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.

Trump Election – A Suggested Coping Mechanism

The wonderful Tina Turner

Simply the Best

So, we are more than a month removed from the national election.  Donald Trump is president-elect. For some it was a victory. For others, this writer included, it was a profoundly sorrowful moment.  The scenes from Clinton’s post-election “party” definitely told the tale. Seldom have I seen such sad faces. The sad truth is that this sorrow we feel will not easily go away because there are four years ahead of us.  A coping mechanism is so necessary.  For some it is as simple as no longer watching the news.  Others are actually emigrating to Canada and other countries.  My own method of coping is wrapped up in the divine Tina Turner.

Several days after the election, while watching one of the several Obama slideshow collections that are making the rounds on Facebook,  I started humming the Tina Turner song “Simply the Best” and did a quick search on Spotify for the song. There I  found a wonderful, previously unheard, recording of a live Tina concert in Arnhem, Holland.  I cranked it up and Donald Trump faded away.  Soon Tina was filling the house with music on a regular basis.  I would sing along, get up and dance, play a little air guitar and, generally, feel good.  I recommend it to everyone.

But Tina, as we know, is hardly a one-facet lady.  So, after listening to the rock-and-roll Tina for several days I then turned to a recording entitled “Beyond”. This particular Tina Turner album is not as well known as her rockers but it has transported me to other dimensions on many occasions.  It is a collection of Buddhist and Christian Prayers sung by Tina, Dechen Shak Dagsay and Regula Curti.  There is also commentary by Tina, complete with her Southern dialect, in which she talks about the ability of singing to “take us beyond.”  It’s a beautifully soothing recording and Turner’s urging to “Start every day singing like the birds/Singing takes you beyond” is advice that I try to take to heart.  Music connects us to a higher level of consciousness and puts our life in perspective.

So, if The Donald is still getting you down, crank up some music that you love and just let it go, my friends.  Bobby Kennedy once said, “Like it or not, we live in interesting times.”  Such is our fate. ❧

Letting go….

Grieving is a process, individual and unique to all.  It begins early in life.  Some say the first grief is when we exit the womb into this world of gravity and constant stimuli. Throughout childhood we begin to learn the key elements of grieving… loss and the need to let go.  This may begin with a pet goldfish or a beloved teddy bear that has been reduced, through love, to tatters. Eventually it extends to our human loved ones.  For some that comes very early in life.  I recall a friend in my childhood town of Norton, Massachusetts whose father died unexpectedly. I was about ten and I pondered what all of that meant to my friend Jackie.

I could only imagine but eventually my time came, as it comes to all of us.  No matter when we lose our parents it is just plain hard. So my heart aches for my cousins Milo, John, and Phil who have lost their beloved mother, Bunny.

Bunny’s Bouquet

Now begins the painful process of letting go and yesterday we held a memorial service for her at Point of Rocks.  It was very moving, warm and relaxed as she would want it to be.  Each person took the time to remember Bunny and contribute a flower to Bunny’s bouquet.  By the time we were finished the sun had set, the bouquet was complete, and there was much love in the spring night air.  It would have been Bunny’s 96th birthday.

Bunny’s remains will be interred in the family plot in Norton, Massachusetts on April 17.

Additional photos from the March 26th event are below.❧

There were many wonderful photos of Bunny.

There were many wonderful photos of Bunny taped on the wall of her home at Point of Rocks.

 

John and Aya

John and Aya

John prepares flowers for the memorial.

John prepares flowers for the memorial.

 

Cousin Tess and her husband Steve.

Cousin Tess and her husband Steve.

 

Poppy with her young son Charlie.

Poppy with her young son Charlie.

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Avery Dodge, Bunny’s long time neighbor, remembers her friend.

Martha and Mary

Martha and Mary

#314 – Return to the earth that which it creates

Dale View Collage

 

My primary reason for journeying to Australia was to visit with my dear friends Craig Hosmer and Daryl Reinke. We met some forty years ago in Washington, DC.  They have been the most constant and generous friends.

In 1994 they retired to Australia, Daryl’s birth place.  For years they had dreamed of a bigger garden and, by gum, they got one!  They purchased 40 acres of cleared land on the Sunshine Coast. It had been cow pasture for decades but it was previously rain forest and they set out to return the land to its original state.  Their success has been spectacular.  In the two pictures above you can see their land from my first trip in August 2001 and the same land fourteen years later.

Lots can happen in fourteen years, obviously.  Things change. Friends and family pass away. New babies are born, so are new countries.  But amidst all the swirl and chaos there is, as Paul Simon so eloquently put it, “the automatic earth.”  Treat it tenderly and it is your friend for life…literally.

In 2001 we planted a tree in honor of Robert, my late husband, who had been gone for just three months. We planted it along the left edge of that pond you can see in the top photo. And just below you can see what a difference fourteen years can make.

Craig and Daryl in front of Robert's tree, November 2015.

Craig and Daryl in front of Robert’s tree, November 2015.

Planting Robert's tree on Sept. 4, 2001

Planting Robert’s tree on Sept. 4, 2001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While in Australia I learned about the Butchulla people, an Aboriginal tribe that lives on Fraser Island. Their tribe has few laws but the first is, “Whatever is good for the land comes first.”   Part of Robert’s ashes are in that magnificent tree and it is good.  ❧

Australia!

Flat White

Hello gentle readers.  It has been several weeks since I have posted to this blog but Alice’s Wanderland is truly living up to its name this week.

Greetings from Australia!  I am mid-way through a three week holiday with a bit of business at the very end.  It has been a wonderful time.

Australia is fun.  It is at once very familiar and, at the same time, very different.  Coffee is a good example, as you can see in the above picture.  It is a simple cup of coffee with cream (milk) but Down Under they call it a Flat White and the very best of them have wonderful designs created from the milk.  This particular cup was enjoyed at a cafe called Emelia’s in Gympie, which had wonderful food, coffee and pastries.

I forget how much “foreign” travel can do for the soul.  It pushes to the rear all the day-to-day stuff that consumes our lives and forces a re-awakening, a re-visiting of attitudes and customs, a great kick on the door marked “Learn” to throw it open as wide as possible.  Everyone travels these days. Age doesn’t matter…from 8 days to 80 years and everything in between.  All colors, languages, dress…and all with a slightly wary eye on our fellow travelers because it is, dear friends, a dangerous time too.  But at the end of 8,000 miles you can emerge in a land where people make hearts on your coffee.  And I am certain in every land there are these gestures of acceptance and welcoming.  Humans, most assuredly too numerous for their own good, nevertheless have great hearts and show them in a hundred different ways.  Keep looking. ❧