Posted tagged ‘traveling’

“Memory is the space in which a thing happens for a second time.”

February 9, 2018

The sky is cloudy but bright. It is only 31˚, but the next three days will be warm. The prediction is for 48˚ each day. That’s almost tanning weather, no sunscreen necessary. Maybe a road trip is in order to take advantage of the warmth. I’ll open my car window and take in the sweet smell of the clean air.

Since the winter solstice, we have gained an hour of sunlight. It makes me hopeful that winter’s end is not so far away. February, though, is sometimes the snowiest month. I’ll just keep my knit hat and mittens handy.

In summer, the trees surrounding my deck are lit with candles hanging off the branches. In the backyard, solar lights shaped like flowers glow and a few strands of white lights are twisted around tree trunks. I always think my yard a fairyland, especially in July when the fireflies return and twinkle among the trees. Now, in the bleak winter, the one strand of lights around the deck fence has stopped shining. I need to replace it. I always love looking out the back window and seeing those lights.

I always think it is the darkness of winter which palls the spirit so I do my best to compensate. I keep white candles lit in the front windows, and their light shines across the dark lawn. This year I left my Christmas lights lit in the front. One is a giant star with a trail of lights. The others are multicolored. My neighbor across the street has called to thank me for leaving the lights shining. She said she loves looking out the window at my house.

Winter is my time of memories, of introspection. I don’t add much to my story, but I recall to mind the best parts. I smile a lot at the images in my mind’s eye. My journeys, my explorations, are the brightest memories.

During my travels, I learned a few things. I hate washing clothes by hand. I decided that for any trip of great length I’d pack ragtag underwear which I can just throw away. It isn’t a big deal for me to find any. I can just check my bureau drawer. The rest of my clothes can get so grungy they can walk away by themselves. I won’t care. I’m not washing them. I learned never to ask what I’m eating.  Many of the traditional foods are pets here, like the guinea pig in Ecuador. I think I can eat just about anything as long as I don’t know what it is and it isn’t slimy. Bras are a great place for hiding money. I had my pocket picked when I was at a train station in Ghana. I’d like that thief to try it now. Toilet paper, always carry toilet paper. Sometimes you get stuck and have to rush, and those hole in the ground toilets don’t have toilet paper. Just imagine. The middle of the bus and a seat near the window are usually the best. The aisle fills with standing people who hold on for dear life as the bus goes around corners but sometimes they fall, into the aisle seats. The front and the back of the bus are where people sit with their chickens or goats. Eat where there is a line, especially street food. Don’t shy away. It’s sometimes the best and is usually the cheapest. If everything pales compared to home, just stay home.

“The sky, a perfect empty canvas, offers clouds nonetheless. They shift and drift and beg interpretation… such is the nature of art.”

April 22, 2016

Warm today, it is actually long sleeve shirt weather, the first of the season. I can’t wait to get out. I have two errands then I get to enjoy the rest of the day. Notice I didn’t mention making my bed or doing anything domestic. They’re not on the list!

On the cat and medicine battle, Fern is letting me dose her twice a day, one rub and one liquid. Maddie is still running. She senses I am up to no good. I called the vet, and we’re going to try liquid with Maddie. I suspect she’ll still take off on me. She’s a feisty cat that one.

The ten year old me had dreams and hopes. They mostly centered around seeing the world. I wanted to hurry and get old enough to bag my bags, pick a spot, jump on a plane and go. I’d stand on the roof lookout at Logan airport, the old airport, and watch the planes leaving and I’d be wishing I was on one. The logistics of travel never occurred to me. I didn’t give money a thought. I was dreaming and my dreams were never sensible or logical. I saw myself traipsing through the world having adventures. When you’re ten, anything is possible.

I don’t know why I never noticed different flowers when I was young. I did notice dandelions and thought them flowers. Most of the front yards on my street had pansies and marigolds. I like pansies but marigolds not so much. Our neighbors all wanted the best lawns so flowers weren’t all that important. My dad planted pansies in the front garden, a very small garden because of the bushes. I used to look at the flowers and try to figure out who the faces of the pansies resembled. I think a lot of them were Winston Churchill.

I used to lie on the grass and watch the clouds. I remember the grass felt cool and soft. The clouds mostly looked like animals. The only exception was I often saw a witch. It was her hat that gave her away. I’d watch until the clouds moved and the animals disappeared into a single cloud, one with no shape or personality.

I always saw the man in the moon, and for me he was always smiling. Even now I check to make sure he’s still there. I’m never disappointed. He is always there and he always still smiles.

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been”

January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

The weather doesn’t look much different being grey and overcast, and I slept away the morning having stayed up way too late last night, but I feel a bit different, a little more excited for each new day. I have no expectations so whatever happens will be a surprise. I know I’m hoping to go back to Ghana in the fall with my friends, my friends from Peace Corps days. We traveled together all the time back when, and we lived in a duplex on school grounds. They are funny and are great travelers, and they love Ghana. It feels like home to them as well. How lucky we are!

When I was a kid, New Year’s Day wasn’t especially significant to me. It meant the end of vacation so it had a pall about it. I’d had a whole week of no bedtime and playing as long as I wanted with my new toys. I’d read my new books well into the night without being told to turn off the light. One week just wasn’t enough.

It really didn’t take long for routine to grab us right back into it. Get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, walk to school, sit there all day with just lunch and recess to break up the monotony, sit back down after lunch then with great hoopla run home at the end of the day hoping for some outside play time before it got dark.

The funny thing is I never thought of that as a routine. I just thought of it as the lot of every kid. Weekends also followed a pattern. On most winter Saturdays we walked uptown for a movie. The sun was always low in the sky when we’d walk home. I remember that for some reason. When I was older, we’d often skate on a Saturday. We would walk to Rec Park and skate on the temporary rink the town put up every year. It was circular, and we always skated one way.

Sundays were seldom exciting. They were masses in the morning and family dinners in the afternoon before we were free. Bedtime came early on a Sunday. My mother always used the excuse we needed our sleep for school the next day. We never bought it.

“Babies have big heads and big eyes, and tiny little bodies with tiny little arms and legs. So did the aliens at Roswell! I rest my case.”

July 25, 2015

It would seem a bit egocentric to believe we are it in this universe. Those science fiction movies about aliens can’t all be make-believe though I admit most of the the aliens are a bit much, totally unrealistic, in the looks department, but I digress so it’s back to the news. What has happened is the plot of one of those movies is bumping into real life. At the start of the movie Battleship, the scientist notes that they have found a planet in orbit around a sun almost equidistant from its sun as we are from ours. They speculate it has conditions similar to Earth’s and could sustain life. They are sending a beacon to that planet from a communications array in Hawaii; of course, the aliens directed by the beacon find Earth and set out to conquer it. We defeat the aliens, no surprise there. Okay, here’s real life: scientists have discovered an Earth like planet orbiting its sun just a bit further away from its sun than we are from ours. It is the third planet from the sun. Sound familiar? I’m thinking no beacon.

Today is an on again off again sunny day. Earlier it was all sun then all clouds. Now the sun is making a return engagement. The day feels pleasant, no humidity. It is in the mid 70’s. Tonight will be cooler, perfect for sleeping. It is also movie night. We are going to watch Breaking Away. My friends who were apparently brought up in closets haven’t ever seen it. I’m going to buy movie candy: Junior Mints and Malted Milk Balls and they’ll be popcorn.

Everything this morning is very quiet. I don’t even hear a mower. When I was a kid, my neighborhood was never quiet. Every house had multiple children so the place overflowed with kids. The little kids stayed close to home and played in the backyard. I can still see my two sisters sitting on the back steps playing with their dolls. The rest of us were nomads traveling for the sake of traveling. We had the world to explore.

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana”

July 13, 2015

If someone knocked on my door and handed me a plane ticket, I’d take it in a heartbeat even with the destination unknown at the offering. In the last year I have traveled to New Hampshire, but that wasn’t a trip. It was a visit. The bug is getting itchier. I am in my saving mode so I can get somewhere. Ghana in a year is a possibility. I’d like to go back one more time though maybe I’ll wait for two years and treat myself to a 70th birthday trip. I’d add on a stop or two probably going rather than coming. I’ve always wanted to go to Timbuktu. It was the most exotic name I’d ever heard when I was a kid. I didn’t even know it was in Africa. I’d add on a safari but that’s drifting into dreamland. I’d have to live an austere life to save enough money which would be difficult as I like creature comforts, good food and a night out now and then. I guess I’ll have to give my destinations a bit more thought and work on keeping that travel bug under control. I do have a back scratcher.

I like today. It is less humid and the sun isn’t overwhelmingly hot. A few clouds cover parts of the sky. They are white grey, nice day clouds not rain clouds. A small breeze appears and disappears.

One of the plagues of Egypt returned. I had left a trash bag beside the car in the morning a day or so ago anticipating going to the dump. When I didn’t go, I put the trash in the trunk so nocturnal creatures wouldn’t open the bag and strew the trash about. The next morning I opened the trunk to add trash and a swarm of flies flew out of the trunk right by me. I’m not talking a few flies. I’m really meaning a swarm. Yesterday when I got in the car, more were buzzing around. I opened all the windows then went back into the house hoping the flies would be gone when I returned. When I got back to the car, there were a few lingerers. I kept the windows opened and some flew out but a couple needed my help. Now for the gross part of the story: I found dead flies on the back seat of the car, lots of dead flies. I hate flies.

Saturday night was entertainment night at my school in Ghana, and I remember one particular Saturday night. It was movie night and a USAID rep had left a cartoon for my students to view. It was about keeping bugs away from food and people. One sketch showed a fly stopping at an outhouse pile and then flying away with a bit of the pile on its legs. The fly’s next stop was food on the table, and it flew away with clean legs. The message was to cover your food to protect you from diseases. My students didn’t get the message. They were too enthralled with the first cartoon they’d ever seen. They thought the movie was a wonder and they clapped. They liked the flying, buzzing fly best of all.

“A mother is always the beginning. She is how things begin.”

May 10, 2015

Today is Mother’s Day. It is the day I honor my mother and my memories of her. Every year I post basically this same entry with only a few little changes.

My mother was amazing. She was generous, fun to be with and was the perfect martyr when she needed to be, a skill I think most mothers have. It was her tone of voice so filled with pain that caused our guilt to well to the surface. “I’ll do it myself,” she’d say. We’d scurry to do whatever she wanted.

My sisters and I laugh often about the curses she inflicted on us: the love of everything Christmas and never thinking you have enough presents for everyone, giving Easter baskets overflowing with candy and fun toys and surprising people with a gift just because.

My mother had a generosity of spirit. She was funny and smart and the belle of every ball. She always had music going in the kitchen as she worked so she could sing along. She played Frank and Tony and Johnny and from her I learned the old songs. My mother drew all the relatives to her, and her house was filled. My cousins visited often. She was their favorite aunty. My mother loved to play Big Boggle, and we’d sit for hours at the kitchen table and play so many games we’d lose track of the time. Christmas was always amazing, and she passed this love to all of us. We traveled together, she and I, and my mother was game for anything. I remember Italy and my mother and me after dinner at the hotel bar where she’d enjoy her cognac. She never had it any other time, but we’re on vacation she said and anything goes. I talked to her just about every day, as did my sisters. I loved it when she came to visit. We’d shop, have dinner out then play games at night. I always waited on her when she was here. I figured it was the least I could do.

My mother loved extreme weather shows, TV judges and crime. She never missed Judge Judy. She also liked quiz shows and she and I used to play Jeopardy together on the phone at night. She always had a crossword puzzle book with a pen inside on the table beside her chair, and I used to try to fill in some of the blanks. On the dining room table was often a jig saw puzzle, and we all stopped to add pieces on the way to the kitchen. My mother loved a good time.

She did get feisty, and I remember flying slippers aimed at my head when I was a kid. She expertly used mother’s guilt on us, her poor victims. We sometimes drove her crazy, and she let us know, none too quietly. We never argued over politics. She kept her opinions close. We sometimes argued over other things, but the arguments never lasted long.

Even after all this time, I still think to reach for the phone to call my mother when I see something interesting or have a question I know only she can answer. When I woke up this morning, my first thought was of her, and how much she is missed. No one ever told me how hard it would be.

“What shall you do all your vacation?’, asked Amy. “I shall lie abed and do nothing”, replied Meg.”

February 16, 2015

Just looking out my front door to watch the progress of the plowing and shoveling gave me snow blindness when I turned back into the house. It is as bright a day as we’ve had in weeks. It is also freezing. The wind is so strong it is blowing the snow with the same ferocity and lack of visibility as in a sand storm, just not with the grit. Though my plow guys keep turning their backs to the snow cloud, their beards were frosted and icy with snow. My walkway is shoveled, the car is free and Gracie’s steps and stairs have also been shoveled. I threw de-icer on all the front and back steps, and it is already working. This morning’s paper is now in my hands. I just brewed a fresh pot of coffee. It is already a good day.

This is school vacation week around here. I never understood why we needed one in February having just had a long Christmas vacation, but I didn’t argue. When I was a kid, we never went anywhere or did anything special as my Dad was working. When I was older, my friends and I would get together. I remember a toboggan party at the Winchester Country Club. My friends Bobby and Jimmy and I fit perfectly on Bobby’s toboggan. We were daredevils who went down the steepest hills. I remember one hill with a slope in the middle. The toboggan flew over the slope and the three of us were airborne. When the toboggan landed, Jimmy ended up half hanging off the back of the sled. He stayed that way until we finally stopped. He wasn’t hurt just snow-covered. We looked at each other without saying a word and as if on cue, we started trudging up that hill to do it again. This time we all stayed on.

When I was teaching, I used to go traveling for the week, mostly to Europe. The weather wasn’t all that bad, it was off-season and cheaper and there were fewer tourists. I’d pick one place for the week. One year it was Rome. Another year it was Vienna. I can’t remember how many times it was London.

Today I have laundry to do. I’m tired of looking at it in the hall. Looks like a big day ahead of me.

“It’s the unknown that draws people.”

February 14, 2015

When I first woke up, it was 7 o’clock, and I could see sun and blue sky outside my window. I smiled, turned over and went back to sleep. The second time I awakened it was 8:30. The sun was gone as was the blue. Today is now like all the other days: grey and cold and uninviting. The snow will start tonight and come in waves. The biggest wave is due tomorrow.

Now where would I be if I could be somewhere else? Much as I love Ghana, the 100˚+ degrees is just our weather turned inside out. Back to Morocco is a possibility. It is winter there but a sweater is enough. I remember the colors in the spice market, the aromas of meat cooking and glasses of mint tea. Colorful rugs hung from balconies. Cranes nested. Okay, Morocco is definitely on the list, but then again perhaps it should be where I haven’t been. I love exploring new places and being by myself never matters. All of the sights and sounds become fodder for my journal, my hand written journal. The markets are for losing myself, for following unfamiliar paths. They are the places for discovery. That restaurant in Marrakech in a garden at the back of the furniture store is one of favorite finds, but I had help. A small boy led me there.

Asia comes to mind. I want off the beaten path, maybe Laos, Nepal or Myanmar if it gets its act together.

My family worries when I travel alone, but they don’t share that with me. They know I’d pooh-pooh the notion. My brother-in-law was the designated rescuer when I was in Morocco. He would fly there and accompany me and my injuries home. They were thinking broken leg. I didn’t even get a scratch.

I don’t ever mind getting lost as there are discoveries to unearth and I know I’ll always find my way.

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

September 30, 2013

This morning I knew for certain fall had arrived. On my way to breakfast at nine, the bank’s ATM had no line, the streets were nearly empty and the diner had plenty of open booths. My friend and I even sat and chatted, something we could never do in summer. Back then a line of people stood waiting outside so we never took time just to sit and drink coffee, but the people have gone home and the lines have disappeared.

The day is another glorious fall day with a warm sun; it’s not even cold enough to be sweatshirt weather. Even the nights have been warm: in the high 50’s so my bedroom window is still open, and I’ve left the screen on the front door. It’s a day to sit on the deck with a good book and a lazy attitude.

On my way to breakfast I went by the high school where I used to work. I only gave it a passing glance. Though I spent thirty-three years working there, the nine years of retirement have distanced me. I have a sense of nostalgia as I am also a graduate, but that’s it. I am not at all curious as to how it fares. I have moved elsewhere.

My friends have either already traveled or are packing their bags to leave. I am envious. This is the year of staying home for me, and I don’t like it all that much. Looking forward to a trip is one of the pleasures of life. The anticipation builds, and the days are counted down until the big day: the day to leave. I even have a sense of longing for the smell of the jet when I board. During the flight, I check the progress of the plane and count the hours until it touches-down. I love walking out of the airport and smelling air filled with a sense of the place where I’ve landed. Hearing other languages lets me know I am far from home, but I am delighted in the unfamiliar. I roam the streets without purpose and often happen upon a spot to explore or a restaurant with an aroma that draws me to a table. Sometimes it is a shop window which catches my attention. Sometimes it is simply the wandering down one street or another.

I so love to travel and miss it when I don’t.

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

August 25, 2012

It’s a beautiful day for anything but especially for flying. When I woke up, I changed the bed, took my shower and did a laundry. All that’s left is to feed the cats, change the litter and take Gracie with me to the dump. My bus to Logan leaves at 2:40.

The adventure begins.

I remember the first time I was leaving for Ghana. I was scared, excited and totally ignorant about Africa. Peace Corps had sent me a bus ticket to Philadelphia where we were meeting for staging, a lengthier process then the one day of staging now. My father said no bus so he bought me a plane ticket. Both my parents drove me that Sunday to Logan and walked me to the gate. We didn’t say much as we waited. Two + years loomed in front of us. After what seemed forever, it was time for boarding. My father told me I could come home if I didn’t like it. My mother clung to me, a two year until I see you again hug. I promised to call before I left Philadelphia then walked down the ramp to the plane. When I looked back, both of them were there. I waved then went around a small corner and boarded the plane.

Today it is only excitement while last year there was also apprehension. I didn’t know what to expect, but not this year: I have an itinerary, a driver, places to see, a student for company and friends waiting. Sounds like a perfect trip to me!

I just used the downstairs bathroom and found a dead mouse, compliments of Maddie. She had been chasing it the other night until Gracie got involved and the mouse escaped, but obviously that was short-lived.

Well, I’m done here. I’ll post some music and finish my final pre-trip chores. I’ll try and post after a day or two in Bolga as there is an internet cafe. I will miss talking to you every day!