Category Archives: travel

I eat bread and take naps.

Last week I took a nap three days in a row, something I’m sure I hadn’t done since I was three years old! What it was about my condition or the environment that facilitated that, I am still pondering….

I’d flown from my daughter’s new home in Wisconsin to Tucson, Arizona, to visit friends Martin and Mabel. Those are nicknames, of course. If I didn’t care about preserving their privacy I’d use their real names, which are more beautiful and carry for me some of the flavor of who they are. These people are dear to me because of what we have shared over several decades: joys and sorrows and homeschooling, food and gardens, chickens and laughing and lots of babies. And over all and in all, the love of God.

Mabel confessed to me once that she just wanted “to make bread and babies,” and I always wished I had thought to say that first. But no one could hope to match her turns of phrase, songs that spring up from her good heart ready to bless and teach, and her amazing metaphors. On this visit she described Martin and herself as being a heavy stone on the end of a string, keeping a helium balloon with a happy face on it from floating away. I don’t remember who was symbolized by the balloon (It wasn’t me!)

The temperature was mostly in the 80’s while I was there, maybe the low 90’s, but as their house is about 2500′ elevation and the desert air is so dry, I never felt uncomfortably warm. Their spirit was peaceful, no air conditioning spoiled the mild October atmosphere, Mabel and Martin both cooked healthy food for me, and the bed was firm. I took the cure.

We talked and talked, drank tea, and walked a little  –  then I strolled alone Sunday morning in the cool air, and admired the mesquite trees, ocotillos, purple cactuses and palo verde trees. I attended Divine Liturgy at the elegant and evidently new Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church.

Mabel has not stopped making bread, and she fed me two kinds — first a hearty no-knead oatmeal stout bread baked during my visit. Then sourdough rye from a Tassajara Bread Book recipe; she sliced a good portion of that loaf into a ziploc for me to take on my journey home. I can’t remember ever eating anything like that bread, each fat slice sustaining enough to the body and soul that a single one would have done for a meal — but orange zest, caraway and other seeds combined in a flavor whirl that made me unwilling to wait for the next meal to have that experience again.

I think God knew that it would be hard to come back home where the fires were still burning, to a ravaged land full of sad stories, so He provided these friends to remind me of and lavish on me His everlasting Love, to shore me up beforehand. And He surprised me with naps!

I hadn’t cracked open my own copy of the Tassajara Bread Book in a very long time — my book that I bought because of Mabel in the first place. But I came home determined to revive once again my old sourdough habits, at least long enough to bake up a batch of that Sourdough Rye. It’s not as easy to turn out a homey metaphor or proverb that pleases, or to make pizza dough like Martin does, but I guess that just means I’ll have to visit again soon.

 

 

Brick and stone and blue skies.

The second half of my week in Wisconsin the weather was blue skies and perfect Autumn. Pearl took me to downtown Milwaukee for a brief tour of a few places. We saw the new skyscrapers and the tall old buildings, which seem to blend well stylistically with each other. They made me want to take a virtual tour of the architecture of Milwaukee, or even better, to come back another day for an on-the-ground tour.

We walked along the Milwaukee River a bit, and bought cheese and sausages.

And saw these sidewalk tiles evoking Paddle-to-the-Sea, perhaps?

Pearl’s husband Nate works at Marquette University now. We walked on campus…

…and headed for the little chapel that Nate had told me about many months ago when he first encountered it; he knew I would want to visit it, too.

It’s the St. Joan of Arc Chapel, dating from 15th century France, which has twice been taken apart stone by stone and reassembled. In the 20th century it was given to the University where it has been a house of worship on the Marquette campus since 1966.

Many years ago I read Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc, which he considered to be his best book. It is completely serious, and fascinating. Joan’s story is so compelling and strange — I would love to read that book again. Just being in this chapel, decorated with some artifacts that are older than the building itself, and are there for the touching, made me feel that I must surely have at least a few drops of French blood in my veins!

My dear daughter and I wrapped up my stay with a hike in the woods. After the rains, the leaves had taken on more color, and many were drifting down through the forest, which would have been deeply quiet had we not been crunching along and chatting. During my stay the weather had been ten degrees warmer than average for this time of year. All in all, it was a happy introduction to Pearl’s new home. The next day I would fly away and be gone.

I rest and breathe.

I’m breathing deeply of the cool and clean air that blows off of Lake Michigan, while my friends at home in northern California are wearing masks against the smoke that has filled the skies for a week now. Months ago I’d planned a trip to visit my oldest daughter Pearl and her family in their new home here in Wisconsin, and though I felt it necessary to delay my departure by a couple of days, I was finally glad to get out of town.

Milwaukee River

As soon as I boarded the bus that would take me to the airport, I began to relax, and when I did, and began to drop the burdens I’d been carrying, I felt the ache I’d been unconscious of before, and almost wept from the relief.

My eyes stopped burning as soon as I boarded the airplane, and what peace to sleep in a quiet neighborhood that night, with nothing threatening anywhere.

I’ve been taking walks with Pearl, visiting Port Washington with everyone after church, and in particular enjoying the wind and rain. Today I took a solitary walk and found a convocation of geese assembling by the little lake I can see from my bedroom window.

Of the grandchildren in this family, only Maggie and the Philosopher are still at home these days, both in high school. They introduced me to cheese curds and shared a few hugs already. We played Apples to Apples and laughed and laughed.

Back at my home, housemate Susan has a box of my important papers and things that she will take for me if she has to evacuate; with so many firefighters on task now and no high winds, it seems unlikely for my neighborhood. But four families I know have had their houses burn to the ground, and scores of friends have been evacuated.

Virginia Creeper

The first night in Wisconsin I didn’t sleep too well, but after a walk and a nap, the second night I logged ten hours of deep rest. Then I woke feeling brand new, or like my old self. I’ll be here a few more days, and maybe will write again before the next stage of this journey.

Fall ramblings to the north.

For five days and nights I drove here and there, a total of about 20 hours on the roads and highways so that I could visit with twelve family members and two dear friends in three places. There was a good deal of time spent at Pippin’s, where we went for a walk right away, to see if the aspens in the nearby grove were turning yet.

The aspens were still green, but as we looked up in the blue sky we saw several vultures flying in a line above us… and several more following close after them, and we began to count… eventually about 30 of the birds had streamed past, making us wonder what it could mean.

Little Jamie was thrilled when a long freight train passed close above us on the track.

In just a short time exploring the neighborhood we saw Showy Milkweed about to pop its pods, ruins of a concrete hut, and mullein, first and second year specimens growing close together. Scout has been studying herbs in his homeschool group program and I learned that if you can find some larger leaves on the younger plant they make good bandages for wounds, not least because they are absorbent.

Can you see why I called these Mrs. Tiggy Winkle Burrs?

Jeffrey Pine cone and seed

The next day I drove a little farther north to my Oregon family and watched my oldest granddaughter Annie in her first cross country meet of the season. The setting and the weather were so perfect, most of my pictures show her as a soft shape blending into the golden landscape.

I reveled in more visits with those children and older grandchildren, hearing from them about an Italian sister-city, doula training, country music, 70’s Ford trucks grandson Walt is dreaming of restoring, and the same boy breaking an old horse for children to ride. Two of the grandsons have plans to fix up a truck to sleep in on upcoming ski trips. Most of my six older grandsons own or have owned or plan to buy a truck, or another truck! I love boys.

We picked apples at a farm, took walks to the library and post office, and ate tender pumpkin bread Walt decided to bake on the first day of fall. Sunday morning six of us made the short trip on foot to church, I being the only one of the family not wearing cowboy boots.

With my taste buds in mind, Pathfinder and Iris had bought some ginger beer — not the carbonated sweet and spicy kind, but this smooth alcoholic version. It was wonderful.

Then it was time to head back to Pippin’s, for the birthday of Ivy!!! Ivy is now five years old, and if my grandma were still alive, she would have turned 125 on the same day. Before the excitement of the evening, including an over-the-top leopard cake and oodles of presents, Pippin and Ivy and I had a quiet outing of the kind we all like, exploring a meadow and a creek, and feeding the fish at the hatchery.

A couple of weeks before my visit, Ivy had dictated a letter to me, including these lines: “I have new shoes…and they’re good for running, climbing, hiking, and also for walks. I really want to take a walk with you — I know you love them!”

We arrived at the fish hatchery just as a man was about to refill the fish food machines, so he filled our containers directly and to the top. We strolled along the ponds and tried to share equally among all the different sizes of trout.

Then Ivy fell in! She lost her usual cool and made a big fuss, because she thought the fish would bite her. The fish, however, cleared the area very fast, as Pippin and I hauled our girl out.

We exchanged her sopping shirt and fleece for my flannel and corduroy shirt, and that warmed her up enough that she was cheerful again, and happy to stay and scatter the remainder of the granules — in the next pond where the fish hadn’t been scared away — looking at the creatures with a new perspective.

I took the picture above because I’d never seen a trout with such severe scoliosis.

After a stop at home to get a whole new set of dry shoes and clothes, we went back to our exploring, in a meadow with a stream running through, where Pippin and I watched Ivy take risks climbing above a tiny waterfall where she might easily fall and get doused again, but she showed her usual grace and balance and came home dry.

Douglas Spirea fills the foreground above, its formerly hot pink flowers turned to rust. All the textures and scents, the variations on gold, beige and brown seemed especially rich and sweet, set off by the blue sky and evergreen shrubs and trees. The surrounding air was fresh and cool in the slanted sunlight of fall.

We were happy.