The Mom on the Southbound Train

So fellow travelers, reflecting on the many memorable moments which graced my week with this new found community, I could write posts for days to come.

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Who could ask for S’more than roasting marshmallows after the beach dinner concert?

There is the story of  the dog who came  to the movies, the fan who would have surfed from China, the girl with the grammy, the follower who took a leap of faith, the team who would not be beaten and then there is the  Mom on the Southbound train~

 

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This last title references a unique friendship which blossomed during my time in Oceanside. While waiting for my photo op with the band, I started talking to some of the people in the lobby and discovered one of them was staying at the same hotel.

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This moment of serendipity set in motion several chances to travel to and from various activties together throughout the week. Since I had a rental car and we were staying at the same hotel it just made sense to me to have Linda ride along to any of the events we would both be at.  She was a really good sport about my not-so-good driving; the rental car, which I nicknamed the Velociraptor* for the jolting surprise of it’s aggressively responsive brakes, had the distinction of the worst visibility of any car I have ever driven.  Those are two combinations not condusive to smooth cruising along narrow, winding Highway 101. Perhaps the scenic views made up for the carnival ride effect of me vs Velociraptor.

Linda and I got along so well, by the end of the week we had a routine down. We met in the hotel breakfast room (where the staff and many guests were captivated by the World Cup Soccer Games~ “Ve ve Mexico!”) and made plans on when to meet up for that day’s band activity and whatever else we might want to do together or on our own.  During our adventures I found out this trip was filled with many firsts for my new friend Linda, including her first plane trip but not her first Switchfoot show.  Linda had taken her kids to many concerts and this getaway week was a thank you gift from her son and daughter for all she had done for them as a hard working single mom when they were growing up.

Often we would look at each other and ask ourselves- “Wow, is this all really happening?” because we both found the whole experience truly uplifting and more than a little mind blowing. Neither of us knew what to expect from the getaway weekend events and we certainly never expected to connect so easily and personally with not only with the guys in the band and their phenomenal support staff but also with so many different people. From the young woman who traveled all the way from China, the fun loving parents of little sweet Millie Grace the chihuahua (who now has many fans of her own) to the bright young independent film maker pursuing dreams of her own, every day Linda and I would share stories after each activity of the people we met and the connections we made. Always we would come back to the miracle moment of our own meeting.

It was,I think, as Mom’s that Linda and I initially related to each other. Our kids are in the same age range, all in their twenties and as siblings go, very different from each other. Our desire to be supportive, while allowing them to be true to their selves and also shared emotions of how hard and sometimes scary it is to let go. I deeply admire her strength and dedication; raising two kids on your own is a great challenge in our society which lacks consistent committment to assist single parents.  Here too, in sharing our life challenges, we resonated deeply on the inspiration we drew from Switchfoot’s music through the years.

The morning we were both heading our separate ways- she back home and I on my next adventure in Joshua Tree National Park, I offered to drive her to the station so she could catch the train to San Diego.  I told Linda I had no specific timeframe for heading out of town and was more than happy to be able to help her with one last ride. In fact, I wanted to see her off safely on her way, as I would have for any good friend, because after all we were now solidly quite good friends.

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After her train left, I drove into town to have breakfast at a diner Linda recommended.  The song which came up on the Spotify playlist I had created for the Bro-AM weekend was Jon Foreman’s SouthBound Train.  I had to pull over and let the tears of pure gratitude flow because I knew of the many blessings I had been granted during this week, the gift of a new friend was the unexpected treasure, a form of grace I never expected to receive.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Postscript: Jon’s peformance of Southbound Train during his phenomenal 25in24 event is one of my favorite versions. Do take a few minutes to fill your soul and watch.

*The rental was actually a Hyundai Veloster. Suffice to say it’s unlikely I will ever own or voluntarily drive one again.

 

 

 

The Fan with the Switchfoot Sneakers

We play music because we love it, but we also play music because we want to see things change… within ourselves and in the world around us. These are songs of hope and new beginnings, and we’re always trying to get better at living that out.” Tim Foreman Stories Behind the Songs: Vessel Bags Interview April 14, 2016

So fellow travelers, those moments when a new acquaintance says or does something and you both feel the “click” of Inner Spirits connecting and you know you have found another member of your tribe.

Linda V. fellow Friend of the Foot taking in the ocean view

I have written about them before and I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be writing about them again. Of all the bright, fun filled experiences in Oceanside, it was the always the moments of personal connection which brought the most joy.

Not long ago, when reflecting on the changes retirement and relocation will bring, I realized how much farther I would be traveling to get to family events or periodic gatherings with my creative tribemates and how much I would miss my phenomenal support team of friends at work

37630Toasting the last day of the year (the mugs say it all)

At every event during the Switchfoot Getaway I found connections and made new friends. Whether we were surfing, sharing meals or participating in a service project, over and over again the theme of community emerged. We extended beyond fellow fans and grew into a family.

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All photos courtesy of Switchfoot Getaway2018*

At the registration photo op** with the band, when they commented on my “cool” sneakers and I mentioned I wore them because I thought they looked like “Switchfoot sneakers” to me, it was a remarkable moment to connect and tell each of them how significant their music has been while I walk this path of seeking Light.

And the week was only just getting started~

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

*Photos from various events are provided by the Switchfoot Getaway 2018 team and used with permission.

** When I first saw my band photo, I was surprised I don’t seem to be smiling.  On closer inspection I saw it actually captures the look I get when I hold my breath as I feel a wave of absolute joy washing over me. It happened several times a day on this trip.

Bookends

So fellow travelers, today marks the start of a new solar year in this grand adventure of life. Reflecting on the bookends of the first and last days

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Team Fairbanks-Rahalski at the summit of Pinnacle Peak Trail in Rainier National Park

I can see the origami of insights and growth created by the challenges weathered in-between two foundations: friends and family. As I embark fullspeed into the coming years of this sixth decade of solar returns I have my sights set on the adventures made possible by that foundation.

The road we travel

is made lighter by the Love

carried in our hearts

To all the beautiful points of Light in my community of family and friends here is a heartfelt haiku of gratitude for the love and support which has and will continue to bless my journey. You are the best gift anyone could ever receive.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

Kateri’s Wisdom

So fellow travelers, setting the dial on the way back machine (any Rocky and Bullwinkle fans still out there?) we find ourselves on the road home the morning after the glorious Verdi experience.

Bennington Community Art Center

I’ve grown fond of the quiet college town of Bennington and it’s little sister North Bennington, home now to several friends from my creative tribe. It also boasts the distinction of being home to my favorite pizza restaurant in the world : Marigold Pizza.

My friends and I have shared many good meals of Marigold’s locally sourced (right down to the flour for the pizza crusts and the bottled sodas) ingredients and that afternoon was no exception as several of us gathered for a post Requiem reunion.

I eagerly took in the news of recent travels, new homes, photos of grand kids, funny ‘how me met’ stories and deeply appreciated the post performance reflections of both participants and patrons. I had a clear premonition this time together was a sandbar in a rising tide of looming stress.

What I did not foresee was the tsunami of chaos that would hit within days of my return to work.

Yet somewhere within me must have been an awareness of Something of Significance because on my drive home the next morning I made a spontaneous decision to detour off the highway to seek out a spot I had wanted to visit for decades.

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Kateri National Shrine Auriesville NY

Kateri Tekakwitha (also known as Flower of the Algonguins – Lily of the Mohawks) lived in the Mohawk Valley region in the mid 1600’s (1656-1680) I have been intrigued by her story since I heard of the shrine located near her village.

It is a quiet humble site with several trails, a chapel and museum with detailed and well documented accounts of the Native American history indigenous to the area as well as Kateri’s own story. Serene, simple and rife with the odd juxtaposition of Native American and Catholic (Franciscan) heritage.

Yet from the tangled weaving of two seemingly opposed cultures, Kateri’s devotion to both her people (most of whom rejected her) and her adopted faith shines like a golden thread. I thought of how much suffering she endured to follow the Spirit that spoke to her heart. Orphaned, scarred and nearly blinded by smallpox, she managed to reach for Hope and Light. Perhaps this Saint, canonized in 2012, might have some guidance to offer me.

So I climbed the path that lead to the statue which stood high on the hill overlooking the grounds below.

If I am a believer in Anything, it is that Truth and Light can be found on many paths. No religious or spiritual belief system holds all the answers for every soul. None of them are perfect because all of them are orchestrated by humans and we are inherently both flawed and fearful. We are also given to profound moments of compassion and grace. Not all Christians are judgemental; not all Buddhists are non-violent.

Anyone who has followed my thoughts here knows I am more apt to find wisdom in the walking woods than sitting in a wooden pew. Still I have often been moved by the energy and insights I’ve been blessed to discover when visiting sacred sites. So I sat on the bench, taking in the view, waiting, wondering, listening.

Warblers sang

Crows called

Leaves rustled

Dogs barked

Children laughed

A baby cried

Sounds of life flowing forward undeterred by the growing storm which loomed ahead. No Voice with a Message, just a reassuring sense somehow Everything Will Be OK.

Accepting this seemed a form of madness in itself in the face of a situation we were facing at work. But I left a shiny coin at Kateri’s feet in gratitude, hiked down the hill and drove home.

Buddha rock encounter

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Verdi in the Woods

So fellow travelers, cool overcast conditions have not dampened the enthusiasm of songbirds this morning.

Sipping tea at the kitchen table of a favorite AirBnB I’m focused on the serenade echoing from the woods behind the cottage. It’s a glorious chorus of melodic phrases, punctuated by bright chirps and an occasional bass riff by a woodpecker somewhere deep in the forest.

Morning serenade
Woodland concert wakens me
Friendship sings again

This weekend’s road trip was set in motion when I received word of a choral concert which included three friends from our creative group. It was an opportunity not to be missed and well worth the seven hour round trip drive, which of course gave me the perfect reason to stay over at this favorite spot.

The only hitch in this plan was the schedule conflict of the concert date falling on the same weekend as the annual Birdathon marathon, an event I have participated in for twelve years, nine of them with Favorite Youngest Daughter.

Still this performance led by Maestro Cailin Marcel Manson would include a mulitude of choral and orchestral musicians taking on Verdi’s sweeping Requiem. It promised to be as rare as any of the unusual sightings popping up in my local birding reports (which so far this season have included an Avocet, a White pelican and a Western meadowlark.)

I reserved my ticket, booked my overnight accommodations and marked my calendar. Little did I know how crucial this respite would prove. (To be continued)

a little watercolor sketch of one of my morning greeters.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Seismic Shifts

So fellow travelers, five weeks to go in the final stretch of this school year.

Like marathon runners “hitting the wall” going into the last quarter of the run, our team is digging deep to find the energy and willpower to see this through. Resources depleted, we keep each other refueled and focused as best we can. Requests for additional support and questions we ask go unanswered but recent events may force some issues to a critical point. Time will tell and until it does, we forge on.

Cold wet weather was keeping me and my trusted four legged companion Delilah off the trails and slowed the return of spring migrants to a trickle. No hiking, sparse birding, minimal walks had me plodding along in a fog until a sudden tragedy jolted me back to awareness.

We received news a close friend suffered a tragic, unexpected loss leaving her family reeling in shock. Tragic news has a way of setting seismic shifts in motion. When a friend is in need, all concerns about other matters are dispersed by the call to be of assistance; it does not matter whether this assistance takes the form of action or the gift is simply being present to listen. To be silent and strong when someone feels their world shatter around them, to be the one who can take action when others are immobilized by shock, anger or grief is what it means to “be there” for someone reeling in disbelief at the chaos life has sudden thrown at them.

To be present for others requires us to shift our focus outside ourselves even as we reach within for strength and compassion.

As the priest spoke of departed souls being near in times of loss, three large turkey vultures swooped over the trees. The black messengers circled the graveside gathering of family and friends several times gracefully spiraling higher and higher into the air carrying with them the prayers of the grieving and heart broken.

I no longer pass off such moments as mere coincidence and in the instant of accepting the sign, comfort took form in these words.

Dark raptors soar high

Ancestral spirit blessing

One soul welcomed home

There can be lessons in times of loss. Healing and grace, forgiveness and awakenings, gifts embedded within grief.

Walk gently on the path my friends and  if you too are grieving a loss, may peace settle on your hearts.

The Twenty-first Crossroad

So fellow travelers, people often speak of kids growing up “in a flash.”

That has not been my experience as a parent.

The passage of three decades from the birth of our first child to this moment of Favorite Youngest Daughter reaching adulthood has felt more like a marathon, one I ran far more willingly than any actual foot race. My husband is the marathon triathlete. I am more likely found on a 5 mile hike than a 5-K run (yes, I am fully aware 5K is actually 3.1 not 5 miles.) But I digress.

Anyone who has undertaken the daunting responsibility of raising kids knows that parenting is not for the faint of heart. Yet nothing in this life I have accomplished has been as rewarding as the adventure of watching our two daughters grow from curious high spirited little girls into creative, independent young women.

 

 

And even as we skyped with Favorite Youngest Daughter last Sunday on her 21st birthday, it’s clear the adventure is far from over. In many ways our lives are beginning a new phase of this grand journey, a stage where my daughters and I relate as women, supporting one another as we take on the dreams and goals we’ve set for ourselves.

Still, as a awesome writer and friend of mine recently blogged “We are never quite the same after someone we’ve loved leaves our everydays.” While Ms Dingle is referring to her grieving the recent passing of a cherished family member, it occurred to me as I read her post I too have been grieving. I realized this process began the morning I left Favorite Youngest Daughter standing on the platform in a train station in Tokyo, two years and six months almost to the day of her recent hall mark birthday.

The memory is a vivid as if it has just happened this morning. I can still feel the effort it took to walk away after giving her a long hug goodbye.  My eyes tear up just as they did that moment,20150831_212415 as I willed myself not to look back, knowing if I did I might run back to stay with her and make the parting impossibly difficult for both of us. This was her moment to step onto the path she had chosen, I had to be strong enough to let go because letting go said “You can do it, I believe in you.”  Still, sitting on the train which would bring me back to our hotel, I had wild thoughts of not getting off, of riding the train until it circled back to her station, of  not going to the airport or getting on the flight that afternoon which would take me and my husband back home. My heart hurt so much I could barely speak when I did arrive at the hotel where my husband had remained to check out while my daughter and I made a pilgrimmage to a sacred memorial which held special meaning for both of us.

In retrospect I see now that was the moment when the heartstrings of full time motherhood fully broke. Yes once a mom, always a mom but from that moment on I would have to learn how to be a long distance mom for both my daughters.

Favorite Youngest Daughter had stepped into independence in a way far different from her older sister. Favorite Older Daughter’s crossing into independence was more gradual, evolved closer to home and by the time she left for college, she had already found her ally and partner for life, the devoted young man I now refer to as Favored Son-in-law. The moment those heart strings began to release came as I watched them get ready for her senior ball. In the way only a mother’s heart can know, I sensed it was a glimpse into her future.

 

 

Our younger daughter’s break from home came as an all-in-one major leap of faith which took her half way around the world for her first solo flight. She has never looked back. Oh, she’s been home a few times and those visits have been deeply rewarding, as have our visits to Portland each summer when we reconnect as a family with our older daughter and her husband.

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Recently the inevitable goodbyes felt surprisingly harder; I hugged my kids tighter, longer, my tears stung sharper. Insights from my friend’s writing granted me a fuller awareness of the grief embedded in this change from full time motherhood to long distance mom. Looking back I find it’s been there in my writing for a while.

With clarity comes the gifts of perspective and acceptance. Those “everydays” Lisa writes about are the void we must reframe and reclaim as our own and as I said before, our adventures as women on life’s path are far from over. Acceptance allows me to see the sign posts pointing the way to undiscovered adventures and whether I walk those paths alone or with friends and family I am eager to set forth on this next stage of my own journey.

 

 

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See you on the trails.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

 

 

Christmas 2017

So fellow travelers, the last of our Candle Night lights has been lit.

Christmas Day has come.

Beautifully wrapped gifts from my dear friend Lisa.

There will be gifts and greetings shared with family near and far. We will linger over hearty meals and hugs. Thanks to the technology  of Skype we will be together with all our kids for a little while later today.

Outside winter winds howl and lake effect snow adds more and more inches to the holiday card scenes in my yard but no weather can lessen the warmth and Light of the joy in my heart on this blessed morning.

Treasured ornaments

Lifelong memories shine bright

Bringing peace and joy

Walk gently on the path my friends and may blessings of the season go always with you.

Winter Solstice Reflection

So fellow travelers, its easy to lose ones bearings when navigating the maze of life….so many twists and turns, too many conflicting directives and confusing maps which lead us everywhere but where we truly need to be. Yet all we need to find our way back to our true path is just a glimpse of light.

 

You have wandered so long

misguided by trail markers and maps meant for others

when darkness heightens awareness of how far off path you meandered 

you had forgotten you are lost 

until a distant glimmer of light beckons you home.

 

 

 

 

As long we have someone who dares enough to hold love in their hearts for us there is always hope we will find our way.

Walk gently on the path my friends, blessings of the solstice be with you all


Roots

I’ve come back to read Tom’s piece several times, it is so thoughtful and imbued with significance for my own journey of searching for “home.”
HOME has become for me more about the people in my life than a physical location, so I feel I am home regardless of where I travel to be with them. As I write this I am sitting by the window in the guest bedroom of the townhouse where my parents live outside Philadelphia watching the sunrise cast amazing colors across the sky.

Yet I have also come to appreciate the connections I have to special sanctuaries in the Upstate NY area where I have lived now for over 40 years.  It’s where our daughters and our son-in-law were born and raised. It’s where my husband spent most of his life growing up. It’s where I learned to bird watch, hike trails and rescue dogs.  It’s where I re-discovered my creative spirit and found a tribe of kindred souls who being spread out across many places are like beacons of homefires reminding me there’s a lot of  home out there for me to visit.

 

Quarry House

Rogers Store Museum.JPGFrom my journal:

I am home.

For the last week, the woman I love and I have been down in Virginia, visiting my family and some of the places that were once home.  We spent a day in the DC area with one of my sisters, a day in Richmond with another, and a day in Surry County with my aunt, my dad’s sister.

My bride, my love had met my sisters, but not until a day before the wedding. They came up to Vermont for the first time, rented a cabin on a small lake and we had dinner there the night before the wedding, along with many of Cindy’s friends. It was a wonderful send-off, but not a place where you really get to know people. Too many of us talking, the whole social bouncing from person to person, group to group to really get to know folks…

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