16 ~ Western North Carolina Nature Center
12.10.16 ~ watching other children play
12.10.16 ~ sunlit beauty
12.10.16 ~ let’s see, where should we go next?
12.10.16 ~ let’s proceed!
12.10.16 ~ taking in a bit of rock climbing
12.10.16 ~ we didn’t take this trail but I thought the sign was beautiful
12.10.16 ~ deserted picnic area – too cold for a picnic
12.10.16 ~ coyote, Western North Carolina Nature Center
12.10.16 ~ another beautiful sign
12.10.16 ~ screech owl, Western North Carolina Nature Center

This little screech owl is blind in one eye and is being used to educate the public about rescuing wildlife. Katherine was paying close attention.

12.10.16 ~ Katherine in Mama’s arms, watching the screech owl and listening attentively to its handler

We stayed in Asheville for dinner out at the Tupelo Honey Cafe, “a southern restaurant with mountain south roots.” Tim enjoyed the food so much he bought their cookbook! And after dinner we took in the Christmas light and music extravaganza at Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland. There were so many light displays it took us a full hour to drive through the two-mile maze, synchronized holiday music playing on our car radio! It was a pretty dazzling experience.

Sunday we stayed in the cabin, enjoying each other’s company by the fire. Dima, Larisa and Fran whipped up some scrumptious dishes for us. A perfect weekend!

gull portrait

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7.10.16 ~ my gull friend

You do not ask a tame seagull why it needs to disappear from time to time toward the open sea. It goes, that’s all, and it is as simple as a ray of sunshine, as normal as the blue of the sky.
~ Bernard Moitessier
(The Long Way)

Now that our son and daughter-in-law have returned home to Georgia our house is so very quiet… Yesterday for lunch we went to the beach. The weather was cool and damp and there were very few people there. I wasn’t the only one wearing a sweatshirt. At first we didn’t see our friendly gull.

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7.10.16 ~ there was a crow raising quite a ruckus, all by himself, leaving us wondering what all the fuss was about
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7.10.16 ~ a mother Canada goose swam by with two children
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7.10.16 ~ gull monitoring Long Island Sound from the rooftop

Disappointed that we hadn’t seen our friend, we started to walk back to our car and then we saw him, standing on the sidewalk, almost as if he was waiting for us. He was quiet – no vocalizations this day.

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So I got down on the grass and talked to him for a while. He sat down and allowed me to get closer than ever before. This time I had my camera!

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After getting the picture above I pressed my luck and got the portrait at the top of this post. What a thrill! Somehow he knows we can be trusted. But again, he seems old and tired. I wonder if we will ever see him standing on one of the white posts this summer. Maybe those days are over. We’ll see…

Hæreid Iron Age Burial Site

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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

Hæreid Iron Age Burial Site, also in Eidfjord, is the largest collection of ancient burial sites in western Norway, with 350 Iron Age and Viking graves dating from 400 – 1000 AD., located on the Hæreid plateau in Eidfjord. This is where we spent the morning of our last day in Norway, after our enchanting overnight at the top of Vøringfossen falls.

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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

It’s been about six months since I posted the last set of pictures from our trip to Norway. Too much going on! Right now I am in North Carolina visiting Katherine and her parents while our bathroom is being renovated back home. Katie seems to be going by Katherine these days. Poor little thing came home from daycare Friday with a fat lip and Saturday morning she woke up with a runny nose and a fever. But we’re managing to have a little fun between bouts of understandable fussiness.

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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

Friday Larisa and I went into Raleigh to attend a Bernie Sanders rally. Sadly, we were among the 1,000 people who did not get into the 2,300 seat venue, after waiting in line for 2 hours. But it was exciting seeing all the support there is for Sanders here. And Larisa definitely “felt the Bern” (one of Bernie’s campaign slogans) by getting a sunburn.

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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

The energy at the Hæreid burial site felt ancient, peaceful and earthy. The graves were large mounds of rocks with meadow, moss and trees growing all around them. Grazing sheep kept the grass trimmed, and the majestic mountains surrounded the plateau where the burial ground is situated.

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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

It’s entirely possible one of my unknown and very distant ancestors lies buried here. I left with that same feeling of connection and continuity I get when I visit the graves of my known ancestors in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Thanks to Ancestry, I have traced my Norwegian ancestors back a few generations, the earliest known so far is my 6th-great-grandmother, Kristi Hendriksdatter, who was born in 1710 in Hovland in Vestfold. So far I’ve found ancestors who were born or who died in four counties, Telemark, Vest-Agder, Aust-Agder and Vestfold, of southern Norway. All located by the sea.

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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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5.26.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

At Hæreid we can follow traces of human activity all the way back to the Iron Age, i.e. to between 1,000 and 2,500 years ago. The oldest traces are mainly in the form of graves situated on a terrace and divided into two burial grounds: Sjohaug at the northern end and Hæreidsmoen in the south. The whole terrace contains almost 400 preserved graves. Hæreidsmoen, with around 350 graves, is the largest Iron Age burial ground in West Norway. We know from old descriptions of the area that the burial ground extended further north than it does today. The entire terrace was probably covered in graves at some point. Some of the finds are from the Early Iron Age (500 BC – 575 AD), but most can be dated to the Late Iron Age (575-1050 AD). Some of the objects are from the Viking Age (800-1050 AD): weapons, implements and jewellery. Nowhere else in Hardanger can boast so many finds from the Iron Age as this particular site.

Although visiting Norway was the highlight of our trip to Europe for me, we did also go to Venice and several places in Germany. I will try to share those pictures as well, as time allows. 🙂

chickadee, titmouse, junco

Up and away for life! be fleet!-
The frost-king ties my fumbling feet,
Sings in my ears, my hands are stones,
Curdles the blood to the marble bones,
Tugs at the heart-strings, numbs the sense,
And hems in life with narrowing fence.
Well, in this broad bed lie and sleep,-
The punctual stars will vigil keep,-
Embalmed by purifying cold;
The winds shall sing their dead-march old,
The snow is no ignoble shroud,
The moon thy mourner, and the cloud.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Titmouse)

Race Point Beach

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Race Point Beach ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

One evening on our Cape Cod trip we went to Race Point Beach in Provincetown to see the sunset. It felt so good to be outside in the salty air, walking on the sand.

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Tim at Race Point Beach ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
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Race Point Beach ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
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Race Point Beach ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
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after sunset at Race Point Beach ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

I will never forget this trip to Cape Cod with my dearly loved husband of 40+ years. Until 2008 we used to come here all the time – summer vacations and weekend getaways. Sadly, Tim’s grandparents’ house in Provincetown was sold that year and my grandparents’ house in Dennis Port was sold in 2009. Our last trip, to bury my father’s ashes in October 2013, was all too brief.

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Race Point Beach ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

We did, however, go to Provincetown in May 2009 to celebrate our anniversary and stayed at a bed and breakfast called The Black Pearl. It’s no longer there, we discovered, the house now owned by someone else. We took a long walk on Beech Forest Trail. Six long years since that visit. The town and the seashore have changed. So have we. But we still found healing there, and peace. I think it will always be a place where we will free to be ourselves in times of transition. It will always feel like home.

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Race Point Beach ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth,
it can lie down like silk breathing
or toss havoc shoreward; it can give

gifts or withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth
like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can
sweet-talk entirely. As I can too,

and so, no doubt, can you, and you.

~ Mary Oliver
(A Thousand Mornings)

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Race Point Beach ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

Marconi Beach

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Marconi Beach ~ 10.11.15 ~ Wellfleet, Massachusetts

One of our favorite stops on Cape Cod is Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, part of Cape Cod National Seashore. The last time we were here was in May of 2009 and we were a little startled by how much of the sand scarp had eroded away since then. We knew the Cape had been hit hard by severe storms the past few winters but somehow we still weren’t prepared for how much of the bluff was now missing.

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Marconi Beach ~ 10.11.15 ~ Wellfleet, Massachusetts

The Marconi Area obtained its name from the famous Italian inventor, Marconi. From a site here, Marconi successfully completed the first transatlantic wireless communication between the U.S. and England in 1903.

Here, the outer beach is famous for its then steep, forty-foot sand cliff (or scarp) located behind it. Swimmers and beach walkers feel a sense of solitude here because the scarp and ocean provide an unbroken, pristine natural scene in all directions.

The uplands above the beach slope gradually westward, and provide a graceful vista of both the bay and sea horizons of this portion of the Cape. A platform above the Marconi station site enhances this view, and offers vistas southward to Eastham, and northward to Truro.

The Marconi operation at this location was initiated by the young inventor in 1901. However, in December of that year, due to a number of setbacks, he had to use temporary facilities on St. John’s, Newfoundland to prove his theory – wireless could cross the Atlantic! Meanwhile, a new station was built in Nova Scotia while repairs were being made to the Wellfleet station, and the first two-way, transatlantic wireless message was made at Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, on December 17, 1902. Not long after, the Wellfleet Station was ready, and on January 18, 1903, Marconi staged another world’s first (and a bit of a media event) by successfully transmitting messages between the president of the United States and the king of England. With rapid advances in technology, the station became outdated in a matter of a few years, and was replaced by a newer station in Chatham, Massachusetts.

~ Cape Cod National Seashore website

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looking out over the Atlantic Ocean ~ Marconi Beach ~ 10.11.15 ~ Wellfleet, Massachusetts

All of these pictures were taken from the top of the scarp. When I was a very little girl, my father and I were standing somewhere near here when he explained to me that if we sailed east all the way across this ocean from here we would end up in Spain. I remember being very impressed. 🙂 I think of that conversation every time I come here.

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peering over the scarp, but not standing too close ~ Marconi Beach ~ 10.11.15 ~ Wellfleet, Massachusetts
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looking down (40′ or 12m) at the beach, at a spot where we were allowed to stand a bit closer ~ Marconi Beach ~ 10.11.15 ~ Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Notice some metal debris, part of the viewing platform now missing, in the picture above. And below, notice the asphalt walkway, abruptly ending at the new edge of the scarp.

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abandoned path ~ Marconi Beach ~ 10.11.15 ~ Wellfleet, Massachusetts
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part of a missing structure ~ Marconi Beach ~ 10.11.15 ~ Wellfleet, Massachusetts
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looking north towards Truro ~ Marconi Beach ~ 10.11.15 ~ Wellfleet, Massachusetts
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new railings along the scarp over the ever changing Marconi Beach ~ 10.11.15 ~ Wellfleet, Massachusetts

It seems no matter how solidly we humans think we may build, no matter how strong the foundation, nature will eventually reclaim what we leave behind. Everything is flowing. Nothing is permanent. Somehow we know this and yet, when the ocean delivers this message so dramatically and suddenly in our own observing lifetimes, it comes as a sharp reminder, not always easy to receive.

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perhaps this sign might need an update? ~ Marconi Beach ~ 10.11.15 ~ Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Province Lands

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Province Lands ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

This is another of those strangely potent places. Everyone I know who has spent any time on the dune agrees that there’s, well, something there, though outwardly it is neither more nor less than an enormous arc of sand cutting across the sky.
~ Michael Cunningham
(Land’s End: A Walk in Provincetown)

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Province Lands ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

Almost every time we go to Provincetown we go on one of Art’s Dune Tours to see the Province Lands sand dunes of Cape Cod National Seashore. In the past part of the tour took us down on the beach but we couldn’t do that this time due to severe beach erosion caused by storms the past couple of winters. So we had to be satisfied with exploring the dunes themselves. Unfortunately we weren’t able to book a sunset tour – those have been our favorites over the years.

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Province Lands ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
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Province Lands ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
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Province Lands ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

If I die tomorrow, Provincetown is where I’d want my ashes scattered. Who knows why we fall in love, with places or people, with objects or ideas? Thirty centuries of literature haven’t begun to solve the mystery; nor have they in any way slaked our interest in it. Provincetown is a mysterious place, and those of us who love it tend to do so with a peculiar, inscrutable intensity.
~ Michael Cunningham
(Land’s End: A Walk in Provincetown)

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Pilgrim Monument, in the distance, is 252 feet high ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
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a little tourist from Switzerland ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
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words left on a shingle in the dune ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

Our guide kept showing us where the sands have been shifting in recent years, impressing on us the endless flow of nature. How strange that while present there, time seems to stand still, if only for a moment.

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afternoon sun over the dune ~ 10.10.15 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts