It’s a Dogs Life

So fellow travelers, I am finally back in Portland Oregon, resting comfortably at the residence of Favorite Older Daughter and Favored Son-in-law. 

It feels like we never left. And it feels like an eon has passed. Time is strange like that. 

Caught this moment with the kids two rescue dogs, Zeus and Coffee. 

They go and they come

Mysterious human ways

We wait patiently

Simple moments are sometimes the best respite from the worrisome moments in life.

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

Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Ten: Drawing the Hat of Buddha

So fellow travelers, after gathering my koans* from the sages along the walkway, I approached the main temple and saw a path which lead through a small garden of wild flowers.

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Perched on a large rock at one end sat a fat round statue I recognized as the Buddha of  prosperity, health and happiness. (He’s sitting on the far left in the photo above) A wide flat rock offered the perfect place to sit among the flowers and meditate with this jolly Guardian of Joy.

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As I sat in contemplation, I became aware of the unaddressed burdens I still carried from the months of difficult experiences at work. Now in this graceful spot, quiet but for the gentle buzzing of bees I could let those emotions speak freely, seek to understand the fears that fueled them and ask for ways to heal, be more resilient and move forward. After some time, I felt something shift within me; exactly what the messages were I could not say right then but I felt settled enough to leave an offering in Happy Buddha’s open hands and continue on my way.

 

 

Off to one side of the temple was another red tiled building which was the meditation hall of Kwan Yin, Goddess of Peace and Compassion. As Buddhism spread through out Asia, its priests incorporated elements of indigenous belief systems to encourage local populations to convert. Often, as with many ancient spiritual practices, these were matriarchal Goddess centric belief systems.  The evolution of Kwan Yin as a key figure in Buddhism is an example of this. I would have liked to see the meditation hall, but a hand painted sign in both traditional calligraphy and English informed me it was closed for “Redoing to prepare for coming soon celebration of Ancestors Anniversary,” so I walked over to the main temple.

As I climbed the temple steps, a gentle breeze stirred sending a wave of chimes from the small bells hanging off the corners. I stopped and closed my eyes, momentarily transported back to Japan by this welcoming, comforting sound memory.

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I left my shoes on the numbered rack outside the temple door and entered the great hall.

Immediately a stillness deeper than any worldly silence enveloped me. Circling around the offeratory stations dedicated to different Bodhisattvas, I gradually made my way to the center of the temple and sat on the floor. The vast luminous white Buddha rises 37 feet, sitting stoically in a giant lotus blossom, eyes closed, hands clasped in prayer surrounded by ten thousand tiny buddhas. Gazing at the Buddha’s calm expression for a moment I thought I saw a smile. Blinking I looked again and now I feel more than see this smile. Subtle, immutable, born of uncorruptable truth and radiating a wisdom beyond time and human effect. I closed my eyes, committing this Smile to memory, waiting for it to permeate deep into my consciousness.

A young nun seated by the doorway indicated I was permitted to take pictures, but I chose not to.  Somewhere within this meditation I received reassurance this Presence I had felt did not require a photo to be recalled.  I headed on my way, carrying a profound feeling of completeness I could not put into words.

Some hours later, seated at the table in the cottage where I stayed the next two nights, I discovered this reassurance was as real as the chair I sat in as I began a drawing of the Buddha’s face. Working on the round nodules of the Buddha’s head became a form of meditation. The harder I tried to get them just right, the wonkier they came out. So I closed my eyes, recalling the Smile with it’s serene wisdom. The feeling I had carried from the Buddha’s Great Hall was there. Writing about it now find I have the words to describe what I felt.

It was as if every moment of suffering I or any being had ever experienced had not only been acknowledged, but shared and transformed into pure energy, energy which now could be used to create change for the better. Hope and Light from darkness.

then I moved the pencil on the paper again letting the circles flow~

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

*Koans are riddles, used in Zen Buddhism to push seekers beyond logical reasoning to find enlightenment in the mystery of being.  One of the most famous is “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”  May vipassana bless you.

Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Nine: The Walk of Sages

So fellow travelers, the lush green winding drive north on the Taconic was the perfect counterpoint to two days of city traffic. It had been raining all morning and cloud dragons of mist sat mysteriously suspended above creeks and rivers in the narrow valleys.

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a photo taken in Vermont a few mornings later, with the same dragons

With a full tank of gas, a decent diner meal in my belly and plenty of time to get to my final destination I was in no hurry.  Driving mindfully through hills might not be considered genuine “forest bathing,” still I truly felt refreshed as my eyes drank in the peace and serenity of the view.

It also gave me time to process the many connections I felt during my time at Sagamore Hill. Parallel threads: my dad raised by an aunt when his mother died after giving birth; my drive to write, a deep reverence for nature, a love for gardens gifted to me when working alongside my Grandfather, an imposing man who, although more reminiscent of Archie Bunker than Theodore Roosevelt, would later in life challenge me to love others are they are with full knowledge of their prejudices. Ponderous thoughts.

No wonder I nearly missed the sign marking the turn for my destination, even with my GPS which indicated the turn was still ahead on the road. Spirit or sheer luck, however you choose to believe, sent a red tailed hawk swooping across the road to land in a tree by the sign to catch my attention.

The path from the parking lot led to a wide gravel walkway which sloped gently upwards towards the temple, flanked on either side by two towers.  One held a large ceremonial drum, the other a huge metal bell, signature elements of Buddhist sacred sites. Lining both sides of the pathway were statues of various Buddhist masters and teachers.

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While it is not uncommon to find statutes of masters at temples, these were by far the most unique and intriguing collection of sages I have ever encountered in one location. I could not help but chuckle and smile at some of their expressions and life stories, which were presented in both traditional Kanji and somewhat awkward English translations on signs placed before each one.  A few of their tales had me laughing right out loud, a welcome reminder that laughter can help us recover from suffering.

 

I thanked them with an offering of shiny new pennies tucked under their stone feet and continued on the path to the temple where Buddha sat waiting. (to be continued)

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

 

Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Eight: With All Due Respect

So fellow travelers, it is most fortunate the evening with Chihuly’s amazing glass art was so vibrant and colorful because the next morning I woke to dense grey clouds which soon gave way to heavy rains.

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Clouds over Oyster Bay Long Island

In one sense the rains felt a fitting mood for my departure that morning as my route out of the city would take me by Woodlawn Cemetery where my paternal grandparents rest presumably in peace. Being a mix of traditional Lutheran regard for elders with equal parts of Japanese ancestral worship it would be unthinkable for me not to stop and pay my respects.

I have an odd relationship with cemeteries. I find them intriguing and mysterious rather than ghoulish. Perhaps this is due to the frequent visits we made to the cemetery when I was a child. Our family would stop after church before convening for Sunday dinner with my Dad’s family. Most of the time one of my parents would take me down to the pond to feed bread crusts to the geese who resided there year round.  Honestly I found these cranky anatidae far more terrifying than the quiet denizens of the nearby graves. To my best recollection, the geese were the only cemetery residents who ever chased or tried to bite me.*

My memory of these visits is so deeply engraved, I can find the family gravesites without much wandering or the help of the new Woodlawn Cemetery Ap.

Gentle rain fell as I stood by the graves, a serene mist of holy water, washing away some burdens I had carried there. A long drive with some promising discoveries lay ahead of me that day so I remained long enough to wish my ancestors well, ask their continued blessings on those still walking earthly paths and left small tokens on the gravestones in gratitude.  This last gesture is decidedly influenced by my Japanese heritage.

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When my husband’s schedule kept him from joining me on my road trip, it created an open end to the dates I could travel so I decided to combine the trip with a visit to catch up with some cherished friends in Vermont and New Hampshire. This extended my itinerary to cover over 700 miles of solo driving, including several runs back and forth on various expressways and bridges in and around New York City.

“Bring it on,” said my Inner Kid from da Bronx when I laid out the maps.

I created various routes using both on-line mapping and a trusted well worn Road Atlas. While I appreciate the programmability of a good GPS (mine’s a Garmin with lifetime updates) just like hiking, I rarely leave home without a reliable set of paper maps. While mapping a trip online allows me to bookmark a nice list of coffee stops and diners along a given route, my GPS does not tell me Route 25A is an excellent alternative to the Long Island not-so Expressway.  This later fact courtesy of my road atlas, surely saved my sanity on the multiple transits back and forth across the Bronx and Throgs Neck Bridge going to and from Long Island where I stayed during the New York City leg of my journey.

On-line mapping does however offer some unique perks. Take for example a serendipitous discovery made as I planned the current leg of my trip heading north to Vermont. Planning this stop at Woodlawn Cemetery gave me the option of taking the Taconic Parkway to Vermont.  It’s a scenic, slower paced and far less congested route than going north via 87. However, unlike highway 87,  there would not be any rest stops or gas stations on the Taconic so I wanted to plan my break points accordingly.

That’s how I found the Chuang Yen Monastery.

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Who knew there was a Buddhist Monastery near Carmel New York?

Some intrepid researcher working for Google maps did and plunked a nice pin which popped right up for me to see while doing my route planning. Sometimes the stars and algorithms of social media align and there you have it:

“Site of the Largest Statue of Buddha in the Western Hemisphere.”

Wait what? (it is, I fact checked the claim) and just a 20 minute side trip off the parkway?

Given all my recent reflections on suffering and compassion it would be outright disrespectful to even consider passing up an opportunity like this. Who knows maybe my ancestors were pointing me to this hidden sanctuary.

I’m deeply grateful I made the side trip, otherwise I would have missed meeting some very mindful masters~

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(to be continued)

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

*On a personal note:  Some 37 years after those Sundays at the cemetery, I visited Woodlawn with Favorite Older Daughter who was at the time simply Favorite Only Child and just about the same age as I had been back then.  Spying the geese on the banks by the pond, she asked “Mommy can I chase them?” I hesistated for less than a nanosecond before nodding and waving her on. There is no way to measure the satisfaction I felt watching my own child scattering the geese left and right.  Revenge can indeed be sweet.

Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Seven: Glassy-eyed Wonder

So fellow travelers, in my first post I alluded to an event which guided the timing of this trip.

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Acquiring coveted tickets to one of the viewings for Chihuly Nights at the New York Botannical Garden had more to do with when I scheduled this road trip than it being my 60th birthday. In all honesty if I could have picked anywhere to be on my birthday I would have spent it with my daughters in Portland, Oregon. However an impending alignment of the sun and moon required choosing between heading west for a solar return in July or a solar eclipse in August.

The eclipse won so hopefully I will be writing about that adventure next week!

So the main lunacy of this expedition became a late afternoon drive from Oyster Bay to the NYBC, a trek which involved navigating both the Long Island and Cross Bronx Expressways, which I might note are not so “express” at that time of day. Allowing myself two hours to make the 35 mile drive turned out to be just about right.  No, don’t torture yourself by doing the math to figure out my average speed; I lived it, trust me you don’t want to suffer needlessly.  We are after all on a quest to seek the counterpoint to suffering.

What I will say is every minute on the congested roadways was absolutely worth it.

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Illuminated

Garden fantasies create

Glassy eyed wonder

 

 

 

But I’ll let you decide that for yourselves. Enjoy~

 

 

 

 

 

~ and these are just a smattering of the images I was able to capture.  There are many more, which will make appearencs over time as I discover the words embedded in them.

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

 

 

 

 

Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Six: Signs

“Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”  Theodore Roosevelt

So fellow travelers, in the process of writing about the time I spent at Sagamore Hill I struggled to find words which would convey my feeling of reverence without being trite or glorifying beyond reason a man I greatly admired.

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The Roosevelt family motto over the porch doorway.  It literally translates as “Who plants preserves” which could be interpreted in many ways; to me it speaks both to the responsibility of  tending to as well as leaving a legacy by what one creates

Theodore Roosevelt was as flawed a human being as any of us. What sets him apart from many significant icons of history is his open recognition of his own shortcomings, something he wrote and spoke of candidly particularly in his letters to his family. In everything he imparted to his children, he was acutely aware of his own need to improve. Impatient, mercurial, and stubborn, his hawkish military policies, voracious desire to hunt, manipulation of the press and bellicose attacks on political enemies stand in sharp contrast to the leader whose missions championed the common citizen, family values, wildlife conservation and a desire to promote peace through understanding.

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Walking along the boardwalk leading back to the trail from the shore I thought about why coming to Theodore’s home had meant so much to me. To see the one place on earth which TR loved more than any, the haven his restless spirit called home, was to be within the energy which fueled his soul. Perhaps I hoped to be blessed even fractionally by what I found; certainly I was deeply moved by the unique vibrancy and living presence I sensed, something I do not often feel when traveling to historic sites. For me, TR embodies the struggle to reconcile who we are at our worst and who we strive to be at our best. He embraced life with its heartache and challenges. He heard and responded to the call to serve others beyond his own interests.

 

True greatness lies less in who we are and more in how what we impact others. To live with the integrity to be oneself yet still think and act beyond that self for greater good is to live an honorable life.

Just as I came up off the beach, a large white egret flew over the boardwalk and into the tall grasses at the edge of the wetlands, a breathtaking moment that stopped time.

Eyes to the skies,  feet on the ground. One of my favorite of his mottos.

The majestic bird moved too fast for me to get a photo, but it didn’t matter. I knew what I had seen and I gratefully accepted it as a sign of adventures to come.

So many National Parks are waiting.  Ride on TR, I’m on my way.

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Great Egret photo taken by my then nine year old daughter at Fair Haven State Park. NY  an image of another breath taking, timeless moment on one of our annual birding treks

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

Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Five: Echoes

 “It is an incalculable added pleasure to any one’s sum of happiness if he or she grows to know, even slightly and imperfectly, how to read and enjoy the wonder-book of nature.”  Theodore Roosevelt

So fellow travelers, after the tour inside the house, we stepped out onto the grand porch over looking the grounds of Sagamore Hill to hear stories about the family.

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Our guide explained he usually told these colorful, candid stories as groups toured the family quarters through out the upper floors, but it was an oppressively humid day and the sweltering temperatures inside the Roosevelt home, built before the modern convenience of air-conditioning, made it uncomfortable to stay long on the upper floors.

We learned that Theodore fell in love with the area after spending much of his childhood summers visiting the summer homes of his grandfather and uncles. Soon after graduating from Harvard when he and Alice were engaged, TR purchased a large area of farmland on top of the hill which looks out on Oyster Bay. A few years later, both his mother and young wife Alice died on the same day, just two days after their only child Alice Lee was born. Heartbroken, he almost cancelled his plans to build the house, but his older sister  “Bammy” convinced him he and his daughter still needed the home on the hill. So when TR left to try his hand at ranching out west in the Dakotas as a way to quell his grief, his sister not only took over the care of  Baby Lee, she also supervised the construction of Sagamore Hill. While the house does not have air-conditioning (which would not be invented for another 20 years) it is in fact mainly due to Anna’s foresight and planning that many other modern conveniences of the time, like electricity, became part of the final plans. For example, she saw to it that the porch was situated to take advantage of the prevailing breezes which blew across the penninsula, breezes our sweaty tour group were most grateful for decades later.

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Since Sagamore Hill was at the time in a fairly remote location, the grounds actually incorporated elements of a small family farm including an orchard with many different fruit trees, milking cows, chickens for fresh eggs and flower gardens to fill the vases which Edith loved to place through out the house as a counterbalance to all the taxidermy which prevailed on the walls of almost every room (she got her say in keeping the master bedroom free from staring animal heads.)

On the far end of the grounds stands the beautiful home built by Theodore Roosevelt III, TR’s oldest son. Now known as the Roosevelt Museum at Old Orchard it houses an extensive collection documenting the personal and professional lives of the President and his family. It is also airconditioned, so I planned to take my time absorbing as much as I could of the treasures on display such as his Nobel Peace prize,* photos of historic and personal moments through out his life and letters, book drafts and documents like the ones which created so many National Parks (5), National Forests (150) and Bird Reserves (51).

But before I indulged in the luxury of steeping myself in the Roosevelt Family’s history on display in air-conditioned comfort of the Museum I had a trail to find and hike.

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Our guide mentioned Theodore had constructed a nature trail through the woods which lead to a beach on the shore, where the family often spent the day fishing and swimming in view of beautiful Oyster Bay. Just as with most of the grounds at Sagamore Hill, this trail remains in its original location and I could not pass up the opportunity to walk this favorite place TR explored with his children, teaching them about nature and listening for birds he loved.  It is located  behind the Roosevelt Museum just past where the large orchard once stood. Marked as an easy three quarter mile loop down to the shore and back, I disregarded the mounting midday heat and set out to walk in the footsteps of the Roosevelts.

 

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Within a few feet, the trail turns and dips down towards to the coast, the dense green canopy of old growth trees providing welcome relief from the glaring summer sun. Deep in the trees the melodious song of a woodthrush sounded, red squirrels and chipmunks chattered at my intrusion, a small toad hopped away when I stooped to look at a tiny mushroom. No wonder this was a favored place of the Roosevelt children.  I could hear them laughing as they ran along the path.

Wait, I really do think I hear childen laughing.

Turning to look up the path, I almost expected to see spirits playing in the filtered sunlight when two young boys came zooming by, laughing about who would get to the beach first. “Hold up boys,” a young dad called as he trotted after them. His wife followed, carrying a baby and said “Sorry about that” as she walked by me.

“Oh no worries.  Your boys just made my day,” I said earnestly and headed down the trail to find the beach where the Roosevelt family spent so many happy summer days.

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

*Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for meditating the Treaty of Portsmith which ended the Russo-Japanese war over Korea and Manchuria. In keeping with the philanthropic mission his own father instilled in him, TR used the money from the award to start a trust to create a foundation promoting international peace. President Roosevelt was the first American to win any of the Nobel Prizes, one of many firsts in an outstanding list of his contributions to the greater good.

 

Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Four : Living History

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  Theodore Roosevelt

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So fellow travelers, after my brief meditation of gratitude in the shade of the cherry trees, I walked to the visitor’s center, claimed my color coded tour pin and followed the path towards the legendary Roosevelt home on the hill.  Along the way I passed a windmill with an amusing anecdote from TR’s own journal.

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This is just one example of the tangible living history which infuses this park. Not only was Sagamore Hill the primary home for the Roosevelt family until Edith’s death in 1948, the Roosevelts were the only family ever to occupy the house. The house stands filled with most of the original furniture and many of the family possessions, carefully gathered and documented by Ethel, TR and Edith’s younger daughter. So as you walk through the house, every room has little details which make the space feel alive, as if at any moment one of the former residents will walk through one of the doors to sit in a chair, pick up a book or grab a hat off a rack and head out to climb a tree.

Theodore spent as much time as possible with his family, most of it at Sagamore Hill, retreating to their other residence in Manhattan only during the harshest of winter months. Even during TR’s Presidency, he chose to spend as much time as possible there earning it nickname “The Summer Whitehouse.”  Consequently the beautiful dining room, parlor and a large space called the “North Room” (which was a later addition)  hosted many significant guests of the era, from the Meiji emperor’s representative to African princes. Magnificent artwork including Remington’s “Bronco Buster” Rough Rider bronze sculpture, a commissioned Tiffany cup*, paintings and portraits fill every space. Yet little details like framed family photos, favorite children’s toys or the pretty hand mirror in the guest room where Theodore’s niece Eleanor frequently stayed, create a feeling more like home than a museum.

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The garden arbor created to give Edith a quiet retreat

Photos are not permitted inside the house so I have only exterior images to share and not wanting to rely on the vapors of memory, I purchased a book about the house in the visitor’s center. Two rooms held particular significance for me and I wanted to have a have a visual record of my extraordinary experience with what these rooms were like

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The first is TR’s library, on the main floor which has a view just outside its window of a huge tree the children loved to climb.  Like most rooms of the house its walls are lined with bookcases and this room holds most of TR’s favorite of the over ten thousand books he owned and yes read. Every single one. This room is where the family gathered every evening to read or tell stories, and the children would tell their father something new they had learned or read that day. After Theodore became President, this was the room where he  conducted staff meetings and official business when not in Washington. It is the room where he met with Pinchot Gifford to work on the creation of the National Parks system.  After our guide mentioned this, I lingered a few minutes in the doorway, looking at the desk and chairs where TR and Gifford would have sat discussing the plans for what I believe is the greatest legacy of his term.

The second significant room for me is a space which served many purposes over the years from billiards den to playroom but eventually became known as “the Gun Room” after TR stored his hunting equipment there. From its third floor height, the room had views over looking the grounds and Oyster Bay in the distance. There sits Theodore’s writing desk with his original chair across from the stenographers table where his hired assistants would type dictated notes and texts. Perched on one corner of his desk is one of two unique rhino foot ink wells (the pair were gifts from Africa; the other sits on his desk in the library next to the only telephone in the house) alongside one of his actual pens and notebooks.

For an instant I felt him sitting in the chair, looking out the window at the grounds he loved so deeply. TR spoke of the discipline of writing as a way to tame his own restless, impatient nature. While it became his primary means of support after most of his original personal inheritance was lost to his years at the Dakota ranches, writing held meaning beyond income for him. Reverence for his dedication to writing settled on me.

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”

 A silent promise exchanged between writers, one whose spirit remains alive through his published works, one still working on her craft and committed to finding ways to give voice to her own restless spirit.

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Thanks Teddy for the inspiration.

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

Photo note:  The typewriter belongs to my youngest daughter; it has the feeling of the one on the stenographers desk in TR writing space.  The portrait of TR is the one I chose from many available at the visitor’s center. While somewhat grainy, it is a very vibrant image which captures his engaging smile and constant energy. It now sits next to my own art and writing space at home.

*Editor’s note:  The Silver Tiffany Cup, like all the items in the house, has a story worth retelling, but it didnot fit in the narrative above, so I include here as a footnote. The stunning piece was given to Edith Roosevelt by the crew of the battleship, USS Louisianna in gratitude for their safe passage to Panama and back.  You see, Maritime superstition believed sailing with a woman on board was bad luck and any such voyage undertaken would be doomed. Edith, with the support of her husband insisted on accompanying the President; it was the first time any US President had traveled to another country while in office, a major break from past practice. I love that Edith in her own way defied another outdated tradition and earned the admiration of the crew while she was on board. You can see the cup and many other items at this link.

Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Three: Pilgrimage to Sagamore Hill

“The only man who never makes a mistake is someone who does nothing. ” Theodore Roosevelt

So fellow travelers, I wanted to mark my significant turn of decades by setting a goal focused on something new to experience in my next decade. Given the importance of nature to my well being, the idea of visiting each of the fifty-nine National Parks seemed a fitting choice.

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Crater Lake National Park,  from our trip to Oregon in July 2014 . Pre-goal, still counts.

No surprise then that one of the few heroes in my gallery of mentors would be Theodore Roosevelt, who created the National Parks system while serving as the 26th President of the United States. Setting forth on a pilgrimage to visit Roosevelt’s home at Sagamore Hill, now a National Parks historic site, felt like an apt beginning to mark my new goal.

After so many challenging trips around the sun if there is one lesson I have learned well, it is to cast a discerning eye when presented with alleged greatness. Therefore, those I consider true heroes are few and far between. Theodore Roosevelt sits high on my list. I am not blind to his many short comings but then neither was he. In fact, his willingness to admit his flaws and acknowledge his mistakes is one reason I hold him in high regard.

TR was also a writer, keeping a daily journal from a young age to record his thoughts and experiences. Writing is how he supported his family after most of his personal fortune was lost during his ranching years in the Dakotas. It was his primary source of income, his salaries from public office being more modest additions to his resources. He published three dozen books on a wide variety of topics and his writing styles altered to suit his subject matter from humorous to scientific to his well known “bully pulpit” blustering.

It is Teddy as father and head of the family he was known to cherish more than any public honor, which draws me in almost as much as the naturalist who published Summer Birds of the Adirondacks based on his observations over many years. It is in the letters written to his family, which have been published as a collection where he came to life for me.  His values and priorities, sense of humor, deep love for his family and passion for life itself even with all its challenges are put to paper so honestly I come away feeling as if I have been privileged to sit in on the talk at the family dinner table.

He brought this honesty even to his fractured relationship with his oldest daughter, Alice Lee, whose fierce independence and untamable anger created a rift they never breeched. It was a heartbreak second only to the day her mother (his first wife, Alice) and his own mother died within hours of each other. Roosevelt’s willingness to be open about his own humanity makes his leadership and wisdom more accessible. He led others through out his life as he taught and raised his children: by example. It’s a model I’ve been mindful of since I read his autobiography back in junior high school.

One hazard of holding great admiration when traveling to a historic site such as the Roosevelt Home at Sagamore Hill is the expectations and images we create hold tremendous potential for great disappointment.

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The instant I caught a glimpse of the house, with its sweeping lawn, wide wrap around porch and majestic trees I felt any doubts evaporate into the sweltering summer heat wave which had settled on Long Island that morning. Stepping out of my car, I caught sight of a bench under the gracious shade of a majestic cherry tree. I sat and watched small butterflies drift among the wildflowers scattered in the meadow, I had a reserved ticket for a tour of the house in about half an hour which gave me time to sit in gratitude for simply being there.

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It was a moment I like to think Teddy himself would have appreciated. To be continued

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

Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Two: Comfort Food

So fellow travelers, a little over an hour later, I defied the GPS directions to stay on the highway and headed south on Route 17 because I knew full well what wonders could be found along this alternate route.

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There is something about a hearty meal of good comfort foods that fortifies a troubled soul. After a brunch of corned beef hash, poached eggs, rye toast and good strong coffee I definitely felt more settled.

 

Driving through the vibrant green hills, often alongside rushing waters which still retain their Dutch names for “creek” such as Fishkill, Mudkill or Littlekill, another Buddhist teaching came to mind.

In this story, two monks are traveling and come upon a woman standing at the bank of a river, afraid to cross because she cannot swim. One monk offers to carry her across on his back, much to the dismay of his fellow monk. Upon reaching the other side, the woman climbs down and bows in gratitude, thanking the monk for giving her safe passage across the rushing waters. The two monks continue on their way and after a while the other monk breaks his disgruntled silence, indignantly questioning how his companion could dare break sacred vows against touching women. To which the monk who had carried the woman across the river replies,

“For heavens sake, I left her at the bank, You however are still carrying her with you.”

Clearly he choose to be of service and let go of any “sin” incurred in so doing, but the other monk carried a burden of anger and judgment far longer than the first monk had carried the woman in need of help.

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Rounding a bend in the road, I caught sight of a tall barren tree, filled with birds perched on the dead branches. The image spoke forgiveness which my heart accepted gratefully. Then, as they so often do, words began to weave thoughts into form

 

Forest bones stand tall

Feathered ornaments adorn

Purpose beyond death

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Photo Note: the tree is a similar image which presented itself later in my travels when I could stop to take the photo.  Add birds of your choice.

Oh and if you ever have the good fortune to travel along route 17 through Roscoe New York, do yourself the favor of stopping for a bite at the Roscoe Diner.  It’s worth the trip.