On the Road, Day 5 -Windy West

 

Tango, I have decided, does not really like the constant wind of the Western plains.  My theory is that it simply overwhelms his senses, which, as we know, are so much more acute than our own.  Who knows what multitude of odors are carried by a constant 15-30 mph wind.  Too much to process.  His hearing is excellent but the wind just deafens hims, kind of like a constantly blowing hair dryer.  So, he jumps out of the van, does his job and looks at me woefully when I try to encourage him to walk with me. But he is enjoying the trip and jumps around like a puppy sometimes, mainly in the hotel rooms.  There is a major weather front moving through tomorrow and tomorrow night. Snow is forecast! Perhaps when that is event is over things will quiet down for Tango.

On the Road – Day 4

Grace2One of my favorite TV series is “Saving Grace.” (It originally aired on TNT 2007-2010 and is now available on Netflix.)  Holly Hunter plays an Oklahoma City detective named Grace who is visited by Earl, a lovable angel.  Grace is a nice twist on the prostitute with a heart of gold.  She sleeps around, drinks too much, and is a wicked jokester but she’s also ethical and a good cop.

A major story line is the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. Grace’s sister died in the blast but it should have been Grace, who was too hung-over to go down to the Social Security Office and apply for her nephew’s card. Now Grace is helping to raise the nephew and they have frequent talks about the bombing.  And they visit the memorial park that was constructed on the site of the bombing.

And that is what led me to Oklahoma City today.

The bombing happened on April 19, 1995. It was horrific, killing 168 people and ripping apart an enormous building in the heart of OKC. But, practically speaking, I missed all of it.  April 1995 was not a good time for me. My husband was six months into his diagnosis of AIDS.  In early April he nearly died when his gallbladder became inflamed and then went necrotic. Surgery saved him but rendered him, as he said, “weak as a kitten.”  We had already decided to move back to Florida, to be near family for support, and wheels were in motion that were threatening to run me down. Movers had been contracted, boxes were getting packed and deadlines loomed. I recall buying something at a store and asking the clerk about the ribbon she was wearing. She looked at me as if I was an alien. “It’s for the bombing victims,” she declared with just a hint of “you idiot.”

Twelve years later “Saving Grace” came on the air and its interwoven theme reminded me of those times.  Odd as it may seem, I felt badly that I hadn’t felt badly in 1995. So today I stopped by to pay my respects.

Earl must have been on my shoulder because I managed to get a parking space directly across the street. It was a raw, cold day so it was little wonder that there were no crowds. And the memorial, like the building that once stood there, is literally in the middle of the city. It is amazing that more buildings didn’t collapse.

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Side view of the Oklahoma City bombing museum

I should have visited the museum but I didn’t. It is housed in an original part of the Murrah Building that survived the blast, the scars of that terrible day are very evident.  I’m sure it is excellent but I worried about leaving Tango in the van for too long and, truth to tell, I am not the best museum browser.

So I made the quick walk to the memorial sculpture/garden and as I gazed at it across a beautiful reflection pool I was surprised at the tears that gathered in my eyes. The design is so personal and so simple–168 chairs in nine rows reflecting the nine floors of the Murrah Building.   The placement of the chair corresponds with the floor on which the person would have been at the time of the blast. The smaller chairs represent the children that died. Five chairs set away from the others represent those that were outside the building.  Each chair has a glass foundation with a name engraved.  It reminded me of  “Our Town,” the Thornton Wilder play in which the dead occupy chairs and reflect on life and eternity.  Certainly in that quiet park, that was once so horribly torn asunder, it is easy to do the same.

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The Oklahoma City National Memorial

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Perhaps Wilder captured the essence of why I visited the Memorial when the main character speaks these lines:

“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”

On the Road – Day 2

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Tango by one of the many Union and Confederate cannons.

Today Tango and I crossed the states of Alabama and Mississippi, stopping in Vicksburg on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Vicksburg is notable for being the spot where the first Coca Cola was bottled in 1894. It was also the site of one of the critical battles of the American Civil War.  In 1863, from May 18th until July 4th, the Union forces laid siege on Vicksburg.  The armies totaled 110,000 men–more than twice the current population of Vicksburg.  Causalities were more than 37,000–a number that does not include the civilians of Vicksburg who were trapped along with the Confederate soldiers.

Vicksburg’s strategic place along the Mississippi made it a “must win” for the Union. Abraham Lincoln declared Vicksburg “the Key” to winning the Civil War.

Today the land on which the Yanks and the Rebels squared off against one another is preserved as a National Park.  With close to 150 years of recovery, the landscape no longer resembles the war-ravaged land of 1863.  Monuments grace the 1,800 acres and the Park Service clearly has its hands full keeping the grass trimmed back.  You can hardly believe there was ever the carnage and suffering that is depicted in the exhibits.

Why visit such a place, you might ask?  Why care about a war that is long gone and that many college students can’t even tell you who won (it was the Union)?  It has to do with perspective, I think.  There are many who feel these are the worst of times in the U.S.  But there was a time in this country when we set about to slaughter one another and did a darn good job of it. Estimates are that 620,000 people died in the Civil War, which was only four years long.  Do the math…155,000 a year, 12,917 a month!  Add to that the mammoth destruction of property in the South.  It was a horrific time….

Yet today soft green grasses of spring wave peacefully on the hillsides. The trees have that rich color of new growth and birds are everywhere collecting the makings of their springtime nests.  Butterflies flitter about and dozens of people, like me, stopped by to pay their respects to this hallowed ground.   Things may be a little tough right now but let us hope we never return to the horror that was the American Civil War.  ❖

 

 

We Need A Little Christmas

55069-christmas-spiritIn recent years I haven’t been very “big” on Christmas. The conflicted messages that emanate at this time of the year have become too much for this aging soul.  I recall being so fervent as a child, anticipating the birth of baby Jesus, marveling at the tale of the three wise men and, of course, anticipating Santa’s visit. Even in to middle age there was still a lot enjoyment centered around the holiday. But over-commercialization coupled with learning the truth about how our religious documents were not the contemporary reportage that we might have thought, have made this writer cynical about it all.  As the media focuses on the “new phenomena” of  “fake news” let’s not lose sight of the fact that religions have practiced fake news for years.

This year things seem especially grim.  Many are choosing to “drop out” because, honestly, it has become impossible to know what is real and what is not. On Facebook this morning I saw a Canadian journalist who claims that the U.S.A. is fabricating stories about Syria, that the “White Helmets” are not a humanitarian group but a well-funded paramilitary organization, and that we don’t have a clue as to what is happening in Aleppo because there are no reporters in the city.  She noted that one prominent source on conditions in Aleppo lives in Coventry, England!  She seemed incredibly well versed and was particularly articulate about the dreadful war in Syria but who is to say that she is reporting the truth?

Ironically it is this unsettled state of mind that turns many people to religion but it seems our various cultures have plenty of faith in various gods…we simply have no faith in each other.

And so I found myself humming, “We Need a Little Christmas,” from the musical “Mame.”  It’s a cheerful ditty and I hadn’t heard it in a while so, as is my wont, I was inspired to have a listen on Spotify.  I wonder if these lyrics resonate with any of you, dear readers?

For I’ve grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now.

Angels, alas, are in short supply but in the Christmas tradition I can send you a star, a Florida star.

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A Florida Star

This photograph is one of our lovely Florida grasses with a crown of morning dew.  Nature always soothes me and brings things into perspective. And today that perspective is right in-line with Mame’s:

For we need a little music,
Need a little laughter,
Need a little singing
Ringing through the rafter,
And we need a little snappy
“Happy ever after,”

Need a little Christmas now.

Squirrel Buster, Yes! Bear Buster, No!

 

 

IMG_0727Back in North Carolina, getting a late start on the summer season but better late than never.

This return to our summer place was made extra easy because my sister arrived the day before I did and had the house open, the refrigerator stocked, and my bed made.  How cool is that!

As I got settled into things I realized that the large Squirrel Buster bird feeder I had bought last summer was missing.  I also had a very bent hanging rod.  These two things were a mystery because I knew I had put away all my feeders.  And the I remembered getting a text from my neighbor who thought I was arriving in late April and told me she had checked the house and filled the bird feeder for me.

It occurred to me that something took the feeder…something big!

IMG_0726I found the feeder down the hill in the woods and if a squirrel did this to my feeder it may be time to head south again!  🙂

No, the answer is clearly a bear.  One that saw an opportunity and, literally, grabbed it.  With no people, lights or dogs the feeder was easy pickings, just pull it off that pesky hook and away he went.

The feeder is repairable and, yes, I will continue to feed my fine feathered friends.  But feeders will be locked up tight as long as the house is empty.  Sorry bears.  ❧

New Zealand Memories

Too long between posts here.  My bad.  I love posting on Alice’s Wanderland and have been annoyed with myself for not getting here more often.  But that’s a waste of time. Best to move on and get my life re-adjusted so that I have time again for this labor of love.

For a while I tried to post some new image or video every time.  But the fact is, I have a lot of old photos and videos that also deserve posting.  And I have come to realize that blogs give us a chance, paraphrasing Paul Simon, to preserve our memories because, increasingly, they are all that is left.  Like most people these days I have so many pictures and tapes.  I can’t post them all but this discipline of a blog forces me to choose the best.  I can share AND have a spot where I know my memories are safe from cluttered hard drives and paper stacks.

Today’s post is one of my all time favorites.  It is a short video (5 minutes) that I put together following my trip to New Zealand in 2006.  The pictures are all mine.  The music is from an electronic group called AeTopus.  On their website it is said, “With subtle, pastoral elegance, AeTopus reveals a world that is simultaneously foreign and familiar – an aural mosaic rich in spiritual contemplation, seasonal variance, and ancient ritual.”  That is a perfect description of their song “Psychic Slumber.”  It is also a perfect description of New Zealand.

October in New Zealand is equivalent to April in the Northern Hemisphere.  It is spring.  So we saw flowers and snow, waterfalls galore and lots of baby lambs.  And we saw penguins, in the wild, following a rather harrowing hike through trees and streams…in the pouring rain.  It was cold.  I have rarely been so ecstatic.  When you see the final image of the video you might understand what I mean.❧

 

 

Down Under Again

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The Southern Hemisphere Night Sky With Moon Setting

The night time sky of the Southern Hemisphere is really spectacular.  Last night it was finally clear enough to shoot some stars.  I’m not sure that you’ll be able to see it very well.  I recommend clicking on the image.  It will open in a separate window and you should be able to see it better.  My friends home has little ambient light and once the moon set (visible above in the bottom part of the picture) the stars just popped out of the sky.  The Milky Way was gorgeous and the Southern Cross presented itself in a stellar way.

I’m in Australia for a symposium that convenes on Saturday.  I’m looking forward to speaking and meeting with my medical cannabis colleagues in this fabulous country.  I’m sure I will bring home many memories.  But the Southern Hemisphere night time sky was a wonderful treat that will stay with me for a long while. ❧