Monday, September 16, 2019

Return to Maine

I’ve been a westerner for a whole lot of years now, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten the state of Maine. When I was 16, my dad changed jobs and dragged the family, kicking and screaming, from Seattle to Philadelphia. By August of that year, when my dad’s vacation time came up, we had a single plan—to drive north to escape the heat and humidity. We didn’t stop until we got to Maine. And every year thereafter, we looked forward to the trek north in August.

After a long absence, I just returned from a magic week on Orrs Island, Maine where my son-in-law’s family has been summering since 1910. Charles Henry Arndt, an Episcopal priest in Philadelphia, must have been feeling the heat way back then when he established a summer chapel on the island and built a house there for his wife and three sons. It is still in the family, owned and managed by some of his descendants. Other family members have migrated there as well. There are Arndts all over the place.

In the early 1900s, the trip from Philadelphia took two days beginning with a trolley ride to the train station, a train to New York, a taxi to the dock, an overnight boat to Boston, then a steamer to Orrs Island and a carriage ride to the house. 

The Arndts have become a family of sailors, some of them skilled enough to sail across oceans. There are fish to be caught, beaches to comb, trails to explore, and for those gutsy enough, there’s a unique bridge to jump from into the bay and distinctly refreshing water to swim in. This year I only got wet once when three of us managed to capsize a small rowboat, making for a good story to tell.

There’s a fireplace in the living room that has big windows facing the water, a quiet room to escape to for a solitary read, an impossibly difficult jigsaw puzzle challenge and all the time in the world to sit around and talk.

Dinners can start off with a table set for eight and end up with an extra four people. The food always seemed to stretch as needed. Of course, we had to have a traditional lobster dinner.

Wandering the side roads and villages in Maine is like walking through a picture post card.

For me, the place is full of memories: cool nights, boat rides, long walks and good fellowship.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Morning bike ride

A mile west and a few yards north of my house, my favorite bike route begins. It's a 12-mile ribbon of road that becomes increasingly rural as it heads north. After about four miles, the traffic becomes  sparse and riding becomes relaxing.

It's been too long since I've been here, though for more than 20 years, I rode this way quite regularly. I know the landmarks, from the railroad tracks that cross the road to the power plant, the farm houses, the side roads that say "no outlet," and a few places where I need to shift into a lower gear to summit a hill.

My favorite landmark lies about 11 miles into the route behind a fence, on top of a little hill. It must have been home to a farm family long ago, but for at least the last 20 years, I have been watching it slowly sink toward the ground. I have a series of photos documenting its decline and the changing shape of its roofline as it slips toward oblivion.

The place has always fascinated me.  This morning, as I drew close to it, I began to wonder if it still existed. I was fully prepared to see an empty spot on the hillside where it once stood. But no. It has taken on a new look. It seemed larger to me, even though it's lower to the ground, and somehow more spread out.

Because it is behind a fence, and because it is falling apart, I have always observed it from a distance. But this morning, I discovered a path that allowed me to go closer and to get a more satisfying photo of it.

I was happy to see the old place hanging together despite the passing years. And I was happy to know that I can still ride with pleasure for a couple of hours, despite the passing years.

I'll be back.
k, old house.

Monday, July 29, 2019

An encounter in the rain

                                                       Jack, Debbie and Mark Rushworth

A rainstorm at a campsite in Germany set into motion a series of events that continue to unfold nearly 50 years later. The Rushworth family of York, UK were car camping. The James family of Fort Collins, USA were doing the same close by in their Volkswagen van. As the rain came down, curtailing their activities, the Rushworth and James kids discovered an indoor games area at the campsite. Their parents gathered around a small table in the Volkswagen for a cup of coffee.

That brief encounter set into motion a friendship that has lasted ever since and has been powerfully renewed by Mark Rushworh, his wife Debbie and their son, Jack who came to Fort Collins last week.

Mark was 11 back in 1970 when we first met the family. They invited us to visit them when we were in England a few weeks later. At that time we agreed that when Mark was at the right age, he would come and spend a year with us and go to school in Fort Collins.

In the fall of 1975 he enrolled at Poudre High School for his senior year, an unofficial exchange student. He made the best of his time, getting involved in long distance running and pursing his love of art. When school was out and it was time to go home, we felt as if we were losing a family member.

Four years later Mark was working in the travel industry when he surprised us all with an unannounced visit.  Over time, we have exchange visits as Mark and our kids grew up, married and had children of their own. The bond stayed strong but it had been 13 years since we’d been together.

Mark’s love of the U.S. was so steeped in his son, Jack, that he came to the U.S. for college and is now a soccer coach and candidate for a masters degree here. This past weekend, he got to know the people who Mark had bonded with in 1975-76.

It was like old times. I often think about how that six-month trip to Europe we took has influenced all of our lives.

Thank goodness for a pouring rain that made us pause for a morning and get to know each other.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Remembering a more gentle time

I was going through some articles I’d saved because of how they spoke to me. A piece titled The President Who Loved by Ann Patchett that appeared in the January 30, 2017 issue of Time magazine affected me even more powerfully today, although it saddened me as well.

Patchett says that love was not something she would have thought to look for in a president, but that she found that for eight years President Obama gave the American people an example of careful consideration, compassion, rigorous intelligence—and love. She misses it and wonders how she will do without it.

She reminds us that Obama gave more Presidential Medals of Freedom than any other president, saving the last one for Joe Biden, his vice president.

She points out that just like hate, love seeps in over time. She faces the new administration with fear of the future but also with gratitude for the way Obama saw the good in people, how he loved. She sees our job now as living up to the love he showed.

I watch too much news. I think I’ll spend more of my time reading words that serve to lift up rather than beat down.

Access Patchett’s complete article by googling The President Who Loved, Ann Patchett. It’s worth it.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Two special running races

The running race season has arrived with a bang!

Even though it meant getting up at 4:30 a.m., my running buddy Dave Klibbe and I journeyed to Boulder on Monday, May 27, to once again join 50,000 others to run around the town in the 41st running of the Bolder Boulder 10k. At that early hour, both of us wondered just why we were doing this, but a few hours later, we knew. You can’t help having a good time at this event so well organized and so wholeheartedly supported by its community.

On the Thursday a.m. following, I took a 6 a.m. flight to Albany, NY headed for the 41st running of Freihofers Run for Women, on June 1, another of my favorite races. This one is a 5k—I know, a long way to go to run 3.1 miles-- but I’ve gone enough times now that it is like a reunion of old friends This too, is a community event that draws 3,000 women, some of them hot shot runners from across the country. I so appreciate the fact that they keep inviting me. I think it may be because I’m there to prove that indeed, running is a lifetime sport!

I had a whole day to explore Albany the day after the race, a real treat. So many historic buildings plus a beautiful waterfront along the Hudson River.

Two special races in five days. I’m done for a while. Back to weeding the garden, painting the porch and a leisurely jog or two around the neighborhood.

Headquarters for the State University of New York

Carmen, Edie and Libby in Albany

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Springtime in Colorado

Springtime in Colorado
Tomorrow it will be May, but today it is April 30, the close-out of T. S. Elliott’s “the cruelest month.” It snowed in Colorado. The white stuff will be gone soon, and I’m betting the tulips will survive though they may look a bit bedraggled for a while. The fruit trees are in bloom, the raspberry bushes are sprouting new leaves and the rhubarb is alive and well. And the weeds, of course, are hale and hearty.

I waiver between learning to love dandelions and an intense desire to dig up each one before or when it blooms, and certainly before it goes to seed. A hopeless, thankless task that nevertheless has become a challenge for me.

I’m just thankful for a patch of dirt to dig in. It’s good for my soul.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Back yard hedge

One day last summer the big bushy hedge that provided privacy along the west side of my backyard had reached a height and width that I could no longer deal with. Even with a ladder and a hedge trimmer with a long blade, I could not reach far enough across the top of the monster to keep its growth under control. I’d had enough. That was the day I began cutting down my hedge.

It took me four days. When I was through I had lowered the height of the hedge by at least two feet and I’d snipped off every single branch, leaving only the major trunks. Not a single green leaf remained.  A twisted column of dark, bare stems was all that was left. It looked pretty awful.

The neighbors wondered out loud if the hedge would grow back. I didn’t know for sure, but something told me that it would. Before winter set in, a new little sprig or two and had showed up and that gave me hope.

Now it is April and just this week, those little sprigs began to show up again. I’m betting that by midsummer, my hedge will be back. It’s going to be interesting to see just how it returns and whether or not it will fill in and prosper and serve to screen my backyard from the activity in the street beyond it.

The moral of this story?  If your hedge is bugging you, attack it. Then, have faith, sit back and see what happens.