Tuesday, July 24, 2012

birthday memories

I remember being eleven with scrapped knees and two front teeth too big for my face.I remember my 10th Birthday when the relatives came and we celebrated in the back yard with the heat of July tempered by the huge maples around my house.My mother had fallen down the cellar steps,her shoe caught on a metal lip, and she made me promise not to tell the family.I never knew why but it so scared me.

Wanting to be a grown up,I yearned for thirteen and recall short hair and my first love.This time of my life was filled with unknown yearnings and mysterious feelings.If I shut my eyes,I can almost see myself and wonder at the fullness my heart.Singing ,always singing from this full heart.

When I turned seventeen, the neighborhood boys ,who were friends from diapers or for just a few years,planned a surprise party for me at the local park on Long Island, with handmade,funny cards and plastic jewelry as offerings.I still have these things.

Then later, a Harry Belafonte concert at Chastain.We sang Da-O ,the banana boat song, and Harry said,"only women over forty sing."Dead silence.It was my 40th birthday and I was stunned at how little I wanted to be that and acknowledge it.The one thing out of my control.How awful.

Another one, many years later,the gift of a cruise up the Hudson River with my husband by a childhood friend and her husband ,then dinner after at a Kingston Chinese Restaurant.That glorious river which has framed the story of the state of my birth and my own story ,always.Every summer,over the Hudson on the Tappen Zee Bridge to the Catskills.And if that weren't enough,an e-card from a much loved childhood friend who had made my heart sing.

I love Birthdays and this one is no different.My husband and I are going hiking and then Thai dinner and we will share my day as we have for 47 years and my heart is full and singing.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

an appreciation

Last week, we travelled to Butler,Pennsylvania to visit a much loved relative.Then we headed to Penn State, to stay with our youngest son for two days.Until now, I had not seen where he lives as he does post doctoral work for that sad university. 

On the second day of our visit,he took us to Bear Meadows National Natural Landmark ,which is seven miles south of the Penn State campus.These 890 acres of boreal forest are unusual in tree and animal species and so we set off to hike the four miles around the bog.

Our different focuses were interesting.Sean tried mightily to point out bird species that we wouldn't see in Georgia and he hunted for herps;salamanders and snakes.I tra-la-laed around in amazement at the number of mountain laurel and some still blooming in dainty pink and stark white.The butterflies,bumble bees and I enjoyed these blooms,so late in July.My poor husband spent considerable time lamenting the mosquitoes feasting on his hatless head.

We did see the black throated blue warbler dressed in his magnificent tux and headed for a date and a cute pickerel frog who posed for many shots of his lovely self.But the best was yet to come.When we had almost completed the hike,and I was chatting idly with some thistle,my son called me over.There she was; a sunning timber rattler.What a beautifully marked snake with her black eyes and head turned slightly to watch us.I had never seen one in the wild and I couldn't take my eyes off her.Her rattle was there but silent until my son went closer for a picture.Then the rattle,sounding like summer locusts, started up. This is what she was saying:"O.K. you are too close now.I have no intention of harming you but I can and will protect myself, so it's time for you to keep walking.I am courteous enough to give a warning ."Quite a conversation!We and she moved on.

When we took our youngest son home the day after his birth at 9 lbs.13 ou.,he was a blank slate.If I had thought of the gene pool that he came from,the people of Wales,Scotland ,England and Ireland, I could have made some guesses that he would have auburn hair and tend to freckles.The Celts are great story tellers and he is writing a book.These islanders also revere and engage Nature in their lives and Art and so he has.But still when a child is born, what can we hope to know about what they will become ?

My grandparents never studied past the third grade.Their great-grandson has a doctorate in yes, biology, and he did it this monumental thing all on his own.His passion for this subject will lead  him to uncover important knowledge and he will share this with his world.He does that now, in published articles.

Just before we finished our hike,we came to a clearing and my son said that he always stops here to look over the bog and the trees.I wondered what he was thinking as he gazed in silence and I have to think that they were thoughts of deep gratitude.I stood behind, looking at him and feeling the same.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


For several years, my husband and I have been thinking of hiking the Camino de Santiago de Compsotela,the pilgrim path from France to the Cathedral of St.James in Santiago,Spain.The recent movie with Martin Sheen,"The Way" seems to have sealed the deal for both of us.In 2013,we hope to join the millions who have trod this path over the centuries.

A pilgrimage is not a trip or a vacation,rather a journey made to a shrine or holy place.The purpose is not fun but holiness.The idea of pilgrimage has been wandering around in my mind for days.I really don't need to go to Spain for a pilgrimage because I am on one now,aren't I?

As I jogged in the neighborhood today ,this scene unfolded in my soul:

.....angels are in that deep silent ,far out place in the Universe as they scoop up a handful of shimmering Gold Light from among the shining stars.They laugh among themselves as flesh is slowly formed in a perfect way around the gold ball.When the being is formed and about to come into the world, one special angel whispers into the ear:"You are going to a sometimes stunningly beautiful world but this is not your home.You are on a pilgrimage and you must find your way back to the Light of which you are made.How you will know that the earth is not your home,rests in the discontentment that you feel with most of what you encounter.It will never be perfect.You will ,however,know moments of peace and great joy once you have awakened to the knowledge that you are on pilgrimage and everything on earth is transitory."

"As you trail bright stars from the back of your robe, live and foster the greeness around you,and shine a golden light from your eyes and fingertips,others will awaken to the pilgrimage and climb on the road with you.This is part of journey."

On the Camino, when hikers pass each other or pass townspeople, the usual greeting is Buen Camino,or a good camino walk to you.I  thought of this when I encountered a neighbor who was out walking this morning.She is a lovely woman who in the last five years has battled colon cancer and lost her husband of many years.She called out "great job" as I jogged by and I smiled.Isn't that the same as the Camino pilgrims ?Encouragement for the journey,a trailing of stars.