Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I'm back .... or I'M BACK !!!

We've been "meandering" for several weeks now across the beautiful southwest. We headed first to our timeshare in St. George, Utah, and spent a wonderful week exploring the area. We hiked in both areas of Zion National Park - the main park itself and the Kolob Canyon entrance. It was especially nice to hike in Zion this year without the effects of fire - when we were here two years ago, there was a massive wildfire which colored the river a nasty shade of gray.

If you are ever in St. George, Utah, you absolutely must go to the Tuacahn Theater. This is an outdoor amphitheatre located within Snow Canyon State Park. Seeing wonderfully performed musical productions under the stars in this heavenly venue just can't be beat. We were privileged to see a production of Elton John/Tim Rice's Aida - breathtaking. Believe it or not, the stage actually gets flooded twice during the show. How do they do this?

As if Zion National Park wasn't fascinating enough, we headed north towards Bryce Canyon National Park. I have a difficult time explaining my reaction to this park. It is spectacularly beautiful in an austere way. Unlike Doug, I do not spend a lot of time researching the areas that we plan to visit so I was unprepared for the hoodoos and the colors of Bryce. Two weeks later, I am still seeing scenes in my mind as I fall asleep each night. My first view of Yosemite Valley years ago was unforgettable - my first view of Bryce rivals that experience. We even were able to hike down the Queens Garden Trail seeing the hoodoos from many vantage points. Believe it or not, we spotted a sweet young thing hiking this trail in high heels! I kid you not .... pictures to follow!

On to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for 3 days. Working on our bucket list, we decided that this may be our one and only trip to the Grand Canyon. So, let's do it all! We arrived in time to check in at our lodge (more about this in another post) and drive into the park to see the Visitor's Center and get an overall view of the park. Unfortunately, they were doing a controlled burn today which made the distant views somewhat smokey. It still takes your breath away.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembrance - sadness - and hope!

I shed a few tears today. I asked Doug to put the flag up .... don't think he would have remembered without my "gentle" reminder. It is important to me to acknowledge this anniversary in a public way. That alone is curious, since I usually do not wear my patriotism on my sleeve.

Thousands of words have been written - and will be written - commemorating the 9/11 attacks. Where were you? What did you feel? Did you lose someone? We are among the fortunate souls who do not have a direct human connection to the tragedy. But we are Americans - and all Americans lost on 9/11. Once again, we lost our innocence. Once again, we lost the false sense of security that a vast ocean allows. Once again, we were reminded that freedom is precious and can be lost in a moment. Once again, we have a memory indelibly written on our collective minds.

We had visitors on 9/11 in our dream home in Nevada City, California. Doug was still working, so he got up early to start the coffee and make lunch for himself. He routinely turned on the local NPR radio station - he bounded up the stairs to tell me that two planes had collided over the World Trade Center. We turned on the tv and tuned into CNN - then I remember saying, "That's not the World Trade Center - that's the Pentagon!" In an instant, we went from curiosity to fear - our country was under attack. We were shocked and we were scared.

I spent today doing routine tasks. Tomorrow, we leave on a vacation to Utah and the Grand Canyon. Another item checked off on our personal bucket list! From time to time during the day, I remembered the angst of 9/11. I remembered the thousands of lives lost. I remembered the images that will never be erased from my mind - bodies tumbling through the ashen sky - hands joined - towards imminent death - people running forward, ever forward, through air too thick with ash to breathe.

I spent the best part of my day working on a Halloween costume for Talia, our oldest granddaughter. I smiled a lot thinking how cute she is going to look in her mermaid costume. I shed another few tears remembering the children who will not have parents and grandparents to see them in this year's Halloween costume. At the end of the day, I decided to be hopeful for the future. And, thankful for the opportunity to learn from the past.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

When I'm 64 ......

I've been celebrating my birthday for about a week now. My actual birthday is September 8, but due to prior commitments, I celebrated with my family last Saturday, the 5th, at a great park in Moorpark, California. Both my children and my 3 grandchildren were with me - it doesn't get better than that (thank you, John Madden). This is the way birthdays were meant to be celebrated!

64 .... one year from Medicare .... two years more than a very close friend was given ..... ten years more than another close friend enjoyed. I'm not trying to be maudlin, but it does give pause. My dad died unexpectedly at 67. I knew at the time that he had died young, but now I realize how very young he was. On my best days, I think that I have 30 years ahead of me. Most days, I believe that I have a good 20 years to go. On thoughtful days, I think that ten would be a gift.

I spent today working on my oldest granddaughter's Halloween costume - a mermaid costume! She is enamored with Ariel, the mermaid from the Disney flick. I'll keep my fingers crossed that I'm still around so that I can make her wedding dress or at least help her shop for one!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

While the fires rage

I haven't seen blue sky in a week. When we first get up in the morning, the air is thick and a strange color - not quite gray, not quite blue, not quite brown, and tinged with orange. It is the color of fire season in Southern California. I've lived here since 1976 yet I am never quite prepared for fire season. It creeps up on me while I am still enjoying summer - trips to the beach, picnics, outdoor concerts, lazy days by the pool, long enjoyable novels that will never make it to Top 100 Reading Lists. Suddenly the air is smoky, the winds kick up, evacuation orders run across the bottom of the tv screen and we are once again randomly thrown into nature's path. Some years, we see the plumes of smoke from the front yard - or the back - and we know that we have to be a bit more vigilant in following the news. Most years, thankfully, we look at the map and determine that we are not at risk.

When you live in Southern California, you have a mental list (if not a computerized list) of what to take with you should the evacuation order come. I have such a list. It is room by room; possessions are ranked by how important they are to daily life and how precious they are to family history. But I wonder if I would follow this list in an emergency. Could I really run first to the metal box with insurance papers, birth certificates, safety deposit box keys before I reached for my grandfather's oil paintings? Would I grab the photo of my oldest granddaughter even though it is safely stored on dozens of computers? Would I think of expensive jewelry or my wedding album? Would my husband and I waste precious moments arguing about what should be saved and what should be left?

The news is optimistic tonight that the largest fire, the Station Fire, is under control. However, the most dangerous time of the year is still ahead - September and October when the Santa Ana winds blow over our little part of the world. I don't think this fire season is done with us yet.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ticking Off the Bucket List

Doug and I spent an hour or so this morning with our travel agent talking about next year's big trip. We will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. Time to spend the big bucks!

We've decided on a river trip in Europe and settled on the Amsterdam to Basel itinerary. Since we haven't been on a river boat before, we're leaning towards a short trip just to make sure we're comfortable with this type of travel. So, the early plan is to fly to Amsterdam, stay two or three nights, board the boat for a leisurely trip on the Rhine to Basel (6 nights), and then a week or ten days travelling through Switzerland and Austria. Does this sound great or what?

Our (my) original thought was to rent a car and drive without much of a plan. According to our travel agent, renting a car in Europe is quite expensive. She advocates using the trains. I've been hesitant to commit to trains because I do not relish the idea of lugging suitcases on and off trains at the ripe old age of 65! I'm thinking that Doug and our TA (Jayme) may be convincing me otherwise. More research is needed ...

Now we get to talk about what time of year is best. July and August are out (too much heat, too many tourists). That leaves spring or early fall. Doug leans toward September; I lean toward spring (more flowers). I'll keep you posted! The good news is that we are both committed to this trip. It's only money, right?