Sunday, December 19, 2010

.... just listen and keep an open mind, please

Everyone of us have truly extraordinary moments tucked way back in our deepest and safest recesses. You know, those so personally special they are rarely, if ever, shared out loud. Yesterday a reminder came strolling through this house with a familiar smile and a hug. You see, my volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America began in 1980. The years were filled with some of the most remarkable people and experiences; but in the Fall of 1990, stunned comes to mind.

This all began that Spring with a phone call .... "just listen to me and please keep an open mind". "Wait you want me to go to National Camp School for Shooting Sports Director, are you crazy? I'm 50 years old AND female. Our camp staff happens to be the age of my children. How are they going to react to this??? Oh, and if I do this, do not expect me to live in that staff area. The final decision will be my family ... o.k.?" Just to set the record straight, the skills required for this job were learned the first year of my 1965 marriage and honed over the subsequent years. So on that level, proficiency wasn't in question. Is this nutz?!?

And so it began. My housing was a 2 man tent located off to the edge of the Shotgun area by a large tree for shade. Finding a length of hose, the Ranger created my shower into the latrine water system. Wow, that was a real eye opener every morning - holy cow COLD!! [still causes goose bumps]. At the end of busy days, would climb into the rope swing with a good book. Sometimes staffers would come down to share tales of the day or just sit in the quiet star gazing.

Those 6 weeks everybody learned; merit badges were earned, and our little world of shotgun, rifle and archery eventually became a family. However, weather [that wild card element] on one occasion stretched our capabilities to the maximum. A sudden wind, rain, and hail storm swept through. We huddled together attempting to stay dry in the covered rifle area when lightening struck a neighboring teaching area. 30 or so faces were looking at me to "fix it or make it stop". Later,soaked and cold everyone was sent back to their campsites and then the 4 of us [me and the 3 staff] tore through the woods to help with whatever had happened. That day still is a vivid image of sodden unhappy faces expecting me to wave a wand and make life better.

The one thing I didn't expect that summer was the way the staff members accepted me, not as a mom. Most had seen me at other related events for most of their Scouting life, but just accepted me as staff. You know, some moments are rather a rite of passage as well as a farewell to Summer. We had a water tower. What was I thinking. It wasn't a dare, just an invitation to join some of the guys. Oh, yeah, my name was added to the side of the tank facing the lake ..... wow, what a view.

Fall returned with the usual hectic Scouting schedule of troop meetings, roundtables, distinct meetings etc. But that one roundtable, will not be forgotten. Seems the Order of the Arrow was tapping out candidates that night. I went to watch my sons perform this ritual in costume.
Imagine my shock when my younger son stopped at my chair and ushered me to my older son to be tapped. Funny, I had noticed some of the older staff from camp were in the audience .... they were there for me and that made it even more poignant.

Several weeks later, having completed the induction, I watched as my younger son joined the ranks of his father, brother and others by receiving the highest honor the OA has .... Vigil Honor. I haven't spoken of this very often and certainly not in a long time. But yesterday our visitor brought all those memories pouring forth. Funny, the difference those young men made in a life that summer..... mine. They are all grown, some with families; all making a way in the world. I am honored to have been allowed to share that time with them. So, yesterday, we sat and recalled and laughed and remembered .... thank you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Now, why did they call it a Pound Cake??

Today was supposed to meet cousins for lunch but the freezing rain brought that to a halt. Our conversations are funny memories of relatives we have had in common ..... primarily our grandmothers who were sisters. All the women of this clan apparently were excellent cooks which seemed to have sparked a bit of rivalry .... you know, "that was very good, but mine is better" kind of thing. Aunt Lucy and Aunt Lillie made the best peach cobbler EVER in my humble opinion. BUT my Grandmother [sister Sallie],by far, was the queen of the Pound Cake. According to my Grandfather, she made about 3 per week. You see he had it toasted for breakfast every morning, not to include snacks and desserts. Now remember, this was in the 40's and 50's before Kitchen Aide stand mixers and Viking ranges. She had one of those funny green colored gas ranges with variable temperatures.

Sitting at her breakfast room table during a Mississippi vacation, we waited for the most recent baking to finish ..... nothing like the forbidden slice, still warm from the oven and a glass of cold milk. She would fain fury at cutting a hot cake .... "it ruins the moisture causing it to dry out". Mercy, one didn't last long enough to actually dry out. All the same, that morning the question was posed "Why is it called a Pound Cake?". "That's simple, all the ingredients are a one pound measure".

Since that time have noticed many many recipes for the glorious Pound Cake and not one have the ingredients measured by a pound of this and a pound of that. Perhaps you've noticed this as well.

During a Dutch Oven Outdoor Cooking demonstration, was questioned unmercifully as to what makes it rise .... there isn't any baking powder or soda..... well, that's because there's a pound of eggs in it. And yes, this can be baked over and under coals just the same way it's baked in my oven. It is soooooooooo easy.

O.K., o.k., just remember I'm using my Kitchen Aide mixer and a fluted bundt pan [oiled and floured]. Do not preheat the oven, that's correct, it goes into a COLD oven.

The "Real Thing" Pound Cake

Blend well together until creamy:
1 pound unsalted butter
1 " sugar

Add and blend in:
juice of 1 whole lemon

Add alternating beginning and ending with the flour:
1 pound Swans Down Cake flour [twice sifted]
1 " eggs [about 9 large brown ... weighted out of the shell]

Dump into Bundt or tube pan.

Place in COLD oven and turn heat to 250 degrees for 30 minutes.
Then, increase heat to 300 degrees for 30 minutes.
Next, increase heat to 325 degrees for 30 minutes.
Next, increase heat to 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Remove and allow to cook on a raised rack, then place plate over cake and invert onto plate. Taa-daa and voila ...... enjoy!

Oven Note: My oven runs hot; so, have discovered the cake is near done [checked with a straw] about halfway to near completion of the 325 cycle and would be very dry and scorched if it continued to cook. You need to know your oven and/or begin checking with a straw so as not to over cook. Straw should come out clean.

Creative note: As Grand Marnier is a favorite of a friend, substituted it for lemon juice. You might at least start with 2 tablespoons and adjust to your taste. Obviously, whatever flavor you wish should work.

A time or two even added cream cheese and swirled chocolate. Am positive my Grandmother was sitting on a cloud wondering if I had lost my mind to take such liberties. But my Grandfather was probably nudging her saying something as to "leave her alone Sallie, she's having fun".

Note to my grandparents: thank you for lovingly sharing your life with me .... miss you.

So, best get busy and throw one together .... it's a Christmas present for a friend! Catch you later and Feast Ya'll !!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Remembering Snowy Sunday Chili

Third week of December, Dicken's Village constructed on grand piano, Bryer Caroliers adorn the 10 foot mantel and the tree is trimmed. Every few days the aromas from the kitchen have imbued the house with seasonal joys and expectations. See, a conscious decision to give gifts of food to family and friends instead of un-necessary items. This way if whatever doesn't suit them ..... chuck it in the trash and no ones the wiser. AND, no mall visits which is a very good thing.

Yesterday winter arrived with snow flurries followed by snow showers. The wind could cut us in half ..... brrrrrr! It was a perfect day for a fresh pot of chili with rice and spicy cornbread. And I must admit, it was the best from this kitchen ever. Oh, lawrd, you probably have an award winning recipe; you don't need one more ..... afterall, who measures?? Well,let's see -

Snowy Sunday Chili

Brown together:
about 1 lb. ground round
" 1/2 lb. sage sausage

1 very large chopped onion
stirring in until translucent

Then add:
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste

Thin with:
V8 Juice .. the entire quart [I didn't have any dark beer]

Stir in:
1 handfull chocolate morsels
1 cup coffee [or a tablespoon of dried coffee]

Quanities from here out are not exact so begin with some and add for personal taste:
2-3 TBLS Smoked Paprika
4-5 " Chili Powder
3-4 " Cumin
2-3 " Oregano
1-2 " Beef Base [careful, this can be very salty]

Turn the heat to med. low and allow to simmer. 30 minutes before ready to serve
Add 2 cans of beans with juice. Any beans; I happened to have used
1 Black bean and
1 Cannolini Bean.

To serve .... heap rice in middle of bowl and spoon chili around rice. Freezes well. [hope I haven't left out anything - you're quite welcome to add or substract - that's what I do]
Feast Ya'll

So today, squirrels are racing in and out of limbs, then up and down trees. The Cardinals are emblazened against the Pine boughs. Watching all this activity makes me smile just enjoying life's simple pleasures. The blue skies are being over come by large gray clouds; the harbingers of a more severe night to come. Oh, well, guess we'll just crank up the fire, find a good movie and cuddle up with Finnegan So stay warm ..... Christmas is on the way ..... and it might be white ...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

... holy cow! Spiced Pear Preserves ....

What is that poem we learned in 4th grade ... oh, shoot, you remember .... October?? .... anyway, a line kinda goes - "the trees in apple orchard with fruit are bending down" .... guess that goes for pears as well.

The request for our favorite Spiced Pear Preserves created a search through shelves of cookbooks and recipe cards accumulated over the last 40 years. Being the type of cook that has a tendency of switching ingredients, the flipping of pages took a bit of time. Success:

The basic begins with 4 pounds yielding 3 pints. This is easily multiplied for larger quantities, at which point drop cut fruit into 2 Tbs vinegar, 2Tbs salt to a gal. water to keep from turning brown.

4 lbs. ripe pears
6 cups sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

In a piece of cheesecloth or small bag,
2 sticks Cinnamon
8 Cloves
2 tsp. Coriander Seeds
a blade of mace
6 whole Allspice
Tie these together in the cheesecloth

Peel, core and cut fruit into bite size pieces. Using a sauce pan or pot, add sugar, lemon juice and spice bag or bundle with the pears. Simmer slowly, stirring from time to time with a wooden spoon to keep from sticking for about 45 minutes. Skim as needed. The house will smell marvelously.

While the pears are preserving, sterilize jars. Instead of pints, you might want to use half pints simply due to the amount you want open in the refrigerator at one time.

A lesson learned as a child about that simmering time. Once a neighbor gave Daddy a grocery bag full of pears. His mother was one of those Southern cooks that could make a dish towel into a magnificent meal; hence, naturally he was convinces his observances would translate into the same results. Well ........... bless his heart, after some hours of simmering, at long last we jarred the sticky, stiff substance. Once cooled, nothing would do but have a taste. Suddenly confusion and frustration reigned ..... "I've watched her make jellies and preserves for years AND I did exactly what she does, what went wrong??" Mother and I decided the difference; we could not coax Daddy's out of the jar. I suspect my mother still has, in the back of her pantry, a jar or two of road patch.

With that thought, throughout the simmering time, remove a piece of fruit to a saucer, allow to cool and check for stiffness.... al dente works. Enjoy, it's really grand on fresh made biscuits or as the filling in puff pastry for a quick dessert.

Fruit substitutions we've used: fresh peaches, dried apricots .......... so Feast Ya'll

Friday, October 29, 2010

..... I'm going on a what's ??? ...

Memories .... that storage vault filled with everything you have ever done since day 1. Notice we are referring to "your" storage vault , not mine. That would be reminiscent of dredging through maral. No that isn't a made up word. It is ground coral, silt and sand ..... a moderately thick substance similar to quicksand but sinking usually stops between knee and hip..... found under salt water, as in the gulf's bottom; you really needed to know that .... right. Trying to make a point regarding a vault crammed full of disorganized "stuff" UNTIL a key word causes misfiring and wheels whirl. Suitcase Deer ..... AEDC Management Area ..... TWRA Diana Hunts.

Halloween weekend 1968, he is watching TV as I completed dinner that Friday evening. Was entertaining thoughts of a cozy fire, some wine .... oh, you know .... when I was confronted with a man so excited coherent communication failed. All that was heard " forget dinner, find a motel in Manchester, you are going on a Diana Hunt at AEDC". Before there was time to consider this, he was a whirlwind of packing, loading and waving me goodbye. I was departing and hungry and shocked that a man that size could be so lithe. [Oh, he was 6'2" and 240/50 lbs .... little fella to my 5'4" and 128lbs] He was like a running back receiving the ball on the 1 yard line, miraculously avoiding the opposing hoard to make the unheard of return "touchdown"!

Passing through some of the small communities, there were those miniature ghost and goblins collecting many TREATS. It was just me and our '67 Ginger colored Bronco heading west with not the first idea of what I had been shoved into. Looking back, this seems to be a continuing thread in my life. Lets skip ahead a few hours; checked into a Holiday Inn, then looked for food. Have you ever walked into a restaurant and noticed immediately "you weren't alone". Right, 70% of the diners were women in camo and they really weren't military. At least, I hoped not with all that big hair.

Taking heart, asked if I might join 2 ladies and that was the beginning of a friendship that lasted for years. Alma and Virginia became my new best friends from St. Petersburg, FL. Life is. The evening was a beehive of talk, prying area information out of others .... I felt as though my playmate had thrown me out into a lake with no preserver. So, if you paddle in one direction long enough, you'll reach the bank.... ha!

That Saturday, at 5 am, found me searching for the oak tree on the left corner of that 12 acre field just off the second dirt road on the right. RATZ!! O.K., you are absolutely correct, nothing. Lunchtime was spent at the checking station with a few Wildlife Officers picking their brains collectively. AH HA!! a little southern charm can go a long way weedling out information and the directions to an out of the way, quiet, little 5 acre field that seemed to have attracted a bit of activity. Pulling in to park, there was Virginia's station wagon well,drat .... all the same, grabbed my 12 gauge with a buck barrel and my Bernnike slugs [5]. Slipping down the right side of the field, spied Virginia facing off to the left and she indicated Alma was further to her left in the woods, leaving the right for me. We left the field that evening with a better sense of where what and how we would hunt Sunday.

The morning was so foggy one could get lost in the parking lot. Being the first actual organized Deer Hunt ever, we seemed to require alot of "checking out" many possible areas bring us to lunch. Girls, we have to decide ..... you are welcome to join me at the "little field" or you may like another place better....... so we went to the "little field". Funny, for all our future hunts, Mitchell and I would scout the areas and line up good, active locations AND we were successful.

Settling into a honeysuckle screen had a grand view of a fireroad that appeared to be well used. NOW, one of the very few things I resent about men IS ..... they don't need to remove 90% of their clothes to relieve themselves. Over the years, this one thing has been a burr under my blanket. Well, any way, there I was pulling up and fastening snaps/zippers/etc. when movement caught the corner of my eye. Oh, crap ... the head went down, my hand moved toward the tree, head up, I froze.... what seemed a week of stop and go and nearly breathing, he stepped behind a tree, the stock settled into my shoulder and I leaned into my tree. I could have smoked an entire pack waiting then there he was ... broad side ... no thought, found the spot, fired, could not have missed. After the initial back flip ..... quiet. Not wanting to jump him, sat down to wait 30 minutes. Soon there was the sound of crunch crunch crunch behind me. This continued until I was able to scoot around the base of my tree and see behind me ..... through the woods came Alma and Virginia to check out my harvest.

Lapsed time, we were surprised to find .... nothing!! After much looking, Virginia signaled she heard movement off to our left. Again, barely breathing we stood frozen in the middle of that fireroad when all of a sudden there right in front of us .... as though presenting himself to his fans
..... Alma was first to shoot, he didn't flinch; then Virginia caused him to jump sideways; well, what the ..... my shot and he did that back flip and down. Needless there was enough adrenalin raging that we probably could have picked up a car and run down the road. WOW!!!! just remember to breath. When we finally stopped congratulating ourselves and realizing the afternoon was waining. Need to get him to the checking station. Makeing our way to him, we almost tumbled over his twin brother from earlier. Oh, lawrd, thank goodness we hunted in threes. Two clean shots; a nice 6 point and a 7 point brother ..... Virginia checked one out and shared the meat with Alma that year, and we had forged a lasting friendship. I learned recently that Virginia had died and Alma was dealing with Alzheimer's.

By 8 pm that Sunday, Ginger Bronco and I rolled into the drive. What I didn't tell you early on was the statement, if I bring home a deer we would buy a long wished for freezer. Descending the back steps "Well, how'd you do? ..... You owe me a freezer!" Oh, yes, I also failed to mention I was "a little bit" pregnant with our first baby. My goodness, odd what tumbles from that stuffed vault amd it's Holloween weekend. Unfortunately for the ladies of Tennessee, we no longer have Diana Hunts.

Memories like bubbles burst and evaporate into thin air. Sure glad we can share these moments. Are you ready for that cup of Ginger tea and honey? It's chilly, let's have a fire too .......... what do ya say ......

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkins and perspectives

Isn't it odd how the priorities we set for ourselves are really obstacles. It's pumpkin carving or they just end up collected together as a Thanksgiving decoration. Tonight our geographic location is experiencing extreme weather. Oddly enough, the pumpkin is taking on a character of it's own and it isn't Betty Boop. Unfortunately and paralleled in time, tornadoes, downpours and traffic mayhem is occurring across our viewing area.

As I listen to the rain, yep it's raining at long last, there are thousands without power, trees on their roofs and other personal crisis. However, for me, the sound of water falling is soothing, relaxing and welcomed. AND, my life crisis seems far away and totally insignificant.

Pumpkin carved, Fierce Finnegin. Whether obstacle or goal, it is all perception. Your choice..... and I choose .... I choose ..... what to choose ..... O.K., health and happiness .... how does that corrolate..... lame. What do we want ? Is that perception as well? Actually, it's very simple [rather like me]. What's wanted is [drum roll] love and respect. There was love and respect for 35 years and I miss that. Will it ever come again? .... probably not. However, I'm willing to have an open mind .... obstacle.

During the afternoon and tonight freak weather super cells have attacked our dam, highways and homes. This time luck held for the south end of the weather ravaged areas. Pumpkins will go out tomorrow. It's five days and counting ..... passed all the pre-testing yesterday ..... obstacles, goals or perception ..... weather, pumpkins or what. Surely to goodness this makes sense to somebody besides me. I've never been here before and uncertainty makes me ambivolent. What do ya think
......... what's your perspective ......

Thursday, October 21, 2010

... and then the "other" shoe dropped ...

Have you ever taken your car, which performs just fine, for a simple "oil change"; and as soon as the hood rises, goules and goblins appear to have been at work on an overtime schedule. The mechanic, with a sheepish expression, begins to detail the myriad discrepancies for a "cherry" ride. It could be the alternator, the points and plugs appear to be worn, not to mention replacing all the hoses. What started out to be a $30.00 oil change is now spiralling into the stratosphere. How could everything be wrong .... how could it possibly have made the trip from home without a total breakdown. Oh, and the brakes and pads are badly worn.

If you have heard all this before, perhaps you will also appreciate my present predicament. This is beginning to resemble my past few months. "They" raised the hood and now we are tinkering around with the engine all the way to the exhaust.

Since August 10th, this anemia issue has required a three to four week off and on schedule with different members of the medical profession. This included a second Colonoscopy at the end of September; a physician's appointment preceding it to "discuss" the first findings. Then a follow-up enlightening phone call," Hi, Doctor removed 20 benign polops .... pause .... but there's that quarter size AVM that seems to be the reason you are leaking blood and it requires removal". While the brain is assimilating pertinent information, benign rolls over and over through the consciousness with a question mark. "We are faxing your records over to your next Doctor in the Oncology Dept. at the hospital." The conversation ended with "they will be in touch". Did you notice the size of that shoe as it fell? That was Wednesday October 6th and the emotional level appeared calm. After all, if it were bad news, logically there would not be a wait but go straight to surgery or whatever. RIGHT??!!? Never mind, I'm holding onto that thought, period.

Obviously we are far beyond mechanics, the specialist had the last word after simple diagrams. We will do a resection, staple the parts back together and you'll go home in 3 to 5 days. No more leak. When? So while the rest of you are racing to the polls to be first in line, that's right .... I'm first in line.

The funny thing about all of this is you realize how fortunate we are that medicine has progressed in so many areas. A few years ago I might not have had such a cavalier attitude. Don't misunderstand, this is concerning but let's not cross bridges until we are pushed. So there you are, hopefully just a brief hiccup in this life's safari. I will wager one idea .... bet that now these Doctors have me on their radar, I'm caught like a deer in the headlights.

The exorcism is now complete with the reading. Believe this evening requires a bit of time in the garden with a really lovely single malt before tackling those fresh apple cakes. What do you say, join me .................

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cruise Aftermath .... Anemia

Wishing I was still on board the Azamara Quest or ensconced in a quiet Roman Villa, my instructions were "get to your Doctor". Prodding was not necessary as I was concerned enough all by myself. Immediate fatigue, sternum cramping, shortness of breath, rubber band legs ..... o.k., o.k., got a bit frightened but I haven't seen a Doctor since ...... right. Hold on, if every time you saw one the closing comment was "you are as healthy as a horse, just loose a few pounds", would you keep going to see THEM...... right, no. So, called my Orthopedic Surgeon. It took 1 1/2 weeks to be approved an accepted but she was ...... a very tall South African with the blackest hair I ever saw on a white woman ...... an immediately was seduced by her straight forwardness, candor and sick sense of humor; that is until she refused to allow me to leave and had me admitted to the Hospital. No pass go, no $200..... suddenly I inhabited room #114. Seems my Red Blood Count was at 17; apparently "they" are concerned when it drops to 40. Hummmmm, well, o.k., are you sure this is necessary? That was greeted with a lecture on education and something questioning my intelligence.

Three days later, an echocardiogram, colonoscopy, extensive needles day and night of drawn blood, transfusion of 3 units of o something [positive, I think]; "they" determine my extreme anemia had caused my travel problems. BUT, we need another colonoscopy. Well, of course they do. This is when I begin to feel as though I've driven into a mechanics bay and what was a perfectly operating machine turns into ..... well, maam, this is wrong and that needs replacing .... you get my drift?? right. Amazing what large doses of ferrous sulfate [iron] 3 times a day will accomplish. Tah-dah! Blood work is greatly improved BUT, and there's always a but...... , we need a "cleaner" colonoscopy.

While I'm loose, free and not feeling like I did on shipboard, life is to be ..... taking walks on the truck trail, holy cow .... dancing !!! I have the energy to actually .... live, move, exist. Apparently, I have been leaking blood for a very long time until I was down to forcing the dear old heart to work excessively hard to pump a very small amount of blood. Now, just need to build back the muscle mass I lost. I'm here .... and that's a good thing. Now we know why I was accusing Ed of trying to give me a heart attack on those "forced" marches...... I was a bit low on blood!!! Isn't the course of life funny? Oh, come on, you gotta laugh!!!! "If only" won't buy a cup of coffee or tea ............... I'm looking out the window at the deepest orange glow of this day's setting sun and anticipating tomorrow's adventure. I've never felt such calm; but I wish I was still on Azamara Quest ..... WOW ..... what a ship; what an adventure. Thank you doesn't begin to cover my gratitude.... AND AFTERALL, TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY.................

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Athens to Rome

Up early, I watched the water traffic accelerate as time passed ... freighters, ferrys, passenger ships. No wonder our Captain wanted to reach the dock early .... 5 a.m. Done deal!!

As we could not leave the ship without our passports, decided to collect mine and then sit down and wait. As Ed had won The Ship's Navigational Chart yesterday, the crew was congratulating him as he came into the room. Nice to know a celebrity. Then, came T.C. and Richard. Guess we're off ... literally... RATZ! Down the gangplank to our colored section, find our baggage, now to the bus. T.C., you are good at arranging things! So, this is our last ride together. Conversation was never a problem and now I feel as thought I am well acquainted with all the branches of the family. He will be pleased to note that none of that info was written down and everyone knows in my left ear and out my right ear. I know there was a sigh of relief somewhere. Here's the Athens Airport. Goodbyes were quick for them .... we had to wait an hour before being allowed to check-in. So, we sat outside and watched others arrive and depart and talked of the Olympics etc.

Finally, checked in, checked through, and checked out.... funny how easy security checks are everywhere. We make such an issue here. Did anyone consider tightening up the entry??? Whatever..... We amble toward our gate; find a USA Today and settle into the crossword. Ed wanders off to find the Starbucks we past. Gate change ... finally, boarding and then we are off ..... Rome .... Yea!!! Odd that the front seats of this plane are unoccupied [what is that about?]. T.C. informed us to have the planes crew have assistance ordered for me upon arrival. Well, I did and that was a monumental improvement. Unfortunately the baggage conveyance broke, and some 30 -40 minutes later we rolled out to a waiting car. The drive into the city was lovely straight to the St. George Hotel on Via Giulia.

Isn't it strange how something builds up in your head into something it isn't. Well, the hotel was lovely and small, but not up to expectations. Settled into our rooms, it's off to the Pantheon and then the Piazza Nevona. After several blocks, rubber band legs and a tightness in my sternum, "Ed, I don't care if it's 2 steps or 2 miles, I'm taking a taxi and you can come with me". So we did.

After a stroll around Navona be sat down for gelato in the very same Restaurant where the girls and I had lunched several years ago. Funny ... we sat, ate and watched the artists. Then Ed goes to visit the neighboring church. I am amazed at some of the garish "reproduction" stuff for sale. The last time I was here found some lovely watercolors. They are here but not many. Ed returns and we stroll up to the Pinocchio Shop. Holy Cow .... look, metal soldiers, just pick your era. [Still no hat]. I am wearing thin, so back to the St. George. How about 5:30p.m. for cocktails at the rooftop bar.

Looking across the roofs of Rome, we decided if you threw a rock in any direction you'd hit a church. But consider how old is Rome, then realize it's 2010. If walls could talk take on a whole new aspect. The sun is fading, let's try dinner here. Nothing ventured nothing gained ..... well, we've done that, once.

Thank goodness, breakfast was buffet. The American coffee drew up my tongue .... cappuccino please. It's Sunday and we are off to St.Peter's hopefully for Mass. Well, I was surviving o.k. going up the left side of the Piazza until Ed announced we have to cross over to pass through Security. That stroll previously would have been nothing more than a stroll. Today, I really have no idea as to how I managed to stay upright and get there. I was thinking heart attack on the Plaza in front of St. Peter's Basilica as the headlines of the local paper. Then, through Security and found an elevator and through the enormous doors. What is it about some placed, I am always over come with a sense of awe and disbelief I'm actually there. The Pieta and all the pieces part that make up this place cause me to marvel at the wonder. I feel .... exactly, I feel.

We are in line for Mass and it is cut off 3 people in front of us. Disappointed, Ed tell me we can go to Mass at St. John's; after all, the Pope is at Gandolpho. Fine, can we locate that shop across from the Colonnade? Slowly we made our way to seek out some treasures. Ed found an Icon and a metal; I found a Rosary.

We called for a taxi and off to San Giovanni De Lateran [ the driver didn't recognize St.John]. So across town and 12 o'clock Mass. There are not words to convey the majesty of that church. It just felt like a holy place, don't ask me to explain .... it's a feeling. Of course after the service and we have strolled all over, Ed waltzes me out the back door. Wonder if his intentions are to kill me in Rome. I did manage to reach a taxi down the street. Our driver was most informative. As we reached the Navona area, Ed inquired as to a "good, local" restaurant to the tune of rumbling stomachs. Voila! an excellent eatery. "Only a few blocks from your hotel." So, we entered to stare down the fish case with some monsters, and our waiter was Chilean. Ed's Veal with Lemon Sauce looked tremendous and my pasta was heavy. But, the place was super. Then we walked back. Lord give me strength..... just go on, I'll get there eventually. Call me and we can meet for drinks but I really don't need dinner.

Monday and breakfast. followed by a taxi to the Spanish steps. Shopping ... found a glove store, then a tea room [it had been in the same spot for ever .... seriously, for ever]. I think the gentleman at the cash register was an original employee.... my cup of tea was a perfect restorative. Back to the business of shopping and that place with the great ties in the window. Eventually, we are done. Taxi!! Now to deal with the Vat, you know, the refundable tax and back to the Pantheon. We strolled up the street to the Piazza Minerva. Finally, Ed goes off to find the Vat and I wander off window shopping and purchased a deck of cards.

Meeting up again, we enter The Grand Minerva Hotel. Very impressive and ended up having a hardy late lunch. This is where we should have been, maybe, huh?! Riding back to our hotel, Ed voiced his previous intention to return to restaurant of yesterday.... not now. Back at the hotel, I'm going to rest, call me later.

Ahhh, a game of gin and drinks and a few nibbles in the garden. A lovely end to a good day. Tomorrow morning we are off and it will all be over..... but, oh, the memories. A mere thank you doesn't cover this experience. It was fun. I've been spoiled.

Kusadasi & Ephesus, Turkey

Still at sea, the Captain announced there was an increased threat of terrorist action and violence in Turkey against U.S. citizens. We need to be alert and mindful of our safety and surroundings. Well, why not.

With the noon arrival, our group had a 2 p.m. tour. We opted to wander the waterfront shops. As we left the ship, there were bicycle propelled carts. Don't walk when you can ride has become my mantra. First argument of the day was over the 1 dollar trip. Well, of course "he" wanted more ... nope. Ed can really dig n his heels. Wow!

Thru the customs house and funneled into the shopping district. Our first encounter was a jewelry store with a very pushy young woman and a man standing in the middle of the sidewalk. She was a shark. Well, I like to ask question about items and she took that as a signal "player/buyer". Granted they had some lovely things BUT #1) is it real, #2) my mind is screaming "inflated" prices, #3) you must think I'm an idiot. Goodgrief, she really needed a reality check. AND, out the door we go closely followed. I really hate that. It was fun checking out pretty things, no matter how proud they were of their merchandise and Ed tells me I don't know how to shop. He must have thought I was serious. hahahahaha ..... so did they. I wasn't born yesterday. When the ships arrive, the prices change to the premium level.

Carpets, jewelry, Birkenstocks, La Costa, Persian looking frames, boxes, chess sets ........ and then there was STARBUCKS; yes,yes, please a Mocha Frappaccino, PLEASE. As Ed enjoyed his hot cappuccino and I took a swim in mine, we plotted our attack. LaCosta for his male relatives and that scarf shop for the girls. Listen, the scarf shop was .... let's see .... it was extraordinary to say the least. WOW! And I went in looking for something silk for Shannon. All I can say...... I'm thinking .... well, I'm trying to find the right words .... still thinking ..... it was an experience and Ed had fun .... maybe that's the correct word ..... actually, trying to write this is difficult. He collected some very lovely things for the girls. Spent time in other shops but nothing else. Now we must run the gauntlet past that female HUSTLER and her friend. No plan in mind, I just kept moving and Ed kept saying "I'll be back". Isn't that what Arnold S. said in The Terminator? We made it to customs house and the duty free shops. One last look for the metal soldiers and Kiev Skya Rus [honey vodka] - NOPE, again. Outside, I caught the little peddle cart. Ed needed a little smoking time. As we moved off to the ramp, I realized he was still carrying his purchases. I should have brought them with me - UNCONSCIOUS!!!

The Chef's Outdoor Buffet on the pool deck with Turkish dancers was our plan rather than the off ship dinner and dancers. It required a walk and neither Ed nor I were interested in more walking today. So we ate, had Martinis and watched the dancers for a spell then moved down the deck so Ed could smoke and we talked til late. Good night!

As Friday unfolded, I met everyone for breakfast in Windows. Due to the amount of walking that was required. I begged off. After their departure, I caught a taxi into town and away from the dockside shops. No matter where I looked no soldiers and no hat; so, back to the ship and my last ride in the little cart.

Ed called to say they were back, With 104 degrees and extremely uneven walking, I was grateful for having attempted Ephesus.

Dinner at 8 in Discovery. Shoot, this was the last evening with T.C. and Richard. I'm going to miss them. Tomorrow will find us in Piraeus/Athens, Greece. I've liked my stateroom and the ship's world. Over too soon..... but , we still have Rome.

I'm sad .... Later ........

Cruising South to Volos

I must have really been tired; slept til 8 missing the mouth of the Bosporus [Istanbul Strait] and we are nearing Istanbul. Grabbed the camera and dashed to the balcony. Wish I had my trusty old Nikon 2020; heaven knows, I can't afford the new digital. These little "toss aways" don't weigh as much. Moving right along .... and so is Turkey. Here we are slipping out of the Bosporus into the Sea of Marmara. We should reach The Dardanelles [Hellespont] about 3:30 p.m.

I chose not to worship the "sun god" and met T.C. for Trivial Pursuit and Name that Tune. What fun! Did fair with trivia but naming tunes were a snap until one {The Shining}. I immediately recognized and could not find the name in my mental cobwebs until the very last second, blurting it out with a squeal. We won a book mark. Having expended all our energy, time for lunch.

Windows and their excellent Fish and Chips. As we sat chatting, Captain Karlsson [Leif] asked to join us. What an unexpected and educational pleasure. Seems he has dual citizenship: Swedish by marriage and Aaland by birth. Right, I didn't know of this spot on the planet either. An island surrounded by thousands of smaller island with a population of 28,000 [I think that's correct] off the coast of Finland. Following WWII, Russia was thinking "great naval base"; Finland and/or Sweden were thinking more taxes. Before anyone knew, 6 officials from Aaland secretly went to the League of Nations and petitioned for their independence; AND, it was granted. Surprise! surprise! to Russia, Sweden and Finland. Unfortunately, Finlanders are still upset and angry about this development. Get over it, comes to mind. This wouldn't happen one those huge ships. This is lovely; nice family.

Ed is off to read his book on Luce. T.C and Richard wander off and I headed to the computer center. Wish I could remember all that Greek /Roman Mythology I took as a crip [ha ha] elective that summer at the University. Point being, here we are Jason and the Argonauts, the sirens, the Golden Fleece, Helen, the Trojan Horse. Thrace is dead ahead.

Good to his word, the Captain has us entering the Dardanelles at 3:30 p.m. Squalls have caused me to settle in the Looking Glass for a forward view of the area. These straits are some 30 miles long. As the rain moves away, I return to the walking deck encountering Richard, then spied Ed. We moved from one side to the other to catch one site then another. Supposedly when the movie company completed filming HELEN OF TROY, they left their wooden horse to the city of Troy.

Nearing the Gallipoli peninsula, our narrator gives a point by point description of the devastation to British, French, Australian, New Zealanders and Indian troops attempting to gain control from the Turks. Mr. Churchill's intent was miserably crushed. The monuments are standing there as proof. It's a sadly expensive little point of land. I am often amazed how often we repeat the past. What a waste. Drama everywhere. Squalls moving in again ... ooow, ooow ... there goes a Turkish Submarine! Humm, we are moving into the Aegean Sea. Well, o.k.....

Dinner at 7, Aqualina to celebrate Richard's 80th birthday ..... good conversation, excellent food and the wine Ed had purchased in Yalta. Mercy, that was sweet wine. My filet was perfect and we lingered long after in order to savor the Grand Marnier Souffle ..... yummmm!! Roll me down the passageway, there'll be no dancing tonight.

Tomorrow brings us to Volos. You know, from the very beginning I wondered what was special about Volos, Greece. Ed and Richard set off on their individual search, returning with similar stories: about 12 unimpressive square blocks.

T.C. and I have a grand time chatting in the Mosaic lounge with some Trivial Pursuit, etc over an iced cappuccino and a hot cappuccino. Then, dealt with Ed's swollen feet. An easy relaxing day and no stress to meet any schedule. Tomorrow will be Kusadasi, Turkey and our last 2 days. I've been having such a marvelous time, it was a shock of reality. RATZ!

Ah, my tea is cold again ..... want a fresh cup for you too? Later...........

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Varna, Bulgaria

10 a.m., we negotiated the maneuvers to the dock as pilot boats drift nearby. Nice job, again. The group is touring today with a new guide named Kossy [a lady]. Passing shaded streets and avenues lined with apartment buildings, you begin to notice the design is sever/utilitarian. First stop, the Cathedral of the Assumption is a very austere design. Actually, it was built with the stones that had been the wall around the city. Even that profound reverence I always feel walking into a church, wasn't there. Odd... Icons everywhere. After our instructional speaker, everyone flocked to the gift shop to peruse the Icons for purchase. Later, outside vendors were selling trinkets and I found a carved wooden fan for a belated birthday gift for T.C. Back on the bus.

As we rolled through the streets, Kossy pointed out all the buildings the Queen had built before communism. Unfortunately, repairing didn't seem high on anyone's priority list. All the same, we were informed as to the wealth of the country. She was quick to point out that their major export was PECTIN. Wow, pectin, that is used to make jelly. Must ship a mountain of the stuff for it to be your primary export. I have checked and she could have mentioned grain and wine. Shame the revenue wasn't used on the infrastructure: water drainage, building repair, stuff. When pressed on these points, she told us antidotes.

1) Coca-Cola was able to make a deal with the regime. No one is certain what "they" thought the REAL THING meant, but apparently there was the anticipation of "a kick". However, after much perplexing consumption, it was finally mixed with a fortified wine. Voila! "the kick" they had been expecting was achieved. True story!!

2) Sometime in the early 1910's, Henry Ford made a contract with the Bulgarians to create a factory and build cars. They did until The Party took over; factory closed. They, then, made Soviet cars [Muskovas] that were rather like personal tanks. It was explained that once they were rolling, they were very slow to stop.

3) THE train line to the capital [Sophia] was built by the British following WWII. The trip is 7 hours AND it is the only rail system. She concluded this with "There are improvements but it will take 50 years". No matter what personal politics we have, we [USA] are so fortunate!!

Ah, Kossy pointed toward an unattractive group of high rise boxes. "These are the ugly CRACKER BOX apartment buildings we were given." Some are built so that a conversation on the first floor is heard on the top floor. Each family has 1 to 3 bedrooms, sitting room, tiny kitchen, dining room and bath; plus one acre of land outside of town for your SUMMER HOUSE. The individuality seemed to exert itself in the garden designs. As we passed these fenced plots, some were very organized tall arbored vineyards with tables and chairs beneath for shade. For the most part there were sprinklings of vegetable gardens. Everyone had fig bushes and some fruit trees. It is so sad when creativity is squelched.

Our next stop was designed to provide us with "good" toilet facilities. Lo and behold a pottery studio. We can spend money. Wonder if there was a "kickback". Unusual glazing technique but the pieces looked poured not thrown. Wish I could get back with a teapot without it ending up in pieces. Better not. While standing at the bus door, I got the duality of where we were. A donkey pulling a cart and 2 occupants was on the opposite side of the road.

We left the paved street onto a rutted dirt road. It was strange to see a sign APARTMENTS for SALE and then the concrete skeletons of future buildings. Oh, you know, the floors and pilings were poured and the reinforcing rods were visibly ravaged by vines and time. Great views of the Black Sea, just no walls, windows etc. Told Ed he could get a real deal but he scoffed at the idea. Spoil sport.

My word, I'm in trouble, looks to be a very long walk along the beach where bathers soak in the mineral waters. Onward to the entrance to the Queens Botanical Gardens. After multiple rest stops, there ahead is an arbor lushly festooned with Virginia Creeper over a rill of water continued from a huge water wheel. Oh, yes, IT IS HOT!! and quite a climb. So, T.C. and I find a shaded table and order cooling icy drinks from the little cafe and a chat. Not much time passed before many members of our group were returning. Even Ed, and eventually Richard joined us. That's telling.

Shortly, we were called to lunch and serenaded with an accordionist. The stone building's interior felt Bavarian to me; heavy dark beams and mantles against thick white plaster walls with deeply recessed windows. Lunch began with good black bread and a huge salad of tomatoes and cucumbers, followed by Roasted Guinna Hen with Imperial Rice and Roasted Root Vegetables [no one could figure what they were], and concluded with Yogurt with Honey and Walnuts, all served with the House Wine ... red or white. Then the rain came with avengence during the wine tasting. Ahhh, it's stopped and back to the bus just in time for the next deluge. Slipping into a nap during our return, I awoke to torrents of water running down driveways into the street creating a river. A shame there's no drainage system. We pass a large lovely park as we head straight for the boat, sorry, ship.

6 p.m. and we are off and heading south. Call me for dinner, I need to write before I forget. O.K.? What a way to begin a week.

Remembering is work even with notes. I need a fresh cup of tea; join me?

Weekend in Odessa

Whatever the origin, I have intestinal distress, and I've lost my sense of humor as a direct result. Thank goodness breakfast tea arrives; so, it must be 7:30 a..m. With no intention of leaving my stateroom anytime soon, Ed, T.C. and Richard are off to sample Odessa. At the end of the wharf await the "stairway" into the town. 193 wide inviting steps ..... wow, I had no idea.

While "they" were enjoying the local sights and smells, finally, I showered, dressed and tentatively made my way out into the ship. Eventually decided to lunch at Windows with my good book. It was me, Nelson DeMille and Black Current ice cream. O.K., I can deal with just about anything as long as the Black Current ice cream doesn't run out. Right you are, it isn't what you put on a distressed stomach; nonetheless, one must have some joy no matter how short lived.

Imagine my surprise when our group began returning for lunch. Ah, there is a very special 7 course dinner planned for us in a local restaurant. Well, there will be one less for that event. At present, the rolling and pitching has nothing to do with waves on the high seas. Thank goodness our televisions provide a couple of movie channels cause I'm headed back to my small world after a fitful night.

The Chef's Outdoor Grill and Buffet with Ukrainian Folkloric Dancers for entertainment would be in the pool/open deck area. My arrival was well after the buffet had started and just in time for the dancers. Out of nowhere appeared T.C. and Richard; seemed Ed was changing. The restaurant wasn't air conditioned and the food was o.k. ..... our buffet was excellent: Beef Tenderloin, Grilled Chicken, Grilled Whole Fish .... not to mention everything else. We had a lovely evening by the pool with the colorful and artful dancers.

As the day broke on Sunday, Ed, T.C. and Richard found a church. Actually there is a charming church on our dock. I found that a bit odd but what do I know. For the afternoon, Ed and I try to find metal soldiers or that infernal hat. There was nothing.

4 p.m. invited Ed over to watch our departure. Raphael [Butler] really out did himself with an extra tray of "bites": Tenderloin, Chicken and Shrimp [all grilled] and Empanadas. Forget dinner!!! As Odessa slipped from view, we'll start our week in Varna, Bulgaria.

By the way, don't believe I mentioned it was HOT; I mean, really HOT .... in the 100 degree range. I mention this only because it was supposed to be 89. The stomach thing is better, so tomorrow back in stride. I'm a little dry; how about that cup of tea?? Later.......

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sevastopol, Ukraine

Grabbing my robe, I stepped out onto the balcony. At 6 a.m., we have slipped from the Black Sea into the river Churuk Sou. This has been a strategic naval location since the 1700's when Russia chose it for their Black Sea Fleet. Sorta odd, the Russian Fleet is on one side of the river and the Ukrainian Fleet on the other.

Four pilots waited as we slid past many, many memorials and statues on the cliffed banks to the area struggles .... successful and tragic. With delicate hand, we are birthed among war and hospital ships. Holy cow!!! I'm taking shots of the RUSSIAN FLEET ......

No delivered breakfast today; meeting Ed at Discoveries. The group is off for a full day of ruins and Tartar food. We opted not to participate.

A 5 minute walk to Central Park. Ahh, a bank and an ATM. Funny how you can guess your way through the withdrawal process until it comes to the amount. Currencies are like Monopoly money .... it makes very little sense. We have either 50 cents or 50 dollars???!!! The exchange rate was 7.90 to a dollar; well, it sounded really good. Right?

For morning hours, the heat is rising. Thank goodness Central Park is tree covered and strewn with benches. Labored breathing, rubber band legs and I settle on a quiet bench sending Ed off to browse and wander. It was a perfect time to make phone calls with my new global phone. Honest to goodness, there is a busy signal for the voice messages ....RATZ .... "the number you have dialed is unreachable". I give up!

Feeling better, believe I'll browse through the shops. Wandering along, here is a young man with a white and a blue Peacock [I thought they were stuffed until they moved]. For a price, passersby could have their picture taken. The vendors held nothing I would have. So, back to the bench. Watched the birds being posed and the man strolling the monkey on a leash. With Ed's return, he had found nothing of interest. Ambling back toward the ship, we happened upon vendors with stacked dolls and intricately painted boxes. I love neat finds. Ed finally admits his ankles are swollen and hurt. As I become easily winded, we head back to the ship for the remainder of the afternoon. At least I wasn't the last person on board.

6 p.m. and we are off. Again, we sit chatting on my balcony with "bites and libation" watching the pilot boats guide us out of the harbor. The history here seems to have been one of destruction, rebuild, destruction, rebuild. This city destroyed itself and sank their fleet to keep it out of the enemies hands {Crimean War]. Then the Germans bombed them during WWII. Reconstruction was completed in the 1950's. Persistence to exist is powerful. Back into the sea and the weekend in Odessa.

That's enough for today. Just received some fine tea, join me for a cup?

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Before joining the tour, I am concerned as to my inability to walk any distance without serious respiratory stress. On our previous outing, breathing became painful. Kinda scary ..... but I'm here and I don't want to miss anything. Buck up, it's time to find the bus.

Right off the bat, we are informed that "we'll walk to the church". I'm already lagging behind and the last I heard "oh, it's only a little ways". [ Foreign language speak .... a long walk, which is a reoccurring theme]. Find a cab and drive through town on the way to Alexander Nevsky Cathedral [Russian Orthodox]. Arriving before the walkers, watched the local women enter for morning Mass. A quaint structure adorned with a mosaic of Nevsky on an outside wall. Inside the icons against the dark wood of the altar and beams. This place makes one feel small with a need for reverence. So with head bowed, the thought,"God, if you are listening, your healing hand would be appreciated"; if that is too Presbyterian," forgive me my transgressions" and it's only Thursday.

To the bus .... and what a bus.... WOW, it is gargantuan, and comfy. AND we're off.... no, not the wizard but the Summer Palace of Nicholas II [the last tsar of Russia] called Livadia. This amazing white structure was built in 1911. After the murders of the Royal family, it fell into disrepair until Churchill requested it's use in 1945 [following WWII] to be the site for the gathering of Roosevelt, Stalin and himself to divide up the post war European world : The Crimean Conference. It is a magnificent example of Italian Renaissance. Actually I opted to stay on the bus with T.C. due to the "little bit of a walk"[45 minutes]. Funny thing was due to the heat and the "length" of the hike, we were joined at/in the bus by half the contingent unwilling to traverse the "mileage". So, a good time was had by all.

The hardy return with glowing reports; I got on the Internet later. There was a winery stop and Ed found several that he purchased.

Our driver was adept at twisty curvy roads with our unwieldy vehicle. We lumbered through lanes and past markers. One pointed toward the house Stalin resided during that Conference. As luncheon was nearing, we were taken to The Swallows Nest Castle.It is considered the symbol of Yalta. It looked like a cross between a German Fortress and Disney's Fantasy Castle only small and perched on a precipice. I'm not sure what lunch was besides mixed greens salad, uncertain meat entree and fruit compote .... good bread. Then time for some shopping from local vendors while waiting for our van transport to the bus. The drive toward Yalta took us up and near St. Peter's Peak, 3,000'. There were alot of metamorphic caps, outcrops and dykes. Must look this up at home.

Drove by farmer's markets, through neighborhood streets and finally to our dock. "Strolling" through the Customs House found a Duty Free Area. the "Eggs", metal soldiers and the hat. It looked Russian Army with metals, perfect for Ian [son]. Why didn't I just get it ... WHY! I never saw it again ... dumb! AND Ed didn't purchase the metal soldiers. O.K., let's go .... would you believe I was the last person on the ship ... no, joke. Security even call my Butler to inform him I was aboard. Well, needless to say, he really was standing with my door open and a drink in his hand. As I collapsed into the chair I was grateful, yet again, for Raphael.

15 minutes later we were leaving. Called Ed to come over and watch our departure. Raphael arrived with 2 trays of "bites", extra ice and more tonic. So, we sat on the balcony and watched the pilot boats guide us out of that tiny harbor. By the way, the reason for the jetty .... the Royal family was caught in bad weather and the storm kept them at sea unable to land until the next day. Apparently that was one time too many. The jetty was created .

Dinner at 8:00 ..... Discovery .... bet there will be a really good bottle of wine. So, Yalta, next Sevastopol tomorrow. I'm pooped, later........

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cruising to the Crimea

Calm seas and blue skies gave way to a very lazy day. Pampering with manicure and pedicure followed time in the computer center regaling my adventures to friends. Must not miss Tea at 3:30 in the Looking Glass with it's panoramic view. Our harpist is consummate. She looks to be 12 years old; but of course, that would be absurd. All the same, the more I age, the younger everyone else appears.

Ed chose a lecture on the Crimea for the afternoon. Having had such a harried day, I returned to my stateroom to recuperate until dinner at eight. As Wednesday turned into Thursday, the Azamara Quest slipped toward the Ukrainian coast. On my balcony,having caught up with sleep, the Crimean Peninsula loomed up in the early grayness as dawn began to break. The crimson poked and pushed it's way through a cloud bank until the radiating shafts seemed to be stretching towards me. Then I realized the dark shadowy things scattered about on the surface were wooden rowboats of fishermen. A single person per boat, and they had rowed, at least a half mile or more, out to fish with a rod and reel. I am enchanted!

Some hour later, we arrive at a jetty. So how does one park this ship? Well, it was something to behold. I am in awe! Two pilot boats were waiting. It was rather like parallel parking. As our Captain swung the stern inward, I actually doubted if we would squeeze past the jetty. THEN, he backed us inside ..... how lovely was that!! The pilot boats sat and watched our artful Captain. BRAVO!! It was as easy as backing a VW Beetle into an extra large parking spot..... but what do I know.

Right on time, Raphael [Butler] arrives with breakfast and welcome to Yalta. Must hurry to meet our group. We are touring today. Catch you later.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Istanbul ... Day 2

Early morning boats running every which way. Fishermen with nets line up their crafts. All this just over the rail of my balcony as I pour that first cup of tea. Over my shoulder in the main channel, five Naval Ships course north east towards the Black Sea ... could be Russian. Yes sir, I'm really here; holy cow!!

First on the agenda is The Palace: beautiful gardens, the stony guard on his pedestal, shoe covers and then the steps and stairways and crystal [Waterford and Polish]. Even the balustrades; such opulence, no wonder there was a revolt. After all the walking in circles, the boat ride up and around the Bosporus gave way to many naps. Lunch! Now off to the Bazaar; however, Ed, Richard [Ed's uncle] and I elected to get off the tour bus at the Blue Mosque. We're on our own now! If you look moderately confused, "guides" flock to you. After some negotiating, we were led inside [the walls are blue mosaic tile] and given the whole story. Oh, you know, this was a true mosque to replace the use of Haige Sophia which is a basilica and doesn't face east exactly. As we walked out, our guide had insisted we visit his carpet show room. There is something about NO and NO THANK YOU that fuels a sellers fire.

Cotton on cotton, silk on cotton, silk on silk, they were all there in their rich colors.... Prayer rugs up to 12'x10'.... every shade, every design. For a moment I was fearful they had hooked Ed; but we escaped to run headlong into a jewelry shop of the most exquisite items. The masses of small unpolished rubies on multiple long strands of liquid gold .... ummmmmm .... pure elegance. Shake it off, dig in, must get back up that hill and over to see Sophia.

Haige Sophia, a basilica built for Christian worship until the Muslims arrived. They turned it into a mosque until The Blue Mosque was built. For me, it still held that ambiance that is so quieting. The craftsmanship and artistry is amazing considering it was built in the 3rd or 4th century. Our art hasn't come all that far when one really considers everything. Wonder what the walls would tell. Time to head for the ship ... TAXI!

Richard and I piled into the back seat. Ed, being over 6' was left to fold himself into the front. The first indication of creativity, the idiot crossed over behind the electric trolley and we proceeded to have the wildest ride without touching the horn. We maneuvered through centimeters width of air space at breakneck speeds then slam on the brakes. We nearly had an old man and his wooden push cart laden with tea and pastries as a hood ornament. I must note that when faced with terror/fear I either scream or laugh.By this time, I was laughing hysterically with Richard. Think Ed was numb. Next we careened down what appeared to be an alleyway that was actually a street lined with parked cars. Suddenly we stop in the lane of traffic, "we are here, ship around corner just 200 meters". A half a mile later, if I had encountered the "idiot", believe I would have had the strength to strangle. As I finally dragged myself through ship security, my Butler was called to confirm I was the last passenger to return. What a distinction. Oh, yes, I have a Butler who was waiting smilingly with my door open as my rubber band legs made it down the hallway .... a scotch would be nice, thank you.

Dinner, in Discoveries, was late but delicious, especially the Oysters Appetizer, and a nice Cabernet with TC [Ed's aunt] and Richard. We departed for Yalta at 10:00p.m. Following dinner we went up to the top deck and watched the lights pass and recede into the darkness of the Bosporus. We are on our way.

That is quite enough for now; join me for a cup of restorative tea and consider a whole day at sea and Yalta??? Later....

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Istanbul, of course Turkey

Atlanta's Hartsfield runway, Delta flight #36 and the wheels finally leave the ground. We are really on our way almost a year later than originally planned. The "we" happen to have been friends for over 30 years and thought we might travel well together ... and we did. Now, one other piece of history - You see I fell and broke my patella 6 days before we were to leave for Italy, France and England. A very grim day to say the least. Ah, well, this time we are off to Istanbul and a Black Sea cruise. Just the confusion of their airport, trying to find our bus to the ship gave an inkling to those "funny wrinkles" in our personalities.

The ride was along the waterfront with visions to the right of rusting ship hulls laying at anchor. To the left, beige horizontal buildings were stacked and stacked. Minarets pierced through the mass everywhere [later to learn, there were 3,000 mosque]. This is probably a good point to mention the local driving habits. There isn't enough time for road rage as every driver is intent on "squeezing" into invisible spaces between the not so invisible vehicles of every size. Centimeters seem an appropriate measure to occupy unflustered. It was the best show I've ever seen of pure intestinal fortitude. Eventually we arrived at Customs house and the Azamara Quest, our home for the next 12 days.... well, maybe. Our next hurdle, we were not on the manifest according to a very official young woman with more authority than English at which point Ed had endured more than he could tolerate, so off to have a smoke, in other words fix it. So, this young policeman and I patiently scanned the sheets until it was discovered we had been "upgraded". Once more through a security check and passports returned, up the ramp and aboard. Holy cow!! air conditioning ... yes .... now to find our staterooms [8039 and 8036], the last discovery. Heaven help us, taaa daaa, Ed's on the port [left] side and across our connecting hallway I'm on the starboard [right] side with balconies [yea!!!!]. Oh, I know it's those little pleasures that thrill the soul..... I need a drink and it's only the middle of the morning. Breath, don't forget to breath ..... lets go find lunch.

Now, Windows had a panorama view and the buffet wasn't shabby either. It would take a few days to figure out hot/cold, a little or a lot, Black Currant Sorbet ... ummmmmm, yummmmm!! decisions, decisions. As our heads began to droop closer toward our plates, naps seemed perfect,"call me when you wake", great. I have no memory of falling across the bed, only of the phone ringing and answering to Ed's voice far away. You know, we had a comfortable flight in Business Class, for what ever reason I just can't seem to sleep for more than a couple of hours. Anyway, it's time to canvas the ship and get our bearings while we wait for our luggage.

Dinner was complimentary in the Aqualina Restaurant. Well, if there was a course we weren't going to skip it; however, when you must order dessert first I've learned it could be the best part of the meal ... it was Grand Mariner Souffle.
There were no morsels left of Scollop's, Crab Salad, Lobster Bisque, Chilean Sea Bass, Lobster Thermador/Pot Pie AND a bottle of a really lovely Shiraz. Obviously, we are still savoring the memory of all those flavors. but the Souffle was a work of art on the tongue. It amazes me what can happen with some eggs, sugar and flavoring. Mercy me!!!! That old song comes to mind "heaven, I'm in heaven and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak" ..... you get the idea. Please don't make me move; could "they" just roll our chairs to where ever we're suppose to be next, PLEASE.

Next for me, I feel as though I've hit the day 1 wall. Begging off from further collective activity seems appropriate. Stumbling into my stateroom, grab a scotch, linger in a hot shower and, at last, quiet time on the balcony watching the water taxis and boats of all descriptions frantically churning to and fro. A second slower scotch, the whole area is lite up like in a holiday fashion: the Blue Mosque and Haige Sophia are directly across the inlet up on the hill. It is a strange and amazing place and the air is full of spice. Tomorrow will be a full day.

Well, seems a good place to stop and find a cup of tea .... join me?? Later...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Snake Alert!!!!!!!

"Snakes ..... I hate snakes." This quote from Indiana Jones covers my sentiments perfectly. O.K., o.k . .... all creatures great and small have a place in the giant scheme of things; however, I do not have to like or live with them. Well, actually, you see, one did live in our home, for awhile, once. If you have a child allergic to animal dander and you don't wish to spend all your time sitting with him in the hospital under an oxygen tent, concessions are often made. Reggie was a Bald Python.

The care and handling was "their" job. Oh, you know who "they" are .... anyone in the family other than you. So we settled into a routine, periodically, I would purchase a mouse and "they" would feed him. Then we had the escapes. I would check behind and under the sofa cushions before sitting ..... really, I did not have a raving fit. One time he was missing for about a month. We decided, when hunger was an issue, he would show up. One evening I was summoned to a storage area and instructed to open a drawer. There coiled in among the wires, extension cords, etc was Reggie unable to extricate himself. After much unraveling, all was back to normal.

Don't be lulled into thinking that my fine wholesome men/boys didn't pull pranks on me, because they did until that time when the world went sideways. Which is the point of this narrative.

We've all lingered lazily in bed on a Saturday morning. It was Spring, the windows were open, and I just slipped back into an easy sleep. Thinking it would be fun to see what would happen if "they" slipped Reggie in bed with me, "they" watched. Slowly I became aware something was in the bed and moving under the sheet which caused a sudden panic reaction. From "their" vantage point outside the bedroom door, my family witnessed an amazing feat of agility. I was told that I actually had levitated and exited the bed giving the impression to have been running on thin air...... to say nothing of the sound that emanated from my mouth. Perhaps at first, "their" inclination was to run as well; but considering my past reactions to rid the world of vermin, "they" decided restraining would be safer for Reggie. This later explanation had to wait as my sensibilities had been thoroughly compromised. I am certain that a Judge would have dismissed any murder charges against me due to hysterical insanity. An indelibly etched lesson was learned that day.

Snakes came to mind this morning as I made my daily wander through the tomatoes, roses and such in the garden. There weren't any lurking about, but maybe I should carry a hoe with me just in case. We could discuss this over a cup of tea.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Coca-cola Gravy

Watching the World Cup this morning, I noticed the Coca-cola advertisement around the field which in turn triggered a neuron to misfire leaving a gap in my conscious thought .... coke gravy. Oh, dear, we are back to food where this whole thing started.

He loved to entertain at home, in a duck blind, on a river bank or a goose pit. "Let's take a camp stove or a backpackers stove and have fresh" fish, duck, doves .... whatever. In May and June, many times he would be cleaning fish as I was catching them. Now, please understand there would be accompaniments ..... prepared slaw, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, tartar sauce, lemons, but french fries right out of the pan. All this to share the taste of fresh fried battered fish in Nature's glory. Of course, sitting on the ground was not ideal due to ticks, ants, etc. Sometimes advanced prep work was done ..... a desired spot, with the right view, might require clearing of debri, cut the grass, create a table for the cloth. Everything was on a rustic grand scale. I recall wondering where he actually came from, this classy romantic fella and how I was so lucky to be part of his life. I digress. Sometimes this was a bribe to coerce the boys to join us; but other times we had invited friends along for "an afternoon on the river". What fun!

Fall brought on Dove Shoots. The menu was simple Fried Dove Breast, Sliced Tomatoes, Rice, Milk Gravy all cooked on site. Yep, we used the same equipment; however, rather than a cool river bank, generally it was a hot Alabama or Tennessee afternoon looking for a shady tree. OR, he had provided a table and chairs from the van. I was tempted once to inquire if the Silver Service or the candlesticks would be used but immediately thought better keeping my mouth shut. Sometimes it's best to be surprised ..... pleasantly so. Floating the creek in a canoe for Squirrels was often concluded with wine and cheese served by paddle drifting back to the van.

Deer camp was a full blown event with Dutch Ovens [that's plural and often stacked] as it is for many folks. But Duck hunting, what idiot would think of it much less decide to do IT!!! First off, you're up at 3 a.m., dressed and in the van by 3;30, sleep til 4: 20, arrive at Mr. Barby's farm. Slip canoes off racks, load them, then drag across muddy field to flood timbers. Thank goodness the boys were there to help. Or, another option and this mornings destination would be the coal shute at Coffee Lake and "the narrows". Who in their right mind would even consider cooking. We had guest coming; well, of course we did .... a friend and his wife who was as much an outdoorsman as I am an Astronaut. So, of course, "himself" must make an event of it. "We'll have Fried Duck Breast with Rice and Gravy". You did note that was a statement not a question ...... good. The one thing I have not mentioned is the temperature. It's cold outdoors in January just in case you were confused and still thinking of the river bank in May. Ducks migrate when the temperature drops, a lot. This particular day was "brisk" to say the least. Nonetheless, out come the backpacker stoves and all are very impressed. The last thing to make is the gravy ..... quietly he inquired as to the canned milk. As I had not been part of the packing process and as generally my responsibilities were to "just get me in the van and go back to sleep" .... guess said milk was still in the kitchen. Well, not to be undone, we inventoried our supply of liquids. Caffine Free Diet Coke was the sum total. Funny what carbonation does to a roux [oil and flour]. I will say, after much stirring, adding massive amounts of pepper and some salt, he served us all our repass. He ate 3 helpings of rice and coke gravy that day. Sorry, but my vocabulary is insufficent to truly express the taste sensation and we rarely spoke of it for a few years; after which, we all joked and laughed about that day's outcome.

That's the truth about coca-cola gravy. You know, if memory serves, our friend's wife did not return to the field for another Duck Hunt, ever. Am pretty sure it was the cold not the gravy. WOW, life was full. Hummmm, think I'm about ready for a cup of tea .......

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Old Photo Memories

A shared stack of old photos has generated a "remember when" trip. Olive Branch, Illinois, Greenley Lodge near Horseshoe Refuge [think that's the name], geese, young Lab, young sons, everything seemed young 30 +/- years ago. All the same, there we were, the 5 of us. The travel begins with the first out of sequence picture [there you are kneeling down holding up 2 heavy geese behind 6 more laying on the ground in front of you and trying to smile], but the memory tends to organize back to "are the boys old enough to really enjoy making this trip" apparently was never part of Dad's thought process. "I want to give the boys something I never had .... HUNTING WITH MY DAD." So, it began.

A goose flock can have as few as 6 to 8 birds and as many as 18 to 26 or more birds. When these groups come together enmass, well, the field turns from green to beige and has a rippling apearance. The sound .... unfortunately my verbal skills do not translate "it" into written words .... just accept that it is similar to a recognizable murmur, audible for great distances. AND THEN, we step into their field for a better view. Our arrival causes major panic and the need to escape resulting in organized choas. I can honestly say I don't know which is louder .... the honking or the wings beating. But to one lover of wildlife, it is a music on no CD, but all these years later, WOW!! Look at the picture and I'm there.

The funny thing about an old bunch of photos is they are not only out of sequence but others have been shuffled into the mix .... oh, you know, there's your youngest sliding down the roof of the Hart's hay barn retrieving a dove since the Lab can't get to it and everyone else is too large to be shoved upon the roof .... soooooooo, send Ian. Dad liked to make times special .... turn the end of a Dove shoot into a safari with wine etc, chairs and a dressed table.

Abruptly, the eye recognizes we have moved to our haunt in the Fla. Key, wetsuits, SCUBA tanks, smiling faces, hands waving Spiny Lobsters with friends from another life era. Or taking invited friends for the game fish Dolphin [that's different from Porpoise]. I do believe Dad would rather guide than actually fish .... "I'd rather put you on fish and watch you fight them; just get it in the boat" .... cope out .... but actually, heaven help the one who lost the battle. I lost a fish once, purported to have been a "very large" Permit [how did he decide that, we never saw the fish], he is probably sitting on his cloud sharing that ignoble moment in my life with everyone.

In the mix, there is AttaBoy a.k.a. Adam holding a mighty goose .... atta boy!! Then bored boys waiting for that few minutes of a flurry or Mitchell and Mitchell shoulder to shoulder in flooded timber. Other reminders of those brief stored snaps of life that confirm events. Funny, there we are sttting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and a stranger taking the shot. That was 1985, the first trip in our new van with the queen size bed across the back. That was very important move up from a Chevet. Quess it is true, our lives are a collection of meer moments passing through the great halls of time. Well, thank goodness for the pictures that fill in the Swiss Cheese of my memories. It was a fun ride for the most part .... no it isn't over yet ..... just different.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Phone chats and Persian Memories

An evening phone call sent me back to that July 1971's shocking call from the other side of the world; actually, Ahwaz, Iran and some KDS officials. Seems my 49 year old father-in-law had experienced a fatal cerebral hemorrhage. No, we are not Iranians, just East Tennesseeans creating a dam system similar to TVA bringing power to the southern part of that country. Well, memories are funny things .... like walking through a strange house opening this door and that one; you never know what's behind the next door and then the "Oh, Yes". So, by 3 a.m., the floodgate was wide open and memories spilled all over my consciousness. It had taken 5 weeks to get him home for burial. Mary [mother-in-law] had stayed for an extended visit and now would be required to return to pack and vacate their house. This is where unsuspectingly I was headed ..... she could not go alone!! Remember, women were considered chattel, have no rights and cannot own property. The companion check list was very short and no one was able to accompany her. We had a 1 year old son, I couldn't leave him and his father.

August 23rd, first passport in hand, I found myself headed to the middle east for 4 weeks .... well actually, it would be 4 months; returning November 18th. I had been no further from home than Ruidoso, NM; now, I'm headed for a place that my grasp of the language is laughable at best.... phrases for beer, tomorrow, wait a minute, or go with God. Heaven only knows what he taught me that was made up. Wow, good to go ..... Enshaallah!!

Having experienced the grieving widow personally[2000], Mary wasn't it. We stopped in Rome and a bit of shopping to lessen her grief. She found 3 pieces of red leather luggage and a few other "essential" items. Repacked, we journeyed on thru Beirut, Lebanon to Abadan, Iran. I thought I had come to the end of the world. Our escort and friend, Colonel Ray Caldwell, helped us through "entry" at 10 p.m. What a nightmare; dark, disorienting and gas fires everywhere. With the morning light, "breakfast" and a walk for some local color and "getting my feet wet" so to speak. Nothing in my life lessons had prepared me for this culture. BREAKFAST, are you kidding me ... "just a cup of tea please". Mary finally joined us and off to Ahwaz. The passing view was harsh beige tones and flat. The cradle of civilization could not have been more austere and forbidding. Women, in long black robes with bundles of "camel brush" on their heads, walked barefoot in the oppressive midday heat. My education had only begun.

Upon arrival, her neighbors and friends had prepared a lovely welcome buffet as we "waited". As a very time oriented person, appointment at 1 p.m. means 1 p.m. Silly me. They have a word, "far-ta", meaning later, tomorrow or sometime in the future yet to be determined. So at their leisure some hours later, 3 very "important" city officials arrived. With great attention to papers, passports and many questions of intent, they allowed these lowly females admission and the keys were handed to Col. Caldwell. [We take our liberties for granted here.] Nonetheless, we're in and I'm exhausted. It has been a long three days with a difficult, self centered, spoiled woman with whom my only relationship is "I'm married to her son". This whole thing cannot possibly end well. Grrrreat!!

Our social calendar was filled from dawn to well past dust nearly everyday. I had been prepared, before leaving, that I would be presented as the number one man's "only" son's wife. Apparently being a blue eyed Anglo-Saxon type [an actual description of me] is highly honored. No miss step would be acceptable. So, on September 5 at 8 :oo p.m. dinner, Doctor and Mrs. Moesaid introduced me. Traditionally, the whole lamb was roasted with all the accompaniments ..... and joy of joys, I have the privilege of eating the eyeball .... wow, lucky me.

Amid the social whirl, we actually measured for 11 crates. You could not run down to the U-Haul for packing boxes. They had to be built. Remember "far-ta", 14 days worth of waiting. What do you do - read, shop in the bizarre, play bridge, hunt ? Hunt! when, what .... can we go now?? Big Russian Boar root up the gardens at night .... so we got to fix that problem. Big means a 300 pounder with hurtful tusks digging up cucumbers, squash and melons.

The first time out was a true adventure into the wild. To my knowledge, the only other woman to hunt or shoot in the Khuzestan was my mother-in-law. So, off we go about 4 p.m. in a large Mercedes Benz truck. I felt like a mushroom. But, was told we will get dinner on the way. We ran up some Duraz [a pheasant type] which would be prepared for us at a village along the way. Well, they were expecting us with a feast that also included Gazelle, grilled onions, fresh bread, goat butter, our birds and wine. We sat on beautiful carpets strewn about with pillows for leaning. The Arabian Nights were alive. Yep, I was the show for the evening. They had never seen a white woman, much less one that was a hunter; so, was presented by the Sheik to his wives and shown his prized horses. Finally escaping all the pairs of eyes, we were headed for game. Braced in a corner over the truck cab and the roadless desert spreading before us, we must have resembled a half crazed, stumbling, drunken white elephant. Then, there in the light was a wall of meat trotting across our beams ..... don't miss, don't miss. Considering that the farmers had multiple problems, I was told to sit with mine and they would be back later. Right, of course, why not! There I was with an enormous animal to keep safe from the Jackals and Hyenas. While sitting out in the dark desert, the sky filled with the most incredible stars; then, the moon had the audacity to fill the entire horizon as it slowly rose. Engrossed with this visual , you could hear Porcupines quills rattling as they waddled along reflected in the moon light; as well as, the eerie sounds of the others. I'm not about to say I wasn't unsettled and the sight of headlights moving towards me wasn't a relief. I won't belabor my secret thoughts and fears. Aaaah, but what memories..... horses we rode and raced .... clouds of white wing doves .... copper by the pound .... fur coats ..... red swede boots ..... Kudha Villa .... Queen's Golf Tournament, Tehran .... the train trip ..... Ibex ..... trip home .... the faces of my two fellas ... one spills over into another; too much to recall at one time. Hummmmmm, 1971, that really was me; another time; we'll talk again.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dogwood, Redbud and Fishing Memories

The Redbud is in full blossom awaiting the arrival of Dogwood blooms. This was the fishing signal. Oh, you know, on the water by 7:45 and home by noon or one. Big decision was which location: Racoon Mountain Ramp, Sullivan's Landing, Marion County or below the dam. This alone could cause major tension going down the mountain. It's that "I really don't care .... where ever you want to go" that could create a snarl so big that we have actually turned around and gone home. So to avoid this catastrophe I would suggest we start with the closest ramp and if we don't find fish in an hour, move further down to the next location. This way, going below the dam was avoided. He loved catching BIG trash fish under the dam spillways, RATZ. Finally after years of this location squabble, we fell into a comfortable routine .... if he was driving, he chose; if I was driving I chose. AND this could all change with how many cars were on the ramp or in the parking lot. Always keep you options open. Are you still with me??

But this morning, I choose to recall Sullivan's Landing for Bass. Moving easily along the bank casting Spinner Bait and working Black Crawfish over rocky ledges. We rarely used the same bait. He always sat in the front running the trolling motor while I sat in the back with the big motor incase we needed to "run down the bank" a little way and I could take us there. We always caught fish.

The trouble with memories I start with a more recent moment but then I begin recollecting how I got here ..... the beginning. You're working a bank or drop off and the mind wanders back to that first Spring of our 1965 marriage. It was obvious I was going to have to learn to fish well, just learning the process would not do .... proficiency would be essential. A 5 foot Shakespeare fiberglass rod, Mitchell Spinning Reel and a frog colored Baby Zara Spook on 6 pound test line would be my training tools. Funny how we see ourselves. I had not considered myself as inept; afterall, I was an accomplished horsewoman .... really!!! I had really good hands! However, sitting in the front of that boat all summer, it was clear that "close" only counted in horseshoes. In order to attract that Bass under the stump, place the Spook on top of the stump "not a foot/6 inches from it". Of course, then the water would explode as a 3 pound Large Mouth Bass would inhale my plug looking for all the world as big as a whale, your heart in your throat and PANIC ... "set the hook, set the hook" ... "get his head up, keep the line tight, he's going under the boat, stay with him" .... then finally, " I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how you managed to catch this fish" and then the litany of all the errors began. I sat facing the world in the front of the boat as tears streamed down. There were times that summer I can attest to raising the level of Watts Bar lake by feet. BUT, I wanted to make him proud and I wanted to be confident. All those hours of frustration did pay off in spades when he invited someone to go with us. I was mortified until he said " for goodness sake, you can hold your own with anyone". And that was that; we were fishing partners for 35 years in fresh and salt water. One side note .... when Fall came and hunting season was approaching, he took me to the local gun club with a case of shells and cut a deal with the club pro to teach me to shoot .... he was soooo wise.

Maybe it's the love of water, but fishing ... what a gift he gave me. Set the hook, feel the throbbing of power on the end of your 4 pound test line, taking and giving, keeping that bow in your rod, a war of wills and manouvering techniques, "yep, yep, yep, come on baby, come on", then reach down and grab hold of the lower lip .... dinner or release to fight another day. Today, I would rather be casting an ultra light rod with a 1/18th oz or a 1/32 oz Rooster Tail for Shell Crackers, Bream, Bass than just about anything. See what I mean about getting sidetracked ... but it's a beautiful Spring day, pale green leaves will have little pale green worms and fish will be happy. Maybe I'll replace the line on my reels and drift down a bank. What a nice thought ... today.

Wow, I've done it again ..... memories and time .... I need a cup of tea and watch the young deer in the lower yard.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Drizzly Days and Water Memories

Soft drizzly days make you lazy of thought and the mind drifts to younger times. Memories of times that molded this life .... kind of like clay being formed for a later use. First there was fishing, then shooting, followed by hunting, hiking, rappelling, camping, whitewater canoeing, ham radio. But, water was and is a lure ..... near it, on it or in it and serenity is acheived. As a child, once swimming was learned, happiness was water. One summer afternoon, my cousin joined me borrowing a lonesome and inviting skiff tied to a post in a Alabama coastal lagoon. In those days, time had little, if any, relevence. We crossed the flat waters, drifting at times watching Blue Crabs scuttle across the sandy bottom and small fish scurry away. The clouds formed creatures and sailing ships. We talked of silliness. We drifted for an unaccountable period oblivious to anyones concerns. As I recall this, it's surprising we were ever allowed out of sight or perhaps not tied to a table leg forever.

We were all of 6 or 7 and the adventure was delicious. I can actually smell the air and feel the water slippin' on my finger tips of that long ago day. There was alot of "girls you know better", "you took someone's property without permission", "I have been worried sick", there were too many "what if ......"to recall. "What do you have to say for yourselves" gave me hope for salvation. Funny thing was no one wanted to hear my explanation or how much fun we had or "but nothing happened" which seemed to fuel the fire of retribution. Following a few days of house arrest, we were able to coerce our way out of confinement. Seems that was the only summer I was allowed, or perhaps invited, to join my Uncle and Aunt on the coast. Hummmm, looking back I probably would not have wanted to deal with that child's impulses either. However, it must be appreciated that as an only child, I was thrilled to have a "real" companion with which to share creative fun.

Odd that this would come to mind today. It's the water thing. In 1957 or 8, I was introduced to SCUBA. Without telling my parents exactly what the plan was other than a picnic with my boyfriend, we waded into a quarry of crystal clear water and I was hooked. Of course, much parental explaining was required when my boyfriend gave me tank, etc and I had to bring it home. There was no certification; you bought the equipment and went. Getting air was no problem and it was free. Boy have things changed. Remember Lloyd Bridges and Sea Hunt on T.V. .... equipment has certainly improved and I understand the need for certification..... yes, I did pass the classes at the YMCA winter program after marriage and children. The thought process was get one of us certified and we can get air. And, tag you're it..... a story of my life.

But that led to the four of us [me, husband and two sons] being able to share a water world of reefs and fish AND lobsters. Well, actually it was a bribe. "If you boys will fish the Gulf Stream with us, we will dive on the reef going in." So there we were, the boxes filled with fish and ice; AND, absolutely, we dove. Early on, the boys were smaller than some of the fish swimming with us. I sit here smiling to myself remembering when Jaws was released and Dad refused to get out of the boat. It was good and I am grateful but miss the sensation of the water slipping over me.

When I consider the influences that formed this clay of a life, they have forced me to search deep in myself to take the next step. There may be those that support you but when the next step on that path is taken only I am here to move my foot, as in a trust fall. There might be others on that path but they are responsible for their feet. Don't think for one minute that my next steps have been quick to achieve and I haven't stumbled, fallen into dark holes, rolled down the hill, wished to not be there, sought a way out, prayed. What I have learned, my life is what I make of it. I can be negative or positive in my point of view. I can sit and allow it to pass me by or get up and do something; after all, I've had my adventure and what could there possibly be left for me. I have NO IDEA. But as with that skiff tied to the post, some 60 odd years ago, I have to step in and untie the lines for a delicious adventure yet determined.

Holy cow, look at the time; sometimes these chats sure do wander. Temperature is beginning to drop ..... I need a fire, a cup of Ginger Tea and curl up with a seed catalog, or a nap perchance to dream.