2017 Giving thanks

Making memories, living life doesn’t mean I have stopped reflecting. It’s been an intense time of real adult style stuff. You can either go deep and connect through the story or you can instead share memories of happier times. This summer and fall I could do neither. Waiting for the other shoe to drop, something was just not right.

And then the show did drop. I’ll get there and share more or not. Life was upside down for a while but all seems slightly less so or maybe I am just better at it now.

Today we went Christmas tree shopping. The cub was not so thrilled. I remembered cutting a tree down is hard and it was slightly gloomy a day. Memories. In the end life in its imperfection makes better memories. It’s taken me almost half a lifetime to learn that. I always believed in the yin and yang of life, now I am just going focus on living it. Wish me luck.

2015: Cows, California, Cafes and Chalupas

“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Even if I didn’t write about them, I did have some lovely adventures and I love a sunset all over the world. Here’s 2015’s collection.

California for some calm and a birthday, Mexico for some chalupas and time with my cub, Michigan for a coney hot dog and some love, Cape Cod as a constant, rounding out the year with cafes in France, Costa Rican coffee and life in my cow town too.

Happy happy new year to all my loves.

Destination: November 1989, London

As the land around my cow town goes to sleep for a long winter’s nap, November is my hardest month being here and yet, I never quite manage to be away long enough into the month to spend it in a curry haze in some other land. I miss my father who left this land in November. I miss the sunshine on my face and fresh air that doesn’t sting and I know I have a while to go before that’s over around here. I miss the many months of the year that I had to achieve something this year as we crash on to the new year. I miss. I miss. I miss.

I worry that this turn around the sun, I didn’t see enough, write enough, do enough to make it last through the winter months, when I most likely will be here, because reality is going to ground my wandering for a bit.

What’s a gal to do? Remember and make my way back in time. Memory can make the light shine like a million suns on the darkest day. So down I go, into the rabbit hole of grim gray skies, looking down across the years for that one magical November that came before loss, reality, missing ruled the month and I find it.

London, 1989.

I left for my year abroad late that summer. I was 18. I knew just enough to not know a thing. I was thousands of miles from home. Before the cell phone. Before email. Before the internet practically. Letters came on onion skin paper. Calls home were made from dripping phone booths across the street from where I lived, the phone card beeping down until it would just cut off and the USA would seem so very very far away.

No one made me eat dinner, lunch or breakfast, so as most 18 year olds would have done I lived off of tiny European sized cokes, sandwiches sold in plastic sleeves from the store called Open All Hours (really just some of the hours and no Muslim holidays) made of weird combinations like pickle and cheddar and bags of  salty prawn crisps (shrimp flavored potato chip – not for everyone or even me) and cadbury chocolate bars – no one would have nominated me for any health awards. I drank warm beer and cheap wine, learning just how many pints I could drink before the next day became an incredible chore, danced until down to house music in clubs filled with real Euro-trash and ate kebabs made of mysterious meat in the wee hours of the morning.

My father had asked but three things of me when I left: never get into a stranger’s car, never accept a drink you haven’t seen be made and always have cab fare to get yourself home. It took one Saturday in September at the Bar Escoba to break all rules – away in the cute boy’s car, where was this drink made, why who cares and long long after the subway/bus/taxis could be found, with no money in my wallet, one very long walk home and I thought, well, that’s done.

That fall brought wider world sights too. I saw my first American flag be burned in protest and rage filled faces chanting slogans death to the west – being from the USA in Europe right then was not 100% the best.  Margaret Thatcher was still prime minister and there was a lot about poll tax that made a lot people riot one weekend. Everything was sliding into recession. There were IRA bomb threats on the tube, always on the cranky Northern line. The Berlin Wall came down and Eastern Europe all of a sudden was a place you could actually visit again. For goodness sake, the Cold War was about to be over and that winter, Nelson Mandela would get out of prison. The world was unsettled. Sort of like today, in so many ways.

Let’s get back to being 18 though as I don’t think I did much thinking about any of that political stuff really – I wish I had been a deeper, smarter teen.  Along with my great pint drinking skills, I learned one just doesn’t speak on the subway, tea is drunk with milk and all those place names that trip up the tourist soon didn’t expose me as other and my 1989 pants needed to be wider leg than any American peg-legging teen would have considered. I started reading the London Times every day. My sentences started going up at the end, cadence matching my fellow shoppers, promise it was subtle and I didn’t even realize it until I heard a phone message I left someone back at home. I knew what a boot, prawn, lorry, aubergine, lift, loo was. And music. That could be a whole post. I learned a lot about music in post punk, new wave 1989.

November really kicked off with the thrilling Bonfire night in Battersea Park, all through the month the inky black early evenings came with their glowing welcoming shop windows, even though the rainy cold damp days came, well, it all worked for me that year. All the way to holiday lights on Oxford Street. With no Thanksgiving to hold Santa back… it’s straight into the season as soon as possible and all at once I was falling in love with London at Christmas and all her many neighborhoods, faces and places.

My homesickness faded in the face of it all and one day, probably either close to or in the middle November, I woke up and I realized I was happy. Really, really happy, that kind of sparkling, new love happy that one gets just once in a new place or with a new person. I used to climb up to the top bathroom window and look out at all the rooftops and think about all the people living their lives out there and how I was just temporarily one of them and I wanted to be one of them forever. I never loved a place on my own before. I’d never lived outside of the USA for any length of time when I wasn’t pigeon chasing toddler. London was my first foreign city of my very own.

And, I am the type of person that never forgets her first anything. First new love has the kind of timeless magic, that these twenty five years later, I close my eyes and I am back, I am 18 again and starting my traveling life. November is not so November after all, an unexpected destination I’d be glad to visit again and again.

New York 2011: A New York state of mind

Sometimes, small town living is just that…. small…. slowly, everything is just too predictable and the sameness of every day begins to dent my wanderlustful soul.

When I can’t hop on a plane, what better way blow out the cobwebs than a road trip north (and a smidge west) to bask in the glory of the fiery fall leaves. I live close enough to Vermont that I could have just looked out my own window but sometimes, irrational I know, I just want to see someone else’s leaves. Fall in New England amazes me every year with it’s beauty – I could write and write about how I search the trees for the perfect orange red blast. It’s almost if Mother Nature gets her best paints out before the world goes brown and colorless.

Besides the need to get out, I know in my heart part of me needed to really take a trip somewhere so this travel blog could actually be a travel blog and not just me musing aimlessly about past glories…. a travel blog has to involve traveling somewhere other than the supermarket.

Where better to get some air than the mighty and vast Adirondack park in upstate New York. Formed in the late eighteen hundreds (became official in 1892), the park is made up of ten million acres of lakes, pine forests and craggy peaks. At one point, in 1761, the area was referred to as “deer hunting territory”. The actual name is cited in one place as a translated Mohawk word that means “they eat trees”. I’ll leave that alone and for my scholars, that was just one definition I read. Suffice it to say, there are still lots and lots of trees to eat.

The reason the park exists at all was because of what we would now call urban sprawl of the turn of the last century. Disease made the city in the summer a dangerous place to be – even at the best of addresses and so out into the wilds they went, with their many servants in tow; Americans, never ones to do anything subtly. The captains of industry also needed summer get out of town spots  that could combine the grandeur of Europe with the wonder of America’s forests. And so the hodge podge of what is called the Adirondack style was born. (take to your search engines and see all the things people did with birch bark and some twisted twigs). Today, the grand old camp style of vacationing only exists for the very few –  the Point Resort in Saranac is an example of what $2000.00 a night can get you.

For the rest of us normal folks, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, hiking, trekking, tramping (whatever you might call it), rock climbing, fishing (fly, ice and lake), skiing, snowshoeing, ski jumping, skating to name a few. It’s an adventurers paradise…. some of you could spend time earning bragging rites by climbing the 46 peaks, journeying to all the cascades and waterfalls but maybe the rest of you could spend some time sitting in the splendor and vast emptiness of much of the landscape.

This time, I decided I needed a balance of both and so I stayed in the very touristed unofficial capital of the park – Lake Placid which is better known for it’s miraculous Olympics of 1980 than much else.  I like food so I did enjoy the local restaurants (ate at the Brown Dog Cafe & Wine Bar, the Cottage, Tail of the Pup BBQ). There’s a mix of tacky – the normal coffee mug & t-shirt places (my friend from school calls those type candles and fudge shops – here you could adjust to say candles and stuffed moose shops) but also some gems selling antiques of the old great camp style.  There’s also the very lovely Mirror Lake to look at – aptly named for it’s ability to reflect the sky – and walk around.

Just a sweet simple weekend away – a few hours drive from Canada, Albany NY – it’s a spot that’s easy to get to (just head north on RT 87 for most of you) and offers so much to see and do…. or not to do…. at a number of price ranges. For me, all I needed was a simple cup of coffee and a morning sunrise, a chance to listen to the loons (the birds for once not the people) = magic.

New England 2011: apples and more apples

Fall has arrived in these green hills – the leaves are turning and even though the days lately have been global warming humid, it would never really feel like summer to a local. The mellow golden sunsets of August have absolutely given way to cold nights and I have been watching the twilight creeping earlier and earlier each day.

Some people dread the winter – not me. Really I’d take the northeast USA in all her seasons and have a place in my heart for all the rituals and happenings of each one but there’s something magical about September and October.

Doesn’t hurt my favorite color is orange or that I love apple picking. Doesn’t hurt that as the child of people who worked for colleges and schools all my growing up life, that the year never seems to start for me in January but right after Labor Day. And don’t get me started on Halloween… promise to cover that soon.

In grade school, every year we’d go on this apple picking, apple cider making day – like a rite of passage for a true Yankee child. We’d all head out up in the big old yellow school bus in the freezing morning and spend the day at the orchard with the excitement of rickety ladders and weird claw like things with baskets. Once started, we’d pick our little six year old hearts out and have some crazy apple fights (think apple swapped in for a snow ball kind of fight). That only went on until someone got a black eye or cried (most likely me – not the black eye, although am a clumsy accident prone kind of gal but probably the crying ’cause, well, I was a wimpy kid at times – nothing like a virtual confession).

The best part of the day was taking our haul over to someone’s parents house where we’d press the apples into cider on a press from 1735 (not really, but I have a feeling these were Mayflower Society folks – real deal old New England) – the thrill of turning the giant wooden screw and watching the juice get squeezed out, being beset the whole time by the drowsy bees who are just trying to get the honey in before it snows. I’d arrive home, sunburned, sticky and happy. And my poor family would have to eat an apple or 20 a day for weeks and weeks.

By the time I was twelve, I’d made apple cake, pie, sauce, butter, doughnuts  and these weird and creepy apple headed dolls that would whither and get more creepy and weird until my father would demand they be thrown away.

So…. that’s my first “cow” post – I do promise when I board a plane for more exciting shores that I’ll write about that – in the meantime, eat an apple in my honor…. soon I’ll learn how to post pictures too.

Happy Fall friends.