2013: the year in review, the year I did more living than blogging

I used to wish for peace but as this year unfolded I’ve realized peace is an elusive and hard to pin down thing and when you do find it, you usually loose it and begin the cycle almost immediately. So frustrating. So annoyingly brief. So little, after so much. Makes me think of that Greek myth about that poor man and the giant rock that he had to roll up the hill over and over again for all eternity (that mean Zeus).

Instead of peace, I’m calling 2013 the year, I learned that really grace is the thing I’ve always longed for in life. The grace to navigate all these ups / these downs / these sideways moments – to be able to take in the sights, the news, the living part of life and place it all down in a pattern that makes sense and not let my proverbial emotional boat get swamped.

My laundry list of places is nothing to be ashamed of: Florida – the middle and either end three times, Cape Cod too many times and yet never enough, Ireland, Iceland, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Brooklyn a dozen times and a lot of time here in the Berkshires/Southern Vermont. I saw Victoria Falls, the northern lights, an August meteor shower, my first and probably only African fin foot duck. Babies have been born, children have gotten bigger, houses have had to be sold, jobs have been changed – lost/found, hearts have been broken, love has been found in surprising places, relationships cemented with marriage/moving in together, good health news for some, terrible crappy rough health news for others, new friends made, my mother’s sight has worsened, lost a dear friend unexpectedly, people have moved, others have moved back, a family memorial service for one of our oldest brought cousins together and through it all, a great lesson was learned.

Sure, my mother is loosing her sight but she’s got one of the best minds going for an eighty three year old, sassy & funny as ever.

My nephew continues to flourish.

My friends who have been challenged with health news are fighting for their lives with every cell of their beings and they are showing me what bravery looks like every day.

I am over run with family and friends who I treasure.

My job has gone from a chore to something that is a pleasure to do everyday due to a fabulous new co-worker.

My friend, who left us far too soon, has taught me to tell people good things more often, to share all those complements we store up and make sure the rockstars of our lives, well, they know, they really know, how special and dear they are to us all.

For once in 2014, I don’t have many plans of where I am going and what I am seeing except that I want to see and do things with my beloved people and I’ll take it from there. I want goodness. I want to see all those babies born/grow/graduate. I really really want to hear good health news for all of you heroes.

Most of all, I want to keep working on this grace thing and really nail it down.

PS. Good news… just in case, I haven’t forgotten you can say it in pictures – here’s a little slide show of my best places/faces.

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Berkshires 2013: Tanglewood in the rain

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It is what we’ve done every summer to honor my father, rain or shine. He loved classical music and yet was cursed with what he thought were two girls who loved men in tight pants and arena rock. He was wrong. All ninety nine versions of the melancholic but gorgeous Mahler symphonies he owned and the countless hours on family road trips with only NPR on the radio, his music has become the main soundtrack of our lives. It is what I turn to when I am feeling what I now like to refer to as complicated.

How lucky I am that my cow town is a short drive from the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Lenox, MA and Tanglewood. Times have changed and bands like Wilco  come play here too but the focus remains classical with a few nights every summer devoted to film music. I am sure my father would allow a little John Williams and the triumphant theme to Superman.

The lawn is your best bet, unless you need to see Joshua Bell‘s forehead sweating (playing my nerd card there – people, he’s like a rock star to a certain slice of the world). The people watching is bar none one of the great experiences, almost as good as an airport.

Today it is West Side Story – I know, dicey because while brilliant it is not really fitting the Dad’s bill. No worries, last weekend we brought the cub to hear good old Gus (aka Mahler). Keeping the tradition alive in the next generation of lion cows.

Dad, hope you’re smiling and cursing us at the same time for being such dark horses. Your girls came through for you. There is a way to love men in tight pants with screaming guitars and alternatively be entranced by the violin.

Cape Cod 2013: a reboot and at last some sunshine

All the lion time in my life has to have a price. This spring’s return from Africa = a cold, job changes and adjustment – nothing horrible or life altering, just unsettling and time consuming.

In the meantime, on the eastern seaboard, the sun is finally out and summer, in all her glory, rolled in yesterday under the almost full super moon of 2013 (it was really quite HUGE last night).

Summer means one thing to my family – it’s time to head to the water, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, specifically. My family has a shared place, a magical house, we’ve managed to hold on to since 1927. My mother, her siblings, my cousins, their children, my sister, my nephew and countless visitors over the years have been able to time travel to a place where time actually has stopped. For me it is a place, the past, the present and the future all cross – I am five, I am 24, I am my age, I’ll be 55, 85… you name it. My father, my grandmother, my uncles and aunt, well, not to go too ghost hunter on you all, they’re all here too or at least a trace of their energy anyway. An old friend said once that when you walk, it’s like the house gives you a hug.

And so, when the world seems a bit upside down and I need to exhale, sleep late, hear the chirp of an Osprey training her young to fish, the roar of a motorboat, the rustle of a sailboat, I head here and really, it doesn’t take much time for it all to seem okay again.

Bridges 2013: Old and New

On a lazy Sunday morning recently, I saw a story on Bartonsville, a small Vermont town that lost a covered bridge in Hurricane Irene a few summers ago . The locals refused to accept this loss and one very determined woman, as she watched the bridge wash out in the flood waters, made sure it was rebuilt.

Ever since, I have been thinking about bridges a lot – a lot, a lot – maybe too much – who knows why – hibernation has grown claustrophobic. Ice pellets are still falling from our skies. Just every so often,  a a blue skied day with a hint of spring in the air keeps me going a few more weeks. I love these hills of mine but I sure do start missing the leaves right about now and my mind looks for an escape, and if not in body, my mind sets off traveling over bridges, old and new.

And it spins on… burnt bridges, crossing bridges, all the bridges I have ever been on, wanted to see, will see someday – all of this shuffles through my mind like a deck of cards.

Burnt bridges always first. I have burnt my fair share of bridges but what if it isn’t a burnt bridge? What if the bridge was environmentally unsound and never should have been built? I know, that’s just annoying. Not a bridge that has burned – one that isn’t essential to be put back? I am talking about the non-essential temporary bridges? Shaky relationships, built on bad pilings. I know that’s a bit much but it helps me when I like this – I’d rather picture the bridge being carefully dismantled and the river/stream/ocean returning to its normal natural state than a blackened pile of embers? It seems kinder, healthier somehow.

Despite my proverbial bridge burning, my travels are littered with great bridge memories.

Watching for the Sagamore Bridge to Cape Cod, after hours of being squashed in the car with my family, a summer’s prize to be the one to shout “I see the bridge, I see the bridge” first.

Living in London (man, was a long time ago) and walking across Battersea Bridge on Bonfire night with a box of wine & a mind for mischief.

Crossing the most unsubstantial, shaky, bamboo bridge somewhere in the wilds of Thailand and having one of those moments when I wondered what the %$#* is in the river below me and wishing I passed on that last serving of mangoes and sticky rice, almost being knocked over by a thousand year old woman with three tons of things balanced on her tiny body.

Guarding my valuables on Charles Bridge, warned that I would be outsmarted by the wily pickpocketers of the fairytale city of Prague (my pocket and I made it, despite the hype)

Pausing on bridge in the Serengeti to watch what I thought would be a bunch of hippos but instead was one glorious bird for what seemed like a life time – the silence of Africa getting into my soul.

Driving over the newly unveiled Zakin Bridge in Boston on the way to a job and in the middle of a time in my life that was perhaps the making of me but for a while was the breaking of me.

The loved up and beautiful bridges of Paris for too many reasons to list because my love for Paris is at the center of my sentimental heart and where my traveling all started.

And rebuilding bridges…. back to our intrepid Vermonters.

Last weekend, I drove through my wintery hills to see an old friend that life’s silliness almost washed away from my life. The kind of friend you make when you are young and foolish, who many years later proves that time traveling is possible, who will make you remember the best and the worst of your life, and make you belly laugh and cry at the same time. Someone I missed terribly when our bridge was out – sometimes, rebuilding is the only way.

Maybe I love bridges because I am a bit like those Bartonsville folks. I washed that bridge out myself but damn if I didn’t spend the last few years wishing I could rebuild it and what I lucky woman I am that it could be. Bridges, so many bridges, to be burnt (maybe not too many more, I am not getting any younger), crossed, seen and rebuilt.

Caribbean 2013: Resorting to a resort vacation

Taking a break from far flung places this month – I’ll save that for Africa in May. Far flung is pretty hard on the family when you have a two year old and an eighty two year old in tow. Sometimes, you just have to be an all inclusive style of joiner and so, for the greater good, this week, I agreed to captain the ship south and drop anchor at a family beach resort for a week.

In the weeks leading up to vacation, I do smile at the thought of how we’re going to do with this kind of break? My family and I are not what you’d call all inclusive beach resort people – no one plays tennis (anymore, that 82 year old wielded a fierce racket at one time) or golf (nope, never for sure on that one).

Case in point, I remember being in a perfect, beautiful idyllic resort together on Koh Samui, Thailand. Once a backpackers heaven, our resort could only qualify if the backpacker you’re thinking of has a Gucci backpack and likes to experience being misted with Evian by the pool. That eighty two year was turning seventy back then and she demanded to be taken to an island and so an island we found. Being someone who dabbles in a bit of work on the travel side (okay, a lot but please don’t ask me for airfare quotes), there still are some dribbles of the old school perks, mostly found overseas that can take what costs thousands to hundreds. My father had just passed away and well, we were sad and felt we needed a real celebration and decided to try high end living. And so, after a few sweltering, albeit lovely, days in Bangkok, we pulled up at the resort, my poor sister battling the flu and the skies pounding down a tropical rain on our heads.

We were a little off season… the massive bungalow resort was empty and the service level which was already amazing was off the charts. I’d put a glass down and it’d disappear in seconds. We’d order and we’d get extra or 100% customized meals.

But it was still raining and raining and raining more.

After three days of rain and being trapped in the nicest prison one could ever dream of, we broke out. Probably inspired by my sister’s return to health and the fact we’re frankly silly people who cannot be contained in paradise too long. The staff was baffled by us. They offered us a car but we said we’d walk out, even trying to field a stream/river between the resort and the rest of the beach, clearly designed to keep people out, not in. With muddy feet and dripping clothing, off we went for a walk – to a buggy internet hut and a small village. Never were we happier and sadly so pleased with ourselves. We had escaped.

And so you see, being at a beach resort for more than a couple days, makes the family a bit bonkers because we are such amateurs and well, perhaps the Goldilocks family of travelers – too nice makes us itchy, too much eco in our eco resort makes us grumpy and battling the mainstream vacationers from the cities who pour south for school vacation week, well, gets us confused even more. We don’t get up at dawn to horde the best beach chairs, we are late/early to all meals and wander around a lot looking for a nook to set ourselves in and we get our bagels stolen from the toaster machine by more aggressive types.

But, and remember, this is day five I am writing this to you all, we get better at mainstreaming. We chat with others and learn the ropes, we order our wine as soon as we sit down, we let the two year kick just the right amount of sand at the other kids, and most importantly, we (okay, me but don’t judge me for being judgy) figure out there is more than tennis and golf and do yoga looking at the water in the early am.

And what we get in return is magic. My mother dancing with her grandson to the Black Eyed Peas – with an exuberance that only the very young and old have, days and days together in a stress free place (the beach chair hoarding is weird to us but not so stressful in the end). Watching the two year old run into and out of the surf beneath a lovely sunset, letting our cheeks be kissed by trade winds under a cloud free sky.

And okay. I get it. All kinds of lucky families come to places like this to be together, to remember the best of each other and to love one another. If that’s what it means to be a resort person, I’ll take it and be grateful for it. I’ll convert for one week a year and will buckle down to making as many sunshiny memories I can to cherish and warm me up when I fly back to the wintery north.

PS I blame any/all sappiness on an overdose of Vitamin D.