New Year's Eve

I sent my BURN IT email to West Virginia storyteller Susannah Holstein. She will toss my troubles on her annual midnight bon fire tonight and free me to start the year feeling lighter

I read through my 2006 calendar. It has been a full year.
Some high points sure -

Mama at 90 made it though hip surgery -
our family is still in decent health -
Jim and I made a trip to Ireland which had mixed reviews but was something we had long wanted to do -
Jim and I spent a wonderful week-end in NC at Patti Digh's first 37 Day Retreat -
My storytelling career is healthy and busy -

But I have to ask myself - are these really the most important moments?
If not, what are the important moments?

Jim and I lived another year together and celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary yesterday.
My girlhood friend Carolyn died and I have to face the reality of my mortality with sharper clarity.
I am off track about some really significant stuff.
And on and on.

Do I make resolutions to change things -
ordinarily I would have said yes,
until I read Holly Stevens essay on Storyteller and LIstener. Her touching story and suggestion of using "themes" has caused me to rethink things.

This is much like the new take on things I picked up from Patti Digh and her "reframe it" exercise at the 37 Days Retreat.

I told Patti as we left Bend of Ivy Lodge that I thought of her as a significant person in my life. I could not quite put my finger on why then - now I can. I first read her 37 Days blog in Janaury 2006. I loved the writing, her take on the world and her reverence for serendipty - which I share. I appreciated how she added the links that expanded the world related to the essay. Relatively new to internet and blogging it took me a while to really GET it. My world was expanding wider and wider through those links and connections.

At about the same time I discovered 37 Days I met Nellie. She is the mother of my grand-daughter's best friend. I was fascinated to learn that her job was writing a blog. Imagine getting paid to play with ideas and the computer. I started checking her blog New Persuasion regularly, but the content did not touch me personally.

A few weeks ago Patti wrote on 37 Days that she had been tagged for more information about her - tell me five things I don't know about you. I checked the b log of the woman who tagged her. She had tagged 4 others: Nellie, ___, ____, Patti and _____. Yep, that's the same Nellie I met a year ago.

It knocks me out.

The wide wide world - is really a small world.


Berkeley Surprise

We started out for field trip to explore near-by Berkeley.
Oops, need coffee.
So - - an unscheduled stop at the Whole Foods store on a corner of San Pablo .
I took my camera inside thinking to grab a few still life shots in the store. Not gonna happen. I raised the camera and a woman wearing her Whole Foods apron called out, "sorry maam, you can't take photos here."
"What? Why?"
"You will have to ask the manager." I decided to follow that up. Why no photographs - is this a terrorist target?

I had to wait a few minutes for her to come down from her cat-walk office to speak with me, I assured her I just had a couple of friendly questions.
" I am an artist. I like to take photos of produce and store displays but several people have told me there are rules against photographs. Why?
"Its marketing. We are very particular about our set-ups and proud of them and we protect them from our competitors. I have a friend who is a food photographer and I can't let her take shots in here."

So - nothing personal, except my disappointment. It is a beautiful store. I would have loved to spend some time in there snapping away.

Back in the car I told my daughter about my conversation with the manager - she laughed. "I am not surprised. Did you buy anything? Notice the prices? People call this place, "Whole Pay Check."

Our next stop was a salvage yard - a yard which specializes in vintgage house leavings. My daughter watches home remodeling tv shows and is planning a re-model of her home. I am past that stage and was impatient at having to make this stop.

It was interesting - old windows, doors, claw foot bath tubs, the remnants of a church that had been chopped up - from the communion railing to stained glass windows.

I wandered through aisles of this stuff and had begun to lose interest when I turned a corner.
Metal skates, with ball bearing wheels. I had a pair like these. My skates are long gone and I had not thought about them in years.

Looking at these skates brought back a flood of memories.

I got my first pair of real skates, like these, for Christmas when I was ten years old.
They were my "wheels".

I lived in a neighborhood with sidewalks. With my skates I could go anywhere within my zone - to my grandmother's house a mile away; to the Big Star grocery store; to the Plaza Movie Theater on Saturday morning for the kiddie show. On skates I had a special kind of kid freedom.

The metal skate key was all important. You used it to tighten the toe clamps and to shorten the one-size skates to fit kid-size feet. I put the key onto a long plaid shoe string; then tied the ends together and wore that key necklace around my neck. When I walked the heavy key thuddded against against my chest. I wore it everywhere I went, whether I was skating or not. My key necklace was my badge of independence.

Later I saw two boys on skateboards in the neighborhood. I stood at the kitchen sink watching them glide from side to side of the cul de sac. It looked so graceful, so effortless, so free. I asked ten year old Scotty if he thought I could ride a skateboard.
"yeah, I guess you could - if you can keep your balance, jump the curbs and are crazy enough to try it."

Hmmm! Why bother - especially since they don't have a key.


Tackling BART

We had to pick up another rental car at the Oakland Airport. It was not convenient to get a ride there so we took the BART - that's the San Francisco area subway.

We started in Lafayette - took the train to the MacArthur stop where we got off, walked across the platform to wait for the Fremont train - our connection to the Airport. We got off the Fremont train at the Coliseum stop as we had been instructed.
Rushed down two flights of stairs to the street level to board the orange and blue bus - the Air Bart - to the airport. So far so good. We got off at Terminal One - walked a few blocks and crossed the street, watching two rental car shuttles pass us by because chain link construction fences herded us several extra blocks up the street to a cross-walk. Waited ten minutes for the third rental car shuttle to arrive. It took us to the off site rental car pick up center.

It was not hard. We had clear directions.

It took one hour and forty minutes and we paid 10.00 for two 5.00 tickets - one-way to the airport.

Lessons learned:

The person who gave us the directions is not a senior and forgot to factor in the dollar benefits we reap because we are -- so we paid full fare for the tickets and added 2.00 for the bus which is just 50 cents for seniors.

If we ever do this when catching a plane we will be leaving our daughter's home five hours before plane time and only carrying a backpack.

And, most importantly, the adventure reminded us that riding public transportation gives you a real view of the diversity of a city and affirms that strangers can be friendly and helpful.


California Holidays Begin

We flew Jetblue to Oakland today to spend time with our daughter and her family for the holidays.


Caught Writing In My Book

"odd wasn't it, that the crispest memories were of aberrations." (Mirror, Mirror, Gregory Maguire, page 163.)
I was caught off guard by how true that is - so I took out my pen and underlined the sentence - to make sure I would remember it or at least could find it again.

A woman sitting next to me on the couch, also waiting to have her hair cut, saw me do it.

She waited a few minutes and then said, "you wrote in your book."

I was startled. "yes, I did. But, its ok."

She looked puzzled so I blundered on. " I own the book."

That was not enough. She did not look either satisfied or forgiving. She looked at me - like a librarian - - so I added, "I mean its not a library book."


I knew she would tell people.


Christmas 1957

During the Christmas Season I glimpse many Christmases of the past.

Christmas 1957. Jim and I lived on Argyle Road in Brooklyn, NY where Jim was an intern at Kings County Hospital. This was our first Christmas without any family around. Jimmy was 13 months old. Christmas morning was exciting for him; so many packages to open.

Here Jimmy discovers the surprise of a Jack-in-the-box.


Mix-ed Up Mail Delivery

Ever had a day that felt like this?

I am, more than I like to admit.

Whenever I have nothing to write I put in a picture and hope it will

inspire me

remind me

prompt me

or whatever.

Sometimes it works.





PA Sunset

Jim's picture of a November sunset in Pennsylvania.


Being Still









at last



November 10 - 12, 2006
Fallen lotus blossoms were floating over deep reflections on a pond at Bend of Ivy Lodge near Asheville, NC. during the recent 37 Day Retreat. Patti Digh and her colleague David set a space and time where you could find a quiet place inside yourself to see such wonders in the world around us.




in halves

or more

where is




Juliana in Her Underwear

Our grand-daughter Juliana ( center) is a theater student. She has been an actress from the first moment she took a breath twenty years ago - but we are learning to see her acting in a different light.

We journeyed two hours to see her in her latest romp on stage - actually in the basement of a dorm because the main theater at her college is closed for renovations. It created an intimate venue - putting the actors and the audience in each others laps.

The play was fairly predictable - a look at 3 males and their life passages - mostly through their libido. Juliana played Jack's girlfriend - I don't think she even had a name.

In the playbill Juliana did not list any personal details. There was just a note - "see Juliana's underwear". We did.

A late scene opened on a darkened stage-area. As the lights came up Juliana leaped out of bed with Jack - and wearing only her scanty black silk bra and panties. As her character pulled on silk stockings and later a dress she effectively delivered raw language lines directed toward Jack who had betrayed her with a casual sleep-over.

Ah, now I get it -

Juliana is an actress.

This is not really her.



T I A is not an Airline

This week my high school graduating class held a small reunion party in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was terrific. An evening of laughs and playing "do you remember when - - ". I am so grateful for these gatherings because being with people who knew me "when" helps me remember little bits of myself that have escaped.

The next day Jim and I went to Concord for a visit with my mother. She is recovering so well from her broken hip. She is up and walking very spritely. She pushes her wheeler walker at quite a clip. We took her out to lunch. Over lunch at Applebees I was telling her about the reunion gathering and we were laughing at things we both remembered about my classmates.

Mama turned to look out the window next to our table. When she turned back there was a rather blank look in her eyes. When she opened her mouth and spoke her words did not "compute". At first I did not realize what was happening. Then I heard it. Nothing she said made sense. One word did not connect with another. She realized something was wrong before I did. She was totally calm.

I looked toward Jim. "Something is happening here." We switched places so he could take her pulse and check things out - as well as he could in a restaurant and without any medical equipment. (Have I even mentioned that he is a doctor?) I wanted to DO something. Jim said, "wait." In about 20 minutes whatever was happening in my mother's brain righted itself and she began to speak coherently again. She told us it had happened earlier in the day also. "Things happen like this to my words and my memories."

" Now what were yout telling me about your party?"

It took me a moment to remember.



On a street corner in St. Remy
like Grant Wood's American Gothic
this Provence couple

like immoveable pillars

in place
from the beginning of time
until the end of time



to count on.



between jobs



on a rack

in a

St. Vincent dePaul Thrift Shop



for the next dance


Whiling Away the Time

In a small town in Provence
outside the church
this man patiently waits
for the bride and groom
to finish their vows
so he can make their get-a-way.


Stories and the Star Spangled Banner

The Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore is a cool place. I was there today to tell stories for their "Fall into History" series. I loved being there. All the exhibits are set up proclaiming they are "stories". That is logical - history is the story of what happened - when, where, and with who. But somehow the word history also gives off vibes of offical, pompous, and boring. Where the word "story" draws us in.
Is it because history is taught in school where it is serious and stories are known to be fun.

There was a young woman history-actress who was having a lot of fun with the story of history.
A fifteen year old aspiring actress, she has researched the history of the woman who sewed the giant Star Spangled Banner flag which flew over Fort McHenry in 1814. Dressed as the 14 year old daughter, she tells how General Armitage came to her mother and ordered the flag. The woman made it " 30 feet hoist and 42 feet fly". Now does that paint a picture for you? The young woman was seated in a rocking chair before a large and rather dull painting of Fort McHenry with the "shells bursting in air" and the flag flying proudly through it all. Her well done five minute presentation was an enchanting encounter with history. I hope she continues finding people who interest her so that she can share them.

My stories featured names. Your name is your story, right? Do you know your story?

I could not resist working in the story about how our grandson got to be named for Francis Scott Key. I know you all remember that Francis Scott Key is the man who wrote the Star Spangled Banner. Well for years there was a story in his father's family that they were related to the lawyer-songwriter. Under scrutiny the myth exploded. Oh, Scottie is named for Francis Scott Key that's true, however Key is not a relative, he is the man "who came to dinner." Makes a good story.


Telling Your Family Stories

A series of storytelling classes with Ellouise Schoettler

Learn to turn your memories into stories.
Tell your family stories so people will listen.
Your stories are your family's history and your Legacy.

When: 7 - 9 pm
5 Monday evenings
November 6, 13, 20
December 4 and 11

Where: Kensington Row Bookshop
3789 Howard Avenue
Kensington, MD 20895

Cost: $ 125.00

To register: call Ellouise Schoettler, 301-951-1213 by October 31, 2006
Limited to 8 students


De Ja Vu

October has not started off on high notes.

The newspapers and television news programs report one dire event after another.
School shootings, terrorist incidents and lately scandals on Capitol Hill.

No wonder young people are anxious these days.
They are not safe. And they know it.
Who are they to trust.

People walk into schools carrying guns and shoot school principals, their classmates, or most recently, truss up young girls and execute them - - as happened recently in peaceful Lancaster, Pa.

How ironic that our violent life life invaded a one room school in the Amish county where people attempt to live beside but not in the modern world.

And at the heart of Congress on Capitol Hill 16 year old pages are not safe and protected from elected sexual predators.
And more - that the leaders charged with their safety look the other way rather than risk partisan power.

I was talking with a colleague about this today and she said, "Why aren't people up in arms about this?"

Why aren't they?

Why aren't I?
It reminds me of the October when the 'sniper" was roaming our area and I felt numbed with the uncertainty and fear.


Hatchet of Koka

Mulling this over. Looking for the story, for the associations.

Or is this just how things feel in the world at the moment?

There is a children's story - The Turtle of Koka - about a turtle who tricks the hunter who catches him by singing a song - saying the hatchet cannot hurt him because of his hard, hard shell. The turtle keeps up his bravado until he tricks the hunter into throwing him in the river - where he swims away. Waving Bye Bye.

Is that what we have to do today - pretend we cannot be hurt until we figure out how we can can save ourselves.

Does it work?


Urban Ruins Updated

Stumbled across this colorful Berkely, CA ruin when we were on a field trip last summer.


Thanks for the Memories

I have my computer set to ripple through all the My Pictures folders and show the pictures as screen savers. I have no idea how the inner workings determines the sequence.I just know that any pause and a new photo pops up. It is a constant trip down memory lane.

Jim and I as bride and groom fifty years ago
followed quickly by last weeks trip to North Carolina, followed by the grand-kids in California several years ago, followed by a view of the Grand Canal taken when we were in Venice three years ago or was that the trip before? Or art-work images, or Mama in the hospital, or Jim's mother three years before she died or places I know we must have been but I have no clue when or where.

This slide show keeps you on your toes.

It is marvelous - a time machine.

So simple.

The computer does it all.


The French Cat

I walked into the kitchen of a painter's villa in southern France and spied this cat perched in a warm spot on the sunlit window ledge. He/she may be there still.


So Much for History

I love history. I imbibe the past through historical novels ( claiming their exceptional research), museums, history sites, movies - you get it.

Recently I had an epiphany and I am standing back and re-evaluating my inclination to soak in the past through all these various lenses.

As I lifted the receiver I checked the caller ID. It read "California" and the number. Is that supposed to narrow the field? My daughter lives in CA, Jim's family is spread from San Diego to San Francisco, and I do have friends living there.

"Ellouise" She did not have to say her name. I recognized her voice immediately and when I heard it a flood of memories washed over me and I was right back in the 1970s when we worked together for the women artists movement.

She came to the DC area often in those days and when she did she sometimes stayed with us. Her visits were always a delightful pleasure and a challenge. An outstanding artist, this women is an unusual person who who enjoys challenging the status quo. She is never dull.

"I am writing a book about the history of the women artists movement and I want to include information about the Coalition." She was calling to confirm some facts and when she told me what she had written down I said,
" you've got it wrong. "
" What do you mean? That's how it was when I got involved."
"Maybe so, but the Coalition was started at least six years before that and you are leaving out much of the early history."

Now what to do? Dig around in the basement for the real facts or just let it alone. History irrevocably changed by omission.

Is that how it is with much of the history that is written down thirty, forty years after the fact. And then what about history re-digested after millenia.

So much for the absolutes in history.

Storyteller truth, right?


Three Hotels

Jim and I will sleep in our own bed tonight. Its good to be home.

This week we have crawled into beds in three hotels in two states with a lot of road in between.

We are not going to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough in October so last week-end we went to Williamsburg, Va for the 2nd annual Williamsburg Storytelling Festival.
I am not saying it is a substitue for Jonesborough but it was an excellent stand-in - - wonderful setting, terrific storytellers telling really good stories.

Our family came too and stories are even more fun when you are enjoying them with your home group. Cousins Jim and Pam, Karen, and Jim in the background. Jim and Monica arrived later.

We dipped into our Sunterra time share points for two apartments at Powhatan Plantation.
What a mistake. The first units they assigned to us were filthy. We complained and with some trouble we were moved. We wound up sleeping on a mattress that was a rock! We had a kitchen so every morning I ate my regular bowl of shredded wheat. Familiar is good..

Mid-day on Sunday Jim and I wrenched ourselves away from the sunny world of stories and hit the highway toward North Carolina to spend a couple of days with Mama at her rehab hospital. We checked into the Fairfield Marriott Hotel in Kannapolis, NC. Friendly folks, clean room and a deliciously comfortable bed – at least to two people who had been sleeping on a rock for three nights. There was a small breakfast room off the compact, plain lobby filled with small tables and chairs. Every morning they set out various breads for toast, stuff to make your own waffle, a rack of small boxes of cereals, coffee, juices, yogurt and fresh fruit. I could have my regular cereal every morning. Ah, good.
Oh, I forgot the place also has free internet. A definite plus.

Mama is doing so well. Getting over a broken hip is no small thing. She can walk four times across the room with assistance. She is determined to get back on her feet. Her right hand is weakened for some reason. Every day she goes to the therapy room and works with putting round pegs into round holes and removing them. One of the women who works near-by calls it "picking cotton."

Jim and I went to Target and bought a Fisher Price toy – where the child drops colored shaped blocks through matching holes in the blue top of a yellow plastic bucket. Its her homework. She was delighted.

I am emensely proud of her. There is nothing easy about any minute of her day.

We arrived home on Wednesday and slept well in our own bed.

Thursday morning I ate shredded wheat at my own kitchen table. The phone rang as I was leaving to tell stories at a near-by pre-school. It was my childhood friend Betsy. She called to tell me that our friend Carolyn had died in her sleep during the night in Salem, VA.

(left) Carolyn.
"I will call you right back." I told her.
I did - - after I told a set of stories to 4 year olds. Tales about talking animals are a good way to keep a painful reality at bay.

Around noon on Friday Jim and I headed down Highway 66 to Highway 81 to Salem, VA, just outside Roanoke. We went to say good-bye to Carolyn.

We checked into the Comfort Suites off Electric Blvd in Salem. Big room, comfortable bed, and Wi-fi. Tomorrow morning we would have breakfast at one of the small tables set up at one end of the light-filled spacious lobby.

I met Carolyn and Betsy in a Girl Scout Troop at Hawthorne Lane Methodist Church. We were 10 years old. We became closer friends as we pulled ourselves through Junior High School. Our Sophmore year at Central High School we pulled in two others and started calling ourselves the Big Five – Jane, Betsy, Thorny, Carolyn and me. We did most things together. We were known for being the best of friends. The bond was – is – strong. The winds of our lives blew us in different directions. Our parents stayed in Charlotte but all of us moved away. Every so often we had big five reunions. A week-end away, a sleep-over and other get togethers.

Friday evening at the funeral home in Salem, VA Betsy, Jane and Thorny and I sat on a couch – feeling incomplete.

Jane smiled wistfully and whispered the child’s verse-song:
Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.
One fell off and then he was dead.
Now, four little monkeys jumping on the bed.

The bed at the Comfort Suites was warm and comfortable.

In the lobby the next morning they did not have shredded wheat; I ate Cheerios.

Nothing is the same.


Good-bye Carolyn

Carolyn Minogue Meacham died Thursday September 21, 2006 in Salem, Va.

I met Carolyn when I was 10 years old and we were members of the same Girl Scout Troop. We went to Piedmont Junior High School and graduated in the same class from Central High School, all in Charlotte, NC. We grew up together.

Winds blew us in different directions by we followed each others lives and stayed friends - some times closer than other times but never without without caring about each other.

Carolyn had a razor sharp wit and was one of the funniest people I have ever known. I will miss the laughs, the caring and the support she was so ready to give.

But more than that, we had history. As I get older I value that more and more. Losing someone who has known you from childhood is like losing a thread in your own story.


Mama Made It

Last week mama had a partial hip replacement.
We all came to Northeast Medical Center in Concord, NC to hug, and then, watch and wait.

My sister Kathy and my daughter Karen played cards. That's sister Lynda on the solitaire game in the background. Good ways to pass the time.

The operation took three hours.
Mama came through it with flying colors.
The next day she was eating and receiving company.
Let's hear it for this 90 year old soldier!

Thank you Lord.


Life Happens Off Your Calendar

You know the saying "life is what happens OFF your calendar." We are living it.

Our grandson Danny flew to Dulles from Oakland, CA two weeks ago -on his own- for a summer visit with us. The plan was so simple. A direct flight back and forth - no problem for the twelve year old to make the trip on his own. It worked well with his older brother last summer.

Then, several days after he arrived in Washington the terrorist alert flashed to orange when a plot was uncovered at Heathrow ariport. Flights stopped. Airport regulations for passengers changed immediately. Airpots sprouted long security lines, careful scrutiny of carry on bags, and lots of confusion. We changed the original plan and booked tickets on Jet Blue - while we could get seats - so we could fly back with Danny rather than wave good-bye from outside the security check-in.

Okay, I admit it - I was not thrilled at the idea of the flight. So I turned my focus on the good things about an unexpected week in California - - a visit with our other grandchildren, some quiet time with our daughter, and a quick visit to the Valley to see Jim's family. You now, all the reasons you plan a trip.

Saturday was a beautiful warm and sunny day with clear untroubled skies. Our family drove us to Dulles to see Danny off. As we walked across the asphalt from the parking lot to the terminal my cell phone rang. It was my cousin Jim in NC. We opened on a cheerful gambit and then he came to the business of the call. "I am in the emergency room in Concord, Ellouise, with your Mom. She fell and has broken her hip. The doctors are seeing her now." I sat down on a near-by bus stall bench to catch my breath.

My mother is 91 years old. She lives in an assisted care facility near my youngest sister in Concord, NC. At that moment that sister was in Raleigh, delivering her daughter to college, I was getting onto an airplane headed for California, another sister was last known to be in Billings, Montana, where she and her husband were in a rental car discovering a new part of the scenic West, my brother was at home outside Atlanta and the last of our five was in her car on the Interstate headed to the emergency room from Siler City, two hours away.

After much angst and several phone calls for updates on Mama's situation I decided to stay on our plan and go with Jim to take Danny home. As my sister said, "I am here. Mama is in good hands. Nothing is going to happen right away."

Once inside the Dulles terminal the first thing you notice are the insistent loudspeaker directives. "Unattended baggae will be removed. If you see unattended baggage report it immediately to an airport employee or security guard."

Our daugher Karen noticed a four foot gray plush elephant sitting quite alone near the the baggage carrousel. She looked around for a child, a teen-age girl, anyone who might belong to this obviously unattended stuffed animal. When it was obvious it was alone, abandoned - that over-size cuddly elephant began to look quite ominous. Karen first told a baggage handler. Initially he did not hear or comprehend her report. And, then when he did, he looked briefly toward the elephant and said, "oh, OK" and continued on his way pushing a train of baggage trolleys toward an unknown destination.

Karen was not satisfied.

About that time the loud speakers blared out another warning: "report any unattended baggage to a security guard or airport employee."

Karen spotted another guy wearing an airport shirt and ID badge. Once again she pointed toward the gray elephant - still sitting alone and unclaimed. They looked at it and exchanged several words. "Oh, yeah." he nodded and walked away. At that point we decided to move on and get as far away from the orphaned elephant as we could.

We were followed by the echoing announcement: "report any unattended baggage to an airport security guard or airport employee. The airport security level has been raised to orange." Karen just shook her head as we walked away. "yeah, right."

Later on the plane I noticed a man with an obviously brand new baby on his knees - a beautiful new life dressed all in pink. The baby slept peacefully at 36,000 feet and her father looked at her with new love in his eyes. " How old is your baby?" "twelve days old." Lovely.

I thought of the continuum of life - this little girl just entering the world and my mother perhaps preparing to leave it.

And what about the grey elephants loose in the world?



This time twenty years ago we were waiting for a call from Munich to announce the arrival of our first grandchild - Juliana. Now, here she is - a lovely, poised young woman.
It is somehow comforting to find the same familiar and irrepressible kid just below the surface.


By Jupiter

Tonight we went to an early movie in downtown Bethesda. We wanted to see Little Miss Sunshine. SOLD OUT. So we settled for Scoop. It was definitely settling. I over-heard a woman say, "Wow, Woody Allen is back." Yeah, he is - looking very tired and using the old jokes from all his other movies. Remember when a new Woody Allen movie was an "event."

When we came out of the theater the area was Saturday-night-hopping. Music was blaring from a near-by restaurant. The sidewalks were crowded with folks strolling in the balmy evening. The bright moon overhead was just another plus.

We crossed the busy intersection and bumped into a long line. What's this? Thirty or forty people lined up, waiting for a chance to peek into the lens of the biggest telescope I have ever seen. It was set up on the sidewalk outside Barnes and Noble. We stopped. Wouldn't you?

What are you looking at? The man who had just turned away said, " Jupiter and you can see the 4 moons." We looked into the dark sky and all I saw was what looked like a pretty big star. Bright, yes, but nothing unusual.

We fell into the back of the line and waited twenty minutes for our turn.

The telescope was 250 magnification. In the small lenses I saw a very bright moon and off to the side and above it - 4 very small moons. A glimpse of Jupiter on Woodmont Avenue on a Saturday night.

"How often do you do this?" I asked the man, the owner of the telescopes, the amiable guy who kept adjusting the scope for people. " Oh, maybe every six weeks or so."



Memories of Ireland

Jim and I are both Irish. Jim descends from Sheas, Campbells, and Byrnes and more.
I descend from Lonergans and Fagans - that I know of. All those connections and we had never been to Ireland.
This summer was time - and we went.
We returned last week and are still sorting out the laundry, the papers , the photos and the memories.
I am starting with just a few highlight images. I know the stories will emerge and I will be writing ever more as the days and weeks go by.

We began our trip on the coast of Ireland - flying into Shannon and joining an Elderhostel group that was starting in the Village of Kenmare.

The first few days the scenery was astonishing. Mountain vistas, beautiful and changing light, ancient stones and wide open spaces. We began with a day bus tour of the Ring of Kerry. There was no other way to do it for us than "by bus" but that is so limiting for really feeling the wind in your face and sitting to watch the changing light that the bus becomes a moving frustration.

I know if we had been traveling by car Jim and I would have found a way to come close to this ancient cahir rather than just ogling it from a bus pull out overhead and trying to get close through the camera telephoto lens.

A view of Dingle Peninsula looking toward the Blasket Islands. Last week-end Jim and I watched the film "Ryan's Daughter" which was filmed along this coast and we relished having this dramatic and beautiful scenery fill our eyes once more.

On my birthday we stopped at Blarney Castle. It loomed over us as we walked toward it. We decided that we have enough "gift of the gab" and we would not huff and puff up the hundreds of steps to kiss the Blarney stone. One of our group did kiss it and he said he tasted that stone for the rest of the day - and we did not hear any noticeable change in his "gab."
These cows in a field alongside the castle walk-way seemed to be taking us all in.

Finally, in Dublin we went to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. It is always so hard to have waited a long time, and come a far way and get just a few minutes to look because the line is pushing you along. A little bit of whining - sorry.

No disappointment here - New Grange - an 8,000 year old passage tomb. Cool and dry inside just as it has been for all that time. Amazing. IN december at the winter Solstice the light of the rising sun floods the passage and fills the inner chamber with glowing light.


If you have never read "Ulysses",the James Joyce masterpiece, you can at least get a feeling for the setting of the book by following the brass plaques embedded in Dublin sidewalks which mark a moment in the story.