Jury duty, only with feathers

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‘What those crazy birding trips are like’

I just flew back from a birding trip to Brazil, and boy are my arms tired.

The jury is in: Birthdays are Birddays on trips like this one. Here we celebrate my latest at Itatiaia National Park

People often ask me what these trips are like. Well, here’s how I often describe them. Picture yourself thrown together with eleven random strangers from all walks of life. For several days you spend nearly every waking moment with these people.

Our team of twelve doing a bit of problem-solving together

You eat every meal together, you take breaks together, you even spend the night together. (Well, sort of.) You consult, you deliberate, you draw conclusions.

Which owl was this? Group conclusion: Tawny-browed owl — a baby one

You form bonds and promise to stay in touch. Then, when it’s all over, you go home — and never see each other again. Jury duty, right?

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Sitting Pretty

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‘And pretty much just sitting. Thank goodness.’

Perhaps you recall my saying that I had a couple of good excuses for going Blog-AWOL back in August. One, of course, was the much-anticipated wedding celebration of The Child and the SIL. Read all about it — and see lots more pretty pictures — in “Two Weddings Are Better Than One” and “No, I Didn’t Skinny-Dip At That Canadian Wedding.”

Oldest Younger Bro Scott captured this image of the Happy Couple

The other excuse?

Me and my other excuse

I was visiting my Mom. Where, thank goodness, we pretty much just sat around talking. Oh, sometimes we’d drink coffee and talk. Other times we’d drink wine and talk. But sitting around was our preferred activity.

Sitting around having lunch at Beaches, our favorite riverside restaurant

There were two reasons for this. One was that I was all tuckered out from the wedding. No, not from helping with the wedding. As I told many of my friends who asked, “How are plans going for the wedding?” I had absolutely nothing to do with it. Nothing to do with the flowers, the food, the music. Not even the guest list. This summer, in a show of mother-of-the-bridely concern, I asked The Child what her colors were, and she looked at me like I had grown another head. “Colors? My colors? I don’t know.”

Colors? Who needs colors? What you want are scads of adoring friends and family. All picked by The Child and the SIL

Nope. All I had to do for this wedding was show up. I didn’t even need to buy a dress. When I asked about that, I was told to just pick out something from my closet.

The winning dress? This little navy number I’ve had for about 20 years. Those gorgeous accessories? I’ve had them even longer — all 3 of my brothers and my one and only sister

No, the wedding was exhausting because there was a whole week’s worth of activities leading up to it. And not activities like shopping or having tea or touring stately homes. These were activities like hiking mountains. Scree was involved. So were grizzly bears.

Why, there was even a hike the morning of the wedding. Here I am being supported by a strapping young grand-niece

The wedding itself wasn’t too exhausting. Not for me, anyway. There was a bit of stress involving hair and makeup. And I had to give a toast. Though I think the fact that I was giving a toast was more stressful for The Child than for me. She was terrified that I’d riff on her old boyfriends. “Me? Make fun of your old boyfriends?” “Well, you have made fun of them. Lots of times.” “Not at your wedding. That would be tacky.” Meaningful silence.

Appreciating a hilarious toast by either the bro or the dad of the SIL. (Neither made fun of The Child’s old BFs.) At least we got to sit down

Oh, and after dinner there was lots of dancing. Some moves were fairly strenuous. Thank goodness my twirling days are over.

Even the dancing was strenuous

So. After all of this activity I was really looking forward to a week of recreational sitting. And, lo and behold, Mom’s place was perfect for it. My sister had scouted out the perfect furniture for Mom’s previously-underutilized balcony. And, trust me, we gave it a workout. The only time we went inside was to watch Cubs’ games. Oh, and to get more coffee and/or wine.

We even engaged in some rock-related activities at Mom’s: arranging these Maine specimens sent by Youngest Bro Doug. No scree, as you can see. And yes, Mom is watching a Cubs game

I was truly and duly relaxed after a week at Mom’s. Why, so relaxed I almost forgot about the wedding. Kidding.

One more wedding photo (thank you, Joanna!) taken after the freak thunderstorm, but before the ceremony. Happily ever after, folks!

Oh! Here’s one last photo, for this week anyway. Taken from my plane window on my way home:

Saying bye-bye to Mt. Hood. I am sitting (of course) and sipping wine. Airplane wine, but still

Amagansett, New York. September 2022

 

 

Two weddings are better than one.

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‘Especially if they both involve the same two people.’

Yes, I’ve been AWOL for a couple of weeks now. But I have a very good excuse. (Many good excuses, actually, but I’ll stick with this one for right now.)

*sigh* The gorgeous Lake Louise setting. The Child pointed out that this is the second time she’s tied the knot in a National Park

The Child had a big ole wedding up in Canada. At Lake Louise — which, if you haven’t been there, is well worth the trip — with a whole week’s worth of ramp-up activities in Banff the week before. (Ditto Banff.) There was so much going on — hiking and rafting and gondola-ing and line dancing — that I didn’t have time to do my PT much less weigh in with blog posts.

Gondola-riding with a Great-Niece

Now, I have time — but so much material I can’t possibly put it all in one measly post. So I’ll focus on explaining why, since Her Childness has been legally hitched for more than a year (see the delightfully scenic “Runaway Bride” for the story) — why, oh why, she and the SIL had another wedding.

Wedding Number One: If you make a toast in the Grand Canyon and there’s no one there to hear it, are you really married?

I’m going to crib a bit from my wedding speech here. (Yes, I was asked to say a few words — but only after reassuring The Child Bride that I most absolutely would not entertain the wedding crowd with tales of Old Discarded Boyfriends.)

Child and SIL take their turn at the podium, Child looking decidedly relieved at my not mentioning old BFs

I started by pointing out that His Dudeness and I had not had a wedding. Yes, we got married, but that was pretty much it. We thought at the time that we would have a party for our family and friends after we got back from our wedding trip. Then it was, “Oh, we’ll have a party on our first anniversary.” Well, that anniversary passed, and so did the fifth and the tenth. The twentieth and thirtieth.

Mr. and Mrs. Dude, almost 40 years ago. A hot dog stand, but no party

And, gosh, the ole anniversary odometer will be turning over to 40 before too long — and still no celebration. (See “Party of Two” for a story of one of our non-celebrations.)

Another shot of Dude and Child strolling the aisle. Note uncanny resemblance. Yup, I was a conduit

Okay, you may be asking, but who cares? Why is having a celebration so important? I mean, other than that it’s so much fun to drink champagne and make toasts and dance like a crazy person and go skinny-dipping at two AM.

During the dancing, but before the skinny dipping

The reason is that weddings are pretty much the only time the family and friends of the bride and the groom ever get together. (Well, except for funerals, though I tactfully omitted mentioning that in my speech.) This was the first time I’d seen my brothers since my Mom’s 90th birthday party three years ago.

Here we are, all dressed up and ready to party: all five Henry kids, together again after three long years

And where else but a wedding am I going to get to trade sibling stories with the SIL’s great aunt on his mother’s side? Or scramble up a mountain with his Dad’s sister? Or dance with members of his college track team?

SIL’s Dad’s sister, plus Oldest Younger Bro Scott, Dude Man and Me, plotting our next move on the Scary Horrible Hike (story to follow, or not)

Yes, having another wedding — a wedding celebration — was a pretty cool idea. So cool, that maybe The Dude and I might rustle up a celebration for our 40th anniversary, after all. Though I think we’ll skip the 2 AM skinny dip. That’s a memory that would last a lifetime — but for all the wrong reasons.

Photo courtesy one of the 2 AM skinny-dippers (not me, thank goodness)

New York. August 2022

 

 

 

Galapagone

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‘Adoring Ecuador — in spite of spooky caiman, scary towers and claustrophobic lava tubes.’

Yes, we made it. To the Amazonian jungle, the Andean peaks and the Galapagos Islands. There was plenty of excitement, though perhaps the most hair-raising bit was American Airlines cancelling our 6AM flight at midnight the night before.

That’s our lodge in the distance. Yes, it’s accessible only by water

We spent the first ten days in a remote lodge in the middle of the jungle, where swimming was allowed only in a caged area since there were caiman and piranha and sea otters roaming the waters. (Tempted to swim? I was most decidedly not.)

Lucy, the caiman who lives under the breakfast pavilion at Sacha Lodge

Though I did indulge in some tower climbing. For those unfamiliar with jungle birding (which may be most of you), towers and walkways suspended high above the jungle are pretty much a necessary evil, since the canopy is where the cool birds hang out. And with some tree heights well over 100 feet, there’s really no way to see, say, a paradise tanager without taking the plunge (hah) and hightailing it up a tower.

Me, after shimmying up one of the two canopy towers

There were seven of us participating on this jungle adventure, five of whom went on to the Galapagos. After more than a week of muddy-trail-and-scary-tower togetherness, we’d formed a pretty tight bond. I’ve often said that these birding trips are like jury duty. You show up when and where you’re told; you eat together, talk together, pay attention to authority figures. And the Galapagos trip was almost literally like a jury since there were 13 of us (12 jurors and an alternate).

Our Galapagos Group. There was no one who was The One. Unless it was me, of course

Usually on these trips there is a participant who is The One. He/she is maybe a little too loud or too whiny or who has some other personality trait that’s, well, annoying. Like, there was a woman on a Panama trip who insisted on being called “Raven,” though she had a perfectly good normal name (Rebecca, I think it was.) I responded to this request by “mistakenly” referring to her as Sparrow.

No sparrows, but plenty of iguana. So many that you had to be careful where you stepped

And then there was the famous instance of the vegan on the East Africa Tour. In those days it was pretty tough to provide for a vegan in the wilds of Africa while traveling from lodge to lodge every day. Every time we unpacked our tasty lunches, we’d look to see what nasty surprise Jodi would find in her box labelled “Vegan” (or sometimes just “V”). The funniest was the day she found her box filled with a hand of bananas — and nothing else. Well, nothing else but the giant tarantula nestled inside. And then, on our last night together, Jodi, like the rest of us, ordered a pizza. “You’re having pizza?” inquired our baffled guide Terry. “I thought you were vegan.” “Oh, I was just trying out being a vegan on this trip, just to see if I liked it.” she replied, as Terry’s face grew red and his head spun around on his neck.

Decidedly non-vegan lunch on board the Nemo III, our floating Galapagos home

We had a vegan on this tour too. But he was very nice. And got to eat a lot of avocados.

Dude Man makes a couple of new Galapagan friends. I don’t think they’re vegan either

Suffice it to say that the Galapagos Islands themselves lived up to all the Bucket List hype. I will have more than enough material for several more blog posts. (Oh, and remind me to tell you all about when we almost drove off a cliff up in the Andes.) But before I sign off today, let me tell you about the Lava Tube.

The Galapagos. We got to visit ten of the islands. Only three of them had any people living there

This is pretty self-explanatory. The Galapagos being volcanic in nature, there are lots of big ole “tubes” where lava once flowed. We had just finished a rather lovely lunch (no hands of bananas with clinging tarantulas) at the tortoise preserve when Willy, our guide, suggested a post-prandial stroll — through a nearby Lava Tube. “How long is it?” someone asked. “About two football fields. Silence. Asked for a show of hands, only Dude Man raised his. Then one other guy raised his. It was only after one other woman raised her hand that I figured “what the hell,” and raised mine too.

Another new Dude Man buddy

Our intrepid little band set out. There were many steep stairs to the entrance, but the beginning wasn’t too bad. There was even lighting. But, as we forged on, the tube got narrower — and shorter. Until, at one point, we had to sort of “limbo” our way under a rock outcropping. Here I was, scrunched up under a ten-foot span of cooled-off lava that was 3 feet from floor to ceiling. Literally a once in a lifetime experience.

Trying not to think about Tom Sawyer while in the Lava Tube

Whew. More adventures next week. Now I really need to get back to Barbara Pym. 

Thinking longingly about English villages and vicars

Amagansett, New York. August 2022

 

“Okay. You know where the jail is, right?”

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‘Lost in America’

What is it with men and asking for directions?

Dude Man and I can be circling the same golf course for the third time, listening to GPS Girl intone “recalculating” over and over — but will he stop, roll down the window and ask that nice gas station guy how to get to 98th Avenue?

If you are a woman and know any men, I bet you can answer that question.

Me, looking surprised at something on a Cape May trip. Maybe a man just asked for directions

The above incident actually happened when we were driving our rental from PDX to my Favorite Sister’s house in Vancouver WA. Apparently, that golf course obliterated a former road that had been programmed into the GPS, and GPS Girl had us driving in circles trying to find it. Oh, and what is it with GPS Girl’s voice? (We were once in the car with The Child, who asked, “Why is she telling you to ‘drive to higher ground?'” GPS Girl was actually saying “drive to highlighted route.”)

Anyway. I thought of GPS Girl and the golf course just the other day when we were on our way to Cape May for our annual birding excursion. This is when we team up with a bunch of friends to trail around the woods and fields to catch the annual spring migration — of both birds and birders.

Doing a little car birding on the way to Cape May

This trip we scored many sightings, including indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers, bald eagles and a batch of Belgians who attached themselves to us for a while, delighting us with their excitement over even our la-di-dah birds. “Oh! Eeet eez a cardinal, n’est-ce-pas? Oooo-la-la!!!” said the Tall Belgian. “That eez a lifer for me!”

Our group is advanced upon by a gaggle of Cape May birders

But before we could find the birds and the Belgians, we first had to make it out of the City. Which is surprisingly hard to do, even at 5:30 in the morning. Part of why it is hard is because Dude Man insists on competing with GPS Girl. She will suggest a route, and he will say something like, “She wants us to go crosstown. I think it’ll be faster taking the Drive.” (The Drive is actually the FDR Drive, a road that loops all around the tip of lower Manhattan.) It is much longer to go via the Drive, but “there won’t be any lights.” Oh. Okay. Whatever. You’re driving, not me.

The blue dot is where we live. We were on our way to the Holland Tunnel, which is where that ’78’ is. Would you loop around the tip of Manhattan? Or drive crosstown then down? Hmmm

So we drive east to ultimately go west, zooming down the Drive. Which was actually very beautiful and movie-set-like, what with views of the Brooklyn Bridge and all. But somehow, instead of the Holland Tunnel, we ended up entering the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. (Naughty, naughty, GPS Girl.) Which not only goes to Brooklyn, but is really really long. There was a moment when Dude Man seriously considered pulling a U-ie. But I pointed out that not only were there were giant trucks whizzing by between us and the return route but a rather high concrete barrier.

So we drove through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, which, at 9,117 feet, is the longest continuous underwater vehicular tunnel in North America. Dude Man’s ears were spouting steam. Then, when we emerged, we had no idea how to find the entrance to the Manhattan-bound side. I saw a police car and insisted we stop and ask for directions. This time he did not argue. The nice policewoman told us to turn left at the next two stop signs, then take the ramp. But did Dude Man do this? Of course not. He drove to the next stop light instead, before finally giving in and following the route she suggested.

Being a woman, I have absolutely no problem asking for directions. (My mother, pictured at the top of the post piloting my Dad’s green truck, doesn’t either.) Once — and this was waaay before GPS Girl or any type of navigational tool except maps — I was driving a gaggle of girlfriends out to Amagansett for the weekend. We were having a high old time in the car catching up and telling stories, and I missed the Manorville exit. I figured no problem, I’d just go to the end of the LIE and drive from Riverhead. Easy-peasy.

If I saw this woman on the road, I’d ask her for directions

Except that Riverhead has this roundabout where the LIE ends, and I took the wrong “spoke,” as it were. I ended up in a rather sketchy neighborhood, and it was getting dark to boot. I really wanted out of there. So I pulled up to a woman who looked somewhat the worse for wear — but not too scary — rolled down my window and asked, “How do I get to Route 27?”

Then she starts her directions by saying, “Okay. You know where the jail is, right?”

New York City. May 2022

Film at eleven

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‘Preserving those memories, then and now’

Some of you may have noticed that I played blog hooky last week. That’s because Tuesday, which is the day I usually dazzle my followers with my wit, was also the day I traveled to visit my mom. The trip went very smoothly. But I am one of those people who finds the process of travel all consuming. It’s hard for me to think — much less be amusing.

On the carpet at Portland International Airport

I wish I were more like The Child, who takes travel bumps in stride. She was scheduled to join me at mom’s for the weekend, but there was a strike at the Amsterdam airport (Amsterdam being where her techie business conference was held) and it took her about 24 hours to make it back to the States and PDX. If this happened to me, I’d probably implode.

Same carpet, different feet. The Child’s very tired ones

But back to Mom’s. The visit was well worth skipping a blog post. We did all my favorite stuff: played Scrabble, drank coffee and went for walks. Oh, we also did a lot of what we call “solving the world’s problems,” sometimes switching out the coffee for wine.

Guess who got a seven-letter word right out of the gate? (And with a wet head straight out of the shower)

This trip was my latest round in what we call the Kid of the Month Club, where we four sibs who don’t live close to my mother take turns visiting her for a week each month. This gives everyone — Mom included — something to plan around and look forward to. We’ve also continued the Family FaceTime Sundays we started during the dreaded Lockdown.

Be there or be square. (Or, um, be in the square?)

We’d also like to do some sort of Recorded History Thing with Mom. She has tons of cool stories — like When Electricity Finally Came to the Farm and When Your Father Took Me to the Prom in a Milk Truck — stories that some of us kids know (See my piece “Confessions of a B-Team Mom” for how kids in the same family can have entirely different family memories) and that some don’t.

Youngest Younger Bro Doug (here seen reading the paper upside down) has completely different family memories from mine

We’d like these memories to live on and be shared — with each other, our kids and their kids.

Dude Man’s family had the same idea. I remember they gathered a bunch of home movies — mostly black and white, mostly silent — and got their Dad to narrate them. My favorite was the one where Dad-of-Dude took a toddler (not sure which one; he had six from which to choose) and tossed him (or her) into the ocean waves like a little shrieking football. (There was no sound, but you could tell there was shrieking going on by the big round “O” in the middle of the poor kid’s face.)

Now I know we Henrys had some dandy home movies too. I remember that it was a Big Production to screen these. There was a projector to thread and a big screen to put up. I distinctly recall one in which Oldest Younger Brother Scott is happily splashing in an inflatable wading pool when I appear stage left and unceremoniously dump him out onto the lawn.

Not the infamous wading pool, but pretty close. I’m not sure who that other kid is. Mom?

My Dad, who, incidentally, loved gear, (Guys love gear; see last week’s post, “Guys and their Gear”) was one of the first guys in our town to get a video camera. It was huge; you had to schlep it around on a shoulder, for heaven’s sakes. But I remember he did just that for a whole weekend once.

Dude Man demonstrating some gear: boots, shades and two ballcaps. Oh, and that’s him at the top of this post, demonstrating a Sony video camera his dad gave him. The only issue? It was from a Japanese patient — and all the controls were in Japanese

Yes, for three glorious days Dad followed everyone around, documenting everything. And I mean everything. Scott eating (“Look at that sweet corn, Alice. See what you’re missing?!”), Laura on the couch (“Say hey, Laura!” [glare]) Mom in the garden (“Get a load of those tomatoes!”). But by far the best was Mom at the sink. “There’s Myrna, doing dishes.” “Stop it, Dale.” “What?” “Stop following me around and recording everything I do.”  “I’m doing this for the kids.” “Kids Schmids. Stop. You’re driving me crazy.”) None of this was edited out.

Dad and Mom going somewhere. Dad, of course, is loaded with gear

Oh, yeah. And when he was walking around outside with that big ole camera on his shoulder he kept bonking his head on the bird feeders. So you’d hear, “Oh look! There’s Myrna dead-heading the…(bonk)…damned bird feeders!” This happened three times in the course of one video. And nope, it wasn’t edited out either.

Mom chilling — well, if you can “chill” under a blanket — at Laura’s just a couple of days ago. Where was my microphone?

I would love to record my mother narrating any of these. But, alas, somewhere along the line, these and the other films have gone AWOL. Yes, even the one where someone (Roger? Scott?) is pretending that the Sir Launch-A-Lot — which was a houseboat Dad owned; and yes, that was its real name — is in a storm by tilting the camera back and forth while someone else (Laura? Patty?) runs back and forth on the deck.

Dad tries out new technology on the deck of the Sir Launch-A-Lot: A remote camera (note “clicker thingie” in his hand)

If you, O Beloved Sibs, know where any of these films are hiding, speak up. And, next time you’re the Kid of the Month, maybe record a story or two. I promise to do my bit this summer when I’m out there for my next turn — if I don’t get too involved playing Scrabble, drinking coffee and taking walks.

New York City. April 2022

 

Guys and their Gear

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‘They can never have too much’

I was once in the back seat of our beloved ’98 Toyota 4Runner (our new car; our old car is a ’91 Honda) eavesdropping on a conversation about GoreTex.

I did not join in. Partly because I’m not that into GoreTex, but mainly because I wanted to see just how long two guys — The Dude and his Best Friend Jim (pictured at the top of this post garbed in almost-identical gear) — could actually talk about GoreTex.

All that GoreTex Talk, and guess who forgot to bring any on our Texas birding trip? (See “Along the Rio Grande with the Birder Patrol” for more makeshift gear hilarity)

Well. It turned out to be a long time indeed. The GoreTex Chat lasted the entire Montauk Stretch — which meant at least half an hour, actually more like 40 minutes. Discussed were the different varieties of GoreTex; the structure and quality of the little bitty holes that make up GoreTex; various garments one can buy made of GoreTex (GoreTex pants: smart or sweaty?); which manufacturers give the best GoreTex bang for the buck.

And so on and on and on.

Not only can guys talk about gear — boy, can they collect it.

Me with new Girl Gear. i.e., a thoughtful birthday gift accessory

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the power of accessories. (See “Accessories After the Fact” for that scoop.) Well, gear is to men what accessories are to women.

Is this gear fusion? Or confusion?

If a woman has a dozen pairs of shoes, a man has a dozen camera lenses. And/or binoculars. Goggles. Those vests with zillions of pockets.

Nope, dear SIL. It’s called “gear”

Think she has a lot of handbags? There aren’t enough fingers or toes on a troop of Boy Scouts to tally up all his camera bags and backpacks — not to mention daypacks and fanny packs and belt packs. Oh, and all those straps and holsters and slings with clips to carry all the gear that won’t fit in the pockets or packs.

If boys have their toys, then men most definitely have their gear.

But that’s okay. I’d rather have a gear-collecting guy than one who is into, well, accessories. I once had a boyfriend who sorted his closet by color. But that’s a story for another time.

Helmet, check. Wicking biking shirt, check. Pants? Most certainly not organized by color. Here they’re not even worn

Let me close by pointing out that it is very easy to make a gear-collecting guy happy on Christmas or his birthday. No, not by “gifting” him some gear — you’d never know which camera widget or spotting scope thingie he wants or needs. No, you just declare that his most recently-purchased piece of gear was your gift to him. Bingo.

New York City. April 2022

 

 

 

 

Doomsday Dude

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‘”While we still can” and other Dude-isms’

Gee, last week I wrote about “Doubleknit Dad.” And this week it’s “Doomsday Dude.” What’s next? “Downer Debbie?” (I actually have a lot of material for that one.)

Anyway. Alliteration aside, I see nothing wrong about writing about the two most important men in my life — though I suppose I could have spaced them out a bit. But Tuesday’s getting long in the tooth and I don’t really want to write about Wordle, so here goes.

The Dude, as lovely as he is — and he truly is a lovely man — has, you see, a rather negative view of Life. You know the saying about seeing the glass half full or half empty? Well, for his Dudeness, the glass is broken. And he’s clutching the shards in an underground bunker filled with gold bars.

Proof that the world isn’t all that horrible: this plant bloomed recently for the first time in 30 years

See, for Mr. Dude, we’re well on our way to The End of The World. But, before that, the population will explode and there will be crazy shortages of resources that will spark class warfare. When you point out that he’s being a bit grim, he begs to differ. “I’m just realistic,” he’ll say. Why, he probably thinks Station Eleven is a reality show.

Of course, he’s not always negative. He teamed up with me to bring a baby into this soon-to-be-ending world

On a more, say, granular level, he insists that we do things “while we still can.” This gives us a rationale for doing things like going on rigorous birding trips to remote places, sometimes with dicey accommodations and/or no hot water.

And often with dangerous and/or scary stuff that must be joined in on or you’ll look like a total loser. (Yes, I did this; I’m the one toward the back looking up, not down

There will come a time — not too far into the future because, after all, “we’re not getting any younger” — when we will no longer be able to do these things. So we need to do them now. “While we still can.” Continue reading

Taking motherhood to a whole new level

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‘In The Heights On Christmas Day’

“It’s not rational,” I said as I lamely tried to explain my fear of heights to my pretty-much-100%-fearless son-in-law. “It’s emotional. Visceral, even. I react to a cliff the same way I’d react to, well, a snake.”

“You’re scared of snakes?” was his befuddled reply.

Well, yes. As you know if you’ve read my piece “The Year of the Snake,” I have a very well-developed (and healthy, in my opinion) fear of snakes. A fear that I have yet to conquer.

But I’ll have you know that this Christmas I faced my fear of heights in fine fettle. By hiking the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon. Without fainting or shaking or cringing. Much.

Me, not shaking all that much, pausing to gloat on the Kaibab Trail

Sure, I didn’t hike the whole trail — it’s seven miles all the way down. But, for a person who can’t even stand on the top rung of a ladder to change a screeching smoke alarm at three in the morning (see “Things That Go Shriek in the Night”) climbing down — and back up — a mile of steep, icy, rocky switchbacks is a pretty darned proud-making accomplishment.

It all started Christmas morning. “Hey, it looks like a great day to visit the Grand Canyon!” was The Child’s delighted cry after opening presents. “We’ll do a Christmas hike!”

I didn’t object, but, needless to say, I didn’t join in the general glee. And I was quiet on the almost-one-hour drive from Flagstaff to the South Rim. Too quiet.

Even the roadside stop at Jerky Guy’s stand failed to get a rise out of me

The rest of our carload sang along to country music and nibbled on snacks while I quietly composed my eulogy. All too soon, The Child shouted, “Look out to the left! There it is: the Grand Canyon!” And yes. There it was: magnificent, massive — and oh so very very deep. I’m glad no one took my picture. Continue reading

I was positive I was negative

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‘But my Covid test said, “Not so fast.”‘

Was it the hairpin turns at 13,000 feet? The overturned tractor-trailer along the road to Buga? Or the super-sized snake being mobbed by birds?

Perhaps I should have appealed to Mary instead of taking her picture. (Note snake with an apple in its mouth at her feet not being mobbed by birds)

Nope. The scariest part of our trip to Colombia was when I got the results of my Covid test:

See, a negative Covid test is one of the many requirements to regain entry to the United States if you have been anywhere outside its borders, not just Colombia. And, yup. This triple-vaccinated person — along with two more of our group — tested positive. Continue reading