Sunday, October 23, 2016

majestic Yosemite

 Some places are so majestic that words are superfluous. Yosemite is such a place.
 [The 'mist' is actually smoke from a controlled valley burn.]

 No waterfalls in mid-September but you can see the 'stain' from the falls.

 The Merced River
 Yosemite is so grand that even in mid-September there is an endless stream of cars entering the park.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Journey Into the Past

For my new book, Family Time, I had done a lot of research about my ancestors. I combined that research with my own memories and imagination and voila! 

Some family history occurred in unfamiliar territory. I checked locales online but they were not imbedded in my consciousness. Still, I should have raised my antennae when I learned that one of the streets to get to Highway 41 from the Fresno airport was Fowler. My great grandmother’s maiden name was Nell Miriam Fowler.

 My antennae stayed down until I boarded the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, a restored steam train whose purpose had been converted from logging to tourists. The setting was charming. The people there delightful. Still I didn’t get it until I boarded and from the broadcast narrative learned that this was a logging train.

Only then did I remember that for a brief period my great grandparents and their two daughters lived outside of Fresno and my great grandfather earned his living hauling logs down from the mountain on a buckboard. 

So, the forest we traveled through could have been the source of his cargo. And the hour-long drive down the mountain to Fresno could have been retracing his route. 

Back then, the round trip took a week. My great grandmother roasted a ham and packed other essentials to keep him going. My great aunts went to a local school and their mother taught Fresno ladies painting. 

I knew all this but until I boarded that train, I had no mental picture of their world. 

What a grand connection.

Monday, September 19, 2016

My Sequoias

Told that visits to the giant sequoias were apparently not feasible during my visit near and in Yosemite National Park, I was keenly disappointed. Then I learned of a small grove that was relatively close, albeit on a road far less traveled (for good reasons). 

 Since the sequoias were a main objective of my recent trip, I found the road – actually, ‘road’ is too generous a term – and inched my rented car over the dirt ruts until I found the grove. After 45 minutes without seeing another human or vehicle, it was reassuring [and somewhat astounding] to spot two other cars in the little parking area. 

I had four sheets of paper with directions, descriptions, and maps of the trails around Nelder Grove. None of them were of any use to me. I have no idea which trail I took or which trees I saw. None of that matters. 

Within a few moments after leaving my car, following the soft dirt path into the forest, I was enveloped by the embrace of trees. Shade and silence, dappled by sunlight, drifted peace into my soul. 

I noticed little things: moss, a spider web, a heart shadow. 

And, every once in a while, a great old tree. I strolled, ambled and wandered for hours, absorbing the beauty, letting it heal me. 

Finally, hours later, thirst and fatigue forced me to turn back. Eventually, I found my car, the primitive road and the highway … and a restaurant where I drank a gallon of water with my late, late lunch. 

What a splendid, splendid day.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Three Sun Salute

It's the week after Labor Day and Colorado weather is perfect. On the perimeter of my yard, three kinds of yellow flowers cascade salutes to cool mornings and evenings and days of sunshine.

.... sort of  Blackeyed Susans ... 

sunflowers ...

and on the side yard those yellow flowers whose name is a mystery

Perhaps we are not supposed to notice but other yellow things appear -- every once in a while one falls on the lawn, quietly, solitary. 

Each is a tiny prelude of the avalanche to come . . . reminding us to savor present conditions, present beauty -- to breathe in the gentle interlude -- the present moment.

It's all good.

Monday, August 22, 2016

One More Hero Gone

I don’t usually read the sports section but the New York Times’ final coverage of the Olympics drew me in. There, after all the gold medal stories, was Dr. Donald A. Henderson’s obituary. 

I knew him. I read his book, “Smallpox: The Death of a Disease.” I sat at the table with him in Rotary International’s board room in Evanston, IL and at the Pan American Health Organization’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

 It’s entirely possible that most people have never heard of him – have no idea that he led the successful global effort to eradicate smallpox. 

Two years ago another hero died, Dr. Ciro de Quadros, who led the successful effort to eradicate polio from the Americas. Dr. de Quadros was part of the smallpox eradication team – one of the hundreds of heroes whom Dr. Henderson honored with the “Order of the Bifurcated Needle.” [The smallpox vaccine was administered with a two-pronged needle.] 

When Rotary International committed that association to the eradication of polio, Dr. D.A. Henderson was one of the experts consulted. Sometimes he supported the effort (believing it possible), sometimes not (believing it more ‘evangelical than attainable’. And sometimes he changed his mind. 

Always bringing great intellect, common sense, and compassion to his dedication to human health, he was a hero among heroes. 

However tangentially, his life touched mine and I was enriched. And he saved the lives – and the quality of life – for hundreds of thousands of us. 

Thank you, Dr. D.A. Henderson.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Herbie -- The Velvet Glove

My cat Herbie has the softest coat I’ve ever felt on any cat – softer than rabbit fur. And he loves everyone – people he has known forever and total strangers. The doorbell (whether actual or on television) spurs him into action. He greets all visitors with great enthusiasm. If they sit, he sits on their laps and revels in their attention.

And he pays intense attention to me. For years, he has supervised my writing . . . and almost every other activity. (When he is not sleeping)
Herbie will be 16 years old in October and he has kidney disease.
Although the special food I buy from the vet seems to be helping, I know it will only slow the inevitable. Knowing that, I tend to pamper him – making sure he has enough food, enough water, enough love – and a clean litter box.
I’ve long held the theory that cats (or at least my cats) are remarkably similar to two-year-old humans. You know what happens when you pamper a two-year-old? They want more.
Now when I go to bed, Herbie joins me. He walks up to the head of the bed and with gentle pushes of his front paws, rearranges me. He wants the softest pillow. He often gets the softest pillow – there are others for me.

When I’m not there, the pillow becomes his throne.
Herbie – my gentle, loving cat – has become he who must be obeyed – an iron hand in a velvet glove.

Monday, August 1, 2016

New Bed

About a year or so after my mom died, I received a small bequest. At the time I needed two things: a new bed and a new car. Mom’s money made possible both a brand new 1998 Toyota Celica in ‘Renaissance Red’ and a queen-size brass sleigh bed. Both were amazingly sexy. Mom would have been delighted.

A couple of years ago I traded my bright red car, which I had named Esmeralda, for a Subaru Crosstrek in a decorous burgundy. I call it Sam. Snow does not deter its rugged energy. It’s a good looking, practical car. 

Now the skeleton of my great brass bed leans against the west wall of my garage, awaiting a buyer from Craigslist. In its stead, I have a white wooden platform bed. Significantly smaller than its predecessor, the new bed’s headboard is now against the north wall --- where I believe the feng shui is better – and where my brass headboard could not fit because of the slant of my bungalow’s ceiling.

My whole bedroom is open and airy. I like it. Herbie my cat likes it. And the new bed is lower, making ascent/descent easier. It’s a little more boring, more practical. But it’s still a double bed. The likelihood of nocturnal non-feline company for a septuagenarian with overabundant anatomy is not high, but you never know. 

Mom would have been pleased.