Musings, Renegade Reflections

Adirondack Yearnings

Lake Placid Village and Mirror Lake from Crowne Plaza Wednesday

As my father grew more frail in his last few years, I found myself taking on some of his bucket list so that I could at least share my experiences with him, telling him in person with pictures in hand, if I could, or by writing him.  The latter involved pen and paper, as he steadfastly refused to have anything to do with computers.

My father grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, and his childhood memories of the area gave rise to several of his bucket list items.  Since I now live only an hour and a half away from his childhood home, his bucket list items tied to this area have become mine.

The Berkshires were a favorite topic of my father’s, and familiar to me from story and personal experience. However much my father cherished memories of the Berkshires, revisiting them was not part of his bucket list.  The Adirondacks were. I never learned how my father came to yearn for a chance to spend time in the Adirondacks, but he did visit his brother at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute when he was about ten years old, and may have seen them off in the distance, or traveled through them when he took the train from New Haven to Seattle in 1942 after officer training school. Whatever the genesis, my father always loved mountains. When I was growing up in Atlanta, my family ended up vacationing in Florida, but once we children were older, my father’s preferences were clear. He always drove north when he had time off, to northern Georgia or western North Carolina, drawn to lakes and brooks cradled by mountains.  I share that attraction, fostered by trips to state parks when I was the last child at home, staying in lakeside cabins in the crook of a line of ridges.   

In the summer of 2014, my husband and I planned a small family reunion in the Adirondacks, near Lake George.  We had all four kids, two sons-in-law, and most of the seven grandkids all together for the best part of a week.  My father was delighted that we had revived his practice of small family get-togethers, and listened attentively to my descriptions of the cabin, the beauty of the wilderness in the mountains, and the trip to the “civilization” of Lake George Village, with its visit to Fort William Henry.  

Last October, I attended a conference in Lake Placid, in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. Driving into Lake Placid, I realized how much my father would have loved the surrounding mountains, the calm lake. Well, he would have loved it in the summertime or in the spectacle of its autumn colors.  My father was no friend to snow, so the snow veiling the high peaks would have detracted from his enjoyment of the view, but I know he would have felt he could relax, breathe deeply, and take in the view stretching miles to the distant mountains.

Although I was four months too late to tell my dad about this part of the Adirondacks, or to show him any of the pictures, I knew why he had always wanted to see the Adirondacks, as clearly as if we had spoken about it. Although more worn than the Rockies, the mountains shake free of the deciduous trees first, then shake the evergreens off their granite shoulders, reaching respectable heights of three thousand to over five thousand feet. Lakes melted from glacial ice reflect the sky, mountains and trees, witnessing the truth of names like Mirror and Placid, while rivers pound through granite gauntlets, frothing white, throwing mist into rainbows above the water.  

At night, the stars spread across the sky, glistening in the clear, crisp, air.  Villages dot the scenery, small lines of lights delineating the streets, but disappearing quickly in the stony, wooded wilderness that marches to the edges of lakes and roads. It seems impossible that one is in the 21st century, especially when night hides the accoutrements of recent civilization.




WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday Innocent Abroad

This snippet is from my trip to London for research in 2011.  I had not travelled overseas since 1974, and my natural poise (ha!) was not always in place. My math was 8+6=14 paragraphs, but my piece of the story ends at 16, so I guess I’ll add the first digit of the year for 16.

Finally drifting into a deep sleep, I was jerked awake when the seat in front me reclined, revealing an extremely large man, whose unkempt head was now in my lap.  I felt I should wash his hair, or shave him at the least. He shifted about every ten minutes, just enough peace to lull me back to sleep.  Then, the loud groan of the seat protesting its mistreatment, my heart pounding in fear before my brain recognized the noise, then further fear for my shiny new knee being crushed by the whole thing crashing down upon it. I had wisps of nightmarish dreams, of which I remember only the sense of unease and discomfort; I do remember wishing that I would not wake up until we had landed.

I got my wish. I fell asleep with my usual wonderful timing—about an hour before I had to get up. I woke to the flight attendants telling the fellow in front of me to put his seat upright for landing. I was still pretty muzzy, as I joined the huge file of supplicants for fresh air and freedom from flying tin cans.  As I entered Customs, my attention was caught by the long queues on the right side of the room: green for UK and EU passport holders; blue for other passport holders with nothing to declare; red for aliens with things to declare. I got into the blue line. Wait, shuffle; wait, shuffle. Finally, I approached the agent, who held out her hand.

“Entry card.”

Huh? ” Oh, they didn’t give me one.”

She pointed to the other side of the room, where small tables magically appeared through the mist of my brain. “Go fill one out.”

Getting out of line, I went over to a table, and picked up one of the pens attached to the table. Like everywhere else in the world where those pens are attached, it doesn’t work. I tried the next one, and the next one, and went to the next table, trying each and every pen, none of which work.

Okay, at the time, I was a rare books librarian. I did not own ballpoint pens; I did have several nice fountain pens, but the reason they are called fountain pens becomes painfully obvious when you fly with them. Therefore, all I have with me is a nice mechanical pencil. Sigh. I got back in line. Wait, shuffle; wait, shuffle. The same agent holds her hand out for the entry card.

“I don’t have a pen.”

She pointed to the tables, “There are pens on the tables.”

“There are no pens that write on those tables.”

She handed me a pen, and waved me back to the other side of the room. So I filled out the form, madly scrabbling through my papers to find the postal code for the hotel. By now, there was no line. I handed the entry card to the same agent, who then held out her hand for my passport. She looked at it, sighed. “American.” Ah, welcome to London to you too, my dear.

She stamped my passport with a certain disdain, and directed me to the exit. I spied an Information booth, so I went to ask about charging my phone.

“Our power points are different from the US.”

“Yes, I know. Where could I find one?”

“We have no electricity at Heathrow.”
“You’ve figured out how to run an airport without electricity?”



11 Questions Meme

Last spring, yes, last spring, Matt Hofferth tagged me in the eleven questions meme.  Like a lot of things, I have let my blog posts languish.

I liked the eleven questions and picked away at a draft from time to time.  I realized last check-in for ROW80 that I needed to pull on my big girl pants and start finishing things I have left undone.  Here are the questions and my answers.

1. More like mom or dad? Is this good or bad? (Be Honest!!)

Oh man!  I have both my parents’ love of language and words. I fight my mom’s passive aggressive nature as well as my father’s Irish temper.  I am a true blend. My mother’s intense shyness, although moderated in me,  makes me uncomfortable at large parties.  I have less of my father’s being able to talk to anyone about anything,  yet I adore teaching and presentations.  

2. You have unlimited funds and architects are designing a new home. You have total say in one room of the house. It will be exactly as you dream it. Describe your dream room.

I would build a  warm, cozy, but not fussy library (big surprise there). I would have both a writing and a computing desk at the correct heights with comfortable chairs. Most desks make me look like a 6-year-old playing at my parent’s desk, and result in shoulders that are anchor-bolted to my ears.

I want a fireplace with big comfortable chairs, large windows and a spiral staircase to the second row of shelves built into the walls.  I don’t want much. 😉

3. City or country? What’s the draw?

Although I used to dream of a large country spread, I prefer the city now.  I want a large yard for the dogs and a bit of distance from the neighbors.  I love my urban neighborhood, but have renters to one side who give all renters a bad name.  I’d prefer a sound and sight buffer.

I love being able to walk half a block to the public library branch, two blocks to get the Sunday New York Times.  I can walk to numerous restaurants and shops of all kinds.  I especially like the ten-minute commute to the day job.  Even better is that I’m going the other direction of traffic both morning and night, heading out of town in the morning and back into town in the evening.

4. What is your favorite time of year?  

Now that I am back where it snows, spring will win.  After a long, dirty-snowed, end of winter, the crocus and daffodil alert almost makes me look forward to my spring allergies.

In second place is fall. I missed the fall colors when I was in Florida, and plan to join the leaf-peepers travelling through the state parks nearby.

5. You have won a two week vacation for two to any place in the world. Everything is paid, travel expenses, hotel and you have an open ended line of credit that will be paid by your benefactor. Where do you go, see, do?  

The short answer is Europe.  My husband wants to see Paris, so that would be our base camp, but I would travel to see my friends in England and the  Continent.  If there were time, I’d like to see Italy, as well.

A close second would be New Zealand, but I think I’d be going solo there.  Anyone want to have the other ticket? 😉

6. Your hero is coming to dinner. What’s on the menu?  

That’s a hard one. I am a so-so cook, but I do make a mean pot roast, so that would be the main course. I am a good baker, so I think I’d make my secret ingredient pound cake. Of course, I provide scintillating company, which is the most important ingredient for any dinner party.

7. What works best to shake off your blues? A good book? A favorite movie? Visiting with friends? Comfort food? Shopping therapy?  

Visiting with friends helps me most of the time, although I have moods that are improved by doing something physically creative, from needlework to painting.

8. What is your favorite board game?  

Scrabble. I love playing with words and coming up with unusual but legal ones.

9. The best lesson you learned from your grandparents?  

Never give up. My paternal grandfather faced adversity with lots of Gaelic curses.

Kindness is not weakness. My maternal grandfather was a quiet, kind, Appalachian carpenter who always had time for me.

10. What is your biggest pet peeve?  

In writing: bad grammar.  I spent too many years teaching college composition courses, so my red pen is never far from me.  

In life: solipsism. There seem to be so many people walking around convinced they are the only person on the planet.  Helloooooo!?!?!? You are not the only car on the road, the only person going through the door, or the only person on the sidewalk.  Figure it out.

11. What are the best qualities in your best friend?

A sense of humor and a good heart.  One needs a good sense of humor to get through rough times.  If one doesn’t have a good heart, a willingness to forgive, to compromise, to try to understand sometimes irrational behavior, it is hard to have a good relationship.

There are rules with this meme, but in my humble opinion, too many rules leach the fun out of these things.  If you find the questions interesting and want to answer them, please do so. If you have already done so, feel free to add your post url in the comments.  If these memes give you hives, wash your hands quickly, and you should be fine.