Go one way at a time.

One of my regular morning walks takes me along a street with a boggling array of signs. It has been a one-way street as long as we’ve lived here. There have been many attempts to mark it so that drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians know which way is the right way correct way to travel.

It runs north-ish to south-ish. Walkers and cyclists can travel both ways, cars, one way. In the winter months I can see the street from the window next to my computer. Cars drive the wrong way several times a day.

Not too long ago, someone in the town’s signage department decided to clarify. First, a crew painted a double yellow line, way off-center, along the southbound side of the street. Giant “iron-on” decals show stick people walking and bikes with no riders cycling. On the other side, the wider side, stick-figure cyclists and big arrows are headed in the northerly direction too. There are no clever symbols to direct cars one way, north to south. Maybe that’s why so many cars go both the correct way and the wrong way.

Then, too, there are multiple signs on posts on both ends of the street that contradict each other.

Really, only garbage truck drivers seem to understand. They go the one direction that is allowed for motor vehicles, and if homeowners haven’t placed their garbage cans on the right side of the street, the drivers roll right on by, leaving the garbage to “mellow” for another week.

Perhaps another sign? “Garbage cans go here.”



A garden as autobiography.


Beautiful gardens aren’t just about the flowers. Last month’s Friends of the Library Garden Tour was memorable for more than just the plantings. Yes, the flowers were lush, the colors, vivid, but it was the settings and the expanses, that captured my husband and me.

We drove along roads we hadn’t traveled before to visit seven gardens scattered across the county.

It would be hard to pick favorites, but the 1800s farmhouse lorded over by huge sycamores was special. A swooping green swathe to one side led to a gazebo perched atop a spring. The tiny stream, crisscrossed by little foot bridges, caught my fancy. Old-log guest houses nestled around the original house like chicks to a mother hen. A cellist and a violinist kept time with the breezes.

Oh, and the rope swing, did I mention the rope swing hanging high from the tallest sycamore? I wanted try it, but when I attempted to lower myself onto the wooden seat, my knees wouldn’t cooperate. Its height was set for little children. Just as well, I might have launched myself into the next county if I’d been able to soar as high as it could go.

Another garden’s entrance was framed by an old catalpa tree. Set against a hillside, the back of the original farmhouse was ringed by brilliant day lilies as colorful as ladies’ hats at an English wedding. Conifers, hardwoods, and shrubs intermingled perfectly. Interesting rocks and glittering crystals lay amongst the plantings — jewels on grandmother’s Sunday dress. Best of all was an old log cabin set into the scape. The vast field up and away to the right and back of the house hinted at more joy beyond.

A third garden, edged by a stream, had a decidedly fairytale look. Large trees hovered and whimsical touches all ’round made me wonder if three bears or maybe seven little people lived there. The large koi pond was punctuated with stepping stones and bright orange table and chairs. The owners accessorize their garden with “hand-me-downs, found objects, and thrift store purchases.”

Version 2


This trio of pictures, taken at my favorite garden, exemplify my blog’s name: Wherever you go…there you are.

Each of the gardens on the tour had their own special magic, memories brought home to caption my photos from that “once upon a time” day.


Click on photos to enlarge them; use arrows to scroll through each grouping.

Another memorable weekend.

Mountain Laurel was in full bloom — exquisite!

Decoration Day, as designated in 1868, was the original name of what we now call Memorial Day. The original date, unchanged for 103 years, was May 30. In 1971, the National Holiday Act moved the date to the last Monday in May to ensure a three-day Federal holiday. I’ve groused about it ever since.

I remember the days when I swooped high in my rope swing over the bed of purple “flags” — iris — mom grew at the bottom of our back yard. The days when the marching band pounded up Main Street, while bicycles fluttered by, cards attached to their spokes with clothespins. Days when dad fried “hamburgs,” as he called them, on the old river stone fireplace in the back yard, and when Great Aunt Daisy entertained us when she tried to eat corn-on-the-cob with her loose dentures.

This year’s Memorial Day was memorable, too.

I confess, I didn’t think of the significance of the actual date until we arrived home that evening. This year, the last Monday fell on May 25, precisely forty-one years after the Memorial Day of our very first date, Peter’s and mine.

We spent that day in the woods, too, at the north end of the Shenandoah Valley, hiking unaware towards a flock of wild turkeys who scared us into the next county. This year we were in the woods too, but on the southeast side of the Blue Ridge, at daughter Leslie and son-in-law Martin’s little cabin.


Lettuce awaits the salad bowl.

The weather was absolute perfection. Dense thickets of Mountain Laurel filled the woods, Fire Pink lurked amongst the ferns, while Spiderwort and Dames Rocket purpled the undergrowth. We helped weed the vegetable garden, ate the first of the lettuce and the last of the rhubarb. Even weeding is fun when soft warm breezes brush by.

We sat on the deck in the glow of a sunset, on the front porch to swing in the early mornings, and on the screened porch to eat our meals and listen to the river below.

The very best part of the weekend came when we arrived home. “Thank you,” Peter said.

I looked at him, surprised. “What for?” I asked.

“For driving me there — wish I could still drive. But it was a nice weekend. Couldn’t have asked for better weather,” he said.



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.

Screen shot 2014-08-16 at 12.15.22 PM

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.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.