2018: Cow Town Summer

Cow

“I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this.”

Susan Branch

Tanzania 2018

Lion

June 2018: I wrote most of the below and forgot to publish it as anyone who has visited East Africa the network is a mercurial and not always reliable thing. So here you are…. a month later – the thoughts all still stand, my readers. I just didn’t officially state it live time. I know life isn’t a fairy tale, but it’s nice to be looking around the next bend at a happy what’s next – I don’t live to think of endings or ever after, life certainly isn’t so tidy, at least mine isn’t. It’s a happy right now for me. It’s a building of the house where there was once just me and is now an us. Here’s to us and all of you. It’s also pre-summer in the Berkshires, in Massachusetts where I live and the greener than green came with me back from Tanzania… I don’t mind it, I don’t mind it at all.

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April 2018: I have been in Tanzania during the dry season or just at the start of the short rains, never at the end of the rainy season when the land is so gloriously green everywhere – greener than the greenest green.

It’s also dangerous and muddy, with floods and broken roads but let’s set that aside for a moment and focus on the endless emerald fields and hillsides. I have to say I have learned to love this confusing country in all conditions.

This is my first time traveling free – not quite a local, a mzungu never is going to be that.  I have replaced the blur from a 4 x 4 vehicle window, a more than curated experience., with street food, Masai nightclubs, the Dar “lux” express bus (it’s not so lux but it’s also not so not lux – that’s a puzzle 12 hours on that bus will solve for you). I may have even drunk the water (ok, you all know, I did but I swear my gut appreciates it now).

When does the tourist become the traveler? When is it just visiting your guy where he lives and going to the village where he was born? Does it matter that the village where I was born was Chicago? I don’t know.  Somehow by accident of fate, my global citizenship has changed and I have to carve out a spot here as well as there – there will always be a bit different when I am here and it’s a weird and unsettling mix of complicated and simple.

When I get on my plane back to the USA this time, I am not just taking memories with me. I am leaving someone behind. What was once a one way, becomes a new life plan and roundtrips. My heart couldn’t be more full,

As my father told me long ago, shoot for the stars, just remember to find the potatoes on the ground too. So with stars in my eyes and potatoes in my pockets, let the next chapter begin.

2018: Newer New Year

Cow, Lion

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Month and a half in and already, while my feet may be firmly planted in my cow town, I have been moving mental mountains. I haven’t really been anywhere but I feel like it’s been not an Everest sized trek, maybe a trek to a smaller kind of craggy peak. I can see the top, I am just not there yet. Oh but the view, it’s going to be glorious.

I am going to state it here, there’s going to be a heap ton of metaphors in this one and maybe even some cliches – you can do it, it will be ok. It won’t be my best work but it’s going to be perhaps the most honest, painfully earnest (ugh, right?) one in a while. A gal like me fears earnest behavior, I cover up my uncomfortableness at that with a lot of goony behavior.

We can do this together.

For the last ten years, all my travel and movement has been a lot of great and amazing noise, wanderlust filled adventures – big trips to exotic destinations, with shots needed and long plane rides. Then, circumstances made me stay here in this town and when not, on the road to a job that hadn’t been fulfilling me in a long time. I am hesitant to speak on that part of my life much, except to state I work in a confusing place that was never supposed to be such a long thing, I was just doing it for a little while and then I kind of got stuck. I am not sure I have ever been able to write about it. It’s a lot of the best of times, the worst of times stuff. I’ll save it for another day except to say – I have been mired in work muck, life muck too.

Well, friends, family, people in China reading this blog, I am getting myself unstuck – think of that noise your shoe makes when you pry it out of the mud, like a loud smack. And when I go in, I go big. I said to someone I am quitting everything in 2018 but I was wrong. I am not quitting me. I am looking for her. The job will be morphed, re-formed, re-tooled – the end is in sight after such a long run. And so I have found my mountain, I have found my road up it, where there is one. It was pretty foggy for a long long time.

There’s so much in a person who falls in and out of depression that can take us off our road. For some, the constant movement of travel takes that edge off. Before you can connect, you’re on the move again. Shifting and dancing around the issues and globe. I see no shame in discussing the cloud of darkness, the haze of numbness once and for all. I have read some fairly inspiring posts, that may not be this one for all of you but I can at least explain my view and as this is my space, perhaps I am explaining it to myself at the same time. I know when I start thinking and writing about this topic, my fingers fly across the keys so my thoughts clearly want out.

I have heard all the metaphors (here come the cliches) – it’s like being in a house with no windows, you can’t protect yourself against the weather so it blows in and blows out with no control. I have heard of it as a boat in stormy and then calm sea, with a broken rudder. Both are good pictures of what it feels like sometimes. It’s never taken me down, but it’s taken me to my bloodied knees. I am not sure you lovely even keeled folks get how much of my energy can go to holding myself together, getting myself up, all while attempting to appear normal and capable. I don’t think people know how tough and fierce this makes parts of us in the depression chain gang. We can wield a pretty intense hammer on those rocks, in the hottest of life’s sun.

When I was younger, I would let it win – so many, so many times, I let it win. Pretty much most of my twenties, I was definitely living and making memories, as I was being chased down by something else. I can still pick out the pictures where my eyes look dull and the going through the motions days.

Good news, being over forty, maybe my fear of wasting time has gotten to me. I don’t do that anymore. Now when I feel the darkness lurking, I go into battle mode. I give up alcohol, I give up messy dramatic friends who normally are a sparkly addition to my day to day, not forever, just a time out, I go inward and I plan the attack back. I don’t even consider a life without this cycle of ok and not ok. I don’t crave the life that isn’t mine. Therapy, physical activity, friend and family love, medication, coping mechanisms – they all do work but be warned that the chemistry of depression is something no one on the other side can properly understand. You can think you finally fixed it, a little less of this, more of that but it changes, as I grow stronger here, I find new weaknesses and I have to go back to work. I am just so grateful that my form allows me to try and that my heart and mind agree on this task together. An aside here, don’t you dare pity me, don’t ever ever do that. I pity you for feeling that way as it’s going to speak to your fear more than it speaks to my perceived damage. Know I wouldn’t choose this life either but it’s mine so please don’t judge it. Judgement is crappy. Like a bird making her nest, I just weave this straw in with the rest.

2018. I don’t know where all this change will lead me but it won’t be where I have been. Every year a newer new me, newer new lessons. The universe likes to play a lot of games with all of us but I have cracked one major thing – the journey won’t change unless I do. I know, that lesson was just painfully right in front of my face. Did I hear it yelling over here? Did I see it? Yeah, not so much.

Did I mention my will of iron? Yeah, that will is pretty stubborn and owns a fantastic set of ear muffs and blinders.

This year, I’ll get back on some planes, but there won’t be a devil on my back chasing me. I go this time as me, unapologetically and complicated me to face that newer new world out there. It’s a crap shoot really – but from what I can see from these trees, the view from the top of this current mountain…. heaven on earth.

PS. Please, for those of you on top of my annoying proverbial mountain, let’s just not mention that there’s a bigger grander mountain behind it, that you can only see from up there, it won’t help me get out of these trees.

HAPPY 2018. Thanks for wading through the metaphors and cliches. Wishing you all the very best year.

2017: Christmas Eve, in Cow Town

Cow

IMG_0505Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don’t quite know how to put our love into words. ~ Harlan Miller

Happy Christmas Eve to one and all – a bit more special this long and strange year. It’s been the best of times, the worst of times but going into next year, glad to be where I am, excited for what’s next and ready for reality too – a nice blend of all. I have love, I have so much goodness this year – my cautious optimist’s heart is full. May this season find all of you the same. BIG love from me to all of you.

2017 Giving thanks

Cow, Lion

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.

2017: Summer of Cows

Cow

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A summer of summertime days and nights – in my magical purple valley. New England has summer down. Fairs, swimming holes, ice cream stands, farmers markets, outside stuff. I don’t travel much when it’s hot outside. I stay here with my people and family – we have drinks outside, we sit around fires, we catch some frogs (if you’re 7 we do that), we look for fireflies in the meadows in our electric green hills and we store up memories for when it’s cold and gray and dark. It’s been an amazing summer this year and when February comes around, I’ll make sure to hold these days in and warm up my heart.

2017: Half Done

Cow

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
Haruki MurakamiIMG_0978

2017: new year, new deal

Cow, Lion

Happiest of New Year’s wishes to all.

2016: I promised stories. I promised pictures. I promised much. Unfortunately, I am not the best at sitting down and writing. I had a great year of travels to Martinique, Canada and my amazing and special time in East Africa this fall – as deeply in love with that land as ever.

2017: As always on Jan 1, I am feeling the pressure for something to appear here. Something meaningful, insightful to inspire and engage my ten regular readers (up from my four!!). Maybe a travel life blog wasn’t my best idea after all. Stay with me though. Perhaps this will be the year.

Here’s the deal. I am not a supporter of new year’s resolutions – I prefer intentions. So many intentions this year but really just one. My intention is to be kinder – to myself, to my body, to my people, my co-workers, to strangers.

Our world is on fire and certainly in the USA, it’s been a rocky fall. For me, despite some knocks, I am solid, I just need to do some rebuilding and some renovations on this house of mine.

So…. I started this year at yoga. They say you should do on day one of the year what you want to do all year. I want to be the person I am five minutes after class. I want to feel strong and relaxed. If I can hold on to this, I can handle the storm that swirls around my house, calmly and I hope kindly. There’s a bit more at stake this year for reasons I will share as I go along (I am 100% fine, just reasons, people).

A large part of 2017 is going to be showing up. I am showing up this year. I’m going to give it my best shot. fireworks

 

 

 

 

 

Caribbean 2013: Resorting to a resort vacation

Cow

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.