Category Archives: travel

San Diego flowers and freeways.

It’s been a week since I departed on my trip, which took me first to my childhood home and family that I wrote about in my last post. After a very full day there, I drove to the San Diego Airport, where I fetched Annie. She and I spent the night slightly inland, where the most temperate marine breezes blew through the windows that our hosts like to leave open as much as possible. We were wined and dined along with other guests including their daughter whose birthday it was. We slept like logs.

San Diego freeways had a good reputation in my mind, even before I drove them a bit six years ago with my husband. When I’m whipping along where frequently there are four to six lanes — sometimes seven! — in each direction, and merging and exiting and noticing other freeways crossing above and below, it seems that much of the land must be covered with them by now. But no, it’s a large county, and there is lots of the sunniest part of California territory still left to walk on, closer to the earth and at a more human and humane pace.

Our first full day we drove to my cousins’ place in Vista, even more inland and at least ten degrees hotter. I first saw their property six years ago with my late husband, and was looking forward to the tour that Joe might give us again of all the self-started trees that he calls “bird drops,” and the succulents and cacti that thrive in that climate, like the tree-climbing cactus above that found a post supportive enough.

By late Friday afternoon Annie and I had made a big loop-de-loop, stopping by her great-great grandparents’ graves that I had last visited in 2015, and we ended up at the condo where most of the groom’s (my daughter Pearl’s) family from Washington and Wisconsin were staying. We joined a group weighted strongly to the young: five or six of my grandchildren and their significant others between the ages of 17 and 24. Toddler Lora, my great-granddaughter, was the youngest in the group. I slept in another Airbnb close by — with plumeria near the front door — and hung out with them a lot as we got ready in various ways for the wedding that was Sunday.

That first evening in Encinitas the boys had groomsmen events, and the females gravitated to the beach, which we got to by jaywalking across a busy street, picking our way over the railroad tracks, down through a gate…  then a run across four lanes of the coast highway and on to the path descending to the rocky shore. Dozens of surfers were silhouetted against the setting sun. I was the only one of our group who kept farther back from the edge while I took my views and pictures; the others all had fun getting drenched to some degree by the surf breaking right there. The next morning boys and girls alike were out early to surf and swim.

That was the day that I went south again to meet in person for the first time two long-loved blogging friends. Emily’s large family will soon be moved from Coronado where she has been cultivating a beautiful garden for several years. It was one son’s birthday at her house, too, but no one seemed to think it strange to have a strange grandmother drop in. Emily sent me off with bags full of starts of many of the succulents that grow enthusiastically all around the house and pool. It was delightful and really heartwarming to meet in person six of the family who were just as happy and gracious in the flesh as they appear in the tales and pictures I’ve been enjoying for so long.

Sara lives about a half hour mostly east of Emily, on a hill with a wide view, and the perfect patio and small waterwise garden in which to sit and take it all in; huge jacaranda blooms show in the tops of the trees from their steep hillside below. But first, we went to lunch, and she took me to the water conservation garden nearby. I had inconveniently come in the hottest part of the afternoon, but we wore our sun hats and strolled in a very leisurely way among the paths.

The garden has been there long enough for the Australian trees to grow to great heights. There was a butterfly garden/cage where evidently those creatures weren’t bothered by the heat. I took so many pictures! My heart was overflowing with flowers and plants way too many to process or learn much about, but because I was discovering them in the company of my friend I was content to let them remain a somewhat anonymous backdrop to our time together.

I had wanted to sit for a spell on her own patio, too, which we did, and I got to chat a little with her very kind husband. Sara gave me gifts of printed prayers like this beautifully illustrated one:

After I said good-bye at their door, on my way to my car, it was then that I spied this gardenia, a rare encounter for me, and it immediately seemed the perfect emblem of Sara and her blogger’s voice that is such a refreshingly sweet and reserved one in this noisy world, saying, “Here is beauty: look!”

My grandson Pat got married the next afternoon! His whole family was handsome, and we sang all the verses of “Be Thou My Vision” during the ceremony. The choice of that hymn tells you a lot about the bride and groom. May God bless them!

The day after the wedding was our last day of San Diego freeways, at least for a while. I was driving on them for about three hours before we got out of the county and on our way to my mountain cabin. Daughter Pearl rode with me, which made the day pass very pleasantly, in spite of it consisting mostly of driving, at least half of it on freeways, for twelve hours. But as I write, I am in recovery, and composing the report on this next portion of my outing, the vacation part! First installment coming soon: Summer in the High Sierra…

From Britain to the the Black Sea….

It is believed by the Orthodox Church that our Lord’s disciple Simon the Zealot was martyred in what is now the Republic of Georgia. I’ve been looking at maps of that world from the first century, but mine is never a systematic study, when I gaze at maps. Rarely do I come away with a clearer idea of geography or topography, or in this case, history. It’s one of those cases of too-muchness, and I no more hope to retain anything in particular than when I enjoy the view of of trees and plants from a hilltop.

After I leave the map I never can visualize where Georgia or the Black Sea are. I should put a map just above my computer monitor, where I could gaze at it more frequently; I might even switch it out for another part of the world every few months.

Did any of you ever see the curriculum called Mapping the World by Heart? I once bought a copy of the original hard copy version for myself, not my children, thinking that I could work on it at least once a week and learn my geography. But no.

What first piqued my interest in the journeys of St. Simon was an article by John Sanidopoulos titled St. Simon the Zealot and Apostle to Georgia, in which he discusses the sources of his name Zealot and also Simon the Canaanite. He might have been the groom at the Marriage at Cana! And he is said to have traveled in Britain. There are photographs in that post of holy sites associated with the saint, like this church in Novy Afon (New Athos).

The article contains no maps, but when I set about refreshing my memory by means of a few, I came across beautiful depictions of different eras, such as this German map below, showing the 12th century in my favorite colors.

The identifying words at left, “Schwarzes Meer” are sweetly evocative of the day I swam in the Black Sea for a few hours when I was 17, near Istanbul somewhere. I wish I had a print of the picture that I took to refer to, but it is indelibly inked on my mind: A brilliant and dark cerulean sea under a cloudless sky; our feet in the warm, clean sand, and my laughing friend Viv, willowy in her swimsuit, with white-blond hair flying in the breeze.

If I ever get back to Turkey, or visit Georgia, I’d like to spend time by the Black Sea again! Whether that happens  or not, it gives me joy to think about the gorgeous places on the earth, and about the many people who have lived out their lives here or there, many of them with faith, all of them by means of God’s multitude of gifts.

Sometimes when I am just walking through my house or garden I am surprised when I notice that here I am, in my place, alive and with work to do, a life to love. God put me here. I exist. Wonders never cease!

Did St. Simon feel this, as he lived out his life, doing God only knows what? There are many sometimes conflicting stories and traditions about him, but when you think of how many years he walked the earth, there had to be at least a few thousand interesting hours and events that no one ever took much account of, which only God and maybe St. Simon remember.

I ran across this stamp commemorating the saint that was issued in Georgia in the 1990’s:

The day set aside for St. Simon the Zealot in particular was back in May, so I am posting this on the day when he is remembered with all of Christ’s apostles. Rejoice, Holy Father Simon!

Vaporous lists form and drift…

That idea I grabbed onto last month, to make lists when I’m incapable of the kind of prose that would be more satisfying to writer and reader, has not worked well for me.

Maybe it boils down to priorities… life is too short to dash off an easy type of list when one might instead use the precious moments to 1) Think on how to make just one list item more beautiful,  or 2) Forget trying to preserve in writing anything in particular from the experience or contemplation, and just BE. Play one more game with the children, sit on the deck in the dry and sunny air — or sleep!

But now, near the end of my stay in Colorado, out of desperation I’ve condensed a few thoughts into words, at the extreme boring level, the list of lists to write:

LIST of LISTS to MAKE

  • Big and little ways Soldier and Joy are kind and generous to me.
  • Additional friends and family I’ve been able to see while I’m here.
  • Books the children and I have read together.
  • Names of the children’s dolls and stuffies.
  • Plants that the Seek app hasn’t been able to identify.
  • Delicious meals that Joy has made.
  • Darling things the children have said.
  • Topics of helpful and informative conversations I’ve had with Soldier and Joy.
  • Internet links and articles to follow up on.
  • Walks we have taken.
  • Species of willow trees.

Maybe I won’t get around to writing even one of these lists — think of that!

Glory to God for all things!

Lists, letters, and taking leave.

During a 20-minute phone call with a friend last week, I mentioned all of the books pictured above, only one of which I have read, long ago. After he asked me about a couple of them, “Did you finish ____ ?” I blurted, “I don’t read books, I only buy them!”

It’s partly true; three of the books pictured I am in the middle of reading. I think I will take The Cross of Loneliness with me on my travels this week, because it is little and is likely to be encouraging to my spirit, without demanding too much of my analytical abilities. It sets down the correspondence of Saint Sophrony and Archpriest George Florovsky from 1954 to 1963. These illustrations from the book of their kind faces make me eager to peek in on their friendship.

I’ll be flying to Colorado to visit my son Soldier’s family, and from there to Idaho to see friends Jacob and Rosemary, before heading back to California. Both of these families are in new towns since I last visited them! The excitement of navigating airports, riding in airplanes, being in strange places and beds; playing with grandchildren and chatting  with everyone will keep my mind plenty busy. It’s already buzzing with the challenges of getting myself ready for the big day, and incrementally taking leave, in my heart, of my home, and my garden with all the plants I have been nursing along; like the first golden zucchinis that will ripen while I am far away. I will say farewell to my stack of To-Read books, which if it actually were just one stack would be higher than my house.

But I know that I will like to read on the plane, and read in my room before going to sleep at night, so I must choose what to take along. This book that I discovered in my Kindle, Make a List, looks appealing for a few summery reasons.

(List of) Reasons why it’s a good book for this summer:

1 – Only a couple hundred pages.

2 – Not demanding content:

2a – No long list of fictional characters to keep straight.

2b – No complex-thinking philosophers to follow.

3 – It will help me keep engaged with my philosophical self and my life back home by simply jotting down a list here and there.

4 – It will prompt me to keep writing without my always having to make quality whole sentences, which are a lot of work. I might even compose travelogues entirely of short lists!

It occurs to me that my attempt at Bullet Journaling was kind of list-y. Unfortunately I always felt the need to elaborate and my bullet points swelled into paragraphs. It will be necessary to keep these lists in a different category from journaling altogether. I haven’t written one thing in my journal for a month or two, which feels scary. Maybe I’ve already made the break?

My college roommate Ann has been an inspiring list-maker all her life. She makes lists of the lists she needs to make. You might say is the idea that Marilyn Chandler McEntyre has elaborated on; you can hear her talking for three minutes on the subject here.

Now I need to get back to the lists I have recently been working from, like:

1 – To-Do Before I Depart, and
2 – Carry With Me On the Plane.

Once I add “Kindle Reader” and “Notebook for Writing Lists” to that second list, I’ll be good to go! …. or will I…? One more very important list must be completed, before I shut the door on my tottering stacks:

Books I Really Want to Read Soon But Must Sadly Leave at Home.

But I’ll come back, Dear Friends!