Mead high and caffeine buzz.

In recent months, I’ve developed an almost unquenchable thirst for good coffee. Even though I long ago stopped drinking it after midday, I still crave it. Wakeful nights? Yes, but!

In August, I drove all the way to Central New York to find, coincidentally, some of the best coffee I’ve had. Better than the Starbucks Morning Joe I brew for myself at home, and on a par with Our Daily Bread’s coffee.

Peter and I arrived at daughter Carolynn and son-in-law Bill’s home in Clinton early afternoon on a Friday. (We now split the long drive into a two day event, going and returning home. I’m the lone driver now, and 596 miles is more than I can manage in one go.)

By Saturday morning I’d revived enough so that when Carolynn suggested the two of us go to the Farmer’s Market at Utica’s revitalized train station, I was ready. Gorgeous morning, lovely offerings by various vendors — vegetables, soaps, breads, jewelry — but none more so than the Heartsease Hill mead we found. We tasted a number of owner Joe Kappler’s varieties, too many as it turned out, because by 9:30 we were tiddly.

“Coffee,” Carolynn said, “we need Utica Coffee. Bagg’s Square Cafe, you’ll love it, Mom,” she said. And I did. Aging, long-declining Utica is coming back, and Baggs Square is an example of that.

Luckily for me, Utica Coffee has a cafe in Clinton, smack on the corner across from the village green. We went there three more times during our visit.

Coffee drinking isn’t all we did on our annual trip north, but it created the most buzz.  The final morning, when Carolynn suggested iced coffee with an espresso shot, I agreed, never dreaming I’d “go to the moon” like “The Honeymooners'” Alice!  To say I “woke the hell up” is to understate. I could’ve driven back to Virginia fueled soley by caffeine.

Grandma can tell you where to go.

A map and sometimes step-by-step directions are all I ever need to get where I’m going. I don’t need to know where I am on the globe, nor to listen to an uppity woman tell me which way to turn. Generally, once I’ve been someplace I can find my way there again if I need to. Incessant yakking from the bowels of my dashboard confuses me.

We were just going to Lowe’s, for heavens sakes. My car could drive there by itself. But, as I backed out, the harridan ordered, “Go right one block. GO RIGHT ONE BLOCK.” I could hear echoes of my mother calling long ago, “Judith Ellen, come home, come home right now!

I went the way I needed to go. “Recalculating,” cranky-voice said. She was frowning, I know.

“Might be fun to go wherever she says,” I said to my husband.

“How does she know where we’re going?” he asked. He didn’t know himself anymore, he just goes along for the ride.

“She doesn’t know! I didn’t even turn the darned thing on,” I grumbled. “And I don’t need her to tell me anyway.” I continued south and at every intersection she yelled, “Turn back now.” When I didn’t obey, she recalculated very grudgingly.

The  tirade continued until we got to Lowe’s, then she shut up. Not another peep, not then, nor on the way home. I’ll bet she forgot to sprinkle a trail of bread crumbs and couldn’t find the way herself.

I laughed the next morning when I saw this “Speed Bump” strip in The Roanoke Times. That’s my kind of message, homey and welcoming! There’s probably a rhubarb pie cooling on the windowsill.

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Oh ho, oops, apologies are in order. Karen Jacobson isn’t a harridan at all, in fact she’s very talented and funny. Watch this:


Thanks to Dave Cloverly for permission to use his 4/10/16 strip
Thanks also to Sunrise.


Here we are now and here’s where we’ve been.

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2015 Staycation.

Peter and I were lucky enough to be able to cram in a number of wonderful trips in a few short years. We loved where we went and we’d go again, if we could!

The Botswana safari was the best. I posted a  series about that adventure. The Norway trip was a lifelong dream for me, likewise going to Netherlands at tulip time.

We journeyed up the Pacific coast from Vancouver to Alaska in a bathtoy-sized ship, and by land on to Mount McKinley. We made friends we’ll never forget. Another year we crossed Canada by rail, west to east, and the next year, we sailed around the British Isles on a voyage to discover the mysteries and beauties of ancient peoples, Not even my English husband knew about most of the places we explored.

In another small ship, we endured eighteen hours of seasickness to get to the San Ignacio lagoon on the west side of Baja California, Mexico. There we were able to touch the young gray whales when their mothers brought them to us. Back south and up the east side of the peninsula into the Sea of Cortez we saw most of the indigenous whales, including the great blues.

Our final trip, five years ago, was west to the glorious canyons of Utah and Arizona, and the wonders of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in the northern Rockies. Breathtaking.

Our trips now are only local ones. Neither of us minds that our suitcases are packed away, our passports, expired. Air travel these days is worse than ever with all the restrictions, implied threats, added costs, delays, deleted services. We’re happy to stay home, thankful to have lovely trips to remember…well, I remember, Peter looks at the pictures:

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Can you keep a secret?

This gallery contains 11 photos.

You don’t have to go far afield to see beautiful scenery in our little corner of Virginia. The Blue Ridge Mountains edge the eastern side of our valley, the Appalachians, the west. Gentle hills, rollicking streams, and the impressive New River all inspire photographers. The first week of May was absolutely glorious in these parts. Mother Nature showed […]

It’s a small world after all.

Peter and Judy.

Peter and I under the Alaska pipeline.

If you didn’t already know it, you don’t need to go all the way to DisneyLand to find out that it’s a small, small world. Peter and I have traveled many miles from home, and met people who knew people we knew.

We’ve had lovely trips, all squeezed into the few short years after Peter’s retirement and before dementia stole his mind. I’ve already posted a series about our very favorite trip, an African safari (see Contents above). Other series to come. We’ve learned a lot wherever we’ve  gone, most notably that people make the journeys as memorable, as do the sights and sounds.

Alaska, 2006: we made friends with a bubbly, out-going English couple, Linda and Keith. “We live in St. Albans,” she said, “northwest of London.”

“My favorite pub is in St. Albans, The Fighting Cocks,” I told her. “Our friends Martin and Anna took us there, during my first trip to England in 1979.”  Keith asked where our friends lived, then laughed when we said Bushey. The two couples live ten miles apart as the crow flies.


Steve and Jean in Alaska.


Me, Peter, and Linda, in St. Albans.

During that same trip we met Jean and Steve, both still English to the bottoms of their plimsoles, though they’ve lived in Australia for forty years. I convinced Jean that we should be “pen pals,” though I had to further convince her to drop her actual pen and use email or she’d never hear from me again. Eight years later we continue to correspond several times a month, and are each other’s shoulder-to-cry on during the bad times. Jean and Steve, Linda and Keith became friends on that trip and have visited each other in their opposite hemispheres of the world. Jean and daughter Karen came here three years ago, and we’ve visited Linda and Keith.

I’ve stayed in touch with another Linda from that trip. She lives in Florida most of the time, but summers in North Carolina. Merriwether — yes, related to Merriwether-Lewis —was one of our guides in Alaska. She mentioned she’d gone to Hollins College, not far from here.  When I told her where we lived she launched into the Virginia Tech fight song.

England, Ireland, Scotland, 2010: On our “Circumnavigation of the British Isles” we met a New Hampshire couple. When we said we’d moved to Virginia from a village in upstate New York, they asked what village?

“Clinton,” I said.

“Clinton! Hamilton College! I went to Hamilton.”

He leaned in close. “Ever hear about the hockey ref at Hamilton?  The guy who stomped his skate down on a player’s throat?”

“Yikes! No! Probably happened before we moved there.”

“He was an Indian fellow — Native American — who was always barefoot.”

“Oh-h, Indian Joe,” I said. “He was our neighbor.”

I’d never heard the hockey story, but verified that he did indeed go barefoot even in our bitter snowy winters. He was famous for his garlic too. To this day, I grow Indian Joe’s garlic. I keep it going, sort of like friendship bread.

Small world.


Janet and David

The Canyons and Yellowstone, 2011: At the orientation meeting, there was a man wearing a maroon and orange Virginia Tech Hokies’ sweatshirt. He beamed. “You folks are from Blacksburg, aren’t you?” David graduated from VT, his wife, Janet, from Radford University. They’re Virginia residents, and we keep in touch.

Netherlands, 2008: On a tulip-time riverboat trip we enjoyed Sally and Lee whose son, we learned, had graduated from VT, and whose thesis advisor lives five houses down our street.

Mexico, 2008: Too bad we didn’t do our whale-watching trip to Baja California before we went to Alaska because we had a lot of laughs with Candy and Mike who live in Anchorage. We might have been able to visit them in their own habitat.


Martin, Anna, Peter, me, Haute Cagne, France.

Our Bushey, England friends, Anna and Martin, have a place on the south coast of France. Several years ago they called to say they’d met Americans Beverly and Joel who vacation there several times a year. Joel introduced himself saying, “We’re from a little town in Virginia you won’t have heard of— Blacksburg.”

“We have friends there!” Martin said. Turns out we live a block apart.



Peter and I on a Zodiac in Alaska.

Our African safari remains our favorite overall, but the Alaskan voyage on a tiny ship was equally special because we met so many people we still count as friends.


Not all angels are angelic.

“Don’t ask, won’t tell” is the credo of morel mushroom hunters. They guard the secret of their patches the way the NSA is supposed to guard our national secrets.

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Morel reclining. Northwood Lifestyle

When I was little, my dad took me morel hunting in the spring, always with his caution never to tell anyone where we went. As if I, at eight or so, could’ve directed anyone to the woods where morel colonies hid under May apple leaves, or to the stretch along the train tracks where they flourished in the cinders beside the rails. We filled pillowcases with them and took them home for supper. Mom dusted them with seasoned flour and fried them in butter. Best meals ever, better even than a meal of fresh strawberries over warm biscuits with lots of cream and sugar.

My friend Joanne and I recently had an overnight getaway at a lovely place not far away on a river in the mountains — the name and GPS coordinates will not be revealed. We were clued in that there were giant mushrooms to see. I was to take my camera.

Six days of heavy rain had turned the place brilliant emerald and, as we arrived, the sun broke through like a searchlight from Heaven. The moss-carpeted ground sparkled with moisture, trees dripped, the river rushed, and there in the clearing, lit by a sunbeam, was the biggest darn mushroom either of us had ever seen.

After we carried our things into the little house that resembled something Goldilocks might have stumbled upon, and after coffee and several hours of chat, we headed outside on a ‘shroom search. Except for two enormous ones, I didn’t spot any. Joanne was a star. Everywhere she looked she found one, each different, all beautiful, some so tiny I couldn’t hold still enough to focus on them. (That’s my excuse anyway.)

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There weren’t any morels, but they are springtime ‘shrooms. Even if we’d found some, I wouldn’t have trusted myself to cook them. Without even knowing about the bounty that awaited in the woods, I had fixed a mushroom crust quiche the previous day for Jo and I to eat that evening. Later, a Google search showed me that our giant mushrooms were among the deadliest in the world: Destroying Angel, Amanita bisporigera.

The Amanita mushroom genus contains some of the deadliest mushrooms in the world.
Certain species of Amanita contain amanitin, a lethal toxin that kills by shutting down the liver and kidneys…
Amanitas usually start appearing during the second half of the season, in summer and fall.
Look for them in woodlands on the ground. In many places they are quite common.

No “destroying angels in my quiche, thank goodness!


Store-bought is safe.


Buy the postcard.

No matter where you go — African safari, Mediterranean cruise, Great Wall of China, or family reunion in Wichita —  travel is often tough. Here are some things I’ve learned:

Take your rattiest underwear and toss it out as you go, every day. You’ll buy new when you get home.

If you’re prone to motion- or sea-sickness take gingersnaps along. They don’t make you sleepy like Dramamine does, plus they’re good with a restorative cup of tea.

Take packets of hand cleaner. Besides hands, they can be used to clean iffy toilet seats, get the sticky off a restaurant table, or bugs off the windshield.

Carry neatly folded lengths of toilet paper in plastic baggies. How awful is it to conduct your business in an enclosed stall and then realize there’s no t.p?  This goes double in some countries where they hang the loo paper on the outside of the door. If you forget to take some before you go inside, well…! I’m just sayin’, BYOTP.

Blue Buff bandana.

Blue Buff bandana.

Bandanas made of seamless loops of stretchy polyester microfiber — Sahalie Buffs® — are indispensable. They come in riotous designs as colorful as a giant box of crayons. They contort to keep your head and neck warm when the weather turns cold, sop your sweated brow when the temperature soars, and become a hat or headband if you have a bad hair day. What more can I say? Oh! no, I do not own shares in the company.

Wear your most vertsatile earrings and leave all the rest at home. Limit other jewelry to one necklace, one bracelet, one ring, one watch. Less is less.

Don’t take a garment you’ll only wear once. Plan a color scheme and stick to it. A few neutrals, a pop of color, and you don’t have to worry about what goes with what.  Everything goes!

If you have limited time and you stop to take photos of everything, that means you aren’t seeing anything Buy. The. Postcard. If you must have a picture of you with Big Ben, put yourself into the frame quickly, then look at the sight you’ve paid thousands of dollars to see.

Sunrise, Bryce Canyon, Utah. There was no postcard, so I broke my rule and took the photo myself.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxSunrise, Bryce Canyon, Utah. There was no postcard.

Our shadows, ourselves.

Do I buy the postcards? Yes, but…when you’re lucky enough to be in a beautiful place that you know you’ll never see again, it’s hard not to snap a picture or two, especially with the instant gratification a digital camera provides. I do have a way to take “selfies” that aren’t so “in your face” though. Watch:

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Be content with where you are.

[Click on “Contents,” above, to revisit earlier posts in my African Safari series.]

African Safari – Part 13

Before our trip to Botswana my idea of seasonal perfection was fall and winter in the Northern Hemisphere.  There’s nothing like a brisk autumnn morning when you can smell the crisp in the air and see vibrant oranges and reds against a brilliant blue October sky. Better yet, for me anyway, is the magic of a fresh snowfall that outlines familiar landmarks with poufs of white.  At least that was always my view until we went to the Southern Hemisphere in August, the end of their winter.

Even now, nine years later, I can smell the velvety desert sage and feel the African air, soft as new flannel pajamas, against my skin.  True, we weren’t there in the searing, humid heat of their summer, but their winter was as appealing as the snowy ones I love.

Even now hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of that trip — the one I so determinedly did not want to take — while conjuring some tiny detail to savor: the absence of outside influence, the simple life style, the welcoming joyousness of the people, particularly the children. Unforgettable, the way: elephants just materialize out of the bush; ferocious, tusked warthogs run daintily, tails held straight up like the antenna on a car; hippos’ broadcast their nightly, nasally wanh wanh wanh; lions seemed so small and looked so bored. I’ll always remember the enviable eyelashes of the giraffes; the zebras’ hysterical dog-like yaps; the skulking hyena; the rumbling thunderclouds that were Cape buffalo herds.

From the very first day Peter and I said we’d return the next year.  But we didn’t, and now we won’t. Even though my husband’s mind is fading, he does remember that magical trip, and the memories are etched as indelibly on my brain as if acid on metal. I’ve only to think Botswana and I’m back there again.

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xRussell, Judy and Peter, backs to camera

Be content with who you are and where you are, and do whatever you can do to bring to others such contentment, and joy, and understanding that you have managed to find yourself.”

― Alexander McCall Smith, The Double Comfort Safari Club

Dust. Dusty. Dustier.

[You can read earlier posts in this series, by clicking on “Contents” at the top.]

African Safari – Part Twelve

Tubu was the last camp in our two-week Botswana safari.  Tubu means “place of dust” and, indeed, the Kalahari desert’s powdery gray/brown sand sifted into everything. We felt gritty and even though we wore hiking boots and socks, our feet were gray. No matter how often I washed my dufflebag for the next several years, tiny piles of dust dribbled from its crevices.

If I could, I’d go back tomorrow, pardon my dust!


xxxxxxxxxOld Tom.


Tubu had a resident elephant, an old male who ambled around like a pet dog. He didn’t have a name like the three at Jacana did, but I thought of him as “Tom.” No matter how frail he seemed, we were warned to be wary. He was a wild animal after all.

The first night, after lanterns out, we noticed how windy it was. The sides of the tent billowed in and out as if we were in the belly of a huge animal. Lions roared in the distance. Every now and then there was an extra-strong gust followed by something — it sounded like hail! — hitting the roof. Nothing bothered husband Peter who fell asleep quickly.

Next morning, I described what I’d heard to guide Russell and his sidekick Kate. They thought it was probably “Tom” who hankered after palm nuts. That afternoon I sat on our little porch to spy on the old guy who was a few yards away. I watched as he drew an elephantine breath, exhaled mightly, then head-butted a palm tree. Nuts rained. So that was the “hail” I’d heard. “Tom” must have been right beside our tent the night before.  Would we have slept so well if we’d known? Peter would have, for sure.

Palm nuts look a bit like our black walnuts in their green hulls. Ellies slurp them around in their mouths like kids with jawbreakers and suck off the gingerbread-flavored green part. They swallow the nuts whole, and in a day or two, more palm trees are planted. Russell stripped several nuts of their hulls and gave us strips to taste.  With a little whipped cream…yu-um!

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xxxxxxxxxI didn’t do it!

I don’t know if everyone in our group was so lucky, but our tent had an outdoor shower built around a tree about twelve feet up. How luxurious to shampoo my hair, warm water streaming from two showerheads, while in the distance, wild animals went about their business. Well, luxurious untiI I stepped in something squishy. Baboon poop! I should’ve remembered they hang around wherever there’s the chance of finding shampoo and soap.

The plastic snakes that were wrapped around railings and posts in all the camps theoretically keep baboons away. They’re almost as terrified of snakes as I am.  If there’d been a fake snake in our shower, there would’ve been no baboon, and no me!


xxxxxPeter handles fake snake.


Ol’ Tom must’ve had his fill of palm nuts because the second night all I heard were lions. Native wisdom says, if your collarbones don’t reverberate when when you hear lions roar, then they’re no closer than five miles. No worries.

I went to sleep with visions of gingerbread men dancing around a campfire.

* * *

Some months later I read Marian Keyes’ Anybody out there? in which she described a shower similar to my own. Keye’s protagonist, Anna, described her sister’s experience more graphically:

… I told him the story of how Claire had been having an outdoor shower in a safari camp in Botswana and had caught a baboon watching her and having a good old wank for himself.”

[Anna’s husband replied,] “She’s making it up…a baboon wouldn’t react that way to a human woman. …It would only happen if he was watching a lady baboon.”

Anna said, “A lady baboon wouldn’t take a shower.”

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Mind your business.

Cue the elephants.


African Safari – Part Eleven

[If you’d like to read earlier posts in this series, please click on “Contents” at the top.]

Although we left Linyati with misted eyes, as much from the sadness of departing, as from the dense dust storm that blanketed us as we drove to the airstrip, once we were above the swirling blackness we were birds migrating to an oasis.

From above, the terrain looked as if we’d detoured from desert to tropics. Towering palm trees, clumped fan palms and other vegetation covered islands set into water that reflected the bright sky like shards of broken mirrors. We seven — Arleen, Arden, Marilyn, Peter, Bruce, my Peter and I — had all read the pre-trip information but none of us were prepared for what was waiting. We gasped collectively at the view as we landed on another tiny airstrip pasted across the mosaic of greens and blues.

A motorboat waited to whisk us through papyrus-lined channels to our next camp, Jacana. Named after one of the most common birds in the Okavango Delta, Jacanas are also called Jesus birds or lily trotters because their very long toes make them look as if they walk on water. Peter decided he should call me Lily since the Jacana and I have similar physical traits. He thought he was so funny.

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The six-thousand square mile Okavango Delta, third largest inland delta in the world, looks like a giant bird’s foot spread across Botswana’s Kalahari Desert. In January, summer rains fill Angola’s Kubango River which flows a thousand miles southward. By July and August, Botswana’s winter, the delta is water-filled and lush. Since there is no outlet, the water remains, the birds return, fish that burrowed into the mud the previous year revive, and migrating herds of large animals come back.

Our mid-September visit was the last by boat for the year. The water was evaporating rapidly. (There are two weeks between safaris when the water isn’t deep enough for boat travel and the ground is too water-logged for wheeled vehicles.) We toured in fiberglass replicas of native mokoros — canoes hollowed out of tree trunks — instead of in Range Rovers.

Resident elephants on the little island were named Jack, little Jackson, and Spike. We never saw them but we heard them rustling in the bush like large, ghostly watchdogs. Odd that, because once males leave the matriarchal herd they live alone, yet these three palled around together, peacefully so far as anyone knew.

5 Jacana - IMG_940Peter and I were assigned to Cisco’s mokoro. He poled us effortlessly, or so it seemed. When he spotted a rare Pell owl swooping above us, he zipped us across the expanse of water as if we had wings too, and he maneuvered us close enough to see the bird perched in a tree. Minutes later he spotted two tsonga, extremely fast shy antelopes, as they dashed in front of us like hummingbirds with jets.

Massive Baobab trees dominate the area. They top out at one hundred feet and can store up to twelve hundred gallons of water that natives tap during a drought. In “Lion King,” Disney dubbed them “trees of life” because of their many uses — water storage, healthful fruits, rope made from the bark, oil for cosmetics.There are homes in some, and in one instance, a jail.

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xxxxxxNatives think God was mad and jammed the trees into the earth upside down.


Cisco made me a necklace out of lily pad stems before we cast off the next morning. “Now, Mma,” he said with a grin, “we are betrothed.” Another guide made himself a sun hat with a lilypad leaf shaped into a cone. The flower and stem held it together, probably with a little spit and a dash of magic added.

We were gliding along the waterways when Russell abruptly signaled a stop and pointed to the island on our left. We could hear brush being trampled. Soon, a large female elephant poked her head out, flapped her ears, and trumpeted.

We floated, quiet, on the still water.

Another few minutes and she popped her head out again. I thought of ball toss games in amusement parks: “Step right up, ladies and gents, boys and girls! Hit the elephant and git yer toy.”

Our cameras were ready.

Then she blared another warning. Russell put his finger to his lips and whispered that we’d move further along, then stop and watch. It wasn’t long before she burst out of the trees as if from behind a theater curtain and splashed to the opposite side with a youngster on her tail.

The scene was so perfect, the action so well played, that we could almost believe that Russell had staged it just for us!

Applause! Applause!

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xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxWal Walt Disney couldn’t have done better.

We may or may not remember.

Once upon a time — a velvety soft May night in 1974 — I met an Englishman named Peter at a party atop a mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway of Virginia.  “How do you do?” he said politely while shaking hands with we three ladies who arrived together. He spent the rest of the evening with me. We danced, me barefoot, on the stone terrace that overlooked the twinkling valley below.

It was a fairy tale beginning.

At evening’s end he asked when he could see me again. We planned a hike for Memorial Day, two days hence.  He arrived carrying an armload of yellow roses for me, a bagful of candy for my daughters who were in school that day.  (Later I learned the roses grew carelessly over his carport and the candy came from a stash in his refrigerator, but never mind.)

“Oh! You’re not who I thought you were!” he said when I opened my door.

What a fine way to start a romance!  Though we’d danced cheek-to-cheek all Saturday evening, he remembered the woman who’d come to the party with me!  (That’s OK, I remembered him as a redhead and much taller.)

Seven years later — 1981 — I worked a magic spell and we married, not in May, but December.

The fairy tale continued. images-3 Three years ago this week, our family — Carolynn and husband  Bill, Leslie and husband Martin, and their offspring, Samantha and Miah, Peter and me — began a week’s vacation together on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  It was the only week that year when all of us could be in the same place, same time.

Seven glorious, bright sunny family days at the beach, though that early in May the Atlantic was bloody freezing. But we made sand castles, fished, basked, shopped, played games, braved the wild north beach to look for ponies, took to the air, and ate…a lot and often!

At the end of our stay I asked everyone to write down three favorite things, plus one least favorite, about the week.  “Family time” was tops, with “fish and fishing” and “pool playing, frisbee and flying kites” tied for second.  Parasailing was third, but hang gliding didn’t get a single vote, pro or con. Least liked was the three miles from our house to the shore.

The fisherman among us, Bill, liked catching his big striper, Carolynn liked watching him smile as he reeled it in, Samantha liked seeing it, but she didn’t like that she hadn’t caught a big one. Bill, though he did all the gory, gloppy gutting, didn’t like eating that or any fish.

Most of us were poetic about our likes and dislikes. Two of Leslie’s faves were napping on the beach and cuddling Sam, while Miah, then sixteen, liked ” having tea with the ‘fam’.” But Peter, typically, answered tersely: “House. Meals. Weather.” He didn’t like that there wasn’t anyplace to walk.

My parasailing adventure wasn’t planned. What I really wanted to do was hang glide at Jockey Ridge, as did Martin, Sam and Miah. Leslie called to make arrangements, and I reminded her to make sure someone my age would even be allowed to do it, much less with a bad knee. She was assured that women 20 years older than my 72 went hang gliding, but my bad knee would make it a no-go.

Parasailing was an option. The pilot did the work and the landing would be on wheels instead of on my legs. “Sign me up!” I said.

Carolynn immediately objected. “At your age, Mom? No-o-o!

“If not now, when?” I asked.

Early the next morning all of us headed to the local airport. Carolynn was beside herself with anxiety, and Peter, who never loses sleep, tossed and turned all night. I was giddy.


Knee bend.

The flight was all I’d imagined, except long enough. Martin enjoyed watching me buckle in, probably because I’m a klutz and needed extra help to stuff my knee into the harness, and Carolynn liked seeing my smile when we landed. Hang gliding got no votes, pro or con, because the afternoon was extremely windy. Flyers had to be tethered to their instructors who ran down the dunes as if they had winged puppies on long leashes.

We left on Mother’s Day.  It was the first time in years both of my daughters and I were together, if only for a short time, on the second Sunday in May.

The next year, the Roanoke Times had a contest asking readers to submit a photo with a few words representing “freedom or escape.” I sent this photo from my flight, and won two tickets to Cirque du Soleil.


Jim said I could steer, but I was hands-off.


When Peter saw the newspaper feature he said, “Isn’t that the same guy?”

“What same guy?”

“The one you ‘flew’ with?”

“Yes, that’s Jim.”

“Is that you?

“Of course it’s me, you goof,” I laughed. “I won the tickets with that.”

“How did the picture get in the paper?”

“I emailed it to them as my contest entry.”


Nearly thirty-eight years after our first date — remember, he thought he was going hiking with a different woman — Peter recognized Jim in a picture, but he still wasn’t sure about me!

My husband’s dementia isn’t funny, but it’s better to laugh than to cry.





Goodbye tears.

African Safari – Part Ten

“A life without stories would be no life at all. And stories bound us, did they not, one to another, the living to the dead, people to animals, people to the land?” ― In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, Alexander McCall Smith.


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This tall blond shed no tears.


“Dumela, Mma, dumela, Rra,” Cook Pauline said when Peter and I arrived for breakfast.

“Dumela, Pauline,” we replied.

It was the morning after a very memorable night before, and we seven — Marilyn and Peter B, Charleen and Arden, Bruce, Peter and me, plus Guide Russell and side-kick Kate — again had our tea, porridge, and toast on the edge of the river.  A tiny campfire warmed and cheered us on this, our final morning in Linyati Camp.  That we’d had uninvited dinner guests the previous night was evident.  The marshy area just beyond the dining tent was trampled into a gloppy green stew by the elephants.


xWe’d had ringside seats at a water circus.


As we prepared to leave camp, Pauline enveloped we three women in warm hugs, while her helper stood back smiling.  Camp director Max and aide Jinx nodded goodbye solemnly.  I hoped that the gratuties each of us left would help Max buy another cow for his fiance’s dowery, so they could marry and live happily ever after at Linyati.

We were teary-eyed as we waved goodbye.  Next stop, Jacana Camp, Okavango Delta. Would Magic follow us there? 

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A menacing sandstorm barreled across the runway as we sheltered under scrubby trees waiting for the little airplane. Zebras milled nervously, but scattered at the plane’s approach. The pilot couldn’t see through the dust, but he buzzed by and circled several times to scare any elephants out of his way.


When we took off from that BandAid-sized airstrip I knew that whatever else our safari held, I would never forget those three days.

As Precious Ramwotse mused in Alexander McCall Smith’s Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency, “We don’t forget…. Our heads may be small, but they are as full of memories as the sky may sometimes be full of swarming bees, thousands and thousands of memories, of smells, of places, of little things that happened to us and which came back, unexpectedly, to remind us who we are.”

There’ll be more stories from Botswana, but for now, tsamaya sentle.

Photos courtesy of, P. Blitz